Saturday, June 30, 2007
Better there because
Friday, June 29, 2007
I ashamed to admit I just read this book. It was highly recommended to me when published in 1992. Nick Tosches is a wonderful writer, I should have read it years ago for that reason alone. I also foolishly passed up several chances to meet Tosches (I was afraid of him, not my typical reaction to geniuses). I finally read Dino because I became curious about how & why Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis became the most popular comedy act in America in the decade after WWII. Tosches meticulously researched Dean Martin, came at him from all compass points. He had no choice but to put himself in his subject's head & think aloud, since Dean was never inclined to explain himself, never published his story even "as told to." Tosches goes directly to core of the matter, Dino's attitude - the state of his soul, really, with a number of perfect Italian phrases. It's a terrific book. So I'm not reviewing the book. You should read it if you haven't.
I liked that Dean Martin believed it was all bullshit, was born with the belief (The Italians have a phrase for this unpleasant vision of truth). Unlike Frank, who bought into it completely, acting out the three & four minute minidramas of the Great American Songbook. Lies. Pretty, tuneful, rhymed lies. So I can enjoy a lot of the mediocre material Dean tossed off on his Fifties Capitol label recordings, the Italian pop songs, the bleached Dixieland, even "That's Amore." Dino couldn't sing anything straight unless it was already something he needn't empty of meaning & emotion. Eventually, by the 1970s, he could hardly do a song all the way to the end, it was so pointless to him.
Still, there was something wrong about it. Now I'm sure Dean was wrong. Not because the lyrics weren't bullshit, or because of how audiences paid big bucks so they could throw aside reality & wallow in Frank's dramatic renditions, turning everything into big band Verdi, then get suckered at the tables & slots after the show, too. Dean was wrong because the music was great, & he still wouldn't trust it. There were other singers who recognized the lies & in their own ways refused to tell them. Ella Fitgerald broke through with numbers like "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" & "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)," songs even more meaningless than "like a big pizza pie." Her voice was a brilliant instrument, so she scatted. Most lyrics were only syllables she pronounced so she could bounce, stretch & tweak the melody & be part of the band. She recorded nearly every classic pop song in the catalogue as pure music. & she learned it from the master, Louis Armstrong, at once the greatest musical genius, the greatest self-parodist, & the greatest leveller of material in the history of American entertainment. Knocked the Beatles out of #1 with the idiotic "Hello Dolly" just because he could. Whenever Satchmo was tempted to say "Fuck it all" he emptied his spit valve & rolled another number. Or the superb Vegas lounge performers, Louis Prima, Keely Smith, Buddy Greco. Prima partied with Sam Butera honking up his ass on a sax. He was just a gigolo spouting non sequiturs. Keely went blank-faced like a porcelain doll, something quite different than the neurotic detachment of Peggy Lee. Buddy started out at the jive ass border on "The Lady Is a Tramp" even Sinatra didn't dare trespass, totally manic, taking an axe to Larry Hart's Broadway show lyrics.
Dean was an excellent singer. He couldn't believe that his voice would tell the truth no matter what the words said, so he took the whole song, crumpled it up & lobbed it toward the nearest trash can. The more accomplished he became using his voice, the more surely he would have gotten the message across. No sweat. But even that much, even his growing skill & confidence, had value only because he could spend more time playing golf. Which may have been all he ever really wanted. Maybe it was like punching a clock at a Steubenville steel mill, only absurdly easier in his own estimation (because it was), & he earned an insane amount of money, more money than any human deserved. Did Dean's view of the universe justify getting on stage & throwing himself away? In some way, Dean did grasp the trap he was in, & began extricating himself from it the first real chance he had, on a nightclub stage in New York when he first let Jerry Lewis interrupt his straight act.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I have an SSD re-evaluation application due next week. I've never filled one out -it was filled out for me one previous time by health professionals, I didn't even receive it in the mail, my therapist verbally asked me all the personal questions, the clinic supplied all the treatment documentation (which they'll do this time, too), & I signed it. My therapist wisely kept it from being a big deal. SSD is like a job I don't particularly like, one that has advantages & disadvantages. But I've experienced the alternatives & know why I'm receiving it & what would happen if I didn't get it, & that shields me from the criticism of a few people who think it's like a sixty-grand no show job at the medical school in Newark & who ought to know better. & when I started receiving it, I wasn't even aware that my left eye had been wrecked by a surgeon who hadn't bothered for obvious reasons to tell me he had botched the surgery. If he had, I'd probably be quietly residing in a nice trailer park in Cape May now & writing beautiful poems about egrets & Jersey shore pirate stories for children. The eye problem doesn't even factor in.
Then, 4 years ago I learned what occurs when one doesn't come clean with one's therapist about unraveling practical matters & bleak thinking. Even Ph.D psychologists are not psychics. Although the structure of my private life was crumbling, reflected in the disaster area my apartment had become (it's messy now but you'd recognize a music lover's filing system), I was still showing up for sessions shaved, bathed & well-dressed. I was so glad to be going to therapy, so enjoyed seeing my therapist, that if I was depressed when I started out for the clinic, I arrived at the session in a good mood. This was unfortunate. I had been a rock musician, a podium poet, an alternative radio DJ, & the amicable overseer of an art store book dept; the outside world was a stage. Both of my parents were remarkable public actors. So was I. When I had a substitute shrink a couple of appointments ago, he concluded the interview with, "Good, you seem to be maintaining, come back next month," & signed the topmost page in the mysterious, thick binder holding my case file, a book that tells its own story.
Labels: mental health
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
A taste of July
Whitman, Go Home
(I'm grumpy today.)
Labels: bully pulpit
Labels: Elizabeth NJ
Monday, June 25, 2007
For a dear friend whose mom died last week
FOR CHARLES REZNIKOFFSometimes there seems to be nothing much at all to an oppenheimer poem until you try to write one like it. Although he can resemble William Carlos Williams, the quality of sentiment is quite his own, especially the sense of humor, as in the tongue-tripping closing lines here.
outside the spring is here
for once calendar & air the same
streets full of people
coats open or off, unhatted
a field of flowers opening to the sun
spring! spring is here!
he died not seeing this this year
he died in winter after many springs
but every spring he saw we see still
every spring he saw we see still
© 1978 by joel oppenheimer, names, dates & places, st andrews Press, Laurinburg NC
Sunday, June 24, 2007
I want to thank
Labels: Elizabeth NJ
Fort Lee NJ
The biggest stars played the club, which was open only during warm months & had a retractable roof. Reputedly had a gambling room. After the Riviera was demolished in the Fifties for a new highway, Bill Miller became a legend in Las Vegas entertainment, signing Louis Prima & Keely Smith to a seven year contract at The Sahara's Casbah Lounge.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Annual Chicken Barbecue
The Salem UCC gig came with a parsonage, spacious yard, & picturesque graveyard. It also included large concrete barbecue pits, open air dining pavilion, storage shed, & a hugely popular annual chicken barbecue fundraising event. 1000+ servings of chicken, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, a river of coffee, & dessert table. Photos of the event are here. They weren't taken at peak hour. Church volunteers prepare an enormous quantity of food. Every oven in the church & parsonage is filled with stuffing - a hand-mushed recipe requiring a generous topping of ground pork. Institutional size cans of green beans, must be some obscure law mandating a side of green, at least they aren't generic. Can't blame them for using instant potatoes as gravy lakes. Mrs. Pastor notes that the dessert table in the photo does not reflect the actual abundance & variety available. The fires are supervised by "Smokey." although that's not how he got the name. The event takes place on a weekday.
Pastor Dan probably feels like he lives a double life. Online he's a plainspoken but erudite, widely-known progressive commentator & the leader at Street Prophets. In certain ways I think of him as my pastor. But he's also a real life minister of a mainline church comprised, so far as I can tell, of rock solid citizens of the upper midwest. It's a lovely church, the barbecue a great tradition, no more corny than a Holy Name Society pancake breakfast or a Methodist Strawberry Festival. I'd love to visit there. On Barbecue Day, of course.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Indian Snake Charmer
BBC News: A vibrating condom has sparked a fierce debate in India, over whether it is a sex toy - which are banned - or a means of birth control.
The controversial condom has caused outrage in the state of Madhya Pradesh, because a government-owned company is involved in marketing it.
The pack of three condoms, branded as Crezendo, contains a battery-operated ring-like device.
That has caused an outcry among many in conservative India, including the Madhya Pradesh minister for road and energy, Kailash Vijayvargiya, who argues that it is nothing more than a sex toy.
"Sex toys are banned in India and the vibrating device is nothing but a sex toy being sold as condoms.
"The government's job is to promote family planning and population control measures rather than market products for sexual pleasure," he told BBC News.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Napalm Health Spa 2007
Monday, June 18, 2007
My current building has more children & less tenant turnover than my previous residency, a newer building of similar size that got a lot of freshly divorced men passing through on their way to God knows where, another bad marriage probably; they had few possessions beyond a bed, a television, & a comfortable chair to sit in as they watched it. Some of them invited me in for beers, & I don't remember any of their names. I always recommended the same bar to them, The Back Porch, where local middle-aged male & female divorcees hung out. I never went there unless invited by someone, usually patronized another place up the street with a better juke, a pinball game, & a young lady tending bar who looked beautiful after only two drinks. Anyway, those men were alright as neighbors. The only kitchen appliance they used was the fridge.
Labels: home furnishings
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Ocean Grove NJ
Prior to an important court decision on church-state separation. From Wikpedia: "Ocean Grove retained its independence until a court ruling in 1981 nullified the Camp Meeting Association’s municipal authority. At that time, Ocean Grove became part of Neptune Township, in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The Camp Meeting still owns all the land in town and leases it to homeowners and businesses for 99-year renewable terms. The Camp Meeting Association currently keeps its beach closed on Sunday mornings between 8:30 am and 12:30 pm and Ocean Grove is still dry, that is, the sale of all alcoholic beverages is prohibited." Ironically, the successful challenge to Ocean Grove's special status as a one square mile theocracy was initiated by a man who claimed the OG police were an agency of a religious group & had no right to issue him a ticket for drunk driving. The court agreed.
The guy in 1A was in a drunken sleep. On his stove, a pot had boiled dry with the gas flame on high! Ah, that was it. Probably happened to all of us while we were awake, & scary enough then. Close call, I'd say. Firemen carried in a heavy duty fan, blew out the fumes, & as the eastern sky brightened, we were allowed to return. Some people had never left their apartments the whole time, despite several concerned tenants trying to rouse them. As for the guy in 1A, whose cat wandered the hallways crying in miserable abandonment all night two nights ago because he couldn't be bothered with chasing it down, "He's outta here," promised the landlord.
Labels: Elizabeth NJ
Saturday, June 16, 2007
moves slowly through centuries,
drawing time from a well
by mysterious drarf trees.
Sand swells where the end of an ice age
brought high water,
now a highway passes over,
a bump holding billions of lives,
not made to endure.
Salt grass collects into consciousness
above the tide line,
in tune with daily ocean bulges;
someday when the water freshens
the grass will disappear,
a changed earth raised with flowers.
The first version of a poem I wrote twice, South Jersey at the edge of the Pine Barrens. A few years later, rather than revise it, I let the poem dictate itself again, & it came out very differently. Can't find the other poem, which I prefer, but I know it exists in one of my files & is titled "Pine Barrens."
Friday, June 15, 2007
Tony Perkins, President of The Family Research Council, commenting on Sen. John McCain.
I'm no fan of the Senator's politics, but he's been saying for over 30 years that his religious faith sustained him through 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese hellhole. That sort of reality-tested testimony doesn't cut it with the protestant inquisitors searching for George W's replacement. True Believers have nothing to fear! (Special added attraction at next Repug debate: Dunking for Devil worshippers.)
Thursday, June 14, 2007
1. What is the one thing in life you feel most anxious about?
Health. & being late for a scheduled WFMU radio show.
2. If you were given a shopping spree for 1 day what would it be for? (doesn't have to be a store but can't pay off bills) (stole this one from Robin's question for me but it seemed fitting here)
No money limit? A house? A car? If it's just stuff, then a great computer package. A studio upright piano or Hammond organ would be cool, but couldn't keep them here. Maybe a classic 1980s synthesizer.
3. What is your favorite NJ vacation spot?
Kismet Motel, North Wildwood NJ. My only vacation spot.
4. Which celebrity, past or present, do you most wish was still in the public eye?
Mark Twain, perhaps. "Celebrities" like movie stars & pop singers exist agelessly in their best recorded work, & unless they die prematurely their physical presences are easily disposed of. Even so, Elvis would just have gone on singing "Can't Help Falling In Love" & "Polk Salad Annie." & I love Elvis. But Twain would have lots to say.
5. Pretend this was your last supper. What would be your perfect meal?
Probably something simple & basic, like pot roast, garlicky potatoes, & an excellent tossed salad with garden tomatoes. Strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert. Remember this if I contact you from prison in Texas.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Nap time is over
I was just rejected for a credit card. Odd thing is, I didn't apply for one, & the name on the letter isn't exactly mine, but it was correctly delivered to my address. Did someone in this building cop a piece of my junk mail, one of those "pre-approved" card offers that really isn't, & send it in? Expecting what? Maybe there's some other explanation. I have a terrible credit rating, & I paid off & canceled the one remaining active card I had several years ago as too much of a temptation to have in my wallet. Unbelievably, I was carrying something like an $8000 unused borrowing limit even as collectors for two other cards were hounding me, & I probably could have gone on indefinitely paying off one card with another. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are doing just that, if they aren't refinancing their houses for cash.
I hope the Mets snap out of their funk soon. I know mid-season losing streaks build character in teams that seem to have been winning too easily, & the Braves & Phillies haven't taken advantage of the slump, but they're nipping at the Mets heels now, & the schedule directly ahead is tough. Nap time is over, guys.
Monday, June 11, 2007
A Jersey Blues
parked by his office behind a steakhouse,
his pal, Little Pussy, runs the shore rackets,
his rival, Richie the Boot, an uneasy truce,
& the guy they keep on a leash, named The Leash,
Joe Bananas, Bayonne Joe, & another Joe
among lonely Joes, Indian Joe.
Sam the Plumber, dapper & popular,
a boss that knows what’s a boss, says,
I’ve only done good. The guy
that does anything bad to me
is the worst S.O.B. in the world.
Oh Ray, cry the boys, where
are the great wise guys of yesterday?
All this Black Power crap wrecking our turf,
Feds grabbing union books,
crazy kids from Philly whacking for kicks,
the State taking over the numbers,
& what they want to do to Atlantic City
is a crime, we might as well burn
the 500 Club, Frank
won’t sing there no more.
© Bob Rixon
Inspired by cheap paperbacks that were cut & paste from FBI wiretap transcripts of the last generation of old style Jersey bosses. Simone "Sam the Plumber" DeCavalcante was a rarity, a boss who handed over the day-to-day operations of his small family to an underling & "retired" to Florida. His family was one of David Chase's models for Tony Soprano's crew.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Friday, June 08, 2007
But it's Frank Lloyd Wright's birthday. He's the megalomaniac architect who designed the most uncomfortable major art exhibition space in New York, The Guggenheim Museum. A skateboard punk's dream, though.
Also Nancy Sinatra's birthday. I have only praise for the woman who recorded the classics These Boots Are Made for Walking, Some Velvet Morning, Sugartown, You Only Live Twice, Lightning's Girl, & Something Stupid; co-starred with Peter Fonda & Bruce Dern in The Wild Angels (Fonda reputedly blowing real pot smoke in her face), & with Elvis in the very watchable Speedway. Plus, she posed for Playboy at age 54, & made a cameo in The Sopranos. It was no small, easy thing for the daughter of Frank to take that signature name & have her own great career. She could have made a couple of lousy vanity records & disappeared.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
will be, hang out there collecting
dust & radiation, beneath the street
roots crack sewer pipes,
cigarette butts in bird nests,
squirrels on live wires, trees have
have long term responsibilities,
we plant them, they raise us.
Vote for Joe, he says the Ro
Since I was raised around moderate & even casual or pro forma (not liberal) religious practices - Methodism & Roman Catholicism - this emphasis on determining if a politician's faith is authentic by expecting them to correlate their religious beliefs with their political views & agendas, disturbs me. The idea that someone's faith - you, me, anyone - could be spotlighted in public & judged inauthentic comes from the American protestant right & nowhere else. I don't like that these kinds of interrogations are now necessary for candidates, much less that Soledad O'Brien & Paula Zahn are somehow qualified to ask the questions, although I suppose they're better than Christian zealots. In good Christian youth education, one is taught to take people at their word regarding personal belief, however doubtful one might be of the sincerity or veracity. There is no uniform yardstick applicable to all for measuring the practical expression of belief. & all major religious traditions caution against ostentatious displays of religiosity. As Sunday school teachers used to warn, "Nobody quotes the Bible better than the Devil."
The most profoundly spiritual of presidents, Abraham Lincoln, belonged to no church or denomination. I'm not even aware of his having referred to himself as "Christian," certainly not in any strongly sectarian sense. His world view was so much in the Old Testament-Prophetic mode, his methods of illustrating points & mediating personal disputes so rabbinical, that he was probably closer to Judaism than anything else. I used to think that if America had a "religion." it was Lincoln's. But as a Republican politician, he'd have a tough time of it going up against the likes of Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Tom Tancredo, & George W. Bush.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Yo, gimme two slices
SAN JOSE, Calif., AP- A customer attacked a pizzeria manager with a machete after becoming enraged over how long his food delivery took, police said Wednesday. The manager required stitches.In Jersey, a typical pizza maker would wear the blood-spattered apron for a month.
A delivery man from Pizza My Dear apparently arrived within the promised 45 minutes, but "the suspect meets him and is cussing a blue streak, yelling at the guy, saying he doesn't want the pizza because he was late," San Jose police Sgt. Nick Muyo said.
The angry customer later went to the pizza parlor, saying, "'Do you want a piece of me?'" before going to his car and returning with a 2-foot machete, Muyo said.
The manager suffered cuts while shielding his head, Muyo said.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
This week I am an artist
was 15 or 20 musicians
at the front of a cavernous hall
a crowd of kids pushing against the stage
others dancing behind
as the noise bounces off the walls
the people & it echoes
& the echoes echo
one band one instrument
a gasoline-powered sound machine
But now we're going to war
it's the last dance gentleman
please return to your units
& we can't possibly lose
because we sure know how to build 'em
so we're building 'em by the thousands
When the war ended
everything was obsolete
the B-29s & 78 revolutions
of beautiful things
took their time going
but they're gone now
& won't be coming back
Kings, Dukes & Counts. Big band music "coming back" was a woeful, hopeless litany of many in my parents' generation. Of course, it came back. Everything in pop culture comes back & coexists now. Rock & roll wasn't an antidote to big bands, but to "How Much Is That Doggy In the Window?" & "Three Coins In A Fountain."
When my stepfather, a working class guy from Bayonne, mentioned girls putting on bobby sox & them all piling into a car & driving up Pompton Turnpike to a show at the legendary Meadowbrook Ballroom, middle-class mom testily said, "Bah, we all wore stockings when we went there!"
Monday, June 04, 2007
Fiddle Dee Dee
Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara are to come to the West End next year in a musical version of Gone With The Wind.Just what theater needs: A pro-slavery musical. Not the slightest bit relevant except in a negative sense. Gone with The Wind sucks even as a love story. With her Ashley Wilkes obsession, Scarlett O'Hara was never worth Rhett's alpha male libido. It'll cost millions for the special effects to burn Atlanta on stage. The BBC writer manages in one sentence to get the history horribly wrong. The South instigated the War. They justified it as preemptive, just like Bush with Iraq. When he took office, Lincoln opposed only the extension of slavery beyond the states where it already existed. But wealthy Southern plantation owners & real estate speculators looked greedily at the prairie states & California the way American oil companies covet Kirkuk & Basra.
The new adaptation will be directed by Sir Trevor Nunn - who returns to the New London Theatre, where he launched Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats in 1981.
In a statement, Sir Trevor said he was "drawn to the challenge" of adapting Margaret Mitchell's vast, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel for the stage.
It tells the story of southern belle Scarlett O'Hara, whose idyllic lifestyle is shattered when President Lincoln's demands to end slavery trigger the American Civil War.
Producer Aldo Scrofani said the musical would "remain true to Margaret Mitchell's original story and characters while also revealing its relevance to our lives today".
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Haven Beach Motel, Long Beach Island NJ
Still exists, but check out the development.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Have to experiment more. Playing with one of my inactive blogs, I switched to an updated template, customized it, reverted to the old template, & then recovered the new one. Now I have to figure out how to carry over sidebar graphics. But at the moment, I can't even recall how I got the title of this blog to display in comic sans type. oy.
Friday, June 01, 2007
on the flood-prone side of the river.
The dancers wear bikinis
no matter how their names thrill
from the marquee in front.
If you're invited to stay past legal closing hour,
"Jade" & "Kaylina" remove all for you
& will wiggle their butts on your lap,
but it's mostly views & booze,
bottom shelf at top row prices.
After awhile the bright lights come on,
the girls abruptly stop,
walk directly to the ladies room,
their faces sweaty & vacant,
as a fat man in a rumpled suit shouts,
"That's all, everyone has to leave."
From eyewitness information supplied by a county employee.
Moo-ving for Jesus
To the right is a cow shed, where a display that has drawn the most curiosity stands. An animatronic black-and-white cow named Bessie says in a southern drawl that Graham has been "preaching the pure milk of God's word for 60 years." Bessie tells kids to "get moo-ving" to learn more about the preacher.Too undignified & corny? I like it. Graham was born on a dairy farm. His Crusade events were designed to be familiar & reassuring. The staid old hymns & a few perky upbeat songs for the young folks. Graham's friendly but stern sermons, apolitical, not much Baptist hellfire left in them, leading to an invitation to come on down front & accept Jesus while the choir sang "Just As I Am" or some such musical pat-on-the-back. Nobody rushing the stage, the born-agains going foward in an orderly manner, almost strolling, steered through miles of aisles by volunteers briefed in Graham's method of herding them in. They looked like cows headed back to the barn in the evening, know the routine & the destination, the only problem is getting them started. Cows have curiosity, if you've ever had one stare at you from the other side of a fence, but excitement upsets them. Some teetotalers even put a little milk in root beer to flatten the bubbles. The newer generation of evangelicals build kitsch cathedrals & amusement parks, their versions of heaven on Earth, just a drive to the mall; stir audiences up like kids on a sugar high or sound like pop psychology self-help gurus, then hand out lists of rules with plenty of fine print. Graham's message is basically, "Time to come home, so get moo-ving." So old-fashioned. At least Graham felt chastened when his pal Nixon was exposed as a liar & crook. Too bad the current criminal in the White House isn't having a similar effect on his many devoted spiritual allies. Graham Association Crusades are now called "Festivals." Fun.