Sunday, February 28, 2010

Atlantic City NJ

Auditorium of Warner Theater
"Wonder Theater of the World"

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Obsessed & Deranged

Read Frank Rich's piece, The Axis of the Obsessed and Deranged. He says Andrew Stack's suicide mission is "a flare with the dark afterlife of an omen. "

Instead of calling it an "incident" & saying it will be a "happy day for America" when we "abolish the I.R.S.," how would Iowa congressman Steve King have reacted had Stack succeeded in killing hundreds instead of one Vietnam Vet nearing his retirement? What if Stack had flown into a public school, a symbol of tax-funded government indoctrination & waste? Or a Catholic church?

Consider how much Stack's rantings & the rhetoric of the Tea Partiers echo each other. Many on the right hear those echoes, & added their shouts to them after Stack's insane terrorist attack. How many more people are like him, increasingly emboldened by the open affirmations of the right to Stack's views, to casually violent talk of "revolution?" We are looking not at reform, not at a civil society of law, but at an invitation to anarchy, the very fear we had after 9/11 of solo suicide-bombers acting not on the orders of al-Qaeda, but on its terrible inspiration.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

An Associated Press photo with the caption "The ocean at Waikiki Beach starts to recede, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010 in Honolulu."

All night & morning people were evacuating lowlying areas, buying supplies in supermarkets like Jerseyans before a three inch snowfall. The Navy was even sailing ships out of Pearl Harbor as a precaution. Nobody knew how large the waves would be. So what's with these two guys, the one on the right looking he's talking on cellphone?


How do we understand this?

Newborn is found naked on top of parked car in Edison

EDISON - A naked baby boy was found lying on the hood of a parked car in Edison this afternoon, seemingly left lying there as the state thawed from a powerful nor’easter, authorities said.

A visitor to an Edison nursing home, CareOne at Highlands located on Inman Ave., found the infant, who authorities believe is a newborn, lying on a towel atop the hood of the car shortly before 2 p.m., said Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan.

The child remains in good condition at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, according to Kaplan, and will be placed in the custody of the state Division of Youth and Family Services while police try to track down relatives.

The baby weighs seven pounds, eight ounces, and is 21 inches long, said Kaplan.

We have a "Safe Haven" law. What more can we do?

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Friday, February 26, 2010

One of my Facebook friends, a guy I like & respect, has posted links to 17 articles & two wall photos in the past three hours.

This storm was whirling around like a hurricane. The center appeared to be just southeast of New York, below Long Island with something resembling an "eye" over the Jersey coast.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Paper Cup

Great hard-packing heavy wet snowball snow. Lousy shoveling. Maybe 5 inches, but it's concentrate . Temp hovering around freezing all day, roads just starting to ice up around here now. Weren't getting much of anything for a few hours, the snow was circling around north & west of here. Just walked up to 7-11, uncomfortable only when a gust came around the apt building at the top of the hill.

Great alto saxophonist Bud Shank, with a little help from Chet Baker, plays "Paper Cup," a jaunty song Jimmy Webb wrote for The 5th Dimension, from one of Bud's Sixties pop jazz LPs for World Pacific label that've always been knocked but I find entertaining, modest, even charming & offbeat. Like this number. Ripped from vinyl complete with skips, by a dedicated record collector.

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Rep. Eric Cantor went to the Healthcare Summit today with the 2,400 page Democratic reform legislation. Republicans want to start from scratch.

Why didn't they arrive at the Summit with their own proposed legislation? They've had a year to write it. Heck, they've had since Clinton's first term to invent something. (House Repugs do have a "reform " bill, but it's so bad they dared not bring it.)

The majority of Americans agree on three things:
Why don't the Republicans have a plan? They have models. One is called Medicare. The other is The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The two have different approaches, different beneficiaries. But the Republicans can't even get widespread support in their own party for the Wyden-Bennett Act, a Senate bi-partisan plan modeled on the FEHBP.

What happened today is why so many progressives who weren't satisfied with the Democratic senate bill wanted it passed anyway. Only the feds have the power to mandate health care for all citizens, & only the feds have the bargaining power - should we ever choose to use it - to force real competition into the health care market.
So what did we learn from the summit? What I took away was the arrogance that the success of things like the death-panel smear has obviously engendered in Republican politicians. At this point they obviously believe that they can blandly make utterly misleading assertions, saying things that can be easily refuted, and pay no price. And they may well be right.

But Democrats can have the last laugh. All they have to do — and they have the power to do it — is finish the job, and enact health reform.
Paul Krugman


Fire Alarm Clock

Weather has been bad for my week. Really wiped out.

Building fire alarm went off at 7 a.m., I was half-sleep with clock radio on news - fell asleep last night listening to weather report. I hate when I do that. Decided I would not run outside. This was foolish, I know, but the alarm has gone off here a number of times & has never involved an actual situation. Usually been tenants bumping into the red hallway box while moving furniture. The one real situation we had didn't set off the alarm & we called in it ourselves - a strong electric fire smell emanating from the first floor apt of a drunken guy who wouldn't open his door. He had fallen into beer sodden sleep while using his toaster oven. The fire dept had to kick in his door & then air out the building with a fan while we waited around out front. The landlord had been called, & he got an earful from us when he arrived. That tenant had been a problem in other ways, loud music & arguments, his undersized cat wandering the halls at night meowing. Not supposed to have cats, but nobody would care if they went unnoticed. Landlord promised to get the guy out of the building., Took a few months. A nice woman in the apt now who decorates her door for holidays & hosts birthday parties for her grandchildren. Quite an improvement.

I listened for other tenants, heard some doors open, no yelling. I got up, opened the door, smelled nothing. So I put on socks & flannel shirt & waited for the fire engines. Automatic two truck response to building alarms. If it was serious, firefighters would come through the building banging on doors & I'd be ready to go out the front, or out the window.

One of the fire trucks stopped in the intersection, & I could see out the window they weren't rushing to unpack equipment. I stuck my cellphone in my pocket, located my sneakers, but didn't put on jeans over my sweatpants or shut down the computer. I checked the current weather online. Frozen precip, ugh. The alarm stopped clanging. It had been clanging at least 15 minutes.

Then I wandered downstairs in my socks to find out who was to blame. Some of the resident women were in the hallway at bottom of the steps. "There he is," one of them said, "we were wondering about you. "

"I wasn't going outside until a third fire engine showed up."

At that moment, two firemen in their heavy coats & helmets came up from the basement, said goodbye as they passed. My neighbor walked in, unaware of anything, had just dropped his kids off at school, a 7:30 start.

I still don't know who or what set off the alarm, but it had something to do with a guy in a basement apt, & the landlord had already been called. I went back to bed for awhile.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Inspector

"This is a one-bedroom. Is this the bedroom?" The city inspector looked into the room on the left of the entryway. It 's filled with boxes, some empty, most loaded with books, journals, cassette tapes, & collected junk. It has a table comprised of a plank laid across filing cabinets. "Where do you sleep?"

It's a question I hear every year, either from this inspector - the short, efficient black woman, or the affable, middle-age, rumpled white man. He was here last year. "That room is my workspace & attic. I sleep in the other room on a futon."

The white guy, I've learned, is the more nosy inspector. He actually looks at the window locks by the fire escape, twiddles the radiator valves, turns the faucets on & off, pokes into corners. I think he's trying to see what's in the boxes, the crates of CDs. There's also an xylophone leaning against the wall, & diner booth jukebox on the floor, & some paintings propped on the boxes. The woman can see the open path to the shadeless window, the two latches on the sash, & the fire escape railing beyond; feels the heat in the apt ("Better too much than too little, " she said in the hot hallway downstairs when I escorted her in). The room has no water stains in the ceiling, no extension cords criss-crossing the floor. There's a smoke detector with a glowing red light. She doesn't even enter the room.

She doesn't like the bathroom. Neither do I. Had a leak upstairs two weeks ago. Leak fixed, ceiling tiles not replaced. Empty hole showing the floor above. I tell her the truth. "I pester the handyman, he probably figures he'll have to fix stuff anyway when he gets your report. It's annoying."

"The owner" - she looks at her clipboard - "Mark, he ever come around?"

"Once in awhile. I have his number. He returns his calls. I'm a good tenant. But he'll kick the guy's butt. He always does this time of year. No reason for me to call him ... yet."

She checks out the little kitchen area. "You have gas?"

"Nope, I had turned it off. It was a waste. I hate gas. Never used the oven, here or in my old place."

"How long you lived here?"

"Since 2004." That probably settled any question of lifestyle. I'm entrenched. She inspects better places & she inspects worse. In this building. I'm a slob in the manner of a divorced college teacher. But you've have had to have visited one to know.

"I see you have a microwave."

"I have everything I need. Just don't keep them out on the table. "

She's finished in a few minutes. I sign the report. "Thanks for coming on time," I say.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jayson Williams

Former NBA star Jayson Williams is sentenced to five years in prison

ALEXANDRIA TOWNSHIP -- Former New Jersey Net Jayson Williams was sentenced today to five years in prison for fatally shooting a limousine driver in 2002.

The 42-year-old retired athlete pleaded guilty last month to fourth-degree aggravated assault for the death of Costas "Gus" Christofi, 55, at the estate Williams owned in Alexandria Township. Williams will have to serve a minimum of 18 months in prison before he is eligible for parole.

This was a confusing tragedy from the start. But it was about one more wealthy, celebrity athlete who wanted deadly toys he neither needed nor knew how to use. It wasn't the first time he'd acted irresponsibly with guns. Williams admitted nearly shooting New York Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet on his skeet-shooting range, & was accused but never charged with firing a semiautomatic weapon into the parking lot at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Add to that a couple of bar fights. It's one thing to be seriously screwed up, but it's dangerous to be around Jayson Williams.

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I picked a new primary care physician, a younger female Indian doctor who looked me over in the hospital a few months ago & when I was discharged surprised me by soliciting my business as a primary care patient. Her office is little inconvenient to reach, & I'm sure her listed hours are hypothetical. But how many individual GP doctors actually want you as a customer? My old PCP, who I never saw, was a name on top of a large group practice. This new PCP doctor wasn't in my old HMO. She was the third doctor I'd wanted as a primary but couldn't have without being able to claim a "continuance of care" exception. One of the doctors was a personal friend of my psych therapist at the time, & a tall, stern Polish woman with very subtle, dry sense of humor, the kind of humor where you're supposed to get it but not actually chuckle at it.

Looking through lists of physicians, noticed my former girlfriend's best piano student is now a GP in practice with her pediatrician mom. They were a family of very high acheivers, from South India. But every minute of her day was accounted for, had to be useful, excelling at whatever she did was expected. She had a lot of poise, although she occasionally complained about her lack of a "normal" teen social life . You could tell her younger brother was in a pressure cooker. In a rather odd connection, I happened to meet their great-aunt, a professor who knew (& thought highly of) a pot-smoking poet friend of mine who was prof of Classical lit at the same university in upstate New York.

Monday, February 22, 2010

another kind of "hero"

AUSTIN, Texas – The daughter of a man who crashed his small plane into a building housing offices of the Internal Revenue Service called her father a hero for his anti-government views but said his actions, which killed an IRS employee, were "inappropriate."

Joe Stack's adult daughter, Samantha Bell, spoke to ABC's "Good Morning America" from her home in Norway. Asked during a phone interview broadcast Monday if she considered her father a hero, she said: "Yes. Because now maybe people will listen."
This should remove doubts that Stack's act was indeed "terrorism." His own daughter confirms the "message" & hopes that others get it. Of course, one of the messages is that committing an act of terrorism helps spread the message.


Sunday, February 21, 2010


A double bogey game is lovely appreciation of golf posted over at kos.

My maternal grandfather golfed. He was also an active Mason, very middle class, white collar man. Had membership in Lake Mohawk Country Club, You were automatically accepted if you owned property there, which I would describe as more professional class than rich, although there was plenty of money in the larger "chalet" homes. Grandpa's first house wasn't lakefront. Doubt the private lake had Jews back then, or anyone but white protestants. They ignored the Great Depression. My girlfriend, Karen, when I was 18, was the eldest of six (Was it seven?), crammed, with parents & an uncle, into house about the same size as mine, which had seven occupants & was crowded. A working class guy, Karen's dad worked the swing shift somewhere. This allowed him to avoid most of his kids except the pre-schoolers, who he preferred anyway. He was a dedicated public links golfer. The swing shift was good for that, too. Golf is a game that gives you some ideals, in the technical & mental aspects of the game itself, in the etiquette of play, in the park setting, & then sorely tests the ideals. Like fishing, it also tests the pocketbook, no matter how much the enthusiast tries to economize. In fact, the same kind of frustrations occur in both golf & fishing, though they would seem to be unrelated.


Tomorrow I'm calling visiting nurses (they have another name now). I'm not managing my health care well, & that's one of the services they offer - helping you manage your health care. Their office is right around the corner. I need dental work & dentures, a huge problem; have to choose a new primary doctor, adapt to a different HMO at the end of the month that doesn't list my current urologist. I received a bill from his service for required exams by & ordered by him that ought to have been covered by the insurance I currently have.

This apt is a disaster, much of my own making but there are major problems in the bathroom the handyman hasn't dealt with over the past week despite my calls.. I even may ask a lady on the first floor who does routine chores for the landlord how much she'd charge to come up every so often & spend an hour or two helping me clean. She's kind & helpful generally. I feel overwhelmed (doesn't take much) because I am being overwhelmed. I need stability & order, which are great comforts, wherever those are possible. I'm good at minimizing my needs & desires. I have small pleasures; books & music & writing online, watching late night talk shows. If I had a backyard, my excitement would be bird feeders. I'm not so good at organizing myself, or staying on top of paperwork beyond paying rent & couple of utility bills on time every month.

Medford NJ

Medford Pharmacy

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Her Coach Bag

From Hank Kalet's blog:
Annie decided she wanted a real Coach bag for her birthday, which was last month. At 47, after owning a couple of knock-offs, she decided it was time to splurge. Personally, I just don't get it, but it was her birthday and so here we are at the outlet in Jackson where the line to get in the store reminded me of the line for a general admission concert.

The experience is strange, at a time when job losses have mounted, for so many people to be swept up by the desire for what essentially is just conspicuous consumption run amok.
Annie has demonstrated unusual, & unnecessary, self-restraint. Coach isn't some in today - out tomorrow brand or look. I lived with a woman for 17 years who was never without one Coach bag. We were always poor, & when her bag wore out she saved up for another, sometimes soliciting donations from her family in lieu of a birthday gift (then she usually received them in addition to a gift). It isn't conspicuous to want one quality, conservative, well-made, all-purpose accessory that won't go out of fashion overnight (assuming they're still well-made). Who can blame Annie for getting tired of knock-offs? The Kalets are doing alright & she's looking for a deal at the outlet store.

I've carried a small, black Eagle Creek backpack for ages. Eagle Creek is a mid-priced line of packs & travel bags, heavy canvas, reliable zippers, has a tag sewn outside, & when I bought it (at a discount) was a preferred, understated brand for artists, writers, & students who didn't want to invest in a trendy-looking book bag every semester. Wasn't quite the Coach of book bags, but you couldn't find Eagle Creek in Walmart; you had go to a luggage, sporting goods, or art supply store. I'm not embarrassed to plop it down on the check out desk in the library.

(Hank backs off a bit. What annoyed me wasn't his point about conspicious consumption, but that he wrote & messaged it while his wife was shopping. So I popped off about it right away because I had the means, which made me no different than Hank).

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Friday, February 19, 2010

"American hero"

I don't hold professional athletes to exceptional moral standards. I always suspected there was a good deal of facade in Tiger Woods' public image. Just wasn't sure what was behind it. On the outside he's a corporate brand, & his brand supports other brands, including the PGA. He carries heavy responsibilities. Even the golfers he beats earn more money because he's in the game. He turned out to be randier than I would've guessed, & took greater risks in his personal behavior. It's the risks I don't get. Professional athletes are relatively young when their peak playing & earning years end. They could suffer career-ending injuries at any time, or just lose their edge. Happens often. Woods is aware of this & trains accordingly. With so much at stake, the rewards so great, you'd figure they'd at least try to not cheat on their spouses, not get involved in dog fighting rackets, & not carry illegal loaded guns into nightclubs.

I don't think Tiger fully feels what he's saying, but he does recognize intellectually that his behavior went well beyond opportunity & human weakness. It was too systematic & calculated, if shortsighted. It became a disaster for his marriage, his family, his image, & his businesses. He knows it was self-destructive because he experienced it. Doesn't understand yet why he did it, why he lacked the self-discipline he brought to everything else ( He says it's from not following Buddhist precepts his parents taught him. We all know it's about what his father really taught him.). Nor, I think, does he fully understand that the damage cannot be repaired in a neatly systematic & calculated way, like he adjusts his tee swing. But he will. His marriage may be over. His income may not entirely recover (he'll do fine). He may lose some of his mental edge. But Tiger may become a more contented - & more liked - human being if he allows some of the capacity for messiness he demonstrated in those affairs into his other endeavors & professional image. That's a matter for therapy.

Professional golf itself is part of his problem. These athletes ain't even supposed to show sweat in their shirt armpits on hot days. They don't get mud & grass stains on their corporate logos, much less crash those logos into racetrack walls & send them flying in pieces. Without Tiger, pro golf highlights are squeezed in at the end of TV news sports reports, which almost always focused first on where Tiger was on the leader board. After the podium statement - itself prepared & unnecessary, PGA Tour commissioner, Tim Finchem, called Woods an "American hero," as if the privileged, talented superstar had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan or landed a jet in the Hudson River.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Definition of insanity

Man angry at IRS crashes small plane into Texas office building

He recounted his financial reverses, his difficulty finding work in Austin, and at least two clashes with the IRS, one of them after he filed no return because, he said, he had no income, the other after he failed to report his wife Sheryl's income.

He railed against politicians, the Catholic Church, the "unthinkable atrocities" committed by big business, and the government bailouts that followed. He said he slowly came to the conclusion that "violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer."

"I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well," he wrote.

In the end, he flies a plane into an office building & - I suppose we have to say luckily - kills only himself & two others. He stopped the insanity alright. A reminder that terrorist acts by deranged individuals are impossible to prevent.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Boardwalk Wedding

Taken a few years ago at a Glen Jones & X Ray Burns live WFMU broadcast from Asbury Park. Dug it out to post to another website.
The radio show was at the flying saucer HoJo's next to Convention Hall. HoJo's is now McLoone's Asbury Grill.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ain't nothing down there, officers

Yesterday, the report of a guy walking into unguarded Trenton NJ police headquarters, stealing a detective's radio & laptop, then trying to sell the radio a couple blocks away in Taco Bell drive thru line. Nobody came out looking good in that one, except the customer in the car who called 911. Today this:
Bloomfield cops respond to burglary, discover pot growing operation
Just before midnight Friday, a couple called police saying that someone broke into their Willard Avenue home and stole their safe...
You can guess the rest. But it was the size of the indoor farm that surprised:
Officers traced the odor to the basement, where they found 73 marijuana plants, Wallace said. The couple also had a sophisticated lighting, ventilation and irrigation system specialized for growing marijuana.
Ah, our optician prescribed it for nearsightedness?

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My sister sent along three photos from Henny's funeral lunch. Which I won't post online because they're private, & wouldn't make any sense anyway, but you'd see my sister is still a looker. An impressive group shot of grand & step-grandkids & a few significant others, only two missing. Range in age from 18 to 40. All save one young woman are taller than me, some way taller, using my nephew David as the comparison. If any of these "kids" needed to connect or re-connect, it's a simple matter for them; they just punch a few numbers into their pocket gadgets & then tweet or text. I hope they did.
I met Henrietta "Henny" Logan Rixon's daughter, Judy, before I met Henny. Judy was president of the Roselle Park Teenage Republican Club. It was a small group. I joined it only because Dad was running for re-election as 3rd Ward Councilman. He had a pretty safe seat, but there was a mayoral election & the Teenage Republicans handled much of the doorstep leaflet distribution, tedious work. There were perks from dad's political office. He had a free pass to the movie theater I could use (I doubt that's allowed anymore). There was a second phone line in the house opening up the main one for teen blab. I ate for free at the annual Republican Club Picnic in exchange for running the soda stand. I got to be tally board kid at headquarters on Election Night. During the campaign season, people sitting the headquarters table in downtown storefront would give me a dollar to bring them some pizza slices & fresh coffee. It was the only good connection I had with dad. I was Republican by default. Judy really was a Republican & still is, & Henny was active in the Republican Club. For my mom, politics was social, party affililiation didn't matter much to her. So that's how Dad met Henny. I don't know when they fell in love; he & mom were long separated before I became aware of anything. Henny must have been quite aware of the problems in our household. It was a small town. Anyway, dad won easily, the mayoral candidate squeaked in by handful of votes during a Democratic year statewide.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

But libraries may save the day

Dan Agin: Kindle Armageddon: How the Publishing Industry Is Slitting Its Own Throat...

The big print publishers need to understand the reality of the 21st century: either you roll with new technology or you get rolled over by it. That's the lesson of the history of technology in commerce.
Anyone with an imagination about the future of technology and commerce knows that the printed book on paper is already on its way to obsolescence. The wrangling and beefing and whining about prices and protecting demand for printed books by publishing executives is both amusing and tragic.
The full impact of e books won't be felt until public & school libraries go over to them, a process still in the early stages.

In an online discussion on the matter, someone said that Amazon & Apple will go to court over distribution rights. Yes, they will. Crazy as it may sound, I suggested that public libraries are still more powerful than Amazon or Apple in the land of books. Libraries are the most important purchasers & promoters of non-textbook literature by new authors. Public & school libraries subsidize new fiction authors, & non-fiction, not to mention children's books, & many less popular genres. Nearly every university press in America must sell more of copies of most titles to libraries than to the general public. Amazon & Apple have nothing to do with this. The publishers will negotiate with libraries; fighting them is inviting a public relations disaster. Taxpayers pay for libraries, & when they use libraries they see it's one place they generally get their money's worth, not only in books to read but in a wide variety of services including entertaining one's children for an hour or two for free or for the cost of some cheap craft materials. Libraries have already formed cooperatives to loan audiobooks, & e books will be handled in much the same way. There will be bare-bones e book readers without the wireless capacity or bells & whistles of the Kindles, & libraries will loan or cheaply rent these.

A lot of libraries gave up on digital music & cut back on movies, for reasons that aren't difficult to understand. Their basic business is the same as it always was: reading materials.

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Joe the Plumber says

Joe the Plumber says John McCain 'really screwed my life up,' 'I don't owe him shit."

What an ingrate. The guy didn't have "shit" before McCain picked him out of a crowd. Hey Joe, for all the screw-ups John McCain's made over the past two years (you were one of them), he created you & your $8000 appearance fees, & he's still a United States senator & war hero & you ain't fit to lick his galoshes.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Perspectives in Percussion

Three cuts from a pair of good novelty records from 1961 & 62, on the bargain Somerset label, arranged by Skip Martin, featuring the same A-list L.A. studio musicians Henry Mancini used.

Night Train To New Orleans

Tiger Hunt



Wallpack Center NJ

"Sitting on the corral fence at Lazy K Bar Ranch"

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The primary role of an uncle

I regret not being able to attend Henny's funeral today. It's the kind of gathering that happens only at funerals, since every other large passage event , wedding, christening, graduation, is by invitation. & who knows, maybe this will open some doors that had closed over the years through neglect but were never slammed or locked. My pastor brother is doing the service, which reminds me of some events I was not invited to. I've always suspected that my brother imagined I was terribly decadent & potentially a bad influence on his son because I quietly cohabited for years with a lapsed Catholic woman who had graduated Rutgers with a degree in art. Our exciting Saturday nights consisted of sitting around the kitchen table with artist friends, a few bottles of wine, & bags of potato chips. On really special Saturdays we went to the movies or the boardwalk. When we broke up, I took up with, in turn, a grammar school music teacher, a photographer specializing in cute cats, then another artist. I always felt more like an observer than a participant on my occasional forays into the strange land of New Brunswick bars, mostly for poetry readings, where I was booked as a change-of-pace act, the odd little guy who never moved around much or raised his voice on stage. The two bars I most frequented, in Rahway & South Amboy, didn't mind you nursing a beer & were quick to toss out troublemakers. One was reknowned for the homemade potato salad & the other was also an art gallery. Terrible influence.

Maybe it was something else, indifference. But when my sister's kids were teenagers it never occurred to me to discuss religion or politics or morality with them. Clearly, I wasn't into drugs, booze, or sexual licentiousness, or a religious fanatic. I was peculiar enough just being me. I had no dogmas or ideologies to impart. & they weren't looking for any, good for them! However, if I had sensed they were, that would've alarmed me, & I certainly would've warned them to beware of any leader, preacher, teacher claiming to have the answer to every question. The primary role of an uncle is to serve as a compare & contrast with the sibling parent. Kids find that quite amusing without one having to do much of anything.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Henrietta VanPelt Logan Rixon

Henrietta VanPelt Logan Rixon, 91, of Brick, N.J., and formerly from Roselle Park and Mendham, N.J., passed away peacefully on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010, at her home. Visiting is on Friday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at the O'Brien Funeral Home, 505 Burnt Tavern Rd., Brick, N.J. Service is at the funeral home on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., followed by burial at Graceland Memorial Park in Kenilworth, N.J. For more information or to send condolences, please visit Henrietta was born in Elizabeth, N.J. She graduated from Thomas Edison Vocational and Technical High School in 1962 as a licensed practical nurse, and was employed at Elizabeth General Hospital. She was predeceased by husbands, Thomas Logan and Joseph Rixon. She is survived by her daughter, Judith Doggart Volper; her son, Thomas Logan and his wife, Carol; six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren
Henny, my dad's second wife. She out-lived him by over a quarter of a century. A sad loss for T.J., Carol, Judy, & their families, & a thoughtful moment for me.

I didn't know Henny well while she was married to dad, seen her only a couple of times since he died. I was a hell-raiser the first few years of her marriage to dad, then I settled into a not very responsible but nonetheless quiet, modest, & relatively stable artist lifestyle. But I think those three or four years - I cannot exaggerate how nuts I was - it was a crazy time in America, too - made the lasting impression on Henny & I never got completely past it with her. The sex, drugs & rock & roll really were out-of-character for me. My poor judgment & stubbornness were not. She was always kind to me.

I liked my father by the time he passed away, & I could tell he almost liked me. He was finding something to respect in my stubbornness, although he comprehended little of what I did as a poet & WFMU DJ. I was giving dad copies of my published poems - the ones in the classy literary reviews (the screwball poems went to low budget 'zines). I had every reason to expect some good years with him. It wasn't only me who had changed. He changed. Grandchildren changed him - for my sister's, T.J's, & Judy's kids he became a pop-pop; & how Henny handled children changed him. Henny was a straight-laced woman, but she had a somewhat broader, more generous view of the world close at hand. Her influence on my dad was good. He was contented.

After dad left us, Henny moved down the shore near her "kids" & returned to being mainly a VanPelt/Logan, which seemed natural enough to me. Her family was tighter & more centered than the Rixon siblings, there was no reason for her to remain in Mendham NJ, where she & dad had moved when he took a job with the National Park Service in Morristown & had stayed after he retired.

I'm a bit envious - not bitter or anything - they've had her all along, for their deep personal joys & sadnesses of the past 25 years when we didn't have our father around. Life is odd that way, it's pointless to think of it as fair or unfair, my sister once wisely said. Because no one has missed dad more than my sister.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

You need not be that old to recall when forecasting snow - especially coastal snow storms - was an even greater crapshoot, when a foot of snow could be a big surprise, & forecasters couldn't give a reliable estimate on the 11 o'clock news the night before, which was awful for kids. I remember walking to & from school in terrible snow conditions - not five miles uphill - just on days that would routinely be school snow days now. Without accurate short-term forecasting for some kinds of weather systems, the school authorities often waited until the last possible moment to make the decision, & if they made it wrong, the fire siren wasn't sounded at 7 am & you had to go to school at 8 or 8:30 although it was pretty obvious by then it should've been a snow day. Roselle Park didn't bus students, our convenience & safety weren't even part of the snow day equation. They knew we could get there & home. No kid was farther than ten minutes walk from a grammar school or twenty from the high school. It all depended on enough teachers making it to work. The rare snow-shortened day was also for the teachers. The kids had snowball fights outside the schools or crowded into corner stores. The whole town was basically our yard.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Not a blizzard

"It was whiter than a tea party rally."
David Letterman

8:30 PM: Late afternoon photo. This isn't a blizzard. It's very much a kid's big no-school snowstorm, snowman day. At no time has it been so snowy, windy, & cold you couldn't dress in layers & go outside. I chose not to. Try doing that in a rainy Jersey winter noreastern when the sleet flies sideways & the roads are flooded & power lines snap under the ice. Our streets are snow-covered but plowed. Anyone with a car parked out there is snowed in only until they dig it out. I think it requires a media hysteria just to make people do the sensible thing & stay home if they can. When there's a storm like last weekend's in South Jersey, it becomes obvious what one can & cannot do. There's plenty of people in emergency & medical services, public safety, transit, & power utilities, who must get to their jobs. The fewer vehicles on the road, the safer it is for them.

Predict a foot of snow up in hilly North Jersey, they just go in their garages & pull the tarps off the snow blowers.

Somewhere I have photos of the 1996 blizzard. There were 8 foot drifts in Rahway & huge plow piles on the roads. I was parked on a side street, & that was a tough dig. But the cars sheltered in my apt building garage couldn't get out for 36 hours, the pickup truck plow didn't have the power to push the snowdrifts. Plow got stuck for awhile. Landlord had to hire guys with shovels to cut drifts down & make them plowable.
1:30: Substantial amount of mushy snow on the ground, still coming in off of the ocean on a breeze, 32 degrees, but the wind is slowly shifting northward, & the forecasters say were gonna have blizzard-like conditions soon.
Rutgers 54, Seton Hall 44
Attendance: 101

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Jeft Jotz turns 40

Jeff Jotz turns 40 today. Happy Birthday, Jeff.

I "met" Jeff on, or shortly after, January 8,1993. I know this by looking up the release date for the Elvis Presley Commemorative stamp.

On my weekly WFMU radio show, I was chatting about an Elvis impersonator I'd seen performing in the lobby of the Rahway NJ Post Office. I was pleased with the act, & hoped the post office would feature live entertainment on a regular basis related to commemorative stamps, or just to amuse patrons.

When I went to music, the phone rang. Most of my callers either complained that I talked too much or requested I play music completely different than what they were hearing. But this caller wanted only to converse with the DJ. He resided in Rahway, & he also had seen & enjoyed the Elvis impersonator. His name was Jeff Jotz, & he was the editor of & did half the reporting for The Rahway Progress, a weekly. He did not identify himself as a liberal, a Democrat, a competitive swimmer, or a Notre Dame alum. I found these out later. I also found out later he had a great girlfriend who read poetry.

During our chat, which went on for awhile, I boldly asked if he could use any original writing for his paper, on topics like, say, Elvis impersonators at the post office. He almost jumped through the phone. Filling space in a newspaper for a town with some very slow news weeks was a constant challenge, & he suggested I write something, send it along, & if it had possibilities he'd let me know. I did, although it was several months before I got around to it, & he printed it. Jeff wisely left that underpaid job shortly thereafter. His girlfriend (now wife) also moved into my apt building. I loved Liz immediately.

Jeff is in a rarefied group of "coulda been WFMU DJs." There are probably a smaller number of these than of actual WFMU DJs. They're people who went through all or part of the audition process, even did some shows, but for various reasons couldn't stick around, most commonly due to the inflexible hours of day jobs that prevented them taking a regular entry level late night or morning show before WFMU had the options of pre-recorded Internet-only shows & podcasts. These people are always distinguished by the range & peculiarities of their musical tastes. But the shared characteristic of WFMU DJs isn't what we like, or that what we like may seem strange to some, but that we are confidently, completely unapologetic about it. It's a test one must, & unselfconsciously, pass to become a WFMU DJ. Jeff passed it. Notre Dame didn't prepare Jeff for it, but growing up in Jersey helped.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

How to buy an expensive new camera

Shutterbug Fights Bogus Ticket
Photo of Subway Car Lands Man in Cuffs

Published : Tuesday, 09 Feb 2010, 9:56 PM EST

Robert Taylor likes to take pictures of things, like subway trains. He works for the transit system, but as a private citizen, snapping photos of trains is sort of his hobby.

"It makes good wallpaper," he says. "It's a good backdrop on my computer."

He never thought the harmless hobby could land him in cuffs.

"I was just about to make a motion to get on the train and the cop said, 'Come here.' I was already on the train, he said get off the train," Robert says. "I came off the train and he said I'm not supposed be taking pictures."

But you are allowed to take pictures in the transit system.

After September 11, 2001, there was some talk about restricting the public's right to take pictures in public places, but that was so controversial it was dropped.

In fact, the MTA rules are very clear: "Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted."

And that's exactly what Robert says he told the cops. He says he even pulled the rules up on his cell phone to show the cop. But Robert says the cop insisted there was a problem, and told him: "You have to delete them."

When Robert refused, things went from bad to worse. He says an NYPD sergeant showed up and ended up telling the cops to handcuff him and take him into custody.

The cops whacked Robert with not one, but three summonses: One for "taking photos" even though photography is actually allowed. The second for "disobeying lawful order/impeding traffic." And a third for "unreasonable noise."

We asked Robert if he was being a jerk to these cops.

"No I wasn't being a jerk, but I was standing firm," Robert says. "I didn't curse at them or anything. I just said 'Well these are what the rules say.' If anything he was being unreasonable to me. He put his hands on me and he shoves me through the door."

Eventually, all three summonses were dismissed, and the NYPD admitted that the summons for taking pictures was issued in error.

But Robert didn't drop it there, he hired lawyer Gerald Cohen and he sued the city. In the end, the city settled and the boneheaded move by the "picture police" cost taxpayers $30,000.
The cop orders the guy to delete his photos. This station doesn't exist. Those trains don't exist. Forget you ever saw them. I take photos in public places, including train stations. I know serious photographers who shoot anything catches their eyes. They're not shy. I've not taken photos because I've feared an encounter like this man had, & I wasn't sure of the rules. Happy ending, unless you're a New York City taxpayer. He was, BTW, the second subway photographer suit NYC settled for thirty-grand.


snow, milk & eggs

Video: Why do people flock the stores for milk and eggs when a major storm hits?

About 28,000 homes & businesses in Cape May County were still without power this morning, including most of North Wildwood. National Weather Service issued a Cape May warning for rain, sleet, then another 4 - 8 inches of snow, & wind gusts up to 45 mph. Mainland South Jersey has a warning for 10 to 18 inches. This is extraordinary weather for South Jersey on top of last weekend's blizzard, the kind of weather that knocks down tree branches & powerlines, bad for the economy, potentially ruinous to property, dangerous for travel, & it's difficult to stay for very long in a home without heat & electricity in winter. Anyone stocking up on eggs & milk & might have to abandon them or cart them to a shelter.

Winter Storm Warning for 8 to 13 inches here, with wind on Wednesday. Unless the forecast is really off, we'll be moving around alright on Thursday. ShopRite wasn't busier than usual Monday evening. It'll pick up later today, as it sinks in kids aren't going to school tomorrow.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Robert Dana, Iowa poet

I don't recall ever reading anything by Robert Patrick "RP" Dana, a respected Midwestern poet associated with Iowa Writers' Workshop, a teacher at Cornell College, & Iowa's Poet Laureate from 2004 through 2008, when he died on Feb. 6th. Wasn't aware he was the beloved father-in-law of former (& legendary) WFMU DJ Ericka "Wildgirl" Peterson Dana, who now lives on a farm in Iowa & rescues feral cats. I'm very fond of Ericka, for what she does now as well as for what she did at WFMU.

Reading the few Robert Dana poems online, seems he was, among many things, a poet of sophisticated, elegant page craft, from a post-WWII generation that approached a blank piece of typing paper as an open field. You could frame this stuff. It was a poetry of clackety typewriters, Royal, Underwood, Remington, Smith-Corona; conservative & avant garde poets played in the field. Dana stayed mostly on the left margin, but when he wandered away from it he did so beautifully. For many poets of my generation, seeing & writing poetry this way,with a visual component, was foundational, whether or not we kept doing it, because our teachers were of Dana's era, & the best ones wanted us to try everything.

Elegy for a Hometown
The Morning of the Red Admirals
After the Storm
Mending Art

Those are lovely poems. Several of them bring a fond memory of a particular borrowed Smith-Corona electric portable with a manual carriage return. I was so attached to the machine that the guy I took it from was forced to buy another for himself. When that broke, he demanded mine. I replaced it with an up-to-date Smith-Corona word processor with Data Disk memory, which wasn't good for open form poems. But I was already headed back to the margin. I had finished the first version of Boardwalk, partly an homage to & parody of those poems. Editors of the poetry 'zines I favored were very patient with me, as they had to retype my wanderings across the page. I was at least thoughful enough to set consistent tabs for them, in spacings of fives. I'd also taken counsel of poet Ed Dorn when he wrote in the preface to his Collected Poems that he no longer understood how some of his earlier poems functioned; that is, he forgot how to read them.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Saints 31, Colts 17

Great second half.

Doesn't matter if there weren't actually live back up singers on "Who Are You?" because they weren't actually "The Who."

Next year's halftime show?

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Watchung NJ

"Cutting Ice on Watchung Lake, Plainfield, NJ"

Watchung Lake isn't in Plainfield now, & it wasn't back then. Plainfield is down the hill a few miles. Attractive little lake, reputedly contains large bass because of a catch-&-release rule. Used to be swimmable, a sand beach area with a lifeguard chair & float next to a lakeside restaurant.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010


Nuisance snowfall here (didn't need those eggs & milk, people), another big one for South Jersey. The third storm this winter that shaped up in this pattern. More typically, the Jersey shore is a few degrees milder & receives sloppy snow/sleet combinations while the hilly northwest part of Jersey is socked in.

5:30 pm; Still snowing in Cape May. I'm curious about the snowfall amount around Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic County. A heavy snowband was stalled over that area for hours before I went to bed last night, & another was there this morning.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Baja Marimba Band

The Baja Marimba Band was comprised of first rate L.A. studio musicians led by Julius Wechter, made interesting albums, performed as a comedy novelty act - drunken Mexicans - so offensive even in the '60s they drew complaints from Hispanic organizations. But they lifted the costumes & schtick from mariachi bands, which sometimes feature a "clown" in the manner of the dimwit stand up bass player in old American country groups. An unseen star of this video is the person conducting the off-camera Hollywood Palace TV show band.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Atlantic City: Always Turned On

"Always Turned On" is the current promo phrase.
Atlantic City supervisor charged with selling drugs while working on city property

ATLANTIC CITY — A city supervisor allegedly sold drugs from the All Wars Memorial building while on city time and from his city-issued vehicle, leading to his arrest Wednesday morning.

Akbar Malik Salaam, also known as William McDaniels, is charged with official misconduct and multiple drug offenses...
Over several months, Salaam received thousands of dollars selling more than a half-ounce of heroin to undercover officers while on his job in the memorial building — which functions as a meeting space and community center — and from his official city vehicle, the prosecutor said. Driving raised another issue, as Salaam’s license is suspended, according to a separate charge against him.
Salaam has been indicted at least eight times, according to court records. But not all of Salaam’s arrests were before his employment with the city.

On Sept. 5, 2003, he and 13 others were arrested in “Operation A.C. Pirates,” targeting the selling of name-brand knock-offs and pirated movies. At the time, Salaam was an assistant to then-Public Works Director Michael Scott. But he was not on duty at the time of the arrest.
In September, The Press of Atlantic City revealed that the employees assigned to the All Wars Memorial Building were paid large amounts of overtime in 2009. Salaam, who supervised the group and approved the payments, received $15,532.46 in overtime — nearly half of his $35,211.78 salary from January 2009 to Sept. 14, 2009.
Yes, innocent until proven guilty. Another story opening the lid on the garbage pail of Atlantic City politics. This one is especially outrageous. The timing of the arrest calls attention to a power struggle between the mayor & police chief. It reveals that a ex-con with alleged gang connections was hired to a supervisory position (he lives out of town & has a city car). It implies "open secret" illegal activity in & around a community center. Urban drug dealing is not invisible to residents.

Atlantic City was a mess when casino money bins were overflowing. Now, the economy & competition have the industry reeling in A.C. with no solutions at hand. Atlantic City cannot draw upon a former tradition of honest city government. There were only decades when City Hall had a few proud, well-funded, & competently managed departments, & had a greater capacity for doing good for residents who understood the rules. One rule I think is important: Place unqualified cronies in jobs with few responsibilities. Give them desks & nothing important to do, & tell them they'll be fired if they're caught doing anything else.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Blog Amnesty Day

My gripe on Blog Amnesty Day, celebrity blogs at HuffPost. Huffington Post generally annoys me. Too hard to browse. Too many blogs. Some things are unexplainable. Yesterday at Huff, Sam Stein block-quoted a Daily Kos post that had already been referenced by dozens of other bloggers & received over 12,000 comments & 1,200 Facebook links for his minimal effort.

Some people cannot resist clicking the Facebook share icon next to whatever they're reading or watching online.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhog Day

Some years I'm into Groundhog Day, some years not. But in any year it doesn't matter to me if groundhog sees a shadow. The point is that Spring comes sooner or later. Some American Indians had a Dance With Bear day around this time of year. Young Indians would poke a bear out of hibernation. The groggy bear wasn't much of a threat. The Indians were, I imagine, tanked up on some fermented beverage.

My Groundhog Day gift to you is The Waikiki Brass playing "Tijuana Hula."

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(3) Notre Dame 75 Rutgers 63

Game was closer than score shows. Irish in a tiring part of their schedule, they were vulnerable. They might be the second best team in the country. Problem is, UConn is far & away better than anyone else. Irish could lose four games this year, all to UConn, the fourth conceivably for the National Championship.

In a good year for Scarlet Knights, Rutgers wins this one at home & ND coach McGraw knows it. They all know it in the Big East. Outside the conference, coaches warn their teams about Rutgers. "They'll score 60 points & beat us." SEC & ACC teams don't listen. Rutgers counts on that come tournament time.

I don't know why Rutgers didn't gel this season. Maybe Epiphanny Prince was the glue. This game was typical - offense chipped away but defense couldn't hold down the stretch. But it's a good year to be mediocre.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

15 years from Miss Wormwood

Calvin and Hobbes fans still pine 15 years after its exit

It's been 15 years since Calvin and his tiger buddy Hobbes pulled up and rather suddenly left the comics pages. At the time, in 1995, the strip was at the height of its popularity, running in a staggering 2,400-plus newspapers and reaching an audience in the hundreds of millions.

Then, with a short note citing shifting interests and "the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels," creator and Clevelander Bill Watterson retired his masterpiece.
I stopped buying the Star-Ledger every day when C&H ended. Calvin & Hobbes compensated for slow news days. A Transmogrifier story was always news. I wonder how much the end of the strip affected newspaper sales. Watterson's reasons for shutting down the strip made sense. He admitted he could have pulled a few more good years out of it. Jef Mallett's Frazz strip postulates one possible future Calvin in his school environment, where Calvin (as Caufield) has become an imaginative, smartass, underacheiving third grader & practical joker, but basically a good kid capable of real friendships. Of course, Mallett denies the connection. Caufield doesn't live in a fantasy world apart from his tired old schoolteacher; rather, he's intellectually ahead of her.


The Grammys®

The Grammys®. are no better than any other music award show. It's the award that's supposed to honor accomplishment across the broad musical spectrum, for performance & production. The actual TV show is ghastly, the award itself almost meaningless to the few superstars who collect them by the dozens during the programs.

"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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