Wednesday, February 28, 2007

WFMU Aircheck Tapes

I started regularly recording air check tapes of my WFMU shows in 1993, when I'd been a DJ there for 12 years, & I was done with weekly programs in 1999. In some of the earlier tapes I recorded only the music - if I remembered to push the record & pause buttons - later just taped everything. I usually listened to my shows once afterward, because I couldn't listen to them as I was doing them. I went through periods where I carefully labeled the tapes & even listed the songs on the case. At some point WFMU began online setlists, & at some point after that I started posting mine, though not every week. I kept recording the tapes but became indifferent about labeling them. Each show required two 90 minute tapes. Now I have hundreds of aircheck cassette tapes from the 90s, some organized, others just stacked into boxes. Many have just a date, many are completely unmarked. I've had ideas about digitalizing some of these old shows & having them archived on the WFMU website, it would be like doing new shows. But it's a time consuming task that at the moment I don't even know how to do. I rarely used high quality tapes, the studio cassette decks often were beat up, with dirty & misaligned recording heads. I wasn't that concerned with sound quality except when a tape was unlistenable with wow & flutter. A few time I improvised a story on the air that I transcribed as the basis for a prose piece. There were sets of music & even some whole shows I liked so much that recordings served as a compilation tapes. But cassette tapes are obsolete. The only cassettes I play now are some out-of-print reggae, jazz & classical things. I can always sort out the labeled shows, but I'll never wade through all the unlabeled ones. Nobody including me wants to listen to them.

WFMU began archiving shows online in 2001, & that was the end of the aircheck era for nearly everyone. Those DJs who keep personal copies of their shows now can download an mp3. But what about all those pre-internet analog years? I'm hardly the most disorganized WFMU DJ, & having been to some of their homes, I know I'm not even much of a pack rat anymore. Putting the matter to the staff, these responses came back:

"ohhhhh yes. bags of em. sitting in my car-- the only place with a cassette player. lost the playlists long ago."

"Yeah, I got my demos and 1996-2000 tapes under the bed. "

"Oh, yeah, 60 minute cassettes all over the place, in boxes, in piles, on the floor, just about every show i did from '94 to '05..."

"I've got hundreds. many are undated or labeled. I think I may have my very first show somewhere."

'From 1992 to 2001, in a couple of giant Hefty bags in my basement. Some of the cassettes are actually still in their cases."

"Only since 1985."

"Thousands. I recently threw away several hundred of them in a fit of materialist disgust. I also threw away a few hundred records and CDs. No regrets."

"I have crates of cassettes and, more recently, mini-discs that I put into storage. Like Rix, I never listen to 'em but can't seem to let 'em go. I envision myself on my death bed - think a rheumy-eyed Claire in the final episode of Six Feet Under - bequeathing the entire lot to some starry-eyed young soul who has a crazy dream of reviving the outdated occupation of deejaying. Thus making me even more rheumy-eyed."

Unlikely, but a swell fantasy.

Then WFMU Manager Ken made this reassuring suggestion: "If anyone ever decides to throw away old WFMU aircheck tapes, donate them to the station instead."

Nice to know, but it'll require a warehouse if everyone decides to do it.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The diaries

When I got rid of my bed in 2002, replacing it with a futon, I found under the bed, dead center, a box left there by lover who went away in 1996. There were other boxes under the bed, books & such that I'd pulled out occasionally looking for something, or pushed around with the vacuum on the rare occasions I stuck the nozzle under there. Somehow I'd always overlooked the other box. It contained a few sketchbooks, some art supplies, a couple of inexpensive collections of artist drawings that she'd played with as coloring books - the Paul Klee was interestingly colored, Most importantly, it held several diaries dating back to high school. I flipped through the diaries, not much of interest in there to me, a few sexual encounters she didn't describe in detail; parties, college ruminations, I stopped reading before they reached my era of her life, if they went that far. I thought they should have been of interest to Megan. But in six years, she had not missed this stuff, or if she had she didn't care enough to call & ask if I had it. I tucked in the flaps of the box, brought it outside & placed it in the curbside trash. I told someone about it at the time, & she said I should have made an effort to return the box's contents. I disagreed. Megan knew where I lived. She had married & dropped out of sight. I knew she was in Jersey City somewhere but I didn't know her name, & I certainly wasn't contacting her family. It was personal history she didn't want, & I had become a nobody in that history.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Psychoeducational Evaluation

In 1999, I volunteered to let a Psychology Ph.D intern do a "Psychoeducational Evaluation" on me. It was pretty time consuming, & afterward I was given a 5 page report that disappeared into my files before I had done more than scan it. I just found it. It is interesting reading for me. Some of the tests were tedious, & I could tell the young man hadn't had enough clinical experience to conduct a smooth interview, so I was giving some guarded responses - that is, I was jiving him.
"His affect appeared to be somewhat flat. At times he seemed to get a bit impatient with the testing process, but he was always extremely cooperative."
The tests included the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales; The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory; The Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory; & the two most difficult: The Thematic Apperception Test; & The Rorschach. I put up a lot of resistance to people getting inside my head because I'm afraid of what's in there, & when they're using standardized tests to do it, evasiveness is very difficult. They don't need to chase me around; the tests will force me to give it up. As it turned out, he appreciated my Rorschach responses. I had to explain them in some instances.
"On the Rorschach, Robert provided a large number of unusual, idiosycratic responses. Robert's responses were often unique, showing that he perceived things that were not typically seen by other respondents. However, Robert's responses could often be seen by the examiner after Robert explained them, demonstration that although unusual, they were not divorced from reality."
He did note that the "Rorschach & TAT responses indicate that he may become overwhelmed by emotionally laden situations." The TAT pictures were very peculiar, & one of my negative reactions not noted by the intern was that, unlike the abstract & oddly interesting Rorschach inkblots, they looked dated, very 1930s & very Freudian, & that was getting in my way as if he were showing me Depression era paintings & asking me to use them to comment on contemporary art. Or maybe I just didn't want to go where I thought they might lead me, into some repressed psycho-sexual swamp with mom, dad & the whole family. At the time, my anxieties were over more mundane matters.

I can't look at Al Gore without thinking how tragic it is that he is not President of the United States. He's still superbly qualified for the job, he knows it. He also knows everything he would have done differently than the idiot currently holding the position; every choice, every decision. If Al Gore had become a bitter man over the past six years, witnessing the destruction, death & degradation brought about by the Bush/Cheney Junta that stole the election from him, no one would have blamed him. But he didn't become disillusioned. Perhaps in some alternate universe we have secured Afghanistan & hunted down Osama; we are not at war in Iraq; New Orleans is rebuilding for all its people; the United States is leading the world in environmental sanity.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ocean Grove NJ

Ocean Grove NJ

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Friday, February 23, 2007


I feel like I just unraveled the Gordian Knot. I had a hopelessly entangled set of windchimes sitting in a box that I'd tried before to fix & gave up. I found it, or it found me, & looking it over a few minutes ago, sort of meditating, I realized it was two sets; one a gongy metallic moon & sun piece that's more decorative, & the other a simple, beautiful light-toned set of chimes a piano student gave me for Christmas many years ago (probably his mom's pick) that delighted me, it was a perfect gift, & which I'd thought had been lost. It wasn't so complex a matter after all, once I'd laid them out on the bed, loosened what had looked like knots, & gently unthreaded one from the other. I have to find a place for the heavier, sturdy dust collector, but the other set began singing joyously as soon as I lifted it free, a voice stilled for three years, & hung it from a curtain rod over the window, where it will ring whenever I raise or lower the blind or just reach up & tap them.

water sign

Apartment inspection today. I got the easy-going inspector. At last minute I pulled the a/c out of the window, it wasn't in any danger of falling but it wasn't exactly installed by the manual. Slow bathtub drain, bathroom windowsill needs painting, bathroom overhead light has to be fixed, a ceiling tile replaced where the bathroom upstairs leaked a few months ago. Rules seem to require glass covers over the ceiling light fixtures in the hallway & I can't make the inspectors understand why I take them off. I don't have a tall stepladder & don't want one, & when a light burns out I put a milk crate on a chair & climb up & stretch up with one hand & replace it right away & don't ask the lady who serves as super to ask the guy who does the handyman work to come up the day after tomorrow or whenever with a ladder just to screw in a new one & put the glass cover over it which I'm convinced shortens the life of the bulb anyway. I keep the hallway light burning while I'm up after dark, turn it off as a bedtime ritual when I check the door lock, it's wasteful but it pushes the lonely shadows out of the corners behind me & it's worth a few extra cents each day on an electric bill that's high only during July & August.

Did move me to toss out some old paperwork, souvenirs of a legal problem now settled & which embarassed me & resulted in my moving to a place that feels like an exile. Of course, everywhere I've ever lived my entire adult life from the time the old family house was sold & all its accumulated treasures discarded has felt a bit like exile, but oddly not because I've ever wanted to return there. That I live only about 2 miles from that street just reminds me that I ought to be farther away from it by now. An old friend returns from California every year or so to visit his mother in the house where he grew up, & there must be something comforting in the continuity even though he got away from there as soon as he was old enough.

I think I deserve a one bedroom apt with a balcony in a high rise building in downtown Rahway next to the river estuary, a very short stroll from the library & across the street from a church I'd be likely to attend on occasion. It's not luxury digs; the place is actually a kind of microcosm of Rahway. For 12 years in Linden & another 10 in Rahway I lived next to flowing bodies of water. The creek in Linden was hardly more than a ditch I would rarely have thought about except that it attracted a lot of birds. But the river in Rahway has tides in it in, & although it's far from Somers Point & North Wildwood & even Keyport or one of the other Jersey towns I've fancied over the years, I was always aware of the tide. Every time I left or came home to the apt there I habitually looked into river to see where the tide was. I knew only a handful of other people who did that, a weird little fraternity who might greet each other by saying, "River is oily today" or "A lot of eels came upstream." Not much to get excited about, but in a sense I knew there was a connection to my step-brother checking out the Manasquan behind his house in Herbertsville, except he had the better view & fleet of genuine commercial fishing boats ten minutes down the road. My sister lives near the Black River, beautiful, filled with boulders, & claustrophobic for long stretches, & there's a creek down the hill you can hear literally babbling at 2 am. But that's not my kind of water, I mean it's the kind where I feel like an outsider. The crawling things that live around it in the crevices & under the rocks freak me out. I can't sit there for more than five minutes without thinking something got under my clothes. I never felt that way as a kid - I actively searched for ugly bugs. So it's something else I draw from water now, & I want it to come from the ocean.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

I asked for the poems & they never came

I talked with my brother Jim on Saturday night. He was in the hospital for tests, he's had heart trouble for some years. It had been a long time. Of his life & his family I know little in detail, although he's only 100 miles away. Most of his landmark events - changes of occupation, post-graduate degrees, not to mention the more mundane ones, passed by without my involvement & often without my even knowing about them. It was something about him, & my family generally, that was very difficult to become accustomed to after our dad died in 1983.

I'm not a cold-hearted, indifferent bastard, although it may seem so at times. The largest group of unpublished poems I have on a "theme" is about people in my family. One poem I did publish many years ago finally cracked through to my dad. I don't recall which one it was, I'd given him copies of a couple of the more respectable literary magazines I was in & he'd actually read the poems & understood I hadn't been ignoring everybody but rather observing them. I was a youngest sbling trying to make sense of personalities so maybe I could figure out their backstories. I know now that as a child I was dropped into the fourth act of a drama, & nobody evertried explaining what had happened during the first three acts. Except Jim. He was the only one who shed light on certain traumatic events - a serious accident - that occurred before I was born, involving all three of my siblings, my parents, my paternal grandmother, & god knows who else. It was Jim's sorting out of these events as a young adult that turned his life around & allowed him to become a person I never would have predicted. Yet, everything's he's accomplished makes complete sense to me in light of his intelligence, his stubborness following his own paths & interests, his perfect Sunday School attendance, his corny sense of humor, his harmless eccentricities, & the enjoyment he gets being in the spotlight. Jim had a tough childhood, & I wasn't even around, or wasn't old enough to be aware, when he went through the worst of it.

My siblings mostly considered me a nosy little brat, getting into their stuff, pulling rather mean-spirited practical jokes (some of which were devilishly creative or had a zenlike simplicity). Mainly I was motivated by curiousity. Any one of my three older siblings who bothered to look though my WFMU playlists would find embedded there their records. The very fact that I slipped right into the free form way of radio was made possible by the diversity of music they were trying to keep out of my grubby hands, & even by the tape recorder Jim was given as a graduation present but which I proceeded to use without his permission & slowly beat into a hunk of junk.

The 4 Rixon siblings were never to be an extended family. I can see now there was no hope of that ever happening. But I also know that I'm not alone in throwing it away. We discarded all of the relatives on both sides of the family, everyone in our generation & nearly everyone preceding it. The Amidons, the Rixon, the Bradys, they're all gone. I never replaced them with spouse's family & kids of my own. I dream about my godmother, the last connection to my grandmother Nana & to the people that came from Philadephia. Nana witnessed nearly everything, suspected what she didn't know, & had she lived I want to believe she would have told me everything. They're in my poems & stories mostly as mysteries & fictions. & my father, who I finally came to admire before he died & love after he was gone, strange process that my therapist thought one of the few sane adjustments I''d made in my life, but it was poet joel oppenheimer's wise gift to me in the years before dad died*. My talkative oldest brother, the one before Jim, withdrew into an emotional isolation that still baffles me & yet the indications were all there when he was 14 & retreating into an attic sanctuary plastered with funny "Keep Out" signs, the humor in them could not disguise the intent - he rarely stopped talking even as it became obvious one was interacting with an elaborate masquerade.

Lifelong alcoholism crushing the spirit of out of my once vibrantly social mom. At last in an angry, unguarded moment she answered a question I'd been asking all my life & I discovered her inconsolable sorrow & a secret that so shook me to my core that I wondered if I could ever understand what I really meant to her, & the sense of apartness I'd always felt from my siblings was not illusory at all but made implicit in my name. I came into being not as joke or happy accident but to heal some terrible wounds, it made me a fragile object, & learning it was so difficult for me to handle that I walked away & committed what I believe is my only really unforgivable sin: abandoning someone on their deathbed. I felt apart from my brothers & sister, but what made them pull apart from each other? How do I write about all this? To speak of these matters as fact & conjecture is to betray the silences I always hated. Do I owe anyone my silences now? When I thought not, I asked for more poems & they never came. I've been asking for one poem in particular for over a decade.

* joel, who was an influential, fatherly presence for me in the 70s, did this through a very gentle & uncomplicated process of inquiring about my father, & speaking well of him, although they never met & seemed as different as two men could be.

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The heat woke me up at 4 am. I was hot. Two radiators were cranked up & even the one in this big room that I keep half turned off was warm. I like cool rooms for sleeping. I closed the bathroom door to get rid of one source, turned on the a/c fan, & went back to sleep on top of my dingy comforter. This morning the travel clock alarm woke me - the clock radio & answering machine were blinking that the power had been off. It was still too warm. Now the window is wide open. My former art teacher called as I was resetting the answering machine. I was pleased to hear from him but too surprised & groggy to make much conversation. There was a long e mail from a friend. Maybe this winter isolation is ending. There's an apartment inspection tomorrow, I don't bother cleaning for it, just get rid of some of the extension cords. I got other stuff to do. Wish a few people were around here to help me do it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hillary won't get my vote with stuff like this:
In response to an audience member’s question about the war — one of eight she fielded — Clinton said America faces a dire threat from terrorism.

“To underscore a point, some people may be running who tell you we don’t face a real threat from terrorism,” she said. “I’m not one of them. We have serious enemies who want to do us serious harm.”
That's a Cheneyism, the vague, off-handed smearish comment that holds up a frame with no photo in it. Hmm, who could she mean? Who's the mystery idiot? I'm doing my best to ignore the presidential races, becauseI don't have to make up my mind for another year & then only if I choose to declare a party affiliation & vote in Jersey's primary. We could be at war with Iran long before then, & I'm more interested in what Senator Clinton is doing to prevent that.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Craig Ferguson

Glad I kept TV on for the Late Late Show last night. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for Craig Ferguson's humor, which on many nights relies too much on fart references & Hollywood gay jokes. But he takes chances in his long opening monologues, & on occasion he's even serious, or at least real. His Emmy nomination last year was for the show he did after his father died. Last night he talked about how he's capable of feeling bad after kicking around celebrities who don't deserve having their feelings hurt by him, & why he would not be doing Britney jokes. He didn't know whether or not Spears had substance abuse problems, but he, Craig, had been a drunk until he was 29. He then gave a pretty graphic account of a bender he went the year before he dried out, waking up on Christmas morning in a pool of his piss; "I hope it was mine, " he said. Although it would be a year until he went into rehab, it seemed to have marked a nadir - he had been expecting to get home for Christmas, & instead decided to commit suicide, but was sidetracked from doing it by getting drunk all over again. Staying drunk - "self-medicating"- literally saved his life that Christmas Day. It was the start of a slow turning that finally culminated in his phoning an old friend & asking for help, & his friend saying, "I've been expecting this call." Ferguson looked at Spears & instead of some laughable, absurdly easy celebrity target of his humor he made himself see a fucked up human being with a toddler & a baby, in her mid-20s but still a teenager, really, with hundreds of "friends" to be sure but maybe no one at all to call for help except her own mother.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Dysthymia, sometimes referred to as chronic depression, is a less severe form of depression but the depression symptoms linger for a long period of time, perhaps years. Those who suffer from dysthymia are usually able to function adequately, but seem consistently unhappy.

It is common for a person with dysthymia to also experience major depression at the same time - swinging into a major depressive episode and then back to a more mild state of dysthymia. This is called double depression."
I have two friends who suffer from depression. One is bipolar, with an unrelated, debilitating physical condition, post-polio syndrome. The other friend is more like myself; he'll enter long "down" stretches that sometimes turn into major depressions. I'm in touch with my PPS friend online almost daily. She receives a lot of basic needs practical help where she lives, has some family around (tho not day-to-day) but she's also a writer & crafts artist. The only "interventions" I ever try to do with her happen if I suspect she's headed into a manic phrase; the symptoms are when she's finding too many online "bargains" for her jewelry-making supplies. I have no doubt they are good deals, but she has to budget for people food & cat food, too. The other friend I've known much longer, speak with less often, but he got a fabulous new digital camera last year, & I check to make sure he's using it & posting new photos. Scenery becomes unavoidably dreary this time of year, the starkness of winter that most visual artists enjoy in December loses its appeal as January & February grind on, & by now, judging from his recent shots, he's getting antsy for some spring colors on the local vegetation & women.

I've been struggling through a couple of horrid weeks. Turned down several WFMU late night fill ins because they discombulate me mentally & physically, & the last time I did one without feeling good about it, it took four days to recover & I caught a cold, too. The most recent would've had me traveling in last week's storm. Stormy night radio can be fun, with the weather service machine in the studio clacking out yards of alerts, very newsroom-like. But from the moment one leaves home one is already anxious about the return trip. I would've contracted pneumonia on top of the pestiferous bug that's already going around & somehow gotten in here. I was going to bed so early I missed both Boston Legal & Shark during a sweeps week. I was so down that receiving a much-desired CD of Charles Ives Americana music failed to stir me. I dozed off, snoozed through a drunken barn dance & an orchestral imitation of fireworks, & didn't wake up until the chorus was triumphantly singing a hymn of thanksgiving at the end.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Fantasy Atlantic City for both me & my brother Jim when we were kids. Paul Whiteman & George Jessel were long out-of-fashion in this 1938 card (the hip acts were at the Steel Pier & expecially at the clubs on Kentucky Ave), but we would've enjoyed the show. A Diving Elk?

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Friday, February 16, 2007

The storm was worse than a blizzard. Because you can't plow ice. You just salt it & hope the sun shines enough to melt it. In New York City it didn't even qualifiy as a snow event; alternate side parking stayed in effect, cars got ticketed before drivers could chop them out.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

Can't equal Janet's post at The Art of Getting By.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


"What matter how the night behaved?
What matter how the north-wind raved?
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow
Could quench our hearth-fire's ruddy glow."
John Greenleaf Whittier, Snowbound
At some point today I'd like to stop by the supermarket, I'm out of a few things. But I'm not looking forward to it. There's a blizzard coming to Union County. It arrives about midafternoon & won't clear out until Thursday night & roads will be impassible until Monday morning because as we all know the guvmint pays triple or quadruple overtime to snow plow drivers on Sundays. Jersey's gonna get it worse than Tug Hill Plateau in upstate New York had it last week, where it snowed 20 feet in 24 hours for a week total 53.7 feet of snow. That's from the "lake effect." In Jersey we suffer the much worse "trapped in two big media markets effect." It intensifies whatever's blowing hard across the Hudson or Delaware Rivers.The news here doesn't lie. On TV, special "Blizzard of the Holocene Epoch" graphics are in place, animated maps in motion. All the weather reporters looked in their mirrors & practiced their expressions of acute anxiety combined with smug, I told you so last week & it hasn't even happened yet self-importance. This is their moment at the top of the broadcast. Radio announcers play with tones of controled hysteria.

So at the supermarket I'd like to pick up some instant oatmeal, yogurt, & a few cans of chili, all on sale this week, before I head to the library. Shoppers normally at the store only during the hell hours of weekend mornings, when every week is like an impending natural meterological disaster, will be wheeling baskets heaped up with "essentials," bleating at their kids & into their cellphones, bumping into confused, panicky citizens accustomed to eating suppers at Burger King & purchasing cat food at 7-11. People with lactose intolerance stock up on gallons of whole milk. Those with wheat allergies grab every loaf in sight, leaving only the potato bread. Guys who had their arteries reamed out in January pile up the cartons of eggs. Everyone adds a few rolls of toilet paper to the year's supply they picked up at Sam's Club before Christmas. Shelves are picked clean. Even the house brand packaged sliced salami & imitation processed cheese slices are gone. It's the moment when Latinos discover knishes & Orthodox Jews find the kosher refried beans next to the adobe powder. All of this pandemonium funnels toward the checkouts in a rush to beat the terrible storm. Haven't you heard? There's a blizzard coming.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sisters of Selma

WNET PBS aired Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change last night at 10. I caught it only because The Grammys preempted Without A Trace so I was channel surfing. Sisters of Selma is about nuns who traveled to the 1965 civil rights actions in Mississippi, & a handful of nuns already serving Selma's black community. The local nuns were forbidden by their bishop from participating in the demonstrations. The nuns from St.Louis were encouraged to go by their archbishop. Two of the out-of-town nuns were black women. All the sisters were welcomed by movement organizers, providing great images of ecumenical support for the news cameras to capture. I remember them. It's a small documentary, focusing on one aspect of one moment in the civil rights movement, but it's an interesting view into the era, & raises issues we're still debating today about human rights, the role of women in the Catholic Church & religion generally, & the influence of religion in the public square. I don't know if Channel 13 will be rerunning it during Black History Month, it's not the sort of big budget historical extravaganza PBS favors. But Sisters of Selma is well worth an hour.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Boat Train
This looks more like the North Jersey Coast tracks below South Amboy.

Deja Vu all over again

U.S. officer: Iran sends Iraq bomb parts

BAGHDAD, Iraq - High-tech roadside bombs that have proved particularly deadly to American soldiers are manufactured in Iran and delivered to
Iraq on orders from the "highest levels" of the Iranian government, a senior intelligence officer said Sunday.

The officer, briefing reporters on condition he not be further identified, said that between June 2004 and last week, more than 170 Americans had been killed by the bombs, which the military calls "explosively formed projectiles."
This is it. The Bush/Cheney Death Junta is telling us there's gonna be another war. Of course, we're informed that the "highest levels" of Iranian government are responsible. Iraq is our sandbox, we went 1/3 of the way around the world to take it over. As of this morning, at least 3,121 American soldiers have died in Iraq, & it was George Bush - highest level of our government, not the Iranians, who got them killed. Keep a close eye on this story. It's just the first test of mainstream media's current level of credulousness peeping out from behind images of Anna Nicole Smith.

Iran has a legitimate interest in what happens in Iraq, for the same reasons the United States would be more than alarmed by a civil war or anti-American government in Mexico. It is to their advantage if Iraq is controled by Shiites, poses no military threat, & that the United States leave. Eventually, they will have their way. But Al Qaeda knows Iraq is a disaster for us. If we leave, they will be hunted down & mercilessly destroyed by an unrestrained Shiite-controlled army. It is to their advantage that we stay in Iraq, which is a disaster for us, so they can more conveniently bleed us of our soldiers, treasure, & international respect.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Turkana Boy

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Deep in the dusty, unlit corridors of Kenya's national museum, locked away in a plain-looking cabinet, is one of mankind's oldest relics: Turkana Boy, as he is known, the most complete skeleton of a prehistoric human ever found.

But his first public display later this year is at the heart of a growing storm - one pitting scientists against Kenya's powerful and popular evangelical Christian movement. The debate over evolution vs. creationism - once largely confined to the United States - has arrived in a country known as the cradle of mankind.
No matter how confused I become at the intersection of physical & metaphysical cosmology, it's not difficult for me accept that the Abrahamic Deity doesn't have to stretch to accomodate an infinite expanse of time & universe, or many universes. So what's the big deal about 14 billion years, give or take? Or that at the same time, according to scripture, this Singular Being is also infinitely intimate? I'm plenty impressed that the skies were once filled with flying reptiles (take a close look at any bird), with tiny warm blooded rodent creatures scurrying about trying not to be squashed or gobbled up by giant lizards, Especially that 1.5 million years ago some creatures resembling us & carrying our genes were walking out of Africa in search of new Gardens of Eden. Like Turkana Boy, who stood upright, lived & died long ago in what is now Kenya. An omniscient Deity who knows us as individuals in our time would also know this particular kid in his, why should any Christian have a problem with that? But many do have a big problem:
"I did not evolve from Turkana Boy or anything like it," says Bishop Boniface Adoyo, head of Kenya's 35 evangelical denominations, which he claims have 10 million followers. "These sorts of silly views are killing our faith."
Many have a prose religion that regards their scripture as the most impartial & accurate available combination of news, science, history, & anthropology, a perception of the universe more narrow than the Gate of the Camel's Eye & astonishingly mundane to boot. This seems silly to me, because poetry - a poetry at the border where metaphor fades into awed silence - is the key to comprehending the deeper meanings of the Bible; a sensibility that wasn't confirmed for me by the grounded, practical teachings of the Methodist Church but rather by what I discovered next door, in the mainstream of Catholicism. The older I get the more I'm inclined to regard it as as an excellent place to stand, particularly since it's also evident in both Judaism & Islam. It feels ancient yet timeless.

But a universe only 12,000 years old at most? (Where in the Bible does it say 1 day = 1000 years, as Bishop Adayo believes?) Lift up the Rockies in a minute or two. Carve the Grand Canyon like a furrow in a corn field. Design continents as jigsaw puzzle pieces. Create a pair of humans but let us guess where Cain found a wife to beget Enoch. Scatter some "fossil" evidence here & there as false clues to trick, test & confound those dummy humans. Why should it be that easy? Who are we talking about here, Paul Bunyan? Or one of South Park's Super Best Friends? Turkana Boy actually existed. In cosmic time, he happened just a snap of the finger ago. Sadly, it doesn't please this particular African that his home was the home of humanity. Whether or not God intended it so.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Elizabeth Gets Transit Village Nod

ELIZABETH, NJ-This city of 125,000 people is set for a new round of redevelopment in the wake of its designation by the state, this morning, as a transit village. The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s transit village program focuses of fostering commercial and residential development around the state’s transportation hubs.

With nearly 10,000 people moving through this city’s midtown train station on a daily basis, it’s one of the state’s busiest. The transit village designation brings with it eligibility for a variety of state grants, beginning with an initial grant of $100,000 for planning purposes. Other benefits include planning assistance and a streamlined approval process. This city is the 18th to win transit village designation from the state.
I choose not to pay a lot of attention to what goes on in Elizabeth, but I use the train station quite a bit, so this is good news. The station & surrounding area is not an attractive place, particularly after dark, definitely not late at night when I often return home. The station has an under-utilized open plaza. The lovely old Jersey Central building was renovated & is occupied by a nice restaurant that never seems to be busy, opens & closes early. The elevators are urinals. The streets around the station are crappy. There's a greasy hot dog stand & small liquor store as you exit, both specializing in individual portions. Standing on the northbound platform you look down on another liquor store & a chicken takeout. Panhandlers are everywhere, including the ones that want to "help" you use the ticket vending machines. When the inside ticket window is closed, these pests create lines at the two machines, often forcing travelers on to trains without tickets where they have to hope for a sympathetic conductor who won't insist on the surcharge. There's no taxi stand, you have to call ahead or gamble that an available cab is parked out front. People get off the trains & scatter, many for a multilevel parking garage across the street. Later at night, a number of us always walk quickly away from the station, past the restaurant & into the Morris Ave. business district, where our pace slows a bit. That street has some good cafes open late & is anchored at the far end by a 24 hour Dunkin' Donuts. I live two long blocks beyond that. Unlike other stations on the Northeast Corridor line, no commuter would want to live near the Elizabeth station for convenience, much less linger in the neighborhood. Athough I have my doubts the area can sustain a "Transit Village," it's not like Plainfield on the Raritan Valley Line, a station hopelessly planted in the middle of gang territory where even during the day you feel like you're standing in the O.K. Corral.

"Politicians fuck with people. That's what they do. That's their job. Every day they get up and wonder who they're gonna fuck with that day. Then they go and do it. They're not of much use - they don't make anything, create anything, think any great throughts. They just fuck with the rest of us. I got tired of talking to them. "

Kidd, the artist/hacker/thief in John Sandford's novel The Hanged Man's Song
Young Woman Meets Tragic End: Story #3115

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Galloping Hills

Be a pretty nice outdoor day if the breezes weren't kicking up 20 mph gusts. Throwing stale bread around for the ugly birds, wind carrying it away. The February sun radiating some heat, you can feel it on your back now. Yesterday I walked over a mile on some errands & wasn't chilled until nearly home & the sun was near setting.

Remembering how we'd coerce one or the other of my parents into dropping us off at Galloping Hill Golf Course after supper & spending a few hours sledding in the dark - only one slope of several was lighted, it was always frigid & usually windy out there, with many lunatics sliding every which way on sleds, skis, toboggans, saucers, food trays, inner tubes, large pieces of cardboard, even early xtreme sport types wearing ice skates who'd wandered over from the pond. Of course there was a "Suicide Hill," great bumpy ride culminating in a grove of trees & a drainage ditch if you had deficiencies in steering & braking power. If we didn't have a pre-arranged pickup (nobody wore watches), we'd have to use the pay phone by the clubhouse, & by that time we were already approaching hypothermia. Amazing now that none of us suffered frostbite or broken bones. Dad was fairly tolerant of physical risks like steep hill sledding, tree climbing, & old wooden extension ladders; mom probably just tried not to think about it. We all knew kids whose parents wouldn't let them do anything, which is why some of those kids gravitated toward our house when the snow lay packed hard & slick on the slopes of the Galloping Hills.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Say goodbye to Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Boardwalk Cam

Whaddayaknow, the Ocean City Maryland boardwalk cam over in the sidebar goes dark for a couple of hours this cold afternoon & when it comes back on there's a different view. Never having been to the place, I'm as clueless about the new location as the previous one. There was an ATM on the left, now the camera seems to be aimed in front of an arcade. I did save a number of cam shots, like this foggy night in July:

A foggy morning six months earlier:

Nocturnal seagulls:

Cold, gray weekend:

People popped up from the bottom of the screen or emerged from the mysterious vanishing point, cop cars idled for hours alone & in pairs, blizzards & thunderstorms (never caught a lightning flash) & on summer evenings foreground crowds were packed shoulder-to-shoulder, you could almost smell the cheese fries & sun block.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Dreaming of Allen Ginsburg on William Burroughs' Birthday

A vaguely familiar location,
East Village, Hoboken, Soho.
He was on the other side of the street.
I thought, I must speak to him.
I knew he was dead.
"Allen, Allen Ginsburg," I called out,
as I walked toward him.
"How is heaven, or wherever you are?"
He was holding something, a gold medallion
or a religious medal, he looked young.
He didn't notice me.
He wandered down the street,
across an intersection.
I called louder, trying to get his attention.
"Allen Ginsberg, Oh Soul, Allen, wait."
He kept walking, in his own thoughts,
like he had someplace he needed to go.
He turned the corner out of sight.
"Allen, Allen, Allen." I shouted,
then stopped, feeling embarrassed,
there were other people on the street,
what would they think? This man
yelling at a ghost, or at empty space -
someone only I could see
named Allen. Maybe they couldn't see me.
I realized I didn't know where I was
& what I was doing there.

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Super Bowl journal
  1. Read Jeffrey Deever police procedural featuring loathesome serial killer.
  2. Fell asleep.
  3. Woke up. Had an Instant Breakfast with whole milk.
  4. Checked e mail.
  5. Looked at my space on myspace. One new friend.
  6. Read more Deever.
  7. Turned on TV, watched Lynyrd Skynyrd with two original members perform "Gimme Three Steps" on Craig Ferguson's post game show. Craig exclaimed, "that's real rock & roll."
  8. Looked at Yahoo sports page to find out who won game.
  9. The guy hired to sing The National Anthem at the Super Bowl was in Miami two days before the event & submitted to a 30 minute media session over a song expected to clock in at about 90 seconds. I wondered how many millions had been bet on the over/under.
  10. Current temperature: 12 degrees.
Whenever I read the statistics of Billy Joel's career - albums sold, charting singles, tour earnings - I'm a bit surprised. He always seemed like a second tier talent, fine melodic sense, good singer, excellent grasp of song structure, strong bandleader. A confident, professional songwriter who made records, not a charismatic superstar. In all his biggest hits he was channeling or directly imitating some other performer or style. He did this even in his early band, The Hassles, a Rascals + Vanilla Fudge group. Later he simulated Aaron Copland, Paul McCartney, Elton, Springsteen, Randy Newman, Steely Dan, Paul Simon, Four Seasons, even a bit of Dylan. Most of songs reminded me of something else & sounded obviously derivative, but stripped of any musical idiosyncracies. "You May Be Right," "Innocent Man"" & "We Didn't Start the Fire" just annoyed me. I liked "Allentown" because the song had an awkward cyclical movement that wouldn't let you tune out the downbeat, observant lyrics. The only stumble in the lyric is when he looks for a dactyl & finds "chromium." But in 1982 I preferred rock & roll by dead end city kids to pop songs about them. The astounding worldwide scope of Joel's success has always puzzled me. Even driving ambition, hard work & good timing doesn't account for it. Maybe his greatest talent is convincing huge numbers of paying customers that he really is just a guy playing piano & singing. He looked almost modest compared to the other big arena acts of his 20 prime years - too long a time at the top to be an accident or a lucky break. I paid little attention to him, but it didn't matter - his music was an unavoidable part of the ambient cultural soundtrack. One couldn't get away from it.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Fantasy Motel

Wildwood, NJ

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Debuting The Speech

David Crosby wrote a number of song lyrics that were mostly cliches he strung together. Doesn't matter provided you enjoy David's melodies & singing. It's different with politicians, who don't know any better & couldn't do it any other way. We know better than to expect originality or spontaneity, yet few of them have educations or tastes that let them crib comfortably from the literary masterworks of western civilization - it's pretty easy to slide through college without getting much of education. Culturally & creatively, politicians are an undistinguished class of Americans from your local elective offices all the way up as high as they can go. The exceptions only prove the rule (I can use cliches, too). So I listened to many of the presidential wannabees officially debuting their basic stump messages at the DNC meeting. I probably don't have to pay any more attention to them for the remainder of 2007, because they'll just be fine tuning these same speeches - padded with cliches & meaningless slogans - through the Iowa caucuses. They'll highlight one or another part of The Speech for various targeted groups, & when asked difficult questions by journalists, The Speech will also serve as a leash - wander too far away from it, an aide gives the candidate a signal, maybe touching an eyebrow or tugging at an earlobe, to yank them back on the message, which is contained in The Speech.
A sampling, from The Hotline.
At least nobody said "putting the cart before the horse." Save that one for the debates.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Groundhog Day

high winds thickly
frosting the windows,
ice under my fingernails,
scraping for a peek
outside, snowdrifts
with tires in them
churning cold steam,
scratch of silver shovels -
they do not glint.
i emerged from my hole,
finally, at seven a.m.,
at no time did I see
my shadow.


let the


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Banned in Boston

Terrorists would have demonstrated an unusal sense of humor if those blinking electronic signs in Boston had turned out to be bombs. But they only promoted the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" cartoon series. Boston's reaction was bizarre considering the same signs had attracted small attention in nine other cities. What bugged me was a major media corporation's use of "guerrilla" advertising, attaching those things to overpasses like some no-budget band slapping slickers on walls & tollbooths. You wanna advertise, then pay for the space. That's why we have ugly billboards everywhere. It's the best reason Boston should make an example of Turner & the marketing compamy, Interference Inc. What's the difference if McDonald's or Sony hired graffitti painters to hit up subway station walls? The show's already generated a lot of tie-in products, it's surprising the blinking signs in the other cities weren't all stolen within hours & listed on eBay along with the teeshirts, key chains, watches, plush toys, & mousepads,

The Broken Virgin

I need to get some Elmer's Glue today. Over the weekend, the plastic Virgin Mary fell off a bathroom shelf into the tub & her tiny head cracked off. This alarmed me at first, like an unintended sacrilege, especially when I couldn't locate the head & thought it had rolled down the drain. But I found it on the floor. The break was clean, the icon is salvageable. I don't remember how I came to possess my little Virgin Mary. I've had it for many years. Certainly, I didn't buy it, so it was either given to me or I rescued it. No one who ever came into my apartments thought it an unusual object for a noncatholic to have around. Two of them were women who had been raised Catholic & slept in my bed; & one still attended Mass on occasion, although she'd unapologetically conceived, birthed & raised two children without benefit of Holy Matrimony.

Shortly before the accident, I hung a laminated print of St. Cecilia & an Angel by Orazio Gentileschi in the hallway by the front door. It was always on display in my old apt, & before that in the studio room where I taught piano. Most people probably thought it was kitschy, so did I at first, but my artist friend Jim had an eye for Italian Baroque & liked it. I'm not so superstitious as to think the plastic Virgin was jealous; there's only one Queen of Heaven & Cecilia is usually depicted as a working musician with heavenly inspiration.

I have other treasured dust collectors placed here & there; a Gumby, a camel bell, various frogs, three handpainted ceramic lighthouses, a red toy piano, a Cosmic Clash Mini Arcade. Haven't even unpacked the most musical windchimes. The walls are bare. Been here three years & never really settled in. It's a spartan existence with an obvious air of self-deprivation, rooms evidently inhabited by someone who doesn't like himself very much. In this world, a plastic Virgin Mary is a necessity.

"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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