Wednesday, November 30, 2011

kissing religion

On Being Blog posted this quote today:
“If it is art — if it is honest to God, card-carrying, well done, well-crafted, well-honed art — it comes up so sweetly against the side of religion that they are essentially kissing each other. We can’t escape the fact that somehow the religion is concerned with the subjective world, as is art. And they share a territory that somehow circumvents or circumscribes the mind, and they have a conversation together.”

—Phyllis Tickle, from “A Return to Mystery: Religion, Fantasy, and Entertainment”
Nice, huh?  Sorry, no. The second  & third sentences are alright. The over-refinement of the first sentence rubs me the wrong way. I can hardly imagine a statement more antithetical to what I think. What the heck is she talking about? It's like saying God doesn't appreciate "wrong" notes,  or a  crooked asymmetrical  flower struggling up from a crack in the pavement. Who decides when art is "kissing" religion, merely waving at it, or inseparable from it? Where do we  get this art "card" for carrying? I suspect from well-meaning aesthetes like Phyllis Tickle. Put some  red hot  pepper sauce on your scrambled eggs,  Phyliss.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Herman & Newt & Mitt, oh my

Herman Cain appears to be contemplating an end to his presidential campaign. Democrats aren't the ones mainly fueling Cain's sexual harassment  & extra-marital affair problems; that's genuine news,  it's all on the record. Anyway, it's hard to believe America would take an immediate second chance on an unfamiliar African-American, much less  a former  czar of crappy pizza,  with no elected political experience whatsoever who couldn't get 10% of the Black vote if he walked through Newark NJ quoting Dr. King & handing out hundred-dollar bills.   Romney is the potentially electable Republican. I don't understand why so many Republicans would prefer to lose than nominate Romney.  Republicans are so much more effective than Democrats at enforcing ideological conformity. Once they got Romney into office, with control of the House & probably Senate, they'd  pretty much tell him what he couldn't do. & one of the things he couldn't do is bargain with Democrats.  They'd write the legislation, pass it, & Mitt would have to sign it.

"Values" conservatives  use "morally reprehensible"  "liberals" (like non-liberal Bill Clinton) to defend & excuse morally reprehensible conservatives  like Herman & Newt.  The failure of liberals to maintain the lofty standards of conservatives is sufficient rationale for conservatives to compromise their own.  For these conservatives, "liberal" is synonymous with "morally reprehensible." So are "homosexual," "Muslim," "atheist,"  "food stamp recipient," "Unitarian Universalist," "Hollywood celebrity," "single working mother,"  the list goes on....
There's a new  two minute video floating around of Jersey's  Gov. Christie in which he asks  President Obama (rhetorically, I think), "What the hell are we paying you for?"  But based entirely on what he says in the video, it's difficult to tell if he's a pissed off  Republican  or a pissed off Democrat. Christie has a media  crew that chooses sound bites.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Online Advent Calendars

Caritas Australia Advent Calendar
Caritas is a Catholic aid & development agency.

Busted Halo Surprise Advent Calendar
Busted Halo is a general spirituality website. This calendar features videos.

Trinity Church Wall Street Advent Calendar
The annual calendar of the  Episcopal Church in the USA.

Teaching Mom's Advent Calendar
Although designed for home schoolers, it doesn't seem to have much of Christian right agenda. Just in earnest about observing  the season with children. The "Advent Extras" on every page  features famous Christmas themed art, Christmas traditions around the world, crafts, & music.You can open any page at any time because it's from 2008.

Calendars beginning on December 1

Liverpool Museum Advent Calendar
My favorite calendar.

Christmas Magazine Calendar
Ideas for holiday decorating & entertaining.

Activity Village Advent Calendar
Crafts, activities, jokes, etc. for grammar school age kids.

Electric December Calendar

Annual daily showcase of short videos by young filmmakers from Great Britain & Europe. The city of Bristol U.K. supports this, very cool.

BBC 3 Bach Advent Calendar
The same calendar  & music every year but no one cares.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday School lesson for the day:

Matthew 22:17, the famous "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" encounter, is not about paying taxes. Jesus is saying, "I'm trying to explain something important & all you do is show me your stupid money."

The Synoptic Gospels have many stories like this.

"I'm trying to explain something important & all you do is ask me how to join the club."

"I'm trying to explain something important & all you do is ask me what the rules are."

"I'm trying to explain something important & you think children can't understand it."

"I'm trying to explain something important & all you do is demand I perform miracles."

"I'm trying to explain something important & you think I'll be annoyed because you didn't do  a good job arranging the cookies on the tray."

"I'm trying to explain something important &  you're pissed off because I didn't tell you first." 

Jesus looks at a Roman coin & the guy with his face  on the coin thinks putting his face on the coin proves he's divine. But Jesus, who has an inside knowledge of such claims, knows that every individual person on the planet is more precious to God than the whole freakin' Roman Empire.

"Go away," Jesus says to the bigshots with the trick questions, "you don't get it, don't bother me with this bullcrap."

 Of course, Jesus made particular claims for himself & his mission.  But his refusal to be distracted for long by politicians, ideologues, snobs,  celebrity mongers, sightseers, & scripture-quoting savants is typical of great spiritual teachers.

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Toms River NJ

Parker Motel

An archetypal  mainland Jersey shore motel from before the construction of the Garden State Parkway. Beware, traveler.  Looks like it might be breezy & cool at night, & a bargain compared to boardwalk town motels, but in reality  the pinelands only a few miles inland from the bays are miserably hot & swarming with mosquitoes.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's great to reside in a Christian nation (so we're told) where Republican presidential candidates are  booed by Republicans for even implying they aren't completely heartless bastards. In the land of Republicans the cruelest candidates are also the most Christian.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Let's go crazy

Rioting over a $2 waffle iron. A customer pepper-sprays her competition for an X-box. Midnight lines outside Victoria's Secret (Santa's elf chemises on sale?).

Don't give me a waffle iron for Christmas.

If retail stores are so desperate, & consumers so desperate, why do this only on Black Friday?

We created this season. It isn't Christmas, so let's not lament the loss of some Norman Rockwell ideal. Everyone has a choice. Moderation is possible.

People aren't camping out three days so they can wrap up a 65" plasma HD 3D TV & leave it under the tree for grandpa.

It's  understandable  the kid demands a new video game player, but try to make the little brat understand you're not going to be trampled buying it for him.

The only people forced to be at the malls & big box stores at midnight on Thanksgiving are the retail employees & service workers. Only unionized workers  get the double-time or double-time-&-a-half for being required to work such outrageous hours.

The young woman clerk at 7-11 asked me, "Did you go shopping last night?" She's a cutie.  I know she's goofin' on me.

I replied, "Why?"

She said, "I went to Best Buy. I bought a computer."

I said, "For yourself?" She said yes. I said, "There you go. I'm sure it was worth it to you." She gave me the first & fourth finger sign of the horns hand gesture. I know she likes metal music; yesterday she had WSOU, the local college metal station on the 7-11 sound system.  I do not do hand gestures or soul handshakes.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


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Thanksgiving Day

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Football Game

Question from Facebook friend: How will RP Panthers do against Roselle tomorrow? Still 10:30 a.m. (or so) game? Home or away?

My reply: I haven't the slightest idea. I'm from Balikpapan, Borneo. Oops, changed it to Blackpool, England. (After I began receiving friend requests from Borneo.)

I haven't been to a Roselle Park football game since the Thanksgiving the season after I graduated high school. Roselle vs. Roselle Park was the game.

Here's the thing about Roselle Park. Over the course of 25 years at WFMU I received no  phone calls from anyone in or associated with Roselle Park when I talked about the town. When I mentioned Linden & Rahway NJ, towns I resided in while doing radio, I did occasionally get calls from people in those places. Rahway had a cluster of WFMU listeners.

During periodic megalomaniac phases, I'd conclude that no one as a cool as me could possibly come from Roselle Park. Was I abducted by aliens & implanted with false memories?  Two other substantially  cool people did indeed spend significant youthful years in R.P.: radio DJ & personality Vin Scelsa, acknowledged as one of WFMU's Godfathers; & versatile, Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Alan Pasqua, both of whom I knew slightly. Neither makes mention of their hometown on their websites.

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Matt Kemp

I probably would've voted for Matt Kemp of the Dodgers by a hair over Ryan Braun of the Brewers as National League MVP. They were really close. Braun won.  Braun had the pressure of a divisional race. Kemp had the pressure of a mediocre team with an owner having serious legal problems. It was rumored several times during the season that the Dodgers wouldn't make their payroll. Yet the Dodgers finished three games over .500. Kemp hit 39 homers & stole 40 bases in 2011. He's says he's going for 50 & 50 in 2012. I think he's serious.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Warriors of Goja

From the Indian TV show, Are You Ready? I wasn't quite ready for this.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Occupy Pointillism

Occupy ought to give this cop an award for providing the movement's first original iconic image. In addition to Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, so far he's been photo-shopped pepper spraying our Founding Fathers, Disney characters, Jesus in Da Vinci's The Last Supper,  small  aliens from Star Wars, & the Cowardly Lion at the door of the Emerald City.  This man is becoming very famous/infamous & his just punishment is that he won't receive one cent in royalties. It helps that he's overweight & homely & resembles the racist southern cops of the Civil Rights era.
Saw three homes lit up with Christmas decorations, on the same short block. Christmas decorations are like fireflies; some years are better than others & nobody seems to know why.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Camp Kilmer NJ

The men in line are smiling like they have high expectations for the food, but the cooks look like they know the truth.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Senator Bernie Sanders

“This country does in fact have a serious deficit problem. But the reality is that the deficit was caused by two wars — unpaid for. It was caused by huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country. It was caused by a recession as result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street. And if those are the causes of the deficit, I will be damned if we’re going to balance the budget on backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor. That’s wrong.”
                                         Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
It won't do to dismiss Sanders as a "socialist." Where is the socialism in this statement? Why aren't Republicans capable of uttering it? When I was a kid there were Republicans absolutely committed to expanding the middle class  even if it meant squeezing more out of the wealthy.  This led them to support, gasp, civil rights & even unions. My eight-term Congresswoman, Flo  Dwyer (served 1956-1972), co-sponsored the Equal  Rights Amendment, & was very interested in the minimum wage. Before Medicare she campaigned on the need to make  medical care a component of Social Security to protect the elderly, & wanted a more transparent legislative process.    Yet, nobody mistook  her for a Democrat. She embodied white suburban values, recognized that more women were going on to higher education & professional careers, & that an increasing number of families had two wage-earners (& not always just to make ends meet).  I grew up believing it was possible to be a Republican, have integrity, & take the just side of important issues. Those Republicans, the last connections to the party of Lincoln & Teddy Roosevelt, are long gone.


Friday, November 18, 2011

If a person is habitually contemptuous of others; of their lifestyles, their spiritual beliefs, their political views, their economic status, of course others will pick up on it & figure they're targets when they aren't around.

I knew someone who put down her friend's new age spirituality, refused  to try & understand it. The friend was really into it, attended weekend meditation retreats, a variety of books on spirituality on her shelves. In a way, her whole life was spiritually-centered.  I'd see her a couple of times each year, ask her what she was doing, she knew I didn't mean her job, I'd get a little lesson in feng shui or the healing properties of herbal teas.* Then this person who dismissed the spiritual journey was shocked  when  she was passed over as Maid-of-Honor for the friend's wedding in favor of a neighbor who had taken care of the bride's pets during retreat weekends. Ranted & raved about it.  Could not comprehend it.  I did, immediately. But I wasn't going to stick my nose in it & say, "All this time, she's been tolerating your intolerance, & she's tolerating it right now by including you in her wedding plans at all.  She's certainly not choosing you to play a key role in a ceremony that will be a deep expression of the very beliefs you won't accept as authentic for her. Doesn't matter that you've never put those beliefs down to her face.  You think she can't tell? She knows you better than you thought. & she's still your friend."

*The nice thing about being known as a poet around people who have read & liked poetry, even if only in college,  is that they assume poets are little bit interested in just about everything, which is generally true.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Poking a beehive with a stick

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wearing helmets and wielding batons, New York police evicted Occupy Wall Street protesters from a park early on Tuesday, two months after they set up camp and sparked a national movement against economic inequality.

Hundreds of police dismantled the sea of tents, tarps, outdoor furniture, mattresses and protests signs at Zuccotti Park, arresting 147 people, including about a dozen who had chained themselves to each other and to trees.

It was just matter of time until Mayor Mike joined the Hall of Shame. Along with the mayors of other cities who conspired via conference call to coordinate their evictions & crackdowns.

George Lakoff discusses "framing."  in relation to Occupy Wall Street. Framing is a very useful word in its newer meaning, over-used but fills a purpose.

Media was "framing" OWS Zuccotti Park as an urban encampment settling in for winter permanence.  The questions were changing from "What are you protesting?" to "Where do you pee?" This change in focus wasn't some media conspiracy;  for  a street reporter  the details of life there were where the daily stories about OWS were to be found.  "Where do  you pee?" was a real issue. But it also played into hands of NYC Mayor & faux limousine  liberal Bloomberg & his Wall Street pals & allies. Bloomberg watched how Occupy evictions played out in other cities, apparently became convinced downtown Manhattan wasn't Oakland or Berkeley (it isn't), & finally did what everyone knew he would do eventually. His timing was off.  Bloomberg probably should have done it last week under cover of the Penn State scandal. 

I hope Bloomberg  poked a beehive with a stick.

If the "agenda" of OWS  devolves to  asserting a right to  a permanent squatter camp,  then it has become too small & provincial. Yes, it's the source of the "Occupy"  in Occupy Wall Street.  As a center of resistance, Zuccotti Park served a purpose. But its PR value has been declining for weeks, & the public  wasn't much interested in how it governed & policed itself.  I think Americans were beginning to imagine what an annoyance the place was to the 99% simply trying to go about their business in the vicinity.  OWS has to be careful not to turn itself into into its own  1%.

The agenda of OWS is to point to the truth of the agendas of the 1% at the top.

The Occupy movement successfully appropriated the word Occupy, & that counts for something. You can take that word anywhere now, into any form of protest against corporate exploitation & unjust entitlement,  just as Solidarity gained new, positive, universal meaning as it spread out of Poland in the '80s.  & there will be more Occupy camps.  Occupy isn't going away. .

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Monday, November 14, 2011


Sources: FBI joins criminal investigation into abuse allegations against Elizabeth school board

ELIZABETH — A criminal investigation into allegations of abuses within the Elizabeth Board of Education has been joined by federal prosecutors, according to two school district employees, who say they were questioned by the FBI.

The two, who filed a lawsuit two weeks ago to halt an internal investigation into leaks of confidential school board records, would not disclose specifically what was discussed, but said they were both asked about a wide range of matters involving the board. The state-supported school district has been the focus of allegations of spending abuses, secret settlements and the pressuring of teachers to make campaign contributions in exchange for jobs.

The investigations come in the wake of a series of stories in The Star-Ledger detailing the school lunch program abuses, as well as allegations that jobs and promotions in Elizabeth were tied to the amount of money employees contribute to school board candidates and others running for political office.
How does Elizabeth Board of Ed deal with this? By hiring a security firm at taxpayer expense to discover &  expose the two whistle-blowers who exposed the [alleged] criminal waste of taxpayer money. Meanwhile, the BoE keeps cranking out slick self-congratulatory brochures, mailed to every city address, manipulating statistics so confusingly that they actually claimed Elizabeth's test scores are somehow  comparable to Millburn, a town of 20,000 with a median household income of $130,848. Even reading the fine print I couldn't figure out how they arrived at that incredible assertion  or  exactly which test scores they were using.

I appreciate the Star-Ledger's investigation & reports, but with a school system as large as Elizabeth's, no doubt with dozens of disgruntled employees, the newspaper is coming up short of Pulitzer Prize.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fort Dix NJ

Life at Camp Dix, N.J.
"These animals are well bred in table etiquette.."

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's very gratifying on my birthday to receive not only birthday greetings, but to have among those greetings expressions of respect  from people  I consider my peers (or betters) as a poet, blogger, &  DJ-on-hiatus still involved in excavating forgotten & obscure recorded music.

It's a strange thing about some people who disrespect you, that they think you don't realize you're being disrespected. Perhaps they don't comprehend how they're disrespecting you, which is giving them the benefit of the doubt. You can dislike someone without disrespecting them. But it's hypocritical to pretend you like someone you disrespect.

I seem to be attracted to serious people with a capacity for silliness. I don't mind brooders so long as they snap out of it occasionally. I have an unusual number of Scorpio acquaintances.  But one of the most "Scorpio" people I know is a Sagittarius.   I suppose an astrologer could explain that person; I might or might not buy the explanation.

My most Scorpio attribute is a typical one: I place a  high value on loyalty. This isn't just a matter of ego-stroking. The world is a very harsh & ugly place more than sometimes, everyone f*cks-up somewhere. One catches the occasional glimpse of something pure, transcendental, in the most unexpected place, & it's wonderful, & then it's gone, & one's heart breaks a little. If this happens to you, then there's good chance you & I will  get along, & a very good chance  each others' imperfections won't get in the way.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Joe Simon - Ole Night Owl

This song often tempted me to adopt it as an opening theme for my late night WFMU shows, the ones that ran to 2 or 3 am. But I rarely felt like an Ole Night Owl at the start of the programs (although I usually did by the end), & I didn't want to telegraph the same mood every week. Even when I used music by Nino Rota from "The Clowns," which I did for years,  the mood depended upon where I chose to cue up the record.

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11/11/11 Martinmas

My birthday.

I'm grateful for having been born on Armistice Day - now Veterans Day. As a kid, I had the day off  from school, or one close to it. Birthdays were celebrated modestly in my family, & always the same for everyone: ice cream & cake for dessert after supper, the happy birthday song, a few presents.

When I got older I began considering the influence the day had on me, Armistice Day (to the old folks), Veterans Day, Feast of St. Martin,  & the  season - late fall. Thinking about these things influenced how the day affected me.  The day always seemed  larger than me. It isn't  really my day. I share it.

Martin of Tours is very interesting character. The two legends associated with him are wonderful. But as Bishop of Tours he was harsh to pagans. Yet he went up against an emperor in an unsuccessful attempt to save the lives of some people accused of heresy, although he opposed their beliefs  - the first Christians known to have been executed on that charge.  Martin may have recognized the terrible precedent. He seems to have been a man of monastic temperament obliged to accept positions of leadership & authority, not an  unusual situation in the history of Christianity.  As a kid, I knew nothing of Martin or Martinmas.

My birthday poem.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

A better place

College basketball season is beginning, the baseball hot stove is heating up, & until there are more sordid revelations I have little more to say about Penn State. But here's how I respond to those defending Joe Paterno on the grounds that he did what was legally required [& no more].

I say, terrific, now you've pulled Paterno down to the level of a college coach plausibly denying he knew alumni were providing his players with gold jewelry & hookers.

Sports fans like me scoff at those incidents, & at the hypocrisy of the NCAA, the Bowl Championship Series, the TV contracts, & so-called amateur status. We mock rules that punish  innocent athletes  while  scuzzball athletes & coaches are rewarded with fat pro contracts.  Under the current system we  have no objections to football underwriting women's field hockey. What school & program did we point to as proof that you could  be honest & great in the midst of corruption & cynicism?  Joe  Paterno & Penn State football. A clean program that generated enough money & prestige to construct & fill  the second largest stadium in America.

Paterno didn't build his great program by taking NCAA standards as his benchmarks. He used his own higher standards. Sure, he had some bad apple students on his teams through the years.  But the Paterno quote on the seven-foot statue of Joe Pa outside Beaver Stadium doesn't say,  "I never received an NCAA sanction." It reads:
"They ask me what I'd like written about me when I'm gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach."


Penn State: It will get worse

Paterno, president out in Penn State abuse scandal

STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Famed U.S. college football coach Joe Paterno and the president of Penn State University were fired on Wednesday over allegations that a former assistant coach sexually abused young boys for years.

"Graham Spanier is no longer president of the university," John Surma, vice chairman of trustees, told a news conference. "Joe Paterno is no longer the head football coach, effective immediately."

Joe Paterno hired a PR firm & on Wednesday issued a statement written for him by the firm  saying he would resign at the end of the season. It was not an official statement from Penn State. In the afternoon he had a tearful meeting with his players. He still believed he could stay ahead of the scandal rapidly enveloping him.

Paterno, also known as "Joe Pa" & "Papa Joe," & occasionally as "The Pope," is 84, coached from the press box without headphones. He no longer went  on recruiting trips.He was head coach at Penn State since 1966, on the coaching staff since 1950.

So it happened that a football program once modeled on Notre Dame became one resembling the Archdiocese of Boston.

It will get worse. The number of a serial child molester's victims can run into the many dozens. Pedophilia is a lifestyle, a driving obsession, & Sandusky, if he did as alleged, structured his life to bring him into contact with hundreds of boys. He created a large charitable organization that could deliver  troubled, fatherless boys to his doorstep - & not only his.  He  had a bedroom set aside for them in his basement. He took in foster children. He had the cover of his coach status & later "coach emeritus"  privileges at  Penn State; the insularity of the football program & sacrosanct reputation of a  head coach who looked in the mirror & saw a legend instead of a person;  the use of the school's sports facilities, & a knowledge of when they would be deserted.  A pedophile with this kind of system is certainly tempted to share it with other pedophiles. Especially other powerful men whose perverted needs would push them toward Sandusky.  You don't have to be an investigative reporter to look at Sandusky & Penn State & suspect the existence of a "network."

It's not an overstatement to suggest that this scandal could become  the worst to ever befall an American  college campus or a sports program.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The calm before the storm

Yesterday's elections should give some hope to Democrats. The bleeding seems to have stopped. In Jersey there was practically no change in the State Senate, Legislature, & County Freeholder boards. Which shows Gov. Chris Christie has  his limits. He campaigned hard  against incumbent Democrats in some races that were expected to be close & weren't.  Not much changed nationally.  No great shocks.  Mississippi to my surprise turned back the  radical notion that a   fertilized egg is a person. So you can eat that apple without thinking you're killing a whole tree. Ohio repealed legislation curtailing public union negotiating (although the state approved a symbolic resolution not requiring Ohioans to sign up for medical insurance). Maine restored same-day vote registration, which they'd had for four decades & Repugs ended.   In Arizona, a nutty  Republican legislator was recalled in an election brought about by a less nutty Republican. Hmmm.

Americans are feeling less surly than in 2010,  but probably less certain that either Democrats or Republicans (or the Tea Party)  can or will do much to improve the economy.  Perhaps Occupy Wall Street did have some influence.The message Republicans should pick up - Gov. Kasich of Ohio heard it, & Mississippi sent it in a way, too  -  is that extreme or radical ideas may not find much favor in 2012.  But even Mitt Romney is talking now about jettisoning Medicare & Title X, which could lose him Florida & the votes of millions of women. & he's the "moderate" in the race. Democrats should stick to meat & potatoes & stop letting Obama choose the menu. Next  year, the President may need to ride some coattails, he won't have any of his own.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

So long, Smokin' Joe

Great fighter, Smokin' Joe Frazier. Best heavyweight left hook of all time, says boxing historian & raconteur Bert Sugar.

Joe achieved boxing immortality through his three fights with Muhummad Ali, the first probably the most hyped event in sports history, the third one - Thrilla in Manila - one of the greatest, most titanic fights of all time. 14 rounds in tropical  heat. Ali, who was battering Frazier but couldn't take him out,  was about to quit when Frazier,  fighting blind by then, was made to quit by his corner man.

He was great fighter  & champion in his own right. Standing alone.

But even after that first fight, which Joe won, Ali retained top billing. It was always Ali-Frazier.  Joe probably could have accepted that, except Ali unfairly & cruelly mocked Frazier. Joe had supported Ali's stance on the draft & Vietnam,  over which  Ali's boxing license was illegally lifted. Joe didn't ask to become the proxy for white, anti-Ali,  pro-Vietnam Americans. Unlike some other boxers who fought Ali, Joe couldn't laugh off the insults. They were too personal. It was a betrayal. I liked Ali, but there were several instances where he was too damned mean, & how he treated Frazier was one of them.

Smokin' Joe never got over it. Who could blame him? 

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Time to go, Papa Joe

I like Penn State football, I like  head coach Joe Paterno, I like the  defensive style they play. I wish Rutgers  played like Penn State.

This is ugly:
Sex abuse case against ex-Penn State coach jolts state

Joe Paterno is like those white-haired Catholic Bishops who for decades said to their underlings, "I don't want to hear about it. You take care of it." They thought they could  dodge around the legal culpability, & most of them did, personally. They didn't accept the  moral responsibility. Joe Paterno, himself an old conservative Catholic, was given two chances to do the right thing. But in 1999 he let his assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, under a cloud of suspicion, walk away into comfortable retirement, retaining his Penn State privileges, an office, parking sticker, access to sports facilities.

In 2002,  with an eyewitness report of a boy  anally raped [allegedly] by Sandusky  in a shower in Paterno's  campus  facilities, his attitude again was, "You take care of it" to Penn State Athletic Director Timothy Curley & University VP Gary Schultz. The latter two now face  serious charges. But Papa Joe? Well, he's not legally culpable. Or maybe he's too sacrosanct in Happy Valley.

This isn't about law, Joe Paterno.  You had all the power & then some to do something & didn't do it. All it would have taken was a phone call, perhaps just buzzing your secretary, maybe only snapping your fingers. Has anyone contacted the police? Who was the boy? Sandusky was my guy, this is my school, my program,   therefore I'm in some way responsible.

Other people are responsible, too. But Joe Paterno  could have stopped it. He didn't know because he didn't want to know.

Nine years too late to make amends. Time to go, Papa Joe. Like now. Go now, explain later.
Penn State has produced many sports journalists. Today, some of them are talking about the erosion of traditional Penn State football events over the past decade,  due not only to Paterno's age & frailty, but also because of Sandusky's continuing involvement with Penn State, as former players tried to distance themselves from him.

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Cliffwood Beach NJ

Cliffwood Beach Boardwalk

One of the  most startling Jersey postcard images I've come across. I spent a lot of time on Cliffwood Beach on Raritan Bay in the 1990's. It was undeveloped, purposefully unkempt,  clearly   restored from some earlier use. The place  didn't look quite "natural."  But nothing was there except an unpaved parking lot, small tidal creek,  gooey clay deposits with preserved mussel beds embedded in them, some old pilings.  It was a nice, quiet  walking, sitting & thinking kind of beach  a short drive south of  Raritan River on Route 35.  I treasured the place.  I could get there from the Woodbridge Pearl  Arts Store in about 20 minutes, often drove down straight from my job in the  early evening, picking up a fast food supper  on the way.  Hundreds  of Horseshoe Crabs came ashore in May to mate, with a frenzy of birds feeding on the tiny eggs.  I always drove down to see  that.   Many times  in summer  I was the only person  there.   Even after I learned a public pool had once been located somewhere along  the beach  I had no idea it also had a boardwalk until I saw this postcard.

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Hot Stove

Can the Los Angeles Dodgers find an owner who
  1. Understands it's the freakin' Dodgers?
  2. Has it contending for a playoff spot every season?
  3. Knows that if the team is run well, it'll earn lots of  money?
Can the Wilpon family
  1. Understand that Citi Field is in New York City?
  2. Remember that Yankee Stadium is also in New York City?
  3. Consider the possibility that if they can't afford to make a reasonable offer to Jose Reyes, they can't afford to own a Major League baseball team in New York City?
It isn't lost on Mets fans that MLB commissioner Bud Selig is out to kick Dodgers owner Frank McCourt out of baseball while covering the Wilpons' butts. The Wilpons are running  The Mets into the ground, too.


Friday, November 04, 2011

For Glen Jones on his [50th] birthday

In 1999 I had known Glen  Jones for many years, but not really. He was large personality at WFMU with a huge audience.   I was a DJ who liked tucking myself  away on the fringes of the schedule. The only time I was interested in the size of my radio audience was at annual fund-raising time, which is too late to do anything about making it bigger.

The first really personal, relaxed chat I had with Glen was in Jersey City. Following a staff meeting in the uncompleted studios, before we moved, I wandered into a bar around the corner. From the outside it looked quiet & insular, neither up nor  downscale, & I thought it'd be nice to sit there for a little while & nurse a beer. Many of the other staffers had gone to the Flamingo Diner & I   wasn't in  the mood for the noisy push-the-tables-together  thing, waiting half-an-hour for a toasted corn muffin & bad coffee I didn't even want.   The bar was quiet & nearly empty. But over at  a little round bar  table sat Glen Jones all by himself. We exchanged little  waves &  he waved me over. We were in exactly the same mood, both a bit unnerved by the new location & feeling uneasy about  The  Big Change to come - although JC was a much more convenient location; both Scorpios, in our individual ways  creatures of routine & tradition;  & both familiar with the other's radio style.   This surprised me.  I hadn't figured Glen ever listened to me. We weren't so different. We liked to play a generous amount of music & then reward ourselves for choosing such wonderful records by speaking into a  microphone about whatever happened to be on our minds.  I don't remember what we talked about that night, probably our favorite old sitcoms, boardwalks,  & the decline of common courtesies like helping old folks across the street.

After awhile we felt better & left, Glen in one direction I suppose  to the PATH station, me in the other to my car parked around the corner (we were sober).  On that muggy, chilly, deserted Jersey City street, around midnight, outside a bar two blocks from the Hudson River, I suspect Glen & I walked away with a melancholy Sinatra song from the  50's as our soundtracks.  I don't know if Glen recalls this encounter, but I sure do.

Anyway, I became very fond of Glen, &  his WFMU accomplice X-Ray Burns. His girlfriend Gina is one of my dearest friends now. I knew her slightly because she was  a longtime WFMU supporter & an attractive woman, but had no idea she lived nearby until one afternoon I ran into Glen walking from the train station to her house.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Vanilla Bean

Ten years since the great WFMU jock Frank "Vanilla Bean" Balesteri passed away. After some length of absence, Frank had made a surprise appearance at the 2001 WFMU Record Fair. We were all so pleased to see him. At the close,  I said "Seeyah Frank." Station Manager Ken Freedman came over as I was packing up the dollar tables, mentioned in passing he had asked  Frank if he needed a place to stay,  Frank had  said no. We thought nothing of it at the time.  That night Frank died alone in a motel room. 

Frank had his issues, to be sure. But on radio he was brilliant & dangerous.  He was suspended more than once. He broadcast the most hilarious, lewd bit I ever heard on WFMU. Let's just say it involved a cheap hooker in a parked car.  Personally, he was one of the friendliest people on the staff.  He also suffered one of the worst miscarriages of justice that could befall someone. It dragged on for years & cost him a fortune  before he settled it in his  favor.  I think it's what killed him. He was a small guy with a big heart, just wore out.

Frank could do the most outrageous things & still be liked by the station manager, even as he being reprimanded.  He could also do a straight up free form  music show when he was in the mood. Former manager Bruce Longstreet used to tap Frank on the head & ask, "Hello, who's in there today?"

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In God We Trust (& Ceremonial Deism)

The House reaffirmed "In God We Trust" as the national motto for - what? - the third or fourth time? Keep trying to flush out the godless liberals. My congressman, one of the most liberal in the House & in a safe seat, just goes "Yeah yeah" & votes yea for stuff like this.  I wish I could find the  transcript of Representative  Trent Franks'  speech; the excerpts I've read are incomprehensible, like a third grader forced to give an oral report on theology.

This used to be "ceremonial deism, " or what I call the "granite gods." It's the religion of American monuments, centered on the Mall in Washington with smaller temples in every city & town, & approved by the Supreme Court. We've always had it, but it took on a settled  shape in  the decades after the Civil War when thousands  of commemorative statues were constructed & dedicated, Memorial Day was created, & Lincoln's brilliant Old Testament-flavored  oratory had  influenced  the hack speeches of local politicians.  American composer Charles Ives captured it perfectly 100 years ago. It was the religion of solemn public occasions when I was a kid,  acknowledged quickly at government meetings, Little League award dinners, etc.,  & I'm  comfortable enough with it.

But since the rise of the protestant right in the Seventies, "ceremonial deism" has become increasingly specific - narrower -  by implication. You could practice American Ceremonial Deism without mentioning Jesus. Lincoln's speeches weren't Christian. In fact, Lincoln became the deified American Savior who died for our sins of slavery & war.  We built him a magnificent temple. Pull out a penny if you have one handy.  Now a considerable portion of the Christian Right / Republican base  won't even let "In God We Trust" encompass that most American of religions, Mormonism.  If Mitt Romney says he trusts in God, he's expected to explain how  his God is the same as Michelle Bachmann's or Rick Perry's God.

The best Ceremonial  Deism tried to leave wiggle room for atheists, agnostics, non-Christians, & enthusiastic  First Amendment advocates.  But if  you're  the kind of person who mumbles "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, or stands but doesn't sing "God Bless America" during the 7th Inning Stretch,  just because it makes you uncomfortable, now you'll get a nasty look from the fundamentalist standing next to you. That person wishes you weren't permitted to vote.

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Remember, brothers & sisters, you can still stand tall

"Be Thankful for What You Got" - William DeVaughn. Released 1974.

I'm in awe of the message, beauty & economy of this record in its full extended play version. Everything has its place, even the noodling vibe solo. Curtis Mayfield goes to Philly via Booker T.  Tension is created in the instrumental part merely by dropping out the bass. Bassist Rusty Jackman is so perfect you don't even notice him until he returns toward the end of the song, then you really understand his contribution to the whole thing. Disco it is definitely not. The "hit" was the first half. You may not have a car at all,  much less an insular  Cadillac, but the entire record  puts you in a convertible driving slowly through a funky neighborhood, "digging the scene."

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

What will the neighbors think?

If you're a "What will the neighbors think?" type of person, what the neighbors eventually think is that you're a "What will the neighbors think?" neighbor. Then they begin to scrutinize you.

Now, people live on the same street for years  & remain mysteries to each other. "They seemed like a normal family."

If you want to be really strange, plant sunflowers & a few stalks of corn in front of your house.  But keep the lawn mowed & be completely inoffensive.

Waiting outside earlier for weekly ride to supermarket, about ten attractive young women walked past in a matter of minutes.  A group of three, then  two, then one, then another one ....  At that point, my old friend Jim would have remarked, "Rix, you have some fine-looking women in the neighborhood."


"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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