Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Grateful Local Bids Farewell to that "Ghiorse Factor" Guy.

I have never been a fan of John Ghiorse. I fully understand that I've lost the last two readers who regularly stop here who aren't looking for information about popes and capybaras, with that admission. But there you are.
For those who have been lucky enough to have never had the John Ghiorse Experience, first let me say that your lucky souls are enviably untarnished.
The guy scares me.
I blame him for the loss of my first "professional" radio gig. So hearing that he's retiring today just makes me glad that I won't have to hear his mumbling soporific drone guggling out of the teevee anymore when I'm trying to figure out what to wear, build, paint, rig, or dig up tomorrow. Actually it wasn't his fault, a lot, that much, the firing.
I worked at an unremarkable AM radio station that seemed to be there solely so that the two sales guys could take members of the Chamber of Commerce to lunch and coerce them to buy very cheap commercials that played between really awful music that was beamed to our station from some KuKluxKlan garrison somewhere in the Midwest. I conceived, wrote, produced, and voiced those commercials in what I called Pearls-B4-Swine Productions. The morning guy was self-possessed to the point of autism, and the General Manager was a weasel whose mood swings and fey manner belied his reputed penchant for extramarital dalliances.
The station was owned by a regional limited liability corporation that rarely paid much attention to us. Every so often -- in bursts of impulsive creativity that today we would call "manic episodes" -- the GM would develop an abortive and complicated gimmick that would invariably be re-devised, put into realistic broadcasting terms, and then complained about. For instance: There was a completely misfired attempt at filling midmornings with "live" local "talent" which meant that I would act as board-op for some client, politician, or "local celebrity" deejay. Without any thought given to the appropriateness of music played or the personality's talents or abilities, or my other duties.
I'm sure that there was some arcane logic to these forays into uncomfortable stammering and unsuitable inaptness. My suggestions re: show prep, playlists, chat material, breaks and scheduling, went unheeded and in one case were brushed off as "smarty-pants college kid fussing."
And so, at 9:08 on the appointed day, right after the live news break, I thrust my paw out at the teevee star weatherman who sat across from me. And he did... well... nothing.

...mmrrrp...And no matter what I just. Got. Worse.
I reminded him of the names of the songs, which seemed superfluous to me since they were Top 10 hits that most people could recognize pretty readily. I reminded him to give the time and temperature. I mentioned that he could ---
The in-studio phone line rang and I picked it up.
"What THE HELL is going on in there? Can't he talk? Talk to him! Make him say something! This sounds ridiculous!!!" screamed the GM.
So, I did something. I flipped on both of our mics as Glen Campbell faded into the ether, and announced, "Everybody, you're listening to John Ghiorse sharing music with you this morning. John, as a meteorologist, have you worked much in radio?"
"Really. Cuz you look pretty comfortable back here in the studio, with the turntables and all."
"Do you get to do this kind of thing a lot, guest deejay, talk to schoolkids, that sort of thing?"
"Uh... Sure?"
"So, John Ghiorse, what kind of music do you like?"
"I dunno."
As I waited for him to fill the dead air that he left at the end of each sentence, my mind raced to every possible thing that I might know about him that could fill airtime.
Er... Nothing.
"Well... let's get back into the music. It's nine-thirty-eight twenty-two minutes before ten. Here's Freddie Fender."please, dear lord, let this endThe in-studio line lit up again: "Hey, this isn't your show, it's the John Ghiorse Show. Shut the hell up and let him talk. It's his show."
I let a commercial break run out and turned on his mic. Silence. I gave a pretty recognizable hand signal for "Go ahead, start talking."
He delivered a beautifully-improvised, if perfunctory, weather report and introduced another song. As "Another song."
And then the studio door burst open and the boss shouted something and I shouted something back and it all looked like a dysfunctional family being really bad in front of a guest.
Which is exactly what it was.
And that was radio a quarter-century ago. I don't believe that it has gotten any better.
Enjoy your retirement, John.

Friday, February 27, 2009


  • I was surprised to see that no comments appeared after last week's Soles'n'Bowls meander around Rock Street's Ruskinian Gothic past. Either it's set too far back for Fall Riverites -- who need much flashier curb appeal these days -- or I wasn't very clear: Lizzie's old church is on the block again. I had been there during the first parking lot scare. When I first became confused by The Beach and its ways. (I'd love to hear if anyone has any thoughts about those bright halcyon days. Click on the "Hailing" one below. Faye, Scout, Lefty? I know you were yakking about this. I have "historical perspective.")
  • Oh, and while we're misremembering the past -- and since I'm apparently the only one who ever talks about it -- I was also involved with Fall River's Tall Ship™ Bounty, and I can answer one local radio station wag that NO, "they" DID NOT "sink it," if by "they" you mean the crew. So shut your stupid.
  • Although most of you shipmates know me as an elitist -- possibly derivative trading- -- cat-fancier, I harbor no ill-will toward dogs.
  • My childhood was a happy one, surrounded by the Wiis of my generation: pools, tennis courts, and loving, drooling, shedding, property-damaging, crapping canines.
  • I do not begrudge my father's desire to enhance his landed station by owning AKC-compatible breeds to provide grounding guidance and I eventually learned all the right lessons about responsibility, maintenance, self-acquittal, boasting, plea-bargaining, and heart-breaking loss.
  • So I think that some mutt or other is a fine idea for the Obamas.
  • My father had floated the idea of a Portuguese Water Dog, but I'm sure that I would have balked at the popular propensity for poodlizing the thing. So it was dachshunds, sheepdogs, retrievers, and the neighbors' Great Danes, collies, shepards, beagles, Newfies, and Saint Bernards.
  • Please understand that I appreciate the Portuguese Water Dog. In fact, I am sometimes considered one: Portuguese + water + dog = Your Third Mate.
  • A Cão de agua Português, according to the American Kennel Club, is an exceptional swimmer and diver, the breed retrieved broken nets, dove for fish, carried messages between boats and to shore, and guarded the boat for his master in foreign ports. Yep. Number Three, four legs.
  • Which is why I like the idea of The New Guy and his family allowing one to inhabit our White House. Were I leader of the free world, I would have bird-dogged a more nativist pup name like an AMERICAN Staffordshire Terrier or AMERICAN Foxhound or Chesapeake Bay Retriever or -- keeping it at least on this continent -- a Labrador or Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever or Newfoundland or AMERICAN Eskimo Dog or Alaskan Malamute.
  • As long as the last two don't insinuate any ugly election memories.
  • So, maybe the Portuguese Water Dog is the right choice, as long as they don't get talked into giving it a goofy shave job like this:All right! I got your thing. Now give me back my butt fur.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Mardi Gras Feminism is Showing

No. This year, there will be no fuzzy pictures of bead-seeking girls with with low self-esteem. Although I so have a lovely pic of Marisa Tomei. And a pretty nice one of Whoopi Goldberg. Yes, the Oscar™s happened and the MSN people made a funny at Whoopi's expense. BTW, how are MSNBC and CNBC affiliated? One treats the stock market like it's a

and the other, well, like it's simple Ladies' Night Texas Hold'em. Which is what it is. Really.
Anyway, I'm logging out of my HotMail account and I spy this dainty little promo pic, beckoning a blithe come-hither:
Sharing a meal with friends is a sure way to enjoy the Academy Awards, won't you?But something's wrong. (Besides the "I thought Marisa Tomei was Diane Lane for a second there" thing.) If I were the kind of person who sees fatty insults everywhere (and frankly, I have put on a little more cargo than anticipated this Winter) I would also be the kind of person who would jump up and down waving his flabby arms and screaming "FOUL!"
Yeah, okay. Whoopi's leopard-spot getup is so last December. But that's no reason to call her a "What."
Especially when wiry Marisa gets to be "Who."
So, in case anyone were wondering about the woman that Marisa wasn't, here's that Diane Lane (so that you can tell them apart), displaying some very nice beading. Enjoy your Fat Tuesday appropriately.
So, the picture like FOUR years old, but, really, aren't we all...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happy Nina Simone's Birthday

Celebrate appropriately. Doctor's orders.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I thought that I had told this story here before, but a search proved that I haven't, so while I'm in a story-telling mood, thanks to the Flash Fiction Carnival people, I'll tell this story one more time:

  • I was working on Rock Street in Fall River at a little radio station. I wish that it were all as quaint and hometowny as that appears, but it wasn't. The station was a conglomerate of loosely-affiliated broadcasters from the area, many of whom were conscientious and exceedingly talented. Others: not so much.
  • The building was a ramshackle former Nineteenth Century slap-up that sucked the life out of every human who had ever entered the door. From the feng shui nightmare of a teetering and narrow shag-carpeted stairway that slid directly out the front door, and to the bathroom that fiddler Johnny Cunnigham refused to enter (preferring to wait until we got to The Uke).
  • Some readers, who are familiar with those sticks, will claim that it was cozy and it, frankly, it could be to those of us who worked there enough to use the address as our home. I admit that I cleaned as much as I could, and that it didn't smell too badly, even with the cigarettes, dogs, and pizza boxes. (I know for a fact that one dog, a Rottweiler named Ahab, smelled better than some of the talk hosts.)
  • I was taking a "walk" outside of the studio, stalking up and down the street puffing on cigarettes and trying to figure out a way to tell "the boss" that I had to work three other part-time jobs in order to afford to work at that place. Since meeting the GM meant that I would likely have to climb the horrid stairway and probably get pulled aside by an account executive who was probably too cute for her own -- and certainly my -- good, to hear the latest tale of our abusive workplace, I spent a lot of time avoiding having to hear that guy's advice.
  • Which usually was, "Take a walk."
  • Because of the force of my spiritual upbringing -- which used to surface during times of great stress -- I stomped toward the nearest steepled building, which was the Central Congregational Church at 100 Rock Street, a beautiful and historic example of John Ruskin's idea of Gothic architecture (one of few North American samples) and that became my cause for a few months.
  • Because there was an odd printout sign that had been spewed out by some dot-matrix printer. S.A.V.E. (Save Architecturally Valuable Edifices) it read. A phone call and a meeting later, I was part of a bunch of starry-eyed optimists who had it in their minds to turn the place into an "arts complex." With studios and galleries and classrooms and performance spaces and stages and recording studios and conferences and movie nights and banquets and fundraisers and firetrucks and guns and...
  • Ideas are the mothers' milk of the creative economy, but Richard Florida hadn't coined the term yet and we were dealing with what was essentially an abandoned and gutted church that used to have a pew where Lizzie Borden used to sit. Which, of course, had been sold in some auction. But, I will never smell Murphy's Oil Soap without thinking of that beautiful woodwork in that magnificent Great Hall. And how we had scrubbed years of incense and candle smoke and coal soot off the walls, if only so that Aerosmith could film parts of a video there.
  • A couple of "Open House" fundraisers were held, attended by a few people who were curious about what the spooky old place looked like inside. I even tried to throw together an open mic night and a poetry reading. I was even involved in a remarkable production of Edward J. Moore's The Sea Horse. I think I was Assistant Director. Or Lights and Sound Designer and Technician. Or Production Assistant. It's a two character show and there were only 3 of us involved, so I must have done something.
  • It was suggested to me that a certain local businessman should be "on the team," or at least hit up for some capital. Why not the guy who owned the radio station I worked for? Since his world headquarters was just a few blocks north on Rock Street, I stopped by and pitched. I had nothing to lose. I had already left a lucrative position in a billion-dollar television operation to "follow my heart back to my hometown," or whatever.
  • "Local historical architectural treasure... As someone who develops real estate and has always had the best interests of Fall River in mind, you surely must see the worth of one of the last examples of Ruskinian Gothic architecture... Your association with the project would show that radio can really work with the community... we can even broadcast from there ... You are a leader, and other businessmen will follow your lead. They would join as soon as they heard you were in... People always talk about how you help out kids, and kids are what the Central will be all about: classes, lessons, performance space..."
  • It was a cold call and I was out of practice. But I didn't need to hear his first response:
    "I don't fund Ahts'n'Crafts."
  • Usually when I tell this story, I finish it right there, laughing heartily with the rest of the Shiraz-sippers at my not-at-all-shocking admission about some rich guy nobody cares about anyway. There, all wrapped up, nice neat bow. Also: not finished.
  • I often don't finish the story, or people are laughing so hard at the blockhead or coming up with their own incredulous instances, that they don't hear what happened next.
  • "Look, I know what you're doing and I wish you luck," he said with a sincerity that really surprised me. "But, you'll learn that this community just doesn't support these things."
  • When I shared the story with some of the others in the group, one member piped up that she just couldn't believe it. "He was involved in Re-Creation! He helped out with Jesus Christ Superstar!"
  • It might have been Godspell, but I remember her surprise that I had been dismissed by a guy who had worked with an organization that gave kids throughout the city the opportunity to engage in a Summer musical theatrical event. I remembered the project in question and even knew some of the participants. I can't remember if the project was ever repeated.
  • I do know that "Re-Creation" had mutated into "C-D-Rec," which seems to be a federally-funded and locally-supported year-round office that provides computer training, sports, dance, cooking classes, tutoring...
  • And, yes, Arts & Crafts.
  • Maybe they can put in a bid for the 100 Rock Street property. When it gets auctioned on March 26.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is Nostalgia Stimulative?

Remember this?

S Amdt. 309 to S Amdmt 98 or HR1. None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.
As always, final versions of Constitutional amendments get tweaked here and there, rarely clipped for clarity, and certainly never edited for slightly more sensible wording or acceptable logic. But, here's the final version that was accepted Friday:
SEC. 1604. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used by any State or local government, or any private entity for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool.
Seems sort of abitrary. I mean, just editing the whole line about "stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project" is better than allowing federal funds to go to building casinos, sure, but I know of one "aquarium" that could use the money. In fact, I give my own money so that schoolkids can go and learn about their world, which seems like a good investment. I wouldn't mind my government eliminating the nuisance of me having to write a check.

By now, everyone has heard the term "wasteful and non-stimulative." And by now, everyone has heard the arguments for The Arts as a "stimulative" part of the overall economy. But that doesn't alter the reality: a bunch of knuckle-dragging dopes (some of them elected) believe that The Ahts are wasteful playgrounds for elitist lefty navel-gazers and fruity kooks.
Remember: that $50 million to the National Endowment for the Arts is still in the budget because it was supposed to be in the annual budget anyway. And to think that the industries that are mislabelled "The Arts" generate SEVEN DOLLARS for every dollar invested. (Except for some local Arts initiatives like AHA!, which actually generates NINE.)
But many of those more doltish ideas about The Ahts are fading. Back last century, art was generally sequestered to two- or three-room "galleries" or "art centers," presided over by former sorority gals who had married well and enjoyed plenty of free time to devote to drinking and proselytizing the significance, beauty, and cultural importance of whatever crap they were currently obsessively collecting -- usually something involving brass and driftwood.
This was fine for me when I was hired as an arts center roustabout, since I had a blue-collar skillset and lace-curtain credentials. Having me around was a win-win for the Nantucket basket and vodka-splash crowd. I could set up the folding chairs, and set the luncheon table -- oyster fork and fish knife.
The Ladies Who Lunch would then drink themselves into mind-bogglingly inaccurate gossip sessions, congratulate each other for another successful year of showcasing walls filled with watercolors of badly-helmed schooners, and then toodle back to their respective estates to catch a few minutes of Merv and sneer at the help -- who were probably pilfering Aunt Dahlia's rare Eighteenth Century silver cow creamer.
I'll miss them when the real Creative Class professionals take over. Thanks, again, Lawmakers.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"The Blues": Flash Fiction

Here's my first go at writing fiction on a not-at-all-strict deadline with general instruction. She said "1000 words," "The Blues," and gave me five days.

At some moment that afternoon, a formerly-teal pen had been dragged across that dry erase board, squeaking a half-hearted “LIVe bLUes 2nite 9-tiL” to whatever foot patrol or wayward tourists might wander into that district.
That district. “Too close to the docks and too far from the shops.” A crowd of two-story monuments to the steadfast quaintness of clapboard and shingle, huddled against gusts that meandered up the channel every afternoon, May through October. Every vessel could count on the “Afternoon Nannies” that mustered the daysailers. Southwesterlies obligingly spanked the little boats’ transoms until they all filed back together into the sheltered safety of the harbor, toddling buoyantly to nuzzle at the security of their moorings.
He had sailed the schooner Lapis, with uncharacteristic detachment, up the channel from the bay, bare feet on the wooden deck. In a wildly improbable fantasy, he pictured her, her hair shining in the sunlight as she dotingly watched him maneuver the ship up to the dock, in honorably skilled silence, not relying on the engine.
But she was not there.
She was not waiting for him when the Skipper struck the main and turned on the engine. The twins, Pete and Steve (“Port'n'Starboard”), threw the fenders over and just as quickly as they had tied off the docklines, they ducked back below. The Skipper pulled the key out of the ignition and barked: “You go ahead. Me and the boys’ll deal with the passengers.”
The old man – he called him “old man” because that’s what he had been taught to call the Captain, not because the man was old – was not particularly adept at public relations or customer service. He and his young louts would get the passengers aboard, deliver them an uncomfortable lecture on safety, and scare them into staying below for the trip.
“You go on. I know you’re thinking about her. But be back,” and that was the closest he’d ever gotten to an order from the old man. An order, at least, that he would follow.

From the first channel marker, that district looked like a mouthful of ragged teeth barely managing a smile, but as he neared the row of bars with no names, that smile became a welcoming embrace. He entered the nameless club through its cyan door, felt his way past the Navy guys and to the bar. It was obvious that the other occupants’ experiments in insobriety had begun at about the time that he had tied off, so he had some catching up to do. That is, if he weren’t planning on sailing back out in a few hours. No lagers, no cocktails.
The place was just as he remembered it: Darker than necessary and more claustrophic than comfortable.
He noticed that the bar was drier than the floor, so he put his bag there and greeted the bartender whose name he could not recall.
“Nah. I gotta work.”
“Aright. You lemme know.”
He could just barely hear the sound of an old Joni Mitchell song on the radio. Vocal gymnastics from the kitchen. Let’s have another round for these friends of mine...
He could hear her. She was singing along in the kitchen.
“He’s out here!” the bartender called.
There must be a word for it, he thought, remembering that night when his heart had soared twice. At first, because she had held it so exquisitely. And then, because she had kicked it.
In his dreams, she would float through the doorway and the room would brighten. In his dreams, her eyes would caress his face with soft deep chestnut swirls. In his dreams, her smile would strike him still and fill him. In his dreams, their embrace would join them in ecstasy and explode ---
“Hey,” she coughed, leaning the mop and sliding the bucket under the slop sink. She pulled an unopened bottle of Bombay Sapphire from the rack, planted it on the bar. “The usual?”
“Naw. I gotta work.”
“Lemme guess: ‘Leavin’ on the tide,’ right?”
“Yeah.’ He watched as she snuffed out her cigarette and dumped the ashtray. “So, I’ve been thinking a lot about, uh… You look great.”
She curtsied.
“Yes I do. You sure you don’t want a drink? You seem all tongue-tied,” she said, offering the bottle again. “Listen, he’ll be back any minute, so what’s up?”
That would be the other ‘he.’ He felt a silence. A silence that had been caught in his throat now threatened to block the air from his lungs, lungs that felt bruised.
“Look,” he began. “When I'm at sea –“
“You’re not ‘at sea.’ You steer a boat from Beachport to Pig Harbor, carrying rich tourists. ‘At sea.’ You do have some dreams.”
A beat.
“I’d better go,” he murmured.
“Yeh, I suppose you had better. Nice to see you, though. Really.” She stayed behind the bar, handed him his bag. “You come back when you have more time to chat.”

He hopped up to the quarterdeck, tossed the bag by the helm and nodded solemnly at the Skipper, who had been idling the diesel.
“You ready to go?” the Skipper winked. “Hope you had a good time.”
At the helm, he knew where he was. The GPS, the depth-finder, the coffee cup-ringed chart stuffed into the binnacle. The sun setting behind him overcast his plain, unconcealed, and inconsolable case of the mopes. Just a few more moments East, then East-by-Southeast, and then South. And then, he would be his old self: mate at the helm.
His eyes focused on an image on the compass: a reflection of the second full moon of the month.
His foot kicked his bag, which tumbled, spilling some contents: a paperback about sulphur-bottom whales, an apple that had been in there too long, various pieces of flotsam, small stuff.
And an unopened bottle of gin that he had not placed there.
Was it starting to rain? No clouds. No forecast of weather at all. A taste of a teardrop, if anything. The cool of the open sea past the jetty, the roll that sneered at the safety of the harbor. Not everyone notices how water breaks free from the beach. That boundlessness: one can feel the seabed drop to the unfathomable ocean floor.
That could catch a man off guard. That could cause a kind of hiccup, a choke that might blur a man’s vision. Sure. A stray leap of saltwater must have hit his cheek.
He may just have enjoyed some of that “LIVe bLUes 2nite.”

Friday, February 13, 2009

IT'S RAT DAY !!!!!1! (special tip o' the tricorn to Peggi)
You can't forget the well-meaning women of Massachusetts. Read more about the Boston Women's Municipal League at Mass Moments.


  • The municipal employees layoffs we're hearing (and feeling) so much about is not a sign of The Impocalypse. It is, however, a sign of the popular pastime of union-bashing.
  • I have been terrifically lucky to have worked with the unionizers that I have; I have also known union bosses whose only skill is chomping Nicorette gum with their mouths open.
  • Here's how the disaster capitalists are destroying organized labor: by showing that union workers appear selfish and greedy, but don't ever admit that those workers balk at pay cuts because every retailer, restaurateur, real estator, and servicer is continuing to ask for their typical fees and charges, plus whatever cost of living increases occur because everybody else has their hands out.
  • You slow just one sector of the economy by ten percent, and you have angry people on one side of the street. If you slow the entire economy by ten percent, nobody would feel it. But that's impractical.
  • Don't get me wrong: there are people who fall neatly in place on both sides. But I can afford to be a naïf.
  • As with many things on The Beach -- particularly this bit of it -- I need to reconcile this "artists loft" thing with my innate revulsion toward anything real estate.
  • There's an abandoned building in Fall River that everyone says should be a mixed-use residential/performance/retail/studio/manufacturing space. At least, that's what is presented by the Herald News commentarazzi.
  • Some people don't like the concept of "arts overlay districts" (or "arts anything," for that matter) because they prefer to have an artless society and continue to think of The Arts as "Arts and Crafts," specifically popsiclestick napkin holders.
  • Others -- artists, for the most part, or at least members of the Creative Class -- hold a somewhat more palatable belief that artists aren't in love with the above mixed use idea because that would create a Disney World-like "Arts Ghetto" that requires artists to provide the entertainment products, and -- in Fall River's case -- enjoy the only amenities available, which appear to be eighty-three restaurants with outstanding shrimp Mozambique within walking distance and several apple-tini nights.
  • Ernestina (the former Effie M. Morrissey) turned 112 years old on the first of February. According to Paul; J. Brawley, Executive Director:
    All futtocks and top timbers are in place and the planking is well underway. New deck beams are being fashioned and installed and thankfully we have managed to re-use a few of the knees. The project remains on budget and the ship is due to return to New Bedford on Saturday, May 9. Prior to that date, our intention is to make port visits in Gloucester and Boston to show her off.
    I apologize for the belated birthday wish, and I urge and advise anyone to check in at SailErnestina.
  • Also, the use of the term futtocks re-establishes H.M.S. Impossible's rightful epithet, "nautical."
  • That and this world music compilation album from Piranha Musik, with cuts selected by "DJ mps PILOT":The collection grows...
  • Friday the Thirteenth AND Saint Valentine's Day in one post.
  • Join me sometime this weekend as I experiment with "Flash Fiction." What I'm led to believe happens is: an organized gang of penscratchers is given a topic and each has five days to elaborate on it through fictional means. No. Actual means, just not non-fiction. Hence the "Fiction," yeah? They write very quickly and terribly well, and they're going to humor me in my prolix attempts while I'll look to see if it'll fit here in The Journal. Allons-y...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Ahts on The Beach, Part 1

I was disconcerted when I learned that an amendment to the Senate version of the economic stimulus bill actually left parts of the economy out of the economic stimulus.
(Not as upset as the mothers in Iceland and students in Italy that Naomi Klein talks about. I'm an American and we don't get that kind of upset. We have Spring Training coming up and 24 on teevee.)
But I was upset.
I wasn't upset that there isn't any money in the stimulus bill for museums, theaters, or zoos. State and city budgets have already slashed any public support for non-profits and The Arts, and the creative industries I'm involved with have been couraging on with all of the insight and wisdom and can-do attitude of the good ol' American free market system.
Because they are businesses, you see.
I wasn't particularly upset that 73 United States Senators are dumb enough to discriminate against more than 4% of the economy. The United States Senate -- with its gleeful fondness for "faith-based initiatives" -- can't recognize an actual economic engine. Maybe because it is sometimes misidentified as "the intangible economy. " (I admit that I wasn't watching C-SPAN Friday afternoon so I didn't hear any of the ludicrous justifications put forth by the representative mouth-breathers.)
I am, however, still disgusted that the United States Constitution will now lump "museums, theaters, zoos, and art centers" together with "wastefulness" and "gambling establishments."
(I guess that those same 73 Senators don't recognize the amount of outright gambling on Wall Street.)
Now, here's where it gets complicated: Like any American, I'm not a fan of the current practices of lobbyists. Unless they benefit me, of course. A casual observer may not even know that The Arts even have a lobby, but there's The Arts Action Fund, "a 501(c)(4) nonprofit membership organization created by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization for advancing arts in America," which, according to the FAQs, works at "educating elected officials, candidates, the media, and citizens about why the arts not only enrich us—they also create better students, better schools, and better communities."
So there's that. But they've got a harder row to hoe than the energy or pharmaceutical PACs.
As I'll address in Part 2, even the facts presented below in this ad run by Americans for the Arts don't resonate with people who understand "The Arts" as sofa-size prints or "Ahts'n'Crafts" like seagulls painted on ashtrays. But, I reprint this here anyway:

Monday, February 9, 2009

They've decided that The Creative Economy don't need no stimulus

...obviously, Creative Industries are doing just fine, at least according to Tom Coburn (R-OKnotOK). Remember that "Economic Recovery Bill" thing? Coburn proposed Amendment 309 to the economic recovery bill (which passed in the senate 73-24) that, well, says:

"None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.”
So, there you have it.
Proof positive that the U.S. Senate has enough faith in the strength and vitality of The Arts as an economic engine, that they've decided to not over-stimulate them. It's obvious that the businesses that screwed up your mortgage and frittered away your life savings certainly need a bigger stimulus than some elite art museum, especially since those artsy fatcats are just rolling around in money, flying here and there in private jets to corporate retreats and weeks of hedonism in Tahiti or Aspen, and God knows that we wouldn't want them using our public moneys to pay for any of that.
I mean, you'd never see a banker do that.
You see, I know these people. Especially the aquarium, zoo, museum, theater, and art center people. I know that they are a proud lot, and it would embarrass them to no end if they were suddenly given extra money to improve their communities the way that they do. They've actually done a lot of that "economic stimulus" stuff all by themselves already. They've been supporting the local economy, providing jobs, promoting tourism, promoting businesses, teaching, entertaining, and edifying.
Really, The Arts are The Economy.
So I guess we're all doing much better. Thanks, Senators!

Friday, February 6, 2009


  • The stimulus plan would extend broadband internet service into rural areas. A lot of people criticize this as a waste due to factors that sound to me like the same ones people use about commuter rail service to the SouthCoast.
  • I can hear the same people who have been complaining that the Southcoast doesn't need commuter rail because, well, nobody will use it because they have cars that bring them to Boston, and it's a waste of money. I hear people saying that it'll be like you spent a bunch of money to give hayseeds access to broadband that they won't use because they don't have computers or the savvy to use them.
  • Imagine if they decided to not build interstate highways in some states because not enough people owned cars.
  • On the other hand, the City of Newport and the State of Rhode Island aren't afraid to put $5million into the Oliver Hazard Perry. Which, according to former shipmate Professor Timothy Walker of UMass-Dartmouth, is a great investment.
    “Today cities realize they benefit from having a flagship for their community,”said Timothy Walker, who teaches maritime history at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. “It’s a way to be really visible and make an impression that can travel. It can literally fly the flag for a community.”
    Says so in the Times. Must be true. And I believe him, because we both sailed on a ship that -- although a miserable failure -- could actually have been a model for community ambassadorship. (I haven't forgotten about you guys, Cap. I just have to wait for it to lie down before I can commit to a course. In other words: "Calendar issues.")
  • "The crisis will make Americans look at themselves closer. ... I hope it will, because it is always best when you start at home first," she [Cindy McCain] told The Associated Press. From her hotel room in Dubai. (Granted, she was "on her way" to volunteer at maternity hospitals in Cambodia and India.)
  • If I were looking at myself "closer" and started "at home first," I am certain that a hotel in Dubai would not be my initial humanitarian endeavor.
  • As a matter of fact, I would start with not using the word "crisis" all the time.
  • So, while we won't call it a crisis, this place from my childhood is, according to the headline in the EastBayRI/Sakonnet Times, selling itself at auction to itself, which I don't think is either ethical or possible. (I could've told them that the Bach Party Nights wouldn't go over.)But hiring Vito Scotti to spin tunes was a stroke of genius!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I was wondering where I left that...

I mean, The Old Man said, "Park 'er anywhere, we'll only be a minute. Hop into Tesco's, pick up a few packs of crisps for this swah-RAY that Queen Whatserface, very posh, is having." And when we got back -- GONE! Lucky those guys from Odyssey Marine Exploration finally found her. Smells like Victory.Oh, the party was a bunch of posers all sitting around their lousy Shirazes, complaining about the weather and impressing each other with stories about Handel, but everyone was really interested in Martha Dandridge Custis. She's George's girl.

And why not?

Monday, February 2, 2009

James Joyce

I looked everywhere for a shot of Joyce and a boat. Statue in Trieste good enough?The folk who can appreciate -- or even recall -- the works of James Joyce are getting fewer in number, or at least less vocal, so I commemorate his birthday here for those who can and are. The music of his words tripped the ballet of his syntax, but so few remember how purely entertaining James Joyce could be.
I can recall late night teevee hosts' clever references to Ulysses and the Saturday morning cartoons, the charming interpretations like Mister Magoo's Dubliners and the much-misunderstood Flintstones' Wake.
I often regret losing my Portrait of the Artist lunchbox on that field trip that time. Those are as hard to come by as the Stephen Dedalus action figures.
But at least in these post-literate times, our birthday boy still has more Facebook fans (9,685) than Billy Mays (5705). Note the 'no recent activity' bit So there's that.

(UPDATE! 12 hours later! Joyce: 10,135 Facebook fans; Mays: 5,794)

Apponogansett Tommy

We're not sure why he's outside Apponogansett Tommy reminds people that, no matter what semantics the other mammals declare, there are forty-six days until the vernal equinox. (Roughly six and a half weeks left in the season of Winter.) Tommy's personal tender admits that the meterorologically-inclined mammal "doesn't hibernate so much as indulge in a felicitous lifestyle, between lengthy napping periods, that includes eating, driving his feet into sleeping peoples' shoulders, and eating."

2009 APPONOGANSETT TOMMY FUNFACT™:Yet he still can dance rather well

He has two left feet