Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I have prostate surgery scheduled for Thursday at University Hospital in Newark. Because of stubborn bladder infections, caused by wearing a Foley catheter for too long, I'm being admitted tomorrow morning for, I suppose, a 24 hour antibiotic drip & any other tests that might be required. The surgery will also serve as a biopsy because the infections prevented one being taken in office. I am at high risk. 

This surgery should have been performed 9 months ago. Whatever was wrong then is more wrong now, & I am weaker.

I hope the care I've received is not Obamacare, & it concerns me. Because if I'd had a regular job this past year, if I'd been working at Pearl Arts store, I would've been unable to do my assigned work. I believed  from the start, when I had to go to University rather than a local urologist, that I was moving into a less attentive system.  That is exactly what occurred. This never should have dragged on for a full year.

When I was discharged from  Trinitas last  fall,  I felt reasonably strong & hopeful. After a few weeks I realized I'd have to cut back on my walking. But I was dealing with it. We had a harsh winter, I was housebound a good deal of the time. If I walked too much, I paid for it later in urinary tract irritation. & I got nighttime erections despite the catheter, which were quite uncomfortable.  I was grateful I still had them, but there's nothing one can do except wish them away. The only good part was changing HMOs & finding a primary doctor who answered my questions & didn't assume I was ignorant. I also got hooked on old time radio shows. I like Our Miss Brooks with Eve Arden as a high school English teacher (which is exactly like the Fifties TV show), Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, & Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, an insurance investigator with a fat expense account & less hard-boiled than the typical radio sleuth.

I also had hopes of returning to WFMU this past summer for some fillins or podcasts.   Try explaining that to a urologist.  Now I'm posting some of the music I'd have been featuring on a DJ Rix You Tube channel.

Keep me in your thoughts &  prayers.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dollar General

From New York Times
Stores Scramble to Accommodate Budget Shoppers

Some customers at Wal-Mart and the major dollar chains — Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree — have such modest budgets that the retailers report upticks in spending at the beginning of the month, when government benefit checks and many paychecks come through. Late in the month, sales drop as even multiroll packs of paper towels are ditched for a single roll.

“People are literally running out of cash on hand as the month goes on and they’re looking for smaller package sizes,” said Craig Johnson, president of the retail consulting and research firm Customer Growth Partners. “They may have $10, $20, $30 to spend getting toward the end of the month, and they have to be able to still feed the family and get diapers and so forth.”
I like Dollar General. Not a grungy cheapo dollar store. Has name brands. Priced fairly more than as "bargains." If you take advantage of supermarket sales you can do better. It's clean, organized, well-lit, really fills a niche.


Shirley Scott, Organ.
Arranged & vibes played by Gary McFarland.

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Pledge to America."

The Repugs want us to believe that the United States guvmint is trying to drive Tart Lumber Company of Sterling VA out of business? It's the location they chose to unveil their "Pledge to America."  Looks like a big hardware store, though it does qualify as a "small business." Keeps old-time small business hours. No evenings, closes 2 pm Saturday & closed  all day Sunday.  There are three Home Depots & at least one Lowe's within five miles of Tart.
I feel bludgeoned by the NFL this time of year. No interest. I enjoy some college football, though the few schools  I might actually care about are never contending for much. Big East football this season is so weak that  the Rutgers nonconference game  yesterday against  U of North Carolina was a must-win. Rutgers lost.* The intensity of my  interest in the baseball playoffs & World Series depends on the teams involved. Some seasons it's  mostly background noise, but pleasant noise.  College basketball season starts less than two weeks after the Series.  So except for Sundays, it's fairly easy to keep pro football at bay if I stay away from sports talk radio.

* I haven't been able to embrace  Dear Old Rutgers as a Big Time football program. When I was a kid, Rutgers was a nostalgia team, &  Jerseyans tended to gravitate toward Penn State, Syracuse, & Notre Dame.  My family was Army because we had a cousin at West Point during the glory years in the Forties. Even now one can admire their pugnaciousness.

Atlantic City NJ

Labels: , , ,

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mary O'Donnell In A College Bookstore

Mary O'Donnell In A College Bookstore

I knew who you were
the very moment you stood
before me, because I have
a bit of the ancient heart
by which to know a rose,
& not enough distances
to deny the knowledge.

Now I scribble book titles,
your textbooks, for
whatever your desire,
probably too much a future
you try not to doubt,
& this is my part, although
I look like hell, & I'm
making a mess of it.

I got stoned at lunch,
more so than I wanted,
I'm feeling hassled,
& not a little paranoid,
but doesn't a rose suffer too
with each prick of the thorn?

The day is very long, so
this I say to you,
Mary O'Donnell, with
a wink of my puffy eye:
Please save this receipt.
because you never know
what tomorrow may bring. 
A poem  published in a nice 1979 anthology of Jersey poets.The kind of poem you write, like enough to send out into the world, but don't add to the repertoire. Even in 1979, it was  unusual for me to smoke pot outside home. Perhaps everyone at the Upsala bookstore had doob for lunch that day. I regretted it.

I did a number of  temp stints working at the Upsala College bookstore.  I used the temp job to join WFMU, across the hall from the store, when some connection to the school was required to get a show.

The small academic bookstore environment was alright. But I learned from it how crazy large school stores  are.  There are two major rush periods of about two weeks each at the start of the fall & spring semesters, those are stressful for students & bookstore employees, &  a less intense period for summer sessions. The remainder of the school year, Upsala Bookstore mainly served as a stationary & convenience store. My first manager, Jim Coleman, really enjoyed the slow time. That's when he looked at & ordered tee shirt & coffee mug college logo designs, pens  & notebooks & novelties, candy & lighters.  Book & product sales reps took him to lunch at the Arctic Kitchen. If their expense accounts were fat enough, they treated everyone to lunch. A textbook "buy back" rep  set up a day or two to give students pennies on the dollar for old texts. We packed up & shipped unsold new text returns back to the publshers. By  mid-semester, Jim was chasing procrastinating teachers around the campus to get their orders for the next semester's texts, art supplies, & lab kits. Teachers had to reasonably estimate class sizes. Jim had to determine if the stuff the teachers wanted was even available. A month before new semester the new books began arriving, in a trickle, then a flood. Some of the orders would be shorted. Some teachers underestimated class sizes. Shelves had to be cleared, restocked, labeled so that even idiots could find books. At   some point, the bookstore dropped self-serve on texts, a good idea, & students handed a staffer a book list. Many of the books had to be charged to school accounts, we had to write up the books & supplies using a paper receipt machine. There were long lines of grumpy students dealing with grumpy store employees.

The trend in  college bookstores was toward dept store. You could buy televisions, sneakers,   & hot cheese nachos in them. Many were being franchised to outside companies like  Follett.  They were a nuisance for schools to manage.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Something for Cat

From Barney Kessel's Lp Breakfast At Tiffany's, He arranged all 12 songs from the soundtrack lp for a  small group,  in the same  order.

I wish I liked the Lp more. But Breakfast wasn't nearly as jazzy as the two Peter Gunn albums. The songs from Gunn generally traveled well  through a variety of jazz & pop settings.  But in the Sixties Mancini was working with bigger budgets, & bigger orchestras with string sections. After Breakfast, when hired for a movie, Mancini was expected to compose a song worthy of an Oscar nomination, & one or two memorable novelty numbers.  The weakest of his melodies  sounded fine  wrapped in  beautiful 3 minute arrangements. But a new generation of   movie composers - Lalo Schifrin, John Barry, Burt Bacharach -  was  about to overtake him.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

He's sorry

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP)—Braylon Edwards is sorry. Rex Ryan is tired of all the drama.

Edwards apologized to his New York Jets teammates, coaches, family and fans on Wednesday, a day after he was arrested for drunken driving. He practiced with the team, released a statement and then spoke with the media.

“Being in this situation, being around an environment like this, you truly are appreciative,” Edwards said. “For the event to happen the way it did yesterday, it was sad for me in that situation.”

Edwards was arraigned on drunken-driving charges Tuesday after a breath test showed he had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit when he was stopped on Manhattan’s West Side around 5 a.m., prosecutors said.
Yeah, sure, he's sorry. Edwards, a bully by temperament & profession, was driving a white SUV with  drug dealer tinted windows. I  see you, you can't see me.  He was pulled over for the windows.  Three rich athletes partying in Manhattan all night, couldn't hire a limo.

I remember well the night I resolved never again to drive a car if I had any amount of alcohol in my system. I was at friend's house watching TV. We'd had a few glasses of wine. It was an enjoyable evening, a weeknight.  I was feeling relaxed, not inebriated, but definitely relaxed.   I left my friend's house about midnight. I was a couple of miles from my home in Linden NJ,  maybe five minutes if I made the lights.    I was a good driver, no "points" on my record.  Assessing my own condition, I figured I was "borderline" on alcohol level. If I waited an hour, even less, there'd be no question I'd pass. I was expecting an uneventful, brief trip home.

I hadn't driven 200 yards on a quiet street in a quiet town when a cop pulled me over.  I didn't even notice  him behind me. He must have seen me get into my car.  There was no "reason" to stop me. Looking at my license & registration, of course he asked if I''d been drinking. In fact, I hadn't had wine  in over an hour, & had drank a cup of coffee, I knew he couldn't smell alcohol. I pulled myself together & replied with what I hoped & prayed was a convincing "No." He was more convinced than not. I was sent on my way.

It was a gift.

Maybe I would've passed a sobriety test, maybe not. At Jersey's level it would've been close. I concluded  that one can not make that call for oneself.

 I already was  routinely declining New Year's Eve invites because I didn't want to drive at all on that night. I disliked driving around closing times, 2 or 3 am,  especially Route One on a weekend as the franchise parking lots emptied.  I was so cautious I easily got through police DUI checkpoints. But that one weeknight evening at a friend's house two miles from home could have blown it all.

My story is not unusual.  It's not about drinking, but about drinking & driving. Unless you've always been a teetotaler, never smoked pot, or never owned a car, you've likely DUI or DWI,  & you've probably done it knowingly, in college or whenever.

I went on  a Brotherhood Winery tour where everyone got silly, all ages. The more you "tasted," the more wine they were  likely to sell you at the end. What jolly group we were as we walked, maybe staggered,  down the path afterward to the parking lot carrying our cases & bags.  The brochure hadn't recommended a "designated driver."  The New York State Police could've  posted a checkpoint  with a bus & towtrucks outside the winery gates, but that was a different era.

Labels: ,

The Theme from "Hatari"

Elsa Martinelli.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The armed forces of the United States have always been a laboratory for breaking down cultural barriers in American society. They are the "melting pot."  Each major war has changed American society by mixing  together, under pressure, different regional, economic, ethnic, religious, & racial groups. A long period of relative peace in '70s, ''80s & '90s integrated women into the military, although they lag behind in combat duties. But no duty in Iraq & Afghanistan is really safe, behind the lines.  Now it time to follow the example of the British  armed forces & welcome gays & lesbians to serve our nation openly.  Which American politician would go to Afghanistan & tell gay British Marines that they ain't tough enough? Senator McCain?  He also knows the British navy is smaller than ours but choice.

In Israel, "Homosexuals serve openly in the military, including special units, without any discrimination."

We allow women in some combat flying positions, but are behind some other nations.
Uniquely among nations, Israel conscripts women and assigns some drafted women to infantry combatant service which places them directly in the line of enemy fire. However, approximately one third of female conscripts (more than double the figure for men) are exempted, mainly for religious and nuptial reasons.
Social conservatives are aware what  ending the military Don't ask, don't tell policy will mean down the road a few years; a lot of patriotic out vets marching in parades & saying, rightfully, that they've earned some basic rights at the federal level. Also, more & more social conservatives recognize that attempts to prevent gays from achieving full equality have become no more than fruitless tactics delaying what is inevitable. If polls are correct, many more Americans (around 70%) want to end DADT than support marriage equality. Full marriage quality (calling it "marriage)" still doesn't have  majority support, & may not have it for a long time. But ending DADT will lead to national recognition of domestic partnerships in order to provide spousal & family  veteran & Social Security benefits to vets. We need to do that sooner rather than later. It isn't a matter that can be left to the states.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The London Jazz Four play "Paperback Writer"

Cocktail jazz, the musicians aren't especially talented, but the song selection & some of the arrangements are interesting. "Rain" as a slow ballad.; "I Feel Fine,"  Please Please Me." "Ticket To Ride."  It doesn't all work, but one can hear that  these guys liked The Beatles. Most American jazz musicians did  not like rock (preferred  ballads like "Yesterday" & "Michelle." ) .


Cape May Point NJ

Cape May Ferry before the new terminal building was constructed.

Cape May Lighthouse when it still had a beach.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ramapo Mountain Poem (for Jim Ruggia)

Ramapo Mountain Poem

(for Jim Ruggia)

a bitter string we pulled taut
& snapped awhile ago, I'm still
holding my end of it.

the buildings had mirrors
for windows, the dumb birds
flew into them & fell
dead on the grass,
we learned something.

the sense of the greenness
of the place, & us
like two young banjos
smoking homegrown
& praising the hills
as all hills should be praised.
it left a good taste
on my heart.

This is one of my more competent  earlier poems, won a  statewide prize in 1976. It's about Ramapo College, the  brand new state college where I met Jim. There was no "bitter string," & "young banjos" is a goofy reference to the semi-rural location - its small arts dept. may have been  the most sophisticated in New Jersey during the early Seventies. I knew this stripped down "model" of poem would always work for me. I remained ambivalent toward capitalization  & punctuation, depending on circumstances,  & adopted the ampersand because it is a beautiful & sensible character that poet Joel Oppenheimer demonstrated could be used without preciosity if you weren't imitating e.e. cummings.  Jim has remained a presence, friend & trusted ally  all these years even when we weren't in touch.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Constitution Day

September 17, 1787

Interactive Constitution

"Activist judges" is one of the most misused terms in our political language.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

My first You Tube music video

Kept it simple. I have ideas for slide shows, but mostly I just want to share some favorite numbers from out-of-print LPs in a no frills format.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My maternal grandmother

My maternal grandmother, from a midwestern farm family, may have wanted more  than three babies. But my grandfather smoked cigars & liked limberger cheese & pickled pigs feet.

Grandma was a  moody, excitable woman, educated for a female in her generation;  two years of what was then called normal college & qualified her as a school teacher. But it was an intelligence she learned to suppress, & had few or no outlets for it.  I blamed that partly on grandpa. My sister & I surmise she suffered from periods of depression. Grandpa was rather undemonstrative, but they both liked children more than they let on & were indulgent.  They were my models of unostentatious middle class affluence:  live comfortably & quietly  & don't shove it in other folks' faces.   They would not have been McMansion types, would've considered it a waste of money & space.  Grandpa favored Uncle Harry's two daughters, nice girls but terribly introverted when I knew them, they weren't fun. Grandma served the classic roast meat & potatoes Sunday dinner. She always had peach ice cream, which to me was only o.k., an adult flavor. They had a waterfront summer house on Lake Mohawk which looked small from the front but had an incredible vista at the rear & a great backyard. Grandpa's boat was purely functional, a small outboard, you couldn't water ski with it,  so slow that none of us kids were much interested in going for rides on the lake.

We visited Lake Mohawk only a couple times each summer.It was very long car trip back then, when NJ Route 15 was a winding two laner up past the east shore of Lake Hopatcong  &  subject to awful summertime traffic jams. It  was easier to drive the 100 miles south on the Garden State Parkway to our relatives near Ocean City.  Anyway, there just wasn't enough emotional heat on mom's side of the family. They were, I realized later, a remarkably uncharitable bunch, even through conventional outlets. I couldn't imagine grandma passing up her weekly bridge game to bake a cake  for a church fund-raiser.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's a glorious late summer day here.

It's a glorious late summer day here. I was crosstown at shrink's clinic & so much wanted to walk home, through downtown Elizabeth, stopping off for library & Radio Shack browses, & up Morris Ave. past the Colombian cafes, but I knew I'd pay for it later in  catheter irritation, so regrettably took a taxi, the driver already annoyed by all the local detours for street work. He did have an amusing story about delivering a bummed out Jets player this morning from a hotel by the airport to his apt in Union, & trying not to talk about the game, which the "Superbowl-bound" team lost 10-9. Me, I don't care if they go 0-16. & if forced to choose sides yesterday of course I'd have to root for a Baltimore team named for an Edgar Allen Poe poem, it would be my literary duty. But I do not  try to understand the game of football,   which is marketed to make stupid fans feel smart (though I think most pro players are pretty darned intelligent), & watch some college games only because the insane enthusiasm & sloppy play results nearly every week in some David taking down a Goliath.

Labels: ,


for Liz French

I was sitting in what passes for my office
on the second floor of run down building
over a bad Chinese restaurant on Wilshire
& about to crack open the bottle I keep in my desk drawer
when she walked in. She sat down across from me
& dropped her cigarette in the ashtray.
I poked at the smoking stub with a pencil, & said,
"I suppose your name is Velma."

"How'd ya guess?" she said. "I suppose
you're a private investigator,
like it says in chipped paint on your door."

Labels: ,

Monday, September 13, 2010

I do not drink stale decaf

My prostate surgery is  scheduled for Thursday Sept. 30th. It was always scheduled for that date. So why, since late July, was it on my calendar & mind as the 20th? & because of that, I felt rushed. The primary doctor didn't want to see me for required preop clearance until Sept., & she had to authorize the other standard tests - otherwise insurance won't cover. I could not understand why the specialist's office had not contacted me yet with the usual instructions - check-in time, the reminder to stop taking aspirin,  prescribe the 7 day antibiotic regime - I've been through this  preop stuff before. & I need an  "unofficial" clearance from my shrink, who I see tomorrow & who, despite his mild personality,  doesn't hesitate long before calling a "time out," & it doesn't matter how inconvenient it might be for a patient or anyone else, as I learned in 2004.  I knew the situation as of yesterday would not please him.  He gives me  ten or fifteen minutes to babble every other month, & he expects me to be reasonably rational. He even acquired an MSW assistant  who sizes you up before you see him merely by engaging you in some small talk after you sign in. She has learned  that:  1. I dislike   that area of Elizabeth, & 2. I do not drink stale decaf & I detest powdered nondairy creamer, & 3. Those are not symptoms of emotional distress. She may also have noticed that I can converse with people who cannot string two or more fully coherent thoughts together in their spoken word.  I suspect it's a common ability for experienced poets, who simply approach those kinds of chats as a series of non sequiturs. It's how poets often talk with each other.

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Long Branch NJ

Valentino Markets

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Today's superb late summer weather is eerily like it was then. The poem I posted, disturbing & unlike any other I've written, is one of thousands displayed  at another website, & was all I had to say in poetry about the day, &  I gave  the words to Martin, my birthday saint,  patron of soldiers, beggars, & winemakers. Martinus is derived from Mars, god of war. Martin was a young Roman soldier who decided he didn't want to fight, yet offered to stand unarmed between opposing armies. That is not my favorite Martin story. I love that he gave half his cloak to a beggar. No reason either of them had to freeze. He had twice as much cloak as was absolutely necessary. I read recently, a poll or study,  that poor people are more charitable than affluent people, in proportion & in spirit.As impressed as I am by Bill & Melinda Gates, well, they ain't feeling much of a pinch. They don't need to pull their half-a-cloak tighter to keep out the cold wind.

This  year is the angriest 9/11 anniversary we've yet had. I'm one of those odd folk who didn't want to rebuild on Ground Zero, despite it being some of the most valuable real estate in the world. I wanted a sunken park, a place where, on nice summer evenings, an orchestra could perform works like Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis." Let the open sky be the memorial. No "Freedom Tower" (now it's just One World Trade Center). It's an office building disguised as a giant nonsectarian steeple.   Our preferences  were dismissed early on as impractical. Thank heavens the USS Arizona didn't sink where it would blight the view &  property values  at Waikiki. & the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg was fought where Washington  D.C. suburbs wouldn't gobble up the cornfields..

President Bush couldn't resist the bullhorn the day he went into the pit, 9/14. We've been shouting over the place ever since.

The craziness about Park51, as if a temple to Donald Trump - he offered to buy the property at cost plus 20% - would be preferable.  Might be more honestly American: Trump51.

Perhaps the loony pastor in Gainesville did us a service. He isn't disconnected from us. He's just a lousy minister who allowed the anger & frustration to carry him to one of the predictable destinations. He became "demonic," possessed by a terrible spirit. Nine  years on, all the blood spilled in Iraq & Afghanistan, & they still hate us. Bombing plots are broken up by police, security agencies, or accidentally -  smoke coming out of  a guy's shoe. It's troubling to think that our armed forces aren't responsible for keeping suicide bombers out of New York subways, but that seems to be how it is. It's also at the center of the Park51 furor. Park51 quickly went beyond the feelings of 9/11 families.  Fact is, several types of fundamentalist Islam grow & inspire  terrorists.  But major religions don't neatly compartmentalize themselves; they are  blurry prisms  of  belief & doctrine.

Our Constitution doesn't prohibit fundamentalist religion.  We already have too much of it. Investigating religious beliefs, putting spies in our religious institutions, isn't something we like doing.  It creates conflicts  for us. Our distaste for interference is how the American Roman Catholic hierarchy  covered up its knowledge of  massive  priestly child abuse for decades. The best way to conduct religion in America is with  all possible  doctrinal,  institutional, & financial  transparency.  I don't know the secret rites of Latter Day Saints & I don't care, because I'm certain they aren't preaching the violent overthrow of the United States government.  Mormons had to change their polygamist doctrine to fully root & grow in America - we forced the issue, at gunpoint. Change or we'll take away Utah. 

American Muslims have a harder road to travel than American Jews, Catholics, & even  Hindus.  But the road leads in the same direction: They have to  become Americans. Initially, it's a one way street, &  it isn't fair that  Americans of other (or no) faiths want reassurances,  but that's the situation, folks.  It's always been the situation. John F. Kennedy had to explain his Catholicism.  Now we act ashamed that he did it, but  it was   politically necessary in 1960. It helped. If the mullah at a  mosque is teaching ideas & attitudes he doesn't want spoken outside the mosque, it's not going to work out here.  Find another mullah.   Sharia will not influence American law. Wherever it violates Constitutional rights, any attempt to force it  upon an unwilling resident  of the United States will be challenged, punished, & suppressed. You can disown, shun, excommunicate, but you cannot forcibly compel obedience to religious law & doctrine, There's some gray area concerning minors, but none with adults.  Conservatives are correct when they say that if any  American Muslims can't accept these conditions, they're  in the wrong nation. & Muslims should not  make the error  of assuming  Americans  who strongly defend religious freedom are in any way endorsing specific beliefs & practices. I don't like fundamentalist & patriarchal religion.

Martin of Tours, as the Burning Towers Fall

When I turn again, witnessing the horror,
When I turn again, sharing the grief,
When I turn again, bearing the suffering,
When I turn again, my thorny crown blooming roses,
I turn away from retribution.

Demonic Powers! I embrace you until death!
Draw closer to me now, taste my love.


Friday, September 10, 2010

A good afternoon, Gina picked me up at 2, we went to General Dollar where I spent about $40 on stuff ranging from bath towels to a new broom to a bunch of  rectangular Sterilite plastic containers. Nothing was impulse. Only thing I couldn't find were some new miniblinds. Gina brought along some cleaning supplies & her smaller but still powerful vacuum. Then we spent a couple of hours picking up clutter, throwing some stuff out, & she did a general vacuuming, especially along the baseboards,  & even mopped the small kitchen floor area. I said I think I can handle the bathroom. if you let me borrow that sponge mop. This returned the apt to slightly better  condition than I usually kept it before the damned foley catheter made it difficult for me kneel to clean spaces, & lift heavier items.

The Sterilite containers were my idea for document storage. Folders & manila envelopes weren't doing it for me. I don't have keep various types of documents in chronological order, I just have to keep them separated by type. If I need something, I just want to know where it is. No problem if I know it's in a specific 14" x 11" x 4" stackable box on the shelves.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

snail mail

I remembered to snail mail a birthday card, an achievement for everyone these days.

The little market around the corner owned by the friendly Chinese man where I buy bananas  has been closed down tight for several weeks.  He's either visiting relatives in China or has gone out of business. Too bad if he's bailed. But a supermarket is opening a couple blocks away in a former car dealership, one of the  urban types you know if you reside in New York City. It probably would've ruined him. The market was there as long as I can remember this area, which goes back many decades, & it included a floral dept quite popular with county employees driving home on Morris Ave.  The Social Security office relocated two miles up Morris Ave.  to a new, larger building, which I'm sure made the employees happy. I doubt the old building will be rented any time soon.

Of the hundreds of apt buildings in this city, there's only about 4 I look at & think I'd rather reside there,   three of those are within a block of where I am, & all are relatively new.

I've felt comfortable only twice in apartments, & then for brief periods. One was an apartment in Linden NJ I'd been in for 12 years, &  only for the six months between the time my girlfriend moved out & I was evicted because the owner was renovating & mine happened to be the last of the four apts he got to. It was a perfect apt for one occupant.  The other was the first three years I resided in a downtown Rahway studio & my new girlfriend - who often stayed there but never moved in -  had an amazing aptitude for keeping it organized.  I moved here in 2004 & never really settled in comfortably. I was discussing this with my friend Gina last night on our weekly shopping trip.  The problem we share isn't that we hoard - neither of us  is irrational in that respect -  but that there's too much stuff we like to collect. Since Gina has cats, she's forced to vacuum on a regular basis.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Everyone expects the American Inquisition

Let's hope the world sees the fool in Pastor Terry Jones

Published: Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Keene Sentinel {New Hampshire)

From a certain angle, Terry Jones, the fundamentalist Christian preacher with the handlebar mustache, bears an uncanny resemblance to a man of the same name whose job was to behave like an idiot on TV. The comedian Terry Jones was a fixture on the Monty Python show whose humor would likely fly over the head of Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., who’s intent on burning a pile of Muslim holy books.

The problem, as noted in this space about a month ago, is that some Muslims may take Pastor Jones’ planned torching of Qurans on Sept. 11 as a useful tool in stirring up the same radical behavior that he decries; they present the 58-year-old prelate as a spokesman for American values — an ambition that’s being helped along by a few unbalanced Americans who are actually praising the pastor’s cause.

Which is? Pastor Jones says he wants to “send a message to radical Islam.” When pressed to explain just what that message might be, he’s said that Americans don’t want sharia law and sharia courts in their country. Most Americans, and probably most Muslims, would be surprised to hear that junking the current U.S. judicial system for traditional Islamic law was even being considered.

Understandably, Pastor Jones’ planned book burning has stirred outrage among his countrymen, including the head of the nation’s military mission in Afghanistan who warns of a possible backlash against U.S. troops there. With luck, most Muslim leaders will take note of this reaction, and assure their followers that Pastor Terry Jones is a joke — and a very bad one, at that.
I'd have to defend this  crackpot pastor's right to burn the Islamic holy book provided he obeyed local ordinances on open fires. In this part of Jersey he couldn't get a bonfire permit, although he could grill, fry, roast, kabob, boil, or steam all the books he despised  on a Weber barbecue in his backyard. We can only guess at what other books he'd consign to the flame. Maybe he'd toss some Elvis records in there as a nod to tradition. There'd be some dispute over whether or not he could do it as a public-invited entertainment as part of Children's Day church picnic in a rented county park picnic grove. & it's not safe to burn loose paper in an indoor fireplace - keep that in mind on Christmas afternoon.

Anyway, Jones pastors a pipsqueak 50 congregant church in a mega-church part of America  where he would  be considered a failure as a church-grower.  & he's not gonna grow the kind of church he wants in a university city with a gay mayor & 12 Starbuck's.   50 dedicated  Christians would be  capable of doing a tremendous amount of good. Jesus himself couldn't count that many committed followers when he was nailed up to die, based on who had the courage to show up at the execution site.  It was his refusal to stay dead that got the  big attention. So Pastor Jones, to my mind, is going way off message.

Let's not forget that a woman in Iran is currently condemned to die by stoning.  One of Jesus' most remarkable & courageous acts was when he interceded to prevent a stoning. He didn't stop it by burning the Hebrew scriptures that prescribed it as punishment for a variety of offenses.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Lisa Germano: Around the World


Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day

Obama to Call for $50 Billion Spending on Public Works

Imagine the headline "Obama to Call for $50 Billion Spending on war in Afghanistan." Think he'd line up plenty of Repug votes for it?
In fiscal 2011, Afghanistan is projected to cost $117 billion, Iraq $46 billion. To date, Pentagon spending in Iraq has reached $620 billion, compared with $190 billion in Afghanistan.

USA Today 5/13/2010 .
Who benefits from a permanent state of war, financed with borrowed money?

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Atlantic City NJ

Labels: , , ,

Friday, September 03, 2010

Hurricane Earl was a bust

Hurricane Earl was a bust in Jersey unless you were fortunate enough to be at the shore for the wild surf. No wind, no rain squalls, just overcast & humid.


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Hallelujah Junction

 Found these notes in a desktop folder.

John Adams, Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life (2008)

Before writing about John Adams the composer, I mulled over the extent of his fame. A TV series about John Adams the President made that founding father very famous. Perhaps most Americans now know he was president, a greater number than before know he was the second president. John Adams is also America's most famous composer of art music. But does this fame extend much beyond  public radio listeners &  New York Times arts section  readers, & "high brow" concert goers? He's famous enough to write well-received hardcover autobiography, famous enough for Elizabeth Library to have bought two copies & assigned one to my branch. I was the first to check it out of the 14 day shelves,  several months after it had arrived.  One copy would have sufficed.

I ought to like his music more than I do. He's not dogmatic, tackles serious themes yet is also playful.  We're in agreement on  how art progresses, not surprising since  we're about the same age & arrived  at that view about the same time from different directions.

Although Adams is a year older than I am, the tastes & influences in his earlier works were  five or more years behind where I was at in my listening.  & he was inside the music world, out in San Francisco.  It wasn't like I was trying hard to catch any waves; I simply read The Village Voice including the live performance listings, bought unusual records,  &  subscribed to an experimental music magazine. So while I should have admired Adams' gifts & his generalist approach,  I viewed him mainly as an appropriator & popularizer with huge ambitions (realized beyond his wildest dreams).  He wasn't subversive enough for a young artist.  Later, it didn't matter so much.

Adams doesn't spend many words on  his American competition because he didn't really have much in his own generation, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, & Terry Riley being a decade older & having established the minimalist platform for Adams' basic "sound" if not his techniques.  I was apparently aware of minimalism, & saw how influential it was becoming, before Adams did. 

Adams reserves his strongest criticism for  academic, elitist serialist composers,  content to compose for each other.  Adams doesn't believe that artistic evolution is synonymous with increasing complexity. Certainly the minimalists got there before him.  Others, like me, came  to the same conclusion from the other side of the tracks. The idea of the continuous development of The Beatles had warped rock music in similar way to how serialists had screwed up art music. It was commonly asserted  Sgt. Pepper was "better" than the band's earlier 3 minute masterpieces because it was more complex & "conceptual". This "refinement" gave us Emerson. Lake & Palmer, & Yes,  bloated double albums, & much tedious  "classic rock." There was a strong cult of virtuosity, which had  previously  been a sideshow in rock & roll.  Nonrockers Carole King & James Taylor were considered the antidotes. That was the dreary situation in the early Seventies, & it took punk to shake things up & get back to the "norm."  At the time, I didn't see much hope for rock, which was the topic  of the first writing I had published about music, in the Ramapo College newspaper. But it's what pushed me to explore other kinds of music.

The best part of the book is the first half, growing up in an eccentric New England family, becoming a clarinet prodigy, attending musically conservative Harvard*, the move west to the Bay area. The oddity is that Adams kept organizing Sixties type "alternative" concerts & happening events well into the Seventies, after art music had moved on.  It took the Bay area awhile to recover from its brief fame as the cultural epicenter of American hippiedom & political radicalism. He was  tardy in his appreciation for composer John Cage. Cage's value, at the least, was that he pushed  composers to ask themselves what lay beyond Cage's ideas. 

Death of Klinghoffer: Had this Adams opera on my shelf for years, admire the libretto by Alice Goodman. I've always found it   unlistenable, like an operatic parody but too serious to laugh at it, unlike Nixon in China. which made Adams famous.

*How conservative? Adams submiitted a  composition for audio tape as his masters project, & it was considered unusual. Around the same time the progressive music faculty at my state college in Jersey allowed a tape composition as an undergrad admissions audition.

John Adams on pop culture.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Hurricane Earl

Surf's up!

Labels: ,

The pulse of nostalgia

Christopher Hitchens wrote of the Tea Party & Glenn Beck's followers, one "can feel sympathy with the pulse of nostalgia."

I do.   But nostalgia is a sentiment, not a value. Also, "restoring honor" & "traditional American values" are not solutions. I love tradition.  But the value of tradition is  that as a guardian of values it is perhaps the most adaptable of values, & makes no distinction  between the values it guards, good or bad. Tradition serves any purpose it is made to serve. Traditions  change. We've had plenty of lousy "traditional American values" as well as good ones.

As for "restoring honor," exactly what is that "honor," when did we lose it, & how do we get it back? By waving the flag & having more wars?

The most puzzling & frightening of Beck's "solutions" is "returning to God." There's never been a consensus on what that means. Humans kill each other over it. I heard Thomas Friedman on the radio the other day saying that we made the error two decades ago of getting involved in a battle between the Saudi Islamic far right & the Saudi Islamic far far right. The Saudi far far right insists that its values are the Islamic values.  I wish some of the wiser folks over on the Tea Party side would notice it & not make the same kinds of claims. We're already the most believing, the most churchy of western nations.  If everyone in America went to church (or synagogue, temple, or mosque), we'd still have a thousand points-of-view & differences  on what are acceptable behaviors & lifestyles. We'd still have a left & a right, Democrats & Republicans & independents & undecideds & don't care one way or the other.

Why isn't the Tea Party screaming for ethical corporate behavior? Why is it just guvmint & maybe the unions at fault? Is it wrong to call the private sector to account? What evidence is there that big business & the super-rich look  out for the best interests  of ordinary Americans? Why do they get a bye? If you're assaulting the Fortress of Power, at least understand who's in it. How can you attack it while simultaneously defending it? Why is Beck's God the protecting  divinity of the Fortress? How was America more godly when we had slavery & were committing genocide on Indians? How was America more "Christian" when workers had no rights or protections, children labored in coal mines & sweatshops, & rivers were open sewers?

You're free to believe  God is more offended by taxes & a failure to pay lip service with public prayer than by war & injustice.

I can imagine myself  in the crowd at last Sunday's rally; a white guy raised in a two parent Republican, non-religious mainline Christian family, anxious about America's changing demographics, losing "traditions"  I knew & loved that served as a psychic safety net.  But, you see, the America for which I feel nostalgic mostly disappeared in the Sixties, not under the weight of Great Society programs, which I easily connected to Franklin Roosevelt, but because America split down the middle over Vietnam, left against right, older  against younger, & the culture shifted. People bought air-conditioners & no longer sat on front porches on summer evenings, & they bought clothes dryers & laundry stopped flapping on lines in backyards, &  cheap Japanese cars began appearing on roads, & factories started shutting down, & the suburbs became streets without shady trees, sidewalks, & corner stores.    If I had my way, we would've taken Dr. King's Dream, & the civil rights legislation,  & marched black & white together, hand in hand, back into the Fifties, & done that decade over.

Labels: , , ,

"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

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?