Wednesday, October 31, 2007

from Wallbank's Almanack of Holidays

The ancient and revered Celtic Festival of Samhain is celebrated throughout the Celtic world at this time of year. Those unfamiliar with Samhain may assume that it is a pagan celebration of harvest culminating in the Dressing Like Pirates Night. The wall between the The Living and The Dead is thinnest on Samhain, but you can't complain to the management if they have the damned game on too loud or they keep at it playing Big&Rich while you're trying to wrestle with the mini-bar.
For the 31 days of October, people indulge in the Annual Discussion of How To Pronounce Samhain. Each night during this time, the youngest child in the house edits the Wikipedia with a revised pronunciation of Sow-inn, Sam-Hane, Sha-veen, Shev-inn, Shown, Sewn, Swane, Suffrin, Seg-ween, Shih-bane, She-Bang, Sab-on, Shwing, Saw-bane, Sob-wen, Snwe-oin, Sop-ben, Swiffer, Swee-hen, Stew-meat, Sad-oaf, Shiffon, Sov-neh, Swen-oon, and so on. ("So on" is not one of the accepted pronunciations. Although it probably is closest to the Gaelic.
The next ritual is The Oldest Gentleman in the House's donning of the "But This Fit Fine Last Year!"
Traditionally, the House Goddess stands by, dressed in comfortable apparel and drinking liberally, answering the door and tossing individually wrapped Granola Treats at visitors while intoning "And now what do you say?"
Those visitors are the backbone of the Samhain ritual. Wearing the clothing (sometimes the actual clothing) of the famous or dead, the "visitors" must adhere to a specific set of symbolic actions which denote the harvest and the preparation for Winter. First, there is The Mutilation of The Gourds. The history of gourd mutilation is long and filled with arcane detail, much of which has to do with turnips. Then, The Chaperoned Ride of the Crops, where the youngest visitors, having taken on the role of Migrant Farm Workers, are tossed into the car and brought far away. They traipse around in their costuming, followed by the Cropmasters who wield torches or lanterns and lead the "workers" through the fields, where they become Highwaymen, demanding trinkets of some worth, proffering the choice of "Trick" or "Treat." Since confections are the most prized Treats, the tradition has evolved to include candies, although Susan B Anthony dollars and handfuls of bling are accepted. The owners of the "field" (house) then take on the role of that guy from the "What Not To Wear" show, loudly and critically guessing the costume and/or identity of the costumed, who has now taken on the role of "Slathering Greedster." In ancient times, this character was allowed to express his or her displeasure with the quality of the Treat by perpetrating embarrassing physical damage to the property. Since those dark and violent times, Treat Providers have become much more discriminating in their choice of more savory Treats. In greater numbers. (Hence the Post-Samhain run on at-home diabetes testing kits.)
This time-honored rite is repeated until the End of the Evening, the time determined by the most haggard adult, who brings the "workers" back, where they then dump their Harvest into bowls that will sit on the kitchen counter along with the candies that didn't get given away and DON'T YOU DARE START EATING THAT NOW and yes the "Barn" really is a little far from the road and nobody left the porch light on, so the other costumed participants never went there, so we never gave away forty dollars worth of Tootsie Rolls and Fun-Size 3Musketeers and we ended up getting egged...

Captain Wallbank’s Almanack is not intended to be used as reference material for school projects, masters theses, magazine and newspaper articles, partisan hack radio talk shows, commencement addresses, valedictory speeches, catechism classes, or, especially, as an authorized authority for bets involving someone buying someone a drink.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Something about Persia

I learned a while ago not to look too closely at the SiteMeter.
Well, I learned it when my comments were weirdly vandalized by someone who kept signing on as me, leaving a big empty space. About 87 times. So big deal. Now I know that someone in Canada had nothing better to do.
By the (heavily altered) chart above, you see that I am used to a small number of visitors. So my attention was attracted to a trend that started last Thursday. Apparently, there's something about "Persia" that has people swarming the deck. Specifically, people are Googling™ this image and going to a post wishing Persia a Happy 1386.
Perhaps one of you could explain why the sudden interest in this image, from all around the world (Japan, Romania, California, Argentina, Canada, Italy, India, Spain...).
If you're stopping by, leave a comment to let me know what it is that brought you here.
I'm familiar enough with the world to know that "Persia" is Iran and Iran is in peoples' minds because Iran pulled the short straw in the World War III Profiteers' "Who's Next?" pool.
I'd like to think that you're looking for information about King Cyrus of Persia, whose "Cyrus Cylinder" is thought of as the first "human rights document." In it, Cyrus allows the citizens of Babylon freedom of work and worship.
I trust it's not an offensive image, and I certainly meant the Happy New Year wish, and continue to respect the Zoroastrian: "Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds."

Free Range Capitalism

As I pointed out last week, the U.S. Coast Guard has come out with a strongly-worded warning to the LNG industry penisnoggins who believe it would be a swell idea to build an LNG storage facility in a populated city 26 miles up a beautiful and populated bay. Piloting huge LNG tankers up Narraganset Bay and the Taunton River is, in the Coasties' word, "unsafe."

Weaver's Cove or Hess LNG or Amerada-Hess (or whatever corporate lie label they're using this week to avoid detection or taxation or litigation) has spent (depending on whomever you choose to believe) over $100 million dollars to insure that they can build their facility in the worst place on Earth for that facility. And they're going to keep on fighting to do so. Because there's your monster this Hallowe'en.

I often say that this little corner of The Beach is a microcosm of the greater mainland. Events and trends occur more noticeably and sometimes before visibly effecting the rest of the country, so watching the SouthCoast can often give you an idea of some prevailing drift. This area sees economic recession before the rest of the country. People are fearful and insular, xenophobic and completely self-motivated. There is no sense of "for the common good." Both communities and residents are broke and living on credit and making bad decisions. The electorate is polarized, misinformed, unsophisticated, disenchanted and disenfranchised. They want to win the lottery, but want someone else to buy the tickets. Politicians are obvious and misanthropic and grudging and more energetic a few weeks before the election than you'll ever see during the rest of their terms.

And the Corporates love the shattered social structure, the uninformed value-hunting consumers addicted to waste and fads. Government-subsidized and -protected multinationals build their WalMartSuperGenModFoodPrescriptoCenter where there used to be a dairy farm right next to the Target (in that lot where we used to play baseball) near the Applebee's next to the TGIFriday's (that used to be where the library was) next to the Hess station attached to the McD's across the street from the Exxon station (where that kid's mom's diner was) with the Burger King/Taco Bell/Pizza Hut across the street from the school that had to close because none of those businesses have paid any property taxes for three years because they were given TIFs to attract them here even though they would have come here anyway. And the dumb obese kids get dumber and Type 2 diabetes. But to keep up with the tax burden, Dad sold the family hardware store when The Lowe Depot moved in, and Dad stocks shelves there now, so he don't speak up against the boss, who may or may not employ people at slave wages in a sexist racist homophobic anti-union workplace where you should just shut up and stop being so damned politically correct and have a few beers blow through a few stop signs go home and watch the Sox.
Or the FOX.
Whatever.
Look, shiny.
I hate The Beach.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Soles'n'Bowls


  • We missed Elizabeth Kucinich's birthday. It was Monday.
  • A New Bedford "community activist" is waging a write-in campaign for mayor. I can't endorse his run. He accused me of being his employee because he thought the museum I worked at was a city facility (because it had "New Bedford" in its name) and thus I worked for him since (he alleged) I was paid by the city and should do whatever a citizen says. A mind that misinformed operating with such illogic. Running for office? In the SouthCoast?
  • A quick note to the Fall River Office of Whoever's In Charge: If you want businesses to want to move into your town, try publicizing a political debate without telling the citizens to "act like grownups."
  • So Shirley MacLaine's new book mentions that Dennis Kucinich (see above) has talked to aliens. And this is different from W talking to Jesus how?
  • Last week, the wildfires in California were described as a natural result of the drier-than-average dry season, probably exascerbated by "conditions that are consistent with climate change models," combined with Santa Ana winds that come up every year, and the local authorities, although strapped, were dealing with every eventuality, as best they could with much of the state's National Guard in Iraq. But now, The W is there to help, The Fema is there, and everybody's looking for The Arsonist. At least if you've followed the teevee nooz.
  • Someone called "Diddy" is promoting some "vodka" or other made of grapes. I urge this fella to come to New Bedford Saturday night and enjoy some real vodka-flavored vodka, Reyka, and see some real contemporary dance by the Iceland Dance Company at our own Zeiterion Theatre. And stop all this nonsense.
  • It's IDC's first stop on the US tour. Velkominn til New Bedford! Plus, Reyka's celeb spokesperson is way better:


Thursday, October 25, 2007

'Tis the Season...

This time every year, magic happens.

Naw, that's cornball. I've found that this is a time of much -- what's the term? Regret? Remorse? Nostalgia? The Portuguese have a word for it (which is odd because the Portuguese have so few words): saudade. This time last year, I was Lymed. Hospitals tend to remind one of mortality -- theirs -- but mostly it just interrupted my enjoyment of the season.
My first Hallowe'en memory is of dressing like a ghost. Not because of poor imagination or poor circumstances. Because I couldn't wear my cool store-bought costume because it wouldn't fit over my snowsuit. Y'see, it had snowed the day before and the cold blast hadn't subsided. I didn't mind. I was five. I don't even remember what the original costume was. I was just glad for the snowsuit, because I got to stay out later knocking on doors and hollering "TRICK!ORTREEET!" I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes two years later. I do not believe the two events are related.
Best suit ever (not counting the time I was a drunk Percy Bysshe Shelley complaining about "the wife"): dad's clothes over my peewee hockey gear and a Frankenstein's monster mask. Indestructible. Mask was teh cool until it disintegrated a few years later.
My mom's birthday is a few days before Hallowe'en. That made it all even more festive, and turned Hallowe'en into a multi-day celebration. Like Chanukkah. Challowe'en. As Catholics, it brought us closer, as a family. to our Jewish friends. Except for the fact that we weren't particularly religious and I ended up spending years at Catholic schools studying philosophy and Latin and theology trying to figure that all out. Before the inevitable "vocations talk" happened, I turned to literature, broadcasting, theater, and graduated with a degree in English, the Other Dead Language.
This is about spirit. I don't mean phony-black-mass-goat-sacrifice-goofy-goth-googoo occult religious. Never mind the spooky geegaws. This is a seasonal change that affects us today the same way it affected our European forbears. (Well, mine.) It's the end of the year, the first frost, the time the leaves are most colorful and soon gone, the harvest is nearly over, the days are shorter, the nights are colder, the anticipation of further change is upon us and we are energized for the next season by that sense of expectation.
Joseph Campbell, W.B. Yeats, and Vincent Price. I mean team spirit. Because this is a time of year that physically binds us all to each other and to nature and to the past -- what we modern smartypantses call superstition. How can you deny that it's bred in our bones to be filled, at this time of year, with a restlessness of future, of possibility, of dread, of augury? Which supplies an arcane ambiance to any speculations concerning the season. It's all perfectly reasonable, this so-called "magic." Religions scoff at the old idea of natural cycles and crop rule. That's why they make things like Lent and Ramadan. As we left the farms for the mills, the natural magic got perverse and about the uncommon and imaginary, not the real and common. In fact, churches just claim "the devil's behind it" and put rubber movie masks over the masks they wear all the rest of the year.
This time of year is also Fantasy Fest in Key West. I enjoy that.For obvious reasons. That and I actually marched in the parade one year.
One year on the Big Blue Boat, the crew devised a zany ghost-pirate-themed haunted ship. The idiot who wrongly and unethically claimed he was in charge of the ship's operation seriously wanted us to do the crew-exhausting (but money-making) event throughout the month of November. No, pal. Hallowe'en ends on Hallowe'en. And I'm not doing this every night after giving tours or running the deck on a charter sail all day:
When I was off that ship a while and trying to understand The Beach, I signed with a guy who wanted to have a "haunted something" in Fall River. Because it would be between New Bedford and Providence. That was the first sputtering but successful trial of the now world-renowned Factory of Terror. Every night through that month of October I supervised (or managed or whatever) and haunted right along with a crew of eager and wildly varied talents. The next year, I was doing dinner theater or managing some call center, so I couldn't help. The Factory is still there. Its success says a lot about Fall River.
Downside to that? Another guy decided to start his own "haunted something" and there was some talk of some sort of legal dispute or other. I didn't have the details then, and don't have the details now, but I told the lawyers I really was "in the dark" and everyone involved had always been very nice and cordial to me. The Asylum of Horror is still ... asyling, I guess.
Dressing up and being scary is always in vogue. Particularly among those who think dressing up is scary anyway. Sometimes locals pick up the spook and run with it. There's a Haunted Train. (Whose strange schedule hasn't been well-publicized because they're 'old school' and don't want to call any attention to themselves.) There are always Haunted Cemetery Tours. And year-round, there's Medieval Times or Medieval Manor, or Ren Faires or Waterfront Festivals with pirates, and historical interpretation. Which are all customarily scary.
About now, the local papers usually post another sure sign of the season. One thing that really puts the cap on the Hallowe'en Season for me:

Audition notices for A Christmas Carol.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Best News For Narragansett Bay, Taunton River,... and that Falling River place

Associated Press - October 24, 2007 1:54 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) - A proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Fall River may have been dealt a fatal blow.
The Coast Guard has ruled the river approaching the Weavers Cove Energy project is unsafe for navigation by massive LNG tankers.
The decision affirms concerns the Coast Guard expressed last year. The agency has since done an extensive review of the project.
A major problem is the relatively short distance between two bridges on the Taunton River. The Coast Guard found the safety risks of the 700 foot long, 80 foot wide tankers navigating the 1,100 foot gap were too great.
A Coast Guard spokesman says the ruling "kills the project, as proposed."
Weavers Cove officials did not immediately return calls for comment on the ruling.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Although I did. Sry. kthnxbbye!

Profiles in Disingenousness, Part 398,546,473

“Wherever I go, I will always be carrying my home of Fall River with
me,” Lambert said. “It has been for me a life-changing experience.”

If by "life-changing" you mean, "having to wait 12 years for a phony D-UMass job that gets me out of this pit," yeah. Carry it all the way to Dartmouth. See ya round the hood g.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bioneering, Part 2

My entry on the Bioneers Conference at D-UMass was a little harsh in some places. Perhaps I should have gone easy on the "wealthy guilt" thing. Not because I may have insulted anyone. Guilt is a useless waste of time and energy that sometimes gets wrapped in a sincerely propitious package. But it's still a waste of time and energy, and that's not the Bioneers' driving force.
I'm still confused by speakers' denial of past movements. (The tradition of environmental movements being social movements goes back further than the Industrial Revolution -- back to times when fallow fields were seen as healthy and replenishing, not a series of lost profits.) I was discouraged by the amount of garbage in trashcans. (Barely-eaten food, paper cups, programs, comment sheets. Some was in recycle bins. Unfortunately, so was the food. And I'm sure some was students'. Which is even more discouraging. ) I was appalled by the people who said things like, "I heard that when I saw him at San Rafael," or "He was funnier in San Francisco." And I was bothered by the girl who kept laughing loudly at inappropriate times.
It was my first chance to see Van Jones, who's actually doing stuff. He's the co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and I heard him speak on Sunday. Here's some of what he talked about, thanks to Treehugger:


Try this experiment. Go knock on someone’s door in West Oakland, Watts or Newark and say: ‘We gotta really big problem!’ They say: ‘We do? We do?’ ‘Yeah, we gotta really big problem!’ ‘We do? We do?’ ‘Yeah, we gotta save the polar bears! You may not make it out of this neighborhood alive, but we gotta save the polar bears!’
We need a different on-ramp for people from disadvantaged communities. The leaders of
the climate establishment came in through one door and now they want to squeeze everyone through that same door. It’s not going to work. If we want to have a broad-based environmental movement, we need more entry points.
...
You can’t take a building you want to weatherize, put it on a ship to China and then have them do it and send it back. So we are going to have to put people to work in this country—weatherizing millions of buildings, putting up solar panels, constructing wind farms. Those green-collar jobs can provide a pathway out of poverty for someone who has not gone to college. Remember, a big chunk of the African-American community is economically stranded. The blue-collar, stepping- stone, manufacturing jobs are leaving. And they’re not being replaced by anything. So you have this whole generation of young blacks who are basically in economic free
fall. If we can get these youth in on the ground floor of the solar industry now, where they can be installers today, they’ll become managers in five years and owners in 10. And then they become inventors. The green economy has the power to deliver new sources of work, wealth and health to low-income people—while honoring the Earth. If you can do that, you just wiped out a whole bunch of problems. We can make what is good for poor black kids good for the polar bears and good for the country."

That's some good stuff told to the folks who may not have thought much about it. Jones' new project is Green For All. I've added it to the GAM starboard.



Monday, October 22, 2007

Bioneering

This weekend, I nearly suffocated in Ecotheism and the Gospel of Sustainability. Thursday night, I and two or three hundred people sat in the Zeiterion Theater to hear Robert F. Kenndy Jr. tell us that evil corporations will continue to be evil as long as nice dopey people continue to watch crappy news. It was the opening salvo of "The Environmental Conference of the Year." Bioneers By The Bay.
I really don't want to be ungrateful. I mean, the speakers I saw entertained and informed. But how many times can you reinvent "social conscience and environmental concern"? As I sat in an auditorium that was split between guilty privileged people and entitled college students portraying the marginalized ethnic-types they sought to save, I wondered how these things go in other venues. The SouthCoast is a land of enthusiastic composters and recyclers. A land of disadvantaged folks who believe they are well-off because they have CD players. A land of people who ignore both. A land of people who cannot understand, see, or admit to either the poverty or the wealth around them.
A weekend like this makes me wonder if the Bioneers are even aware of this. The Bioneers are successful people who like to distance themselves from problems by incessantly chattering about them, subscribing to The Solution of the Week, and sponsoring weekends like this where they can buy Naomi Wolf books and then go vote to keep the TIFs and corporate welfare and phony war. Sure, the Youth Initiative were young people of color from Connecticutt and Lowell, but they were treated as entertainment and presented themselves as such. Did the New Bedford ones not work out? The speakers continually denied that the Green/Eco/Land Conservation/Nature Movement goes back a century or two. "It's all our idea right now," they seemed to be saying, "and don't you feel good about you?"
I wish I could show you one of the 7,473,984 programs they left by the free-trade organic coffee and vegan muffin table. They insisted you should use the program you get "for all three days and share it with other attendees." And then they told you to make sure to use the recycling bins and make the event as "Earth friendly as possible." Apparently, Bioneers need to be reminded to recycle.
It was funny to hear the clever socio-anthropo-eco-hero businessman fumble his way around the dilemma of "Of course we could buy ecologically-safe paper cups, but the plastic-coated are cheaper for our customers." You wanna be heroic? Tell your customers to use their own ceramic mugs. I'll bet there are ceramicists who need the work. I didn't buy his book, even though his main selling point was, "It's got places you'll never get to go." I was appalled to hear people say things like, "Women haven't been involved in ecological discussions," and "This new generation is the first to take up the green challenge." I dunno. A woman was my science teacher in fifth grade several decades ago, She got the whole middle school to do a river and field cleanup. This was back in these days:



I miss the honest, sparse and spartan life onboardship. My Beloved and I are both boaters and, living together on land, understand the importance of managing resources, recycling, and lording it over sloppy messy and wasteful people. I especially excel at that one.
Tucked atop one of my nautical shelves is a three-piece place setting made by my friend
Amy, who’s more well-known for her lyrical chair statuettes. Plate, bowl, cup. All a pale jade that reminds me of land, grass, and trees when I'm at sea. On land, the set puts me in mind of the color of the sea in warmer latitudes. Which is good when the temperature in this port is 9º.
Conservation is essential at sea. A small galley usually has room for few mugs, but they serve as bowls as well as a service for your daily ration of rum or coffee or tea. If you have a bowl, it can serve the above purposes, as well as hold the stew or the salad or the sandwich. And that plate can be a flat surface for the boat owner to sign your check, or mark your sea-time, or … You get the idea. One object, many uses. That’s what that set means to me. It’s a photo album, a memoir, and a place setting.
The best power source is wind. Period. I could power off and fly sail to save diesel, but not the other way around. And sustainable. As long as I know how to tack. I can set up photovoltaics. I can run on veggie oil. I can row, pole, or warp. There's a reason why they call a quick wet-soap-rinse a "Navy shower." You don't throw things overboard; you could hurt marine life and you might just need it later. It's not a different planet, just a damper one.

Here on The Beach, you get lazy, wasteful, and cowardly. The corner shop that sells gas, beer, lightbulbs, socks. The big box store with prices so low you can't pass up the deal on something you don't need. The UPS truck with the package from the online HotSauce-of-the-Month Club. Other people handle the maintenance. And most lubbers think it's supposed to be this way. That we've evolved.
Diane Wilson is a personal hero. The shrimper who went on a hunger strike to stop Formosa Plastics from completely screwing her community and her livelihood. I got to meet her and hear her speak this weekend. Her book, An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, And the Fight for Seadrift, Texas , is inspiring and a damned good read. Whether you're a guilty rich person or not. She continues to stand up for what she believes. She showed me the worth of this silly back-slapping-Gaia-worship-barefoot-hug fest.

Maybe she can explain why you should talk to a sailor about sustainability.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Soles'n'Bowls

So I went in for another laser blast at the nasty retinopathies so I couldn't see out of one eye and was dealing with lack of depth perception. Three unreadable books on the bedside table, a lasered eye and a throbbing optic nerve (when the anesthesia wore off), and all I could do was fumble for my iPod, thrill that I was 2 weeks early with the eyepatch, and try to avoid talk radio. Here's 10 That Were Shuffled. You tell me what worked...

  • When the Ship Comes In, Bob Dylan
    Motherless Child, Prince
    It's Up To You, The Specials
    Mambo Jambo, Pérez Prado
    You Are My Face, Wilco
    Oh Carolina, Shaggy
    V'erastikh Li, Frank London
    King Without a Throne, Sugar Simone
    Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3, Ian Dury & the Blockheads
    Sand, Phish
  • Back last century, in college radio, I would have turned on the mike maybe twice during that set. Once after The Specials as the mambo played in the bg, saying something dumb about the terrible rumor of Halloween murders on campus and then while Frank London played in after Shaggy, probably to say something about my kosher friends, the Rabbifarians. Of course, the Wilco, Frank London, Shaggy, and Phish didn't exist yet.
  • When I worked in "professional radio," the Pérez Prado was pretty much all I could've gotten away with. And somebody was always calling to correct how I said "Pérez." Even when I said it right.
  • So the local radio newsguy can't pronounce some names. He doesn't find out the pronunciation for three hours. Does this mean no one has called to correct him? Does that mean that no one is listening? That no one at the station (including his boss) is listening? Or does it mean that no one cares?
  • Why do I care? Because I'm sick of people laughing when I say I used to work in radio. "You couldn't have -- You're way too smart!"
  • If I were that smart, I'd have an internet radio show or music blog. But people who know me would say I was desperately trying to recapture some past lost magic. Come on. Look at your broadcasters. Can I afford to lose that much mojo?
  • And except for the commercials I wrote, voiced, and produced, live parade and fire sale shots, and my ability to pleasantly and skillfully communicate with people from radio stations other than the ones I worked at, I sucked at radio.
  • Stop by http://tearitdown.org/ . The waterboarding you stop may be your own. You might also want to tell Congress habeas corpus is knocking at the door and wants back in.
  • Saw Robert F. Kennedy Jr speak last night. Thanking him and the Hudson Riverkeepers and everybody else who sees value in things that don't have barcodes and pricetags, like rivers and mountains and fish. (No, fish don't have barcodes in the wild.). His ideas about politicians' perversion of our democracy and the need for an educated citizenry should send shivers up. As usual, New Bedford should be ashamed that they couldn't fill the Zeiterion.
  • Speaking of art museums, Hafdis Huld is appearing tomorrow at the Reykjavik Art Museum. Golly she's swell.
  • In case you were all "Whatthefunk?" with my random tiny gramophone playlist: Here's some Bootsy:


Thursday, October 18, 2007

How to maladroitly fashion a non-controversy

What is it I always say about the SouthCoast?
People don't know how to drive... People think honesty and manners are a sign of weakness... People who don't know about something are more apt to talk about it... AH! That's the one!
In yesterday's Standard-Times (Funny aside: Last night as I and My Beloved were driving back from a yummy dindin in Fairhaven, we noticed the newspaper had lost the final 's' off its sign, presenting itself as "Standard Time." How do I tell them that it's still "Daylight Saving Time"? Well, we thought it was funny, but Margaret's serves huge glasses of stuff. )
In yesterday's Standard-Times, the big editorial (since we're three weeks away from the most boring election in New Bedford history) was about the Zeiterion Theatre. OUR VIEW: Zeiterion hides behind the curtain. Why an editorial about a theater? Particularly about a year-old non-story a few weeks before an election that in no way involves that theater? Go ahead and read the overlong diatribe. I'll wait.


(Why didn't the Smoking Popes ever do a version of Girl From Ipanema?)


Seems the editorial page editor had nothing else to talk about but a snit with the Executive Director of the Z. Katherine Knowles didn't hand over her financial reports along with the customary $100 bill wrapped around a Godiva box (to ensure positive press) immediately and joyously when asked. The editorial has done three things:

  1. Made one of New Bedford's performing arts venues seem financially shaky and morally obscure,
  2. Inadvertently turned Katherine into a martyr to the Arts cause, and
  3. Proven once again that the SouthCoast just doesn't get arts organizations.

If S-T had set out to vilify an arts organization and gain favor with the knuckledraggers (like the radio dolt who constantly accuses the Z of presenting only "Latvian Lesbian Woman's Chorus" shows) then they've landed far from the mark. However feeble the backbone of the arts industry might appear to the folks who don't look that hard, you can't deny that the artists in New Bedford are pretty much the only people who work every day -- sometimes at two or three "regular" jobs just to afford their studio space and rents and living expenses. Artists are the people who are making downtown New Bedford a going concern, either by providing product for businesses or by owning those businesses or by shopping at the businesses that have moved in downtown because there were artists who would frequent or supply them.


To turn the arts into the kickable dog is just plain stupid.


Which then makes me wonder if this isn't an actual personal political attack. Besides the title which makes Katherine Knowles out to be the Great Oz cringing behind the machinations. Sure she's got that spooky idea-filled positive attitude thing that the SouthCoast doesn't trust, but... Knowles sits on the New Bedford Economic Develop thingy. Some people don't like that. Some people don't like the NBEDC. Some people don't like Katherine. Yes, there are people far more apt for the position. No, she's not exactly running a business that employs hundreds or provides a huge amount of tax revenue. But since she's running the day-to-day operation of a business that is constantly referred to as the anchor store for the arts in New Bedford, maybe somebody should listen to what she says. As you should do with anyone else who runs any of the successful businesses around. As you should do.

Another thing that surprises me is the editorial's mention of Guidestar. Guidestar is a fine organization whose mission, according to itself, "is to revolutionize philanthropy and nonprofit practice by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving." Unfortunately, its database is sometimes incomplete -- whether by its own or a member's incompleteness. To claim that someone is hiding something because you can't find the information you're looking for on-line is... well, erm, wait a minute, I'm looking up "incomplete and somehow stretching the premise" on Thesaurus.com. Nope, nothing.

Just like the rest of the editorial.

Nothing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

TOWN MEETING TONIGHT!!1!! (apologies to Black Flag)

The Dartmouth Fall Town Meeting fills the Dartmouth Middle School auditorium with entertaining community theater at 7. There'll be a brief First Anniversary of The Military Commissions Act celebration, a round of "You Voted Against The OverRide, Stupid" vs "You Shoulda Fought Harder For It, Dufus" Dodgeball and then the ages-old recriminations, grudges, and feuds that make Town Meeting the social event of the season. (No fancy-shmancy opera attire here, ladies, although you should be wearing your eighteen-button Oyster Gloves, it being evening.)
In case you think I'm mocking my berth, let me share a few observations I made over the past few days without even leaving the 200+ acre grounds of stately Goon Manor.
Last Saturday night I heard the award-winning Dartmouth High School Percussive Theater. It's not hard to do since their practice field is less than a mile from here. I know they fancy themselves a "theatrical group," but if you're not doing taiko, there's nothing particularly theatrical about high school drum corps to me. Something sort of "We can get a grant for this, really" about it. Except...
When I heard these kids banging away in the newly-cool October air of my neighborhood... Damn.

(Now, if someone can tell them something about set and props not being characters and motion not necessarily meaning drama.)

Geese are practicing their particular woodwind mayhem. They're staying in my neighbor's denuded cornfield, storing up energy and dropping that damned greasy fertilizer. And, because I am a healthy person, I haven't gotten so used to them that I recognize individuals. They seem to be readying for their flight south. If they really do that. But they're taking their noisy time heading down there. I mean, it's warmer down there, innit? As a general rule? If I had my old recording equipment (lost in a relocation), I'd do a mash-up of the drum corps and the honkers.

The vineyard behind the Manor has a new manager. Actually, he's been here for more than a year; this is probably his first full season. But this being New England, it'll take fifteen or twenty years before they drop the "new" from his title. Most of the harvesting's done, only a couple of varieties are still on the vines, building up more sugar in their plump juicy grapiness. Sunday, we enjoyed a gathering in the second field as the growers' kids stomped the grapes they had helped pick earlier. The kids had stompy itchy fun, but just don't tell them that the grapes they stomped were heading for the vinegar factory.


Above, here's the new manager (see, I'm doing it already) and his brother and their dad using an antique grape crusher/hopper and a relatively new fruit press which introduces the "free run" into the stainless steel cylinder where it goes and then becomes Chardonnay after the vintner's magic. As you know, I have no qualms about filling my glass. It tasted like apple juice. It's actually really good grape juice that screams apple at your taste buds. (Go ahead and look at your nearest apple juice container. Bet it says something about "grape juice.")

Neighbors engaged in politics, art, agriculture. This is my town, and as I often say: Dartmouth was here long before your silly little country, and Dartmouth, my friend, shall endure.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Congratulations To Actual Nobel Prizewinners

Since my little slice of The Beach is a microcosm of the larger moral and intellectual decline evident in our once-great nation, I share a few observations from the SouthCoast zeitgeist:

  1. People don't like smarty-pants. Smartypantses.
  2. People don't think of themselves as smartypantses.
  3. SouthCoasters believe anyone who gets an award for anything that doesn't require a ball and readily-identifiable scoring isn't really "excelling" as much as "wasting time doing some smartypants thing nobody cares about."
  4. Awards from foreign places aren't real awards.
  5. Unfamiliar awards are awards anybody can get if they buy them, so only rich people can get them and thus are not real awards.
  6. People should not make a big deal of winning awards. A nice spaghetti dinner, maybe a story in the paper with a picture. But don't dwell on it.
  7. If someone in the media who didn't win the award says something negative about the award, he's probably right. As well as being envious. So who cares about what he said about the stupid thing anyway. Just makes the thing stupider.

I know Paul Krugman wrote about what he calls "Gore Derangement Syndrome." But why do we glorify participants in the 4,812 "reality" shows that follow idiots around as they gleefully and unashamedly wallow in their own filth, whether singing off-key or attempting to win lossa money by indulging in unsavory practices? There'll probably be only a passing mention of "the weirdo envirosocio smartypantses" at the Bioneers By The Bay Conference this weekend.

So here's my congratulations and thanks to Al Gore, for whom I voted in 2000, just like a majority of Americans.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

NBAM

It would be easy (though not particularly clever) to say that the New Bedford Art Museum (NBAM, 608 Pleasant Street, NBMA) addresses the trash problem in New Bedford with its new show(s). Art made with found objects is deceptive: at once droll, revolting, beautiful, and evocative. Here are my thoughts:
Reclaimed and Rejuvenated, Discards into Art is the main show. Featured are ten artists whose works, well, I'll let co-curators Richard Kellaway and Tom Puryear explain:

The objects or materials employed are often referred to as "found objects," and are easily identified as the stuff found in the artist's surroundings. A certain degree of serendipity accompanies their deployment. Discovered in family closets,flea markets, town dumps, city streets, ancient kitchen middens, along farm pathways and riverbanks, or at industrial
sites both active and disused, these objects are given a new life. Indeed they readily take on a life of their own in the hands of artists and provoke a wide range of response from viewers.

Ain't that the truth.
About 18 months ago, I volunteered to work Sundays at NBAM until they could find someone else to sit at the front desk. Before I forgot completely what a weekend was, a wonderful local artist took over. But not before I could make the following observation. In terms of "response from viewers," this is the loudest show NBAM has ever mounted. Visitors are immediately and continually vocal: "Look at this!" "Ever seen one of those?" "That is so cool" and of course, "We don't got nothin' like this in Fawrivvah." Which really has nothing to do with the exhibit.


Steve Bradford is an assemblage artist. His art is full of absolutely familiar bric-a-brac and tchotchkes (former toys, dolls, doorknobs, twigs) in completely unfamiliar settings. Over a noisy dinner, I mentioned to Steve, "Your pieces all have this dreamlike narrative going on." Steve was as nice as someone who regularly fields ridiculously contrived critiques of his work can be. Steve admitted that his subconscious mind informs his artwork but his wife Susan finds the objects. Sitting at the front desk during other shows, I would hear people -- as they looked at an obscure sculpture or abstract painting -- remark, "I could do that!" Steve Bradford's work explains exactly why those people really never could "do that."

Although I have never sailed with Karl Unnasch, he reminds me of so many shipmates whose company I've enjoyed both aloft and at the tavern. Talking with Karl, expect to be bombarded with the nature of revenants, bourbon, Shatner, mythology, and Deadwood. Here, read the little card next to his artwork: "snake carcass, reclaimed spray can, HO model railroad accessories, and pigment." Check out the gallery at his website. He has extraordinarily delicate pieces in this show protected by small bell jars that remind you of the fragility of botched enrichment. Not like in the old days when he was going to D-UMass and he'd make landscapes with heifer carcasses.
Karl and Jon Taylor were the two guys I most wanted on my work crew those days. You probably remember Jon as the guy who developed Head Acres. Jon's NoNu Portable Shelter continues his insistent "reviving usefulness" jihad. Jon drives his Volvo with vegetable oil. He sees the dross our consumerism produces, and rather than bemoan and belittle, he uses it and trusts in human nature to persevere and grow out of this over-arching adolescent selfishness and religion of waste. Because they'll have to. Or they'll go to him to build a mobile home so they might, in his words, "live in a free and mobile manner, sustaining themselves on the excesses of society."

Steve Whittlesey has his own featured show at NBAM, curated by David Boyce. Steve stretches his material (wood, mostly) to absurd limits. Whittlesey finds our flotsam (driftwood, boat hulks, ruined lobster pots -- "orphans") and creates "Tables and Shelves." Steve is Professor of Wood & Furniture Design in the Artisanry Department in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and is head of the MFA Graduate Programs. Look here. Reminds me of more than a few docks I've had to navigate.

Probably NBAM's most important exhibit is Trash²Treasure, the work of the participants in NBAM's youth education programs, Invest-In-Kids, SuMmerART, and artMOBILE. Taking their cue from the taller artists upstairs and unmistakably imaginatively developing their own styles, the young artists' ideas are lively and revitalizing, even if only to give NB parents hope that there's something to this art stuff.

The Vault Building which houses NBAM was built in 1918 as a bank and NBAM uses the old vaults currently as installation spaces for Alan Johnston, the challenging abstract sculptor. How's that for adaptive re-use? Joan Backes, who has been filling the vaults with special exhibits for many years, brought in the Edinburgh artist whose work answers and responds to the architecture it inhabits. Johnston is pretty heady stuff, but what makes his work most appropriate (to my lights, anyway) is how he uses -- re-uses -- the existing structure, this very Eastern idea of defining art as inhabiting the space that is the absence of the art. You know, that "sound as the absence of noise" thing. Isn't art the calm silence, the peace amid noise and turmoil?

If it is, then R&R:DIA is a showing of great art simply because of the raucous discussions at NBAM. You can join in Wednesday through Sunday (noon to five) until New Year's, and 'til nine on the two remaining AHA! Nights of 2007.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Soles'n'Bowls

  • My friend Chuck sent me this: "October 14 - Rural Cemetery Tour - 1 to 4 p.m. (Rain date October 21) -Fifth Annual Cemetery Tour is back by popular demand! - Tour Rural Cemetery(Dartmouth Street Entrance, New Bedford) with the Preservation Society and enjoy historic portrayals of New Bedford notables at gravesides along the tour route." I'd ask the marketing peoples if "the Fifth Annual... is back" means that it's at least the sixth event of its kind because the Fifth Annual would have had to have been done at least once before in order to be back as an annual event. But that would make me an asshole.
  • I can, however, mock because I've stood in that cemetery on a frigid Sunday before Halloween pretending to be a "New Bedford notable." Twice.
  • I happened upon this while looking for organizations "striving" to provide opportunities for workers around the SouthCoast. Because I was curious. From the bottom of the page: "The Workforce Training Fund offers both a General (more than $50,000) and Express (50 employees or less) program. If you have any questions regarding the Workforce Training Fund, call... blah blah blah." Yeah, why is your organization's acronym "WTF"?
  • The 265 year-old guy (the career politician who never changes his vote, even when people want him to, the one who hurts to listen to and hard to understand when you read him) who's running for Mayor of Fall River (because his name rhymes with 'Mayor' sometimes) has suggested a "downtown entertainment zone" that would shut down traffic at certain times. I thought the local Downtown Stakeholders' initiatives have shut down traffic already.
  • Y'see, because they haven't ...with the traffic because ...erm no traffic anyway...
  • Here's a Downtown Stakeholder:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

One Hundred Years of AHA!

For one magnificent century, AHA! has showcased the excitement, splendor, and commerce that is New Bedford. Even before New Bedford was called Nieue Beige or DownBeeNewBeeCity or Historic Waterslide or whatever. I thought I'd celebrate AHA!'s 100th year of Second Thursdays by sharing some AHA! Trivia.

  • AHA! (Art! History! Architecture!) was briefly called ACEH!(Art!CurrentEvents!Architecture!) because there hadn't been any history yet. When the steering committee was informed that ACEH! sounded like a sneeze, they went back to AHA! but changed the final 'A!' to Architecture! from the former Agriculture!
  • June 1910's "Our Family Shares Piecework Night" (photo by Lewis Wickes Hine) was popular among millworkers who couldn't take the Thursday night off. And kids who made a nickel without losing a finger to a loom.
  • The single most popular AHA! night was January 1934's "Free Dawson's Beer and Grandiloquence Night," celebrating the ultimate repeal of Prohibition. I've mentioned this elsewhere. Dawson's shrank into obscurity after supplying New Bedford with 18,073,908 of those 4½-ounce glasses of beer you get at places like Harry Hope's saloon in The Iceman Cometh. But AHA! lived on.
  • AHA! was the first fully integrated monthly Second Thursday downtown celebration in North America.
  • The only United States President to attend AHA! was Calvin Coolidge, and he was only Vice-President at the time. He was called to New Bedford in 1920 to settle a policemen strike. When he learned that the policemen weren't striking, but were actually just a bit lackadaisical, he enjoyed a diablo burrito at ¡No Problemo! (No Problemo lost both the ¡ and the ! during the Exclamation Point Collapse of 1936). Miraculously, AHA!'s ! was unscathed.
  • Mamie Eisenhower.
  • The only professional-sports-themed AHA! night was held in February 1916, "Olde Towne Teame Nighte," the only date when Smokey Joe Wood and the rest of the 1915 World Series-winning Boston Red Sox could make it and Jimmie's Hot Dogs was open. Newly-signed pitcher George Herman Ruth Jr. enjoyed the dogs and the rest is History!
  • AHA! had nothing to do with this:
  • No AHA! night has specifically celebrated the wanton systematical slaughter of cetaceans. But c'mon, it's NEW BEDFORD!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Imagine Peace

Today is John Lennon's birthday. He would've been 67 if some Catcher In The Rye fan hadn't taken close-range target practice in front of the Dakota.
Anyone who knows me knows that I never got the Beatles. Musicians, artists, ball players, accountants. Can't believe it when I say that. I can hear the gasps all the way out here, but let me explain.
The Beatles were actually still producing music -- as a group -- when I was young. They weren't some iconic ideal like they are now, some marble statue conveniently representing whatever a contemporary musician, writer, or artist tacks to the image. I remember them on the scratchy AM radio just like the Archies or the Rolling Stones. I listened to my uncle or aunt's Beatles records on the hi-fi right along with Hendrix, Cream, The Beach Boys, and Pete Seeger. The Beatles were just another entertaining diversion in my world of bike rides to the corner, dinosaur books, and scaring my sister with bugs.
I could go on with "If they were all about peace, why couldn't they get along?" and "If they were such generous musical innovators, why didn't they let anybody else on the charts?" or even "If they were so original, why does all their music sound like someone else?" As I got older, I sang in bands that did Beatles covers and I gave them just as much as I gave Stiff Little Fingers or The Clash.
Seemed to me that John was usually grasping wildly at whatever interested him while flailing uncontrolled at what he didn't like. Would that make him a punk? Maybe. But it seems to me that at some point, this "peace thing" gave Lennon a celebrity that only required him to be John. And that engendered an honesty I can only recognize now. Yeah, forty years later, I'm starting to get it.
Yoko has decided to honor the memory of her husband (or at least the image of peaceful warrior that's been cultivated in recent years) by making what she calls a "light house" on the smartest island nation on earth: Iceland. I'll let her tell her story:
The Imagine Peace Tower. A tower of light powered by geothermal energy. If you can wade through all the insipid "Yoko wishes people would 'come together' and 'give peace a chance'" headlines, the news today is: One person has decided to do something. To say something they feel must be said. To do what they feel must be done.
To do the must.
I thought I was the most jaded, most cynical, most world-weary mate on deck. Which can be attractive around SouthCoast where merely cynical looks downright silly. But I've found myself falling for this peace stuff. I listen with interest to the unstudied (and unreported) announcements from Dennis Kucinich. And not just because his wife might be there.
Because he says something that resonates with me. Something beyond the usual media-propelled topic of the week. Something like when Phil Ochs declared the war over because he wasn't marching anymore. Yes, Mr. Recruiter, Mr Limbaugh, Mr Blackwater, Mr. Disaster Capitalist, what IF everyone put away the charade of hatred and fear and xenophobia? Wouldn't that just suck? For you.
You can't get peace by waging war. You get peace by waging peace.
Why complicate things?

Monday, October 8, 2007

This Plastered Capitalism

One Sunday afternoon, my Beloved and I were invited to the expansive nouveau-manse of another ex-classmate who doesn't leave comments here.
Bink and his chosen, Craisdara, and their brood, are really a lovely young family struggling to get by on only a budget analyst's salary, a couple of trust funds, and a few government contracts. It was a warm evening and since most of the guests were slumming it there in Rhode Island (the land of docks, rocks, and racing sloops), Bink and Craisdara opted against the overtly Portuguese-sounding caiparinha bar. Everyone brought their own favorite microbrews. One wag even brought his own hefeweisen coordinator, along with his honey-blonde trophy wife and 2.3 children, sans nanny. "Because," they said almost as one, "Even brown people have to get a night off."
To ease the evening for those maters unfamiliar with their children, our hostess had a life-size Eva Longoria PEZ valium dispenser installed in the Dębnik-black and Carara-white marble checkerboard tile foyer. Their Flaschenhals Tonicwater dog stood valiant guard by the lawnboy, and the sullen and bothered older kids were begrudgingly grinding to the sounds of DJ Shadow, who was hired for the night to entertain the kids whenever Arcade Fire left the live YouTube broadcast stage.
My beloved had whipped up a batch of zelnicky and we found we were on the cutting edge once again in the hors d’œuvres category, since the rest of the guests had simply stopped off at the gourmet victualler and only came up with the same old graham cracker chipotle balsamic mustard cole slaw they'd brought to last month's soirée. After all, how could anyone be expected to keep up with the latest in popular Eastern European Oktoberfest peasant delicacies while both the Patriots AND the Red Sox are locked in life-or-death advertising promotions?
By the cast-titanium Interceptor™ grilling unit -- "It'll toast your Margarita Fajitas from zero to sixty in eight seconds," assured my beaming host -- I overheard somebody talking about how she had heard a Christmas commercial on the radio a few days ago and realized that "they've made it all about the money -- All the holidays. So they have to make the cookout season last from March to November and Halloween from August to Halloween and Christmas is all year 'round."
I don't listen to radio much anymore, so I can't verify what she heard. I can, however, agree with her about one thing:
It all is all about the money.
Holiday or not.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Soles'n'Bowls

  • The Bruins. Against the Dallas Stahs. Stars. Whatever. Former Minnesota North Stars. 8:30 tonight. The official start of Hawkee season. If you have the NESN.
  • I have a memory of tying off a boat in Nova Scotia and running up into town to get some money from an ATM. Without thinking much about exchange rates, I pushed the button for "Withdraw $20" and was pleasantly surprised when I received $32 out of the machine. "I'm playing this machine all the time," I laughed to a shipmate as the Scotians in the line smiled at the Yank. Look who's laughing now.
  • The countdown continues. At the end of October, the wrecking ball starts swinging down at Colonel Green's old estate. Radome down, when will I know when to turn to port to get home after a day at Newport?
  • Just to let the guys at Dark Horse know I'm still on their side, Brian K Vaughan has saved Buffy Season 8.
  • Next Thursday is Joan Cusack's birthday. Yes, I went to school with her hubby. I missed her by one Homecoming game and an alumni club luncheon, I think.Damn.
  • And here's an ad from a company that sells billions of dollars worth of smelly soaps and creams telling you to talk to your daughter about beauty companies trying to sell them something.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Where'd I grow up?

Curt Brown from the S-T:

Mr. Hickox said he has gotten requests from residents who wanted to
opt out of the town program after the deadline, and they have been denied.
Assessment bills were mailed Aug. 24 and the deadline to contract private
service was Sept.24. "We can't be continuing this process. The deadline was the
day the bill was due," he said. "We can't accept them anymore. I have to move to
the next phase. We have to continue moving forward."

We in Dartmouth have the option to pay the town to pick up our garbage or hire private haulers. But some people just couldn't. Because they're late or lazy or forgetful or special they think that the rules don't apply to them and must be changed or bent or ignored. Oh, and enjoy the second-guessing and armchair selectboarding by the commenters after the article, adjusting their tinfoil hats to decry the punitive nature of a law they voted to put into practice. Waah.
No one told me, while as a youth I spent time learning and practicing civics and civility, that I would be an adult in a world of selfish twerps whining and stamping their little feet as a form of discourse. "It's my right!" they squeal. The free practice of whims that are misperceived "rights" is anarchy. (Trust me. I lived through the Seventies and had a band. We sang about anarchy all the time.) The constant insistence of one's right to practice those selfish whims is annoying. (I also lived through the Eighties.)

One recent incident involved a high school student who was suspended for violating a high school policy. After the student’s father got nowhere yelling at the vice principal of the school, he went directly to the superintendent’s office. Because the incident had just happened, Flanagan had no information on it and referred the parent back to the high school administration. Not taking kindly to the direction his argument was going, the parent ended up swearing at Flanagan a number of times and grabbed himself in his private parts before being asked to leave.

The rest of the article is just as bad.

Once a week or so, I sit at the front desk at the New Bedford Art Museum. I get to interact with a wide variety of people, and generally they are people and their children with an interest in the stuff they see there. Part of my "job" is to enforce simple rules. Leave your bag or backpack here. No cell phones. No photography. No drinks or food. Don't touch.
If you talk to anyone from the Museum Association, every one of those rules is perfectly legitimate. And we're probably a little lenient, compared to most because NBAM wants people to enjoy and appreciate the art, not get all scared around it.
But the amount of time I spend explaining why every rule exists and why yes, it does apply to you, is mind-boggling. I can see why parents say, "Because Mommy said!"
Here on the Beach, those "Question Authority" bumper stickers are the only ones people commit to memory and practice. Screw "World Peace" or "End The War." The Yankees Suck and my kid beat up your honors kid. People actually believe that rudeness and vulgarity are rights, "because the First Amendment guarantees."
Funny thing about the Constitution. It was written by educated and civilized adults for educated and civilized citizens. They did not intend to empower citizens with abusive immaturely-exercised ignorance. Rudeness and vulgarity are not guaranteed anywhere in "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
How do I know this? I like to pretend that I was there in 1787, but realistically, an English degree only gives me warrant to LOOK AT THE TEXT. The United States Constitution, according to the United States Constitution, was written "in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty..."
Is beating on your kids' teacher and grabbing your junk part of striving for a more perfect union? Do you secure the Blessings of Liberty or establish Justice by insisting that laws don't apply to you? And does your vulgar T-shirt insure domestic Tranquility? Do you really believe that calling a radio talk show and writing insulting posts to online newspaper forums is petitioning the Government?
Yeah, that's what I thought.
When you use the Constitution to defend your own selfish and puerile superficiality, when you use that precious document to bolster your specious argument, it helps to have a little respect for it.

That might be a good place to start.