Friday, August 31, 2007

Tales of Camp Trin-trin

Hartford isn't Boston, New York, Athens, Northampton, New Haven, Providence, Philadelphia or San Francisco, or isn't that obvious?

So what, actually, is the point of this Advocate article?

The fact that students don't venture far off campus at Trinity? Nothing new, and probably not that unusual. I live in Middletown, and Main Street isn't crawling with Wesleyan students. Our intern this summer from Southern Illinois University couldn't tell me anything about Carbondale. Ask most of the kids at Williams, Amherst, Fairfield, or Willimantic what they know about the town where their school is located. At a lot of small schools in big and small towns, the campus is isolated, and a bubble for student life.

My business is a block from Trinity, and I've taught course there for the last five years. Here's what I can tell you from my observations:

- Some students are oblivious to anything but there own courses, parties, and their IM's and iPods (I've had students declaring a film minor who have spent three years at Trinity and never been to a film at Cinestudio!)
- Some students are brilliant, creative and fully engaged in the world (some of my past students created the International Hip-Hop Festival at Trinity, while fully involved seniors, have just finished editing a documentary on the most recent presidential election in Venezuela, have sent online dispatches from elections in Senegal, and from pre-election activities in the Muslim ghettoes of Paris)
- Some students wish they were somewhere else (Brown, Wesleyan, Yale, Columbia), and some are amazed to be at Trinity
- Most students know where to buy and drink beer, where the mall is, where West Hartford Center is, the restaurants that will deliver pizza, and where to buy drugs
- Trinity has great urban/campus initiatives which engage many students, like The Hartford Studies Program, and the Arthur Vining Davis Summer Institute of Urban and Global Studies
- Most students are correct in the assumption that Hartford doesn't offer much to engage the attention of students at any time of day or night (there is no strip of student bars, restaurants, clubs, stores)
- Some of the streets around the campus are, indeed, scary - but students aren't the only ones who avoid them. Where are the white, middle-and-monied class found on these streets? The answer, of course, is that they are no
- Some of the student housing (apartments) and frats are the worst, dirtiest, noisiest, disgusting buildings on a given block

The unintended consquences of DJ-ing

Great way to spend 8 minutes. Thanks for the link Todd.

And a note saying: "If you're reading this, you've destroyed our beautiful building."

So, they've found a "time capsule" buried under the rubble or what was once the stately convent of St. John's Church.

Rev. Gregory Mullaney, who was once in residence at St. John's, feels the time capsule links the church with its past:

"Having something like this helps to give you a sense that these were real people," Mullaney said. "In this case we don't have their faces, but we have their names and that is powerful." "With their names and these items we know a little bit about their lives and who these people were and that helps bring the history alive." "As Catholics, we cherish the fact that we inherit our faith from those who went before us and getting a sense of who these people were is an important thing," he added.

Of course, saving the building and restoring it to its former glory might have been a better connector to the church's history.

Still, we can be assured that a time capsule may be buried under the new community center, which by reports, will be a pre-fab steel, industrial-type building. And when parishoners are forced to demolish it in 30 years, they'll find similar items - a newspaper reporting how the Catholic Church has been forced to pay restitution to victims of priest abuse, a postcard of the old convent that was destroyed to make way for the community center, a report on Mother Theresa's loss of faith late in life, a picture of Bono shaking hands with Pope Benedict, a dollar token from Mohegan Sun, and a condom in a foil package with a picture of Jesus making a peace sign embossed on it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back to work, back to work, back to work, back...

More Basic Instructions here.

Radio, radio

Radio and music are heavy on my mind this week, as an earlier post indicates, and somehow I tripped upon this on a site called Rock Town Hall.

I'm totally familiar with the first instance of Radio, Radio being played as contraband on Saturday Night Live. Costello and the band had been booked in December 1977 as a last minute replacement for the Sex Pistols. I saw it live on TV, and it made me a fan of Elvis Costello forever. History reveals that the moment was not as spontaneous as it seemed, but plotted by Costello and band ahead of time. It did piss off Lorne Michaels, who vowed never to have Costello back. It's the kind of performance that can make or break a career. Costello's talent insisted that it be a monumental push forward and not a stumbling block. He was invited back to play in 1989 and 1991, likely after Michaels decided the memorable moment was one of the reasons early Saturday Night Live was great.

Today, I saw for the first time, this reprise on a 1999 anniversary special of the show which featured the Beastie Boys.

BTW, Elvis Costello opens solo/acoustic for Dylan when he plays the the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport on Sept. 30.

I'm on the pavement thinkin' 'bout the government

And if you don't get the allusion, check this out:

It's "mo bettah" George, and it ain't

George Bush slunk into New Orleans Tuesday, got a bellyful of Creole food, and the next day appeared at a school full of elementary school students who certainly weren't going to challenge his lies. He and Laura then fled to Mississippi where his Republican cohorts gleefully thanked him for all the federal dollars diverted their way.

As usual Bush displayed his cowardice by not appearing in a real and open public forum, and he cemented his role as "boy in a bubble," when, as the Times Picayune noted he told those assembled:

"A lot of people down here probably wondered whether or not those of us in the federal government not from Louisiana would pay attention to Louisiana or Mississippi," Bush said during his visit to a gleamingly restored charter school in the devastated Lower 9th Ward.

"In other words, it's one thing to come and give a speech in Jackson Square; it's another thing to keep paying attention to whether or not progress is being made. And I hope people understand we do, we're still paying attention. We understand."

But Bush wasn't seeing the same post-Katrina picture many others do. Again, the president sought Wednesday to refute the belief that progress isn't being made by expressing empathy for those who have trouble seeing it.

"My attitude is this: New Orleans, better days are ahead," Bush said. "It's sometimes hard for people to see progress when you live in a community all the time. Laura and I get to come -- we don't live here; we come on occasion. And it's easy to think about what it was like when we first came here after the hurricane, and what it's like today. And this town is coming back. This town is better today than it was yesterday, and it's going to be better tomorrow than it was today."

I was in New Orleans less than two weeks after Katrina, when I stood on a Jackson Square, empty but for National Guardsmen, and when the streets were lined with refrigerators, sealed against their rotting stinking interiors. I saw St. Bernard parish, and the Ninth Ward, before every house had been thoroughly searched for unlucky victims, and I was astonished at the devastation and loss. I met a resilent Fats Domino in the partially-opened hotel where we were warned not to open our eyes in the shower.

I've returned a few times since, and there is progress, but not enough. Bureaucracy, corruption, racism, hatred and crime still stalk the city like the spectre of death. No one has yet to ride the street car along St. Charles again because repair work has been slow because of the devastation to power lines and poles. I heard the promises George Bush made, and I've watched as those promises have been broken.

While New Orleans, and its officials are not blameless, George Bush is criminally culpable, and he has the gall to smirk and shimy and talk about better days to come.

Different ends of the radio waves

Curious. Bruce Springsteen's new single, "Radio Nowhere" asks the musical question, "Is there anyone alive out there," as he listens to satellite radio from a dark road in the middle of nowhere.

The same question is asked by Steve Earle in his new song, "Satellite Radio" from the forthcoming album, Washington Square Serenade. Except in the case of his musical question, it's asked by the host of a satellite radio show who is wondering if there are any listeners.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Concert of the Week

10th Annual Rhythm and Roots Festival
August 31 - September 3
Ninigret State Park, Charlestown, RI

I can barely believe that this festival is ten years old. Though it seems like I've spent a lifetime marking the end of summer at this festival (and the Cajun and Bluegrass Festival from which it grew) in Rhode Island. Last year the stiff winds of a near-miss hurricane had the clouds whirling and the stage canopy swinging, but it never stopped the music or the dancers.

The main stage will be filled with amazing talent including Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Susan Tedeschi, Marty Stuart and the Superlatives, the Red Stick Ramblers, the Pine Leaf Boys, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Donna the Buffalo, Racines, the Creole Cowboys, Ray Bonneville, Paul Cebar and others. And while much of the audience will focus their attention on center stage, the workshop and dance tents will remain crowded. In the workshop tents it will be musical mashups as musicians from various realms join to discuss and play their brand of music. In the dance tents, the early afternoon dance lessons are followed by plentiful opportunity to try out the new dance step. This year, dancing begins at 3 pm and rolls until midnight.

No ugly cracks please

As one of his last, and most important tasks, it seems Karl Rove is determined to get to the bottom of a serious breach in security.

After a speech at American University earlier in the year, he was taunted mercilessly by some protesters who were determined to display their better side.

This obviously raised a stink with Rove, who is now turning to the Secret Service to perform some serious undercover work. I'm sure they'll discover whomever was behind this dastardly behaviour. Rove, apparently, does not appreciate being the butt of someone else's idea of a joke.

Thanks for your service, Karl.

Taking up space

Towns are complex organisms. People, buildings, geography, roads, businesses, families all interconnected to form unique entities.

I've argued, plenty, about how important it is to preserve the architectural character of a town in maintaining a town's identity. Middletown is not alone in wanting to dispose of older buildings, and covering the resulting vacant lots with blacktops to accommodate cars, but lately we've seen more than our share of history tarred by the brush of "progress."

Middletown currently has the opportunity to preserve something else which is essential to its character - open space. Tonight the finance board will meet to consider, and draft a bonding proposal for $2 million to purchase (using matching state and federal funds) up to 500 acres of open space. When drafted, the bond proposal will go before the Common Council for a vote on Tuesday to allow the bond proposal to be added to a November referendum vote.

While the current downturn in the housing market will slow the process of farm fields sprouting McMansion developments, an active effort must be made to keep lands open and green permanently.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Scratch ticket

This isn't exactly news, but I finally got around to watching the instructional video released by Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz's office. It's clear, and indeed, instructional, though not at all poetic, and a bit frightening when comparing the ballot to a "standardized test" (Ohmijesus!), or a "lottery ticket" (shit, we lost again!).

The optical scan voting machine in question, Accu-Vote Optical Scan from LHS Associates, is, in actuality a Diebold machine. The machine in question was put through its paces by UCONN researchers, and found imminently corruptible. Though to be fair to our Secretary of State, steps have been taken to address issues of corruptibility.

Though election days is many months away, be sure to watch the video, and be sure to ask for your "privacy folder" when voting!

Radio nowhere

Okay, here's what I want for my birthday, and it's not too much to ask.

On October 2, I hit double nickels. 55. On that date, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band release the new album "Magic" and play the Hartford Civic Center. I don't need front row seats, but down in front would be nice.

And since his new single, "Radio Nowhere," (released today as a free download on iTunes), is about the search for real radio ("Is there anyone alive out there?"), I'd invite Bruce to visit my radio show the next morning to play a few songs live. After all, we little indy stations are the only ones who have been playing Bruce's new music for the past couple of years.

That's all I want for my birthday. Pass this request along to Bruce, please.

Other great "radio" songs?

Radio, Radio - Elvis Costello
On the Radio - Joe Jackson
Listen to the Radio - Nanci Griffith
Are You Out There? - Dar Williams
Domino - Van Morrison
Mohammed's Radio - Warren Zevon
Mexican Radio - Wall of Voodoo
London Calling - The Clash
The Last DJ - Tom Petty
Rex Bob Lowenstein - Mark Germino
You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio - Joni Mitchell
Radio - Daisy May Erlewine
This is Radio Clash - The Clash
Caravan - Van Morrison

Can you guess what I'll be playing tomorrow morning?

Jim Olsen's ears

If you own a title or two from the Signature Sounds label, or you've attended one of the great Green River Festivals in Greenfield MA, or you've tuned in on a Saturday morning to The River (93.9 FM in Northampton, 101.5 in Brattleboro VT), then you know something about the great musical taste of Jim Olsen.

Olsen is co-founder of Signature Sounds, producer of the Green River Festival and a longtime DJ on WRSI, aka, The River, in Western Mass. He has recorded and released albums by some great artists, several of whom, have begun their careers on his label, and gone on to much wider recognition.

It will be a vindication, and probably a bit frustrating, to read two of the main articles in the latest (September) issue of No Depression magazine. Featured are two artists, Lori McKenna and Josh Ritter, who began their careers with Signature Sounds, and have now reached national audiences on bigger labels. For some reason, No Depression did not feature these artists when they were Signature up and comers, but now they're getting the star treatment. I'd suggest to No Depression, and to anyone who is interested in great music, to check some of the other gifted artists on Olsen's label. Without effort I can think of Eilen Jewell, Richard Shindell, Jeffrey Foucault, Mark Erelli, Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem, the Winterpills, Erin McKeown and Kris Delmhorst.

BTW, the "Jimmy Olsen" in Dar Williams tribute to late night indy radio in the song "Are You Out There?" is this Jim Olsen.

If Jim Olsen likes it, chance are I will too.

The missing bees

I was catching up on some New Yorker reading, and I found this great article on bees and colony collapse disorder. While it's no more reassuring than other things I've read, there is an amazing amount of interesting information about bee problems, and as you would expect in this mag, very well written.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Jesus cured the blind man's eyes with mud

When George Bush accuses his critics of dragging Alberto Gonzales name through the mud he might be doing a disservice to mud. Bush's terse summary of Gonzales career to my ears sounds more like an indictment. According to Bush, Gonzales played a critical role in shaping policy in the war on terror. Says Bush, "The Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act and other important laws bear his imprint." He also helped shepard two conservative Supreme Court justices onto the bench. And by the way, he has led the justice department in making protection of children from internet predators a priority. Now of course, those predators will feel free to prey on our golden-haired progeny.

What he didn't mention is Gonzales critical thinking in executing prisoners on Texas' death role, and his interpretation of the Geneva Convention which allowed our country to torture prisoners. And when Bush shames Congress for pursuing Gonzales for "political reasons," he fails to mention that it was Gonzales who used "political reasons" to fire US Attorneys General.

And of course, Bush, the courageous, walked away from the mics without taking questions.

Colin McEnroe has an interesting Oedipal analysis of Gonzales' own announcement.

Al has not yet gotten what he deserves.

Keep the meter running

I listen to WTIC-AM in the morning on the way to work primarily to check on traffic. I usually need to switch off after a few minutes of right-wing banter from show host Ray Dunaway, and his ineffectual "balance" Diane Smith. Dunaway calls himself a libertarian, but bears all the earmarks of being a neandrathal-level conservative. He doesn't believe in global warming, thinks smoking in public is a god-given right, and uses funny voices whenever he talks about people with different viewpoints than his.

However, this morning Ray and Diane, or Roy and Debbie, as Colin McEnroe calls them, provided an important public service when they brought Hartford Courant George Gombossy and CL&P CEO Ray Necci into the same studio to discuss the accusations Gombossy has made in a series of columns about defective electric meters. You can read the series here, and listen to the debate here.

I'll let you draw your conclusions, but I have to wonder, when confronted with the facts, why a responsible corporate CEO would not simply apologize and pledge to make amends. Gombossy attempts to pin Necci to the wall, as Dunaway acts the apologist and lobs softballs.

Interesting listening, and another argument why local radio is essential.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

How in hell did I miss this?

I was staying a town away in Ogunquit (okay the cabin is in Wells), and by the end of the week I tend to shy away from the local papers, and read the nationals, so I missed the opportunity to raise my voice in one of Mr. Danger's home towns. Shite.

Shove this in your "support our troops" pipe and smoke it

I can hardly ever bear to hear right-wing, war-mongering, chickenhawks talking about how the only way to support the troops is to support the war in Iraq.

It's finally becoming clear that supporting the troops means something altogether different.

Listen to the tracks

Though ultimately rejected, one of the unexpectedly interesting ideas, proposed by Landmark Development for downtown Middletown was an idea to bring trolleys back to Main Street. I told an expert in urban development that I thought it was a good idea, and was informed, that, "It won't work. Middletown does not have the population density to make it successful." I took the chastisement with my usual mix of resentment and resignment. I don't know much about streetcars, much less how to make them feasible in a city, but I like them.

Turns out a lot of people do.

I've ridden trolleys, streetcars and cable cars all over the country, from the famous hill climbers in San Francisco, to the short line transports in Salt Lake and Denver, the the beautiful run down St. Charles on the neutral ground in New Orleans. And I've enjoyed them all. They seem practical, a solution to transit woes, and an attraction in and of themselves.

Fact is, there was a time when, as my father told me, you could ride a trolley (actually a series of trolleys) from Portland Maine to New York City. Middletown had a successful trolley line and some of the rails are still buried beneath the streets. Most larger towns and cities featured successful lines, with companies building many amusement parks at the end of lines to beckon weekend riders. And there is some truth to the urban rumor that the car companies (and the road companies) had something to do with getting rid of the trolleys. (see the sequel to Chinatown for a fictional account). Some say they needed the iron in the rails for wartime armaments during World War II. At any rate, highways and cars spelled the end to most streetcar lines.

I once suggested that the solution to Middletown's "parking problem" would be to build a few large, safe, well-lighted, multi-level garages on the outskirts of town, and connect them to downtown with trolley lines. The idea drew a guffaw from one city leader who said, "Those tracks wreak havoc on the suspension of most cars."

Imagine a line that connected Hartford, Middletown and New Haven. A project for the 21st century inspired from an idea from the 19th.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

And the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraquis doesn't gross him out?

Christopher Shays is whining again. Once a noted Republican maverick, he's turned into a Republican apologist. He's grossed out by investigations into a corrupt administration? Why isn't he queasy about all the other immoralities of the Bush administration.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

'Scuse me while I kiss the sky

Guy's got a point. I remember hearing this album for the first time when the late David Frederick's put it on his stereo in his parent's basement. I readily admit that on first hearing I couldn't really interpret what I was listening to. It seemed foreign and exotic and familiar all at once to my fifteen year old ears. It's difficult to explain what it was like to hear the Beatles, Jimi, the Clash, the Ramones, Nirvana and others for the first time, because there was a time when musicians were truly revolutionary. I'd love to have the experience once more where a musician, and a new approach to music confuses and delights.

How much will you love Bush when the tax bill comes?

Expect to see a little less flag waving when the American public finally learns what little Georgie's misadventure has cost us all. He'll be building his presidential library as our hospitals, roads and schools crumble. He'll be living behind a gate in Crawford or Kennebunk when the middle class realizes that the bottom has fallen out.

Arbitrating the arbitration

I guess I missed out on some good public theater in Middletown as the Democratically controlled City Council tried to assert it's authority in a debate over whom will arbitrate with city police. They mayor didn't show, and Republican Dave Bauer stalked out. For a party which can't recruit a candidate to run against Mayor Giuliano, I think the Dems may be nervous that their stranglehold on city doings may be slipping.

A short holiday from blogging

If you're really paying attention, you'll notice I haven't blogged in four days. It interrupts a pretty good couple of month startup run. But everyone needs a vacation. So I'm taking some days not to think about war, corruption, politics, burglaries and my many other complaints. I'll probably blog a time or two when I can connect, but otherwise, I'm re-charging the batteries (funny thing is, I'm literally recharging the batteries right now). I'll be back here on the weekend for more of the regular blather.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Remember that great old convent that used to sit up on the hill overlooking the Connecticut River?

Just a memory.

And the good news? Great view of the bridge from Main Street.

Alejandro gets his due

Filmmaker Jonathan Demme has announced he will make a documentary about little-known, but legendary singer and songwriter Alejandro Escovedo.

Escovedo has labored in obscurity for most of his career, but Demme, who made renowned docs about the Talking Heads (Stop Making Sense) and Neil Young (Heart of Gold) may finally shed a little light on this great musician.

It's allright, ma, it's only collateral damage

Imagine if we dismissed the likely deaths of miners lost in a coal shaft or the actual deaths of their rescuers, or drivers crushed by a falling bridge in Minneapolis as "collateral damage." People would be horrified.

"Collateral damage" is a completely insensitive, inhumane, calculating way to use language to diminish the value of life, and to downplay the horror of tragic deaths. But the Bush administration used it often in the description of deaths of innocent men, women and children in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, it's the most accurate way to describe the deaths of people who might not have died if the Bush administration had done the things it's supposed to do. So, indeed, all the deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, military and civilian, are the collateral damage of Bush's incompetence and strident zealotry. The suicides of American soldiers are collateral damage of the wrong war, fought for too long by volunteers who have been exploited by the Bush administration. The deaths in New Orleans after Katrina are the collateral damage of appointing cronies to vital positions of responsibility. The deaths on a collapsed Minneapolis bridge are the collateral damage of an administration who thinks nothing of spending $2 billion dollars a day on an immoral, ineffective war, and thus is bankrupt when it comes to spending on infrastructure. And now, the deaths, and potential deaths in a Utah mining disaster seem to be, partially, collateral damage of relaxed standards of mining safety which have come into practice while Bush's federal mine safety director (who received a recess appointment after Congress rejected his appointment) Richard Stickler has been in charge.

And it's not only human life which has been collateral damage, there's privacy, liberty, security, free expression, justice and the Constitution which have been lost to the Bush administration's feckless approach to governance.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Everything AND the kitchen sink

John Rowland was brought low by a hot tub.

Will Eddie Perez perish by a toilet and a garbage disposal?

The sequence of events are a bit suspicious, but Eddie says he has the check stubs to prove his innocence.

Folks couldn't wrap their minds around the parking lot problem, but they understand kitchen cabinets and shower enclosures. It's the concrete symbol of potential corruption that usually buries politicians too narcissistic to think their misdeeds will be uncovered.

This on the heels of the Perez push to keep Minnie Gonzalez off the battle paints an unflattering picture of the first "strong" mayor of Hartford. Oh, and did I mention his support of Creepy Joe Lieberman?

Jolly Coppers on parade

Buried at the tale end of Josh Kovner's piece in the Hartford Courant this morning about Middletown's search for a new deputy chief in the Police Department is a nugget about a current internal affairs investigation. Seems like those wacky officers may be at it again - giving new meaning to A Taste of Middletown.

Sounds like frosting on a turd to me

If you stop in the coffeeshops and newstands around town, you're liable to hear that the Kleen Energy plant is a raw deal for the people of Middletown.

If you read the paper, you'll discover that it's likely a bad deal for everyone in Connecticut. Both the Office of Consumer Counsel (which would like the deal re-structured in its entirety) and Attorney General Dick Blumenthal (who wants subsidies stripped from the plan), have cast their vote against the current (no pun intended) plan.

Councilman David Bauer was credited with calling the deal frosting on a cow pie. A spoonful of sugar doesn't make everything go down easier.

Don't forget he was buried in his backyard like a common hamster

Elvis died 30 years ago today, and it was the second best career move of his life after making that demo for his mom at Sun Studios.

Those early Sun sessions were the best music he ever made, and then he and his talent were ground to shreds on the star-making machinery.

His stock has risen incredibly in the past three decades, making millions for his heirs, and adding volumes to the cultural myths surrounding his life, death and afterlife.

By the way, I stole the line in the title of this blog from an introduction Fred Koller has made for his song, "The King and I" when he performs it live.

Petraeus, Petraeus, Petraeus, not Petraeus

After months of asking us all to be patient and to give General Petraeus and the surge a chance, it seems as if the White House is unwilling to have General Petraeus speak for himself.

Could it be that the White House is disturbed by the fact that Petraeus understands the separation of powers better than they do?

At this point, if you believe anything the White House says you might not want to open one of those emails from Nigeria promising you a fee for transferring millions in funds from an African bank account.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pearl before swine

I got home from work yesterday, went to check the mailbox, and found myself face-t0-face with a gang of six late-teen, early-twenty young men who were high on something other than life. One of the punks threw a handful of gravel into my face, and then challenged me to fight. Another began immediately to tell me that it was a case of mistaken identity. My mother didn't raise a fool, so I backed away, and took my phone out to call police. The punks ran.

Then it got really frustrating. Both Lucy and I called the dispatcher who didn't seem to be able to handle well the multiple calls coming in. In addition, another call had come in some minutes before because this same group had stomped over the roof of a car on College St. A police car finally rounded our street ten minutes after the call, but long after all the offenders had scattered to the wind. We waited for an officer to come and take a statement, but after an hour, Lucy called the dispatcher back, and he said, "You told me you didn't want an officer to visit you." Lucy said, "No I didn't want an officer coming here, I wanted them to chase the people who did this. I assumed, that afterward they'd want to get a statement." The dispatcher replied, "I'n not going to get into it with you." An officer did arrive, and politely, and empathetically took a statement about ten minutes later.

Today, I put in calls to the Police Department, and to the Mayor. The chief is on vacation, but I spoke with Captain Sneed. Both Sneed and the Mayor said they'd beef up patrols.

A little later today I attended the North End Action Team annual garden party and it was a great celebration. I saw the mayor and Captain Sneed and they agreed that the North End party was much more of what we'd like to see then the problems. But in talking to several people who have interacted with the town dispatcher, I can affirm that the town has a problem that needs fixing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It says here

So rumors have it that Rupert Murdoch has his sites set on the New York Times. I encourage you to listen to Billy Bragg's "It Says Here," a song he wrote in the eighties about Murdoch's media monopoly in Britain. It has spread here in a way that's as devastating as mad cow disease.

So, perhaps the Great Gray Lady, will be tarted up with some rouge and new shoes. Pimp my paper, Rupert.

But the Lady has already stooped to conquer during the Bush administration, with Judith Miller's pandering stories about WMD's, and a tendency, until recently, to accept White House press releases as if they contained even a grain of truth.

So when, a few weeks back, I read a Sunday Op-Ed by Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack that suggested the United States could actually "win" the war in Iraq, I had a moment of pause. Soon enough, the lefty blogs began to discredit O'Hanlon and Pollack's claims, but not before the mainstream media began to extol the wonderous progress being made in Iraq, as proclaimed by the Op-Ed. All of this was further driven, inexpicably given his lace of credibility, by claims from Dick Cheney that even the Times saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

So, when Glenn Greenwald finally had the opportunity to interview O'Hanlon and Pollack, and dissemble their ludicrous argument, it's almost a relief. Except that The Times had fallen for the public relations ploy once again.

Can they fend off Murdoch? You won't read about it in The Times.

Don't fence me in

Middletown's Economic Development Commission pursued a sane course on Monday evening when it voted to encourage the Common Council to pass an open-space bond resolution to preserve some of Middletown's remaining farm land.

I'm tempted to quote from the same Joni Mitchell song two days in a row, but if the folks leaving the meeting were happily whistling "Big Yellow Taxi," you'll understand it was a step in a victory to save precious open space from McMansion subdivisions.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Open goal

It's not good for democracy. It's not good for the town. For a mayoral candidate to run unopposed is an embarrassment.

In fact, I think Seb Giuliano has done a lot of good for the town. I don't always agree with his policies (Liberty Square and Kleen Energy are two notable recent examples), but he cleaned up the high school project, got rid of a lousy police chief, prevented a big box from opening in town, and seems to be working hard, against great Democratic machine odds, to clean up City Hall.

On the other hand, an unopposed run might give him the impression that he's doing everything just right.

I suppose I don't have much of a right to complain because I refuse to run for public office, since I consider it tantamount to bashing your head against a wall on a regular basis, still, it wold be nice to have a choice.

You don't know what you've got till it's gone

Thanks to Karen Schrempf for a great article on Joni Mitchell's forthcoming album. It's wonderful to see Mitchell's rediscovery of her muse, and interesting that she's turning to Starbucks to promote it.

There's no doubt the music world is changing. CD sales are faltering. Stores that sell recorded music exclusively are disappearing.

And Starbucks, which now has it's own label, has had tremendous success with the handful of artists it markets through its high-priced coffee outlets. In fact, Starbucks has been so successful that it now has it's own label, Hear Music, which has signed near-geriatric artists like Mitchell and Paul McCartney.

I'm old school. I like the CD and the package, the lyrics, the photos, the artwork. I've grown to love the concept of an album of songs (called an album because in the days of 78 rpm's, a collection of disks was held in an album very much like a photo album). My son has jettisoned most of his CDs once they're burned on his hard drive, and often he buys songs as files.

It's still not clear how record companies plan to continue to make money in the future. Or how artists can make money on the music they create. Small artists can tour like mad, and expect to earn a respectable income for all their hours on the road. And big artists can fill the stadiums. Question is, where will the big artists come from, Starbucks?

The last bastion of hit records is country music, whose fans were the last to give up on the audiocassette. Perhaps there's something to be learned from C&W where radio play still has an effect, the music video is still coveted, and the artists still understand fan appreciation.

The Kool burglar

With the tragic Cheshire home invasion it's kind of spooky that our Middletown neighborhood had its own spate of late night home entries recently.

A well-dressed, relatively young man was found very early in the morning in kitchens on Pearl Street and Home Avenue. On Home Avenue, he was smoking a Kool cigarette, and was later apprehended by police on College St. smoking a Kool. He also, apparently, left a crushed Kool butt in the sink of my next door neighbor. He may also have been responsible for several car break-ins throughout the neighborhood over the past three or four nights.

Lock your doors and keep your lights on. (Or in the case of those who don't keep valuables in their cars, keep your doors open so you don't get a smashed windshield.)

Most disturbing is that neighbors in a well-used circle of emails alerted one another to the break-ins, while the Police Department has no means to do the same.

Fortunately no one was hurt, but its time for neighbors and the police to create a simple email network to distribute this kind of information.

Don't ask for whom Kabul tolls...

It's an impossibly long and complex article for Sunday afternoon, but the NYTimes story on what went wrong in Afghanistan is required reading for everyone who wants to understand the utter incompetence of the Bush administration, the Pentagon and the CIA.

The war against terrorists and the Taliban in Afghanistan was considered a "good" war by many, but Bush took his eye off the ball, and in doing so, guaranteed that Afghanistan would follow Iraq down the rathole.

And to save Christianity we need another crucifixion

File under the absurd jingoistic logic of a twisted patriot.

The Philadelphia Daily News' Stu Bykovsky calls for a repeat of 9/11 to re-unite America.

Using his ridiculous reasoning what other tragedies could we imagine to bring people together?

To unite Europe and America again as strong allies, we need another Hitler.

To make people buy newspapers, we need to abolish a free press.

To inspire the government to spend money on infrastructure, we need another bridge disaster.

To really commit to rebuilding New Orleans, we need another hurricane, or two.

To make the country understand the horrors of war, we need a draft.

To repair the disfunctional air traffic control system, we need a few airline disasters.

To appreciate how benign our ineffectual lawmakers are, we need another Joe McCarthy.

To appreciate the value of a dollar, we need another depression.

To value our Constitution, we need a president who doesn't.

Here's your hat, what's your hurry

Bush's brain is retiring as of August 31, according to the Wall Street Journal. Now how do we get the rest of him out of the White House.

So what does Rove know that makes this rat flee the sinking ship?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A fond (temporary?) adieu to Helen Ubinas

Courant columnist Helen Ubinas is off to a fellowship at Stanford University just as she was hitting her stride as a Hartford columnist, and apparently, just as she was experiencing capitol city burnout. He column today is a warning to everyone who lives and works in Hartford that leaving well enough alone is fine, but leaving not nearly well enough alone is dangerous. Her "farewell" column is dead center on the front page of today's Courant, and it is essential reading for anyone who thinks Hartford has a future that's brighter than the current bleakness.

Helen indicates that she'll be coming back, but given the nature of corporate owners trimming news staffs, and her obvious talent and marketability, I think we might see her name under a different masthead a year from now.

I'll miss her pointed criticisms of the feeble town fathers, and the lack of progress in a city that once was right up there with Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

Good luck Helen. It doesn't seem like you'll forget Hartford, but you may forget your way back here.

Oh really, Dick

Well, some neo-con future archaeologists claim that history will vindicate the Bush administration. Seems like history is already vindicating those who think Bush, Cheney and the lot are opportunistic hypocrites who will say whatever is necessary to accumulate power and wealth.

Epistle from SF Hansen about Uncle Earl

Susan Forbes Hansen attended the Uncle Earl/Devil Makes Three show at the Iron Horse, and this is what she had to say:

A terriffic show! I got there after the line had entered the Horse, but still got a good seat because it wasn't very full at six-ish. The place filled up slowly and was packed by the time the music started. As with Washburn's show at Wesleyan, I wasn't the oldest in the house, and the musicians weren't the youngest. The audience was VERY loud in its appreciation. Lotsa fun.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Walls and porches

A slightly larger crew, including Maria, the future owner of the new home, worked hard to raise second floor exterior walls, and part of the front porch on the Habitat for Humanity project on Pearl St.

I learned a few things about squaring a wall (3-4-5, the relative dimensions of a right triangle), and about how to move forward by repairing errors in measurement.

I've gotten a bit better at banging nails, a task which appears simpler than it actually is, and I'm officially a redneck, having forgotten my sunscreen.

Going, going....

The demolition of the brick structure on the old St. John's convent on the promontory overlooking the Arrigoni Bridge over the Connecticut River began in earnest over the past couple of days.

I lived in New Britain where I saw history fall before the wrecking ball during my teens. With this and other recent North end demolitions, I feel like I'm reliving a "redevelopment" philosophy that has been scoffed at for two decades.