Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Professional A-hole

Listen Trump, Mitt Romney seems to think he can beat the President on the President's record as President. Right now I don't think he's gonna do it, but I also think it's the only way it can be done. You, on the other hand, won't win a single vote for Romney, because even people who like your stupid show consider you an a-hole. That's your image in America: Donald Trump, Professional A-hole. Enjoy your moments rubbing up against Mitt; come September he won't know you anymore.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Governor Baggy Pants

I had an obese counselor for several years, a social worker. She was smart, experienced, a wit,  & helpful. Since I tend to stutter making cold phone calls, sometimes I'd ask her to make them & set up appointments for me, which she did willingly & quickly.  Despite her extreme weight she managed to dress very well indeed. I have no idea where she bought her clothes.  Her female clients consulted her for advice on dressing for interviews, applying modest but effective  makeup, hair styling. I look at Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who seems to get larger by the day & presents a huge target for sloppy fat guy jokes, & wonder, Can't he do anything to improve his appearance? I suppose there there isn't much that can done about fat guy baggy pants. But can't he get his suit jackets to hang better?


Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Gold Star Mother, to you
the honor of a white Cadillac
at the front of the parade.

Your slow steps
escorting the wreath
up the gray slate path
to the war monument
by the public library.

Each clang of the fire engine bell
is the face of someone's son.

Four old soldiers aim
rifles at the blue sky,
a nervous boy plays "Taps."

They rest there for weeks,
your ribbons & fading flowers.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fort Dix NJ

Formation Flying Through the Clouds

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Bob Dylan

Today is Bob Dylan's 71st birthday. He tours incessantly.

I am unfamiliar with large swaths of Bob Dylan's recorded catalog. You couldn't call me a "fan" in the most dedicated sense of the word.  I reached a point with Bob  fairly early on where if whatever he was doing didn't interest me, or in some instances I disliked it, I didn't feel obligated to keep listening. I know all of the popular albums to the present & some of the other stuff. As a teen,  I loved The Byrds & enjoyed other folk rock adaptations  of Dylan's songs, but I paid small attention to Dylan himself until "Like a Rolling Stone" was released. That song got my attention instantly. I  hardly believed anyone could get away with that on AM radio; the length, the lyrics, the rolling, raucous arrangement.  Kids were shouting "How does it feel?" whenever the song came on the radio or jukebox. Stations tried playing the short "A" side release, which was the first half of the song & a fadeout,  but most gave up & went with the full six minutes. Until  summer of '65 I could probably be considered a relatively dispassionate consumer of rock.  But that summer brought "Rolling Stone," "Satisfaction," "California Girls," "It's the Same Old Song," "What's New, Pussycat?" "We Gotta Get out of This Place," "I Got You Babe." It was like something cracked open. Great songs, crazy songs.  Yet nothing was up to the level of the Dylan record in my mind. The album, Highway 61 Revisited, astounded me right down to the cover & liner notes.

Dylan quickly realized "Like a Rolling Stone" was a mountain he couldn't climb twice.

I'd like to say Bob Dylan inspired me to adopt "Bob" rather than "Robert" as my writing name. Bob made it more popular for writers to use ordinary names rather than the ones on the birth certificates.  But I also knew from  experience  that the hard "B" consonant was less likely to trip me into a stutterer's word blockage than the soft "R," & Bob Rixon could be run together  into Bobrixon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Occasionally I'll share some article or expression of my progressive/liberal views on my Facebook wall. My intent is not to annoy any of my handful of conservative FB friends.  If it were, I'd post something like this to their walls. I don't comment on their conservative posts.

One of these Repug conservative friends commented on this graphic,   "I don't even think Harry believed all that stuff. I actually think I would have liked Harry from what I know of him." He added that he believed it was "campaign talk."

I replied, "Don't kid yourself. He believed every one." President Harry didn't mean that all Republicans were as he said they were on every issue; that, of course, was campaign rhetoric. He did mean that he was definitely not a Republican. He was a Democrat, successor to Franklin Roosevelt.  Every issue he mentions here is domestic policy.

These post-Reagan Repugs think Bill Clinton & Barack Obama are real liberals. They also can't or won't recall when the Republican Party wasn't exclusively whacko reactionaries. Even if they're old enough, they just gradually slipped & slid into the slime with rest of the Party. Back when the Democrats had most of the southern  racists it took stones for a Democratic President to promote some liberal policies, especially in civil rights. Now, all Republicans are as Harry Truman characterized them. He'd probably be shocked by the change. But up  to dealing with it. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bust Out Mitt

Remember when Tony Soprano was explaining the Bust Out* racket to a victim who thought the Sopranos were his friends? Tony illustrated it with an old African folk tale of the frog & scorpion, where the scorpion hitches a ride across a river on the frog's back, stings the frog anyway, & as they both sink the frog asks "Why did you do it when you said you wouldn't?"  The scorpion replies, "It's my nature." Think of Mitt Romney as a Tony Soprano engaged in massive, legal Bust Out rackets through Bain, & having the nature of the scorpion. The scorpion may have believed it was telling the truth when it said it wouldn't sting the frog, the way Romney always seems to believe he's telling the truth when facts contradict him.

How Mitt spends his money isn't the issue. People spend their money in all kinds of damned fool ways. Mitt's "nature" is in how he makes money, & to that end he doesn't give a crap whether or not you have a job. He'll bust you right out of it, just like Tony, if the opportunity is there.

Thanks to everyone who already used the Tony Soprano Bust Out comparison. I thought I could state it more succinctly.

*In a bust-out scheme, the identity and credit line of a business are used to obtain loans and goods with no intention of repayment. In some instances, businesses are created for this sole purpose; in others, legitimate businesses are acquired  and used for the fraud.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lake Hopatcong NJ

Bertrand Island Amusement Park

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Prom couple

Couldn't resist linking to this classy, attractive couple attending the Elizabeth NJ High School prom. Photo was in the middle of a gallery of 50.

BTW, I do not like the trend toward jacketless tuxes. When you wear only a vest, you look like you should be carrying around trays of appetizers. 

Once, miraculously, a tux rental store actually did the alterations they said would do. Before attending the wedding I asked my date if I resembled the little man on top of the wedding cake. She said I did. I said, "Then I'm perfect."

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Donna Summer

Having managed to pretty much ignore both Donna & disco generally during the Seventies, she caught my ears when she moved into a synth pop/new wavy style in the Eighties with "She Works Hard for the Money." There's a lot of moralizing - & honesty -  in born again Donna's songs from this period, which culminated in allegations that she said AIDS was punishment on gays from God (I heard that very opinion expressed by someone in my own family). It did great damage to her career. It seems to have been a misunderstanding or misattribution, put aside long ago. But being anointed as a "diva" by gay fans isn't necessarily the best thing that can happen to female singer's career, & Donna was initially uncomfortable with it (as was, I think, Madonna, insofar as it tended to freeze a singer's image). It's more accurate  & praiseworthy to say Donna was in the line of great soul singers, meaning the singer is rooted in gospel & blues. She also loved  girl groups & Brill Building pop. Another great performer unjustly rejected (in 2010) by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

It's hard to be yourself
When everyone else is around
There's always someone out there
Trying to pull you down
You're sitting on the fence crying out to the moon
The day goes by too fast and the night comes too soon

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Donald "Duck" Dunn

I need to note the passing of "Duck" Dunn. Wish we'd catch a break from all these rock obituaries.

Duck was, of course, the bassist for Booker T & the MG's, one of the greatest rock bands, for me also an ideal of a band as  collective creative enterprise. Most of their highly entertaining original instrumentals are credited to Jones, Cropper, Dunn & Jackson. No member of the band took credit for another's contributions.  They  are deservedly renowned as the primary house band at Stax in the Sixties. Duck Dunn enjoyed live performing & touring & regretted that session work largely kept the band off the road & at its peak confined to the studio.  It paid the bills. Live recordings of Booker T & the MG's reveal that they were a superb performing group, at once tight yet oh so loose. Duck achieved his greatest fame playing with The Blues Brothers. Virtually a peerless stylist, as were all the MG's, his  musical services were in always in demand.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

first gay president

Barack Obama is no more our "first gay president" than Bill Clinton was our "first Black president." Obama is our first Black president. We've had a gay president, James Buchanan. The evidence is compelling in his personal behavior & his own words, & from what others in his own time wrote & observed. President Buchanan was known to be homosexual, although the word didn't  yet exist then (they had other terms like sexual inversion, perturbations).  Most American historians now accept this as fact. It's difficult to consider that America may have become more homo-bigoted in the 20th Century.

Mitt Romney, not Barack Obama, is strongly out-of-step with America.  True, most Americans still oppose equal marriage rights (by an ever-shrinking majority), but Americans know there isn't much the President can do to promote equal marriage rights. However,  a growing majority of Americans favor options like domestic partnerships & civil unions, including an increasing number of Republican insiders & operatives tired of writing off a large, affluent demographic over a losing cause. Mitt gains few votes by opposing all legal recognitions of  same sex domestic relationships. He does identify himself as someone drifting toward the edge of American mainstream culture. He has enough of a problem convincing Americans his rich kid, Mormon upbringing puts him in touch with the "average" American. Unlike George W. Bush, you can't even imagine having a beer with the guy.

President Obama in effect told us, "You knew I wasn't really opposed to equal marriage rights,  so let's stop the charade. Yeah, Biden pushed me to do it, but the why doesn't matter. It's all in the open now."

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Asbury Park NJ

South End, Wesley Lake, Palace Amusements

late '50s - early '60s

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Pure Prejudice

The United States has gone raving mad.

 Some of my favorite composers, artists  & poets are gays, lesbians or bisexuals. How much of this "identity" is evident in their art varies. Sometimes they think about it deeply in their art, sometimes it isn't obvious  at all. If you're involved in the arts, you better get used to being around LGBT, & in a nonjudgmental way. But I was hardly ahead of the curve on LGBT rights, & I've said this many times. I had gay &  lesbian coworkers. The brother of one of my best friends was gay.  I had no close gay friends.  I had a lesbian piano student in the late '80s I got to know fairly well,  I resided across the street from a "married" lesbian couple for a few years & casually observed their ordinary  coming & going routines. A beloved gay DJ at WFMU died of AIDS in 1993; it was the shock  turning point for me, seeing how his family (except a younger sister) was in complete denial throughout the wake & funeral.  I finally began to understand what rights LGBT did not have that were guaranteed to married couples & family members.

A gay person did not have the right to have a gay "spouse"  relation by his side when he was dying, for this relation to be involved in funeral planning, manage his postmortem affairs, collect his insurance, inherit his property, if "family" objected.  This is unadulterated cruelty. It has nothing to do with religion. The solution is civil, changes in law. A strong domestic partnership  law would alleviate some of the most egregious injustices. It's not marriage equality, but its something.  North Carolina voted to ban not only same sex marriage, but other forms providing  basic  social justice & human rights for LGBT.

Why do we keep putting this up for a popular vote? Why do North Carolinians - who already have strong laws against same sex marriage on the books - get to engrave pure prejudice in their state constitution?  It's ignorance & stupidity & bad law & even worse religion. Enough is enough.

This is how people like myself logically & morally  conclude that nothing less than full civil marriage equality can permanently guarantee full human rights to LGBT.  The "other side" doesn't really want to compromise with civil unions & domestic partnerships or any other  legal arrangement less offensive to religious sensibilities regarding "marriage"  they can use to place limits on LGBT rights. Give them a chance & they'll permanently say "no" to everything. The best we say is that some of them are misguided & misinformed.  But they are all horribly wrong.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

I've never felt better about President Obama than today, when he revealed his support for equal marriage rights. I write "revealed" because I don't think he was really against it even in 2008. People like the Obamas aren't  opposed to equal marriage rights; they're too educated, too urbane, not doctrinaire religionists.  I don't know if the announcement was calculated or was pressured by VP Joe Biden. A difference of opinion between a president & VP is not uncommon, as long as they are together on major policy decisions. Supporting equal marriage rights but conceding the decisions to the states, as Obama did, is not major policy.

I did foresee the President expanding LGBT rights within the federal government  by presidential directives in his second term. Now I wonder if this announcement will cost him a second term.  The President is on record as wanting the Defense of Marriage Act overturned by the courts, or at least not caring if it is, as the administration declines to defend its constitutionality.

North Carolina

It's bizarre & self-defeating. In a nation as economically hobbled as ours, suffering from political paralysis & extreme partisanship, we still find it "important" to not only constitutionally ban same sex marriages, but throw "civil unions" under the ban, too. Gays & lesbians now serve openly in the military. Major corporations recognize civil unions & domestic partnerships even in states where no laws exist legally establishing them. Without extending those benefits, the businesses might lose some of their most valued employees & be handicapped in  recruiting & hiring the  best applicants.  But North Carolina, which fancies itself a business friendly state (due in part to anti-union laws); trying to attract cutting edge information tech companies to "modern progressive cities" like Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro; with one of the most livable, artsy, open-minded small cities in America - Asheville;  says,  "No  LGBT welcome here" by an astounding margin of about 60% to 40%.  Shameful.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Stroll

Funny, Carrie's Bar & Grill  just posted this video, & I posted same one a  few weeks ago for a friend's birthday.
The TV show is in Idaho (1958), only two couples know what to do when they pass through the line. In my town, where American Bandstand ruled, no teenage couple would join the stroll line unless they had some little dance step - or a whole routine - worked out.

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Perth Amboy & South Amboy

Bridge across Raritan River at Raritan Bay

The only long, flat water level  causeway bridge remaining in Jersey is the Shore Line railroad bridge across this same waterway. The great bridge I think  replaced this one is gone (unless this one was renovated & later torn town).  Beesley's Point bridge over Great Egg Harbor Bay closed to traffic in 2004  & being demolished, although a section will become a pier.  Even worse, the beautiful concrete  bascule drawbridges - they look stucco &  are mostly variations on one design - that crossed several dozen tidal creeks, rivers, boat channels  & inlets between Sandy Hook & Cape May are being replaced  by high, stationary bridges that don't open, back up traffic, or occasionally get stuck open. Progress. A few will survive.

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Friday, May 04, 2012

Thursday, May 03, 2012

No surprise.
Methodists vote to keep stand on homosexuality

TAMPA, Fla. — After an emotional debate, Methodists at a national legislative meeting Thursday upheld the denomination's policy that same-sex relationships are "incompatible with Christian teaching.'"

Delegates at the General Conference voted by about 60 percent to 40 percent against softening the language on homosexuality in their Book of Discipline, which contains church laws and doctrine. The meeting is held once every four years, which means the policy won't come up for a conference vote again until 2016.

Advocates for gay and lesbian Methodists gathered in the convention hall wearing rainbow stoles and protested the vote by singing and interrupting the meeting. Some cried when the vote tally was announced. Methodist leaders briefly shut down business in response to the protest.

With just under 8 million U.S. members, the United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the country, with a significant and growing membership of more than 4 million overseas. However, the number of Methodists is shrinking inside the U.S., while expanding in African and Asian countries where the church is theologically conservative.

In many of the Asian & African countries, homo-bigotry is not only the norm, it's the law. The UMC does not support punitive civil laws against homosexuals. Unless the  United Methodist Church finds some way to  separate  delegates from those countries & deal with the matter for America only, any further attempts at future General Conferences (held every four years) to revise the Book of Discipline  & remove the offensive language are doomed. Probably doomed anyway, given the size &  power of  the southern delegations. The UMC is based on an episcopal structure (with Bishops & a hierarchy), not on individual congregations, so the matter cannot be left to local preferences. A UMC pastor who performs a same sex marriage ceremony - even in a state where it is legal - is subject to church discipline. Gas  & lesbians can be ordained, but only if they are celibate, since the UMC will not recognize any monogamous same sex relationship, legal civil marriage or not.

The situation for Methodist LGBT & their supporters is increasingly untenable. Their own support organizations, activities & conferences are not recognized by the UMC. The UCC, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church in USA have moved on & ahead. It may be time for those United Methodist Districts that support full inclusion for LGBT to explore doing the same & withdrawing from the UMC. 

I've felt for many years that Methodist LGBT are too nice. The transcript of the 2004 church witch trial that defrocked lesbian  pastor Beth Stroud is irritatingly polite on both sides. She got bounced hard all the same. Reconciling Ministries, the largest UMC LGBT right group, has wonderful, upbeat annual conferences if the brochure I receive every year is to be believed. But they seem incapable of making a fight.  Individual congregations  are reasoned into  hanging "Open & Welcoming" over their doors, but it applies only to that church. The United Methodist Church remains  closed & unwelcoming.   I wonder why, at the General Conference, they didn't identify delegates from nations with brutal anti-homosexual laws (who probably voted almost 100% against changing the BoD), introduced resolutions condemning those laws (which would be in concert with the Church's public stance & social values), instructing delegates from those nations to oppose the laws (dangerous)? Force  them to vote for or against the resolutions, or abstain.   That's playing hardball. If you reside in a country that turns a blind eye towatd gays being  lynched,  that incarcerates homosexuals just for being gay,* maybe the Christian thing to do is to risk having yourself locked up with them. 

*Some of these laws in African nations  have been connected to the influence of conservative  American Evangelical political operatives.


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Brix E. Smith - Hurdy Gurdy Man

A song by Donovan Leitch. Featuring Nigel Kennedy on electric violin.

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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