Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Had a beer and a conversation in the back yard with one of my fellow tenants today after getting home from work. He's heading west for summer break soon. He's also an artist, painting student at RISD, which gives him some interesting stuff to talk about. Or at least I think so, since I find art a fun thing to think about. Anyway, apartment living tives you other people to interact with. When those people are likeable and interesting, it's a gift.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Choice cuts

Unionization in America reached its high point when—duh!—manufacturing was actually done on a wide scale here. It's unlikely to reach that level again, which is a shame. But it's somewhat encouraging that younger unionists, as seen in this column, persist. A couple of paragraphs stand out.

Their ranks include Godfrey, 29, a server at Nine Zero for the past nine years. With good pay and job security, she was able to buy a condo in Jamaica Plain. And her good health benefits are even more important now that she’s expecting her first child.

There’s also Arthur Bergevin, 24, a Brandeis graduate who works as a food runner at the W Boston, and plays drums in a band called The Tin Thistles. The union contract gives him more control over his schedule, helping him juggle work and gigs. He can pay the bills while he chases a music career.

As the proliferation of high tech ventures with first person (iPhone) or second person (YouTube) names suggests, the rhetoricc of empowerment is both useful and popular. You want people to believe that they're steering their own course and have all the choices in the world, not least because it will give them more to blame themselves for. And in terms of what screensaver to download and what flavor filling to get in our Oreos, we do have more options than ever before.

But there are other choices. Issues of where to live, how to make a living and how long to work doing so, and whether you can even think about sending your children to college. If you're not among the Very Very Rich, these are choices that are being taken away from you. Real empowerment is vanishing in the rearview mirror.

Bergevin has managed to blackmail his employers into letting him play with his band, and that's great news. Elsewhere, there are plenty of bottom rung workers who want to play music, paint, or just spend more time with their kids. But no one in power care because no one has to. That's wrong, because just about all of us are proles, and we should have choices. Including the choice of saying no.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Great Scott (Heron)

Gil Scott-Heron passed yesterday. He's known for his influence on political rap, which in itself has been in retreat for some years now. But he was more than that. There was always texture and true soul to his songs, a sense of there being a man behind the message. He came back with a new album in 2010, I'm New Here, and while it may take some warming to, just the fact that he was back in front of a band in his last months is a cause for celebration.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pre-Memorious Day Friday Random Ten

No one, it seemed, really wanted to come in today. Give people a three day weekend, and many will stretch it out to four. Not a complaint of mine, but despite the quietness of the office, I had quite the busy afternoon. Almost to adrenaline rush levels.

1. The Kinks--Wicked Annabella
2. David Bowie--Move On
3. Simon & Garfunkel--Punky's Dilemma
4. They Might Be Giants--32 Footsteps
5. Grizzly Bear--Little Brother
6. The XX--Shelter
7. Blossom Dearie--It Might As Well Be Spring
8. The New Pornographers--Jackie, Dressed In Cobras
9. Alexander Brailowsky--Chopin's Polonnaise #9 in B Flat
10. Patsy Cline--Walkin' After Midnight

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Furry story

While I was walking to the market tonight, a car drove by. In the beam of the headlights, I saw this little ball of lightning scramble out of the way, past the sidewalk, into a driveway. It was a cat, of course.

If the owner of the cat had seen it in the street, they might have been upset. This assumes someone attentive taking care of the cat, but the cat was pretty well groomed, so this isn't an outrageous assumption. But there was something beautiful about the way the little guy(?) perked up and ensured his survival. When it was over, I had to stand and applaud.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sad but also...

I like putting poetry up here now and again, because it serves as a reminder/excuse to read it. This is a lovely and melancholy little study.

Psalm and Lament
Hialeah, Florida
in memory of my mother (1897-1974)

The clocks are sorry, the clocks are very sad.
One stops, one goes on striking the wrong hours.

And the grass burns terribly in the sun,
The grass turns yellow secretly at the roots.

Now suddenly the yard chairs look empty. the sky looks empty,
The sky looks vast and empty.

Out on Red Road the traffic continues; everything continues.
And I think that for the first time I understand

The beautiful ordinary light of this patio
And even perhaps the dark rich earth of a heart.

(The bedclothes, they say, had been pulled down.
I will not describe it. I do not want to describe it.

No, but the sheets were drenched and twisted.
They were the very handkerchief of grief.)

Let summer come now with its schoolboy trumpets and fountains.
But the years are gone. The years are finally over.

And there is only
This long desolation of flower-bordered sidewalks

That runs to the coner, turns, and goes on,
That disappears and goes on

Into the black oblivion of a neighborhood and a world
Without billboards or yesterdays.

Sometimes a sad mood comes and waters the roof tiles.
But the years are gone. There are no more years.

~~~Donald Justice~~~

Friday, May 20, 2011

Refreshed Friday Random Ten

I give myself permission to nap at work, when time permits. Overall I'm pretty sure it makes me more productive rather than less. Of course it can also be a little disorienting, on the rather rare occasions I actually fall asleep. Waking up, that is. Because once you lose consciousness, you don't know how much time has passed, at least at first. Or exactly where you are. I may have addressed this before.

1. Radiohead--All I Need
2. David Bowie--Look Back In Anger
3. 8½ Souvenirs--Yes, Yes, Yes
4. Grizzly Bear--Knife
5. Blossom Dearie--Comment Allez Vous
6. Elton John--This Song Has No Title
7. Simon & Garfunkel--Fakin' It
8. The New Pornographers--Three or Four
9. Warren Zevon--Werewolves of London
10. Ladytron--Predict the Day

Cancel your plans for the weekend?

Brilliant turn by Zonker and Trudeau here.

A little context, if needed. If I know anyone who thinks that tomorrow is Rapture Day, I don't know that they think it. Of course said person would have reason to be hard-to-reach. Now do I have friends who are conservative Christians? Yes, but they're conservative Catholics. Different breed. Living where this kind of millennial Protestantism has taken hold would be interesting, I'm sure.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rattle them bones

I have a friend who's gotten way into Jan Švankmajer. You can sort of see why here. This is a weird and creepy little film, but in a way that's lighthearted and fun. The spacy jazz helps. Not sure if it's Sun Ra, but it has that kind of feel.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Your stupid-ass Bodhi tree"

A religion is doing okay if it inspires a fair amount of jokes. Jews have gone by this principle since about the Middle Ages, at least. And gags about the Catholic Church don't hurt it, unless maybe they take the form of sworn testimony.

Thus I suspect that there are many Buddhists who would laugh along with this bit. Someone at McSweeney's is exploring the lighter side, Mad magazine-style.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Slightly sore Friday Random Ten

Had a root canal yesterday morning. Early, as in the appointment was for 8:15. That may be a good thing, as most anxiety over the procedure itself was channeled into worrying about whether I'd get there in time. I did, despite RIPTA using a cutaway bus that's ridiculously small for the number of passengers. Anyway, they told me not to chew on my left side for a couple of days, and I see why. It's the side I normally would do most of my chewing on, but ouch!

Also got a chance to see Reservoir Ave in Cranston again. Overall I don't think it's changed that much.

1. Steely Dan--Kid Charlemagne
2. Frank Sinatra--Nice and Easy
3. Elton John--The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-1934)
4. David Bowie--Yassassin
5. Patsy Cline--Crazy
6. R.E.M.--Circus Envy
7. Radiohead--Nude
8. Miles Davis--Something Else
9. Beck--Nausea
10. Blossom Dearie--Wait Til You See Her

Update: Header should be "Saturday..." of course, but if I changed it you'd still see the erroneous one when you waved your cursor over the words.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Non-idle flippers

From The Lives of Whales and Dolphins, by Richard C. Connor,Ph.D, and Dawn Mickelthwaite Peterson. It's turned out to be a pretty absorbing read.

Most young mammals love to play and cetaceans are no exception. Of course few things in this world are free and some young cetaceans preoccupied with their games must pay the price of increased vulnerability to predators. Atlantic spotted dolphins are most vulnerable between the ages of three and five years old, a time when they are feeling quite independent and apt to take their sport far away from the watchful eye of older dolphins. Perhaps as a result, many of them wear scars from shark bites.

Despite the risks, it would probably be more costly for the young cetaceans to forgo their fun, for it is during playtime that youngsters experiment with new behaviors. Skills are practived and in time perfected, relationships with peers are solidified, and one's place becomes etched in the social hierarchy. In essence, cetaceans learn, through their play, what they need to know in order to survive their environment. Scientists who have had the pleasure of watching them at playare constantly amazed by the creativity these animals invest in their fun.

In the early days of oceanaria, bottlenose dolphins often shared their tanks with a variety of fish and other marine life and tormenting these animated toys was always a favorite dolphin pastime. Turtles were good for pushing across the tank, a pelican floating on the surface could be surprised from below and its feather plucked for toys, and fish and eels could be chased and toyed around. Male bottlenose dolphins are notorious for their sexual play. In 1956, researchers noted that the two male bottlenose dolphins at the Marineland of the Pacific would attempt to mate with anything and everything animate, including skates, rays, turtles, sharks, and moray eels. During public shows, it proved somewhat embarassing when Frankie and Floyd would ignore the show routine and try to mate with a struggling moray eel.

Children--and not just children--are more apt to learn new skills and absorb knowledge in the context of fun. This is apparently not limited to humans, either. This is logical. Our intellect is mighty in the aggregate, but the individual parts not unique to us.

Also, if you have any friends who like to rub their dicks on everything, check their foreheads because they may be part dolphin. Yeah, tread carefully around those sharks, Frankie and Floyd.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Once these kids...

Making you go hmmm...

Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee, called for a full investigation into how the nation's schools were able to secure the necessary funds to monitor teachers and pay salaries based on performance.

"The fact that this careless mistake also ended up financing new teacher training programs, allowing educators to become more than just glorified babysitters, is disgraceful," Sessions said. "Now we are left with a situation where schools can attract talented professionals who really want to teach our children, which will in turn create smarter and more motivated students who wish to one day make a contribution to society."

"In all my years in government I have never seen such a shameful error," Sessions added. "Our appropriations process has gone horribly awry, and I for one demand to know how it happened."

If they did start putting their points this blatantly, how many people would actually notice?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Zombie ants, you say?

Yikes! It's not as though ants are the most sophisticated thinkers to beging with, as far as we know. But a fungus taking over their brain and turning them into puppets, essentially? That's kind of harsh. And we already know that we're not entirely immune from similar symptoms. Extrapolate from that if you like.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Was in a neighborhood coffeeshot this evening. A kid was there, baby really. His older sister or really young looking mother is there too, and I hear her telling him not to hit. A minute or so later, the boy tags me on the leg. Oh well, I smile at him and say "wussup." It happens again a couple of minutes later and this time kind of pisses me off. The third time I actually talk to the guardian, saying that I'm trying to concentrate and can't do so if he's going to keep slapping my knee. That ends it.

Now I think both he and she are related somehow to the owner of the coffeeshop. So I hope I'm not banned. But the occasional annoyance helps define you by making you react. And I'd like to iterate that the kid was adorable, I just had other stuff going on.

1. The Kinks--Last of the Steam-Powered Trains
2. Brian Eno--Decentre
3. Grizzly Bear--Easier
4. Ladytron--Deep Blue
5. Steely Dan--Sign In Stranger
6. They Might Be Giants--Rabid Child
7. Simon & Garfunkel--Old Friends
8. Radiohead--Reckoner
9. Blossom Dearie--You For Me
10. XTC--Ball and Chain

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Honor revoked

Honorary degrees, to be sure, seem fairly abstract when the cost of regular degrees is becoming increasingly prohibitive. But it really doesn't help anything when schools are so ready to tuck their tails between their legs.

The valued former aide to the Most Venerable Senator D'Amato is apparently on Kushner's ass because of Kushner's stated views on Israel. And you certainly can buy yourself some trouble talking about that. On the other hand, maybe he's incensed about the slurs to Roy Cohn's good name.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I wonder if Al Jolson ever took a walk home through Harlem while wearing his makeup. I'm sure some interesting conversations would ensue.