Sunday, June 30, 2013

Atlantic City NJ

Louis Armstrong & Gary Lewis at The Steel Pier, Summer 1965

I was down there for two or three weeks that summer, but not during their appearance. The crowd belies the notion some people have that Atlantic City was an unpopular destination at the time. The problem was  the infrastructure was falling apart. There were plenty of good motels, but the large old hotels & Convention Hall on the boardwalk no longer supported a healthy  off-season convention business.  The boardwalk lacked amusement rides. Las Vegas had legal gambling, luxurious hotels & better entertainment.  Atlantic City had become uncool.  But  the boardwalk was the grandest street I knew. Up toward the Steel Pier (where I only occasionally ventured) the sensory experience was almost overwhelming at night. 

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley

By Peter Guralnick. Second book in  massive two volume biography of Elvis. The first, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, took the story up to Elvis' induction into the Army. This one goes the rest of the way.

 But for a few well-made movies & the '68/'69 comeback, this book is so bummer I read it as fast as I could. For all the careful research, the message is  pretty much "what you saw is what you got." From the time El came home from the Army (where he became permanently hooked on pills) there wasn't a prayer of getting through to him, not a chance he would become the kind of "serious" actor he fantasized. Everyone in his insular life was an enabler, including Colonel Parker, banished if they weren't.

He was incapable of sustained intimacy - not just sexual intimacy. Most of the Memphis Mafia were thugs. When the one thing that could keep him focused & creative became unimportant, his music, he was doomed.

I used to blame the Colonel for driving Elvis through those mid-Seventies tours & Vegas engagements when he was a bloated, sick addict & his fans - until the very last year - were such indiscriminate consumers of his increasingly ugly performances that Elvis felt as much contempt for them as he did for himself. But without the income both he & Parker really would have gone broke, realizing his father, Vernon's, worst fears. Elvis went, quite literally, insane. He was incapable of making sound, rational decisions. By 1975 a  judge may well have concurred & allowed his family to force him into rehab. Which of course they wouldn't do because Elvis was supporting hundreds of people & handing out cars, houses, jewelry & bags of money on any whim. The relatives & hangers-on lined up with their hands out. RCA had numerous opportunities to sue Elvis for delivering bad product or no product at all, Nowhere in the book does Guralnick say RCA was losing money on him. The profits kept on coming.  Elvis earned $60 million in 2011.

Perhaps the only thing that could have changed the outcome would have been a bust of him & his entourage for the massive amounts of drugs (including cocaine) & firearms they carried around on tour, across state borders. But he was Elvis Presley, not The Rolling Stones. Every cop at every stop was hoping for a new Cadillac. It is pointless to be discriminating about Elvis now. Love him or leave him be.

Guralnick is the kind of writer who doesn't analyze his subject, ot tell us  what Elvis is thinking, or imagine conversations, all part of Nick Tosches' style.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Supreme Court gave a terrible ruling on voting rights. The narrow ruling on Prop 8 hopefully will establish marriage equality as law in California. But the ruling striking down Section 3 of DOMA already has the Pentagon acting to extend federal benefits to same sex couples. This will place same sex military couples in the peculiar situation of being married on military bases & installations in 30 states but not married off them. Many of these families must reside in off-base housing.

For those now complaining that marriage equality is "heteronormalization" (an interesting word), I would point out that it depends upon how you look at it. The middle class gays & lesbians who have largely financed & fought the marriage equality battle don't necessarily view their relationships as imitations of heterosexual relationships. Rather, they are comfortable with conventional  lifestyles.  Complain to them, not me.  There many other types of lifestyles on the fringes of mainstream culture, not just queer ones.

48% of first live-together relationships  now begin as cohabitation. Many couples never get married.  In marriage equality states, that percentage probably holds to LBGT as  well as straight couples. There seems to kind of "notm" to two person relationships that is intrinsic to our society, I don't see any underlying broad dissent to it.

Noisy protesters engaging in a "people's filibuster" effectively stopped  - for the time being -  an outrageously restrictive anti-abortion bill in Texas, preventing it from being signed into law by a  midnight deadline.  The bill would have closed every clinic in the state & prevented rural doctors residing more than 30 miles from the nearest hospital from performing the procedure.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Rays - Magic Moon (Clair De Lune)


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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cherry Hill NJ

Rickshaw Inn
The "Shangri-la" of superb hotel living.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

James Gandolfini, age 51

Wonderfully talented actor with a conscience.

Every character James Gandolfini played looked unhealthy, & he looked unhealthy in person, too. My first reaction to The Sopranos was a shock of recognition, that I had met & heard people like them many times in real life in New Jersey. I had. So had Gandolfini.

 When I saw him in Crimson Tide I thought, that's the guy from True Romance. I still didn't know his name. With Get Shorty, I wanted to know who he was, he played the part of  Bear so true to Elmore Leonard's written character.

 The unveiling of The Sopranos, prior to the Radio City official debut, was at Union County Arts Center in Rahway. The Sopranos had the most buzz for a TV show since Twin Peaks. From my point of view, Steven Van Zant was the "name." My employer at the time, a close friend of one of Gandolfini's Rutgers roommates, managed to obtain an invitation. I walked over to the theater - I lived across the street - but  could not find a way into the event. They had that place locked down.

There are only two star-celebrities Jerseyans really embraced & owned, Springsteen & Gandolfini.

My friend Jim Ruggia posted this great tribute. I don't think he'll mind me using it:
I went to see Streetcar Named Desire with a then young Jessica Lang & Alec Baldwin as Stanley. Baldwin called in sick & Gandolfini, who was young and svelte then filled in. He brought all that power of impending explosion to the play. It was obvious he was much more than an understudy. There were times as Tony Soprano when he was able to fully communicate a terrifying vacuity in his gaze, that registered with me as what true nihilism actually looks like. He was a giant.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Parsippany NJ

Bar in the Par-Troy Diner

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The closer

I need to post this in a comment thread on Facebook. I don't especially enjoy writing these short speeches there, but sometimes a thread needs a "closer," & I'm dealing here with a tea party type. A female tea party type.
The objectifying of females in all its manifestations has been THE predominant theme of feminist thought since the movements (a broad spectrum) emerged into the  cultural mainstream 35 years ago. So to suggest  "feminists" do not care about the sexualizing of young adolescent women is  an absurd ideological  bait & switch in the context of a point that otherwise has merit. I'll be blunt; it's snide.  If your argument is with feminism, then write about feminism. As research, I suggest beginning with the Wiki entry on Flo Dwyer, who once represented  Cranford  NJ in Congress. Now I'm being snide.   However, a "feminist" might also add that the mode of clothing on women of any age still does not morally empower men to do  physical or psychological violence on women. An oppressive patriarchal culture forces a woman into a full burqa, but the ironic result is the same as if she had been made to go about in a bikini against her wishes.  I find that very strange indeed. Thank you for listening. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


[uncompleted free association appreciation of the guayabera. If I post it I'll finish it]

I've always worn tropical shirts of the tie dye rather than the loudly  colorful print type. I've had several for twenty years; they're well-made  & I started hang drying them when I saw what dryers were doing to some of my other favorite shirts. Think about what happens  in the
dryer.  I suppose I've always seen guayabera shirts, probably associated them with old guys & Haband - a lot of truth to that. When I taight piano in the 80's, the music studio had a lot of Filipino kids for students. In warm weather some of the Filipino dads wore light-colored guayaberas with emroidery.  I liked these middle-class  Filipino families, very comfortable with them. They were a bit on the conservative side circa America 1950's, mostly Catholics, good sense of humor. Many of the women, to be honest were very attractive. The men were generally short, my height, but stockier. They looked good in guayaberas. Some of Filipinos were fluent in Tagalog. When the women in the waiting room chatted they switched to Tagalog for the good parts.  So I associated guayaberas with Filipinos & decided someday I'd try wearing them.


Sunday, June 09, 2013

Perth Amboy NJ

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Saturday, June 08, 2013

17 year locusts

Some folks in Jersey are upset they don't have 17 year cicadas in their neighborhood. True, habitat is shrinking through development - been going on for centuries. They weren't present in my suburban hometown in great numbers. I have none here, with plenty of old trees & lawns. Ten miles away people are shoveling the carcasses off their sidewalks. Migration is not part of the 17 year cicada's life cycle. Reproductive success depends on local population concentration. Time & opportunity as winged adults are brief. They need to fly to a mate, preferably on the same tree. If you want to experience  them & they aren't where you are, go to where they are.  17 years ago I was visiting Fanwood NJ while they were up in the trees. It was awesome. & loud.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Tropical storm Andrea

All day drenching rain from Tropical Storm Andrea. Before the Weather Channel few would have considered it a tropical storm.  Days like today are infrequent in New Jersey. A rainy day here is more likely to be overcast with intermittent showers. Of course, we have our thunderstorms with astonishing if brief downpours.  A break now with wind picking up as the center flies northeast, maybe another shot of rain late. Then a nice day of drying out.

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

It's a lot more difficult to be an atheist in America than to be Christian. For right wing Christians, being Christian would be only half the fun if they couldn't play the victim.

I reside in one of the most solidly Democratic areas of America & you probably couldn't be elected here without having some religion. On your website if not on your campaign literature. Preferably Christian or Jew, although a Hindu would be electable in a few places.

South Carolina Valedictorian, Rips Up Speech and Recites Lord’s Prayer He had a right to do it, but was inexcusably rude. A teenage hissy fit.  For his audience it was  like chanting "USA USA" at a NASCAR race. It is, after all, Pickens County South Carolina.

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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Lesniak holds off political newcomer in Democratic state Senate primary in Union County  
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak — New Jersey’s second longest-serving lawmaker — has emerged victorious in one of the most closely watched primaries in the state. Lesniak tonight defaeted Donna Obe in Union County’s 20th District, securing the Democratic nomination in another re-election bid, the Associates Press projects. Although it was one of the tougher races faced by Lesniak, who is accustomed to skating to re-election, it was not close. Lesniak beat Obe by a nearly 2-1 margin. Having won the primary in this heavily Democratic district, Lesniak is all but assured re-election in November. This is the second time in two years Lesniak survived a primary challenge. In 2011, he fended off Jerome Dunn, who was backed by the Elizabeth Board of Education, a rival political machine.
I was a bit concerned about this election. The Regular Democrats were nearly upset in the low-turnout primary a few years ago. But they won this one easily. Unremarked upon was the third slate of candidates with the label similar to the insurgent slate backed by the autocratic, rightist Elizabeth Board of Education. This is an old trick to draw votes away from opponents. I'll have to ask a more politically-savvy local friend what that was all about.

The primary forced Lesniak to spend heavily. It's money he won't need in November, as this is a safe Democratic District. The primary challenge also made him do a lot of personal appearances; he was everywhere at events large & small, I hope he keeps that up so no one can again accuse him of not being familiar with his own district. Yeah he has a big house down the shore & a loft in NYC. But he's also a successful, well-connected lawyer in his sixties. Of course he's wealthy. He's also more liberal than he used to be, more outspoken.

The Regular Democratic Organization could use some reform. The entrenched party chairwoman with her cushy work-at-home county job was pressured into resigning by a Star-Ledger expose. They put a 25 year-old Latino man on the Freeholder ballot, which means he leap-frogged the usual route of slogging in the apparatus for a decade.  The Elizabeth Board of Ed is a far more autocratic political machine,  with a boss & his minions, under investigation for a nnmber of misuses of funds. They are also tied to a large fundamentalist church in Elizabeth.

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Sunday, June 02, 2013

Atlantic City NJ

Ballroom, Hamid's Million Dollar Pier

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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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