Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Dartmouth was here before your silly country, and Dartmouth, my friends, shall endure."

Some of us still believe that a well-educated and gainfully-employed populace is what made this once-great nation great once. We can be intelligent and proud as a culture, creative and innovative as individuals, progressive and commendable as a country. Just because we haven't been any of those things for the last thirty years and we've switched from "voting for the greater good" to "voting for MY GOOD! ME!" doesn't mean we must lose hope. Although there are skeptics.

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

- Winston Churchill

The port where I find myself is voting on something called a "Proposition 2½ Override." Many years ago, a bunch of people (who are otherwise smart) came up with (and sold to legislators) a 2½ % annual cap on taxation that would, through its reckless implementation, eventually leave many communities in the Commonwealth without the means to pay for animal control officers or music teachers. This requires that the noneconomists and taxhaters must indulge in a vote whenever the cost of doing business as the local economy grows to such an extent that the town doesn't have enough immediate resources to meet its responsibilities to citizens and services. Today, Dartmouth MA voters will decide whether they would rather add $210 to a typical annual property tax bill ("override") or let the next generation of schoolkids learn that old people hate them.
The ridiculous back-n-forth we've had to live with over the past months is unbearable. The clearest and most common argument from the overrride opponents (besides the "them politicians are taking money out of your pocket" malarkey) is also the common SouthCoast rule: "Someone who does a job you do not know how to do obviously makes too much money doing it." (There is also the corollary "If people do a job you do not know how to do, you are obliged to tell them how to do it.") Like teachers. My neighbors hate hate hate teachers. They hate smartypants. Smartypantses fancypants. They hate them commie teacher unions. (see also: Town employees, municipal workers, police, etc.).
I'm sure that whoever comes out the victor on the morrow, there will be the usual sore losers and the inevitable sore winners.

Another reason to hate The Beach
.


EPILOGUE: If you are a Dartmouth voter, make sure you congratulate the guy holding the sign that says: "Vote no override or will be sorry." Best VOTE YES sign I've seen. Also, make sure to smile at the elections lady/poll worker who asks you, sincerely, if you're there to vote. She's having a tough day. Particularly since the traffic helicopters have been buzzing the polling places.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Soles'n'Bowls

  • Internet and land line phone access was sporadic, then spotty, and then nonexistent. They sent a swell guy to fix it, and he spent his time working up an unpleasant sweat doing what the first swell guy originally should have done.
  • No phone, no cable, no Intertubes. That meant that I had to listen to the local radio. Not only could the newsguy (the one who says 'fotty' instead of 'forty') not pronounce 'acetylene,' but neither could his boss, and this after the other newsguy (who also does an irritating and monstrously logic-deficient O'Reilly tribute show after his news shift) admitted that they got the story (about Hank Hill's propane distributor's fire in Texas) from teevee, where they know how to pronounce 'acetylene.' (The station has a ghastly habit of harping on explosions anywhere on Earth in order to demonstrate the dangers of LNG, which BigOil wants to store hereabouts. No, there shouldn't be an LNG facility anywhere near here. But there should also NOT be insipid reactionary and "if it happened there (even though the circumstances and materials are different) it will happen here" arguments. Particularly false panic-stricken vexation masquerading as "news" wrapped up in "we're looking out for you" self-promotion.
  • And then there's the commercials for the guy who's running for mayor who claims Fall River needs "to attrack ottists lookeen faw loff space."
  • I'm sure they're all just as glad as I am that I don't do that radio shit anymore.
  • In my on-going "marvel" at J. Michael Straczynski's comic book work, I find he's working on "The Twelve," the continuing adventures of a group of 1940's super heroes who are cryofrozen during the war and awakened today. The artist (or ottist, for SouthCoasters), Chris Weston, claims "The Fiery Mask" could be our Cap, Sterling Hayden. We'll see.
  • Gallery X, demonstrating a great need of an acoustics consultant, put on a great show last night. The Rust Kings are everything Jeff and Benares say they are, and I can see why they're all pals. (They met on that myspace, proving that bands can develop mature, legal, and appropriate relationships there, unlike everybody else. All right, lousy pic of Al and Jeanne, but they are the great folk and great musicians.
  • Anyone who knows me knows that I love cover bands. No, not Crystal Ship or GB/wedding bands, but real gimmicky cover bands, like Dread Zeppelin, Hayseed Dixie, and sometimes Cake. Here's a new fave: Lez Zeppelin. For obvious reasons.
  • I feel disgracious for forgetting to tip the cable guy, but he also warned me that another guy had to come and stratiminx the forstat on the pole, which had been haztadented and needed to be dorpilized. Or something. That guy hasn't shown, so I may not get this whole thing out before

Monday, July 23, 2007

Developing

From the article... "I've driven by it for 35 years, my wife and I, and it's a personal dream come true."
As a child, did you ride your bike through there with your friends? Did you swim by there? Did you stash the sailboat you found that time and sail from there 'til someone else found it? Did you dream of keeping horses there? (Very small horses, but I was 8.)
My family moved to Tiverton RI, two houses down from The Convent in, I think, 1970. It was easy to see why the Narragansetts had named the area Nannaquaket (which means "the most beautiful spot in the world") long before it became The Old Church Estate. We thought that meant it was owned by The Church, not named for the owner, Captain Nathaniel Boomer Church. "Of the schooner Exile out of New London." I have no idea if that part's true. (That was the first name I found in Starbuck's way back when, and it always stuck. Damned romantic-in-training.)
My first memory of The Convent is the nuns. They were the Holy Union Sisters who used the place as a Summer retreat. You could see them walking among the wild lilies along the path. The nuns were all cheery yet, at the same time, pensive, especially to a kid on a brand new 5-speed. I'd stop, say 'hello.' They were nice neighbors.
Come Fall, there was always somebody there watching that beautiful patch of nature, even if you didn't see them. There was a strong solid solemnity there that wasn't like church or catechism class. It was peaceful, "spiritual." Even as kids, our re-enactments of James Fennimore Cooper's best pioneer and Indian fights took on a reverential, timeless air. Along with the whoops, "ka-chows" and skinned knees.
That place is the reason why history is so important to me. You couldn't help but smell it and feel it and run through it and lay down in its grass and study its architecture and meet its residents, people or flora or fauna, past or present, real or imagined. A child's natural curiosity about his world is magnified a hundred times when there's a well cared-for but seemingly-abandoned historical landmark in his neighborhood. The questions just kept coming, and the mysteries, so often waved away by the adults, became fodder for trips to the library, questions for the doddering old neighbors. And moments like :

  • The time, around the Bicentennial, when H.M.S. Rose dropped anchor for a few days in the Sakonnet, just off one of the concrete wharves that thrust the estate into the river. To see that bright yellow strake of the gundeck, the masts surrounded by our ubiquitous neighborhood green, the old manse belonging to -- we thought -- a wealthy whaling captain... Years later, I would be a part of the Rose family, first as coordinator/manager of a production of Pinafore on board and then as crew...
  • The time I found a "Hello My Name Is" tag that said "Sr. Mary Lou Simcoe." A few years later, I was introduced to Sister Mary Lou when she became my homeroom teacher and English teacher. And a great influence. She's communications director for the Holy Union Sisters and works with the U.N. now, it is said...
  • There was a clump of vegetation down by the wharf, a pile of cuttings and discarded branches that were left there by a groundskeeper. (I say groundskeeper, but we knew most of the groundswork was done by the nuns. And they kept the place gorgeous.) Inside the pile, however, someone had carved a small chamber where we found a mysterious bag filled with trading cards. I went away to school and someone burned the pile. The charred spot lasted quite a while.
  • Coming back from college, on breaks or for the Summer, I would drive along Main Road and see this sight. That old estate always meant I was a minute from home. It was home. No matter how much that semester had challenged me. No matter how much I didn't get along with that particular theology prof. No matter what relationship had crashed and burned. No matter what concert/play/paper/edition didn't turn out exactly as I'd wished. I'd see that big white house and know I was only a few steps to my own bed, my own dog, and my own basketball. My tenuous lease on childhood joy would be renewed as soon as I mowed my lawn, climbed to the treehouse, rode my bike through The Convent.
  • Of course, I dreamed of one day owning The Convent and turning it into a seaside retreat for cute celebrities, like Diane Lane. (Yes. Even back then.). Plenty of room for cool people and their cars, with a fully-stocked bar and pantry. I even had plans for a recording studio all drawn up. On the back of a napkin. Where all important things begin.

I was at a party the other day on a 22-acre estate in South Dartmouth. It has one house, a barn, a pool, gardens, and some outbuildings. Comfortable enough for the owners, some guests. I can't imagine splitting that place up into 5 lots. Unless I wanted to get my $5 million back in a hurry. Because that's what developers do. A friend, also a former Tivertonian, who was a few glasses ahead of me, had nothing nice to say. "He'll pull down that magnificent stone wall [that protected the estate from reality], tear down that exquisite building and put up some cookie-cutter eco-unsound McMansions and send away the fishermen. And nobody will want to fish there anyway, since they'll have to start fertilizing their foreign species lawns with chemicals that will run off, and they'll plant invasive imported groundcovers that will choke out the native plants and flowers, and every time someone flushes --and you will hear them! -- it'll send another bloom of some e.coli or other into Nanaquaket." But that's development, I answered ironically. It is some men's destiny. Although I want to see how he weasels his way around the nuns' "five building restriction" when garages are suggested.

I remember this new owner saying, when he had failed to convince Tiverton to allow him to drop a BigBoxPowerCenterKohl'sDepot into its pristine woods, "Whaddaya want, trees and rocks?"

Yeah, I do.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Soles'n'Bowls

  • To clarify: back to when I arbitrarily and inadvertently insulted Joss Whedon's Buffy Season 8's introductory issues. I understand the complexities of introducing characters to a (possibly) new audience, and I know the complexities of doing so within an acceptable framework of action and exposition. The opening of Season 3 of Deadwood did it, too. Feel free to Netflix it. Milch brought all up to speed, made proper introductions of characters and setting (!), and kicked the plot. Maybe because Buffy isn't set on the easily-evoked streets of Sunnydale anymore, the characters have new challenges (Giant Dawn?), and the usually-formulaic teevee comforts are gone. Empowerment has always been the dominant subtext to Buffy, so I'm empowered to say I never liked the even seasons as much as the odd. I'm looking forward to the next few episodes issues. Mmmm Faith.
  • That said, I enjoyed the way Joe Straczynski re-inroduced Dr. Donald Blake and Hammerguy Odinson. Anyone who can sneak in an epistemological argument about the need for man to relate to the infinite without getting all "atheism vs Hume vs deism vs cheese" is pretty sharp, even for a guy who wrote Spider-Man and Murder She Wrote.
  • Dr. Blake's admonition to Thor: "It is not for the gods to decide whether or not Man exists -- it is for man to decide whether or not the gods exist and because you are important [to Blake at that moment] -- because you are needed -- your time is not yet over."
  • You have your Harry Potter. I have mine.
  • If your heart is anywhere near New Bedford, be aware that there's a new version of Moby-Dick. Moby-Dick: In Half The Time, the Orion Group Compact Edition. They also plan to deface Anna Karenina, Vanity Fair, David Copperfield, The Mill on the Floss, Jane Eyre, The Count of Monte Cristo, and others. According to Malcolm Edwards, the publisher: “We realised that life is too short to read all the books you want to and we never were going to read these ones.” Reading is an artful avocation. Writing is an art. So, because your narcissistic, technology-encumbered, unteachable, profit-margin "mind" sees no art, you can just delete a few sentences or paragraphs or chapters and sell a few more units. It's all about the money, anyway. Why don't you remove the hyphen in the title as well? Saves on ink.
  • There's a show next Thursday night at Gallery X starring newlyweds Jeff and Benares (now from Asheville NC), The Rust Kings (from Lewisburg WV), The Jethros (from The Whaling City), and The Maybees from Somerset. Gal X is calling it "New Bedford Roots Performance." I'm calling it a night of blue- and stompgrass and blues and friends I haven't seen in a while. Any of the above links will show you.
  • Congratulations, Ed and Ava.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm in good company.

... and anyone else who's ever received a rejection letter from a publisher. From UK's Guardian :

David Lassman, the director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath decided to find out what sort of reception the writer might get if she approached publishers and agents in the age of Harry Potter and the airport blockbuster
After making only minor changes, he sent off opening chapters and plot synopses to 18 of the UK's biggest publishers and agents. He was amazed when they all sent the manuscripts back with polite but firm "no-thank-you's" and almost all failed to spot that he was ripping off one of the world's most famous literary figures. Mr Lassman said: "I was staggered. Here is one of the greatest writers that has lived, with her oeuvre securely fixed in the English canon and yet only one recipient recognised them as Austen's work."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Yesterday was July 17th

It was Phyllis Diller's 90th birthday. And that means that I missed the opportunity to commemorate a great lady who made my first week as a teevee producer, many decades ago, much more comfortable. Thanks, Ms. Diller, and Happy Birthday. I hope last week's back fracture is mending well. A lot of people don't know that Phyllis Diller is an artist. Not just a stand-up comedienne from last century, but a painter and concert pianist and author as well. And she was nice enough to donate this this piece for the Harry Chapin Food Bank.
On July 17, I pay tribute to women I've known and admired. You know who you are, and yes, I did raise one to you.

Pauline Black. And I hope this album is out soon.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Halifax, The Daily News: News | First you pay. Then you volunteer. Finally, they pay you

... or you can just buy the beer and stay off the quarterdeck.
The city of Halifax Nova Scotia was recently inundated with all manner of vessels during its "2 Years Before The Bicentennial of the Canadian Navy" event, and more than half a million people ogled the pretty boats. Many, though not as many, came out in Newport RI. These things always provoke sea fever in weaker constitutions, a condition which -- at the very least -- should engender despair in custodians of those lubbers approaching mid-life crises. Because press gangs know the smell of an impressible rube, someone will hang a "Crew Wanted" sign and end up in the paper. For free. (Who'd invest that kind of scratch in a bunch of short-timers anyway?)
As paid crew, I sailed a Tall Ship™ to Halifax and, once there, I was looking around for "Copy Editor Wanted" signs. (Really. I like Halifax. It's like Boston. Only without the mean-spirited locals.) You don't go to Halifax to look for crew. You go to Halifax to find good French Onion soup and people who know what to do for work the rest of their lives. For crew, you go to Dartmouth NS.
As I often say to many unhearing ears: Life aboard a sail training vessel is a fun summer job, vacation, getaway, team building exercise, or such. Captain Wallbank said: "A working vessel is no place for a dilettante. Nor is it a place for anyone who knows what a dilettante is. And what's with that guy with the hook, peg leg, eyepatch, and speech impediment? What good is he on a working ship? Oh, yes, looking after the parrot..."
When I started on historic vessels, most crews were college-aged, devoted, and deliberately non-committal. They didn't mind the hours, the food, the quarters. This was in the pre-NAFTA Eighties, when most shipmates could just as easily have crewed a sail training vessel as run a lawnmower as groundskeeper. This is certainly not to say that crews were untrained in history, sailing, or historic sailing; quite the contrary. Shipwrights, skippers and would-be skippers, though, were the career crew. They were going to make a life out of this. A deckhand didn't usually stay more than a season or so. Everyone jumped and traded ships. And in a few years, if you stayed in touch, you could call from the firm or the office and check up on your "shipmates."
Then there is the fleet of "semester at sea" and "summer at sea" and "sort-of-research-whale-and-bluefish count" vessels. You can pay to: work aboard/get college credit/time off your sentence and always have the pictures/videos/sworn affadavits of your weekend/two weeks/term spent working/vomiting/not showering.
The nons (not-for-profits) struck out the stuns'ls and started con forza with the "pay,volunteer, possibly get fed" bit in the hopes that very few people would ever get past the "paying" bit to go on to become annoying volunteers.
The different economic templates all exist in the Tall Ship™ sailing community to this day. Except for the "ad in the paper" one. Since most nons don't want to spend the money to advertise if they're not going to get money back from a customer paying trainee who may end up as paid crew when some mate decides he's had enough and ends up getting a real job on The Beach for real actual money.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Soles'n'Bowls

  • New Bedford is still Number One. NOAA Fisheries calls New Bedford "the most valuable fishing port in the country." $281.2 million worth of seafood in 2006. Can I now has Deadliest Catch episode?
  • Best. Gig promo.Evah:
    "Once again the D-DOGS [Dancing Dogs] will be playing at our annual"Falmouth on the Green" event this Friday, 13 July, from 6 PM to 7:30. Fun time in the park!...bring along a lawn chair, a fifth of vodka, the kids...and enjoy! Absolutely free! As usual,
    we'll all be naked, playing left-handed and still will not feature any tuba
    solos!!! So c'mon out to the Cape and make a night of it! Hope to see you
    there...
    "
  • "Radio is the sound salvation. Radio is cleaning up the nation. They say you better listen to the Voice of Reason, but they don't give you any choice 'cuz they think that it's treason. So you had better do as you were told: You better listen to the radio." Radio Radio. Costello, in 1977.
  • Linda "Hungry Ocean" Greenlaw has a new one. Mystery, this time. She's all over the place, signing 'em. Visit the Captain here.
  • When the Pope says you're not in "the true church," do you have to heckle every guy in a robe? Sore losers offstage, you know:



  • Had enough? This'll fix that:


-13-

Archaeology

Every so often, I realize that I go on incessantly about the morons around me who can't operate four-way stop signs or collared shirts. I have been unfair in characterizing many of my fellow Shipmates thusly. Others, (termed Shipwrecks) I give way too much credit. But let's dance to the positive piper this go-round.
We on H.M.S. Impossible, anchored as we are at Apponnogansett (a Wampanoag word which means "Preservation-Land-of-the-Grapes-and-Priuses") are experiencing an exceptionally fertile period of power outages, humidity and diffused lighting, calling for that certain lime, quinine, and juniper concoction that makes the Bruins seem like the Stanley Cup team they really really are. Even off-season. The new Thor is so damned good that I want Straczynski to write three Thor titles a month. The Mighty Thor. Thor Odinson, Bounty Hunter. The Astonishing Blake-Foster Health Clinic Chronicles. Or whatever. I don't care that Buffy Season 8 is on hiatus.(Joss has taken, what, 5 issues to get to the first commercial break? And when will he find his characters' voices again? He nailed Runaways in two pages.) At times such as these, I retreat into fantasy. Or at least, retreat into giggling at the elaborate fantasy life of the "university" "professionals" in my neighborhood.
Years ago, when I first experienced the magic of Dartmouth Street ("the street that leads from Cape Verde to Padanaram," in local parlance), I noticed a ramshackle hovel, what most homeless people would call a "fixer-upper" in a weed-and-taller weed lot.
Little did I know that years later, I would be donating to a fund that would restore the place to some semblance of community usefulness and historical integrity. Known as "The Akin House," the little hovel I so derided is a cause célèbre here on my corner of The Beach. One of the oldest extant homesteads in Dartmouth (because the British forgot to burn it when they torched the rest of town during the War for American Independance), hopes are to turn the Akin House into a cultural resource center, and...

Open to the public, it will tell the history of Dartmouth and its
occupants as well as become a working classroom for construction styles and
techniques. It will be one-of-a kind in our region and will be a tremendous
educational resource. We intend to restore the house so that visitors will be
able to visually see the changes the house has undergone. For example, in the
south parlor, we will leave part of the ceiling with the original beams exposed
(as it would have been built originally) and part of the ceiling paneled as it
was when we purchased the house (the paneling was a later addition). The
Cultural Heritage Center will be a great learning tool for local school children
as well as architectural and historic preservation students.

Speaking of tools, it only took a few years for the local University of Masachusetts mouthbreather annex (Dartmouth,University of Massachusetts, or DUMass) to find a kooky way to capitalize on the Little Grant Shack. I refer you to an S-T "news" article about the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust and a quote from D.H.P.T. President and Dartmouth Selectmanboardperson and NBAM Guest Curator Diane Gilbert, who said, "We believe the work conducted by Dr. Hodge and the students enrolled in her UMass Dartmouth archaeology class will result in broadening our knowledge of the Akin House. We are inviting members of the community to volunteer with us for this important project."
The Akin House dig is part of a class taught by Dr. Hodge, "Historical Archaeology of New England."

As if it weren't bad enough that the Anti-Override gang is busy disrespecting teachers. My wacky neighbors (Kramer and the Rubbles) have taken it upon themselves to invite me (and anyone else with 10 hours of free time) to go digging through the Akin House's kitchen midden to find a sense of history or place or something amid the discarded pottery shards and Tupperware™ lids behind the historically-preserved and quaintly-shingled Akin House. The last time I participated in a "dig," I was operating the Bobcat™ behind the New Bedford Whaling Museum where performance artist Mark Dion pawed through the junk contemporary cultural artifacts buried at site of the former O'Malley's Tavern. I thought I was hired as a site historian because, c'mon, bar. We found broken bottles. Lots of them. Thus, I am qualified to present the following hypothetical list of artifacts we'll be sure to find in the shadow of Elihu Akin's hogged-roof shanty (in order of geological strata, soonest-to-oldest).
  1. A Dunkin' Donuts cup, styrofoam.
  2. 312 filter cigarette butts, Newport Ultra-Light.
  3. Cassette tape wrapper, Aerosmith Get Your Wings.
  4. Aerosmith Get Your Wings 8-track.
  5. 7982 filter cigarette butts, Virginia Slim.
  6. Tab can.
  7. Section of orange-red-yellow-white shag carpet.
Rinse and repeat.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Maybe that extra toe...

This is Lucy, the most beautiful cat I've ever shared lodging with. (I grew up with Siamese cats, so I know from beauty. Lucy was different.)
She was saved from a feral life and given a comfortable home by the same person who did the same for me. She started her life named "Spot" which, although droll (and peculiar) as a cat's monicker, was inevitably eschewed for the more sexy and mysterious "Lucy." She had perfectly bilateral markings. Well, on her ears. Elegant, Cabaret black and white. She was the one who watched over the bedroom, or boudoir. I know she called it that. Because she was French. She is the only member of our menagerie I ever saw catch a mouse, which I suppose is a much-sought-after quality in cats. She just wanted the place to be a little neater. Toward the end of her life she opened that bedroom to her four feline housemates. She rarely spoke, but her complacent "hum" of comfort (some might say "purr") should be taught to any human who must endure any aggravating hardship. She shared her patient sense of calm with all of us. She died last June. She was polydactyl. Marvelously six-toed. Thumbed.

I spent some time in Key West.

And I spent some time at the Ernest Hemingway House Museum, where I met some of the characters you can see (sometimes) by clicking on the link to your right (yes, your right), entitled Hemingway's Cats, Key West. They're polydactyl. Just like Lucy. Look here.
Seems somebody from the misguided experiment we call our government didn't like the cats wandering around a house, so the USDA wanted to drop another pile of paperwork mayhem on the folks who operate the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. The USDA failed. Good.
When was the last time you heard someone from the USDA purr? Or rub your ankle?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Celebrating

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched
to everything else in the Universe."
- John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra