Saturday, May 31, 2008

"America runs to fill it to the brim with the best part of wakin' up and release the flavor of a second cup." If not the taste.

No you didn't ... just call me a terrorist.As a teevee producer, I would never have let her wear it. "On-line ad" or not.
Since many aspects of this fashion faux pas have been neglected by the few "blogs" and news items that have briefly touched on its finer points, I feel I should address this scarf controversy from my standpoint. As a miserable, disappointed, former operative of the teevee industry. Because it is the industry that has, for more than a half-century, brewed and roasted the wisdom, expertise, imagination, and technical know-how of millions of professional and amateur broadcasters. Only to give us Rachael Ray.

  1. Free Advice: I had to throw out a bunch of paisley ties when I got a brief and unrewarding on-air gig. The small-detailed pattern is always a DON'T on video. I don't care if it's online or HD, fussy little texture + digital pixellation = moiré patterns, that weird cheap "hypno-dizzy" special effect. And don't give me any "No one will ever notice." I know tech directors who still suffer from vertigo from houndstooth jackets on guests.
  2. On-air Fashion: Even if you are personally responsible for the destruction of every form of appropriate anything and you make up silly acronyms that are more confusing to say than the actual words themselves, or you sound like a Tom Waits record played at 78 rpm, you can't just look like a slob whenever you go on-air. You have a sacred duty to uphold a certain level of decorum. Because I said.
  3. Real World Fashion: My high school World History and Geography teacher was a burly Jesuit who coached Cross-Country. One day, during one of the Seventies' oil crises, he came to class wearing a kaffiyeh -- correctly, on his head -- in order to show us how he stayed cool when he taught in Saudi Arabia. He assured us that everybody there wore one, and nobody called anyone "Grandma" or "Palestinian Terrorist." I remembered his lessons. In the Eighties, women and some really affected men wore "Afghan" scarves, like the one you see above around Ms. Ray's neck. As I remember, the idea was to wear it loosely, in order to show off the pretty -- if loosely random -- paisley. Now, they're wrapped more tightly. Twenty-five years of those scarves. I'm guessing somebody from those Reagan years has been waiting for this moment.
  4. Freestyle! Everybody skate! Haphazard draping looks inappropriate on any spokesperson. Does Rachael just have no respect for the coffee she's hawking? Or is it that the refreshing iced coffee is so cool that its effects demand a scarf? (Excuse me if any of this was explained in the actual ad. Which is possible, because, hey, They Might Be Giants...) Is this a subliminal message to those who would like to strangle Ms. Ray? And don't get me started on the suggestion and symbolism of the pink blossoms. Or the extended-middle-finger-shaped building in the background. And what's up with that trashcan? Plus, the little knotted tassels are such a distraction. Takes the eye off the product -- THE big-big no-no.

Yes, I can see why wardrobe departments, advertising stylists, and English majors are offended. But, seriously, the BBC reports...

US coffee chain Starbucks has come under fire for a new logo that critics say is offensive and overly graphic. The Resistance, a US-based Christian group, has called for a national boycott of the coffee-selling giant.
It says the chain's new logo has a naked woman on it with her legs "spread like a prostitute... The company might as well call themselves Slutbucks".
What? What are you looking at?
Starbucks says the image - based on a 16th century Norse design of a mermaid with two-tails - is not inappropriate.
Rather, the image is a more conservative version of the original Starbucks design, which hung above the chain's first store when it opened in Seattle's Pike Place Market in 1971.

She's a siren. A week-long promotional siren. You can still see her flukes, but not her alleged "sluttiness," on the green label, the one all of us fair-trade coffee fans know. As far as the "prostitution" charge goes, every sailor knows that sirens exact a very heavy price. Interesting trivia: "Starbuck," originally from a big island off the coast here, was the first mate on Moby-Dick's Pequod.

He was the man from Nantucket.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Soles'n'Bowls

I'm not sharing any big gubmint secret. I'm pretty sure a few hundred people in the SouthCoast received a message like the following. I had called the office in D.C. to thank my representative for trying to sort out certain economic issues (as Chair of the House Financial Services Committee) and dealing honestly with war funding. I guess he's getting some e-mails about "impeachment," and I'm pretty sure I may have signed a petition sponsored by one of his colleagues, and so...
Dear P.J.:
There is one central problem with an effort to impeach President Bush that was not mentioned in the emails I recently received: namely that the people who would have to vote to impeach him are themselves in many cases complicit in the offense for which he would be impeached. Torture did not exist in a vacuum. It was in fact implicitly and in some cases explicitly supported by Members of Congress. When Members of Congress voted, for example, to deny habeas corpus rights to detainees, over my objection, it was facilitating this process. So one of the main reasons that impeachment against President Bush would fail would be that it is very hard to get Members to vote to impeach themselves.
Some have suggested that we should go ahead because "Democrats didn't have the votes to impeach Nixon when they started, but when the House Judiciary Committee reluctantly adopted Articles of Impeachment, Nixon resigned..." The first error here is that there was nothing reluctant about the Judiciary Committee's vote. It was methodical, but not at all reluctant. Secondly, the offenses for which President Nixon was about to be impeached were offenses that he had committed without congressional involvement. This does not make them less heinous - indeed they pale in significance compared to what George Bush has done - but it makes them more impeachable, and we are back to the point I mentioned earlier, namely that we cannot get Members of Congress to vote in effect to impeach themselves.
Finally, for those who argue that it would be important to try even though we know it would fail - and we do - the point that if we did impeach both Bush and Cheney we would make Speaker Pelosi President argues against this. It would be too easy for Republicans who would rally behind the President to make the issue not whether there was torture, but whether or not Nancy Pelosi should be named President without having run for the office. This would give an undue amount of votes to the President and not only would impeachment fail, but it would appear that torture continues to be more strongly supported than I believe that it is. For these reasons I think that impeachment would do more harm than good to the cause of trying to bring the rule of law to the U.S. Executive Branch.
BARNEY FRANK

That was his full response, unedited by me. I contacted my representative back by using the House of Representatives' "Write Your Representative Email system" since his House website said to. Fair enough. I'm sure that some tax that I had paid years ago pays for that operation. Of course, I had paid that before the government started just giving us our and our children's money back directly, as opposed to giving it back in kind, like in services. But my grammar school sensibilities were offended that the electronic template "reminded" me to address the representative ...
To The Honorable Barney Frank:

Thank you for responding to my call to encourage you to vote against continual funding for the action in Iraq. You address the impeachment issue in your e-mail, so I will limit my remarks to that. I tend to sign petitions for impeachment whenever I am asked because I believe that we American citizens deserve some means by which we can condemn the current administration's abuse of our Constitution.
I have met you and heard you speak on many occasions, and admire your quick wit and sensible solutions to many often unfairly complex questions from interlocutors. I consider myself very lucky to live in this district, and I often have the opportunity to brag that you are my representative. [I did not mention the times that he and I were just hanging around at a radio or teevee station or some restaurant or club, waiting for an event or interview to start or end and he didn't seem to care that I had called him "Barn." I also thought it impolitic to mention his amusing habit of taking advantage of members of Congress who are clumsy or inept at, or unfamiliar with Parliamentary procedure. Which I find funny. Schadenfreude Ha-ha funny. Really. Just look.]

I continued:

I understand your reasonable and sound rebuttal of "impeachment." But, you must imagine my disappointment when I read your statement, "I think that impeachment would do more harm than good to the cause of trying to bring the rule of law to the U.S. Executive Branch." I appreciate your candor in characterizing your colleagues as conspirators who will reject justice in order to secure themselves. My call for impeachment is not a call for vengeance. I am not bloodthirsty; I know that if I break a law, I am to be held accountable. Will Bush, Cheney, Rice, et. al., ever be held accountable? Will we be able to recover the parts of the Constitution that have been lost?
(And that is the full text of the body of my missive. And, no, I did not get to edit it for clarity or sense before it was gobbled up by the House Committee on Hyperbole and Awkwardness.
I'm sure that the pre-prepared e-sponse that "addresses" my concerns will be very similar to the one above (in blue) which I have already received. Or I'll be ignored as a loony. And I also freely admit that he DID NOT characterize his colleagues as "conspirators." For that, I am sorry. But scuttle me, I was steamed. Because my representative, hamstrung by the labyrinthine machinations of absurd power, doesn't think he can get any elected official to admit that they messed up and forgot how to protect the U.S. Constitution, or even ask why -- or even how -- individual citizens' civil rights and privacy have been violated. Even if the Constitution says that the Congress is supposed to.

(Actually, the Constitution doesn't really say, "they're supposed to.") But you go ahead and define "high crimes and misdemeanors."
To that bunch.
Senators and Representatives only have to "support the Constitution." Who am I to suggest that they hold anyone accountable for anything? Even the ones who find ways to sidestep that silly oath, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." That "Best of My Ability" part is indistinct and clearly insufficiently binding. Plus: "preserve, protect, and defend." Where is there a "follow" or even a "read" in that?
Never hold up in court.
And, thus: there's no point in pursuing this "impeachment" nonsense.

I suppose it could have been worse.
The representative could have just told me to go bang my ankles because the past is the past and it's all water under the bridge. Get over it. Bygones.
General Robert is still proud.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Museums" and "Galleries"

If you're in a room where there are paintings on the walls or sculptures on the floor, or hanging from the ceiling or wherever, look around for writing on the wall near a piece of art. If it has the name of the artist or the name of the piece, you're in a museum.
If, in addition to the name or title, there's a price tag, you're in a gallery.
This confuses a lot of people on The Beach.
The simple question I hear a lot from museum-goers and museum members who keep getting begging letters from museums is this: "If you're always looking for money... Why don't you sell the art in the museum?"
Fair enough.
According to a certain museum President/Executive Director/CEO, the answer is pretty simple too. "Our intended outcome is to fulfill our mission, not to make a profit."
Most of the idiots who call talk radio think that their "hard-earned taxpayer dollars" go to government entities that provide community services and to private non-profit businesses. But non-profit businesses are not methadone clinics. Although the museum may receive state or federal grants, it is a small amount of the businesses' overall expenditures, so the museum must continue to raise operating expenses the old-fashioned way. In a museum's case, by gathering individual contributions

For-profit businesses make money to benefit their owners, stockholders, shareholders, board members. Like oil companies, farms, and restaurants.
Non-profit businesses make money to benefit their stakeholders: The Community. The idea is to make as much money as possible to support the mission.
That's what "non-profit" means.
In this deregulated Milton Freedman free market world, the capitalist thinks the Art Museum is competing with the mall -- as well as getting money from the State -- so they complain that it's "not fair" that they get letters in the mail from the art museum asking for money.
And then they just throw the letters away.
Which puts the museum in an interesting moral and ethical place when somebody asks, "Why don't you sell the art in the museum?"
Because the mission of the museum is not to sell art. It is to show art. (Some museums store art as well, and sometimes those "collections-holding" museums de-accession pieces that no longer fit their mission. Say, if they no longer show Austrian artists. Then, those pieces get sold, or auctioned, and it looks, to the casual observer, that the museum is just like that creepy "framed print" guy in the mall who sells Klimts to college freshmen.)
But what is actually happening is that the museum is staying true to its mission. It's not pimping Klimts. (Which would be a great name for your band. You're welcome.)
Today's Standard-Times has an oddly out-of-place AP article someone mistitled "Creativity fuels museums' fundraising efforts." Interesting, because it talks about private collectors helping their local museums. "Out-of-place" because another article in the same paper is about people rummaging through bulk trash day for crap they can sell on eBay.
As if there's something "creative" about a bunch of pantloads standing around in each others' homes talking about how much they paid for their latest Richard Prince Nurse thing. A private art collection is just that: private. Of interest to its owner. In the owner's private home. And I'm all for private collectors getting together to chat about their collections. Particularly if they're paying for the privilege and sending the proceeds to the museum.
But not when they're just selling each other stuff, which is a lot like "procurement." Pimping Klimts.
But a community art museum is a public place. In the case of NBAM, it doesn't collect and hide pieces in a locked vault. It shows them right there in the former bank. It teaches your kids and it shows your dad's paintings of his hometown. Often open for free, NBAM "engages the public in experiencing, understanding and appreciating art." Because that's the mission.
Coming up with "fundraisers" is the job.
And maybe that museum is doing another job: Saving, showing, and preserving the community's sense of integrity.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

"D'ye know why I hate The Beach, Third Mate?"

Every so often, I remember or imagine a conversation with Shamus, a fine Master of the Deck with whom I'm honored to say that I at least shared a commission, if not a friendship. (I've "changed" his name to not sully his reputation by association with me, a mere boater. He's a Marine, no longer on active duty, which means he works twice as hard for the Semper Fi and I will always admire his personification of the integrity, honor, and principles of The Corps. That made his personal loyalty much more meaningful.)
We got along, the decorated veteran and the avowed peacenik. Because we met on no battlefield, we had a mission "for crew and cargo," and thus the political niceties meant little. The common task gave us a common passion and sharing each other's love for the 169-foot ship model we were delivering left us equal on the deck, alow and aloft.
I was also willing to play Bud Abbott to his Lou Costello. Not because I could have used a few pounds and he was a keg with legs (although that was true).
In that he got the laughs, and I looked like the too-serious unfunny pedant.
"No, Shamus," I would have to say,"Why do you hate The Beach?"
And then he would air: "They've got re-runs of I Love Lucy. I didn't like her the first time, so what makes them think I'LL 'LOVE' HER NOW!? [I] hate The Beach."
He always left that "I" a little unvoiced, swallowed in his brogue, as if to allow those around him on the quarterdeck to join in his (only partly-feigned) scorn for the land full of ninnies and canards that we had just left behind.
It might be later, after a particularly splendid sunset, or over the day's ration of rum, or after a round of drinking songs, that he would excogitate:"D'ya know what they have on The Beach, Third Mate?"
"No, Shamus. What do they have on The Beach?"
"Number counters. Now why would you hire someone to count 'numbers?' I mean, they've already been counted. THAT'S HOW THEY GOT TO BE NUMBERS! Hate The Beach..."
Recently, I was pining for my post at the helm -- any helm -- where I could listen to anyone's musings while keeping a 400-ton hunk of wood and debt zeroing roughly in on an imaginary heading toward an inconsequential dot on an illegible chart of an unforgiving body of water. It was always a fine diversion to dialogue with Shamus, as he could expound on any subject -- an indispensable skill while underway, with a long watch and a wide sea ahead.
A skill which is little appreciated, and often mocked, on land.
Just as that jovial little man, with a past filled with ammo and good intentions, and a duffel filled with drinking songs and camaraderie, might not be appreciated in a world of self-impressed chickenhawks and narcissists with no kind feelings in their hearts or kind words on their lips. Their world, simple-minded and simplistic, its citizens incapable of respecting my esteem for those who were made to don a uniform to protect me and them. "You're a peacenik, a treehugger, a Democrat. You can't have any respect for veterans," they say. Their world, intractable and unforgiving, brainsick and moonstruck, is the one we have to navigate with all the "audacity" that hope and faith can endow.

"The Beach."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Soles'n'Bowls

  • I'm sure everyone knows that Bahston Accent that's so readily lampooned by those who've never had to deal with it on a daily basis. Yes, there are people who actually do say, "Pahk th cah." Har har. Re-e-al funny.
  • But the SouthCoast has a whole bunch of bizarre speech impediments that seem to be replacing actual pronunciations.
  • Some people think that the media causes this. Sure, Emeril LaGasse was "from" Faw Rivvah, but his affected speech pattern and faked pronunciations are not what I'm talking about. Except that most big shots around here are so weak-minded that they, too, affect weird speech patterns and ...
  • ... try to sound like Emeril. But Emeril is moving to the "Fine Living" network -- which will be the first teevee network to be violently torched when the angry gasoline-deprived mobs no longer want televised kosher cilantro-mango-blowfish recipe production numbers.
  • The Bahston thing tends to drop the ultimate 'r' or convert it to an 'ah,' but here in the SouthCoast, you can add that 'r' anywhere. If there are no open vowels at the end of a word available for your phonetic gift, just add it to any 'r' that you do choose to pronounce.
  • WARNING: This tends to make you sound a little ... effete, but a lot of rich people do it, so maybe you'll be mistaken for one. Go ahead and "Pahk th cahrr."
  • But don't make it sound like a Scottish burr. That's putting on airs.
  • The new one that curdles in my ear is final 'o' pronounced as the dipththong 'ow.' If I hear one more person say "sow" when they mean to say "so," I will urge them back to the pig farm on which they were obviously raised.
  • Another sound that makes people sound particularly precious is the 'tew.' "Too," "to," and "two" are just suffering from the spasms language endures as it cleanses. Sure, you can shift our vowels, myn vreondeman Meister Chaucer, but did you ever think that IMing would reduce "too" to "2"? Or that "to" would replace "too," "2," "two," in all online communications?
  • Or that some people would insist upon pronouncing that "to" as "tew"?
  • Never let it be said that I'm the mate who complains without offering solace and solutions. Observe:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pumpkinhead Ted

When first I found the friendly afternoon westerlies of Buzzards Bay comforting, and ran aground here in Apponogansett Harbor, I thought myself fortunate for many reasons:

  1. The love and partnership of a beautiful woman who understands both the terms "Love" AND "Partnership,"
  2. the magnificent land and history that is consistently watched over by extraordinary caretakers, whom I cherish as friends, and
  3. the fact that I stumbled into the district that is represented in the United States Senate by this guy: That's SENATOR Pumpkin HeadThe guy who has been pro-equality, pro-choice, and a protector of ANWR, an advocate of a fair minimum wage, education, student loans, and human rights.
The first time that I met Senator Edward Kennedy D-MA, I was at college, crashing a fundraiser for him at the Campus Center. I had been seeking, of course, to impress the young authoress who had stopped by our campus to write a story on drinking schools for a national magazine. Somehow, and for reasons that seemed clear only to her and me, I became her escort. (I believe it had something to do with the safety pin through the alligator on my Izod shirt.) We wound up at the open bar, working our way through the single malts.
Since I had become mesmerized by the charming way my companion's almost-black pupils seemed to roll independently in her head, I didn't see the lumbering hulk of the twenty-year senator from Massachusetts. When her focus resumed a startled expression, my cat-like reflexes swept my upper body around and there he was.
I instinctively reached out my hand, smiling widely and looking furtively for bouncers or security.
He grasped my hand warmly in both of his ... um, er, hands.
Imagine a soft -- buttery soft -- leather glove, about the size of a soccer ball. Now fill that glove with warm Jell-O™ and imagine TWO of them engulfing your extended hand. Up to about the elbow.
"Thanks for coming. Glad to see you here," he said. Then he repeated himself to my companion, patted her cable-knit cardiganed shoulder and moved on to the next group.
I've met The Senator on many occasions since, usually in conjunction with some job I was doing that he wouldn't have given a crap about, but he was always willing to smile and nod or wave and smile or nod and wave. Depending on the circumstances. Once, I actually had the opportunity to ask him "How she's cutting?" and he knew I was asking about his latest cruise on Mya, his 50-foot Concordia. Because he laughed, and had that look.
You know the one.

EXTRA LENGTH OF CHAIN: I notice around the Interwebs that -- besides the infantile folk who have helped themselves to thoughtless barrels of tastelessness -- that people are asking, like James at Aces Full of Links, "what are we going to do if we lose Ted Kennedy?"
As I often do, I started to answer that question, got self-conscious, remembered that my comments are generally ignorable blatherings, and then remembered that I have my own outlet right here.
Ted has always been my representative, even when I didn't live in his district. He represents me, my hopes for my Commonwealth and country. I've heard some outlandish remarks in the media over the past few days, but over the sniggering of some and the sniffling of others, I can say this:
If Senator Kennedy is my representative, then am I not duty-bound to be his? He's been protecting my Constitution (which is more than I can say for my president), so I will pick up the halyard and start the chanty myself. I'll go right on being a "liberal." I will, to the best of my ability -- without his means, of course -- continue to work toward a more perfect union, protecting my fellow citizens and their interests and addressing the needs of those I can help.
Are we "losing" Ted?
Those who are so heart-broken by this news should take strength from it. His illness is a warning against our habit of taking for granted those who work for us, that they won't always be around to do it, so we better start to toe that line ourselves.
Maybe we will have to do that work without him.
Maybe we should have been doing it alongside him all along.
I think that's what he probably said each time he lost a brother, a vow he may have breathed when we lost other like-minded workers, like Paul Wellstone.
"The Job" has always been ours.
Maybe we should be doing it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Operation: Thwarted Response

The US amphibious assault ship, USS Essex, is moored off the coast of Burma, prohibited by the military government from swinging into action to help cyclone victims. The BBC's Nick Bryant reports from aboard the ship.
"Hurry up and wait," is almost the unofficial slogan of the American military. It can
be deployed with rapid speed in virtually any corner of the planet - and then wait there for days, weeks, sometimes months until given the order and opportunity to fulfil their mission.
In the choppy waters of the Andaman Sea right now, that mission carries the operation name "Caring Response", and involves a four-boat US naval task force which sits just 60 nautical miles off Burma's low-lying Irrawaddy Delta.
Helicopters loaded with aid could get there within 30 minutes. Landing craft, which sit within the bellies of these massive amphibious assault ships, would take less than an hour.
Water purifying machines, ambulances, heavy trucks, medical teams are ready for the
off. Tens of thousands of gallons of life-saving drinking water are just over the horizon from the Burmese coastline.

BBC News, Saturday, 17 May 2008 22:27 UK


I'm proud that we can respond like this. The Iron Gator is one of the best examples of what our Armed Forces can and should do.

I'm appalled that it's so difficult.
I'm afraid that the Myanmar junta is probably using this natural disaster to turn the Irrawaddy delta into a bunch of expensive resorts, luxury hotels, and prize estates in a few months. Once the surviving farmers are "relocated" to Texas.
"Disaster capitalism, Naomi?" Indeed.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Soles'n'Bowls

The official start of Public Consumption Season, Memorial Day, is just a week away, so I got a few lengths' head start by visiting some of the practice sessions scheduled for the usual suspects: ANNUAL MEETINGS and FUNDRAISERS!

  • The first was a freebie: Barney Frank came down to visit his moon-faced and starry-eyed partisan supporters who gathered about the bar three deep at the New Bedford Country Club to see and be seen as true "My Party Right or Wrong" guys. I've never seen so many lime-green-shirt/kelly-green-tie/grey wool blazer combos in one place. (But, I've never been to one of those Saint Paddy's Evacuation Day Brunches.) I did notice a definite increase in the magenta-shirt/scarlet-tie combo among the khaki suit crowd. A sure sign that the market is not what it used to be.
  • Barney delivered the obligatory address, praising the New Bedford groundfishery to the mostly Fall River crowd. Our boy on the Financial Services Committee seemed tired and a little disoriented. The crowd: A lot of nervous laughter and mouth-breathing. I spent most of my time at the sushi table. (Open bar. The nigiri-zushi, however, was worth the $250.)
  • The Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts is a meticulously-managed organization that takes your SouthCoast foundation's money and makes damn sure it gets invested, managed, and spent. On decent organizations like AHA! and S.E.E.A.L. and the Women's Fund. (What good is philanthropy if it just stays in the metal biscuit tin under the cast iron laundry sink at the Summer place? I knew you'd see it my way.)
  • For the "Dartmouth Pride" in me, I got to hear The Tallest Man in Non-Profits, John Beauregard, talk about the Dartmouth Education Fund at the Community Foundation meeting. Sure, it might seem odd to people (those who aren't surrounded by knuckle-dragging rubbish-yarded yokels) that "a permanent endowment for public education" would even be necessary, since a community is generally expected to adequately fund public education. Generally. They're having a Walk-a-Thon June 14 to raise money. (n.b.: Scallops wrapped in bacon, free wine, beer, soda. Cash for mixed drinks. NOT at the Walk-a-Thon, although I would take part in more of those events if they figured.)
  • I missed the W.H.A.L.E. Annual Meeting because of the above. But I hear it was a yawner because "Mr. W.H.A.L.E." Tony Souza (without whom New Bedford would just be a bunch of Dunkin' Donuts and off-price retail food outlets) was the main attraction at last night's Night at the WarmSupper Club to benefit the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust. Florida looks great on The Souzas, Tony heading up the local Habitat for Humanity, and Elsie working to get a certain Boston rounders team to set up their Spring training in Sarasota.
  • Although it is possible that with 481 "directors," D.H.P.T. might have a challenge with some of what "heritage preservation" entails. I suggest a "White Trash Heritage" provision to their mission statement.
  • Our manse neighbors one such Hayseed Pride site which resembles Fred Sanford's place and has been "pointed out" to me by several townsfolk, who think I have some say in these neighborhood matters. I'm sure that the bathtub in the weeds will one day house a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi to keep watch over whatever vermin infest the rest of the junk historically-significant artifacts as they appear.
  • Take that, Sarasota!
  • Thursday night was sponsored in part by our neighbors at Cape Yachts, so that brings us right back to where we started:It may not be attached to the rudder, but what brightwork!
The Endless Summer of The Touring Tall Ship!
Your hostess Captain Rita has set a course for:
The Charleston SC Harbor Fest -- Corwith Cramer, Amistad, Schooner Virginia, and Spirit of South Carolina, and, of course, pirates. This weekend!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Radio "personality" describes your Third Mate as "an actor and a good guy."

Saturday night, the Orpheum Rising Project Helpers put on a show celebrating questionable talent in order to raise money. The talent was supposed to be "questionable."
It was a Gong Show.
Civic groups, high school drama clubs, woman's basketball teams, and many other organizations that are usually ignored by the "Check for $25. There You Happy?" crowd put on Gong Shows. Based on the teevee show of the same name (created by Our Guiding and Abiding Mentor™ Chuck Barris, whom see), the show is simple and inexpensive to produce and prepare, appealing equally to would-be show-biz egos as well as to would-be show-biz critics, and has just enough sense of legitimacy and "drama" to warrant clearing out at least a part of the barn/art gallery/high school gymnasium for a night.
In my experience, it is unwise and incorrect to answer the question "Was it good?" in any way. Best to just admit that the publicity got the group's name into the media and the admission/donations made it possible to buy more pens for the office.
"Was it good?"
Such a strangely inapt query. Particularly when the idea is, essentially, that it is not supposed to be "good" at all.
"Make sure you listen to Evan on Monday morning," advised Chuck Hauck, O.R.P.H. Inc. President and an organizer of the project. The "Evan" to whom my good friend referred is Evan Rousseau, one of those guys I talk about when I talk about The Tyranny of the Amateur, particularly in local radio.
The way I talk about "radio personalities," you might think that I dislike them all. I dislike what they represent: diminished expectations. In radio, media, culture.
Evan is an associate with whom I enjoy working. He's eager, willing to learn (but not too much), and is ready, willing, and often prepared to ask questions. That's in the real world. I cannot listen to his show on WBSM. Much of the airtime in the SouthCoast is taken up by the people and issues that are comfortable for the hosts and callers, not necessarily the listeners. In Fall River, it's partisan politics and currently, public housing. In New Bedford, it's partisan politics and brownfield sites. Those are the issues that have carved a generous rut into the community radio discourse. At the expense of art, music, and culture. It is not, as I often tell myself and artists, that nobody cares about our exhibits or presentations. It is that the discourse is skewed and the hosts and callers do not have the ready vocabulary for discussion of those topics. (Their "ready vocabulary" usually includes terms like "tax-and-spend liberals" or "crimmigrants.")
This morning, I caught Evan talking about The O.R.P.H. Inc. Gong Show.
If I were a fool, I would say that it was an ego thing, because being a judge at the show gave him a handy excuse to talk about himself. But that's not it. Yes, he described me in the terms above, maybe because we have shared a stage before.
But he reported the Big Story of the night, describing how the winner, 6 year-old guitar prodigy Thatch Harrison, handed his $100 prize back to me saying, "I want to give this back to the theatre."
And that's what I think the whole night was about.
We all gave something back to the theatre.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Saturday Night

My own casino, with hookers and blackjack and...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

more Adventures in I Almost Knew Them

"In a misguided way I was trying to give her an opportunity to meet me and give myself an opportunity to meet her," said the defendant, who identified himself on the witness stand as Jackson William Leslie Jordan.
-- (AP) Jury in New York City convicts fan of stalking Uma Thurman
May 6, 2008
At the risk of incurring huge and horribly embarrassing lawsuits, allow me to relate a bit of fluff incurred when I had moved a big boat to Boston.
As many of you Shipmates know, some deckmeat likes to stay aboard when we tie off, re-reading the same books they had read while underway. I am not one of those crewmembers. A foreign port is new land, and one should indulge in whatever entertainments avail themselves on shore.
Depending on what straw you've pulled.
Back in the day, a certain order of enthusiastic businesspeople might find themselves at the dock seeking to engage members of the shore leave crew in entertaining diversions. Throwing the bones, purchasing a quaff, other indulgements, involving other, skilled practitioners.
Gone, however, are the days of "dockside fine and merry free girls." Especially nowadays when you have to buy tickets online in advance for the SeaSideMusicFest or whatever is going on. So you get to meet the good people of the community who are moved by the same spirit of intrigue.
On this one occasion last century, a comely lass, along with some friends, had braved the guards in order to "see the pirate ship." (oh yawn) She enthralled me with her chipper demeanor, abundant sable locks and sparkling eyes. Since I was due back on duty and my gentlemanly upbringing wouldn't allow a young lady to go unescorted at that time of night, we all killed time wandering up the pier to the street, talking story.
I don't know why the topic changed course, but my walking companion mentioned that she knew Uma Thurman.
I, too, knew of Uma. Well, as well as anybody else who had (at that time) seen Baron Munchhausen and her portrayal of Venus. (I couldn't find an adequate still of that, so here she is with Oliver Reed. Because I know another redhead who'll appreciate that.)That's her on the right. No, this girl knew her. As in: chums, pals... Apparently, Enchanting Inkylocks had grown up in Western Massachusetts, where Uma's Dad taught at some school there or other. (Yes, I know who he is, and where he taught. I have a handful of his Buddhism tracts. I kid because I'm trying my hand at "jackass.")
Enchanting Inkylocks' brother was a popular high school star athlete. You know, the good looking, smart kind. Letter-sweater-wearing All-State All-Conference Prom King and Every-Team Captain. The kind that had followers. Admirers.
The kind of admirers who would wait down at the end of the driveway just to stare dreamily and sigh at the famous luminary. You know, who might just hang around in order to catch a glance or word they might interpret as encouragement. The kind of admirer who might take advantage of a friendship with the sister of such a personage in order to "get closer" to him. To get an "opportunity," let's say. Even though the brother may not be particularly interested in the young, gawky, too-tall kid with the big feet.
Who would, one day, be mind-achingly pulchritudinous.
Must've been something in the water.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Soles'n'Bowls

  • One of the most unexpected shocks I ever experienced as a kid was a kick to the groin by an opponent in a schoolyard fight. I had landed one punch because I beat his reach by about a foot, and he resorted to what we all knew was cheating: a kick.
  • Fifth Grade brawling can be surprising enough, since I usually didn't have to deal with that nonsense because I was the tallest one in my class, and unsettling enough, with all the "he started it" stuff and useless energy expenditure. But the kid obviously had no intention of fighting fair -- according to the no-kick rules of the day -- and onlookers recognized that, chased him off the yard, and treated him as a pariah until, I'm assuming, high school.
  • This tempered my opinion of something called "kickboxing" (since it seemed to defy an important rule) and even that John Cusack movie. Unfair fighting is unfair fighting, and kicking was, to me and my crowd, cowardly stuff.
  • And so, I react to the Mixed Martial Arts controversy with that lesson.
  • A major part of sport is respect. It's called sportsmanship. It's not the egocentric selfishness of "winning is the only thing." Sportsmanship is a respect for the guys who played before you and will play after you. It's respect for the people watching and the other people playing -- even on the other team.
  • So-called "Mixed Martial Arts" is JUNK SPORT and shouldn't be encouraged. And the adherents' arguments that kids "learn self-defense and self-respect" and "nobody's died from it" is dangerously delusional JUNK SOPHISTRY. It may, indeed, teach kids the rudiments of some cobbled-together movie stuntwork while insulting every Eastern discipline, but it is not "art" or "sport," no matter how much phony morality or fear-driven tough-guy bravado you slap on it.
  • But Fall River usually encourages both violence and stupidity. So, at least there's no hypocrisy involved.
  • Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, as the Good Doctor reminded us. See if you can spot what's going to be the next Umbrella Academy. And in other comic book news...
  • The bigscreen popcorn-cruncher Iron Man enters general release today. I'm looking forward to it, and shared this trailer


  • with my Beloved.
  • She instructed me to forward it along to a friend of ours, who e-mailed back. I'll share the relevant quote from that e-mail:
    "Wow! I made out with Iron Man in Junior high! :) Cool."
  • So, yes, mixed sentiments all around. But the real behind the headlines story is that Peter Billingsley is Executive Producer. You might remember Peter? Now, what was that again about "self-respect"?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Then followed that beautiful season..."

To many people, there are undeniable signs of the beginning of Summer.
We've had a cold and quarrelsome Winter here in Darkmouth, the First Town in Massachusetts to Privatize All of Its Schools (if, by "privatize," you mean "making kids and parents pay out of their pockets for everything, even at the public schools." The ones that are left, anyway.). But when our wet and week-long Spring slams into the dry, hard, and rocky soil, the flood of cargo shorts and midriffs smacks the rural sidewalks and mall parking lots like downpours on stonewalls and plastic lawn ornaments.
It's time to tumble headlong into Summer, and there's only one true signification that marks the switch from hot buttered rum to cold gin and tonic. So, fully understanding the risk of rushing the season...

Padanaram Bridge Opening Season begins Today.
Our little hamlets (the farms of South Dartmouth, the urban-identifying sections of South Dartmouth, and the cottages of Padanaram, a tiny little division of South Dartmouth) have rafted up all Winter, moored to a stretch of Gulf Road known (to the Commonwealth, anyway) as Gulf Bridge. We call it "Padanaram Bridge."
Even while the laying of community sewage lines (and subsequent road construction) defied the menacing frost heaves and continued nearly unabated (providing employment for dozens of neglected detail cops), we awaited The Opening of the Bridge.
And now it's finally here! The official press release states:

The bridge will open on the hour and the half hour from 6-8 a.m. and 8-9 p.m.
The bridge will open on the hour between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Opening Day distinctly specifies, for those particularly invested in the SouthCoast's class war, the uneasy socio-economic difference between Swamper and Snob.
To the Swamper who may never journey to the city because gasoline is expensive and he needs it for the ATV, the perplexity posed by the "bridge open/bridge closed" conundrum holds little interest. For the villagers, the bridge allowing boats to pass means that their geologic connection to the fahmahs is severed, on the hour, albeit briefly.
The Beach is a weird place.
As for me, a trip down Gulf Road at 7:30 a.m. means I get to sit for a while and admire the fleeting beauty of what I daresay is the most comfortably picturesque seaside community in Massachusetts. I don't mind sitting on the causeway to the opened bridge, turning off the car's engine and looking at the Padanaram skyline (if heading east) or the natural marsh timberline (heading west). I count the moored vessels in the harbor, noting the tide and wind direction and mere activity. The regatta's hosted by the Beverly Yacht Club this year, so it'll be quiet. Just quiet enough for some retiree, who pokes at the throttle of the Universal on his O'Day 35', heading out past the Yacht Club to Ricketson's Point and out into the Bay, and maybe, just maybe, set that new jib once he gets out past where the radome used to be at Round Hill.
Summer's here.