Sunday, December 30, 2012

The frozen light

I'm walking back from the 7-11 & I come to the traffic light up the corner. It's green for me to cross, but there are cars stopped at the cross street & my rule is that if I don't know how long the light has been green, I don't cross. In this city you don't want to be halfway across any street when the light changes. You wait until you get a fresh green. So I stop & wait. & wait. & wait. & wait. The light doesn't change. I'm next to the switching box & I don't hear the familiar "click" of the mechanism cycling through. Between the time I went to 7-11 & returned, ten minutes at most, the light has frozen. Now I have a real problem. The stopped drivers, some of whom may not even be legally licensed to operate a motor vehicle, are no doubt realizing it also, & they will choose to ignore the red light. But they will do so suddenly, without warning, because it's illegal to run a red light frozen or not. Get in an accident, it's your fault until you sue the city, county or state agency maintaining the light & convince a court otherwise.  If you had a bogus driver's license or none at all, you have bigger problems.   At last, one car goes. Then another, from the other side. Then another. So I walk about 20 yards up the side street for some safe distance, carefully cross, then walk back to my street. This is "city" living, & my neighborhood is not densely urban. But there's no guide book. I write this for your future safety.


Fort Lee NJ

Ray Guy's Trailer Court, Inc.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Not feeling physically well this week, typical for depressive people around Christmas during the darkest week of the year in the Northern hemisphere. We had a Nor'easter on Wednesday night. The electricity stayed on. Thunder as the long tail of the storm blew threw, literally a 60 mile long, ten mile wide band of rain moving north that passed over Elizabeth.

My friend Gina will be very busy for the next two months as she moves her fine framing business from large space in a strip mall to a free standing building about a mile away near the center of Millburn NJ. It's an expensive proposition, getting the new space in order, but the rent there  will save her  a  bundle. The old location wasn't doing her any good. The owners of the strip mall couldn't keep the other  retail spaces occupied, including the anchor space that should have something like a large chain clothing store. in it.   The economy for  her kind of business has not been good since several  years before the current recession. Much of her corporate work went away; framing for new or expanding offices.  But she can be profitable functioning as a smaller business with lower  expenses, & still be able to do corporate work. She's shown  sacrifice & remarkable perseverence hanging on to her small staff.  Forunately, has a part time guy wrking as a sort of project manager, frees her from having to micromanage the move. She has keep running her business & minimize down time.

I don't underestimate the hassles. I moved a smaller business & it was hard enough. But I also went through two total relocations of WFMU, where I had no responsibilities but was quite aware of the details & headaches & daily unexpected problems. The manager felt free,  rightly so,  to unburden himself with older DJS when he found us sitting in the kitchen. It was the daily shit he couldn't put in the staff memos or e mails.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Day tradition

A Christmas Day tradition in my family involved a large family gathering & Christmas dinner rotating between our house, & my mom's brother & sister. This was not  a tradition I liked.  In two of every three years it meant traveling up to Sparta in far north Jersey. my uncle's place,  or down to my aunt's in New Brunswick (fine house, I admit) & being trapped for hours  in unfamiliar homes with cousins I didn't like. The payoff: The usual turkey dinner, a few meager gifts of the aunt & uncle variety, & hours of tedium culminating in The Group Photograph, which seemed like the main reason for the thing. I despised having our own house invaded by these people every third year. Normally messy & cluttered, everything, including our bedrooms, had to be straightened up before these relatives arrived. Mom was under extra stress; she was not a good stress person to begin with. I forget what my paternal grandmother did those years; hide in her room, probably. These were the protestants. They could remind her only of her biggest failures: not keeping dad in the Faith & her grandchildren raised Methodist, which undermined her  matriarchal position vis her own younger sisters.

One of my cousins was an outrageously insulting brat. True, I was also brat, my three older siblings certainly capable of calculated brattiness, & together we were, on occasion, conspiratorially bratty. But we also had good manners when required (the lost courtesy of standing up when an adult entered the room for the first time & stepping aside from your seat until the adult chose where to sit), & speaking rudely  to grownups was a grievous act  even I rarely transgressed. My cousin R was eye-poppingly rude, the popping eyes being my dad's with his then undiagnosed thyroid condition. R had, in his own home, a wonderful collection of toys, but we doubted he had any friends.

Two my uncle's three kids were legendary (to us) wallflowers. They shrunk into invisibility upon contact with us. Trying to engage them in conversation, or any shared activity, was pointless. You were lucky to get four word sentences out of them. Our grandfather adored them, which was infuriating. My sister, a small girl accustomed to dealing with  three brothers & our friends, could have easily grabbed each by the hair, cracked their heads together & thrust them into the coat closet by the front entrance,  kicking the door shut with her heel, & chosen the exact moment when no adult would see her doing it. But they were harmless, defenseless creatures, really, friendly actually, & my sister could play the good girl well. My aunt's dapper husband (the boy brat's father), whose sports coats  I coveted when I was old enough to appreciate such things, recognized early on that my sister was a spirited, male-savvy  female worthy of his compliments. Our two ultra-shy girl cousins weren't even in the game.

So it was, on the occasion of these Christmas gatherings, that my three siblings & I found a rare solidarity. We had to band together just to keep from being bored to tears. In our own home, we had to protect our turf.

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Merry Christmas

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Monday, December 24, 2012

As mentioned in this blog, Christmas Eve was celebrated as such in my family as I was growing up, but was rather a evening of last preparations for a very long & full Christmas Day, It did have its "traditions." The most amazing was when my parents put the Christmas tree up while their four children were in bed, what I have called an act of "amateur shamanism" & which they had good sense to abandon when I, the youngest,  was two or three years old. My belief in Santa Claus did not last long, or at least it became filled with doubt early on.

Nor was the holiday celebrated with any religiosity. Overt  religious enthusiasm was not appreciated  in my family, although all four kids received 8 years of Methodist Sunday School education, & one of  my brothers  became a Methodist pastor (perfect Sunday School attendance record). My grandmother, the Roman Catholic in the house for my first ten years, was stubbornly & dutifully observant. Of the four kids, I think I was only one especially curious about her faith, which she noticed. Didn't prevent me from mocking it; I went along with a lot  of nonsense in my family to get along, including racism after I came to think it stupid  & unnecessary.

Certainly something in our upbringing went awry for all four siblings to consider each other nitwits to one extent or another, if we were totally honest about it. We've succeeded in socially avoiding each other throughout our adulthood,  except when  required by special events,  although none of us has ever resided more than three hours travel from all the others in New Jersey. I used to believe this was unique to our family. I realized it was quite common but for the close physical proximity; most siblings like us scatter to distant places & pretend they want to be together. I did socialize with my sister regularly  for a number of years & would have with my oldest brother if I hadn't found grounded conversation with him frustratingly evasive in someone so talkative (he was so evasive  he'd move & I wouldn't find out where for a year). The only two relatives I think I can chat with to any extent are my pastor brother's son, a born again libertarian with gentle disposition he is trying to leaven into practicable,  ethical Christianity, & a step-nephew who sent me some writing last summer just before he got married, to critique (he didn't ask for  it specifically, but I know he wants me to like it), & which I have avoided along with several CDs sent for my succinct appraisal. I have resolved to attend to these over the next week. Poems sent to me by poet friends are read promptly; the most I might suggest with those are brief edits, a snip here, a snip there, but rarely, since  even their idiosyncrasies have attained mature, self-aware  craft.

Many of my friends & acquaintances  are such fine writers than I need only to read what they write without applying a critical eye. My friend Carrie, for instance, has prepared so many legal briefs that she gets right to the point in her occasional lengthy e mails. No mystery there: Ulysses S, Grant became one  of the finest American prose writers by way of his plainly expressed, concise Civil War battle reports, considered the best in the United States Army, which he incorporated generously into his great Autobiography (Eisenhower was generally a second rate prose writer, as his battle reports were loaded  with the bureaucratic language of a corporate commander).  Lawyers have become some of the best contemporary writers of Private Eye & police procedural novels.

To get back to Christmas.... It's a grumpy post. The best Christmas Eves I had were the intimate, late night parties, before our small group moved apart or had kids, that were intended as a respite from family obligations: The only tradition was the party itself. Our gifts were inexpensive & we knew what to give each other. In such company there's no "small talk. "

Cecilia Dale - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

creeping dysfunction

One of my FB friends posts he's looking forward to a good Christmas & relaxing a few days out of state.

A few minutes later, his mom, who lives near him, comments: "You are going away???"   The day before Christmas Eve & it's the first she's heard of it.

His cousin then calls him a "Weirdo." Among the older (my) generation in that family, weirdo was the all-purpose word for a Democrat, a non-protestant, a vegetarian, a woman with a college degree, & anyone who liked jazz. Someone in the younger generation is carrying on the tradition.

My FB friend  comments that they're visiting his wife's relatives.

Then to rub it in (inadvertantly?), his wife comments: "Yay! I can't wait."

One of  the benefits of marriage is that it can open an exit door in your own family.

Atlantic City NJ

Dennis Hotel, now part of Bally's. 

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Friday, December 21, 2012

I want to express my appreciation to the National Rifle Association for doing what I'd hoped the organization would do:  Fan public outrage.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Johnny Maestro - Christmas Serenade

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Every act of violence

The long procession of Newtown funerals began today.

Every act of violence indicates a failure of some kind. Doesn't matter if it is a criminal act, the act of a senseless madman, self-defense, a state execution, a revolution, or a war.  We compound the failure by refusing to acknowledge it is a failure.

Any Christian who invokes God in the name of violence worships "The Great Deluder,' as theologian Walter Wink names this false deity.

First Moloch, horrid king, besmear’d with blood
 Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears,
 Though for the noise of Drums and Timbrels loud
 Their children’s cries unheard, that pass’d through fire
 To his grim idol. (Paradise Lost 1.392-96) 

But it is equally mistaken to write, as one person did, that the "God of love" "does not allow violence."   God surely does allow violence as an expression of free will. The violence is perpetrated by us, not by God. God is not punishing anyone. We punish ourselves. In Dante's Inferno, the damned are not forcibly driven to the banks of the River Acheron, but drawn to it by their own perverse natures, a profound psychological insight for its time. Such is the attraction of violence, especially redemptive violence; the false idea that violence redeems & heals. Most Christians  never question the concept of redemptive violence, taken from the inaccurate history in  the Old Testament, a common misinterpretation of the Crucifixion, & long human experience of an unwillingness to see what occurs when one rejects it.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Augusta NJ

Bedell's Milk Bar & Luncheonette

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Saturday, December 15, 2012


He asked me if I had ever
fired a gun? Yes, many times.
A hand gun? Yes. A shotgun?
 Yes, several of those. Even a musket.

 Do they have much of a kick?
It depends. Does the trigger
give any resistance? That also depends.
They are all different -

 you never know what to expect
until it actually goes off.
You have to aim it at a target,
whatever you want to shoot.

 I've fired a World War One deck cannon
with a caliber the size of a soup can,
& a replica Revolutionary War cannon
you could stuff with rusty nails.

 Professional historians asked my dad
what his cannon would do to a Redcoat
if you loaded it with nails, a question
dad was always willing to address.

A poem that sat unfinished for a long time. You can tell the final two stanzas are different from the first three, glued on. But I think it works  because I move from a desultory tone about a topic that doesn't  particularly interest me into an animated explanation of why modern weapons don't  interest me.  The poem is also  for anyone who mistakes me for an anti-gun ownership ideologue

It's natural to be outraged by the murderous carnage at Newtown,. The good people of that place do not need a million condolence cards & 10,000 teddy bears,  or whatever those who believe there's an absolute right  to the possession of military assault weapons say we ought to be doing  in lieu of expressing outrage. It's the same after every mass murder: save it, not now, show compassion & empathy, don't politicize it.  That is an agenda; trying to silence the outrage. The most compassionate thing we can do is to fan our outrage & not let it go this time. The people of Newtown will be feeling the outrage too when the grief starts to wear off.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Misdirected & misplaced outrage is a symptom of our society's spiritual malaise.

Anything but looking directly at the horror.

Maybe I'm doing it now.

The same sh*t after every mass murder. Don't "politicize" it. Don't use it to advance an "agenda." Well, who is always advancing the agenda of silencing critics of legal lethal assault weapons in the name of "compassion" or "empathy"? Postpone your outrage, they say.

The good people of Newtown don't need a million cards of condolences & 10,000 teddy bears. But when they emerge from their grief & begin to feel outrage, they will need our outrage.

My district state senator on FB referred to the mass murders as a "random act of violence" & suggested "random acts of kindness." He 's a liberal Democrat but he can't possibly be that naive. I pointed out that this attack was a planned & wildly successful  targeted mass killing.

There was a time, fifteen years ago, when some local politicians actually listened to what I had to say, knowing  I had legit public bully pulpits, although I rarely used them to criticize local politicians.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The 12/12/12 concert was almost completely skewed to the age 40+ white audience. Why not? They got the money, they suffered the worse property losses. The  two Black artists, Kanye West & Alicia Keys, were for me the flops of the evening. West sounded horrible on the radio. I think a lot of people got ready for bed during his set & never returned. Keys sung a shamefully bad song about "holding up your cellphones for love" in which she also advised, "Everything's gonna be alright." This audience, nostalgic for Eighties MTV. really needed Prince or, sadly, Michael Jackson.

Who wants to hear Springsteen's new material?

The Who made it for me, especially Bellboy, an unusual choice,  with the tribute to Keith Moon. We should be grateful Sir Paul didn't sing "Hey Jude," or more pathetically, Lennon's "Imagine."

All the talk about "working class" people, I suppose one can think of unionized cops & firefighters earning $80,000 plus OT as working class in spirit. There are damned nice split levels down there in Bon Jovi's hometown Sayreville, & Toms River.  In a backstage interview Springsteen mentioned Sea Bright, the  sliver of sand with one of the highest per capita incomes in Jersey, across the bridge from his own  exclusive town. I haven't shed a tear for Sea Bright, which exists because of the generosity of big government & the unending care of the Army Corps of Engineers.  The damage to bayshore communities Union Beach & Atlantic Highlands, though, is heartbreaking. The Union Beach volunteer fire dept had its firehouses wrecked. They were in the newspaper recently begging for individual  donations. I commented, seriously, that they should threaten to disband. The idea of Union Beach having to pay for professional fire services ought to scare the town  government into writing a few grants & renting some temporary quarters.  Nobody in Jersey wants to reach into their wallets & pay for another town's fire dept, except at carnivals & spaghetti dinners. As it is. the state's suburban taxpayers subsidize all the urban depts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Couldn't resist.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I'm on 56K free Juno dial up service. My DSL signal is entering the modem & not exiting it  to the PC. Happened all of a sudden. Steady red light on the output.  The last time I had a problem I had better luck with Juno's phone help; the e mail was useless. The phone guy found the problem in the signal coming into my phone & fixed it remotely. According to the modem diagnostic test, that's the not problem this time. It's also not Windows according to that test.  Oh well.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The most hysterical, delusional claim made by marriage equality opponents & that it will alter the society & culture in some terrible ways. The same claim was made about civil rights legislation & court decisions; lifting bans against interracial marriage &   especially voting rights -  which indeed did change society  in the "terrible" way of electing African-Americans to office all across the South. But marriage equality, as major a change as it is for LGBT, has little effect on American culture.

The difference is that marriage equality just legally ratifies what already exists, what has always existed, but which has fallen out of the closet over the past 35 years.

Gays & lesbians have always had same sex marriages. In fairly recent times some homosexual couples like composer Benjamin Britten & singer Peter Pear  made no serious attempt to hide their lifelong relationships. Britten didn't want to present himself  as a  "confirmed bachelor"  as so many barely  closeted gays did, including some of Britten's closest friends in the arts world.

Marriage equality won't result in a huge  increase in same sex "marriages." The new law is a necessary formality. Most of the couples getting married in Washington state today were already married in their hearts & living together. Now they have the rights & legal protections of the laws of the State of Washington. Aside from the matter of adopting children, which infuriates the religious nitwits,  & some resentful employers having to  recognize & extend health insurance to same sex families,  I can't think of anything that would affect straight bigots negatively. Maybe if one's  rich old lesbian aunt dies & now suing her legal spouse for the inheritance would be a guaranteed  losing effort.

Cape May NJ

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Saturday, December 08, 2012

Mass gay weddings expected in Washington state 
OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - Washington state will usher in same-sex marriage on Sunday as hundreds of gay and lesbian couples exchange vows in mass weddings on the first day they can legally tie the knot — and the biggest party will be in Seattle. 
Washington, Maine and Maryland became the first U.S. states to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples by a popular vote, with the November passage of separate ballot measures that marked a watershed moment for gay rights. 
Washington's law went into effect on Thursday, when hundreds of couples lined up to apply for marriage licenses, and the first legal same-sex weddings are due on Sunday after the expiry of a three-day waiting period required of all marriages. 
Diane Butzberger and Amanda Russ of Tacoma plan to be among the first of 140 couples to get married at Seattle's City Hall on Sunday morning in a feted mass celebration.
Dear Nitwits of America:

I'm sorry you lay awake night after night imagining what "those people" are doing. I'm sorry you're in emotional turmoil all day,  appetite ruined, your marriage & relationships destroyed.  I'm sorry you're a bigoted idiot with no gay or lesbian friends you can be happy for & with.

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Friday, December 07, 2012

I've been writing this week. Just haven't been able to push anything to a finish. Very frustrating.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dave Brubeck, 1920 - 2012

Dave Brubeck was most famous to me for what he was most famous for: "Take Five" & the "Time" albums, Time Out, Time Further Out, & Countdown - Time in Outer Space, with their eye-catching abstract art LP jackets. Later, I became familiar with his earlier recordings. His concert hall & religious  works have never interested me all that much, although I know they were made with care & sincerity. When I got serious about jazz, the music had already moved into a much  more experimental & politicized expression than Dave was doing. Still, he never stopped learning, growing & caring. He was a great soul. Died one day short of his 92nd birthday. His one & only wife, Iola, survives him.   They were married in 1942. Dave promised her she would never be bored.

Springsteen was the "star" of the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors, but Dave received the classier musical tribute. It features an all-star quintet, the Jazz Ambassadors of the United States Army Field Band (Dave had played in a jazz band attached to Patton's Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge, the only integrated unit in the army at the time), & his four sons, fine musicians all who often performed with their dad.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Marketts - Bat Cape

From the album "Batman Theme" (1966). The famed Wrecking Crew L.A. session musicians doing professional work on a bunch of silly, likable novelties. At WFMU, I was never able to settle on an "out theme,"  the talkover music for closing  the show. Depends on how close I ran a set to the end - sometimes there's no time for any, how much back-announcing I needed to do,  plus the 45 seconds it took me to say goodbye, announce the next DJ, & give my tag line, "Until that time, just close your eyes & pretend to be asleep." But "Bat Cape" was a good one among many I liked for it.

"Until that time" is from Jackie Gleason in Soldier In The Rain. "Just close your eyes & pretend to be asleep" is from Jack Nicholson as a late night radio talk show  monologist in King of Marvin Gardens, two of my favorite "small" movies.

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Monday, December 03, 2012

I read the online Star-Ledger every day. Men kill their wives/girlfriends/mothers of their children with  handguns. Occasionally with a rifle or shotgun. Less commonly the murderers  shoot themselves afterward. They also stab. Mainly, though, men beat women, often to death, more often half to death, with fists, baseball bats, whatever heavy objects are handy. The never beat themselves to death afterward.

Bob Costas can imply the need for a total ban on handguns to an NFL audience on national TV. That's 'courageous."  It's also easy. Discuss reforms  to gun laws &  gun design,  & people's eyes glaze over. Since the N.R.A. opposes everything, it doesn't make any difference if one supports  potentially effective reforms that don't challenge a sane, law-abiding citizen's claimed basic right to own a handgun, or if one stakes  out the ban 'em all position of Costas.

Illegal guns are the problem in Jersey, & not just the handguns a gangbanger can stick in his baggy pants waistband & use to jack a car or shoot a convenience store clerk, although those  guns are the biggest problem.   There's serious ordinance out there possessed by known  violent criminals & by crazed, paranoid white guys  in the suburbs, much of it military grade adapted for civilian use by the manufacturers. We couldn't keep a national ban in place on that kind of armament.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Jersey City NJ

The Wonder Store

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Saturday, December 01, 2012

If there's a War on Christmas, it's the one I experience watching TV commercials this time of year.

There's two main events happening now. One is Advent/Christmas, The other is a huge, hodge podge Solstice festival draped with  pseudo-religiosity  that has exerted itself  upon many cultures since ancient times,  & which we have transformed into a grand celebration of American consumerism.

Look at the Christmas they were celebrating in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." A few parties, a few gifts, a family dinner with the rare treat, a cooked goose, & the general air of good will. Ebenezer Scrooge wasn't resisting our contemporary holiday. He was just a mean-spirited, greedy capitalist who wouldn't give Bob Cratchit a day off & a small bonus. Ironically, the Scrooges now are right wingers defending Scrooges.

I don't know what conservative Christians are bitchin' about.  Non-Christians recognize what's going on here isn't "Christmas." So do a lot  of Christians trying  to maintain some detachment & a sane perspective. You can certainly participate in both "festivals." But understand that they're not the same, only entwined. Don't expect retailers to unravel them for them. Businesses  do what they have to do to sell us stuff from Chia Pets to new cars.

"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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