Monday, December 29, 2008

2009: Another Year of Art, Environmental Worries, and Opportunistic Pop Stars. All Will Be Well. You Betcha!

An oil painting caught and held him. A heavy surf thundered and burst over an outjutting rock; lowering storm-clouds covered the sky; and, outside the line of surf, a pilot-schooner, close-hauled, heeled over till every detail of her deck was visible, was surging along against a stormy sunset sky. There was beauty, and it drew him irresistibly. He forgot his awkward walk and came closer to the painting, very close. The beauty faded out of the canvas. His face expressed his bepuzzlement. He stared at what seemed a careless daub of paint, then stepped away. Immediately all the beauty flashed back into the canvas. “A trick picture,” was his thought, as he dismissed it, though in the midst of the multitudinous impressions he was receiving he found time to feel a prod of indignation that so much beauty should be sacrificed to make a trick. He did not know painting. He had been brought up on chromos and lithographs that were always definite and sharp, near or far. He had seen oil paintings, it was true, in the show windows of shops, but the glass of the windows had prevented his eager eyes from approaching too near.

Martin Eden, Jack London
Unlike Jack london's self-possessed writer Martin Eden, I have spent a great deal of time around oil paintings. I also have not made a big mess of the end of a nifty story, but that's not important now. Close-up, face against the frame time with the watery old Buzzards Bay-Hudson Valley-Whalers-and-Sailors ancestors of Bob Ross. Galleries and exhibit cases, curatorial offices and collections storage areas. In the maritime museum world, you have to own your own 100% cotton gloves for moving paintings (even though you know that a glove gets as dirty as a hand) you had better be able to tell the difference between a Bradford and an Ashley. And an Ashley and an Ashley. It's all very academic, and I'm perfectly comfortable not discussing it any further. Unless you give me a great deal of money. Because I'm worth it.
But every so often, there's news o the actual relevance of those dusty old seaside spacklefests. The BBC reports on the work of Robin McInnes :

Over the years, Dr McInnes had amassed quite a collection of paintings, prints and etchings depicting the coastlines of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, where he ran the island's coastline management strategy.

Combining his interests in paintings of the local environment, geology and coastal erosion, he looked at hundreds of artworks and came up with a method to assess their value as indicators of coastal change - especially erosion.

As you obviously know, erosion is not a popular topic among your wicker-baskets-on-the-riverbank-and-easels-by-the-shingle crowd today or a century and a half ago. . Nothing would ever dim the scattered light of their motley shanteytowns or blear the inevitable swipe of time's inexorable expungement.

Ventnor Cove ny Charles Ray, 1825. Plus geological descriptions by somebody to whom I owe a pint.So that's how art will save us all, dramatize coastal change, and substantiate our understanding of our true affiliation to the living history that we apprehensively call our past.
Meanwhile, maybe you'll celebrate 2009 with the work of our generation's Deborah Gibson: Deborah Gibson and her Electric Youth, an attempt by the greatest youth of all time Dude, she was in Playboy. (except for Miley Cyrus or Alexander the Great) to "provide a nurturing, creative, disciplined, and fun atmosphere for young people who are serious about embarking in a career in entertainment."Sponsored by Chipotle Mexican Grill (Locations near me include Providence, Boston, and Newington New Hampshire).

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

British explorers copy Shackleton (BBC News)
Three British descendants of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team will celebrate Christmas Day in the same manner as the explorers did 100 year ago.
Henry Worsley, 47, Henry Adams, 33, and Will Gow, 35, are in the Antarctic, attempting to complete Shackleton's failed expedition to the South Pole.
The trio will have cigars and a spoonful of creme de menthe, as their ancestors did.
The men are 43 days into their 80-day Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition.
They are currently 300 nautical miles from the South Pole, having completed a 1,500ft climb to the top of the Shackleton Ice Falls.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Adam

The Christmas Adam Legend goes something like this:
A not so very long time ago, in the magical Kingdom of Chelsea (or possibly, Lynn), a young Princess, spying the great number of wrapped presents under the family Christmas Tree, was overcome with desire and curiosity and begged her Father if she could "please oh please just unwrap and open just one."
Her Father demurred for a moment. Since she knew her Father's warm and giving personality, she pressed:
"But Father, you let us open one on Christmas Eve. Every year! Why can't we open just one on the night before Christmas Eve?"
"But," her Father replied, "we open one on Christmas Eve because ... it's ... Christmas Eve. The night before Christmas Eve is ... just the Twenty-third of December."
She thought for what seemed to her like a very long time. But, since she was an exceptionally perspicacious child, in what was actually just a moment, she blurted out: "It's Christmas Adam! Because Adam came before Eve!"
... And that is why, every Twenty-Third of December, the crew of H.M.S. Impossible shares Tom Waits' live reading of "A Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Your Flame-broiled Video Yule Log

In their implacable journey to find just how low they can get, a certain "fastfood" (empty-calorie-processed cholesterol-high fructose corn syrup-and-sodium) hut has decided to wedge its ambiance of foul feculence into little bad tattoo-logoed canisters and waste a great deal of funny webspace and ironically clever sardonicism to market it.
The above is an image of a page that you can see if you click ("spray") the little can on THEIR website (not mine). But be aware that amid all the idyllic beach scenes and trippy rose petals and Barry White, the King makes a come-hither pitch that... well, the "eww" factor is just too much.
They're selling it "for a limited time" only, which means that collectors of repellent kitsch should be covering any of Burger King's costs. And that's not saying much since they're retailing it for 4 bucks. Flame is, according to the King, "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat." Or, some perfumier's mistake turned to gold by the smartass in the lab who said, "Hey, maybe we can sell all this to some burger joint, you know, like a 'vanity scent.'"
I can clearly remember the last 6 times I've eaten at those places over the past 5 years. I sure don't want to smell like one.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hau’oli Hanukaha

Yes, those are TEMPLE toggle irons

Friday, December 19, 2008

Soles'n'Bowls

If there's one thing that surely sucks all of the life out of an otherwise splendid holiday, it's hearing The Carol of the Bells played ab absurdum on somebody's cellphone, 70's MOOG synthesizer, performed by The O'Jays, or that "Ding! Fries are Done" thing... To truly celebrate the beauty and wish you all of the joy that you can possibly sustain this Solstice Shopping Season (and the days surrounding My Sister's Birthday) and because Taiko drumming hasn't yet become a traditional Christmas means of joyful expression, I submit these great moments in recent handbell choir history:
First, it's the music from that Johnny Depp movie about old-time seafaring criminals that go "aaarh," performed by the Saint Olaf College Handbell Choir, led by Jill Mahr, making Northfield Minnesota proud:


Then, The Sabre Dance, lovingly caressed by Bells of the Sound (Seattle WA), with manic choreography and horrible cinematography:


And what's Christmas without a little Zep?


And now, turn OFF the sound (unless you can deal with Harry Connick Jr's half-hearted attempt at "Rudolph") and enjoy watching Bailey the dalmatian, while I look out my window and watch the guys who made no money on snow removal over the past two years re-enact that gleeful exuberance, if the weather augurers are anything close to correct:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Her Name is "Nogg" and we can't change it because she answers to it

CAUTION: Tail is WAY larger in real life(She's quick; this is the only picture which doesn't show her as a black and white blur.)
I wish that I could say that I am clever and that her name comes from a novel written by Rudy Wurlitzer, who wrote a screenplay titled Zebulon, which (according to one source, Wikipedia) was the basis for one of my favorite Jim Jarmusch movies, Dead Man (with Johnny Depp and Gary Farmer).
But no.
Economic uncertainty has hit the SouthCoast Humane Society in a surprising way. Financially, they're succeeding -- they made $30,000 at their last fundraiser -- but SouthCoast families have lost their homes around here in the Great Magic Capitalism TrickleDown Foreclosure Scheme, and some people have had to put up their cats for adoption. And dogs. And rabbits.
At least they don't just leave them out on street.
Well, actually, I am assured that happens a lot. People seem to have stopped thoughtlessly dropping their discarded pets out here on old dairy farms in "the country." A majority of the cats and dogs that I've seen at the SouthCoast Shelter are animals that were left in their neighborhood, while their owners look for cheaper housing. Housing that usually doesn't allow pesky nuisances like small mammals. Like pets.
Nogg's page (I'll have to check if she has a MySpace. I'm on Facebook these days. Much less porn.) is a well-intentioned bit of marketing which might give one pause if one didn't know that "UTD" means "up-to-date" and not "urinary tract disorder."
So Nogg was an abandoned kitten who was at the shelter last year at this time, with her brother, Egg. (Yes, Egg and Nogg. Not my fault.) They were both adopted, but Nogg's owners encountered landlordus interruptus, and she's sat in a box since August with about 100 other cats waiting for empty laps, lonely kids, thoughtful adults, happy homes, even big yards.
She's the new habitant here at stately Goon Manor, as of Saturday.
Since everything seems to be expressed in economic terms these days (I blame CNBC), let's try this: If everyone spayed or neutered their pets, there wouldn't be this surfeit of domesticated animals in cages. Less product, more value on that product, prices reflect the value of the product and weed out the casual buyers. Smarter consumers educate themselves about the product and think before grabbing some Rottweiler for their three-year-old the day before Christmas.
Until the day when some jerk stops breeding "pitbulls" and treating them horrifically, we can do what we can to help out those shelters. Pick up a box of cat or dog food or a toy or pack of treats at the market and drop it off at the local shelter.
Tell them "Happy Christmas" and quietly wish that they didn't have to be there.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Soles'n'Bowls

  • Another favorite actress among the crew is getting ready to rock the Chekhov: Maggie Gyllenhall (crawling after whom on shards of glass I would find to be a pleasant diversion, how does that go?) will be Yelena in Uncle Vanya, previewing at Classic Stage Company starting January 17. I'm just waiting for my Gowanus mooring to open up, and then...
  • Speaking of moorings, remember how I was all like "LNG will ruin marinas and boats and businesses all up and down Narragansett Bay becasue of supertankers and dredging and junk"? Bruce Burdett of what we used to call The Sakonnet Times, says:
    SAKONNET AREA — Efforts to ship liquefied natural gas up the bay to Fall River were dealt a setback this week when Massachusetts ruled that changes to the plan require that a new environmental impact report be prepared. That could add many months to the process.
  • According to a recent British study, "Nearly half of all men and one-third of women have lied about what they have read to try to impress friends or potential partners." Besides the fact that I can only remember whatever I've read in random bursts of disjointed quotes and rambling plot synopses, it has yet to be proven to me that anybofy would ever be impressed by my collection of Lester Dent's Doc Savage pulp novellas and books about paper and textile preservation and conservation.
  • In various climates.
  • Tonight is the Long Nights Moon, if you appreciate the native naming of Full Moons. Means that very soon, the nights won't be so long. Just cold and empty. But don't worry, you can enjoy Saint Lucy's Day, tomorrow, when a young woman sets her hair ablaze with candles attached to her head and brings you coffee.
  • FIRST NIGHT NEW BEDFORD is a dead-willed, mistake-ridden, anachronistic loserfest, and New Bedford City Council-thing Jane Gonsalves is using it to take a poorly-timed, calculated, cynical political swipe at Mayor Scott Lang. Understandably, she isn't too successful at swiping, what with being painfully obvious and all, but she is successful at having no clue as to what "creative economy" means. Just like the three sock puppets who contribute to newspaper comments and radio talk shows. The ones who have no idea what a non-profit is.
  • AHA! is the much-admired organization (invented in New Bedford for New Bedford and emulated throughout Massachusetts) that organizes about 50 SouthCoast cultural organizations, commercial and non-profit business partners, many of whom are young entrepreneurs; AHA! was asked by the Mayor to create something that would replace the tired and expensive First Night problemfest, which appeared, at the time, to have folded.
  • City Celebrates! is an evening of free New Year's Eve events for everyone, designed to end early in the night to accomodate families and private parties.
  • First Night buttons used to cost ten bucks and ends after midnight, outdoors, with a traffic jam.
  • City Celebrates! and AHA! could have worked along with the former First Night crew if they weren't a bunch of selfish, sneaky buffoons, encouraged by a city council that had already cut AHA!'s funding in half (it wasn't actually "funding:" it was a grant that would have allowed AHA! to get another grant -- not from the City) but because the City Council (except for Deb Coelho) has never been downtown on the second Thursday of EVERY MONTH to be entertained and served FOR FREE by the young entrepreneurs who are the creative economy that is saving New Bedford. (AHA! is still thriving, carefully-budgeted, not hamstrung by the Council, which obviously has trouble with budgets.)
  • So, essentially two weeks before New Year's Eve, the Standard-Times is praising the twits who think that serving the citizens of New Bedford involves spending a registration fee to some out-of-town, cult-like, one-trick logo act in order to be lazy and give out city checks to hacks. But, quoteth Joe Cohen, who must have been biting his tongue throughout the interview: "'There needed to be more adult-centric events' that went later into the night, such as the concert at the "Z," Ms. Gonsalves said. 'We want to encourage the creative economy, which involves younger adults.'
  • Right, because the guys who work at No Problemo playing Nina Simone and Modest Mouse will be sitting in the Zeiterion Theatre listening to a Tran-Siberian Orchestra COVER BAND.
  • Dumb as a burlap sack full of jag.
  • I apologize for the salty spree there. I'm mourning the passing of the great Bettie Page. Anger, denial... how does that go again?
  • I screwed up. The Seagull (featuring Our Handsome Cabin Boy, Carey Mulligan) is closing on December 21. For anybody who, like me, was waiting for a matinee in February.
  • Since Chanukah seems to be running late this year (something about consolidating and coordinating retailers' after-holiday sales. Or moon cycles.), here's a little hold-you-over from the Vital Theatre's extended production of The Klezmer Nutcracker, running tomorrow through January 3rd. 20 bucks, bring the kids. "2162 Broadway, 4th Floor, at 76th Street, on the Upper West Side." That's the way they talk in New York The City.

The welcoming and joyful nature of klezmer be with you all this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

PREAMBLE
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now,
Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims

THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Article 7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Article 8. Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Article 9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Article 11. (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 13. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Article 14. (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Article 15. (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Article 16. (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Article 17. (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 20. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Article 21. (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Article 22. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
Article 23. (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Article 24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 25. (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Article 26. (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
Article 27. (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Article 28. Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
Article 29. (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Article 30. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My New SHEro

photo from telegraph.co.uk. I don't usually go for "motivational speakers" because they generally appeal to ... susceptible intellects.
But: How cool is Jessica Cox?


From her website:
As an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, Jessica attended classes taking notes with her feet. At 25 words per minute,Jessica was able to type out her papers with a regular computer keyboard on the floor.
Jessica's greatest challenges are not the ordinary daily tasks required for her to live independently. Putting in contact lenses, washing and brushing her hair, and fixing breakfast in the morning are all tasks that come second-nature to her as they would to anyone else. Her greatest triumph in life stands far above any physical feat. It is her unrepentant regard for herself a whole person, her high degree of self-acceptance that gives her the freedom and power to insist that society accept her, too, just as she is.
The title of the speech she gives when she addresses corporate meetings is: Disarming The Impossible.
Consider the Impossible disarmed.


Monday, December 8, 2008

I Got Called On!

The impassioned -- if uninformed -- call to ACTION!!1! is here.
Everybody's doing it! Hopping on the bandwagon and slappin' the hatin' on Southcoast Hospital Group.

And who cares? Well, Michael Brimbau cares. I care.Hey, Lefty, do you care? Hey, HMSImpossible, do you care?Hey, Fall River Community, do you care? Hey, Fall River-tastic, do you care? Hey, Keri Rodrigues, do you care? Hey, other Fall River bloggers, do you care? Calling all activists! Speak up. If not now, when? If not here, where? If not this, what?
If you are a reader -- or even casual observer -- of this journal, you know of my commitment to history. It might show in the books in my library or even in the funny lettering, old boat, and funny outfit. You might also know that employees of that "criminal" evil bulldozing steamroller of Darth Vadery badness are friends of mine and have saved my life on a number of occasions.
(Just because I'm immortal doesn't mean I can't be maimed.)
The person who devised the above "Hey, blogwriterorblogsnameguywhoseblogIpickedfromsomebody'sablogrollIfound, DO YOU CARE ?!!1!" appeal, is obviously utterly unfamiliar with H.M.S. Impossible and my intents herein.
A brief review: This is the journal I leave open on the galley table as I try to navigate my way through life on The Beach (feel free to leave your comments in the et cetera...) Although I comment on Fall River issues which interest me, I am not a "Fall River blogger." I am, in fact, not a "blogger" at all, even though I use services called "Blogger." H.M.S. Impossible is my online journal and I make no pretense to news journalism or community activism. I welcome others to join me in my musings as long as they respect that I may have some odd takes on current events.
Because I have odd takes on historic events.
Because I am usually within just a few delusional moments of believing that I was there.
Like anyone else with ties to Fall River (I was born there, at Saint Anne's, in a ward that's now a parking lot), I can appreciate the Lizzie Borden story. Friends of mine have made a living by researching, writing about, and telling that story. I feel, however, that she is a very small, morbid part of Fall River's rich history. A history that cannot be adequately told with gory parlor scenes, models of the Titanic, or even movie props of Tahitian mutinies.
I have worked in museums, archives, collections and conservation, and also with New Bedford's Historical Society, Preservation Society, the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, Waterfront Historic Area League (W.H.A.L.E.) and -- most recently -- O.R.P.H. Inc.; protecting and defending history is a natural calling which I follow in my work, my volunteering, and my charitable giving. I sail historic ships, some that don't have motors, for crissakes.
Fall River will never be the city of those "Edwardian postcards" nostalgiacs so excessively desire. And not just because the Borden story is Victorian. (More accurately, Harrisonian) It will just never again be August 4, 1892.
But some of the significant locations, some of those scenes, can be preserved and conserved and protected. It takes some effort among agencies, organizations, and people. Declare a historic district or heritage preservation area. Get it recognized federally and officially. Work with developers and existing business and property owners. See how other cities have handled such issues.
Visit the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. See what can happen when private business and industry and governmental agencies work together. (And no costumed interpreters, either.)
But here we are again, with Fall River constantly reinventing the wheel. Because, in its arrogance and inertia, Fall River will not listen to the outside world. And, since I worked in your weak-minded and weak-willed media, I know that you will not promote yourself because, for all of the bluster and amateurish noise, your upbringing tells you that promotion is bragging and bragging means pride, which is a sin.
And God wouldn't like you anymore.
Dear noob: My answer to your question, which is clearly part of some ill-advised effort at self-interest-conflicted property-value protection and self-promotion, is :

Friday, December 5, 2008

Soles'n'Bowls

  • James over at Aces Full of Links has an ongoing feature called "This Song Must Die," during which he gives his readers the opportunity to play Decider and trash some pop annoyance.
  • Yesterday, he administered an auxiliary caper yclept This Video Must Die. (He also talks up new William Street bar Hibernia and continues to gush about Pour Farm. Since my kidneys don't process phosphorus like mere mortals' do, I have to avoid beer, dairy products, wheat, seeds, MSG, and colas. Really, look at the National Kidney Foundation site. A lot of what James discusses would put me back on dialysis. And he's got great recipes.)
  • So anyway... Oh, yeah, This Video Must Die. It was between forgettable Nineties speed metal/chick hair band I Wish You Were a Beer and Romeo Void's "Never Say Never." You already know my frustrations over the beer issue. Chick metal, well, as a society, we've grown past that, haven't we?
  • I'm old enough to have both danced to (and with) Romeo Void's Debora Iyall, so I recuse myself from the discussion. Although I have to live with the memories.
  • I would, however, suggest that anyone who frequents the Purchase Street-Middle- William Street Economic Prosperity Zone should stop by at Isaiah's for the jag.
  • Last century, I had a little volunteer gig (wait. it wasn't volunteer work? IT SURE PAID LIKE IT!) at a little wireless station in Fall River, and part of my joke of a job was dubbing station "Comments" done by a neat character named Ray Cheney.
  • I would put his "Comment" onto a cart and affix a label so that the host who was scheduled to play it would know that it was Ray's "Comment" and not one of the non-existant commercials that nobody ever played or the promotional announcements that were played constantly to cover up some technical gaffe.
  • Ray's "Comments" were pithy, well-crafted, one- to three-minute ruminations featuring any topic Ray found worth electronically elucidating upon. Which he did in that amazing Nineteen-Forties radio newscaster monotone of his.
  • And I typed subtitles that may or may not have given folk any idea what Ray was talking about, because I was bored and it was a very rare occasion that anyone even looked at the things. If Ray talked about politics, I would type "Demoplicans vs Republicrats" or something. On holidays, I would type "A Very Cheney Christmas/Thanksgiving/ArborDay." If Ray talked about local events, I would type "FawRivvah Luvs RAY" or something. Sometimes I would just type "Ray Cheney Has A Posse 5'4" 160lb."
  • Nobody got that either.
  • I liked Ray. He came in once a week and recorded his own reel of "Comment" and we would chat pleasantly about pleasant things, like his dog or my tie. As far as I could tell, he never got any indication or instruction from the owners of the station about what he should "Comment" upon. And he just kept right on being Ray, talking about tires and Reagan and Mayor Viveiros and camping in Maine.
  • Only once did anyone ever comment about my labels. It was Ray. "Who wrote that about the 'Republicrats'? That was pretty smart," he said. And I was aware that he meant "smart" as both the "smarty-pants" usage and that he was pleased that I had grasped what he had written.
  • Which is why I don't get the guy (The Wrong Bernie) who gives the station editorials at the local station now. I know him, in fact, I've known him since high school when I interviewed for a Summer internship at the Providence Journal. But I don't get him. Except that he seems a bit of a prat.
  • On the other hand, Paul Benedict was Guffman, the Jefferson's neighbor, and the painter on Sesame Street. He went to Suffolk University and started working in theater in Boston, his hometown. He died on Martha's Vineyard this week. Now, him, I get. Benedict

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"The Forces of Babylon..."

In Catholicism, there are people who go to Church and celebrate the holy Sacrament of Communion every day, follow the teachings and advice of the Pope, and remain as reverent as the Church details.
Then there are Catholics who don't ever go to Mass and are not particularly impressed by some old guy in a silly hat and red slippers. And not a lot can give you details about the Second Vatican Council.
But they know some of the prayers. And enjoy eating chocolate bunnies on or around Easter.
I worked as deejay at a Newport Rhode Island club that featured a "Reggae Brunch," which carried on while the local college radio stations played their weekly reggae shows. Which meant that local reggae enthusiasts were home listening to the radio and smoking dope while my friends' band played derivative originals and Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff covers from noon to four, while I played poppy ska and reggae during breaks.
I was not known in town as a Reggae Personality.
I played "new wave" records for locals and tourists who accidentally found the place on weeknights. I certainly wasn't "White Lightnin'" a blonde kid who would show up, drink lots of water, and eventually grab a mic and "toast" whenever the band would float a one-drop and a bass-line.

I got to spend a lot of time those Summers with lot of guys who fancied themselves "Rastafarians."
One of my housemates claimed to be a "Rastafarian." He was also a diabetic, so Rastafarianism became something that we shared in long conversations ("reasonings") along with tips for glucose monitoring in bars. We took to attributing unfortunate incidents to "The Forces of Babylon" which "be all around us, Peeeej-man." (Not "mon.")
Much of the spirituality of Rastafarianity was lost on my linear cause-and-effect sensibility and Jesuit training. Yes, I understood much of the Bible, since I had to, what with my own sectarian upbringing and all. But I didn't understand why a book would be deemed the basis for details of someone's daily life -- say, their diet or hygiene -- particularly when they loudly and obviously considered it a demonic distortion perpetrated by others who wanted to keep them enslaved. Oh, and why everyone who respected Marcus Garvey thought that Prince Haile Sallassie (Ras Tafar I) was the promised messiah but Garvey didn't believe that but the point is that JAH is the way that I&I, yes, aye, the way to march to Zion, yes...
But, because I am a spiritual seeker -- or at least a polite and agreeable housemate -- I adapted, improvised, and endeavored to understand and empathize. Although, I had no problem with the plentiful meals of lobster and other shellfish provided by my employers, who were neither Orthodox nor Rastafarians, I tried to take everyone's dietary rules seriously.
My housemate, however, was apt to look up from under his heavy brows through bloodshot eyes and remind me that coffee was "the juice of Babylon" whenever I offered him a cup, indicating that caffeine was one of the non-kosher spirits. He didn't eat a lot, so that complicated diabetes management, but his girlfriend kept him sugared up on Ting and other hard-to-find soft drinks. (She also wanted to get a tattoo of Bob Marley. I explained that the irony would have been too much, especially among the sistren.)
In those days, it wasn't terribly clear the direction in which reggae music would eventually go. I had no idea that it would become a wallow of ugly sexism and violent homophobia. But as time went on, I would continue to appreciate rhythmic stylings and earnest spirituality. Plus: the dub work of Lee Scratch Perry.
I also began to grasp my terrible mistake of conflating music and culture.
I always recall the "be in the world, not of it" quality of my housemate, and wonder if he would have gone so far as to sue his employer for the right to wear his dreads or to not shave. As much as I overstand Leviticus' injunctions, I can't be persuaded that Moses knew much about Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
But the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court says that Bobby T. Brown can continue with his suit against Jiffy Lube. Very simplistically, his admittedly sacerdotal lifestyle is not something any employer can abridge. Take that, downpressor man.
Which is all very right and Constitutionally-protected.
Except for the squishy parts where a man, whose sectarianism is a rejection of the enslaving modernity of things like automobiles, finds himself having to sue to keep his job in an oil change shop in order to feed and house his family.
Just like anybody else.
If only...
(I could have put the Rasta Obama Coffee Mug, but I wanted to maintain a level of gravitas.)

Odetta

In Des Moines, last February. Let's all sound this strong at 78.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Handsome Cabin Boy, an interactive fancy

So, I was in the Greater Mahwah (N.J.) Municipal Convention and Visitors' Free Trade and Chain Restaurant Test Market Zone over the weekend, celebrating the marriage of a friend who was following his family's three-hundred year-old tradition of marrying right after running out of the fixin's for leftover turkey sandwiches.
One thing that wasn't provided, at the Mormon-owned place where we stayed, was NY1 and an over-publicized interview with our Handsome Cabin Boy, Carey Mulligan. We had never planned (I mean, we have until March), so we never made it to The Seagull on Broadway, starring our Handsome Cabin Boy, Carey Mulligan, but the very first scene in the bit below will give you an idea how Our Handsome Cabin Boy, Carey Mulligan, delivers one of the best lines of sneaky artist self-effacement that Chekhov ever committed:

You watched the whole thing, didn't you? Good, because Kristin Scott Thomas. Boston rock fans of a certain age who go to The Seagull site will be treated to a representation of the old Channel logo. So, there's that.
But all this talk of our Handsome Cabin Boy, Carey Mulligan, reminds me that I haven't even explained the significance of "The Handsome Cabin Boy."
For traditional forebitter and folk fans, the story of The Handsome Cabin Boy is familiar. A gal -- either because she's adventuresome or in love with a feller on a boat -- sneaks her way aboard by assuming the role of Cabin Boy, an utterly fictitious although expedient device for stowaways of either gender in these sorts of things. There may or may not be present a not entirely maritally-satisfied Wife of The Skipper aboard. The Handsome Cabin Boy is allowed to serve and sup at the captain's board and apparently develops a practice which might result in instances of extraconnubial advantageousness.
The unnamed vessel's "Doctor McCoy" (as it were) is hailed up from sickbay, and as he bounds up the midships ladder, he muses on the improbability of both a pregnant steward and a completely sympathetic and deferential crew. But he's only a simple country doctor whose bunk clatters with the well-drained bottles of many unfair caricatures in movies where peglegged idlers say things like "aar" and "pieces of eight."
The tale ends with various interpretations of the screaming, and no particular elucidation concerning The Handsome Cabin Boy as the main player in an elaborate offshore birth surrogacy scheme.
Look. if Jerry Garcia and the Dead could do it, and Frank Zappa did it, why shouldn't I? Also, I'd like to bring some further attention to some fine actresses. And maybe I'll get to write about more theater and acting rather than radio and the old dried-up amateurs and regressive bad apples and cheap Joe Pesci impersonators still soiling, fouling, and wringing the life out of Fall River.
While all the "blogs" lavish each other with "Best Non-Sport-Enthusiast Harry Potter Minor Character FanFic" and "Most Adequately-Developed Completely Neutral Political Online Presence" awards, I urge those who hop aboard to scratch in the margins of The Journal and give some brilliant actor or other some recognition.
Due to certain concrete realities, the handsome cabin boy must be played by a girl. That's the joke, you see. (Except if it's Jack London's "cabin boy." Who was an actual boy, but could be played by either gender and still make the London character feel icky. Because well, that's the other joke.)
Got it? Female.
Here's how I picked Carey Mulligan:
Following the established musical template above and assuming myself director of a production of a dramatization of The Handsome Cabin Boy, I cast Carey Mulligan after remembering her work as Keira Knightley's 'lil sis in Pride & Prejudice and seeing her on Doctor Who.
(1) She's well-trained and claims to love teh acting. Stage, especially. (And because I'm more comfortable with the "stage-right,stage-left" thing better than I am with reality.)
(2) She's been in film adaptations or teevee presentations of Nineteenth-Century novels.
(3) She has a cursory interest and possible fluency in classics
(4) She can portray the character in the film while looking great in the music video and engaging on the promotional tour,
and (5) she has that certain something, I dunno, some je ne sais quoi.
Keep in mind that the Handsome Cabin Boy pool of contestants is panhistoric. For instance: Clara Bow, although she died over 40 years ago and never set foot on a stage, actually played a Cabin Boy character in one of the first New Bedford tourism promotion videos, Down to the Sea In Ships. See? Dot Morgan. Because in Hollywood, all whalers are named Morgan. And she grew up in Brooklyn. And looked like this without the stupid hat:Belaying pins aren't the only 'pins' aboard, you know
So the rules are variable. They're not really rules, they're more like guidelines.
I just haven't twisted them enough to allow for Kristen Bell or Eliza Dushku. Except, True Lies' era Eliza would certainly be more apt than Tru Calling's.
Even if she is a hockey chick.

Monday, December 1, 2008

World AIDS Day

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks for Appropriate Gratitude

I have been thinking recently of appropriate and meaningful tributes, and how candles on a sidewalk or a flashy mySpace page are not appropriate and serve only to announce: "Forget the dead guy. Look at how much I am grieving, world!!"
The eulogies I have delivered here recently for my pets and companions -- my shipmates -- do not exempt me from such indictments of self-indulgence : I too hope that someone many years away might ... say something nice.
But NOT build a cairn of stuffed animals and plastic flowers.
A stone's throw from my aunt's home in the South End of Fall River, there's a veteran's memorial to Army Corporal David L. Miller. Every so often, while doing laundry at the laundromat across the street, I'd walk over and see it.
Veteran's memorials are everywhere. There's one just a half-mile from stately Goon Manor, way out here in the country.
But the fact that they are ubiquitous does not diminish their significance. In fact, it reminds us of and legitimizes our gratitude as a people. On a piece of land, we saw fit to thank a member of our armed forces whose final sacrifice ensured that we could.
Shamrock at Fall River-tastic has assembled a brilliant post and leads a lively discussion about that very memorial, and how elected representatives took that memorial, relocated it, and placed another there, dedicated to Paul McGovern, who owned McGovern's Restaurant up the street.
I commented to Shamrock this way:

I "grew up" in Tiverton and I think that I remember being at McGovern's restaurant twice.However: Every moment of my life --whether I'm on American soil or not -- I enjoy the freedoms and comforts and rights and privileges that Corporal Miller devoted his life to protecting and ensuring. Thank you for pointing all of this out, Shamrock.

And I mean that.
And I also mean this: I often read that Paul McGovern sponsored the appearance of Tall Ships during Fall River Celebrates America. If he was a sponsor from 1989 to 1996, I am thankful to Mr. McGovern because I participated during those Parades of Tall Ships, as a broadcast commentator or (more significantly and more often), as TallShip™ crew.
If the Bounty benefited directly from his largess (I don't know, maybe he donated food), I would probably have been the first crew member to suggest putting a small and tasteful plaque in the galley thanking him.
I would not have put a four-foot high granite monument midships, to replace the ship's roster commemorating the original Eighteenth Century crew.
But I do wish that I had the opportunity for a harbor sail, a hearty handshake, and sincere "Thank you."
And while out there, we could both thank Corporal Miller.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giving Thanks for Growing Awareness

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
25 November

By resolution 54/134 of 17 December 1999, the General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and invited governments, international organizations and NGOs to organize activities designated to raise public awareness of the problem on that day. Women's activists have marked 25 November as a day against violence since 1981. This date came from the brutal assassination in 1960, of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, on orders of Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).
On 20 December 1993 the General Assembly adopted
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (A/RES/48/104).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Thanks for Sidewalk Sanctity


I was Catholic Ivy League. In hoc sidewalk vinces ... I suppose might be an appropriate slogan.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Soles'n'Bowls

  • from BBC News: A teenage student attempting to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world has admitted he is "a little crazy" to do it at his age.
    Michael Perham, 16, from Potters Bar in Hertfordshire is the youngest person to have sailed across the Atlantic alone. He set out on his latest voyage from Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, on his Open 50 Racing Yacht on Saturday morning.
    He will be alone at sea for over four months and his only contact with family will be through satellite link-ups
    .
  • I think he's a little crazy for leaving any place named "Bar." Particularly if circumnavagating alone. A Voyage for Madmen, indeed.
  • At least there'll be something to post on your MyFacePageBookTube, Mike. Actually, Mike's site is TotallyMoney, but while the world is watching him (and you can too, click here or check The Gam every few bells), the NY Times published this article, Teenagers' Internet Socializing Not A Bad Thing." It's anecdotal, a little condescending, and reminds me of the usual story that you read every few years that relates condescending anecdotes about television, telephones, rock'n'roll, smoking, jazz, cell phones, long hair, Socialism, punk rock, piercings, video games, tattoos, comic books, dancing, Republicanism ...
  • However: if spending all of your time online is okay, when do you have time to learn to tie a tie or tuck in your shirt or discreetly hide your gum or pleasantly avoid incarceration?
  • Because of my apparently rare and obscure medical condition (my inability to walk through walls or become invisible at will), my team of nephrological, endocrinological, and opthalmalogic experts suggested that I get a flu shot. A compliant patient am I, so I had some SpongeBob pajama-clad eight-year old at the medical multiplex poke me with a pharmaceutical company-manufactured immune system enhancer to inflict pain upon and immobilize my left arm. So that I couldn't pick up any flus with it.
  • This is the only time I have suffered any negative effects from a "flu shot."
  • Oh, and I do realize that I have just made myself a target of Google™ "flu symptom" searches and we'll show up as a blip or something on the new Google™ Flu Trends site. Which, rather than track actual flu outbreaks, tracks how many people have typed the words "flu" and "symptoms" into their Google™ thing.
  • So, in light of the week's unpleasantnesses:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Maybelline

Maybes. Baybelline. B'leen. When I first met Maybelline, she was a fearful and filthy grayish mass of matted dreadlocks and mill detritus. Her brother, Pooh, was barely any cleaner, although he purred more readily and didn't spend his days hidden under a bookshelf. The two had been cared for by a ceramics artist in an underused mill.
I can't offhandedly deny the significance of any of this. Even the fact that art supplies were stored under the bookshelf where she chose to hide. Even recently, she would crawl under there to be quiet, brood, evade the annoying and playful others -- perhaps even to recall her antisocial art school days. Long after she had eschewed the unkempt and unfriendly hipster lifestyle and preened herself clean and soft; soft in another, much softer world.
Sure, I'll freely anthropomorphize and poetically endow my animal companions with traits that may or may not be honestly present or possible. (But then again, it's taken me a long while and some serious persistence to stop calling a boat "she." )
Maybelline was the last of the Five Minnesotans, the cats who allowed me to share their quarters with my Beloved. Rescued with her brother from a horrible fate in a plastic bag in a freezing Minnesota park, she could have ended up "the bitter one." But the huge all-knowing tabby overlord Mouse ("...Mouse, king of the house") and his tiny partner Tuki, and the monochromatic polydactyl feral Lucy, and even her own pathologically affable brother Pooh, would all know her as The Defiant One.
If everyone was laying in the sun, she would be behind the sofa. If everyone hid under the bed from visitors, she would be rubbing legs and acting the amiable hostess. If everyone else silently crept in and out of the litterbox attending to necessities, she would noisily scratch the sides and floor, sometimes without even utilizing the facility for its intended purpose. She would say goodbye to all of them, outlive them all. And with each removed dinner bowl, each empty place on the berber in the sunroom, she took stock of every indignity and disappointment, took a deep breath and steeled herself.



Even the new guy, Tommy, knew that he could get away with only so much.I'm not touching you...
She took the doctors' description of her stoically. She was not ever merely a "grey-and-white short-haired domestic."
She also chose to ignore his prognosis. "A yellow kitty dies," he had said, practicing his utterly incapable bedside manner, explaining the effects of liver damage. Out of sheer insolence and a month of eating and drinking and apparently evacuating bilirubin, she was no longer a "yellow kitty." But she was a much thinner shipmate, relying upon those sinewy muscles that she had developed years before (while leaping about that mill) to take her place on the bed, on the chairs, on the couch.
For years, she sat or lay on the couch between us two servile bipeds, maybe for offerings from snack plates or maybe for warmth.
Which is exactly where she ended up on Tuesday. Dignified and comfortable, she refused lunch and exhaled that breath that she had been holding.
That breath filled with the tastes of chicken and kippers and clay dust and Duluth rain.
And she left her crew alone and together in the New England sun.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Your ThirdMate Eyes a Course...

Today, I read in the online version of Fall River's Herald News that New Year's Eve celebrations in Fall River are scuttled because that stinky guy elected by the old ladies who live upstairs from the polling places says he doesn't "have the municipal or CDA resources to be able to do it."
These are the same people who went to Church to pray for that whiz-bang maverick whipsnapper Walnuts McCain and his screwball sidekick Pockets Palin. Bob Correia, similarly, is one of those politicians who not only believes that citizens should not know what their government does, he is, himself, a little unclear on all the details as well. But that's okay, because he is also oblivious to the current "Know About Your Government" fad among younger citizens, so some rules or protocols simply don't appeal or apply to him.
Especially when everyone else is dazzled by his beauty and charm, clear speaking voice, unmistakable conviviality and intimate cordiality. So obvious here:


(And, personally, I'm not fully consigned to anyone who diminutizes his own name in order to make himself "accessible." My name is PJ and my ears are bleeding...)
Where was I? Oh, right: FirstNight FallRiver Fail. The article is a beautiful eulogy, cobbled together out of the fifteen or so stories that should have run in the Herald's onion skin-and-toxic ink pages right after Christmas in order to work the Former Troy into a frenzy of nostalgia remembering its small-town love affair with one night of merriment. I can especially admire any reporter who buries the lede because he can't pass up an inappropriately juvenile banality. "Night-night," indeed.
But here's the thing:
Nearby New Bedford has an unplanned surfeit of First Night celebrations.
Sometime over the Summer in New Bedford, probably between the national favorite SummerFest and the world famous Working Waterfront Festival, somebody decided that AHA! Art·History·Architecture, the downtown business/arts/music/civic extravaganza held every second Thursday and envied and emulated all over New England, should be in charge of the New Year's Eve activities, since AHA!Art·History·Architecture is damned well-practiced and good at every other family-friendly city-promoting thing it steps in, including last year's partnership with FirstNight New Bedford.
And AHA!Art·History·Architecture isn't rife with characters, conflicts of interest, allegations of double-dipping and rumors of nepotism. So, FirstNightNewBedford was ... I don't know... advised that their services were no longer needed ?
But a month ago, FirstNight New Bedford started running press releases in the local paper, looking for volunteers, drumming up partners and sponsors. So, I went to the FNNB website, saw the tremendous list of sponsors who had already signed on, and I couldn't help but think that it was 2003.
Because that was the date on some of the pages.
I always get that FirstNight 2008/FirstNight 2009 thing all muddled because FirstNight 2008 was actually held on the last night of 2007. So who knows?
First Night started in 1976, as a capper to Boston's Bicentennial. Of course, it spread to other local towns and cities when civic leaders got sick of people asking "Didjago ta FirstNight Boston?" and eventually it became a big money-making franchise called First Night International, with dues and initiation fees, and rules and all sorts of complications that you would never dream of as you're driving home slightly buzzed and numb of extremities from your last night of the old year festivities that aren't forcibly non-alcoholic. Go ahead, stumble around their site (although I should mention a trigger warning to PTSD sufferers) and wonder how anyone would want to pay money to license the use of a confusing title that is both complicated and incorrect as well.
So, move the party.
By that, I mean either bring the kids to New Bedford or move the FirstNight over to Fall River. There's a highway, you know.

(shamrock and Tom Paine at Fall River-tastic have more)

Monday, November 17, 2008

For Evan

When I first listened to radio -- and when I started to work in it -- commercial radio was a continuous homogeneous succession of fairly sedate accent-neutral voices playing inoffensive music and reporting news, sports, and weather, with little or no editorial content.
Commercials voiced by business owners were rare and clever distractions that rewarded those sponsors who paid to humiliate themselves in the public arena in the name of retail. They did not sound professional, they had no place on the radio, and that was the joke which made those spots so effective at bringing in revenue.
Unfortunately, hearing lousy voices on the radio became commonplace, normalized. Then, radio became filled with people who had no place on the radio, mean-spirited uninformed negativists with their regionalisms and carelessness and their vulgar hollering and self-important unreasonableness.
Gosh, anyone could do that.
And anyone did.
Last Friday, local radio talk host Evan Rousseau was "laid off" from WBSM. I have no idea why, and the professional reasons I would give are probably not the actual reasons for his layoff. Evan and I worked together some, and I found Evan to be personable and affable. He throws himself into whatever he does -- radio, theater, civic activism -- with undiscerning enthusiasm.
Which I guess is the preferred contemporary alternative to "practiced cultivation."
Don't get me wrong: I know for a fact that Evan is technically competent. He worked mornings for a long time getting to know the board and idiosyncrasies at WBSM, acting as "producer" and co-host and then getting his own show. His brain is full of enough information to allow him to talk at least to the next commercial break and engage others in conversation -- or what passes for conversation on WBSM. He is a popular local personality. And he works on some community affairs with a serious dogged zeal. Which makes him a hero to the few who notice and appreciate that kind of civic-mindedness.
I couldn't listen to his show because his bizarre collection of addle-brained and fatheaded callers sometimes dimmed my glow for the Whaling City.
And ... he sounded like ... someone who had no place on the radio.
Umms and ahs and uhs and mispronunciations and inaccuracies and unsubstantiations and a just plain unpleasant voice. All of the things local radio thrives on, or seems to require these days.
Earlier this year, the news of Keri Rodrigues leaving WSAR caused great consternation. Radio discussion boards buzzed for weeks, the local newspaper ran stories, and there was no shortage of discussion, speculation, and debate over her abilities, qualifications, and future employment.
But none of that for Evan.
Is it because Evan did not address or inspire controversy the way Keri did? Because his show merely waded carefully along the shoal of safe topics that interested a very small covey of New Bedford unsophisticates?
Or is it because the "professionals" who came out so vehemently for and against Keri's place on the radio cannot appreciate Evan's place in his own town?
That says an awful lot about the people in radio.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hey, Mom...

So I saw this cat at the shelter, and I thought, well, Christmas is coming, and, if you're interested, I can ask the nice people...

(copy from the HUmane Society & Shelter - SouthCoast) Hi, we are Siamese and very sweet! We were found in an apartment all by ourselves in Fall River on 10-17-08. We are a little shy at first, (still a little unsure with whats going on) but once we get to know you, we are very affectionate and talkative! I am a 2 year old female and Lucas is my son - he is about 1 years old.

They're from Fall River, so I anticipate no language problem.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Soles'n'Bowls

  • The scientist who claimed to have found a "dinosaur dance floor" was recently corrected by paleontologists who explained the 1000 footprints as erosion. Marjorie Chan, a researcher at University of Utah says: "I'm interested in the truth, no matter what the outcome is." In science, the outcome IS the truth, Marjorie. But then again: Utah.
  • On the other hand, Utah is nice enough to baptize people who may have died without the benefit of being part of the Mormon faith. Like Jews who died in the Holocaust, That's so-o-oo thoughtful of the Mormons.
  • Hafdis Huld will save the economy of her native Iceland if she releases her cover of Sam Brown's "Stop" like everywhere. Starting with on her next album. You may remember Hafdis before she became inescapably popular, from the Reyka vodka ads and still delightful site. Those were the days. Kerry from Red Grape Records sent me "Stop." Thanks, Kerry.
  • While I'm at it, no one will mind an ancient wheeze from my yellowing message to Kerry's partner, writer/producer/Renaissanceur Calum MacColl: "I sail traditional boats and sometimes dock at seaside music festivals, sometimes bumping into Calum's uncle Pete Seeger [Peggy's his mum, but I didn't have to tell him that]. Pete’s daughter Mika and her husband Joe live in Tiverton RI, a town I called home. So that would make Calum my half-neighbor-once-removed. I'm surprised we never met."
  • I'll drop a name anywhere. Don't get me going on about the Malvina Reynolds connections.
  • Sam Brown, who worked with Jools Holland, did a duet with the original Marillion's Fish, which is funny because Fish is the name of another band on Red Grape.
  • Remember those holiday hahas you felt when you first laid eyes on the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 take on Pia Zadora's breakthrough performance in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians ? Of course you do. And ao do the folks who made that and now that making fun of movies is universally known as "riffing" they've gone and made it all over again under their Cinematic Titanic aegis. See? Right here.
  • Strangest thing: my machinery played Hafdis' "Stop" and segued into Lili Haydn's "Someday" from her debut. And then into k.d. lang's cover of Julie London's "Don't Smoke In Bed." A really nice set. The songs.
  • And yes, I know that it's a Peggy Lee tune, but c'mon: I don't immediately think "Peggy Lee" about anything.
  • Except maybe paint.
  • Really: what is that white? Peggy Lee White.
  • Oh, and here's the overwrought melodramatic Eighties video of Sam Brown singing the song that Ms. Huld has recorded for a Mercedes ad, which I've found myself humming while replacing the storm windows.

  • Oh, and Pete Seeger and his grandson Tao are performing, part of the ongoing benefit for the Ritz Theater in Newburgh NY.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

yeah, um, so, that Africa thing...

The New York Times has a neat "exposé" abut how everyone was fooled into believing that story about Sarah Palin not knowing that Africa is a continent. Turns out it was the guy wearing the elegant straw-weave lampshade in the above picture which accompanies the article. As far as I can tell, it was all a failed attempt to get the attention of Hollywood, where he could make teevee shows based on characters who say ludicrous but believable things like that. The woman responsible for another well-publicized hoax (a run for the vice-presidency by a semi-literate, criminally opportunistic backwater narcissist) blames "bloggers" for lying and making her look dumb. Now, the Times is her favorite newspaper, you betcha.
No mention was made of the witch-burning cult or the secessionist group or the callous, ignorant and insensitive remarks demeaning civil rights and questioning patriotism. Or the degradation of political discourse by supporters of the party that allowed her to monopolize the public's attention when it is painfully obvious that the public -- ALL the public -- deserve so so so much better.
The Times also had no problem putting an advertisement for a "Holocaust historical" right there on the webpage next to the story. The film is based on a book by the celebrated John Boyne, who has just published his own Mutiny on the Bounty fan-fic, about a fourteen year-old described as "captain's valet" or "cabin boy." First: everybody knows that any self-respecting fictional cabin boy is supposed to be a girl (cf.: starboard), but there you are. It also appears that Eighteenth Century kids had to be pickpockets and prostitutes because of the lack of texting and Xboxes. Some of the reviews make it sound like MuTEENy on the Bounty. There's nice stuff about the commander. But with "important dark elements," which I assume are sex and/or violence.
The author claims that he "...loved writing the book. There was something very freeing about writing through the voice of an uneducated 14 year old at the end of the 18th century. It allowed me to say anything, write anything, even make up words if I wanted to."
That is obviously what I'm doing wrong as a not-yet-published nautical historical fictionalist. Trying to remember all the detaily language about British Navvy boatiness, trying to recreate the actual setting and atmosphere just as my time-ravaged brain recalls it. And here's this famous author guy just "making up" his own words. You can read his journal entry here.
At least we know where they might film the movie-izement of it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's the DHL

Smiles: False Advertising.I live on a former cattle ranch.
All right. It was once a series of huge grazing pastures for milk cows, complete with barns and sheep and dogs and cats and swampers and rusty antiquated equipment that was evocative of a simpler time but very hard to actually identify. Because that's what New England was for a really long time. Eventually, the cows moved to their retirement villas in Naples and the farm became a grape-producing concern with hundreds of acres of vines.
At least I don't have to mow it.
It's probably obvious, what with it being the Twenty-First Century and all, that the vineyard relies upon delivery services now and again for supplies.
And we get deliveries from L.L. Bean, Science City, and Powell's Books.
It's always a pleasure to meet the drivers of the UPS and Federal Express trucks.
They're pleasant and capable of comprehending complex instructions like "Put it in the office" or "Leave it on the stairs." Plus, there's Cheryl, the English dressage rider and bartender who drove for FedEx. And probably modeled.
But the DHL drivers were not that kind of lot.
Seriously. I have watched as these tools peel out and leave divots in our crushed quahog shell/gravel road. I have seen them leave those pre-printed "call us for your stuff" notes that say that "no one was at the address." While I was at the address. I would sometimes see them pull into our large driveway and do nothing. Not even eat lunch.
I can understand appreciating the view-- which is, frankly, spectacular. Verdant vines and extravagant leaves hugging our rustic grapestakes, those cryptic numbers on the endposts, ancient crossarms dripping with foliage and sometimes a tantalizing glimpse of shining bunches of Gewürztraminer . I could see stopping for a moment on your delivery route to catch a breath of the sweet air, to even just imagine the rhythm of a living and productive organism, a family's farm.
I don't take it for granted.
So, it really comes as no surprise and even as a small relief, and it doesn't particularly bother me that they won't be showing up anymore.
I do, however, hope that those guys find better employment in a field that doesn't require whatever it is that was so difficult about being a DHL driver.