Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
As we careen to the most bowdlerized holiday in the calendar (and don't let those "War on Christmas" dopes fool you. Nobody goes to a Christmas party dressed as Zombie Jesus), now is probably the best time to mention that I am, indeed, about to start reading a pal's treatment of Dracula.
Dracula, I said. (And, yes, I am aware that we were all supposed to get over that by the Summer before Eighth grade.)
Not vampires. Vampires are an entirely different issue; I refrain from acknowledging the sparkly ones and Sarah Michelle Gellar is little Charlotte Grace Prinze's mom now. The ubiquity of vampires, like that of their simpler undead counterparts -- zombies -- dilutes every attempt to discuss moral relativism. Zombies are created by science, and vampires by demonic personal politics. I guess. Like any fashionable soap opera, a bit of brain (or eye) candy, a catchphrase or two, a few irreverent T-shirts, some Internet buzz, and suddenly there are all sorts of arcane rules to follow, and self-appointed experts who have it codified.
Contemporary attempts at incarnations of Dracula's ilk all seem to avoid that original model -- what with all of their new-fangled gloomy boyband romantic otherness that so popular with a certain easily-marketed demographic. Popular culture machines grind out entirely new forms of vampire that need to be more special, bloodier and more extravagant (in numbers and variations) than predecessors.
Popular stories only give the public exactly what they want: titillation and a little trepidation. Vampire books and movies and teevee shows sexualize youth and resonate with the low hum and cheap buzz of social laissez-faire and fatuous individualism. What teenager doesn't want to wave a stick and lose that annoying suitor forever in a puff of talc?
Our media gives us simple. Regular crooks die of gunshot wounds because they are bad people; vampires must be staked or burned or beheaded or stuffed with garlic precisely because they are not regular guys. They aren't human; they're wampyr. And no matter how bad we are (by killling them, for instance), we can't be as bad as something that's not "we," can we?
But we're not talking about mere 'vampies.' We're talking Dracula. Show some polite curiosity and click on the INCARNADINE link. It's the official site of R.H. Greene's True memoirs of Count Dracula. Stoker introduces his Count and that's all that's necessary. By marginalizing a creepy foreigner and subduing him through British know-how, Stoker simply fed his Victorian readers their own xenophobia and technophilia. Gypsies? A telephone? Good times.
While today's vampire fairy tales whack clumsily away at our society's alienating and minimalizing shallowness, they dismiss ecclesiastical speculation as useless mental exercise. We rarely discuss evil anymore, even as we assign it to fangy demons. After all, the President himself is often enough portrayed as "evil" by newscasters and other lamebrains. The very term "evil" is degraded, near-meaningless.
What about the evil that cannot be mocked? The pellucid evil that simultaneously assures us and menaces us? The Dracula kind of evil we can only hypothesize about.
R.H. Greene gives a voice to that evil -- excuse me, "that Evil" -- in Incarnadine. Stoker's book is a collection of correspondences and diary entries and perhaps Stoker, as original "editor" of Dracula read but eschewed this very source material which has "fallen" into Greene's authority. A brilliant conceit, even if I've completely misapprehended or invented it.
You can read two bits of Incarnadine online. Ray's Foreword to the tome here and the Prologue of Konstantin Kuzmanov is here. If you've read it -- or plan to -- I'll enjoy sharing thoughts on this in the "Notes" section below.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
cheap-ass bumpkin thrifty neighbors will know a great shopping deal when they find one at the online WalMart. Or maybe this one... And I'll bet they might even deign to pick up one of these nifty mausoleums that's showcased out in the parking lot. Although I'm pretty certain that this is the model that'll catch the frugal and sensible eyes:
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
According to a recent Comcast online "click here for more adz" space-filler that people are beginning to mistake for actual information in this New Age, the Republic of Texas seems poised to be the starting block of America's Recovery -- at least as long as it's not seceding or declaring war on Mexico.
As a New Englander, I have never EVER cared about Texas. Except for brief flirtations with a certain former beauty pageant contestant and great respect for the music of Roy, Willie, and Lyle, the place might as well be any stretch of The Beach.
But according to an article in the Washington (DC) Post, the citizens of Texas have packed their economic reality-challenged selves into some sporting stadium to attend the "Losers of Mediocre Speciousness Tour" personneled by moderately popular teevee stars playing "motivational speakers." (For me, "motivational speaking" has a decidedly Eighties cast, so I tend to classify it along with "Madonna Look," "mullet," and "Members Only jackets" in historical relevance.)Tejanos might be aware that the very concept of "motivational speaking" was invented here in New England. In fact, I sometimes find myself humming this ol' Jonathan Edwards hit:
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.Which is just a little less catchy than "motivational speaker" George "WhatEVer!" Bush. From the WaPo: Perhaps in a nod to his dismal 22 percent approval ratings when he left office, Bush noted that "popularity is fleeting. . . . It's not real."
My initial reaction to a statement like that is to query the Ex, "What exactly is real? I'm asking because you seemed to have had a pretty tight grip on what is delusion for eight years."
Apparently, the war criminal droned on for 28 minutes before the nervous and polite laughter of the meatwits in the arena started to wane and handlers moved the pre-corpse of the ex-President off the stage to a waiting bag of Cheetos and a glass of O'Doul's.
I remember that one of the annoying teevee entertainers of my youth -- annoying because his dull Sunday show always seemed to precede Sunday's Creature Double Feature -- was Honorary Doctor Reverend Schuller, a sort of Norman Vincent Peale impersonator with a "Special In" with god: a big glass temple. But this time, he went too far: In a pontifical bout of censorship and suppression -- he has insulted this Journal and me personally, while presenting his amputee daughter as some kind of sophist and slacker:
"Cut the word 'impossible' out of your vocabulary!" thundered the Rev. Robert Schuller, televangelist and author. After telling the sad story about his daughter getting her leg amputated after a motorcycle accident, he came back big with an account of her playing baseball, trying for home runs so she wouldn't have to run: "Never look at what you have lost. Look at what you have left."Not me.
I've already changed the header once this month.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Yesterday's rant against teevee "news" was partially a misdirected screed brought on by the clutter and disarray left behind and neglected by tradesmen as they have once again extended the current disruptive epoch of simple "home improvement." (I would like to move the phalænopsis back before they start Winter spiking. Is that so wrong?)
It has been more than a decade since I was a professional customer service trainer , so I may be a bit behind in current customs and fashions in customer service, but I have never advocated that "customer service" merely entails "providing a service for the customer." Sometimes just cleaning up after yourself falls under the heading "value-added."
Which is why I now admire the work of the 24-hour comedy stations that burlesque actual news programming, since we don't have the real thing anymore and the memories of it do need some squibbing.
And what better chumps than elected officials who can't overlook any opportunity to yuk it up for the cameras?
The performers who wallow in the political end of the entertainment spectrum are always showing up on teevee. George Herbert Walker Bush appeared on The Simpsons, as did Tony Blair. Al Gore appeared on 30 Rock and was practically a regular on Futurama. The Mayors of New York City are always on Saturday Night Live. Tip O'Neill was on Cheers. Bill Clinton (when he was still only a Governor) played saxophone on Arsenio Hall, and Barack Obama has been on everything Ellen to Leno to The Colbert Report. Even Sarah Palin appeared on SNL -- surely fully complicit in and aware of having been mercilessly mocked on previous episodes. (I mean, you have to be a real lame-brain to not recognize when Tina Fey is goofing on you.)
So what's up with "politicians" not wanting to go on certain funnies? Loosen up, have a little fun. Fox News mines comedy gold from the original sources: the hysterical non-sequiturs of Headline News, the shrill spectacle of CNN, the awkward dimwitted folksiness of network news anchors, and the ineptitude and egotism of local "newsteams." Fox News lifts from some greats. So what if some of the subtler lampoons are a bit opaque. The constant "Americans are evenly split" catchphrase is turning into this season's "fair and balanced" or "wild and crazy guys." (Speaking of Seventies laffs, is Dickie "Mr. Jaws" Goodman doing their editing?). The Colbert parodies alone -- although too numerous and too often too unfunny -- are inspired and inspiring satire. My favorite bits are when has-been losers and also-rans make up absurdities and harangue current pols. Does that zany radio Rush guy have a show there? Because telling an environmental writer to blow himself up is, among a certain sect, funny. Also, the upcoming "War on Christmas" stuff (seems earlier every year, don't it ?). A real laugh riot.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
While I was pestering the Genoese plastering artisan contracted to replace the sunroom ceiling fresco here at stately Goon Manor, I happened to hear his arch comments to his apprentice concerning the current "War on FoxNews" being waged by the White House:
"These guys call everybody's problems with everybody a 'War on...' Christmas, the White House, whatever. It's like them who call foresting 'rape.' Excuse my bluntness, Signore, but 'rape' is a very special horrible word, and I wouldn't use it for just cutting down trees. 'War,' same thing. These gavones are ridiculous.":
"The guy didn't come to the phone and never called back. I'm gonna say that on the air.'He didn't deign to return calls from our newsroom.'"
"But he doesn't have any reason to call you back. The story you're talking about was dead three days ago. This isn't even follow-up. What are you, just be rubbing it in?"
"Whaddaya mean? We're the Number One news station! He HAS to talk to us."
"We're the only news station. And talking to us about a non-story would be a huge public relations mistake and a waste of time. Call him with something real, or at least something current that he might recognize."
The reporter continued to battle a phantasm: this imaginary being that looked like a certain politician who had insulted and ignored our poor little newsroom.
So, excuse me when I point out that a tremendously "successful" (although sponsors bail daily) teevee operation complains about unfair treatment.
My advice: Admit what you are and grow up.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
For as much as I am willing to dismiss neighbors who noisily and odiferously do not share my predilection for manners, wardrobe, or hygiene, you can't blame me for loving them and their quaint and disconcerting idiosyncrasies. My fellow townspeople -- the ones who make it to Town Meeting, anyway -- are relentlessly reasonable and have a demonstrable record of good.
I mean, if one only attended the mad ravings of the three or four ingrate traitors who phone the local broadcast group therapy session for Bush-era pushovers called WBSM, one would think that children and schools and libraries and teachers would be gone by now, buried under the abominable detritus of intimidated red-baiting conspiracy theorists. But for all of that misanthropic bluster and anonymous egoism, the actual engaged citizenry will still champion the polity and do the right thing for their homies' sake.
Town Meeting proved once again that when voters distinguish a familiar name with the felt-tip marker on Election Day, the designated individual takes the position seriously enough to show up on a night when the Celtics are playing the Knicks. And then go ahead and approve everything, pre-emptively thumbing the collective local nose at forecast State aid cuts. Saving it, spending it, and buying American-made. (Now, if Ray could have added "union-manufactured" to that flag article...)
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The town of Dartmouth's Fall Town Meeting falls underway in town tonight. And on the
agenda warrant, besides the usual budgetary matters like whether we should have full-day kindergarten (I approve, since the more those brats are off the streets, the better) and transfers and invoices and amendments, this little piece of patriotism or protectionism, depending on which side of the isolationist-supply side line you fall: All is not lost, super patriots!And tonight's skies also play host to the Orionid meteor showers, allowing for any number of clever double entendres.
It would never have occurred to me that a reader of this Journal may not know anything about a farm. Although the "farm" that I inhabit is long-defunct -- the cows having long ago retired to nestling under condiments -- there were the neighbor's sheep bleating pastorality onto the scene when I first arrived.
That's why it was gratifying to read the NYTimes tale of the Harlem Success Academy, to see that the idea of an expanded worldview -- not a limited one -- leads to achievement.
On the bus ride to the farm, the children sang rounds of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and a boy yelled, “I love pumpkin pie!”I suppose that "standardized" tests are not really "standard -- even with scores improved by these field studies. After all, there is no practical use for an urban dweller to know about hogs, or a rural resident familiarize herself with subways. Fair enough. But the smaller that one's environment becomes, smaller too dwindles their consciousness. Even when I was sailing with "at-risk urban youth," their communication skills widened just as their eyes did at wonders like ever-changing waves and never-changing stars. Gazing at city lights from the roof of a tenement and standing on a deck gazing at stars you have never seen because they're obscured by those city lights. Both experiences humble without the humiliation.
But it soon became clear that this was a field “study”— as the teachers called it — not a field “trip,” and the 75 Harlem kindergartners were going not only for a glimpse of rural life, but to rack up extra points on standardized tests.
“I want to get smarter,” 5-year-old Brandon Neal said.
Granted, the caricatures of "city kid" and "country kid" seem archaic when this very device allows a resident of New York City to effectively correspond about Dancing With The Stars with a resident of Almena, Kansas (population 469). Not long ago, the urban-versus-rural class war seemed unwinnable and unresolvable. But now, those easy representations of "city slicker" and "country rube" are embarrassing and perplexing caricatures. Does Hee-Haw even make any sense anymore? It doesn't take a knowledge of corn production and refinery to recognize laughter.
And, without knowing subways and squirrels, I probably wouldn't appreciate the tractors and coyotes around here. I say that my world is richer for knowing them.
Monday, October 19, 2009
One of the secrets to the great success of American business over the last decade -- that is to say: our seventy-hour work weeks, continuing Cold War-era sexism, systematic indiscriminate union-busting, and employers' ennui re: employees' health and/or welfare -- is the Chamber of Commerce.
In years past, I have worked for backward bunches of self-righteous meatwits who conducted their concerns as though their precious way of life were under constant siege. In the backwater known as the SouthCoast, this means parochial cliquishness -- exactly the sort of thing that the Chamber is all about.
Of course, according to Chamber by-laws (or "protocols" or "covenants" or "recipes" or something), workers are considered merely whiny foot soldiers of the Big Bad Socialist threat and business owners are pitiable set-upon self-identified victims. Which is a common peculiarity in certain quarters, those familiar with the comedy stylings of Glenn Beck will recognize.
Unfortunately, I also had to make small-talk with these pasty polyester-and-pomade pigeons when the Chamber-espoused radio station where I worked contracted me to attend a Business After-Hours.
Do not misunderestimate the baby elephant walks that these events are. Remember those high school dances, with the diffident murmuring, the reticent wallflowers, and the oafs' too-eager laughter that served only to break the silence and make everyone more uncomfortable? Well, Chamber After-Hours are generally like that except there's open consumption of alcohol.
"So, let me get this straight" I asked as I preread the copy that had been entrusted to my ability to squeeze two pages of drivel into a thirty-second promo. "This line here about 'making new business contacts and new friends'... But they all know each other. Half of them played on the same high school basketball team."
Alas, no elucidation was forthcoming. The Station Manager/Program Director/Morning Man/Sales Hump knew that I wasn't going to subscribe to the pretext.
Since I had been issued the short straw, I sputtered the prepared notice over some innocuous bed music and went to set up the broadcast equipment. While hanging the station's abject banner, I was asked more than once if I were the deejay and could I play "HOO-lee-oh IN-gleesius."
In those innocent days of my youth, it was beyond me to augur what the Chamber -- to me, a bunch of pleasant, puffy nitwits who smelled of Aqua Velva -- would ultimately become. I mean, seriously, when Eliot Spitzer notes that you've been "wrong on virtually every major public policy issue of the past decade: financial deregulation, tax and fiscal policy, global warming and environmental enforcement, consumer protection, health care reform …" you know that you've been snagged.
Friday, October 16, 2009
I recall an ill-fated Journal entry almost exactly two years ago in which I recounted being solicited by automated call to search my surroundings for a college student who had gone missing and may be wandering around town. The upshot of my piece was that I checked my outbuildings (barns, garages, doghouse, sheep pen) and even the empty farmhouse in the neighboring lot that my neighbor had moved and subsequently abandoned. With no specific details supplied to me -- like the fact that the missing lad was bipolar and had stopped taking his medicine -- I had originally speculated to myself that he had run off with a new love or for a weekend at the tables at Foxwoods.
Oh: I did mention that I also thought it passing strange that he had legally changed his name to a agglomeration of recent adventure movie heroes. PLEASE: Do not diminish a young man's tale by obsessing over picayunities, for I am acutely aware of my insensitivity in the hasty piece and the fact that the student has never been found.
Within hours of my posting that entry, some gamer message board had invited members to visit and assault my site. All told: 258 comments, many of them posted multiple times, many enumerating my "utterly reprehensible," and "thoughtless" remarks, advising me to "take a pill" and "lay off" the "good/smart/sweet kid." Some of these comments were even posted using my own imprint at the time, Thirdmate.
Yeah. They made their point and to this day I still remember it. I deleted that post and didn't log on for a week while I instituted a new set of protections and passwords.
I am wary of repeating a thoughtlessness, and I am particularly weary of abusive and exceptive online behavior.
So I was filled with trepidation when I noticed that this site was flooded with 98 visits from http://community.idealistshaven.com/forums/, which appears to be an X-Files fansite where I am not a member, so I have no idea what led you all to swamp my SiteMeter.
I got one comment from one of you, and I answered it here. I'm disappointed that only three of you bothered to visit more than one page and only one of you thought to engage me, albeit with a series of sassy affronts. I would have thought that someone might have mentioned Agent Dana Scully's dog, Queequeg.
I thought that I was only going to get flack for the girlie pictures.
(This presentation features photographs of Gillian Anderson)
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The celebration of the birthday of the stately matriarch of our little clan is approaching, and the one gift that I would never ever ever dream of getting my mom on her birthday -- or any other day -- is admission to the New Bedford Whaling Museum's Thirty-Fourth Whaling Symposium even if it does feature Vicki Ellen Szabo (author of Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic) as she discusses the history of Viking whaling. And there's also a session entitled "Invention and History of the Onboard Tryworks." It's this weekend and it's only 170 bucks, but there's only so much excitement a gal can take.
I am, unlike some "scholars" and "sailors," not territorial about the thing. When I say that it is "one of my favorite books," the emphasis is not on the "my." I do not delude myself into thinking that Melville wrote it just for me, nor do I feel any irrepressible need to promote, defend, or mother it.
I will, however, complain when William Hurt and Donald Sutherland sign on to a version of the thing that inexplicably involves a "Mrs. Ahab" played by the always-misused Gillian Anderson.
It's under filmway in Malta and Nova Scotia. Not New Bedford. Never mind that we have Father Mapple's actual Seaman's Bethel, or that it's the city that is the setting for the only chapters that anyone ever gets through. It's New Befford, which doesn't like Moby-Dick attention and would prefer to do a screen adaptation of Down at the Docks because that would require getting turned down by the always-misused Gillian Anderson.
Anyway, according to everything that I've read, the new adaption doesn't seem to have a hyphen, so maybe New Bedford is better off without them.
And as long as they're in Lunenburg and Shelburne Nova Scotia, at least they're on the "South Coast" of something.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Because I inadvertently -- or at least ignorantly -- agreed to some some Facebook game or other where people that I don't know try to enlist me in melodramatic letter-writing campaigns that usually demonstrate some symptom of our national Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I get these things.
A "Rob" proffered this careless confession -- which is passionate, so we must forgive his mistakes -- via the Independent Book Sellers Bulletin. I furnish it here completely until the part where I get sick of it:
While heading to the book shop I was listening to my favorite NPR station, I was stunned to hear a promotion of Amazon.com. It appears as though community public radio stations across the nation are doing this as a means of "fund raising" and that Amazon is an "underwriter." I know an advertisement when I hear one, and this was an advertisement.Then he starts with the community radio "should surrport [sic] the community that you [sic] call home and should be supported by the same" and urges everyone on the phone tree to come down hard on those corporate appeasers and enablers.
I contacted the station and was met with great defensiveness by the Development Director. The conversation went on for some time and concluded with the Development Director's statement "each month I open that check and that is what it is all about". Although I know that there are at least 2 locally owned independent book shops that support this same station, I do not recall ever hearing their shops promoted...
Public radio stations are non-profit businesses. By FCC regulations, they cannot have advertisers. So they contract with local businesses to sponsor or underwrite, programming. Nearly 800 "community public radio" stations are the National Public Radio network. Those stations themselves are responsible for over half of NPR's budget, which they collect from "listeners like you" and from local sponsors. So if you don't hear local businesses on your local station, the businesses are not supporting their programming.
On the other hand, it might appear that the "Development Director" you encountered was pulling your leg. A national sponsor (like Amazon, for instance) would not underwrite a local station because it would be redundant. Except if the station were reeeallly special.
Tell your 2 local bookshops to get in touch with the station in question and underwrite something. The people who listen to public radio are more likely to go to a bookstore than the people who listen to talk radio. Who are more likely to merely drool.
I might also add that a radio station is not yours by virtue of your having tuned your crystal set to its frequency. That "in the public interest" and "public service" stuff is set dressing. Legally, a radio station is only required to broadcast on its assigned frequency, identify itself by callsign/community of license once per hour, and follow regulations set and administered by the Federal Communications Commission.
Did the "advertisement" that you heard encourage listeners to "go immediately" to Amazon? Did it mention special prices or offers? Was it disruptive or out of place in the program? You might ask what the station policy is for underwriter announcements. Stations can have their own rules, but generally a mention of fifteen seconds (or thirty words) is the common industry standard. If your problem is legitimate, contact the
Federal Communications CommissionAnd, use spellcheck.
Consumer & Governmental Affairs
Bureau Consumer Complaints
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
Monday, October 12, 2009
Even as Americans celebrate the conflicting social, political, moral, and historical assertions that are Columbus Day (I like to remember that schools are closed but The Stock Market isn't), those historic ship ghouls over in the U.K. are at it again.
Before everyone starts chastising me for getting all boaty -- or before someone starts warbling a Herman's Hermits tune -- the BBC reports once again on the fascinating, if outlandishly- detailed, ongoing saga of the five hundred year old ship, Mary Rose:
Carefully preserved relics revealing what life was like on board Henry VIII's warship, the Mary Rose, have been revealed for the first time.First: I had nothing to do with the sinking. Do you hear me? NOTHING.
A Tudor fiddle and a leather "manbag" are just a few of the items The Mary Rose Trust has allowed to be filmed.
The move marks the launch of the Mary Rose 500 appeal to raise the remaining £4m needed to build the £35m museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
It also marks the 500th anniversary of the commissioning of the warship.
The Mary Rose sank on 19 July 1545 with the loss of more than 400 lives, after 34 years of service.
The wreck was discovered in the 1960s and in 1982 it was raised to the surface to be restored in dry dock in Portsmouth.
Second: I was under the impression that "manbags" were once called "purses" (or merely, "bags") and men carried them because that's where they kept their stuff. As a matter of convenience and not as a clumsy metrosexual affectation or indicator of some fatuous desire to costume as a Pony Express rider.
Third: Polyethylene glycol -- the solution sprayed on the wreck to keep it preserved -- is available over the counter. It's the "miracle laxative," Miralax. There's a snark in there somewhere.
And Finally: Forget Henry's boat. Henry's apparently ginchy second wife, Anne Boleyn, has been portrayed recently by two distinctly different actresses named Natalie.
The softcore cable-teevee version by Natalie Dormer (who has been working for nearly four whole years.)And on Sesame Street -- alphabetically-accessorized -- by Natalie Portman.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
It may seem oddly inappropriate to some: Referring to Tracey Ullman on Kirsty MacColl's birthday. But this missive shall attempt to cursorily explain my circuitous connection to Kirsty MacColl. Trust me: the details are so NOT worth it.
I never met her.
But "Tracey Ullman" is as easy a point to sally from as any. During a telephone interview with Ms. Ullman -- who was, at the time, just about almost "regarded" in the popular lexicon as "Oh. yeah, her" -- the point was made to me that her "big hit" was written by and originally performed by a Kirsty MacColl. I was, of course, incapable of making any kind of intelligent conversation about Ms. MacColl and asked Ms. Ullman to squeeze a few lines out over the phone, to perhaps jar my listeners' (read: "my") memories.
"It's the one that goes 'BAY-bee.'"
Years later, I was told that they actually used MacColl's "BAY-bee" in Tracey's single because Ullman -- whom I consider terrifically talented as a character mimic -- couldn't hit that note.
So, here's the original '79 recording that some YouTuber put together with some lovely photographs of Kirsty. Which is better than the rest of the truly horrible videos from those olden days:
Kirsty's dad was Ewan MacColl, whose "Shoals of Herring" and "Dirty Old Town" (or its cover by The Pogues) were favorites on my "Celtic" music radio show. I scared the crap out of the Station Manager/Program Director/Sales Manager/Morning Guy/Much-Loved Local Douchebag when I played Ewan's version of "The First Time Ever I saw Your Face" and disclosed that the song was written by Ewan -- a socialist!!1! -- and not by Roberta Flack.
The story goes that he had written the song for Peggy Seeger. Pete's sister. (Journal frequenters know that's a name that I like to drop.)
American radio being what it was -- and it's even worse now -- I never had the opportunity to even play her music. Except for one "Celtic Christmas" show that featured Kirsty and The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York." Which, of course, drew an angry phone call from a listener who promised to complain to the station's owners, whom she "knew personally." I'm sure that at least one of the old idiots would have preferred that I go with one of the clever "novelty" tunes of MacColl's daughter. If they had ever heard one...
Recently, I've been encouraging the success of former GusGus vocalist Hafdis Huld (whose new album, Synchronised Swimmers, is out soon) for no other reason than that I like her. She records for producer Calum MacColl's Red Grape Records, and I have exactly one e-mail communication with him about his relatives -- from the Seeger side -- who were neighbors of mine.
( "Days" is a 1968 Kinks song by Ray Davies. )
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
According to the BBC:
Scientists hope weather data from 18th Century ships' logbooks will throw new light on how the climate has changed in the past 200 years.Well, that's just dandy.
A new UK project is digitising nearly 300 Royal Navy captains' logs from voyages dating back to the 1760s.
They include the voyages of Charles Darwin on HMS Beagle, Captain Cook's log from HMS Discovery and Captain Bligh's journal from The Bounty.
The logbooks will be available on the National Archives website next year.
I've been just plain wasting my time making a reasonable go at scratching away at dusty and musty old bookstore, library, and museum collections for firsthand and eyewitness sources while also brushing off climate change deniers. I should have been putting the two avocations together; I could have had easy access to 300 captains' logs.
Which could have made this "H.M.S. Impossible" a pretty interesting online presence, come to think of it. Of course, I have way more pictures of film stars, so the deck was stacked, to misalign metaphors.
Of course, you can always get the narratives of the journeys of Darwin, Cook, and Bligh at your neighborhood bookstore, usually on the paperback overstock rack.
And I didn't miss the significance of the clever headline:
What was the Royal Society forcing the Royal Navy to do during the Eighteenth Century? For the most part it was sending its most persnickety commanders out to the Pacific, where they would be of no further trouble. To the King and Joseph Bank's dismay, characters like Bligh and Cook were just too damned fastidious. Charting and naming every chunk of damp volcanic outcropping that appeared appellatable. Measuring and recording depths and temperatures of currents alow and wafts of breeze aloft. Collecting every damned leaf, frond, foliole, petiole and peduncle. Give a clever fellow a chronometer, and he'll no doubt go places.
On the other hand, Bligh's crew (most notably master's mate F. Christian) were collecting other stuff. Like Tarita Teriipia... ...rattan blinds...... and Esther Williams...
Monday, October 5, 2009
At least one person -- a teen in the parking lot of Baker Books hollering into her iPhone -- enjoyed this weekend's "Open Studios" exposition in New Bedford. For those unfamiliar with the event, I'll let her words explain:
"So, it's like, these like artists have their places like open so that and you can people and see them make their arts and stuff. It's all right. We had a rully good time."The Standard-Times found a much more eloquent observer in our friend Keri Cox, who both praised and proscribed the artists of New Bedford -- one of whom is her eight year-old son (who is, incidentally, excellent company at any art opening that's filled with stuffy old Yankees). Well, she said something that I'm just tired of people saying about New Bedford's economy:
"'The arts community holds the key to New Bedford's future,' she believes. 'The next wave brewing is the creative economy.'"The city of New Bedford has been the off-and-on home of Southern New England's arts economy since the Nineteenth Century, when available whaling and manufacturing cash supported local artists and allowed for the wholesale manufacture and sale of art, which bolstered its continguous business, like dealers, suppliers, and banks.
I'm sure that I've shared these sentiments at another juncture: I loathe when people use terms like "emerging arts scene," or when they refer to the "creative economy" as a new "wave" or "movement" or some new version of Capitalism.
The "creative economy" is not an economic wave; it is a label that describes a whole bunch of occupations and products that all the economists forgot to mention in the textbooks that haven't been updated since the Seventies. The "creative economy" -- of which artists, performers, writers, and designers are constituent -- has always been here. It's just that corporate capitalism has never effectively wrapped its economic theories around it, nor benefited enough to think of it as anything other than goofy beatniks and distracted hobbyists.
Which is simple-minded diminution of art's significance, ghettoizing artists. Which is how you eliminate a class, not promote it.
Which is exactly why it galls me whenever I see "artists lofts" or those dreadful "live-work spaces" that put artists on display like isolated animals in a zoo. Which isn't all that far removed from these "Open Studios" events. That Disneyfication of labor cheapens every piece of art that's created because it only focuses on the facility which houses the artist and not on the art itself. "Oh. Look, honey, let's go to see the funny artists. And kids are doing the arts too! It's so cute!"
And make sure that you pick up a little something as a souvenir after the show.
(This presentation features a photograph of Ginger Rogers.)
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Smell that? Newage truths waft from the Occult-Astrology-HomeNecromancy shelves in bookstores like the smell of patchouli at a Dead show, as if to cover up something else. "Astrology" has never stipulated that people with the same birthday share the same fate. That would be weird. (Which would be just appropriate enough for the season.)
But it is possible that two people with the same birthday can share the same height.
Gwen is FOUR years older than Neve, and you might already have noticed that both "GWEN" and "NEVE" contain 4 letters (AND, for that matter, "STEF"). Yet ANOTHER reason why New Age pseudoscience is so darned intriguing.
Friday, October 2, 2009
According to tarot.com (to which I shan't link, in order to maintain some shred of credibility), the planet Mercury -- portrayed by the astrological "planet" Mercury -- is "going direct" after an uncomfortable retrograde period. Which some wags might use as justification for the new look and my newfound willingness to toil at this Journal. "Retrograde" movement in astrology is explained as a period of time when a planet appears to be going backward in the chart possibly -- but not always -- slowing or sometimes forcing events and confusing -- or maybe clarifying -- communications.
So, then, "direct" would mean the opposite of that, then.
Astrology -- or, more commonly, "Da Horascope" -- is a Little Complicator that supposedly makes life "interesting."
"Wine Lists" are another. There's "reds" and there's "whites" and if you didn't know better, you would think that "rosés" are just the two mixed together. But there are 34,923,481 different kinds of whites and 35, 768,204 reds. I don't particularly care for rosés, so I won't even make up a number for them. I don't even see any rosés when I look out my window at the hundred acres of vineyard behind the manse, but they're there, or something like them.
If you don't imbibe, then a disinterested gum-chewing waitress mumbling through a monotonous presentation of "Today's Specials" is a Little Complicator. In the boating world, it's each ship captain's insistence on some footwear or certain beverage or no beverage at all; on TallShips™, it's the pinrail arrangement. Because you just never will know where they make off the topgallant starboard buntleechline. Or spell it, for that matter. And try doing that after a rosé or two.
Somewhere in our nature is a dependence on -- a reliance upon -- some thing that is larger than ourselves that may or may not be in control of things outside of ourselves but most certainly complicates things. Umberto Eco points at this trait when he explains the success of Dan Brown. "God isn't big enough for us" anymore, so we have to devise mysteries about the Mysteries and conspiracies that contrive to complicate the simplest variables in the human equation.
I speak for myself, of course, when I conjecture that our brains are not capable of comprehending the complexities of creation, so we simply invent cool stories. This would explain classical mythologies and also the 2008 Presidential Election.
So, go ahead, make up some complexities that make sense to you.
During October, be aware of some of the depictions of these complexities. You'll see them -- for the most part -- as candy displays. Witches and skeletons walking around. Oh wait. That's Project Runway.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
It has occurred to me that, although this Journal has often featured my magical little hamlet -- Dartmouth Massachusetts, specifically not North Dartmouth, where the Mall is -- I rarely am recognized by local Internet talents that I consider neighbors.
Granted, they don't appear in my "LINKS" section, either.
And I don't hyperlink to them like I do to Armagideon Time, particularly because they don't EVER feature cool stuff like the Halloween Countdown, one reason that I didn't have the Internet shut off with the teevee and telephone.
Mayhaps the parishioners' reticence is due to the exigency that I don't share the local propensity for dull reality. (Or any reality, truth be told.)
It may be due to the fact that I don't go to Town Meetings or report on them or take them in any way seriously, but I do pride myself on my attention to history.
So let me apologize to them, and celebrate with them this most agreeable time of year, which is especially agreeable here in the land once called "Apponogansett." Although "Apponogansett" is actually the water, not the land, but you can't have everything.
Unless you have more metal buildings.
This current and present October First -- besides being the First Day in the Halloween Countdown -- is former Senator Rufus Choate's 210th Birthday. Choate, born in Ipswich in 1799, is one of those great Massachusetts orators. Like Daniel Webster, John F Kennedy, and Mike Dukakis. After serving in the United States Senate representing the Commonwealth (where he presciently opposed annexing Texas), Rufus Choate was the first lawyer to use the "insanity" defense. "'Insanity of sleep' defense," more specifically. So there's that.
For those wondering why I should point out any of this, there's a Rufus Choate Scholarship at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. And we have a University of Massachusetts here in Dartmouth Massachusetts.
And that, stretching quite a bit, is what Rufus Choate has to do with Dartmouth.
Another great historical name in Massachusetts is "Adams." So here's a snap of Texan Jane "Poni" Adams (the one who played Nurse Nina in 1945's House of Dracula, not the Jane Adams from Eternal Sunshine of the Something et cetera) apparently encouraging young people to worship occult things. Like Harry Potter.