Monday, April 29, 2013

I lost my high school yearbook during a move when I was around 21. At the time it seemed like a big deal, but it was nowhere near what I felt when a box of rare movie soundtrack LPs disappeared in transit during a later move. Over the subsequent years I was spared those idle moments browsing through the yearbook & wondering, "Whatever happened to so & so?" Without the yearbook I remembered everyone worth remembering. But I still miss Malcolm Arnold's soundtrack from The Roots of Heaven, the deluxe MGM box for Bronislau Kaper's Mutiny on the Bounty with the souvenir book, & Nino Rota's music for the 1956 flop War & Peace

Mutiny On the Bounty is a good movie, maligned more than it deserves. Sometimes it seems as if Marlon Brando & Trevor Howard think they're in different films. Brando's fop Fletcher Christian was controversial (compared to manly Gable in 1935), but his character is just as distinctive & memorable  as Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday in Tombstone. The shipboard scenes are terrific, realistic & harrowing.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Facebook friend shared this graphic. She shares dozens every day, most are harmless & uplifting. She also posts links to good country songs. This one stopped me. Nothing about it felt right. First, it's obviously not what Jesus   would do. Second, it doesn't sound like one of his stand-alone pronouncements. Something is missing.    Third, the word "possessions"  leaps out.  Jesus isn't saying "family" or "children" or even  the strong man "himself.'

I read Luke 11.  It is jam-packed with important, memorable words.  Jesus,  by request, teaches "The Lord's Prayer" as a sufficient prayer if one can't think of anything else to pray.  He relates a brief anecdote that leads to the reassuring "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find..." He casts out a demon, & when the source of his power is questioned, answers with "Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall." Lincoln famously used that one.  Jesus elaborates a bit on this. Then we come to the self-defense justification. Here is the full quote: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder." Well, the meaning now is quite changed. The fully armed strong man, standing alone, is not strong enough. What immediately follows is: "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." Jesus says if you sweep one impure spirit out of your house - call it a lone  act of self-defense, it may come back with seven more. What protection does one have then?  A woman in the audience interrupts with, " Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” Nowadays she'd be a Roman Catholic. Jesus acknowledges this off-topic praise indirectly.

All  of Luke 11  to this point  is about community & solidarity. It's about security in faith & in the Word of God.   It is not about having Jesus' permission to guard one's HD flat screen TV with a gun.

Keyport NJ

Town on Raritan Bay.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

George Jones

If George wasn't the greatest at his art & craft, well, I can't think of anyone greater.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An American alleged terrorist

I am relieved there was no delay, no waffling about charging Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a civilian & a United States citizen & subjecting him to civilian justice.  Many "conservatives" (who ought to know better but rarely do) wanted him tried as an "enemy combatant" in military court.  The dangers of doing that are chilling, the very thing right wing  Second Amendment purists would seem to be warning us against.  You want martial law?  Just start funneling civilians into military courts, with their lack of transparency.

Beyond that, I don't want Dzhokhar Tsarnaev given an "out" as an American citizen.  As an "enemy combatant" he becomes an "other," an "outsider," not one of us & could justify his actions on that basis. He still can,  but he will face the consequences as an American, as unrepentant killers Timothy McVeigh & Eric Rudolph  did. Dzhokhar  by accounts of his acquaintances  is very much an American. He was nine years old when he came here. America raised him from there.  There doesn't  seem  at this early stage of the investigation to be any camouflage involved until, possibly, a few weeks or months before the bombings. If Dzhokhar is guilty, he is guilty as an American, as one of us, which is far worse a thing than being an "enemy combatant."


Monday, April 22, 2013

Richie Havens, 1941-2013

In the late Sixties there were three popular, influential black artists performing mainly for young white audiences: Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Richie Havens. All three gave extraordinary performances at Woodstock, & all three became influential with other African-American musicians as well. They were all musically adventurous. Sly & Jimi were largely stage inventions; Sly a record producer & businessman, Jimi a brooding bluesman at heart.   Richie was Richie, the most accessible, shaped by  large family in Brooklyn  & the diverse, tolerant, politicized  Greenwich Village  of the Fifties & Sixties. His music  was  both gentle & ferocious. He had only one hit single, a cover of "Here Comes the Sun," but many songs are associated with him. I always liked this sitar-flavored folk-rock song from  a  studio/live double LP, released shortly before his Woodstock appearance made him really famous. He already had a solid following.  He stayed in for the long haul, which ended today.  

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

For a nation of "believers" which so many insist is a "Christian" nation, we are reluctant to discuss violence in depth or with honesty. That is one mirror we dislike holding up to ourselves.

We have a widespread belief that Islam has a unique relationship with & drive toward human violence. When Muslims say it does not, that they are not raised & taught to be terrorists & warriors, we dismiss them. We ignore the ancient tribal & clan animosities that fan violence throughout some  Islamic nations. We decry the worst expressions of Islamic law, Sharia, while advocating similar laws be added  our secular codes.  We parse the rights we are supposed to extend to all Americans; these rights are for this group or person but not applicable to that group or person.

It can be said that much of the Islamic world, once more enlightened & progressive than the Christian world, now lags behind. But how much does it  lag when  a significant percentage of Americans cannot accept scientific reasoning & deny   known historical facts?

We have an abominable knowledge of our own history.

We even have an Americanized version of Christianity we project back to Jesus Christ himself.  We cannot discern the difference between the metaphoric sword Jesus said he had brought & the very real sword he ordered Peter to put away.

Then Jesus went to his execution  without resistance.

I recommend Stonewall Jackson, a bio by James I. Robertson, Jr. Robertson is a conservative historian - when he uses the word "servant" he means "slave." It is a fine but disturbing book. The thread of the story is not Jackson's talent as a field commander,  a small portion of his life - three years, but his spiritual journey, his deepening pious religiosity, from which he derived his lifestyle, his endurance & his clarity. Jackson is as "American" as we come. He was devoted to "The Prince of Peace." Every battlefield success was attributed to the blessings of God. But he tried always to accept "the will of God."  He could be merciless, to his enemies, to his own solders, to himself. He stands in opposition to, say, General Sherman, a thoughtful, troubled leader, a "modern" man in his way, who had a nascent sense of the absurdity of his situation, wasting the lives of his soldiers in fruitless frontal assaults on Hood's army in Georgia. So he used other tactics.  He allowed his men to believe they were avenging angels, but he had no such "spiritual" illusions about war.

 Stonewall Jackson was, in my opinion, insane. Sherman, who was accused of insanity, was not.

Russian Orthodox philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev cried out in despair that we permitted ourselves to be enslaved by everything we believed liberated us.

Boston MA

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Waiting for a cab in front of my shrink's office building,
looking across the street at the entrance to the psychiatric emergency room
as an ice cream truck parked on the corner plays "Pop Goes the Weasel" over & over.
Thinking of Nicanor Parra, the great Chilean anti-poet:
"Either God is everywhere
or He's absolutely nowhere"

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

There was a product rep by the cashier in 7-Eleven. She said I could have a dollar off coupon on an item if I let her scan my drivers license. I said, I'm not letting you scan my license. She asked why. I said, you'll have my name, address & license number, which you will send to the Great Cloud in the Sky. She said, what are you worried about? We won't do anything with it. I said, if you weren't doing anything with it, you'd just give me the coupon. She & the cashier, a college student who already knows I'm a peculiar person, thought I was nuts.

I know it impossible these days to protect one's personal information. But I'm not just going to hand it over to someone in a convenience store with a portable scanner.  Hey, take my social security number while you're at it.

Two bombs, three dead

Two bombs exploded. Then an explosion was reported at the J.F.K. Library. This story stayed in circulation for awhile although it remained unverified. It was reported the Boston police had found unexploded device, then that the police had made a controlled detonation. This story disappeared & was replaced with anywhere from two to four unexploded bombs found. Someone was being held by police but was not yet even categorized as a "person of interest." The person was an injured Saudi student. Later, a a residence was being searched, There was no bomb at the Library, no unexploded bombs found. Nothing came of the Saudi student.

Associated Press via Yahoo updated throughout the late afternoon & evening , but some of the earlier stories were not updated & left online linked to subsequent update, although the dateline said "6 hours ago" & readers  continued to accept the story as factual & add comments to the story.

The facts established early were: two bombs, three dead, & over 100 injured. many critically. You could take just about everything else & throw it away.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems. And I'm going to talk about it everywhere I go."  
Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. 

Sometimes I wonder, which are the "difficult" emotions & which are the "easy" ones? Love & sorrow always go with the difficult ones, nostalgia & retribution with the easy ones.

What happened in Boston today happens every day in Iraq & Afghanistan. At the market, at a mosque, at a wedding, at a funeral. With the same horrific injuries. By comparison, we live a very secure nation. We will identify & apprehend the criminals. They go unpunished elsewhere, instead there is a deadly cycle of violent  retribution upon the innocent.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Newark NJ

The "Blue Room" at the Skyway Restaurant. 

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed.

Reblogged from 

21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed.

A while ago, I penned a fairly angry response to something circulating on the internet – the 21 Habits of Happy People. It pissed me off beyond belief, that there was an inference that if you weren’t Happy, you simply weren’t doing the right things.
I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember. It’s manifested in different ways. I did therapy. I did prozac. I did more therapy. My baseline is melancholic. I’d just made peace with it when I moved, unintentionally, to a place that had markedly less sunshine in the winter. I got seasonal depression. I got that under control. Then I got really, really sick. Turns out it’s a permanent, painful genetic disorder. My last pain-free day was four years ago.
So, this Cult of Happy article just set me off. Just… anger. Rage. Depression is serious – debilitating, often dangerous, and it’s got an enormous stigma. It leaves people to fend for themselves.
It’s bad enough without people ramming Happy Tips at you through facebook. There is no miracle behaviour change that will flip that switch for you. I know, I’ve tried.
A friend of mine suggested that I write something from my point of view because, surprisingly, I manage to give an outwards impression of having my shit together. I was shocked to hear this. And I find this comical, but I see her point. I’m functioning. I’ve adapted. I’m surprisingly okay. I think the medical term is “resilient”.
So, here it is.

My 21 Tips on Keeping Your Shit Together During Depression

1)   Know that you’re not alone. Know that we are a silent legion, who, every day face the solipsism and judgement of Happy People Who Think We Just Aren’t Trying.  There are people who are depressed, people who have been depressed, and people who just haven’t been hit with it yet.
2)   Understand that the Happy People are usually acting out of some genuine (albeit misguided) concern for you, that it’s coming from a good place, even if the advice feels like you’re being blamed for your disease. Telling you these things makes them feel better, even if it makes you feel like shit. (If they insist on keeping it up, see #12.)
3)   Enlist the help of a professional.  See your doctor. You need to talk about the ugly shit, and there are people paid to listen and help you find your way to the light at the end of the tunnel.  
4)   Understand that antidepressants will only do so much. They’re useful, they’ll level you out and give you the time you need to figure out your own path to getting well. They can be helpful. There are lots to choose from. They may not be for you, and even if they are, they take some time to kick in. Conversely, they may not be for you. Work with your doctor.
5)   Pick up a paintbrush, a pencil, an activity you got joy from in the past and re-explore that.  Or, sign up for the thing you always wanted to try. There is a long history and link between depression and creativity. It’s a bright light of this condition, so utilize it to your best advantage.
6)   Eat nutritionally sound, regular small meals. If you’re having trouble eating, try to focus on what you’d like to eat. I went through a whole six week episode of tomatoes and cream cheese on a bagel twice a day. Not great, but it was something – helpful context, I’m a recovered anorexic. Conversely, if all you want to do is scarf down crap, try to off-ramp it by downing a V-8 and doing #9 for 15 minutes, and see how you feel.  Chucking your blood sugar all over hell’s half acre is going to make you feel worse.
7)   While you’re doing #3, get some bloodwork done. If you’re low on iron or vitamin D, or if your hormone levels are doing the Macarena… these can all contribute to zapping your energy or switching your mood to Bleak As Hell.
8)   If you’re in bed and the “insomnia hamsters”, as I like to call them, are on the wheel of your head, watch Nightly Business News on PBS. This has the effect of Nyquil.  Swap out your coffee for herbal tea. If you just cannot sleep, try the next tip….
9)   Learn how to meditate. Start by focusing on your breathing. Not sleep, not thoughts. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Meditation is focusing on being present in your body, not careening around in your brain. It may not be as good as sleep but it will give you some rest and recharge you.
10)                  Face a window as often as you can – at work, at home. Look out into the world. Watch. Observe. Try to find something you find pretty or interesting to focus on. And, handily remember that one in five of those people out there feel the way you do.
11)                  Cry. Better out than in. Sometimes it’s not convenient or career-enhancing to cry, so find a private place as best you can and let the tears go. Carry Kleenex and face wipes and extra concealer if you wear makeup. You can always claim allergies.
12)                   Any “friend” who resolutely believes that your depression is because you’re lazy, because you’re not trying hard enough, who blames you for not bootstrapping out of it- that friend needs to be cut off. Polite (#2) is one thing, but there is a limit. You don’t have to explain, you can just not respond. You feel badly enough, you don’t need their “assistance”.
13)                  Limit your time with people who drain you. You know who they are. Often you don’t have a choice- but you can put the meter on. And, subsequently, be aware of what you’re asking of those close to you.
14)                  Everyone has shit they’ve got to deal with. What you have been saddled with is your shit. Recognize, just as you’re not alone, you’re also not unique. The grass may look greener, you may be jealous or envious of others who don’t have to deal with depression, but you likely do not know everything that’s going on with them.  
15)                  Let go or be dragged. This is an old Buddhist saying. It’s a very useful way to frame aspects of depression. Betrayal, anger, fear… letting go is a process – often a painful and difficult process - but it’s ultimately going to show you the path out of this terrible place. Repeating the mantra can help when you’re feeling gripped by these feelings.
16)                  Wear clothes that make you feel confident. It takes as much time to put on nice clothes as it does to put on sweatpants. You will want to wear the sweatpants. Fight the urge. The whole “look good/feel better” campaign isn’t limited to cancer and chemotherapy. Or women.
17)                  Avoid fictional drama and tragedy like the plague. No Grey’s Anatomy, no to The Notebook, or anything that won a Pulitzer prize. You’ve got enough going on In Real Life. Comedy only.  Or trashy stuff. Old episodes of WonderWoman? I’ve got the box set. Mindless drivel, like the latest CGI blockbuster. Or clever, funny books. David Sedaris. Jenny Lawson. Fiction exists to elicit emotion, and the emotion you need to express most right now is laughter.
18)                  Simple exercise, if you can. It can be something as simple as taking the stairs up a flight, or walking around the block. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t have to involve climbing a mountain or running a marathon. Baby steps.
19)                  Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking.  That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. “I am not a psychic”.  Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them.
20)                  If you are well and truly losing this battle, reach out to someone. I’ve been the random friendly-but-not-close person who has fielded the occasional outreach. I like to think I’m not judgemental and generally resourceful, and others have thought the same, so they called and asked. You know someone like me. And they will help you.
21)                  Forgive yourself.  I’m writing out all these tips, and I can’t always muster the strength to even stick my nose outside, or walk up the stairs, or eat my vegetables. Today, I got outside for ten minutes. I will try again tomorrow. And I will try again the day after that.

This list will not cure you. This list will not flip on the happy switch. God, I wish it were that easy. The theme here is to not to unknowingly sabotage yourself. All these little things? Like your blood sugar, or watching nonstop episodes of House, or endless Try Harder lectures from your Perpetually Perky sister?
They all make dealing with depression just a tiny bit harder than it needs to be. And it’s hard enough, all on its own.
UPDATE: Wow, guys. Thank you. The feedback has been wonderful - all I wanted to set out to do was something helpful.
For those of you who want to see the original rant, Here it…
And here’s the response to my response (?) - basically, after posting my retort, the happy people came at me with torches all over the interwebs.
Also, a few people have mentioned that having a critter is a great thing to keep you on track, that taking care of something and having something rely on you keeps you going. I went back and forth on including that, but for some, it’s just not feasible to have a cat or a dog… but my cat is my Prozac.
And, I wrote this in Canada, where we have universal health care. It breaks my heart that people don’t have access to professional support. You can sometimes find a community health centre, or sometimes your work benefits will have an employee support or assistance plan as part of your insurance. If you’re without benefits and hitting desperation, phone someone. Friend, family - even your local distress centre.
Stay well, my melancholic interweb friends…xoRR


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jamaica Ska with Annette

Annette, at age 44 now one of the great Italian beauties,  with Fishbone in Back to the Beach (1987)

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Happy Birthday shout outs

to my friend Carrie in L.A.   It'll get better. Just stay active & believe what my therapist told me: "You always find ways of making yourself felt. That doesn't have to change."

Also to poet Penny Harter.  Penny, along with her husband, the late great Bill Higginson, had a brief  but significant & altogether good influence on my poems when I was young & rebellious.  & a belated H.B. to my friend Gina up the street.


Monday, April 08, 2013

Everyone Loved Annette

Frankie & Annette visit the Diving Bell on the Steel Pier, Atlantic City NJ.

Frankie & Annette. No last names needed.

The first Beach Party movie was released in 1963, just as  I was entering full teenhood. There were plenty of good songs on the radio in 1963, but even I knew what passed for teen culture was generally bogus, product created by adults for teen consumption. The rock & roll Revolution of the mid-Fifties had been suppressed, the crazy rockers tamed or banished to country music & the Black radio stations. The Beach Party movies had little connection to the teen culture I was becoming  part of at the time, except that they happened to be part of teen culture merely by existing & being shown in local theaters.  They were staples of late night weekend TV for decades afterward. Frankie & Annette were hardly Southern California surfer types (they were "greasers," although we didn't use that term*),  were musically irrelevant (as was Elvis, for that matter), We laughed at Annette's frozen doos & obsession  with protecting her "virtue," but she was never an object of scorn. Everyone loved Annette. We'd all been fans of the Mickey Mouse Club. The movies themselves were harmless, funny - Harvey Lembeck's biker outlaw character Eric Von Zipper was great, & they were  filled with Hollywood's best jiggly go go dancers.

By the summer of '64 everything had changed, with the assassination of JFK & the arrival of The Beatles & the Brits.  The change was so great that something like a generation gap opened up between my sister & I, & she was only two years older, Class of '64.  But the beach party movies & the various spinoffs & imitations went on until 1967.

In 1987 Frankie & Annette reunited in a  funny parody of their old movies, Back to the Beach.   According to Frankie, Annette was showing early symptoms of multiple sclerosis, but he didn't know she had the disease & she may not have known it yet. She announced she had it in 1992, to counter rumors she was an alcoholic.

It might seem that Annette's immense talent  was underused. But she herself chose not to become an "adult" performer. She could have made sitcoms & dozens of made-for-TV movies  &  had a great Vegas & nightclub career for sure - definitely in tandem with Frankie Avalon, who still works Atlantic City. She just dabbled -  specials with Frankie, guest appearances on Love, American Style  & Fantasy Island. Apparently Annette really was Annette, not someone playing a character named Annette. I'm sure she ate Skippy Peanut Butter, & sold a lot of it.

Annette Funicello, died of complications from m.s., age 70.

*In my school the guys favored leather jackets, high roll collars, tight Italian cut pants & leather jackets, styled haircuts,  in contrast to the "collegiate" madras shirts & khaki  pants & "dry" look hair cuts that came in with the Beach Boys. They  were often called "hoods," an inaccurate, disparaging term, since most were just regular guys & we mixed quite freely in sports & socially, some of them were good  musicians I later played with in garage bands. 

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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Asbury Park NJ

Weiss' Hotel Altman

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Friday, April 05, 2013

Gilberto & the Musicabana Orchestra

Came across this rather unpromising Fifties LP on a music sharity blog. Hundreds of cheap Latin dance records from the era. But this one is on the Mercury label, the blogger doesn't post much crap. In fact, it's a hot record of Latin originals, & the odd liner notes strongly suggest Dizzy Gillespie was involved in the project. The leader & songwriter are pseudonyms. But I've found no information  about it.

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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Crazy Mike Rice

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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