Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding

I didn't get up to watch The Royal Wedding. Not interested. The only aspect of it I admire is that the Brits can do a massive display of absurd extravagance & in-your-face class privilege without vulgarity. I like American vulgarity devoid of pretense to any kind of class; prefer Snooki Polizzi to mega-rich celebrities preening before cameras on the red carpets of Hollywood, our manufactured "royalty."


Thursday, April 28, 2011

How's the economy doing?

Heavy rain showers here earlier. The really intense storms passed to the east & west.

We're so used to tornadoes tearing up trailer parks in towns we never heard of  that we forget they do hit cities. Parts of Tuscaloosa, home of University of Alabama, were devastated yesterday. Just luck the campus was spared.  Photos of the destruction in the south look like Japan after the earthquake & tsunami.

In 1999, an online acquaintance from Norman, Oklahoma was undecided about relocating. A series of tornadoes hitting Norman & downtown Oklahoma City made up her mind.  She moved to Arizona.
From, here's an  entry for the How's the economy doing? category:
McDonald’s and its franchisees hired 62,000 people in the U.S. after receiving more than one million applications, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. Previously, it said it planned to hire 50,000.

The April 19 national hiring day was the company’s first, said Danya Proud, a McDonald’s spokeswoman. She declined to disclose how many of the jobs were full- versus part-time.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The release of President Obama's long form birth certificate won't shut up the birthers. They've invested too much in their conspiracy theories. I'm certain they're  up to the task of explaining how he faked this document, & eager to tell us.

Eduardo Lincoln Barbosa de Sabóia

Always fun to "discover" a "new" artist & realize right away I'll be a fan. Ed Lincoln (Eduardo Lincoln Barbosa de Sabóia) is another of the versatile talented Brazilians out of the jazz/ pop / bossa nova / samba scene that exported Joao Donato, Walter Wanderley. Sergio Mendes, Eumir Deodato, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfa, Joao & Astrud Gilberto to the United States in the Sixties. Ed Lincoln didn't make a dent in the States, if he even tried. But this 1966 number will sound instantly familiar just by its recognizable style. Ed recorded his own albums through 1990, continued composing for & producing other artists. I've located only two of his earlier LPs. According to Wikipedia, he was sampled by British dance track DJs in the '90s. Not all I've heard is this mindless; Ed shows his jazz chops in some of it, but it's pop all the way.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not the last typewriter

Last Typewriter Factory Closes

It's an invention that revolutionised the way we work, becoming an essential piece of office equipment for the best part of a century.

But after years of sterling service, that bane for secretaries has reached the end of the line.

Godrej and Boyce - the last company left in the world that was still manufacturing typewriters - has shut down its production plant in Mumbai, India with just a few hundred machines left in stock.
Standing the test of time: The keyboard might not have changed in 100 years, but the typewriter itself has been superseded by the computer

Standing the test of time: The keyboard might not have changed in 100 years, but the typewriter itself has been superseded by the computer

Although typewriters became obsolete years ago in the west, they were still common in India - until recently. Demand for the machines has sunk in the last ten years as consumers switch to computers.
When I read that story last week I dutifully wrote a short blog post & filed it away until after Easter. There was a wave of nostalgic articles online; mine wasn't one of them.

Swindell Corp., based in Jersey, reported yesterday that  it had companies in China & elsewhere manufacturing typewriters, including a popular "contraband-proof"  model with a clear plastic case for prison inmates.

I acknowledge the typewriter as one of the grandest, greatest inventions of all time.

My last typewriter was a heavy, clunky, non-working machine from the 1930's I bought at a rummage sale because it was cool & kept on a shelf.  I got rid of it some  time ago. When  Smith-Corona  introduced a word processing typewriter with  a 20 line screen &  "Data Disk" memory in the later '80s,  essentially a small specialized computer,  I snapped it up & never looked back. If, like the competing  Brother word processors of the era, it had used the new 3.5 standard floppy disk. I might still have it as an emergency back up (I have a USB floppy drive). The S/C WP automatically reformatted pages & had spell check.  No more  tedious retyping just to correct one word or edit a sentence. No more carbon copies or wite-out.  A first draft gradually evolved into a finished piece of writing, which seemed more naturally creative to me. I didn't miss the old typewriters for a minute.  I created much of my best poetry & prose on that Smith-Corona, wrote dozens of short newspaper columns.  I could pull up a piece of writing on screen,  tinker with it, maybe print out a copy to pencil up away from the machine, & revise & refile it to removable disk.  I kept a diary/journal on it, many hundreds of pages of generally dull, obsessive writing (although I also  kept  a portable  notebook journal). When the S/C printed, it made the same satisfying click clack as a regular electric, but over twice-as-fast as I would be typing. & I could, if I wanted, still do real-time typing.

Now that I think of it, I never heard my sister - for years an ace legal assistant & law office manager  who also knows steno, express any nostalgia for typewriters.

Only a few successful  writers can afford to cling to their typewriters; they all have assistants. 

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Poly Styrene

The ecstatic side of punk was represented by its two most famous women, Patti Smith, & Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex; both brought a hippyish, free-spirited quality to punk's basically puritanical (& male) attitudes.  Patti, of course, has had an active, prominent career following some time she took off to raise a child. Poly Styrene (Marianne Joan Elliott-Said), who died yesterday after a long battle with breast cancer, had a  brief period of punk celebrity at the height of the British scene in the Seventies,  afterward recording only a few solo efforts (one scheduled for release today). But the handful of classic X-Ray Spex singles & one great studio LP, Germ Free Adolescents, are beloved & enduring. Everyone familiar with X-Ray Spex has a favorite song, & mourns Poly Styrene.

Phoebe Snow also died.

Got me thinking about Grace Slick & Janis Joplin, how their independent spirit must have been so inspiring to Patti Smith & Poly Styrene, & to Phoebe Snow, for that matter ( what's with the P.S. initials?).

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Reading the expensive, glossy, waterproof, one page campaign mailer for Board of Ed incumbents (you can't fold the thing to throw it away), realized that, based on the scant information provided, I have no idea what it means to be "the best urban school system in New Jersey." Is that like saying we have a lower crime rate than Newark?  One of the candidates states, "Our students are going to the best colleges." For example?  None given.  The voters just nod their heads & agree, "Oh  yes, the best."

There must be some kind of pecking order & bragging rights that I don't know regarding the various "academies" in the public school system here.

There's one member of the BoE I can't stand, I'm convinced he's a  theocrat at heart, & I vote only in Board elections when he's on the ballot in order to vote against him.  As a childless renter, I've rarely voted in school board elections in any of three Union County towns in which I've resided as a voting adult, partly because I concluded if I had kids I wouldn't be residing in those towns,  so I didn't much care how the public schools were run.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Unhappy Church

Walking past Epworth United Methodist Church yesterday , two long blocks from here, I thought, "That is not a happy church." It looked unused if not actually abandoned. The grass was cut, But the flowerbeds edging the sidewalks were bare, some of the brick blocks lining them out of place.  No one had bothered to add "Happy Easter" or "He is risen" to the signboard announcing the church's single worship service & the name of the pastor, Peg Kaleh,  (assigned there about two years ago). Sometimes the lights are on but never a sign of anyone going in or out. Epworth is the only United Methodist Church remaining in this city of about 125,000 people. All the mainline protestant churches in Elizabeth are failing, some of them occupying magnificent, historical structures.

The loudest church in town, an Evangelical Center in a restored movie theater, looks busy, welcoming & swell until you examine what they actually preach there;  what a  friend of mine in West Virginia might call the "I ain't descended from monkeys" doctrine ever since he heard a preacher proclaiming that at what my friend had thought would be a harmless, friendly church picnic (Pointless to tell that preacher we're not descended from monkeys anyway),

The only church around here that "calls" to me is the Russian Orthodox around the corner, not because I want to be an Orthodox but because the old priest leaves the door open on late afternoons & I can peer in & see the beautiful icons & flickering candles,  & couple of times I walked in & sat in the rear pew for awhile. That church also has an aging, dwindling congregation, but it doesn't seem unhappy. Just not enough Russians, I suppose.  Their Easter coincided with the Western Church this year, so I missed the Easter Basket Blessing on the front lawn, a robed quartet of liturgical singers standing on the front steps punctuating the intoned prayers with lovely four-part refrains.

Sad indeed when a church is so down it cannot pull itself together enough to even make a show of Easter. Neither the pastor nor any member of the congregation moved to update the church sign, much less pick up a few containers of discounted flowers from the racks in front of the supermarket for planting by the church entrances just to liven it up a bit.

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Ocean City NJ

Happy Easter

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Happy Easter

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Something strange is happening

"I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.
From a 4th Century Homily for Holy Saturday, Jesus Descends Into Hell.
A kind & very devout Roman Catholic I knew shocked her Bible study class by announcing she didn't believe in Hell.  Which didn't mean she believed everyone went to Heaven right away, rather that every soul could be redeemed & no one was condemned to eternal damnation.  This belief is called Christian Universalism, or universal reconciliation,  & dates back to the earliest years of the church. Catholics are permitted to personally hold the belief but not to embrace or preach it as doctrine. The process of Christian salvation is ultimately not a human decision & is a mystery. This ancient  homily is an example of that early belief.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

The Newark Hispanic chapter of Pax Christi scheduled Six Stations of the Cross, in public, over a two mile route in Newark NJ today. This seems very true to the spirit of the thing.

Good Friday is one of only two observed religious holidays on the State of NJ calendar - the other is Christmas. Good Friday doesn't make  much sense as only observant Catholics pay much attention to it, & it used to be a very Gloomy Friday for some.   As a secular observance it's a three day weekend & an early start on Easter Spring break week for schools. But the library opens again tomorrow.  Coincidentally, today is also Earth Day. Earth Day would be a pretty good national holiday but for our propensity to turn every holiday into a retail shopping theme & excuse for going to the mall & big box stores.The manufacturers of lawn care products want  us to believe dumping bags of chemicals on a few hundred square feet of grass & then spraying the lawn with more chemicals & inundating it with thousands of gallons of water throughout July & August is Earth-friendly.

Paul Tillich, speaking on Pilate's response, "What is truth?" to Jesus saying "Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.":
Let me do something unusual from a Christian standpoint, namely, to express praise of Pilate—not the unjust judge, but the cynic and sceptic; and of all those amongst us in whom Pilate’s question is alive. For in the depth of every serious doubt and every despair of truth, the passion for truth is still at work. Don’t give in too quickly to those who want to alleviate your anxiety about truth. Don’t be seduced into a truth which is not really your truth, even if the seducer is your church, or your party, or your parental tradition. Go with Pilate, if you cannot go with Jesus; but go in seriousness with him! (The New Being, Chapter 8)
When I first read this - I was probably around 20, it was certainly a different spin on the matter. Pilate may have been a relatively sophisticated man. All we know for certain is that he was from a lower aristocratic class & his Prefecture in Palestine was dangerously clumsy. He was supposed to keep the peace so the Emperor could wring money out of the province. Secondarily, he could enrich himself by whatever opportunities were presented. Only the Roman occupiers were permitted to carry out executions. The smart move probably would have been tossing Jesus in a dungeon for awhile, until the Jewish urban elite cooled off, with the excuse that he needed to investigate the matter, & then sent him packing back to Nazareth.  The Disciples were not a brave, cohesive group at that moment. But according to the Gospels Pilate has a crucial part to play & he's not getting out of it.

Tillich is saying that one can step back on Good Friday & admit, "I don't understand what's going on here," because that's what Pilate was admitting, & one can do so without walking away from Christianity. There's a lot of story remaining, nobody except Jesus had a clue as to where the story was going, & even he had expressed some doubts. It isn't the "Son of God" who is crucified on Good Friday  but a dear friend & beloved teacher who had inadvisedly come to Jerusalem for Passover, angered some influential people to the extent they wanted him killed,  made some cryptic statements about his mission, &   hosted a rather baffling supper for his close followers,

Standing with Pilate is the honest choice, because nobody stood with Jesus except, at most, three women & perhaps an unnamed acquaintance, according to scripture. The three synoptic Gospels say they looked "from afar off," a reasonable decision since Roman law prohibited public expressions of mourning at executions. The best one could hope & pray for was that Jesus died quickly. There was no reason to believe he wouldn't stay dead.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Forever Frantic

I had a screwy idea, Holy Week in Crime Jazz. After all, classical composers have been describing & commenting upon the events for centuries. What if the events took place in an American city circa 1960, which existed on TV mostly in black & white? The imperfectly Christ-like character is common enough in films. Decided it would seem  sacrilegious for those who would most appreciate it. Considered this number for Palm Sunday, Jesus as the Celebrity-of-the-Week, himself cool but being pressed by adoring mobs & chased by paparazzi.

What song would represent Easter?  Only one choice, the King of Crime Jazz themes,  "Peter Gunn." 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Battlin' McCourts

MLB takes over operation of Los Angeles Dodgers

NEW YORK (AP)—Major League Baseball is taking the extraordinary step of assuming control of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team increasingly paralyzed by the bitter divorce of owners Frank and Jamie McCourt.

Once among baseball’s glamour franchises, the Dodgers have been consumed by infighting since Jamie McCourt filed for divorce after 30 years of marriage in October 2009, one week after her husband fired her as the team’s chief executive. Frank McCourt accused Jamie of having an affair with her bodyguard-driver and performing poorly at work.

Selig told Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt that he will appoint a representative to oversee all aspects of the business and the day-to-day operations of the club.
I thought the Mets had big problems. But da Mets are da Mets & Mets fans are Mets fans & if you know da Mets you know what that means.

The Dodgers are one of the most storied franchises in all of sports, in a city that loves baseball & has beautiful weather for it. When run well, the monetary value of the Dodgers is probably second only to the Yankees. The Los Angeles Dodgers not only own & market their own brand, they have the old Brooklyn Dodgers, too. Every year the suits at whatever network has the World Series pray for a Yankees-Dodgers series. I  loved to make fun of the Dodgers. But I made fun of them because they were good, they always had characters, & they were Los Angeles. 

& all this mess because of a bad marriage. Well, I suppose there's something kind of L.A. about that.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Wreck of the Lady Mary

Amy Ellis Nutt of the Star-Ledger,  newspaper in Newark NJ, won a Pulitzer for her special investigative report on the mysterious sinking of the scallop fishing boat Lady Mary off the coast of Cape May in 2009. She was assisted by videographer Andre Malok.
In the chilly, early morning hours of March 24, 2009, 57-year-old José Arias fights for his life, floating in the water 66 miles from Cape May. The nearest lights are from another fishing vessel, which does not see him, anchored less than a half-mile away. A little farther out, a mammoth container ship steams toward Philadelphia.

Although Arias does not know it yet, all six of his friends and fellow fishermen are dead, and the red-hulled scalloper, the Lady Mary, is resting, right-side up, on the sandy bottom of the Atlantic. The mystery of what sank her, which continues to haunt the maritime world, has just begun.

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Monday, April 18, 2011


Seder. I've attended only one traditional seder. A Jewish family that observed the major holidays & probably not much else. So it was an informal atmosphere, the table was set beautifully, the family gathered, the traditional rituals observed. I doubt if they got rid of the chametz in the house - the bread-making grains & flours. Maybe those were symbolically put out of sight. We had the matzoh, the herbs, the horseradish, the parsley, the apple & nuts. The four questions were asked. The story was told.

I may even have been invited to read a passage from the Haggadah. Nothing was sung.  The  Afikoman piece of matzoh was hidden. I remember the kid who found it received a small sum of money.

The menu was simple but ample. Good brisket & a roast chicken (the host family were chicken farmer parents of an apt mate),  potatoes & some forgettable vegetable. I wasn't forced to eat gefilte fish, & I left most of the matzoh ball in the soup bowl.  I prefer an Easter ham with strawberry shortcake  for dessert. But the seder was lovely, warm, welcoming, & afterward I received a tour of a modest family chicken & egg farm of the type that's almost entirely disappeared from New Jersey. My friend was embarrassed to have grown up there; didn't understand how exotic it was to suburbanites.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday

Briefest version of this Palm Sunday song I could find.

Interesting weather yesterday, arrived late afternoon, same storm that caused so much destruction in North Carolina & Virginia, but here it was all rain & gusty wind & a few claps of thunder, had lost its tornadic intensity. Still, you couldn't walk around in it. Elizabeth managed to squeeze in the annual Easter egg hunts (or whatever they're called now) & Little League opening day ceremony.


Rahway NJ

Baumann's Flower Store

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Record Store Day

It's Record Store Day. "Record Store" means a business that sells records, CDs, DVDs,  lots of music-related stuff. To be honest, I haven't set foot in a record store in years. Once-a-year I bought a few records at the huge WFMU record fair in NYC, where sellers from all over the country have tables, but I've skipped that for the past the few years, & when I did attend it was mainly to work at a WFMU table, & I allowed myself only an hour or two max for personal browsing. I got a bigger kick from observing the customers; what caught their eyes, what they bought,what they put back in the boxes.

Record Store Day has quickly grown into a large industry event. 700 stores participate. There are special releases - some by popular groups & artists, live in-store performances.

I did put in some time working in a great record store, Harmony House, when I was twenty. I didn't work there for long, around 9 months, but it was where I soaked up a basic education in classical music & to some extent world music, which was then a much smaller, rarified area. Later, I worked for awhile in a less interesting store in New Brunswick that was more focused on selling sheet music to Rutgers music students.

In a Facebook poll, "Where did you buy your vinyl in Elizabeth NJ?, I added McCrory's to the poll & voted for it rather than the two prominent record shops. From the mid 80's to early 90's  McCrory's (a Woolworth's type of chain) usually had a very cheap & often outstanding bunch of cut-out  bins where I picked up literally dozens of cool records for 50 cents (& less), including old Stax records, Parliament-Funkadelic, Miami Sound stuff, even some jazz. Every few weeks I'd drive over from nearby Linden & see what I could find to feed my radio shows. At the prices, just one good song on an album made it worthwhile. It was a good time for cut-outs. CD's were pushing out vinyl, & MTV, rather than expanding popular tastes, was shrinking them to video mega hits, so record distributors were emptying their warehouses of old product.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Donald Trump to sycophant aide: "How's my relationship with the blacks?"
Aide: "Great, Mr. Trump."

“I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks,” Trump said Thursday on Albany’s Talk 1300 radio.
48 degrees, &  when it's forecast to be partly cloudy I figure they also mean partly sunny, but that part hasn't happened. Kind of weather that takes the color off the blooms.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's National Library Week

I love libraries. Especially love my little branch library. Four library books on the floor next to the bed.  Over the past year I've bought one book. It was poetry & that doesn't count because public libraries aren't good for contemporary poetry & haven't been probably since the Sixties. So o.k., there's no church rummage sales with books around here, Elizabeth Library doesn't do an annual book sale, & no used book shop, But I'd only be getting old paperback novels at those anyway.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Carousel Shelf


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The MG's: Frustration

Early on at WFMU I decided to have opening theme music for my weekly shows. Just made it easier to unpack, settle in to the DJ's chair, & get a little bit organized. Every show brings a slight case of butterflies,  I never liked   making major programming choices on-the-fly during the initial 20 minutes or so.  Later on in the program, yeah, that was challenge & fun of doing free form.  For many years my opening theme consisted of a  chunk of soundtrack from Fellini's "The Clowns," featuring Nino Rota's music & circus sounds, an elastic selection that could go one minute or five,

"Out" music is another matter. It  depends on how the show wraps up. There's many ways to close a radio program, but you should start thinking about it during the final 30 minutes, thinking ahead,  deciding what's gonna fit.  If I wanted to make a fast getaway after the show,  I sometimes chose a long selection & used the time for packing up & filing away CDs & records. It's  poor radio  etiquette  to run over into the next DJ's time because one's last song ran too long (always a few  jerk DJs who think they're exempted from this obvious courtesy),   You have to consider how many selections need to be back-announced,& what you want to say about them,  plus add in one's  standard goodbye, a brief plug for the incoming DJ,  & an official station I.D. I preferred  a smooth, unhurried wrapup  (Although timing a  close  finish & quick handoff is fun, too).  It's easier to come up a few minutes short with time to fill. That's why I often stuck this LP in my record bag. "Frustration" is a really good "out" song for the "running short" finishes. If I knew I couldn't  cram another full song in, about five minutes before the hour I''d start it up off air. Then, when my last  song ended  I bring up "Frustration" as background talk-over music, do my closing thing, then ride the music into the next show, fading it out just before starting the new DJ's opening selection. Maybe once each year  I'd play the song as a regular selection. My criteria for both "out" & "talkover" music is I have to like it enough to play it in entirety.

I bought The MG's as a fifty cent cutout, & when the LP became beat up  from so much travel back & forth to WFMU,  I lucked on to a new copy for next-to-nothing. It was never released on CD, & I didn't expect it would. It's actually a pretty good record, unfortunately titled. It's not  The real MG's without guitarist Steve Cropper, the name preceded by "Booker T &." But does have Al Jackson, Jr, Duck Dunn, & two other  fine Stax session guys. Carson Whitsett's electric piano noodling on "Frustration" isn't much, but the rhythm section of course is great, & I love the cyclical structure of the number's second half, with Bobby Manuel's spacy guitar, that cannot resolve itself into an ending.  It sounds like it could go on forever - hence, the title. It's music that has to fade out. They do a nifty cover of a Spinners hit, too.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

The last day of peace

85+ degrees here, one day only, many hesitant trees & bushes took the leap into blooming spring.

Not much energy for walk to branch library, all the more reason to do it, was rewarded with new novel by Elmore Leonard, & the latest Robert Randasi "Rat Pack" mystery, about a Sands pit boss named Eddie G. who gets into jams doing favors for his pals Frank, Dino, Sammy & Joey.

On the way back I treated myself to a White Castle "shake," the kind you eat with a spoon.

150 years, this was the last day of peace.  The  bombardment of Fort Sumter began on April 12, 1861.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I posted on Facebook: If your religion can't produce a de Chardin, find another religion.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ (May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955) was a French philosopher. scientist and Jesuit priest.

I haven't read deeply into de Chardin, most of what I read I didn't understand, & some of what I did understand I didn't agree with. He often knocked heads with the Vatican, but he stayed Catholic. My Catholic friends love him.

de Chardin was the kind of visionary Christian thinker who viewed science as a process capable of clarifying  Divine Revelation & intent. By contrast, fundamentalists believe science is also a Divine trick designed to confuse & mislead us. Plate tectonics would have delighted de Chardin the paleontologist and geologist. Fundamentalists say they were invented at most 10,000 years ago along with the rest of the universe, making the process (& science in general) in  essence  stagecraft.  Which to me takes all the fun out, since plate tectonics are the big "click" that snaps into place the puzzle of  how our planet's surface shapes itself, determining so much else. I don't think science directly challenges Christian orthodoxy except that it fails to provide proof of anything supernatural, God or ghosts or leprechauns.  But the Nicene & Apostles' Creeds don't require you to be a scriptural literalist; they either touch something in your mind & (metaphoric) heart or they don't. Great theologians can agree with science that the reality we experience isn't all the reality there is, or even quite what we are  experiencing, & can they can do so without trashing the science.

Totowa NJ

Stratford Motor Court

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Happy Birthday, Carrie

Next, they came for the old folks

From Politico: House Republican tax-writers want the IRS to investigate whether AARP should lose its tax-exempt status.

In a letter sent to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman Friday, Reps. Wally Herger (R-Calif.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Charles Boustany (R-La.) say a recent congressional probe “gave rise to a number of serious concerns regarding AARP’s organizational structure and activities, and it raised questions about whether AARP continues to qualify as a tax-exempt organization under Internal Revenue Service Code (IRC) 501(c)4.”
The Repugs seem determined to lose Florida in 2012. Alienate Hispanic voters, alienate retirees. Lose Florida, they'll lose the presidential election. Simple as that.
In an op-ed in POLITICO earlier this month, former House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Bill Tauzin (R-La.) implored Republicans not to push for an end to AARP’s tax status on both policy and political grounds.

“[I]f one of the largest non-profits in existence becomes an expendable political casualty for short-term political gain coming out of congressional hearings, every non-profit organization would be left wondering if they’re going to face similar inquiries,” Tauzin wrote. “This won’t help Republicans long-term and it won’t help seniors in the short term.”

Friday, April 08, 2011


My friend, Gina, took this photo of the red fox she often sees in her backyard three blocks from here. It's a large animal. The birds, squirrels, raccoons & feral cats don't like it. The red fox is listed among the world's 100 most invasive species. Which means, because it's here & is a social animal, we may be seeing more of them.

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Thursday, April 07, 2011


Little known version of the timeless theme song from the forgotten movie, Gunn. Which was panned in 1967 but has  probably improved some with age.  Hank wrote some nice arrangements for some unmemorable tunes, except for this & a fine vocal arrangement of "Dreamsville" from the original TV show.  I have a backlog of Mancini stuff I want to upload, so I can get it off my PC & get on to other things.

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A ticket to impoverishment.

Local newspaper yesterday, three NJ Turnpike toll collectors arrested for allegedly substituting lower fare tickets (shorter rides) for higher ones & pocketing the difference. The theft was a few thousand each.  Not reported if they knew each other.  It's the kind of high-risk, low-return scam I associate with gambling addicts; the  small business accounting clerk embezzlers, etc. High risk because it's almost certain  you'll get caught sooner-or-later  through audit, supervisor suspicion, or a fellow worker whistle blower,  & even if you avoid jail time you lose your job, benefits, & pension.

These guys ranged in age from 57 to 62 & had twenty years with the Turnpike Authority.  They were earning $66,000 annual wage & need a union to get it. This is a modest working-class income in expensive Jersey. At best, if you have a family to support, you own a modest home, drive a modest car,  take modest vacations, & lean on your kids to attend a state college or join the National Guard. A spouse earning about the same raises your comfort & security levels (so far as there is any job security now) but you still won't live high-on-the-hog. Mississippi perhaps, not here.

The comments section turned into the issue of wages. Some people really think these guys were overpaid - after two decades on the job! & there are far fewer toll collectors now on the state's toll roads because of E-Z Pass. In a few years the occupation will probably become extinct. But the Turnpike Authority wants to privatize toll collection, & of course the winning low bidder would win by making  human toll collector a low wage job: $25,000 is the number being thrown around. $12 an hour. That is not a living wage in Jersey. Maybe a single person could scrape by for awhile, sharing an apartment & driving a junker, but if there's kids you'd be eligible for food stamps & maybe The State Children's Health Insurance Program, & definitely those kids would be eating subsidized lunches at school, 40 cents for a $2.50  meal.   So the state is prepared to take  a  legit but unattractive occupation that provided a livable income & make it a ticket to impoverishment.

No wonder rummage shops are becoming  popular.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Notre Dame 70, Texas A&M 76

I'm disappointed the Battling Brigids from South Bend lost, but this game was everything the men's NCAA Tournament Final was not. These two teams played like champions. Texas A&M has a terrific All-American named Danielle Adams who pretty much carried her team to victory in the second half.  A&M didn't put the game away until the last 90 seconds when Notre Dame failed to hit a couple of  attempts at threes.

Conesco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis is a home game for Fighting Irish, more to the credit of Texas.

The final score doesn't indicate how hard-nosed this game was defensively. Early on I thought some fights might break out, but they settled down.

Aggies  had to beat No 1 seeds Baylor & Stanford. I take some solace that Rutgers  also  lost to the eventual champions.   Notre Dame even more impressively beat Tennessee & UConn, doing women's Div 1 basketball a great service in 2011.

My local women's Div III team, Kean University,  had  an excellent  squad this season, finished  at 24-5 ranked 12th nationally.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Unfamiliar Fishes

Sarah Vowell's story of the Americanization of Hawaii. 

I like how Sarah Vowell  writes history. She does her research (which includes the touristy experience), mulls it over, absorbs it, then rolls  out what she's learned  in an anecdotal style - including digressions, centered in first person. You rarely get the impression she's referring to a stack of index cards.  She provides a brief bibliography but no index or footnotes.  It's the kind of writing that wins you an A+ in high school English & sometimes History, but in college you usually get away with it only in Creative Writing. It does count for something with me that she majored in Modern Languages at Montana State. 

The virtues of Unfamiliar Fishes are the virtues of all Vowell's books & essays: Intelligence; dogged research; biting wit;  the courage to confront the ugliness & horrific violence of American history, particularly with regard to our  mash-up of the protestant imperative to evangelize   & the capitalist imperative to exploit (a national psychosis that plagues us still)  & how these are uniquely allied in our history in both chattel slavery & manifest destiny. Our deadly march across the continent  made the British Raj in India look benign by comparison.

Her drollness (which may be a character flaw harnessed as  an asset, who can tell? )  & inability to overlook an irony (Is anything not ironic in American history?) wears on me after awhile. Fortunately, her books are brief. A coffeehouse date with her is sufficient, &  when she's a guest on Letterman,  I don't find myself wishing  Sarah had a third segment; only that Dave would let her finish a complete thought & give her a chance to sell her book.

Unfamiliar Fishes, although a history of Hawaii after Europeans found it, feels like an extended appendage to  The Wordy Shipmates. It follows a small bunch of  New England protestant missionaries  - elite descendants  of those shipmates - to Hawaii where they, in unwilling concert with New England whalers, set in motion the terrible energies that destroyed indigenous Hawaiian culture with religion, disease, & good old capitalism, & basically conquered Hawaii from within, like the  infectious diseases we brought to the islands that reduced the native population from an estimated 300,000 to 40,000 in a few decades.

The Great Irony for me is that Hawaii had produced a tyrant-king, Kamehameha I, before the missionaries arrived,  whose bloody unification of the islands (thanks to the introduction of cannon & muskets) & whose son's subsequent destruction of the old religious order,  priestly caste, & taboos  had made it easier for missionaries to infest the place.  Like the Sioux when they became a buffalo-hunting horse culture, Hawaiians had to re-imagine their history & origins when Kamehameha I took over. Sarah does not idealize Hawaiian culture. Rather, she makes clear that the Hawaiian Islands group had embarked on its own messy path to nationhood & development of a common identity, which was tragically foiled - as history tells us too-commonly occurred - by foreign imperialists.

I found myself putting the book aside, picking it up, & rushing through the last  quarter  of Unfamiliar Fishes. This happens  often enough with overlong novels, but  Vowell  writes  a companionable sort of prose in which the author is  almost as much the subject as the ...  subject.  A few possible reasons: Pasty-faced Sarah in Hawaii is a bit like Santa Claus versus the Martians. She loves Hawaii. But everyone loves Hawaii whether or not we've been there. Authentic old Hawaiian culture is not only really alien to western culture,  it's far more unfamiliar & exotic to us mainland Yurrupean-Americans than  the Native American cultures of North America we conquered nation-by-nation & tribe-by-tribe over 300 years. Vowell's juxtaposition of humor & horror didn't work for me the way it did in The Wordy Shipmates. The Puritan colonist shipmates really were my ancestors on my mom's side.  But by the 1890's there were serious, vocal dissenters to America's  expansionist designs, including Mark Twain. One  can imagine siding with Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii's last monarch.  I thought,  maybe it's just me, that I can't accept the limitations of the book. I concluded that was not the situation.  Sarah tried to cram way too much information into a 238 page book. She had to give us three back stories: The Hawaiians', the missionaries', & the discovery of Hawaii by Europeans. She had to tell us how America annexed Hawaii. & she had to provide a travelogue,  a sort of tourist's guide to the popular & obscure attractions, geological & historical.   So she flits all over the place, from island to island, past to present, with her precocious & annoying nephew Owen popping up here & there (next time, leave him home, Sarah. He's a kid  an aunt appreciates, & adolescence won't improve him).  She's eating & explaining a multi-cultural take-out lunch in a Honolulu park, then is suddenly transported to a remote location accessible by crawling over an extinct volcano  on her knees.

Should you read Unfamiliar Fishes? Sure. It's a good book. You should read everything by Sarah Vowell. Sarah's  devotees may like it more than I - a mere fan -  did.  It did make me more curious about Hawaiian culture & history.  Unfamiliar Fishes does not pretend to be more than it is.

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Lincoln Park NJ

Two Bridges Inn

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Friday, April 01, 2011

Gina's Birthday

Because it's a birthday tribute, I disputed WMG's worldwide block of the video. Unfortunately, I won't be uploading any more of this amusing Batman-themed album. (Not April Fools. Too many disputes & they delete your You Tube account).

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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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