Saturday, January 31, 2009

She lives in a shoe

The receptionist, fiftyish & attractive, was showing a lot of cleavage. Maybe a little too much for the location. I really tried conversing entirely with her face. The thought kept intruding, You're looking at them again. Not looking at them required as much concentration as the conversation. I could look at them & pay attention to what she was saying. She had a nice face. I appreciated all of her that I could see.

But at the same time, in a gray, icy winter, I felt justified in enjoying the sight of an attractive, middle-aged woman. & since I'd met her a number of times, I knew that she always dressed with style, on other occasions she was wearing a colorful scarf. Some receptionists try to be blandly uninteresting, some do not. She's also friendly & talkative. I learned that she was about to start an evening school course & would take a bus there.
I'll tune in for Springsteen's halftime show & maybe stick around if the game is close. After the Janet Jackson incident the NFL has gone with graybeards. I don't think anything can top the 2001 "Walk This Way" with Aerosmith, Britney, N'Sync. Nelly, mary J. That circus had something for everybody.
Last night, Dave Letterman showed the infamous censored Bill Hicks routine from Oct 1993 that was cut out of the program. Only the first part, the "Let's find Billy Ray Cyrus & kill him Show," was pure Hicks, (one could also imagine Sam Kinnison doing it). Were reality shows around then? It was too late to prevent Miley, she was a year old. It was an edgy routine for a mainstream late night talk show of that day or this. Dave says he wasn't aware of Hicks' terminal cancer. Hicks died four months later. Hicks had appeared 11 times on Letterman's earlier NBC show with expurgated material. Hicks' elderly mom was the guest for the segment, nervous, but warmed up & got in a few dry zingers.
The California octuplets: An ethical problem for the doctors, but questionable morality for the woman, who already had six children. The fertility industry - that's what it is - is immensely profitable. These are probably not doctors just returned from Rwanda. Desperate people come to them; people with no children who dream of having one baby. This Californian woman needed to be investigated by the Div. of Child & Family Services before an in vitro procedure that could result in multiple births. There's a dangerous, obsessive psychology involved with a woman who is willing to risk her own health & the economic & emotional well-being of her family to have more babies just because she can't or won't do it naturally & she happens to have some leftover frozen embryos in the fridge.

She already has an autistic son. & there's this weirdness:
Nadya Suleman holds a 2006 degree in child and adolescent development from California State University, Fullerton, and as late as last spring she was studying for a master's degree in counseling, college spokeswoman Paula Selleck told the Press-Telegram.
Is she rich? Who was caring for the children while she was in class?


Friday, January 30, 2009

Best Friends Forever

NORTH BERGEN, N.J. (AP) — Three women in New Jersey are accused of abandoning a former friend in the woods in 8-degree weather even though she was wearing just a dress and one shoe. North Bergen police say the victim suffered serious frostbite on both feet and may need surgery.

Twenty-two-year-old Maria Contreras-Luciano, 20-year-old Amber Crespo and 21-year-old Dyanne Velasquez face kidnapping, assault and conspiracy charges.

Police say the three were angry that the 19-year-old woman sued a company owned by one of the women.

During the woman's ordeal in a wooded area near the Hudson River, a motorist let her use a cell phone, but refused to give her a ride. Another motorist took her to a hospital and she reported the incident four days later.

There's more to the story. But this is what happens when three nasty, not-very-smart young women act on their stupid fantasies. The cousin of one of the accused has been on the radio rationalizing the matter, as if the act would be excusable if only we were aware of the true causes & motives, like maybe it was about a guy rather than an insurance claim, or the victim is a vindictive type, or that she waited four days to report the incident, or whaddevah.

Sorry, girl, but it doesn't work that way. It's unlikely that a jury is going to care why the young woman was tricked into going for a ride & then abandoned on a deserted road at night where she was minutes from full hypothermia & dying. If she didn't choose to get out of that car in 8 degree weather without a coat, the prosecutor has a pretty good case on the assault charges. That's probably probation. But if one of the alleged kidnappers testifies against the other two (very good chance of that, if they'd do it the victim, they'd do it to each other), the prosecution could get the conspiracy & kidnapping convictions, too. & that feels like jail time. The four day delay could be explained several ways, not least that it took the victim awhile to grasp how much more serious it was than a mean-spirited prank by some former BFF. It went to the edge of tragedy. In other words, it isn't the victim with the legal problems. She has frostbite. Her family will be retaining a lawyer for the civil suit.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

You are getting sleepy

I need to check in with my shrink - something I ought to do at least every other month. He invested a good deal of time in me when I was one of his acute cases. I tend to cancel scheduled appts because of bad weather. The best day to see the shrink as a "walk in" is Thursday. But I've been breaking an Ambien dependency & I'd rather not discuss it with him when he's the guy who prescribes it. I used to use it judiciously, & my regular dose was usually a half tablet combined with a Tylenol PM. Then I got to relying on it every night, to sleep when I wasn't sleepy, & to put me asleep quickly when I was sleepy. It wears off after a couple hours, but I wasn't interested in the time release version acting on my system for 8 hours. I really don't mind when fire engines passing by wake me up. I don't want Ambien on my shelf just yet. My sleeping hours are still discombobulated - have been for a month - last night I snoozed off around 9, lights on, radio on, window open too wide, woke up tired & cold at 5 am, shut off the lights, radio & PC, closed the window, put on jammies & went back to bed until 7.

A dependency isn't an addiction. There's no withdrawal, the body doesn't cry out for a fix. You don't panic, you just get annoyed that you have to stay away from something & wait until some kind of balance is restored. If you habitually eat Oreos before bed every night for a few months, you'll be dependent on those, & the solution is stop buying Oreos, maybe initially switch to tasteless house brand oatmeals.

I'll have Ambien back next to the aspirin & Tylenol PM. But I need to be able to look at it say, "Don't want you tonight." Which is how I originally dealt with it.

I took myself off Zoloft without consulting with the shrink. It hadn't kept me out of the hospital. Those drugs can make it difficult to keep track of one's mental states, the ups & downs, which is what my therapist had been trying to teach me for several years. I became dangerously depressed without fully feeling how depressed I really was. So I cut down the daily Zoloft dosages & slowly cleaned it outta my system. When the shrink asked why, I said, "I wanted back what remains of my libido, & not for sex." That seemed to make sense to him. I'd like Zoloft if it was like Ambien, an as-needed drug; it keeps little things from rattling you, makes shy people more sociable. But it doesn't make you more yourself; rather it changes emphasis in your personality, & that emphasis is toward agreeableness. After awhile I became disagreeable trying to resist the pacifying effect Zoloft had on me. It takes a month to get on it & a month to get off it, & I didn't like that at all.


All in a week's work

Rosa Brooks:
Barack Obama ended four wars during his first week as president. With just a few words and strokes of his pen, the president ended the war on terror, the war on Islam, the war on science and the war on women.
Obama's job is just beginning. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be far harder to end.

Still, not bad for a week's work.
Terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology, system, government, nation, or army. World War II wasn't a "War on Blitzkrieg." & we are not in a War on Islamic Fundamentalism. Islamic fundamentalists control Saudi Arabia & most of Iraq (Protestant fundamentalists - who have a lot in common with the Islamic varieties - control much of the American South & Midwest).
The solid Repug House vote against the stimulus package is a rebuke to Obama's bipartisan efforts, which look more like starry-eyed idealism than pragmatism. If the Repugs had been objecting on the basis of padding & insufficient oversight, or the sheer size of the animal, they'd have an argument to make. But it was once again all about tax cuts. But this Repug unity may not hold; I imagine that some reps were strong-armed into voting Nay. Because if Obama's popularity stays strong among moderate voters, there's a few Repugs in New York, New Jersey, PA, Ohio, Virginia, etc. gonna get increasingly anxious as they struggle even now to raise campaign money for 2010, & find themselves targeted for bludgeon-&-pummel treatment by the DNCC. The party in power automatically siphons off a lot of the big donor bucks - especially with the Democrats funneling billions to the private sector. You need inside pull, who you gonna call? Your Repug district rep? After Boehner took away all the rep's chips & no Democrat owes your rep diddlysquat? Boehner's from a rural district in western Ohio, & a case could be made that he hardly understood what happened in his own state in November. He had predicted the Repugs would gain seats in the House. I don't know if he abandoned that fantasy before or after Palin was nominated.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Family Dollar

Despite the rain & slush, & not bringing an umbrella, & wearing leaky sneakers, I enjoyed the browse at Family Dollar store. Really gave it a look. I came back with Palmolive dish detergent, a Mr. Clean scrub brush, paper towels, 3-pack of black crew socks, & orange juice (I'm careful about food in nonfood stores). Couldn't decide which cleaner would really blast the bathtub. I browsed the store with an open mind. Didn't care for the mop selection, cheap area rugs, bathtowels, & pillows.

The day is so miserable & ugly as to have a beauty about it. Elizabeth has a lot of ugliness anyway, so there was no gilding the drooping lily this afternoon.

Earlier, I ordered an inexpensive polyester fill comforter, burgundy, on sale. I sleep on a futon, on a hard mattress & a soft, folded down comforter covered with a sheet, & on top of those is the dingy old comforter that's been washed too often & not enough, & is the only item I have requiring a giant machine at a laundromat & a long tumble in an unpredictable dryer. Time to retire it. I'll wash it when I have the chance, & stow it in the closet.
Google Alert notified me that Redtelephone66 psych music blog had used my capsule review of The Hassles "Hour of the Wolf" LP. That's why I google alert my name; most of the alerts point to one of the many Rixons in Australia & ignore the "Bob" part. Maybe my ancestors included thieves, whores, & debtors transported down under. Cool.
Rutgers women got their first high quality win of the season last night, beating #17 Notre Dame 78-68 in South Bend before a crowd of 10,000. That place must have been rockin'. Rutgers fell out of the rankings this week, if they beat South Florida they'll climb back in. Still, doesn't look like anyone in Big East gonna touch UConn this year. Huskies could go the NCAA championship undefeated. They brushed Oklahoma aside & destroyed North Carolina. Besides being a great team, they caught a season when many traditionally strong programs are erratic or struggling. But Rutgers may be the only opponent capable of psyching out UConn, just by being Rutgers.

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A witless John List

LOS ANGELES — A man shot and killed his wife and five young children before taking his own life Tuesday, apparently out of despair after the couple lost their jobs at a hospital, the police and city officials said.

Officers responding to 911 calls placed by the man, Ervin A. Lupoe, and by a television station to which Mr. Lupoe had sent a fax around 8:30 a.m., found seven bodies in a house in Wilmington, a working-class neighborhood near the Port of Los Angeles.

A police spokesman said the bodies were identified as Mr. Lupoe; his wife, Ana; their 8-year-old daughter and two sets of twins (5-year-old girls and 2-year-old boys).

Mr. Lupoe had telephoned and sent a fax to KABC-TV that indicated “he was despondent over a job situation and he saw no reasonable way out,” said Lt. John Romero, a police spokesman.

The two-page, typewritten letter made clear he was going to kill his family and himself. The station quickly called 911 to report the letter and then posted it on the station Web site after the bodies were discovered.

Sorry, can't spin this one on the bad economy. Lupoe is a mass murderer, & the couple apparently were fired, not laid off. If it is possible to crack open the interior life of this family, it can almost be guaranteed that several facts will emerge: The family was insular, the husband was authoritarian, the wife subservient, the couple living well beyond their means & in deep debt, & the lifestyle (& happy family photo) was a facade for a seriously dysfunctional home. Maybe the only thing that separates this killer from monster John List is that he didn't have the evil wits to disappear & create a new identity for himself after he wasted his family. But it doesn't mean he didn't consider it before faxing the letter & blowing out his own brains.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Get ready for HD

The Senate Monday night approved unanimously a compromise bill (S.328) that would move the DTV transition date from Feb. 17 to June 12, but it must now be reconciled with a House version of the bill, and quickly, point out backers of the legislation.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and the bill's co-sponsor, sought a similar vote on his original bill, which would simply have moved the date from Feb. 17 to June 12. That bill was blocked by at least one Republican, which is all it takes.

Rockefeller then teamed with ranking Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison on a compromise bill that dealt with other issues, including unclogging the DTV-to-analog converter box backlog and access to reclaimed analog TV spectrum by industry and first responders. Most importantly, at least in terms of getting Republican support, the bill is revenue-neutral, meaning the cost of making the move will be underwritten by future FCC spectrum auctions.
Postponement is good idea, & if the Repugs knocked out millions in additional consumer education money, that was a good idea, too. Everybody knows what's gonna happen. They ought to extend the expiration dates for the $40 discount cards. The main problem is availability of converters. Some are better than others, & as reviews were posted at various retail websites the good ones sold out - all $50-$70, & Amazon isn't even posting "more on the way" notices like it does for other stuff. Shoprite had a quality converter on sale this week & the item either sold out Sunday or the store never received the shipment at all - customer service was clueless.



Dr. Zoloft: Do you have family?
Client: Yes.
Dr. Z: Do you ever see them?
Client: No.
Dr. Z: Why?
Client: Family is the people who will donate my body to the med school & put all my writing on the curb in plastic garbage bags.
Dr. Z: So they're relatives?
Client: Not necessarily. Depends on who does the job.
Dr. Z: When did you get this attitude?
Client: About 10 years ago I realized I'd have a 30 word obituary when I'm worth 300.
Dr. Z: Do you ever think about suicide?
Client: I work at not letting it keep my attention. But my file shows that I've changed in a hurry. Twice.
Dr. Z: I see that. Last time 5 years ago. Was it a seasonal affective depression?
Client: No, it was more like an I was about to be evicted depression on top of the I'm a piece of crap depression I usually have.
Dr. Z: Interesting ideation.
Client: I always liked the beach in winter. I didn't actually attempt it.
Dr. Z: But your therapist sent you in for two weeks anyway. It was December. She believed you'd hit the jackpot on that one. Gin & hypothermia?
Client: British explorer stranded at the North Pole.
Dr. Z: You really thought that?
Client: It occurred to me later, in the hospital. What else can you do after you've eaten the dogs? Can you believe they took away my Walkman but let me read Beowulf?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wisdom of the Patriarchs

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including that of a Holocaust denier whose rehabilitation sparked outrage among Jewish groups.

The four bishops were excommunicated 20 years ago after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent — a move the Vatican said at the time was an act of schism.

The Vatican said Saturday that Benedict rehabilitated the four as part of his efforts to bring Lefebvre's Society of St. Pius X back into the Vatican's fold.

But the move came just days after one of the four, British Bishop Richard Williamson, was shown in a Swedish state TV interview saying that historical evidence "is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed."
We can always count on a priest for a rational explanation:
While Williamson's comments may be offensive and erroneous, they are not an excommunicable offense, said Monsignor Robert Wister, professor of church history at Immaculate Conception School of Theology at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

"To deny the Holocaust is not a heresy even though it is a lie," he said. "The excommunication can be lifted because he is not a heretic, but he remains a liar."

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Long Branch NJ

Long Branch Poultry Farm

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

George Wright Goes South Pacific

The pipe organ is an obsolete instrument. Both church & theater organs have great performers & devoted fans, but the pipe organ has been a sideshow in the musical circus for over 200 years, a fact not an opinion. Contemporary composers specializing in organ are known mainly to organists, & most are themselves performers composing first for themselves. There is always a market for new liturgical music & hymn settings, less so for concert pieces. The instrument endures because organ music endures. You want a pipe organ, there are at least 100 companies that will build you one.

Repertoire is the weakness of most theater organ albums. The theater (or "civic") organ's heyday ended in the 1940s. Before then, there were pipe organs everywhere; movie theaters, skating rinks, dance halls, stadiums, restaurants, Elks Clubs, even high schools - Atlantic City High had a marvelous organ. The theater organ always had a nostalgic quality. Beginning with the pipe organ restoration movement in 1950's, nostalgia became the main attraction. Theater organs were preserved, restored, & played to recall an earlier era; they are historical artifacts. When you attend a theater organ concert you hear oldies, light classical, patriotic songs & marches, novelties, maybe a few recent show tunes. They're fun concerts, I recommend them, but theater organ recordings exist mainly as souvenirs to demonstrate the qualities of the organs & skills of the organists. Theater organs are difficult to master - no two are exactly alike in design or sound, & the best performers today are virtuosos - most are part timers - who travel around America & Europe giving audiences what they want: a Trip Down Memory Lane with some corn & razzmatazz, on precious instruments local theater organ societies put lots of money & work into saving.

One theater organist refused to become musically irrelevant in the 1950s - his name was George Wright, & he was only in his thirties. He had been organist for a number of years at the famous Paramount Theater in New York (that organ is now in Wichita), & on network radio, jobs that had required not only the playing of oldies & novelties, but also Hit Parade pop songs, & he had cut many 78's. He was a flamboyant artist, brilliant performer, interesting arranger, musically broad-minded. He moved back to California in the early Fifties (at some point he became staff organist for the soap General Hospital). There he hooked up with Richard Vaughan, whose home studio contained the pipe organ from Chicago's Paradise Theater. Vaughan had the expertise to make first rate recordings of the instrument using the new multitrack magnetic tape. Wright made a deal with Vaughan to record LPs on Vaughan's small indie label, Hi-Fi, in return for having control over what he put on those LPs. He included all kinds of music on some 20 Hi-Fi albums, a something for everyone approach. The albums sounded great & sold very well - millions in all. Two of his very best LPs were recordings of the scores from South Pacific & My Fair Lady. There were many well known theater organists, & innumerable pipe organ records were produced in the Fifties & Sixties, some intended to test the limits of record player speakers, but George Wright was one of the few theater organists who really thought of himself as a contemporary pop artist, & marketed himself as one. He didn't change the course of pop music - rock & roll did that. His albums were designed to have wide appeal. Turns out they had lasting appeal, too. Many of his albums for Hi-Fi were remastered for the digital era.

With its collectable jacket of George sitting at a Wurlitzer on a beach raising a tropical toast to three island beauties, George Wright Goes South Pacific was one of the better pop "concept" albums of the Fifties. Like DJ Allan Freed, George might have said he never played a song he didn't like - he plays them all that way, but he clearly loved the music from South Pacific. In fact, all Richard Rodgers tunes sound good on a Wurlitzer. I have my theory of why this is so (almost needless to say, no American has composed better waltzes). By taking on an entire Broadway score, George challenged himself to run some songs through the Wurlitzer one wouldn't expect to hear on the beast.

George Wright plays Overture from South Pacific. (RealAudio, from LP)

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Friday, January 23, 2009

One more cute Obama photo

Don't know where it was taken, but it was in the NYT on Tuesday, maybe a homeless shelter.


Hold on there, Aloha Man

Thus, in his speech Mr. Obama attributed the economic crisis in part to “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age” — but I have no idea what he meant. This is, first and foremost, a crisis brought on by a runaway financial industry. And if we failed to rein in that industry, it wasn’t because Americans “collectively” refused to make hard choices; the American public had no idea what was going on, and the people who did know what was going on mostly thought deregulation was a great idea.
Paul Krugman, Stuck In the Muddle
This was a line in Barack's speech that made me go, "Whoa, hold on there, Aloha Man." The American people tried mightily to prop up the damned economy, in productivity & purchases. & the American people felt it slipping away long before guvment whispered the word "recession." We had little idea that what we thought was helping the economy was ruining it. The banks said, "Buy a house, here's a loan," & Americans are programmed to think that banks are conservative institutions, & if they say you're qualified, then, despite whatever personal doubts you may have, you must be qualified, because the bank said so. Few of us were in a position to tell the banks, corporations, auto companies what to do. We didn't get the huge bonuses & golden parachutes & executive perks. We elected a Repug congress & they screwed up, so we threw them out & elected a Democratic congress & they didn't do much. There are institutions & individuals at fault, & they ought to be punished, & the ones that aren't punished must be put on a very short leash as the billions flow their way, lest they spend that money on more personal goodies keeping themselves afloat & contented - this is their nature - rather than using it to lift everyone up.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Opening Day

Rick Warren: Started off ecumenical but he played to his own audience. Maybe he expected to be the catalyst for two million people reciting The Lord's Prayer, which would make him a dumbass, because the moment flopped as it was bound to, & became a raspberry. "Nyah nyah I'm a real John 14:6 Christian." Inappropriate & poorly used at that. I swear the guy paused during his prayer for applause that didn't come. Didn't expect him to rise to the occasion.

Aretha: The voice is going but the spirit is still there. I loved the hat, & it cost her nothing at Mr. Song Millinery ($179 for anyone else) to upstage Michelle & nearly Barack, too. Unlike the POTUS, The Queen of Soul is a lifetime job, like the Queen of England. Just curtsy & mind your manners.

The Oath: Both participants stumbled, ironic because both are expert constitutional lawyers. This was weird, stopped just short of strange omen status. The path will not be smooth.

The Speech: Prosaic. But Obama is good with prose. Obama to Obamaniacs: Back to Earth. Unequivocal change from his predecessor:
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.
We look back with shame at those times when we chose safety. But I still think all of Bush's remaining supporters & maybe most Americans see little reason to protect any rights they don't currently exercise.

The Poem: Praise Song for the Day. I'm pleased with the modesty of this poem. It isn't great, but it comes from the mainstream of American poetry, which is often a poetry of occasion with a small "o". Many of our greatest poems celebrate very small things in the plainest language. Poems of High Occasion are difficult to write well, & few, even by Brits, endure. The American craft is more comparable to jazz & improvisatory dance than classical art music & ballet. The three previous inaugural poems were awful, Alexander's is not. In 1961, Robert Frost couldn't read his prepared poem in the wind & blinding sun, so he recited "The Gift Outright" from memory, which is a very good poem, not composed for the occasion yet fitting. I was advised by my own poetry teacher, a fine poet of occasion, to write for an event when requested or moved to it, as a proper duty of the poet, if the occasion is worthwhile, but not to expect much of the poem or the intended audience. In America we do not get our poetry from poems.

The Quartet: Marveling at their ability to play in the cold, even with a heated platform, I recalled that Olivier Messiaen's masterpiece, "Quartet for the End of Time," using the same instruments, was debuted in a prisoner of war camp in 1941, outdoors, 22 degrees below zero. Others liked John Williams' arrangement of "Simple Gifts" better than I did. Wondered how John Adams or Philip Glass would've handled the tune. Or Thelonious Monk.

Benediction: Rev. Joseph Lowery. Not the great prayer some are saying. Tried to pack too much into too short a text, but far superior to the Invocation. As he warmed up he channeled prophet Isaiah. Remembered the oppressed, smacked around the oppressors.

Lunch Menu: It was nice Ted Kennedy made it to the ceremony & toughed it out, but I was puzzled when he showed up at the luncheon, & I thought, "Surely he's ignoring his doctor's advice, why is he pushing it for fish stew?" Stepped out for awhile, when I came back & turned on TV, Obama was glumly referring to Ted collapsing. This apparently so upset ancient Senator Robert Byrd that he was emotionally overcome.

Katie Couric: Probably applies to all the networks. Don't these people know when to shut up & just show us?

The Parade: is running well over an hour late, these marchers must have suffered terribly. Most of them have been outside since early morning. Now they parade out of the dark past a nearly empty presidential reviewing stand, the super elite guests having fled to get ready for the balls. The batons of the University of Tennessee twirlers have not frozen to their fingers.

Participant who had the most fun: Joe Biden. He was having the time of his life. He's switching to an easier job, a shorter commute, but has more pull with the president than he had as senator. This election changed my opinion of Joe Biden. Perhaps it changed Biden. For the first time, he had the national stage he always sought, but he didn't get it as the presidential nominee, which was his driving ambition. As it turned out, playing second banana (third banana if we include Michelle) suited him. I'd never associated him much with humor & warmth. He got to tell his story. The contrast with Sarah Palin he provided was no joke. Voters didn't have to love Biden to have confidence in his qualifications.

The digital camera experience: Hordes of people, at the ceremony & balls, all taking photos that will not be good, or different from thousands of others posted online, as if what they are experiencing in the moment is not really occurring unless it is documented. But if they are looking at the view window, the experience includes looking at the camera image. I understand the cellphone images from cameras held overhead & shared immediately with friends & family.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009


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A day that the Lord hath made

I've been cognizant of every presidential inauguration since John Kennedy, & I can say that there has been no day like this since Kennedy, & at ten am I can already tell from the crowd in D.C. that the spirit of this one is even greater. I'm tempted to walk up the street where over one-humdred people who are all delighted to have Obama take office will be watching a large TV together in the lunch room, but it's warm here & the coffee is better. I may stop by there between the ceremony & the parade.

This is a day I've dreamed of since Dr. King, & the martyrs of the civl rights movement in 1963 & 64, opened my eyes to the evil of racism. I did not become a "liberal." Rather, I realized that the defense of racism & segregation was not "conservative." I saw that being racist was a fundamentally wrong moral choice. It had no legitimate political, religious, or cultural justification. For a white American, choosing to not be racist was just the beginning of a long process. The only honest alternative was to be openly, unashamedly racist, not be two-faced about it, which was pretty much the middle class yankee way. I didn't think, "Oh, there will be a black president someday." But at that moment - I was teenager - while violence upon nonviolent demonstrators raged across the South, churches bombed & children murdered, there was an African-American child who would grow up to be the 44th president. I find that extraordinary.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Good Riddance

A president leaving office after 8 years no wiser than when he entered it. That must be a "first" in American history. One only has to recall President Eisenhower's Farewell Address, a speech concerned with balances, & a fair statement of the Republican suspicion of large government. It is a troubling speech still, for the prophetic warning of a "military-industrial complex" that controls our national defense more than ever; & because Eisenhower had known this for years without speaking out, in large part because the temper of the era prevented such criticism within the political mainstream. John Kennedy ran for president & won charging falsely that America had a "missile gap" with the Soviet Union. But Ike had wisdom. George has wiseass.

The single legitimate-sounding claim made for the "success" of the Bush administration is that America has suffered no further terrorist attacks on our homeland (from the outside. American suffers much homegrown domestic terrorism). There is no proof that the excessive measures used by the Bush administration - including the invasion of Iraq - were necessary to prevent attacks, of if they even did. Push a burning house over Niagara Falls & of course the fire will be extinguished, but it won't explain why there aren't more fires. The world is no safer, & the global economic malaise & diminished American leadership & example makes it all the more dangerous. Most of the world welcomes Barack Obama not because he'll present a weaker America, but because he promises a better America. He has to deliver on the promise, but the fact that we elected him so decisively - no vote count shenanigans changing the outcome this time - was our message to the world that we want to return to our ideals, & the election of the first black president itself demonstrates & advances those ideals, our "Yes, we can" in the most significant way we could.

We have risked much, placing our hopes in Obama & the responsibility on his shoulders. But look at where we are as Bush leaves office? Obama's unwillingness to steer as far left as I would like, his reliance on "establishment" politicians for advisers & cabinet, his friendly overtures to people I consider ideological enemies, is a candid admission of his need for cooperation & experienced counsel, & of his unwillingness to enter office on a tone of partisanship (although I think he will be forced to go there to get what wants). His confidence resides in proven capacity to lead, learn, make his own decisions, & meet challenges - in those he has few if any doubts. Unlike the outgoing president, he is not a facade for a closet junta presidency. There is no Cheney, no Rove, no Rumsfeld, no stink of a coup d’état ruling from "undisclosed" locations. Obama has in his administration several of the biggest egos in American politics, people who believe they can do his job in a perilous time, & even campaigned for it.

George W. Bush is convinced history will vindicate him on Iraq, & maybe it will. But that's all he has. He has been a disaster in the present. He leaves office with a worse reputation than Richard Nixon upon resigning. He doesn't even get a good will farewell bump from the American people in the polls. Democrats, Republicans, & independents have joined together in saying, "Good riddance."

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

That side was made for you and me

Old Pete Seeger must have felt like he'd stepped through the looking glass into some alternate America. He's in front of the Lincoln Memorial - site of the Marian Anderson concert in 1939, & Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963, both were great civil rights events. He's next to his folkie-rocker friend Bruce Springsteen, backed by a chorus of young folks. U2 has just performed. Spread out before him on both sides of the reflecting pool as far as he can see, on a cold, overcast January afternoon, a huge crowd, kids mostly, who don't know from The Weavers & the blacklist. To Pete, just about everyone is a kid. Down front on his right, the President-elect of the United States - a young black man. Bruce says, "Lead us, Pete." Seeger strums his banjo, as relaxed as if he's performing on his porch, says his, "You know the melody we'll give you the words" bit, & leads everybody in a sing-a-long of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." Lyrics Woody wrote to the tune of a Baptist hymn because he thought "God Bless America" was too complacent. The President-elect sings along on the "lost" verses, the "dangerous" verses, the ones that rarely get sung:
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
Then Pete hangs around while Beyoncé & everybody sings "America the Beautiful." The President-elect thanks him. One could be mean-spirited & point out that Pete used to be a Communist. But then, one could truthfully say the same of Bush's foreign policy advisors. Pete didn't start any wars.

I was amazed they could pull off the concert outdoors in the middle of the winter.

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North Wildwood NJ

Albright Tourist Home, North Wildwood NJ

We need those flowers right now. Combine with this & we got a vacation.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Change one way or another

Barack's more than raised my eyebrows over the past 2 1/2 months. He really angered me only once, over a minor matter with major reverberations. But I haven't dogged him. I believe we ought to let ourselves enjoy this change, an awful president & administration going away at last; the wonderful spectacle of a young, intelligent, compassionate man taking office, a black man (& a Hawaiian, to my mind). I wish he didn't have such a terrible burden at the outset. His first task is comparable to cleaning the Augean stables, the fifth labor of Hercules. Joe Biden mentioned this during the campaign. Hercules had to do it in a single day. Barack has to show some real progress in a hundred. (Joe's own task was to slay the Wasillaean Hydra.)

America has been through hell the past 8 years. About 20% think we haven't been, or won't put the blame where it belongs. Some crazy people still think Al Gore would've been worse. Even James Buchanan wouldn't have been worse. Buchanan only gave away federal arms & property to traitors. So Bush didn't cheat on his wife while he & his pals raped America. That's an achievement future historians will praise?

We were in a recession in 2001. Most intelligent people saw the dot com bust as an unavoidable correction, investment running too far ahead of the consumer market. Home prices were inflated - that did bite us. But the nation was in pretty good shape to absorb the emotional & economic traumas of 9/11 & then Hurricane Katrina. It's reasonable to ask why America didn't recover from the recession or the terrorist attack. It's reasonable to ask how America got to our current sorry condition. It's certainly reasonable to investigate this & punish some of those responsible, in & out of government.

Repugs & "conservatives" are angrier & more embittered than they have ever been. They had all three branches of national government. They were in control. For them, what's happened to America during their rule is unbelievable, impossible. Surely everything must be different than it is, liberal media is just reporting it all wrong. Their last hope was that a black man named Barack Hussein Obama could not possibly be elected President.

The Bush years have been hell for me personally. It wasn't his doing, but he hardly gave cause for any greater hopes; he was all about war, deceit, stupidity, ignorance, avarice.

At the start of the Clinton presidency I was falling for a woman who loved music, art, & boardwalks. During the Bush years I was briefly with a local gal who had voted for him (if she had actually voted, maybe she just listened to AM talk radio). How messed up was that? Me, a guy who had banned all registered Republicans from his home social events during the Reagan years.

So I'm going to enjoy the next few days. I'll laugh at Rick Warren. He's an updated character from a Sinclair Lewis novel; secure, self-righteous, falsely humble, a bit corpulent beneath his suit, preaching Gospel as middle class boosterism. In Lewis' world he'd have been pastoring the biggest mainline protestant church on Main Street.

We're getting change one way or another. In countless ways President Obama will be better than Bush because he is Barack Obama, not a Bush. As for the Augean Stables, we'll see. I have my tests, & they are changes in tone & emphasis on the various federal websites I frequent for information. Those will tell me how well he's getting rid of the bull shit. But the irony is not lost on me that as Barack takes office, that office has become a job no one in their right mind ought to want, & is not what he expected when he announced his candidacy two years ago, or even when he accepted the nomination in August.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Crawling toward Bethlehem

I'm fairly certain I saw Andrew Wyeth's retrospective at the Metropolitan in 1976. Fairly certain because I was seeing most of the big marquee exhibitions back then, in New York City & even Philly, & I know I viewed a bunch of his paintings in one place somewhere. But in 1976 the borders between abstraction & realism, mainstream & avant, pop & "high" art were crumbling, mirrored in music by a fashionable return to tonality & the downtown scene's embrace of punk & new wave rock. I've always had my music any old way I choose it, the same for visual art. I probably strolled through the Wyeth show, wondered why his gloomy depictions of rural decrepitude were so popular with people who hated "modern" art, then headed for the 19th Century Hudson River School paintings - to wallow in a fantastic style called "Luminism" - & the musical instrument galleries.

There were shows that infuriated me. I depised Grant Wood of "American Gothic" fame after viewing a retro of his stupid cartoony landscapes. & a show at the Whitney of some artist's huge all white canvases that was clearly a huge manipulative joke but treated with great seriousness by the critics who contributed to the exhibition catalogue, the artist's cynical co-conspirators, the whole thing probably dreamed up during a drunken weekend on Fire Island.

The art show that had an enduring impact on me, which I saw while in college, was an immense Marcel Duchamp retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That exhibition was an education in almost all the possibilities & limitations of artistic expression. It challenged everything I took for granted about art. As with John Cage's music, if you come to grips, or at least a make a truce, with Duchamp, very little else can shock you. In a way I could explain if it were worth the bother, Duchamp is why I gravitated toward radio when the opportunity arose & would rather write a blog than give poetry readings.

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Sully Sullenberger, we salute you

Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III & his crew don't know from New York celebrity yet. It's one thing to perform an amazing act of skill & heroism, quite another to do it on the greatest media stage in the world just as all the TV news organizations are gearing up for their evening reports. The only drawback was that the sun sets early in January, but the freezing temperatures & deepening shadows were part of the story.

"Sully" will play it by the book, he seems like that kind of guy. The National Transportation Safety Board will probably clear him quickly, & then he can accept his medals from Mayor Bloomberg & President Obama. My advice: Also accept the invites to appear on Letterman's show, & to throw out first pitches & experience the standing O's at the stadiums come spring. Your consulting business will prosper & if you want you can quit flying out of dangerous dumps like LaGuardia.

The larger timing is as impeccable as Sullenberger's resume & photo; an event to close out 8 years of collective political deceit & ineptitude with an astonishing display of calm confidence & honest expertise. What an inspiration!

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dr King

You would have been 80. You got pushed off the front page today. But your holiday is on Monday & we'll be thinking of you again Tuesday.

Wet Landing in the Hudson

Sunny & bright, some snow on the ground, then you go out there & you feel fine for about 30 seconds, then a little breeze hits & instantly sucks out all the warm air under your clothes, & your face freezes. Reminds me of a cartoon where a little boy is standing in front of his house, he's wearing bulky coat, long scarf, thick pants, ski hat, huge mittens, & boots, & he's looking at his mom in the front door & saying, "How can I have fun? I can't even move."
Later: I heard about the miraculous Hudson River plane crash 2 hours after it happened, so I didn't see the breaking news coverage. Everyone had been rescued. But for all the national & local news organizations based in Manhattan, blocks from the River, I thought TV coverage wasn't all that good. They had very little compelling video footage, kept showing the same two or three minutes worth over & over. They ran out of new news about the crash but the story was too big to leave & move on to other news. Still photos at New York Times were better. Katie Couric's coverage at 6:30 was awful; by then the CBS team still hadn't pulled together a strong 15 minute summary, & she pointlessly did her program standing by a busy West Side street that had been given back to a delayed late rush hour. Nothing was happening. It was all over except giving the pilot a ticker tape parade. Nobody had cell phone video of the plane going down.
I was napping with the radio on during Bush's speech. At one point in the speech I was there, & I shouted, "Liar!" & two Secret Service guys came over & grabbed me. I think it was when he said, "For eight years, we have also strived to expand opportunity and hope here at home."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Organ Power Pizza

Excellent album jacket. The record isn't very good. Most Wurlitzer theater organ records disappoint, which I'll be writing about probably next week regarding one that doesn't. But the picture is sure to cheer Carrie in L.A. It'll be 10 degrees & windy on this New York corner tomorrow night.
Rutgers defeats Villanova 60-51. Away game. Epiphanny Prince scored 29 points, including 12-for-12 free throws. Well alright. Next up is Marquette, who just beat Notre Dame.

My two local women's teams: Union County College Owls are undefeated in Div. III Junior College play. Kean University Cougars are 12-3 in NCAA Div. III play.

The Campbells are coming

Authorities removed Adolf Hitler Campbell and his sisters from their parents' Hunterdon County home, Holland Township police chief David Van Gilson said Tuesday.

New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services took the 3-year-old as well as JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, 1, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, who turns 1 in April, the chief said.

Van Gilson said he didn't know why the children were taken or who had custody. He said his department received no reports of abuse or negligence.

The children's father, Heath Campbell, reached Tuesday evening at a relative's home, first declined comment and later said the children were not removed.

The Division of Youth and Family Services would not confirm or deny the report.

A spokeswoman said the division doesn't comment on specific families.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday before Superior Court Judge Peter A. Buschbaum at the Hunterdon County Justice Center, the chief said. He said a hearing on Tuesday was postponed when Campbell indicated he wanted a private attorney.

The hearing is to decide whether the state can temporarily place the children in another home, the chief said. He said township police Sgt. John Harris is scheduled to testify.

The Campbell family gained worldwide attention after a Dec. 14 story in The Express-Times about the children's names and a Warren County supermarket's refusal to write Adolf Hitler on a birthday cake.

Heath Campbell, who's previously said he picked the names to honor German ancestry and because they are unique, has reported receiving threats after the story was published.

Another Campbell family in Holland Township received a death threat intended for Heath Campbell, township police have said. That case remains under investigation.
Heath Campbell? If the guy loves damned Nazis so much he oughta change his own name.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Comment I wrote on another blog: The Bush adminstration is like a grossout toilet in a public restroom. You can't use it but you're so disgusted that you figure something has to be done. So you kick the flush lever with your foot & run. The shit either goes down or it overflows. either way it gets cleaned up.
Over the years of this blog I've received a few requests to remove things. None were political blog posts. One was a complaint about a photo of an item I took from ebay. I was wrikting about the same item, which I own, & couldn't take a good photo of it. What angered the person was that it was displayed on a tablecloth her late mother had given her. I removed it immediately. Appropriating the photo was a no no anyway. She was very glad & apologized for being "sharp" with me.

When I griped about a charitable organization that I felt wasn't upfront about their religious aims in their promotions, I received a very lengthy defense via e mail. It was minor post not worth any hassle. Down it came. I didn't even answer the e mail. I figured that was all the writer wanted.

Recently, a guy brought an old post to my attention containing a block quote from a Jersey newspaper story in which he was described as doing something that had annoyed the hell outta me when I read it. I had forgotten about the post, & had to google it, since he didn't provide a link. What he had done still annoyed me, although he had his reasons. But he hadn't been charged with any offense, & it was not something he'd do again. I googled his name, discovered he was active in a church, went to the church website, read an essay by the Rector, liked what I read, & concluded if the man listened to her every week he was probably alright. That's pretty much what I implied when I wrote back that I deleted the offending post. He was so pleased that he invited me for lunch. I might've taken him up on the offer if he didn't reside sixty miles away.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Tonight's Holiday Spirit Award

goes to the family around the corner with the Christmas tree twinkling in their living room. Too late now, but there should have been a campaign to keep outdoor holiday decorations lighted through the Inauguration.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Sunday Night

Bless the super of the apt building up the street. He always has excellent holiday decorations, including lights on a tall evergreen tree & a big star at the top, & he hasn't taken them down yet. Cheered me up on lonely, cold Sunday night.
A volunteer from the Marine Stranding Center reported that three of the five remaining dolphins that had been residing in the Shrewsbury River estuary since June were spotted in Sandy Hook Bay. That's just one observer. Which leaves two dolphins unaccounted for. Two others had died. Maybe halting bridge construction at the entrance to the estuary was the solution. Shrewsbury may freeze over later this week.
No one is more Catholic than a convert:

Rev. Richard John Neuhaus died on Jan 10. Former radical leftist Lutheran pastor turned neocon theologian & ideologue; converted to Roman Catholicism in 1990, ordained a priest a year later personally by His Eminence John Cardinal O'Connor of that church across 5th Ave. from Rockefeller Center. A celebrity catch for the rightward sailing Catholic hierarchy as it countered widespread pedophile scandals & multi-million dollar lawsuit awards, resulting in hundreds of church & school closings, by using the power of the Eucharist to squeeze & embarrass moderate Democratic politicians on behalf of the Church's powerful extreme right financial benefactors & political allies. A fake scandal to divert attention from the real ones. Neuhaus was the apologist the Bishops trotted out on TV to rationalize it all. & he was very good at it. So much intellect & activist Gospel spirit twisted 180 degrees & put in service of such crappy ideas & awful leaders. You'd think he was imitating reactionary protestants. Heh. Hopefully, he was welcomed into Heaven by Father Thomas Merton, a rather different sort of convert.

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Far Hills NJ

Circle Bar at Far Hills Inn near Somerville.
Not a color scheme one would enjoy after a couple of martinis.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Other Music 2008 Pt 2

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Sym. No. 4 / Flos Campi; Paul Daniel, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra & Chorus (Naxos)

Debuted in 1935, considered VW's most "dissonant" it now sounds only more emotionally turbulent than most of his other works. The composer wasn't sure he liked it but said it was "what I meant at the time." I go with the critic who wrote that "nothing human was foreign to Vaughan Williams." The unanswered question about No. 4 is if the Klingon motif from Star Trek was deliberately or inadvertently lifted from the Scherzo. It comes as quite a shock. "Flos Campi," from 1925, a gorgeous piece for strings, ethereal chorus, & viola - the underrated fat violin, is what "New Age" music ought be & rarely is, as invented by the British early in the 20th Century out of their folk music, fine taste in poetry, French Impressionism, & 16th Century polyphony.

Also have Sym. No. 6 but haven't absorbed it yet.
Brahms: Complete Works for Violin & Piano. Ulf Waalin & Roland Pontinen. (Arte Nova)
3 sonatas plus two adapted for a friend by Brahms from clarinet sonatas. Beautifully performed by two younger musicians. Everything I love about a certain kind of classical chamber music; collegial, intimate, tuneful, composed to be performed for small gatherings & in homes, the reason chamber music became popular with the long player record. A familiar melody from one of these sonatas drove me nuts until I placed it in the soundtrack from Tom Jones.
The Essential Michael Nyman Band (Argo, 1992)
Selections from his "minimalist" film scores for Peter Greenaway (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover). Nyman supposedly was the first to use the word "minimalist" in connection with music. Now we hear a certain kind of sound from certain composers who use few notes, or repetitive notes or motifs, or arpeggios, or lots of counterpoint & call it minimalism because we don't know what else to call it. But I think what Nyman does in many of the selections here qualifies as minimalism.
Steve Reich: Daniel Variations; Variations for Vibes, Pianos, and Strings (Nonesuch)

Reich is 72 & it's surprising how many people resist following this great composer beyond his music from the Sixties & Seventies. But then, a new recording of his 1976 "Music for 18 Musicians" by a Midwest college ensemble changed how I heard that masterpiece last year.

"Daniel Variations" is a marquee work premiered during Reich's big 70th birthday year concerts, in memory of Daniel Pearl, the journalist kidnapped & gruesomely murdered in Pakistan in 2002. It is scored for 2 soprano & 2 tenor voices, clarinets, four pianos, string quartet & percussion. Parts 1 & 3 use brief lines from the Book of Daniel, Parts 2 & 4 Pearl's own words. Part 4, "I sure hope Gabriel likes my music..." was Pearl's remark to a friend referencing a 1930's novelty jazz song by violinist Stuff Smith, from a record in Pearl's large collection. The 4th movement is about as "pop" as Reich gets, violins fiddling, pianos playing bell-like chords, celebratory for the most part. A lovely piece of music, fitting tribute, if a bit overlong at about 30 minutes. I hope it receives another recording.

A criticism I have of a number of Reich's vocal works also applies here: For a composer who chooses his texts, however brief or fragmentary, with such care, he rarely places his music in the service of the words. He doesn't mean to diminish them; it's just how they end up functioning in the context of his compositional methods.

& a nod to "Sampled Joe," a "smooth jazz" radio hit from the 90's by tenor saxophonist Michael Paulo, kicked off an otherwise uninteresting promotional jazz compilation giveaway. I have nothing good to say about the genre generally, but this slick instrumental, a witty homage to keyboardist Joe Sample, got into my head despite the typically anonymous backing group smooth jazz stars prefer to support their noodling. Looking over Paulo's discography & reviews, my guess is he probably never made another recording like this one, & I have no desire to explore his music further to find out.

2008 was an embarrassment when I took year-end music inventory. Easy enough to rectify in 2009, I have wish lists. I'm already ahead of last year in "new" music. I considered setting some "goals" for this year, like five odd 20th century classical organ albums, but I've already ordered one & found three more possibilities, so that might not be a challenge.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Sheese, I think I deleted all my bookmarks in Firefox, have no idea how. But if so, it may be a blessing in disguise. 95% of those bookmarks were unused & unneeded. They weren't organized all that well, many weren't in designated folders. I had taken to placing new ones in the "quick search" folder in anticipation of cleaning out most of the old bookmarks & of course never getting around to doing it. The Music folder alone had over 100 bookmarks of which I used only about 5 regularly. I rarely dug around for something. For me, bookmarks served mainly as shortcuts. They weren't an archival treasure.

Moderate snowstorm tomorrow, most conveniently on Saturday, roads cleared by midday Sunday, Jersey goes into Milk, BreaD & Beer Panic mode.

As if it matters, I declare Utah the National Champion. There's no logical reason they aren't.

Disgraced Pastor Ted Haggard sez, "I think sexuality is confusing and complex." Well duh. & he is "totally completely satisfied with the relationship with my wife now." My guess is that Ted's wife won't go near his thingie, but that's their private matter. Ted's problem is that the Evangelicals already have plenty of "ex-gay' inspirational speakers taking money from sad homosexuals who might be happier finding the nearest United Church of Christ congregation with a "God Is Still Speaking" banner over the front door, having faith in the Deity who really does love them as they are. I know unconflicted gay Catholics who just decided to go on being Catholic & found a parish so busy & needy that nobody cared the single mom with the child was a lesbian. What's sick & immoral is when being gay makes people spiritually homeless.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Protecting trains from Duane

This story needs more attention.
Amtrak photo contestant arrested by Amtrak police in NYC’s Penn Station
By Carlos Miller
Armed with his Canon 5D and his new Lensbaby lens, photographer Duane Kerzic set out to win Amtrak’s annual photo contest, hoping to win $1,000 in travel vouchers and have his photo published in Amtrak’s annual calendar.

He ended up getting arrested by Amtrak police; handcuffed to a wall in a holding cell inside New York City’s Penn Station, accused of criminal trespass.

Kerzic says he was hardly trespassing because he was taking photos from the train platform; the same one used by thousands of commuters everyday to step on and off the train.

“The only reason they arrested me was because I refused to delete my images,” Kerzic said in a phone interview with Photography is Not a Crime on Friday.

“They never asked me to leave, they never mentioned anything about trespassing until after I was handcuffed in the holding cell.”

In fact, he said, the only thing they told him before handcuffing him was that “it was illegal to take photos of the trains.”

Obviously, there is a lack of communication between Amtrak’s marketing department, which promotes the annual contest, called Picture Our Trains, and its police department, which has a history of harassing photographers for photographing these same trains.
“Security: While there is no prohibition against taking photographs of Amtrak trains, photographs may only be taken in Amtrak’s public areas, not areas restricted by signs, barriers or locked entrances. Non-public areas, such as railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment, are private property; trespassers are subject to arrest.”
-Amtrak This Week newsletter, 23JUL07
Here are Duane Kerzic's photos, taken in public areas.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Kitchen Beautiful

from Roselle Capitol Steel Cabinets.

Syracuse 68, Rutgers 54

Before a crowd of 1000 at Syracuse. This could be the nadir. Or it could be just one more "L" before the women post another "L" at Louisville & then enter the "weak" part of the Big East schedule. Kia, Brittany, Heather, Rashidat? Hello? Anyone there? Apparently not.

But I love this one: Boston College men follow up their defeat of #1 North Carolina by losing to .... Harvard! 82-70. Enjoy your week in the Top 25, guys.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Aloha Alfred

Almost no sleep last night, but the one dream I had left an impression. My mother was in it & it took place in a creepy but not scary dreamworld Atlantic City I used to visit quite often, so I knew where I was. The real Atlantic City was creepy (still is) but I didn't realize it until later.

Treated myself to a taxi to appt this morning; on the way out the door I passed the furnace repairman coming in. I recall this annual appt last year because it was probably the coldest day of the winter. Took bus back downtown, checked new Michael Connelly novel & a bio of Count Basie out of the main library; spent too much on underwear, always costs more than one expects for a 3 pack of Fruit of the Loom briefs; bought a clip on light at the rummage hop; chatted for five minutes on the street with someone whose name slipped my mind; the kind of encounter where you're trying to pay attention but you're distracted by thinking, "I know this person's name. What is it?" Of course, I connected the dots & recalled it afterward. Part of the problem was that the name was so ordinary.

Joe Weil has two poems in the New York Times online edition.

Suzette sent word of the death of Alfred Shaheen, age 86, designer, manufacturer, & popularizer of Aloha shirts & garments in the Fifties & Sixties. I'd never heard of Shaheen, but he's now one of my culture heroes. I passed the news on to WFMU, & Robin replied with a photo of her favorite Shaheen print for a dress no longer made, & which would cost a mint if one could be found at a vintage clothing store.

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Other Music 2008 Pt 1

WFMU may get around to blogging my year end list, which I submit mainly to remind other staffers that my taste in art music remains conservative but of course impeccable, & I read a lot of crime novels. Here's some other music.

Last summer in the supermarket, "Don't Get Me Wrong" froze me under a ceiling speaker. I hadn't heard the song in a long time & the experience was like hearing it anew through an old dashboard mono car speaker. I wrote, "What a great love song, nothing phony or slick about it, it's all magic & uncertainty. & there's a real funky bass guitarist who's not playing like a robot." I borrowed The Pretenders Singles CD & marveled at its wonderfulness, even "I Got You, Babe" with UB40. I'm one of the rare people between the ages of 40 & 60 who never bought any Pretenders records or CDs (I had the Learning to Crawl record left by a girlfriend) . Chrissie & the Pretenders were always a radio act for me, ear candy I heard when I heard 'em. "Don't Get Me Wrong" became my summer song in 2008, 22 years after it was a big hit. I had barely noticed it in 1986. Hearing Chrissie sing about taking a chances & maybe falling in love was better than no summer romance at all.

After Danny Federici & Madam Marie Castello passed, I borrowed & revisited Springsteen's The River. Although I'm not a Springsteen devotee, I was a fan of this album, a veritable jukebox of songs & a catalogue of every style that had influenced him. Remember, also, that in 1980 Bruce was a very important rocker, a critic's fav, & successful live act, but it was unclear how his long term career would unfold. He hadn't had a hit single & he wasn't a superduperstar. This album contained "Hungry Heart, a singalong single constructed out of nostalgic parts (with a marvelous Federici organ break) that hardly pointed toward Nebraska or Born In the USA. The River didn't change Bruce's rep as a musical traditionalist, but it made clear he wasn't a reactionary. I heard a guy taking a serious personal inventory & sharing the results. At this point in his career he could have decided to be Tom Petty. The River is where Bruce pivoted after the grand (& I think unsatisfactory) concept of Darkness At the Edge of Town. He delayed the release of the followup album for an entire year & made it a double. Said Springsteen: "I finally got to the place where I realized life had paradoxes, a lot of them, and you've got to live with them." He had to accept the variety of music he was creating, & put it in separate packages if that was necessary. Maybe he learned it from Neil Young. He also needed to recreate in his records more of the energy of his live act. Certainly, there are many more accidental masterpieces in rock than calculated ones. Whatever lyrical themes others may find in it, The River is the music itself. The only live Springsteen/ E Street show I saw was in support of this record. Why I respect rather than love Springsteen may be that the whole is rarely what I hope for from the sum of the parts. Or it may be very old envy.

Pell Mell: Interstate (1995)
Instrumental album by a (mostly) guitar band comprised of record producers, by then living in different cities, whose earlier releases I'd admired, initially struck me as bland, with a couple of standouts. I wasn't listening closely.

Mermen: The Amazing California Health and Happiness Road Show (2000)
Instrumental guitar "surf" (word used loosely) band album seemed sprawling, overambitious, & a failed "concept" in 2000. I finally got the joke, maybe. It still doesn't hang together all that well, & a 14 minute psych/drone piece closing the CD, though great on its own terms, pulls the album off balance, if one insists upon balance. It's an ace collection of individual cuts. Love the band. The top two downloads for the Mermen are "Little Stinky Kitty"from Amazing & an earlier number "Ocean Beach." Two reasons I love them. They're still out there playing on the coast but I guess most of their new music circulates as live show bootlegs. One of the few groups I might haul myself out to see at a club.
Songs in RealAudio:
Don't Get Me Wrong
Nothing Lies Still Long Pell Mell
Vegetable Kingdom Pell Mell
Little Stinky Kitty
Ocean Beach
Drive All Night Springsteen


Epiphany: The Chartmakers

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

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

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Crazy Furnace

I was gettiing ready to go to bed, have an appointment mid morning, when I heard dripping. Water was coming through the ceiling above the radiator in the other room. At first I thought it was from the guy upstairs overflowing his tub. Then I realized my radiator was blast furnace hot & leaking water, & the apt was about 100 degrees. I went into the hall, that was warm. The radiator in the hall downstairs was super hot, the one in the entry lobby breathing like a monster. The furnace is out of control. I couldn't wake up the lady who calls the people who do stuff, but I could hear her radiator hissing. Jeebus, am I the only person in the freakin' building who notices something is wrong? Are we supposed to suffocate while the ceilings collapse & the pipes boil over & burst? So I found the phone # of Louie, the local fixit guy who has the keys to everything (the owner lives in Hazlet, I think) , woke him up & 1:30 AM, identified myself, apologized, & said the furnace is stuck on & somebody has to come here, unlock the room in the basement & turn it off. He groggily said he was getting someone to do something. I won't get to sleep until it's been done. The paint bubbled off the ceiling. I took a photo. The furnace, not me, is the crazy thing in the building tonight.
[8 am update. The leaky radiator is cold, the other two warm, shower water hot.]


Monday, January 05, 2009

Elizabeth firefighter Gary Stephens

Considered walking downtown this morning to have a look at the outdoor part of the funeral for Elizabeth fireman Gary Stephens, killed in a tragic accident - run over by a backing fire engine, in the middle of a cold night, just after arriving at an abandoned house to fight a blaze started by a homeless man trying to keep warm. I figured there would be 1000 firefighters in full dress uniforms & white gloves, & hundreds of others who needed to be at St. John's Episcopal Church near the county courthouse, but police would keep merely curious onlookers well away & would be in no mood to let you get closer. & that's how it was & why I didn't go. I live a few blocks from EFD headquarters, & the worse the weather & later the hour the more I hear the familiar old-fashioned sirens. Many of those late night responses are to apt buildings with faulty alarm systems. But then there's real fires, in tinder dry old wood frame two & three family houses, so close to other houses that an entire block would burn down if the firefighters didn't act in seconds. & they can never be certain how many people are in a house, even when it's supposedly vacant - in some poorer neighborhoods especially when it's vacant.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

I keep hoping the New York Times will fire Maureen Dowd while she's on vacation & replace her with Sarah Vowell.

North Wildwood NJ

For good fishing and crabbing try
Dad's Place
located at the Grassy Sound Toll Bridge
Modern Luncheonette
Prop,. Mr. & Mrs. Richard Harrison

I considered kicking off 2009 postcards with a great vintage motel. peculiar bar, or boardwalk scene. Then I remembered this card. Not much to look at. I know where Dad's Place was, by Hereford Inlet on the turnoff to Stone Harbor, although I'm pretty sure it was gone by the late-Eighties when I began visiting Wildwood. It looks like I would have loved hanging out there, digging the scenery & the scents, chatting with crabbers - people also just hanging out but trying to catch supper, too. Mrs. Harrison was probably in the restaurant, Mr. Harrison on the pier selling bait, renting crab traps & row boats. I was fortunate to see some of the old Grassy Sound; the two -lane concrete road across the marshes from the mainland, rickety bridges over the creeks, cottages & fishing shacks on pilings, some inhabited, some falling down, facing silted tidal ditches that hadn't been dredged in decades, abandoned boats in various states of disintegration. I could see in my imagination as it had been, 30, 40, 50 years before.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Tennessee 55, Rutgers 51

Two belated holiday cards. Gail, who survived another difficult year, writes, "Hang on to what you believe in, maybe even yourself."

From Glen & Gina, an Asbury Park "Tillie" souvenir snow globe. That's something I believe in; not profound, but important in a way.
One I missed: Eleanore Wysocki, age 94, May 28. Mark DiIonno wrote:
Eleanore Wysocki, who died this week at 94, was a PTA president and a Girl Scout leader, a library volunteer and an insurance office worker. She was a dutiful and loving mother, and the matriarch of a close family that, at the time of her death, had given her 15 grandchildren and nine great-great grandchildren who all knew her as "G.G."

Before all that, she was CeDora, the teenage daredevil, who performed above the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, in a show part-circus and part-vaudeville, made most famous by the diving horses. CeDora's act was a gravity-defying stunt, in which she would race around the inside of a tight steel globe on a bicycle or motorcycle.
So there's a third boardwalk legend along with E Streeter Danny Federici & Asbury Park fortuneteller Madam Marie Castello. I saw the Steel Pier shows in the Sixties, but I can't remember it if still had a motorcycle act. Diving Horse, yes.

We didn't get a signature big win from the women Scarlet Knights before their Big East schedule. They lost this one, badly, in the second half. They had a cold Tennessee frozen out in the first half, the Vols came back & took Rutgers apart at both ends of the court, scored 42 points. Rutgers' current no. 15 ranking is a gift, with two horrid losses to Stanford & Cal, & a squeaker against Prairie State. Some locker room dissension was apparently fixed with the departure of a talented but dissatisfied recruit, & then they had three solid victories. Big East consists of UConn (who may or may not be overrated at no. 1) & 15 other teams - most probably capable of defeating each other. Expect increasing criticism of Coach Stringer for not leaning more on her freshmen. So far, she's been cautiously correct in believing she shouldn't need them. If Rutgers can't handle the early part of the Big East schedule, she may have to give them more minutes. This isn't supposed to be a WNIT tournament team.
(1/5 The loss dropped Rutgers only two spots to 17, but from here on they'll have to add W's.)

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Old Barney Beams Again

BARNEGAT LIGHT, N.J. (by Erik Larsen) -- Despite wind gusts that made the sea air feel several degrees below zero, thousands bundled up and crowded together on the northern tip of Long Beach Island on Thursday to see Barnegat Lighthouse relit for the first time since Calvin Coolidge was in the White House. Shortly after 5 p.m., to the gasps of awe for some and the sighs of disappointment for a few others assembled in the state park that bears its name, Barnegat Lighthouse — the latest in 19th-century navigational technology — was back in service as a Coast Guard-approved beacon.

If onlookers were expecting to see a blazing beam from Old Barney, what they got looked more like a giant, rotating candle holder. But that did not appear to diminish the enthusiasm of the moment for those who braved the winter to fill the park as if it were a humid afternoon in July.
It had been lit, for decorative purposes only, with a 100 watt non-flashing bulb. USCG authorization was required for a new Fresnel lense & flashing beam.


Typical American news coverage. The AP headline reads, "Israel destroys Hamas
homes, flattens Gaza mosque." But the photo is, "A rocket fired by
Palestinian militants from the northern Gaza Strip flies towards an
Israeli target." That would seem to be balanced, but a "picture is
worth a thousand words." & the deadly arithmetic is 100 to 1. Rice
insists on a "durable ceasefire." a doublespeak precondition that
allows the killing to go on. Doubtful the Bush administration could
influence the Israeli government much anyway: Why would the Israelis
show any less contempt toward Bush than the rest of the world at this

Resolution: more music

anymore, as a compulsion or to feed a weekly radio show. Now I lean toward durable music that repays repeated 2008 was great year for reading. Too little music. I'm not a good passive listener, letting a radio DJ program my music. Music is effort, not work. Finding music means browsing, fishing for it. Browse first, then research what the browsing discovers. A browse for me might involve searching the entire catalogue of a bargain classical label at Amazon, hundreds of CDs, looking for possibilities that are also available even more inexpensively as used or cutout albums. I'll do this while I'm watching TV or listening to music. I lose interest in music when I'm depressed, & that feeds the depression. It's an inexpensive ""hobby" because the "bargain" has always been a part of collecting music going back to when I was in charge of the budget classical racks at Harmony House as a teenager, where I learned classical music, reading liner notes, buying good new records for two or three bucks. I even had a thick book, "Guide to Budget Priced Records," which I wish I still had. Now I spend $3 on a good CD & pay that much in shipping. It isn't as much fun as a couple of hours at a used record store or flea market were, but I try to trick myself into a similar kind of experience online. I don't require an enormous amount of fresh music. I got a CD this week, popped it in the player last night & listened to one long composition on it twice, as background while I wrote, letting it seep in, no hurry. Then I jotted down a few first impressions that may grow into a review. That's how I like to do music now, savoring it. Just a steady supply.

Reference book I'm adding this year to my small shelf of reference books: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage.
A book of examples. Not that usage is a major matter with me, with my ampersands, adverbs, incomplete sentences, & long, elliptical compound sentences that would make Mark Twain gag. I rarely honor my prose hero, Ulysses S. Grant. Occasionally I do try to write well, & wonder what to do with the semi-colons, plural pronouns, that & & which, & when it's alright or all right to italicize.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

So hot & stuffy in my apt today I opened a window in this room & turned on an exhaust fan in the other. Faster than tinkering with the radiators.

Question answered in first half: Is Penn State's gaudy regular season record misleading Yes. But we needed USC to confirm it.

Columnist Fran Wood took a buyout at the Star-Ledger & retired to a blog. She's had a long career in dailies. Fran was well-informed, intelligent, usually got her facts straight, always had something to say, but didn't have an interesting writing style. No quirkiness. I imagined her strolling through high school & college on a path of "A" papers, always following her teachers' suggestions on removing her idiosyncracies. I think generalists ought to write with strong individual style; they're not hired for their special knowledge. So Fran, here's my advice: Become a blogger, not a newspaper columnist writing a blog. Think of the space as a sandbox. You can play inside that kind of box.

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou

"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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