Monday, September 29, 2008

Autumn Isn't Usually About "New"

It's that time of year when the days have become noticeably shorter. That's evidenced by the cats, urged to clamor for their evening repast by the lengthening shadows in the foyer, and the quadriannual snipe hunt perpetrated by our beloved elected representatives.Faith or missile? Faith. Missile. Faithmissile. There's a name for a band. (click for embiggenment)
But when one needs to be reassured of that someone appreciates the marvel of modern broadcast scheduling; when one is lamenting the lack of purely comedic program juxtapositions, one can always look to the genius who programs missile defense topics on the night after discussions about faith-based initiatives. This is why I get e-mail alerts from the folk who work with Greta Wodele at C-SPAN.We love her because she unshakingly indulges the dolts we despise. That, and the yummy.
That and ... well ... Greta.
And just as we look back, at this time of year, to the events of the Summer, the nostalgia and fauxtalgia seep into our dreams, reminding us of times further back. Or maybe I'm just thrilled that pronounced WOO-BIN is such a swell read.
So I got to thinking about the old days, when I ran gleefully through the swamps of Tiverton RI, ducking the saltshot from some old swamper's 12-gauge.
You have your PlayStation.
I had mine.
And, since the low Autumn light also shines into the study, invitingly warming the shelf which holds the Bob Thurmans and dhammapadas and such, the comparison of the mean and stalwart landsmen of my childhood neighborhood (the "Swamp Yankees") to the enlightened and enigmatic Buddhists of the subcontinent appears a rewarding task.
One that could have a journal entry.
Or maybe a blog, unlike this one in that I will try to reproduce the words that I can remember. The sparse and prosaic revelations that insinuate a sublime vision.
So there I will collect the parables and wisdom that surrounded me as a youth. Think of it as a very terse and sometimes unpleasantly coarse collection of koans. I dedicate it to the bodhisattvas of southern New England, that clan that evolved from the hearty separatists who chose this part of the world to build their shining city on a hill, and, failing that, made lobster pots and jonnycakes, farms, furniture, and families. I will report the words of others, and limit my own input to found items and photographs, mood impelled. I do not guarantee a consistent series of regular posts. I remember one bit of advice from my old friend Bud: "If you don't have nothin' to say, then shut up about it.".
I'll call it The Old Swamper's Almanac.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

Reg Dunlop taught me stuff. My shipwright friend Woody was working as technical hand on a film they were shooting up outside of Damariscotta Maine, a place they call New Harbor. To some location scout, it looked like the North Carolina setting of the movie they were filming, Message in a Bottle. (They eventually moved production to Wilmington NC.)
For me, the star of the movie was the Concordia that Woody was reassembling. Because it sure wasn't Costner.
The other crew said this old guy had fired his studio-provided driver because the driver was too slow. (Strange terrain, cow and deer paths with pavement here and there and turns that sent you either into a marsh or a thicket of scrub pine, tourists appearing out of nowhere in their tacky beach ensembles. Yeah, I could see driving slowly.)
But not for Paul Newman.
Paul Newman would fill up the blue-tarp-lined trunk of the ludicrous studio lease Continentillac with ice and beers, and go visit the techies. And that's the story I'm allowed to tell. I was going to be Woody's best man (even though he wasn't marrying Sophronia, which was a little sad), so I got to hang around as an extra hand if needed and completely ignore the film-making process. I spent a lot of time chatting up the costumers at crew parties until I twisted my ankle on an icecube and spent the rest of the evening falling for a local ceramic artist who had crashed the party.
It was hard not to talk to her about "Paul and Joanne," and how love always endures among artists, and I spewed as much amateurish mawkish romantic blather as I could muster to impress the willowy blonde in the funky leather jacket.
We were together for three years.
But Newman, after shooting whatever "folksy wisdom" scene on the set that day, would drive off to be with Joanne at the community theater she was starring at that Summer. It did seem like the greatest life, the life we were all meant to enjoy -- doing what you do best because you like to do it while your partner does the same. And help out the little guy.
And I'm glad that I had the chance to shake his hand and tell him that.

Visit this site and do what you can in his memory: The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Soles'n'Bowls

Celebrate Commercial Fishing, America's Oldest Industry!
Join us in New Bedford, America's largest commercial fishing port, to learn about the men and women who harvest the North Atlantic. Walk the decks of a scalloper, dine on fresh seafood, mend a fishing net and watch a Coast Guard rescue demonstration. Experience the workings of the industry which brings seafood from the ocean to your plate.

  • That's their copy. I can't think of anything more to add, except that Sharks Come Cruising will be there, doing the chantey punk thing.
  • Not to forget the lubbers, it's Chariho RI's Rotary Club's Swamp Yankee Days Festival. It'll be plenty noisy out theah on Crandall field, Ashaway. Heah's hopin' they keep the chair caning and jonnycaking down to a dull roah.
  • Dumb as a bag of antlers.
  • Did I mention that Wanda Jackson was nominated to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Well. she was. So there's something to look forward to, January '09.
  • Best Art Museum show in New Bedford opens tonight. Besides showing Sig's "controversial" mural at Gallery X, who's holding a reception for the Members' Exhibit tomorrow. Home Grown: 10 From The SouthCoast gives painters Dave Baggarly, John Borowicz, Jason Duval, Ben Shattuck, Carolyn Swiszcz, photojournalists Pete Pereira and David Walega, sculptor Mark Parsons, glass artist Hoyt Hottel III, and John Cox, graphic designer, the whole of NBAM to show what the SouthCoast produced before it was called The SouthCoast.
  • Because they're are all making money in that creative economy that you've been hearing so much about. And for the most part, right here. Where they're actually the only people who are working. Now, if only the rest of the economy could work creatively.
  • Is it still raining?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Ol' Gussah

You may remember, shipmates, that back last century, I returned to my hometown. I had foolishly thought that I could bring my professional (read "outside of Massachusetts") radio experience and skills at selling Capodimonte figurines on national teevee back here.
And make a difference.
I was young, naive, and impossibly, incorrectly optimistic.
Until the town where I was born and the people I was raised to respect and the institutions I was supposed to cherish socked me in the gut enough times to make me despise the very stink of it. And I left it to its own filth.
But Gus Suneson never did think that way, and he did, eventually, make me see a Fall River that was worth the effort.
There were nights when I was working in the production studio on Rock Street, which was separated from the on-air studio by a wall and a huge pane of glass. I can't always be sure of why I was there that late. It might have been because I had been dragooned to work the board until we signed off. It might have been because I wanted to catch the evil dwarf who had been rifling through my desk. It might have been because I was waiting for the personality-disordered cokehead upstairs to leave the building. And rather than dub off some lame taped religious tract for air Sunday morning, I would flip on the studio monitor and listen to the ol' Gussah.
Back in those days, Gus would open his nighttime show with a monologue. In professional news/talk radio, this is done in order to load up the phones and kill time before the first commercial break. Although, like most local radio operatives, he had taught himself with very little coaching or instruction, Gus was a master at it. Whether a scathing and emotional diatribe about the evils of gambling the rent money away down at that new Indian casino in Connecticut or a soft-spoken paean to warm chocolate chip cookies and WHOLE milk ("...none of that 2 percent for the ol' Gussah"), Gus was an extraordinary orator.
I mean that with probably the most respect I can possibly muster for anyone involved in radio in Fall River. His voice was absolutely magnificent. He made his local accent an incredible asset, as he drew vowels out to impossible lengths and made certain words all the more important by emphasizing important consonants -- the ones that wouldn't normally sound in Fawrivvah speech.
His was a pure radio voice. The anger, the joy, the sly wink were all there in it. In it without any electronic chicanery. The rumble of his ire, the sweet hum of his contentment. Watching him through a studio window ruined it. Like when Richard Dreyfuss sees Wolfman Jack at the end of American Graffiti. Not because Gus wasn't an imposing figure -- because he sure was -- but because even his big emotive face lent no assist to the magnificently nuanced word picture that he was painting with strong and confident brush strokes.
Although much of his show featured calls from the warmhearted elderly who seemed to be the only people who listened in those days, many people who were my age tried to catch a minute or two of the chumminess afforded during the Gus Suneson show. Whether he was execrating the City Council (where one day he would sit), or whether he was sharing a tender moment with Emma after dodging her husband Injun Joe and she would sing "How Great Thou Art" or "Amazing Grace."
I'd joke with folks around the station about syndicating his show as a "down-home comedy program" like Prairie Home Companion. We wouldn't have had to write, produce, or change anything. And I still had connections.
But we decided that it would be ... unethical. Some of us didn't want to lose Gus to the dreaded outside world. His show was a symbol of what Fall River was at that time: an insular, parochial backwater filled with lovable characters who really had a connection to each other. They were home, and the thoroughly unprofessional and ill-managed and maladroit radio was a big comfy blanket.
And Gus tucked everybody in.
My mother, who was far too young to listen to old lady radio in those days, and who doesn't listen now, had a simple reaction to my nostalgia: "Everybody loved everybody in those days."
Maybe that was true on the radio, but I sometimes get the feeling that it was true about the whole town.
And as cheesy and cornball and inappropriately emotional as Gus Suneson was, I miss that guy's facile honesty.

( more here )

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Again with The Akin House...

Akin ... since 1762 Since 83% of the people I graduated with had jobs in the financial sector and Wall Street, I've been getting calls.
Most of them have something to do with moving some of the kids into one of the barns on the property.
But, since I was raised in the woods by Jesuits, I can see connections anywhere, and so this "bail-out" thing seems that it should apply to one of my favorite causes: The Elihu Akin House, here in Dartmouth.
"So much of our heritage is lost," is the cry, usually hollered by people who have watched, over the past decades, as so much of our heritage has been lost.
Historic preservation, like history itself, is an on-going process. When I first saw the Akin House, I thought it was an abandoned shack with very little to say for itself. It seemed odd that someone hadn't knocked it down and planted a Cumberland Farms on that sweet corner lot.
But later, I found out that this Akin Homestead was one place that wasn't burned down by the British when they attacked. Even though the British troops were apparently very angry at tavern owner Elihu Akin because he wouldn't serve the lobsterbacks. And he built boats, although I can't tell whether he built them on his property because it's far from the water. But was it, back then? Did Clarks Cove reach all the way up to that rickety shed? No, that's not possible. But how did his son Jonathan start sailing from there? And find himself in lockup writing letters to Ben Franklin and John Adams? Oh, there's a letter that he wrote? And did they write back? And did he get back from wherever? Am I getting any of this right?


Granville
November the 10 day the 1778
Honoured Sir
I make Bold to Rite these Lines to Let you know my Condition about Eighteen months ago I was taken in a Ship from Bedford in Dartmouth Bound to Bourdaux By an English frigit and Carred into porchmouth where I was put in prison I Staid there Six weeks and then I made my Escape to London where I found a gentelman that had Lived at Nantucket and there I Staid till about Six weeks ago and we Disagreed and I was obliged to Ship myself or Be prest to go on board of a man of war and I Shiped my Self mate of a marchnt Ship to go to the Braziels and on the Tewetieth of october We was taken By a french Ship the Capt and all the peopel taken out of the Vessell and Carred in to Brest & Staid onbord of the Vessell and She Came into this port whare I am at preasent I told the gentelmen of this place how that I Belonged to amaricar and I was obliiged to Be in the English Servis and Now thank god I am Clear of it and I Beg the Liberty of going home I have Nothing to Show that I Belong to amaricar when we was taken By the English all my papers was taken from me But I Dare Say you know Benjamin Akin one of the Congress for Boston I am Nephew to him Elihu Akin Living in Dartmouth is my Father- I Beg the favour of you to Let them know here that I Belong to Amaricar So that I may git home the gentelmen of this place advised me to Rite to you I Beg that you would assist me for I am in a bad Condition From your humble Servant Jonathan Akin
You see how important knowing about your heritage is? You see that spelling has always been a malleable substance. Even without a Blackberry. And geography is also still a struggle, unless "porchmouth" is the same Pompey where HMS Victory is docked. Without the 1762 Akin House, there may be nobody to answer these questions for me now. Or in the future when I ask them again, because I will probably have forgotten the answers. And maybe even the questions. What with being old and all.
So that's why the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust needs $250,000 to stabilize the old place and everybody should go to the public hearing at 6:00 this evening in the Town Hall, basement room 103.
To show solidarity with the past. For the future!
Plus, we can use the skills common to the old place while we all dig our own gardens and raise our own fowl and cattle since the economy we've grown fat on and accustomed to is now over and done with.
We can learn how to help ourselves while we have all these extra hands around the fields.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Throwing Good Money to Bad Money Managers

You know the wags who sip vodka-tonics out of martini glasses to make it look like they drink martinis. The ones who say things like "You gotta have a diversified portfolio."
The truth is, an economy has "gotta" have a diversified set of economic theories. If you adhere to just one idea in a complex multi-structured economy, you are in the same situation as the guy investing only in soy. A free market is great, as long as "free" doesn't mean "unbridled atavistic greed and ignorance of actual market conditions."
So, the University of Chicago School of Neoconomics Science Fair (Milton Friedman, instructor) has played itself out with disastrous results for the rest of us. They proved -- yes, proved -- that capitalism fails miserably when it's based on a blind devotion to and naive insistence on a completely unregulated free market and dependence on disasters to create conditions for the vultures to get whatever they want.
Rather than work for it.
So, rather than go on about my plan, I'll let you peruse Dennis Kucinich's. Which seems like a swell idea, but just like his impeachment call, is too good for the rest of Congress to consider. But you, shipmates, are much brighter than they. Particularly the blackmailers who are saying we have to give Wall Street a bazillion dollars or things will get even worse.
I recognize the distinguished gentleman from Ohio, who states:

In the next few days I will push for a plan that includes equity for every American in any taxpayer investment in this so-called bail-out plan. Since the bailout will cost each and every American about $2,300, I have proposed the creation of a United States Mutual Trust Fund, which will take control of $700 billion in stock assets, convert those assets to shares,and distribute $2,300 worth of shares to new individual savings accounts in the name of each and every American.I will also insist that all of the following issues be considered in whatever Congress passes:
  1. Reinstatement of the provisions of Glass-Steagall, which forbade speculation,
  2. Re-regulation of the finance, insurance, and real estate industries
  3. Accountability on the part of those who took the companies down:
    a) resignations of management
    b) givebacks of executive compensation packages
    c) limitations on executive compensation
    d) admission by CEO's of what went wrong and how, prior to any government bailout
  4. Demands for transparency
    a) with respect to analyzing the transactions which took the companies down
    b)with respect to Treasury's dealings with the companies pre- and post-bailout
  5. An equity position for the taxpayers
    a) some form of ownership of assets
  6. Some credible formula for evaluating the price of theassets that the government is buying.
  7. A sunset clause on the legislation
  8. Full public disclosure by members of Congress of assets held, with possible conflicts put in blind trust.
  9. A ban on political campaign contributions from officers of corporations receiving bailouts
  10. A requirement that 2008 cycle candidates return political contributions to officers and representatives of corporations receiving bailouts

  11. And, most importantly,some mechanism for direct assistance to homeowners saddled with unreasonable or unmanageable mortgages, as well as protection for renters who have lived up to their obligation but fall victim to financial tragedy when the property they live in undergoes foreclosure.

But just to be extra safe, I'm following the lead of my Swamp Yankee forbears. Just to hedge (if you'll pardon the expression) my bets.

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Philatelic Autmnal

    Valley of the Yosemite. The one in Assonet.According to this article in today's Standard-Times, one of New Bedford's most beloved and respected artists, Albert Bierstadt, was honored with this commemorative stamp by the United States Postal Service.

    A month ago.
    In Hartford.

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    solesnbowls


    • The latest arctic ice map. Northwest Passage fully navigable. It's this Summer's chart. The dotted line is where the ice usually goes. But I'm sure someone will say that this happens every year and was more open in the Nineteenth Century, when all those guys died of exposure and frostbite looking for The Passage. In July.

    • "If you shoot the geese that are flying south for the winter, does that mean that winter won't come?" I'm sure that's a metaphor for something, but The Great Dumbing-down has muddied up the irony.

    • It's "be assured" OR "rest assured," NOT "be rest assured." Make any necessary adjustments.

    • These so-called "money crises" only serve to prove what I've been saying all along: There is no such thing as money.

    Soles'n'Bowls

    • I've been trying to publish this for a day now. I've recreated it a bunch of times, but Blogger has decided to delete it every time and publish a saved version from early this week.
    • You see, there's an option which allows me to craft "Soles'n'Bowls" and then type in the date and time for publishing. When that didn't work, I added bits to an older version and tried to publish that. What you see above as "solesnbowls" is that.
    • I stand by what I said yesterday because I am impatient with the technology, not because people suck.
    • And besides, if I'm ordered to set topsails, I set topsails. I don't delete topsails.
    • Newly-mysterious mystery woman and BooBoo nemesis ("nemetrix"?) Keri Rodrigues has a blog in which she does basically what I do: complain about the Durfee Hilltopper Alumni Sociopathic Entitled Elite & Childish Aggression Club. The latest installment shares the comments of some local knuckledragger who excels at one of the old mill town's favorite pastimes: Defending the inappropriate act of a politician because it's "Fall River Funny."
    • Someone who is far more proud of his hometown is Bitterandrew from Armagideon Time. He's launched a new vessel yclept pronounced WOO-BIN, which plies the rawky shawline of the suburban Boston lingua loca.
    • And just in time, because in her newest work, The Wordy Shipmates, Sarah Vowell devotes more than a full sentence to mentioning and quoting captain and carpenter Edward Johnson, a founder of Woburn, from which all those "-tons" originated. You know: Wilmington, Burlington, Stoneham...
    • I was thinking about Burlington while all this Lehman stuff broke. I worked in Burlington for a company called "Shearson-Lehman Brothers," which was like Lehman, only last century. I'm sure the inelegant twits I worked for all got millions in severance for crashing their departments. Serves them right.
    • Looking for something to do with all the extra FAILcash? I received this recently:
      Make a donation to Planned Parenthood. In Sarah Palin's name. And here's the good part: when you make a donation to PP in her name, they'll send her a card telling her that the donation has been made in her honor. Here's the link to the Planned Parenthood website:
      http://plannededparenthood.org/
      You'll need to fill in the address to let PP know where to send the "in Sarah Palin's honor" card. I suggest you use the address for the McCain campaign headquarters, which is:
      McCain for President
      1235 S. Clark Street
      1st Floor
      Arlington, VA 22202
    • Well, here goes. It looked better with the chart atop, anyway.
    • Oh. And it's Talk Like A Hollywood Stereotype of Vile Maritime Criminals Day! Woo-hoo.

    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    An end...

    On board and underway, a log is a form of communication. Between watches, between the ship or the skipper and the Coast Guard or the owner, between the mate and him or her own self.
    I like being a member of a crew. Even in the simplest efforts. Comparing conditions during the watches, suggesting course modifications, pointing out any onboard events or landmarks ashore.
    So, as I attempt to navigate life here on The Beach, I thank the individuals who stand by to reef topsails and courses as I weather-helm dangerously close to the biscuits. Metaphorically.
    I had hoped that this "journal, left open on the galley table," might prompt some like minds to engage in conversation. And perhaps to cull from others' insights some navigational aids that might ease or enhance this shore adventure.
    I thank those who stop by this particular clog in the tubes every week. (Honestly, if it weren't for accidentally hitting the "publish" button and tearing like a maniac back to the site to see if I had actually broadcast those misspellings and embarrassing remarks about my wealthy and powerful acquaintances, I'd rarely be here myself.)
    I deleted my MySpace profile and account (a bit of which I place below), telling the servo compudrones in Mr. Murdoch's electronic empire that I no longer would provide free content to add to the quag on the single ugliest and most foul-mouthed enabler of America's sexualization of minors and infantilization of adults. No, I decided, no longer was I going to sign in or on to something that urged me to pimp or pwn someone or something.

    I did copy-and-paste some of my Impossible posts to the "Blog" section but, since I didn't use enough salty language, I was ignored. Handily.
    Even by the "pirates" and "actors."
    Apparently, I wasn't serious enough since I hadn't said fuck eighteen times in the first sentence and added a bunch of vomiting smiley emoticons.
    I am not saying that this "social networking" should not be available to those who can use it effectively. I am saying that the people who can use it effectively -- that is to say, those who know its ins and outs and apps and whatsits -- have shown me little welcome.
    And since these brave new associations are based primarily on fakery, narcissism, and delusion, I won't miss being a part of it.
    And I, who have spent my life among the reel-to-reels and bottles and canvas and lights and meetings and tillers and tears and cues and monitors and belt sanders and passion and headphones, am no match for the egoistic monologues and false chumminess of the cliques who meet online.
    I am not made for the online social netfaking world.
    My mates are flesh and blood, and they answer in full, passionate sentences, filled with nuance and actual breath. Their eyes speak libraries of volumes that no program code could ever attempt. Their additions to my life are real. Some are long draughts of refreshment, some are sumptuous repasts, some leave actual scars -- not temporary flash tattoos.
    In true fact, the percentage of my friends who actually read this journal regularly is probably something like the percentage of voters who came out this week in my town for the primary. (According to this column by Jack "Hillary4EVAH" Spillane: 12 percent. So I have that.)
    I am not a devious or clever man, although I can talk my way out of or into just about anything. I have made good impressions with the looks and social skills that my heritage granted me, and a knack for knowing when to not. I know when I have been wrong and admit it; I know when I have been wronged and try to correct it. Sometimes those instances are remarkable in their sameness. I have made mistakes, learned from them, and I have constant doubts about my redemption. I have never ever walked into a room, joined a conversation, and been utterly and completely ignored.
    That only happens to me online.
    I've accepted that The Journal of H.M.S. Impossible is flawed. It is about flaw. I don't really have anything of tremendous import to offer to Tall Ship enthusiasts or historians. What good would my list of waterfront events be to someone who has the same resources -- The Google™? I don't "health blog" since I don't unfailingly recount every glucometer reading or review new Splenda recipes. I don't even publish a post every day.
    Maybe other craft have better courses or pedigrees. I can only pilot the channels that I encounter in my adequate, if antiquated, craft, pointing out the deadheads and buoys and pilings and shallows.
    I should not, however, be required to accept the various and specious rules of each Twitter and Facebook and tolerate their implausibility, or accept their inevitability.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Go Vote

    (where applicable)

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    "We got to touch the elephant," Vanessa said. "It was prickly."

    What's better than a circus?
    To Americans: Vegas-style illusionists.
    Look: I know Lyn and Marc and I like 'em. I recorded an overwrought show opener for Lyn years ago, and have always felt a showbiz kinship.
    And, yes, a little crush.
    Of course, the last time I performed magic tricks ILLUSIONS on stage, you would swear that that's where Will Arnett got the character stage antics for G.O.B. As a matter of fact, as a member of the Buttonwood Park Zoological Society and a sap someone who volunteers for things like parties for disabled kids, I had wanted to work last Saturday's gig, but I've been exercising my groomsmanity and had a "Jack'n'Jill" party that date to organize.
    And the last time I volunteered to work with elephants at the Zoo, I was accosted by Ruth the Elephant, who apparently thought that it would be "funny" to perform a "reacharound" when the photographer snapped the group souvenir. That's me below, the paisley pirate not looking at the camera. And that's how I learned that the shock of an elephant's proboscis grabbing my area is the one thing that will keep me from mugging for the lens.

    bad touch
    As a fellow performer, I like to promote Lyn's act when appropriate and I get the opportunity.
    So, earlier this Summer, I promoted a spectacular that promised to be the final remarkable stroke of Ms. Dillies' election-year effort to get citizens to register and vote, "Your Vote Is Magic." The culminatory event was Saturday, at Buttonwood Park Zoo.
    Well, the parking lot.
    The article I quote in the title above is short on specifics, like "how many voters were registered at the event" or "how do misinformed partisan radio mouthpieces 'moderate' an event" or "how many six-year-olds plan to vote for The Crazy Mommy and The Scary Old Guy."
    And then I realized that I am a plodder.
    That politics isn't about important issues.
    It's about the illusion of issues.
    But we can still attend the circus and be entertained by the clowns.
    And accept that, yes, Vanessa, the elephants can be "prickly."

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    If you're gonna have a Culture War...

    ... have a little class.

    by Joan Lowry, WASHINGTON(AP) - A conservative political forum on Saturday sold boxes of waffle mix depicting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a racial stereotype on its front and wearing Arab-like headdress on its top flap.
    The product, Obama Waffles, was meant as political satire, said Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, two writers from Franklin, Tenn., who created the mix and sold it for $10 a box from a booth at the Values Voter Summit sponsored by the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council.
    Republican Party stalwarts Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were among speakers at the forum, which officials said drew 2,100 activists from 44 states.
    While Obama Waffles takes aim at Obama's politics by poking fun at his public remarks and positions on issues, it also plays off the image of the classic pancake-mix icon Aunt Jemima, which has been widely criticized as a demeaning stereotype. Obama is portrayed with popping eyes and big, thick lips as he stares at a plate of waffles and smiles broadly.
    Placing Obama in Arab-like headdress recalls the false rumor that he is a follower of Islam, though he is actually a Christian.
    On the back of the box, Obama is depicted in stereotypical Mexican dress, including a sombrero, above a recipe for "Open Border Fiesta Waffles" that says it can serve "4 or more illegal aliens." The recipe includes a tip: "While waiting for these zesty treats to invade your home, why not learn a foreign language?"
    The novelty item also takes shots at 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, Obama's wife, Michelle, and Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
    The Obama campaign declined to comment.
    Asked if he considered the pictures of Obama on the box to be racial stereotypes, Whitlock said: "We had some people mention that to us, but you think of Newman's Own or Emeril's - there are tons and tons of personality-branded food products on the market. So we've taken that model and, using political satire, have highlighted his policies, his position changes."
    The summit was co-sponsored by the socially conservative public policy groups American Values and Focus on the Family Action.

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    Soles'n'Bowls

    • There's a certain crew who used to constantly go on and on about what they termed the "elitist habit of political correctness." So, why are they suddenly so sensitive about investigating the background of a vice-presidential candidate's lack of qualifications or mentioning her sloppy personal life? Getting mighty political correct over on that barquey, say what.
    • You want to talk hope? Join the ranks who think they'll have a great future by electing mean-spirited, vulgar, and ill-informed liars to public office. There's a "hopefulness" there that just can't be reasoned away.
    • "People were coming into my office, phone calls were flooding in, e-mails were coming in, 'I just sent money to Obama, I couldn't sleep last night' — from the left. To see this cocky wacko up there," Chafee said to laughter. Lincoln Chafee, about the cocky wacko who's given rednecks and pitbulls a bad name.
    • Gallery X has a veterans' art show for the next week, featuring art from New Bedford's Veteran's Transition House.
    • I perceive supercolliders and climbing Mt Everest in the same way. My Eighteenth Century brain says "Good for them, experimentation and challenge can benefit everyone by leading to discovery and understanding." The Twenty-First Century brain says, "Why are you wasting resources while so many people are poor, sick, homeless, jobless?"
    • Summer's not over in New Bedford until the Dancing Dogs play over by the fountain in Custom House Square. Noon, Thursday.
    • Culture War? Huh. And I always thought that was just the tension between me and the idiots who didn't know what I was talking about.
    • Some religious sects want to destroy "demons" that "possess" our world through banning music and books.
    • We all know that little kid who ties a towel around his neck and pretends to be a superhero, saving the world.
    • Same thing.
    • And I suppose we should embrace The Redneckification. If they promise me that Wanda Jackson will be Queen, I could get used to mojitos in cans.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Fall River's LNG fight is familiar, but different, in...

    Broadhaven Bay, County Mayo

    Saormheáin Éireann (IndiemediaIreland) reports on the way international Oil'n'Gas treats folk in other parts of the civilized world. Shell To Sea is a group trying to gain justice for the people and environment affected by a gas pipeline in Ireland. I'm posting this here, unedited. Click the links if, like me, you'd never heard of this. They get you up to speed in no time.


    Shell to Sea campaigner begins Hunger Strike
    This evening Shell to Sea campaigner Maura Harrington has begun a Hunger Strike to coincide with the arrival of the Solitaire, pipe-laying vessel in Broadhaven Bay. In a letter that was handed into the Solitaire in Killybegs yesterday, after being previously sent to Allseas Ltd (owner of the Solitaire), Ms Harrington stated that she placed her life in the hands of the Master of the Solitaire, Mr Simon van der Plicht. In her letter, she stated that her hunger strike will end in one of two ways, either that the Solitaire leaves Irish territorial waters or her death. A constant vigil has started at the gates of the Shell compound at Glengad in support of Maura Harrington and her opposition to the Corrib Gas Project.Meanwhile also this evening, the Garda Water Unit boarded 3 fishing boats and arrested the 3 fishermen who were attempting to safeguard their fishing gear which was in Broadhaven Bay. Previously the Department of Agriculture has stated that this was a civil matter between both parties and should be resolved in the courts however with both a heavy Gardaí presence and both the LE Orla and Aoife in Broadhaven Bay, it seems obvious that the State wishes to push this project through by force alone.For more Information on the fishermens dispute see: http://www.corribsos.com/index.php?id=1901

    For verification phone: Maura Harrington - ********* or Terence Conway - **************Notes: Below are the two letters handed to the Solitaire yesterday.

    *************************************************************************************

    Please be advised that, if and when your vessel, the Solitaire should approach Broadhaven Bay, Co. Mayo - a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds - it is my intention to begin a Hunger Strike to the death. I am aged 54 years 11 months and weigh 6 stone 9lbs. Given my age, weight, medical history (calcified TB since 1980) my death will take place relatively quickly but not painlessly. The toll extracted by eight years of activism to the Shell dictated, State facilitated Corrib Project is a not insignificant factor in hastening my death.
    I place my Life or Death in the hands of the master of the Solitaire, Mr Simon van der Plicht. Be under no illusion that this is an idle threat. I will begin my Hunger Strike, as stated if and when The Solitaire approaches Broadhaven Bay - it will end in one of two ways.

    1. On written confirmation by Mr van der Plicht that the Solitaire is outside Irish territorial waters, such confirmation to be faxed to Irish Times Marine Correspondent, Ms Lorna Siggins at fax no. +353 91 582184

    2. My Death.

    Maura Harrington,Shell to Sea,Sunday 10th August 2008

    **************************************************************************************

    Doohoma,Ballina,Co. Mayo,Ireland

    FAO: The Master of the Solitaire, Simon van der Plicht
    My name is Maura Harrington. I am Principal of Inver Primary School, situated beside Broadhaven Bay. I am a native of Erris and have spent all my life here.My sense of personal outrage is driven by the primacy of Place - people come and go in nano seconds; Place endures.
    As I write, my husband, who is a professional Public Registered Auditor, is entering his second month of continuous medical attention as a result of injuries sustained while in police custody (of dubious legality) in a matter related to your vessel's presence in Irish waters.
    In early July I alerted your company's HQ legal division by phone, fax, email and registered post to the fact that your current contractor, Shell E&P Ireland Ltd (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell plc) may have been somewhat economical with the truth when engaging the vessel of which you are master to carry out a pipe-lay operation as proposed/contracted.
    I requested that my last communication per email to the legal department of Allseas would be brought to your attention. In the absence of any acknowledgement by the legal department of receipt of such I now attach a copy for your attention.
    As stated therein, be under no illusion that I am anything other than deadly serious in my intent.

    Maura Harrington,Shell to Sea,4th Sept, 2008



    (In the movie of this, some fatcat oil execs (with a cigar, probably) would be grousing about what the jerk would call "the sordid headline-grabbing spoiled dolphin-kisser Luddite." And then word comes that she's dead, and he cries real tears "for the first time in his life" and then puts all of his company's investors' money, and his own millions of retirement/severance benefits, into the Maura Harrington Memorial Solar, Wind, and Tidal Energy Power complex. I prefer my rich fantasy world. I may never leave.)

    Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    J. Roger Sisson, 87, from the EastBayRI papers

    J. Roger Sisson, 87, of Tiverton, died peacefully on Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, surrounded by his children. Born in Portsmouth on August 14, 1921, he was the second of four children born to the late George L. and Mary (Corcoran) Sisson. He was the husband of 64 years to the late Jacqueline Hamel Sisson who died in May, 2008.
    Mr. Sisson lived a full, storied and rich life. He attended Spencer Borden Elementary School, Morton Junior High School and BMC Durfee High School in Fall River. He enrolled at Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Penn., from 1942 to 1944, completing college courses early to enlist in the armed forces.
    A veteran of World War II and a true patriot, J. Roger was a member of the 106th Infantry Division, where he served as technical sergeant. In January, 1945, after having fought in the Battle of the Bulge, he was declared missing in action. He was held as a prisoner of war in Germany for nearly six months until being liberated on Good Friday, 1945, by troops commanded by General George Patton. He was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, three Battle Stars and numerous other citations. He attended Providence College on the GI Bill after his service.
    As a civilian, Mr. Sisson continued his commitment to public service. In 1954, he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he served for three consecutive terms representing Ward 9 in Fall River and the Town of Somerset. During his tenure he was committed to labor, employment and land-use issues. In 1959, he led a walk from Fall River to Boston to raise awareness about transit worker rights, which paved the way for productive, strike ending negotiations.
    A communications professional, much of his career was spent as part owner and operator of the Fall River radio station, WALE. His early morning radio program, “The Somerset Story,” broadcast from the kitchen of his 159 Brayton Avenue home in Somerset, made him a local celebrity. Listeners tuned in for the daily “Clothes Line Report,” and will long remember his trademark “Nice day today!” and “the panorama is simply outstanding!”
    J. Roger loved animals, and in 1947, together with his wife chose to raise their family on a working horse farm in Somerset. In 1964, the family moved to Tiverton where he continued his active interest in local politics and community issues. He helped organize “Navy Band” events at the Middle Avenue Gazebo, a longtime neighborhood favorite.
    Known for his strong and vocal opinions, Mr. Sisson will be remembered for his interest in history, politics and current events. He was a skilled story teller, with the capacity to capture an audience with his humor, emotion and candor.
    Roger leaves his children, Jay Sisson and his wife Marisa Quinn of Jamestown, Rick and Donna Sisson of Portsmouth, Jacqueline Sisson Roppolo and husband Frank of Bridgewater, Mass., Gregory Sisson and his partner Joan Woodword of Tiverton, and Lincoln and Joanne Sisson of Warren; a brother and business partner of many years, George L. Sisson Jr., and his wife Patricia (Doyle) Sisson of Bristol; his grandchildren, Aura Sisson-Castro of Jacksonville, Fla., Sarah Sisson of New York, NY, Rachel and Julia Sisson of Portsmouth, Laura and Gregory Settino of Hingham, Mass., Christine Sisson of Nantucket, Alexia, Ryan and Mia Sisson of Warren, and Katelin and Grahm Sisson of New York, NY; a sister-in-law, Madeline Hamel of Westport; a brother-in-law, William H. McGrady of Naples, Fla., and numerous nieces and nephews. He was the father of the late Paula Sisson and Christine Sisson-Settino, and brother of the late Lawrence Sisson and Nancy Sisson McGrady.
    A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Barnabus Church, East Main Road, Portsmouth.



    (The above newspaper obituary was not written by me. Mr. Sisson was a neat old guy who lived up the street and was an inspiration to me. Back in a world that seems impossibly far away. Back when radio and politics and community service were considered noble pursuits.)

    Going Digital

    According to this AP article in this morning's Standard-Times, the big changeover from that nasty old-fashioned "analog" broadcast teevee to the nasty newish digital teevee has begun. Since most of the residents of the first digital midwife town, Wilmington North Carolina, already have cable, it wasn't that big a deal to them, but a certain number of people have bought "converter boxes" from the Radio Shack and WalMart. Though I somehow feel that Finkelstein's on Water and Market has some to sell right next to the Fender amps.
    But maybe that's my desire to paint Wilmington as a rare paradise where one can get anything one wants.
    I like Wilmington because it's a historic town, a theater town, a movie industry town, with trendy restaurants and bars and schools to feed its industry, independent bookstores and coffee shops, and a brackish river that leads out to the Atlantic.
    And because it has a battleship, it's what I imagine Fall River could have been like if the "We'll Try" City had relied more on high school education than on high school basketball.
    One of the most miserable boat deliveries I ever made was the third or fourth time driving that ship model from Fall River to Saint Petersburg FL. I had ruined a relationship and lost my self-respect, and I spent most of my off-watch time moping around and hoping for big seas.
    I had never thought of Bounty as "a motor yacht," but this run held little joy, and even less sail and so, even less joy. The Foundation was smugly running the floating carnival aground under its trustees' incompetence and uninformed hubris, its business insight informed by a property management mentality that saw sheetrock where everyone else saw grand fresco murals.
    A vain, unwitting, and boundaryless board fails in its most important task: nurturing confident employees. I hadn't yet devoted my life to understanding non-profits, so I couldn't have known the crew's legal options as employees. And nobody knew anything about the tenets of admiralty law that were being ignored out of sheer unmindfulness.
    It was a boatload of uncomfortable.
    Sure, I might have spent the trip staring out at the cold North Atlantic, musing on the meaning of life and my unsignicant miniscularity, fashioning pallid and soul-wrenching sonnets that I could recite wanly to passersby while I manned the helm, chain-smoking and regretting my self-conscious and officious decision to not spike my coffee with Bailey's Irish Cream.
    We were rounding Hatteras uneventfully. On other rides, a cold dark storm cloud would crash open to welcoming breezes and warm blue skies. This time it rained. I climbed down to my bunk and crawled into a little battery-powered television. Some mindless teevee shows I can't even remember drowned out the sound of the twin diesels. I don't recall if I even wore the headphones or earpiece.
    It was a broadcast television station from Wilmington, wafting out of the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Really, that's all I can recollect. It was a reminder of The Beach, that sinister place that housed scummy politicians and dirty business and low selfish soft-handed weasels and whores. After a while -- probably forty minutes, although my melodrama mind imagines several dank days -- I was back up on deck, and someone suggested setting topsails and courses.
    Dutifully at first, and then cheerfully, I ran up the ratlines, untied robands fifty feet above the deck, and freed the canvas that eventually, sheets and clews secured, filled with wind and filled my heart afresh.
    I imagine that, these days, I wouldn't have a digital converter box in my duffel bag to convert the probably terribly uninteresting signal.

    I could avoid the lonely melodrama and moping altogether.

    Monday, September 8, 2008

    Saturday, September 6, 2008

    "Where does the sun go?"

    The preparations for Rainstorm HannaNo'H' were actually finished yesterday afternoon when the vineyard guys decided to roll their Montauk onto the middle of the fore grapeyard.A three-hour tour of the Gewurztraminer I was thinking to myself about the times when, if one had waterfront property, after a good blow one would find boats and pieces of boats on one's backyard. But we at stately Goon Manor, even without an ocean view, distrust the unpredictable nature of, erm, nature, and so park vessels on our lawns beforehand.
    Other, more community-minded preparations -- like the fact that the hurricane barrier would be closed if seas are expected to be 3 feet above normal -- are detailed in this S-T article. Which has a picture of Kalmar Nyckel's spanker getting furled while they're planning to ride out the whiffs and splashes by running across the street in your foulies and eating at Catwalk or drinking at the National. Or whatever you kids are doing these days.

    My college roommate Rich was fond of quoting Saturday Night Live bits. Randomly and loudly. I enjoyed the company of the college roommate, except for that, at times. In fact, I haven't actually sat down to watch Saturday Night Live (or 'SNL' as it is known by modern-day attention-disordered) since I left the rarefied college atmosphere. Which means that I have missed something like twenty years of it.
    But every so often I will hear in my mind's ear, as my brain strives vainly to extract that Insipid Credit Report guy from its aural nimbus, Rich and his authentic New Jersey accent doing a passable recreation of Joe Piscopo's 1981 Andy Rooney impersonation, from which I snag the above title.
    I tend to use that phrase in my day-to-day discourse when I hear someone who seems rational and calm and whose argument appears terrifically well-thought out, if not completely WRONG-HEADED.
    Why I bring that up is my encounter with another nifty waste of the Internets known as iVillage, which, according to my sources, shares important information like J-Lo fashions and boyfriend-pleasuring tips. Like every other misuse of the Interwebs, this particular forum of baby-lovin' down-home-regular-joes with 'puter skills simply ravages my trust that everyone who gets through 10 to 12 years of public schooling is capable of understanding certain simplicities about the world.
    For instance, one heyboarder remarks that
    We had some driving rain a few weeks ago that resulted in serious flooding to DH's ["Dear Hubby"? "Dumb Hillbilly"? I don't know. I don't get these people] office as well as all of the surrounding buildings and cars. This was just rain with no accompanying high winds. Yes, DH's office is waterfront, but there is a major thoroughfare between the buildings and the water, which was under 3 feet of water itself. The cars that were parked in that area mostly had to be towed away, and it ended up being thousands of dollars of damage to DH's office and the bar that he and his investment group are renovating. Also, his network was down for *2 days* during which he could not do business. This was just from rain.
    Thanks a lot for all of your protection, hurricane barrier. It's nice to know that the people in charge think they've got all of their i's dotted and their t's crossed when in reality, the business center of New Bedford would be decimated in the event of a serious storm.
    Dear whitewave7 (whose name had better not have any racist overtones, because if it does, I'll never drink at Rose Alley Brew Pub, even if Dear Hubby does get the doors open),
    The "driving rain" storm we received last month (and I know, because I was driving in it) was not a hurricane. It did not come from the sea or even from the south. I suspect that you need to deride the hurricane barrier as "one of them new-fangled gadgets that wasted your taxpayer money" (that IS where you were going with that). Besides the fact that the hurricane barrier was built long before you were.
    Superciliousness aside, the hurricane barrier does nothing to stop the rain or control flooding in the streets around the inner harbor.
    Our hurricane barrier protects the Port of New Bedford from storm surge -- the damaging and destructive ocean rise that comes from a hurricane or "tropical cyclone."
    That's why all the boats go behind it.
    The hurricane barrier is an active instrument of protection. Like a condom ( with which you might familiarize yourself. iVillage has many discussions for your edification and titillation). The Army Corps of Engineers shuts the huge gates. Then the waves that come into the harbor are smaller ones. The Army Corps did not shut the gates during the rainstorm to abate poor drainage.
    BECAUSE THAT'S NOT WHAT IT DOES!
    I could go on like this, but, really: What's the point?
    As in every other online forum, the weak-minded and dysopinionated pump their bilge into the public arena in order to connect to other like-minded socio-dolts and create a community that displays and defends its own dreck. Misinformation, lies, fallacies, prejudices, and superstition flow like a flood that is never corrected or contained.
    Because it is there, in the public eye, forever.
    And no hurricane barrier can stop it.
    Fair winds, everyone.

    Friday, September 5, 2008

    Tropical Strom Weekend

    I tried to find out if any special preparations were being made by local municipalities in the days preceding this "Hanna weather event," but the local radio stations had nothing on but the Palindroolers. It was interesting to see that WSAR in Fall River has finally sidelined the tired "balance & trust" prevarication and is now "righty and tighty" like every other talking rat box. Although it is fun to watch the owners' ambitions cancel each other out ("One's for McCain, One's for ... Clinton? It's Those Wacky Brothers!"), it is realllly encouraging to see the ol' 1480 finally do something which follows industry standards. Even if the standards reek.
    To be fair, the WBSM of New Bedford hasn't learned how to keep people who aren't listening ("Hi, who is this, Ken? Do you have a guest? What's your topic today, because I was thinking...") from calling in and throwing the host off of his prepared "Obama is a muslim who wasn't born in the US because Hawaii wasn't real yet, but Alaska was, and there are no brown-skinned illegal people in Alaska..." The same host, by the way, is still scheduled to "moderate" a "voter information" thing at the Zoo.
    To both listenerships, I suggest that you keep in mind: You might stop looking for online pics of her, too. In order to showcase the poise and character of Bristol's mom, and her respect for the American people and the office of the Vice-Presidency, she cranked up the Heart classic "Barracuda." (Keep in mind that Jimmy Carter was presdint when that bombiddybombiddybombiddybombiddybombiddybom was impossible to avoid on the radio.) But The Entertainment Weekly Hollywood Reporter says that Nancy and Ann have told everyone that Heart isn't all that keen on the idea :

    "Sarah Palin's views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song 'Barracuda' no longer be used to promote her image. The song 'Barracuda' was written in the late 70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. (The 'barracuda' represented the business.) While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there's irony in Republican strategists' choice to make use of it there."
    A quick glance at Wikipedia's 1977 in Music page gives other possible signature tunes: The Eagles' "New Kid in Town" or Hall & Oates' "Rich Girl." For instance. And I am certain that The Nuge wouldn't mind letting them use "Cat Scratch Fever."
    So, no, as of 5 PM Friday, there's no decision about the hurricane barrier. not drawn to scale, some letters are much smaller
    p.s. If you go to "Internet Anagram Server" and enter "sarah palin," one choice (if you add your own capitalization) is "Sal Piranha." Now, what do you think is the more appropriate image?

    Soles'n'Bowls

    • It's Bob Newhart's birthday.
    • When I was sailing for ASTA, I met a lot of captains. I crewed for some of the best women with tickets, I like to think.
    • There was, of course, one woman that I did not like. Her crew called her "The Dread She-Skipper." She insisted upon making every other mate -- or captain, in one case -- painfully aware that she was a woman who could DO THE JOB. A woman who could DO A MAN'S JOB.
    • Maybe she was following the bad example set by other bad characters. She was loud, vulgar, and not really a very good captain because her crew had very little respect for her.
    • And they gave one (frankly, unverifiable) reason why: She got her seatime (a Coast Guard requisite for a licence) by driving her father's Boston Whaler around on weekends and then doctoring her papers.
    • The reason I didn't care for her was that she had no interpersonal skills. And she kept harping on that "man's job" thing. In every bar in every port and at every knot-tying and heaving-line event ASTA sponsored.
    • That is the extent of my experience with people in non-traditional occupations who really shouldn't have been in those positions. Everybody else should work in non-traditional roles until those positions became bloody well traditonal.
    • So, I'm no expert and I guess I would sound like a sexist this week when I say that I'm not impressed by a politician giving a speech. But I'm not.
    • For a very important reason: I've delivered some pretty stirring addresses. And I've never run for anything.
    • I am, however, disgusted by the people who are trying to get their names on important papers in my country. I'm not impressed by their ability to shoot pretty wildlife from a helicopter or duck blind or behind an old pal, even.
    • Because I have friends who can do that sort of thing pretty well. Without the shooting guys in the face part. And I would rather see my friends in charge of stuff.
    • Besides the fact that there is only ONE Maverick -- well, two, as long as you don't count Roger Moore.
    • In reference to the Boundary Waters region of Minnesota, I mentioned bad pizza and good cheeseburgers. One real reason to eat in Ely MN is the walleye. nom nom nom
    • Bob Newhart's birthday.
    • I share my own thoughts here in this journal because I'm not qualified to share the thoughts of others. I hold doors open for anybody behind me, and I try to help folks navigate when they need aid. I believe that, every four years, I have an opportunity to, in a very small way, share my civic responsibility to make my country, county, region, town, neighborhood and home a better place.
    • And that's as self-centered as I believe it is civically appropriate to be. And I may actually vote against my self-interest in order to help make my country, county, region, town, neighborhood, and home better.
    • So why do people think that it's appropriate to vote "to send a message"? You can send a message by writing to your representative, not by voting for the girl because she's a girl, or for the white guy because he's white.

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008

    A Yankee Mourns Jerry Reed

    To me, Jerry Reed represents how Country music slipped into the mainstream of popular middle- to no-brow marketplace accessibility. Which means that he'll be remembered by future generations as the hayseed singing' 'bout dogs, trucks, ex-wives.
    Jerry, the amiable character actor. Jerry, the gifted singer-songwriter. Jerry, the savvy business mind.
    Naw, we'll jes be yooo-logizin' the good ol' boy which sung us 'bout Amos Moses.
    I remember sitting on the school bus, trying to ignore the loud, scratchy AM radio that the driver insisted upon playing. This was last century, when "morning radio" was about playing popular, family-friendly, crossover novelty hits while giving the time'n'temp'n'scores in ninety-second bursts between ads and songs.
    As a fifth-grader, I didn't think that "When You're Hot, You're Hot" was serious music, because "serious music" was the utterly inaccessible Classical or Jazz that older folk had on their record players. I was brought up to believe that important music, like "Take the A-Train" or "Straight No Chaser" would define our culture.
    And "Jeremiah was a Bullfrog" would not.
    But I look around these days and I wonder.
    The rich, literary, and impressively complex Southern culture has been unfairly distilled to mere "redneck."
    Even here in Massachusetts, I see the flag of the Confederacy on pickups. I hear people cheerfully quoting Jeff Foxworthy and Larry The Cable Guy without the irony. I listen as neighbors drive up and down our road on dirt bikes or in SUVs cranking Brooks & Dunn.
    I go to more bluegrass and folk shows than rock or jazz.
    I feel a little guilt about some of the books in my library: Gabriel Garcia Marquez is not Charlaine Harris. (I do, however, have plenty Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, and a special place in my heart for To Kill A Mockingbird.)
    I have always fought the urge to adopt good ol' boy line readings when the part calls for "a country bumpkin." It just doesn't seem fair.
    But, since I have a New Englander's penchant for complete sentences and keeping most of the consonants intact, I have been called "Yankee," or more recently, "an elitist."
    But that isn't my point here.
    My point is that our last two presidents have had southern accents and one of our current vice-presidential choices has said that she is proud to be "a redneck."
    I sometimes convince myself that people who claim to be proud of being "a redneck" are truly proud as I am of the origin of the word: The red bandanas worn by the 15,000 union-organizing coal miners who stood up to mining company oppression in the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia

    Convince, or delude.

    Tuesday, September 2, 2008

    A Convention? In Minnesota?

    UPDATE: The term "party" as used in the following refers ro either the convention activities or the actual "leadership" of the GOP. No offense to my many friends who tend to, for reasons known only to their parents and God, pull the 'R' lever. MY opinions, shipmates.


    My Beloved's family settled (after adventures with Vikings, Injuns, and Huguenots) in Minnesota's Iron Range. Those folk organized and burrowed deep into the crust of the Earth to provide raw materials to union-supported industries, and to house the united workers of this once-great nation.
    The people I met there -- not just relatives, mind you -- are smart and intensely practical, so it only speaks to their sense of community and hospitality that they can have any patience for the party that's taking over one of their fine cities. Remember, these are the same people who didn't think it was funny when I disturbed a voyageur.
    By golly, I t'ought vas funny, don'tcha know. Unlike those who search the prairie for Lake Wobegon, I grew to especially love the Boundary Waters region, and knowing that a canoe (or skimobile, depending on the season) would put me in Canada. The cheeseburgers tasted better, but the pizza did not. And since I was assured that winters lasted nine and a half months and made men go mad, I decided to moor in saltwater.
    In Saint Paul MN this week, a bunch of suits that can't say "union" without shaking their heads and complaining about teachers, are working to impale one John McCain on the pike of "commander-in-chief." This one John McCain, whose website's online store doesn't claim that its apparel is made by union labor or that it's even made in America. Unlike this Obama guy.That Obama. He's got these all over his site. Show-off.
    We'll watch the zany machinations that seem meant to convince wary voters that the act of "voting" is just that: an act. They'll trot out reasons to lurv the preznit and why a narrow slice of the country should rule the greater populace. They'll show us a nutty teleprompter reader So, um, like, I said, um, no WAY, and then I was like VicePreznit-to-be or whatevs., and we'll meet spouses like one John McCain's wife, who dresses up like Janet van Dyne, The Wasp: Although the abuse issues are closer to those of Hank Pym.
    Sure, we've watched over the past eight years (or twenty-five, depending on your feelings for ol' mother Reagan), that party has "adapted" the Constitution to allow for a certain amount of Monarchy and a much smaller amount of personal liberty. We've seen how people who have apparently never seen a dictionary can make and pass and break laws and morals. We've seen the utter disdain for democratic process and principles. We've seen how despicable cannibalistic capitalism (not the good kind) can blackmail, starve, enslave, and poison its own consumers with impunity. And we've listened as people who call themselves "Christian" act utterly faithlessly, gracelessly, hopelessly, and uncharitably.
    That's not the Minnesota that I grew to love.

    Monday, September 1, 2008

    "That's the promise of America –
    the idea that we are responsible for ourselves,
    but that we also rise or fall as one nation;
    the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper;
    I am my sister's keeper."