Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The good, they say, depends on unfettering those with wealth so that the wealthy may better demonstrate their beneficence & become more Christian. That's how I read the gist of The Beatitudes as presented by the Hoover Institute: They are intended for the spiritual empowerment & salvation of the wealthy. Sheesh.
I was thinking about this because my e mail delivered a quote from liberation theologian Jon Sobrino, & as usual with liberation theology I nodded in agreement: "The kingdom of God will come as a civilization of poverty, in opposition to the civilization of wealth.." But then ran into a statement that didn't please me so much: "We must struggle to take back control of words and their definition,...." It's always a war of language, I'm not on the side of the "language of empire" or "the language of God," the two sides Sobrino gives. In the United States, the language of God & of empire get all mixed up. If he means the language of justice & compassion, you don't need religion for that.
I suspect "kingdom of God," a mysterious metaphor, means something quite different for mainline protestants growing up when Dr. King was alive. We didn't reside in a poor, predominantly Catholic Latin American nation where an authoritarian Catholic Church was allied with a repressive government, the two institutional structures mirroring each other. So we didn't see a necessity for actual revolutionary change in government. If people could be changed, government would follow. The problem then, as now, is making injustice visible as injustice. Dr, King was master of this. Our media was hypothetically free enough to show it. Images of violence done peaceful civil rights activists had a profound, permanent influence on me. Unlike other people in my family, I couldn't emotionally resist those images. I imagined myself standing with both sides. If one truly believed in segregation, in racial inequality, then one should have the minimal "courage" of one's convictions to join those jeering, spitting, rock throwing racists, to man the high pressure fire hoses & unleash the dogs. Join the lynch mob if lynching is what you want. But to look at the TV & mutter insults & racial epithets in the privacy of one's home & then go out & smile at black people & dance to Motown records was unacceptable to me. It was more cowardly than cracker behavior.
I reside just outside the urban battlefield, as I did in nearby towns of Rahway & Linden. The streets west of me so remind me of the town where I grew up (the next town over) that I felt deja vu when I first walked down them. I lost my taste for the dangerous adventure of cities a long time ago, but I want the diversity, & to be honest I like the "white" people who live in these places, the ones who refused to leave & the ones who move in. A lot of people here actually nod & say "hi" when you pass them on the street. Sometimes I get weary of hearing Spanish, but then I think I ought to learn the language.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Your Father's Feathers
Monday, June 27, 2011
Michele, ma belle
She's a member of one of the most conservative protestant denominations in America, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which demands doctrinal conformity in all Christian fellowship (they wouldn't have a friendship picnic with Methodists), & forbids any church role for women which would give them authority over men (which may mean that any man from the congregation could go into the church kitchen & add salt to the gravy).
Labels: THE election
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Perth Amboy NJ
The water is probably cleaner now than it was when this photo was taken.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
A New York State of Marriage
New York will become the sixth and most populous state to allow gay marriage. State senators voted 33-29 to approve marriage equality legislation introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat in his first year of office.Equal marriage rights are well worth supporting. Those who most vociferously oppose use of the word marriage also oppose civil unions that grant rights identical to marriage, on the grounds that civil unions then become too much like marriage in all but name. So civil union & domestic partnership laws carry in them a separate-&-unequal status. I came to this view of civil union inadequacy rather late, realizing - after finally listening to gays & lesbians - that the only effective way to legally strengthen same sex families, which is good for society, is by reaching all the way for marriage. One has to ask oneself, "Are there any civil rights opposite sex married couples have I don't want same sex couples to have?" For me the answer is none. The right whittles away at women's rights, workers rights, & the rights of homosexuals through one piece of legislation & another piece of legislation, & they add up after awhile. A law like New York's marriage law not only extends rights, it protects those rights from compromise. It's marriage. No semantic games. After the law takes effect, Archbishop of NY Timothy Dolan can believe all he wants that a same sex couple in NY isn't really married in NY.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate for gay marriage who lobbied state lawmakers in recent weeks, said the vote was an "historic triumph for equality and freedom."
If you're against same sex marriage, maybe there's some solace in the fact that the law doesn't make divorce any cheaper or easier for gays.
(A New York Times article implies that Dolan was so out-maneuvered by Gov. Cuomo, who had assembled a coalition including some Wall Street Republican heavies, that he couldn't or wouldn't put the full power of his Church to bear against the bill. Perhaps he just had the good sense not to ask Catholics to reach for their wallets on this issue while he's closing parishes & schools. )
Friday, June 24, 2011
Dailies have been in decline for 70 years, maybe more. The decline steepened with the advent of cable news, but they were doomed when the internet ruined the classified ad business. You wanted to buy a used anything, look for a job, rent an apartment, find a soulmate, you bought a newspaper. People read classifieds as entertainment. The pages adjacent to the classifieds were filled with large ads from car dealers & realtors. The "news" wasn't what sold newspapers. It was classifieds; also comics, Dear Abby, daily horoscope, the crossword, the word puzzle. When Calvin & Hobbes & Far Side ended, I didn't have much reason to buy the Star-Ledger at all.
My step-sister's son - that makes him my step-nephew - sent me a friend request on Facebook. I don't know why, curiosity maybe. I accepted. I liked my two step-siblings' kids when their kids were kids & I saw them two or three times-a-year. They were energetic, noisy, cheeky without being disrespectful. Years after my dad passed & I'd lost touch I ran into several of them, high school kids on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk one August night. They all resided down that way. They recognized me first. I was pleased they were hanging out on the boardwalk. My step-sister was an amusing, smart woman, probably still is. But she's turned - not unexpectedly - into a raving Tea Partier. That's where Republicans go now & it's sad. Can't even talk to them anymore.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Bud Shank - Summer Wind
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Why I'm not a Methodist
This isn't really why I'm not a Methodist. A number of reasons. But the trial is symptomatic of most of them. I don't like the episcopal governing structure, the power of appointing pastors to individual churches reserved to the local conference Bishop. To allow openly gay & lesbian pastors, key changes would have to made to the Book of Discipline (especially a passage that was voted into it in the 1970's), these changes would apply to the entire denomination, & even the most conservative Methodist congregation by rule would have to accept a homosexual pastor if the Bishop assigned one. This makes compromise impossible in the UMC, unless the denomination adopted the kind of policy it had until 1968 that treated African-American pastors as a special category so that white churches wouldn't get black preachers.
So the UMC now has an unofficial network of "welcoming" churches, largely tolerated if they aren't too vocal or too visible. Methodists prefer to avoid conflict. How? During a break in the DeLong trial, everyone in attendance sang a hymn, & when the judicial panel returned the presiding officer thanked the audience for the music. (I'm currently reading a book titled When in Doubt, Sing, which could be Methodist theology summed up in four words. ) What's attractive about Methodism is that it's rooted more in a practice rather than a doctrine (which actually is sort of doctrinal, but I'd have to explain a peculiarity of Wesleyanism & I'd probably get it wrong). So when you're raised Methodist you don't get much in Sunday School about how or why you're different from other denominations
By-the-way, marriage in the Methodist church is a covenantal relationship not a sacrament. Whatever that means. I write about it because I find it interesting, not because I care all that much what denominations require of people who sign up for a particular viewpoint of Christianity. That's what a denomination is - a place to sit down, a choice of who you want to sit with.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Union Township Police shoot and kill black bear near high school
I'm four blocks from the Union line & a couple of miles from the high school. directly up Morris Ave, two blocks away.
Union & Metuchen are both densely populated suburban towns.
This local invasion of black bears didn't happen overnight. It took about four decades. I went to a Boy Scout camp in north Jersey that had some wild forest around it. You could get seriously lost & some hapless campers did. There were a few bears around, but we didn't expect to encounter them & I never saw one. We were very careful with food, more because of skunks than bears.
A few years later I went to college in North Jersey about 15 miles east of that camp, & resided in Pompton Plains, a suburban town south of the school. By then black bears were occasionally spotted nosing around garbage cans in residential areas up that way, but it wasn't a common occurance. Within a decade it became common. The bear population was growing. Bears are territorial, & every subsequent spring saw young bear spreading out, mostly following the wooded river pathways. Then the bear paths became local creeks, parks, golf courses, & the buffer zones next to highways. Finding food poses no problem for the bears; Jersey is a cornucopia of discarded food. They want space, & if humans are already occupying it, tough, When a young bear in suburbia is tranq'd & relocated back to the woods of northwest Jersey, it's in some bigger, older bear's territory, & the young bear starts the journey all over again.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Eight records my dad liked
(Pogo was an adult comic strip, slyly topical, rather liberal actually, but dad read it faithfully. The record is children's song for adults, filled with nonsensical wordplay, sophisticated & corny. I loved it. It's still available. Victory at Sea taught me to listen to soundtrack music. One of the Leroy Anderson numbers had a real typewriter in it, that was cool. )
Asbury Park NJ
The corner building was sold in 1974 & became the Stone Pony, the open air "Mrs. Jay's Garden" next door operated as a beer & music venue popular with bikers, it was a dump. That was eventually razed & became the Stone Pony outdoor stage.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
When the change was made uptownClarence's diminished role in Springsteen's recordings probably didn't matter that much to him. He always had studio work. Lady Gaga gave him a call. He was paid handsomely & given plenty of perks for his long, grueling tours with Springsteen & E Street, was the second most popular musician on stage, & was indispensable to the classic, big numbers Springsteen performed night after night. I don't envy the horn man who tries to fill Clarence's shoes in 'Jungleland."
And the Big Man joined the band
From the coastline to the city
All the little pretties raise their hands
"Tenth Ave. Freeze-out"
Clarence in his dressing room with his portable "Temple of Soul." If E Street tours again, Springsteen will have a saxophonist but probably make "Jungleland" a Clarence tribute & use a recording of the famous horn solo.
When you were a child,
we strolled along a rural road
in the Poconos at dusk,
& the woods were filled
with little animals,
rustling among the leaves & twigs
as they accompanied us,
& you were surprised,
& delighted, perhaps a bit
curious as to what they wanted.
I confess to you now
I was flipping noisy pebbles
into the underbrush
when you weren't looking.
I wanted you to know
the creatures were really there,
unseen & unheard, aware of us,
oh beautiful soul,
the God's honest truth
is that we are all foraging
in the deepening dark.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Run Toward the Gunfire
bored old man
always standing in the foyer
rummage shop clothes
he probably brought new
nothing to see outside
since the bar closed for good
& the crew quit the corner
one day he said to me
"I wish I still lived in the projects"
Labels: in the news
Thursday, June 16, 2011
standing on the boardwalk
outside Convention Hall
while his wife's band rehearsed inside.
Three, four people chatting with him,
I'd left my camera on a table
at the space age Howard Johnson's
that looks like a flying saucer
while I checked out Bruce's 'vette
& some other classic cars
can afford to own.
"How ya doing, Bruce?"
"Hey, Buddy, howya doing?"
He was never a regular guy
but he has it down in theory.
Where is Andros?
Last night he called out of the blue to say he was attending a writer's conference & workshop on the Greek isle of Andros, "famous for its Sariza spring at Apoikia where the water comes out of a lionhead" (I looked it up). This isn't the sort of adventure I associate with Bruce. Bruce had seen a flyer for the event, decided it something he wanted & needed to do, counted his money, & signed up. I was delighted. "It'll change your life," I said. Every Greek island has a poet, perhaps a god or two. Andros was the home of a Greek comic poet named Amphis, contemporary of Plato, works survive only in fragments. Some of the titles of his works: The Female Oiler; Women in Power, Crazy About Women, The Female Barber, The Vagabond Acrobat.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Texas Fried Chicken and Pizza
don't belong together under the same roof
in New Jersey, Texas or anywhere else
& the off-duty cop buying a slice
was shot through the window
from a moving car, & murdered
by a teenage boy trying to kill
a woman who had insulted his mom
at his mom's engagement party.
Lighthouses for Sale
U.S. Coast Guard looks to sell 2 Jersey Shore lighthousesEveryone gazing over Lower New York Harbor sees sees these fireplug lights, not necessarily clearly; they're small & easy to overlook. The red Romer Shoal is large enough to be habitable, & has the best views. Great Beds is cramped. Both are a mess outside & in. Ideally, they ought to be taken apart piece by piece & reassembled on land as museums. But it would be cheaper to build facsimiles from scratch, Neither is a good candidate for state ownership. Jersey already owns lighthouses. Cape May light is maintained by Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, & much of Barnegat's cost of restoration & upkeep is raised through civic organizations. The Victorian Hereford Inlet Lighthouse is owned by the city of North Wildwood. Sea Girt Light, run by Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, is a rarely open to visitors. Maybe a couple of people are wealthy & crazy enough to purchase these two little lights.
The lighthouses for sale are the Romer Shoal Light Station, just north of Sandy Hook Bay, and the Great Beds Lighthouse, one mile east of South Amboy in Raritan Bay. Romer Shoal is a romantic but rusty 54-foot iron tower with brick interiors and broken windows sitting atop a necklace of slimy rocks.
Great Beds is a better-kept 47-foot tower perched on a narrow block of concrete in a section of the bay with heavy ship traffic.
The lighthouses are only accessible by boat. Their solar-powered lights are still active and maintained by the Coast Guard, which will retain the right to access the facilities after they are sold.
Built in the 1880s, both lighthouses need more than a coat of paint before they can resemble the cozy getaways of prospective buyers’ dreams.
Labels: jersey shore
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
La Vita è Bella
When a woman named Melodi
from Southern California
told me that her father
was Dean Martin's favorite
stage band trombonist,
I believed her instantly.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
Charles Earland - Betty Boop
Earland probably wrote this for his wife, Betty.
From the 1977 album "Revelation." Charles Earland & Odyssey: Keyboards - Charles Earland; Bass -- Paul Jackson; Drums -- Harvey Mason; Guitar -- Eric Gale; Percussion -- Patrick Ankrom; Tenor Saxophone -- Michael Brecker; Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet -- Arthur Grant; Trumpet -- Randy Brecker.
Thursday, June 09, 2011
I try to be polite to the exterminator guy. He has a crappy job. All day long he goes from apt building to apt building, apt to apt spending maybe two minutes in each, squirting chemicals under sinks as required by the city. That's all he does. I've seen his beat up company car parked in front of lousy apt buildings & in front of the better ones that attract airline employees & young professionals. I'm certain he's contemptuous of us all; it leaks through his personality: Affluent people for their taste in furniture or for not owning a house; the poor for taking rental assistance; seniors for being forgetful or slow to open the door. The interesting exterminating jobs, trapping mammals, getting rid of bees & termites, are for the better paid specialists in his company. My guess is that he doesn't have that kind of job because he's not very smart & he has a big mouth not suited for work that would bring him into contact with people for more than two minutes & which sometimes calls for discretion: Even "nice" people get bedbugs these days; carry them home from expensive hotels.
Today he comes in for his monthly spritz & immediately starts griping because I haven't yet installed the 50 lb 8000 BTU a/c in the window, I just have a fan blowing warm air around. I wasn't feeling so comfortable myself, but I knew the heat wave was breaking this evening. I blurted out, "Mind your own fuckin' business." That really surprised him, & he went out of here muttering about immigrants, taxes, etc. If I had been ready to put the a/c in, I would've said, "You're right, help me lift this thing & carry it to the window."
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Two days of scorchers here I'd like to get through without putting the a/c in the window. Heat supposed to break Thursday evening for a week of spring temps. I lose a screened window when the a/c is in, & I'm too inclined to turn it on when the fan would do fine.
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Primary Election Day
My state senator has been in office so long, is so powerful, so privileged, so wealthy (million dollar shore house, apt in Soho), that he doesn't even have to disguise his motivations. He wants twenty million to renovate some crappy projects a few blocks from his home in Elizabeth - gang-infested warehouses for the poor - throwing good money after bad when they need to be demolished & replaced with low density housing. He supports school vouchers only because his main political opposition comes from the Elizabeth Board of Ed machine. No regular organization Democrats in other towns support vouchers.
His opposition - the Board of Ed machine - takes millions in state & federal money thanks to liberal legislation & court decisions yet sucks up to our Republican Governor. We have a Ronald Reagan Academy - yup, named for the president who promised in 1980 & 1982 to abolish the Cabinet level Dept of Education but was prevented from doing so by a Democratic congress. That political faction is also too cozy for my comfort with a local evangelical church. They talk like Republicans & expect to eat at the Democrat's table. If they won. this city would have no allies in Trenton.
Update: The insurgents were beaten back, quite badly - 2 to 1 - in the county-wide Freeholder races, but I don't know what the tallies were in Elizabeth.
Labels: Elizabeth NJ
Monday, June 06, 2011
The Invisible Children
Girl's death calls into question how DYFS investigates abuseThe mother had come under the influence of a crackpot Haitian "preacher."
IRVINGTON — Four times between March 2006 and April 2008, anonymous tipsters called the state child abuse hotline to report that a woman in their Irvington neighborhood was screaming at her three children and beating them with a belt.
Each time, the Division of Youth and Family Services investigated, found no injuries or harm and deemed the abuse and neglect allegations against Venette Ovilde "unfounded," closing the family’s file for the last time on May 1, 2008.
Now Ovilde’s oldest child, 8-year-old Christiana Glenn, is dead from an untreated broken leg and malnutrition. Ovilde, 29, is sitting in jail. And child welfare veterans and advocates are questioning whether investigators missed any clues that could have foretold the family was headed for tragedy.
Like all government child/family agencies, DYFS has a mixed reputation. No one is sure how it operates. Caseworkers are overloaded. It has been known to bring a heavy hand down on households that could, with better community resources, have been held together, while overlooking situations that turned tragic.
What puzzled me in this case was Ovilde's claim that she was home-schooling her children. It turns out New Jersey is one of 10 states that do not in any way track home-schooled children. There are no standards, none of the requirements public & private schools must meet. In New Jersey, parents don't have to initiate any contact at all with the state or local school board. So, as far as Irvington, Essex County & the state were concerned, these three children just disappeared from the education system. They were invisible. They were not enrolled in any school.
Home schooling is not easy. To do it well, home schooling parents have to put as much effort, organization & discipline into it as any school teacher. There are abundant web resources, instructional materials, cooperative groups, & online courses. If Ovilde had been required to show some - even minimal - evidence that she was, in fact, home schooling her three children, I doubt very much she could have complied. She would then have been ordered to enroll the children in an approved public or private school until she could come up with a month's lesson plans, or teaching materials, or something. The horrible physical abuse given these three children - starvation & beatings - would not have passed unnoticed in a school, nor would have long, unexplained absences. A local Board of Education should know all the school age children residing in its district, & how these children are being educated as required by law. I leave it to legislators to decide how much information local government needs to have. At the very least it needs to know children exist.
Sunday, June 05, 2011
Friday, June 03, 2011
National Donut Day
By the time I grew up the bus had disappeared.
Fast forward several decades. It's 1999. A small tornado has hit Rahway NJ, knocking down big trees across a swath of the town. I was at work when it happened & had to pass through a police checkpoint downtown to reach my apt. Power was out. I walked around looking at the damage. A police car came around broadcasting that there was no driving permitted in the affected areas & police had blocked traffic into & out of downtown where I lived. By later that evening I was getting bored. I was also getting a craving for a certain brand of donut - I forget the name, it was from Pennsylvania - I knew was sold at the Quick Chek in the next town over. I liked the brand because they were plain donuts crunchy on the outside & soft on the inside & reminded me of the Donut Bus. So about 11 pm I got in my car, negotiated a maze of side streets, some blocked by fallen trees, very dark, assuming correctly that the police had only enough personnel to maintain road blocks on the three or four main streets. I made it to the Quick Chek, where the power was on, bought a box of my preferred donuts, took it next door to a Dunkin' Donuts, which was crowded with refugees like myself, ordered a cup of coffee & ate some of my donuts, Then I sneaked back home the way I had come.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Sarah visits the Garden State, sort of
Sarah's on some kind of tour, she has a special bus, traveling around America learning the history she ignored in college. To this end she spent an hour at Gettysburg & later was disappointed to discover Davy Crockett didn't patch up the crack in the Liberty Bell. Drove straight up the Turnpike to J.C. I wonder if someone mentioned that Jersey is the "Crossroads of the Revolution," had a few major battles, dozens of skirmishes, & some deadly neighbor-against-neighbor action. The Revolution was also a civil war in Jersey. Washington spent two winters at Morristown. Lots of important history.
But I think Sarah would be more pleased with Lucy the Elephant.
Donald Trump called up his limo & escorted Sarah to a chain pizzeria in Times Square, where she used a knife & fork. This is not unknown in Italy, & is actually socially acceptable with certain specialty pizzas. Of course, around here everyone learns how to drive while eating a slice. It probably did more damage to Trump's rep, if that be possible, he's supposed to be Mr. Manhattan & know all the fashionable upscale eateries according to the people he hires for that purpose; maybe he wanted to make Sarah look like a tourist.
Today Sarah visited Ellis Island, which is in Jersey, where she used the example of legal immigrants to slam "The Dream Act" (a sensible piece of legislation). I suggest she learn more about the experiences of "legal" Chinese & Japanese immigrants in California. She went to the Statue of Liberty, also clearly in Jersey, but the courts, I think, have ruled that it belongs to New York State.
Some liberal blogger said Americans are being "hookwinked" by Sarah & blah-blahed about the religious right. Sarah isn't hookwinking anyone. Her devotees know she's WYSIWYG, & that's fine with them. She's quite guileless compared to our President