Saturday, January 30, 2010

J.D. Salinger

(I write this in full confidence that, unlike that time when I referred to Gillian Anderson as "misused" and incurred some fanboy wrath, no one Googles™ "J.D. Salinger" regularly to pick semantic fights.)
I never liked J.D. Salinger's work.
At least not at the time that I was expected to: I don't know, sometime between the age of nine and thirteen maybe ?
I didn't like Holden Caulfield and was annoyed by Franny and Zooey, a book whose only actual contribution to Western Civilization was that it provided the name of one of the Deschanel sisters.Emily, however, was not named 'Franny.' Or 'Seymour.' I resented the circular and specious "debates" engendered and perpetuated about his writings, his hokey reclusiveness, and the pocketbook convenience of his approaches to psychology and spirituality.
But what made me most dislike Salinger was his fans.
I had developed unfair stances against popular icons since my early adolescence -- based almost entirely on my opinion of habitués. I went through a period of intense Led Zeppelin dislike because of the jerks in my junior high school who would write ZEPP RULES on every available surface. I couldn't understand the Trans Am versus Corvette hostility carried on by the school parking lot cigarette-smokers either, but I can determine it as the beginning of my American "muscle" car aversion. (I still only like a Firebird if driven by James Garner. Oh snap... I forgot that I loved my Mustang.)
My high school curriculum assumed that students had picked up Catcher in the Rye over the Summer between Eighth Grade and Freshman year, appreciated its example that intense self-absorption is a boring dead end, and moved on to the next book on the reading list: Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals.
Certain college dorm rooms teemed with those examples of extended infantilism like unicorn posters, stuffed animals, and copies of Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters which seemed never to have been read, but were placed reverentially on a shelf directing some sort of shamanistic power over a certain clique of she-scholars.
Between drags of Marlboro Lights and sips of an older sister's red wine, they asserted that they were "feminists." Which is to say that they were preposterously and unbecomingly miffed by common campus terms like "Freshman Ten" and "girl." For a brief period, your Third Mate retained a fluctuant sodality with several members of that soi-disant sorority.
It would be fair to depict my ante-collegiate social life as a diverse range of positive, mostly comic, coeducational sporting events. Why I traded that playfulness for the crushing weight of "grown-up" dating that seemed de rigueur with those university termagants, I'll never know. It took only a few Fridays wasted on impenetrably awful foreign films and the stink of clove cigarettes for me to accept that I would only ever be chump and never champion.
I wish I could recount with some plucky Salinger parody the insult that clinched it for me. But the setting was not one for the Glasses. A hill high over Worcester as imperious college kids recreate an imaginary tableau from Great Gatsby. Croquet mallets click colorful props and traffic whizzes by the college road, not noticing the affected and meretricious half-dozen by the picnic blanket. A scold -- swaddled in a costume of full-length slips and costume jewelry to inaccurately provide a sense of a flapper's insouciance -- turns to a gentleman in a smart grey wool suit and boater.
"You're... unfinished."
"I'm sorry. A car just passed playing Tom Tom Club. Did I hear you try to say that I was unpainted furniture?"

And that's why I'm not particularly broke up about Salinger's death.
Besides the "I thought he was already dead" thing.

(This presentation includes a photograph of Emily Deschanel and Zooey Deschanel.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Howard Zinn

A People's History of American Empire, a graphic novel"History" is generally defined broadly as "the stuff that's historic": names, dates, events, wars, inventions, discoveries. To many history teachers and to some authors, telling history is mostly a deliberation of which distractions to elucidate or emphasize. To others, it's a matter of hauling the company line, celebrating the triumphs of corporate interests and privileged people.
Zinn's work presents -- in a very uncomplicated manner -- a more complex way to regard history. He carried the camera to ground level and portrayed those who are not history's most recognizable players. He was immediate and practical. A fire in a crowded factory causes deaths; the reaction is not simply "better legislation." The reaction is what leads the survivors to demand better legislation. The reasons why that legislation takes years is the reaction of the owners or stockholders who have to lobby legislators to shape those laws to the owners desires, rather than to workers' needs.
The "people" -- the title characters in A People's History -- are the ones who did the work, fought in the wars, cultivated and shaped the land, demanded their rights and the rights of their children and for future generations.
I've read a lot of obituaries, and it's jarring to find words like "leftist" in the death notice of an academic, particularly that of a historian. There will be those who will always wave off his books indifferently. But they are unwilling to hear another part of what Zinn himself termed history's always incomplete story.
I have friends who took classes taught by Howard Zinn when they were matriculating at Boston University. At the very same time, I was afflicted by dry theology and philosophy professors who obsessively polished every over-shined surface of Hobbes' difficulties with Descartes and did nothing intellectually strenuous but point out each student's paper's typewriter ink inconstancy. I abandoned my trifling with ethics and aesthetics, took on a less ridiculous course of study, and thereby ensured a life of more enjoyable, if less predictable, employment.
I went on to read Professor Zinn's histories, and that informs my research to this day. How often do I read logs, letters, and personal journals to hear the voices of the crew, rather than rummage through the stock and stereotype of shipping reports and bills of lading? They're history, too, but "understanding the journey" is not the same as "noting the delivery of barrels of whale oil."
I lament that I never met Howard Zinn, and I regret that I was not in his classes. If I did not choose to enter Massachusetts politics, I would have at least had a better ear for those voices I hear now only after years of practice. On the other hand, I hear that there were... distractions B.U. in those days.
This is from a photoshoot last Fall. Seriously.
(Marisa Tomei worked with Zinn on "The People Speak")

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

At sea, you hear echoes

At the helm
I can feel each remark of the rudder:
Tremors and shudders of currents just
as I feel the familiar details of the wheel.
Varnished brightwork trim for cruising
past those very first landfalls of Europeans lost
with their wide-eyed supplications,
the corporate beaches and actors' retreats.

You cannot see my hand upon the wheel.
Yet I am the one that you indict
Of cruising idly by,
engaged in some other pursuit,
morally unaccountable,
merely inattentive,

just not ever there at all.

I do not know, nor can I,
how your home and land has just this minute
been shaken and torn away like the rent mainsail
I had often furled and thanked --
I cannot hear you call out like a child
As a child's teeth crush child's flesh crushed
In hours of horrible darkness.

I am barefoot.
And you have no shoes.

and I feel that all is well
as my relief appears
Driver ex machina.
I breathe in a cigarette, and I exhale
the last four hours.

The weather deck and the one below
Are Solid
and must not ever sink or tear.
Because then I would be lost too:
The helm gone with the helm
Pintle and gudgeon

(Please continue to provide generous encouragement to those who provide relief in Haiti.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The "Air America" Lesson. Such as it is...

The amazing Deanna Durbin slipcueing Liz Phair out of PJ Harvey. Now THAT's radio!Al Franken! Janeane Garafalo! Rachel Maddow! Chuck D! Lizz Winstead! Jerry Springer...
Six years ago. Air America Media/Radio/Bad Check Whatever was... umm... well... like an ill-conceived and under-supported oddity that seemed to be either a satire of popular talk radio or a satire of damaged Democrats. Today is its last official broadcast day, but I can't remember the last time I even heard it.
I listened to Al Franken on my way to work four or five years ago; my car radio was the only receiver I owned that could pick up the signal of the one area station that aired it. I will admit that there were some clever bits and light-handed ribbing of some little-known Republican pols who may have said something irritating on the Floor, but I was never truly moved -- even when they popped in Jon Lovitz's sounder: "LIARS!" (Which was funny, but only because it was Lovitz.) Like all of talk radio, it was derivative, whiny, and not particularly informative. (What is up with talk radio and its need to reinvent the wheel every half hour? And then give it flash rims and say that you can't live without it?)
It is my personal and formerly professional belief as a broadcaster -- and here I freely solicit readers' own postulations since they are of commensurate validity -- that a generation or more of one-note talk radio has dissipated and dominated the medium in just the way that nutrient-rapacious crops like sugar beets deplete soil.
One predominant mindset won the field after ruining the field. And then burnt the bridges and mined the access roads.
So-called "terrestrial radio" is a barren echo chamber that is truly useful to nobody. Local emergency information is pre-empted by network NASCAR coverage. Local hosts and newsreaders are illiterate, unschooled, and possessed of annoying speech impediments or distracting odd verbal quirks. Music is available -- and much better -- on mp3 players or online music libraries, programmed to personal choice rather than market vagaries; sports are more visible and convenient and often without some washed-up hack babbling over the action online; and news is easily found and readily edited and sorted for veracity, style, and predilection anywhere else. Radio station owners and managers are more skilled at rationalizing failure than they are at avoiding it.
Terrestrial radio has, for two or three decades, kept literally the same voices saying exactly the same thing to the folk who need that assuring predictability. Like that Boston station that played Supertramp at 9 in the morning and "Born To Run" at 5 and "Crazy Train" at 9 at night. For like eight years.'I'm a bit of a nerd, I wouldn't mind working in a shop selling records, or having a radio show where I could play obscure singles.'It would be a nice public service, if it weren't so offensive to so many. Instead, we were left with impolite, self-important, narcissistic reactionaries blabbing at and to each other, watering down the message of either party and polarizing what few listeners happen upon them.
Had a concentrated effort begun in 1980 by what we consider today "left-wing broadcasting," the "Right is Right" argument wiykd never have been so constantly and consistently framed. C'mon, it was fun last century to flip on the crazy fat über-righty whose talent was absurdly and ill-advisedly self-portrayed as "on loan from God." We didn't agree with most of his ranting and even those of us who worked in radio characterized it as "entertaining hyperbole" that merely echoed some over-the-top very strident Reaganites -- cranks. It seemed like parody.
That novelty was bolstered by the spurious assertion that impartial fact-based news wasn't engaging. Talk-show hosts and commentators would spice up the program day by exhibiting bias and even outright prejudice.
Their defence was usually simple, if not simplistic: "It's only entertainment." "It's not offensive if an entertainer says it. It's a joke!" "It's show biz." "You can always just shut it off."
These entertainers deluded themselves, and listeners began to switch to cable teevee news. It was no leap for talkers to accuse the cable stations of being one-sided, inventing the "left-wing media" lie.
The silly commentators then took to repeating over and over and over that they themselves were valid sources of news. And listeners, without other optionss believed it too. Air America wandered unprepared into this one-note landscape, although radio itself was in its death throes. They blundered into a broadcast atmosphere capable of sustaining only one tenor: desperate ad hominem attacks and blind insistence on sophomoric predications wrapped in blasphemy and institutionalized selfishness. Philosophically, they were bringing a cannoli to a gunfight.
Perhaps -- and I venture that I err wildly -- if "Air America" programming had first been expelled into the ether twenty years earlier, all of radio would be different today. A constant and consistent voice from the other side of the aisle would have habituated listeners to a mainstream which allowed both sides' differences. Maybe that left-right give-and-take would have challenged both sides to reach solutions and compromises, and make that type of discourse a national one, reaching for more challenging processes rather than for cheaper shots. Maybe if neither political opinion were marginalized, both would be able to abandon their most extreme behaviors. Without their respective pig wallows of radical misapprehensions to splash about in, both sides would put away filthy tactics. People might actually have been listening out of curiosity to illuminating entertainment and revelatory programming. NBC was a radio network too Once
Stations would probably be back to first-run radio drama by now.Not a Senator from Minnesota.Luckily, some of the Air America personalities have other talents.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Containers To Clinics

As a young mate standing watch, sailing from one waterfront festival to another, I would see these things on container ships.
Huge honking container ships. Ships that didn't usually notice me whether I was on a Port-A-Potty 35 or a 300-foot full-rigged TallShip™ because they were THAT big and occupied in getting big metal boxes full of extrinsic crap to some other port.
Since it costs money to move containers, the shipping companies tend to stack up the empty ones and pretty much forget about them because China makes more extrinsic crap and fills new ISO shipping containers. Surplus containers are used in truly clever ways by truly clever people in countries like Australia and Japan, where they turn them into office buildings and performance spaces and museums.
In America, we like things that are new. It doesn't matter what, just as long as they're new. You may recall the recent Massachusetts Senatorial election.
The idea of using a shipping container as a health clinic would never have ever occurred to many of us. Well, the idea may have occurred, but was most likely followed by an emphatic and resounding "Ewww!" I know people who develop clinics, and if they didn't employ at least 8000 people using brand new materials and shut down traffic on a main thoroughfare for several months, they would feel that they just weren't trying hard enough.
Remember when I was complaining about the Swamper next door and that "re-used" shipping container?

NOT a thoughtful re-use. I embrace any circumstance that provides me the opportunity to demonstrate my disdain for pretentious "Green" bravura. So, of course, I'm going to point out the dismaying filth in a scrap-hoarding rustic's pasture while celebrating the actual real-world accomplishments of someone with a more global solution than merely "not mowing the lawn so there's more weeds to produce more oxygen."C2CContainers to Clinics is an organization that plans to turn International Standard Containers into transportable health facilities that can be shipped to and set up in developing nations to provide health care in rural areas.
I enjoy, and benefit from, reading "mission statements." Before donating to a charity, one really should see what they legally tell the government that they're up to. (Many's the time that I've nearly pulled the negotiable instrument out of the checkbook only to find the words "bipartisan" or "faith-based" somewhere in the online ramblings of the Development Director.)

Containers to Clinics (C2C) is a non-profit, charitable initiative that seeks to improve the health of women and children by providing access to primary healthcare through networks of converted shipping container clinics.
Clinics are staffed by local health professionals in-country. C2C's approach to rural medical care is designed to strengthen the entire healthcare system of a country from the bottom up by building capacity to treat illness locally. C2C clinics focus on improving the lives of women and children through vaccinations, safe pregnancy and delivery, and health education. C2C's model allows for standard design and operations and for replication across regions.
Also, if it keeps these guys from working on my house, my ample donation will be forthcoming. I have no doubt that they'll get better at this...

(Special Tip Of The Tricorn to Chuck for pointing this out!)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Over on the right...

Little did she know what 'Good Ship Lollipop' would come to mean to fellow Republicans.Shirley Jones. Her portrayal of a groovy hippie musician single mom had some people guessing. Jane's representin' the Second Amendment, melonfarmers!I do not speak for anyone else, and I dare not speculate as to the reasons why folk espouse causes or party affiliations. Nor is it fair or wise or humane or right to do so in any case.
Your host is blessed with the kind of imagination that allows for and welcomes the diversion and the merrymaking to be found in considering numberless potentialities both logical and unreasonable when given challenging circumstances.
Which, I suppose, will be an advantage around here for the next couple of years.
She has an official website.

(This presentation celebrates Shirley Temple Black, Shirley Jones, Jane Russell, and Cheryl Ladd .)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Very Special Election Day in Massachusetts

One may harbor strong opinions about whether a PVC or stainless steel S-trap is most appropriate for one's own shanty's undersink gimmickry, but eventually a licensed professional plumbarian must be enlisted.
As someone who has been actively involved in both home plumbing and politics, I can tell you that both are assemblages of connivance that are complex and messy to the verge of immorality. The unprepared really shouldn't have anything to do with either.
Which is to say: No, you don't want them to show you how they make their sausages.
Remember that for at least thirty years, local SouthCoast state representatives have been quoted over and again as saying that voters "just don't know how to do it in Boston and should leave things to the professionals." Whether these professionals are "smarter" than their constituents is not usually in dispute: they are nice people who have chosen a way of life that involves verbal defensiveness and brief teasing glimpses at their narcissism. They were probably nice back in Fifth Grade. When everybody was nice except for that one kid who's probably dead or in jail now. (Which completes the analogy rather neatly.)
I assume a certain facile civic expertise gained through my own upbringing in southeastern New England. Massachusetts politics was the common chatter in our Colonial Blue breakfast nook in nearby Rhode Island. It seemed that I must have met or been been somehow related to every celebrity pol who was named on the Boston stations.
Years passed and one fellow that I remember clearly and with some admiration is Ed Brooke, who was a Senator from Massachusetts. Besides being African-American, he was the first Republican to demand President Nixon's resignation.
Surprise !!1! Yes, it is TRUE. He was Republican and probably still is, although he lives in Florida now. Massachusetts has long been led and legislated to by Republicans. And I live in a part of the Commonwealth where most members of the party of Lincoln never changed over to "D" when the rest of the country did.
So why is there this constant chorus nationally decrying "Liberal Massachusetts" as "the Bluest State," "the Socialist Peoples Republic of Taxachusetts," and many other even more unsavory monickers?
Massachusetts is being reimagined by small imaginations as a "battleground" state when it has never been one. Except for skirmishes waged by the consanguine paranoid litter of mouthy self-proclaimed victims of perceived political discrimination. Who supply the radio stations with callers while relieving them of actual listeners.
If the election of a successor to any dead Solon means that one party would have ONE vote more than another party -- a vague supremacy at best -- we must be hourly regaled with "news" stories. Aspirants for the vacated seat are dissected. Monies are collected nationally and spent assembling embarrassing political advertisements. Because the big girls' blouses at the Washington Post and New York Times huff that it's the most important election EVAHR!!1!
All that this election really "means" is that someone -- who is not Ted Kennedy -- will be representing Massachusetts while the nation's Legislative Branch passes something that doesn't look anything like what Ted Kennedy had envisioned or intended.
On Tuesday, Massachusetts voters get to choose which single person gets a single-payer health care plan that Massachusetts voters most likely will never have.
And that's why I leave you with a picture of former Wendy's mascot Clare Kramer reminding Massachusetts voters to ... well, you know... whatever...'Old Glory,' indeed.

(This presentation includes a photograph of Clare Elizabeth Kramer.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Incidentally: Do NOT Google™ this guy where others might see...

As a student -- and some might even say "pedant" -- of political advertising, I must object in the strongest possible terms to its use of subliminal imagery.bacon...yum...HEY CUT THAT OUT!Unless, of course, Scott is actually accompanied by three hovering strips of bacon. Then, I appreciate his candor.

(The use of the above image does not constitute an endorsement. It does, however, say a lot about me and bacon.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haitian Earthquake

Although "Haitian Earthquake" sounds like a pretty hip album title, a 7.3 quake (according to some reports) is terrible devastation. Some people have been there for a while, handing out what Hope is left of the Good Word. These people now have to do the work that they may have never been prepared to do. After all, proselytizing and sermonizing are very different when you're knee-deep in what many will claim is easy proof that there is no benevolent spirit watching over believers.
Prayers can be very comforting. I guess...... but unless the last prayer that you said comforted and provided clothing, food, shelter, and medical care to the families of thousands of dead Haitians, you might want to hedge that bet by sending a check to the American Red Cross or another reputable secular aid organization.
If those prayers are all that you can afford, make them count by telling others how to help.
The above link, for instance.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Ahab has his humanities..."

Pedestrian, parochial, and oppressively wearisome though the entire topic might appear even to the most vaguely-interested among the community, the evidence of interest was certainly splayed out by the New Bedford Whaling Museum at this past weekend's Moby-Dick Marathon (or insert your own clever Moby Monicker here, all the cool kids are doing it).
If the retweeted Tweets between the repeatedly tweeting Twitterers are to be believed, attendance was "a thousand," or in more less-than 140-characters speak: "1000." Since records indicate that 1300-something stopped in last year, I'll just mimic the current fashion in news reporting by breathlessly worrying that this year's attempt was a massive failure and that the country is split virtually in half about whether or not nobody cares about Moby-Dick, the book.
But what about that movie?
People care about the 1956 John Huston classic because it's at least 23 hours shorter than reading the book aloud.
And there's that cast. Gregory Peck. Orson Welles. The German guy who plays Queequeg. And Richard Basehart.
And we all know that Richard Basehart watches over us. According to Gypsy...

Do you see how he spins out of control like this?Which brings us to John Huston's colonization of New Bedford and Nantucket, as portrayed by the Irish port of Youghal. I recently mentioned Joan Plowright, but notice other names on the "Uncredited" section at IMDb:Now, I know what you're thinking, and yes, that's Mandy Harper who, as Amanda Coxell, was in allegedly delightful British serials like Four Winds Island and Masters of Venus and then became wardrobe specialist Mandy Dunn.
The other name that catches everyone's eye of course, is "Carol White."
This Carol White:
Carry On Teacher. Go right ahead.

'The Bardot of Battersea'?

Ah, sure, I can see the similarity...

(This presentation includes photographs of Carole Joan White.)

More Sour Moby Grapes...

Maybe in a few decades, youTube will have a video of me talking about how I had to explain to a Cape Verdean what a "St. Jago's Sailor" is. But until that day, I'll quietly abide with my memories of having done something in a past that apparently didn't exist because this past weekend was the First Annual Fourteenth Moby-Dick Marathon. Ever.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

25 Hours of Dick. Now with MORE Weekend!

A few years ago, a friend wondered aloud why there isn't a gossip site for the City of New Bedford. You know, like TMZ or Wonkette. She bemoaned the dearth of "blogs" pertinent to New Bedford society and politics, bickered about the shitty wingnut one there was. And she came up with one of those "back of the napkin" plans proposing how to do it, insisting all the while on anonymity and professionalism.
I try not to be a stick in the mud when friends -- who seem unaware of my own onlinity -- come up with digital schemes, but I may have acknowledged that although people certainly enjoy reveling in local celebrities' foibles, eventually that wallow will dry.
Mostly due to the lack of defined "celebrity" locally. Also because we know everybody and, frankly, we like most of them.
Plus, she was busy with actual real-time gossiping in the actual real world and a virtual New Bedford wasn't worth jeopardizing friendships or business relations.
For instance, how would one handle this weekend's Moby-Dick Marathon? In a few hours, the New Bedford Whaling Museum will host its fourteenth shot at a worldwide public relations coup. It's a sure-fire capper story for every :27 break on cable news stations: a bit of v-o on picturesque B-roll of old-timey downtown New Beige Belgian block streets that will be misidentified as "cobblestone," with plenty of opportunity for reporters and anchors to make sour faces and admit no familiarity with or interest in Melville's classic. Easy pickings.
But, for fourteen years, they've run the same story in the local paper and in recent years on the website and Facebook presence -- that one that starts with "a young bearded sailor" (usually accompanied by a photograph of a clean-shaven Ray Veary) -- but this year's press release is somehow different:If one can't master subject-verb agreement, what kind of agreement can one master?This is where an anonymous website that kvetches about New Bedford would be useful. Recently, personnel changes at the greatest museum on Earth have been tooted and touted: a new Executive Director, new Curatorial Director, new Marketing Director, all guys -- that is to say, men -- that Old Dartmouth is proud to have aboard.
Waitaminnit. Isn't a marketing director supposed to be in charge of stuff like press releases? Or at least have something to say about articles in newspapers that have temperamental, grammatical, factual, and syntactical challenges on virtually every line? Or at least make sure the dates are the same in all disseminations?
Nevertheless, the organizer of this year's event (whom I admire for her charm, wit, practicality, and collection of maritime art) has moved the thing to the first weekend after the Third of January so that more revelers can enjoy the event without missing work like they used to when it was held on the Third of January every year. The Third is significant because that's the date in 1841 when Melville took off from Fairhaven on the whaler Acushnet. I only mention this because sometimes just one more fact about Herman Melville and Moby-Dick can tip the scales of scholarship.
All of that said, here's the cutest damn picture of Joan Plowright ever. As far as her connection to Moby-Dick is concerned, she played "A Young Actress/Pip" in Orson Welles' Moby-Dick Rehearsed and was also "Starbuck's Wife" in the 1956 John Huston film about which you may have heard. There ain't nothin' like a Dame.

(This presentation features a photograph of Dame Joan Plowright.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

One Old Man: A Birthday Memory

'Fluff'? That's Wood, pal.Jessica Biel: Ely MN's most famous feet.
I spent an inordinately long and uncomfortable time sailing with a guy who would, when greeted by a woman on board a ship, remark: "I don't want to sound sexist, but ... I mean, I know plenty of women are captains, sure. But girls are usually deck fluff."That IS an oar. Which I'm pretty sure Sarah knows how to use.Paulette Goddard is boat.Merle Oberon is boat!When confronted with the usual stock of slackers, hipsters, and trustafarians who generally comprise the crews of TallShips™, he would opine: "A ship is no place for someone that age." And he confided in me that having a wife, girlfriend, or partner on board was probably never a good thing.
Photo courtesy: People Who Put Their Website Across The Princess' Hull.When offered the volunteer services of an old salt who had years of Navy and offshore sailing experience, he shook his head and confessed: "I don't think a fella that age should be on a ship like this."
Historical interpreters have no place on movie props.He didn't like "that damned history crap" on TallShips™.Hey Skip? Can you check down this tube? I'll light this match.Never could stand that guy.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cleanin' Time

'Every wall is a door,' said Emerson, who apparently worked for my contractor.

Often, when it's New Year tidying time here on the timemarsh by the saltmarsh, one finds things that one does not expect and most things have surely seen better states of repair.
For instance: When our massive estate was young (the new best guesses say mid-Eighteenth Century, but I defer to other savants for original capitalizations of Old Bakerville), the first form hereabouts was a sod-walled hovel hollowed out of a berm. Truth be told, a lumpy hillock provided more grazing room for the beeves, and if there were any trees, you could sell them to Paul Cuffe. The rest of the local grounds were a mud wrestling match between stones and elms.
Remember those careless retreating glaciers? They had dropped their limestone, granite, and gneiss straphangers in indifferent heaps all over the place, leaving cheap building materials for the ur-Yankees, who immediately worked up the now-famous showtune, "Good Fences Do Good Neighbors Make."
Trust a chronicler who has lived in New England for long enough: the last thing that one can count on in a neighborhood where picturesque stone walls abound is "good" neighbors. Stone walls -- the ones fashioned centuries ago by native slave labor, not the shiny and sharp ones installed by last Summer's $125 an hour masons -- keep possessions, purpose, and persons within, only briefly and grudgingly interrupted by narrow and ignoble egress.
Like the holidays.
As years passed and the new nation's inhabitants developed a keg-a-day distilled corn habit, brick fireplace/bread/pizza ovens were sold by all online retailers, and my residential forebears were certainly no multislackers.
They installed their new-fangled "Summer kitchen" in the cellar, so that the preparation and scorching of the Sunday mutton stew and loaf of hard tack wouldn't add unwanted calefaction to the cool damp family quarters above. The Nineteenth Century home didn't need to tepefy at luxurious conditions over fifty degrees, and its lodgers preferred to be cold and damp, if their handshakes are any indication.

'To be admitted to Nature's hearth costs nothing.' And Thoreau knew about property taxes.As in all stories of home remuddling, someone with a metal clipboard and "Harvey" cap convinced my predecessors to make the switch from whale oil to kerosene, and the old basement hearth fell into disuse when they slapped a second story above your host's head. Soon gone, the art of hospitality and cheerful familial cries.
Like that one time, when Pa tried to melt that durned young-un's harmonica because who needs that jugband stuff anymore now that Marion Jacobs done gone snatched a bullet.
Half a century or so later, while finally getting around to a protracted Spring cleaning project during the holiday break, I found the outcome of that evaluatory exchange:

If only someone had done John Popper this favor.

I might also add that the first photograph in this event is in no way indicative of how the village currently appears. In fact, it's more like:'Sorry, Mr. Thoreau, but Mr. Beechtree says your appointment was cancelled.'

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Startin da Noo Yeeah Vight...

As of January 12, the local newspaper will no longer freely share its monstrously edited online fare with the worldwide web, so laughs like this may be hard to come by: The kid from 'American Pie' bags your Wotsits.

Premium Subscribers have unlimited access to, our award-winning news and information web site, that brings you breaking news including video and audio, special reports, photo galleries, blogs, contests, and a community calendar of events. Premium level provides you with full access to all online tools including our mobile news site, email newsletters, text alerts, our news archives and more.
If you don’t register for our premium online service, you’ll have only limited access to

Do I pay extra for limited access to misspellings, malapropisms, random editorial biases, blurry reportage, inane opinion letters, and inappropriate speculation as well?

Friday, January 1, 2010