Thursday, April 30, 2009

I plagiarize myself

I'm tired therefore I steal my own words.

The clock read 1:10 AM, when the first wave of drunken Wes students hit my block of Pearl Street. They were exuberant with the end of classes, the beginning of the "reading" period, the onset of Spring and the availability of cheap beer on Main Street.

I wasn't angry, simply resigned. After a semester of brain-numbing academic work, a little release is essential.

"Reading period," is it. I don't think any of them were discussing Voltaire.

The second wave was a bit noisier, and the only coherent conversation I could make out was a young man who said, "It's because you're a girl," and the young woman he was accompanying said, "Exactly."

By the time a surge hit Broad Street, I was happy that they had decided on a route that didn't take them down Pearl. But I had my light on and I had Dennis Lehane's Darkness Take My Hand open, and was frankly freaked-out by this tale of a serial killer stalking Boston.

I was wired on a dose of decongestant, so I knocked back a hunk of the mystery before my eyes got heavy at around three. On the threshold of sleep, I heard feet scraping down the length of my gravel driveway. The motion sensor spotlight on the backporch clicked on, and I was down the stairway with my heart racing. But whoever set the motion detector off, was gone. I paced from window to window fueled to a buzz by adrenaline.

I sat in the front bay and watched as a huge oppossum ambled across the street. A Jeep Wagoneer circled the block twice. A Wes Public Safety cart passed a young man in hip-hop regalia who was walking down the middle of the street texting and drawing hard on a cigarette. A small grey car pulled into a neighbor's driveway, then backed out, traveled down the street a few hundred yards, and pulled in and out of another neighbor's driveway.

The adrenaline was just easing off when Lucy's cell phone began to ring at 3:45. It was her mother's alarm company. Her burglar alarm on Mansfield Terrace had been tripped, and Lucy's mother wasn't answering her phone.

"You've got to get over there," Lucy insisted. "I put on my sandals, grabbed a sweat shirt, and a length of sawed-off shovel handle and drove the six blocks to the house.

Tiny Mansfield Terrace was lined with six Middletown Police Cars, and an equal number of officers with flashlights blazing. One of the officers had a dog.

When I explained who I was, an officer told me that my mother-in-law was safe in her room, that they were sweeping the house and yard.

"We're trying to pick up a scent with the dog," he told me. "So if you could stay here for a moment, so we won't confuse the dog."

I'm always in favor of not confusing the dog.

Jane emerged from the house, and was invited to sit in one of the squad cars. The officer behind the wheel pulled down the street so she could talk to me. When he got next to me he rolled down the window, hooked a thumb in Jane's direction and asked: "Do you think you'll be able to post bond."

The joke helped ease the tension.

When we went back into the house, the officer took us into the basement and showed us how the burglar had kicked in the laundry room window, entered, and when he or she couldn't get into the house (the door at the head of the stairs was bolted), the burglar had exited through a hatchway, which likely set off the alarm.

"It's the third one this evening," the officer said. "Same busted window. Same sneaker prints."

A house had been entered on Liberty Street, and one in a neighborhood closer to the Wesleyan campus.

There are a rash of break-ins, house entries, and burglaries in the neighborhood over the past week or so. Two car break-ins in the Pearl Street, College Street neighborhood. A mobile home entry. A house burglary on College.

The police officers indicated that this kind of crime spree is usually the work of a thief or two, and not necessarily an indication of a wider crime wave.

I sat and read Darkness Take My Hand at Jane's until I nodded off at 5:35. Jane woke me at 6:00 to let me know the sun had risen to make the neighborhood appear safe again.

Lock your doors. Arm your alarms. Leave your porch light on, and call the police (344-3200) if you notice anything suspicious.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No more trouble

I'll admit to a bit of mixed feelings about the way in which the Playing For Change folks have notched up the most recent song they've released. It's beautiful, and magical, and inspirational, but did it really need Bono?

Monday, April 27, 2009

I got an ABC freebie

I spent many of my summers and days off, growing up, filling fire extinguishers. My dad was a fireman with five kids and his "moonlighting" job was as the owner and proprietor of Columbia Fire Extinguisher.

I carried old school soda and acid fire extinguishers up and down stairways in schools, department stores and factories all over New Britain. At about twenty pounds (one in each hand), it was the equivalent of a stairmaster workout every day. And the sulfuric acid burned tiny holes in my jeans that were the envy of every hippie girl who saw them. I also filled pressurized water and powder extinguishers in the company headquarters (the basement of 86 Columbia Street - get it).

A few weeks ago I saw a neighbor throwing pans of water on a fire in the engine compartment of a car he was fixing.

"You need a fire extinguisher?" I asked.

"You got a fire extinguisher?" he asked back.

He used my household ABC ten pounder to put the fire out readily.

I was left with a half-pressurized extinguisher and no idea where to turn since the basement business has closed down.

I eventually called Roybal Fire Extinguisher, the Middletown company that bought my dad's book of business, and watched as Larry did the refilling. He had some tricks and gadgets that my dad could never have conceived of, but the process was similar. When he was done, I told him how I spent many a summer doing just what he did.

He handed me the fire extinguisher, and said, "This one is on the house. Compliments of Roybal."

It somehow made all those sweaty summers worthwhile.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


So I've got a sore throat, cough, fever and aching joints. I want to think, "just a bad cold." Then I think about the headlines and ask myself, "Who do I know that's been to Mexico recently." Or was it that pork burrito at the Mexican place Thursday?

Either that or Fred Phelps has prayed to his god, who is more powerful than I have given him credit to be.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

An object lesson for New Britain High students

When the despicable bent Christians of Fred Phelps Westboro Baptist Church showed up in Bethesda Maryland at the Walt Whitman High School, they were met by a sizable crowd of students, and others who drowned out their hateful message.

The hatemongers will be in Hartford Tuesday, and at New Britain High on Wednesday, and the students should take the Whitman High tactic to heart.

Here's what the haters say about their visit to New Britain:

New Britain High School,06:50 AM - 07:30 AM - What UP? God H8s U, that's what! 110 Mill Street WBC will take this fine opportunity to stop by this High School because if their Supreme Court is lying to them, YOU KNOW all the other adults have been lying to them their whole lives and failing to do their Deuteronomy duty to them, to wit: Deuteronomy 6:4 ¶ Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. 10 And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, 11 And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; 12 Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. However, we WILL TELL THEM. Listen up little turkeys God Hates Fags, God Hates Fag Enablers, God Hates america and america IS DOOMED. So, repent while you can, and if you don't you WILL EAT YOUR BABIES because God is going to take your jobs by the hand of The Beast Obama. Clear enough? AMEN!

The New Britain High sports players are called the Hurricanes. Time to show how hurricanes can blow the devil back into hell.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What's part pig, part turkey and part human and very scary?

A frightening H1N1 flu strain which is a recombined strain of viruses from swine, bird and human strains, being passed from human to human in and near Mexico City.

The flu experts have been warning us about a bird flu crossover for a half dozen years, and they are concerned.

Reminds me of a certain Steven King novel.

Or a scene from a Monty Python film.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chillin' with the AG

The three caballeros, McCain, Lieberman and Graham have sent a love note to President O, asking him to follow his own advice in "looking forward to solutions, not backward to recriminations."

It seems they don't want anyone prosecuted as a torturer, even torturers.

Shame on McCain, who for good reason, has come out against torture in the past. Lieberman, who might consider it torture if he had to walk twenty paces with a pebble in his shoe, or miss a meal, doesn't have the perspective that McCain has. Graham, he's from South Carolina.

Seems the unholy trio is afraid of "a deeply chilling effect on the ability of lawyers in any administration to provide their client -- the U.S. Government -- with their best legal advice."

In other words, it would scare lawyers shitless to tell their government bosses that it was okay to commit a crime.

Now that's a chill worth savoring.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Creepy Joe™ hearts torture

The man just can't help himself.

Sure he acted kind of remorseful for pumping his fist at Republican rallies after the big O got elected, but those of us who have kept an eye on his slime trail knew that eventually he would revert to his soulless ways.

Creepy Joe™ slithered over to the Fox Network and the always dour Greta van Sustern queried Senator Mugwump on the torture memos.

Lieberman admits to being "in the minority" on waterboarding, demurring that it really isn't torture because it "mostly a psychological impact on people." Like being locked in a cold cell for days on end, or having being forced to stay awake in a standing position for days on end, or having frothing dogs lunging at your testicles.

We all know Lieberman would call it torture if someone waterboarded a son or daughter of his. But, hey, that's Creepy Joe™, anything goes when it comes to protecting America, even if it makes America something we never hoped to be.

Love thy neighbor, except if they happen to be a gay couple

Once upon a time I considered myself a Catholic. And when the church disappointed me, my father would always remind me that it wasn't about the people who ran the organization, it was about faith.

So when I realized I had lost faith, I understood that I no longer had to identify as RC.

Happily so, more today than ever. What's with my former fellow communicants? The Catholic Church is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to retain the right to turn gay couples away.

In the most sincere sense, for chrissakes! Who would Jesus blacklist?

The Catholic Church of my youth spent a lot of time avoiding the Bible. I think they felt it's a bit too controversial a book to expose impressionable minds to, nonetheless I occasionally paid attention to the gospel at one of those required Lenten or First Friday masses, and I think I heard them tell me that Jesus said:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
- Matthew 22:37-39

Doesn't seem like there's much wiggle room there.

Of course, religious conservatives point to a New Testament reference to "homosexuals" in Corinthians. Still the interpretation of operative Greek words "malakoi" and "aresenokoitai," are still so unclear as to make the conservative argument laughable. More than likely "aresenokoitai" refers to a temple prostitute, and how this applies to gay marriage escapes me. BTW, the Corinthians verse also seems to say that masturbators ain't going to inherit the kingdom of heaven, which leaves a lot of us (c'mon Catholics, fess up), out of luck.

Just so we're clear. There seems to be many devoted Catholics who follow the philosopy of Jesus with an understanding of the commitment and compassion required. Listen to the interview with Father John Dear, who appeared yesterday on Democracy Now! and you'll get an idea about the kind of Catholic one could aspire to be.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What's wrong with this headline

So now John Kerry, who couldn't figure out how to run his own campaign, is going to get the Senate to create a law to prevent the demise of newspapers.

Next week they'll propose a law preventing the tide from coming in.

I've said it before, and will again. I love newspapers, and regret their difficulties as much as any reader. But I've come to disbelieve the notion that if newspapers disappear that journalism will disappear. I've also come to believe that the "press" referred to in the Constitution, will eventually be something that has nothing to do with a printing press.

It's the news that counts. There was a time a few hundred years ago, when a week-old news item was "breaking." But while newspapers can scoop TV news regularly, because TV news is unwilling or unable to do the heavy lifting real journalism demands, newspapers can rarely deliver on breaking news the way TV can. And both are flummoxed by an internet that is instant, can be investigative, but is sometimes way off base.

John Kerry couldn't stop George Bush, nor could the vaunted "press." In the end it was the bloggers who cajoled, and dug, and screamed bloody murder.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My craven craving has caved-in

Today I realized that a lifelong obsession has slipped away. Never, never, have I been in a room filled with boxes filled with old LPs, where I had no desire to flip through them, much less consider buying some old mint copy of early Family music.

After all, I have most of the music I love in a tiny computer about the size of a deck of cards, called an iPod (it's pretty miraculous - ever hear of it?). It was in my ear when I first walked through the WESU Record Fair this morning at Wesleyan, and I only took it out when Ben started spinning music.

There were far fewer CDs in the room, and maybe had there been more, I may have been more interested, but I've released the analog fallacy, and realize that it's far simpler to pursue music I love on a digital basis, right here at the keyboard.

I should have guessed it was going to happen today when I offloaded thirty of my long-held LP on the WESU table for the station to sell. I never did play that second Boomtown Rats album much anyway, and I doubt I played the New Order LP even once.

It was all a bit of a relief to walk out of the room empty-handed, one more demon behind me.

The Record Fair was a big success, thank god, because unlike me, not everyone has dispatched of their vinyl fixation.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

A nation of lawlessness

It's a simple as this. Representatives of our country should not be committing crimes. Representatives of our country should not be committing torture.

Barack Obama did the right thing by releasing the "torture memos" yesterday. Glenn Greenwald has a cogent argument as to why Obama deserves credit.

One could, and IMHO, should argue that the torturers need to be prosecuted (we cannot abide by an "I was just following orders" defense).

But one should not argue, as former CIA director Hayden has, that the crimes ought to be left in the shadows.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

You're after getting the honey, then...

The flowers are blooming and Spring is around the corner in New England.

Unfortunately, those of us who care about cultivating anything in our gardens, must worry about the continued loss of honeybees.

The latest reports from climes where Spring has sprung are not heartening.

And so, once again from the late, great scientist, Joe Strummer...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A sustained note on the 'tit fer

This joke has legs. If you don't believe me, listen to the interview with Chas Justus (producer) about the Christine Balfa solo triangle album that was played on All Things Considered last night.

As explained here before, the album in question is a joke. Now it's a joke being sustained and abetted, hilariously I might add, by journalists who are hip enough to disguise the fact that they are pulling one over on you. Now add NPR's Melissa Block to the list of pranksters.

On the Valcour site, you can hear the winners of the Triangle remix contest which are as creative as they are mysterious.

Then there is this, published on April 1 in Louisiana's Independent Weekly.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Teabag a friend tomorrow

Most of you have heard about the Tea Parties scheduled for tomorrow which have been organized by conservative groups to protest the alleged tax increases by Barack Obama.

Not only is the "grass roots" movement a charade, as Paul Krugman explained this weekend, the use of the term "teabagging" by the group's organizers turns out to be a very funny miscalculation.

According to the web's UrbanDictionary the definition of "teabag" is: Dipping your testicles into the open mouth of another person. Kind of like dipping a tea bag in and out of a cup of water.


Locally, the biggest teabagging advocate is WTIC-AM radio host Jim Vicevich. Open wide Jim.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Better living through chemicals

Forget about the slow food movement. America's got its own slow minds movement - people who are so bent on their on prosperity that they can't accept a good thing on its own merits.

At the urgings of White House chef Sam Kass, Michelle Obama has tilled some of the White House lawn and planted, of all things, an organic vegetable garden. Reason to celebrate, one would think.

But the good folks who make pesticides (as represented by the MidAmerica Crop Life Association) are not so celebratory. The thought of an organic garden at the White House makes them "shudder."

They've written a letter to Michelle Obama, asking her to spread the poison:

March 26, 2009

Mrs. Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mrs. Obama,

We are writing regarding the garden recently added to the White House grounds to ensure a fresh supply of fruits and vegetables to your family, guests and staff. Congratulations on recognizing the importance of agriculture in America! The U.S. has the safest and most abundant food supply in the world thanks to the 3 million people who farm or ranch in the United States.

The CropLife Ambassador Network, a program of the Mid America CropLife Association, consists of over 160 ambassadors who work and many of whom grew up in agriculture. Their mission is to provide scientifically based, accurate information to the public regarding the safety and value of American agricultural food production. Many people, especially children, don't realize the extent to which their daily lives depend on America's agricultural industry. For instance, children are unaware the jeans they put on in the morning, the three meals eaten daily, the baseball with which they play and even the biofuels that power the school bus are available because of America's farmers and ranchers.

Agriculture is the largest industry in America generating 20% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Individuals, family partnerships or family corporations operate almost 99% of U.S. farms. Over 22 million people are employed in farm-related jobs, including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing and sales. Through research and changes in production practices, today's food producers are providing Americans with the widest variety of foods ever.

Starting in the early 1900's, technology advances have allowed farmers to continually produce more food on less land while using less human labor. Over time, Americans were able to leave the time-consuming demands of farming to pursue new interests and develop new abilities. Today, an average farmer produces enough food to feed 144 Americans who are living longer lives than many of their ancestors. Technology in agriculture has allowed for the development of much of what we know and use in our lives today. If Americans were still required to farm to support their family's basic food and fiber needs, would the U.S. have been leaders in the advancement of science, communication, education, medicine, transportation and the arts?

We live in a very different world than that of our grandparents. Americans are juggling jobs with the needs of children and aging parents. The time needed to tend a garden is not there for the majority of our citizens, certainly not a garden of sufficient productivity to supply much of a family's year-round food needs.

Much of the food considered not wholesome or tasty is the result of how it is stored or prepared rather than how it is grown. Fresh foods grown conventionally are wholesome and flavorful yet more economical. Local and conventional farming is not mutually exclusive. However, a Midwest mother whose child loves strawberries, a good source of Vitamin C, appreciates the ability to offer California strawberries in March a few months before the official Mid-west season.

Farmers and ranchers are the first environmentalists, maintaining and improving the soil and natural resources to pass onto future generations. Technology allows for farmers to meet the increasing demand for food and fiber in a sustainable manner.

  • Farmers use reduced tillage practices on more than 72 million acres to prevent erosion.
  • Farmers maintain over 1.3 million acres of grass waterways, allowing water to flow naturally from crops without eroding soil.
  • Contour farming keeps soil from washing away. About 26 million acres in the U.S. are managed this way.
  • Agricultural land provides habitat for 75% of the nation's wildlife.
  • Precision farming boosts crop yields and reduces waste by using satellite maps and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions.
  • Sophisticated Global Positioning Systems can be specifically designed for spraying pesticides. A weed detector equipped with infrared light identifies specific plants by the different rates of light they reflect and then sends a signal to a pump to spray a preset amount of herbicide onto the weed.
  • Biogenetics allows a particular trait to be implanted directly into the seed to protect the seed against certain pests.
  • Farmers are utilizing 4-wheel drive tractors with up to 300 horsepower requiring fewer passes across fields-saving energy and time.
  • Huge combines are speeding the time it takes to harvest crops.
  • With modern methods, 1 acre of land in the U.S. can produce 42,000 lbs. of strawberries, 110,000 heads of lettuce, 25,400 lbs. of potatoes, 8,900 lbs. of sweet corn, or 640 lbs of cotton lint.

As you go about planning and planting the White House garden, we respectfully encourage you to recognize the role conventional agriculture plays in the U.S in feeding the ever-increasing population, contributing to the U.S. economy and providing a safe and economical food supply. America's farmers understand crop protection technologies are supported by sound scientific research and innovation.

The CropLife Ambassador Network offers educational programs for elementary school educators at covering the science behind crop protection products and their contribution to sustainable agriculture. You may find our programs America's Abundance, Farmers Stewards of the Land and War of the Weeds of particular interest. We thank you for recognizing the importance and value of America's current agricultural technologies in feeding our country and contributing to the U.S economy.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions.


Bonnie McCarvel, Executive Director
Janet Braun, Program Coordinator
Mid America CropLife Association
11327 Gravois Rd., #201
St. Louis, MO 63126

You can help by sending the opposite message to Michelle Obama.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Give Creepy Joe™ an inch

Barack Obama is learning, perhaps sooner than he expected, that Connecticut Senator Creepy Joe™ Lieberman is not a man to be trusted.

Obama showed his own good graces when the graceless Lieberman slandered him from Iowa to Minneapolis, and President Obama still stood up for the little stinker.

Now it seems Obama, and his secretary of defense are considering ditching the missle defense program, and Lieberman is worried for Israel.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Military industrial complexion

Connecticut's got the war jones bad.

Senator Dodd and Representative John Larson, especially John Larson, were quick to speak out against war, until if began to affect their districts. Dodd obviously needs a shot in the arm (or a kick in the ass), so you know his pitch for the F-22 is an attempt to repair the damage for some bad banking choices.

Let the Secretary of Defense decide we need a few less war planes, and Pratt and Whitney, Dodd and Larson start squawking.

What's a few dead bodies when there are jobs at stake.

Progressive leaders might think of ways to bend the technology for something good, instead of continuing down the path of war machines.

"With all the will in the world,
Diving for dear life
When we should be diving for pearls."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Two evenings at the Strip Club

(Strip Club owner Tim Niver, and bartender Dan.)

Anyone who's been on the road understands that after a long day of work, it's comforting to find some flavorful food, a cold drink and restaurant staff who don't act like their doing you a favor by serving you.

I usually peruse the local alternative newspapers (the wealth of restaurant on the web is often overwhelming, and nothing more than clever marketing), for reviews. The review of The Strip Club (they specialize in locally-raised, grass fed beef strip steak from humane purveyors) rang all the right notes; the restaurant in in a historic building that once housed a grocery and butcher shop near our St. Paul hotel in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood; they reveled in their meat dishes; they were noted for their traditional cocktails, and local beers.

We arrived without a reservation on Tuesday at around seven, and though the restaurant seemed to be in a funky neighborhood far from the main city thoroughfares, the restaurant and bar were packed.

We were greeted by one of the owners, Tim Niver, who was bustling between maitre de duties, to delivering drinks and diners to tables, to chatting up diners. He told us we might find a space at the bar in twenty minutes, or a table in thirty, but we were welcome to stand in the small place, have a cocktail, and see. He wasn't guaranteeing a thing, but he was sincerely and extremely friendly, always saying, "You're okay," as he dodged around us with an armful of plates on its way to a table.

We finally found a single seat at the bar, and met Dan, the bartender, who bragged about being the first bartender in the Twin Cities to make his own bitters for the traditional and signature cocktails he took pride in serving (boxcars, old fashioneds, manhattans). I had a local maibock and ordered the daily fois gras special which was tasty and exquisite, as was the maibock.

Another seat opened at the bar and we ordered. I had the "Blue Movie" a Northern Lights bleu cheese strip steak with scallions, and generously-buttered carrots. The staff was friendly, made us feel at home, and Dan and one of the other owners, Aaron Johnson, kept up a friendly banter about food, books and the Twin Cities.

We decided to make reservations for the next night.

Wednesday the place was not nearly as packed, but the staff was as friendly, the food as amazing, and my signature Manhattan was flavorful and unique. I ordered a filet special with a house spice blend crust which was amazing, and while my co-worker Crystal, suffered an upended water glass from the upper level ("First time that has happened since we opened," Niver apologized), the experience made us feel completely at home as "regulars."

The restaurant bought Crystal's dessert, a gluten-free chocolate torte, and the diner who spilled the water offered to buy her meal (she suggested he make a donation to CARE), and we left vowing to return on our next St. Paul shoot.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Are you happy now?

Apparently Nouriel Roubini is not. The NYU economics professor warns that the recent Wall Street rally is simply a mid-recession rally. He's expecting the market to test the bottom yet again. And he agrees with Jon Stewart about Jim Cramer.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fa, a long, long way to go

I've always disliked The Sound of Music, but I love this shit. These railway station dance routines are such an extraordinary antidote to the misery of daily routine. I hope I'm in Grand Central when it happens there.

Here in the land of one senator

I had the pleasure today of interviewing Minnesota Supreme Court justice, and football hall-of-famer Alan Page for a project I'm working on.

Outside of the formal interview we spoke about national politics, particularly the job the new president is doing. Page said he was glad we now had a president who was proud of his intellectual achievements, and not, like our last president, gloating about his anti-intellectualis.

Page may very well be on the panel who will hear Norm Coleman's plea to retain his role as Minnesota's Senator, against a tide of evidence and opinion, and so he couldn't and wouldn't offer an opinion on what has become a great embarassment to the voters of Minnesota.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hay, its plaqued me two

Now, I hope you'll understood.

H/T Jeff Hayash.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hard pressed

I've been buying into the argument that a well-functioning free press is vital to the survival of democracy, but Jack Shafer isn't.

Still, coming from a state where the hard work of the state's newspaper brought down a rogue governor, it's hard for me to accept that solid journalism isn't vital to casting hard light into the shadows of an always-murky government.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sanibel's inferno

Sanibel has been known for centuries as a shellers paradise. If you haven't met a sheller, or don't know what one is (I've never been introduced to anyone at a cocktail party as, "Ed, this is Jerry, he's a sheller,"), you will encounter dozens on the beaches of these tiny islands. It all began with the Calusa Indians, who used the shells for tools and weapons, and even the invading Europeans could not help but engage in the Sanibel stoop - the position of choice for examining the beds of skeletal remains of formerly-living mollusks.

In truth, you are less likely to engage the eye of a sheller, which is usually embroiled in examiningg the tideline for an elusive Junonia, than you are to get an eyeful of a sheller's hind end.

When I am not on this island, I am not a sheller, but even with a conscious effort not to be one, I find myself, like most visitors, struck with a compulsion to pull pockets full of chambered nautiluses and bivalves from the sand, return them to our rented condo, and then stuff them in a suitcase to carry back to New England. They leave the clothes in my suitcase smelling like a fish sandwich left in a puddle in the sun for three days. Inevitably, the shells, once so eagerly sought after, are cast into pile of gravel in my backyard.

Though there is some value still in finding a very rare, or very large shell, these days most of the shells themselves must be appreciated for their intrinsic value. No longer passable as wampum (though those days may come soon enough), or as with any trading value as an exotic in a European market (though those days may come again), or with any manufacturing value for things like mother-of-pearl (those days are probably gone), the shells are virtually worthless, unless you can figure out something to do with them, which some, who have a creative bent, have done along the beach.

There's always a tribute to nature and the sea itself.

You can honor your country.

Or your state.

Or a Vegas casino.

Or the Easter bunny.

Or your sense of style.

But of course the most obvious honor, is man's tribute to the thing he finds most precious. And though man has erected a edifice honoring this thing before (Egyptian obelisks, the Washington monument, the Eiffel Tower, the Chrysler Building), he finds himself compelled to do it again, on the beach.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The ugly side of Sanibel

Lest you feel that my morning walks along the Gulf have been absent thoughts about what Alfred Lord Tennyson called, "nature red in tooth and claw," I thought I'd post some of the truth about the beautiful seashore.

Just above the wave's reach stand fisherman reeling in desperate finned creatures with jagged barbed hooks. And each of these million upon million of shells was once filled with a living creature, now gone. Each birds flight does not end with a happy ending, and maybe T.S. Eliot was wrong to wish, "I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas."

Well, as Eliot also wrote, "I have
heard the mermaids singing, each to each," but I've also heard a barrel-chested sunburnt wag shout, "Honey can you grab me a beer, and the sunblock."

Of course, then there's the sand Buddha and gator, and suddenly life seems sweet again.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Duane Jarvis, RIP

LA roots musician Duane Jarvis has died after a short battle with colon cancer. He played with Lucinda Williams, John Prine, Dwight Yoakum and many others, and was a fine songwriter himself.

Read it here first

(WARNING: This is an April Fool's Day joke, and as such is completely fictitious).

Before it hits the local tabloids. From the AP:

WWUH Accepts Stimulus From Government Agency
McKeon Out

WWUH FM has been promised a thin slice of the stimulus package for its efforts in promoting community resources and the arts.

The station, which has been broadcasting for 35 years, was hailed as a “lifeline of information, culture and opinion” in a becalmed sea of mediocrity by Darren Fate, a member of the Committee Underwriting National Traditions and Talent, otherwise known as COMM-TT (pronounced comm.-double-tee).

Last week station manager John Ramsey announced that WWUH would receive a grant equal to the difference in dollars raised in 2008 compared to that raised in 2009.

“We don’t see it as a bailout, exactly,” Ramsey said. “But we understand the financial pressure our listeners are experiencing, and we’re happy to have the feds step in and supplement the generosity of listeners who were able to pledge. And I don’t think we’ll have to send this year’s t-shirt to any members of Comm-double-T.”

As part of the agreement with the federal government to accept this stimulus package, WWUH has so far asked for the resignation of at least one radio show host, and Ramsey hinted that other names were in consideration.

Ed McKeon, host, of the Wednesday morning FM on Toast slot called Caterwaul, broadcast his final show last week.

“I won’t say I’m happy about leaving,” McKeon said in a prepared statement. “But I know it’s the best for the station, and I’ve had a good run. I know that many folk fans will be happy not to hear Billy Bragg songs, week in and week out.”

McKeon said that he would be retiring to Florida to spend more time with his family.

Both Ramsey and McKeon denied reports that McKeon was asked to leave for accepting so-called “retention pledges” from “loyal” listeners during the station’s Marathon fundraiser.

“Those fourteen or fifteen, hundred-dollar pledges went straight into the radio station’s bank account,” McKeon insisted. “I know nothing about listeners receiving counterfeit station t-shirts.”

“Ed is basically trustworthy,” Ramsey mused. “We don’t think there has been any impropriety, but we are checking on Ed’s unerring loyalty to singers who don’t really have a singing voice that can carry a tune.”

Calls to the management of the aforementioned Bragg and to Randy Newman, Greg Brown, Vince Bell, Pete Seeger, Shane MacGowan and Bob Dylan were not returned at press time.

While a search of McKeon’s WWUH mail slot turned up more than a dozen blank “Listner Kits,” valued at $26 each, Ramsey insisted that the envelopes bearing the Listener Kits, and all addressed to variations of McKeon’s name (Ed McEwen, Ed McKwan, Ed McKeeone, Ed McCune), were simply mailing errors.

“Look, what am I gonna do with 48 or 49 WWUH t-shirts,” McKeon asked. “They’re only worth five or six bucks on the open market. Have you checked EBAY? They’re not exactly flying off the rack.”

A petition bearing 38 names demanding McKeon’s return to the airwaves has been rejected by WWUH and COMM-Double-T, and McKeon himself seems to have found solace amongst the humidity and strip malls of South Florida.

“Hey, it’s the first time in years that I’ve actually felt young,” McKeon joked. “Let WWUH keep the stimulus check. Down here when you talk about stimulus, everyone thinks your talking about Viagra.”

For the immediate future, McKeon’s Wednesday morning slot will be filled by Susan Forbes Hansen, a pioneering folk DJ in Connecticut who promises to return the Wednesday morning slot to true folk music.

“Face it,” Forbes Hansen said. “McKeon wasn’t exactly devoted to “John Henry.” His idea of a folk song was anything older than “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

“We’ll miss Ed,” Ramsey noted whimsically. “But then again we thought we were going to miss the guy who did the bluegrass show, too.”

McKeon is currently employed as a weather reporter for Christian station WHIM in Ybor City Florida.”

BTW it's April first here in Florida, too.

Another goddamned beautiful morning walk

There's something about Sanibel Island that so un-Florida , a building code which forbids buildings of more than four stories, hundreds of acres of nature preserves, birds of astonishing plummage, dolphins, manatees (while there's plenty here to remind one that it's the kind of state we all sneer at occasionally, and to fill several more Carl Hiassen novels).

Reminds me of Randy Newman's song about LA, "looks like another perfect day...."