Monday, November 29, 2010

The Impossible Adventure Calendar

This is not the calendar."Advent" -- the first month of the year in some "church" or other -- begins on the fourth Sunday before the day we know as "Christmas" or "The Day Before the Day When We Bring Back Socks." By canon, it must also begin on the Sunday closest to November 30. Shopkeepers will hope that this is the Sunday closest to Thanksgivening so that there will be a minimum of hangtime between two important commercial feedbags. Hanukkah starts on the 25th of of Kislev and Christmas starts sometime in September, but culminates on December 25, when most of the shops have the good taste to quit hustling junk for a few hours, and the radio stations have the good sense to stop inflicting that horrible music on listeners for at least nother nine months, when they play other horrible music that doesn't involve strained rhymes about unexpected snow or celebrating ethnic donkeys.
The last time that Christmas and Hanukkah were coincident was in 1978, a big year for the Red Sox, but not for DC Comics. This year, Hanukkah begins on December First, to get it all out of the way before the Christmas rush.
And that's why The Impossible Adventure Calendar will start ripping open the little windows and doors on the Julekalendar on the first day of December. Besides, that's when it's designed to commence. Traditionally a "countdown to Christmas," Yule Calendars only have capacity for 24 special cells, ignoring Christmas entirely. Thus, during the part of the year when the days get noticeably shorter, Yule or Advent is a surely pleasing celebration that should take your mind off the doom-like darkness and seasonal affective disorder.
I cherish the season because it doesn't over-stay its welcome much after the Solstice. Advent over, the planet is already nudging back to its proper axial tilt and light comes back to the northern hemisphere.
So, applaud that we begin on the first day of Hanukkah, the first Wednesday of Advent, Richard Pryor's birthday, and the First Day of December.
It'll all be over soon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks

Catholic girl with a hatchet. Thanksgiving in Fall River.(This presentation features a photograph of Davenie Johanna Heatherton. And a turkey.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Soles'n'Bowls

In the light of yesterday's Standard-Times' Editor's Letter from the Editor About Letters to the Editor, I'm throwing caution to the wind and posting gathered chunks of discarded journal entries about the Buttonwood Park Zoo NONtroversy. Before proceeding, I explicitly profess that the following is presented WITHOUT any demonstrable or conclusive research on my part. As is often the case here since I don't feel obligated to make phone calls or to carefully research my own diary because I happen to know some stuff from in my head already, regardless of you armchair editors and your demands suggestions. You will notice -- and likely ignore -- links that I provide to substantiate my remarks .

  • The Buttonwood Park Zoo is a popular tourist and educational attraction located within the borders of Buttonwood Park, both of which are owned and operated by the City of New Bedford. The Zoo currently displays local New England wildlife like coyotes, brown bears, mountain lions, cougars, and turkey vultures and features a petting zoo-quality historical farm exhibit with heritage domesticated animals like goats, hogs, and horses. It is quaint, if shopworn, but praised by the American Zoological Association as "one of the finest small zoos in the country."
  • Two fine old ladies.
  • The Zoo has been home to two well-treated superannuated Asian elephants. It is The Zoo's hope to expand Ruth and Emily's quarters in order to better portray the elephants' ancestral domain and add other Asian flora and fauna, including a possible third elephant, in accordance with AZA rules. A new exhibit is understood to renew the Zoo's attendance numbers and likely ensure its continued accreditation.
  • At this moment, the community's only paper, the Standard-Times is running headlines like:
    "SHOCKING ZOO EXPANSION DISRUPTS VERY FABRIC OF REALITY ITSELF!"
  • It's a pitched -- if one-sided -- battle waged on the limp and porous battlefield of the Op-Ed page, with salvos fired by annoying out-of-town elephant activists (who always act as their Google™Alerts and The Voices dictate) and some residents of the greenest city on the SouthCoast who fear that the "megazoo themepark expansion" will destroy huge swaths of Buttonwood Park's pristine wilderness, displacing thousands of rare and endangered plant and animal species.
  • There is no point in placing blame for any perceived "controversy." There isn't one. A few clever citizens MicrosoftOfficeWord98™ed up a few incendiary handouts and later backpedalled, admitting that they were "only trying get more people to take part in their city and show up at the meeting." Following the Tea Party playbook, they were excessive and inappropriate and ultimately off-putting.
  • Because they were wrong. They did not seem to know what the expansion entailed or what the Zoo was actually planning, or how their polite and constructive input would be worked into The Zoo's fully amendable draft plan. None of those passionate people were at the informational meeting that I attended in September, except for the President of the Friends of Buttonwood Park, who politely waited through the entire PowerPoint presentation and then read a letter of obstreperous opposition which had been written before the meeting had ever started.
  • The Anti-Zooers possess a proud SouthCoast character trait that enables them to admit that they "couldn't find any meeting notice" and "can't read that Zoo Master Plan" because it's "in Adobe and too big" or "hard to find on the city's website" or "you have to be an engineer to understand it." This trait (called "dumb") is related to the common SouthCoast paranoia known as "Suspecting that Something is Going on Behind the Scenes" because one is unaware of conventions, standards, or practices outside of one's ken.
  • The Friends of Buttonwood Park Incorporated was "founded in 1991" and have an address in Mattapoisett, according to their page on Guidestar, but was "established in 1986 in acordance with a recommendation of the Massachusetts DCA's 1986 Olmsted Master Plan for the Renewal of Buttonwood Park," according to their own website.
  • The Friends' dedication to maintaining the park grounds, educating, engaging and involving the public, city youth and other area organizations is obvious and sincere, so one can exonerate a few unreasonably disproportionate ownership issues, especially considering that New Bedford has three dozen or more parks, commons, playgrounds, tot lots, and beaches.
  • Lately, though, somebody has been posting photographs of park greenery on Facebook with arch captions full of inaccuracies, devoting themselves to circulating petitions to preserve untended land for future generations of litterers, and arguing that all of Buttonwood Park is sacred because of...
  • "The Olmsted Fallacy." Which goes a little something like this:
  • Nineteenth Century Mount Olympus landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted probably never saw the land now known as Buttonwood Park and was likely familiar with New Bedford because of the city's reputation in abolitionist circles years earlier. Olmsted's associate Charles Eliot -- or someone in Eliot's office since Eliot was dying in 1897 I now have it on impeccable authority that Eliot did, indeed draw this. But Olmsted was still senile -- drew this:Map 1 Which resembles the current configuration Map 2 only in its roughly quadrilateral appearance.
  • Note that there is a residential neighborhood in the northeast -- lower right -- corner and that Eliot's central water feature is currently a traffic rotary. Neither detail conforms to Olmsted's vision of a rich natural setting shielding visitors from the stresses of city life. But The Friends of Buttonwood Park have consulted with experts who have written books about Olmsted so that they can protect this resource better.from The Brady Bunch second season episode 'Double Parked,' one of the few that isn't totally double entendre-titled.
  • In the words of their President and former Buttonwood Park Zoo Director (seriously: WTF?) the Friends of Buttonwood Park are "the designated stewards of the Park ... mandated by the 1987 Master Plan to protect the historic vision for the Park which calls for a pastoral, naturalistic, and democratic setting where the urban population can enjoy both passive and active recreation unencumbered by barriers and fences." (from that "obstreperous objection" that I mentioned earlier)
  • "Active recreation" includes motoring. My automobile was once struck rather forcefully by a speeding hit and run driver blowing through the stop sign at Court Street and Rockdale. I guess the serenity was too bucolic for that particular park visitor.
  • Charles Eliot died of spinal meningitis in 1897. New Bedford -- although once eager to consider some plan for the land -- cooled its fervor for both whaling and gardening and "shelved" the plan, forgetting about arbors and such.
  • Until the 1980s, when someone in New Bedford put the names "Olmsted" and "Buttonwood Park" together and state grant money suddenly appeared. Customary inordinate SouthCoast Catholic-style guilt demands that we insist on the fiction loudly at every opportunity. So everyone sort of believes the fanciful story of Olmsted's alleged relationship to The Whaling City that was concocted by someone eager to squeeze a few shekels out of a vague connection. (Although I suspect that I know the individual's identity, largely based on one particular citizen's excessively hysterical reactions at public discussions of the Zoo's master plan.)
  • In the Nineties when I first enjoyed its convenient pastorality, I was under the impression that Buttonwood Park had been laid out by the guy who designed Central Park. Because everybody else said so. (Unfortunately, I also thought that the landscaper was Andrew Jackson Downing, until I was informed that it was Olmsted. Which it wasn't.)
  • On a (recently removed) website promoting a New Bedford bed and breakfast, Buttonwood Park was described as "the largest and most visited public park in New Bedford is often referred to as the 'Crown Jewel' of the New Bedford Park System ." The b&b also touted its location as near "the newly renovated Zoo in Buttonwood Park, designed and planted by Frederick Law Olmsted." So it's just treated as common knowledge, and it's on the Internet, so it must be true. (The "largest" park in New Bedford is actually Brooklawn Park.)
  • "Whaddaya you people want, TREES and ROCKS?" barked a famous local developer a few years back when he proposed some stripmall or other in Tiverton on land that somebody considered green, public, and protected. I was outraged by the developer's neon urban sprawl scheming. "Yes," I smugly retorted, "yes, I DO want trees and rocks." But I also remember his "rocks don't pay taxes" line.
  • The Buttonwood Park Zoo and its associated Society contribute payroll and sales taxes to the state and federal governments. Although the city of New Bedford subsidizes the Zoo's operational budget, the municipal contribution would be less with a new exhibit raising both membership and attendance.
  • Because a better-looking, more successful Zoo would make more money.
  • Because the cursed SouthCoast always sets its sights on the shabby, it matters not that the Zoo lose its signature pachyderm attractions, forfeit its accreditation, sacrifice the substantial funding opportunities that are associated with professional recognition, and emerge finally as a pretty swell petting zoo.
  • ''DAH-ling! In a serene appreciation of your naturalistic setting kind of way, I mean.''
  • So, of course, The Friends of Buttonwood Park But Not Of The Zoo -- encouraged by the newspaper's manufactured "Zoo versus Park" nonsense -- will further demonize the Zoo in their ill-advised absurd campaign of misinformation and bad sportsmanship.
(This presentation features photographs of Joan Crawford and an elephant, Florence Henderson and Barry Williams, some maps, and Zsa Zsa Gabor.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Save the Menagerie!

from The New Bedford Evening Navigator, August 3, 1916...

The members of the Pleasant Companions of The Buttonwood Arboreal Pathways have found themselves at odds with itself over an addition to the Monkey House located in the area specified by the New Bedford Elders and Neighboring Communicators as "the menagerie." What's up with the preponderance of pinups featuring actresses with monkeys? Dolores del Rio.The Associated Acquaintances of Native Animals Not Accustomed to Cages charged that the addition, which is a small masonry structure, is forbidden under the Agreeable Expected Recreation Charter of 1903 & Its Amended Appendices, since Freemasonry is forbidden within park grounds. Debra Paget with an ape that isn't Elvis.
The Associated Acquaintances of Native Animals Not Accustomed to Cages readers may recognize as having been rebuffed and scourged after its members benefitted monetarily when they arranged a philanthropic ball to bring aid to the area's squirrels. Upon closer inspection of those particular squirrels, it was discovered that the squirrels were actually rats with pinecones attached to their tails.
The Fraternal Coterie of Chimpanzee Orang & Gibbon Attendants has already engaged in protracted deliberations about new monkey standards of care, and what those new rules entail for small monkey houses like our beloved Buttowood Monkey House. Lupe Velez with a chimp. Who probably treated her better than that other guy.One combatant in these discussions held that "the little fellows should be sent back to Africa," but when it was discovered that he wasn't referring to the charges of the menagerie, he was persuaded to leave. A woman from the local Suffrage League, who spoke at length about how the monkey house was already big enough and produced a map of Buttonwood Park on which she had drawn a crude outline of a monkey house [shown below] that appears to occupy eight or so acres, was also asked to leave. ''It encroaches upon the velocipede path!'' she insists.Subsequently, another representative of the group used some indiscreet terminology relating to the jettisoning of unmentionable materials. The image is clear to anyone who has ever visited a monkey house.
A new group, The Municipal Partners Attentive to Matters Inconsequential But of Inflated Significance, created at the insistence and also encumbered by the inclusion of former Mayor Brownell Hawthorn Rockdale, has promised to contemplate the matter. It is assumed that they will reconvene as soon as someone can find the end of the sentence which the esteemed Former Mayor had begun three days earlier.
Some things never change.
(This presentation includes photographs of Dolores Del Rio, Debra Paget, and Lupe VĂ©lez.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Well, I like how things turned out..."

To borrow the fundamental empty-headed line of thinking from this season's spoiler third party of bargain-basement sophists, I don't think that the Founding Fathers of Radio had in mind whatever it is that my local broadcasters do.
The newsreaders who employ unsettlingly random phrasing and can't pronounce "posthumously." The host who insists that he is neutral, but whose knee-jerk reactions to comments are so partisan as to embarrass even the most imprudent callers. Bette Davis.The ill-timed and always badly-introduced commercial breaks that sometimes include several spots playing at once; spots that defy simple priciples of presentation and confound listeners' skills at perceiving information. If acted out by gifted gymnasts with awe-inspiring delivery -- or produced as a, say, cartoon -- a bemused audience member might be influenced to seek more intelligible details from more lucid sources. For instance, the business itself.Ava Gardner, who was also incomprehensible once.Of course, that would be if the contact information weren't obscured by some annoying crapwit's stab at cleverness. Or the obtuse and hamfisted producer's (same guy, usually) choice of music bed and sound effects.
But today, since any benighted twerp with AOL access can "review" a book that he has neither read nor understood and inform other shoppers that "it sux," we are left with the rampant Tyranny of the Amateur, and that's local radio's bulwark against criticism.
So, yes. Since I trained and worked in actual professional broadcasting (oh, sure, yes, that was decades ago, so the "you're old and bitter" argument is somewhat valid, except that I am actually "older and better"), I hate local radio. Even though it was my first love and I shall always hold whatever it is that I remember of it in high esteem -- whatever it was that I thought was sexy way back when.I love Lucy. No, really. Red is my downfall. Even in blondes.But I cannot avoid the monstrous ether when it broadcasts some semblance of description of our easily-etched ballot numerations each election night.
It dutifully provides muttering time for the more self-important on staff, who mumble numbers from local precincts that were available elsewhere long moments prior and mutter some long-seasoned cant with lyrics including "anti-incumbent sentiment" and "voter apathy/anxiety." Or whatever.
And Massachusetts is relatively unscathed by the ill-disposed Tea Party panic that has warped the national politic and discourse.
Although the brunt of so many jokes from latitudinally-challenged others, Southeastern New England -- the true geographical birthplace of American dissent and revolution -- re-elected the people who should fix things, elected reasonable folk who might fix things, and ignored specious jerks who were of no damn consequence.
Except that the latter are the most fun if you're getting substandard pay at some overlooked waste of broadcast space.
Let's hope for better days.

(This presentation includes photographs of Ava Gardner, Bette Davis, and Lucille Ball.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Soles'n'Bowls

ELECTION EDITION!
  • Come then. You've been given the opportunity to elect characters who are nothing like the careful rhetoricians and statesmen of yesteryear. It's time now to cast your vote for lowbrow morons whose understanding of politics is summed up as: "The other guy's a jerk and is wrong."
  • Never mind that the hopeful folks on your local ballot are bankrolled by special interests from other states and other countries. These are exciting times, so the guy whom you elect to "represent" you can be from anywhere and be beholden to anyone.
  • That fellow who's been employed for most of his life by defense contractors? Totally sincere when he says he wants smaller gubmint. As long as he remains employed by it, it can consist of him and the guy who hands him his check and the one who maintains his health insurance and pension.
  • He wants to work for you. "Work for you" also translates as "get paid by you."
  • I recall when this Journal's longtime ommentor "Anonymous" insisted that "the amateur campaign works beautifully in the Southcoast."
  • The Barney Frank campaign should do very well according to that stupefyingly salient marketing insight.
  • I suspect that "Anonymous" has already congratulated Barney Frank on the success of the latter's half-hearted campaign of awkward mailers filled with unattractive imagery, typographical indolence, grammatical sluggishness, and cacographic fontwork.
  • Since stereotypes are in vogue these days and minorities are derided with impunity once more, it's probably not a good idea for a gay man to be too particular or fastidious with the layout of his campaign material.
  • As always, Andrew at Armagideon Time says it best.
  • As ever, here's coverage of tonight's election results: