Thursday, December 31, 2009
Happy New Year.
Being home (or within walking distance) has been my New Year's Eve for a long time. I took myself off the roads after the Eve I drove home on Route One, soberly, from South Brunswick to Rahway as all the franchise pubs & restaurants closed. I was coming from a small party at the home of couple who were expert cocktail chemists. She had introduced me to The Martini with the counsel, "Drink one of these & you'll think you're the handsomest guy in the world. Drink two & I'll be the most beautiful woman." Made me understand why dull commuters knocked them back at Penn Station. Mixed just right, they're meant to be lingered over. They didn't keep a large stock, but what they had was always choice. As I'm basically a non-drinker, an occasional excursion into cocktaildom was always fun, & I slept on their couch. But this night they had relatives staying with them, so I drank Pepsi all evening.
What little curiosity I had regarding Times Square on New Year's Eve disappeared altogether when that place was "improved."
Later: Nivea bought the night. The spectacle of all those blue top hats just isn't uncool enough to be cool.
Had a pleasant evening, downloaded a couple of free funky jazz organ albums, thanks to Doug Schulkind's Mining the Motherload.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Springsteen at Kennedy Center Honors
Melissa always wanted to be Bruce & she finally got her chance. Note the Asbury Park backdrop.
In Jersey, we look at Springsteen at the Kennedy Center Honors & wonder, "How the heck did that happen?" I mean the Statesman / Official Voice of a Generation / mass choir at Lincoln Memorial thing. He's filthy rich but he still lives here & rents Convention Hall in Asbury Park for rehearsals, & you can stand outside listening & admiring the classic Corvette he drives over from Rumson. Once, I found Springsteen standing outside Convention Hall with only three fans there & still kick myself for leaving my camera with friends while I took a stroll. I won't to call him "The Boss" because I'm a little older than him, don't work for him, was also in a band when he was starting out, didn't need Jon Landau to hip me to Jersey poet William Carlos Williams, & anyway I'm The Boss in my own obscure Jersey-based cultural universe.
40 years ago Springsteen had generated local buzz among bar & frat house party bands fronting a very loud group called "Steel Mill." They hadn't named themselves "Chemical Factory." I went to hear them. They had impressive equipment. I figured no band from Jersey could make it while making a big deal of being from Jersey. Somehow you had to get to L.A. & be whatever the industry people out there wanted you be.
The next time I saw Springsteen was at the Philly Spectrum during "The River" tour. The show was probably sold out thanks to scalpers, but there were plenty of empty seats in the lousy view sections. Although Springsteen was a very big act, he'd personally had only one moderate hit single, "Hungry Heart," that was not really representative of him. At the time, looking ahead, I would've predicted a subsequent career comparable to Tom Petty, with a more fanatical core fan base with more females & journalists in it.
What happened, obviously, was "Born In the U.S.A." & MTV. Designed to be a major album & image makeover, still, its outrageous success must have blindsided Springsteen. In a matter of months he went from a guy knowing he'd always earn a good living from music to being set for life. Took him awhile to sort out what to do with the changed circumstances. What he finally did, wisely, was basically nothing, except marry a smart, upper middle class Jersey girl & bank the windfall. He's hardly recorded a song since that one couldn't imagine him writing even if "Born In the U.S.A. " hadn't spun off 7 hit singles. The forms & influences he had adopted & mastered are trustworthy, & he trusted himself to grow within them. Kennedy Center Honors are given mainly to great representatives & extenders of traditional forms & influences.
It's wrong-headed to complain about Springsteen's liberal political views & say they cause some kind of dichotomy in his music. By what stretch of the imagination does the scrappy, ambitious young poet who'd have worn his heart on his sleeve if his tee shirt wasn't sleeveless, & who wrote "Rosalita" & "4th of July, Asbury Park" turn into a union-hating, immigrant-bashing Republican? That is, without all but repudiating his early work by mocking it in live performances. Springsteen still, as Jon Stewart noted last night, "empties the tank" for those songs. Famous poets have been known to turn their coats, but not many.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
We're in a hurry
Americans want but have no patience for the kind of airport security used by Israel's El Al, the only nearly fail safe system. El Al passengers don't need constant, alarming reminders & elevated security threat levels. It doesn't take an Umar Farouk incident for El Al to tighten security. El Al assumes there's always an Umar Farouk trying to get on the plane, & that's why many people fly El Al. El Al also thinks about possible Farouks on the ground with missile launchers.
We're in a hurry.
We ought to be more concerned than we are about potential homegrown Islamic terrorists; disaffected American-born sons of honest, loyal immigrants who came here & worked 16 hour days in corner convenience stores to put those sons through American colleges. Some young people become radicalized because they aren't yet wise enough to accept that reality never fits ideals perfectly & never will. They're merely educated. They're attracted to older people who don't believe in adapting ideals to positive, practical purposes; the ideologues. The ideologue teachers don't want to be the martyrs. They feel guilty for not having become martyrs for their ideologies when they were younger. So their personal practical purpose has become teaching the ideology.
I was fortunate. I came of age in an era of radicals. I've always been attracted to egalitarian ideas & lifestyles, but I dislike when they are strictly codified. I saw that the "meritocracy" of radicalism, left & right, sectarian & secular, is dominated by blowhards & bullies. When you play in a rock & roll band & smoke pot, you don't have much patience for tracts, sermons, & manifestos, much less people telling you your music isn't contributing to The Revolution. Sorry, pal, but what you don't understand is that music is the freakin' revolution. You're the bummer bystander who won't dance.
Poet Phillip Whalen wrote that the poems of Frank O'Hara are more important than the Sayings of Chairman Mao. They are, in fact, more important than the Sayings of Jesus, because when you reduce a life, any life, to bunch of printed & memorized sayings & rules, you lose the person. Jefferson's Bible lost Jesus. So does the red letter Kings James in the hands of a fundamentalist. The sayings of Chairman Mao lose the human being responsible for the deaths of many millions. I'm not using Whalen's statement to teach about Whalen or O'Hara. Go read their poems. There's little doubt in my mind that young, middle class men sitting at the feet of radical, bearded mullahs lose Mohammed.
Do we want to submit to random bag searches at train stations? After 9/11, I wanted police to search my backpack before I got on PATH, because it was usually filled with old records & weighed about fifteen pounds. They never did. This jazz group is led by a tuba player. I was offered $30 for The Misfits 45. Remember The Blues Magoos?
Monday, December 28, 2009
10 CD albums I liked in 2009
Johannes Brahms: Sextets. Arcata String Quartet with Kikuei Ikeda, Viola, & Peter Rejko, Cello (Vox).
Performance overcomes poor mic placement by the engineers. I turned to this after Brahms' string quartets disappointed me.
Frederick Delius: Violin Concerto & other instrumental works; Tasmin Little, Violin, Welsh National Opera Orchestra Conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras (Argo).
Never cared for Delius until I heard Tasmin.
Gustav Holst, Arnold Schoenberg: The Planets & Transfigured Night, Leopold Stokowski conducting Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra with Women's Voices of the Roger Wagner Chorale, & an orchestra assembled in Los Angeles for the Schoenberg. Remastered (EMI Classics).
My favorite Planets as a kid. Superb stereo engineering for 1956 - Stokowski always was up-to-date when he had control, going back to his 1920's RCA records from Camden NJ, & the remastering here follows his original intent for the analog sound, including a long silence at the end of "Neptune." Maybe the best available "Neptune." Within seconds you know Stokowski's "Mars" is modern, mechanized war; "Jupiter" doesn't come across as a fat British squire eating roast beef & singing the praises of Olde England; "Uranus" is is reckless wizard, like Mickey Mouse as the "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" in Fantasia. Stokowski tinkers a bit with the orchestration, no big deal.
Charles Ives: Variations on America; Old Home Days, The Alcotts. The "President's Own" United States Marine band (Naxos).
All inventions of the arrangers, but most of Ives' music as we hear it today is hypothetical, & Ives scholars over the past 30 years have made his music less "dense." I believe Charlie would've loved this. Why don't they play this music during the 4th of July Fireworks in D.C.?
Franz Liszt / Ludwig Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 4 & 6 transcribed for piano; Konstantin Scherbakov, piano. (Naxos).
This is great fun. Liszt idolized Beethoven, & he arranged the 9 not as showpieces but to introduce pianists & audiences to music they couldn't hear performed by an orchestra.
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Mass in G Minor, Motets & Psalms; Elora Festival Singers (Naxos).
Vaughan Williams described himself as a "cheerful agnostic" & even there I think he was just trying to be inoffensive. No way he would let personal belief keep him from composing for Great Britain's choirs & choruses, which he loved & could conduct if he wished. The Mass is suitable for Anglican liturgy. Vaughan Williams did decline prestigious commissions for coronation marches, & was never knighted. The Elora Festival Singers are Canadian & very good.
Billie Holiday: Rare Live Recordings 1934-1959 (ESP-Disk, 5 CD Box, produced by Michael Anderson).
When this arrived in the mail, a gift courtesy of an of old friend at ESP, I knew immediately I wasn't up to reviewing it in detail. There were no strings attached. What a treasure! It's a completetist package & a chronological history supplementing Billie's studio recordings. Radio airchecks, concert tapes, movie & TV appearances. I listen to it in the spirit of accepting whatever happens next, like a radio show, regardless of importance, quality of performance, sound, or material. May have helped that I've misplaced the insert booklets with the track listings. They'll turn up eventually. Billie's personal life was a mess, she tore her voice up by Disk 5 but still could wrap it around a song.
George Wright: George Wright Goes South Pacific, (Boston Skyline, Reissue of the 1958 Hi Fi LP in stereo, with 7 bonus cuts).
When I tout this as a Fifties pop classic, I mean in the original vinyl LP. Everything about it sprung from Wright's imagination or passed his approval; concept, arrangements, cover art & design, stereo production. Wright didn't view himself mainly as a purveyor of nostalgia & sonic novelties, although those were part of his act. This is just a CD reissue. Why does Richard Rodgers translate better to a theater Wurlitzer than Gershwin, rag, or even Lerner & Lowe? Because Rodger's melodic inspiration came from Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Johann Strauss, Rachmaninoff, Rimsky Korsakov, operetta &, as I hear it, especially Grieg, classical piano bench music of his youth. The only "jazzy" song in this score, "Honey Bun," is also the clumsiest. Pop singers have to make Rodgers swing, he rarely composed 'em that way. George Wright's LP reveals great American carousel music, marketed like goofy Fifties exotica.
Charles Ives: Piano Music. Piano Sonata No 1; Piano Sonata No. 2 "Concord," Four Emerson Transcriptions, other works. Performed & with liner notes by Nina Deutsch. (Vox Box, o/p)
Ives' aesthetic, writings, compositional methods, & own recordings validate every conscientious performance of his piano music. Scholarship - educated guesses & choices - have refined Ives over the past 40 years. The Ives we hear in recent recordings is not the same Ives people used to hear. This was a brave 1976 recording by an obscure American pianist (whose most recent CD is of Bob Dylan songs). In the CD release it even competed with another Ives Vox Box by Alan Mandel, still available. Like other earlier recordings (including some much venerated), this one has been pushed aside & forgotten. Of course, Pierre-Laurent Aimard performs the Concord "better" than John Kirkpatrick. Joanna MacGregor performs Sonata No. 1 "better" than Noel Lee's version (but not, I think, better than William Masselos). The farther back we go in recording history, the greater the difficulties performers had in pulling together & mastering working copies of Ives scores. Deutsch's Concord was released around the same time as Gilbert Kalish's acclaimed Nonesuch recording. She knew both Kirkpatrick & Masselos, did her own research & editing. She even performed "The Alcotts" on The Joe Franklin Show. I treasure Deutsch mainly for Sonata No. 1, a wonderful American mash up in her hands, & her piano arrangement of "Variations on America."
One more to make it ten:
Dean Martin: A Winter Romance (Capitol, 1959)
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Greetings from Dino
You'll rarely hear me praise Dean Martin albums but I have to admit his 1959 "holiday" collection, "A Winter Romance," is swell. Dean's smooth, detached style suits the material. There's only three Christmas songs on it if we don't count "Winter Wonderland" & "Let It Snow," & the inclusion of songs like "The Things We Did Last Summer" & "Out In the Cold Again" is inspired - most likely the inspiration of arranger Gus Levene & producer Lee Gillette at Capitol rather than Dean, who sang whatever he was handed & treated everything the same. In '59 his propensity for openly mocking his material hadn't taken over; from the Sixties on he could hardly sing a really good song all the way through on stage without pissing on it, & by that time nobody was forcing him to sing bad ones. Did he even sing "That's Amore" anymore? I bet there were Rat Pack performances in Vegas when Dean heckled Frank once too often during a reverential moment & Frank felt like kicking him in the ass. But Dean, who knew how it felt to get punched in the face repeatedly, was immune to ass kicking & everyone knew it.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Ten Favorite Books in 2009
Michael Connelly: The Brass Verdict (2008)
Detective Harry Bosch meets Mickey Haller, The Lincoln Lawyer, "a criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car, traveling between the far-flung courthouses of Los Angeles to defend clients of every kind. Bikers, con artists, drunk drivers, drug dealers — they're all on Mickey Haller's client list." The Lincoln is chauffeured by a client working off Mickey's fee. Mickey's ex-wife handles his schedule at her home.
Mary Gordon: Reading Jesus - A Writer’s Encounter With the Gospels (2009)
My blog post on this book.
Steven Hart: The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America's First Superhighway (2007)
My blog post on this book.
Elmore Leonard: Road Dogs (2009)
"Elmore Leonard returns with three of his favorite characters: Jack Foley from Out of Sight, Cundo Rey from LaBrava, and Dawn Navarro from Riding the Rap. "
Irene Marcuse: Under the Manhattan Bridge, an Anita Servi Mystery (2004).
My blog post on this book.
Val McDermid: The Grave Tattoo (2006)
200 year old body uncovered on a Lake District hillside may be Fletcher Christian, who may have returned to tell his story to William Wordsworth, who may have put it in a poem, which may be hidden away someplace in Cumbria. Brit Lit grad student & pub waitress Jane Gresham returns to her childhood home to search for the lost manuscript & make her rep. The story works. As usual, McDermid makes makes no concessions to the language of her American readers, part of her charm. Also read Laura Lippman's In a Strange City, P.I. Tess Monaghan's encounter with Baltimore's Poe fanatics.
Robert J. Randisi: Hey there, (You with the gun in your hand) (2008, 3rd Rat Pack mystery).
"It's 1961 and Las Vegas is still the place to be. Eddie Gianelli, pit boss at the Sands Casino, now considers the Rat Pack his friends. And this time, his friend Frank Sinatra wants him to help Sammy. Someone has an embarrassing photo of Sammy and wants $25 grand for it. All Eddie has to do is make the pay-off and collect the photo. Easy, right? But at the rendezvous, in place of a blackmailer, Eddie finds a dead body greeting him instead. Pretty soon Eddie and New York torpedo Jerry Epstein are up to their elbows in bodies. There's a double-cross going on. Could the presence of the Secret Service mean that JFK is somehow involved?" Delivers exactly as promised. Cameos by Marilyn Monroe & Buddy Hackett. Epstein is a great sidekick character.
Jonathan Van Meter: The Last Good Time: Skinny D'amato, The Notorious 500 Club, And The Rise And Fall Of Atlantic City. (2003)
Friendly & largely unvarnished biography of a guy who loved Atlantic City more than the casino owners do. Skinny walked with ease among the high & the low, rich & poor. "That's Life" could be his theme song. Skinny used the 1946 success of Dean & Jerry at the 500 to help a down-&-out Frank & make a lifelong friend (Sinatra was wildly popular in A.C. when Hollywood treated him like a bum). Skinny kept a nightclub going at 6 South Missouri Ave. for thirty years. He was as mobbed up as you'd expect from someone running a gambling establishment behind a club in A.C., but nobody owned him. His biggest business & public relations mistake was getting involved in Sinatra's Cal-Neva mess with Sam Giancana (see "Hey there"). There were horrifying, tragic events in his family; Van Meter interviewed Skinny's son in a prison. The 500 burned down in 1973. Resorts International opened in 1978. Paul "Skinny" D'amato lived long enough after gambling became legal to see some evidence it would no more preserve the working class & ethnic neighborhoods of his hometown than his own high roller hotel room card games had. The casinos destroyed them. Pity, the D'amato family couldn't do something with the 500 Club name, license it to a casino as a lasting tribute to Atlantic City's most memorable host. (Terrible dust jacket cover design.)
Sarah Vowell: The Wordy Shipmates (2008) Her shipmates: John Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams.
Sarah on the Rachel Maddow Show
Brenda Wineapple: White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson (2008)
My blog post on this book.
Friday, December 25, 2009
To my other favs list of earlier in the month I have to add the Sansa Clip player. I bought a refurb for $15 from buy.com, free shipping, & it's a very small, simple, intuitive device that does what it claims. My only real gripe so far is that I can't remove the brief break between tracks, an annoyance for classical music where movements are broken into tracks but play without break. I think that function was added to to the new Clip+. Sound quality, as with all players, is ultimately dependent on the headphones. I don't like earbuds. I'm not the kind of person who walks around all the time listening to music, nor do I want to watch videos on a tiny screen. But there are times when I'm on public transportation, in a ridiculous supermarket checkout line, or reading a magazine in the library when I want to listen, & there are nights when I'd rather hear an audiobook than read (it's like radio). There are sources of copyright free audio books.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Entry in the Worldwide Christmas Tree Contest.
Christmas Cigar (Catholic girlfriends & family divorces).
My Parents' Christmas Shamanism (Bobby sneaks a peek).
The Battle of Christmas Part One (Washington crosses the Delaware) .
The Battle of Christmas Part Two (at the mall).
Then I walked up the block to Shoppers World, an urban dept. store chain that picks up where Bargainman leaves off. Some of the same clothing & kitsch, but also name brands. The Fruit of the Loom underwear is not seconds. I found exactly what I wanted; an inexpensive, small, well-rated Proctor Silex electric mill that, hopefully, won't grind nuts & pumpkin seeds into butter. Merry Christmas to me & my smoothies. Why is Shoppers World open on Christmas Day from 9 to 5?
N.J. father David Goldman and son fly home from Brazil
I feel for Sean Goldman. He doesn't want to return to the United States. He hardly knows his dad & he's coping with the death of his mom. It's a Solomonic emotional predicament. But the law is clear enough. His mother abducted him to Brazil. His natural father appealed to international law in gaining custody. Nothing has come to light about David Goldman that would make him appear an unfit parent. This should have been resolved quickly, after he was taken to Brazil. The only reason Sean didn't receive earlier press attention was because Sean stayed in a middle class lifestyle in an open, westernized nation. Had he been taken to China, or Uganda, or Saudi Arabia, he would've been a Nancy Grace cause célèbre all along. Rep. Chris Smith assured his reelection with this, not that he was in danger of losing; he also happens to be an expert on this kind of matter. But there's talk that NJ Sen. Frank Lautenburg finally got pissed off & brought the hammer down on Brazil just by shuffling some of the inbox appropriations committee paperwork on his desk.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Chesney Henry "Chet" Baker, Jr.
Chet's distinctive singing was considered something of a pop sellout by bop snobs in the Fifties - Chet was too good-looking for them - but later us younger folks heard it as seamless extension of his horn style, as blues. He earned those blues, too. As with so many other musical geniuses of his era, persecution for his heroin addiction was worse than the dope. Elvis Costello, who does a fair imitation of Chet, wrote this beautiful song for him.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Mary Gordon, Catholic Girl
I entered in, I know not where,Mary Gordon: Reading Jesus - A Writer’s Encounter With the Gospels (2009, Pantheon. 205 pp.)
And I remained, though knowing naught,
Transcending knowledge with my thought.
St. John of the Cross
Mary Gordon is a rare enough bird: a well-known writer, critic, intellectual, lecturer, college professor, Manhattanite, feminist, who also happens to be a lifelong observant Roman Catholic. (I admit I haven't been a good enough English-speaking reader. ) A few years ago, she heard a protestant preacher ranting on a taxicab radio & decided to read & study all four Gospels, in canonical order, in various translations, & see what kind of reaction she had. The result is a book resisting categorization - memoir, spiritual meditation, literary criticism. It most feels like a collection of exploratory homilies for herself.
Catholics of Gordon's generation were not much encouraged to read the Bible. Even Methodist Sunday School kids like myself read it haphazardly. Like Gordon, I also was filled with composite New Testament stories loaded with details not found in the Bible, & our teachers avoided particularly strange, contradictory, troublesome passages & encounters whenever they could. It's interesting to see her try to sort out those stories , confront miracles, & deal with the paradoxes. She attempts to maintain some intellectual distance, but memories & associations cut through.
The book is in three parts, each chapter in a part beginning with the same passage as recounted in different Gospels & versions.
One strength of Catholicism I've always admired is its acceptance of mystery, of the unexplainable. Oh, there's a long & venerable history of brilliant theologians trying to explain, but there's a parallel history of mysticism & a tradition of practical observance - you don't have to understand. Catholics have more wiggle room than they are generally given credit for by conservative protestants, for whom everything must be just so.
Part III - The Seven Last Words And The Last Words, is the least satisfying. Gordon wiggles, shrugs, & fully exposes the Cafeteria Catholic we already know she is. Too much unexplainable mystery. She cannot accept that Jesus could be the only incarnation of God. But Jesus is the one she grew up worshipping, & still does - if skeptically.
Part II - The Problem Of Jesus: Reading Through Anger, Confusion, Disappointment, Loss, deals with various problems, paradoxes, & contradictions that create differences of attitude, doctrine, & ethics among Christians, although I'm vastly simplifying it. "The Problem Of Asceticism: Do We Want To Live Like This?" "The Problem Of Perfection: Could We Live The Way He Says Even If We Wanted To?" An excellent, brief chapter on "The problem of the Jews." Some passages Christians have good reason to wish could be wished away, written for their time & intended audience they have contributed no good ever since. They are artifacts.
Part I - These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruin, is the best. Here we find Mary & Martha - for whom Gordon shows a special affinity. Also the demonic man living among the tombs, Jesus converses with his demon[s], casts them into a herd of pigs, which run off a cliff. Mainstream protestants are uncomfortable with the idea of demonic possession; these days I suppose nearly everyone is. There is the brief appearance of a man in the Garden of Gethsemane, cloaked only in linen, who goes running naked into the night. Who is he? Why is he there? Everyone looks away from the naked man. A petulant Jesus withers a fig tree for not bearing fruit out of season, a harsh judgment on a living thing with no free will doing what it's supposed to do.
Unlike Garry Wills in his books, at no point in Reading Jesus does Gordon sound like she'd be more comfortable as a protestant. I think she'd be a Catholic or nothing in particular. Wills wants to take back the Church, but you know he can't. However Gordon managed to accommodate herself to institutional Roman Catholicism, she did long ago & it's unlikely she loses sleep mulling over the history of the popes. Her Catholicism, like that of most active Catholics you & I know, is observed mainly in the heart, home, & parish, & is a practice, not a "denomination." What she does want is her own Jesus, with all the uncertainties, questions, puzzles, impossible demands, & miraculous occurrences. The Jesus who is both fully God & fully human. She doesn't want the sure thing, step-right-up Evangelical protestant Gospels blaring from the taxicab radio; the Gospel where all pieces fit because they're whacked into place with a mallet; the preacher pretending to have no doubts about the meaning of the Gospels, or, even worse, the preacher with no doubts.
Washington Post review.
New York Times review.
Monday, December 21, 2009
While making a list of my fav middlebrow bedtime reading of 2009, I was mulling over why Kevin Roose's account of a semester at Liberty University fell off the list, since I had enjoyed reading the book, found it amusing & informative, but had an increasingly negative take on it afterward. The phrase that kept occurring to me was "genial violence." Roose allowed himself to be lulled by the geniality - the good Sunday School manners - of the university's culture because he's basically a friendly, get-along kind of fellow who looked for commonalities. But in doing so, he was unable to maintain a clear view of the culture's violent attitudes & language. Roose had never really known many other types of Christians. He was as uninformed as some of the anti-religion ideologues at Kos. Going into that place, Roose needed to know more about the varieties of Christian practice & belief .
At 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon -- nine hours before the 1 a.m. vote that would effectively clinch the legislation's passage -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) went to the Senate floor to propose a prayer. "What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight," he said. "That's what they ought to pray."
It was difficult to escape the conclusion that Coburn was referring to the 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) who has been in and out of hospitals and lay at home ailing. It would not be easy for Byrd to get out of bed in the wee hours with deep snow on the ground and ice on the roads -- but without his vote, Democrats wouldn't have the 60 they needed.
Liberty students really would let the poor starve to death. They really are terrified of homosexuals to the point of sounding like blathering idiots. What is permitted women in their culture doesn't alter the fact that the underlying patriarchal assumptions about women aren't much different from Islamic Wanhabism. I won't go into why it's sad they can't look at a bird, see what used to be a dinosaur, & still Praise the Lord. Tom Coburn, a Southern Baptist & an M.D,. gives us a good example of the "genial violence." Later, of course, he said he didn't mean to wish "misfortune" on anyone.
"If senators are napping before the vote he would not be disappointed if alarm clocks don't go off," spokesman John Hart said in an e-mail.As dutifully reported by we report we decide. They don't have to apologize, or retract, unless maybe they're caught with their pants around their ankles in the vicinity of someone other than their legal wives. Only guys like Jeremiah Wright are expected to do complete turnabouts, never mind that the Rev. Wright could teach conservative, white, middle class Christians a thing or two about running a successful, open-door fish & loaves church in a desperately poor neighborhood, & he never leaned on anyone to jump in a dunk tank for a free lunch.
Coburn is up to no good. Back home in Oklahoma he plays to the angry gospel church folks, the ones who say "Keep your government hands off my Medicare ," or are working stiffs only two missed paychecks away from having a food basket delivered this week by the Church Home Visitation Committee. In Washington, he hangs out with the "C Street" crowd, who have contempt for the multitude hoi polloi & would've counseled Jesus to invest in a decent robe & pair of sandals & get himself invited to a meet 'n' greet at Pilate's palace.
We know what you meant, Senator.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
3 am update. We were spared the worst of it in Elizabeth, just lucky.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Winter Storm Warning
AT THIS TIME...THE BEST ESTIMATION IS FOR THE STORM TO TAKE A FAVORABLE TRACK TO PRODUCE THIS MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW AND STRONG GUSTY WINDS.One might take issue with the word "favorable." It fits, just barely.
Enough to send me to the Chinese guy's market for milk, bananas, & a small bag of onion rings. A gas line explosion by Burger King down the block from there, rattled the window earlier, couldn't see any building damage but traffic was detoured & all fouled up. Gave Sansa Clip an inaugural walk, worked fine.
The Chinese owner was debating with an Indian man over which country has larger population. The Chinese guy was right, although it's close, but both of them had their numbers way off. Neither said "one billion."
Pulled out my snow-worthy shoes. They are not boots or for walking in snow, but for on top of pressed down sidewalk snow & stepping in slush at corners, conditions where old sneakers don't cut it. The timing for the snow is good, & it's better if the temps stay cold for a few days after heavy snow.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Bye bye Hideki & Johnny
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
G-d's hat style
Note to guy accused of participating in the beating death of a Peruvian immigrant in Plainfield NJ: The ability to state in court, "I didn’t fully comprehend what they meant by ‘you have the right to remain silent,’" sort of argues against an inability to comprehend. & tell your own mom that she won't convince us you're a "good kid" by rolling out your baby mama's one year old child. If your defense lawyer hasn't already told her.
Note to myself regarding a CD reissue on my 2009 Favs list: A great vinyl record album cannot be replicated on a CD reissue. Digital remastering may improve the sound, & the music is still great, but the original full-size cover, liner notes, production, year of release, & concept are also components of what made the album a great package.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The best thing about today
Let's just say the doctor loves his expensive up-to-date gadgets, & that the tests would've been very interesting to watch done on someone else.
But the weather was o.k. I took a #31 bus thinking it stopped at the same corner as the #34, but it changed to a different street when I wasn't paying attention, fortunately I realized it while I could get off & walk four blocks back to my desired destination. While we were waiting in an exam room for the doctor, I told the nurse-assistant about taking the wrong bus & she said, "Oh, that happened to me, one time I was running late & took the #31 instead of the #34..."
If I hadn't gotten off that bus when I did, I would've had to ride it a long way before it reached an area where I would've been willing to get off & wait for one in the other direction.
Because I forgot the tests, I felt no unusual anxiety & slept well enough last night. Small but important blessings.
(The #34 was a bus WFMU DJs took from Penn Station in Newark to the old studios in East Orange.)
When I arrived home, the post office delivery person had left a "sorry we missed you" card in my box for a package I'm pretty sure fits in the larger "package" box on the new mailboxes. They're supposed to put it in there & leave a key in my mailbox, & when I use the key on the package box the key is supposed to lock into the keyhole & only the post office person can remove it. That's how it was explained to me, which is why I had the package sent here & not to Gina's house.
By John Shabe
December 15, 2009, 1:52PM
Good news, New Jersey music fans. The Court Tavern lives after some 11th-hour loans this morning kept the famous New Brunswick music venue from closing. The club faced a 4 p.m. deadline to pay thousands in back taxes and other fees, but a flurry of online appeals over the last 12 hours appear to have worked. The Court's Eileen Abbott wrote on the club's Facebook page:
O.K. EVERYBODY BREATHE In the true spirit of the season people all over the country have been burning up my phone ready to help. Thanks to a very generous soul (thank you Michael) who came in with a certified check for $20,000 so that nothing went wrong I am going to go and pay the taxes now. I will set up a paypal acct. either tonight or tomorrow and people can donate at their leisure over the next week or so. Look for an update tomorrow. Bobby [her husband] and I are truly touched.
Monday, December 14, 2009
"As long as we consider the poor under the dominant point of view, namely, as handicapped capitalists, we understand nothing. The dignity of the poor lies in their being, not in their having and not having; the destruction of their dignity is the destruction of their solidarity with one another and their vision together."Posted this quote to my Facebook wall with some expected positive responses, & one from a guy who didn't quite get it, which surprised me at first because he's one of the smartest people I know. He wrote, "Sounds to me like a very eloquent rationale for why the poor should stay poor, or are somehow better by being poor."
I understand why he could read it that way. Soelle was a Christian theologian, & her focus was a theology of the poor. I like the quote because it can stand apart from the Christian (if not a spiritual) context. I don't even agree with some of her views, but I let them challenge me & learn from them, & they're strong counter-arguments to ultra-right theologies that wrap themselves in a kind of libertarian disguise, the kind that poisoned one of my two good-hearted nephews, turned him away from the best of Methodist practice & tradition.
Soelle was familiar with the desperate, hopeless poverty of the Third World & of America's urban street homeless. She hardly wants them to stay desperately poor. She's expressing the Biblical view of the poor. In the Bible, the poor are not characterized as those who have failed to be not poor; they are just what they are, & they receive preferential treatment from the prophets & from Jesus for being what they are. When Jesus brings the poor together, he demonstrates that, in solidarity, they have the power to feed each other. He presents them with a better vision of themselves. Pax Romana was no democracy; it was occupation & indifference at best, & brutal repression at worst. You could be executed for weeping at an execution. The poor had to take care of each other or they would die individually.
My own view of the poor is not of the homeless, but of people who do have roofs over their heads & food in their cupboards, they try very hard to maintain a simple dignity. Some of them are what used to be called "genteel poor," There was no great stigma in being genteel poor when there was more civility & most middle class people made do with simpler comforts. The most basic assault on this dignity is crime committed by the poor upon the poor. There is a great difference between a crime-ridden poor neighborhood & a relatively safe mixed economic one. In the safe ones, the poor reside near working & middle classes & are not completely invisible. They aren't trapped. They have dignity. The dignity shows itself in things as simple as more Christmas decorations, front yard flowers, & people walking their little dogs after dark.
Our better treatment of fixed-income seniors provides a good example of how to accord poor people some dignity. There are cities in Jersey where fortunate seniors reside in decent subsidized housing, have access to cheap or free local transportation, & congregate at all-day senior centers. The centers in Elizabeth offer lunch & recreation, but also workshops on Medicare, Social Security, health & nutrition. The Mayor regularly visits the centers, which reminds seniors that they can vote - against the Mayor if they don't like what he's doing. Unfortunately, not all seniors receive these services. But there's the model. We know what to do. We know we shouldn't say to seniors, "You are failed young people." (Our popular culture does that.)
The poor need more: education, job training, counseling. But first, they need what the seniors have.
The dignity of the poor lies in their being....
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Image by John Acosta & Carlos Menchaca
from their mural in St. Paul MN.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Holly Jolly Hanukkah
Have a Holly Jolly Brisket,
& some matzo ball soup, too.
But the matzo ball glows, looks like a nose,
Rudolph, where are you?
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Newsweek, Blockbuster, Kodak & Borders
I read Newsweek at the library if I have to wait for a computer. It now takes about 10 minutes cover to cover.
Of the ten, I think Blockbuster blew it the worst & the fastest. Blockbuster was positioned to become what Netflix is now, & it has to be impossible that nobody in was company was pushing the idea long ago. An arrogant company in the video tape rental era, huge stores, excellent selection, over-priced. I remember rushing due tapes back to the one in Linden NJ just before closing only to discover I hadn't rewound them.
Borders & Barnes & Noble book stores looked alike, but Borders initially had a more casual ambience. B&N felt regimented & top down corporate, staff wearing standardized uniforms. Borders had better remaindered book tables. Borders bought Waldenbooks from K-Mart in 1994, with no improvement. The Waldenbooks mall stores were awful. The one in Woodbridge Mall never failed to disappoint me. I guess because I habitually enter a bookstore with expectations, & hundreds of visits to Waldenbooks couldn't knock them out of me, which is I suppose a good thing.
I applied for a job at B&N while I was running the large book dept at Pearl Arts, which I had changed & expanded to take advantage of the poor art book departments at B&N & Borders. I wanted a B&N to open up near Pearl because I was confident it would increase our business. I was interviewed at B&N by a "Human Resources Dept" type, not the store manager. Despite my awesome knowledge of the catalogues of five major publishers & many smaller ones, as well as several popular poster/greeting card lines, not to mention what I called the "doo dads" - the bookmarks, folding reading lights, fancy blank notebooks & stuff you find near the register, plus what I know about literature & history books & authors, I didn't get the job. I wasn't overqualified. Pearl paid me a crap hourly & B&N paid a little more & trained everyone on the register. I must have come across as someone who would resist treating the computerized inventory printouts as sacred documents, & might try to create end cap displays of graphic novels & lesbian love poems. They already had someone scheduling the local poet readings. That wasn't a duty I wanted; I'd read at B&N & they didn't even give featured poets a free latte. My model for a reading organizer was Edie Eustice at Poetwednesday in Woodbridge. Edie not only made sure her featured poets were paid something, they received a home-cooked supper at her place if they were traveling any distance.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
It's My Life
Always discreet with his gadgets, Bob sat down on the bus, attached the pink Sansa clip to his earlobe, began braiding the ear bud wires, & stared at a gangbanger until the punk lifted up his shirt & showed Bob the gun.& some readers apparently thought it was true. The followup post is:
Bob said to the punk, "Now that I've got your attention, I know who you are & I have a message for you."
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
The Sanctity Clause
On the news, we all see the novelty weddings, people getting married on roller coasters, skydiving, in Vegas with an Elvis impersonator officiating, with participants dressed as Star War characters. This is sanctification? To those people it is.
The best marriages (& intimate long term relationships) I know are - in ways I cannot quite explain - profoundly spiritual. They're not all first marriages. One couple had cohabited for 15 years before legalizin' it. The spirituality in these unions grew over time from the inside out, through a life together lived day-to-day, it's not a quality anointed by a magical two become one rite.
At some point, a gradual, evolving process for me, I concluded I didn't care if gay couples had access to the rights of civil marriage or the word "marriage," if that's what they wanted, & state domestic partnership laws weren't sufficient. The problem is the civil alternative isn't even available at the national level as it is in Great Britain, which went to great effort in keeping the word "marriage" out of the laws. In America, resistance to gay couples having the legal rights & protections of heterosexuals goes beyond defending the definition of "marriage." It goes to prejudice. It isn't enough for an individual state to extend those rights. I thought it was irrational to guard a word, "marriage," without providing a full alternative in civil law, & that's probably what pushed me across the line into open support of gay marriage. If we want to hang on to a traditional definition of marriage "between one man & one woman" in a society that continually demonstrates contempt for the institution's traditional "sanctity," we have to offer a defensible alternative. America does not.
I've noticed cultural peculiarities I might find amusing if I didn't know what they meant. Young evangelical guys setting off my gaydar - which is not finely tuned - I'm generally incurious about a person's sexual orientation; these men, nearly all over-compensating spectator sports enthusiasts, use the word "gay" flippantly, & often, to signify inadequate maleness. It's a buddy insult. There's the black lesbians fleeing Newark via PATH train on Saturday evening, I've watched how they relax, smile, & become more unguarded as the train passes across the Meadowlands & the Newark skyline shrinks. What's with that city? I've thought.
I don't know if the Jersey marriage rights legislation will pass next week. Public support hovers around 50%; over the next few years it'll break in favor & stay there. The problem is that approval is weighted toward the younger demographic, & they're not reliable voters, so a referendum this year would likely lose, too. It won't lose three or four years from now. But it's good to put politicians on record. With her committee "no" vote, I think future aspirant for statewide office, State Senator Jen Beck blew her chance to become governor or U.S. senator when she grows up, that's how much the Jersey cultural & political landscape will change.
The legal protections & exemptions extended to clergy are unnecessary, but go ahead & add them. How can a Catholic priest be forced to officiate at a gay ceremony when he not only can decline any invite to participate in wedding ceremonies outside his own parish in any capacity, he can refuse to provide the marriage sacrament itself for any Catholic from his own parish he deems not in good standing?
I told you before, stay away from my door
Don't give me that brother, brother, brother, brother
The freaks on the phone won't leave me alone
So don't give me that brother, brother, brother, brother
I, I found out!
I, I found out!
Monday, December 07, 2009
Studying portable Mp3 players, a gadget I've never had & so never had to learn. A lot of their functions people value so highly aren't important to me. I had to research audio book formats & availability.
Do I need a little Mp3 player? Or do I just want a little FM radio? I don't like ear buds, tend to listen to music though headphones too loud anyway. But I think I'd like listening to audio books again. I used to, all nonfiction, on cassette tape. My sister turned me on to audio books years ago, she listened in her car. Her real book bedtime reading back then seemed to consist of a single large volume of Sherlock Holmes stories.
Down-loadable audio & e books are coming to public libraries. There's a collective online lending service, NJ Listen, has only about 4000 audio books now, in several audio formats, & waiting list for most of the newer books. It has to grow, such an obvious way for tight budget Jersey libraries to do audio books. My library isn't signed up for the service yet. My library has a - call it a lack of vision toward the top that I can feel at the level of the desk clerks. (Someone there is to be commended for creating a Facebook page).
Last week I inquired about audiobooks at the branch, & the desk person sort of waved me off with a remark that there wasn't much of a selection because there wasn't much of a demand. Of course there isn't much of a demand. Because there isn't much of a selection.
Pearl Harbor Day
- Why didn't the US see Japanese planes coming on radar?
- Why did the US Navy ignore the sinking of a Japanese submarine prior to the attack?
- How did the Japanese fleet get so close to Hawaii without being spotted?
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Atlantic City NJ
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ office confirmed late Friday night that the Montana Democrat was carrying on an affair with his state office director, Melodee Hanes, when he nominated her to be U.S. attorney in Montana.As one blogger pointed out, the learning curve among politicians on these things is nonexistent.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Atlantic City should look like this
Fremont Street, downtown Las Vegas, 1980. It looks like a boardwalk. Casinos open out on to the street like boardwalk arcades. In the 1970's, Steve Wynn added a first rate hotel to the Golden Nugget.
Fremont Street went into decline anyway. The Strip was the place. Atlantic City imitated The Strip, with self-contained casino-resort hotels, some of them isolated at the north inlet, & unlike Vegas, they were not family friendly. Atlantic City had attracted families for a century, had practically invented the concept of a middle class resort city with vice on the side. Las Vegas in effect expanded its appeal by imitating old Atlantic City & adding the Steel Pier with The Diving Horse, Steeplechase Pier with the amusement rides, & lots of good, affordable hotel rooms.
To revive Fremont Street, Vegas enclosed it, turning it into "The Fremont Street Experience" pedestrian mall with the most amazing lighting displays in America. Atlantic City could have enclosed a large stretch of the Boardwalk with retractable walls. I wouldn't care. It'd still be the great Boardwalk, large hotels & all. Atlantic City never planned for legalized gambling using its most famous asset, the Boardwalk, as a thoroughfare.
Labels: Atlantic City
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Hey Jay Leno, what's the running gag going out on the street in city that's a magnet for empty-headed dreamers from everywhere & finding ignorant people so we can all feel superior? The woman who identified the Liberty Bell as a clock reading 5 o'clock, you couldn't see that? It was strange, but it's there. Actually, it gave me an idea for plastic souvenir of Philadelphia.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Basic cellphone service. I had no objections to cellphones, knew having one would be useful. But Verizon kept jacking rates up on my no frills landline service, which I need. I didn't want to sign a contract. I didn't like Tracfone or any other pay-as-you-go service's phone card expiration dates & confusing "double minute" offers. I had no desire to text, tweet, take photos, download ringtones, or post mobile to my Facebook page. Then I found a guaranteed full year service that included a basic cellphone with 68 monthly rollover minutes, for which I could purchase & add minutes. So I signed up, invested in some additional rollover minutes, & I carry the phone everywhere. Coverage is fine in my area. I feel more secure.
Glen Jones' white Crown Victoria. First, Glen is a physically large man. Second, he has to drive on the Jersey Turnpike in the middle of the night. Third, he always has his own style of doing things - a style I appreciate. I knew he had purchased a CV cruiser, & I was delighted when he rolled up in a car like this one (I didn't know he was in town), with his companion Gina, on a chilly dark evening in Elizabeth NJ to give me a much needed lift home from the other side of downtown. "This is a swell ride," I said. Has a driver's side police spotlight, too.
New mailboxes. Flimsy old mailboxes were in downstairs hall. Magazines & larger envelopes scrunched, packages didn't fit. The postal delivery person left packages & boxes in the hallway, at best a note to pick up at post office. I ordered CDs that never showed up, there's always a few shifty tenants, so I wouldn't have any package delivered here USPS. Now I have a spacious, large flat box with a strong lock, & a secure box for larger packages underneath. Hypothetically, the delivery person takes outgoing mail. Only con is I have to remember to collect mail when I'm coming or going outside.
Barack Obama's Inauguration. Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end. I just keep reminding myself who he & Joe Biden replaced, & how much sh*t was dumped on him. Also like that he's familiar with Howlin' Wolf's music & the lyrics to "Maggie's Farm" by Bob Dylan.
7-Eleven 12 oz. refillable coffee cup. I have quite a collection of these snap lid, no leak, microwaveable cups in various designs, sold for $1.49 or less including coffee. They're handy food storage containers. But my favorite at home coffee mug is - whenever I have one - a disposable cardboard coffee cup.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Of course Mr. & Mrs. Salahi were uninvited, & of course they're every bit the a-holes we think they are, & it's too late to do anything about them, because they accomplished their goal of becoming trash celebrities. At least some heads will roll in the Secret Service & on the White House social event staff. No president since Lincoln has been so at-risk from the implacable rage unleashed by his legitimate election to office, a rage directed at Barack Obama personally.
When Lincoln was president, anyone could walk into the White House & wander around. Washington was filled with spies & loud-mouth seditious Southern sympathizers - many of them entrenched in congress & the Federal bureaucracy, or writing for extremely partisan newspapers. Remind you of anyone? Others were even more dangerous, & Lincoln's close friends lost sleep worrying about his safety. Besides weekly meet & greet receptions featuring Mrs. Lincoln when she wasn't grieving, sick, or depressed, the President had regular open office hours & any citizen could get in line & have a chance to meet with him privately & waste his time. Some wanted his autograph or to counsel him on how to win the war (He knew how to win the war, he just couldn't make his generals do it). Others expected an appointment as part-time under-assistant postmaster of an obscure village. It was what he had to look forward to after his breakfast of one soft-boiled egg, a piece of toast, & coffee. The White House coffee, I imagine, was wretched in those days. Lincoln rarely treated his visitors rudely or abruptly, but he was expert at telling a little joke while steering supplicants out of his office before they realized they had been dismissed without getting anything. But then the next one entered.