Sunday, January 31, 2010

Elmer NJ

A busy day at the potato market. Elmer New Jersey

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

This building has old plumbing. An unfamiliar noise in the wall that could, heard a certain way, be interpreted as a broken pipe cascade is enough to trigger an anxiety attack, expecially on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon. Then it stopped completely & didn't start again. I have very good heat in this apt. It gets so warm I turn off the radiator in this room at night.
The walk up the street wasn't bad, cold - no wind. But today is strange, which I attribute to the full "wolf" moon.
Neil Young has never won a Grammy®. "It's an honor," he says. "I'm in good company." Typical Neil, & he's not being facetious. When he once said it was cool to be mentioned in "Sweet Home Alabama," he meant it.

(He won one Sunday, for art direction on a retrospective box set .)

J.D. Salinger

I read Salinger's slender books in high school because I thought I had to, so I can't provide an opinion on his writing style or skills or influence on John Irving. Let's say you live in a modest, small middle & working class Jersey town without wealthy people, attend a no frills public high school, rarely feel deprived - except when some of the kids mention spending the summer at the half-shacks their families own in the crowded beach towns north of Seaside Heights, bought by their fathers on auto factory union overtime. You have The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Motown, Jack Kerouac novels, cheap high school dances, & two good pizzerias. How well would you relate to a story about a rich preppie in the early 1950's who gets kicked out of his boarding school, calls everyone "phonies," & runs away to Manhattan for a weekend where he has an unpleasant enounter with a whore? How much would you care about the upscale Glass family? Existentialist crisis? Which Woody Allen movie do you really like better: Hannah & Her Sisters or Broadway Danny Rose.

But J.D. Salinger wrote what he wanted & lived the lifestyle he wanted to have, & Catcher In the Rye endured as an important book, a great accomplishment for an author.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Take them elsewhere

Moving the the 9/11 trials (NYT)

More recently, in a series of presentations to business leaders, local elected officials and community representatives of Chinatown, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly laid out his plan for securing the trial: blanketing a swath of Lower Manhattan with police checkpoints, vehicle searches, rooftop snipers and canine patrols.

“They were not received well,” said one city official.
That sums it up. Initially, a lot of New Yorkers had a typical bring it on attitude. But then what it would involve began to sink in. The trials would go on for a long time. Much of downtown would be paralyzed day after day, week after week, month upon month. The longer the trials went on, the more costly & difficult maintaining security would become, not to mention the bad impact on the area's economy. Certainly, there's more anxiety about terrorist attacks now, but this is mostly the business & real estate interests waking up & leaning hard on Bloomberg, & hizzoner, after all, belongs to them. The mayor of Newburgh, a struggling little city 60 miles north of Manhattan has already suggested the trials be held up there. Bring on those hordes of lawyers, reporters, & federal security bucks, he says.

If they go, I'm relieved. The trials will be big enough without making them a regular feature of newsradio traffic reports & daily hassle for commuters.

Jumpin' Jack Sitar


Thursday, January 28, 2010

It won't be easy, Mister President

The truth is, the American people are not angry because of all the money the government has spent this year -- except, of course, the people who believe Obama was born in Kenya, is a Muslim, and a Socialist. The rest of the people, the ones Obama has a chance of reaching, are angry because the vast majority of that money went to -- and continues to go to -- rescuing Wall Street, which has thanked taxpayers by reducing lending, recording record profits, paying out massive bonuses, and using our money to pay lobbyists to scuttle financial reform. That is what is putting voters on the electoral warpath.
Arianna Huffington
Reading the transcript of the SOTU speech, I was relieved at least that the Prez hadn't really given up any serious ground. He's not Bill Clinton circa 1995 & stuck with a new Repug congress. But Obama needs to do more of what he did today: Go out & campaign. I've seen the numbers from the 1994 "Contract With America" debacle. We know what turned it from traditional midterm losses into a rout was the failure of Democrats & pro-Clinton independents to vote. There was no upswing in Repug votes over 1992. They just showed up at the polls. In his one brilliant idea, Newt Gingrich made that midterm a presidential election with a theme instead of a candidate.

Democrats have three political positives this year: They control both houses of congress; they have a Democratic President who more or less knows what he wants; Republicans are distrusted even more than Democrats. There's no evidence that the majority of Americans want Republicans running the country again. Newt's appeal was basically, "Give us a chance, we'll do better." Well, even teabaggers now know they either won't or they can't. They're deeper in the pockets of banks & corporations than Democrats, their empty form of "populism" can be discredited, there's still time.

Obama needs to attack Republicans as obstructionists & demand that they present alternatives. Because when it comes down to details, to alternatives, Republicans are hardly unified. He also must convince his base that its vote in November is just as crucial as it was two years ago. It won't be easy.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I guess I'll have to dream the rest

Bobby Hackett got this song just right on an out-of-print 1967 easy listening LP. "I Guess" made the rounds of the big bands in 1941, including Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey. Fitting number for State of the Union night.


I'd have hired him in a minute

John and Elizabeth Edwards Legally Separated

Former aide Andrew Young initially claimed that he fathered the child with John Edwards' mistress in the weeks leading up to the crucial presidential primaries. John Edwards publicly declared last week that he was the father of the child with Rielle Hunter, who worked as a videographer before his second presidential campaign in 2008.

Young's upcoming book details how Edwards went to great lengths to hide the affair. In excerpts from an ABC News interview, Young said that Edwards asked him to find a doctor who might fake a paternity test and asked him to steal a diaper from the baby, now almost 2, to determine whether it was really his. He also claims that the married couple sought to politicize her cancer diagnosis.
Both John & Young are scumbags. If using her illness to promote health care reform & spotlighting women's health issues was politicizing it, yeah, she politicized it. But him, I should've guessed about him. The haircut, the fact I'd have hired him in a minute for a medical malpractice suit because I'd want a lawyer who could be scumbag if necessary.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Last week, my friend Gina drove me up to Newark. I gave her wrong directions & we went up commercial Newark Ave. rather than residential North Broad St., just made the drive a little longer. A miserable low rise brick apartment complex caught my eye. "That's ugly, " I said. It was Seth Boydon Homes, public housing over 50 years old, now hopelessly gang & drug-infested despite efforts of good residents. Bill Cosby spoke there a couple of years ago.

I don't know the history of the place, but my guess is that it was originally built for white Newarkers, located on the far side of large Weequahic Park, & back then convenient to some big manufacturing plants. On the other of the park was a suburban, middle class, Jewish neighborhood around Beth Israel Hospital, an area already in white flight before the '67 riots. Interstate Route 78 was run through the northern part of the neighborhood, an insane decision, destroying a large portion & cutting it off from the rest of Newark. It's been theorized that Route 78 sped up Newark's economic collapse.

We returned by the correct route, through the old Weequahic neighborhood, still pleasant streets of neat single family homes. But even this area is loaded with gangs & drugs now, the curse of homeowners.


Monday, January 25, 2010

The People are weary

Democrats making bonehead decisions.
DOVER, Del. – Beau Biden announced Monday that he will not seek election to the U.S. Senate seat long held by his father, Vice President Joe Biden, putting another Democratic-held Senate seat in jeopardy and dealing another blow to President Barack Obama's flailing party.
Illinois got Roland Burns when Obama was elected. Paterson appointed a nonentity to Hillary's New York seat, probably the most desirable in terms of media access. MA Democrats nominated a stiff to replace Ted. Delaware Dems did Joe Biden a favor by keeping the seat warm with a placeholder for son Beau, who declined to run. Chris Dodd screwed himself when he kissed off his constituents & packed his family off to Iowa for a hopeless presidential run, so he's going & that seat's open. None of these senate seats should be seriously in play for Repugs, even in a down midterm year. It's like Democrats have no A-list anymore.

Had the Prez rolled out his "middle class under assault" ideas months ago, they wouldn't seem like a panic reaction now. This was a rather odd thing to say:
"Unfortunately, the middle class has been under assault for a long time. Too many Americans have known their own painful recessions long before any economist declared that there was a recession."
Odd for its belatedness. 2007 was a bad year. It & most of 2008 are not considered "recession" years because the government defines recession as an economic threshold crossed, while the American people feel the whole process coming & going, every bit of the uncertainty. The People are a lot wearier than Beltway politicians.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stardusted Music

Bobby Hackett was the front man (& much more) for the famous early Jackie Gleason albums, enough to fill a four CD set. A facile cornet/trumpet player with a great tone, he could probably play ballad standards in his sleep, & most certainly played them while inebriated. This part of the easy listening "lounge" genre ain't my thing, & I have no regrets passing on the orchestral stuff, high or (mostly) low quality, during the great flea market & garage sale record collection sell-offs of the '80s & '90s. The bottom feeders of lounge have almost no musical acumen. It's all good to them. They're completetists or mesmerized by sexy album jackets, Their value is that by digging up everything they occasionally dig up a gem for everyone else, often without recognizing its true value. As a free form radio DJ of no specialized musical expertise, I have to trust my ears & tastes. This is special.

When Bobby Hackett was prohibited by his contract with Capitol from recording lush orchestral albums for any other label, he went into the studio for Columbia & made two LPs - Dream Awhile (1960) & The Most Beautiful Horn in the World (1961) - with a small combo including piano, bass, guitar, & Wurlitzer theater organ played on the first LP by a guy named Johnny Seng. Seng provided the "strings." The result was a strangely ethereal imitation of Jackie Gleason. You're not sure at first what you're hearing. Listening to this music is like watching star-crossed lovers dancing at 3 am in a large, empty ballroom. Cheesy in its way, yet almost unbearably sad, but for the beautiful horn effortlessly sailing over it all.

The two Hackett/Seng LPs were packaged together & briefly released on a CD titled, "Music 'til Dawn."


Atlantic City NJ

Rare postcard image of the Ballroom in Convention (now Boardwalk) Hall. This space has its own Kimball theater organ, in the care of Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

The New Beat Bossa

Listening to classy bossa nova & samba jazz circa 1960, mostly recordings made in Brazil for Brazilians. Although it's easy listening, it was smoothed out even more when it reached the United States. Only had to compare a Joao Donato piano trio record with one he recorded three years later with Bud Shank in L.A. Shank had been to Brazil a few years earlier, he knew, but it got the treatment anyway. Both are fine LPs. Walter Wanderley's Brazilian organ records are somewhat less laid back. The Brazilians were already stars in their country & they had a good deal of creative freedom there to do unusual things. They were just adapting to a new, wider market with different tastes & a potential for selling a lot of songs & records. We almost beat the bossa nova beat into the ground. But Sergio Mendes & Brazil '66 is nice ear candy to this day. Many of our better jazz musicians loved playing it.

The cover of this 1962 LP by Zoot Sims didn't look too promising when I found it at a flea market in the 90's. It turned out to be wonderful, with Jim Hall on guitar, a prominent flute section, first rate tunes & arrangements, Sims has a way with the style different from Stan Getz.

Here's Sem Saudades de Voce from New Beat Bossa Nova (RealAudio stream).

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Lobbyists Get Potent Weapon in Campaign Finance Ruling


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has handed a new weapon to lobbyists. If you vote wrong, a lobbyist can now tell any elected official that my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election.
Pardon my English. Five assholes. A telling quote:
“It will put on steroids the trend that outside groups are increasingly dominating campaigns,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “Candidates lose control of their message. Some of these guys lose control of their whole personalities.”
That's Benjamin L. "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" Ginsberg, a Republican campaign lawyer at the law-and-lobbying firm Patton Boggs. He means the candidate you support loses control. Brown won in MA by keeping a handle on his message, sticking to a few themes & points, & not letting his campaign get sidetracked by advertising that would alarm Bay Staters. He didn't want voters thinking he was Jim DeMint of South Carolina. The worst thing Chris Christie could have done in Jersey would have been to allow his campaign to sound like the extreme right wing ideologue he thumped in the primary.

Lobbyists & special interests won 't threaten opponents with negative ads. They'll intimidate "friends" who waver or want to work out legislative compromises. This kind of tactic is discussed all the time on political websites, but there are limitations. Anyway, on liberal blogs it's more about getting enough people to donate $25 each to buy radio ads in support of a longshot congressional candidate in Indiana.

A terrible Supreme Court ruling.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

tefillim is...

I made a small online contribution to the United Methodist Committee On Relief, checking the tiny UMC church around the corner for congregational credit (it wasn't required). That adds a little joke, because when the office over there receives notification, probably by automated e mail, someone will be really puzzled.

Seriously, UMCOR, a first rate relief organization, lost two great souls in the Hotel Montana collapse, & other Methodists on established Haitian medical missions were killed or injured. I was raised Methodist & have my problems with the denomination, but they are experienced, competent, & courageous in disaster situations, they honor John Wesley's vision of Christian service.
Jet diverts to Philly over teen passenger's prayer

PHILADELPHIA – A Jewish teenager trying to pray on a New York-to-Kentucky flight caused a scare Thursday when he pulled out a set of small boxes containing holy scrolls, leading the captain to divert the flight to Philadelphia, where the commuter plane was greeted by police, bomb-sniffing dogs and federal agents.

The 17-year-old on US Airways Express Flight 3079 was using tefillin, a set of small boxes containing biblical passages that are attached to leather straps, Philadelphia police Lt. Frank Vanore said.
I've resided near the Orthodox Jewish Educational Center in the Elmora section of Elizabeth since 2004 & I've never seen tefillim. I do see lots of kids from their high schools in Dunkin' Donuts, but aside from the yarmulkes, modest dresses, & tendency to hold the door open for you, they're indistinguishable from public school teenagers & just as noisy.
Harrison Ford really is a difficult talk show interview. Audiences accept it & Letterman hangs in there with good humor because Ford knows how awkward he is, but he's game, & he gets three segments & always fires off a few zingers. I've always liked "Witness," where the grim, taciturn character he plays in so many movies is forced to rely on the close-knit, pacifist (but he learns, pretty tough) Amish, & features a very unusual & sexy love story.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lonesome Echo

One of the most famous & collectable LP covers, by Salvador Dali. The reverse side is here.

I'm probably a typical American in my unwonkiness. I read much & read widely, watch the news & late night talk show monologues. But basically I click on headlines from Associated Press & a few online newspapers, read the page, & go to something else. I form opinions less on the "facts" than on what others say or write about the "facts." There, of course, I have my preferences.

Matt Bai's piece in the today's NYT, The Great Unalignment, is much my view also.

I'm a liberal. More left than liberal in some ways. But I'm not especially ideological. Political ideology is something I believe ought to be kept close, a kind of pure standard. Ideologues in public office scare me. Ideologues always believe it's an ideology that wins an election, not a candidate. But good candidates often enough overcome prevailing views & sentiments to win elections. Brown had to do that In MA. I didn't see the election of Obama as deeply ideological. It was a coalition victory wrapped in liberal populism. Liberal populism is a still a strong sell in most states Obama carried, too bad Coakley wasn't carrying the brand. Obama seemed the obvious pragmatic liberal's choice in 2008. He probably was the best choice. I wish he was capable of leaning harder on his own party's legislators; he lacked the long experience of a political insider Hillary Clinton might have brought to the job, but that inexperience was his non-ideological appeal to me & to millions of others. So far, he disappointed me more on economic & banking issues than on health care, because I think he entered office with a real mandate to clean up Wall Street, not just punish a bunch of individuals who got rich legitimately no matter how much we dislike their methods or greed. Wealthy commuters with new mansions in Colts Neck NJ don't disturb me. Boarded up houses do.

On health care reform, the door had yet to be opened, & the bottom line was to get Americans accustomed to the idea that every citizen ought to have affordable public or private HMO coverage regardless of job or income, & that it would cost a lot of money upfront no way around it. But you couldn't just create a pharmaceutical company windfall, like W's "Medicare D" where there's complexities, baffling inducements for various plans, but nothing to make drug companies compete with each other to lower prices & contain costs. So Americans spend money subsidizing the national health plans of other nations, which then use these plans to entice business development. Western Europe sells an educated workforce & long term ideas while America still pushes nonunion labor & a one week vacation to start.

But how can a nation plan when the populace, driven here & there by a 24 hour news cycle, is unwilling to commit to any particular course of action other than to object to whatever is being done now? A political party has to stand or fall on some kind of basic ideology.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

G.O.P. Takes Massachusetts Senate Seat

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, "They knew Ted Kennedy, & you, Martha Coakley, are no Ted Kennedy." Beware Democrats. Massachussetts elected a Republican governor 4 straight times before Deval Patrick made it. This result is what happens when you don't run a first rate candidate for an open office when voters are feeling surly. Republicans made that mistake in several of the special congressional elections. They found a good one in MA. Once Scott Brown got a leg up, after Coakley's dismal final debate performance, all he had to do was keep his mouth shut & shake a lot of hands. The Shadow of Doom was on Martha by then - she who had spurned the help & advice not only of Obama's people, but of the Kennedy family themselves.

In Jersey, we were stuck with incumbent Jon Corzine. Some of us unreconstructed librals felt we were being stuck with him four years ago & wanted a candidate maybe a little less smart, a little less wealthy, but a little closer to the ground, a guy who could steer the machines as much they steered him. Corzine seemed to have a concept of the Office he was seeking somewhat different from the reality. Which is the same thing that happened when he ran for United States Senator & discovered freshman senators with no experience are treated like go-fers. I scoff whenever Jersey is called a "blue state." This state didn't suddenly "flip." The Democratic majority in Trenton was sweated in & only a fool would think it's permanent.

Democrats were gonna fall below 60 in the Senate in November anyway. It shouldn't have happened this way, this soon. =
Another thought after reading commentary from Massachussetts. I don't think the election was mainly a referendum on Obama, or even health care, for the people of that state, except as a kind of background noise. Coakley wasn't too "liberal." That was hardly an issue at all running for a seat popularly held by Ted "Health Care Reform" Kennedy. There were many local factors, including a deep geographical divide in the state Democratic party (imagine if Dick Codey had run & beat Corzine in the primary last year. The Norcross Camden machine would have sat out the general election). What matters is that it is perceived, reported , & treated as a referendum, which makes it so, & Democrats must deal with it accordingly. I think the people of MA may be sorry, if not shocked, when Sen. Brown does what said he would do & votes his party line.

Nothing pisses off independent voters more than indifference.


One of the reasons late-night shows go so horribly wrong so often is that the physical toll of the job is different from other gigs. It requires stamina, psychic isolation and an inability to get bored.
Jay and Conan both have this stamina, and it's extraordinarily rare. There are only a few guys alive who have the freakazoid DNA to do the job.

Rob Sheffield, "Late-Night Bloodbath," Rolling Stone
Overlooking daytime hosts, who may have a worse grind. Not only the family dysfunction show hosts. It's probably a psychological stretch for Ellen DeGeneres to be up up up every day, if her stand-up was halfway honest. She seems like a person who has good days & bad days. Her comedy was always a bit down, depression shadowing it, her delivery largely deadpan. Unlike Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen's show isn't designed to permit bad days, lousy moods., & open aggression. Maybe it's why Ellen has a dance-your-blues-away ritual. On one of her rare promotional appearances as a guest with Letterman, she talked about needing to get used to feigning interest in boring actors shilling bad movies, & tolerating celebrities who are clearly unintelligent. She hadn't fully comprehended how difficult it would be. As an experienced stand-up comic, Ellen - like Leno - is a tough cookie. Daytime talk is littered with more notable failures than late night, but the shows were canceled faster & failed more quietly. Some just faded away. Daytime success is an achievement.

Doing 3 or 4 mostly talk hours on radio five days or nights a week is a grind. You have to love radio to do it. Only a relative handful of radio hosts are paid big time money, management is bottom line ruthless - they make NBC execs look like class acts.

New Governor

Chris Christie is Governor of New Jersey. To his credit, he seems to understand that he won't solve anything long-term by creating conditions for more poverty, more crime, & crappier urban schools. What he can do is establish an atmosphere around his office that corruption & nepotism are not welcome & will not be considered the way things have to be. He was raised in affluent Livingston, but he was an Essex County public school kid, & he's proud of his connection to Newark. He's not behaving as a right wing ideologue, & there's little in his record to indicate he ever was. His stated social values are commonplace conservative Catholic; of course he's opposed to abortion & same sex marriage. He probably hopes these won't become issues for him any time soon. He's stuck with the Democratic Statehouse majorities for two years. A bad governor would be adversarial in the hope voters would blame the majority for failure & turn them out. But I doubt Jerseyans have the patience for that game right now, & Democrats know they can't wait out Christie for 4 years. We shall see.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Learn to rise together

or fall one by one.

Every year on Dr. King's birthday I lament the mainstream appropriation of his image & causes. We (white people) want him to stop preaching the tough love at us.

I've said it again & again: The most dangerous thing you can do in America is try to form a political coalition of the economic underclasses. Which is what Dr. King was up to when he was murdered. All those years exposing himself in the deep South, & he gets killed in Memphis while supporting a labor union. It could have happened anywhere in 1968.

Racism is The American Ruse. The poor white could not be permitted to make a peaceful alliance with the poor black for mutual advancement. Blacks had to be at least a little poorer, & oppressed by law rather than the cultural conventions that kept "white trash" down.

Dr. King saw that Vietnam & the military draft were the tragic levelers; America's underclass young men, white, black, brown, all the colors, thrown together to blast a little nation on the other side of the world on behalf of ... who? what? The Army was the most integrated institution in America, an experiment in integration. The draft actually functioned to keep young male labor out of the job market after high school - the only logical reason for having a peacetime draft until a war could be found to justify it. Now we fill the enlisted ranks through financial incentives: learn a trade, pay for college, support your children, get out of the 'hood & drive a Humvee.

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Amboina Serenaders

I was searching for kroncong music from Indonesia & came across this. At its best, kroncong is an incredibly languid & exotic (to my ears) mix of Hawaiian & Indonesian music with ukelele & violin. Still popular & evolving, there are decades of recordings, but it's not a well-documented or easily available music. It gets the same disposable treatment as the bins of bootlegged CDs & tapes you often find in Indian grocery stores. I guess the Amboina Serenaders were a "roots" group, playing not kroncong but in a straight up popular Hawaiian style, & they were good. They probably had a lot of hotel & radio gigs.


an uninhabitable city

Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean defended his fundraising over the weekend after watchdogs raised concerns about the accounting practices of his foundation, which has collected $2 million in days for earthquake relief.

Via a statement and a video on Wyclef Jean Blog's, the Grammy-winner, 37, said he was ``disgusted'' by attacks on The Wyclef Jean Foundation.

Since Tuesday, Jean has asked fans to text ``Yele'' to 501501 to donate $5 to his foundation.

An independent audit provided by Jean's foundation showed it was closely intertwined with Jean's businesses. Critics questioned whether enough of the money raised from previous events had gone to Haitian causes. Jean said he has given $1 million of his own money to the foundation. The foundation intends to airlift supplies to Haiti using a FedEx plane early next week.

I'm not ready to jump on Wyclef. Although, with minimal research, you can find a dozen better charitable organizations with clearly-defined missions & high ratings for effectiveness & accounting practices. But then you can't say, "I gave to Wyclef." Wyclef has the kind of flexible "family" charity where he decides what to do next. When there are necessary costs requiring for-profit services, as happens with all non-profits (someone has to be paid to fix the plumbing), he can steer that business close to home. If the money circles around & ends up back in his own pocket, that's not good, & he will be mightily embarrassed if it's happened without his full knowledge. I wouldn't trust any young pop star to best know how to use my $5. You can always purchase Wyclef's recordings & let him donate his own taxable income however he wishes.

I wonder about the relief strategy. When it became clear the infrastructure was destroyed, sections of Port-au-Prince were isolated, & organized distribution of food & water was impossible, why weren't we seeing food & water just dropped from helicopters? Risk the "unsecured" response on the ground. There will be much deserved second-guessing about this past week regarding short, medium, & long term relief tactics. Predictably, the refugee situation is becoming more serious as Haitians stop digging, consider their prospects if they stay in a ruined city, & head for the hills. Yet, the U.N. seems unprepared for that. In the immediate aftermath it wouldn't take a genius to think, "Next week, survivors will be abandoning an uninhabitable city."


Sunday, January 17, 2010

UN chief urges Haiti aid patience

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appealed to frustrated Haitians to be patient over efforts to bring them relief from last Tuesday's earthquake.

Aid workers say relief efforts are being slowed by bottlenecks, but food and water are finally reaching some parts of the capital Port-au-Prince.
What else could he say? The antonym of patience is impatience, but that is not what Haitians are feeling.

Collingswood NJ

Chubby's Cafe
Cocktail Bar and Tropical Room

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shadow puppet show

President Obama touted his plan Saturday to levy a fee on those big banks that received bailout money, using pointed language to demand that the financial institutions repay their debt to taxplayers.

"Now, like clockwork, the banks and politicians who curry their favor are already trying to stop this fee from going into effect," Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address. "The very same firms reaping billions of dollars in profits, and reportedly handing out more money in bonuses and compensation than ever before in history, are now pleading poverty. It’s a sight to see."
Feels good to smack down those greedy bankers. Yep, this is feel-good political theater: Prince Barack versus Wall Street Dream Demons. The sort of punitive "We really mean it" windfall tax that ought to be attached to comprehensive financial reform legislation. But it's not. Let's see something that makes the mega-banks scream & the smaller regional lending institutions smile.


Friday, January 15, 2010

American Leap

Nightly News to The Insider.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Done with all that

With all the unfolding horror & tragedy of Haiti, I had a peculiar reaction to images of the national palace, parliament, cathedral, old bank buildings, & reports of a nonfunctioning government & the disappearance of the national police. I thought, At least they're done with all that, if they want to be done with it. Haiti is the most desperately poor of western hemisphere nations. Haiti is not cursed from a deal with the devil. Nor is it cursed by geography, despite being on a fault line in hurricane alley. It has been cursed by a common belief - a superstition - that nothing could really change, which became a self-fullfilling prophecy after the fall of the Duvalier clan. Haiti was trapped in its own history, its own view of itself.

Historically, there's nothing quite like an earthquake's capacity to force change. Wrecked cities rise again, their identities & cultures renewed, or they disappear. The Great Lisbon earthquake of 1755, in a roundabout way, helped create The United States of America, it had such a profound influence on European philosophy.

Haiti has been a sinkhole of world aid. After years of a United Nations peacekeeping presence, the basic mission was still to prevent Haiti from falling into political chaos. Every major relief organization was already on the ground in Haiti, & all their prior efforts had hardly made a dent in Haiti's poverty & economic backwardness.

Perhaps it will eventually be good thing for the old symbols to fall, since the Haitians themselves would not tear them down. Port-au-Prince must be bulldozed just to gather, count, & bury the dead. Many of them died because the government was too weak & too corrupt to require basic construction codes; because the intractable slums sat by side-by-side with the mansions of the exploiters & oppressors, & when the quake came, the villas & mansions fell on the tin shanties, but all, rich & poor, died together. Should it disturb us if the poor of Haiti come to take some satisfaction in this equality of destruction? They had suffered for so long seen yet unseen, in the indifferent shadow of arrogant wealth. This is a great & terrible passage for them. It is not our duty to lead Haiti into the future, but to alleviate their suffering now, then clear the way & make it possible for them to choose to build something better on the ruins of their great city.


Virtual Heart Chant

for the People of Haiti, by Pauline Oliveros:
Warm your hands by rubbing them together vigorously. Bring your right hand to your own heart and your left hand to the back of a virtual partner. Feel the hand of a virtual partner on your own back. Savor the protection of your heart and your partner's hearts. Sing AH on each breath with the intention of healing your own heart and your partner and beyond to all the people of Haiti and all who need this healing.

When you are finished gather the energy between the palms of your hands. Know that this healing travels far. Bring the energy to your motor center (lower abdomen) and store it there. Listen for the virtual chant and sensation of virtual hands on your back.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chris Montez

It's 1966. The second dancer from the left in the video looks like she was late for rehearsal. Song originally written by Tony Hatch for Petula Clark, good song, lots of good versions.

There's a 22 cut "Best of," but the original, modest vinyl album is as perfect an example of mid-Sixties A&M label as Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Sergio Mendes & Brazil '66, & Baja Marimba Band .


Staggering destruction

Staggering level of destruction & suffering in Haiti. Along with homes of the rich & poor, hospitals & schools, the quake wrecked what symbols of institutional stability the nation had: parliament; presidential palace, cathedral, United Nations headquarters, banks. Haiti barely functioned as a nation for its citizens before the quake. The primary task of the United Nations presence was to prevent chaos.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The president of the American Federation of Teachers says she will urge her members to accept a form of teacher evaluation that takes student achievement into account ...
Bob Herbert, A Serious Proposal
Kids have to learn more, sooner, & faster, than I did. Paradoxically, to do it they have to learn less. Which is why so many young people seem incredibly ignorant of basic factual knowledge in history, geography, literature. Teachers have more teaching "tools," but they also have less flexibility in what & how they teach. They must teach toward the tests. There are more standardized tests, & they are more comprehensive & more important than ever. Nothing can be done about that. Teachers have to be held accountable for test results, just as students are, & tenure cannot let them off the hook. I don't particularly like it. It's the reality of education now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana approved in New Jersey

This is strict legislation compared to California, in both eligibility & how pot is dispensed. The only objection that made much sense was concern that people picking up their legal marijuana might become targets for robbery, a legitimate concern in Jersey. Any law that decriminalizes pot to some extent is good, as I think enforcement of misdemeanor possession laws is a waste of time for cops. & that includes following the scent to a secluded area of a large public park on a Summer afternoon.

I don't smoke pot; I gave it up because it makes me too aware of my surroundings & therefore tense & paranoid rather than relaxed & sociable. But I liked the effect it had on my hearing & eyesight. I've spent many pleasurable hours listening to music, wandering through art galleries, & walking on the beach after smoking good pot. For years, I rarely set foot on a Jersey boardwalk after dark without first toking up. Pot was, particularly with music, an aid to learning. It helped me break down music into component parts & to better understand forms.

Musicians have always used it integrate the parts. Pot was the not-so-secret ingredient in the magic of the old Count Basie Orchestra, playing head arrangements without written charts. I think heroin had the opposite effect; it made musicians imagine they were connecting when they were actually quite alone in their own minds. Smack undermined collectivity, even gave it a bad rep during the 1950's until Ornette & then Coltrane made it hip again. Charlie Parker's ideas & playing were great for jazz; the myth of heroin's importance in Parker's genius destroyed many great artists including Bird himself.

The average Jerseyan probably won't even notice medical marijuana. The important debate is in California, a state so fallen economically that they're desperate for the tax revenues legalized grass might provide.

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The "Barefoot Lady"

Lives in Europe, still plays & looks great.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

NBC ending Leno's nightly prime-time show

It's obvious Letterman enjoys being "king." Dave's been very spry the past few months (the affair revelations actually helped), & it carries over to Craig Ferguson. Although Craig built his audience based on being the low budget #2 in his slot.

Leno's making money for NBC, but he's driving away viewers & advertisers for local newscasts.

It didn't take long to figure out what went wrong with Conan. His sound stage set lacks intimacy. The old Tonight Show set was like a nightclub. The Ed Sullivan is a Broadway theater with a history in a neighborhood with an identity. Ferguson's set feels like a broom closet - the desk is rolled out of the way to put a band on stage. But Conan's house band looks like it's at the other end of a football field. Andy Richter, talented enough to have his own talk show, assumed the role of resident sycophant. Conan's egotistical, self-referential talk show host humor - kept in check by the squashed confines of 30 Rock & the cheap-looking prop gags - expanded to fill the new space. He became, or thought he had become, a Universal Studio "star." The transformation was premature. I didn't like Conan's Late Show broadcasts from large theaters in Chicago & San Francisco, which predicted what he's doing now with The Tonight Show. From the time Conan was announced as the new TS host, I thought there would be problems.

NBC blew it with its most profitable property. Neither Leno nor O'Brien are "victims." The only one getting screwed is maybe Jimmy Fallon. But Fallon doesn't even attempt to reach an older demographic. Conan could invent a late night show for Fox better than one he has now.


Highlands NJ

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

The passion, the pride

"The first thing people notice about CCA is the strong sense of culture. The dedication. The passion. The pride. Because we all believe we’re here to help people who really need it. To help them put their lives back on the right path. There’s no better feeling than that, so no wonder it’s such a strong part of the CCA culture."

Corrections Corporation of America,
private contractor for Elizabeth Detention Center
NYT: Officials Hid Truth About Immigrant Deaths in Jail

Friday, January 08, 2010

Abdallah Chahine

"Ya Taira Tiri," from Abdallah Chahine, Oriental Bouquet (Euro-Arabic microtonal piano).


Thursday, January 07, 2010

20 to 14

was the Jersey State Senate vote against marriage equality. But I don't make too much of it. Public support for marriage equality hovers near 50% here . The most vocal spokespersons in the senate for & against were both Roman Catholic men, & the against guy is 75 years old. Our suburban Republican governor-elect is relieved he won't have to veto it; he was hired to do something about spending, taxes, & corruption & is disinclined so far to promote a right wing "social values" agenda. No politician of consequence attacks domestic partnerships. So the defeat is more a "not yet" than a "never."

Only the most naive of those opposing marriage equality in New Jersey can't see they're on the road to Appomattox. When I see a conservative Black Baptist pastor & a Hassid protesting together, I'm looking at both what's great about America & awful about religious patriarchy. I almost excuse them for the reason that they must protest. Almost, because marriage equality won't affect them any more than Will & Grace TV show reruns or the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. No one will disturb their patriarchal order & insist that dancing Hassids include women in their celebrations or a Baptist preacher acknowledge that his Sunday School Director has lived for years with a "friend" of the same gender & they're not just sharing the rent. Although I feel for the closeted men & women in their communities whose only alternative to staying silent is being shunned & driven out into the wilderness. Being born into those communities is different than choosing a religious environment in order to hide from one's sexuality, like gay students at Liberty University.

Small comfort to same sex couples in Jersey who want to be married now, but if the courts don't help, a clear popular vote majority for marriage equality is just a few years away here in many other states. High school & college age youth aren't interested in the reasoning that can elect an openly lesbian mayor of Houston & yet deny her a legal status as someone's life partner, & then get hung up on the line between "domestic partnership" & "marriage." You want to legally call it marriage, fine with me. I'd prefer if government got out of the marriage business & everyone signed the same civil union contract. But that is not to be. It'll have to be marriage.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Had to reschedule a medical test today. While it's not something I look forward to, it's in-office & routine enough for the doctor, & they say you're in & out in an hour. I had arranged a ride there & back & weather was decent. But I have a cold sore, running a slight temp, even Ambien couldn't put me to sleep last night. It's like a cold bug you have partial immunity to but it's there all the same. I didn't feel right this morning. I'm not allowed to take aspirin for a week before the test so I couldn't use it to knock the fever back. I thought if I just went to the appt., they might not want to touch me. I called the office, knowing they don't appreciate same day cancellations, told my symptoms, & the office assistant said, yes, I should postpone, wasn't grumpy about it, told me who to talk to later to make a new appt & get another prescription for the preventive antibiotics most doctors & dentists throw at patients before even minor "invasive" procedures. The postponement was obviously routine, too, probably very much so in cold & flu season. Then I called my ride, I was very apologetic, she was in the middle of doing something to her hair & I think the greater inconvenience was making her drip on the phone. I dreamed during a nap this afternoon that I got a new calendar. Then woke up, called the office at the designated time, got right through to the intended person, a friendly aide I remembered, & set everything up.


The Chartmakers: Epiphany

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
by another way, back to the stars.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

What’s needed are big new innovative efforts to fashion an economy that creates jobs for all who want and need to work. Just getting us back in fits and starts over the next few years to where we were when the recession began should not be acceptable to anyone. We should be moving now to invest aggressively in a new, greener economy, leading the world in the development of alternative fuels, advanced transportation networks and the effort to restrain the poisoning of the planet. We should be developing an industrial policy that emphasizes the need for America to regain its manufacturing mojo, as tough as that might seem, and we need to rebuild our infrastructure.
Bob Herbert, NYT

I'm not saying Europe is perfect, but many of those nations seem far ahead of us now, better positioned in energy, health care, transportation, education. They have different immigration problems, since they're not accustomed to diversity. They've basically settled a lot of matters we've avoided. We can't seem to focus on more than one issue at a time. A jihadist slips through, fortunately he fails, but that becomes all-consuming even though the holes can't be plugged in a day or a week. They can & will be fixed. We have to learn to juggle better.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Taxi to Bayway

Today a taxi to an appt was well worth the expense. A bureaucratic thing in a dreary section of the city called Bayway, bring the proper paperwork & it's routine. On a really cold day you can spend a lot of time outside waiting for the bus. In Bayway, the stop is on a four-lane road roaring with trucks headed to & from the Turnpike & Goethal's Bridge, across from a Dunkin' Donuts I can't use because the bus might come while I'm there. I did ride up S. Broad St, an old working class neighborhood of houses, apt buildings, & small stores selling a remarkable variety of things, I wonder how they stay in business, but they do. Years ago, Bayway was heavily Polish & I think S. Broad an Irish area affixed to St. Mary of the Assumption Church.

Many people probably have the impression that Elizabeth is overall a very African-American city. It isn't. It's diverse, but the general feel is Hispanic. No doubt there are thousands of illegal immigrants, but in my neighborhood you set a sense of a settled, permanent population that switches easily between two languages & reflects the middle class lifestyles of Colombia & Venezuela. I'm not sure Mexicans feel comfortable in my part of town, or even if they're all that welcome. There is a little old lady who looks like she stepped out of a village in the high Andes. She rolls a two wheel shopping cart around & digs through garbage collecting cans & bottles. Some days she dresses miserably, other days in native peasant garb with felt hat. You can't earn much collecting recyclables the city picks up every garbage day, & I think she's someone's slightly daft grandmom, feels useless & utterly out of place, doesn't know a word of English, & her family gave up trying to keep her in the house.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Seaside Heights NJ

A classic Casino Pier.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Muslim-Hindu punk rock bands

10 PM, temp 19, wind 20 mph WNW. The same yet not as painful as earlier this week, go figure.
Florida 51, Cincinnati 23. Did anyone expect the Bearcats to beat the Gators? I didn't even before Coach Kelly left for Notre Dame. But with an interim coach, himself on the way out the door, & a coaching staff needing to get it over with so they could print out some resumes, Cincie had nothing left in the tank except individual talent & empty bravado. Florida was still a team with Tim Tebow. Pitt would've put up a better fight, & lost, too.

Penn State 19, LSU 17. Despite the Nittany Lions' propensity for losing to teams they need to beat to stay in BCS contention, they can win big games. The field conditions for this one were abysmal. Anyway, I never feel sorry for SEC schools.
DePaul 57, Rutgers 60
After Wednesday's humiliating loss at George Washington before an announced crowd of 801, I was ready to pronounce Rutgers a bunch of hopeless underachievers. Every player on the team arrived with hype. Well, here's their second quality win. This result:
Connecticut 91, Seton Hall 25
played at The Pru Center in Newark was downright shocking. Even Iona managed 35 against the Huskies at Storrs. Uconn is so good that Stanford was drubbed by them & stayed no. 2 in the AP Poll.

Texas St. 5 13 18 Final
(5) Baylor 47 52 99

The NCAA ought to be asking some schools (maybe even whole conferences) to justify why they are Div. 1 rather than adding more every season.

Current top headline on Yahoo U.S. News:
Muslim-Hindu punk rock bands part of new movement

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Friday, January 01, 2010

January 1

No specific resolutions. Yeah, one, broaden the music I listen to, be more curious, have more fun with it.

I'd like to get back to a blogger book I started a year ago, a poetry collection. Doing a blog in book format is a pain. For a start, it has to be posted in reverse page order, with time stamp formatting removed. I was proceeding slowly, too slowly, because the posting requirements made it difficult to shift poems around. But I had a basic template & was tinkering with it. Then I realized the template wasn't giving the longer lines enough width & was breaking them - a no no, & I impulsively tried a "new" template without copying the old one or retaining the option to go back to what's called "classic template" & lost the formatting.

Facebook exchange with a journalist I like:
Hank Kalet: Avatar lives up to the hype -- parable of Afghanistan & the rapaciousness of corporate control

Bob Rixon: That's what us cultural elites are supposed to believe it is, to give us the faint hope that's what rhe typical viewer understands it to mean.

Hank Kalet: I don't know if the typical viewer picks up on it, but I suspect that the shift in public consciousness on the war has made the public more receptive to the story's anticorporate underpinnings.

Bob Rixon: I'm not a cynic. It reminds me there ain't enough Southern Baptists in the world to control the marketplace of profitable ideas
Facebook delivers what I want from it, & I get it by limiting my "friends" mostly to people whose postings I actually want to see, whether links to their writing & art or an interesting article, snapshots of their kids or dogs or kids with dogs, or just the occasional wry comment. I can send "Happy Birthday" greetings as reminded, & you can never receive enough of those. I see daily photos of Asbury Park, & lots of old Jersey shore postcards. Nobody becomes my friend because they vaguely recall me from high school (only a few girls I liked have made it), or are trying to collect all show-archived WFMU DJs on Facebook & finally reached my name way down on the list but have no interest in why I'm on the list. I'm "friends" with a great composer, Pauline Oliveros, & a great pianist, Neely Bruce, who interact with their friends & fans. I'm friends with a bunch of poets. Some "friends" I wish were more active. I have only two "friends" on "hide," one because he posted about 20 videos every day, & the other because I respect him but his every Facebook posting is swarmed by sycophants.

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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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