Friday, July 30, 2010

NB: Something for everyone...

...to puzzle over.
This is another SouthCoast Summer weekend planned without consulting a calendar or calling a colleague. Sure, there are official positions in the community who are contracted to coordinate arts and social events, but they apparently have the Summer off. The tradition of having everything happen on the same day or two adjacent days during the Summer remains unaltered. The positive side to this is that it diffuses the population throughout the municipality (the ones who leave their homes, anyway).
The whole of Ontario knows about the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament. It's held every year to the chagrin of neighbors, in New Bedford's largest asphalt wok, "Madeira Field." Any teevee chef will tell you: "Stay along the sides, where it's cooler."
Also be sure to enjoy the Classic Rock that has become synonymous with this magical Portuguese-American celebration held in order to, acording to their website, "share in the rich Madeiran heritage and family values."

Loosely related but nevertheless co-opted into the Madeiran festivities, The TallShip™ Barquentine Gazela of Philadelphia will toss some lines to the State Pier, giving the tony Trustafarians on board the opportunity to earn "patronize the public" badges as required under the terms of the grant which mandates at least one made-up nautical term ("windsail" or "speckle shot" or "main smiteyard" are examples) and at least one entirely fictional account of a horrible storm. They are then required -- by Maritime Law -- to say that it's "the best experience of my whole life!" Do not suggest that "conditioner might help with that nest;" she'll probably own you some day.
New Bedford has so relentlessly branded Gazela as a "Portuguese TallShip™" that I wonder if I was only asked to work a couple of watches because I appeared to be a dark-haired marujo. I must admit that I did teach the Philadelphian on the crew a few well-delivered Portuguese cuss words.
Thrill to the perceptive commentary on this fine example of why YouTube™ shouldn't have audio:Perhaps the most popular distraction this weekend will be held at the Whale Hunting Museum that is a rapacious repository for Massachusetts Cultural Council monies. "Popular" among those Interneteers who have Google™Alerts for "herman melville," "moby-dick," and "stuff about whales or boats that I can put on my damp blog."
It's Herman Melville Family Day! Which has to be at some weekend date near to Melville's actual Birthday, August 1. And look at that: It's Sunday!
As found on an official NBWM marketing presentation -- or "blog" -- I share this demonstration of the consideration that's afforded the acclaimed author of the most important thing ever that only briefly mentions cannibalism in a racial context:
I didn't do this.I would have given the hat a rakish list to port. Does New Bedford know how to party? Or what?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

...and I didn't use "stamp your little feet" once!

As someone who has dealt with food pantries -- not out of need but because of munificent largess -- the tale of the Singing Out Against Hunger brouhaha in Tiverton (there are links to newspaper discussions of the topic at their site) distresses me beyond mere nostalgia for the good old days in the old neighborhood.
I do not adorn my memories of that peninsula in chimerica. The native locals hundreds of years ago named it "The Most Beautiful Spot" and that very same "Nanaquaket" remains quite enticing.
One is never far from the salt water smell of Nanaquaket Pond or the Sakonnet River and a serene rurality still embraces the manicured lawns and sculpted foliage. When I grew up on it, the Neck was a friendly place, full of well-sauced garden tenders, readily-available unminded small sailcraft, and private-school upperclassmen eager with lacrosse tips.
On some Summer nights, a breeze might waft a not unpleasant redolence of fried seafood across the pond... French fries... clam cakes... and fried clams. Have you been to Evelyn's Drive In recently?
Here's The Gluttony Network's Augustus T. Slobberchops:Recently, the owners of Evelyn's have provided their drive-in as one of the venues for "Singing Out Against Hunger," an annual shindig that has raised over $50,000 (some say $60,000) over the past seven years for Rhode Island's East Bay Community Action Program. That outfit provides help to, according to their website...

Head Start and Early Head Start services; family health and dental services; family development case management services including social service information and referral and basic human needs; youth programs; the East Bay Coalition for the Homeless; Heating and Energy Services; the Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Feeding and Nutrition Program (WIC) and senior services including case management, senior employment, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), Foster Grandparents and the Ocean State Senior Dining Program (meals in a social setting).
I know a little about non-profit fundraising (he said with no small degree of ironical litotes). A fundraiser that nets NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS is an exceptional event. That is a remarkable return for even the most complex beg. Considering that sum is raised over a weekend of local and amateur musical performances is precious and laudable.
The Nanaquaket where I grew up would have seen an effort like Singing Out Against Hunger as both a welcome diversion and compelling evidence that compassion, philanthropic duty and creative solutions to common problems still led their neighbors. The bank president across the street would have walked over with a sizable donation (orchestrated of course, to coincide with a visit from a newspaper photographer). Cans and cash collected in a bin at the entrance to the mill would show up, coordinated by the factory owner next door. The lawyer would have likely donated the sound equipment. Simple gestures to them, and the extra noise on a Summer evening?
"What noise?"
But there are those today who cringe at terms like "health and human services," "moral obligation" and "501(c)(3)." A few Tiverton residents have insisted that the event be truncated and toned down, and the Town Council sides with the whiny minority and has curtailed the performance and fundraising hours to a degree, forbidding amplification.
As far as I can tell, the Town Council has not put in place a noise ordinance forbidding amplification every other night. Just the one particular event. September 10, 11, 12.
Because a few people bellyached.
Where else do we see such inordinate fawning to intemperate and vocal self-centeredness?
Besides in undisciplined pre-schools, I mean?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

insert your own lame "whale" cliché here

from msnbc:BIG Roger Moore fan

A South African couple was out sailing near the country's infamous Robben Island when a 40-ton whale breached and crash-landed on their yacht.
"We were watching the whale flipping its tail for about half an hour," said Cape Town Sailing Academy Administrator Paloma Werner, who was enjoying a Sunday sail with her boyfriend and sailing instructor, Ralph Mothes.
"It reached about 100 to 200 meters from us, then it disappeared under water and reappeared about 10 to 20 meters from the boat, but we didn't think we were on a collision course," she told msnbc.com.
In other news, the New Bedford Whaling Museum's Summer fundraiser is in a couple of weeks.
It's called "Over The Top."

Friday, July 16, 2010

My New BFF

I have received a great compliment from an unexpected source. Being mentioned in a newspaperographer's online "blog" -- although certainly not a goal of this Journal -- is a very gratifying thing. Primarily, the mention displays admirable journalistic integrity on the part of Jack Spillane, who wiped up the bar remnants of my unlikely admission to a "prank" that involved one of those "best of" lists.
Since I am one of the individuals with a finger on the jugular pulse of Downtown New Bedford who isn't actually trying to suffocate it, I know that few sources of reference can be trusted to supply adequate tidings. I only hope that you reward your particular source proficiently, Shipmate.Also, ''Lo-Cal,'' now that Massachusetts ranks 48th in obesity.My initial reaction to your "blog" entry was, as you would expect: "Why does everyone insist upon putting periods in my name? I don't put them there." (I had them surgically removed after a near-tragic print shop accident. Don't get me started on "full stops.")
I next wiped a bead of glistening mock anxiety from my frontispiece, recalling how I had re-edited the piece to correct spelling and grammatical errors only moments after its publication. (One "there" that should have be a "their" and I really would have lost the cred that was already shaky after I had missed Shatner's birthday last week. At least I didn't forget that today is Phoebe Cates' birthday, or I would be really geek credless.)The only picture I could find that didn't involve a red bikini.
I then realized that I must dash off some piece of drivel like this, tout de suite, to salute the six who would visit the Journal out of the morbid rubbernecking curiosity that everyone gets when someone online refers to another someone's online presence as "very funny."
Since no one ever clicks on links, I know that the few who tried to The Google™ me were misguided to Doctor Who tribute pages. The rest found that I have been rather reticent of late. That's because I was not doing this anymore. I seriously wasn't regularly tapping away at it. But the temptation was far too great when the 1000 Greatest Places List came out. So...

While I might have the attention of someone who is possibly the only other person who feels a penchant -- monetarily-remunerated or not -- to address local concerns, and since he has access to the powers that be (or "powers to be," according to some City Councillors) maybe, Jack, you could help me to sort some of the other New Bedford mysteries that so puzzle me. Such as, "Why don't any of the bars or independant bartenders stock Cream Soda?" "Why are waitresses so damn sensitive about the pronunciation of scallop?" "Why is there only one of everything? Except art galleries and Chinese restaurants?" "Why does everyone say that they hate sushi, but there's sushi available at every supermarket?" "Why does my spell-check refuse to admit 'Bedford?'" and "Why does all the local radio suck so much?' (As a former employee of local radio, I already know "How" it sucks.)
Your editor will probably tell you that I can be relied upon for almost nothing of journalistic consequence -- what with my disdain for it and all --but this is a swell town full of swell people, with the best musicians who still have day jobs. So feel good about that. When the chips are down, remember that everyone has your back, except for the ones who are trying to come up with some sort of plausible explanation for not.
But you probably already knew that.

(This presentation featured an autographed photograph of Phoebe Cates.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Have A Confession...

It would be the apex of arrogance to imply that I "started" something online. In fact, anyone who believes that they have ever done anything that hasn't been already done... well... let's just say that there may be someone who thinks the same way. For instance, a number of people chose to inform the Massachusetts Tourisminatti that a certain local landmark -- a defunct whale oil refinery -- deserved placement on a marketing hustle called "1000 GREAT PLACES." Whether moved by irony or genuine devotion, this thing was done.
Because of the close relationship that I do not in any way have with the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, I was aware of their hope to compile a list of one thousand GREAT PLACES in Massachusetts. I predicted that there would be a few anomalies. You know, like when "Why Don't We Do It in the Road" was voted the best Beatles song. To test this hypothesis, I suggested -- on Facebook and Twitter -- that people vote for a PLACE that had been in the news at the time: The Baker-Robinson Whale Oil Refinery.
Well, the truth is that I was just being a smartass, but on March 18...

I listed it and voted for it and suggested that others might do the same. Since it was all a zany lark, I'd forgotten all about it.
When THE LIST was first posted a couple of days ago, I heard about it on the local radio news on the car radio while I was texting to my LinkedIn account, offering advice to Michael Westin on my Bluetooth and trying to trade "Matt Berry" for "Kim Cattrall" on the GPS, so I may not have heard quite correctly. The brilliant voice actor on the wireless (in this case playing a newcaster with random mid-phrase halting, distracted interview skills, and ludicrous mispronunciations) announced that New Bedford had fourteen PLACES on THE LIST and Fall River had eight."
After returning to the home office here at stately Goon Manor, confident in the confirmation of Hilltopper/Whaler rivalry, I investigated THE LIST. Although the M.O.T.T. site is unclear as to its actual purpose, it is very complete, but only to the most patient of seekers. You might be familiar with easter eggs on DVDs: special production clips and messages from the director one views by clicking an image of the Main Menu and then hitting REW or something. As it turns out, the actual LIST appears at

http://www.massvacation.com/1000/1000_places.PDF


... according to which, Fall River boasts SIX GREAT PLACES while New Bedford lays claim to THIRTEEN.)
As related by Don Cuddy in today's Standard-Times (available to subscription holders and those who know the secrets of private viewing) some are "puzzled." Whiny technophobes who didn't bother to try and get their pet hangouts on the list are surprised; some other folk are bemused. As with all public relations schemes, its stink will soon spike and then vanish. But some points are certainly worth more consideration. The author of this article posits that the "New Bedford's Baker-Robinson whale oil refinery and the schooner Ernestina" are, problematically, "both endangered species."
The Ernestina is simply acting like any other boat: proverbially, "a hole in the ocean into which one throws money." I wouldn't call it "endangered" however. It's simply experiencing a period of diminished productive outlay with increased fiscal prudence and refreshment of brand advantage while sitting on the bottom.
The Baker-Robinson Whale Oil Refinery is not endangered. It's simply not there. Oh, the striking stone exterior walls are there (probably soon to be obscured by Marriott™ promotional DOOH signage), but the interior is a chrome-plated banquet facility/meeting hall probably done up in the latest designer colors, anticipating the convergence of overwrought entrepreneurs, networking powwows, whiteboards and their mountebank facilitators.
"Endangered?"
No.
"Extinct."
This gambol remembrance of the world's last extant whale oil refining facility may have been some of my doing, but I want to meet whoever dreamt up the best one:
The ACME THEATER in Mattapoisett doesn't even exist.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What We Learned on The Fourth

from TriCities.Com, "Ceremony at Rocky Mount taps into the roots of the American revolution":

PINEY FLATS, Tenn. – Dennis McAvoy never learned in school about the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War or the U.S. Constitution.
In western New York, where he moved from with his family in October, history lessons simply gloss over that period, he said. And the vast majority of people there don’t know where America came from.
“We’ve learned more about this country being in the South than they teach you up there,” he said. “It’s very educational here.”
Yes, erm, educational.
Perhaps because of our proximity to the actual Liberty Tree, we Rhode Island grade school kids actually learned a lot about the Revolution. (I'll always remember that Rhode Island declared its own independence from Britain on May 4, 1776.) The school that I attended, Fort Barton, stands within a snowball's toss of the Revolutionary War Redoubt of the same name. Every Summer, folks dressed in stinky wool would run around shooting powder at each other "re-enacting the Battle of Tiverton."
We created our own historical fictions in the woods near the ominously-monickered Sin and Flesh Brook. We didn't play at "Cowboys and Indians" on the weekend; we impersonated Nathanael Greene and other characters from the social studies handouts that we were given every Friday to read aloud.
I doubt that all school systems are so intent on passing along local Eighteenth Century trivia, but I do know that schoolbooks don't "gloss over" the American Revolution. Teachers may, but usually students are the ones who are "glossing" over. So when I hear someone -- who probably just wasn't paying attention -- assert that he wasn't taught something, I wonder what he can possibly learn now.
Will he only believe the anachronism of Southern gentility that is "tying a ribbon on a Liberty/Victory Tree," rather than hoisting an effigy upon it? Will he remember that Tennessee was a member of the Confederacy? No representative from Tennesse was one of the fifty-six delegates in the Continental Congress who signed the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.

THIS is how they get you.

Maybe he can accept that history is far more complex and far less complete. Not everyone in 1776 cared for the fight; some remained loyal to the crown and sold livestock and crops to the highest bidder. Others were Quakers whose beliefs were certainly too sophisticated to fit on a misspelled sign. Would our Tea Party patriot be a ruffian in an angry mob? Would he have the stomach to beat and tar and feather his neighbors who had declared neutrality? Would he have forced them to leave their homes?
Co-opting, plundering, and defiling America's history and holidays, smugly misquoting or twisting Eighteenth Century political thought out of context in order to drive a misbegotten point home is tiresome, as is the meaningless repetition of "Forgotten history soon repeats."
It is no longer 1773. Americans were not, and are not as stupid as the lowest common denominator loudly and boorishly contends.
And the Fourth of July belongs to us all. Even these:We need a little Christmas. Perhaps not this much.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

America, 234 Years

I vaguely recall the name, but that face rings a bell.(This Third, Fourth, and Fifth of July presentation features Piper Laurie.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

SummerFest Saved by AMAZING NEW Technology

UPDATE!!1!: Contrary to the assertion in the first paragraph of this bit, THE ONLY HOTEL EVER IN NEW BEDFORD (so we'll never get a room tax either) actually has NO VACANCIES this weekend. I would also like to personally commend the owners of High Road Marketing for the ONLY Summerfest Website that, in FIFTEEN YEARS, has held my interest and actually made any sense. That said...

According to the New Bedford The Standard-Times' Brian Boyd, this weekend's downtown festivities -- tiresome traditional and folk music on a hundred separate stages, tie-dye dresses and didgeridoo rainsticks on every corner -- will only occur due to The Google™ and Facebook. Never mind the new hotel (which still has some vacancies, I hear) In fact...

Prior to last year's festival, they created a fan page on Facebook, the popular social networking site. Their page has grown from 80 fans in the early days to nearly 600 now, said Alan Korolenko, who serves as artistic director, along with his wife, Helene.
"We have tried to ask people, 'How did you hear about it?' And a lot of it is word of mouth," Korolenko said.
"That is what Facebook is. It's a more organized way of word-of-mouth communication."
The couple recruited their daughter, Kate, to create the page, and Helene Korolenko administers it, he said.
"Their daughter Kate" -- whom I actually do know -- responded to my Facebook friend request with "WHO R YOU!? NO. OMG :( "
So, she obviously knew what she was doing when she "created" the page, which involves at least two mouseclicks and probably a cut-and-paste. (I "created" a "page" for a museum and a fake guy, so I know whereof I speak.) ANYONE can have a blog, a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter presence. There is neither magic nor skill involved; like everything else, it's designed so that America's self-impressed dilettantes and amateurs can continue to delude themselves about their competence while obliging their relentless narcissism.
And that explains my waning interest in social and most other forms of media.