Monday, June 29, 2009

Hello I Must Be Going

The Hartford Courant arrived on my doorstep this morning (though they have called and threatened that it won't be much longer if I don't pay my bill), and the vertical has become horizontal once again.

With the logotype at the top of the page once again, there won't be mistaking the front page for a section header anymore.

But the blue highlights and subheads are horrible (as if a single color was somehow going to hike The Hartford Courant's circulation). And, if it is possible, there seems to be fewer words than ever on the front page.

It's nice to see Roger Catlin's byline on the front page, but really, is a major headline and photo about a TV show filmed in the state really the most important news of the day?

Finally, that ridiculous, and insincere "thank-you" for participating in the selection of a new look for the paper is galling. Do the editors and publishers really expect us to believe that they made a decision about how the paper was going to look only after a week's reflection in which they actually considered what readers thought about the shift?

In my mind, it's more important for the editors to rededicate themselves to the pursuit of the truth at whatever depth it might be found (and find a design which reflects that), and not print some bogus "thank-you" which only reflects a public relations effort to make readers feel like they are somehow involved.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The future looks shallow

What we can expect more of, god help us. From here in Maine, I don't recognize my home state.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

You don't really want to know, do you

I just want a lead weight attached to my Monday Courant so it doesn't blow off my doorstep with the slightest breeze.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fool me once

Jon Lender has another eye-opener in the Hartford Courant today explaining the potential for double-dipping by highly-paid state employees who are set to take advantage of a proposed retirement package.

Two things occur to me. If someone is too valuable to send off to retirement, then shouldn't that position be excepted from the proposed package?

But more outrageous is the number of state employees earning six figures. Lender mentions three or four of those employees by name. But how many more employees make over $100 grand. When I was first looking for employment, during a recession in 1976, I worked temporarily for the state. The line of thinking then was, if you take a job with the state, you are trading away the higher potential salary of a private sector job (and the risks involved) for the security of long-term, steady employment with great healthcare and retirement benefits.

When did that line of thinking shift to include state jobs which pay more than the private sector?

One might understand a state deputy treasurer, with large fiduciary responsibilities, making more than $100,000 (though I blanch at salary of $163,000 and retirement of $114,000). But can we really stomach a PR man for UCONN earning $200,000 as Scott Brohinsky does? For god's sake, this is a guy who handles calls from the press for UCONN, not the president of UCONN, not the most noted scientist or poet at UCONN, but the lobbyist and public relations guy!

I hope Lender follows the line of reasoning and reveals just how many state employees have leveraged a steady, safe, risk-free employment situation into a life of riches and privelege.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rowin' on the River

(It ain't art. It's garbage. Hauled out of the river, after some hard paddling by Stephen Devoto.)

Every time I get my kayak out on the Connecticut, Mattabessett and Coginchaug Rivers, I wonder why it's taken me so long to do it again since last time.

With black clouds threatening from the South, I ventured out with a group of fellow paddlers to explore Wilcox Island and the confluence of the Mattabessett and Coginchaug.

Except for a near-collision with a boat speeding around a bend in the Mattabessett, the trip was sublime.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Slug fest

If it isn't the slugs, it's the squirrels. If it isn't the squirrels, it's the aphids. If it isn't the aphids, it's the fungus.

Rain, rain, go away. Where's my salt shaker?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A case for Case

(Peter Case packs his case after a Buttonwood Tree gig in Middletown).

I've been a Peter Case fan before I even knew I was a Peter Case fan. His group The Plimsouls had a hit (A Million Miles Away), during the early MTV era, which I loved, and since his first, amazing solo album, I was hooked.

A few months back Case suffered a heart attack and had bypass surgery. He's recovering quickly, but as with many people without health insurance in this country, he's buried in financial debt because of his medical bills.

Out where he lives in LA they held a three-day benefit at the well-loved guitar store and concert venue McCabes featuring a line-up of artists which looks like the playlist from one of my radio shows (Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright III, T Bone Burnett, Van dyke Parks, Syd Straw, Sam Phillips, Phranc, Dave Alvin). The entire three-day benefit sold-out and raised a bunch of money for Case, but he's got a long way to go.

So the group formed Hidden Love, a benefit organization designed to help Case lift the burden of his debt. You can find out how to donate here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Writing backwards

And I ain't talking Leonardo daVinci. It's a dangerous blow in favor of procrastination when I know I can do tomorrow what I should have done today.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

For What It's Worth

There's something happening here.

Iranians are in the streets defying their lunatic president and worthless ayatollahs. And, of all things, Twitter seems to have gotten them there.

H/T Andrew Sullivan.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dih-dih-dah-dih, dih-dih-dah, dah-dih-dah-dih, dah-dih-dah

I bought this album on Bleeker Street in 1969 just for this song. Does anyone use Morse Code anymore?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I got the beat

For most of us older than 50, the words "tin pan alley" or "Brill Building" conjure up small rooms filled with songwriters and composers trying their hardest to create music that would resonate forever in the memories of listeners.

The emergence of singer-songwriters diminished the industry of professional songwriting, though, of course, it never disappeared, and still flourishes in places like Nashville and Los Angeles.

It was a surprise to me to learn about a new version of tin pan alley. In a small, but exceedingly professional studio next to the film company where I work, a composer of "beats" works diligently to create the backdrop over which modern hip-hop artists lay their raps. Doc Ish, who is becoming something of a sought-after beat master in the hip-hop world, lays down beats in the South End of Hartford, and just scored a hit with the beat and hook for Eminem's latest single We Made You.

Tonight at ArtFarm's Sonnet Slam, a fundraiser to help accumulate funds for this summer's production of The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare in the Grove, I recited Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun...") over a custom beat created by Doc Ish for the occasion. When I read the poem to him and requested the beat I found myself beginning to explain the Shakespearean couplets.

"I get it," he said to me, and then paraphrased Shakespeare's poetic sentiment.

I should have known that someone who deals with poetry all day long wouldn't need me to explain Shakespeare to him.

Monday, June 8, 2009

C'mon Joe, let's sing another extraordinary rendition of "I cry because I don't know my daughters."

The horror the Bush administration perpetrated continues to become clearer and clearer. The savage attacks on liberty, decency and the rule of law, that the Obama administration is now a party to.

Watch this interview with Lakhdar Boumediene, a former humanitarian aids worker, then hold your hand over your heart and try to remain proud of a country that would keep an innocent man in a cage for seven years, torture him, then release him and tell him he cannot be compensated for this atrocity because it would violate state secrets.

Be aware that Creepy Joe™ Lieberman voted to keep men like Boumediene behind bars, without cause, for as long as we damned-well felt terrorized. Be aware that the Obama administration favors a policy of preventive detention (I need someone with a shred of credibility to explain to me how the Constitutionalist Obama feels this is justified). Be aware that we used to be able to say, "land of the brave and free," without a trace of irony in our voices.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Big crowd at Blast from the Bayou

Blame it on the spectacular weather, the great lineup, and the cancellation of the Cajun and Zydeco fest usually held next week in Moodus, and you'll find some formula for very crowded dance floors at the annual Bash from the Bayou at Strawberry Park in Preston. It didn't matter if it was the revival Cajun of Feufollet, the Missouri Creole of Dennis Stroughmatt, or the great dancing zydeco of Houston's Brian Jack and the Zydeco Gamblers, the floor was packed from start to finish.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lieberman and Graham at it again

It appears that Creepy Joe™ Lieberman and his twin of terror, Lindsey Graham are working diligently to make sure that the American people never learn the depths to which their government has sunk. The scary thing is that they are assisting the Pentagon, and the Obama administration to prevent the release of Abu Ghraib photos which are, reportedly, more horrific than anything we've seen already.

Keeping these photographs secret prevent America from pursuing the people who have given torture an American trademark.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Zydeco in the rain

I'm sitting in my car tapping into the campground wifi as the rain pours down. In the background, a zydeco bass thumps through my windshield. The dancers are dancing on sopping floors beneath a tent, and all the musicians from Louisiana are shivering in a late New England Spring. Sun is promised for tomorrow.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cajun and zydeco coming to Preston

It starts tonight (Thursday) just as the rain rolls in.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


A discovery from Kevin Lynch in the Netherlands. Introducing Eefje DeVisser.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rolling brownouts

This week I've gotten the question three times. I've gotten the question all my life.

"How do you do it all?"

I don't watch television much, for a start, and I don't like doing nothing. I don't like board games, or playing cards, or watching baseball. I don't like small talk. So, I've got time for lots of other stuff. Running a business. A radio show or two. Blogging. Cooking. Family stuff. Town meetings. Reading. Writing.

I'm not the busiest or most accomplished guy or gal I know.

But this week, after the third question, it seemed to get to me.

I'm two week behind on the novel I'm blogging. I open this blog to write and, well...nothing happens. And that doesn't happen. I usually can't seem to keep my fingers from flying over the keyboard on just about any topic.

Writer's block? Burnout? Brownout? Exhaustion?

Maybe I need a week or two off. But that won't come until August. Maybe it was the eight years of Bush, and that threat finally lifted. Maybe it's the damned economy.

Tonight I watched the neighborhood chimney swifts whirl and soar, before they dove to their roosts for the night. I love watching them. My boys love watching them. When the mosquitoes came out, we headed inside.

I feel like a chimey swift. Compelled to loop and soar until I fall into the blackness of sleep.

Life is short and we only get one shot. Like Warren Zevon sang, "I'll sleep when I'm dead." But right now I'm really tired, Warren.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I can sympathize with that

George Lakoff helped Democrats understand framing, and if you don't think they (the Obama campaign) weren't paying attention, remember how the Democratic party was able to own the words "change" and "hope," and how Republicans are still having conniptions over them.

Well, those same right-wingers who made the word "liberal" a curse, and who have been able to brand anything left of Newt Gingrich as "socialist," have now declared war on "empathy." And as Lakoff warns, that ability to walk a mile in another's shoe which prevents us from being a nation of sociopaths, is now being framed as a defect.