Friday, June 29, 2007


The role of Tourism Director on this corner of The Beach perfectly demonstrates, "You get out of it what you put into it."
I don't even know how to find out if Fall River has a Tourism Director. I know they used to have one. Or two. I'm not sure. I know the second guy who had the job was often introduced as "The First Tourism Director." But the fact that I'm not Fall River Tourism Director gives me the right to say that there is no reason for a Fall River Tourism Director. Sending a press release to the local newspaper (that doesn't have an online presence) is not a way to attract, create, and maintain tourism. I'll spot a tip to whomever it is who is or isn't the Fall River Tourism Director: If you convince the Fall River talk radio station to go either all music or all silent, you would make Fall River 85% more inviting. No matter how many Friendly Local Businesses maps you hand out at the highway Visitors' Center, you can't attract visitors to a town where stammering, caterwauling, sniveling, bad grammar, and speech impediments rule the airwaves.
Of course, visitors don't listen to the radio while they experience the Fall River Historical Society, enjoy the Portuguese restaurants, admire the architecture of the Highlands, or wade through Boy Scouts at Battleship Cove.
The other SouthCoast city, New Bedford, is another story. With a simple concept -- whales, whaling, fishing, history -- tourism just seems to happen. And busybodies form committees and create action plans, devise strategies and make things happen. The city has capitalized on its strengths and even invented new ones. What started as a seafood celebration has become a popular folk music and arts festival. A dusty old room full of scrimshaw and boat models is now a sprawling historical resource and research center. Celebrating its place as the biggest money-making seaport, a waterfront festival (only a few years old) has made headlines all over. No matter that their local radio station is also a fumbling mess used primarily as newspaper column fodder.
It's almost as though they wouldn't need a Tourism Director. Except that the last one, Arthur Motta, was indispensable. Sure, I admire anyone who can put on a suit and give tours. I was one. But Arthur so clearly loved promoting the city, taking part in every event, conference, exhibition, and show. I worked with him at some lame-brained event, and Arthur was personable, quick with a positive quip or salient point, and just a great professional. He's been tapped to head the Southeastern Massachusetts Convention and Visitors Bureau, and I wish him well.
So, enter Ann Marie Lopes. I'll let Aaron take over from here, although you can click on the quote and get the full story:

NEW BEDFORD — Ann Marie Lopes, a city
native and former director of marketing for the Oceanarium, has been named the city's Director of Tourism and Marketing.
Mayor Scott W. Lang made the announcement Thursday, saying that Ms. Lopes, most recently employed as a senior program specialist in the UMass Dartmouth Division of Professional Education, was one of 18 candidates who applied for the job. She is a resident of the city.
[then the former AntMan makes "experience and blah blah" statement]
... Ms. Lopes has 20 years experience in marketing and communications, much of it earned in New York City and Washington, D.C. She returned to the city a few years ago to take a job as director of marketing for the New Bedford Oceanarium, and remained in the city after the Oceanarium effort fell apart. She has been writing a weekly column on the Cape Verdean community called "So Sabe" for The Standard-Times. [salary info omitted by me]

The City Council referred her appointment to the Committee on Appointments and Briefings. After the meeting, Ms. Lopes declined to comment.

I'm not sure it's auspicious to state that the person in charge of promoting and marketing the city "declined to comment," Aaron. I volunteered at the Oceanarium for Ann Marie. I did some shoddy carpentry for her folks. Her Dad was instrumental in getting and keeping the Ernestina in New Bedford. Ann Marie Lopes is also the person who finally convinced me to get an insulin pump. I am thus in her debt.
Congratulations, Ann Marie. Boa sorti!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Good Lord"

Summer always means Newport to me.
I "grew up" in Rhode Island, and even though I worked in Newport throughout the year, Summer was always the special time. As a college kid, I worked shops, restaurants, and spinning disco in one bar, then ska and reggae in another. I heard a lot of ... questionable statements. It was a town full of white caps chest-thumping to the beat of the Reagan 80's, and between the coked-up bill-tossing mid-level managers who just had to hear "White Lines" ONE MORE TIME! and their prey, the oaths and vociferations ranged from just plain drunken babble to outrageous slander.
Of course, there were innocent naifs. Like the professional Navy guy who would dance for hours to everything from Burning Spear to The Selecter to The Ethiopians, finish his Jack'n'Coke, come up to the booth and shout: "I don't know nothin' 'bout that Raggy, but I shore do love that SKAR music!"
The NY Summer People had their favorite seats in the restaurant downstairs, where they would get blissed, lolling in their G'n'T or Dewar's. In '83, The America's Cup crews added their own color. If you had a facility for language or accents, you could convince almost anyone of anything. Back then, most of my friends were "undocumented" Irish carpenters and painters. Of course, they're all IT and Internet millionaires now, back in Eire and don't return calls. But we had Newport.
I got pretty good at talking myself aboard, and these days, I'll bump into an owner I worked for or a skipper who owes me either money or a beating. (I get neither.) Everybody had a scam running at some point back then. One particular quarterdeck Napoleon I know got proficient with bragging about the size of his ... commission. It was usually to get a bed ashore. Because if he'd been drinking, he just couldn't sleep onboard. So, he spent a lot of time claiming he was Dennis Connor. To really tall blondes, mostly. Lies were the currency, and often paid for a night in a Brick Market or Bellevue Avenue condo.
We locals in the entertainment and hospitality industry found our own entertainments. A mark would enter the bar, a bartender would give me the high sign and I'd mix Gang of Four's Man in a Uniform, hit the strobe, and we'd watch as the Piranha Sisters -- the ones with the "sexy" underbites, Pat Benatar hair and Flashdance outfits -- scammed the rube for cigarettes, Cosmopolitans (served in those days in a glass or paper cup, not a martini glass), and catch the sucker as he peeked down their blouses.
Of course, there was the fateful night walking toward Thames Street from the lot with the eighteen friends I had driven in the Audi and we saw a bunch of girls dressed like Punky Brewster. I quipped -- I hadn't yet developed my current discretionary volume control -- "Who are they, the #&%$in' Go-Gos?"
And then Belinda Carlisle and Charlotte Caffey turned around, flipped us off, and shouted "Yeah, we #&%$in' ARE!"
My ramble down memory lane reminds us that there has always been room for less-than-admirable behavior in the City by the Sea. Also remember that Ike had his Summer place there. So, I'm just disturbed -- but not surprised -- by this:

NEWPORT, R.I. – U.S. President Bush made plain his feelings about Fidel Castro
Thursday – wishing the Cuban leader would disappear.
“One day the good Lord
will take Fidel Castro away,” Bush said in answer to a question after a speech
at the Naval War College.

Hope your Summer's going swimmingly.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Enjoy your Summer

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

'Tis the Season...

Of course there are a million Tall Ships™ docking right now in your own backyard, with pirates playing anachronistic Appalachian music and pretending to teach "trainees" how to sail. And, they're charging $25 a pop to let you wander around on deck barely acknowledged while the trustafarian "crew" stands around mocking your sandals and making up answers to your serious seamanship queries. Answers with words like "forebreastle" or "following beamblow reach." I'm dockside this season.
It's time once again to buy those tax-deductible dinner tickets and support local cultural organizations. Yes, I do see my share of calla lily centerpieces and silent auction items involving baskets, local wine, and some private something-or-other. My too-polite "age before beauty" aesthetic always gets the better of me, and I rarely win any of these items. Besides, do I really need a 39-pound soapstone bowhead whale? I know: "It's for a good cause."
At a recent fundraiser for an irrelevant "house museum," I sat at the same table as a bunch of million-dollar donors. They weren't million-dollar donors to this particular organization; they were donors to the local hospital. There are basically two kinds of givers: the ones who donate to after-school art programs, and the ones who fund cardiac units. Both are civic-minded, generous, and frequently thoughtful people, and don't follow any particular demographic. I have great friends in both groups, but I really don't see the need to put a plaque over a door that you'll probably only see on the way in because your eyes won't be open on the way out. Frankly, I don't want their names to be the last thing I see. Sheesh, can't you give half a million to someplace I'd like to go now?
Conversation can get strained around a table awaiting a poorly-timed dinner, so caveat eator. A lousy caterer can ruin a lovely evening. While waiting for the over-matched staff to escort the entree (who the hell serves pork at one of these things?), some partygoers may feel obliged to float unpolished trial proposals. A certain septuagenarian asked me, "Where'd yer money come from?" I'm no stranger to impolite questions -- usually asked by children and usually having something to do with inopportune noises -- but this threw me, particularly coming from a guy who looked as though he was about to lick the vinaigrette off the salad plate to get his money's worth. How could I explain a lifetime of three jobs at a time, careful investments, a "reduce-reuse-recycle" sensibility and stingy renunciation of crass commercialism? I conceded, almost truthfully, that it came from:

(Don't watch more than 20 seconds. I warned you.)

And don't be dissuaded from attending non-profit fundraisers. They are generally enjoyable affairs, with open bars and some type of music, and always good for people-watching. Of course, it's a lot of fun if you don't end up having the kind of conversation I had last weekend. Beside the far-too personal smalltalk, which can be avoided if all your friends sit at the same table. It's really a matter of off-handedness. Personal questions, particularly of economic status, birthright, or history of STDs, should be avoided. Stick to the shallow end of the discourse pool. You can easily embarrass yourself by admitting that you like Lou Rawls. Anywhere. But don't start singing the Cake version of that Gloria Gaynor tune when the GB band decides to cut loose from the Gershwin/Porter/Kahn medley. But then: Open bar.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fiction Still Better Than Real Life

... at least as the rest of the world plays it. 'The rest,' that is, except for The Yes Men.

And a "newspaper clipping" (they used to do that when there was paper)

Thursday, June 14, 2007


  • You remember Jon Taylor from last week. The Beloved and I took the opportunity to meet up to discuss building and development with Jon, and ended up extolling the virtues of "Head Acres" to various pub denizens and preservationistas from the Waterfront Historical Area League (WHALE), whose meeting we "joined" in progress. Everyone was impressed by Jon's easy manner and strong belief in his project. After all the "hey nice hat" comments.
  • The Massachusetts Constitution, Article 48. The system, the process. Sometimes The Beach treats itself to sanity. I spent a few hours at a gallery celebration with friends, and (besides all the squealing and cries of "I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl!") one thing was very clear: The human rights we all share, whether contested (or just disliked) by some, are worth fighting for.
  • Except for creepy jerks who are so trapped in an ancient and unproductive paradigm that they can't admit to a mistake and make good. Or make nice.
  • The Big Blue Boat is off the rails at BoothBay Harbor Shipyard, as of last Saturday. They say they're going to retrace the original Mutiny voyage, from England to Tahiti. A voyage which I took about six times a day for like three years as educator/interpreter aboard. Except for the red trim and yellow headrails, it looks like the Big Green Boat now. Green would be historically accurate, but I couldn't get a good look.
  • Pink Floyd: Piper at the Gates of Dawn reissued as a 3 disc mono/stereo/B-sides/Rarities package. August.
  • Mr. Wizard. He was enjoying his second wind when I first encountered him around '71-72, but baking-soda-and-vinegar volcanoes and pencils broken under air pressure and a sheet of newspaper gave me my sense of the importance of curiosity, that knowledge is worth preparation, and that sometimes the questions are more important than the answers. And our wonderful world will always keep me asking dumb questions. Because there are no dumb questions, just adults who are too busy to answer them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Whaling just never stops with the stories...

When I look back on my storied -- some say fabled -- life, I remember fondly my years at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. This was in the days when the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was housed in a dusty block of early- and mid-Twentieth Century buildings cobbled together into a complex series of public exhibition and private office/storage spaces with quaint descriptive names. Like "The Wood Room" or "The Lagoda Room." There was a room downstairs that held a massive fleet of various ship models. One was built by a "prisoner" who saved the bones from his meals to use as modeling materials, or at least that was the story. It was a damned heavy thing.

I spent the better part of a year packing, cataloguing, conserving, and moving ship models, Victorian-era furniture, boxes of books, harpoons, walrus heads, paintings, artwork, farming implements and other items donated to the ODHS by people who were clearing their grandparents' attics and garages. I spent a lot of time getting intimately familiar with artifacts of the whaling era. That's what brought me into contact with John Bockstoce.
This Bockstoce, from

BOSTON - A 50-ton bowhead whale caught off the Alaskan coast last month had
a weapon fragment embedded in its neck that showed it survived a similar hunt —
more than a century ago. Embedded deep under its blubber was a 3 1/2-inch
arrow-shaped projectile that has given researchers insight into the whale's age,
estimated between 115 and 130 years old.
"No other finding has been this precise," said John Bockstoce, an adjunct curator of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
PhotoThis photo released by the New Bedford Whaling Museum shows the tip of the bomb lance fragment, patented in 1879, that was removed from the neck of a bowhead whale captured at Barrow, Alaska, in May 2007. The body of the bomb lance was not recovered. The shiny scars are the result of a chain saw cut. (AP Photo/New Bedford Whaling Museum)

I never met this particular bomb lance. I know it was heavy, metal, and felt like death. The harpoons and lances and lance guns I encountered those days drove the cruelty of whaling home for me. Or maybe it was because the damned things were heavy and cumbersome and it was 115° in that attic. Do you know what it's like to carry a 70-lb line gun the entire length of a cramped attic space in 110°+ heat while the lunchtime hypoglycemia encourages the taxidermied walrus head to wave the narwhal tusk around?
Of course you don't. Stupid question. That never happens.
To you.
As the Executive Director of the New Bedford ART Museum reminded me, "How many times do we have to hear 'Whaling is past, who cares?' That animal was carrying a piece of New Bedford around for a century. I'll bet the whale cared."

Friday, June 8, 2007


  • Head Acres, "Land With Legs." Read the story of New Bedford scalp estate developer Jon Taylor, a Master of Fine Arts with a minor in chicanery, utilizes, according to the site, "aspects of sculpture, performance, photography, video, and drawings, to talk about basic, universal needs such as food, shelter, and companionship." You knew it would happen sooner or later. Or at least, we did. You can buy a piece of Jon's head, develop it, build on it, and watch as I buy him beer.
  • Blitzkrieg Church. The ChristianRamones (Matty, Marky, Lukey, and Johnny) say: Ho Hey Let's Pray. I've already deleted my link, how long did it take you?
  • Recently, I emceed a show for a group trying to preserve and restore the historic Orpheum theater in New Bedford. Part of the restoration process involves having the building listed on some national register. According to this NOAA story, if the Orpheum were a coal schooner burned and scuttled in the Stellwagen Banks whale feeding ground, it'd be rockin' the marquee by now.
  • The Smithsonian Museum has been accused of, oh, fudging some input in this exhibit about climate change, perhaps in an attempt to get as crazy as The Creation Museum, or in order to please anti-reality funding sources, or at least suck up to the boss. Hey, waitaminnit... Aren't we the boss? The American Museum of National History has this really cool exhibit about mermaids and sea monsters and unicorns. You can see who's serious about the real stuff.
  • Oh, c'mon. Don't tell me you didn't notice. Fred the Carpathian. Oh, that's right: Nobody saw Ghostbusters II. And because I put the above pic there, I leave you with H.M.S. Impossible's possibly only attempt at one of these: Can I haz cheezbrgr NOW?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Delayed Mammalian Culture Sharing

A rancid stench in the meat of some gray whales has made them inedible to Russian aboriginal hunters,according to a new report. Chemical contamination or disease may be causing the increasing phenomenon of so-called "stinky whales," experts say.
A similar stink is also being noticed in the meat of ringed and bearded seals, walruses, and cod,the report by the International Whaling

This article from National Geographic goes into various reasons for the cetacean stink, but here in and around New Bedford, the Former Whaling Capital of Everywhere,™ we know a few things about it. Them. Back before the IWC became an arm of the Japanese Animal Mistreatment Ministry and gave the Czech Republic's indigenous peoples the right to harvest as many whales from their coastline (of which they have none) that they can eat, things were different.
During the last century, even the Swiss whalers (of which there are none) agreed to fiercely favor the International Whale-Human Comedy Record Exchange.
For you youngsters who are unfamiliar with the "record crazes" of the 1970s, many
"comedians" would record their "routines" on cumbersome vinyl disks which were passed around and played on huge machineries called "record players." You may hear your parents or grandparents drone on wistfully about people with names like "Woody Allen" or "Redd Foxx" or "Bill Cosby" In those dark days before YouTube, people would sit in their living rooms, conversation pits, or dad's cool finished basement rec rooms and listen to people like Steve Martin. Yeah,
the Bowfinger Steve Martin. We got some great humpback recordings in the exchange, like Moby-Larry's "Mmmmbrrrharrr-oo" (still an undeniable classic).
On Steve Martin's Let's Get Small "album," he has a "bit" in which he suggests an effective way to discourage a mugger: "Throw up on your money."

It was, however, a practice among grey whales to eat some "stinky weed" (or hhmmmmbrrrrrrmmmmahh) to create a vile smell that would thwart predators. An uneasy whales' rights group saw Martin's remarks as culturally-insensitive plagiarism.
The case of Moby-MelvinKaminsky vs. Steve Martin, argued by a young Jennifer Walters of the lawfirm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway (the most prestigious law firm on the east coast) found that Martin indeed had been aware of the practice and had altered the details to fit human circumstances for the sake of teh funny. But, in the true spirit of cultural exchange, Mr. Martin was allowed to continue to use the "routine," allowing the plaintiff full North Atlantic rights to "Well, excu-u-u-use ME!"

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Your paranormal paradigm is ready. Again.

Back in the last century, when all the world was fresh and interesting, and every book, movie, magazine, and newspaper was fodder for new and exciting discoveries, I indulged in the dark arts that only a 1970's teen was allowed.
In the only bookstore in the only mall in Fall River MA (Paperback Booksmith, whose repetitive logo's color scheme was lifted by DunkinDonuts), I often gravitated to the shelf that was labeled "Unexplained." Or maybe "Mysticism and Myth." This was before "Newage." Paperback Booksmith was long gone by the "Newage Revolution." Closed in Fall River because it couldn't get a dime out of illiterate locals who would hurry past the shop, bedeviled by the unattainable smarts hidden there. Some local oafs would fumble through the remainders bin looking for nudie picture books. But this isn't about them.
UFOs and the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot and ghosts and the search for Noah's Ark. Ancient astronauts and past lives and horoscopes. There was plenty to keep publishers and Leonard Nimoy busy. But 1980s cool reason and attention to investments led to the downfall of 1970s fondue party occultism -- just as similar concerns had swept away the 19th Century's tea parlor spiritualism.
But, like the current resurgence of Disco and hip-huggers -- for the folks who weren't alive to be embarrassed by them the first time -- a whole new generation of consumers can stare fascinatedly at blurry images and confuse their parents with questions about pseudoscience.
Back to Fall River MA. Here's
one of the worst articles I've ever encountered (unfinished headline and all). It chronicles the publicity whoring behind something called TAPS Paramagazine, which has set up shop in the mill where I once worked as a greasy-spoon cook, and stolen-sample knock-off retailer.
The SciFi Network (which I know only because it broadcast Farscape and the new Battlestar Galactica) has something to do with this
Ghost Hunters whose stars hatched this TAPS Paramagazine which is bankrolled or something by "RW Bluestroke" (yeah right) and Ric Oliveira. Oliveira has a local radio show called "Under-Reported" which allows Ric to go on about conspiracy theories and Libertarian stuff he grabs off the Internets, and he also publishes "news" weeklies (a Portuguese-AND-English language local and a Spanish-language paper about strong coffee, as far as I can tell). Ric is a smart guy who found a "niche" (actually, a hole within a vacuum) so I'm not sniping here.
So the Ghost Busters Hunters now have this editorial office in the Tower Mill, a "factory outlet" in a city that once boasted a thriving bunch of "factory outlets" that sold shirts and sweaters once made in these very buildings. So this former sweatshop rents editorial office space to the Ghost BuHUNTERS.
I saw the show on Scifi once, and had to marvel at the stars' obviously only-sporadic interest in their own work. I was, however, impressed by their ability to accidentally phlebotomize a little genuine history into the overwrought Nightvision and Shakycam production.
The We'll Try City, of course, has done everything to welcome their newest low-rent tenant, which is a specialty-interest magazine destined to go where all specialty-interest magazines eventually go. But that highschool hoops star from the Fahrrivah Office of Economic Development who says "tew" when he means "to" was there, so maybe they'll be "successful" in The Former Troy.
At least these 21st Century In Search of... stars have got another season or so before they're as big
a Fall River failure as Hess LNG. But then again, I've never seen teasers for stories about stigmata and ghosts of aborted fetuses on the Hess website.

Friday, June 1, 2007