Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The less men think, the more they talk." - Charles de Montesquieu

It is not particularly propitious to title a Journal entry thus. In deference to Baron de Montesquieu -- the Enlightenment inventor of "separation of powers" -- all one need do is to get a little wordy and one's cognitive capacity is called forever into question. Just keep in mind that I didn't write a chunk of it. That part in the middle. In the other font. Not me.
I was curious as to whether the media could yank itself away from the Angry Imbeciles Jamboree that is national politics under the tinpot tyranny of the Tea Party Coup long enough to report the latest proposal to prepare to undertake some sort of future consideration of a "Master Plan" at New Bedford's Buttonwood Park Zoo.
As long-time readers of this Journal know, I have been, on occasion, philanthropically-inclined -- although I could care less about whatever ponyrodeo some busybody concocts to amuse the edacious juvenile demographic. (Any community with residents who have habitually intoned the mantra "I wish we had this we we were kids" for more than two generations should take a long look at its social and intellectual infrastructure.)
Like, uh, its radio station.
I made a colossal misjudgment, and listened for some interesting constituent input concerning the ambitions of the SouthCoast's largest attraction. I could make out on the crystal set some discernible particles of ether from the local noise pollution outlet (the New Bedford one that denies the existence of a Fall River, not the Fall River one that denies the existence of a New Bedford).
As expected, I was treated to the usual unrehearsed monotonal "rip-and-read" from some uncredited source, breathy outrage at some fanciful misapprehension of administration policy, and complaints about the media's left-wing bias -- with no hint of irony. Their internationally-known teevee pundit and Conservative Blogger afternoon and afternoon drive host mispronounced satirist Stephen Colbert's name ("cole burt" instead of "cole-bare") while also making a point of clearly and politically-correctly delivering the Persian enunciation of "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."Janeane's birthday was yesterday. Celebrated, I'm sure, by a certain drive-time host. Which put me in mind of the horrible Saturday Night Live skit about news announcers' risible use of affected foreign place pronunciations that shocked American ears when Canadian Peter Jennings started doing it in the Eighties. Here's a short transcript. Which I have found on some NBC website and edited for length because SNL skits are mere annoying prattle after the amusing premise is established and then beaten to death within the first thirty seconds.

"NBC News Employees"
Robin Fletcher.....Julia Sweeney
Kathy.....Jan Hooks
Dan.....Phil Hartman
Executive #1.....Dana Carvey
Executive #2.....Mike Myers
Antonio Mendoza.....Jimmy Smits
[ open on live footage of Robin Fletcher delivering news report ]

Robin Fletcher: The fighting, for now, is over. But, for the people of Nicauragua, that is small consideration. This is Robin Fletcher for NBC News, reporting from Managua, Nicaragua. [ TV is turned off, zoom out to reveal NBC News employees watching with interest ]
Kathy: What do you think?
Dan: Well, it's a nice report.. but is this the week to cover.. [ thick-accented ] ..Neek-o-rah-gwa?
Kathy: Well.. I think Neek-o-rah-gwa is important. But not just Neek-o-rah-gwa but, also.. Han-der-us! And, especially.. El Salv-uh-door!
Executive #1: But wasn't the big story the defeat of Hor-tay-ga! And.. the fall of the san-duh-nees-tahs!
Executive #2: Excuse me, everybody, I'd like you to meet our new Economics correspondent.. Han-toe-nee-o Man-dos-ah!
Antonio Mendoza: Or.. Antonio Mendoza.

It goes on and on ... Which is what the radio guy did. He repeated the mispronunciation an uncomfortable number of times. He had "never heard" of this insignificant "Colbert."
SouthCoasters have been mispronouncing names for hundreds of years. At first, settlers mispronounced native Wampanoag words in order to demonstrate settlers' proprietary rights over the land and its quahogs. Then, it was anglicizing one's name so that the other guys on the ship or in the mill wouldn't think that you were a stinking immigrant and deny you a job, raise, promotion, bunk, or meal.
The passive-aggressive discourtesy of not calling someone by their preferred name or by its preferred pronunciation is just one charming tool in the SouthCoast social skillset. It's pretty common around here.
Aks anyone.
(This presentation includes a photograph of Janeane Garofalo.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Goin' That Extra Fathom...

Just like I remember it. Except for the mosque.
Longtime devotees will remember the days when I was all crazy boatniky and whenever anything maritime crossed my bow, I would send up flags and flares and such and you would be treated to exhaustingly forced attempts at pertinance. Since there are so many others who do that -- generally in cloyingly cynical attempts to score more gear for their Port-A-Potty 28 -- The Impossible Journal no longer chases down each online instance of boaty merchandise or coastal cleverness.
On the other hand, I do enjoy dispensing good news about former neighborhood familiars.
Kevin P. O'Connor, of The Fall River The Herald News asssures us that the Borden Flats Lighthouse in the Taunton River has been purchased by a genuine lighthouse restorer who IS NOT the bankrupt self-promoting joker who wanted it to house a gimmicky brewhouse.
What we learn about Nick Korstead of Portland, Oregon, is that...

...Korstead, who lives in Portland, Ore., bought the lighthouse with his parents Craig and Cindy Korstead through the business they operate, US Lighthouse Establishment. The group has bought and renovated lighthouses in the past. It maintains a website chronicling lighthouse renovations and selling commemorative maritime and lighthouse gear.
Korstead said he has never seen the lighthouse or set foot in Fall River. He plans to come to Fall River next month to see his new purchase.
And: “It is a lighthouse,” he said. “That’s what I want it to be.”
Farewell, then, to the fanciful tale of the Nevada lawyer and his delusion of producing "40 barrels" of novelty beer a week from the water collected in the lighthouse's cistern -- and selling those "barrels" in an already saturated indie beer market in order "to pay for the upkeep of the building."
And that website that the Korsteads operate -- U.S. Light House Establishment -- is a great find.(I handled, packed, cataloged, and shlepped maritime artifacts last century, so the site cues my memories of dusty greasy whale oil lamp wicktrimmers and lighthouse lenses that had been used as ashtrays. Plus: when you buy that genuine sou'wester, you help save a lighthouse. Or at least keep the Korsteads busy.)
I'd advise shipmates to go to the Keeper's Locker page (available by clicking on the words "Keeper's Locker").
Oh, and there's this:

Friday, September 17, 2010


  • On a quiet street where old ghosts meet, I see her walking now away from me...
  • It's Halfway to Saint Patrick's Day, that utterly commercialized confoundment of ethnic slurs that makes me cringe every Spring. Plastic green bowlers and garish bowties and immense fluorescent lime clovers, impish stereotypes fashioned with no awareness of the brutal racist assaults inflicted upon Irish immigrants in the middle of the Nineteenth Century by American businesses, media, and citizens.
  • Of course, today's Irish-Americans are past all of that. Or in utter denial. Or completely ignorant of that. As you well know, I can still eat -- and enjoy -- corned beef, without picturing distant relations sloshing around a fetid discarded barrel searching for scraps of brined horseflesh.
  • I will not be attending the "Halfway to Saint Paddy's Day" festivities at Fall River's Corky Row Club.
  • I have always had a conflicted remembrance of that neighborhood social establishment. On one hand, my family has been involved from its very founding right up to this very day, and it's an actual commercial business. Once, the Club awarded me a modest academic prize. On the other hand, I have as much in common with today's members as I have in common with any native of Ireland who still speaks Gaelic. And the Club did award me that scholarship, ensuring that I would forever be saddled with the moniker "smartypants."
  • I hope it's a swell time.
  • But, it seems that each one of their press releases goes on about the Club's near-death experience. Sure, they mention its Seventy-Fifth Anniversary, but somebody keeps throwing in that "what seemed like certain death" line. Kinda self-defeating, if not downright ghoulish.
  • All I can say is: "Celebrate the fact that somebody picked up the baton, not that somebody dropped it."
  • The SouthCoast demonstrates that sort of thing all the time, a kind of bragging without being prideful. Because pride is a sin.
  • But when you fail altogether, you get to blame something. Like when New Bedford's second Guardian Angels franchise won its big goodbye halo.
  • The inevitable wrap of the latest local volunteer vigilante attempt reminds me of the one common difficulty that beleaguers all such outfits, commercial and non-profit. You may have read Brian Fraga's bit in the Standard-Times, but here's the part I find most telling: "All three leaders said personal commitments and apathy from the community led them to decide to quit the group. "
  • The pesky bedeviller that curses so many non-profits is, simply: real life.
  • In the random haphazard of the SouthCoast -- fertile with well-intentioned dilettantes but also rife with slapdash schemes from self-serving busybodies -- the very forces of society work against the organizers.
  • According to a recent comment in these very pages, "perhaps the amateur campaign works beautifully in the Southcoast." Yes: The SouthCoast dislikes the painstaking professional, the suit-and-tie. After a century of resenting the wealthy, the Mill Town Class War presents as a middle class filled with resentment. After decades of "rich people are no better than us," it became "rich people are worse than us" which devolved into "rich people go to fancy schools, smart people are bad, books are dumb, fancy clothes are ..."
  • You get the idea. Too much polishing wrecks the apple, I guess.
  • The Guardian Angels never stood a chance.
  • When the angel woos the clay He'll lose his wings at the dawn of day.
I think the green fez is more PC.

(This presentation includes a picture of June Haver.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."- Derek Bok

"Tolerance" is a loaded word, one which I do not wish to further burden with further loaded interpretation. Let's just say that when I have my oratory on, I usually defer to High School Latin class for insight into words' meanings. I've always defined tolerate as "to permit," rather than the more testy "to put up with." "To permit" also looked better in the exam book.
As luck would have it, that Latin class was taught by a jocular Jesuit philosopher whose breezy comfort with reality almost convinced me to surrender the smirks and scowls of my typical bratty teenhood.
Father Foley was the faculty moderator for the "satire magazine" that my chums and I produced. Foley even conferred his name to the pamphlet, Foliage. We kids scoffed at the office overlords' ready capitulation to our smartassery, assuming they presumed that we would tire of producing the fully-sanctioned subversive sheet after about two issues.
They were right.
They were being tolerant.
I quoted the title of a favorite album at the time. Give Em Enough Rope.
Which is how I feel about the frightened people who see every other person's freedom as an infringement upon their own. You know the ones. They are the momentary embarrassing glitch in the arc of American civilization, whose ignorance only serves as an example for the rest of us. Now you know how not to act in our country. Y'see, we have freedoms that are ensured by book-learning, not by book-burning.
Back last century, I took advantage of a company-funded membership in a festering Petri dish of sweat, stink, and pathogens in a metal building known as -- ironically -- a "health club."
In the locker area once, while avoiding the middle-aged wheezer who had apparently stripped his porcine bulk in order to practice his own personal podiatry, I noticed one devout practitioner of Islam.
Behind some rows of rarely used lockers, "Aariz" quietly performed salah.
I was familiar with the ritual because of an animated explanation by an avuncular high school teacher who had taught (I assume) at a private Catholic school in Saudi Arabia back when one could do that. The old Jesuit posited that of all Arab contributions to civilization in mathematics, science, medicine, architecture, and music, his favorite was that "cleanliness is next to godliness." Which was his way of saying that "Arabs" (he meant "Muslims") were fastidious in their prayerfulness as well as in their personal hygiene, which he advised us boys to emulate. Particularly those of us in his class after gym.
He was also quick to advise us to read the books in the library about it. Few of us did, but we enjoyed his reminiscences and occasional sartorial forays into keffiyeh and bisht and thobe.
The idea of whether Muslims were "of the devil" was never discussed. I am fully cognizant of how fortunate I was to have been in that classroom.
But in that dressing room that 1998 day, Piggy McGruntensweat, having noticing that I had courteously moved away from the benediction, said, "Pretty disgusting, that towelhead, huh?"
I stared dumbly at the piles of clippings and toejam left scattered about the floor, shook my head, grabbed my gear, and departed.
I wasn't sure whether I was offended by the "towelhead" rejoinder -- for which I would surely be tagged derisively as that dreadable "PC" -- or was I simply disappointed in my fellow American's lack of simple courtesy?
Years later, Aariz and I exchange pleasantries at gallery openings or other community and cultural events.
I have never seen that other guy anywhere.
I guess we just move in different circles.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Exclusive and Not Inclusive

To the devoted Historians of The Future -- those prepared with reading comprehension sacks and irony detectors, that is -- I feel obligated to explain a thing. At this moment in time and social upheaval, one is required to navigate a delicate and confrontational tangle in order to say anything without either offending someone or causing someone else to call you "socialist" because you're pussy-footing around with wording.
The carefree and the careless make no attempt at either:

It was enough of a challenge to change the term "whaling" to "whale-hunting." Now, we're back at the "whaleman/whaler" controversy. Assuredly, this new Gallery at the SouthCoast Whale-Hunting Multimedia Gallery and Gift Shop probably won't include any paintings or photographs of Azorean women wielding harpoons or flensing eubalaena glacialis.

Also of revulsive consideration: Members only get an hour without having to rub elbows with the commoners. Good thing that it's after Labor Day; one can wear the tweed with the patches to avoid such.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day!

... to anyone who still labors.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Should Be a National Holiday. Also.

We are, all of us who are not Bob, just idiots. We somehow muddle through.Happy Birthday, Bob.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


One of the red blotches is us.