Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union

If it's lies & propaganda I'm looking for, I'll watch Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will. So I'll skip the speech & the hall filled mostly with toadies, freaks, cowards, shills, & Democrats who still don't have the spines to stand up & turn their backs on the big ugly puppet with the puppeteer sitting right behind him. Later, it'll take me five minutes to read the entire transcript of presidential bullshit. The Union holds, but the Republic slides toward its demise.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Nam June Paik (1932 - 2006)

Nam June Paik made delightful, visionary art. He had a wonderful sense of humor. But in his beguiling use of technology he could also demonstrate how easily we were bamboozled by "media." His art was visually arresting, aurally challenging, often plainly beautiful. It was usually meditative: Nam June Paik dared us to linger on the surface of his work without becoming a participant in it. Impossible, even if one walked away from it. He had a lot of influence on "popular" art; he helped to erase those kinds of borders. When I first encountered him, he had been around for over a decade & was truly radical to my forming sensibilities. How, I wondered, can one make art more conventional or traditional than this yet not in opposition to it?* I always picture Nam June Paik smiling.

*I never resolved this. But at the time, it was like standing at the edge of an abysmal crevice & the choice was between jumping across or backing away. Gradually, I realized how fortunate I was to have come to that place, as I met more artists who were afraid to go anywhere near it.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Vineland New Jersey

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Bush Era business model

New York Times: Seeing Fakes, Angry Traders Confront EBay.
It's about costume jewelry. eBay claims it has no responsibility, & trumpets this on the site. But eBay needs to be pulled down a few pegs. The eBay "business model" created an eBay professional sellers business model. The parking lot flea market quality of eBay is long gone, amateurs marginalized or driven away by large sellers, higher fees, & complicated set up process. I thought smaller, simpler alternative auction sites would spring up in competition. eBay has become an arrogant monolith spanning the globe. I haven't bought CDs there in over a year, the place is jammed up with "Buy it now" catalogue businesses using eBay as a display window & front door. It's still OK for LPs, but I don't go for vinyl. I searched mostly for individuals trading in shorter lists of interesting music. eBay is now more comparable to a slick superdupermall, the largest mall in the world. It's one thing to put disclaimers on the stuff sold by someone emptying out the garage & basement or getting rid of an older PC that may or may not be all glitched up, & quite another to host organized rings of professional counterfeiters operating with virtual anonymity among huge discount "warehouses" you wouldn't stop to browse even if you saw them next to the highway. eBay is perfect example of the George W. Bush Era: the richer you are, the less you need to give shit about anyone else.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy Birthday, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

January 27, 1756.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

You're either in it or you're not

"A devotion to an end tends to undervalue the means. A power of revelation may make one more concerned about his perceptions of the soul's nature than the way of their disclosure."
Charles Ives, Essays Before a Sonata (1920)
There's a great composer's take on Ralph Waldo Emerson as a spiritual adventurer. Ives has not come to praise Emerson's poems. He has something else on his mind.

But in art, we do not undervalue the means, for that is our art, our process of creating it, & disseminating it. The essays came about as Ives prepared to publish his 2nd "Concord" Piano Sonata. We can wish he'd done more, sooner, to fight for his music - the Sonata waited 19 more years for a complete public performance - but perhaps then he would not have been Charles Ives. He was a genius with an astonishing work ethic. By the age of 50 he'd nearly worked himself to death. The genius ultimately protected & preserved the art. Ives took a great gamble. Composer/critic Virgil Thomson said Ives didn't "give his all" to music. Except Ives gave to his own insurance business what Thomson gave to the Herald Tribune, & no one ranks Thomson anywhere near Ives as a composer.

That's another tale. Three years ago I briefly went out with a woman I'd met at an arts networking night at a local coffeehouse. I was there because I often hung out at the place. Sometimes I brought my old Brother laptop word processor & wrote as I sipped an iced coffee. She was there because she wanted to be an artist. If you want to be an artist, I'm a good person to be around. For as much as I habitually say No to myself, I enjoy saying Yes to artists. But you're either in it or you're not. It's a mindset. Professional or amateur, vocation or avocation, makes no difference. Given the Yes she claimed to be seeking, she couldn't do it. It didn't come naturally to her, a woman in her late 40s, who always assumed there would be a time for her own art, as if an alarm clock would ring & she'd wake up & suddenly want to make paintings & go to galleries & look at lots of pictures & begin soaking up whatever experiences & influences she'd turned her back on for her entire life to that point. She couldn't make use of affirmation. She had other strengths, to be sure.

I am an artist. To remain an artist I've acted in ways that don't make me proud of myself. But you'd have to live with the constant, nagging No voice in my head to best understand the differences between success & failure in my life. Treading water is still staying afloat, & to me that's swimming not drowning.

Making art is what makes you an artist. Putting that art out in the world makes you a public artist. The choice then I guess is whether or not one also becomes one's art, in the manner of say John Cage or Marcel Duchamp, or any poet who performs in person before an audience. I knew what I was doing, & why, when I recently turned down a live gig. But I've always been a public artist, which is why occasionally I still receive unsolicited invitations to show up somewhere & read my poems. I'm glad I'm not a painter or sculptor, because then my art would be filling up all my space & I would be compelled to exhibit it. Compelled is the correct word. By emotional need & a sense of duty. I have more to write on this topic.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Is Jimmy Carter a more faithful disciple

than George W. Bush? For certain he was a better President.

Five years ago, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theology Seminary, wrote:
Mr. Carter's curious blend of liberal theology and liberal positions on moral issues sets him far apart from the SBC--and this is no recent development. The former president has supported the cause of gay rights, and co-chaired a Human Rights Campaign effort in Georgia. The Southern Baptist Convention refuses to compromise the Bible's clear teaching that homosexuality is sinful. The SBC champions biblical inerrancy, affirming that Scripture is truth "without any mixture of error." Mr. Carter has recently admitted to doubting the validity of some biblical miracles. "But I now believe that, even if some of the more dramatic miracles recounted in the Gospels could be untrue, my faith in Christ would still be equally precious and unshaken." Jimmy, We Hardly Knew Ye: Carter Renounces the SBC

Lonna Gooden VanHorn, writing Jan. 23 at OpEdNews.com:
Jimmy Carter belonged to the Southern Baptist Church most of his life. He quit that church in 2000 when a new “Baptist Faith and Message” statement was adopted. It deleted the premise that “the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is Jesus Christ, whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures,” substituting Southern Baptist leaders for Jesus as interpreters of biblical Scripture. He also decried the church’s continuing treatment of women as inferior to men and the take over of the church leadership -- a concern shared by former Republican senator and Episcopal priest, John Danforth -- by the Republican Party. He believes very strongly, and says the Baptist Church of his time believed very strongly, in the separation of church and state. Jimmy Carter, A President Whose god Was Not Greed
VanHorn also reminds us:
During Carter’s presidency, when the United States was perceived as the leader among nations in the fight for justice and the rule of law, world leaders came to the White House to have their grievances addressed. The cause of world peace was advanced. That would be unthinkable today when world leaders neither respect nor trust America’s leaders, and believe that America is fast becoming a “rogue nation.” He calls it “embarrassing” that America, long seen as a champion of human rights is now condemned as a nation that tortures.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Trenching their gushing entrails bright

A debate has broken out on the eve of Burns Night after haggis was placed on a government list of restricted foods for nursery schools.

The celebrated dish, according to the classification, should only be eaten once a week - in common with foods such as turkey twizzlers and burgers. (BBC News)

To a Haggis
, By Robert Burns.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Introducing The Feline Protection and Enhancement System ("The Zero")

Note from Gina: "Have the leftover lasagna, it's from Fritz's & it's deelicious." It was.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Jersey City Waterfront 1979

Photo © by James Coleman

The Center of New Jersey Life hosts
Carnival of New Jersey Bloggers XXXVI

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Hester to win as freeholders change mind
TOMS RIVER — Reversing themselves after months of battering at public meetings and in the press, Ocean County's freeholders are scheduled to vote Wednesday to extend pension benefits to the domestic partner of Lt. Laurel Hester and other members of the Police and Fire Retirement System.
It's great that the Republican Freeholders are changing their minds. But the bad taste remains. So much opposition, national media attention, threats of boycotts, & finally pressure from their own party (facing a tough Senate election this year) had to be brought to bear upon them, as they waited for the State to offer a deal. Those Freeholders were unable to do the right thing for one of their own employees when they should have done it simply because it was the right thing to do. & what most Jerseyans surely wanted them to do all along.

Too Much Religion

Maybe I'll write something today. Like how sick I am of religion, it's everywhere. & it's been bugging me all week. Seems that every news story, every issue, get twisted into religion now. That's what the right wing likes to do. It's always about values, values are about morality, & the only morality that's any good is their's. But why would I want to write about that? On Tuesday night I was cold, the first time I can recall being cold in this apartment. My previous place was always cold in the winter & hot in the summer. It was a studio, no cross ventilation, drafty back door opening on to fire escape, large window, no shade, south-facing, & over an open garage. Anyway, I was chilly. On Wednesday it was still cold in here, & not cold outside. Then I walked in the other room, the one I use like an attic, & noticed that a window was wide open. The strong wind had apparently rattled the lock loose, the weighted sash took over, & up it went. I didn't feel a draft coming from there because all the warm air was being sucked out. So I closed the window & that solved it. Most churches are like my old apartment.

I enjoy reading books on spiritual themes & religion. Once in awhile I even dip into actual theology. Although theology often causes the "damaged CD" effect; you read a paragraph & then read it again, & again, & again, before you even realize it, because it refuses to connect to the next paragraph & you simply can't move on to the next paragraph until the one you're in makes some sense. The Contrarian read Thomas Aquinas in the original Latin whilst at his beloved Notre Dame, & the more he writes about that university the more I'm inclined to believe he enjoyed it, because clearly that school produces many people whose spirituality contains a great deal of reason except in regard to their own unique branch of the Church of Rome, based in of all places Indiana, United States, & only barely in concord with Home Office. I hate to admit it, but I get the impression that Notre Dame (& St. Mary's) attracts a lot of leftist Catholic idealists along with the reactionaries like Rovean Party Rep. Mike Ferguson.

In the Religious War we are now engaged in, Contrarian & I are allies. We both agree the people on the other side - the literalists & fundamentalists & theocrats - are dangerous nuts. I also happen to think the American protestant varieties are just as heretical as me. So what must they be to Catholics who have encountered the light of reason given off by Thomas Aquinas? (Hell, even the great English Catholic oddballs - Julian of Norwich, Margaret Kempe - make more sense than President of the Southern Baptist Theology School.) Aquinas wasn't always reasonable, but then he lived in the 13th Century. This Light of Reason is under attack all over the world. But only Reason can lift everyone in the world up. Religion can't do it. Religion divides the world. Religion appeals to tribalism because the roots are there, not in "Universal Truth." Is God is on the side of Reason? Bob Dylan wrote a very good song about this. As soon as you become convinced God is on your side, God is not on your side. & it's in the Bible that whoever says they love God the most, may well love God the least.

But my problem is that I can't get away from religion. I used to take it up & put it aside, which is fine for someone who can't find a religion he wants to join. Now, everywhere I go there's religion. In the media, on the web, in the streets. Not having to deal with that was one advantage to living near New York, where religion tends to be drowned out when it isn't one of today's headlines. Religion is always one of today's headlines.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Veteran soul singer Wilson Pickett, known for such hits as "Mustang Sally" and "In the Midnight Hour," died on Thursday of a heart attack in Virginia, his manager said. He was 64.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Big East Conference has 16 basketball teams. It really needs to split into divisional play. Fans are accustomed to watching BE teams beat up on each other - upsets are not uncommon & nationally ranked BE schools often struggle to painful wins over lower tier teams. There are rarely any patsies in the conference. But the regular season title is meaningless except for a BE tournament seeding, & the lack of home & away series diminishes rivalries & is basically unfair.

Quote of the day:
"A majority of the men and women of the Senate and Assembly already agree with his hue and cry for reform and do not deserve to be painted with the same brush of mismanagement, neglect and being concerned only about re-election."
State Senator Sharpe James, in response to NJ Gov. Jon Corzine's Inaugural Address.
Mr. James is also one of America's worst mayors.

Ron Kovic (Born On the 4th of July) on The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Play Ben's musical invention, the glass Armonica

Awwk! Ooh! Oh! Ahh!

LONDON, England -- A computer programmer found out his girlfriend was having an affair when his pet parrot kept repeating her lover's name, British media reported Tuesday. The African grey parrot kept squawking "I love you, Gary" as his owner, Chris Taylor, sat with girlfriend Suzy Collins on the sofa of their shared flat in Leeds, northern England. This story was predicted in Squeelin' Parrot (Twist) by Vince "Ben Casey" Edwards. (Realaudio) A squawkout to WFMU DJ Gaylord Fields for the great song.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Happy Birthday, Martin

It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me,
but it can keep him from lynching me,
and I think that's pretty important.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., November 13, 1962

The January 1965 issue of Playboy magazine featured an interview with Dr. King by Alex Haley. In it, Dr. King expresses some views that belie the attempts of the contemporary protestant right wing to co-opt him for their various causes. He is still capable of speaking for himself, thank you, & also reminds us from 40 years past that conservative white ministers not only opposed him; they insisted that it was not proper to involve themselves in secular matters.

From Dr. King's important 1967 Riverside Church speech on the Vietnam War, Juan Cole at Informed Comment extrapolates 10 Things Martin Luther King Would have Done about Iraq , without stretching.

In honor of Dr. King's birthday, Focus on the Family has added a banner featuring African-Americans along with their usual white middle class families.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Freehold New Jersey

Euian hosts this week's Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers

Saturday, January 14, 2006

In the Sixties, the youth of the protestant right tossed Beatles records into huge bonfires that evoked both Nazi Germany & witch burning, & the fanatical pulpits preached that when the puppetmaster Pope/antichrist pulled the strings, every Roman Catholic writhed like ecstatic drunken dancers at an unchaperoned teen party. Who woulda guessed then that those strange kids unburdening themselves of "I Feel Fine" & "Paperback Writer" would now be running the government of the United States of America?

Nasty outside. Still raining some, but wind shifted from southwest to northwest & that's all the difference. Frigid tomorrow. 50s forecast for Wednesday.

I'll have cds for several years before the music jumps out & grabs me. Last night it was Joseph Haydn's Symphony no. 98, Eugen Jochum & the London Symphony Orchestra. No. 98 is one of Haydn's 12 "London" Symphonies, debuted during the first of his two visits to England, 1791, where he was greeted & treated as a visiting pop star (which he was) by the cultured middle class, & feted, as entertainers still are, by British royalty. Haydn had been in the secure but provincial employ of Prince Esterhazy for three decades while his reputation grew & spread across Europe. At age 61 he was finally able to go where uncommon commoners were really appreciated & make a bit of money, too. The Brits got great new music, an incomparable bandleader, & a genial celebrity in exchange for their hospitality. It mattered little that Haydn spoke almost no English.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Death of the Archbishop

Washington Post on the funeral mass for Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq Mandefro of The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Go through the exotic front door of the Debre Selam Kidist Mariam Church, wander around, it's a nicely designed, welcoming, & informative website.

When the act is bombing

the comedian plays to the band.

Supporters listen to U.S. President George W. Bush (L) as he delivers his comments about the U.S. military involvement in Iraq at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Kentucky January 11, 2006 (Reuters)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Glad there's Democrats in Trenton

(Reuters) - New Jersey lawmakers voted to give same-sex couples the same rights as married couples regarding inheritance and funeral arrangements and to extend gay couples' access to health benefits in the public sector.

The two bills were passed overwhelmingly in the state legislature on Monday and will now be sent to Gov. Richard Codey, who is expected to sign both.

New Jersey is one of several U.S. states that already offer same-sex couples some legal rights as partners, though it stops short of allowing gay marriage, which became a socially divisive issue across America during the 2004 presidential election campaign.

One of the bills passed on Monday sets out same-sex couples' rights to inheritance and funeral arrangements while the other deals with health benefits for partners of employees of county and municipal governments, school boards and county colleges.
Jon Corzine would sign it, too. David Buckel, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, calls these "baby steps" & he's correct. If the word "marriage" is the problem, then go for everything but the word itself, & this state isn't there yet. But I think we're going there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Mild Spell

"This is so cool! I know it's because of all the fans who are my number-one supporters."
Jessica Simpson, accepting People's Choice Award for Favorite Song From a Movie
("These Boots Are Made for Walkin' " from "The Dukes of Hazzard.")

Mild weather this week, 50s here in Jersey, 60s in Virginia.
January will return on Sunday. Every day like this is one day less winter.
Opened & closed my umbrella about five times. Really needed the sheet of
two cent stamps & the excellent deal on Chock full O' Nuts New York Roast
("Dark, Bold & Intense") plus a can of good Progresso soup. Stopped in at the
branch library & spent a worthwhile 1/2 hour familiarizing myself with the
computer. Then Dunkin' Donuts, saving my cappuccino coupon for a colder
day, sat & read Rita Dove's essay on Paul the Apostle which I enjoyed a lot more
than I expected. Books I recently read by Anne Lamott & Paul Coles disappointed.
On The Secular Mind jacket much was made of Coles' personal connections
to Paul Tillich, Dorothy Day, & William Carlos Williams, but the whole center
of the book was occupied by an essay based on readings of George Eliot's
& George Meredith. The two high school girls sitting
across from me chatted on as Rita's story spun out of memories from her
Akron A.M.E. Sunday School class. She quoted Hilda Doolittle. Now
it was raining. One more thing, frosted shredded wheat, late night munchie.
I had my umbrella.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Lost Palace of Tillie

Because this deals with a spiritual matter, I posted it at Street Prophets, under the nom de plume Asbury Park. The piece is fiction. There were no Stone Ponyites, Condominiumians, or Tillieists. There were only people who tried to preserve a physical truth about Asbury Park, & people who didn't believe it was beautiful enough to preserve. But there was a Palace, which exists now only in a heaven.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Ten from 2005

Click on link for real audio play or photo.
Compiled for
WFMU staff year-end lists.

Bonus songs:

Laura Cantrell: Letters from Humming By the Flowered Vine..
Sol K Bright & His Hollywaiians: Heatwave from Hawaii to Hollywood.
Black Lodge Singers: Sponge Bob Square Pants from More Kids' Pow Wow Songs.
Anubian Lights: Andromeda Skin from Phantascope.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Barnegat New Jersey

1920 lantern slide

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I'm skipping two parties this weekend. One tonight because I don't feel like coming home late via two trains. One tomorrow because it's in a bar at noon; I'd go if it were at an IHOP. Not going to parties is a problem I've had since I was 22.

Katrina plus four months, a journey with the rude pundit.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Three Kings Day: The Chartmakers

Botticelli: Adoration of the Magi
"Adoration of the Magi" by Respighi (Realaudio stream)

The meaning of their gifts was
the tenderness with which they gave.
They gave their sadness also,
knowing his short life, yet they traveled.
Their hearts were filled in return with wonder
& love, delightful astonishment!
They were more than satisfied.
So they led their camels over the hills
& back to the stars.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

As a favor to a friend of a friend, please vote for Magic the Standard Poodle. It's actually a trained "service" dog who helps an elderly woman.

Watching the last part of the Paul Anka concert on PBS, I know how his kind of showroom act heads into the last turn & down the home stretch., & it's fun watching a pro, he's entitled. The tribute/duet with Sammy (a strange song Paul wrote for aTV special closer); the "ringer" with the cell phone that sets up a comedy bit he does in every show: & I wonder how often a tall woman makes in on stage for the dance with Paul segment - "I picked a woman my own size." Naturally the tribute/duet with Frank on "My Way" for the standing ovation. Exhorting everyone to stay standing for "New York, New York." I'm a willing participant to this point. But then asking me to put my arm around a total stranger next me as Paul ends the show with "Tears In Heaven" dedicated to victims of terrorism (I think that's who he meant), in a moment of communal spirituality Vegas-style, & I'm not even all there with the Love Hug in a church, baby.

About every other month I have to walk through downtown Elizabeth, which gives me an opportunity to check how our insane trade deficit with China is going. Walmart correctly gets blamed for much of the retail part of this deficit, but there's a lot of Chinese stuff downtown you won't find even at the Supersize R Us Store. & the working conditions & wages in the places that sell it are often lousy. Fortunately for me, The Contrarian has already browsed Elizabeth to find The finest products Chinese slave labor has to offer, in two blog posts that are among the best I read in 2005.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Today I encountered a singing garbage bag on a curb down the block.
As I walked past, I heard a little voice inside it singing Ring around the rosey
over & over. So I stopped & looked in the top of the bag, & saw only an old blanket
folded & stuffed in it, & somewhere a voice. Among the several bags there,
that one was the only singing bag.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"I'm not really Jack Abramoff, I'm only
an actor who plays him on TV."

"We're really Tom & Christine DeLay,
& we played ourselves on The Jeffersons."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Two resolutions

As much as I'd like to announce this year as Two Thousand and SEX, I know better than to make fantastic resolutions. I have only two, which will be challenging enough:
My former therapist, Dr. Elena, would understand & approve of them.

Oh, I have "goals." I'll reach some of them by just honoring my two resolutions. Others will require some courage. Creative goals are so easy to think up that the real problem is choosing one & actually following through before moving on to the next. Making poems is more difficult.

I have to go out for some culture & entertainment, whether it's a movie or a museum. Explore & let myself be challenged more by the "new music bin" at WFMU, & volunteer for less desirable jobs there like envelope stuffing & basement record sorting. Accept any opportunity to learn how to use the available technology there; my lack of expertise inhibits what I can do.

2006 won't be an easy year for me, but it can be a good year.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

The Coalition of the Swilling hosts this week's Carnival of NJ Bloggers.

"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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