Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's it worth?

Snooki of 'Jersey Shore' gets $2K more than author Toni Morrison to appear at Rutgers
Snooki received $32,000 for two one-hour appearances called "Inside the Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi Studio" for a total of 1000 students, paid out of a required student activity fee fund. The event was free if you got there early enough for a wristband. Toni Morrison receives $30,000 for a commencement speech, by invitation event, in the 52,000 seat Rutgers Stadium, paid for by PepsiCo, which holds exclusive rights to campus soda vending machines. To use a cliche,  this is an "apples & oranges" comparison, not a battle of colas.  Both a reality show star & a Nobel Prize-winning novelist earn whatever the market will bear, & there's no point to being culturally snooty about it. Snooki is getting it while she can - she won't age gracefully, although no doubt she'll be around for years to come in increasingly strange settings on cable TV. It takes more luck than talent to become a "celebrity,"  but it takes smart management to remain one. But CEOs earn millions for failure, & the salaries of third-rate professional athletes who make it to free agency are mind-boggling. We Americans are so mesmerized by these sums that we don't notice when it's reported that a single worker with two children has to earn $27-an-hour (over $57,000 annually) to reach minimal economic security.

I imagine myself as a Rutgers student.  I'm having supper  at one of the "Grease Trucks" on College Ave. My choices  for an evening's entertainment are: Snooki; a lecture by a famous novelist; a loud band at Court Tavern; or buying a six-pack, going home, watching TV & maybe doing a bit of homework.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Erdogan Capli (Piano Pasha) - Moon River

From Turkish pianist Erdogan Capli's 1961 album "The Exciting Rhythms of Piano Pasha." Erdogan Capli, piano & harpsichord; Kerim Capli (Erdogan's 14-year-old son), drums & bongos; Sam Bruno, bass; William Ryan, percussion.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Irving "Daffy Dan" Shulman

The man who gave Daffy's its name, and its fame

Off-price clothing chain Daffy's will be a bit less "daffy" with the passing of the man who gave the chain its name, Irving Shulman. Shulman, who died Friday at age 96, was a merchant clown prince who knew that to sell merchandise you first had to draw a crowd.

Daffy's founder Irving Shulman, who died Friday, was famed for publicity stunts. After he opened his first Daffy Dan's Bargain Town in Elizabeth in 1961, he combined showmanship with salesmanship to promote his store. He attached a giant U.S. Navy balloon to the roof. Newark Airport complained that it was interfering with flights, but it got shoppers in the door. For his Daffy Dan's Bargain Town store in Elizabeth, Shulman would spend the first part of the week hunting for bargains in New York's garment district, and then sell his finds on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. "He was basically a one-man show," his daughter said in a statement. "On weekends and during school vacations he would bring my brothers and me to work, sharing his love of the business."
Generations of Union County NJ teenage girls mourn. During the Sixties & Seventies, Daffy's original crowded store in downtown Elizabeth (later expanded to a big box on Route One - still there, & a chain of 17 stores) was a mecca for fashion-conscious young women on minuscule clothing budgets. Daffy Dan's Devotees. Sure, the "rich" Lord & Taylor girls from Westfield & Summit sniffed  around Daffy's. But Daffy's was a magnet for the middle & working class girls I knew. These girls (like my first serious girlfriend, eldest of six siblings) believed it was better to have one killer outfit than a closet full of ho-hums. They would go to Daffy's as often as they could afford, on Friday after school or Saturday, with baby-sitting & allowance money, searching for THE dress or blouse. Daffy's even sold prom-worthy dresses.  Daffy's was madness. My girlfriend Karen brought me there once. After 15 minutes of being shoved about by girls wearing perfume that made my nose itch (had to browse quickly & pile up  bargains for the changing rooms) &   asked, "How's this one?" (A rhetorical question, I was required to adore whatever Karen ultimately chose, & usually did, she wore everything well), I told her to meet me at Vogel's Record Store  & fled the daffy place.  Not every trip to Daffy's resulted in a major purchase - it was a hit or miss  selection, sometimes only a belt or flashy designer scarf to prove she'd been there.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Was Marx Right?

My liberal/left readers will enjoy Was Marx Right? It's Not Too Late to Ask by Terry Eagleton in Commonweal magazine (hope the link works  for you). "Commonweal is an independent journal of opinion edited by lay Catholics."
What made Marxism seem implausible, then, was not that capitalism had changed its spots. The case was exactly the opposite. It was the fact that as far as the system went, it was business as usual but even more so. Ironically, then, what helped beat back Marxism also lent a kind of credence to its claims. It was thrust to the margins because the social order it confronted, far from growing more moderate and benign, waxed more ruthless and extreme than it had been before. And this made the Marxist critique of it all the more pertinent. On a global scale, capital was more concentrated and predatory than ever, and the working class had actually increased in size. It was becoming possible to imagine a future in which the megarich took shelter in their armed and gated communities, while a billion or so slum dwellers were encircled in their fetid hovels by watchtowers and barbed wire.
It's a lengthy article & drags on a bit. But the important point is that Marx (who was not Lenin, Stalin, Mao, or Kim Jong Il) offered up the most comprehensive, intelligent critique of unfettered exploitative capitalism, &  the failure of botched, bloody, imperialistic, totalitarian regimes that would have dismayed Marx himself does not invalidate the use of Marx & socialism to examine & critique the inequities of wealth & income in America. America needs wealth redistributed downward, & by downward I mean to the middle & working classes, because the poor depend on the economic expansion of these classes in order to move up into them. For "safety nets," government programs are far more reliable than largesse of wealthy people or religious groups.

Europeans & Canadians do not want to do away with their state-guaranteed medical benefits - there are a variety of national health services, every nation manages them differently.  Western Europeans  - people & businesses - do not suffer the anxieties over medical care that afflict Americans. They are healthier than us even when their lifestyles aren't as healthy. When you hear a middle class Canadian or Brit gripe about health care, invite them to America & listen to th answer you get: "No way!" They know we're bad. Brag all you want about Columbia-Presbyterian hospital in Manhattan, but chances are, if that's the top-of-line care  for your special illness, you'll have to mortgage the house & live in hotel, all the while pleading with your insurance provider over out-of-group specialists & uncovered tests,  A few years ago a friend of mine came down from Vermont to be treated for a rare, life-threatening illness. He was treated, went back to Vermont, & died.

"Socialism" is menacing word in America that we tend to think of as meaning a  monolithic political philosophy of oppressive government  when it in fact has many variants.  Marxism is an obscenity. So nobody wants to be a socialist or a marxist. But we desperately need  the hope of community solutions, the empowerment of the weak & powerless (like when only white, male property owners could vote, or one was taxed to vote, or forced to submit to "literacy tests" with questions even the questioners could not answer, or one was a woman & a constitutional amendment was required to extend the vote to females.

Unions were considered communistic. Didn't help that some of the early ones were. But the great growth of unionism occurred when unions pulled away from the ideologues & concentrated on  building a better lifestyle for workers; a living wage, safer working conditions, health care, more leisure time,  & after WWII a house in the suburbs & a more comfortable retirement than Social Security alone could provide.

The proof of the success of unionism was that unionized workers earned more than nonunion  workers in the same jobs. So forcing unions to accept wages & benefits that are the same as non-union workers  will be the death blow to organized labor.Or will it? Perhaps the "sleeping giant"  is not the Tea Party, but unionized workers, their families, friends, allies, & all those who wish they could organize a union at their workplaces.

I have more notes on this. Maybe tomorrow's blog.

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Oh What a bite for Love

From the 1958 Lp "Hefti Sounds!" The concept is simple: Substitute a vocal chorus for a big band (including Count Basie numbers). The result is music both cool & corny, if a bit polite, mostly in a style one might call pseudo-scat.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Summit NJ

Rahway Valley Railroad

Two branches of this short line railroad went through my hometown of Roselle Park. 

When the original New Orange Railroad went bankrupt in 1905, it was purchased by one of the founders of the exclusive Baltusol Country Club (7 time host of the U.S. Open),  who extended the line to Summit, possibly just to have a station near his golf course.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

If there's a difference between a poetry reading featuring all women poets reading their own poems & a poetry reading featuring all women poets reading their own poems in honor of Women's History Month, I don't know what it is.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Triangle Factory Fire

100 years ago today:
Near closing time on Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Asch Building in the Triangle Waist Company. Within minutes, the quiet spring afternoon erupted into madness, a terrifying moment in time, disrupting forever the lives of young workers. By the time the fire was over, 146 of the 500 employees had died. The survivors were left to live and relive those agonizing moments. The victims and their families, the people passing by who witnessed the desperate leaps from ninth floor windows, and the City of New York would never be the same.

Many of the Triangle factory workers were women, some as young as 14 years old. They were, for the most part, recent Italian and European Jewish immigrants who had come to the United States with their families to seek a better life. Instead, they faced lives of grinding poverty and horrifying working conditions. As recent immigrants struggling with a new language and culture, the working poor were ready victims for the factory owners. For these workers, speaking out could end with the loss of desperately needed jobs, a prospect that forced them to endure personal indignities and severe exploitation. Some turned to labor unions to speak for them; many more struggled alone. The Triangle Factory was a non-union shop, although some of its workers had joined the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.
There are many online resources to learn about this tragedy, the Cornell University Exhibit is a good one.

Is everything different now? Don't be naive.  In 1995, my employer at a retail store was hit with  $30,000 in local & OSHA fines for unsafe conditions & other workplace violations, many of which were obvious to shoppers.  We knew about them. There had been injuries management covered up by quietly making deals to pay every bill. Happened to me when I dropped something on my foot: Go to the Care Center, we'll have someone drive you, send us the bill, take the rest of today & tomorrow off even if it's not serious,  won't count as sick days.   Someone finally tattled.  Stock piled so high on shelves that it blocked sprinklers, & those shelf units themselves unsafe - some had collapsed, an employee's arm was broken.  Emergency exit doors didn't open or were blocked.  In the stockrooms, boxes of old paints & damaged goods were heaped ceiling high.  Shortage of safe ladders. The employee bathrooms were a disgrace.  & this was a "legal" operation, not a sweatshop. A fire at that store  during working hours would have been tragic.  There plenty of sweatshops in our cities still. Small businesses - the backbone of American economy we're told - they're the worst offenders. Drive the pot-holed streets next to the railroads & you catch glimpses of hellholes through open doors, the telltale beat-up bicycles of undocumented aliens parked outside them.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Post Office

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Postal Service said on Thursday it would cut 7,500 jobs and close seven district offices and 2,000 post offices as it handles less mail and faces greater staff costs and competition from FedEx and United Parcel Service.

As of the end of January, the agency employed 583,000 people.
I received in the mail today a bill & an ad for Optimum cable service. That's pretty much all I get in the mail, unless I order a book or CD, & those are often shipped through a UPS to USPS delivery connection.

In Doris Kearns Goodwin's enjoyable book about Lincoln's Cabinet, Team of Rivals, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair was involved in the highest levels of policy discussions, alongside the Secretaries of State & War.The delivery of mail knit the nation together,  was a serious matter of national security, & a strong symbol of national unity. The thousands of postmaster appointments from great cities to small villages were a crucial source of the president's grassroots influence & power. New presidents were besieged with supplicants for these positions, & used them to pay back supporters.

Lincoln himself was part-time Postmaster of the Village of New Salem from 1833-1836, a Whig appointed during Jackson's Democratic administration to a post Lincoln said was "too insignificant" for the politics to matter. But one perk was that he could receive one free newspaper, & of course he could read everyone's out-of-town newspapers before they were delivered.

Maybe I'll lose my small branch post office in this round of cuts. The space is rented, the hours have already been shortened, & even the stamp vending machine is gone. The USPS has self-serve kiosks that handle all routine mail tasks including weighing smaller packages, but the only one I've seen is in the lobby of the main post office.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

With the death of Elizabeth Taylor at age 79, I wondered if she had starred in any movie I really liked, beyond just looking at her - which was a pleasure even though in many of them she played  against  her personally elegant style. In her prime it was almost impossible to make her look bad. But there isn't a single film I'd list among my favorites. Several were "daring" for their time, but I cannot  watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly, Last Summer, & Butterfield 8 without being annoyed by the sexual coyness of the Hollywood scripts. Cleopatra is outrageous. The Sandpiper is laughable - Liz as a proto-hippie, Richard as an Episcopal priest. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is unbearably ugly, although Liz & Richard may have tapped some truth about theit marriage that lent authenticity to the drunken insults. After Brando, Taylor was  the biggest star to routinely waste her talent when she gained the power to do so, following her Academy Award.   Brando did it more deliberately. Liz, I suspect, expected some of her worse movies to be good. 

Elizabeth Taylor was a great female Pisces, all soft & dreamy on one side, neurotic & sickly on the other, generous yet stubbornly focused on self. She was born & she died near the cusps of the sign.  When a lover lands one of those colorful fishes, it  must remembered (but rarely is) that she will be intensely devoted until the moment she decides to swim away. Love, not wealth & power,  is the ultimate addiction for them, & if it's not a drug they'd rather be alone. I found her immensely, mysteriously beautiful & sexy.
To enlarge upon Carrie's comment:  Liz became such an icon that younger generations aren't aware of how she made her rep. She was competing at the box office  (& for Oscars) with actresses like Deborah Kerr, Kathryn Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Anne Bancroft, Joanne Woodward,   & with (or against) some out-sized male stars. The year she lost for Cat, probably my favorite role by her, & a film I wasn't old enough to see or understand (or criticize) until years after it was made, all five nominees had Oscar-worthy performances.

Liz's greatest moment came, I think, when she refused to avert her eyes from the growing AIDS tragedy.  She was clear-eyed, realistic, brave,  & completely without prejudice.  

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Strand

1983 chapbook published by Dave Cope, Grandville MI. The title poem metamorphosed into "Boardwalk" (although the central structure of the piece was retained) &  finished a few years later after some "further research on the Wildwood boardwalk." Few if any of the other poems stayed in my folio, as the collection convinced me that the kind of "open field"  poem I was pursuing - which wandered far from the left margin & was dependent on the typewriter - didn't suit the simpler style that increasingly attracted & worked for me & that I knew editors preferred.

Photo is Seaside Heights boardwalk, around midnight,  early in the season. We'd spent most of the evening in the arcades.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

too early for Neruda

St. Patrick's Day was Luck of the Irish mild & sunny; Friday was balmy '70s; Saturday & Sunday chilly, breezy '50s (with "Supermoon" on Saturday night; I didn't see it,  I'd have to walk three blocks to an old railroad overpass for a low horizon line); today began raw, showery high '30s, snowed some in North Jersey, the entire week forecast on the colder side. Typical March weather in Jersey. I won't store  away my winter coat  for another month. The Dogwood buds around here haven't popped, which is just as well - they had a deep freeze winter & one really warm day didn't fool them. A tad too early to quote Pablo Neruda: 
"I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees."
 - the closing line of a sexy poem titled, of course, "What Spring Does with the Cherry Trees."


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lower Alloways Township NJ

Salem Nuclear Power Station
Lower Alloways Creek

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day

I've said many times that although I have good deal of Irish in me, from Ireland & probably some via Liverpool, I was raised with no deliberate inculcation of Irish-American culture. For that I am mostly grateful. My first contact with Irish/Celtic culture was through "Darby O'Gill & the Little People." When I got older, I tried to step back &  see what actually was particularly (& peculiarly) "Irish" about my father, my grandmother, & that side of family. My sister also went through this process around the same time, & named her daughter Kathleen Brady (Brady our grandmother's family name), which pleased me very much. Our dad even began trying to recapture some of what he had thrown away as a young man. Our grandmother, though  physically resembling a larger version of an Irish fairy folk "little person," didn't have much of an Irish cultural consciousness. She just was. She had nothing to prove.

As a literary-minded person, I moved on to Irish literature. W.B. Yeats' "The Celtic Twilight" & a selection of early poems were doors to that, in   a well-worn Signet Classics paperback I still have.

In Celtic myth, another world co-exists with this one, the border between the two is mostly illusory,  & on this border the strange & the miraculous are commonplace. Some  people are "gifted" to see what exists simultaneously in both worlds because they are descended from the creatures in that other world.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I feel halfway cool today

Booker T & the MGs: Love Wheels

I feel halfway cool today. A friend of mine in  the "book biz" sent me an advance copy of "The Fifth Witness" by Michael Connelly, featuring Mickey Haller, The "Lincoln Lawyer," soon to be a major motion picture release.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ides of March Madness

I don't do NCAA Tournament brackets. I might  for a small office pool, but not up against thousands online. (I did bracket but didn't submit it  at Yahoo, so I can't brag or gripe).

My rooting interests are:  St. Peters College (Jersey City), Princeton, St. John's,  Temple on the men's side.   Rutgers, Princeton, Marist on the women's side. None of these schools are likely to make long run, but you never know.

It's hard to know how good Marist &  Princeton women's teams really are. Both rolled through their respective conferences. Marist is ranked 19 in AP Poll, but on what basis I can't say. The NCAA selection committee didn't buy the ranking, & seeded Marist 10th. Unranked Rutgers is a 7 seed.  I've watched very little women's basketball on TV, all random games. You'll hardly go wrong picking Connecticut, Stanford, Baylor, Tennessee for the Final Four. UConn beat Baylor, which beat Tennessee, which beat Stanford, which beat UConn.   Factor  in maybe Duke & Texas A&M & there's your elite.  Below those there's some parity we could define as teams that cannot beat UConn.

I think all my teams except St. John's & possibly Temple (playing Penn State) are one & gone.  The Johnnies probably peaked too early, & lost a key player to injury.Love to see Marist, a small college in upstate New York  that broke off from the Catholic Church rather than change college policies,  team stocked with mostly local girls, justify their AP ranking.  Rutgers is an erratic team  of former high school stars that hasn't yet lived up to the expectations or developed  chemistry. Rutgers used to scare the giants, if not actually defeat them. 

Out of the Big East, I would not mind Notre Dame making a run in both men's & women's.  On good night, knocking down threes, Irish men can beat anyone. I can see the men in the Regional Final against Kansas.  ND women are capable of reaching regional final against Tennessee.


Monday, March 14, 2011

We've been warned

The aftermath of the Honshu quake & tsunami is too overwhelming for a blog post.  But it should be a  tragically instructive event. Japan is every bit as technologically advanced as we are, & was much better prepared for quakes. Yet, the nation has been devastated.  Entire towns wiped off the map, uncounted casualties, "quake-proof" nuclear reactors near  meltdown, economic losses beyond calculation. Reports from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant become more alarming every day.

We've been warned. The L.A. & San Fran earthquakes of recent decades; Mt. Saint Helens; Hurricanes Andrew & Katrina; the Mississippi basin floods; environmental disasters such as the BP platform explosion. What if a jet had accidentally taken down one of the Twin Towers & we had no enemy to blame? Add them all up & it still doesn't equal what just happened to Japan.  Japan's national infrastructure - highways, rails, bridges,  building codes, seawalls, power grids, warning systems, disaster education & preparedness, all better than America's.  Oh, but without them it would've been so much worse, hard as it is to imagine.  Our "austerity" attitudes (Heaven forbid we should "redistribute" more rich folks' money) means we'll stay unprepared.

Preparedness is first of all about saving lives. In the seaside towns, the tsunami arrived too quickly for people to escape. The seawalls did nothing.  But in the inland, estuary towns the victims probably were mainly the elderly, the infirm, & the foolish.  Engineers will study which buildings withstood the waves. I noticed in one video a building with an open ground floor parking garage standing up while everything around it was swept away.


There's always Elvis

Former student of mine has a bunch of old 45s and she has looked some up and claims she discovered they aren't worth much. That sounds crazy. Are they? Should I put you in touch with her?


In a word, no. I don't know rarities & values. But chances are they aren't worth much unless they're quite old & they've been well cared for - & who treated 45s kindly? Frame-able picture sleeves get good prices. Take em to a used record shop & ask, but watch the guy's eyes as he looks through em.

Two common enough misconceptions; that old records are probably worth something & that I may know what they're worth.  In the decade that passed between when I first contemplated selling off most of my albums & when I actually did, the value of my collection dropped from profitable to near zero. Except for the handful of albums I knew were & always would be collector's items because of their frame-able album jackets. Most of my older rare LPs were  beat up,  & the newer ones were from cut-out bins, with the slice in the jacket.  A lot of my albums had been worth $5 to $10 (if sold individually at record fairs, a cataloging & logistical nightmare) simply because it was the  only way you could hear them. But there was a frenzy of CD re-releases of even the most unlikely records, & the mp3 format (now improved to "lossless"  compressed formats), & the appearance of music blogs & file-sharing sites, & "on-demand"  downloads 

There's always a strong market for an ancient Elvis picture sleeve 45 in excellent condition.

(I buy only classical CDs, not many of those,  always used or cut-outs, & won't spend more than $6 including shipping.  I have a "want list." I'm patient, & I find great bargains.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Atlantic City NJ

The Famous John Taylor Colonial Inn
Home of Taylor Pork Roll

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

professional happy people

I suspect that those who pay professional happy people to teach them how to be happy were never really miserable to begin with.
Wayne Dyer hasn't convinced me he was ever unhappy, even when he was in an orphanage, going through a divorce, or being sued for plagiarism.   Yet, he's the biggest name-dropper on TV. A typical sentence might begin, "Last night, during dinner with His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, I asked Tenzin......"  I used to have a friend like that; he was a compulsive liar, & we put up with it for years just to see how outrageous he would get.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Honshu tsunami

Video of the Honshu tsunami is the most awesome, frightening footage I have ever viewed of a natural destructive event,  The aerial shots are spectacular; black wave of water & debris - some of it burning - rolling through a village & warehouse district, crushing & carrying away everything, then  advancing across farmland  - with cars racing out ahead of it. Yet, the water is acting, flowing, just as if you were standing on a flat beach at the edge of the ocean watching tiny wavelets  lap over your feet.  Scientists will be studying it for years to come. (It's at BBC, CNN, YouTube)

Prior to the 2004 Indian Ocean quake, actual tsunami film was very rare.  I had  searched for tsunami film & photos  before the 2004 event.  2004 videos were shot mostly by amateurs, & some of them were really scary sea level views at Thai resorts. But some news helicopters got into the air for Honshu & captured the big picture, the unstoppable gigantic force.    There's probably additional video from Japanese military & science agencies, & even satellites, we haven't seen yet.Why anyone would rush to the beaches of California late this morning  to stand on sea level docks & jetties with cameras ready is just crazy. A few people were swept away.

The extent of the devastation in  Japan will be even more shocking tomorrow than it is today. 


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fourteen Questions for a Pisces

(on her birthday)

Do you have any spare armor?
May I have a bite of your donut?
Why are forsythia yellow?
When are we coming back?
Where is the forest you can't see for the trees?
What is the secret of synchronous kisses?
Would you please remove that salamander from your hair?
Have you ever considered becoming a Mormon?
How long until we get there?
Does the motel on Neptune have a heart-shaped hot tub?
Who should we call if we're swallowed by a whale?
Am I embarrassing myself when I dance?
Are you sure that poem isn't a haiku?
Will you be angry if I finish first?

Wrote this in 2005. Today is not her birthday. Could have kept inventing questions but fourteen lines seemed a good place to stop, a kind of fake sonnet. Only the sixth question strikes me as especially Piscean.  A certain type of Pisces - the dedicatee - would not consider these questions rhetorical. Some people, even some poets, don't believe lists can be poems. I've published a number of lists as poems without complaint, & many very good poems are thinly disguised lists if you examine them with that in mind.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

When did protestants (not counting Anglicans) start doing the forehead ash thing? That used to be  so  Catholic.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Fight of the Century

Forty years ago tonight, at Madison Square Garden, Muhammad Ali stepped into the ring to reclaim a heavyweight title that had been unjustly stripped from him four years earlier. It was the first of three titanic, brutal fights with Joe Frazier.  Ali lost in 15 rounds on a decision.  It would take over three more years until he  wore the WBA/WBC belts again.  Ali & Frazier each collected $2.5  million for the "Fight of the Century" (as it was promoted), an incredible purse at the time.

Ali had a cruel streak as a fighter. Boxing is a cruel sport. He said some reprehensible things about Joe Frazier,  an honorable fighter placed in the unfortunate, unwanted position of representing right against left, pro-Vietnam against antiwar, old against young, & most undeservedly, white against black.  But since his retirement Ali  has lived (& suffered from Parkinson's)  with increasing grace, dignity, spiritual wisdom, & a  love of humanity. It was only when he stopped fighting, I think, that Ali could give full expression to what was in his heart.


Monday, March 07, 2011

WFMU Marathon weeks

I have 220 Facebook friends, a manageable amount. Nearly all of them I at least knew of before I joined Facebook; that is, few of them were completely unknown to me. More than half are either WFMU DJs, former DJs, listeners, or people with some connection past or present to the station. For two weeks every year, every WFMU Marathon fundraiser promo posted by the station or a DJ is picked up & shared by dozens of others with all their friends. So in order to get at a few hours of personal posts & news items in my feed, I have to scroll down the page & individually "hide" the WFMU shares clogging it up. I don't want to hide the friends posting them. I make a modest general contribution to the station; I don't pledge the shows of individual DJs & probably wouldn't even if I could afford to spread a lot of money around. I'm ineligible for prize drawings, & all phone pledges have to be written on pledge cards &  inputted. Anyway, the last Marathon where I made individual pledges, I lost track & was shocked when the bill arrived.  Those $15 ones added up to an amount I couldn't honor in full.  WFMU DJs routinely  call in small pledges to other DJs as a token of support when shows are struggling to get the phones ringing.

As one of the worse  pitchmakers in the history of WFMU, my Marathon shows were rescued time & again by my fellow DJs. I imagined them listening & wondering, "How can a guy who talks so much on-the-air go so tongue-tied during the Marathon?" It was a mystery. I could pull together coherent monologues from a few sentences jotted on scrap paper, but went blank with a printed list of 100 reasons to pledge in front of me.  Other DJs who hardly said anything beyond announcing their setlists  became  articulate, convincing salespeople at Marathon time.  Put me in the second chair in the phone room as a co-host & I was an affable, relaxed, well-organized sidekick.

One Marathon, a long time ago, with the phones dead & panic creeping up my spine, my phone room co-host & I traded seats as a goof.  "I'll be you & you be me." I forget who it was - it was his idea - but by ceding my studio chair to him we generated a 15 minute flurry of pledges before the novelty wore off.

Now, there's a WFMU host who raises $80,000 during a single shift. Great for him, great for WFMU.  But it's an obscene amount of money to me, as I remember my struggles year after year to justify in dollars & cents my presence on the station. I couldn't allow myself think like that &  survived at WFMU even back in East Orange. You have to believe in what you do there enough to let yourself be subsidized.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

I just watched a video of a group of young adults sitting around a table at a diner after church, singing "Happy Birthday." As he blew out the candles on the cake, Johnny had a cellphone pressed to his ear & wasn't even making direct eye-contact with his friends. How rude can you get? At least he was smiling. I took an instant dislike to him. Somebody should have grabbed the phone, stuck it in the cake, then handed it back to him.
Disppointed in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith. The first half of the fanged goth-history book would make a good graphic novel; it had some funny, gory passages & the development of Lincoln as an expert vampire hunter fit well with his early life, the deaths of his mother & brother, his time in New Salem, his flatboat trip down the Mississippi to New Orleans, & first years as a lawyer & politician in Springfield.

Then the novel exposed secession & the Civil Was as a vast plot by racist vampires to guarantee themselves a reliable supply of slaves &, if necessary, poor whites, for blood-drinking, & as financiers & masters of their living, non-vampire Rebel leaders like Jefferson Davis. Slavery was real & horrible enough without pushing blame off on a vampire conspiracy, & making the conspiracy a focus of Abe's determination to win the war. It felt like an injustice to the truth, & was not humorous.

Although Robert E. Lee & Stonewall Jackson wrongly put their sense of Christian duty in the service of a slave empire, I could not imagine them extending this duty to vampires. I think that's where they would have drawn the line. Unless they were vampires, too.


Egg Harbor NJ

Joe's Diner

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Friday, March 04, 2011


I know it wasn't the best idea to walk to downtown Elmora on a bum foot today, & I'm certain I'll regret it tomorrow. But it's a walk I haven't taken in a long, long time, I wanted the exercise, & needed to go to the library & post office. The sun was out, 40 degrees,  & the wind didn't kick in until I was nearly back home.

When I saw the  bagel shop had gone out of business, I thought, What kind of Jewish neighborhood is this? But a new bagel shop has opened in the same block, & it has sandwiches, too.

"The Pimp Walk"


150 Years Ago Today

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Abraham Lincoln,  First Inaugural Address
March 4, 1861
Washington, D.C.


Thursday, March 03, 2011

classy lit mag bio

Bob Rixon's poems have appeared in many publications including New York Quarterly and The Village Voice. For 20 years he produced and hosted a weekly program over radio station WFMU. He  has been a featured poet at Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival & Visiting Poet at Rochester Institute of Technology. He is also the author of a long-running  blog, The Rix Mix.
Short bio to accompany one poem in a classy literary journal. Needed to think of two publications, still in business, with names not like punk 'zines. I'm proud of my association with WFMU & my blog. Every poet in Jersey does a Dodge Festival sooner-or-later; short reading usually for small audience, but a sought after gig because you receive a three-day pass.

Nobody cares that I wrote really good columns for a chain of weekly newspapers. My prose is well-suited to small, local newspapers (& their web counterparts)  provided editors don't mind  the touch of eccentricity  the young editors at Worrall Community Newspapers enjoyed. Newspaper writing also forced me to self-edit & tighten up my grammar & punctuation. Worrall Community Newspapers lost me when the supervising editor-of-editors  treated me as an amateur. I've received nibbles from other editors, which I decline because they are:   A: Not prepared to pay, or B. Won't suggest a topic on which I can knock off 400 words on one draft & little research.  Nothing goes over-the-transom, e.g. uninvited (except poems). You only do that when there's something you really want on the other side of the door, like an agent  who might read your novel sample pages & synopsis when nobody else will.

As a kid, I always wanted a print shop toy. They came with tiny rubber letters you set into a sheet metal tray, attached to a hand press, & coated with ink. Definitely made in Japan.  Instead, Santa brought me  a .22 rifle, a telescope, all kinds of interests  & hobbies my dad projected on me. Not even a cheap portable typewriter when I entered high school.   I briefly ran an A.B. Dick office offset, sheet fed duplication using paper masters.  All lists of independent petroleum quality tests from area refineries & tankers, I loved that machine, didn't mind coming in every other Saturday morning to clean it. Later, I was trained in running advanced  (for the late Seventies) Xerox machines  including their first commercially successful color machine, which I managed to set on fire one slow evening experimenting to see how many passes I could make through the machine of a color print, building up layers of ink.  On the third pass the paper got stuck & ignited & I fortunately fished it out of the  machine (leased but worth about $20,000)  before the ink had melted all over the works.

I've been told by professional printers that I'm too sloppy, not fastidious,  I don't go nuts over  the tiny ink spot in the corner of the page.  They're right. But I point out that copy editors ain't what they used to be, either, judging from the print errors I find in hard cover best-sellers.


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The right to be ugly

Justices Rule for Protesters at Military Funerals

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that members of a fundamentalist church have a free-speech right to hold anti-gay protests at military funerals to promote their view that God hates America for tolerating homosexuality.

In a case pitting free-speech versus privacy rights, the nation's highest court held that the picketing at a private funeral and even hurtful protest messages were protected by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.
I can't imagine the heartbreak of having the Westboro Baptist freaks show up at the funeral of a hero soldier. I think the issue is about the privacy of grief & dignity, not free speech, but the court disagrees. Since it must be about free speech, I am always inclined to side with free speech no matter how distasteful.

By pushing homo-bigotry to the limits of utter lunacy, Westboro is homo-bigotry viewed in a funhouse mirror. Extreme as they are, Phelps & his family  mirror the disfigurement of all homo-bigots, even those  who keep their  prejudices mostly closeted.  All are ugly. Some happen to be uglier than others.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Missed Photo

Yeah, you tend to get grumpy, standing in the cold on a sore foot for half-an-hour waiting for a cab the dispatcher said would be there in ten minutes.

That was going. Worse coming back.
Unfortunately, when all those Christian "progressive leaders" (e.g. Jim Wallis) ask the budgetary question, "What would Jesus cut?" they also have to ask, "How would Jesus pay for it?" Tell you this much, He's not paying for a WWJC bumper sticker.

But  Jesus would be more likely to risk a drive-by shooting than visit a neighborhood with no sidewalks. 

Jeff Jotz: "Bullets can't stop the Son of God!"

Not when it counts they won't.
So I was waiting for the taxi outside the shrink's clinic. Since I mention these appointments every other month, I thought it might be interesting to take some photos of that corner. But looking at it with an eye toward pics, I realized it was like a thousand if not more corners in urban New Jersey. There's the Chinese take out. There's the local drug store. More specific to Elizabeth NJ,  a parking lot in front of a hospital of no special design distinction, now a geriatric warehouse with a psychiatric emergency center at street level. Out of the street corner frame anyway. & I just exited an ordinary professional office building. Nothing to see here. The camera stayed in the bag.

Just then, a stocky bearded guy on a Harley with a big stub of a cigar stuck in his mouth pulled up at the red light. He took out the cigar, flicked some ashes off, stuck it back in his mouth, & roared off when the light turned green.

Ah, there was my photograph, I thought.


"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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