Friday, April 30, 2010

Had appt with new primary physician today (thanks for the lift, Gina). I changed HMOs & needed an updated referral. I had met this doctor before, has a solo practice, which are less & less common & sort of old-fashioned. You have to decide if they're competent or not. Her office, though a little out of way, is small, clean, plenty of current magazines* I bet the receptionist chooses them), uncrowded when I was there. A receptionist-medical clerk who does the job. I had to fill out all the forms you always have to fill out. I brought my prescriptions. My appt time was almost on time. The doctor let me explain a rather complicated history & situation, didn't rush but moved things along, asked some good questions, focused on the one med she's responsible for monitoring right now & which she had prescribed when I was in hospital & she was the attending. It's a heart med for a common mytral valve thing I've had since I was a kid. She knew what paperwork her office needed to do, did an EKG herself, ordered up some standard blood tests at a lab, recommended a convenient one close by, set up a followup appt. Efficient, & kind of "old school" - meaning she probably remembers something about a patient before she looks at the file. She asked why my specialist wasn't the doctor she knew with the office 1/2 mile away. I said I went there & they didn't take my former HMO & sent me away. She looked annoyed to learn I had to go all to way to Newark for a doctor approved by old HMO. She was my attending physician in the hospital, wanted my business as a primary. She has a kind of take charge personality I really could have used.

* Including American Handyman, & the past ten issues of Soap Opera Digest neatly laid out in order. The receptionist must order them.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gulf Coast oil spill could eclipse Exxon Valdez

We're in Drill Baby, Drill mode in America, with President Obama opening up the Atlantic coast south of Jersey for oil exploration. The Louisiana explosion & spill is what can happen. Doesn't mean oil will be found off the coast. There's hundreds of platforms in the Gulf, but it only takes one accident.

Protest Time

Roselle Park students protest budget cuts

My alma mater. Surprisingly well organized. There were student protests all across New Jersey yesterday. Of course, when politicians look at high school students, they don't see voters.

I'm impressed by these demonstrations. They're focused, orderly, & in both city & suburbia. Too bad students aren't so engaged by these issues all the time. They ought to organize a statewide coalition. The cuts involve much more than teacher salaries - or they will as school systems trim back & have to decide which programs & classroom subjects are expendable. If you recall the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus," a beloved music teacher was forced to retire when the school system eliminated his music program, which, of course, gets the axe because it isn't part of the core curriculum. Arts & sports are often what knits schools together & integrates them with their communities. Schools with good theater, art & music programs also have more parental participation. I suspect this is the case even in urban schools. Suburban schools have better everything not just because of the budget, but because parents have paid extra for a lot of what goes into the production of a Broadway musical. But schools will lay off teachers who know how to stage amateur theater productions before they get rid of Math & English teachers, it stands to reason. They'll eliminate sports that don't draw crowds.

Few of those Roselle Park students know that their school - still in pretty good shape - exists because kids who wouldn't even get to use it helped to convince a resistant town to build it. They don't have to know it. It's a high school without a lot of "extras," but with a fairly strong sense of tradition. Some families never leave the town, & some students come back to teach & coach. Any cuts are deeply felt.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I know it's a funny photo. It was funny when it came on the screen during family slide shows. But not "haha" funny. You're looking at a matriarch. Well, she thought she was & acted accordingly. Her younger sisters probably just thought she was pushy & a busybody. Maybe, because it's funny, I avoided having it scanned. & here you have click on it, & it's still a low res photo. The original print is larger. Maybe I delayed because it's Easter & she's dressed up for the occasion. She's going to Mass at St. Joseph. Maybe dad drove her. She usually walked. It was a long walk. Dad posed her in front of a neighbor's house because we had no forsythia. We thought that was funny, too. A year or two after this photo, I think, she moved to Atlantic City & sold the house to my parents. We were kind of glad to see her go, the oldest brother overjoyed. My sister got her big room, my oldest brother got my sister's small room. We may have even thought she was a problem. She wasn't much of a problem, as it turned out. There were other problems. My niece has her maiden name as a middle name.

I've never captured her in poem or prose. There's two poems, one published & the other too personal - it recounts a dream. She's one of the "Angels at the Jersey Shore." In "The Roof Dancers" she mediates a dispute with some annoying mythical little people with whom, it is hinted, she had previously battled. "Boardwalk" is dedicated to her. There was never any question it would be. The poem would have baffled her. Those are all linked in the sidebar.

My apologies to Nana for exposing her. The photo is too good not to share.

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Just one more mornin'
I had to wake up with the blues
Pulled myself outta bed, yeah
Put on my walkin' shoes
Went up on the mountain
To see what I could see
The whole world was fallin'
Right down in front of me
Cause I'm hung up on dreams
I'll never see,

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Very depressed. Got up, stayed up a few hours, went back to sleep. Got up again, puttered around, back to bed, read, slept. Yesterday, I started up on Wellbutran again, but it may take a week before it starts working, if it works. Haven't been taking care of myself or much of anything else. Only one person close by is really aware of what's happening here. I'm badly in need of some take-charge help. I hide my true physical condition, which is pretty shocking if you knew me even five or six years ago.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tony Hatch

From a Sixties album Latin Happening, "Black is Black" by Tony Hatch, who produced & arranged most of Petula Clark's biggest hits. Hatch somehow found in Great Britain a drummer who sounds a bit like legendary L.A. session man Hal Blaine.

"Somewhere My Love"


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Englewood Cliffs NJ

The Milestone
"Featuring California Curb Service"

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Saturday, April 24, 2010


If I'm understanding the new Arizona law, police can stop & demand identification from anyone "when practicable" just because they don't look light-skinned enough. I wonder how local cops feel about that? Probably not as good as one might imagine. If they're being pressured to find & detain illegal immigrants, it adds a whole other level of responsibility they may not want to have.

This draconian & possibly unconstitutional law is what happens in the absence of direction from the Federal government. Arizona doesn't have the resources to secure the Mexican border or the power to set conditions of amnesty.

Elizabeth NJ has thousands of illegal immigrants. Most of them, I suspect, reside on the other side of town. They're in this neighborhood, too. I can sort of guess who some of them are. They're poor - rummage shop combinations of clothes - hardly know a word of English, act clueless in certain social situations. I'd be wrong sometimes. But my neighborhood is also filled with working & middle class Hispanics, families that have been here for years, even generations. They sit on City Council & the Board of Ed. It would be scandalous in Elizabeth if police had to act as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents & inadvertently singled out lawyers, doctors, teachers, business owners & local politicians. The cops have enough problems to deal with, & a number of them have bad street reps already. But Elizabeth isn't Arizona. An illegal immigrant from south of the border has shown some resourcefulness if he or she has managed to get this far. If the friendly Hispanic guy who works for the Chinese guy at the market around the corner is undocumented, my inclination is to let him hang around & have an opportunity for legal status. The two cold homeless men who started a fire in an abandoned house in the middle of the night that resulted in a fireman being run over by a fire engine ended up in prison instead of the deportation center. Neither of them had a serious criminal record. They were invisible until a freezing night made them do something tragically stupid. America will pay for their residency for years to come.

The Arizona law, the 'Support Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act," which doesn't mean what it says, will have the opposite effect. Local police do not want to be used as enforcers of immigration laws because they need the cooperation of everyone in solving local crime. This was a point of contention in Morristown NJ between the mayor & police chief.

In Elizabeth, the largest Evangelical church has a Hispanic pastor, is conservative, & is politically influential. They're people who would gravitate to the Republican Party. Jeb Bush received a majority of Florida's Hispanic vote in his 2002 reelection. Chris Christie of NJ received 32% last year by not emphasizing immigration issues & may have received more had he not leaned on some hardcore conservatives to campaign for him late in the race. The illegal immigrant population has declined during the recession, which made it a good time for national reform. Except that unemployment & job insecurity have made many people surly - not that there's been a rush to fill the kinds of jobs illegal immigrants hold. & there's anger at social services eligibility. I'm kind of curious about how large a role illegal immigrants play in the economy, where they might be indispensible. I know that day labor opportunities have dried up - most of the storefront temp work offices in Elizabeth have gone out of business.

Arizona is a strange place. It has a metropolitan city like Phoenix with its sprawling, familiar suburbs; & vast expanses of ranchland, desert & wilderness. I was there for a few days & basically was astonished most of the time, by the distances, blast furnace heat, & landscapes. It was about as different from Jersey as one could get.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

10 AM appt with shrink, no sleep last night, I was reading at 7 am when I gave up. Took a taxi over. The walked slowly downtown to library for a few books. Waited 45 minutes for bus to the Elmora CVS. Hour wait there for prescription, so I walked around corner to Pathmark, back to CVS, walked home from there, about 2 PM. It was a tough haul, fortunately a fair day.

The doctor recommended I reenter the Partial Hospital program at the clinic. It's a six week, weekday psych program, 9 to 3, pretty intense. I was in it ten years ago & enjoyed it. Back then I was one of the older people. At the time, I had a car, lived in Rahway, was in fairly good physical health, & had a good deal of hope for the future. I also thought then the program wasn't comprehensive enough. It didn't have medical or social worker components. P.H. also expects participants have a support network of family & friends, & I did not have that. When I finished P.H., my therapist & the clinic staff concluded I should be on Social Security Disability to stabilize my financial situation & open up more social service opportunities. It took some convincing. They did all the paperwork & handed it to me to sign once I agreed. What if I hadn't agreed? Would that have meant I was even more screwed up? They even brought in an intern to run a comprehensive battery of psych tests, which shocked me when I saw the results. It turned out that the crucial family member involved wasn't concurring with their recommendations, although it took awhile to realize it. I was very conflicted, as it created a situation where I had to ask for emotional support & encouragement - you need a cheerleader - on the condition that I had to believe I didn't deserve it. Or something like that.

Anyway, I can't do P.H. now. My health problems are too serious & I'm hardly handling those well. I have my Ambien. I took nap. I'm getting back into bed, listening to the late Yanks-Angels ballgame on the coast, & reading.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

When Earth Day was established 40 years ago, the Pine Barrens in South Jersey & the Great Swamp in North Central Jersey were seriously threatened with destruction. A huge dam had been proposed for the Delaware River just north of The Water Gap. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel had opened the possibility of a similar crossing between Cape May & Delaware. The Tocks Island Dam was probably never really feasible for geologic reason, but the Army Corps of Engineers hadn't been convinced, & land was purchased. Suburban sprawl was wrecking rural Jersey - that couldn't be stopped, so preservation became key. Since development was synonymous with "progress" in the minds of most people, the early conservation efforts had an oddly conservative feel to them in what were - & still are - Republican areas of the State. Hungry developers tried to paint conservation groups as a bunch of local kooks - suburban women in many instances - in alliance with national kook organizations. "You can't stop progress."

Every battle had at least two fronts: the impulse of federal & state agencies to build big, & local zoning boards, which more often than not were favorable to land development & developers. Jersey's large townships were run by men with little vision of even controlled development. Some of Jersey's worse traffic bottlenecks today are the result of bad planning decades ago. With rising property values, struggling dairy farmers near the new Interstates no longer viewed their farms as family heirlooms - they couldn't. Those that didn't sell off piecemeal to stay in business simply sold the whole spread & retired. Who could blame them?

We have no dam, no bridge-tunnel, a Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, & the core of the Pine Barrens intact. Those are achievements. Now the focus has shifted to "green" energy, & in Jersey, watershed protection. We're not much of a dairy state anymore, although we still have considerable industry in "Jersey Fresh" truck farms & in cranberry & blueberry production. Ironically, our wetlands in the formerly industrialized parts of the state are now more interesting than the marshes at the shore.

A Naturalist Along the Jersey Shore by Joanna Burger.
The best part of this book is her account of staying on a sand island in Brigantine Wildlife Sanctuary to study egrets. There's an element of child fantasy to the experience.

Pine Barrens Ecosystem & Landscape edited by Richard T. Forman.
Although much of this book is statistical & scientific data, it's loaded with interesting information, maps, & descriptions, so just browsing through it at random transforms the Barrens from a monotonous flat landscape into a large region extending from the Raritan River to Cape May, from Delaware River to the ocean, with distinctly varying attributes, flora & fauna.

Great Storms of the Jersey Shore
One of the best Christmas presents I ever received from my sister. A coffee table book that really shows how vulnerable the Jersey shore is to a direct hurricane hit or a slow-moving noreastern.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The ShopRite cashier used 8 plastic bags (4 double-bags) for what I could pack into the single heavy duty canvas bag I forget to bring.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

school election day

Skipped the school election. 4 candidates for 3 BoE slots, so there was no opposition slate & no debates to make the news. The mayor & his people were against the budget, of course, since he doesn't control the Board, & the people who do are in effect the political opposition to the powerful city/county regular Democratic organization. The Mayor sent out flyers to vote no. I'm indifferent to the budget. For several months BoE has piled up slick brochures in the mailbox telling us how good the schools are. Some of them sure look nice. But the test results & rankings easily found online say something else. It may be possible to steer a child through the system here, to the best schools & teachers. The only Elizabeth teacher I know teaches music, he was just reelected to the Rahway Board of Ed, which passed their budget. A few towns have lively elections for the Board of Ed, but it's such a thankless job in most communities that they're lucky residents care enough to run & serve. Roselle Park had only two candidates for three slots. Since BoE elections are "nonpartisan" it's considered unseemly to behave too much like a politician when you campaign.

(The Elizabeth budget was defeated. )

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scapegoating: "Process in which the mechanisms of projection or displacement are utilised in focusing feelings of aggression, hostility, frustration, etc., upon another individual or group; the amount of blame being unwarranted."
The psychological rather than religious/historical definition.

Scapegoating is often linked to the terms redemptive violence & retributive justice. Both Gandhi & Dr. King rejected those as contradictions. What does violence redeem? Is the means - violence - appropriate to the goal - redemption of what? Redemptive violence is the great mental disease of the world. It drives popular & political cultures & infects religion, we get it from myth.

We believe in redemptive violence. We're more confused by retributive justice. Retribution - punishment - may be necessary. Sending Bernie Madoff to prison wasn't justice for his ponzi scheme victims. They don't get their money back. They need restorative justice, which isn't possible for victims of violent ot traumatizing crimes. Gandi & King sought transformational justice, in which victimizers & victims are positively changed by the process of justice. Neither believed this justice could be reached through violent tactics on the part of those seeking justice.

Finding the scapegoating in relationships is high on the agenda of family therapists because it's where the battling parties share faults & flaws. What we project on the other is what we also do. When these parties are married or have grown up in the same home, they tend to share or exchange attributes. They may express them in different ways.

That's difficult. Easier is examining political movements, politicians, & media personalities for their scapegoating. What remains when the scapegoating is taken away? - Sometimes problems that can't be solved by sending away their scapegoats. Scapegoating is popular entertainment.

Thinking about this after rereading part of The Powers That Be by Walter Wink. It's a fairly short religion/spirituality book, read it a long time ago, a digest of Wink's ideas that he compiled for more casual readers. Quite useful in non-religious contexts, which was probably some of his intent. Gives a fresh perspective on how to see communities & institutions. Wink might be amused to know that it helped me adjust from a weekly to a fill in DJ at WFMU. The decision was mine & had to be made, since I was given the option of keeping a regular show. But my anger at making the decision at that moment was grounded in a fear that WFMU, having moved to Jersey City, might change to something unrecognizable, & although I was minor figure there, my regular presence on the air for so many years had contributed to the station's identity. Wink helped me see that WFMU's full personality - what he called it's "angel" - was a projection of many attributes & many personalities, & would resist any radical, sudden shifts. In this particular community & institution, I could trust that "angel" based on the trust & good-feeling I had for other DJs & listeners who had come over from East Orange, & the influence they would have on new staffers & listeners as WFMU grew. Many of the fresh blossoms would resemble the old ones. At the time, the new studios & location felt too new & had unsettled me. They hadn't been inhabited fully by the spirit of the membership, which is informal & clubby & often messy. Now, when you go there, there's no mistaking where you are. I relaxed, enjoyed breaking in the new digs, the anger drained away.

Monday, April 19, 2010

all the way through albums

I once had a chat with another WFMU DJ during which I remarked that the number of rock & pop albums I enjoyed hearing all the way through from first to last cut was very small. He was surprised. Not only small, but technically impossible for me before the invention of CDs, since I never owned a cassette player with an auto-reverse function, so I at least had to turn the record or tape over. CDs made it possible to hear albums straight through, also program around songs I didn't want to hear, & change the order of the other songs. CDs also added "bonus" or "alternate take" cuts, but when these weren't added at the end of the CD they threw thoughtfully programmed vinyl albums out of balance. It occurred most on jazz LPs. Records provided a two-act structure, most often a strong song starting each side, weaker songs at the ends, or occasionally the long or jam cut. If you had LPs by the Doors, you usually skipped "The End" & "When the Music's Over," conveniently placed last on side two.

It's never been easy to make an album with 10 or 12 good songs, much less a CD with 60+ minutes of music.

Sgt. Pepper has two songs I never want to hear, & who needs "A Day In the Life" every listen? Interesting & successful as "concept albums" may be, they are intended to be complete experiences when one may just want to listen to music. If you're into The Beatles, would you rather hear Sgt. Pepper or Rubber Soul in either the British or American versions? Forever Changes by Love is an LP I listen to all the way through. For me, it's a strangely beautiful, disturbing soundtrack to a movie never filmed, but it's supposedly an accurate picture of Los Angeles in 1967. The album includes some lovely parts for a small string ensemble. It never gone out of fashion or favor, & still doesn't sound especially dated, in part because L.A. never stops being weird. Every generation picks up on it. "The Daily Planet" was reputedly arranged by Neil Young, & the necessity for session musicians on this & couple of other songs so embarrassed the band that the guys went into intensive rehearsals & became practiced enough to record the remainder of the LP themselves.

I used to patronize a peculiar South Amboy NJ bar - it was more like an artsy Hoboken or Brooklyn bar in a town better known for meat racks & dives. The owner would load up the multi-disk CD player with some good music, put it on shuffle mode, & turn down the sound on the TV. The TV might be showing anything from a baseball game to a Fellini movie. I liked the music played that way.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Parade of Birds

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Wildwood NJ

Empol's Restaurant

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Record Store Day

Record Store Day has grown into a pretty big deal in just three years. It's a celebration of those round, vinyl things. But mainly it promotes the independent music store, most of which sell a variety of music-related stuff - old & new records, CDs, tees, turntables, zines, Zig-Zags. Record Store Day features in-store live performances, special releases & downloads.

In honor of the day, here's one of my favorite records never released on CD, Pure Monk, a 1973 two disk collection of Thelonious Monk solo piano tracks from his '50s Riverside LPs, compiled by original producer Orrin Keepnews, with fine liner notes. Two sides of Monk originals & two sides of covers - Monk's taste in songs was peculiar at times. Everything is available on CDs & downloads, but not in this package. I may have received the album as a gift. It was revelatory to me to hear Monk break apart & reconstruct an obscure song like "There's Danger In Your Eyes, Cherie," & what he did with Eubie Blake's "Memories of You," & have two takes of "Functional" one after the other, a number I'd known only in band arrangements. It's a composer's intimate diary of ideas & influences. I wonder if, like French composer Oliver Messiaen, Monk listened closely to bird calls. If forced to list ten of the greatest records I ever had - I'm not big on that kind of thing - this would be near the top.

Later, I met & got to know Peter Keepnews, Orrin's son, who is happily married to WFMU DJ Irene Trudel.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

National Library Week

On Wednesday evening, I went to the Elmora branch library in Elizabeth NJ to return some books, grab a few more & check them out. It was after 8, library closes at 9. Open late two nights. It's a small building, too small for the community it serves. There's enough property for a modest addition, but that's not going to happen. If they're all working, there's 10 computers for internet & one for catalogue searches. All were being used. A father with two children was returning about 20 books & checking out some. The reshelve carts were overloaded. The new fiction books were crowding out the new nonfiction on the 14 day shelves.

I was having a lot of problems logging in to my account from home, & even using the search function when I wasn't logged in. I was sure the problem was with the library's system. Exasperated, I took the problem to my Councilman, Joe Keenan, who used to be Library Director & is a book-lover with surprising tastes in literature. I contacted him via Facebook. He listened & he acted on it. The library brought in a computer person & something changed for the better. The current Director even wanted to talk to me personally, which wasn't necessary.

This is a big city. Lots of library patrons must have been having the same problem. Joe experienced it for himself. Apparently, I was the only, or one of the few, patrons who bothered complaining. I wanted at least to have the library admit there was a problem. Joe guaranteed himself a vote for re-election here. He also has neighborhood meetings in the Elmora branch all-purpose room. They draw capacity audiences & the mayor shows up at most of them, or sends some other important city hall person. The police chief was there one night. The mayor resides in Joe's ward.

The public library is one city service where you probably get your tax dollar's worth & there isn't a lot of waste. Libraries form consortiums & cooperatives to share the cost of services. They get grants for music performances. Even small cutbacks to library funding can have serious consequences. Elizabeth has no money to spare. As it is, the system here is stretched to the limit. There are additional services I'd like to see that I don't suggest, like opening Elmora for several hours on Sunday afternoon to serve the large Orthodox Jewish community that can't use the library on Saturdays, as Millburn library does.

I think state cutbacks to library funding can be prevented, with some vocal & unified opposition. Library support transcends partisan politics. My most conservative acquaintance opposes library funding cutbacks. When urban, suburban, rural, local, county, & college libraries cooperate to share services & economize, to expand internet access, makes no sense to undermine their efforts & throw them back entirely on their own resources. It's a penny-wise & pound-foolish.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

This Newark NJ story took me to a few places just too disturbing to write about in detail.
N.J. authorities charge 11 Grape Street Crips gang members with gun, cocaine trafficking
led to this video: Meet The New Jersey Grape Street Crips.

Two sides of the gang "business." Selling drugs & guns. Other businessmen using gang culture to sell product: a magazine, music, clothes. But when I see "crews," for every hustling young guy with the cellphone, there's two or three guys just hanging around, not knowing what to do with their hands (shirts cover pants pockets), bored, posing, probably unreliable for all but simplest tasks or thugwork, so bad at simple arithmetic they can't be trusted to handle money.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just because you see more stars

Just because you see more stars in the sky where you live doesn't mean you're more likely to see angels.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Paper Cup by The 5th Dimension

Great Jimmy Webb song about alienation (maybe my fav of his), wonderful LP (Magic Garden), & the cute small stage choreography shows this group didn't slack off even on the lip synch appearances.

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Proper punishment

EDGEWATER -- A teenage girl was charged with imitating a Walmart racially offensive announcement at a Whole Foods in Edgewater, according to a report by

The 14-year-old girl used the supermarket's speaker system on Saturday afternoon and announced "all blacks leave the store," the report said.
A "copycat" incident. But charged with what? A racial bias crime?

The appropriate punishment is to ground her for three months - no hanging out at the mall, no parties, nothing. Take away her cellphone. Computer only for homework. Limited TV. Let her play solitaire with real deck. Extra household chores. Make her read all three volumes in Taylor Branch's history of Dr. King & the Civil Rights movement, & all the other library books she wants, but she chooses them online & they're picked up for her. After 90 days of zilch social life, stupifying boredom, & forced education, I doubt she'll do anything like that again.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Rae Armantrout

Here's a short bio & some poems by Rae Armantrout, who just won a Pulitzer for her collection, Versed.

Much is made of her connection to "West Coast Language Poets." But one can feel many influences in her poems including her early teacher, Denise Levertov, a very popular poet in the Sixties, & a poet of lovely refinement.

For me, Language poetry was - initially - a poetry of experimental procedure & kind of distancing that tried to deal with the self-referential pronoun "I." I liked it because it often incorporated "found poetry" & some of the poets used methods inspired by the chance music composition of composer John Cage. I was, in Jersey, surrounded by older poets who wrote about their children, grandchildren, spouses, ex-spouses, & suburban lifestyles, or were "witnessing" to political causes & identity movements. None of this interested me very much as a poet. I figured whatever mattered to a poet would find its way into the poems without forcing it in. I was more interested in the areas where poems turned into prose, advertising copy, anecdotes, or just talk. I was also fascinated with the idea of how to be a poet without people even knowing one was a poet, & with artists like Mary Caroline Richards, a potter who embraced imperfections, accidents, & mistakes in the process of making art. I never took to the theater of the poetry "slam," which favored extroverts & actors.

Most poets don't assign themselves to "schools" of poetry, although we don't mind being adopted by them if it gets us published in a magazine. Being close to New York City, & near the places William Carlos Williams wandered through & described, Jersey poets tend to make tossed salad poetry, the same way Jersey rockers move through musical genres without much stretching. Poetics is not a major topic when Jersey poets gather in a diner after a reading at a library or bookstore. Maybe in isolated college towns. I've been to a few of those in upstate NY & PA & been asked questions about my writing I couldn't answer simply because: A. I couldn't be specific enough. B. They were discussing writers & poets I'd never heard of or I'd heard of but hadn't read. My creative point-of-view was suited to free form WFMU & then was shaped by it. Before WFMU began streaming broadcasts, it was impossible to explain WFMU to anyone who had never listened to the station. Even in Jersey, few poets were familiar with the station outside of Hoboken & New Brunswick, where poets & bands were often featured on the same stages in bars. Poets used to send their resumes to me at the station, like I was doing an NPR thing. Thank you for your poem "Resume." But some poets sent me homemade cassette tapes. I loved those, & even invited some of the poets to drop by & hang out. They understood that my weekly program was my weekly poem/assemblage & there was room in it for other poets, just as there was room in it for all kinds of music.

In the '90s, I became less interested in going out & being a poet for other poets at readings & pushing to make a place for myself. I compared it to dreams where you're walking around in public in your underwear. The readings themselves were often tough to sit through, & I found myself sneaking out after the social break between the featured poets & the open reading, which I knew was not polite but I couldn't help it. I didn't enjoy reading in opens. Podium speaking was hard for me, & I at opens I had to stop at the very moment I'd gotten over my stagefright.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Phil's day

The Masters - the only golf major all sports fans pay attention to - went with the best script & multiple story-lines. Tiger came back without much controversy & played well. Fred Couples & Tom Watson had their moments. 16 year old amateur Matteo Manassero made the cut. Journeyman pro Lee Westwood likely earned himself some endorsement deals. & popular Phil Mickelson won. Although Phil's one of the finer all time pros, only 39, he's appealed to duffers ever since he drove a ball into a garbage can at the 2006 U.S. Open.

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Paterson NJ

Martin's Hawaiian Paradise
"The place that is different." Dine - Dance - Romance

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tara is not to be celebrated.

It is possible to honor Confederate soldiers without celebrating Confederate history. (Just put Stars & Stripes instead of Stars & Bars on their graves, something Lincoln might have suggested had he served a second term).

Yes, this is about Virginia Gov. Bob McConnell.

Also, Confederate history is not the same as antebellum history. The Confederacy brought the destruction of antebellum culture, which would have survived for who knows how long had there been no Civil War. Anyone who wanted to preserve a slave-based culture would have to admit that attempting to secede from the Union was a big mistake.

We cannot understand or "appreciate" antebellum culture without bringing slavery into every facet of that culture. Antebellum culture was created mainly in Virginia by many of the same families we associate with our Revolutionary period. They provided the plantation model for it. Plus a lot of nonsense from Walter Scott novels.

What's to celebrate? The end of slavery, & the ironic development within slavery of our African-American culture - which is, on the whole, our greatest cultural gift to the world, & gift to ourselves when white America embraced it rather than just imitating it. Tara is not to be celebrated.


spring peepers

Friday, April 09, 2010

Tiger Woods the brand

Tiger Woods' problems & time off didn't affect his game in the slightest. Incredible skill linked to great focus & concentration.

Tiger's scandal was so media-driven. It was a personal problem. None of our business, really. Except that Tiger Woods as a brand had gone so far beyond golfing & endorsing sporting goods. Golf-related advertising is aimed at the successful, or aspiring-to-success, professional family man. Luxury cars & SUVs big enough to hold two kids comfortably, but sporty enough for driving alone on winding two lane roads through beautiful scenery. Stuff that improves a large, suburban home with a big lawn. High end vacation resorts. A great pro golfer always has credibility when endorsing clubs, balls, & shoes. But if he's a lousy family man, Disney & General Mills & the makers of four door sedans & lawn tractors don't have much use for him. His financial advice - money to send the kids to college & retire comfortably - becomes suspect because his wife & children can't trust him when he's out on the PGA circuit staying in the first class hotels he promotes. He uses his app-heavy cellphone service to send dirty messages to his girlfriends. & that's just in America. As one of the most famous athletes in the world, Tiger Woods is a global enterprise. Tiger Woods the brand needs rehabilitation.


The Pope again

Future pope stalled pedophile case

LOS ANGELES – The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including "the good of the universal church," according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature.

The correspondence, obtained by The Associated Press, is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican's insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog office.

The letter, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was typed in Latin and is part of years of correspondence between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle.
The Church hierarchy was long overdue to get smacked around. The surprise is how long it took for Europeans to follow the American lead. Western Europe is more secularized than America & there's more open anti-church sentiment. But maybe that feeling had become indifference.

Sexual abuse is tragic enough. But to be victimized by a priest already known to his clerical superiors as a pedophile, or suspected of being one, is an unbearable outrage & betrayal.

The Vatican can't discern the difference between the mystery of the Eucharist & mystery of the Church bureaucracy. It believes both ought to be mysteries.

It won't destroy the Church. If the scandal takes down several generations of Bishops & Benedict's credibility, it's not so terrible a thing. Or the first time the Church has scandalized itself. Bishops are replaceable. Great popes are rare enough in Church history & intelligent Catholics know the difference between a Pope as the Earthly head of the Church & a specific Pope.

There are other long term effects. Because of huge legal settlements, Catholic charities & social services with no direct connection to sex abuses & coverups receive less & less funding directly from the Church, & the scandals handicap their appeals for donations. Dioceses can't afford to carry struggling parishes & schools that may be the last hopes for their neighborhoods. The increasingly reactionary institutional church makes more & more Catholics feel unwelcome to practice their faith within Catholicism. Those Catholics lapse out or become Anglicans, & the experience can be heart-wrenching.

Until there's a changeover in the hierarchy, assuming even that would bring about a change in attitude & policy, hope for reform in the Church will depend on the ideals & stubbornness of laity, nuns, parish priests, & Catholic intellectuals. The future is with the very Catholics the hierarchy blames for the Church's problems.

I write about this mainly because the story is everywhere in the news.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Section IIIB

Had the unusual pleasure of hearing an earlier Steve Reich orchestral work for the first time, Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards from 1979. I've heard nearly every other work by him, some in several versions. Reich doesn't like it, it was his first piece for orchestra, but he stops short of suggesting one not bother listening to it. It's friendly music. "Section IIIB" is from Music for 18 Musicians, one of his masterpieces.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Late Late Show

Craig Ferguson just won a deserved Peabody Award for his interview with Bishop Tutu last year. Last week he had a couple of good guests on one night, Robin Williams & professor of ethics. Most shows now, If I'm watching at all, I turn him off during or right after the monologue. No skits, no Rather Late Programme with Prince Charles, rarely a song with puppets. & nobody like Bishop Tutu, or Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the President of Liberia, or Madeline Albright. Once in awhile an author, Lawrence Block or Laura Lippman, interviews he throws away anyway. Maybe Craig's getting tired of the grind.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Dollar General

Went to the new Dollar General store today over in Elmora. It's a slightly more suburbanish version of the Family Dollar chain. Both remind of what now-defunct 5 & 10 chains evolved into by the '70s & '80s when they moved from Main Street to the strip mall. The charmless Woolco without the lunch counter & bins of doo dads. Dollar General has more "name" brands. It was bright, with roomy aisles, easy to browse but dull. Prices were fair, few sale items. Around here, the store ought to stock less human food, more dog & cat supplies & gardening stuff. I bought Hanes underwear, house brand Tylenol PM, & a box of envelopes.
Connecticut 53, Stanford 47
Close game? Depends how you look at it. For a UConn game, very close. UConn trailed 20-12 at the half. They were getting creamed. Sort of. Stanford wasn't quite as bad. But the second half was a completely different game. Huskies scored 41 points, 17 of the first 19.

Had Jayne Appel not been playing on a bum ankle, Stanford might have hung on. There's hope for next season, Big East women.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Duke 61, Butler 59

Strange. I didn't give Butler much of a chance of staying with Duke for the whole game, & yet at the end it felt like Butler blew it & I wanted give them raspberries, not praise. After going through a field goal drought in the second half & trailing, they still had the go-ahead ball in their hands with ten seconds left. The Scriptwriter said, "Here guys, it's yours. Cinderella happy ending & all that." Missed that one, failed the offensive rebound, gave up a free throw, got off a desperation shot to tie, that one remarkably hit the rim. Even in the championship game, Butler was better than most people expected. But they weren't over-achieving. It was a really entertaining game, & one of the few when the runnerup will be remembered.


Morris Township man hurt when bike hits deer

MORRIS TOWNSHIP -- A township resident was injured after his bicycle collided with a deer over the weekend, police said today.

At 3:40 p.m. Saturday, police responded to Old Glen Road on a report of a bicyclist down on the road, Lt. Kevin O’Shea said.

When they arrived, the found that Wylie Palmer, 39, had been riding south on the road and struck a deer that ran out in front of him. Palmer suffered minor injuries after striking the deer and flying over his handlebars onto the street.
So many deer in North Jersey you have to watch out for them if you're just walking fast.

"If there’s no fraud and there’s no chicanery and no loss to the city, why am I here having burritos today at Petersburg?"
complains ex-Newark Mayor Sharpe James, who gets out of Federal prison tomorrow. Prison burritos are a step down from cavier at parties at Whitney Houston's mansion. Silly for him to say that current Mayor Corey Booker "would rather be seen on Oprah’s couch than in City Hall" when James used to get in the way of paparazzi trying to snap photos of real celebrities he liked rubbing up against. It's been good for Newark to have a mayor who isn't a complete product of the city. Sharpe James wasn't all that different from his predecessors, black & white. His administration carried on the "It's our turn" politics of Kenneth Gibson, the mayor he replaced. James could have been a great mayor. His early years in office were hopeful, & he had some successes in large scale downtown projects like the Arts Center & laying the groundwork for The Prudential Center. The crack epidemic & rise of gang culture were out of his control, but he didn't confront those miseries creatively. By the time Booker first challenged him in 2002, James was worn out, the demographics of the city were slowly shifting, & gangs held uncontested control of huge portions of the city. What James considered Booker's liability - that he wasn't out of the 'hood - was actually Booker's strength.

Sharpe's conviction was kind of flimsy, & it seemed like a substitute for a lot of bad stuff that couldn't be proved in court, & hardly anyone cared. James is delusional if he believes he could've kept the job another term. The people of Newark wanted him out in '02 but didn't know Booker well enough to entrust city hall to him, & Booker didn't know Newark well enough. Booker still doesn't give the impression that being mayor is just the next step up the ladder of politically-connected employment on the way to collecting three pensions.

Gabor Szabo

Gabor introduced this Bobby Womack tune on his LP High Contrast..

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Parade

I was watching live video of the show-off portion of the Asbury Park boardwalk Easter Parade. Great weather, large crowd. Black contestants, women & men, had the advantage. They looked like they came from church, & probably had. Easter is still a traditional dress-up event in mainline African-American churches. Women wear new hats, men wear their best suits.

Easter was one of the few Sundays of the year my parents went to church. They might also go on Children's Day & Boy Scout Sunday. Those were big deals at Community Methodist. Dad liked to "sleep" a little late on Sundays, & mom stayed home, too. Dad spent plenty of time at the church doing volunteer stuff, as a Boy Scout leader, building stage sets for the amateur shows, he didn't think he owed an hour on Sunday mornings & he was right. He'd grown up strictly Catholic & he'd had it with obligations.

Easter was dress-up day. It was when I got the new sportscoat from the boys dept at Robert Hall, provided one wasn't passed down from my brothers. Mom & my sister treated it as a Major Public Appearance. The approach & arrival (we walked around the corner from home), the seating (main sanctuary pews, my parents disdained the overflow seats), the exit line past the minister, & socializing outside were all ritual traditions. Afterward, on the sidewalk, one's children were basically "presented" to the other adults, the regulars & the Easter-only. Mr. & Mrs. Whozitz. Miss Whatsername. I received lots of manly hair tousles, hugs from powdered old ladies, & "My you've grown so much" & "Aren't you the handsome young man?" My neck got stiff from looking up at these people.

It was all pretty easy to take. The four Rixon kids were taught good manners, & whether we felt them or not, we knew our parents appreciated when we put them on display; indeed, they counted on it, although all our relatives & neighbors recognized we were inclined toward "shenanigans" - & there was no doubt which side of the family that came from. You had to figure Dad's prankster side was but a shadow of how he was at age 14. (Why was he sentenced to a daily commute to a Jesuit military High School in Manhattan & not St. Patrick's in Elizabeth or Holy Trinity in Westfield?) We siblings were quite devious & adept at tormenting each other, but were at our best/worst when inspired to conspiratorial solidarity.

Also, all four Rixon kids liked to sing, & we weren't shy about it. A pity our parents didn't force us to harmonize together. We might've better learned the benefits of sibling cooperation. At Easter we probably stood out as a separate section. We all joined school choruses & kids' choirs. My sister sings solos in her church. My brother - the one who covered his lapel with 8 years of perfect Sunday School attendence medals - is a United Methodist pastor. I joined a rock band & even ventured some solo singer-songwriter gigs.

Those theatrical family Easter mornings ended when my oldest brother dropped out as an adolescent. Easter itself was a dull day. We had the obligatory ham dinner, bone in or canned. It was one of three holidays we said grace before the meal. The pointlessness & insincerity of those prayers made me appreciate family tables where they were done in earnest, formally or informally (What is everyone thankful for?). We had chocolate bunnies & eggs, & jellybeans.

After my grandmother retired & moved to Atlantic City, Easter was the day before I rode the bus to her place for the week. The week after Easter was the annual Catholic Educator's Convention in A.C., the boardwalk a river of brown & black, as several thousand priests, nuns, & brothers descended on the city. It was off-season. Whatever they did to amuse themselves, it wasn't pinball.

My parents had "values" but no discernible religious beliefs other than vaguely protestant. My grandmother was a strictly observant sacramental Catholic, which was exotic to me because a lot of Catholic practice makes absolutely no sense to protestant kids even when you live with it. What set me apart from my siblings was that I wanted it to make sense, I suppose because I needed to make sense of my grandmother, a contradictory person with a terrible temper but whose love I never doubted. The central belief of Christianity, celebrated joyously on Easter, requires such a leap of faith that I couldn't understand why a religion would pile on so much extra stuff.

It isn't the strictness of religion that matters, but the quality of love. For Christians, Jesus is God with a human face. So the quality of love Jesus has is a quality of love God has, directly expressed. Not a reflection of the love, not a guess at what it might be, not beyond our own capacity to grasp & express, but not the whole of it - which encompasses all things according to their nature, & is infinitely greater than all things combined & beyond our comprehension. The entire cosmos experiences Easter.

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Atlantic City NJ

St. James Episcopal Church

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

I'm receiving indifferent care from the only reputable urologist my HMO had that I could reach by mass transit. Associated with a large teaching hospital, he doesn't seem very interested in managing his office practice or being a day-to-day urologist in addition to being a surgeon & teacher. He's supposedly one of the best surgeons in Jersey in his field. By contrast, a nearby group urology practice I had to see a few times initially but wasn't on my HMO was run efficiently & expertly, with assistants who were clearly trained for the specialty. My urologist doesn't even have a regular routine for looking at the many test results that no doubt arrive in his office every day. I know this from experience. At least one of his assistants is capable of reading them, flagging the ones he ought to look at immediately, & bringing them to his attention no matter how busy he is. But she is not instructed to do so. She was making excuses to me the other day on why he had not yet seen one of mine. None of the reasons were acceptable. I should be near the top of the doctor's must know list.

My HMO was sold to to another health management company, on March 1 another local urologist became available, & it's unclear if the current doctor is with the new HMO. His paperwork person said nothing when I handed her the new card. She just inputted the info & handed it back, unconcerned when I mentioned the possible need for a "continuance of care" request for an out-of-network doctor.

The reason I haven't beaten the drums incessantly in this blog for single payer, federal health care system (although I'm a British Labourite) is that the parts of our health system that have to pick up most of the millions of new enrollees are the least equipped to do it, they're so stressed out. I deal with the urban system. I've gotten poor care from specialists with big comfortable offices in Millburn & Edison NJ. In one treatment, it was care that I could have, & should have, brought suit over. & I've had excellent care from over-worked doctors, nurses, & other personnel. Only Cadillac Plans always offer you the "best" care, then only if you can access it. The best care may be impossibly inconvenient. Even in Jersey, a doctor only 30 miles away can require hours & hours of travel & waiting for a 15 minute appointment. But for the typical consumer, you have to take what's in your network.

Blog Against Theocracy

Organizer Blue Gal must notice the low participation by politically progressive Christians in the annual Blog Against Theocracy blogswarm. But she persists in scheduling it over Easter weekend.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday

A good day to make changes.

This is also a good day for Roman Catholic hierarchy to remember that the top apostle Peter was conspicuously absent at the Crucifixion. Present were the three women named Mary, & John "the apostle Jesus loved."

One-hundred blooming flowers

Hank Kalet is a reliably progressive journalist in Jersey. I'm a fan. He's also a poet. In a prose column, "Letter to Liberales," he writes of President Obama
He is better than the alternatives were, at least the major party candidates, but he is proving not to be a transformational president. In fact, he is nothing more than a milder, more liberal version of Bill Clinton, a member of the corporate status quo interested only in tinkering around the edge.
Hank then lists seven disappointments. Yes, every one is very disappointing.

But I found myself hung up on the word transformational. The word itself is suspect, coming as it does into general usage from academia, specifically theoretical linguistics & a professor named Chomsky who wasn't assigned an English Dept. undergraduate grammar course (a class I regret ducking because, oddly, it wasn't required of a Lit major unless you wanted teacher certification).

Alright, I'll buy a vowel, Pat, even though I'm not certain what it means. I'd prefer transmogrification, via cartoon character Calvin's Transmogrifier, which really did change or alter greatly with grotesque or humorous effect.

As a poet, Hank must know Barack Obama is transformational, if he's applying the word the way I think he is, or maybe wants to but is holding back. To say Obama is not requires compartmentalization, another useful word I don't much like, but gets past the Blogger spellchecker.

You go to the political sphere for bad language, for lies & evasions, for words that don't mean what they appear to mean - that may mean the opposite; for cliches like "at the end of the day" & "putting the cart before the horse" & "comparing apples & oranges"; for sloganeering - "Repeal & replace." That last one is stirring, eh? Tweet away, brave revolutionaries.

There's a poetry-lover on the Rahway NJ Democratic Committee. It's about as high up in American party politics as you'll find someone who would smile sadly & knowingly if you pointed to the crowd at a Teabagger rally & said, "The pure products of America go crazy" (if we steal the phrase & broaden it some). I doubt she has political ambitions. I hope not. Her day job involves teaching adolescents to read & listen through murky language. A good way to do this is to talk back to TV commercials & politician sound bites: What the f*ck do you mean, "At the end of the day?" When does your day end? Why are you puppet-rapping for McDonald's & reciting "I'm loving it" when your hip hop predecessors were censored or shot each other over words they invented?

Barack Obama is a dark-skinned, biracial Hawaiian elected by a clear majority of voters. That's somewhat transformational. By electing him, America skipped over two decades, the '30s & '50s, neither of which have birthed a president.

Congress endorsed, however imperfectly, the ideal that every American has a right to health care. The ideal is the fundamental dispute, not the requirement that every American must have health insurance. The right wing is angry about the requirement, but it wants to repeal the right. What is really driving it crazy?

The 2010 census will reveal in detail what we already know about America's changing demographics. Transformational.

One-hundred blooming flowers transform the yard. There's your photograph. The gardener is proud. The gardener remembers browsing the seed catalogues. The gardener turned the earth, planted the seeds, sensed when they germinated, watched the seedlings break the surface. The poet understands & learns from the gardener.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

April Fools' Day

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

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