Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ocean City NJ

A Week in Ocean City

The movie marquee indicates I was in Ocean City the summer this photo was taken, 1963, Hatari was released October 1962. The two Ocean City boardwalk movie theaters were not "first run." I have a postcard from Atlantic City in 1963 with Bye Bye Birdie on the  marquee of the theater where I saw it.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

The 9/11 Cross

Atheists Sue to Block Display of Cross-Shaped Beam in 9/11 Museum

For the past five years, the 17-foot-tall cross was displayed outside a nearby Catholic church. On Saturday it was moved again, to the site of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, where it is to be in the permanent collection.
Generally I support, however reluctantly, suits against specifically religious displays & observances on public property. I say reluctantly because I consider some of these suits unnecessary, or an ornery objection to something most people consider more a  community tradition than matter of religion. Sometimes the suits result from a stubborn refusal of local government to make adjustments in the contexts of religious-themed displays, so if the officials demand an all-or-nothing court ruling, that's what they get. (Maybe all they need to do is just hum "Silent Night" at the "Holiday Tree" lighting.)

Remember, we're dealing here not only with the families of civilian 9/11 casualties, but with the New York City Fire Department, which still has a strong Roman Catholic culture. Ground Zero is also a national monument with, I hope, a global message. 

Marc D. Stern, who is the associate general counsel of the American Jewish Committee and has long studied church-state issues, said the lawsuit presented “an extra-difficult case.” 
“It’s a significant part of the story of the reaction to the attack, and that is a secular piece of history,” he said. “It’s also very clear from the repeated blessing of the cross, and the way believers speak about the cross, that it has intense present religious meaning to many people. And both of those narratives about this cross are correct.”
Not very helpful. But this is:
Ira C. Lupu, a professor at the George Washington University Law School and an authority on faith and the law, described the lawsuit as “plausible.” The outcome, he said, could depend on how the beam was displayed when the museum opened.

“If the cross is presented in a way that ties it to the history of its discovery and the religious perception of it by some firefighters or neighbors, then the museum would be framing it as a historical artifact, rather than as a symbol deserving religious reverence,” Professor Lupu said. “I think if it were framed in that way, it could be effectively defended on the merits.”
I don't agree with The Rev. Brian J. Jordan, a Franciscan priest with a proprietary attitude (see photo) who began holding Mass by the cross in September 2001, that the lawsuit is “the bizarre ramblings of angry minds.” The most bizarre ramblings these days come from far-right protestants who would rewrite America's history to make it seem that we didn't seek greater religious freedom in our independence, but rather a Christian conformity different from Europe's only in that we get to elect Christians rather than have them sit on thrones. This particular group bringing the suit, American Atheists, is no more representative of all American atheists than the Southern Baptist Convention represents all Baptists. There is a middle way  for the display of this cross, as Mr. Lupu noted, but  the most shrill & inflexible opposition to the solution may come from Christians far from New York City.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

da Mets

At this time last summer da Mets were in meltdown, had started sliding before the All-Star break. They were damaged, listless. & the manager, Jerry Manuel, was becoming more irritating by the day. He chuckled too much, shrugged too much, & clearly wasn't motivating anyone including himself. Da Mets, a mediocre team by their record, just swept four games from another mediocre team, the Reds, at Cincinnati. They are a feisty, hustling bunch, fun to watch. At 54-51 they're 11 games out in NL East. In the NL Central they'd be 3 games out. At 7 games out in Wild Card, their chances of overtaking the Braves & even the Diamondbacks  are minimal. But they're still in it. My guess is that, as their pitching staff wears out & some of the "kids" cool off & they go head-to-head against the Phillies & Braves they'll finish around .500. But for now, if you're a real Mets fan, you're enjoying the ride. Carlos Beltran had to go. He wasn't going the make the difference.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Once your heart has heard the music,

it is happy only when it is dancing."  -Robert Benson


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Matthew Fisher - Suzanne

I recognized the name of Matthew Fisher's Jersey Girl wife in my e mail box, subject: "Matthew Fisher, Union N.J. & Other Stuff." I'd seen photos of their modest wedding party on a Procol Harum website. It was a couple of days after I began uploading some favorite songs from Matthew's first solo LP, released in 1973, & I hoped she wasn't writing on his behalf to tell me to remove them. She wasn't. She was wondering if I planned on uploading the whole thing, & mentioned that she's from Union NJ, & had read my blog post on a bear wandering a few blocks from her mom's house.

Matthew  Fisher is best-known for the famous organ counterpoint melody he contributed to "A Whiter Shade of Pale." A couple of years ago the British House of Lords finally awarded Matthew co-writer credit on all future royalties from the song. Too bad he's not collecting on back royalties - Gary Brooker & Keith Reid would go broke writing those checks. It's irrelevant if or how much Matthew copped the riff from Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach gets no co-writer credit on "A Lover's Concerto." (It's now believed Bach cribbed that melody from composer named Christian Petzold.)   Matthew's production & contributions to Procol Harum's third album, A Salty Dog, helped make that LP a Sixties masterpiece. He quit the band soon after, acrimoniously, & although the lyrics on Journey's End are generally downbeat (he seemed to be suffering multiple heartbreaks),  the music & arrangements  demonstrate what the band lost. (They made up enough years later to record & tour together again.)

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

weddings day

I asked a Catholic acquaintance why Catholics polled higher than protestants in support of marriage equality. She said, "Catholics like marriage." They must have liked today in New York State.

I don't know what rights & obligations the New York marriage equality law extends, but it won't change anything for straight people except we'll  get more used to the idea that some of the same sex couples we know are legally married in the State of New York. That doesn't seem so difficult to me.

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Sea Isle City NJ

Freda's Sea Isle Inn

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Our "low" in Elizabeth last night was 89 degrees. Was up to 101 when I checked today. Now 94. I walked - very slowly - over to Gina's, fed cats & ran a/c for an hour. But it wasn't too bad in there. The cats had their appetites. Tomorrow a more "normal" mid-nineties then a cool front that may or may generate some showers.

I believe in  climate change, & that the accelerated change is caused by humans. The change isn't indicated by any single weather event, not even this three day blast of heat or last winter's blizzards,  but by an increasing frequency of extreme weather hot & cold, wet & dry. I don't think we're going to do much about it. Most Americans accept  some degree of human-caused climate change, but we'll always opt for jobs, cheaper energy, short term benefits. Opposition to climate change science does not come mostly from the scientific community. It comes from the business community, corporations, in a weird alliance with conservative Christians.  They succeeded in making Al Gore an object of ridicule. But not making him president was one of the greatest mistakes this nation has ever made as we drift ever closer to a total plutocracy.


Friday, July 22, 2011

It's the heat, heck with the humidity.

Weather Channel has 108 in Elizabeth. I can't recall any date this hot, although above 100 I doubt one would notice.  Probably broke all--time record for this city. The all-time record in New Jersey is 110.

My a/c, about 2000 btu's too small for the space, cranks along,  never switching into fan mode.   No longer cool in here, but acceptably warm.  There are people in this building with no a/c. Landlords should be required to supply a/c for seniors on the senior housing waiting list; those older tenants were placed here by the city.  As for the others. it's their choice. I have a fair tolerance for heat during the day, but I do not like it at night. I remember laying in bed as a kid - I wasn't an easy fall-asleeper -  the old swivel fan delivering a wisp of breeze every 20 seconds, at least it covered my brothers' annoying sleep noises, my parents dreaming in air-conditioned comfort down the hall. The only relief, a big Jersey boomer t-storm,  scared the bejesus outta me, going through the process of hearing it far off, first the low rumbles, then the faint flashes, the thunder becoming louder, the lightning more intense. I wanted to crawl under the bed. I'd pull the covers over my head & I was even more uncomfortable.

The only comfort during a t storm, once I'd been  sensibly banned from my parents bed at around age 4, was that mom would get up, walk though the house in total darkness, her path lit by her cigarette, & close every window on the side of the approaching storm, which was never my room.   It had an uncanny quality, like she was part-sleepwalking. On her  return journey from downstairs she'd peek into my sister's room, then my room, checking for what I don't know, maybe that Peter Pan hadn't taken us,  then go back to bed.
Gene Rains was the third of the big three of cocktail exotica, along with Martin Denny & Arthur Lyman.  While Denny & Lyman albums are readily available,  Rains' four albums are sadly out-of-print. I don't know if they were ever released on CD. Performing in a little group like this - only a quartet & everyone plays more than one instrument - has long been one of my musical fantasies. At one time I had all the necessary instruments in one room, for other reasons,  but it didn't occur to me to ask a few musicians over to give exotica a try.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

heat wave

High: 100° Low: 81° / High: 104° Low: 82°
High: 100° Low: 77° / High: 87° Low: 72°

Our temps for the next four days. No T-storms in the forecasts. Heat index for Friday is 115. It isn't unusual for the temps to be higher than predicted.

The night of July 20, 1969 I was hanging around outside a girl's house. It was getting late. Her mom came out & said the guy was about to walk on the moon. We went inside & watched ghostly images of Neil Armstrong. After awhile we went back outside, & then I went home. We weren't blasé about it, but the movie 2001 had been released the previous year, Star Trek had been canceled, &  we thought the real thing was rather primitive & we should get on with the cool stuff. Nothing in the Apollo program fired up the imagination of my generation the way Star Trek had. We were 300 years in the future.  Now we have cooler hand held communicators than Kirk & his crew, but no warp engine.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When is a poem not a poem?

A poet I very much like & admire posed the question, "When is a poem not a poem?" Other poets supplied lists of answers. Few "aesthetic" questions go more to the heart of the difficult learning process I went through for about a decade beginning in my late teens.

I consider their answers absurd, although they certainly contribute to the making of "good" poems. They're teachers of literary craft & I respect what they do. But I recognize, have always recognized that my relationship with them has adversarial possibilities. It has to. I come to those relationships now with a sense of humor.  They don't know that  the conventionality of my writing is a choice I made.  It was a difficult choice based on both personal comfort & the readers I expected to reach as a minor poet based in New Jersey. But I was coming from a place that can be easily described: A poem is what one perceives as a poem just as music is what one perceives as music & art is what one perceives as art. These are hardly new ideas, although some might still consider them radical.  They are not radical. To take it a step further, a poem is an artifact that remains when a certain type of creative process is complete. That is also not a radical idea. You find it in non-western cultures. You can fit various, sometimes conflicting,  ideas of craft & discipline  in there, directing the process. But the process can also be set up to direct itself, or can take place in one's mind, like Da Vinci contemplating the shadows thrown on his walls by flickering candles. Seeing the face of Elvis in a cloud.

You don't  abandon your tastes & preferences & critical faculties.   You may, as I did, become impatient with poems that have to peeled like an onion. Some kinds of art may no longer be of interest. But you feel more generous toward the creative expressions of amateurs & children. A jackhammer in the street may drive you nuts, but it also becomes music that drives you nuts. Letting go of many of my notions about what is  & isn't art  at first frightened me, then helped give me the courage to join WFMU, where there have always been like-minded creative people on the staff & an atmosphere of generally cheerful tolerance;  WFMU itself has a chameleon quality of being what listeners perceive it to be, & before the station archived shows there was also the wonderful, liberating  impermanence of the radio broadcast itself.

I have never, ever told someone their poem was not a poem or their music was not music of their art was not art. This may have hobbled me as a teacher of craft, & even hurt my own craft. I'm capable of appreciating craft. Many uses of craft. But it hasn't disqualified me as a teacher of something important.

Composer Olivier Messiaen transcribed the songs of birds & incorporated them into his compositions. He was a fastidious, exacting composer. Nothing was left to chance in his music. He was a fine teacher of music, a great one, in fact.  But he did not say that the bird songs were not music as they came out of the birds, became music only when approximated with musical notation. He was saying, I think, "You may skip my music if you wish & go directly to the birds."

Fortunately, I can point to my teachers, few of whom I've met in person. But they include my dad, who would've denied it was his meaning & intent.  Following dad down a quiet country road or along a beach at low tide was a lesson in found  art & natural ambient music. Had he lived longer I may have gotten around to explaining this to him, that it was his lasting influence on me.  But I saw no good reason why he needed to know. It came to him naturally.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Smokin' Seventeen

I'm a fan of Janet Evanovich's numbered Stephanie Plum novels. Clearly "chick" books, they take place mostly in Trenton & are so silly & slapstick (& occasionally surreal) that guys - especially from Jersey - can enjoy them. There's nothing about Stephanie to indicate she's especially good-looking, or good in bed, but she attracts two contrasting, muscular good bad boys who, when they are in bed with her, perform oral sex on Stephanie then boink her to multiple orgasms   while she mostly just lays there & enjoys it.  Why are these guys  attracted to her? Kind of difficult to say. I suppose it's why Evanovich sells millions of books.   But up to Smokin' Seventeen one of the running gags was how infrequently Stephanie had sex. In Smokin' Seventeen she has lots of sex, apparently due to a curse put on her by one of her stud muffin's Italian grandma that's supposed to turn Steph into a slut.

It's the weakest of all the Plum novels. Smokin' Seventeen isn't very funny, although all the characters are behaving to form. The sex passages must be a throwback to Evanovich's earlier incarnation as an author of romances for Bantam.

Evanovich supposedly has a rigorous six or eight-hour-per-day writing routine, when she's not on a book-shilling tour. But I don't get it.  It should take only six weeks to knock off a Plum novel. Half of the book writes itself when Evanovich pastes in the standard gags & routines readers expect, involving the regular cast of characters, everyone acting according to form. These gags do little to advance the story.  The plots aren't much. The characters are barely three-dimensional & each book adds only minimally to their development; grow them too much & they'll stop being who they are. Evanovich isn't a great writer, her prose doesn't make you want to read a paragraph twice just to savor it.

Took a long time for this series to "jump the shark," but I think it finally has. Stephanie Plum is not a  complex character.  In fact, when she's not bounty hunting she's boring. She has no interest in music, movies, sports.   She's not a great sleuth. She's become a more confident bounty hunter, but she still isn't  that good at it. Many of the laughs are from her failures to apprehend, often because her stun gun doesn't work. The older she becomes  (although the books don't track her in years) the more pathetic she  seems.She's going nowhere, stuck in a crummy apartment at the edge of a crummy city in a nowhere job. She's not dedicated to her vocation & craft like, say, female P.I,'s V.I. Warshawski & Kinsey Millhone. dogged, brilliant investigators who take great pride in their abilities, charge substantial fees for their work,  & whose dedication to their vocation makes long-term relationships problematic, although both try to have them. Stephanie doesn't like to cook, admits to not having a very nurturing, maternal disposition, & can't choose between her two hunks (one of whom wouldn't get married anyway, & the other who would expect her to give up her mostly penny ante bounty hunting & have babies).


Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunday night on the boardwalk

Seaside Heights brawl leads to arrest of 8 N.Y. residents

Eight Brooklyn, N.Y. residents were arrested following a fight in Seaside Heights early Sunday morning,

Police used peppery spray to break up the brawl around 1:30 a.m. near the intersection of Hancock Avenue and Ocean Terrace, the report said. All eight were charged with disorderly conduct. Three were also charged with resisting arrest.
That's  the whole story. A few weeks ago Seaside Heights had a very rough night after the 4th of July Fireworks. Arrested about 60 people & needed help from other police departments.

This kind of story draws shocked & angry comments about how Seaside Heights has gone downhill, people from New York, illegal immigrants, yadda yadda.

Nearly 30 years ago, toward the end of the first draft of my long poem about the boardwalk, in a section I never saw much need to revise, fights break out, beer bottles are thrown from motel balconies, people are arrested, girls cry. It was based on my observations of Seaside Heights late on a Sunday Night - early Monday morning.

From the time I began staying with my grandmother in Atlantic City as a young adolescent I noticed that Sunday nights (or a holiday Monday night) are a bummer on the boardwalk. Families that just arrived for a week's vacation pack in it early for the night, they have a full beach day coming up & they aren't blowing their mad money the first  evening they're in town. Every family has a vacation pace, a routine. What's left on the boardwalk Sunday nights are mostly nasty leftover weekenders who can't let go & go home.

Seaside Heights was always rough & rowdy on weekends. It's close to the Garden State Parkway. You can drive there from North Jersey & New York for a day & evening if you don't mind the tired drive home - & I've made plenty of those drives.  Generally, I've avoided boardwalks on Fridays & Saturdays, & Sunday nights, as noted, could even be grim.

I got so fed up with hearing drunks on the street at 3 a.m.  in Wildwood (& occasionally in the motel where I stayed) that I moved up the island a mile, & it was peaceful there at night.

If you want a Jersey boardwalk to be like Disneyworld, sorry, ain't gonna happen. You have to accept & even like  the chaos, the diversity, the honky tonk. Many people don't like it. In fact, Seaside Heights is fine for kids, assuming you keep an eye on the younger ones  & aren't letting them run loose at midnight. Boardwalks are designed for spendthrifts - same as Orlando. They invite excess. Difference is, theme parks (& casinos) put the bars & clubs in the hotels so all you have to do is stagger to the elevator.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lavallette NJ

West Point Island

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Image of the day

Taken today.
Word balloon from the Dalai Lama: "Blah blah world peace blah blah."
Thought balloon from the President: Image of Barack playing golf with a ciggie dangling from his lips.

On most days this President might look forward to a philosophical chat with the Dalai Lama, but today I doubt it, not after the week he  had.

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What's the deal?

House passes bill that would divert money from electrical upgrades on N.J. Northeast Corridor Line

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed an amended energy and water bill Friday that would divert $1 billion from high-speed rail projects — including electrical upgrades on the busy Northeast Corridor Line in New Jersey — to pay for flood relief along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

The amendment to divert the rail money in New Jersey and elsewhere was proposed last month by a seemingly unlikely source — a New Jersey congressman.

"The flooding in the Midwest has been devastating," U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) told McClatchy News Service earlier in the week. "We must be serious about controlling the deficit."
Oh please, let's not even entertain the thought that Rodney is doing this out of the goodness of his heart, or out of concern for the deficit. You don't refuse Federal money when there's no costly mandates attached. Not even to send it to stricken Republican states that already get back far more of their Federal tax dollar than Jersey does. Rodney made some kind of deal. The Repug leadership - which doesn't care about most states on the Amtrak Northeast Corridor - needed some  rep from one of those states  to say, "Hey, I have an idea how to fund your flood relief!" Otherwise it would just look like a snatch 'n'  run. We don't know what Rodney got for doing it; maybe a favor-to-be-named later. But we can look at his political situation.

Rodney's campaign chest is in debt, & although he likely won't have to fight for his job against a Democratic incumbent when Jersey redistricts minus one congressional seat, his district may be redrawn  with a narrower Repug majority, so he won't be looking at an automatic 60%+ reelection margin, another easy skate to the finish line;  he may have to put up a fight & spend some big money in a very expensive media market. For that he needs serious help from the National Republican Congressional Committee & its access to big donors.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Bud Shank: Well, You Needn't

From the 1961 album "New Groove."
Bud Shank (sax)
Carmel Jones (trumpet)
Dennis Budimir (guitar)
Gary Peacock (bass)
Mel Lewis (drums)

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The unlimited debt

Nobody asks where we find the money to pay for three wars. Or four wars. I lost count.

Obama should spread it around he's planning another "small" war TBA, but he promises it'll be very long & very profitable for Republican states & corporate donors, & military pork aplenty for Tea Party districts, & they can keep the war going even if he loses in 2012 & blame it on him, & they'll be happy to raise the debt limit on some other pretense.

The hidden costs of war, present & in future expenditures on interest, medical care & veterans' benefits, are so outrageous as to be almost unbelievable. It's unpatriotic to question the costs & how the money is allocated. No matter that much of it is avoidable, contributes nothing to our defense & security, & even creates no jobs in America & enriches foreign corporations.These corporations are utterly indifferent to the lives of American service people, or the cost to the government & citizens.

(Both Ron Paul & Bernie Sanders have explained how we pay for wars. But they're supposedly the crazy guys in D.C. & everyone else is sane.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mr. Baggy Pants

Yesterday outside 7-11 I saw a guy with the old style of baggy falling down pants & his underwear exposed. I almost broke out laughing. His pants were suspended mid-thigh, an amazing trick of levitation. Look originally inspired by county lock-up beltless apparel, prisoners had to hold up their pants, minimizing any threat. Almost as effective as handcuffs.  Try anything & their pants would drop around their ankles, tripping them up. When it was in fashion there were a lot of dopey-looking young guys walking around who hadn't figured out how to position their pants with 3/4ths of their butts exposed, so they looked ridiculous trying to be cool. Every other step they had to reach down & tug their pants up. So whatever attraction it had for girls (& I doubt it had much) was negated by the silliness.

One of the oddities of urban gang-inspired culture is the absence of women. It looks just as drearily male-centered & pleasure-less as the Taliban. Even outlaw bikers ride with tough gals. On the gangbanger list of favorite things, women are somewhere  after guns, cars, bling, hip hop, cellphones, video games, sneakers, & the Burger King Value Menu, also higher monetary priorities than child support. When a drug crew  operated on my corner, taking advantage of a now-closed dive bar down the block, I wished I could have gone out there late on a Saturday night & said that everything about them suggested that either women weren't interested in them or they weren't interested in women, which struck me as very peculiar on a night when most straight guys around 20 years-old are at least trying to get laid.   But even insinuating the  homo-eroticism of gang interaction  obvious to almost everyone except gangbangers  would get you kicked to death. Gangbangers can't admit they'd like to bang each other.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Does it hail at night?

I'm not surprised Michele Bachmann has so much support. Dismayed. not surprised. Jay Leno had that bit where he interviewed people on the street, who revealed themselves as idiots when Jay asked them relatively easy American history questions. It was a simple schtick designed to make Jay's fans feel superior. What bothered me most was that the people were completely unembarrassed by their ignorance, thrilled even to have it displayed for millions on TV. It's not only o.k. to be ignorant in America, it's something one can flaunt. It's not just limited to history, or scientific theories that have been proven in general but are still called theories because the exact workings are subject to adjustment as we progress in our knowledge. People insist because they are only theories & contradict the Bible, they must be wrong.

Weather Channel did a Leno-type interview feature. Some questions people got wrong: Which happens first, lightning or thunder?  Can it hail at night? What meteorological invention is attributed to Ben Franklin? Does the Sun cool at night, if so, how much?

Folks, the correct answers to these are not in dispute. Lightning creates thunder. If you see lightning after a thunder clap, it's a new lightning bolt & you didn't see the one that created the thunder.  Of course it can hail at night. Probably hails less at night because conditions that create hail-forming storm cells tend to diminish at night. But as long as there are cumulonimbi clouds & tornadoes at night, so will there be hail produced by many of those storm cells.  The lightning rod may have originally been invented in South Asia, but Franklin didn't know it so as far as we're concerned it's his idea. Yes, some people said the Sun cools at night & one person said about 40 degrees cooler.

Ignorance, gross superstition that infects the rational discussion of civil law & policy, the habitual twisting of  basic historical & scientific fact because the person dispensing the misinformation can't be bothered to fact-check & believes  it doesn't matter anyway - these are no hindrance to presidential ambitions. A lot of Americans love an apparently intelligent candidate who is willfully ignorant. Such a candidate is a  reassuring mirror to supporters.

It was better to be a child in a poor two parent slave household than a child in a poor one parent free household. If Bachmann believes this, she should apply it to all families & use it to advocate criminalizing divorce & out-of-wedlock birth. (Bachmann now claims she didn't sign this portion of the "Family Leader Pledge," which has since been removed from document as "misconstrued." A lot of that misconstruing  stuff over on the right. They routinely push the most radical, outrageous positions & then withdraw them when even other Republicans object.)


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Seaside Park NJ

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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Derek Jeter

No one thought Jeter's 3000th hit would be a home run. He hadn't hit a home run at Yankee Stadium since last summer. Odds were it would be a single, the ball fielded & returned to the dugout.  That a fan  got hold of it made it an object of unexpected extraordinary value.

One of the blandest sports superstars of all time, who groomed himself to be a  blank personality & astutely avoided, in an era when the media overlooks nothing,  not only all controversy, but even saying anything remotely interesting. & what does he do? Smacks a home run for his 3000th hit & goes 5 for 5 including driving in the game-winning RBI on a picture-perfect baseball Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. & Christian Lopez, the 23 year-old guy who catches the ball  (estimated value  over $200,000, as high as half-a-mill) is so nice & unselfish that he wants only to meet & hand it to to his hero Jeter.  Sheesh.

There's more. Lopez's girlfriend bought the game tix for  $65  bucks at Stub Hub. She says she won't second guess Christian's decision  (but I bet she does when she plans their wedding). The Yanks gave him front row seats in the Legends Suite for Sunday's game, four suite seats for the remainder of the season including any playoffs & World Series games (Seats the Yanks have trouble selling anyway), plus autographed Jerseys & balls. Taxable gifts.

Derek is building the largest mansion in Tampa for himself & son amour Minka Kelly; 30,875 square feet of space, seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom waterfront English Manor style  home.  Me, I woulda held on to the ball until I talked with a lawyer. A lawyer might advise, "Give it up, ii'll cost you more than it's worth." But I'd have to see the numbers.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

Betty Ford, 93

Former First Lady, married to Gerald Ford for 58 years. A gracious, intelligent & brave woman. Worked to de-stigmatize mental illness & addiction, at the forefront of raising breast cancer awareness, & an advocate for women's rights. 

Died on the day it was reported that Michele Bachmann signed off on a "pledge" - a "Marriage Vow" that is a jaw-dropping  document of racism, bigotry & ignorance, so outrageous I can't bring myself to write about it.  An insult to memory of Betty Ford.


Thursday, July 07, 2011

Still haven't installed the window a/c. Last year I had to use it in May. Two 90+ days but it's dropping down to 80 Friday & staying in 80s all next week. But I may get it going over the weekend, becoming muggier, & the traffic picks up on the street after 6 am,  with garbage trucks passing  as early as 4. Some nights I keep the fan on & if noise wakes me early I close the window & get the cool, white noise going.

Newark NJ City Council passed a sad, disturbing law. All restaurants seating fewer than 20 persons (pizzerias, Chinese, fried chicken, etc) must post armed guards after 9 pm., or close. A lot of these eateries have bullet resistant plastic protecting the employees, & security cameras, but these don't protect the customers.  Response to Newark cop shot to death at Texas Fried Chicken & Pizza, a drive-by, the alleged perp aiming at someone else who escaped unscathed.  Cities must have some safe neighborhoods. They stabilize property values, middle & working class people buy & renovate homes in those neighborhoods. Newark has some attractive  neighborhoods, but it has no safe neighborhoods. There are murders in Ironbound, murders in the north ward's Forest Hills & Roseville. Weequahic & Clinton Hill are overrun with gangs, although during the day many of their tree-lined streets appear deceptively   quiet & suburban.  There are murders around Beth Israel Hospital. No part of Newark is safe anymore. An off duty cop can't buy a slice of pizza. A few weeks ago there was a slashing in front of Penn Station. . It was  personal dispute, not a mugging.  But it still bothered me. I've always felt safe around Penn Station, even at 4 am waiting in the concourse for the first train out. There's always a transit cop in sight.

Suburban white folks got little  to worry about.  Sure, some of the crime travels beyond Newark. Profitable white suburban demand for drugs invites it.  But most of the crime stays right where it is. Don't complain how much it costs to keep it there. The economic devastation of the young black urban male is almost incomprehensible to suburbanites. Newark is a city where a part-time $8-an-hour job gets a hundred applicants.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Tale of Two Owners

The two highlights for the L.A. Dodgers from their home game with The Mets tonight: Gene Simmons of Kiss throwing the ceremonial first pitch, accompanied by Shannon Tweed; & All-Star slugger Matt Kemp breaking his bat over his  knee after striking out to  end the game. In-between they left 13 guys on base & lost 6-0 to the Little Team That Could, The Mets playing without Jose Reyes (& David Wright, Ike Davis & Johan Santana).

Both teams have financially-troubled ownership. Difference is that Wilpons love owning their team, hired a new front office, & latched on to an unlikely manager who has a bunch of  - mostly bench  warmers & minor leaguers playing over-their-heads, with energy & heart. They bounce back from defeat.  The Dodgers don't put a much better group of players on the field, & their new manager is a good guy if inexperienced, but it has to affect them that their owner has demonstrated a willingness to screw them out of their paychecks if that's what it takes for him to hold on to his  fabled ball club & keep his wife's hands off it in a divorce settlement. A series between The Mets & Dodgers ought to be a marqee cross-continental  rivalry. I'm not a Dodgers fan. I enjoy rooting against all L.A. teams. But the fun in it is that most L.A. teams, pro & college, are pretty good, & it's supposed to mean something to beat them.
One of the worst versions of the National Anthem ever at the Yankees game in Cleveland tonight. Between the beginning & end of the song the singer dropped about 4 keys. So bad that Yankees radio announcer Susan Waldman, a very good singer who has sung the anthem at public events, was silent then muttered  a little "whew" before she gave the lineup.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

No Justice for Caylee, yet

Let's see if I get this straight. Casey Anthony is guilty of repeatedly lying to investigators,  but she's not guilty of  the only logical reason she had to lie. O.K., when O.J. gets out of prison maybe they can cooperate in the search for the real killers.

This is the kind of news story I follow through headlines. Lurid murders & murder trials are a  media tradition, they sell, they've always sold. They sold newspapers, now they sell cable TV shows & websites. Like millions of others, I'm a consumer of murder  mystery books & detective TV series, & in every book & show the murder is solved & the murderer brought to justice one way or another. Sometimes I latch on to a local crime & follow it  through. A few days ago, the respected owner of small grocery in Plainfield NJ was murdered in his store.  I predicted that one would be solved within days. It was obviously a planned robbery & only criminals from the city, probably the neighborhood, would know the store well enough to rob it in daylight while wearing masks. The store had six security cameras. But the motive may have been a targeted  murder disguised as a robbery. The store owner openly "disrespected" gangs & refused to allow any loitering or drug dealing around his business. The alleged murderer, 18 years old, was a member if a local gang. I'm hoping the trial clears that up. Plainfield is a city with great assets: good housing stock; historical buildings, churches & large victorian era homes; a nicely concentrated downtown retail district; nearby affluent towns. But for decades it's been afflicted with the worst gang infestation in Union County, perhaps the worst in the state for a city its size. So a city that ought to be a cultural center with fine restaurants & stores & a stronger middle class has just floundered along year after year because the gang problem has so completely stained the city's rep.


Monday, July 04, 2011

Out for a walk on a comfortably warm evening. A spectacular fireworks display somewhere west judging from the booms, but not even flashes of light in the sky.

4th of July is a lonely holiday for me, because it takes me by surprise, & because I've had a few - not a lot - really great, memorable  4ths. Even when I was driving I often found myself at a loss as what to do with the day or evening. I don't enjoy crowds (except on the boardwalk, they never bother me there for some reason). & I don't like very hot weather, which we have on the 4th about every other year. The most recent year I had a girlfriend on the 4th it was so hot we didn't venture out until sunset & then walked a few blocks to the local fireworks & festival, which was so uncomfortably steamy we couldn't appreciate the warm zeppoles  & there were long, long lines at the ice cream stands.

The Fourth of July

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Green Brook NJ

Washington Rock, near Plainfield, NJ, 
on which General Washington stood to
get a view of the British army
in Revolutionary War.

View from Washington Rock

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Saturday, July 02, 2011


Baboon eludes capture
Six Flags Great Adventure staff ends second-day search

JACKSON — A second day of searching for an elusive baboon ended Friday evening, but not before numerous residents and motorists got glimpses of the young creature in yards and on township roads.

The two-foot tall primate, believed to have escaped from Six Flags Great Adventure, was last seen running late Friday afternoon from the Metedeconk National Golf Course into neighboring Freehold Township, where it was spotted on Ely Harmony Road, according to Capt. David Newman of the Jackson police.
So there's a "monkey" running wild in the suburban towns at the fringes of the Jersey Pine Barrens. The SPCA of King Williams Town in South Africa recommends:
I would not want to encounter a loose baboon. They are not reliably nice animals. They're smart, their personalities & behavior are too complex for all but primate experts to understand. If you saw one by your garbage cans & shouted "Shoo," it might go nuts & attack you. It would have no problem climbing up the side of your house & ripping through  a window screen.

A baboon isn't the only exotic animal you'd see in the Pine Barrens. There are  6' emu birds running around in those woods.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

The worst commercial on radio

Kars 4 Kids is the most annoying, ubiquitous commercial on AM radio in New York. The stations airing these commercials ought to measure how many listeners they lose when the little kid starts singing the idiotic ear worm jingle.  It puzzles me why the charity is so evasive about being Jewish, & saying exactly where the money goes.    Go look at the website & tell me how many pages you have to see to figure it out. Do they not want us to know they're Jewish?  Hundreds of charitable & nonprofit organizations accept car donations without spending thousands & thousands of dollars soliciting them. Habitat for Humanity is  one. Radio station WFMU is another. The United Presbyterian Church of Plainfield NJ is signed up with a car donation facilitator. If you need to get rid of a clunker just  google car donation plus your charitable interest & you'll find a good fit. Maybe it'll be Kars 4 Kids, maybe not. No matter what you google, it's kind of creepy that Kars 4 Kids always shows up near the top of the page,  they must pay plenty for that service, too.  If you're unfamiliar with a charity, you should always check its rating  with an organization like Charity Navigator.

(I just had a private chuckle imagining Nachum, host of  the great  JM in the AM on WFMU,  trying to raise money during marathon weeks without reference to the program being Jewish,)

"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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