Thursday, May 28, 2009

Soles'n'Bowls

Ann Corio. There's a nice dinner theater named for her.I try to never disparage fellow performers.
Unless they are are so wrong-headed that I have to.
My curriculum vitae contains many bullet points: I went to college and studied history, literature, theater, drama, wrote, studied, and performed stand-up comedy, improvisation and sketch comedy; researched kabuki, folk drama, commedia dell'Arte, and vaudeville.
Maybe I have too much information and respect for the traditions and history involved in performance, and I get a little picky about ill-use of traditional forms, but I still enjoy an evening of lazzi or slapstick. Whether I'm watching or performing.
Burlesque is one such specific form of entertainment. It can be traced to the commedia of the past, which requires a certain amount of crudity. But that crudity is not harmful to spectators. It can cause self-conscious squirms and uncomfortable coughs, but should never make the audience so uncomfortable that they leave.

Barbara Stanwyck in 'Lady of Burlesque'(1943)I am all for people developing their self-esteem through performance, as described on SouthCoastToday by "Honey Suckle Duvet" (Amber P. Knight) of tonight's Rhythm & Boobs at Gallery X in New Bedford. She talks about the positive atmosphere in her classes, regard for each other as practitioners, her ban on self-deprecating remarks. Seems like a nice way to spend a hour or two.
But any performer who is willing to take a stage, purposefully blindered, unaware of and unprepared for limitations, is simply reckless. Your "sense of self" is not the animus onstage. The animus is the other, the scene, the scene partner, the prop, the audience, the script. Amateur dabbling, even if effective as ego-gratification and morale-booster, is self-satisfying fraud. Even belly dancing is not merely therapeutic movement, and to deny its geopolitical-historical significance defiles it. Burlesque is not a supportive and enabling medium for shy exhibitionists. If you think that it is, please call it something else.
That said, Southern New England is not an actual home of burlesque. I will always refer to Coney Island whenever I discuss the art form. Miss Exotic World and former Facebook friend Angie Pontani. Don't ask.While hosting a local "talent show," I was surprised at the brusque unpleasant manner of a particular performer and her lack of actual "performance." Several other scheduled performers did not even show up that night, so I may be coloring their more conscientious peers incorrectly, and I do apologize to those who take their "burlesque revival" seriously.
But as a fellow performer, a director, a producer, and a member of an actors union (lapsed), I know that very few professionals have patience for that nonsense.
I went to another performance, and tried to appreciate the "Providence burlesque revival" of overly-serious tattoo twirling and pierced body part parading.
I saw unattributed plagiarism from music videos (that had, in turn, stolen from earlier sources). The performers' stagenames, only marginally like the double-entendres formerly used by performers, evoked unnecessary and disconcerting malevolence. Cheap, thuggish, unstudied: Nothing more than self-impressed children prancing around smugly in their mothers' underwear, so impressed by their own audacity.
Their only ambition was to annoy, not to titillate or to entertain. The alleged "sexual energy" was nothing but lukewarm naughtiness delivered with detached "grrrly" nonchalance, thrusting the audience into an empty void of uncomfortably indifferent distraction, a trick that only works once in Theater of the Absurd if done deliberately, and this was not.
During this pedantry billed as pageantry, I perceived that I was being taught an unnecessary and destructive lesson: that I was a misogynistic chump who had paid for something and I was not entertained. I knew what "burlesque" means; I was not looking for boobies; I was looking for a knowing, sly, rehearsed, clever show. I had been cheated and disgusted and felt dirty.
A friend who had also sat through the display remarked that, "If they don't take money, they're not strippers."
"They aren't supposed to be strippers," I explained.
"Good. Then I'm not supposed to give them my money."
So this Southern New England Burlesque Revival is not for me, like Larry the Cable Guy and Dancing with the Stars are not for me.
The right of a performer to use saucy language or risque body movements is a tradition that goes back to the first campfire and ends at the fourth wall.
But it is not excused by, nor does it excuse, an ignorance of that tradition.


The Flory Dory Girl Dance -

Lemme see now...

Low pressure system. Counter-clockwise air rotation. In the Northwest Atlantic. Meteorologists sweating the isobars. Don't give it a name. Lucky it's cold like March here. You'd think it were like five days to hurricane season or something.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Holidays...

...can sure wreak havoc with a simple brain like mine which, although inordinately clever, is also susceptible to distraction. Yesterday was Memorial Day, a day which, since 1865, has been set aside to commemorate the sacrifice of American soldiers who have given so much so that we can have ... so much.
Some people get all uppity about the solemnity of the occasion and need to write to newspaper op-ed pages in order to opine the sacrifices that they themselves make in order to show that they appreciate the sacrifice that someone else has made so that he can choose to do so.
I am also not solemn and holy enough on the Sixth of June or on Veterans' Day or on the Third of March, which is National Anthem Day.
I do not believe, however, that it can "tarnish the memory" of anyone's sacrifice to celebrate the freedoms that that sacrifice has secured.
And so, I do what I have been known to do at times -- like when my Beloved lost her job or when our cats died -- I go to Ixtapa Cantina on Route Six in Dartmouth.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
WE ARE NOW CLOSED
Is what the sign said.
And I thought that I could have written that sign, with a snide little wink, saying, "Yeah, we're closed, because you cheap selfish xenophobic hayseeds have no sense of community, don't even own passports, and you had the nerve to not support us!"
I've heard what my neighbors say about Ixtapa. Over and over. In newspaper forums and in overheard conversations. Like how it's "just not as good as a real Mexican restaurant," like Taco Bell, they will suggest, for instance.

I've been to dives and hovels that none of these lightweights would ever dare venture near. I've eaten in places where the freshest food was in the bottle of pickled eggs behind the cash register. I've had to make instant oatmeal, peanut butter, and Spam serve three guys for two days. In rough seas.
I've also eaten meals on place settings that were worth more than my college tuition. Served by people who have served kings and celebrities. Meals that were prepared by Emeril Lagasse, by Wolfgang Puck. By my mother...
But a meal at Ixtapa had nothing to do with the food or the preparation of it. I looked forward to the Ixtapa smile and a ¿Cómo estás, amigos? A place where, if they didn't know your name, they greeted you warmly and made sure that you knew theirs. (I still don't know the names of the guys at some other local restaurants, and I think that I went to school with them.)
My first experience with restaurant Mexican food was a place called Dos Yanquis, which had opened on Thames Street in Newport in the late Seventies, one of five restaurants on the strip at the time, and one of the three restaurants on the street that did not also feature an appearance by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band at some point during the evening. Dos Yanquis (I still have their menu -- somewhere) led to my love of mariachi and guacamole. (I had always appreciated those smoldering dark-haired waitresses, ever since I was eleven and the local VHF station showed Mexican movies on Saturday mornings at six. Which reminds me: Maria Montez's birthday is in a couple of weeks. ¡Ay chihuahua!)
My first experience at Ixtapa was one of those "Hey, that place is new, let's stop in!" moments that can often turn out tragically miscast and inopportune. I was probably trying too hard to impress My Beloved by ordering extravagantly, so Ezekiel the host took to calling me compadre, and I was hooked.
Since my bout with Lyme, Mexican food has been a life-quality treat. As my GFR remains stable along with my creatinine levels, a bowl of sopa de albondigas or a simple-as-that baja chimichanga -- hold the tomatoes -- provides a modicum of normalcy in a diet that in very few ways resembles the one that I grew up with.
It was nice to have it so close to home. My Beloved and I will drive to their shop in Lunenburg or Lexington or even (gasp!) Woburn.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Soles'n'Bowls

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced a "near-normal" hurricane season this year. And they're the ones that are in charge of the ocean and atmosphere, so be prepared. (At least, be better prepared than these guys, who suggest that you call your insurance agent before a storm.) I'll fly the usual signal flags on the starboard spreader.It should look like this pretty much all the time, then.
  • I should have mentioned this earlier:
    New York, NY – Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, announced today that it will publish a new book by comedian and actress Amy Sedaris, currently untitled, tentatively slated for publication in Fall 2010.
    A follow-up to her critically acclaimed entertaining book on entertaining, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, which was published in October 2006 and quickly became one of the most successful books of the year, the new book continues her unique approach to home life through the use of fun, long-forgotten crafts.
  • Although, you would think that they would know that Amy Sedaris is indeed already titled, "Comedian and Actress."
  • I was recently informed by an "insider" that "someone" at the New Bedford Whaling Museum disapproves of this Journal's portrayal of said institution. I can only assume that this is due to an off-hand remark (or, more commonly, "joke") that I had made, long ago, concerning "misspelt exhibit signage."
  • Of course, the fact that I had to wade through all of my stunningly approbatory and nearly fawning mentions of the NBWM in order to find that turd in the hamper only makes me wonder about the Greatest Museum on Earth™. Needless to say, the remark was part of an elaborate self-deprecating ruse.
  • Like everything else. I kid because I love.
  • Speaking of art... I was laughing with other members of the "creative class" (it didn't take long for that to find the bottom of the harbor) who had seen this article in the NYTimes entitled "Tight Times Loosen Creativity."
  • The Age of the Amateur has given many people -- good people, mind you -- the impression that they can do things that really should be left to the professionals. (Radio springs instantly to mind.) I don't want to step on any toes, because I have my beloved hobbies at which I practice and am well-received. (The days of getting paid for non-professional sail-furling are long gone. And good for the union.)
  • But I am in awe of the professionals that surround me, particularly the artist ones. The ones who are so often misunderstood by the "my kid can do that" crowd as well as by the "yeah, I've got a wicked good Leica DIGILUX 3 7.5MP Digital SLR camera with a Leica D 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5 ASPH Lens with Optical Image Stabilization" crowd.
  • Last night, I spent an evening enjoying the work of John Robson at Crowell's Fine Art, 382 Acushnet Avenue in the New Bedford Whaling National Park. The show is called "Walkabout" and if you are in the Whaling City, you will be doing yourself and the professional photographers in the world a great disservice if you don't treat yourself to a few minutes marvelling at his amazing little gems.
  • Which is just an opportunity for me to drop a Charles Henry Gifford. And to tell Robson that I'd appreciate a copy of the picture he took of me at the Moby-Dick Marathon that time that ended up in some brochure or other that some lady commented about that time.
  • And: Do you remember this?If they could only stay little til their bark mulch wears out...The plucky little phal that I perceived as a harbinger of Spring, even though it was only January? Well, here's where we are today. No, they don't grow in low-fire ceramics, they were put there. That was sometime in April. The color's a little off. Trust me, they're fuchsia AND chartreuse. And I'm not even gay.
  • And before I forget: Happy Birthday Hafdís Huld Þrastardóttir !

I see Calum.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Deleted My Widget

For a couple of years, I've had a "widget" (over to The Journal's starboard) from an online music thing called Last.fm. Ostensibly, the "widget" shows the music that one has been listening to, either online or, through an aplication called "scrobbler," on one's personal listening device. Last.fm does a lot of other things, since it is one of those marketing and "social" networking sites that all of your local bars, shops, and restaurants have usurped from the individuals who used to use them just to stay in touch with friends, take insipid movie quizzes, and publish embarrassing pictures of each other.
Many of my friends are ready to log off permanently because they are "damned sick of facebook" asking ("suggesting") that they be "friends" or "fans" of local drinkeries that they would never visit on a dare. I'm also a little creeped out by a downtown New Bedford business group that is presenting itself as the actual downtown -- and of course, who wouldn't want to be friends with Downtown New Bedford? And they're following me on Twitter. And they're probably watching me write this right now!
(140 characters? Twitter is another story altogether. Regular readers of This Journal will understand that my verbosity is sometimes a dra )
For me, the Last.fm widget became an exercise in exhibitionism that referred directly to my former incarnation as a disc jockey. Show business is show business, and I did my best behind the turntables to devise aurally-interesting rinse-outs. Or whatever you kids are calling it these days.
When I was a club deejay, I actually counted beats and faded pitch to keep the dancefloor full. Unfortunately, it was at the time of people in parachute pants, popping and locking. Two turntables plus a board that allowed limited effects like echo and distortion.
It was fun.
A radio studio was even better because I had dozens of noise-making tape machines, CD players, turntables, reel-to-reels, plus a library of sound effects and movie dialogue drop-ins.
The Last.fm widget is a less interesting medium. And that was frustrating for me. It would simply list the songs as iTunes shuffled and played them as I listened online. Or, three days later from my scrobbled iPod. My music collection swings in wide genre arcs, so it's often a challenging mix, but the challenge keeps my imagination on our toes as The Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You" plays into Angelo Badalamenti's "Theme to Twin Peaks" which segues into XTC's "Snowman" and I realize that Andy Partridge did the theme to Wonderfalls.
Sometimes, when I would be especially clever, I would actually "program" a music set that would exhibit a particular theme or attitude. It was the closest that this Journal ever got to being a music blog. I often found myself sweetening the mix by purposefully playing songs that went together well thematically and musically. As though I were still in the studio. And I thought that somebody was noticing the clever.
Nobody was.
I grew tired of everyone knowing that at 2:15 one morning, I was playing Tavares. That I was listening to my reggae mix while a friend was doing her jazz show on the radio. That I listen to prog.
Oh. Wait...
I was also getting very strange Last.fm friend requests. VERY strange. And, there was that e-mail from the guy who just had to inform me that Winston Rodney "is a well-documented racist." (He said that he had seen Burning Spear on my Last.fm page.)
Why shouldn't I leave this? Besides my old college chum, the famous singer-songwriter Dare Dukes. Whom I befriended on Last.fm readily because I could download his very excellent music. From his mySpace. Bitterandrew and Dr. Momentum know that I am daily in their thrall, whether at their sites or through my new best friend, the Google Reader.
I know that I could just remove the widget from the starboard rail. But the Last.fm scrobbler would still insist, to an unknown constituency, that I was listening to three different musicians and musical groups: Elvis Costello and Elvis Costello & The Attractions as well as Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
And I don't want that on my conscience.

Happy Birthday, Dionicio Castellanos


Monday, May 18, 2009

Another Circumnavigator...

The hat, by the way, added an extra knot to Spray's speed.I think that if you're going to mention Joshua Slocum in the copy on the opening page of your website, the least you can do is be old. (I mean, like, over the age of ... me, let's say.)
And if you're going to do something like sail single-handed around the world not actual size("circumnavigate" for those of us who are old and can remember Chichester), then the very least that you can do is not use a Sparkman & Stephens 34, Sparkman, Stephens, Gerschlemmermann and Wojnihorowicz. You can see why the other two aren't on the letterhead.a boat that I've enjoyed sailing, a number of times, to as far as the mouth of the Sakonnet River. Actual sizeFrom Tiverton. Rhode Island. (Of course, I've sailed further. But that was my S&S single-handing experience.)
And, you might as well not be celebrating your sixteenth birthday today.
Jessica WatsonBut if you are: I wish you a lovely day, fair winds, and a great trip.
We'll keep a watch!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

On A Sunday...

I was all excited about New Bedford since it had finally reached out, offering a city planning meeting to its true citizenry (the ones who "couldn't care less" and prefer "visioning sessions" in bars to actual meetings in conference rooms).
And then, I remembered that there's this local restaurant-promoting event that usually happens around this time of year, and I searched high and low recently for some sign of its re-occurrence. It's had a few different titles since its original moniker ("Taste Our SouthCoast") was deemed unfortunately vulgar. Then, there was "Bite This, New Bedford!" and "Eat Me SouthCoast!" and finally, they've settled on the sufficiently bland "Taste of SouthCoast" which I think was the idea in the first place.
Since this is supposed to be one of those city-defining fests, it's sponsored by Downtown New Bedford Inc., whose name was chosen in order to evoke both its quasi-non-governmental-Chamber-of-Horrors reliance on organized crime templates and somebody's kid's love of the film Monsters Inc.
So I found this, but this is last year's. There's also a Chowder Festival that is very popular since it's New Bedford, and you would think that there would, at the very least, be a Chowder Festival in the biggest money-making fishing port on the Atlantic. The DNB Event website weaves through a number of titular permutations: "Taste of the SouthCoast" and "Taste our Southcoast Festival" occur at wildly varying intervals throughout what I imagine should have been a press release. But since I never saw it released to the press, I'm not certain that I can call it a release.
But then, after gagging on the "O RLY" header "TASTE OF SOUTHCOAST III CONTINUES TO GROW," one reads :

This being the third year of the annual event has surprised even the seasoned Committee members with a larger field of participating restaurants! On May 17, from 12noon to 4 pm, you can sample and taste the offerings from 24 area restaurants with a wide variety sure to have something for everyone. Included with those restaurants is an expanded offerings of Massachusetts beers and wines.
[sic]
(I should have started that with "ENGLISH MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING." My apologies.) And that's just the first paragraph. That "[sic]" covers everything these kids put out. Ever.
I always remember being chided by a self-identified local advertising "bigshot" who told me --when I was farming out my copywriting -- that "any monkey can write copy."
It's good to see that lesser primates can still get work.
And this from the city that requires each of its residents to read and appreciate Moby-Dick. Well, maybe not so much require as suggest. And maybe not read, but certainly appreciate. Okay, maybe that's overstating it. There is a healthy disdain for Herman Melville.
And for most books in general.
Or at least promotional material.
Which is why I was so excited that there's a great online presence for Moby-Dick that I can highly recommend to everyone: Power Moby-Dick.com . To which I'll link in The Gam.
"The Online Annotation" actually defines those strange boaty words and stuff that have kept you away from the tale of The Whale for so long. Right there on the screen right next to where they occur in the text! A brilliant brilliant brilliant brilliant thing. You'll have no more excuses.
Now, if someone can just do the same for the Downtown New Bedford Inc website.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Soles'n'Bowls

  • Good news, everyone! According to a very clever bunch of researchers, those melty polar ice caps won't cause as much damage everywhere.
  • Bad news, everyone! Researchers claim that "the maximum increase in sea level rise is centred at a latitude of about 40 degrees along the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards of North America" due to "disruptions to the Earth's gravity field."
  • And, since stately Goon Manor is located roughly at 41° North, on a saltmarsh on a harbor that empties into Buzzards Bay and thus, the North Atlantic, I get to make the best of the meltification that all the Global Climate Change deniers say won't happen because Al Gore uses electricity in his house or something.
  • Don't ask me why I haven't come right out and mentioned my friends' new band. Oh, that's right, because I just assume that everyone consults THE GAM section over there in the right-hand column of this Journal. THUNK. (as you can tell from their site, on which your Journal is highly visible) is a hard-to-categorize SUPER GROUP, made up of musicians from many other bands. Just like Asia.
  • All right, not at all like Asia. Because that was easily characterized as poopenkräppen, whereas THUNK. is a mesmerizing jam thing. The music available so far on their site is a Widespread Panic cover, so Joss Whedon should be very happy, even with how miserable Dollhouse did.
  • You can catch THUNK. on Saturday May 23 in Brooklyn, NY, at Jeff's Loft, 87 3rd Avenue (3rd floor) or Thursday, June 4th, at Xxodus Cafe, 276 Westminster Street in Providence, RI (The Black Repertory Company).
  • "The Dartmouth Historical Commission and its partners in preservation and conservation are sponsoring "Celebrate Dartmouth Day," from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday," they said. More information is here.
  • This in from NOAA:
    The names Gustav, Ike and Paloma in the Atlantic and Alma in the North Pacific will not be used again. Those names would have been used again in 2014. In their place will be Gonzalo, Isaias and Paulette in the Atlantic and Amanda in the North Pacific. The committee issues the list of potential names for tropical cyclones to be used every six years for both the Atlantic basin and eastern North Pacific basin.
  • Oh, and it's only two weeks to the start of the North Atlantic Storm (I can't say "Hurricane" after the Bruins...) Season, which all the forecasters predict will be bigger than last year. Also which nobody wanted to hear.
  • So, here's to Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor, and Wanda, and here's hoping we never see your names again and they won't have to retire any of them either.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

it's All Happening At once !

Once again, New Bedford's embattled Downtown has folded the calendar into a wormhole-like funnel that takes every possible event of the month of May and creates a singularity of eventness that can only be described by the initialated hoministic acronym we New Bedtards know as AHA!
(I will admit that the term "New Bedtard" is an oddly satisfying one for me. I don't mind it. I will not, however, wear a T-shirt with the term emblazoned on it, although I suspect that the hipsters will do. I believe that I first heard a coworker say it sometime last century when AHA! first began. He waved his furry paw at the growing crowd of downtown businessers who had nothing but wild-eyed enthusiasm for the Whaling City, and sniffed, "New Bed-TARDS." And I continued glowing proudly at the growing crowd that was milling about looking for whatever free food they could scrounge. In the early days, mercantilers would leave out food to attract shoppers, so that's what AHA! meant at the time: A lot of Hot Appetizers!)
Now, I should footnote this digression with a brief anecdotal explanation of the history of food served at multiple-program art events. According to Wallbank's Compendium of Knowledge:

The earliest recorded "art opening" was held at
the Altamira Community Arts Center in 49,094 B.C.E. It was a lovely Thorsday evening, just before bear-thirty. Percussionists Umh and Lunh L'odd provided musical accompaniment to the wallpainting installation work of D'errh Keh, who had just begun to instigate his provocative "Man-Arrow-Deer" period. Local wristlet manufacturer Paggah Tuk bartered with other cave residents for livestock parts, and hunter-gatherers drank the juice of nearby berries that had been left in stone crevasses in the sun. But I wanted to go to the flint tool demo!The conversation was generally subdued, and mostly referred to the day's hunt and how Ge'tah Duhl seemed to have gotten somehow inexplicably shapelier since her last album hadn't done as well as expected.
AHA! has adopted, adapted, and improved on that original design, to the point that the above crudely-drawn depiction of events has grown to this handy reference guide to all the goings-on tonight in the Whaling City:621 events in 489 venues. Not even the record.
Have fun!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Your Happiest Nations

I read last year's self-interested and shallow MUST-READ!!1! Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner with great interest, and I liked it. (Weiner, I assert, doesn't seem as self-interested as his book. His most ego-driven statement is something about considering himself "a grump," as the subtitle iterates.) Weiner's a correspondent and thus must convey his unbiased impressions of the locations to which he travels.
Which means an extraordinary series of repetitions and edits which prove his initial, tautologically obvious point: People are happiest in places where the people define happiness as being wherever people are happiest. Eventually, he gives enough reason to believe that the reader should be happy wherever the reader finds itself. A wonderful cop-out for the book itself, since true geographic happiness in the tome seems to need little more than a few nights in a decent hotel and somebody else to drive, to speak the language, and to translate the whining of bitchy locals into "Yes, of course ... 'happy.'"
I've been to more than a few happy "exotic locations" (humor me if you don't consider Mississippi or Newfoundland "exotic"), and although I have seen any number of extraordinarily blissful people, I generally attribute that to the band or drink specials. But one thing that I know about most of my mates is a simple, common, personality trait: they like being on the water.
Which is probably why several of the countries mentioned in a new report by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development are generally at or below sea level.
Granted, the article is from Yahoo!News -- so I was expecting beauty pageant contestants in non-nude but nonetheless "racy" pics -- but this is a story from an organization that actually studies the economic impact of things other than Hannah Montana. I mean, these guys gather 'round the capstan and talk about unemployment in Africa and food security. So, of course, Yahoo!™©! splashes the fluff piece that some PR wonk sent out about "nice" places to live. Here's the list, recited here for those who refuse clickage (particularly to places like Forbes, Inc. yecch):

  1. Denmark
  2. Finland
  3. Netherlands
  4. Sweden
  5. Ireland
  6. Canada
  7. Switzerland
  8. New Zealand
  9. Norway
  10. Belgium
Honestly. There's more coastline in that list than there are people. I make no pretense to studies of personal happiness as defined by geopolitical paradigms. But...
I have sailed with Norse, Kiwi, Swede, Dutch, and Danish nationals. In fact, the Swedes insisted that I call the fore "fockemast," which caused great hilarity among the bilinguals. The other darned Vikings refused to speak English at all because I refused to discuss the possibility of a Mighty Thor motion picture. And I found that the Dutch were just surly. But there was a reason for that, besides me not understanding the singularly odd rigging of their jib and steering mechanism: They were naturalized Americans, and thus had picked up the American habit of cranky dissatisfaction with everything.
Out on the waves, however, their countenances shone with a peace, a staggering sparkling contentment that knew no boundaries, honored no flag, pestered no other personality. A sea-going poet might ineptly proclaim that "the deck is a nation of comrades, a society of affiliates, a league upon the leagues."
We know better, but I like the place.
On The Beach, they're squabbling or glowering. But not at the helm or at the bow or even in their bunks, I do not romanticize or exaggerate; these are my mates, and it would be unfair to miscategorize them. I do not know how they fare socially in their homelands, except for the ones whose boats I docked and the few who show up in magazines every now and then.
But I know them as good hands. And: yes, happy ones.
Fellow citizens. Of a happy "nation."
Where the best flag to fly is anything that fills with wind.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Welcoming Ernestina back

Yeah. THAT's a day for schoonering The day started just as you see in the above depiction. One would certainly expect a little fog over the moors (saltmarsh in our case) this time of year, but a moon high tide gave the backyard that delightfully trendy "Melted Polar Ice Caps Due To Global Climate Change" mien. With several handfuls of pollen jammed imprudently into the truck's ventilation system at some point overnight, we were puffy-eyed and sniffly enough to feign any required rapturous delight at the return of an old friend.
I have never actually sailed upon Ernestina (née Effie M. Morrissey). Well, truth be told, I can't actually remember having done so. As I have remarked elsewhere in this Journal, one trapezoidy-triangulary-sailed rig is much like any other to these old eyes, and those memories tend to merge into one woolgathered supertopsailforeandaftgaffrigcraft called SpiritofCityofLeddiPioClearVenturepiackWanderAppleRose.
I mean, I think that I remember sleeping onboard Ernestina, (nights on Union Street being what they once were). But those memories are about as clear as the visibility from M/V CuttyHunk this morning as we motored out to meet the darling daughter of our majestic port of once-Old Dartmouth, now New Bedford. (Or, "New New Bedford," if teevee's Chronicle is anything to be believed.) It's in there...I mean, I remember the queasiness. But that might just have been the diesel.We're gaining on her...The skipper brought us out to my favorite part of the channel -- where I can start to feel the swell of Buzzards' Bay -- and immediately informed us that we'd be turning around in order to escort the guest of honor. As you can see from the ensuing chart, our trip was a mere squirt from Point A (State Pier) to Point B (someplace out by the last green can). And back to Point A.Green on your right when you're going;red on your right when returning. Now you know everything that you need to know....Where this vessel awaited us:I wonder who's on that boat? In case you can't see the monicker this F/V ("fishing vessel") sports, let me embiggen its emblazonment:Oh, THAT'S who. So, as New Bedford celebrates the return of her own historic Ernestina, we can all see why the Port of New Bedford is the biggest money-making port in the world.
Because we know exactly who we are.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Soles'n'Bowls

  • You know those Do Not Resuscitate orders? Can you get a "Do Not Rebaptize" order? I'm just thinking of Mormons baptizing Obama's mother into Latter Day Sainthood. Helpful helpful Mormons.
  • I'm the last guy that you want on a turkey hunt with a beautiful turkey call on a lanyard around his neck. I am the first guy, however, who will get his musket's stock fouled up in said lanyard, possibly also dislocating the insulin pump infusion set, causing deck damage. Personnel also, maybe. (Lucky that I've eschewed the piratey stuff so that I don't have the hoop earring, eyepatch strap.)
  • So I leave the handling of such articles and pastimes to better mates than I. Outdoors Addiction ("Whispers of the Forest") is an outfit that makes stuff that -- let's face it -- may be the only way some former hedge fund managers and realtors get Thanksgiving dinner next year.
  • Regular readers of this Journal might even recognize some of the fine handiwork.
  • As someone who worked in the wireless industry last century, I'm always entertained by the make-believe terror of something called "The Fairness Doctrine," also known by those who are terrorized by it, as "the complete and utter destruction of radio by liberals who want to kill Rush Limbaugh, take away your guns, and force your younguns to listen to communist clock-watching book-larnin teachers say things about how the earth goes around the sun."
  • Listen: there are some things in the world that are fair. (Well, actually, even-handed.)
  • The other problem is with people who load the term fair with all sorts of ideological and moral weight. Which, come to think of it, is sort of not fair.
  • A regulated industry, by definition, isn't anarchy, and that's what a relatively benign FCC ruling says. Not that one side is right and the other wrong. Just that, if you operate on the public airwaves, you have a minimum requirement of allowing airtime (and not even equal airtime) to both sides of an argument.
  • Not that one "side" is more correct than another these days (never mind that the definitions of fact and opinion seem to have been reversed for radio and certain newspaper online comment sections.) Just that you can't operate something that the government allows you to operate in such a manner that only one side is represented. And they don't even use phrases like "for the public good" anymore.
  • "Lowest common denominator" seems to be the phrase most easily term that springs instantly to mind, remembering that "common" also means "second rate, lacking refinement, coarse'"
  • The battle for worseness has become more important than the battle for fairness.
  • Radio has become, for me, one of those freaky wordless "Henry" comic strips that has no compass or discernible order. I think this one just goes backwards. But the top two seem to correlate, but the bottom two are out of sync, so bottom right to top left to bottom right to bottom left... no... wait.. no...
  • Good thing "Henry" isn't still around. But I sure would appreciate some of his silence.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ERNESTINA WEEK

The official seal of the official state vessel off of the official state vessel's official website.As many shipmates know, New Bedford's own Ernestina/former Effie M. Morrissey , the Official Vessel of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is toodling down the New England coast in order to lumber up to its usual berth on the New Bedford waterfront on Saturday. You can read all about it in this piece on SouthCoastToday by sometimes-mariner Don Cuddy -- who's made it to the semi-finals in the Standard-Times' Last Reporter Left Writing reality show. (At least, I think that he's a mariner. Or maybe I'm just assuming that he is because his name is a boat part.)
Ernestina is not the official ship of the Commonwealth, mind you; Ernestina is the official vessel. Because some people feel that the U.S.S. Constitution should hold the title of "official state ship," but it's owned and operated by the United States Navy, and so can't just be Massachusetts' ship because that wouldn't be fair. (At least, that's how it was explained to me. It's also how me not getting a pony was explained to me.)
And don't get me started about how Spirit of Massachusetts should be the state ship because it's named "Massachusetts." It was goodwill ambassador for a few years back in the Eighties but like the rest of the "goodwill ambassadors" of Boston, it blazed, burned out, invested in a dot-com, and ultimately went into teaching. Spirit... joined Hardly Damaged and WetWords to become an official Ocean Classroom vessel, and so had to get all serious and junk. No more of this "Official State" nonsense. (And it's a Commonwealth, anyway.)
I had originally endeavored to keep track of Ernestina here in the Journal and eventually take pictures or something at the Big Party on Saturday and urge everyone to donate to the Ernestina organization so that they can pay the three million dollars to re-do the aft section so that photographers don't feel uncomfortable about shooting abaft the main.
But. I can't find Ernestina anywhere on any online tracking charts. The Gloucester paper says that they're expecting Ernestina, so maybe by then they'll call in to the Coast Guard with their coordinates and I can be all navigatey and show some dots on the chart.
Oh, in case you were wondering: Massachusetts' official state muffin is "Corn."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hey Pete Seeger: You're NINETY!

Musical talent is in the genes. Already-present proclivities, interests, and strengths are reinforced by prolonged immersion in a family culture of music.
So, the Seegers were a musical family, and Pete had no choice but to become "Pete Seeger." With a fate like that, who could blame him for learning to love the Hudson River aboard a nifty schooner SLOOP like Clearwater.
I imagine that part of the difficulty in being "Pete Seeger" is that whenever you have a gig at a waterfront festival or maritime folk music shindig, you bump into the folks who sail the ships that the kids at the events invariably refer to as "pirate boats."
Folks like me.
I sailed with a schooner jockey who claimed to be an old family friend of Pete's and I had no reason to disbelieve his claims because the kid played banjo and guitar very much like Pete. And his girlfriend worked on Clearwater. A curator that I worked with on The Beach had perfected a spot-on impersonation of Seeger, and explained that it was all authentic Pete-speak that he had picked up -- when he had worked on Clearwater.
A ship that I had sailed exploited a number of older volunteers as crew. Ashore once during a waterfront festival, I called out to a septuagenarian in the crowd -- thinking that I was cajoling a shipmate -- and it turned out, instead, to be Seeger. A few puzzled looks and mumbled apologies later, now a few remarks about schooners and "Tiverton RI," and we were as good as old mates, me pointing down the wharf to my mainmast and him inviting me over to the stage where he should have been a half-hour earlier. After a while, I became accustomed to seeing Pete at these things all Summer, up and down the coast.
The last time that I saw Pete was ten years ago: I was working for the New Bedford Whaling Museum, covering the back door shift during SummerFest, New Bedford's Summer Folk and Maritime music extravaganza. A crowd of folkies was following Pete down the Belgian block street behind the museum. Pete looked distracted in his blue workshirt and carrying his banjo over his shoulder.
He was bounding along and stopped abruptly before me, almost causing a pileup of tie-dye and Birkenstocks. He blinked at me out of the crowd and pointed his long index finger at me (just like this picture, the cover of his latest album)And put out that damn cigarette before I kick your ass!and he shouted out, in that voice like a distant horn blowing through reeds:
"YOU! You'd know where I'm supposed to be!"
If I didn't know exactly where he was supposed to be, I would at least know how to get him there, and he said something about "playing on some boat" and I asked if that was Ernestina.
He snapped his fingers, shockingly loud. The route down to the Ernestina's berth is straightforward to a native, but seems circuitous if spoken, due to the walls, one-ways, and highway that separate the rest of New Bedford from the waterfront, so I offered to walk along. He waved me off, muttering something that sounded like "all of these seaside towns are pretty much the same to navigate, thanks."
And he was off, at a remarkably quick loping gallop.
Maybe I'll see him at the Hudson River Revival Clearwater Festival in June.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Soles'n'Bowls

  • Sorry, "swine flu" or "Mexican flu" fans. The WorldHealthOrganization has decided to go with "H1N1 influenza 1."
  • And if you see me sneeze or cough, don't run away. It's just allergies now that EVERYTHING has decided to bloom at once.
  • Although many will commemorate the Day of the International Solidarity of Workers or, International Workers' Day, or May Day today, I'm avoiding any contact with work today and so will celebrateThe font that makes the movie 's birthday instead.
  • The Padanaram Bridge is back on Summer Hours, so it's Summer as far as I'm concerned and that means replacing the storm windows with the eighty-year-old screen windows. The bridge, however, will open on the hour and half-hour from 5 to 9 a.m. and 8 to 9 p.m., and on the hour from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. This schedule will remain in effect through Oct. 31.
  • The windows will open when required.
  • Although I find most of the SouthCoast's youngsters' interest in old-timey "Americana" music insincere, ironical, and cliquey, I'll bne enjoying The Whaling Country Showcase again tonight at the First Unitarian in New Bedford, in the space that maybe eight people in the audience will remember as Tryworks Coffee House.
  • Although most of the hipsters present tonight will think of the Tryworks Coffee House as some old hippie hangout, I'll remember the nights not that long ago (they shut down in 2002) when Tryworks was merely the first stop on a night in New Bedford with musician friends.
  • Speaking of musician friends, tonight's show celebrates The Jethros "Love is Everything" CD release party, with other acts Wendy and the Lost Boys, Brown Bird, Mudbone Collective, and Showcase organizers Jeff and Benares. At 8 on 8th Street.
  • I sometimes wonder why I don't "just publish." And when I hear about local author LM Owens (who penned something called Darius, Prince of Legnd), I wonder even harder. According to a mailer from the publisher that was reprinted on SouthCoast Today:
    Now, Darius, the young protagonist in a make-believe land of dragons, wizards and kings, is back in a new adventure, Owens said. "He's a year older; hediscovers that he is a descendant of a wizard."
  • Which is fine with me, although I admit that I'm about forty years past that sort of crap. But I have reservations about her admitting that she "was encouraged by family and through prayer to share her gift."
  • Since I've always been under the impression that prayer and wizards don't mix. What with all the "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live Exodus 22:18" stuff that most folk are encouraged by prayer to point out.
  • Over on facebook, there's a brand new spasm -- soon to be replaced by another ill-conceived short-attention span mockery -- which turns movie-watching into a competitive sport. Specious and trivial details of a film are the answers to random and contextless questions which, when tabulated by some vague computer arrangement, awards you bragging rights over the rest of your DVD-addicted pals. And they publish your results for everyone to see. I took one and scored a 57.
  • I'm hoping that it's 57 out of 60, because there's no justifiable reason for me to score a 57% on a Holy Grail quiz. Ever.
  • So, for the folks who know all the words, and the witches and wizards and prayerful folk who scored better than I, I present...