Monday, October 31, 2011

My sister unfriended me on Facebook. Discovered it by accident. Not a very sisterly sister act.  I appreciate the symbolic gesture as  an honest expression. Beats hearing an aria that begins "Sono stato pugnalato nel cuore."* Someone's going to hear her sing it. Still, seems an extreme way to evade answering a couple of simple questions. Four aging siblings, I'm not the only ACOA.

* "I was stabbed through the heart." In an opera, this kind of song ends with bravos, tossed bouquets, & many curtain calls.



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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lucked out here. Power briefly snapped off & on a couple times yesterday & that was it.  500,000 other Jerseyans not so fortunate as wet snow took down large trees with leaves still on them. The trees have to be sawed up before the utility crews can fix the wires.  I'm sure there were plenty of dented car roofs & cracked windshields in Elizabeth.

Union NJ (for Carol Bellantoni)

Cafe Mozart, Union NJ
An institution for many years in downtown Union.
There was a time when going out for coffee, dessert, & talk usually meant a choice between a diner, Dunkin' Donuts, & Friendly's. I think Cafe Mozart predated the latter two. Occasionally, for a change of scenery, my girlfriend & I drove a few extra miles to this faux European cafe & treated ourselves to very strong, good coffee & a gourmet pastry. The cakes were exquisite, super rich, the small slice was enough & you nibbled at it. The background music was classical. It was rarely crowded, older clientele (high school kids went to a popular nearby ice cream parlor), all very civilized. I recall a ditsy waitress there who didn't know who Mozart was.  The cafe lacked a bohemian coffeehouse smoky ambience, too bright & airy, but my girlfriend had been to Europe & said that yes, there were places like this over there with the same kinds of tables. Later, we discovered several similar neighborhood cafes in Montreal catering to local customers. Cafe Mozart did sell Mozart Chocolates, we always bought a few.

[I was introduced to the Cafe as a teenager, by an earlier girlfriend, a ballet student, who liked my taste in rock & roll & Beat poets enough but thought I needed a bit more culture.]

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Halloween snow

An accumulating snowfall here from a nor'eastern. It's sticking now at 1 pm so I suppose it'll keep sticking right up through night. Not just unusual, but in my memory unprecedented in this part of Jersey.  I don't recall many specific snows by year, but I remember two  substantial April snows,  & even one brief early May dusting when I lived in Linden NJ in the '80s.   Light snows around Thanksgiving surprise no one, & we've had  early December snowstorms. A Halloween snow? The ocean water temps off Jersey are still in the high fifties F.
I was walking back from 7-11, light wet snow, little wind, sloppy sidewalks. I wore my thick, ugly leather shoes with the heavy treads - shoes I have just for this kind of weather; my winter parka & a WFMU knit cap,  no great hardship. As I approached my building, the little Hispanic man from the first floor was floundering around on the sidewalk. Same gray thin  jacket he always wears, same thin pants,  I know he's had knee joint problems. He was holding a foil-wrapped sandwich. I took the sandwich, steadied him by the arm, & he got to his feet.  This fellow also drinks, although I can't tell the difference when he does. I handed him his sandwich & said, "I guess you're going inside, too." He said, "I'm going to the store," which at the hour could only be Bruno's Pizza, one block around the corner, or more likely, 7/11, two long blocks up a mostly unshoveled hill littered with tree limbs. I don't know what he wanted there or why he was bringing the sandwich along. But I knew I wasn't gonna walk it with him at .25 mph. There's a lot of people going in & out of apt buildings all along that route. If he falls down again,  he won't be down long.  Decision won't win me sainthood, but you gotta make some judgment calls.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Slavery in Everything

To steal from  theologian Nikolai Berdyaev, it is slavery in everything. Slavery in religion, slavery in government, slavery in family, slavery in love, slavery in work, slavery in education.  Slavery on one side & the f*cking abyss on the other.

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Voodoo Juice

- 1 oz Cruzan orange flavored rum
- 1 oz Malibu
- 1 oz cranberry juice
- 1 1/2 oz pineapple juice
- 1 1/2 oz orange juice
- 1/4 oz banana liqueur

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into a tall glass.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Listening to Dr. Joy during a great baseball game

Listening to Dr. Joy Browne on the radio. Whenever she talks about dating, how to meet people, one suggestion is always take a class at a community college.

When I was about 40, recently out of a long term relationship, I enrolled in a Saturday course in Child Psychology. Not to meet women, It was a requirement I had to fulfill.  The teacher was To-Be-Announced. When I arrived there, I noticed the class of about 25 had only 3 men, & hardly any of the women,  most looked over thirty, wore wedding rings. I thought, well, this class might have some unexpected perks.

Teacher turned out to be a large African-American woman, very opinionated, very smart, liked a loose class with  lots of free-flowing discussion. She was a wonderful teacher. The next week I saw nearly all the women now wore wedding rings.  Brazenly, I called this to the teacher's attention - it was a psychology class.  She asked, "How many of you, thinking I might be a male teacher, removed your wedding rings last week?" Sheepishly, a lot of them raised their hands. She said, "I think Bob is a very disappointed. But his disappointment is a compliment."

This teacher had some important job in Newark  Public Schools. Shortly before the end of the course she tried to recruit me into the Alternate Route Teacher Certification Program, Newark then experiencing a severe teacher shortage mostly from new hire teachers failing to finish a full school year.  I said I had no degree. She asked how many credits I had, which wasn't too far from a degree, & if I had substitute teacher approval in any school system. I said, yes, in two Union County Systems, but I'd only worked a couple weeks in one on  short-term creative writing contract.  She said I could be a full time substitute while I finished up the degree & went through Alternate Route training, & they'd apply substitute days toward tenure. I thought, they must be really  hard up for fresh meat.   So I got honest. I said, look at me, they'll chew me up in Newark. She said they wouldn't assign  me to one of those schools. I thought, sure,  that's like the National Guard recruiter in the spiffy uniform promising you that after basic training you'll never again get your fatigues dirty.

I didn't apply. Later, Star-Ledger exposed that  Newark Alternate Route hires were being assigned classes with no mentors,  Your first month or two was supposed to be closely supervised by an experienced teacher. New teachers - none with a degrees in education  -  were being assigned classes with little or no mentoring, clueless about discipline, class plans, educational materials. Schools were so understaffed that mentors couldn't be spared. Newark seems to have solved the under-staffing problem.

I do know a couple of guys who used Alternate Route to become public  school music teachers. I had thought there was a surplus of music teachers, & these two guys, tho good musicians,  lacked broad experience, including  basic keyboard skills.  But both became very good music teachers.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How I fooled my shrink into thinking I'm nuts

My shrink likes to know anything that has upset me recently. But he's not there for talk therapy. So I have to vent ahead of time,  to my friend Gina verbally, or in an email to one of my online  confidantes, then edit it down to the most important information & points, in under five minutes. I need to do this only a couple of times each year. If I get too rattled about something, I get all wound up & anxious.   What gets wound up must unwind, & that can lead to depression.  In matters where I can make a quick decision & stop the winding up process,  I make one.

I could vent longer to the shrink's freshly-minted social worker, who looks about 21. Young social workers love to hear you talk, it's the only way they get experience. But they're solicitous rather than insightful. An experienced social worker has heard everything  & discourages you from struggling with any situation where  nothing tangible  is there to be gained.  But if you choose to  struggle, they want you to battle, &  are kickass allies.

I told my shrink  what bugged me & why, &  for the first time in all the years I've known him I caught a glimpse of a WTF? expression in his face. Then the phone  on his desk rang,  the moment was lost. When he hung up, he had me elaborate a little bit. I'm not interested in  discussing the ancient history anymore, I glued that together years ago. This current situation required a practical decision that chose itself, since it is the same decision I currently make for every social event:  Avoid em. Who invites or how I get there don't even factor in. I didn't think the event was an exception.  To imagine it as exceptional would also be delusional.  I had dealt with it the best way I could  without a personal therapist helping me design a strategy for it that would make  the event a ... teachable moment for those involved. We all need a teachable moment now & then.
If I'm as smart, devious & persuasive as a few people give me credit for, I'd have won two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships by now, have  a poet-in-residence  gig at a college, & a show on Sirius radio.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oy Wall Street

Noticing some OWS supporters focusing more & more on the police brutality incidents.  Common thread, I realized, is that most are old-fashioned counterculture types, Sixties-inspired folks. That was the fucking problem with the late Sixties, guys dying by the thousands in Nam  & we were the ones being persecuted, so we claimed, with our long hair & pot & protests. I exited the Sixties hoping  I'd never again meet so many jerks, & I didn't. I went to college with angry, anti-war Vietnam vets, & when the Trotskyites  circulated through  the snack bar passing out their single-spaced manifestoes, they gave those vets in their fatigue jackets a wide berth.  You represent yourself, but the cause is bigger than you personally. OWS means standing for people who hate OWS, because they're part of the 99%  even if  they're getting it wrong. They refuse to see the strings on the marionettes. So keep yanking the strings.

There's a great risk of going off-message (even if the message is a bit vague to begin with). We know from the Wisconsin protests earlier this year that police are potential allies, as union workers.  In many cities where Occupy actions are popping up, the police have little experience dealing with this kind of long-term protest. The corporate powers lean on their political minions to do something,  so  the local governments push the police to do something. Basically, the Occupy protests are a form of vagrancy, no big deal, really. They disrupt "normal" routines.

It suits the suits if the protests appear to be about local police. Makes them local law & order problems, & in  much of mainstream media it's the protesters who come across as  lawless.  Many people disposed to be sympathetic with Occupy become unsympathetic.  Occupy has to keep the spotlight on the lawless powers inside  those office buildings, not on the agents of the powers.  Do what you gotta do to stay where you are, but do it with smart tactics, with negotiation where possible. In many cities, being heavy-handed with protestors would embarrass the Democrats in city hall & jeopardize base support.  In Albany NY, the state & the city tried to foist off responsibility for removing protesters on each other, because neither wanted to be perceived as culpable. Occupy Albany  recognized this conflict, used it, & outwitted them.  However, Occupy Oakland CA was evicted.

With winter approaching,  protest crowds in the Northeast & Midwest will dwindle, the story - barring any violence - fading into background. It's an opportunity for the Occupy movement to gain presence & strength in the milder climates of the South & West, & to organize satellite demonstrations in the presidential primary states, following the Repugs & Barack Obama.


Monday, October 24, 2011


The event is nothing. It's what made the event happen - which is no longer where the event is. The event is the leftovers - it happens so the entity, the spirit, or what made the shit happen can move on.

So all these events, no matter what the hell they are, are nothing. What is meaningful is what is left and  gone beyond that. So all we have is people standing around a pile of shit, looking at it. You wouldn't expect the thing that shit to go back and sit in the shit, would you?

Neil Young, Shakey
He was talking about Woodstock, & more. I understand what he's saying.

I'm learning more about Neil than I need or want to know from Shakey, a semi-authorized biography published in 2002, took over a decade for Jimmy McDonough to write - assemble may be  a more apt  word. That's why I avoided reading it for years.  Neil, perverse Scorpio  that he is (rumored double or triple Scorp), basically dared McDonough to dig up what he could dig up, sat for several extensive interviews, but didn't smooth the author's path through Neil's associates & employees, many of whom have been with him for decades & would take a bullet for him, although he's terribly difficult to work for. 

I took positive notice of Neil Young with  "Mr. Soul" & "Expecting to Fly" on the Buffalo Springfield Again album. Bought his first solo album. liked some of the songs, hated several, & disliked the production, thought the album was a mess, & forgot about Neil.  Some months later, visiting a friend in his dorm at Fordham around final exam time,  we smoked some weed & he asked if I wanted to hear the new Neil Young LP, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. I said, sure, why not? It was a revelation. Something completely unexpected. Neil had stripped his music of artifice, the attempts at Beatlesque studio creations  were gone. Crazy Horse sounded like a band he'd found in a bar, which wasn't far from the truth.  Raw emotion untempered by any display of virtuosity.  It was artless art. Some of it sounded like Link Wray influenced by Ornette Coleman, or vice versa. Some of it was great country rock. To this day it remains one of the most powerful,  memorable first-time encounters I've had with a record. & I played organ in a band. You couldn't imagine an organ on that record.

I've been a fan ever since, although I probably don't like half of what Neil has released. I never assumed he was a nice guy.  I figured  he was single-mindedly, selfishly, sometimes brutally  devoted to himself & his own art, & it cost him plenty in busted friendships, busted tours, & crap album sales. Much of the misery the asshole side of Neil  brought upon himself.

Throughout his career  Neil has pushed  me to think about love & hate in the starkest ways.    No rocker deals with this more explicitly than Neil Young. You don't need to understand his lyrics to get it.  In  his best performances, the process by which he creates the music does it.  Some Neil Young purists (& a few music critics) - I think they're masochists - can't abide when Neil is just being pretty, or choo-ga-looing. But the majority of his older audience  still expects him to play the flannel hippie.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Oxford NJ

Blast Furnace
From the era of proud, industrial polluters.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

School Monster Bans Halloween

Springfield superintendent bans Halloween costumes from town's elementary schools

SPRINGFIELD — There will be no princesses, pirates or vampires roaming the halls at Springfield’s two elementary schools this Halloween.

Citing concerns that dressing up detracts from learning, Michael Davino, superintendent of the Union County school district has barred children from wearing costumes to school next Monday.

"In an effort to minimize the interruption of instruction, and recognizing that students have ample time to celebrate the holiday in costume after school, costumes will no longer be permitted in school on Halloween," reads a letter sent to parents this week from the principals at the James Caldwell and Thelma L. Sandmeier elementary schools.

Frustrated parents — and even some children — spoke against the policy at a recent school board meeting.

Parent Debra Bachman said the edict is stifling and prevents kids from "just being kids."

"My 10-year old daughter was going to be Big Bird from Sesame Street and all her friends were going to be other Sesame Street characters," Bachman said. "I should say she is still going to be — just not at school."
In some places they want to get rid of Halloween because it's pagan, evil & anti-Christian. Here we deem it educationally useless, & send it the way of the relaxed story time teachers used to have after lunch to settle the children down so they wouldn't throw up their pizza.

Children are expected to choose a career track in first grade now.  Pretty soon our all-purpose public schools will be dismantled &  all children  segregated into subject immersion charter schools, so we might as well get rid of this useless, silly stuff. What are you smiling at kid? Get real, grownups don't smile. Sorry little girl, your skills tests say you'll never be a ballerina, princess, or Wonder Woman.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

All the peace money can buy

For $1 billion, one dictator
By Kevin Baron, National Journal

Call him the billion-dollar man. One billion for one dictator.

According to the Pentagon, that was the cost to U.S. taxpayers for Muammar el-Qaddafi's head: $1.1 billion through September, the latest figure just out of the Defense Department.

And that's just for the Americans.

The final totals will take some time to add up, and still do not include the State Department, CIA, and other agencies involved or other NATO and participating countries. Vice President Joe Biden said that the U.S. "spent $2 billion total and didn't lose a single life." NATO does not track the operational costs to each member country, but the funds directly taken from a common NATO account for Libya operations have totaled about $7.4 million per month for electronic warfare capabilities and $1.1 million per month for headquarters and command staff, a NATO spokesman said.

From the beginning of Operation Unified Protector in March, critics have questioned whether the U.S. could afford to open a third front. The Congressional Research Services estimate the Afghanistan war has cost nearly $500 billion so far. With Iraq, the figure easily tops $1 trillion.
What does one trillion dollars look like?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Caution Exotic Animals

Guy with sleazy exotic animal farm in Zanesville Ohio lets all animals loose & kills himself. Dozens of loose animals including Bengal tigers are shot. Animal rights people went nuts. But put yourself in the shoes of the local sheriff. It was late in the day. He  couldn't ascertain exactly how many or what kinds of animals were free. Grizzly bears. Mountain lions.  Monkeys. You know how to escape from a mountain lion that chooses you as prey?  You don't, because it's behind you & leaps on your back. It's rare, but every so often a jogger in California finds this out.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Viki Ob-Knox-ious

The protesters were out at last night's Union NJ Board of Education meeting, for & against Viki Knox, the high school teacher who posted vicious, religious-based homobigoted statements on her personal Facebook page. The gray area of free expression in this matter is that she used  her FB page to communicate with her school prayer group. Does that mean she was speaking in her capacity as a teacher & advisor rather than as a private citizen? I'm inclined to think it does, but I wouldn't want to have it tested in court.  Our conservative, Roman Catholic governor found the remarks "disturbing." However, I suspect Knox belongs to the variety of protestantism that considers the Pope the Whore of Babylon or some Beast from the Book of Revelation. The Star-Ledger published a a strongly-worded editorial on Monday calling for her dismissal. But the newspaper isn't responsible to the property taxpayers of Union NJ who would have to foot the bill for the lawsuit Knox would certainly bring against the Board.

Since Knox considers anyone supportive of LGBT rights to be her "enemies," then she should be confronted by those "enemies" in her own school, the students & teachers. This meeting should take place in private. Her mind won't be changed - reason won't have any effect on her beliefs. If she's a hero at her church, so be it.  She should be made to look at photos of lynchings, old ones of African-Americans & more recent ones of gays like Matthew Shepard. She  must be reminded, graphically, that violent words can have violent consequences. She must be told that from now on she will be under a microscope; every word she says in school,  every interaction with a gay teacher or student, every FB post will be  noted & recorded. Every meeting of her prayer club, since it is open to all students, will be monitored. Rather than turn her into a martyr (& possibly opening up a lucrative public speaking career), let her choose to become a  pathetic figure wandering the halls of Union High School.  The teacher union has to take her side,  but few members will respect her. Her student devotees will come & go, they can  provide her support & solace.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

What day is it?

Ever since Hall of Fame Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt announced she had early onset dementia at age 59,  I'm sure many of us around her age have been observing ourselves.  Summitt said she had been forgetful (she also says skip the "pity party"). Forgetful for Summitt probably isn't the same as for the rest of us. As a high profile  coach of marquee basketball program, she's also an executive. She has assistant coaches handling aspects of training, defense & offense. She has personal assistants doing paperwork, taking her phone calls & e mail. She has interns working as statisticians & doing basic research on high school prospects.  She has scouts, a network of spies, trusted former players &  high school coaches who contact her personally,  She has PR people. She has to  keep a handle on all of those, recruit, deal with alumni,  make public appearance s & do charity work,  still be a mentor to her team. She's the boss. One wonders what it was she forgot  & how she remembered she forgot?

I was standing at the branch library check-out desk across from a clerk about my age. She's a bit ditzy. While she was checking out my books I was reading a flyer about a musical program at the main library on Thursday Oct 20 at 7 pm. I mentioned it to her. She said it was free but I needed to sign up for tickets, which she had in her drawer. I said, "It's this Thursday."  She said, "No, next Thursday,"

Suddenly I became very confused.  Next Thursday? What date is today? I didn't know today's exact date.  But it's Monday & a week after Columbus Day & more than halfway through October. I also remembered "True Grit" was written by Charles Portis, because I ordered  the novel  from the main library without writing it on a post-it.

As I was sticking the books in my backpack, I asked another clerk filing books what the date was. "October 17th," she said with no hesitation.

As I walked past the main checkout book, I got the other clerk's attention, tapped on the flyer & said, "This coming Thursday."

I ain't the one with early onset dementia.

As for Pat Summitt, it'll be no big surprise to anyone including herself if she wins another National Championship this season.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Little Ferry NJ

Charlie's Cocktail Lounge and Bar

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Bruce Springsteen - Tunnel of Love

 Gave a close listening to this song for the first time last night, concluded it's one of his finest singles. Not that I know all of Springsteen's singles, over the years they've been whatever I happened to hear piped over store sound systems, which is how I knew "Tunnel of Love"  was some kind of hit. I  still have not heard the 1987 album of that name from beginning to end in sequence (the last album  he released in two side LP format).

Four E Streeters play on this song, Roy Bittan on keyboards, Max Weinberg on drums,  Patti Sciafi contributing vocals, &  Nils Lofgren  providing the excellent guitar break. I suspect 80% of  it is Bruce. A meticulously constructed  studio song (hangs together pretty good as a live number). 

Great synth hook that dates it but doesn't  keep it stuck in the era; he carries the amusement ride metaphor all the way through;  the couplet "Then the lights go out and it's just the three of us / You, me and all that stuff we're so scared of" is worthy of Neil Young. Spooky layers of clanks, rumbles & voices in the mix, & the song sounds like something you'd hear blasting out of a boardwalk ride like the Himalaya. "Tunnel of Love" is a sad, mature song about adult relationships, yet connected to a shared American memory of  couple of teenagers on a dark ride at an amusement park or fair. It's a very high expression of Springsteen's art,  tough & unsentimentally romantic, what one always hopes from him, big praise coming from me.

The back story  everyone knows is that his marriage to actress Julianne Phillips wasn't taking. He had also tried to relocate to California.The couple split during the Tunnel of Love Express Tour.  European paparazzi were taking all kinds of cozy pix of Bruce & Patti together. For that tour Bruce had promoted Patti to his main stage companion, pushing Clarence off to the side, & in a video of this song  from the tour the rumored new couple were singing at the same mic, lips 1/4 inch apart, if that far. No wonder Julianne packed up & went home. It was semi-scandalous, but I paid no attention to any of it at the time,

Springsteen's public persona is so complete & protected, even when he's just being "Bruce," that you can't learn much about his personal life from his songs.  This one comes close. Around the same time, 1989, Neil Young woke up from the strange musical dreams he'd been having, & in Freedom & Ragged Glory there was no doubting he had  documented  midlife crises  of love, commitment  & identity in searing personal songs. Their careers have taken parallel paths ever since.

At the end of the video is a melancholy  glimpse of the classic Asbury Park Casino carousel being dismantled, sold off in pieces. The  ferris wheel in background at Palace Amusements had a few years remaining.   The city, wretched as it was in 1987,  had a distance to drop   before hitting the bottom of its long fall.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

A teacher chooses her "enemies"

Union Township school officials investigate teacher who allegedly made anti-gay remarks on Facebook

School officials in Union Township are investigating allegations that a teacher at Union High School posted comments on her Facebook site criticizing a school display recognizing Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender History Month and calling homosexuality "perverted."

On Saturday, a local attorney who said he had initially been contacted by a parent, wrote to the district calling for the teacher’s dismissal.

The lawyer, John Paragano, a former township councilman, provided the district with what he said was a copy of the Facebook thread that included the offending remarks.

A copy was also provided to The Star-Ledger, in which the teacher, Viki Knox, allegedly referred to homosexuality as, "a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation," and a "sin" that "breeds like cancer."

"Hateful public comments from a teacher cannot be tolerated," wrote Paragano, also a former Union Township Municipal Court judge. "She has a right to say it. But she does not have a right to keep her job after saying it."

Important to remember these remarks were not made in the classroom or as part of school duties.  On his FB page, Jersey gay activist Richard Goldstein vows "not to rest" until she is dismissed. This puts him at odds with the ACLU, which defends her remarks in the context she made them, on a personal Facebook page.

The only possibly legit argument for dismissing her is that her attitudes would prevent her from enforcing an anti-bullying law passed after the suicide of gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi. But I don't see the logic in it, unless a connection made from remarks directly to an incident of bias bullying.  It's awful that this woman is a public school teacher.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A stutterer wants to speak

Stutterer Speaks Up in Class; His Professor Says Keep Quiet

Philip Garber, a precocious and confident 16-year-old who is taking two college classes this semester, has a lot to say but also a profound stutter that makes talking difficult, and talking quickly impossible. After the first couple of class sessions, in which he participated actively, the professor, an adjunct named Elizabeth Snyder, sent him an e-mail asking that he pose questions before or after class, “so we do not infringe on other students’ time.”

As for questions she asks in class, Ms. Snyder suggested, “I believe it would be better for everyone if you kept a sheet of paper on your desk and wrote down the answers.”

Later, he said, she told him, “Your speaking is disruptive.”

Unbowed, Philip reported the situation to a college dean, who suggested he transfer to another teacher’s class, where he has been asking and answering questions again.

As a stutterer, naturally this story caught my attention. The wire services picked it up, & the local Star-Ledger ran its own story.

When I was 16 my stutter was incapacitating as far as speaking in class. Giving an oral report was to die. I wanted the option of speaking or not & only once did a teacher offer it,  Ms. Donohue, a newly-minted English teacher.*  Yet, I wasn't painfully  shy. I liked being the center of attention, having the spotlight. Philip is from a   younger generation of stutterers who use speech therapy as best they can, but take the attitude that if anyone has a problem with  a stutterer, get over it.

Both the teacher & the dean were wrong. This was a "teachable moment" for them. I don't think the teacher should be punished. She was a public school teacher for 30 years & if this is how she always treated stutterers, it's not too late to change. The situation seems to have been resolved. Let the kid speak.

In high school, I might have appreciated the suggested alternative of submitting written comments. But then, I wasn't raising my hand much in class, a handicap in the English & History classes  where I often had something to say. Later, in college, with some smaller classes where  free-flowing discussions were encouraged, more like conversation,  I participated much more, which  in turn lowered the anxiety that increased the severity of my stutter.  Philip  needs no special consideration except that people be a little patient.  It was no problem with his classmates.

I still have have bad days.  But in all my years on the radio, nobody picked up on my stutter from what they heard on the radio, although I sometimes had to duck & dodge "jonah words," words stutterers see coming along in a sentence we know will be problems. I've  given poetry readings on bad stuttering days by opening with a short poem (now lost) I wrote especially for those times, not about stuttering, but with smoothly rhythmic lines I could sort of sing, & then chatting with the audience to relax before moving on to the next poem. By the third poem I'd be over the hump & enjoying the spotlight.

*Sophomore year,  my grades were going to hell. Ms. Donohue had me transferred out of one of her classes before the six week speech communication section, & into her higher achieving  class that had already done the speech thing.  I remember we  studied Macbeth in the new class & everyone was into it.,  The old class had  disruptive morons in it.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

them damned protestors

You can tell when protests are having an an effect. My sole conservative friend - if I'm in doubt about an issue I never go wrong choosing the opposite side to him - is reduced to posting snide remarks about Occupy Wall Street on Facebook. True, he's the the kind of guy who sees nuns demonstrating for peace & calls them crazy liberals, it's that automatic. Not much in the Occupy movement for a winger to grab on to. Few hot heads, any screwball leftist placards obviously don't represent the sentiments of  the middle class majority.  It's tough seeing  a smart, good-hearted & in many ways wise man from a working class town side with  Wall Street & the super-rich,  I so much want him to be raging labor unionist, he has personality for it,  but he's hardly the first I've met like that.

I like him because of his good heart, & he's not much of an ideologue, it's mainly from the gut, & he has plenty of  it from his fondness for good beer & excellent Jersey subs (his wife is a good cook, too). Sometimes, late at night, he'll upload a photo from his basement hideout, the Post & Daily News spread out on the table, with a bottle of scotch, pack of Marlboros. Or a photo of a freshly unwrapped sub sandwich,   bottle of beer, & the scotch.  Still lifes as concise as an early William Carlos Williams poem, who resided only a few miles away from him & near the same Passaic River. He might add a Sinatra song from You Tube.

The demonstrations may lead to something, or not. In this area there's another  month or so of  decent weather, but then we'll see if only the hardier souls  make a special trip downtown to join the  24/7 campers.

This happens to be the 33rd anniversary of the death of my poetry mentor, Joel Oppenheimer. It's not a date I remember - I was reminded by his son. Joel would have been delighted by Occupy Wall Street, by the very  ordinariness of the people.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Lee Wiley - A Hundred Years from Today

A wonderful, now largely overlooked singer. She was about fifty when this album was recorded in 1957. It's interesting to me how some singers come across as jazz artists even though, as with Lee Wiley, the impression is made almost entirely by how the melody & rhythm are nudged here & there. They sound more in sync with their bands, musicians respond to them with sensitive playing, as Billy Butterfield does here on trumpet.  There's an absence of acting, of dramatizing the song lyrics, even a sense of slight detachment, as if they are engaging a song while at the same time observing how it unfolds.   So there's a line of beautiful female singers: Wiley (who began recording in 1931),  the incomparable Billie Holiday, Anita O'Day, June Christie, Chris Connors, Jeri Southern.

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Mormon underwear

I keep reading how Romney is supposed to "explain" his religion to evangelical Repugs. Explain what? He's a Mormon. Go read the Wikipedia entry. What, if he keeps explaining it at some point he'll turn into a  Southern Baptist? The Constitution prohibits a religious test for holding office, so the Christian right does the screening.

Someone  told me her Southern Baptist grandparents poured a little bit of milk in their root beer because they thought the carbonation was too stimulating. In lifestyle, there's isn't much difference between stricter Southern Baptists & Mormons. But Mormons wouldn't put milk their non-caffeine  carbonated beverages. They don't strike me like that. Some Southern Baptists wanted to boycott Disney World when Disney  allowed informal "gay days" & recognized the domestic partnerships of its employees. Mormons spend millions  opposing marriage equality, but Its hard to imagine them boycotting amusement parks.

Years ago I worked for a Mormon-owned print shop chain in NYC, Somewhere in my book boxes are several hundred pages of instructions for Mormon missionaries that read like they were written by behaviorists from  the Brigham Young University psychology dept., & probably were.    A slick Mormon missionary is always two steps ahead of the mark. Since the most susceptible mark is a confused,  under-educated person with  personal issues, those conversion techniques are hard to resist. The young male duos in the white shirts & ties show up with their complete media indoctrination package on the second  home visit & don't leave without pushing hard for a baptism date.

But what major Mormon politician has ever  been accused of using an elected office to proselytize? The Church of Latter Day Saints consider Mormon politicians themselves to be advertisements for the faith. Same as evangelical Christians regard favored evangelical politicians.  Many evangelicals believe Mormonism a dangerous Christian heresy, therefore Mitt Romney is a heretic. Mitt was born a Mormon.  Mormonism competes directly with evangelical missionaries around the world.  Religion writer Karen Armstrong says Mormonism isn't Christianity, but the 4th major Abrahamic religion. I'm inclined to agree. Mormons themselves prefer we believe they're protestants. Nonsense. But it's grown beyond a "cult."

Mormonism is a strange thing. Totally American. I don't buy anything about it  except that I have some regard for the structure of the church community. If  Mormonism had been birthed 2000 years ago, the Christian story would be no less incredible than Joseph Smith's tale of digging up golden plates, translating the contents with a "seer stone" as The Book of Mormon,  then conveniently handing them back to an angel.

I used to smoke pot & visit  the Mormon headquarters in New York to see the diorama of dummies with talking lips projected on to their faces. One of the scenes was a perfect Mormon family!

Romney is every bit as dull as he seems. By his own account, he lived in France for two years as a young Mormon missionary & sampled virtually nothing of the culture. Had no interest in it.  Never even went to the Louvre.  The only similar story I've read  is that of Wendy's founder Dave Thomas, skipping weekend passes while stationed in Germany with the Army, spending his free time experimenting with burgers in the mess hall. Yes, he really did.

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Tuckerton NJ

Willow Landing

The boats are a glimpse of the bayman oystering & crabbing culture that has practically disappeared from  Barnegat,

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Saturday, October 08, 2011

Occupy Yom Kippur

Outdoor service, Wall St. Oct. 7


Friday, October 07, 2011

unnamed Democratic operative

Just a bit more on the Occupy America protests, which took up residence in Jersey City  today. An "unnamed Democratic operative" said:
“The original piece of the tea party that did pick up support among independent voters was when they were taking on Wall St. born out of the bailout and reaction to Bush in 2008,” said one, referring to the earliest days of what became the tea party. “If Democrats and progressives are to reclaim independent voters than standing up for working class voters is a key part of that.”

“In 2010, Democratic base was lackluster and that’s one of the reasons GOP had as big a night as they did,” the operative continued. “Anything that reenergizes Democratic base is vital.”
But  President Obama & VP Biden know it's trouble.  It's reenergizing parts of the base, alright: The parts the Obama administration (& the Democratic establishment for years previous) threw overboard. Four years ago many of the young people now protesting were in college or not long past school, those cheering, screaming crowds that donated $20 each online & registered to vote for the first time in their lives. They  expected a different kind of leader in Obama, a guy with cool AND passion. Obama thought they'd be satisfied with Springsteen & Bono.   Now the unions, trade & public, are joining in, senior citizens, & we'll see who else. Very few "working class" so far.   It's unnerving to the Democratic establishment that politicians  are not the targets of the protests. But the White House is damned lucky the giant Obama puppets haven't appeared yet.  They aren't trying to "reclaim independent voters." They're announcing that they are independent voters. Obama is getting fair warning about 2012, not a bye.

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Seeyah Yankees

Detroit beat the Yankees in five games, tonight a close one at the Stadium. Yanks outscored Tigers, their two wins were blowouts. Yanks had their chances, Tigers had the pitching,  I hope Tigers beat the crap out of the Rangers.

Yankees actually know how to lose with class. Personally, I like many of their ball players. But you can't say that about Yankee fans, especially the younger ones who know nothing but winning. 2008, the only year since '94 the Yankees missed the playoffs, is to many Yankee fans what Katrina is to New Orleans, so tragic they consider it, so outraged they were. Losing to a very solid Detroit team  isn't like what happened to Boston this season. Be good to have a Rust Belt series, Detroit & Milwaukee, a baseball fan's series.  Impossible for Fox to promote it. Any series without  the major market Yankees or Dodgers sort of lacks broad appeal outside of baseball unless there's some other compelling story (like the Red Sox "idiots" breaking the "curse" in 2004). Dodgers haven't won a pennant since 1988, since the O'Malleys sold the team.  The World Series now  gets second billing to the NFL season.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs

56 years old, billionaire, business genius, geek superhero, best health care money could buy, incurable disease.

I used a variety of  Mac computers for basic tasks, found them user friendly & generally glitch free compared to Microsoft o/s pcs. But every Mac owner not using them for graphics work  couldn't give me compelling reasons for buying one. They were more expensive & less adaptable.  Many Apple/Mac users were & are snobs. The two people I really trusted about computers said I should get a regular PC, install & learn the Linux o/s. That was their best advice. It was what they did.

The other Apple stuff, iPods, iphones, etc. are also expensive gadgets I can't afford,  & if I had an iPhone, or any smartphone, I doubt I'd use it well because I'd have little use for most of what it does.   But  I thank Steve Jobs for creating a demand for similar products that cost half the price of his visionary creations.

I'm more familiar with Steve Jobs' ownership of  Pixar, which he bought for ten million & struggled for years to keep afloat, & sold 20-years later for over seven billion in a  Disney stock swap. I watch Pixar cartoon features.


Meanwhile, down on Wall Street & soon spreading to your town

A protest doesn't lose validity - not initially - if the protesters lack a specific list of demands.* Who wants an elite  revolutionary cadre running things? I saw that bullshit during the Vietnam protests,  ideological assholes muddying up the movement when what most of us wanted was for the war to wind down, get those conscripted American soldiers out of there, cut our losses & concede the rest of a small South Asian nation anyone could plainly see on a globe wasn't of much future strategic importance. Fuck Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh

The anti-capitalist signs on Wall Street won't get much traction with the rest of America.  Most of the protesters look like young people who expected to do well by American capitalism,  it's  what they were taught & what they believed. I know some of them. The problem is that "Wall Street" is capitalism gone  amuck with absence  of reasonable regulation,  engaging in wildly speculative practices  that send the stock market careening up & down, undermined the generally stable American housing industry - a foundation of our economy, & is run by a bunch of fat cat international plutocrats who have taken over both our political parties but have no fundamental loyalty to the United States of America. They mean to suck us dry. We've  been bamboozled because high finance is something few Americans understand or want to understand. We play by a different set of basic rules, rules we thought were generally fair.  If you pay your bills, manage your household debt, keep your credit rating good, the bank will loan you money for a home & car & everything ought to work out alright. The  banks, mostly local, holding their own loans for the life of the loan,  didn't loan money to poor risks. That's one part of the problem.

Another less discussed goes back to President Eisenhower's famous farewell speech warning about the "Military-Industrial Complex."  Eisenhower knew war was  profitable if you worked it to advantage.  As a military commander, every expendable piece of equipment, every Jeep, plane,  tank, bullet & bomb  he used in battle  at government expense  was  made by & bought from a private company.  All American companies back then. The human beings were expendable, too, but less so. By the completion of his second term, America had  vastly over-sized armed forces that resisted his attempts to bring  under control.  Including an immense conscripted Army.  With the great armed forces came the temptation to use them, because bullets not fired are bullets that don't need to be replaced, & so came Vietnam, the first of several wars waged mainly for profit. There's no reason to bring a war waged for profit to the fastest possible victory, no reason to even define what victory is. So we borrow incomprehensible  sums of money to finance all the material & services we need to purchase to wage the wars. Without draftees, sacrifice becomes optional.

As much as I dislike triumphalism, the displays of nationalist hubris following a victorious war, at least it signals the war is ended. Yes, I do bore myself saying this stuff over & over.

The Wall Street protesters will get it right, they're in the right place for it, & as it grows & spreads it will look & sound more broadly  "American" & less citified.  It will find a voice. It has identified the real power & it means to speak truth to it. The Tea Party, starting actually from similar gripes, gets it wrong. Two ways. First, they think the government runs the government & therefore it is the government that should be protested.  Obama faces the same "establishment" Eisenhower, with all his prestige,  couldn't budge, but it's much more intractable now.  Second, they get a lot of unrelated issues mixed up in there, as one might expect from a movement born of hinterland white protestant Republicans.

*They did issue a list of the reasons they are protesting. Most I agree with completely, none of the others bother me.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

not running for president

Our governor, Chris Christie, is officially not running for president. He certainly enjoyed being talked up for a candidacy. Most pundits didn't think he'd run. Neither did I. He was polling in the middle of the pack. A lot of bigshot Repug donors wanted him to run, but there was no groundswell of support in the Repug base,  he wasn't undermining any of the other candidates. He was up against deadlines for getting on the primary ballots in the early states. He had no operations set up in Iowa or New Hampshire. He was completely sure he would have won had he decided to run.  Empty chutzpah,

Also, the odds still favor Obama's reelection just because he's the incumbent. Even a modest uptick in the economy next summer will make it very difficult to defeat him. Christie's gamble is a wise one. He can pile up favors campaigning for Repug candidates, make himself better known across the country,  & if Obama is reelected come out of 2012 well-positioned for 2016. I don't see any Democrat who can beat him in Jersey in 2013, unless he screws up big time.

Christie ought to consider losing some weight. He doesn't have to be trim. But he should get down to where his suits don't look like he's wearing them straight off the Big Man racks from a Joseph A. Bank  buy one get two absolutely free sale.


Happy Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

Edward Hicks - Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity

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Monday, October 03, 2011

climate change

For Jerseyans who have their doubts about climate change, you're nuts if 2011 doesn't have you reconsidering. Has anything about the weather here felt right this year?  We just came through two months that we associate with dry, mostly pleasant weather. I think we've had two weeks that met expectations.  The others were rainy & damp.  Some disastrously wet. Drop back: We had a May  without big breezy days, usually the most spectacular month, peaking springtime.  A peculiar June & July that never settled into anything near a  norm.  Very harsh winter. It hasn't been "Jersey." We expect odd weather events, extreme cold & hot spells,  a big snow,  the occasional small tornado. But Jerseyans do look at the calendar & bet on  the best weeks to paint the outside of the house, rent a place at the shore, take a trip out of the state, fix stuff inside, start the tomato plants,  bring out the grill & patio furniture. On those, you might have gone  0 for 6 this year.


Sunday, October 02, 2011

A temporary aberration

"I believe that marriage is between a man and woman,” Gingrich said, the Des Moines Register reports. “It has been for all of recorded history and I think this is a temporary aberration that will dissipate. I think that it  just fundamentally goes against everything we know.”
This had me scratching my head. I tried to think of some things from the past 100 years that fundamentally went against everything we thought we knew. Einstein's Theory of Relativity, for a start.  The farther back we go, the more we find that went against everything we knew, from considering slavery a universal evil, to women's rights, to the concept of linear history itself that Newt relies upon to make the statement. Marriage equality is one more step in elevating the dignity of the individual, & I'm not being an egghead when I write that: until a few years ago I believed the matter could be sidestepped. It's like the civil rights movement. People want something & after awhile you run out of reasons why they can't have it. Now it's down to "temporary aberration."

I sort of understand what the anti-marriage equality people feel. Until a few years ago, I believed The United States of America did not engage in torture. That was for the Nazis & the commies & all the end justifies the means people. We got through some terrible wars without countenancing torture, although our enemies did it. Then it came to light that we were doing it, we argued about whether it was or was not torture, but the general attitude seemed to be, "Well, we're already doing it, & they're doing it to us, & we're not torturing Americans, so......"  Wait a minute! That's not what I was taught. Even in all those gung ho WWII movies we didn't do it. John Wayne didn't need it.

Sussex NJ

Weed's Diner

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

Good taste inhibits musical pleasure.  A long-time acquaintance, a well-known writer on jazz topics, always seems baffled when I post a perfectly-awful piece on Facebook, because he's  familiar with & respects my knowledge of "good" music. If I know what's good, why do I bother with bad?  Bad can be very entertaining, which is good. But I think he's puzzled mainly because I don't say something is bad, I just put it out there. I don't create categories of bad. The fellow also was blessed to grow up in a  home where he regularly came into contact with honest to goodness musical genius. I grew up in a home where, to be honest, nobody really knew much about music,  yet  in a peculiar sort of  way it was a musical household. I knew what kinds of music my parents didn't like, including rock & roll, but I didn't receive tedious lectures on what I should like. I had friends whose parents bitched constantly about  rock & roll & never stopped lamenting the end of the Big Band Era, although that era was over as popular music by 1945 & the so-called Hit Parade was loaded with boring crap until Elvis showed up. If you pressed them, you realized they  meant Glenn Miller more than Count Basie. By the Fifties, anyone who loved great big band music had to make a special effort to hear it, because most of the guys who had played it had become studio musicians, moved to Vegas to perform in show bands, or quit.

Anyway, 2 1/2 minutes of really bad, even ugly music might the most amusing part of one's day.

(Sometimes I do it as "public service." I may like a only  couple of cuts from some silly out-of-print album but as a "preservationist"  I decide to upload  all or most of it.)

"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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