Sunday, November 30, 2008

Old Umbrella

My umbrella may be approaching a record for longevity, if such records were kept. It's an ordinary, small Totes, has a flower design on black so I suppose it's a woman's umbrella, if not especially colorful. I don't recall exactly when I got it, but I know where & how. The umbrella was abandoned in the umbrella basket at the music studio where I taught piano. It stayed there unclaimed & one rainy day I appropriated it. That was no later than 1990. One end of the carry loop popped out last year, I simply tied that end to the umbrella. The fabric is attached to all the spokes. It's a perfectly good umbrella. The wind has blown it inside out a few times with no damage. Folded it's a foot long & currently retails for about $15. If they're as well-made now, I recommend skipping the $5 crap the street vendors sell on wet days & investing in a Totes even if you already have one you forgot at home .

Something even older just broke; the leather thingie on my key ring. Finally wore out. It was just the right size piece of leather for holding & jangling keys. I don't know how long it's been on my key ring. I can't remember my keys without it. But I also remember where it came from. It had a skull & cross bones & "Jolly Roger Bar" engraved on it, & a young women I met in California in the summer of 1976 gave it to me for some reason. It went into my sock drawer, as most thingies do, & at some point much later I needed a new key ring thingie & fished it out. A few weeks ago I was given a little Hawaiian "Ku" god key ring thingie, & it is very cool, but I can tell it wouldn't last long with my keys, & deserves better; perhaps a place on top of the red toy piano on the shelf, near the three tiny lighthouses & the Asbury Park Christmas ornament.

Meanwhile, my reliable trifold Eagle Creek travel wallet has become very dirty. It's the best wallet I ever owned, despite being nylon or something & having velcro. It's been mocked by a few people with leather wallet hangups, including a woman who said she would never sleep with a man with a velcro wallet. Sobeit. If you love leather that much, I can direct you to a specialty store in Greenwich Village. The wallet forces me to keep it somewhat organized & not let it grow fat with receipts, coupons, & other people's business cards. Eagle Creek no longer makes exactly this style wallet. If I can somehow send the wallet through the wash, & it gets cleaner, I won't want or need to replace it.


Newark NJ

Rusty's Long Bar, The Longest Bar in America

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Advent Calendars Online 2008

Open a little window every day starting December 1. No peeking ahead.

Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC This one is always great,

St. Margaret Mary Parish in Naperville, Illinois

Liverpool Museum

Westminster UK City Council

Woodlands Junior School
Tonbridge Kent UK

CBBC Newsround Pop calendar has quick-loading soundbites & is designed for 12 year old Brits.

New York Carver Medieval Advent Calendar

Boowa & Kwala Advent Calendar

Rumors of a Bravissimo lingerie advent calendar are unfounded true. (thanx Kelly)


I have meme

From a meme at Franiam, only the ones I HAVE...(in red)

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
13. Watched lightening at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa Pizza in person
39. Gone rock climbing
41. Sung karaoke
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
57. Started a business
60. Served at a soup kitchen
63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
67. Bounced a check
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
73. Stood in Times Square
75. Been fired from a job
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
88. Had chickenpox
91. Met someone famous
93. Lost a loved one
97. Been involved in a law suit
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant
I count having my portrait drawn, collaged, & photographed by first rate artists. Snorkling was not in the tropics.The lawsuit was debt collection, if that counts. The medical malpractice lawsuit I didn't bring is the one that hurts. Bungee jumped on the boardwalk; convinced me it was a thrill I didn't need on a greater scale. Saw Grand Canyon from a jet. The books were self-published & very small press, but I've been anthologized in few good ones. Fame is a relative thing. I hung out with Barbara Feldon (Get Smart's Agent 99) at a Bar Mitzvah.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

I worked one real Black Friday at the old Stern's dept store in Willowbrook Mall. It was crazy, not so crazy you'd be trampled or shot to death. Later, at Pearl Arts & Craft in Woodbridge NJ, Black Friday was the day holiday shopping traffic began around Woodbridge Mall across from Pearl & the Toys r Us next door in the same strip mall. That was crazy. It wasn't an especially crowded day at Pearl. The managers always expected it would be busy, I don't know why. Friday was a day off for me & the managers rarely bugged me to switch my schedule around. Pearl ran one big annual sale, in August, aimed at the back-to-school customer, particularly college fine & graphics arts students, who had to invest big bucks on everything from drafting tables to rapidograph pen sets to yards of canvas to life drawing books. There was a similar, smaller sale around Christmas that included specials on holiday decorations.

What I liked about Pearl was that it was a creative person's gift store, or at least a place you could buy presents for creative people. This brought a lot of clueless customers into the store looking for all-in-one arts or crafts supply sets. Pearl had those in abundance, & they were a waste of money. But you could put together a great grab bag of goodies for a modest cost if you gave it a little thought & weren't in a hurry. I often talked customers out of buying expensive kits & instructional books for supposedly genius kids & steered them toward the separate arts supplies; water based markers, colored pencil sets, pads of newsprint paper.

Most creative children are intimidated by neatness (although a few are obsessed with it). A kit in something that resembles a briefcase, with slots for every item, looks great to adults, & even children can appreciate that aspect when they unwrap it, but it can make kids feel they have to do projects, not waste anything, & keep all the stuff orderly. Creativity doesn't work that way. Creativity is messy & disorganized. They learn organization & economy as part of the creative process. They find out they have favorite colors, & those colors get used up faster. If they start a picture & hate it, they must feel free to rip the page out of the pad, crumple it up, & throw it at the dog. The primed canvas & imported French watercolor paper they can't waste come later. They dump everything into a box & searching for what they need teaches them that favorite things require their own special places. Go ahead & toss in some cheap, junky stuff, I'd advise (not saying it proves that they can't depend on cheap, junky stuff when they're in the Throes of Inspiration). Crayola really does make better crayons, choose a smaller box of those with the logo every child knows over a bigger box of something else. But there's nothing wrong with the two-color "3-D" markers that come with the cardboard glasses. & yes, coloring books are great if they're cool dinosaurs, knights in armor, beautiful horses, & even, yuck, Disney characters. But reserve judgment if these are not colored with a grasp of realism. Children often color things the way they ought to be, not what they are. Some people listened to me. When they didn't, I went back to my book dept.

If you recall, the decade of the 90's was the computer decade. Then (as it would be now), I thought my job was to pry kids away from computers & video games. Arts software for kids didn't interest me, a child pushing a mouse around. Software was the equivalent of an adult telling kids what to do, placing limits. The computer was a grownup invention & was becoming a hypnotic babysitter & grownup conspiracy to prevent children from making a mess.

As a writer, I appreciated the computer, loved word processing software; by the new millennium I knew four different wp programs & had websites. I had no problem giving up typewriters. But I also knew that poems were broadcast from the beautiful twisted magnolia tree at the back of the yard where I grew up. I had written poems on bar napkins, inside matchbook covers. My favorite Picasso story was of when he was inspired by the fish skeleton on a supper plate, so he immediately imprinted it on some clay he had laying around & used that for the basis of a new piece. My favorite art quote was from Paul Klee: "A line is point going for a walk." It was from a small book & included an illustration of a point becoming a line. It wasn't a straight line - Klee had the most enviable of lines; I wanted my writing to be like his lines. Neither of those artists ever became fully adult.

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How the Faithful Pray

With their feet.

Reminiscent of the deadly stampedes that occur during religious mass pilgrimages to holy sites, except the holy site was a Wal-mart, & the pilgrimage was a Black Friday Christmas sale on Long Island.

If the so-called "War on Christmas" concerns you, a "War Over Holiday Bargains" should concern you even more. Calling them "Christmas Bargains" doesn't help matters, does it? A temp employee trampled in a Wal-mart. In California, two people shot to death at Toys R Us. This is insane. It's also apple pie American.

Killed for a $300 television. Not even a gift item. Take that, Judeo-Christian heritage.

Meanwhile, in Mumbai, India, the terrorists shooting their way through luxury hotels, murdering mostly Indians in their search for "westerners," went out of their way to target & kill Jews at the Chabad-Lubavitch center.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

Macy's Inc. Parade

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Now the War on Thanksgiving

Chuck Norris blather in his Townhall website column:
Let's face the present Thanksgiving facts. President Bush likely will give the last explicit Judeo-Christian Thanksgiving proclamation that Americans will hear for the next four to eight years, as President-elect Obama likely will coddle a form of godliness in his Thanksgiving addresses (if he indeed gives them) that appeases the masses with a deity that fits every politically correct dress.
Chuck then suggests that next year President Obama should use Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation establishing Thanksgiving Day, itself a perfect model of blandly generic political religiosity guaranteed to appease practically everyone, & containing no specific Christian content. Lincoln was a master of the style, on a few occasions lifting it to a level of literary art. But not this occasion.

Norris also parades all the usual stuff about Thomas Jefferson really being a church kind of guy, mentions his support for missionary activity among the Indians. I doubt if the spiritual welfare of Native Americans was Jefferson's main concern; rather, converting Indians to belief in the white man's deity was a method for making them submit to white authority without killing them outright. White Father in Washington speaks for White Father in sky. Indigenous tribal & unconverted African people constituted a huge non Judeo-Christian population in the 19th century, but only white people were considered Americans, & many of them barely so.

As it turns out, Chuck's column is a misunderstanding of another writer's response to a Washington Post editorial for which Norris provides no link. The "facts" he's facing are not even factual.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bummer on the Left Coast

Rutgers 52, California 66.
Rutgers 47, Stanford 81.

The women Scarlet Knights had a humbling trip over the the weekend, losing badly to #7 Cal & taken apart at both ends of the court by #8 Stanford.

They dropped from #3 in the AP poll to #13. They're a still a top ten team in talent. Scoring over 80 points in their first two games may have lured them into believing they're now like UConn & Tennessee. But Coach Stringer has the defensive philosophy that it's the opposing team ought be worrying about how many points they can score against Rutgers. Rutgers went to the Regional Finals s last year with practically no bench, & there were a few us who thought they would have reached the Final Four via two of the other regions. This year they have a deep bench of talented freshman. But newbies may tend to assume the object is to come off the bench, score lots of points like they did in high school, & impress everyone. I've noticed over the years that Coach Stringer's highest post-game praise happens when her team holds some high-scoring juggernaut under 60 points & seals a four or five point win on a couple of timely free throws in the final minutes.

There are four Big East teams in the top 25, including #1 UConn, & two more simmering underneath. Of all the Big East teams, only Rutgers & Notre Dame challenged themselves early. Our gals have work to do.

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Stock Graph of the Day

General Growth Properties Inc. closed at one dollar on Monday.
Owner of 200 malls nationwide, including 4 in Jersey:
Woodbridge, Bridgewater Commons, Paramus Park, & Willowbrook.
This company owes a lot of money next year,
but it owns real tenanted property, not dreams.
Who bails GGP out?


Monday, November 24, 2008


I'll be darned.
It came to me during the five minute walk from the library to the supermarket.
A concept for a small book.
So absurdly simple that I don't understand why I didn't think of it ten years ago.
Or five years ago.
Or five days ago.
All that time I was trying think of something else.
Maybe something that made me look smarter
instead of what I've already done well
& didn't require literary genius.
Something I never acknowledged or explained while I was doing it
because saying what I was doing would have changed it
into something I didn't want to do.
I don't know if it's a viable concept,
but I can find out based on what I already have written.
I'm signing up for a Christmas card exchange again this year. Last year I sent 10 cards expecting 10 in return & received about 30. I do not have a classy card to send. Failed in my searches for the perfect wintry fine art card that wasn't two bucks apiece. So I'll pick an old Jersey postcard with snow in it from my digital collection, make 5x7 prints on the photo machine at Drug Fair, & enclose it with the card.

Camden ranked second in the nation behind New Orleans in an annual rankings of most crime-ridden cities from CQ Press.

Camden topped the list for two years before slipping to fifth two years ago and then fourth last year.

Trenton and Newark were also among the 30 most dangerous cities out of the 385 ranked.

But the news wasn't all bad for New Jersey. Five of its largest suburbs -- Brick, Toms River, Edison, Hamilton and Woodbridge -- were among the safest cities.

The ratings are based on numbers from 2007.

There may be one way for Camden to get off the list. If its population dips below 75,000, it won't be included.

If the population does slip, Camden can join Irvington, probably the most dangerous smaller city in Jersey. I rarely read any news out of Irvington unrelated to crime. My city is well down the list at 101, a score of 81.6, sandwiched between Boston & San Francisco, about where it was last year. Certainly there's room for improvement. Mayors protest that the ratings skew F.B.I. statistics, but few in the top 25 could claim that juggling the stats some other way would make much difference if the city is scoring over 200.

Everybody picks on Camden NJ. It's difficult to imagine how that city could have escaped its fate. Even when poet Walt Whitman lived there after the Civil War it was a tough, industrial port city across the river from Philly. When the manufacturing base collapsed after WWII, along with the port, & with cheap white-only tract developments crawling across surrounding farmlands, there was little reason for the white middle & working classes to stick around. The nostalgia one hears for the old ethnic neighborhoods in Camden is just that.

I haven't been back to Camden since visiting the Walt Whitman House in the 1980' s. A terrible area, maybe it's better now. The house appeared to be closed, but the brochure said it should be open. I knocked on the door & was admitted by a suspicious caretaker after she sized me up as a pilgrim. I probably looked a bit awestruck. My girlfriend & I were the only visitors at the time, & the caretaker mostly left us alone as we wandered through the little house. It was a deeply moving experience, but we hustled ourselves of out Camden afterward.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Somerset NJ

Dominick's Pizza.

Creating the standard, white flour, thin crust, metal oven Jersey pizza, our most overrated food.
You're hungry, you order a pie, you eat it.
It's not better than Pizza Hut, just different.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Unfit for Rich People

Over a decade ago, the city of Long Branch on the north Jersey shore set about redeveloping its beachfront. Admittedly, it needed improvement. As the city went about improving itself, it decided that "blighted" would henceforth mean "unfit for rich people" & used the legal means of eminent domain to drive out residents owning small single family homes near the beachfront. Many of these homes were modest converted bungalows, some having passed through several generations of families. Only about a dozen remain in the targeted section, & those residents fought back fiercely. It appears they finally won. The economy crapped out. Two weeks ago the Supreme Court of NJ sent a lawsuit back to Superior Court, where the burden of proof would again fall upon the city. So the city is apparently throwing in the beach towel. Maybe. But it got 75% of what developers wanted; townhouses priced from a million to two million, the so-called "Riviera of the Jersey Coast." The remaining homeowners will likely sell out individually over time, but at least they'll do it on their own terms. This was a shameful example of eminent domain, a local government screwing its own people on behalf of private developers. In 2002, a homeowner was forced to take $140,000 for a 110-year-old, 17 room house a block from the beach, less than its 1987 tax-assessed value.

You might like Long Branch beachfront now if you prefer the sort of place that wins the "Community of the Year" Sales and Marketing award from New Jersey Builders Association, an industry lobby that considers the remaining Jersey Pine Barrens a huge, vacant lot, & the Brigantine Wildlife Sanctuary a malarial swamp, & the Seaside Heights boardwalk a slum shopping district.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

A venerable old DJ

2008 has not been a good year for my WFMU DJing. Number of reasons, none by itself responsible for doing only two fill-in shows & very little else, but altogether they kept me from getting into my DJ frame-of-mind. So I turned away a lot of fill-in opportunities, & when you don't do fill-ins other DJs tend to forget you're available or assume you're not. Usually I have what I call my agenda, music I want to air on the radio, & that didn't get much attention; it's music that I find & use to build sets. But I've done an enormous amount of reading this year. I guess that's what I really wanted to do. I kept up music searches, read reviews & articles. , unable to work up enthusiasm over much.

Fill-ins are not all I want to do at WFMU. For awhile now I've wanted to record unscheduled Internet shows, new Rix programs appearing on my WFMU archives, perhaps available as podcasts. I was quickly trained to do internet-only shows about two years ago, never recorded any, & now I have to be retrained, more slowly. I have agendas for those, some of them theme shows. I'd like to post some of my programs from the 1990's; the station needs "historical" archives of typical weekly free form shows from the past. Since mine was rarely a topical program, & not even so much a new music program, most of them have held up pretty well. Unfortunately, the majority are indifferently recorded airchecks using cheap cassettes.

I'll continue to do fill-ins, be more attuned to the opportunties next year, they're fun, on-the-fly affairs, & the personal challenge I give myself is to spin them toward the tastes of the DJ I'm substituting for. The huge responsibility of a regular weekly program doesn't interest me, & there's plenty of great DJs on the staff to take those slots. To really contribute, I need to use the resources WFMU now has available for venerable old DJs.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Last of the crickets

Cold snap here, notable for duration rather than the temps. Sikenced the holdout crickets tucked away in warm crevices near houses, a few sluggishly sawing away as late as Saturday evening.

Robert Pinsky writes a kind of poetry I've never been able to write well; a compressed poetic poetry unmistakably American but which has small connection to the American language as we actually speak it (as I hear it). This causes me to dislike the poetry at the same time I envy it. Or he's too intellectual, sometimes. But I love many poets far more scholarly in their work than Robert Pinsky, poets who flaunt it; & poets with far more elaborate language, language that flies somewhere else; & poets with far more compression. Maybe he just isn't fun, or funny, enough. I've met & heard many fine poets, very funny in conversation or setting up poems in their readings, couldn't get audience chuckles out of lines designed to generate them. . Not punchy enough, poor timing, or requiring knowledge most people don't have; the latter happens when poets test out their new poems only on fellow academics. There's deinitely a prejudice against humorous poetry. But too many of my poems have punchlines. Early exposure to Bob Dylan is partly to blame; every verse on his Highway 61 Revisited album may end in a punchline. Robert Frost, too. He was a punchline poet in his most famous poems. "Good fences make good neighbors." What was I to do? What I didn't do - enroll in an academic writing program where they make you revise a poem 100 times & get rid of the punchline. & you still haven't actually studied poetry with Robert Pinsky.
Strange to hear advertisements for Drew University on the radio. The Madison NJ school was always the kind of place prospective students had to find - it didn't try hard to find them. It's a brainy sort of campus, if not as smart as it once was, quietly snobby, & it costs a bundle to go there. About the same as Princeton. The part-time per-credit hour tuition would make you faint. Now, if one is shopping for an edjikayshun, one might ask, What do I get at Drew that I can't find elsewhere for less. The answer is, not much. Drew used to sell itself when you visited. I had a few friends there I loved visiting, not a prayer I would ever be a student. It was as close as you got in Jersey to an ivory tower campus atmosphere. The real world was as hypothetical as you desired. Pretty campus, small downtown a few blocks away, good pubs, train to Manhattan, & in one of the wealthiest areas of the United States. Div. III sports. Monmouth University in West Long Branch is a far better party school near the beach with Div 1 basketball. Centenary College in Hackettstown is more bucolic. Nearby Fairleigh Dickinson more geared to business careers. Then there are the state schools. No wonder Drew has to advertise.

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Former Poet Laureate Book

Robert Pinsky
Jersey Rain
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
copyright 2000
U.S.A. $21.00

Elmora Branch Library
Date Due
Nov 8 2000
Jan 2 2001
Nov 28 2007
Nov 24 2008


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Angels Game

These notes have been sitting on my PC desktop for over two years. The local PBS station broadcast the film Saturday.
“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
Matthew 6:27-29
Lilies of the Field (1963) with Sidney Poitier & Lilia Skala. Poitier won an Academy Award for his performance as the free-spirited wanderer, Homer Smith, Skala, playing a strict nun who had escaped from East Germany with four of her sisters-in-habit, was nominated. It's a charming movie, very much of its time.

The story is basic. Homer Smith, traveling from somewhere to someplace, arrives at an impoverished farm in the desert occupied by East German nuns. Homer is looking for a few bucks in exchange for handyman work. After doing some work, he discovers that not only can't the nuns pay him, they can't even feed him a decent meal. The nuns want to build a small chapel but have no money or muscle. It turns out he's a skilled tradesman, knows how to build things. He can design a basic building, lay masonry, construct a roof, even operate heavy construction equipment. We don't find out where he learned all this. In the original novel, he'd been in the Army, & I wish that explanation had been in movie; the Army was the great leveller in American society at the time, but it was a regimented life. He's slowly drawn into the chapel project. The devout local Mexicans want to help build their chapel, but Homer, once he decides to stay around, is determined to build it by himself; then he calculates it would take him a year. So he relents. Homer tests his Bible knowledge against Skala's Mother Maria, gives the nuns English lessons, teaches them to sing a gospel song ("Amen"), becomes frustrated, goes away, returns, completes the task.

Now we tend to see caricatures in older movies. We might view Homer Smith as a "good" negro who will bend to the will of white authority under certain conditions. What he is, is good to himself, a free man. The Mexicans are caricatures, humble, simple, anonymous, except for a cynical but affable cafe proprietor (Stanley Adams, whose Spanish accent never sounds authentic). There's a little bit of racism injected by a local white businessman (played by the director), nothing threatening, & Homer easily gains his respect. An itinerant Irish priest (Dan Frazier. Kojak's boss on the TV show) lives in an Airstream trailer, conducts Mass in a cafe parking lot, may drink too much, & thinks of himself as being in exile. But it's really a good-hearted parable, set in the isolated Arizona desert so the troubled outside world of the early 60's doesn't intrude much. Everyone is alien in that landscape, Homer Smith only the newest arrival.
His discovery of the what the nuns went through to reach this forsaken location touches him. No one is perfect, or bad, or without dignity.

I can't fault Sidney Poitier for keeping this character, in the year of Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech, an intelligent, independent, good-natured man with foibles rather than deep flaws. Poitier thought enough into his characters to know there were always alternatives, & he wasn't shy about sharing them with film directors (as he did while filming In the Heat of the Night), Unlike another fine movie of the time, To Kill A Mockingbird, (or many other movies), Lilies of the Field is not about enlightened white men defending or raising up oppressed black men. Homer Smith is no victim, doesn't consider himself one, & resents being "used" by a tough nun to fulfill the work she says God sent him to her to do - in part because he's a Baptist. If he can't always stand up to the head nun, it's not because he's been bent by a culture of servility but because he's a young man still sorting out his future up against a strong older woman who has also known oppression & absolutely certain of what she wants; without a chapel, the nuns cannot fulfil their purpose in coming to America. Homer put himself in the situation, he's always free to opt out of it. He's the only person in the movie with mobility. He's also, like the nuns & Mexicans, a man of faith.

In 1963, a time of great civil rights action & racist violence, this was a liberal, grown up, feel-good movie. The German nuns see Homer's skin color without prejudice. Now it's probably better for younger viewers. But with our newly-elected president, it's possible to think Sidney Poitier was looking ahead. We've also become too cynical to believe people can be essentially good & behave decently toward each other.

For the Christian viewer - the title refers to passage from the "Sermon on the Mount" - there's never any doubt that God brought everyone together for a reason, & it's not to build a chapel but to create a community. However, Homer moves on when the chapel is finished. It isn't his community or future. We don't know where he'll end up, but it will be in a good place. The loner now knows he is a leader. That is not always a happy thing to learn but it is empowering. In the novel, the nuns place an oil painting in the chapel with animage of a saint resembling Homer. That was wisely left out of the film.

Many will also appreciate the depiction of the mysterious role-playing game called "Angels," in which people are moved into challenging, though not necessarily desperate or daunting, situations calling for them to serve as angels. These situations only appear to us as coincidences.

Directed by Ralph Nelson. A critic complained of another Nelson Movie, Soldiers in the Rain, that you always feel something wonderful is about to happen but it never does. True. Yet I've always enjoyed Soldier for its depiction of peacetime Army life just prior to Vietnam, & for the performances of Jackie Gleason, Steve McQueen,& Tuesday Weld. Lilies of the Field brings the same quality to a better story. Nelson was a sincere craftsman rather than great director; he did his best work on TV in the 50's.
But it says something that two of his movies had winning Oscar performances, by Poitier, & by Cliff Robertson in Charly. He later made one of Cary Grant's better late career comedies, Father Goose; a bleak, expensive western, Duel at Diablo; & a failed attempt at an antiwar revisionist western, Soldier Blue, about the Sand Creek Massacre & released at the height of the Vietnam War. He had stronger messages in his smaller films, which were, at heart, about peculiar friendships.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Joe Lieberman

Let's recall Sen. Joe Lieberman basking in the spotlight at the Republican National Convention.

That is all.

(Not all. Democrats in the next town over kicked out one of their own city council reps because: 1. He was voting with the opposition on important matters. 2. He declined to participate in fundraising activities; the campaign money the party needs to get local Democrats elected. 3. He was still showing up at Democratic committee meetings, where he never said anything; they had reason to suspect he was there to spy. Remind you of anyone?)


Monday, November 17, 2008

Piracy on the high seas

Pirates capture Saudi oil tanker

Pirates have seized a giant Saudi-owned oil tanker in the Indian Ocean off the Kenyan coast and are steering it towards Somalia, the US Navy reports.

The US-bound tanker was captured on Saturday some 450 nautical miles (830km) south-east of Mombasa, and is now approaching the Somali port of Eyl.

The Sirius Star is carrying its full load of 2m barrels - more than one-quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily output.

Its international crew of 25, including two Britons, is said to be safe.

Lt Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the US Navy's 5th Fleet, said the attack was "unprecedented".

According to the Navy, the ship is "nearing an anchorage point" at Eyl, a port often used by pirates based in Somalia's Puntland region.
These pirates are likely in it for ransom & profit. But put aside that the report has come from the U.S. Navy & consider the "two Britons" & that this story is front-paged at BBC. In the traditional British attitude, those two British citizens make the hijacking a matter for Great Britain's Navy. The British won't be inclined to act rashly or unilaterally, but we should assume that the clock is running & certain elite units of their Royal Marines are already cleaning their weapons in an undisclosed location. Saudis & Americans are aware of this. Perhaps the Somalian pirates are not. If they're smart enough, they'll put those two Brits in a boat & radio the British Navy to come & pick them up.


The Obamas on 60 Minutes

As i watched President-Elect & Mrs. Obama on 60 Minutes last night, I couldn't help but think, "Well, this is a pleasant change." Close Gitmo & stop the official torture, two important campaign promises he intends to keep. He needs flexibility on many issues, but not those. They both spoke in complete sentences & thoughts. He was directly evasive on matters he hasn't or can't decide yet. They gave some insights into their marriage based on mundane routines rather than feel-ings. Michelle Obama is capable of doing anything she chooses; I liked that she mentioned getting involved in the local Washington D.C. community as well as the grander issues First Ladies traditionally promote (rarely to much consequence). Her direct personality reminds me more of underrated Rosalynn Carter than any other First Lady of recent decades. Nobody's underrating Michelle Obama.

In a time of economic peril, Michelle Obama will have to run a fairly modest, frugal White House. Still, there might be a few more formal occasions than with George W. Bush, who avoided them mainly because he disliked formal wear. Like John Kennedy & Ronald Reagan, President Obama will look comfortable in a tux.

Watch "The State Visit" episodes of the PBS series The Monarchy. Not only do they show what HRM's life has been like for over 50 years - that lady works very hard at being a symbol, it offers one of the few deservedly sympathetic looks at President & Mrs. Bush as they arrange & fulfill the ritual obligations that fall upon every President & First Lady; in this event, the unavoidable tasks of doing things the Queen's way, because she's the Queen of England & the Commonwealth realms, & even Solomon Islanders know their royal protocol & will be watching on TV.

As for Barack's endorsement of a BCS football playoff, presidents come & go, but the Rose Bowl is every New Year's Day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Raritan NJ

Chow Mein.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Post 2003

Just passed 2000 mark. Approaching a round number in visitor hits, too.

This won't always be post #2003. I occasionally delete, consolidate, or split old posts, if they draw my attention for some reason. Of the 2000, I've written exactly one minor blog "classic" that attracts a small but steady stream of readers, because it's the only scenic personal essay about an obscure location. It would get more hits if I added a few photos.

I'll be back later, I ought to feed Gina's cats before the tornadoes get here. It's 70 degrees. I walked to CVS for a few needed items, thought about continuing to the library, looked at the sky, & turned around.


Rosetta Reitz of Rosetta Records

A renaissance woman. Bookseller, publisher, columnist, historian, graphics designer, teacher, concert producer, friend to poets, author of a feminist essay,"The Liberation of the Yiddishe Mama."
Rosetta Reitz, Champion of Jazz Women, Dies at 84
By Douglas Martin
Published: November 14, 2008, New York Times

Rosetta Reitz, an ardent feminist who scavenged through the early history of jazz and the blues to resurrect the music of long-forgotten women and to create a record label dedicated to them, died on Nov. 1 in Manhattan. She was 84.

Ms. Reitz (pronounced rights) came by her interest in jazz through her husband and male friends, but as the feminist movement gathered steam in the 1960s, she noticed something was missing: the music’s women. So she started collecting old 78s of performers like the trumpeter Valaida Snow, the pianist-singer Georgia White and a bevy of blues singers who had faded from memory.

At the same time, she unearthed lost songs by more famous artists like Bessie Smith, Ida Cox and Ma Rainey.
Ms. Reitz started Rosetta Records in 1979 with $10,000 she had borrowed from friends. Her routine was to scout out lost music, usually through record collectors. She then supervised the remastering of records that were often severely damaged; researched and wrote detailed liner notes; and designed graphics and found period photographs for the album covers. She personally wrapped each order and took it to the post office for shipment. (Around a dozen stores later carried the Rosetta label.)

“In that decade of the 1920s, when jazz was really being formulated and changing from an entertainment music to an art form,” Ms. Reitz said in an interview with The New York Times in 1980, “these women were extraordinarily important and instrumental in accomplishing that.”
My Greenwich Village poetry mentor, Joel Oppenheimer, probably knew Rosetta before he converted to feminism, & probably didn't get along with her.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Rutgers 86 St. Joseph's 59

Look at that, an offensive blowout against a good program to start the season, & Coach Springer put 11 players in the game including five freshmen. Epiphanny Prince scored 26 points.

The Lady Scarlet Knights are rated 5th in the AP preseason poll, & they'll move up next week. Coach Stringer likes to test her teams early, so next weekend they head for the West Coast to play #9 California & #2 Stanford. It's fine if they defeat those teams now, but they have to beat them in March.

Prairie View A&M visits Rutgers on Dec. 11. They won't bring their renowned Marching Storm band, incredible drum line, & the gorgeous Black Foxes dance troupe, but if they have a pep band, that plus the cheerleaders would probably be worth the price of admission.

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Hillary for Senate

Oh for heaven's sake, the Clinton media machine (which includes New York media, which includes the NYT & network news organizations) is pushing Hillary for Secretary of State.

A big reason I voted for Obama earlier this year was to keep the Clintons out of the White House. Broadly, that includes the State Dept. No great personal animosity toward them. I was just generally sick of two dynastic political families, & specifically of the Clintons' attitude of entitlement. Hillary was Back To the Future.

Obama's adminstration will be loaded with Clinton allies; they have the experience on their resumes. The Clintons are represented in his inner circles.

We knew Hillary never considered the senate a "career" position. Neither did Barack. But he won the promotion.

The most grassroots aspect of her campaign was putting her campaign song up for a vote. The winner was "You & I" by Celine Dion:
You and I
Were meant to fly
Higher than the clouds
We’ll sail across the sky
So come with me
And you will feel
That we’re soaring
That we’re floating up so high
‘Cause you and I were meant to fly

Only a candidate without interest in music would leave the choice up to the American Idol hoi polloi. Hillary's My Space page lists American Idol as her favorite TV show. Her favorite music is Carly Simon, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, U2. The latter because she's met Bono. I imagined Barack's aides loading selections on his iPod, the candidate giving thumbs up or down. His songs changed depending on where he was campaigning. Hillary played the "Theme from Rocky" at rallies in Pennsylvania. Sly Stallone endorsed McCain. Which reminds me of what Kirk Douglas said to John Wayne when The Duke warned Kirk that he might ruin his image playing wusses like Vincent Van Gogh: "We're not really cowboys, John."

John Kerry, also floated for SoS, lists Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and U2. He's met Bono.

Defeated presidential candidates do go back to the senate, a bit humbled perhaps, & serve honorably & effectively.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shaken or stirred?

Newton police seek shoplifter who hid vodka in his pants

Newton police are seeking the public's help in locating a shoplifter who took vodka from a local liquor store.Surveillance cameras at the Newton ShopRite recorded the suspect taking several bottles of Stolichnaya Vodka Elite off the shelf Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and concealing them by sliding them down the front of his pants, police said. He then walked out of the Water Street store without paying for the items, according to police. The vodka was valued at more than $200, police added.

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Polyester Tuxedo

I was looking through the envelope of smaller flyers Haband sends me every few weeks, eazy snap stretch shirts & velcro fastener shoes & gadgets you see at a garage sales but never buy because they don't have batteries in them. Anything I like I save & use as a bookmark. There was a burgundy imitation velour sports coat, $49.99, alright but not as nice as the watermelon you won't believe it's not linen blazer they had during the summer. & a polyester tuxedo for $69.99, shirt extra. Well, very cool indeed. Then I remembered that everyone I ever knew who had worked for a caterer had owned a cheap tuxedo, & a variety of "formal" costumes, & those could be purchased from restaurant supply stores & places that sell uniforms for many occupations. They had to be inexpensive because accidents happen when you're carrying trays of greasy finger foods around backyards or serving cherries jubilee to drunks who grab at your ass. One friend with a drawer full of bow ties & cummerbunds in assorted colors gave me a black bow for a reception I attended where I wanted to resemble the little man on top of the wedding cake. "I don't even buy them," she said. "I pick them up off the tables when we clean up." Haband is merely passing off a waiter or bartender uniform as the real deal.
Emptying the closet last week so the plumber get in there to replace a pipe in the wall, I discovered an L.L. Bean jacket I'd forgotten about. It's a variation on a style Bean always sells called "Nor'easter." Many pockets, light insulation, zipper, snaps, pull strings, & a tuck-a-way hood. They're usually pricey. My art teacher gave it to me. I've gotten a few good things from him, being selective because he has no interest in clothes. I think his wife, an impeccable middle management dresser, tells him to get rid of stuff. She probably bought the jacket for him. This jacket looks old, but it's only in Act Two for a Bean coat. In Act One, a Bean jacket hangs in the coat closet near the front door. Act Two is a hook on the wall by the back door. Act Three you crumple it up & toss it in the trunk of the car. Sometimes there's an Act Four when it ends up covering the lawnmower during winter. They're rarely seen even in suburban rummage shops. I'd never worn it, so I took it out for test walk to decide if it was worth running through a washing machine. A washing machine can kill an old jacket. It was very comfortable, loose enough so I can wear a hoodie under it on colder days, which would make it good down to freezing temps. Presentable enough.

Last year I was wondering if I could get through another winter with my current two heavy jackets, both old, favorite is waist length, exterior o.k. but the lining in shreds. So I compared jackets at a WFMU staff meeting & was astonished at the rags some of them wore. My old coats were fine.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More serious than a hate crime

KKK literature on Long Island.
Suffolk County police are investigating this at a time when its Hate Crimes Unit is busy on several other cases, including one in Mastic, where dozens of cars were discovered with painted on death threats against President-elect Barack Obama.

"It's something that, you know, we don't tolerate in Suffolk County," Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said.

The car cases have the attention of the U.S. Secret Service. To get a handle on the hate crimes across Suffolk County, police are calling on everyone to help to get these cases solved.
Commissioner Dormer is putting it mildly. These kinds of incidents are occurring across the country. I hope that some very stupid racist people learn very quickly, & for all to see, that the Secret Service takes death threats to the President-elect of United States seriously even though he's not yet president & even if those threats are spray-painted on cars by cowardly adolescents. To the Secret Service, there are cranks, but there's no pranks. This is not the kind of petty malicious destruction of property the Municipal Court handles. The "hate crime" aspect might be the plea bargain offer when the prosecutor starts talking about Federal charges & hard time.


The 25 cent strategy to end world hunger

I need to read some books on ending world hunger. Josette Sheeran, the Executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme was on Letterman about a month ago. I don't care for Josette Sheeran, she was foisted on the WFP by the Bush administration & has some pretty dubious past associations. Her tenure at the agency may be short after Jan 20. But she gave a jaw-dropping, attainable figure for ending world starvation; that is, the cost of putting every starving & at-risk hungry human on a sustenance diet, which is what has to be accomplished before those people can turn their attention to anything else. I don't recall the number, but $50 billion per year is a ballpark figure according to other organizations. A few say it can take less. That's not the price tag to the United States, but a cost shared by the entire world. The whole freakin' world.

It makes me ask, "Why the hell don't we just do it?'

Sheeran begs us for small donations - "Just 25 cents a day or 50 US Dollars a year." That's how the good kids from St. Genevieve's restock the local church food pantry. With them, I can donate $5, or a bag of canned goods, & they'll come over & pick up a frozen turkey if I call & make an appointment. Think bigger, Josette. "The agency relies entirely on voluntary contributions." Well, it's an absurd, unreliable way to end world hunger.

We're throwing mind-boggling numbers around for various economic bail-outs, & we don't even know what the money will accomplish. More pedicure retreats for CEOs? Keeping SUV assembly lines rolling? But we won't, in concert with other developed nations, put a cup of some yucky nutritional porridge & maybe a couple of "BP-5 High Energy Biscuits" in the hands of everyone who needs it to keep from starving to death. Could we sprinkle some vaccines into the mix, too? There's an organization working on providing every child in the third world with an inedible wireless laptop. For heaven's sake, let's give them a snack, too.

Dear Josette Sheeran: With all your connections, all the boards of directors you've sat on, all the diplomats & global corporate wheeler-dealers & war profiteers & think tank geniuses you know, with the resources of the U.N., can you somehow pull together $12.5 billion & give it a test try in 2009 with 1/4th the starving people to see if it's possible?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Armistice Day

Every day walking to school I passed a remarkable statue in the small park at the corner. Later I learned it was called "Spirit of the American Doughboy," by sculptor E.M. Viquesney, & that there might be as many as 200 of them scattered across America, purchased & erected after World World One. The design was so popular that metal & plaster statuette reproductions were manufactured (the pictured 6" model was restored by Charlie Burdick), including lamp & candle holder versions

Eventually I realized this soldier on top of the granite monument in the park wasn't some happy-go-lucky guy singing "Mademoiselle from Armentières." He has a rifle with bayonet affixed, a hand grenade in his raised right hand (has he pulled the pin?), & in the best preserved statues he's stepping through some nasty barbed wire, a small piece of a deadly no man's land. I wondered if when veterans looked at him, they weren't seeing themselves, but their friends & comrades who died.

There were still doughboy vets in town, proudly showing up for Memorial Day & Veterans Day (Armistice Day) ceremonies in their quaint wide-brimmed campaign hats, but they had been unintentionally pushed into the background by younger WWII vets, who vastly outnumbered them. We had a five-star general as President of the United States, then a younger hero naval officer. Local American Legion & V.F.W. halls were popular social clubs, with busy cash bars & even printed menus & paid cooks in the kitchens. It was an era of veteran visibility & power.

Vietnam changed the climate for vets, as must happen with a controversial war, & soldiers doing their one year stints & coming home individually & alone. The incidents of returning soldiers being spat upon & called "baby killers" are definitely overstated, although certainly they happened. What I mostly saw were apathy & indifference across the spectrum, by those supporting the war as well as those opposing it. Draftees know they are the expendables of war, but during Vietnam our government didn't even bother to pretend they weren't expendable.

Government tries to hide the true costs of war in blood, spirit, & money. Morale drops as the costs become known & yet war drags on. The costs of the Civil War & WWII were evident to everyone by the final years of those wars. Wars are profitable. Vietnam convinced me that wars could be prolonged to make them more profitable, & Iraq reminds that some wars are planned & waged for profit, as bloody business ventures, whatever other rationales are used, legitimate or not. So-called "preemptive" wars are best for this purpose. With a long occupation, rebuilding the occupied nation's infrastructures, & possibly looting its resources.

Now we have a "volunteer" military. Does this make it easier to hide the costs, since no one is drafted into the military against his or her will, & a spirit of shared sacrifice on the home front discouraged? Just avert your eyes & keep shopping. Not over the longer run. Iraq & Afghanistan are creating a generation of kick-ass veterans. Their bond with America is of the heart. But their relationships with the military services are contractual. These vets - if they are not already friends & neighbors from National Guard service - are finding each other & getting organized now. At least we have not made symbols of them for or against policy. They are not the policymakers. We properly see them as dutifully & honorably serving their nation. They will renew the veterans movements, which will also help our aging Vietnam vets. Perhaps they will also help restore a broader, less partisan patriotism to this country.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Curious trash pile up the street, too dark to poke through it. I plucked off the top a small VTech Lesson One electronic learning toy from about 1980, looks like a little keyboard computer. I won't invest 6 C batteries in it, but if one of my 9V adapters fits, I'll see if the little view screen & speaker do anything. Google doesn't find much, so it isn't a collector's novelty. The Hong Kong company is still in business, turning a profit by staying one step behind innovation. VTech did manufacture a true collectible, the Laser 128, the only legal knockoff of the Apple IIc.
Cold water in the bathroom was turned off for four days while a long section of pipe was replaced. To access the pipe on this floor, the plumber knocked a big hole through the wall inside the clothes closet, & I'm grateful he wasted no time repairing the wall on Sunday considering what crawls around in there. The lack of cold water coincided with the hot water turned back up to proper temp, which made showering difficult. I had to jump under the shower before the full stream of hot water came up from the basement & escape before I was lobsterized. Today's extra-long steamy shower felt good.
Nurse in Times Square war photo reunites with Navy

NEW YORK – A 90-year-old who says she's the woman being kissed by a sailor in Times Square in one of World War II's most famous photographs reunited in town with the Navy on Sunday — days before she is to serve as grand marshal of the city's Veterans Day parade.

His picture from V-J Day became one of the 20th century's most iconic images. But Eisenstaedt didn't get the names of either party, and efforts years later by Life to identify them produced a number of claimants, says Bobbi Baker Burrows, a Life editor with deep knowledge of the subject.
Cute. There's absolutely no evidence that she's the woman in the famous kissing photo. But if she proved she was a nurse in New York on V-J Day, she's as good a choice as anyone.
While we're still angry at Mormons for pouring millions of dollars into the campaign to pass Prop 8:
NEW YORK – Holocaust survivors said Monday they are through trying to negotiate with the Mormon church over posthumous baptisms of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps, saying the church has repeatedly violated a 13-year-old agreement barring the practice.

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say they are making changes to their massive genealogical database to make it more difficult for names of Holocaust victims to be entered for posthumous baptism by proxy, a rite that has been a common Mormon practice for more than a century.
Of course, even voluntary conversion to the Latter Day Saints wouldn't have saved Jews from the death camps. Bizarrely, Adolph Hitler also received a posthumous proxy baptism.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

blues pinks grays

As I've marveled at the map of a country that elected Barack Obama, I've also enjoyed an election map of New Jersey, a state that gave Obama a resounding win. The Star-Ledger published a map of the presidential results in every town in Jersey. The towns aren't labeled. There are three shades of red for McCain, deepest being more than a 25% plurality, lightest is pink, three for blue, & gray where less than 5% separated the candidates, which the map treats as a "tie."

What jumps out immediately is the diagonal blue belt of the Route One Corridor stretching across Mercer & Middlesex Counties, spreading outward. Ocean, Monmouth, & northwest Jersey are shades of red. Atlantic County is now mostly blue. Burlington didn't deliver a single deep red McCain town.

Obama carried only four small Cape May towns; Wildwood, West Cape May, Cape May Point (the lovely village with the lighthouse), & Woodbine. But much of Cape May is single digit McCain. The Repug county chairman down there not only gloated, he mocked the "youth vote." I say to Mr. Von Savage, if Barack had stopped there for two hours in August & had a rally in Cape May Courthouse, you might not be so smug. Plus, the Democratic county organization State Senator Jeff Van Drew tried to build in the 1990's, & which had some success back then, fell into apathy. Democrats in Cape May missed a great opportunity this year. Why am I obsessed with Cape May, which has small political importance in Jersey? It's our southernmost county, has our only southern-flavor city, & was one of the birthplaces of the religious political right movement. There were some scary people in Cape May County when I was a kid. But Cape May now is where environmentalism & preservation of a quality of life blend liberal & conservative.

The map would have been bluer, with more grays & lights pinks if Obama had needed to build a ground game here like the ones in PA & VA. Our electoral votes were in the bag. He carried the state 57% to 42%. Nobody bothered to campaign here. Not even Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who is hardly beloved but does his job. Democrats had hoped to flip three congress seats, got only one & that was in the Philadelphia media market. The poor showings in the other two districts were at least partly due to Obama enthusiasm flowing elsewhere. Many Dem party volunteers packed up & worked in other states.

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Ocean City NJ

This postcard was sent less than three months before I was born.
I may have been brought to the Ocean City NJ boardwalk the next summer.
My mother wasn't completely certain.
She said she had her hands full & they may have waited another year.
I was imprinted with a lively but polite boardwalk that had
no nightclubs, large amusement rides, or games, & only a couple of arcades.
It was a leisurely place, good for for strollers & parents with strollers.
& had little to frighten a baby.
Fitting, my birthday is this week.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

the doorbell rings

At Gina's tonight watching Keith O after feeding the cats, the doorbell rang. This was unique in my experiences there. At the door were three neighborbood girls, the oldest maybe 13. They had come to see the kitten, or kittens, I wasn't sure. They explained that they had given Gina four kittens. Gina found homes for three & kept one, but I didn't know if she had told the girls yet, so I dodged it. They know I'm the cat guy, I'm over there almost every weekend for a little while, sometimes I sit on the steps in front of the house & read the newspaper while the cats eat. It's a dead end street & the kids play in it.

The kitten was peeking out the door. I handed it to the girls, they passed it around. I said it didn't have a name yet, & Gina expected it to choose its own name, & the oldest girl said seriously, "Yes, sometimes they do that." Don't ask me to explain how this happens, but it does. Apparently satisfied that this kitten was doing fine, they took their leave. "Come back Sunday & get the official report," I said. Nice kids.
Craig Ferguson: You voted for Barack Obama? Why?
George W. Bush: McCain would just give us 8 more years of Cheney's failed policies.
Craig Ferguson: You can't leave now. You're president until January 20th, read a copy of the Constitution.
George W. Bush: Cheney ripped them all up.
Getting back to normal here. I had 12 times my average pageloads on Tuesday - the rise began on Sunday - because Google was finding a blog post from over a year ago that mentioned the electoral college & contained a graphic. Happened twice before with posts about a giant extinct scorpion & a count the yoyos word contest on TV.

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the freeing agent of thought

Maybe I'm just not a smart searcher. Is it possible to find complete election results online for towns in Jersey? Not only the local contest summaries but the presidential & senate tallies, too.

Proposition 8: A heartbreaking setback for civil rights in California. It would have passed here in Jersey, too. One step forward, one-half step back. I predict that Californians will repeal this noxious amendment, & it won't be long. Time & youth will quickly erase the slim 3% point margin.
The reason I say Californians' setback is temporary is that women are going to watch Erica Kane plan a wedding for her angelic daughter, whose beautiful girlfriend is sweet and warm, and women all over the place LOVE A FREAKING WEDDING. There will be resistance, then women will say things like, "I'm not sure it should be legal, but wasn't that beautiful? I cried my eyes out!" Then a whole lot of women will make one truly crucial recognition: they have gay friends and relatives who might really like to hire a band and polka in public. All gay marriage will mean to most women is the possibility of more weddings, more cake, more dancing, more flowers, more love, more babies to adore, more of what makes life good.
As poet William Carlos Williams wrote: "the local is the freeing agent of all thought."

I looked at the county election map to see how Obama won Virginia, & there were a few surprises. Obama's rally in Lynchburg last summer apparently helped. But I can't say I'm "proud" of Virginia, because this year is second time that state has given a black man a statewide majority. New Jersey did it for first time.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

the party never ends

Sarah Palin: One defense of her. She was selected to fire up certain parts of the Repug base, & she did, & the reason she did is because she's from those parts. The white Repug underclass has never had one of their own on the ticket. So why are McCain's staffers kicking her around for being an indifferently-educated, born again hockey mom who isn't rich & craves a closet filled with expensive clothes like the flush Repug women? Didn't they look at her resume? .

Hopefully, we get to forget about this whackjob for a little while, unless she manipulates herself into Ted Steven's senate seat. Heck, four years in the senate she'll be as smart as Barack, right? She's not smart enough to understand that she needs to go back to school & study very diligently if she wants to come back to the lower 48. Rove invested years working on George W. Bush; even so he couldn't do much with W's inability to string together a coherent sentence away from a teleprompter, a problem Sarah also has. But Bush osmosed a certain amount of factual knowledge just by being a Bush, & by attending good schools. He's sure the world isn't flat. I think he's sure. & when she does return, please, will the "reputable" journalistic media give us a closer look at the Rasputin she has for a husband? Most of the mainstream media info I got on him was lightweight crap from Entertainment Tonight, which adores the Palin clan because, unlike the McCain, Obama, & Biden families, the Palins are a bunch of geeks from Nowheresville so hungry for the celebrity & wealth they see on TV that they've probably hired an agent & are trying to get booked on to Family Feud. Sarah also has competition from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who doesn't have a personality like nails scraping a blackboard, & exotic Hindu-Catholic-Evangelical Louisiana Gov. Piyush "Bobby" Jindal. Bobby thinks Barack signifies a trend, & he wants in on it, so he's headed to Iowa next month.

Sen. Joe Lieberman: What do you do with a traitor? Joe gambled on a cabinet post in a McCain administration & he lost. He's served his purpose for the Repugs, & although they'd love to keep using him as a national security showpiece, Joe would have no pull in their caucus if he switched sides of the aisle. Democrats should ignore him. Take his committee jobs away & let him sulk on a back bench.

This graphic courtesy MY DD based on population provides a very good picture of how Obama's victory was achieved, & how groupings of blue states equal or outweigh red states. The goal isn't to win the most geography. Corn, cattle, cactus, & coyotes don't vote. Should also remind Jerseyans that we deserve even more pork & earmarks than we currently receive.

Linda Stender lost her bid for Jersey's 07 congress seat. Bush ideologue Rep. Mike Ferguson, smelling de feet by Linda, declined to run again. Linda found herself facing State Senator Leonard Lance, the kind of genial old-school Repug the horse country part of the district has long favored. Linda couldn't get traction on solid suburban issues like choice, education, the environment, & Bush's fiscal madness. Too bad. Ferguson's parents bought him the seat in 2000, he went to congress as one of Tom DeLay's boys, & he thought the party would never end. Lance is an improvement.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A fortunate nation

A year ago it seemed the most necessary but most unlikely of outcomes: A Democratic presidential win so large & broad that it could not be stolen or its meaning denied. It had to be a national repudiation of Bush/Cheney. No matter who the Republicans put up as their candidate.

Barack Obama did it.

Three of the four previous elections gave us presidents with less than 50% of the popular vote. After 2004 I feared for the future of national elections in America. A coalition of radicals had set a trap for the Democratic Party, & Democrats had walked into it. A red state / blue state trap, a divide & conquer split of the American electorate. They had constructed an electoral strategy that they hoped would guarantee a permanent Republican White House. It was a strategy that wrote off huge sections of America as electorally inconsequential, & that reduced presidential elections to a few battleground states they could steal if they couldn't win them legitimately.

With the help of the Bush/Cheney administration, which failed in so many ways that it could not anoint a successor, Barack Obama & the American people turned back that terrible scenario.

Obama carried Florida & Ohio. He would have won without them.

Obama won Virginia. He won Iowa & Indiana. He decisively won New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada. Amazingly, he'll probably take North Carolina, & the horrid Liddy Dole was defeated, a one term nightmare. He rolled across Pennsylvania & New Hampshire. John Sununu is gone. He may yet carry Missouri. He ran close in Montana. He had respectable percentages in many states that will always be red on the map.

Obama will have a popular vote majority of about 7 million.

It is not a landslide. It didn't need to be that kind of victory. What Obama accomplished was more important: He changed the electoral map. He promised change, & he delivered change on Election Day. He turned states blue that Republicans had dreamed of owning forever. Yes, some of those states will be red again. But to win some of them back, Republicans will have to change.

Barack Obama is multiracial man with dark skin. That is the greatest change of all. This may be the most admirable of all our presidential elections.

This election was not stolen or manipulated. It was fully legitimate. If you feel bitter in defeat, place the blame where it belongs: Not on John McCain, who probably never had a chance & in any case was forced out of his best game, but on George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld; on the discredited, shameful, now defeated congressional leadership of avaricious men like Tom DeLay; on the neocon ideologues & religious fanatics; on the corporate thieves & K Street lobbyists. They took the Grand Old Party & broke it. They did more than divide America: they sliced & diced us, raised up demons old & new. They appealed to the worst in America. They even trashed the legacy given them by Ronald Reagan.

Obama won not by dividing America with fear, but by appealing to American unity & moderation. In a bleak time he offers a hopeful vision. He turned away attempts to divide him into his parts & make him less than a whole person. His ability to remain an integral human being throughout the campaign is evidence of his good character, mirroring what we want to believe about America. He convinced a majority of voters that unity & hope are not radical messages. Obama is an expression of our better angels.
I learn that this body is composed of a majority of gentlemen who, in the exercise of their best judgment in the choice of a Chief Magistrate, did not think I was the man. I understand, nevertheless, that they came forward here to greet me as the constitutional President of the United States -- as citizens of the United States, to meet the man who, for the time being, is the representative man of the nation, united by a purpose to perpetuate the Union and liberties of the people. As such, I accept this reception more gratefully than I could do did I believe it was tendered to me as an individual.
President-elect Abraham Lincoln, Address to The New Jersey State Senate, February 21, 1861

The new President-elect is bringing that spirit with him. Like Lincoln he is a smart but not cynical politician from Illinois. He thinks for himself. He is no one's puppet. He will choose his counselors well. He will govern from as near the center as he feels necessary. We don't know if Barack Obama will be what we hope for him & for ourselves. But today we are a very fortunate nation.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President-elect Barack Hussein Obama

Yes we did. Yes he did.


I sailed though my ward district voting place late afternoon, no waiting, & when I finished voting the elderly gent running the machine said, as he always does, "Have a blessed day." Is he allowed to say that? I said, "You, too, sir." There was a line out the door across the hall for the other district. No people holding signs on the street corners, they were either done for the day or the county Democratic street money was going where it was really useful. I wished I could've voted for Linda Stender, she needs it. My congressman is unopposed.

It being a pleasant evening, & election returns & online chat later, & Gina's cats fed, I walked on to the supermarket to get a few items I forgot the other day. There I had a very brief encounter that reminded me some people are nuts & there's nothing you can do about it. I was showered, shaved, hair cut. wearing a neat, unwrinkled conservative print shirt with a button down collar. In that guise I move about nearly invisible to others. After a fast no browsing trip through the store I had a little basket with the bottle of tomato juice, the frozen Brussels Sprouts, the strawberry yogurts, & two cans of vegetable soup I was pretty sure were on sale but were the only flavor on the shelf for the brand without a sale tag. At one of the checkout lines, a young woman was waiting with half-filled rolling basket & sales flyer in the kiddy seat, looking at a magazine from the nearby rack. So I asked politely, "Could I have a quick look at your sales flyer?" 99 of 100 people would nod & say, "Sure" & go back to the magazine. She was the 100th.

She got this horribly alarmed expression on her face, panicky, as if I had on a ski mask & was smashing through her front door with an axe, & began babbling, "Oh no, oh no, there are flyers over there by the door, go over there." The entry door with the flyers outside was way on the other end of the store. I said, "Alright, alright," slowly backed away, went to an empty checkout line, the cashier smiled & said hello, I gave her my discount card & asked, "Could you ring up the soup first, I want to make sure it's on sale." She said OK, & it was it on sale. Some people are nuts & there's nothing you can do about it.

You voted for a nigger for president?

I know it's a horrible racist title for post, today or any day. But read on.

If I could travel in a time machine back to Roselle Park NJ in the early Sixties, my home town, a small town little more than a mile from here, & convinced people, neighbors, family, I really was from the future, that would be their reaction, & the word they would use (colored if they were being polite).

Oh, we were taught manners, & applied them as required. But we knew no African-Americans - a phrase not even in use then, negro was standard. & negro slid so easily into nigger among the whites of Roselle Park. The entire town was white. We weren't southern rednecks; we didn't have the balls to stand up to blacks & say what we really felt about civil rights, integration, Dr. King.

I still know a few people who won't vote for Barack Obama because he's a nigger. They'd never admit it. One of them, I think, even voted for Al Gore.

Inside me there's a 16 year old boy, & the Sixties have become The Beatles, The Stones, Motown, electric Dylan; the "I Have Have Dream" speech is in the past, the Voting Rights Act has been passed; & that teenager's mind has been turned & changed, he's still conservative in many ways, but he knows what racism is, & he no longer wants to be racist, & he no longer uses or wants to hear the word nigger. That kid comes with me to the voting booth. I don't vote for Barack Obama because he's black. But he makes my vote feel all the sweeter to cast. I cast it against the ugliness I remember, & for the future Dr. King & others showed me long ago.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

It's almost over

There were long stretches when I wished it would go away, weeks of nothing but sideshows. Why do we put our candidates through this? Why do we put ourselves through it?

After I voted in the primary - a thrilling experience - I became a passive observer. Tomorrow I vote for the 4th time this year. I will not have to wait on line four hours, although I hope it'll be the busiest turnout I've seen when voting at the grammar school on Magie Ave. A blue city in a blue congressional district, the only sense of urgency about elections here are in the local primaries, when the faux Democrats run candidates.

Way back in July 2007 I wrote:
Although Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama could conceivably win popular vote majorities, I challenge anyone to go to 270toWin & put together electoral majorities for them against a Rove-driven campaign focused on the spectres of dark-skinned immigrant hordes, suicide bombers, & Iranian nukes.
I sure underestimated Barack Obama's chances. I think we'll know tomorrow night. But he was unknown, untested, & the driving issues looked to be different then. Six months later, with people getting very anxious about the economy (Wall Street & the White House still in denial) anyone could map narrow victories for both Barack & Hillary. The road was opening.

High points: Choosing between a black man & white woman in the primary, & voting tomorrow.

Biggest fear: That came early, when Giuliani looked like a threat. I couldn't adequately express how much that man freaked me out.

Biggest shock: John McCain picking Sarah Palin. When a conservative friend, a libertarian type, went instantly gaga for her, it was the first time in three decades I'd ever thought of him as stupid rather than just wrong-headed. I wonder how he feels now?

What made me like Barack Obama after I voted for him: How he handled the Rev. Wright controversy. How he managed his primary end game. The professional stagecraft of the Convention with its themes of reconciliation & unity, the Biden VP pick, leading up to the stadium speech, & Stevie Wonder, the perfect weather, very good television. Staying on a populist message for the general campaign. His strategy to contest red states, which I hope pays off,

Sad timing: Obama's grandmother dying on election eve.

Very briefly watched Lou Dobbs tonight, it was like a show from six months ago. That was a big problem with Repugs generally; a rotating list of sideshow issues.

Most surprising desertion from Repugs: Denny Crane "crossed the aisle."


Sunday, November 02, 2008

About a year since I rode my little bike. The tires were flat, it was dusty. My tire pump was broke. I borrowed a pump, inflated the tires, dusted it off, oiled it up, carried it downstairs & set out for downtown Elmora at a good clip. Chilly & windy. About 1/3rd of the way I concluded it wasn't going to happen this afternoon, & I stopped, turned around, & rolled it back, riding only the last block. No matter how much walking you do, you aren't using what you use on bike. Other times I laid off the bike for long periods, I had the good sense to not just get back on it expecting to go on errands, which why I have it. I'd ride slowly, get off & walk if my legs felt stressed, take it up to the park around the corner. At a slow pace, riding my little bike isn't much more strenuous than walking. But it's different than walking.
Gina kept one of the four kittens she was care-taking. No name yet, it will in some way name itself. It is cute & rambunctious, climbed most of the way up my leg when I was popping tops on the cans - they learn that noise early. Plays with my shoelaces, bats crumpled paper around, stops & stares at the TV, & is upsetting the complacent routines of the other cats in the house, which is a good change for them. They hiss it away if they must. It's also an affectionate, purring critter, already drawn to warm laps. Unlike the previous kitten, now 2 1/2 years old, that is friendly & likes good, hard scritching but will not be held except on protest. I have to watch where I step, & be very careful when I enter & leave. The other cats pretend they're interested in what's outside, but given the brief opportunity to make a dash for it they never do. Three of them had been homeless.

There are cat people & there are cat people. The worst are the crazies with 30 or 100 cats running around, & eventually the neighbors complain about the stink, & the SPCA comes, & Hazmat has to detox the house or condemn it. Then there are the obsessives, they only need two or three cats, but might have more, & the psychological atmosphere is very thick with anthropomorphism. The sane relationship is to appreciate cats as cats - this means you acknowledge the lion & tiger in them for better & worse, treat them as roughly equal housemates but with rules. There have to be some rules. Of course, humans have rules, too. We all have to use our proper poop places. You let them live their lives as cats; they're complex, individual creatures in their feline ways. They don't know we're "humans." I'm pretty sure they know we're not cats. I move into their territory easily when Gina's away. I announce my arrival the same way every visit. I don't see myself as the substitute boss; I'm the necessary guest. I'm aware that two of her cats have forms of cat PTSD & were rescued. One is friendly but keeps to itself. Another is affectionate but is troubled by loud noises & unexpected movements, a cat that's been kicked around, so I don't stay in the kitchen when it eats, & if I'm moving toward it I'll say quietly, "Just passing by, Fred," & that seems to be all he wants, a little advance reassurance.

Wish I had something original to say about cats, I could write a cat book, they always sell.

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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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