Sunday, May 31, 2009

Point Pleasant Beach NJ

1950's view of same section of boardwalk as the live cam in my sidebar.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Neighborhood

It's very difficult to give a sense of where I live in words or photos. I'm often referring to poor, working & middle class people, the Hispanic or Orthodox Jewish in the area, the range of apartment buildings, the retail districts, the nearby university. Here's some glimpses around the streets when I step out the front door & turn left, to feed Gina's cats or go to the library. I was testing a new camera, late afternoon, on auto (learned a quick lesson not to rely on it) , just to make sure it worked & the SD card was good. I cut the enormous 9 mp files way down, no corrections.

The first photo is the corner of Gina's street. The next three are views down a long adjacent block. The 5th photo is a corner house owned by a guy with a nightclub & DJ business. During his pool parties there are Mercedes, Lexus's, Hummers, even a Jaguar parked on the street.The rest of that block is maybe my favorite street here, interesting mix of homes. 6th photo includes the old Victorian house. The other side of the street is completely different; Orthodox Church & apartments. Last photo is a house right up the corner, vacant for nearly two years. But within the same short distance, I can photograph some crappy apt buildings, minimally maintained two families, & very sleazy people, as well some lovely homes (& other peculiar Spanish villa affectations). What I see here, & was demonstrated to me in nearby Rahway during the Clinton years, is that home ownership is key to stablizing older neighborhoods, but not through easy mortgages (or with absurdly inflated price tags). These streets are holding steady, which means the people in the houses could afford them. There's plenty of children & flowers.

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Friday, May 29, 2009


African-American homophobia is a fact. Oprah's done shows on it. I've witnessed it. So no surprise that the National Organization for Marriage is targeting New York Black people in a radio spot I heard today on WCBS-AM. The voices, an older couple, are distinctly African-American. The message is that "gay marriage" will somehow impede or change the couple's heterosexual marriage & they "don't believe" in it. Of course, it's implied that churches will be forced to host single-sex weddings.

The ad is ironic. Change "gay marriage" to "equal rights" or even "integration," adjust the script, use actors with white Southern voices, & the appeal to tradtional prejudice is basically the same. Difference is, equal marriage rights have no effect on married heterosexuals, very little effect on cultural institutions, & none whatsoever on churches that do not approve. You're allowed to keep your bigotry, up to a point. Even without gay marriage, you'd be required to rent an apartment to domestic partners, same as you couldn't refuse on the basis of race. But you aren't forced to have black homosexual friends, & you could still disown a son or daughter for loving someone of a different color, different religion, same gender.
The Sotomayor nomination screws Repugs. They can't control their blabbermouths. I live in a predominantly working & middle class Hispanic neighborhood - they own the majority of the one & two-family houses. I don't look around here & think, "I'm surrounded by liberals." Many of these Hispanics - from all over Latin America - are Democrats by default. Elizabeth has two Democratic parties. Hispanics are represented on city council, Board of Ed, & state assembly. They are an ambitious, politically active community. There's no Hispanic child in this town, however poor, who lacks for good models. They're all around, from successful tradespeople & shopkeepers to doctors & lawyers, women & men.

The new grammar school around corner is named for Dr. Antonia Pantoja, a great Puerto Rican educator, activist, & reformer who received the Medal of Freedom from President Clinton. It seems to have been fairly common knowledge that Dr. Pantoja was a lesbian. She wasn't "out," but her obituaries all note that she was survived by her partner, Dr. Wilhemina Perry. Dr. Pantoja was born in 1922 & she was discreet, like those social worker friends of Eleanor Roosevelt.

A community that celebrates & honors Dr. Pantoja & sends their children to another newer public school named for Ronald Reagan will not suffer the fools tearing down Judge Sotomayor. There's plenty to look at in her background - especially the close relationship of a privileged Ivy League lawyer with New York's Democratic power structure. But her expressions of ethnic pride, however she's worded them, are understandable.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Real Hoax

Investigators try to unravel abduction hoax case
"Bonnie Sweeten appeared to neighbors, colleagues and other school parents like a woman smoothly juggling the responsibilities of work and family."

As The Field Negro noted yesterday, he knew the abduction was bogus from the start because why the hell would two black guys in a "colored Cadillac" want a coo-coo middle class white woman & her nine-year old daughter? If the 2005 Denali had been jacked, Bonnie Sweeten would be standing on the side of the road with her kid beside her. She's an excellent actress, but the police unraveled the story pretty fast. Bonnie shows the signs of a "suburban facade" kind of tale. The way her neighbors describe her is a little too good. Right now, she's facing misdemeanor charges & a psych eval, nothing she can't handle with a competent lawyer & the support of her husband. But I suspect her big troubles are just beginning.

Too bad Without A Trace was canceled. A made-to-order episode, & at the end FBI Special Agent Jack Malone would be really, really pissed off

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tonight when I made the clicking noises to say hello to a cat in a shadow, it stopped, looked at me, & sneezed. That was amusing. Yesterday in a crowded bargain department store where I was buying a cheap computer keyboard, a little girl looked up at me & sneezed, That was not amusing.

I've got quite a collection of sturdy 16 oz. 7-11 coffee refill cups. Store is selling them for $1.39 including coffee, which means they're free. They're nice microwaveable storage containers, also good for iced tea.

Trying to understand the various functions of low end digital cameras. Amazing what even the cheap ones do now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Court Ruling

All Negroes who sipped from the water fountain before the White Only sign was posted may continue to do so.


The Bizarro President

Which reality do you inhabit, Obama World or Cheney World?
Eugene Robinson, "Worldviews Collide"

Some of the deeper philosophical discussions I had with friends as a 10-year old were about Bizarro, the imperfect Superman clone/nemesis. Bizarro had to act according to his nature, so there was some question as to whether or not he was truly "evil" like, say, Lex Luthor. Place Bizarro in a Bizarro World (Superman carved a square planet for him) & he made Bizarro sense & posed no threat to humans or Superman.

It hadn't occurred to me that Dick Cheney was the Bizarro president. In Bizarro logic, the Vice President would be the Chief Executive of the Disunited States of America, elected unfairly by a minority of the people. Indeed, Cheney was that. In Bizarro logic, the Vice President would hide from the public while in office & give speeches when he no longer held it, & campaign when he wasn't running for anything. The problem is that Cheney thinks he's in Bizarro World. Since we can't create one for him, a federal penitentiary would be an adequate approximation.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

What I hope for from the Iraq & Afghanistan wars, because they've gone on for so long & reached so deeply into communities through multiple deployments of National Guard & Reserves, is a resurgence of nonpartisan patriotic observances & displays, a grassroots renewal of Memorial Day & 4th of July. When soldiers deploy, serve,. & return as units, they are given respectful sendoffs & welcomed home with celebration, with family, friends, & loved ones gathered together. Perhaps their recollection of a proud homecoming will inspire these younger vets & their families to participate in local parades & ceremonies, maybe even restore The Gold Star Mother to her honored place.

Memorial Day morning was a large & touching event in my small town, with a parade through the downtown's crowded sidewalks to the Doughboy Monument, & a solemn placing of wreaths, Of course, my parents' generation had fought WWII & Korea, & they were not about to forget their sacrifices, & in particular the sacrifices of their comrades who did not return home, whose names were engraved on the monument. The 4th of July was more than midsummer retail sales & huge televised big city fireworks. But it is Memorial Day, I think, when we most need to find again the balance of solemnity & celebration that entire towns shared together, because they had shared the sacrifices. This why the original Memorial Day caught on after the Civil War, & why the day was so significant when I was a child.

photo from Star-Ledger, 5/25, Fort Dix NJ.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Salem NJ

The Union Monument at Finn's Point National Cemetery,
dedicated in 1879 to 135 Union soldiers who died while on duty at Fort Delaware.

I want to visit Finn's Point & then take the ferry to Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island in the middle of the Delaware River.

During the Civil War, the North had no military prison as horrific as Andersonville, Georgia. If one is comparing different circles of hell. 22,000 Confederate prisoners were incarcerated at Fort Delaware, 12,000 at one time after the Battle of Gettysburg. 2,436 of them were buried in trench graves at Finn's Point. The cemetery also has a monument to the Confederate dead.
"The prisoners were afflicted with smallpox, measles, diarrhea, dysentery and scurvy as well as the ever-present louse. A thousand ill; twelve thousand on an island which should hold four; astronomical numbers of deaths a day of dysentery and the living having more life on them than in them. Lack of food and water and thus a Christian nation treats the captives of its sword!"
Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, 1863

photo from NJ State Archives, Dept. of State

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Uncle Jack reaches 100

Uncle Jack is 100. My sister helped organize a party & flew down to North Carolina with her husband this weekend. Uncle Jack was married to my mom's older sister. Aunt Jean died last year, her final months made easier because my sister spent some time down there sorting out the difficult situation of two stubbornly independent, upper middle class, elderly people who had unnecessarily allowed their lifestyle to deteriorate.

I don't know Uncle Jack personally, haven't seen him in decades. But from the descriptions he's the same Uncle Jack I used to observe. That he's 100 makes me realize how old he already was when I was a kid. 1909. Rutgers Class of '32, same year as economist Milton Friedman. Jack was in his thirties when he served in the Army in World War Two. He was an ageless preppy; that would have been anyone's first impression. He always dressed the part. Not a deep thinker (my family wasn't blessed with those even through marriage), but a guy who loved experiences, & bought them like he bought his swell wardrobe. He's a character. He's like my father in that neither were shy men. But my dad, a voracious reader with an appetite for community service type stuff to go along with his circus ringmaster personality, was the better overall role model. Jack was the slightly quicker wit on the once or twice-yearly occasions they were in the same room.

The oddity was that Uncle Jack & Aunt Jean were personality opposites on the surface. She was rather serious, slow to laugh, you could read the Old New England stock in her. Something I always liked about Aunt Jean that pushed me to drop by her office at Douglass College once in awhile when I lived in New Brunswick, perhaps she helped me imagine my mom in sobriety. But everywhere Jack went, skiing in Vermont or a cruise up the Amazon River, Jean went also, until they were too old to go anywhere except up the road to the Chinese restaurant. I attended a Rutgers game with Jack & Jean when I was 9 or 10, no idea how that invite came about. We sat in the stadium alumnus section - geezers there who had attended their first games driving Flivvers & wearing fur coats - & I recall it was a beautiful fall afternoon & I had a marvelous time & came home with a Rutgers pennant on a stick.

Happy Birthday, Uncle Jack.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Fixit guy arrived to clear the clog in the wall pipe behind kitchen sink. First he dumped a lot of lye down the drain. Not only is it physically dangerous & environmentally terrible, I was certain it wouldn't work (I didn't say so). It didn't. It raised a disgusting, smelly black soup & made his job all the more difficult when he brought in the roto-rooter machine & had to remove the sink trap & drain the sink. After much whirring & cursing & twisting, he dislodged the clog, & can only hope it flushed completely out rather than lodging at a lower level.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Little Dread

The sullen little gangbanger with the dreads was lurking around the corner last evening, standing in the street - as they always do - & talking into his cell. His "family" - if that's what they were, an woman who might've been his mom, a geezer, & couple of kids, moved out of the shabby, rented house months ago & the owner had to bring in a dumpster to remove the crap. There hasn't been a crew working the corner for two years, & the neighborhood feels very different in their absence, like we have a decent civilization here. Because that crew was the farthest reach of open street dealing in this part of Elizabeth. From here westward it's reasonably safe walking & quiet streets. Only some spray paint gang symbols to remind you it's still territorial. But you see those in places you might consider unlikely; white, suburban places where cocaine meets meth.

While one always hopes for eventual redemption & rehabilitation, the world would not in the short term be deprived of much if some rival gansta put a bullet in Little Dread. He is, in his present form, an evil person. He oozes evil. At one time he must have practiced the demeanor, worked on the negative vibe, when he was 12 or 13 years old. A small man, he was probably such an adolescent runt, almost certainly fatherless, that he needed it to protect himself. Now it is who he is. What he began by imitating & absorbing from the outside has become his substance. He demands respect because without it he would be nothing & invisible, an onlooker in the crowd gathered around yellow crime scene tape, an event in which the only two participants worthy of audience attention are the victim & the absent perpetrator.

I have one amusing memory of the guy, the New Year's Eve I saw him wearing his baggy best, walking down the street toward some party, his rail-thin "shorty" a few steps behind - she really was short - wearing an expensive-looking tight gold skirt, jabbering at him in a high, abrasive voice. She kept it up until I couldn't hear her anymore, but I knew he still could. Hah, I thought, you wanted a bitch as a personal accessory & now you got one.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The last Victorian

The last intact Victorian home in this neighborhood is vacant. Around the corner, about a two minute stroll. From the time I moved here it's been occupied by 4 to 6 people in their thirties, always at least three cars in the driveway at night. Once in awhile I'd see couple of them hanging out on the porch or coming or going. Two weeks ago, walking by after dark, there was a small bonfire & party out back, people singing. That was unusual. Last weekend I noticed the grass getting long, & some household items on the curb mixed in with a lot of trash bags & pizza boxes, no cars, the house definitely had a hollow feeling. I've seen three beautiful houses razed over the past year, the lots are vacant. Two had to be 100 years old. This house is a treasure. There's a few other houses that maybe used to look like it, but they've been radically altered & weren't this impressive to begin with. I think the house has a large addition at the rear, & an original outbuilding or stable.

The longer the house is vacant, the more chance it will be damaged by elements, vandalized, or burn. I don't know who owns it or what's planned. Best scenario is for an affluent gay couple to fall in love with it. The house has been there since this was the edge of town, & beyond were a park, woods, & the large Kean family estate & farm. There are well-maintained single family residences on both sides, the house on the right would itself be impressive if not overshadowed by the last Victorian.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Three Coins in a Fountain

Preservation New Jersey released a list of Ten Most Endangered Historic Sites. I urge everyone to visit the website. Must have been difficult to narrow the list to ten. The list includes - as one endangered site - three public funds to preserve historic sites.

Given the current economic situation & the towns where the sites are located, two of the sites - Robbinsville Industrial Track & Plainfield's Lampkin House - are probably hopeless causes, & two more almost so. Another, First Presbyterian Church of Ewing, hobbles a congregation by making a historic building an all-consuming focus. The church community knows they have other work they are commanded to do, & now all their efforts & fund-raising have to be devoted to propping up a slate roof. The charms of nearby Liberty Hall in Union are not promoted widely enough, & if the Foundation reached out to surrounding neighborhoods it would discover a strong, untapped vein of local opposition to development of open space. I can hear the Liberty Hall Carillion from here; it plays "Three Coins In A Fountain." As for the Charms Building in Asbury Park, preservationists have lost too many battles in that city to have good expectations.
Have to find an optometrist/optician tomorrow. My glasses fell on the bathroom floor & snapped. Lightweight frames, a few years old,. they had reached a fragile stage. Got them crazy-glued but it won't last. Couldn't locate my previous pair, found an older pair - thick, large, yellowing plastic frame, ten years old, the lense strength not much different but silly looking things. Glad I at least have some backup. There's a much older pair in the drawer, smaller dark, indestructible frames that actually look pretty cool but must be from 20 years ago, useless lenses.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Full Armor of George

In the run up to the Iraq invasion Donald Rumsfeld thought George W. Bush had to be given some spine with a Sunday School pictorial adorning a presidential memo, using stock Dept. of Defense photos & Bible quotes out of context. A Christian Crusade against the Infidels. Us bloggers have good reason to tag some of our posts "Blogging against theocracy."

Yes, Bible literalists fumble with metaphor. Open the door to one & a hundred more walk through [metaphor], & soon you can't tell the difference between a miracle & a meteorological event. But only the most simple-minded of believers could fall for this above the silhouetted image of a tank:
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13

Rumsfeld's quote. Next unquoted sentence: Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

Ain't gonna study war no more.

Only fitting [pun alert] that this disturbing exposé was in GQ, where men go for our weekly Ten Fashion Essentials.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Vita, Dulcedo, Spes

Life, Sweetness, Hope, Notre Dame's motto. Thought it possibly counterproductive for The Prez to accept an invite to Notre Dame this year. Why stir up the abortion issue? But it's stirring up anyway with a SCOTUS nomination. The protests were small, the young graduates overwhelmingly appreciated having him as their commencement speaker, a few had silent protest symbols, the four hecklers were all men. Most of the "controversy" was being generated in television studios. College students are probably why Barack Hussein Obama carried Indiana last November.

Today I praise Notre Dame.

Notre Dame University reminds us that there's a lot more to the Roman Catholic Church than Bishops. Which is, of course, the proud, traditional conceit of Notre Dame & its vast diaspora of fanatical alumni. If Notre Dame started five declared atheists on its basketball team, the Church would still take credit when the team won. The Church wins whenever a sitting president speaks at commencement, & it appeals to Notre Dame's inflated sense of importance. For a national stage, Presidents choose Notre Dame before Gonzaga, Boston College, Villanova, Georgetown, Fordham, Seton Hall, or however many Catholic colleges & universities there are in America (six in New Jersey). Any Catholic school of higher learning that considers itself too pure to host the President of the United States for one occasion or another is too damned stupid to be accredited.

An anti-abortion priest said, "Now this honorary doctorate today is a law degree. Law is for the protection of human rights.” Wrong. Law protects those rights conferred by law. Dogs have some rights. An elderly woman may think she has the "natural right" to a seat on a crowded bus, but unless seats are legally designated for elderly people, no one is required by law to vacate a seat for her. Obama did not receive an honorary degree in Church Canon Law. Canon Law is the source of the Notre Dame controversy.

Arch conservative legal scholar & Catholic Mary Ann Glendon declined an honor from Notre Dame as a protest against the Obama appearance. I respect that decision. But she did so from the safety of her position as a professor at Harvard School of Law.

Cherry Hill NJ

Kiddyland, Cherry Hill Mall

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

You Just Cost Me Money

This guy is a clown:
RNC chief: Gay marriage will burden small business

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Republicans can reach a broader base by recasting gay marriage as an issue that could dent pocketbooks as small businesses spend more on health care and other benefits, GOP Chairman Michael Steele said Saturday.

Steele said that was just an example of how the party can retool its message to appeal to young voters and minorities without sacrificing core conservative principles. Steele said he used the argument weeks ago while chatting on a flight with a college student who described herself as fiscally conservative but socially liberal on issues like gay marriage.

"Now all of a sudden I've got someone who wasn't a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for," Steele told Republicans at the state convention in traditionally conservative Georgia. "So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money."

As Steele talked about ways the party could position itself, he also poked fun at his previous pledge to give the GOP a "hip-hop makeover."

"You don't have to wear your pants cut down here or the big bling," he said.
Steele merely expressing national Chamber of Commerce view. Note that he doesn't tell how the college student reacted. A socially liberal (or even moderate) person supports equal rights in the form of civil unions or marriage, both of which extend (or ought to extend) the same basic spousal & family benefits in the workplace. In exacting civil union legislation like Great Britain has, the legal & contractual benefits & obligations are identical to marriage. Supporting marriage equality over civil unions tends to go to other matters. It also recognizes that America isn't Great Britain, & our tentative approach is resulting in a patchwork of conflicting & unfair laws. So the young "socially liberal" student would have to oppose both unions & marriage, which we can be certain she will not do on the counsel of The Party of Homobigots. Same sex marriage is better for small business than civil unions because it opens up the vast wedding industry to a new, affluent clientele.

The argument, "You just cost me money," sounds like the gripe of an unhappily married heterosexual man headed for divorce court. The young woman on the plane must have picked up on that tone & thought, "Here's an a-hole who won't pay his child support on time." Hey Mikey, remember, "It's cheaper to keep her."

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Friday, May 15, 2009

West End Garage

700 Chrysler & 1,100 GM dealerships. Maybe a few less after court battles & tradeoffs. Maybe we could have seen this coming 20 years ago. We knew there were too many, the companies were bloated at the retail end. It was a mystery to me how so many managed to stay profitable.

The internet was undermining them anyway. A saavy buyer can go to a dealer, find a new model in stock, do some online research, jiggle the figures on rebates & extras. come up with a firm quote, e mail it to the dealer: "This is what I'll pay, here or at some other dealer." Smaller dealers encourage it because it helps them compete with the giant competitors out on the highway. But the smaller dealers don't offer free sushi & jacuzzis while your oil is being changed. 90% of what a new car salesperson does can be replaced by computer kiosk in the showroom.

We're seeing the end of an era that actually ended long ago. We have reason to feel sad. But neither we nor the dealers have much reason to be surprised. It hurts that West End Chrysler ( locally known as West End Garage, the official name), landmark family-owned dealer in Rahway NJ, is on the hit list. West End has been in business since 1914. They were selling cars when Rahway was still building horse carriages & shipping them out on barges from docks downtown. Even now, old timers in Rahway wouldn't think of buying a new Chrysler anywhere else. It's a quaint place - looks like a large garage. Small showroom, lot, & service area. I'd love to buy a Sebring Convertible GTC there. They'd probably throw me a party when I picked it up, with a Letter of Commendation from the Mayor & City Council. If West End could survive WWI, The Great Depression, WWII, & the 1970's, & could project making it through this troubled time, you'd think Chrysler would not only let the business stay in business, but proudly hold it up as living history & an example of corporate continuity.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Clouds lowered & wind blew in gusts but sky never opened up & poured as I walked back across town from the clinic. You can't dress properly for this kind of warm, muggy day. The main library was so uncomfortable I nearly walked out without my hoodie. I checked out the new Elmore Leonard, I don't know if I'll get around to reading it within 14 days. Two copies there, none at my branch. The new Abe Lincoln bio was too imposing, & although the Andrew Jackson book looks good, I know the Trail of Tears will happen & cancel out everything I might otherwise admire about the guy.

There's a lot of new, vacant retail space in this city, buildings & a strip mall constructed over the past year. A 7-11 is moving into the strip mall next to the Dunkin', but a Drug Fair in a large space near to it closed, & the other store remain empty. . Most of the failing businesses seem to be small Hispanic-owned markets & restaurants. Goodman's, a well-known, non-Kosher, over-priced Jewish deli-luncheonette became a Colombian place with an expensive new sign, & the new ethnic identity lasted under a year. Goodman's "special" was half-a-corned beef sandwich & a cup of soup for $7. There a was beautiful new cafe on Morris Ave., warm wood paneling, floor-to-ceiling front windows that folded open & made it like an outdoor cafe, Mets games on the TVs. Adult crowd, bustled on weekends. Looked to me like it was doing alright. Then it closed & was completely renovated into a dark, uninviting restaurant-bar with a fancy menu, everything steel & black formica, it was ugly. That went out of business. In large part, I suspect, because you wouldn't dress up & spend a lot of money where nobody could see you. Meanwhile, another old free-standing bar a block away, near the train station, opened with a patio, cute bar girls, & $3 Happy Hour Coronas. Don't know about the inside but the patio is very popular.

I can't use my kitchen sink. There's a clog in the wall pipe & the sink upstairs in draining in my mine, & mine drains very slowly. It's not nice. Thank heavens the guy up there doesn't use his much. The fixit man knows but there was nothin' he could do today. I had this same problem in my old place & grossness flowed up the drain & overflowed the sink, I was filling up a bucket & tossing the awful soup out the fire escape door. I told fixit man, "Trust me, you don't wanna wait on this. "

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Post 2301

Some politicians I want to keep on talking because I know they'll shove the foot deeper & deeper:
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — A Republican candidate for Senate from Arkansas reportedly referred to Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer as "that Jew" during a recent appearance before a Republican group.

State Sen. Kim Hendren told The Associated Press Thursday that he was wrong to refer to Schumer's religious affiliation during a Republican committee meeting last week. Hendren said he doesn't remember the exact wording of his comment, but he was quoted by conservative blogger Jason Tolbert as calling Schumer "that Jew."

"I ought not to have referred to it at all," Hendren told the AP. "When I referred to him as Jewish, it wasn't because I don't like Jewish people."

Hendren said he made the reference as he talked about comments the senior senator made criticizing some elements of the Republican Party.

"I shouldn't have gotten into this Jewish business because it distracts from the issue," Hendren said.

Representatives of Schumer declined to comment on the matter.

Hendren, who once ran for governor as a Democrat against Bill Clinton in 1982, is the only person to have declared their candidacy to challenge Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln in 2010. Hendren is also the minority leader in the state Senate.
He also said, "At the meeting I was trying to point out that, unlike Senator Schumer, I believe in traditional values , like we used to see on The Andy Griffith Show." Since 70% of Jews voted for Obama (remember, they were supposed to despise him), & Arlen Spector quit the party, it was just a matter of time before the Repugs began dropping Judeo from their defense of so-called traditional Judeo-Christian values. There's a popular protestant Bible study guide based on The Andy Griffith Show. We all know Mayberry: two cops, one drunk guy who always locked himself up. The pop culture thing isn't unusual. Years ago, some colleges used The Gospel According to Peanuts as a text for introductory Bible studies, but like the comic strip it was overly-influenced by 20th Century existential theology.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Coffee Money

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The mayor of Providence wants to slap a $150-per-semester tax on the 25,000 full-time students at Brown University and three other private colleges in the city, saying they use resources and should help ease the burden on struggling taxpayers.

Mayor David Cicilline (sis-ah-LEEN-ee) said the fee would raise between $6 million and $8 million a year for the city, which is facing a $17 million deficit.

If enacted, it would apparently be the first time a U.S. city has directly taxed students just for being enrolled.

The proposal is still in its early stages. But it has riled some students, who say it would unfairly saddle them with the city's financial woes and overlook their volunteer work and other contributions, including money spent in restaurants, bars and stores.
Cities often look for revenue from universities to compensate for their tax-exempt status, and many schools already make voluntary payments to local governments. Providence's four private schools — Brown, Providence College, Johnson & Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design — agreed in 2003 to pay the city nearly $50 million over 20 years.
The four schools generate more than $1 billion a year in economic activity, said Daniel Egan, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island. They employ nearly 9,000 people in a city of roughly 172,000.
Brown's executive vice president for planning calls this proposal "counterintuitive." It sure is. Brown is a wealthy school with tax exempt property, but I doubt the students generate heavy use of police & fire services. I would imagine the crime mostly comes to Brown from the city, not vice versa. They're a smart Ivy League bunch, & a smart politician oughtn't tempt them into organizing economic boycotts or registering & voting en masse in local elections. Taking $150 of coffee money might push them. Providence is a small capitol city at the center of big metropolitan area with 10 times the population. Those people use the city & its public services, too, & they ought to ante up a little more. If Rhode Island is anything like Jersey, the absurd idea that a city exists in isolation from its region is commonplace in suburbia.

Wiki notes that Providence has the largest number of coffee & donut shops per capita in America. The arena is named "Dunkin' Donuts Center."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brother Mohammed

It's perfectly alright for Fox News to post a front webpage showing a rifle pointed at the head of the President of the United States, but we sure stopped them terrorists:

5 Miami men convicted of Sears Tower attack plot
MIAMI (AP) — It took three trials, three juries and nearly three years, but federal prosecutors finally succeeded Tuesday in convicting five Miami men of plotting to start an anti-government insurrection by destroying Chicago's Sears Tower and bombing FBI offices. One man was acquitted.

When the FBI swarmed the downtrodden Liberty City neighborhood to make the arrests in June 2006, the administration of President George W. Bush hailed the case as a prime example of the Justice Department's post-Sept. 11 policy of disrupting potential terror plots in the earliest possible stages.

Yet hours of FBI recordings of terrorist talk contrasted with little concrete evidence of an evolving plot, triggering two mistrials because juries could not agree on verdicts against ringleader Narseal Batiste or five followers. One of the original seven defendants was acquitted after the first trial.

These guys are knaves & fools, & they were being guided by an FBI informant posing as "Brother Mohammed." There was some question as to how much they were stroking the Brother just to get their hands on the fifty grand he claimed to have for them.

Meanwhile, over on the far right, they're sending out all kinds of nasty code messages. At the Star-Ledger website you can hardly find a news story where anonymous commentators aren't calling for lynchings, concentration camps, mass deportations, & the total destruction of any city in Jersey & all its occupants with a substantial black or Hispanic population. The Star-Ledger, which can't even afford reporters, doesn't do anything to suspend the accounts of these nutcases, whose screennames become familiar after awhile.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Horoscope said: It's time to pay more attention to the cautious and conservative voice inside you today -- especially if it's telling you to walk away from something new and mysterious. It's a bad idea to get involved in anything you're not totally sure about, such as investments, major purchases, or social events where big drama could occur.

Honest, I wasn't seriously thinking of purchasing the avant garde pipe organ CD or the reasonably-priced vintage Iolani tropical dress shirt from Rusty Zipper shop. But it is a conservative shirt.

CSI: Miami had an especially disgusting teaser opening tonight. Guy fell in a swimming pool loaded with sodium hydroxide & melted. Couldn't wait for hazmat, so they had to pour vinegar in the pool to fish him out. The creeks around this part of Jersey used to be like that pool. The new M.E. on the series didn't work out, so they wrote her out by arresting her & sending her to jail. Alex, the old M.E., talked to corpses before she dissected them.
Later. The next time Craig Ferguson has Bryce Dallas Howard as a guest (she was flacking Terminator Salvation), he won't have to stumble around for five minutes before realizing she's smart, educated, & classy, & understands Kierkegaard better than he does.

Which is one thing I don't like about Craig. He shows the promotional clip before the guest comes on, & the guest doesn't even have to talk about it. But then he makes a ritual of ripping up the blue card with the prepared questions like he doesn't need them, when in many instances he obviously does. He gave Howard the dumb starlet treatment, failing to catch the little slap when she said she hadn't read "Either/Or" but had read the "Cliff Notes."


Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Year of Mark Twain

When the goal of a political party is to establish a quasi-theocratic, national security police state, permanently at war with Muslim enemies without & atheist enemies within, it's difficult for it to settle for anything less. It becomes a magnet for ideologues, bigots, bulliies, & religious fanatics, & if you don't qualify as one or more of those you aren't welcome.

They dream up stuff like this: H. CON. RES. 121
Encouraging the President to designate 2010 as ‘The National Year of the Bible".

Co-sponsored by Republiban backbenchers, carefully worded with truisms, some non sequiturs, it serves no purpose but to please the local party ultrareligious base &, they hope, embarrass the President in their home districts.

The old Christian far right is having problems accepting three things:
1. They lost the election for both president & congress.
2. President Obama is toning down state religious observance to the traditional place it held prior to Ronald Reagan's deal with Moral Majority. He's comfortable doing this because
3. the adjustment is overdue, & Barack Obama, at age 47, is well within the cultural & religious mainstream of adult Americans between the ages of 21 & 60. That's one reason why he's so personally popular. He, like most educated, middle class, mainline believers, is not dogmatic.

2010 is the 100th Anniversary of the death of Mark Twain (or as I prefer, the year he rode away on Halley's Comet). Also Tolstoy.
America has changed. I like to believe that if Thomas Jefferson were alive in a later era, Monticello would be hosting Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Bahais, Taoists, Sikhs, whomever the always-curious host could entice there for dinner conversation. The Dalai Lama? Definitely. I think those two would strike up a correspondence. Maybe even a Pope or two, after they began accepting some fait accompli results of the European Enlightenment. & it is the ideals of the European Enlightenment, not the scriptural Bible, that Jefferson would most defend at the dinner table, & then offer his guests a telescopic view of the University sprawling up the hill on the other side of the valley. "There's the new arena. Men's basketball sucked this year. Women were good."

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Keansburg NJ

Central Railroad of NJ station, Keansburg

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

National Train Day

Today is National Train Day, inspired by this event: On May 10, 1869, in Promontory Summit, Utah, the "golden spike" was driven into the final tie that joined 1,776 miles of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways, ceremonially creating the nation′s first transcontinental railroad. Isn't something Indians fondly remember.

I'm nostalgic for a more recent era, found on a New Jersey railroad map from 1946. Jersey came out of World War Two with a decently maintained network of freight & passenger routes plus a few light rail systems. One by one, they fell into disuse & disappeared. Who was thinking sixty years ahead? The greatest mistake was not preserving the rights of way for many of the lines.

I like the idea that one could take a train from Newark to Wildwood in Cape May by a roundabout route via the Jersey Central Coast Line & through the Pine Barrens, then to Tuckahoe. It was probably an 8 hour journey with all the connections. Or more easily, a train to Sandy Hook via Keyport & Keansburg, running along the shore below the highlands & across Shrewsbury River.

I grew up in a three-railroad town, midway between the Lehigh Valley line to the Hudson River docks & the Jersey Central Elizabethport line. The one track Raritan Valley railroad went past the park & high school athletic field. When I was very young, LV still occasionally ran steam locomotives, & I recall the whistles & the rhythmic clacking of the wheels. I was not a good sleeper, & I loved those sounds flying through the silence of night. There were miles-long coal trains with cabooses at their ends, & the engineers waved at little kids. There were also horrific accidents at grade crossings. My grandmother told stories of hobos coming to the door during The Great Depression; I got the impression she didn't care for them but usually gave out a sandwich or piece of fruit. Our house was a few blocks away from the railroad & the hobos must have figured the people living next to the tracks were tapped out. I remember the verse I wrote about the railroads in a song from my rock band days:
I grew up in crummy little town
near the railroad track,
in one direction was a big city,
people that went there always came back.
In the other direction
the rails ran straight out west,
wherever they led to -
we either read in a book or we guessed.
I thought they went somewhere better than Scranton PA.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Say it ain't so, Joe Torre

How smart does an annual salary of $23,854,494 make Manny Ramirez?

Doctor: Here's a medication, I think it's O.K.
Manny: O.K.

The drug caused Manny to flunk his test for performance enhancing drugs, he's suspended for 50 games, losing 1/3rd of his salary.

One quick phone call to the Dodger team trainer, Manny, that's all it would've taken to save 8 mill & your career stats.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Coffee Carafe

Last week, making coffee while still half-asleep, the removable lid on the carafe went missing. It was a snap-on plastic lid with little bump on it that pushes a button up on the bottom of the basket so you can pour a cup before the cycle is done. I was completely baffled. Did I absent-mindedly put in the garbage? In the fridge? I could not find the lid. I looked everywhere - I thought. Maybe it somehow slid far beneath the fridge & got stuck there, & that's why I couldn't find it when I moved the appliance. Fortunately, a spare carafe fit the machine. It remained a mystery.

Today, I found the lid inside the coffee machine water well. Of course. I use the carafe to measure the water. It simply popped off. If an intelligence test could be designed around the puzzle, I flunked it. If I had logically backed through the process, I would've found the answer: The lid was missing when the machine was ready to be turned on. Before I turn on the machine I use the carafe to pour water into the water well - oh look, the lid can fit inside the water well, therefore the lid could be in the water well. I think that's inductive reasoning.


Baby Mama no more

Bristol wishes she had waited

NEW YORK (AP) — Unwed mother Bristol Palin said Wednesday that abstinence is a realistic way for teens to avoid unwanted pregnancy — a view not shared by the father of her infant son.

Palin, the 18-year old daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she wishes she'd waited to have sex.

Bristol Palin was in New York Wednesday to help promote National Teen Pregnancy Awareness Day.

In the interview, Palin said abstinence is the safest and best choice for teens.

"Regardless of what I did personally, I just think that abstinence is the only way you can effectively, 100 percent foolproof way you can prevent pregnancy," she said.

Palin's comments are a turnaround from what she told Fox News in February, that teens should avoid sex, but abstinence is "not realistic at all."

Levi Johnston, Palin's former fiance and the father of her 4-month old baby, Tripp, echoed that earlier view, saying Wednesday abstinence is "not realistic" for young people. He said sexually active teens need to learn about contraception as well.

Bristol is correct, & she's not talking religion. To which I'll add that there's lots of groovy things teens can do on the spacious seat of a pickup truck without actually, you know, doing it. Of course, boys vote for the full poke, & girls have to deal with that as dispassionately as possible. The more a teenage girl believes in her future, the less inclined she is to become a baby mama. It's a truism to say boys' brains are in their penises. Abstinence is just not a trustworthy focus for sex education. Good teen sex education has to admit the possibility of pleasure without pregnancy. Teachers & parents have to concede that sex is fun & feels good & is therefore an almost irresistably attractive thing for teenagers. Saying Jesus loathes it gives it additional allure, like stopping off on the way home from school for two double bacon cheeseburgers, a pound of fries, & a 64 oz medium soda. Then, like with teen sex in families like the Palins, they have to pretend it didn't happen although the swelling belly & changes of appetite in both instances say otherwise. We've all concluded that Bristol is smarter & more sensible than her mom, & that Levi, while not reprehensible, is a bit of dork, hardly unusual for a guy his age.

One of the most amusing moments in last year's campaign was the Palin family photo the Repugs released. All around the interwebs we were asking, "Are you guessing what I'm guessing about Bristol's tummy?" & one of the scariest moments was the photo of a mom with five children, one preggies & one newly born with special needs, practically drooling (along with her fanatical devotees) over the idea of the late President John McCain stretched out in a casket in the Capitol Rotunda.

Bristol could endorse Barack Obama in 2012. In her heart, I think she did in 2008. She knows she has an understanding friend in the White House.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Meet the family day

"Pastor Dan" Schultz & "Mrs. Pastor" are two really lovely people I met & know only online. Today, after a two-year process, they signed the final adoption papers for two children, a sister & brother they brought out of the Wisconsin foster-care system. Although they shared the experience at Street Prophets, they set some limits, one of which was that they hadn't posted full photos of the kids until today, when they debuted as an "official family." The kids are now ages 12 & 6. Here's their Meet the Family photo & diary. Wunnerful. This is a dream come true for the Schultz's, they're very happy. They both have extended families in the State. Their two children, now son & daughter legally as well as of the heart, will receive all the love & nurturing they need & then some. The kids have gradually realized that love in this particular home will abide forever. I can see that from thousand miles away.
Martha Mason lived 61 years in an iron lung, was by all accounts an extraordinary, delightful person. Graduated Wake Forest, wrote a book, had hundreds if not thousands of friends. Constantly entertained visitors at her home in western North Carolina. She died peacefully at home, age 71. There's someone makes you hope for heaven, winged angels & all.
*** rates me 6.6 in the "recreation" category & expects me to celebrate by placing a linked graphic in my blog? I didn't ask them to score me.


Cinco de Mayo

It's a signature day in Jersey Repug politics. Joe the Plumber came fully out of the closet as a homobigot, & at a rally over at a German club in Clark NJ, Repug gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan accepts Joe's warm endorsement. So much for "rebranding" the same old dreary product. It's a bratwurst Cinco de Mayo.

For them that's interested, Frank L. Cocozzelli explains the difference between The Neo & Paleo Wings of the Catholic Right over at Talk to Action.

There's a paleo-catholic columnist-blogger & Lonegan enthusiast at the Star-Ledger, Paul Mulshine. He's immediately recognizable as a sourpuss Irish-American Catholic who sounds like he was whipped into a permanent bad mood by Jansenist nuns wearing starched, burlap underwear before Vatican II, & thinks rejecting his father's taste in crappy beer was an act of serious rebellion. He's had a more interesting life than that (I wonder if he was a spook) , although you'd hardly tell from his current writing. In a recent blog, Paul trotted out the hoary argument that liberals are the real racists, conspiring to keep African-Americans yoked to socialist welfare programs, undermining their self-initiative. This line of reasoning used to be advanced by yankees who said they were personally against southern Jim Crow laws but considered de facto segregation part of the Darwinian natural order, even if they didn't believe in evolution. A rank sentimentalist at heart (like all cynical, Irish prose writers who detest poetry), Paul can't bring himself to admit that Ronald Reagan inspired the very neocons that ran the guvmint during Bush II.

Joe the Plumber doesn't want gay people around his children. What kind of father would want Joe the Bigot around his own kids? A protective dad would tell Joe, "Don't even look at my children, you moronic scuzbag."

I want to like Paul. Mainly because I'm partial to a Jersey surfer's desire to ride the big ones in hurricanes. Mostly they have to make do with small ones. I feel a little sorry for writers who habitually reach for H.L. Mencken before Mark Twain; but then you realize they studied journalism in college, not literature. On the rare occasions they show up at poetry readings that aren't in bars, they're always disappointed when the poets vote to go to a diner afterward. & we usually do. So they sit at the end of the table, a bit isolated, complaining about the coffee & trying to start arguments over current events, frustrated by what sounds to them like small talk.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Mom's Home Cooking

There's a passage in a Raymond Chandler novel where Philip Marlowe stakes out a diner called "Mom's Home Cooking" & amuses himself by trying to figure out how many lies are contained in those three words. He stops before he's done counting, but it's a literary moment that stops the reader. In four years of high school English, I had only one teacher who cautioned us about the manipulative uses of language, & what I call "Sayin' makes it so" language. I wonder if secondary school teaching has improved any since then.
Sen. Lindsay Graham: "And I know this; our party's politics is closer to America ideologically than President Obama, but he's connected with young people. We lost ground with the Hispanics, we got to repair the damage there."
A glib, nothing statement we expect of politicians, went by me at first. Then I backed up.
Do Americans have an ideology? What is it? Is connecting with young people significant or insignificant? Do young people have an ideology? Why have the Repugs "lost ground with the Hispanics"? How do Repugs "repair the damage" if they advocate mass deportations? What is the "damage"? This is chatter, the background noise political culture churns out 24/7 now. Newspapers used to filter the language, & the job of reporters was to pick it apart. Page space was limited. But TV time is abundant. Go ahead & blab & when time is up we'll change the graphic on the screen & someone else blabs. James Carville blabbing. Chris Dodd blabbing. Tim Pawlenty blabbing. Columnists A, B, C, & D blabbing together. "Out of time. That has to be the last word, B. Next up, former invisible undersecretaries of the Interior from the Clinton & Bush adminstrations discuss the Obama vegetable garden in the segment, Are the Obamas ignoring the health threat of doggy doo doo?"


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Out for a walk

Out for a walk in the drizzle I came across a cute three drawer, three color plastic child's cabinet on casters by Sterilite, placed out for trash. They're about $20 new, it looked in perfect condition except for being wet, I thought it'd be just right to put my boombox on next to the PC, it was very light, so I carried it home. It was empty except in the bottom drawer was a 2/3rd full 1 oz. bottle of Yves Saint Laurent Opium eau de toilette, classic Macy's kind of fragrance, I've never known women to throw that stuff out. I don't understand why either item was on the curb.


Bound Brook NJ

The Tropicana Club, Bound Brook NJ

Fantastic! It's like a set for a Depression Era movie musical.
Early Hammond organ on the left next to the bar.
See & hear a great Hammond nightclub entertainer of the 1940's,
Ethel Smith performing Tico Tico.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Delara Darabi

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran says that early on Friday morning Delara Darabi made a desperate phone call to her parents, saying she could see the hangman's noose.

"Mother they are going to execute me, please save me," she said, before a prison official took the phone away and said: "We are going to execute your daughter and there's nothing you can do about it."
Delara Darabi was hung on Friday in disregard of a stay of execution granted by the head of Iran's judiciary & international protests. She was 23 years old, had been convicted of a murder committed when she was 17 & for which she said she confessed to save her boyfriend. There was a strong possibility that this was the truth. Which shouldn't have mattered. Iran will not renounce the execution of juvenile offenders.

Friday, May 01, 2009

New York Hippies

New York City hippies were scary. They were grungy, street-wise, pestiferous beggars from the Lower East Side long before it gentrified. They did any & every drug. The peace-love stuff was just a cover. Three New York bands I associate with the time, The Fugs, Velvet Underground, & Blues Magoos, included sinister looking long hairs.. The Mothers of Invention, older musicians satirically disguised as hippie types, were also based in the city for an extended engagement. New York (along with L.A.) was an instructive counterpoint to the smarmy (& inaccurate) flower child image San Francisco projected, & picked up by suburban hippie kids. Late in that era, just before the first signs of punk appeared downtown, I briefly joined a New York band, & quit in a hurry when I realized the two scraggly, untalented leaders were supporting themselves by importing serious amounts of serious drugs from the West Coast in five gallon pails of organic peanut butter. They weren't at all like the genial, harmless pot dealers hanging around the college music scene in New Brunswick NJ. I was way out of my element & I knew it.

Maybe that's why the performance by the cast of the Hair revival on Letterman last night unnerved me a little bit; they looked like New York hippies. The costume & makeup artists did a good job. When they scattered through the audience during "Let the Sunshine In" there was nothing sunny about the enthusiasm, & had I been sitting there, my reaction would've been "Get the hell away from me!" Even knowing they were just a bunch of actors & I was safe in the Ed Sullivan Theater.

(I know. The photo is of faux hippies from New Haven.)


A terse of Canary wine

After 341 Years, a Woman Is British Poet Laureate

LONDON - Carol Ann Duffy was named poet laureate of Britain on Friday, the first time in its 341-year history that the post - held by such poets as Dryden, Tennyson, Wordsworth and Ted Hughes - has gone to a woman.

Ms. Duffy, 53, is known for writing accessible, often witty poems on a wide range of topics, many of them to do with the minutiae of everyday life. She succeeds Andrew Motion, who has just completed his 10-year term.
She's also a Scot, a lesbian, & was raised Roman Catholic, all of which might have had her burned at the stake or beheaded in the past. True, the job ain't what it used to be. Motion wrote eight royal poems & earned 700 bottles of sherry in ten years. Wordsworth had turned tediously reactionary by the time he was appointed, & no one pays much attention to Tennyson anymore. But it's as large a change as making an Italian-American Archbishop of New York - which hasn't happened yet.

(Laureate Ben Jonson received annually the terse, about nine gallons)

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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