Friday, November 30, 2007


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Season's Eatings (yeah, I know, but it's the Food Network™ I'm writing about...)

Now that Thanksgivening is just a stale turkey sandwich away from refluxive memory, and the wild capitalist Carnival of Objective Self-Indulgence known as ¢hri$nukkanzaa looms large upon the anticipated online billing screen, I turn to the people with whom I most like to share the holidays: The contracted wisks and egos who smile back at me from The Food Network.

Separated At BirthThe Once and Future Bumble: Mario Batali

The first time I saw Mario Batali, I thought he was a guy I had gone to school with. Really, my sophomore year, the guy across the hall was this nine foot-tall, 300lb+, blonde Italian guy from Mankato MN somebody had named Windigo, but I thought he looked more like the Bumble from Rudolph and that moniker stuck. You know: "Bumbles bounce..." Marco (really, that was his name) turned out to be a great friend, if only for his choice of beverages and smokes. Yes, that hearty Border Waters Bluegrass.
M. Batali, on the other hand, has left The Food Network. Sort of. In fact, he left about 2 months ago when they tossed his Italocentric Molto Mario and Ciao America shows, both of which featured Big Red calmly serving up carefully-prepared and correctly-pronounced culinary dish. It was rumored that they'd tossed him from Iron Chef America, too. He still appears in promos, so he can't be that no-longer-Iron. And over the last week, they were running him getting pawed at by Rachael Ray on the two year-old special "Cranberry Challenge" episode of ICA. Is it really back to the wife's Michigan dairy farm for you, Mario? Do not pass 'Go," do not step on Emeril -- who's been smarting from the recent boot too. You read right: Fall River's favorite son, Emeril Lagasse has uttered his last BAM! Now that FN is the new MTV, you can't have Andy Griffith and Danny Thomas taking up the time we need for Who Wants To Eat The Survivor 3.

I'm Getting Cleavage for ¢hri$nukkanzaa

It's difficult to imagine FN without Giada and the girls. Yummy disaster-movie heiressI mean, the other girls on the rest of The Food Network. You know, Rachael and Ingrid and Nigella and Sandra the ChefILFs. (Well, not so much Rachael, since she's built like the guy who ran into me at third base during the softball playoffs senior year.) But as we consider the fascinating immigration stories of someone named Hoffman and the reason why a woman of Giada's wealth can't find a shirt that doesn't show 60% of her chest, How's your linguini?we find there are a few requisites to being a ChefILF on FN:
  1. Make sure there's something you can't pronounce and be certain to use it in everything you cook. (Ingrid called Simply Delicioso. Yeah, I was just thinking that."Worcestershire sauce," so maybe you can have "mascarpone.")
  2. When you use something that you can pronounce, give it a cute abridgement or abbreviation. (But remember: you will be fined and possibly fired if you say "E.V.O.O." Little §%&#! is rolling that big a set.) I'm evil. My collander is evil. Stop looking at the evil!
  3. But don't abbreviate the thing you can't pronounce. That defeats the purpose.
  4. Make sure you get at least one shot at an exotic overnight food travel show. There must be a shot of you to use in random promos that shows you in a loose man's shirt, tight halter or sporty lingerie while sucking something out of a shell or large botanically-improbable straw.
  5. Sponsored by Glaxo-SmithKline
  6. If they don't give you the travel show, just pour some booze into something unlikely like cilantro/vegetable stock or thinly-sliced pancetta and call it a "chat-starter" or "whistle-wettener" or "panty-dropper." Go ahead. We're heading that way anyhow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

(More or less) Living History

Those familiar with the deck and its fittings here on the journal will recognize my intermittent need to bitch about living historical interponstration events and facilities. Because you recognize that as a part of me. A casual fly-by (one who Googles™ "Syrlebtamia," say) need only espy the young bloke wearing the lieutenant outfit in the "About Me" station to know that the author has, at one time or another, had to wear silly clothes and say things nobody really wants to hear about. Yes, I worked in documentary films and AM radio, but I'm talking about living history museums.
Yesterday, I put away my former professional integrity and spent the day in Historic Plymouth. Or Plimoth Plantation. Which is what it's known by in all the paperwork.
Yes, my Beloved and I waited until the last possible moment to visit the same damned dusty village to which we had been dragged when we were way too young to appreciate any of it, except to walk away with a sense that strange foreigners had come to America a very long time ago and died off because they got thrown out of everywhere else and were the most miserable bastards on earth. Even before the rest of Massachusetts got that way.
At least, that's how the poor employees at the plantation appeared. I know. Last day of the season. Days after BIG holiday. Probably had to work Thanksgiving for the idiots kindly patrons who answer every begging letter and figure Thanksgiving at Plymouth with reinterponstrators in stinky wool is worth pulling out the platinum.
My experience in historical interponstration is varied enough to make me feel uncomfortable whenever I drive near a Ren Faire or the Civ War encampment. I was asked to emcee a gypsy dance show at one, and because I love the woman who asked me and because, well, belly dancers, I almost booked the gig. And then I thought: "Ren Faire."
I do not begrudge anyone's choice of work or recreation. It's just that I've, well, done it. I know what it's like to have some kid keep hitting you with a belaying pin or ask you why the sheep don't drink all the cow's milk. I've been "directed" by habitually-angry little women and perpetually chirpy little men who insist that the lady of the house wants her servants to sing until guests show up and pay to be "escorted" around the manse. I also understand that breaking open the lady's liquor cabinet and taking turns secreting behind the smokehouse is routinely advisable.
In small, I understand that the last day you're open can sometimes lead one to play fast and loose. Saying things like, "And this is where the captain hides his stash." Or pretending to be asleep as visitors step into your cozy fire pit. Leading a team of horses up and down the thoroughfare during a climactic moment in some twerp's narrative. Forgetting character, losing accents, dropping lines, striking tourons, encouraging tips. "No, just right here, in my ditty bag. Thank ye."
Later, in the real world (where my work costume was hi-tops, a work belt, painter's pants, and a pack of American Spirits), I worked for a homebuilder who had, back in his pre-wed days, worked at "Plimoth" demonstrating Seventeenth Century building techniques. I found this out one day as we were assembling a horrific Tudorbethan monstrosity with phony half-timber and stucco accents and useless jetties. He was waxing nostalgic about thatching roofs. I joked that, since it was the Seventies, he longed for the days of looking down from the thatch at women's blouses. You weren't there. (I just wanted to type "waxing nostalgic about thatching.") There. I'm done.
And yes, I was sure I saw some of his work yesterday, as I marveled at his precise dovetail mortice-and-tennon work and the other elements the current interponstrators shrugged off as some jerk trying to get them to say something obscure. I mean, I can understand growing tired of the adopted Welsh-Dutch dialect, especially when everybody else sound Irish-German or Glasgow-Swedish or like Baldrick from Blackadder. And the gal next door sounds like Fall River. Fair enough. Hide all you want. The livestock is entertaining. But you could've concealed the bottled water. I'm sure that at some other -- less exhausted -- time, you described it as Myles Standish's "bottawawa." You know, about which schoolchildren hear so much.
Look, I would've been so booted if my station ever had an AquaFina bottle visible. Mostly because my boss was running the CocaCola boycott.

(The author of this journal has worked -- costumed and not -- in house and farm museums and on historical sailing vessels. He doesn't call himself 'The Valet,' or 'van Bibber,' or 'Guy in Barn.' He's the Third Mate. Just so you know where his heart is.)

Friday, November 23, 2007


I give you ... aftermath:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

from Wallbank's Almanack of Holidays: "Thanksgivening"

'As a Fall festival, the history of Thanksgivening is ancient. Almost as old as Fall. Even before Fall was known as "Autumn." Try it in a Manhattan.Or "Fiona."
'The first recorded celebration of this festive time was found in a bundle of beads wrapped in a sheep's bladder and used as a rattle by a dancer during the Greretan festival of Ptomain. The beads described a party at King Gus of Syrlebtamia's Summer palace, which looked down upon the stadium where popular games were played. Gus' sons, Princes Ryan and Logan, had taken a long chillax weekend towards the end of the month of Games, before the Summer palace was closed up and all the booze and linens removed. Spectators who were not lucky enough to attend the Palace's game-watching event parked in the stadium lot and ate layered fowl and fruit sandwiches off the backs of their chariots. With a heady ale. (Since they ate behind their mounts, the slang term "tail-eating" was established. Tail-ating. Tail-gating. You know.) Their food festival became the basis for what moderns know as a first step toward the beginning of a Thanksgivening-like ur-Thanksgivening. Or that might be something else.
'As has often been the case with holidays (what with the "holi-" part and all), Those Darn Popes™ got involved with the surprise addition of the "Thanks" aspect of the program by Pope Adrian VI in 1523.Pope Adrian, monk In an effort to obscure the corruption endemic to the papacy at the time, Adrian, a former monk, insisted that, during his tenure, no one shake his hands, one should use only one kind of holy water, and one should constantly say "Thank You." (Adrian's successor, Pope Leland, abrogated the order by creating a single-day "thanking period.")
'As the New World opened up to settlers, sof-serve ice cream and mini-golf, a group of emmigrants in search of another group to denigrate due to religious differences was given a "Yeah Right, You Just Do That" order by King James of England. Schoolchildren know the story of the First Thanksgiving, so this chronicleer will not recount those lies here. (Of course we all tingle with delight at the vision of happy unexpected immigrants sharing the largess of friendly natives. As long as the immigrants have buckles on their hats.) It is now well-known that the holiday we call Thanksgivening didn't really catch on until the pilgrim colonists left Plymouth and traveled to the mouth of the Hudson River, which is where they were supposed to go in the first place.
'The pilgrims prepared to pillage the native settlement they found on the island (Manhattan, at that time known as "Mahna-Mahna-Hattan") just as they had that first time when they landed at Provincetown (which one of them kept calling "Providence" until she was given a map, a quahog, and a coffee milk.)
'Once upon the island at the mouth of the Hudson, William Macy and the rest of the crew paraded their intentions up and down the broad way that was the only street open at the time (because of the strike). Macy's descendants saw to it that Thanksgivening eventually was named "Macy's Day" and the traditional parade goes on. A huge effigy used by the settlers trying to scare the original MahnaMahnaHattanites

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, congressional testimonies, valedictory speeches, catechism classes, or, especially, as an authorized authority for bets involving someone buying someone a drink.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

If you see Björk today...

... try not to mention the swan outfit. We all did things in our youth.

Wish her a "HEC of a Happy"™. (She's 42. I have no idea how young Björk is in the clip. Or what she's saying. Happy Birthday, Ms. Gudmonsdottir.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Free Rice

Here's a fun game: You click here. That link will send you to

You can click here as well

And you play a little word game. They'll explain it to you. It might make you smarter, but I'm sure it'll make people less hungry. Which might make them smarter and then we won't have to get cosmetics companies to help send them rice. The "rice" is distributed by the United Nations World Food Programme.

Thousands of people gone because of Cyclone Sidr, thousands more homeless. 80% of the Mexican state of Tabasco has been flooded for the past month. "Might be a good time to see if you can do anything for the Red Cross.

While you're enjoying Thanksgiving Week, which apparently means you're not doing anything better with your time, see how you can help the Dennis Kucinich campaign for Strength Through Peace.

I'll be gone til next time. I'm still mourning the Martini Glass. Talk among yourselves.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Gam: The News is Good

... Cannabis may halt breast cancer. This is just good news for so many reasons. On so many levels. ... Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the dollar a worthless piece of paper. He must be pricing a condo in Downtown New Bedford. ... More good news from the WGA action: The sequel/prequels to DaVinci Code and Borat may not be made. Now, if the writers can stay on the picket line until all possible Tom Hanks movies are shelved, I'd say labor has won once again for the common man. ... I've been reading Beowulf since I was a little kid. It's a cool story about monsters and dragons and bravery and naked chicks. Wait, was that in the Seamus Heaney version? Or John Gardner? ...
You've probably noticed the "widget" entitled "Recently Played" over there. That's a big fat compromise. I don't have the patience (or, let's face it, the talent) that others have (*coff*coff*bitterandrew) for "the music blog," and the "random iPod list" wasn't getting any action, so I decided to just go with this thing so folk can see the supposed contents of my "playlist." That my "radio station" can play Warren Zevon into Sun Ra into The Donnas into The Selecter not only gives you an idea of what records I own, but also provides me with more ammunition to bolster my argument that I should never again work in radio.
The moniker "GIANT Tuki" came to me in a flash when I saw the image she presented. It was only later that I realized I had recycled "Giant Dawn" from the Buffy Season 8 comic book (which is currently very entertaining. Particularly trying to figure out why everyone is suddenly a giggly sixteen again. Faith was never that "young." But still, you can't beat a good girl bath for exposition and character dev.) Giant Dawn really should stay giant. Only don't have anyone mention it. She's just the regular little sister, but she stays giant. I don't want her to become magical or anything. I don't want want to know what a "thricewise" is. And I don't want any drama with Find-a-Cure Willow or Shrink-A-Dawn Willow. ... announced its new e-book reader called "Kindle." Named that to put aback the people who call regular books "kindling." ... Celebrate, appropriately, the 187th Anniversary of the sinking of the whaler Essex by a whale. Wonder if the Japanese will.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving recess. Try not to make any appointments while I'm away.

And then there's this, which isn't particularly good, but at least we can stop counting down to the moment when it'll happen. Farewell, old aid to navigation.

Friday, November 16, 2007


  • Ani DiFranco and Howard Zinn both like Dennis Kucinich. Now don't start with me on the "he's not electable so just hold your nose and back someone who is." The key to taking someone seriously in this point of an election is to get ideas on the table. Or the tube.
  • And I don't mean the UFO nonsense.
  • If we ever allow Puerto Rican statehood, let's not let them represent the rest of us in the pet care business.
  • If Blackwater Worldwide knew what was good for them, they'd put veterinarians on the payroll and get a gubmint contract to take care of that.
  • As much as I love the new "Progress in the Name of The Ahts 2.0" stance that's feeding the rhetoric in the Falling River City, I always worry when the same people who have failed at defining a creative economy for twenty years mention "stipulations that the property be used for cultural purposes or private development." In a city where "private development" is the only culture, that's pretty disingenuous.
  • And honestly, if there's anyone out there who's from a small city with no arts community and a strong history of being unfriendly to education, literacy, and the arts: Did you have to pass by-laws or create "overlay districts" to get the arts into town? How's that working out for you?
  • Y'see, it works this way, like in New Bedford. Have a history of art appreciation and historical interest, some shops and museums, say. Have a school (like the Swain School or D-UMass) that teaches and employs artists. Have schools and museums and businesses foster good publicity for the city.
  • Anne Brengle, the much-beloved Executive Director President of the New Bedford Whaling Museum is leaving. Same Anne who said, "Nothing is impossible. I invite you to visit a museum and walk through its galleries where you will be able to see and learn so many things. You never know; it could change the course of your life, too." I was lucky to work with her during the much-ballyhooed expansion of the museum. Fair winds.
  • UPDATE: Ms. Brengle's going to the Coast Guard Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity that, according to itself, "distributes funding among all nine Coast Guard districts, overseas units and the Academy." They're based in Stonington CT, and are most famous for golf tournaments and dinners. No really. I imagine events will be a bit more diverse soon. She'll be helping to supplement funding the most important branch of the service, and continue the CG's commitment to excellence. in education quality of life. Go Coasties!
  • The commander of U.S.S. Constitution was in Fall River, sharing his aunt's enthusiasm for reading with the kids. (His aunt, by the way, is a swell sailor.) Well, his boat was in New Bedford. Is too! There's Fairhaven, see? Photo from ODHS. Thanks Anne.
    What? Oh, that's right. It's not The Past where you are.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

We Are Left To Remember Its Branches

What she saw"The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak. Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs, from my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy."

-Anne Frank, in her Diary

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

S-T:"Dartmouth couple trades house for boat to do good around the world"

Standard-Times correspondent
November 13, 2007 6:00 AM
DARTMOUTH — Tom and Harriet Linskey aren't the type to sit back and bemoan the state of the world from a comfortable suburban perch.
Instead, they will quite literally set sail on a humanitarian venture.
The Dartmouth couple has sold their house and invested the proceeds in the construction of a 46-foot catamaran, which they will sail around the world in search of villages where they can lend a hand.
The Linskeys are giving up their life on land in favor of their nonprofit organization called Hands Across the Sea. Sailing on their boat of the same name, Mr. and Mrs. Linskey plan to take supplies and transport health care and environmental volunteers to remote communities where their services are needed.
The couple's journey will begin in Brazil, where this month they are to pick up their custom-built Dolphin 460 and head for Trinidad, an 1,800-mile voyage they expect to last 10 days.
Mr. and Mrs. Linskey have spent recent months networking with local aid groups and other cruising sailors throughout the Caribbean, as well as a number of companies in the United States that are interested in making a contribution.(read the full article here.)

NOW I REALLY feel like a jerk. (At least I have Hands Across The Sea linked in the Gam)

An explanation. Or several.

While my Beloved has been away, I'm learning more about HTML so that I'm not completely at the mercy of the two or three little icons above me here on the "Compose" page that allow me to change fontsize or show a picture. Everybody knows how to embed images. I'm playing catch-up here since I only learned Pascal before I was swept back into the Eighteenth Century. By the time I got back on The Beach, all the kids were img src and href and tagging and coding and I had enough trouble just trying to get enough space on the free webpage I got from The Deathstar to put a caption on a picture. And finding info on Usenet was hard even if you knew where to look. I could've taken a programming class, but I don't roll like that. So, ever the autodidact, I learn for myself by myself, pick up hints here and there, trial and error. And it appears that HTML is just one vile task after another.
I thought it would be a fun experiment to make a "Support The WGA" picture and put it in a visible place to show my support for the strikers. As if I hadn't done that already with my constant pro-Labor sentiments anyway. I just want to help, as I usually do. I know, it's a gift. And a curse. So I found a picture of our cat Tuki Flicka. She's not sick. (It's not lupus. It's never lupus.) She's a pygmy monkey cat, a relative of the flying corduroy lemur. She had stuck her face into my phone, and besides looking much larger than she actually is (three pounds), she had an urgency about her that, I felt, says a lot about labor relations.
If you click the pic, you'll go to United Hollywood, a site that has daily information updates about the writers' action. They're also in the Gam. You've probably been annoyed throughout this piece by flashing names. Beeping and blinking and flashing. If you "hover" your cursor over certain phrases -- the ones that look forced and out of place -- you'll learn some names of people whose work you might just recently have thought to think about. (No, I didn't use the "overline" tag. Where's the sport in that?)
Hey, look! It's TV's Frank!

Monday, November 12, 2007

She'll be right back...

You always hope you can get a lot of work done while she's away.
Are you ever going to take up that damned rug and put that hardwood floor in? How about the missing shingles by that window? Why not finish those damned storm windows and put them up? Because you know that she worries about you balancing on the ladder over the holly bush under the dining room window. Worries.
I mean, she knows the stories. You've shown her the pictures of you -- at least you think you remember showing them to her -- You climbing 115 feet up the main to untangle the jam in the flag halyard in the truk. That shakily crude video of you walking out (not crawling, but walking atop the yard this time) to the yardarm. Of course the part they didn't catch was you deftly dismounting onto the horse to talk that silly ninny out of her fear. And down from the rig.
Hard honesty is rarely welcome to the tightly-closed eyes of the terrified twenty or so feet up in the rig, so you come up with a babbling slogan:
"Remain Unafraid." (Get it? You never were afraid, so you can't not be not afraid, so you just don't let that in, get it? I know, but at least you're giggling. Now, just stop digging your fingernails into my arm...)
The ninny gets to the top and down through the lubbers' hole down just fine.
Of course, you end up having to put a nice harbor furl into the starboard side of the main alone as the rain starts to fly directly into your eyes and everything -- yard, sail, gaskets, footropes, ratlines, all the hardware, all cold and wet and slippery and you laugh that at least you're not putting storm windows on some 150 year-old farmhouse on The Beach. Because once Hatteras is far behind and Savannah and Saint Augustine starboard, whether you're en route to Bermuda or Key West, you're warm and missed. Pretty much.
In BlogWorld, spending more than a paragraph on a former job brands one as a pathetic sulky nostalgiac malingering in self-indulgence. But she knows that you just haven't published yet. She never feared life aboard. She listens to your stories because she knows about life off The Beach. (Even the Captain-Admiralty Lawyer guy, only talks about Buffy with you.) Old and spliced y'are now. And there's no batch of landsmen to haul the weather sails up as you place the final secures in the rigging. (Anyway, the songs aren't salty or work-inspiring. Jangly guitars and clever but morose lyrics. Not that forebitters are meant to be anything but distractions. Like everything else comes over the damned call box.)
Because there is no rigging, just a 160 year-old farmhouse you share with her.
You think of the sisters, but mostly of the one you drove to the airport. You love the other sister, of course, and her berth in San Francisco, too. You would have loved to hop on the aircraft, gone with your greatest travel companion to the Other Coast and watch the sea from the other side of that big beautiful bridge to Sausalito. But you know the mess made when the Cape Mohican hit the other bridge. Because you were here in Buzzards Bay for that spill a couple years ago. There aren't enough booms or mats or skimmers to contain your disappointment that a bow watch or a helm ended up pouring 58,000 gallons on all those crabs, herring, and those birds, some of which are just plain magnificent. Disappointment in our society's ongoing destructive addiction to that stuff. Disappointment that we refuse to safely transport the black gold we love so much. Disappointment in a fellow cargo sailor, now that ain't right.
But enough distraction. Back to work.
She'll be back Wednesday, anyway.

Veteran's Day

It was reported that he claimed never to have lost a night’s sleep after the mission, and some saw this as a show of indifference. It was the opposite. He slept well, he told me, because “we stopped the killing.” He was at peace, he said, because “I know how many people got to live full lives because of what we did.”
-Life After Wartime Bob Greene, NYTimes,
of Paul Tibbetts, pilot of Enola Gay

Today we commemorate the individuals who "made the world safe for democracy." Or "fought over there so we didn't have to fight over here." Or given "the ultimate" or "the most" or, realistically, "their lives."
Is it too much to say that we as a nation -- or at least its leaders -- have asked our military to do what we as a nation (or as a leader) cannot? Or will not? Is one day in November enough to truly thank a man or woman for learning how to kill? And then dying?
The "contractors" who work in Iraq for "security firms" like Blackwater will not be commemorated, because they are mercenaries, taking their pieces of silver and hiding behind a corporate logo.
But our soldiers get whatever lowest-bid body armor we send them. We "support" them by putting crappy little magnetic ribbons on our SUVs. We can't even keep their hospitals clean or their health care efficient or competently-managed.
But we give them a Monday holiday in November.
A three-day weekend.
For what we ask of them.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007


  • Congratulations and good luck to my noisy neighbors, the Dartmouth High School Marching Band, who won the New England Scholastic Band Association Championship. Next stop, tomorrow at Giants Stadium.
  • Sometime "in the next two weeks," Col. Green's Martini Glass is coming down forever. I was going to relate some philosophizing about how we've lost our sense of history and respect for heritage, but then I just got tired.
  • What'd I tell you about the "Time For A Change" gang in the SouthCoast? Incumbents are always assured safety! Although "Time For A Change" was the most used phrase in political advertising this season, it really holds no influence. The constant drone of it on talk radio and newspapers has effectively declawed it. Either that or the media is just a few loudmouths who really don't matter at the polls. "Time For A New Catchphrase."
  • It's a disturbing trend in political cynicism: A politician asserts that everything is great except for one thing, which the politician is working on so don't talk about it or you're just negative and obstructionist. Hop on board the Happy Bus. If you mention or dwell on any flaw, get ready to be patronized, ignored or ridiculed. It's the way The W is about Iraq, and new May-Ah Cor-Ay-Ah is about FawRivah.
  • Can't be helping Ben Bernanke any.
  • One thing I'll always approach with realistic caution and positive encouragement is the New Bedford Short Plays Marathon, which challenges authors, audience and actors alike with 20 homegrown dramatic pieces presented over the afternoon and night.
  • The local economy (New Bedford anyway) is doing magically well. At the new "merlot" martini bar last night, the group of well-heeled artists were discussing how the "developers" around here are actually just contractors. Actual developers develop, not just build. In which case, the New Bedford artists are the developers of a sustainable arts (creative) economy. Funny, innit?
  • As of 7:42 Wednesday night, the flood of visitors looking for "Persia" has ended. And nobody left a note explaining why they were here. I feel so cheap.
  • What's that I hear?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Solidarity: Still a Popular T-Shirt

My Union, CommunicatingI believe organized labor is an important American institution and tradition in need of salvaging and celebrating. The same way I believe sailing should be taught and Tall Ships™ should be preserved and old houses ought to be restored. From the National Labor Relations Act:

Sec. 7. [Sec. 157.] Employees shall have the right to self- organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection...

America pays lip service to labor; since there are plenty of employers that provide health care and decent salaries and other benefits, we can pretend the "workers' revolution" is all done and there's no more need for those union things. Some unions have lost their own way, but not as much or as many as some in the media would have you believe. As a nation, we argue over the definition of torture and can't keep trade partners from suspending civil rights, so what's the point of someone who makes $80K trying to relate to people who get beat up after a ten-hour day because they didn't make enough Patriots' sweatshirts?
It's easy -- maybe even simple -- to be off-handed and smug and clever and cute about a writers' strike. (I hope no signs have spelling errors, because that'll be front-page everywhere.) And "It's not coal miners or farm workers. It's the people who write Saved By The Bell, innit?"
I understand that because I have my decent wage and my prescription drug plan and swell home, car and relationship with the boss, prevailing thought is that I really shouldn't think about those who don't have those things. That is why the Labor Movement happened. Since writers' products appear in my and all other workers' homes, we're connected. I believe that by taking the Writers Guild seriously and supporting the WGA's objectives, I am helping the Garment Workers and Communications Workers and Farm Workers, and anybody else.
I know it's a hard sell because we are a thoughtless bunch, and frivolous. So instead of being glib, I'm just stoppi

SouthCoast Electyawn Day

I have never been so appalled by the selection of representation afforded voters in my little corner of The Beach. I can't talk about the New Bedford election because I don't want to skew the turnout numbers. I have "11%" in the turnout pool, and the weather is pretty crummy, so "woo-hoo." Anyway, the following speculation is way more interesting.

Fall River is watching a conspiracy theory embracing its sweetly clumsy swan song. For three decades, every guy whose pal didn't get elected, every loopy old lady, every talk-show caller has asserted that Fall River is controlled by a sinister cabal that controls the media, all the boards and commissions, the City Council, and the School Committee. The ninnies who vilify these fellow ninnies have succeeded only in giving the members of that group enough "power" to allow them to actually become a sinister cabal. Their "power" is theirs because nobody else wants it. And it's all perfectly all right with them.
Luckily, this group is a benevolent (if dopey and socially-awkward) presence which has stood idly by while the machinations run. Run down.
Voters don't vote, people don't work, taxpayers complain, kids drop out of school, project money from Boston is drying up, Federal funds are loaded with provisions and stipulations. Every footslog forward the great cabal takes is actually a step back. Which is pretty good for them, because their heyday was twenty-five years ago. A more energetic coterie would have stumbled into organized crime by now.
Years ago, a member of the State Legislature explained it very simply to me: "When I want to retire, I'll become Mayor of Fall River." As I said, that was years ago. All you had to do was spend a few years doing some indeterminate thing voters find unfathomable yet compelling. Get your name on a bill, in the paper, on signs in yards. Then, insist that you alone have the experience in doing something which must be allowed to continue or all will be lost. Or that only you can bring your considerable acumen to city leadership. And it's all over by Wednesday morning. Today's conditions aren't as favorable. Voters learn stuff about governance, even if it's only from neighbors or the Interwebs. Voters see through a contrived sham "arts alliance" or "shopping district." People are starting to demand "accountability" and "transparency."Over are the days of rewarding pals with contracts or jobs. Gone is the easy pension.
Although there is an older electorate who, voting in the mirror, respect experience and vote for it here, there are just enough young voters who look at your name and shrug, "Who?" The "Vote for Change" mentality, though growing in the SouthCoast, only thrives elsewhere. Because the only people who vote are the ones who have been voting for you and your vague background for decades. The ones you drive to the polls.
But they'll be gone soon.
And I'll miss you.


Monday, November 5, 2007

"But it all amounts to nothing if together we don't stand..."

As we have forgotten the concept of The Weekend, Americans have also forgotten the concept of The Strike. Like The Weekend, there are some vague and nostalgic memories. Seems old-fashioned and silly. Like manners.
Today, unions seem so irrelevant and misrepresented that no consumer would ever join a boycott and nobody from the UAW would walk the line for the WGA.
I don't think it's progress when the major news companies are reporting on what'll happen with the Heroes:Origins miniseries but not the actual facts of the walkout. I heard one CNN newscaster say, "They [writers] get four percent of every DVD sold. When you add those numbers up, that's quite a lot of money, isn't it?"
(According to the WGA, their last contract stipulates that "a writer receives four cents for every $15 DVD sold." Not exactly the same as four percent. If there were a Readers Union, I'd join just to clear up that sort of thing.)
It's ironic that this is a writers' strike, because labor has always been at the mercy of language and spin. The very people who work every day with language and character find language bent against them, and their own character maligned. Media news outlets defend "honest money-makers" (management and ownership). The writers are "extortionists."
Labor unions are generally characterized as criminally obstructionist anti-corporate Stalinist deathgangs. Think of the language used when murderous thugs stopped unions from moving into mines by killing miners, their wives and children. Those monsters were merely "detectives" in the press. The "entrepreneurial" spirit and "free" markets and "free" trade have inspired individual workers to opt out of belonging to unions, and happily negotiate their own sweet deals, screwing other members of their profession out of their share of the market. Makes you think that looking out for the rest of your industry is dumb. But looking out for your self-interest is smart. The CEOs are "just doing their jobs," but those "greedy writers" are selfishly stopping your soaps in order to "redistribute wealth." And instead of asking for four more cents per DVD, the paper has them trying "to double their cut."
If it's every writer for him or her self, then let Mother Jones and Ayn Rand go at it. You'll see who gets the beach house and Beemer.
Crazy commie hippie talk? It's actually a part of the "government of the people, by the people, for the people" thing that Republican Abraham Lincoln popularized when he was talking about the people who died fighting for a country that was "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
I "wrote" for an experiment in television. I "developed documentary research narratives." That production folded, the series never got produced (that I know of), I never got paid for it, and I never joined the union. But not all writers are clever dilettantes like me. Unfortunately, 48% of writers are unemployed.
I've built houses from pouring the slab to framing the walls to laying the floor to hanging sheetrock to painting to felting and shingling the roof. And I never joined that union. I worked in a greenhouse, planting and harvesting and I never joined that union either. I don't drink non-union beer. But I buy stuff. I buy furniture. I buy books, DVDs, music. I buy groceries. I buy cars. I buy tools. I donate to organizations that employ union shops to print brochures. I'm part of the world, and I care about the union and yet-unaffiliated workers who work in it.
We all do something that deserves proper, appropriate, consistent, legitimate recognition. Whether you're writing soap operas, picking grapes, or putting things on top of other things. A mutually-acceptable contract agreement should be immediately ratified for the Writers Guild.
For the people who write the entertainments that momentarily keep our minds off the crimes perpetrated in our name.

Friday, November 2, 2007

High Wind and French Toast Warning!!1!

Perhaps you've heard that the Atlantic Coast (of which my corner of The Beach is a part) is under a "high wind warning." As of this writing. If you haven't, fresh details can be found here.
Also as of this writing, the projections are that Nova Scotia should be in our thoughts.
So the warnings are issued, and we spring into action. More than a few times at sea, we had to "batten down" for storms, and I remember one tropical storm spent on a miserable schooner. If it weren't for a hurricane, I never would have stayed in Charleston SC and fallen in love (with Charleston SC). I've sent yards down to the deck, brought down sails, bent on weather sails, stowed and secured gear that wasn't ever supposed to move, doubled and trebled lines, positioned and repositioned fenders, calmed the kids in the next slip with "You should've seen the time...This is nothin'!" stories. But since I've left the sea, a storm warning just doesn't have the same urgency. That is not to deny that preparations must be made and official warnings mustn't be heeded.
My house is the furthest from the sea I have lived since college. It's about a mile as the crow flies to the harbor and then another three or so to Buzzards Bay. I grew up feet from a "river" (that was actually a bay) and I remember a hurricane in my youth going right up that river and causing some serious damage. My mother loves to talk about the no-name storms that flooded Fall River in her youth, and turned her job at a downtown sportswear shop into that of a wilderness outfitter.
We here in/on the SouthCoast are used to making preparations for weather, so I'm nobody special. And there may or may not be a storm, but "Be Rrepared" is an apt slogan, surely. There are many rituals however, that come with that first warning. Besides taking in the lawn jockeys and pet bowls.
My favorite has always been the run to the store for milk, bread, and eggs. The hope is always that the snowstorm or hurricane or whatever will blow off safely to sea, broaden its isobars and lose its barometric menace.
Because my beloved makes some kick-ass French Toast. And we've got all the fixins.
I know I'm not the only one who picks up maple syrup right before a storm.


  • If you spy Large out there, wish him a happy one and any other day or outcome he chooses. Because it's finally that day when, each year, we celebrate his specialness. Which is vast. Hence, "Large."
  • "'Pollution credits' are 21st Century indulgences (look it up), merely assuaging some public relations guilt while providing no disincentive to pollute. Please discourage the destructive policies of your corporate friends." Sometimes I just fill out MoveOn.Org petitions.
  • There are two city elections next Tuesday here on The Beach, and I'm really amazed. New Bedford is (by SouthCoast standards) relatively successful. Those empty storefronts downtown are filling up, crime is down, people are thinking about education and quality of life issues. And I can't find a candidate I even care to listen to for more than 30 seconds (besides the "unchallenged incumbent" Mayor, former Ant-Man, Scott Lang). In Fall River, though, the situation is exactly reversed.
  • A wicked local newspaper is choosing to wicked offend with a wicked promotion which (among other wicked stupid things) wicked over-uses the wicked Massachusetts colloquial term "wicked." From their real estate guide to their "blog," everything has to be "wicked." In the Seventies, a little record/comic book shop used the term (which was popular with yoots) in their advertising. Where it made sense. Somehow, I just can't picture that kid with the ripped jeans, Chucks, and J. Geils T-shirt sitting down to go through the real estate ads... Oh. Never mind.
  • What really got me about this "wicked" nonsense is that they're trying something the worst talk radio hosts would do to get people to call Fall River radio: They would encourage old ladies to call and describe Main Street. For 85 minutes (with breaks for news, promos, and comp ads), the gals would call and do so. "Then it was Cherrys and then it came Non Pareil..."
  • I used to get excited about local elections. I spent a couple of them as on-line radio show producer, although I was "board-op" (or "the kid back at the studio") to the narcissists I worked with and for. I enjoyed the inside tales that didn't get on the air shared by the jerks the management "hired" for the night to cover campaign headquarters. I knew everyone involved in local politics back in those days. When radios were oil-powered and you had to go catch a whale to fuel the crude motor.
  • The reason I knew these people was that my parents threw parties. Big suburban parties with the acceptable bossa-nova drone of Dad's Carlos Jobim records while the soon-to-be lifetime pols and their high school pals laughed and swore and promised each other jobs on phony-ass commissions and boards of directors and drank all of Dad's Jameson's and Schlitz. It was all very Dean Martin or The Lockhorns.
  • Speaking of dancing, the Bellydance Superstars are in town at the Z tonight. I'm really fortunate to have friends who belly dance. Not just as a guy who appreciates that sort of thing, but because they are great people who act as a tribe and care for each other. One of the tribe, Xenobia (Johana Krynyztky) has been enduring breast cancer. Please help her with your support. Johanna Krynytzky P.O. Box 530836 St. Petersburg, FL 33747. You know what to do.
  • Speaking further of dancing, Mates of the Watch The Dancing Dogs are playing along with MM4 (the Marcus Montiero Quartet) and El Caribé at New Bedford's highest nightspot, the top floor at Howland Place. Here's them in an awful video. (Really, doesn't anyone with editing facilities even watch teevee?)