Sunday, November 29, 2009

Last Veterans' Day Parade of the decade, and you gotta grumble about it...

In a letter published in Saturday's Standard-Times (enlabeled "In Veterans Day parade, vets play second fiddle," also available at SouthCoastToday.com through the folowing link) former editor Ken Hartnett "[c]an't help but wonder why New Bedford parade planners persist in pushing our honored veterans way back in the ranks of parade marchers, giving the place of honor to politicians, notably the mayor and city councilors."
Aware of belaboring the alliteration, I profess that I have "paraded." From meandering Duval Street with costumed and not-at-all-costumed revelers capping Key West's Fantasy Fest to stepping in the fussily-choreographed Fall River Celebrates America Parade. I have processed solemnly (or cheerily, or both) in saints' days processions, and I have also handed, reefed, and steered in Parades of Sail involving TallShips™.
As a broadcaster, the order of a march was rarely of consequence to me since names that I was required to say were imposed upon me in the preshow meetings. "And an appearance by The Hills-Mills Comedy Clown Band, so stay tuned..."
As participant, being in the festivities is in itself the reward, the honor in the action. But to this day I have no idea what manner of calculation and collusion goes into parade planning. I have seen "honored guests" appear at the very beginning of the parade, toward the middle of the parade, and at the very end of the parade. I'm sure that there is some ancient traditional codification, some erudite and trusted manual for parade organizers, but I have never seen it.
Ken Hartnett, though, may be privy to the abstruse machinations either honoring or abasing ambulators in processions, for he is quite put out by the placement of veterans in New Bedford's Veterans' Day parade. One veteran in particular, whom Hartnett befittingly singles out for notice and mention:

The recent Veterans Day parade included the thinning ranks of World War II veterans, including one of our region's biggest heroes, Calvin Siegal, who defied death and two German bullets in the Battle of the Bulge.
I look for Siegal in every parade because he marches proud and tall in his original uniform, a sight to see for those who know and honor him.
I know Cal from my days at the Whaling Museum, as well as from our membership in the "thinning ranks" of those who button shirt collars and choose to wear actual bowties.
At the appropriate opportunity -- here for instance -- I will praise Mr. Siegal for his business acumen, gracious community involvement, and fine example of public service.
As far as the appropriate placement of aspirant officers, City Councillors or other entertainers: Opening acts rarely draw the crowds or merit the applause. And I noticed last Thursday that very few kids left the Macy's Day Parade before Santa's appearance.
At the end.
And it should be noted: Although the hearse is located at the front of a funeral cortege, few want the honor of riding in it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank The Day

Sailing on the ocean leaving all confusion
Of who you are and what you want to be
Sailing up the green wall, laughing as the wind blows
Singing, sliding down the other side
Working in the sun, having good hard fun
When nighttime comes we'll rest and thank the day
We thank the day

Landing on an island, I couldn't keep from smiling
The people there were friendly as can be
Livin' in an ocean of syncopated motion
Laughing, singing all our cares away
Working in the sun, our days be spent in fun
When nighttime comes we'll rest and thank the day
We thank the day
When nighttime comes we'll rest and thank the day
We thank the day
Sailing on the ocean leaving all confusion
Of who you are and what you want to be
Sailing up the green wall, laughing as the wind blows
Singing, sliding down the other side
Working in the sun, our days be spent in fun
When nighttime comes we'll rest and thank the day
Thank the day


Dave Torbert, New Riders of the Purple Sage
from The Adventures Of Panama Red,1973

(This presentation includes a photograph of Farrah Fawcett)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

While Giving Thanks...

That's John Paul Jones. Whose band won't be at the Z either.

H.M.S. Impossible (not shown). Proudly protecting SouthCoast waters from Dire Straits.Because 'randomly asking jokers on your e-mail list' is always preferable to 'just marketing more effectively.'

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Holiday Reminders....

Your host has looked over the afternoon's post and vagued the usual disturbing seasonal waft.
To someone without the non-profit know-how of your Third Mate, it might appear that everyone is standing around with a hand out, insisting that I tender some sort of pecuniary "help." I don't know if this is due to my recent musings on the philanthropic art, but the coincidence appears obvious.
I was more encouraged by the fifty-eight-pound carton that FedEx had left in error on the estate's service entrance mat. A box that clearly belonged at the Colonial farmstead up and across the street.
'Life is hard. After all, it kills you.' Kate said that.(Entertaining aside: When I traipsed the errant package to its correct recipient -- a delightful neighbor lady in her early next century -- she remarked on "the difficulty that young people have these days telling the difference between 'five' and 'six.'" I chuckled, but later thought: Ma'am, I may have encountered some disquiet with temporal displacement, but I'm not exactly what you might call a peer. So go easy with the "kids these days" stuff.)
As an independently-engaged operative, I don't find myself responding to begging letters with any great liberality. I do ante up what I can and when I can, because I believe in the reasonable missions of most charitable alliances. It does no organization any good to get a check for thirty-five dollars when a simple, ready check for a hundred grand will cover most of the outfit's operating budget. But that's a choice which I leave to my neighbors and fellow travellers.
Please allow me, shipmate, to clearly and wholly deny suggestions that I won't feed this year's various worthy kitties or "répondez s'il vous plaît merci mais non" to seasonal holiday shindig invitations. Every solicitation must be answered -- even the Nigerian ones and the ones from those who never put me on their e-mail list, didn't send me the right novelty promotional geegaw, or pay me.
Each fundraising event must be attended -- likely not by me, of course -- but it is my fondest delight that between now and the date of the least possible lengthy daylight that I fill each moment of darkness with as much par-tay as reasonably available, open bar or whatnot.
Which is, apparently, the way everyone else will have it because today I have received nine "special holiday fundraiser" invitations to add to the growing stack of "annual seasonal soirees" or "solstice embraces" or "cool yule evenin' swings" or "kooky kwanzaa spectaculars" or even some "Christmas party" ones.
As of this writing, there are thirty-five days until the mall Santas once again get temporarily terminated and local radio stations have to shelve their "24/7 Elmo, Patsy, and The Boston Pops Marathons."
And I'm looking at one hundred and eighty-seven envelopes. I may just stay right here with Cyd and the Saint Bernard. Until the K9 cask seems funny again.

(This presentation includes photographs of Katharine Hepburn and Cyd Charisse and a Saint Bernard.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

National Philanthropy Day

At United Way we believe everyone has the ability to give back to their community, regardless of their circumstances. As National Philanthropy Day approaches, please consider getting involved by giving, advocating or volunteering. It does not matter how you decide to get involved; it just matters that you do.

-Michelle N. Hantman, President
United Way of Greater New Bedford

I have always considered the United Way as a sort of "Chamber-of-Commerce-Lite." More contemporary, both sartorially and hygienically, United Way workers add a veneer of bureaucratic gravitas that many businesses in the civic sector need. Well-intentioned pencil pushers, cheerleaders, and bean counters, the United Way is indispensable in gentling the rabble to abstractions like "giving" and "volunteering," and usually remains far enough from actual philanthropists to do any real harm.I'm spreadin' it around, ma'am.My definition of "philanthropy" is less complicated but no less philosophical than the United Way's, as they focus on the three key building blocks of education, income and health. The United Way movement creates long lasting community change by addressing the underlying causes of problems that prevent progress in these areas. LIVE UNITED is a call to action for everyone to become a part of the change. LIVE UNITED.
Very nice. Also: not exactly philanthropy. What The United Way defines there is "humanitarian civic involvement." Shame that they have to set up offices in in thousands of cities around the world to show people how to take care of their neighbors and communities, since the private sector is too busy eating its young and not DONATING MONEY TO CHARITY. We've come that far, Milton Friedman.
I am not, despite former personal and professional connections, that mercenary.
But.
Wait.
Is it possible that philanthropy may be the only concrete outlet left for demonstrating true rational self-interest?Pretty subtle, huh?If we understand philanthropy as an ongoing fiduciary commitment to a group's reasonably well-defined goal -- with which our own goals concur -- we can appreciate the Development Director's maxim, "Giving is Getting." When a donor agrees with the mission set by a non-profit and acts to support that particular organization, program, or service, the reward is obvious. I mean, even besides all that emotional "feeling good about yourself" stuff. What could be more consciously selfish than ensuring your own happiness by giving money to a place that houses artifacts (or shows paintings, or presents speakers, musicians, or literature) that interest you?
But the non-profit or civic sector has always been there when the for-profit sector has failed. "Trickle down" was a failure of the for-profit sector and the non-profit sector was there to house the errors. Literally.
Remember that the next time that you whine (incorrectly) about non-profits taking your "hard-earned tax dollars." They don't take your tax money; they manage their own business well enough to succeed, make a profit, and put that profit back into their business and its mission, exempt from taxes because they serve the community. All the while being misunderstood and ignored, if not watched, maligned, questioned, monitored and regulated more than any private corporation that is given a tax break just for moving in.
Because a private corporation's only "mission" is to make money.
Not that that's a bad thing, mind you. It lifts the corporation above suspicion of any underhandedness. The non-profit business, however, declares its mission to "help and serve" its community.
Which is a very suspect admission indeed.

(This presentation includes photographs of Brooke Astor and Patricia Neal.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sesame Street, Forty years of

Look. I'm First Lady. Can I get someone to teach this carpet remnant how to use the First Person?Those who are unaware of your host's unassailable pronunciatory confidence -- most palpable while I'm reading aloud, as in broadcasting -- will be enriched to know that at one time, I displayed no such endowment.
The year was 1969. We had just sent men to wander around on the Moon, and as a kid whose horizons stretched as far as the map of the Ponderosa and as wide as the Enterprise's five-year mission, only one individual's presence was both bane and boon: Sister Mary Margaret Martha Mary-something, the attendant spirit of this young student's First Grade class at Saint Christopher's School.Ambition. We all got 'em.
It was my ambition to read and commit to memory every bit of printed reading material I could find so as to expedite and assist lively dialogue around the schoolyard, dinner table, car seats on family trips, and any other eventuality where social interaction demanded more than nods, grunts, shrugs, or waves.
My home had been furnished with tomes from every age of human endeavor. Mom and Dad seemed to know everything in them, so I had some catching up to do. The children's reference center upstairs was appointed for my sister and me with books of collected fairy tales and fables, fabulously illustrated treatises on dinosaurs, and the smaller red version of the big grey Encyclopædia Britannica that resided downstairs in the adults' Atheneum, where I would some day start devouring bigger books with smaller letters. Just as soon as I had fully annihilated the first rungs up the literary ladder, with brief asides to Superman and Spiderman comic books.
And the damned puerile Weekly Readers at school.
The Weekly Reader, according to its website, produces : "standards-based, research-proven resources to support the development of academic vocabulary, reading comprehension, writing skills, and fluency for all learners. Through differentiated instruction and explicitly leveled materials, we strive to help educators..." and then it goes on about "diversity" and "21st-Century classrooms," none of which would have interested our class filled with New Hampshire Catholic hockey kids with last names that were easily-pronounceable and for the most part of French-Canadian or English/Irish derivation.Sister Mary Margaret DoppelgangerEach member of the class would read aloud one paragraph from the Weekly Reader as we shared the weekly assignment every Friday during Reading class. The front page of the handout consisted of three or four "paragraph" (read: "sentence") stories about current events (sorry, no Viet Nam conflict or Stonewall riots or Mansons). Some lucky readers got to read both the headline and the lead paragraph. One or two of my classmates would consistently stumble, but we were all well-behaved and patient, particularly those of us who regularly showed facility with the written and spoken word and politely helped when one of our classmates chanced upon an unfamiliar word or ungainly diphthong.
I enjoyed reading aloud, since it afforded me an opportunity to show everyone my familiarity with every single word.
Except for one.
And that word was "sesame."
I don't remember the exact wording of the headline, but the whole story welcomed to television a new program for youngsters set on a street in New York City, with such characters as "Big Bird," "Kermit the Frog," "Oscar the Grouch," and something called "Cookie Monster." "It's called SEE-same Street," I read.
A beat.
Then, a rustling of papers, a snicker, and a chuckle that grew infectious throughout our regularly respectful classroom.
Never had anyone ever laughed at a mispronunciation before, and the uproar directed at me seemed to forever right that particular wrong.
Sister Mary Margaret Martha Mary-something cleared her throat -- a lithe throat enhanced by the black crepe of her coif, now that I look back with a grown-up's eye -- and offered a soft correction: "SESS-a-mee."
"Oh," I exhaled. "Kinda like Sinbad? Like 'Open Sesame,' right?"
As luck would have it, that rejoinder saved my arm from many a malicious whack in the schoolyard, and I was assured the role of steady second pick in kickball. But I also pursued impeccable articulation with unconventional vigor. Within weeks, I was presented by Sister Mary Margaret Martha Mary-something as some sort of reading-aloud prodigy and delivered a disquisition concerning flying mammals -- bats specifically -- to the Fourth Grade science class and to Mother Superior, who had invited several idle novices and the visiting Diocesan Bishop, who blessed me and commented on the immodesty of the length of Sister Mary Margaret Martha Mary-something's habit.
Eventually, the whims of the Moirae would lead me to read aloud professionally at radio stations, including some in Fall River Massachusetts, my birthplace as well as the birthplace of Joe Raposo, the Portuguese-American composer who worked for Sesame Street, wrote the theme song and other classics, like "Bein' Green."
Rumor has it that Sister Mary Margaret Martha Mary-something left the priory soon after and opened a chain of Leather'n'Lace Boutiques. At least that's the story that I heard.
And good for her.

(This presentation includes photographs of Audrey Hepburn, First Lady Michelle Obama, Sally Field and Shelley Morrison.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Robert Browning: "Who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once."

Although it would be a lovely though temerarious walk, my Beloved and I don't wander about the side-walkless, motor-bandited, and poorly-lit trail to the local High School in the evening. But every night -- and long into the night, as that's apparently how the echoes work out here in the conservation-protected wilds of South Dartmouth -- my Beloved and I are treated to the "The Gift of Music."
Which is exactly the title of the program that our neighbors, the Dartmouth High School Marching Band and Color Guard, performed in order to win their second National Championship in two years.
If one wades through the SouthCoastToday.Com article linked to above, one finds that Music Director Bill Kingsland has precisely the proper winning philosophy necessary in band competitions. And, ultimately, in life.

"The key to success was eliminating errors from the performance, he [Kingsland] said."

I have never heard a more fitting injunction, except that one from my middle school band instructor who said, "Learn it right, or don't bother playing it at all!" A little more of a command than an encouragement toward meritorious consummation, but we got the idea. And none of us went on to play in the high school band. Or, for that matter, do anything more musical than holler lyrics and stage dive. (At least, that's what the guy with the candy-apple red Rickenbacker said when he handed me back my microphone, harmonica, and metaphoric hat.)
Some bands have opportunities that others don't have because they are a team whose members understand cooperation, collusion, and collaboration.
There will be those who give their all...
Stella Stevens, OverachieverNancy Carroll (no relation)
Some bring something special to their instruments...
Sophia Loren on accordion Debbie Reynolds' got a squeezebox
And some simply bring their instruments. Which is also special...
Tina Louise on tamborineJayne Mansfield ON
But all play what we play best...Björk

(This presentation includes photographs of Stella Stevens, Nancy Carroll, Sophia Loren, Debbie Reynolds, Tina Louise, Jayne Mansfield, and Björk Guðmundsdóttir.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Beat it, Moondoggie...

Sure. I could crack wise and add my two cents to the ever-widening gyre of doomdrawlers grumbling and sniveling about Tuesday's election results. But, I've turned a page here in the Journal, and eschew populist casuistry to display my pride in relatives and acquaintances involved in important governance issues and campaigns. And we're all lucky that none of them is involved in the nonsense occurring nationally. Unfortunately, we all know that the next election might change everything or reinforce everything that we're thinking right now about our fellow citizens.

So: HAPPY BIRTHDAY SALLY FIELD!
This was taken yesterday.

MusicienneCenterfold Hoser

Union organizerHandy Postulant Hottie
(This presentation contains photographs of and is dedicated to remarkably prescient political contributor Sally Field.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It may be the stream Thoreau goes a-fishing in...

... but for me, time is a swampy marsh that floods with an irregular tide that sometimes leaves the errant flotsam of history laying around improperly installed when the sea has ebbed away once more.
If popular media depictions of temporal traipsing is to be believed, there are various means by which a time traveller can determine his or her or its whenabouts. And since anticipation is the essence of drama, it just wouldn't do to have a character simply ask a local or just read the time and date (and sometimes even location) superimposed on the bottom of the screen.
For many popular chronologic gallivanters, newspapers provide a common and conspicuous resource.
One such newspaper-consulter was Dr. Sam Beckett, portrayed by actor Scott Bakula. The teevee series Quantum Leap followed a scientist who conflated string theory with lousy memory and travelled willy-nilly through time by turning blue and "leaping" into other people in the last thirty years (mostly from the Seventies, where the costumes and props were easier to get). Sometimes -- particularly during sweeps -- he would "leap" into a real person. Some of my favorites, actually.
Like the episode where Sam Beckett
About to leap into dance leapt into Sam Beckett.
We are all born mad. Some remain so. Helluva crossword today, huh?
Dr. Beckett, of course, had comic relief Al to validate the dateline in the previous scene and drive the setting home so that even the exposition-incapable could chuckle at quips from the future, 1999. Your host, however, is not a fan of such cliché "newspaper dating" because of obvious confoundments like a week-old newspaper or zany pranksters Yes I know. Wrong headline. Right date. But boy, the trouble you'll have with Bess. or the scarcity of print journalism in alien environments.
I prefer more immediately accessible signs of temporality -- seasonal product displays in shops.
Whenever I see Christmas stuff start to appear, I know that it's after Hallowe'en. I also know that it's the week after Hallowe'en because the Hallowe'en candies are on sale. Plus, there are still tacked-up paper leaves in colors like alizarin, auburn, and amber, a sure sign that it's not yet Thanksgiving, when the white paper snowflakes replace them. Some back-to-school items, and the Election Day posters are still up. So it's the first or second week in in November, probably a Wednesday.
Life on the time marsh.
Except for when the newspaper runs a headline like this,
He lost the second term in the preliminary.
which seems to infer that both Lang and Coelho were running for a third term as mayor.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"...and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.”

In this backwater section of The Beach referred to as "SouthCoast," anyone who's been involved in politics for a time can get to be Mayor by having one's name on the ballot for the seat that about a quarter of the city thinks they already occupy. Since the name's been on the ballot in some slot or other for at least thirty years, the populace votes again, out of habit -- the "Mayor" part sufficiently clear or not.
Some aspirants win, and after a term or two, someone appoints them judge or "special officer of something" or they just resign and move to Florida with a little gravy on the state pension package. (nota bene: This will mean that you'll have to change that line "about never leaving [your] beloved/favorite/home city." Above all: Avoid quoting Evita.) Or, the local nub of the state university gets them to lecture about something. Possibly about retirement in Florida. Make a lesson plan and make a deal. Go ahead. Seminole Bingo by Warren Zevon & Carl Hiaasen...cashed in the last of my Triple B bonds/Bought a double-wide on the Tamiami Trail...
Others luck into the Mayoral spot by inheriting the office, such as when President of the City Council gets fluffed into the costume by one of those "timely resignations" (see above). Sometimes, City Councillors actually run, and often win. And sometime citizens who happen to have a residence in the city, if nothing else. If they're not shamed miserably by the confounding monkey-juggle of the primary.
Locally, City Councils provide both comedy and consternation; SouthCoast voters skillfully choose candidates who will provide one or the other. Voters who see politics as simple tax-payer funded entertainment (like PBS) seek the former; those who have nothing better to do than listen to talk radio select the latter.
By what I know of local cities' charters (I'm sure that there's some numbery amendmenty thing that decrees such things), the "Mayor" is supposed to be a Chief Executive Officer who acts as supervisor and leader, with the City Council as a sort of advisory board which presents district-specific exigencies and compulsions. This rarely is understood by participants, who typically act only to obfuscate or complicate, often without regard to any actual municipal reality. Add to this the occult gerrymandering of wards and completely arcane "at-large" bailiwicks, and that's why you have the same candidates wandering in and out of office at random intervals.
Fall River has deathly humorless participants in these contests and New Bedford is awash with exasperated pranksters. The public might apply inconsequential and unsuitable designations from national entertainments to these madcap locals: "liberal" or "neo-con" or "communist" or "Nazi," for instance. Which pushes a few sensible naturals out of the races.
Sure, it's a civic duty to vote and an admirable civic avocation to serve, but the level of mind-rattling nonsense keeps more than a few viable candidates at home. The financial and personal costs of campaigning shortens the field to the connected, the popular, the petty, and the puppets. And, of course, the SouthCoast proclivity for mistaking "inane tirades" for "honest discourse" -- and "honest discourse" for "something valuable" -- further culls the field.
So, join the ten- to fourteen-percent of citizens today and participate in the exhilirating though irrelevant nostalgia of voting. "Irrelevant," of course, unless you actually also shepherd and supervise your municipally-minded neighbors and watch their every move while they hold the offices they've been granted by the one out of eighteen registered voters who'll actually show up.

So join that elite exclusive elusive crowd. Vote up, SouthCoast citizens!

Or I'll kick your ass.

(This presentation features a photograph of Eliza Dushku and possibly one of Louise Brooks. It's hard to say.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

In 2010, the new hotel gives out plastic water bottles

Since this year's considerations of Hallowe'en consisted of overhearing a youngster demand of his mother that she tell him why, "they don't just make pumpkins already hollow so you can cut the face out easier and fill with candy," all that was left for your host was the regret of not enjoying their company at the Bioneers conference last month in New Bedford. Out standing in her field
Actually, I couldn't make it for this year's shindig. C'mon, I've been accused of treehugging and resources pickiness since the Sixties, when it was important for small children to collect fag ends and shot glasses from the neighborhood polo grounds and share clever ways to save energy at home. One suggestion from a classmate: "Closin door to outside so the heet from the coal stove don't excape." (Today he's an assistant programming manager who calls his Adult Attention Deficit Disorder "Multi-tasking." Didn't make it to the rendezvous regatta last year, either.)
Nowadays, youngsters are more sophistic and would have no idea what to do if you gave them construction paper except to throw it into the recycle bin and design a quick viral video featuring armed photovoltaic frogs on their MacBook.
Of course, the rest of the folk are offended deeply at the outrageous affront to individual freedom that CFL lightbulbs represent. It doesn't take long for the feces-flinging to start when aspects of someone's NASCAR-and-flatulence lifestyle are called into question. I'm thinking of one hamhead's trope referring to "effeminate men" involved in the Bioneer sphere. I refer that individual to Van Jones. Or to any member of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
I have no concerns about my own masculinity or its relative inconsequence vis-a-vis global climate change.
The true battle, of course, was waged around the provisions board, while local restaurateurs grumble that Bioneers don't spend in their eateries and saloons. Of course, the Bioneers' handlers fed attendees "breakfast" and "lunch," leaving an evening meal -- if you were into that sort of depraved indulgence -- to be got in the Whaling City. Except...
Some customers loo at menus, and... well, look at what they peddle: corn-fed antibiotic-overdosed beef from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, trans fat-slathered pesticide-drenched off-season genetically-modified things grown on foreign factory farms that waste time and fossil fuels in shipping. Local agriculturalists and vintners languish in dry "Farmers' Markets" while wealthy local victuallers push local pols around to whine about a fraction-of-a-penny meals tax.Hey waiter! What's the name of this desert?
I wonder who's a member of the local Chamber of Commerce?

(This presentation includes photographs of Suzanne Pleshette.)