Monday, December 31, 2012

Away the old year...

There's a wonderful old 1936 cartoon from the Fleischer studio called, "Christmas Comes But Once a Year". Most times, that is a blessing.


This year, I wouldn't mind a second Christmas. I was supposed to go over to Laura's hobbit hole for Christmas day and dinner, a continuation of our longstanding tradition; but she called in the morning sounding thoroughly miserable. She'd come down with the current grippe and had to cancel. With everything that needed to be done actually done, I spent the day relaxing at home, doing not much of anything. It was wonderful.

Yesterday, we finally had our Christmas. And after our feast, Chris and Lise (who created and run the citizen journalism site iBrattleboro ) popped in for a visit. A Christmas with old friends was just what was needed. (And they gave me a ride home, sparring me the cost of a cab - Thanks!)

Just after Christmas Day itself it started to snow, which it proceeded to do on and off for the next two or three days. Brattleboro is an interesting town, its Main Street full of old brick mill town buildings. It takes on extra luster during a snow, especially at the holidays when there are lights up (although there aren't as many lights as there used to be - sigh).

During the week I spend a lot of time at our local community radio station which I help run. Here's a view out of one of our windows, taken Saturday night a week before Christmas. The building on the left is the Brooks House, a once grand hotel where our studio used to be located (and where Laura used to rent an apartment). In April 2011, it suffered a terrible fire. It is still boarded up with much work yet to be done to return it to life, but a branch of the State Community College is going to be going in there, and new apartments are being carved out, too. (And as a side note, Chris helped to string the lights on its facade.) On the right is "Pliny Park". It used to be the parking lot for Dunkin' Donuts (and nicknamed "donut park", of course). The rehabbed (or was it replaced? I no longer remember...) Dunkin' Donuts is now a Thai restaurant.




























After the first day of snow, I opened my door (which is on a sort of catwalk at the back of the building) to see this view:



I've no idea why someone would put a beautiful palladian window facing another building, but I have to admit I enjoy seeing it when I go out. Oh, in case you're wondering, here's the view looking out from inside my studio apartment, which is all tarted up for the holidays:




























Just a few steps past the building is St. Michael's Episcopal Church. Around here you can't just say "St Mike's", as we have two - the Catholic Church is also St. Michael's. I don't know why. Maybe Brattleboro used to have a thing about archangels.

St. Michael's Episcopal used to be downtown, but was moved in the 1950's. They are near the end of months of repairs and the addition of an elevator to the basement.


Certainly a famous town angel incident occurred on New Year's Eve 1856 when Larkin Meade (whose brother was a partner in the architectural firm of McKim, Meade & White) created the "Recording Angel", an 8 foot high snow sculpture. Larkin Meade became a well known sculptor and created the statue on top of the Vermont State House, as well as the statue of Ethan Allen in the Capitol building in Washington D.C. There seem to have been a number of marble copies of the Recording Angel made - one is in our library, and another stands in a cemetery in Hingham, Mass. There was even a poem written about it, and the creation of the snow sculpture is said to have been written up in the New York Times.

There are several churches around downtown. Our Main Street has two distinct areas, a business section, and a government/civic section.

If you were to walk with me into town, we would go by the town Common - which is at the end of Main Street, unlike most New England towns and villages where the common is in the center of town.

Then we'd pass the old High School, which is now the Municipal Building, housing the town offices and police department. Oh, by the way, see that 'one way' sign? Behind it is a beautiful fountain (wrapped here in garland) which sits where Larkin Meade created his snow angel:























Just about half a block later, just past the library and the old church which is now a club, one finds our beautiful old Post Office - and Federal courthouse on the second floor (where I was one of two people named as running 'radio free brattleboro' in our case against the FCC - but that is a story for another time).





On Saturday, it snowed some more. It was snowing when I made my way to the radio station to do my big band swing oriented show ('Recycled Radio' - 6pm to 8pm) and it was snowing when I started to walk home. It was truly a beautiful and peaceful walk. Our studio is in the Hooker-Dunham building, which is the original mill building for Dunham shoes, which started in Brattleboro. Just outside the door is the town clock:




























I took a quick walk across the street to take a picture in Pliny Park:




























Back across the street is the Congregational Church (which used to be on the Common in the early 1800's - they moved it and replaced it with this building some time later):



Just a little further, one reaches the edge of the business and civic district. Main Street becomes Putney Road (just about where that snow angel was sculpted) and a few steps more brings you to the town Common, which ends just before my building, although on the other side of the street. There is an old bandstand on the Common. Both President Teddy Roosevelt and then Vice-President George H. W. Bush spoke there, and possibly Dorothy Lamour when she was in town to sell War Bonds during WWII. For the last two years, a Christmas tree has been put into it. It's lovely to have it light one's way home.

So here it is New Year's Eve. In a few hours, there will be fireworks just across the Retreat Meadows (other side of the Common) and then this year will fade into memory. It's the year my friend Larry Bloch died from the same kind of cancer that took my father. It's the year I took retirement in November, the year I became President of the Board of the radio station. It's the year of the delayed and very Merry Christmas. It's another year in which I don't really want to remember much else. But I will.

One of the reasons I think I took such a shine to Brattleboro and Vermont is that visually, it used to remind me of where I grew up in the 1950's. It hasn't been completely spoiled yet. As New Year memories begin, I see myself watching tv on a Saturday night at my Grandmother's. She loved to watch Lawrence Welk, who was on at 7pm. Every year, on the last show before New Year's Eve, the Lennon sisters used to sing the same song. I loved it then, and I still do. It is my wish to my friends, and to you.




With Best Wishes for 2013,
Pax Vobiscum.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The waiting

Just about now as I write this, on any Christmas morning when I was very young in the 1950's, would be the waiting time. We lived in the house on Allen Street which had been my grandfather's, who died two years (almost to the day) before I was born. The house was now owned by my Uncle Bob. We lived there with my Aunt Lorraine  my father, my brother, and myself all sharing the premises.

My brother and I shared one room, the same room my Dad and Uncle Bob had shared before us.   My bed was closest to the windows, which were in a square shaped bay window which jutted out from the house creating a space just big enough for a 5 or 6 year old to occupy. I would spend many anxious hours, propped up against my toy-box, peering out the window which looked out towards the street. We didn't have a chimney. Santa Claus would have to come in using the front door, and would have to come in from the street. I listened intently, waiting for jingle bells.

From time to time, making sure Lew was asleep, I would ever so carefully open the bedroom door and sneak over to the stairs. This required a little effort, as the small room just at the top of the stairs was my Dad's bedroom. Trembling until I was a quivering bowl of jelly, I would inch carefully down enough steps to be able to peer into the living room. We had put the Christmas tree up the night before, and I could make it out standing tall and proud in the dark. But there was no sign of Santa.

Around 7am or so, all of us would go downstairs at the same time to see the wonderland of gorgeous gifts, most wrapped to disguise their nature in pretty papers and ribbon. All of the gifts had been cleverly placed around the tree and on the chairs and sofa in a manner which would frustrate anyone peeping down the stairs from seeing them in the dark. Aha! Santa knew about last year. Tricky old guy. We were not allowed to touch, shake, poke, or open anything. We had to wait for breakfast to be done.

We were allowed to open whatever was in our stockings. Mine usually had a new toothbrush, a little box of chocolates, several items of a useful nature, and in the toe of the stocking a number of pieces of coal, depending on how bad Santa thought I'd been that year. The crowning stocking achievement was a comic book or two, which would keep me busy until Aunt Lorraine had breakfast ready.

Breakfast almost made things worse, as my place at the table situated me at a spot where I could look directly at the tree and all the presents. Eventually, the breakfast that took a few stabs at eternity would be finished. We would would first have to help with the cleanup, washing the dishes and so on and so forth. Uncle Bob was a big kid at Christmas in those days, and I sometimes think the waiting drove him crazy, too. In fact, deep within the reaches of Christmas Morning memories I think there was one Christmas in which the dishes were cleared but left in the sink - something that hadn't happened in that house since the end of World War Two.

Finally, after a few years had gone by, we would all go into the living room. A box would be brought in for the ribbons and bows, which we always saved. The family had gone through the Depression and the Second World War. We saved things that could be reused. 50 plus years later, I  can still point to the kitchen drawer under and to the right of the sink where cleaned aluminum foil would go next to a ball of string. We would take our places around the tree - the adults would get the sofa and chairs, we kids would sit on the floor. In a process that would be shared by all of us in turn, someone would start by reaching under the tree, pulling out a present, reading aloud the name on the tag (even though Uncle Bob, my brother and I all knew exactly which present was whose) and passing it along. My name would be called. Something would make its way towards where I sat on the floor. My eyes would grow as big as that year's lumps of coal as my hands stretched out to take the holy offering. The waiting was over.




Merry Christmas, everyone.
And Thank You Santa Claus for all my toys.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why I live here

In a couple of months, I will have lived in Brattleboro longer than I have lived anywhere else - including the town in which I grew up. Brattleboro has changed a lot since I moved here, and, of course, in some ways it hasn't changed at all. It's that kind of town, which may sound like everyplace.

When I moved here, I had been living in Boston for 8 years. I loved living there, but the area in which I could afford to live was dangerous. I refuse to cooperate with muggers and, after achieving my mid 40's, was unable to win battles with teenage thugs - I was beginning to take stitches. I'd been working for Columbia and Tri-Star, which had changed hands and been purchased by Sony. After a few years of their ownership, Sony decided to downsize and a week before Christmas 1994 closed well over half of their film offices across the country. I'd spent 20 years in film distribution; the other exchanges in Boston were also closing, and there were no more jobs in the film business to be had. For a number of reasons, I moved to Brattleboro.

That move proved financially ill advised. In fact, it destroyed a good bit of my life and was a rather poor choice in many respects. I would probably have done better to return to New York City and looked for work there, but I chose to move further out, to be closer to natural spaces, where I could garden, where young children would be growing up with faces full of smiles and wonder, places where the costs were less and I could afford to live a little better. After many years, as the town I had grown to love changed, and my circumstances had become reduced, I began to think about moving elsewhere.

This morning I woke to a messy wet snow which was in the process of switching to rain. The streets had been plowed, pushing the wet heavy slush upon the sidewalks. Since I retired, I've been doing my old Friday morning radio show from 7am until 9am on our local community station. After next week, another show will be expanding into part of that time-slot and I will probably stop. At any rate, this morning, after the show and after tending to a few station chores, I set out on my walk home.

                 
                                 
                                     
                                     


I'd barely gotten a half a block - in fact, I was right in front of the Congregational Church - when the bells began to ring in their steeple. I looked up to the clock, and noticed that it was 9:30am. The bells kept ringing; they weren't tolling the half hour. I crossed the street to stop at the Post Office; the bells were still ringing. And then it occurred to me - it had been exactly one week since the horror that had taken place in Newtown, Connecticut. I froze. And for some reason or other, without thinking about it, I took my hat off and held it over my heart while I stood there. A woman rushing to take a large unwieldy package into the building saw me, looked at the church steeple and stopped to stand silently in the rain beside me.

The ringing of the bells ended, and we went our separate ways. As I continued on my way home, other church bells were ringing in the distance. Then the bells from St. Michael's Catholic also began to peal.

And that's why I live here.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

'Twas a week before Christmas...

Dear Friends,

'Twas a week before Christmas and all through the blog the spam bots are posting, the works they do clog. My nerves now stretched all tense and raw, their notes defecation that sticks in my craw. Within the comments are nasty links put there by meanies who are nothing but finks. The blogger can't take more of this pap, so moves have been taken to stop all this crap.

Now, my Christmas humor tilts towards the sick, the bloat of the season I so like to prick. But recent events are holding me back, they have tainted the season with covering plaque. The things I would post,  once fun and nifty, now seem mean or somewhat too shifty.

Snaps of corybantic kids on Santa's lap and such, now seem to be - well, just too damn much. The fun of the season is fading away, with monsters and demons left here to stay. Let us banish them then, with all of our might, to make the season Happy and Bright.

So bring out the nog and tasteless humor, let tacky holiday tunes spread like a rumor. And to those spammers whose odor doth linger, I giveth you my middle finger. Let us then cover the sad and lingering pall with fun and good wishes - dahoo dores to all.






Sunday, December 16, 2012

Every year it gets a little harder...

It has been busy, very busy. In my little world, it has become a struggle to get anything much done. I may be retired now, and I must say I'm enjoying it so far, but the projects in which I invest myself have suddenly expanded to take up most of my available time. Everything takes extra time now. A simple trip to the grocery store has become complex. I don't want to complain; when you can't afford a car, it's a blessing to have a bus system.  Except the bus to the grocery store doesn't run an understandable schedule anymore. It works for the bus company, but not for the people who use it. That seems to be the way of the world these days, things stopped making sense some time ago.

My little experiment in ending email overload and in blocking the spam bots attempting to post to this blog has shown progress. I've allowed everyone to post comments again without all the annoying eye and typing exams. We'll see how it goes. As far as my email problems, I've unsubscribed from a lot of mailing lists. Some of them are still still sending me things. It's better, but still out of control.

Every year, it gets a little harder. I'm sure any number of generations before mine has made the same statement. That doesn't mean it isn't true. It gets worse at this time of the year, a time when we used to be able to find a bit of magic in the season. I realize I don't get around much anymore, but I've been noting that there don't seem to be as many lights this year decorating people's homes, bringing color and joy into the darkest stretch of the year. It seems like fewer people bother each time the season comes 'round. I imagine that was once said about the number of bonfires for Yule celebrations long ago.

For the past few days the horrible tragedy in nearby Connecticut has consumed the country, and it seems, a good part of the world. Reporters are reporting - often inaccurately while trying to one up the next reporter, responding to the pressure to have something new, the need to have more information as people try to make sense of something that doesn't make sense. Bloggers are blogging, tweeters tweeting, and the rest are posting to Facebook. Everyone uses the tragedy to push their own agenda. Stop the drones. Institute gun control. Oh, my God he was a loner with problems. He must have been on drugs. He must have been off his medication. He was sick. As though that excuses anything. As though gun control will stop this madness. In China, a madman stabbed 22 children. As though that is less heinous because he didn't have a gun.

A few brave souls will note that this has happened before. Just last week, in a shopping mall. And just recently in Minneapolis, and Tulsa, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a movie theater in Colorado, a coffee bar in Seattle, a college in California. They were all loners. They were all sick. They want publicity. We need gun control. No one asks how it is that people have broken, lost their minds, gone on rampages.

No one wants to look at our world the way it is. We live in a time when, unless one has money, you eat fake food full of chemicals and genetically modified poisons. If you have a problem, well here - you can pay into a scheme to help you purchase medication that alters your mental processes. The sky, the air, the water have been fouled. The rich have gotten richer. Everyone else tries to cope, to do with less, and everything has gotten a little harder. Even the bad for you food costs so much that it is said that 1 out of every 5 people in the country needs assistance, and those benefits are being cut. Donations to the food shelves which try to take up the slack have been falling off. In the sate of Vermont, where I live, 1 person in every 7 doesn't have enough to eat. For the last couple of years, the problem has been given a slightly nicer tone by replacing the stark word "hunger" with the term "food insecurity". Words and phrases have lost their meaning as they become twisted to hide the truth, to obfuscate, to spur sales, or get around laws in the growing corporate environment to produce a product for pennies less, to make more riches for the already rich, to twist circumstances to raise prices to make ever more profits, ever more profits, pay the people less, ever more profits.

Our school systems don't have enough money, and with laws like those requiring the teaching of creationism and labeling evolution as a 'theory', our children aren't receiving a proper education in the sciences. Or the Arts. Or History. Or...

Our entertainment industries push and promote violence in games, in movies, on television. Explicit gory violence, exploding ganglia in intimate detail. The aftermath, the effect on people in the story or the game, isn't dealt with. It's bloody, clean, dispassionate, removed from reality.

Reality is programmed on tv. What does it say about us that one of the most popular shows in the country follows the antics of a white trash family proud of their dumpster diving and their obnoxious child 'Honey Boo Boo'?

And, oh, my God, the fiscal cliff. Our federal budget is out of control. Time to cut welfare, medicare, medicaid  social security, food stamps, college loans, money to education, money to the arts, if it helps people get by, it needs to be cut. They are the enemy.

A guy I know is posting videos and articles to Facebook about the state of the world - today he had a video of the tv show "they" don't want you to see because it exposes what has gone wrong with the country. It's an episode of Judge Judy. A black male hasn't been paying - something, whatever, he gets government aid, his rent is paid, he gets food stamps. He is the problem. He and his ilk are bleeding the country. I used to work in a supermarket. I know this Facebook poster. He and his family live in subsidized housing. They work menial jobs in the kitchen of a nearby school. They get by with food stamps. Should I tell him that he is the enemy too?

We live in a world that no longer makes sense. Where women's bodies have magical ways of shutting down and preventing rape but maybe still getting a pregnancy for God. Where we used to be raised to believe that we could and should make it on our own, the great lone American Hero,  and where we now find ourselves in a world where we need help. If one can get by the shameful humiliation. The frustrations of everyday life are causing everyday people to break. It's the world the corporations, the bosses, and the rich have made. It works for the them, but it doesn't work for the people who ride the bus. Every year it gets a little harder.

What is strange isn't that there are so many mass killings, but that there are so few.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"But I don't like spam..."


Okay, I've had it. I just spent close to 20 minutes deleting comments from this blog that were really advertisements. For some reason or other, the spam killer didn't stop them. My blog gets between 10 and 20 pieces of spam on a slow day. Sometimes as many as five in an hour. I get email notifications of everything. And the Blogger spam filters take out most of it, this is just what is left.


Years ago, I was one of the people running radio free brattleboro, an unlicensed radio station. One day, the agency in charge of regulating the airwaves, the FCC, came knocking on our door. As I handled most of the station's email, and was one of the three people who could speak for the station, my personal email was given out as a press contact. This was done without consultation with me - I would have created another email account for such a purpose. Within the space of a couple of months, my personal email account was a constant spam target.

The sound file which notifies me that a new email has arrived just did it's thing. I have just gotten the third piece of spam as a comment to this blog since I started this message.

I just told the Democrats to take me off their mailing lists - even though the election is over, I am still getting about 10 emails a day asking me to support the President. I just sent "remove" emails to a number of other activist organizations; I did not sign up for most of them. I can't take the constant need, the constant trumpeting of despair. I have problems too, and I can not solve all the world's by spending a couple of hours a day reading, becoming informed, and signing petitions.

The WVEW radio station's email is forwarded to me. I get their spam, too.
I also have emails flying back and forth between myself and other Board members over running the station. I also get emails from station participants and people who want to get involved or get their own show. And public service announcements. And people from as far away as Texas who want to either submit shows or have us interview them about their self published books.

The upshot is that since 8:30am this morning, over 150 pieces of email made it past the spam filters and into my inbox. This is not an unusual amount.

And it's not as bad as it used to be! At one point, I had my ISP put my personal email address on hold and all the spammers (300 pieces a day at that point) got their mail bounced. It actually helped, for awhile.

But for now, I've had enough. I'm unsubscribing from as many things as I can.
It's time to get control of my inbox again.

Therefore, because of the spam problem with this blog, although I really do not wish to do it, I am installing comment moderation and one of those horrible match the word things until the mess comes under control.

My apologies.




p.s. I belong to a mail list which is a local "free cycle" program in which people post things they wish to get rid of which still have life left in them. I decided to unsubscribe. After clicking on the "unsubscribe" button, I got an email form to use. I clicked "unsubscribe" again. Then I got an email which sought to make sure that I had sent the request, and another button to click to unsubscribe. I clicked. A few minutes later, I got an email confirming that I had unsubscribed. Really now. I am not making this up.


Monday, December 3, 2012

From December to December

This morning, as is my wont when I have a little free time, I checked the almanac to see who was born, and what had happened, on this date in history. I love this kind of thing - several years ago, I created a partially illustrated daily almanac on a web site, but that's another story. At any rate, this morning I checked the almanac on Wikipedia. And there it was - on this day in 1960, the musical Camelot opened at the Majestic theatre on Broadway.

Camelot- a name which, to folks of my age at least, evokes an entire era, as well as a presidency. And the Wiki on it is wrong. The First National Tour (which uses the original Broadway production's staging, sets, and costumes) originally starred Anne Jeffreys as Guinevere. I know, because I saw it in Philadelphia. Twice. It was the first live show I ever saw. I was either 11 or 12 at the time. One of my classes at school went on a field trip to see it. Some of my family went off to see it as well, and I was delighted to go a second time. I remember my aunt Mary being upset with the curtain calls because Guinevere was in the gray auto-de-fe gonna-be-burned-at-the-stake outfit in which we'd just seen her instead of any of the "prettier" outfits she'd worn in the show. I remember Ms. Jeffreys participation as I was fan of the Topper tv show in which she and her husband starred as the ghosts of Marion and George Kirby. I no longer recall who filled the other lead roles, except that I'm certain that Arthur Treacher was Pellinore.

Ms. Jeffireys performed the role for 6 months as a personal favor to Alan Lerner, and she was delightful in it. The second time I saw the show, there was an slightly unplanned incident. It occurred during Guinevere's song, "The Lusty Month of May". Among the company onstage were King Pellinore and his sheepdog. The dog sort of ad-libbed; he suddenly squatted and did his business. Ms. Jeffreys didn't miss a beat - she sang her next lines, "Whence this fragrance wafting through the air? What sweet feelings does its scent transmute? Whence this perfume floating ev'rywhere?", while looking askance at the dog and "Pelly", and holding her nose. The audience loved it.

Sadly, the three numbers from the original Broadway run which were performed on the Ed Sullivan show are not available on You Tube or any of the other streaming video sites. I'd love to have posted one or two here. I did find this short "making of" video which has a quick clip or two, though.



Camelot furthered my interest in musical theater, in show tunes, in collecting and listening to the then recent development of long playing record albums (the show's album was the top selling LP in the US for 60 weeks! - it was one of the first LP's I bought), and so on and so forth. I never realized what a huge influence it was on my life before. The fact that I can recall parts of the production I saw 50 years ago says a lot. Seeing live theater, professionally done (no disrespect to local theater companies intended, but it's not quite the same, you know) particularly the big splashy musicals, is one of the few things I miss from my years in New York and Boston. I was lucky to see as many shows (and operas) as I did. And who knows, now that I'm retired, maybe some day I'll be able to go and indulge myself again.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Inundated


inundated : past participle, past tense of in·un·date (Verb)
Verb: Flood.
          Overwhelm (someone) with things or people to be dealt with:

Many years ago, I'm no longer quite sure if it was in the late 1970's or early 1980's (I'd have to think about it and I don't want to take that much time to figure it out as I'd never get this written) Jerry Campbell, my best friend at the time (miss you, Jerry), and I used treat our everyday lives as though they were revue format musical comedies. We'd even cast them with performers we thought appropriate for the roles. We'd spend some of our free time on odd mental exercises, like the time we decided to have a contest to see who could create the worst musical comedy title. I suggested "Willy!" with an exclamation point - at the time, such punctuation in a show's title was considered an invitation to doom and disaster. "Willy!", of course, was going to be the musical version of "Death of a Salesman". Jerry won the contest with "Okey Dokey", the musical version of "Grapes of Wrath".

At one point, Jerry, who was a stage manager and occasional director, was between shows. I needed an extra hand in the film booking office I was managing, and hired him as a temp for a few days. By the end of his first day, he'd turned the job into a show. His concept was that the actor Paul Sand would play my part, by standing in the middle of the office while clerks brought slip after slip of paper to me to read and initial. Duplicates of the slips would fall at my feet, and by the end of the first number I would be completely buried in slips of paper.

Sometimes in life, we can plan for the times when we know we are going to be inundated by forces beyond our control. When I was running that large bookstore in Times Square, for instance, it was an easy call to put large pieces of plywood over the windows and get out by 1pm on New Year's Eve.

I guess my point here is that in structured situations, one can often plan coping strategies for times when one finds oneself inundated by something or other. (Over the years, I've grown to appreciate the New Year's Eve strategy of putting up protective barriers and getting the hell out.)

My first computer was a Commodore 64c. I had rebelled against the standard Christmas gifts in which my family indulged - always something useful - socks, underwear, etc. I started giving things that were "fun". And so, after a couple of years of this, my father and stepmother asked me what I wanted for Christmas that was fun. I immediately blurted out that the gift I would choose was unaffordable . They asked what it was, and I told them it would be one of those new computer gadgets as I thought learning to use one was was going to be important to my future. This was around 1985, and the most economical computer, the Commodore 64c, could be found at the discount houses for about a hundred and fifty dollars. A few days later, the folks made an offer - if I really, really wanted it, they would split the cost with me, but there would be no other gifts. It was difficult, but I managed it.. The 64c came with a graphical user interface called GEOS (which was quite superior to anything Windows developed into this millennium), a 5.25" floppy disc drive, and a 300 baud modem. With the modem one could connect to bulletin board services like C-Net and Q-Link. The boards were organised by subjects. You would go online, and using a special "reader" program upload a message to, say the 'cooking' board and ask for a recipe for lemon butter. You'd log off, and log on again later in the day. You'd download your packet of messages into the reader, check the cooking board and you might find that someone had uploaded the recipe - from Australia! What an incredible device, what a wonderful world. One could spend an entire half hour reading and writing to one's groups.

Along came the world wide web. With pictures. Email began to use the same kind of programming and was capable of using graphics. Times have changed.

As the last month of 2012 begins, I wake my computer from sleep mode in the morning. My email has acquired about 50 messages overnight - that is, once my anti spam program removes the 200 or so bulk mail advertising messages which came in after I went to bed.  I start deleting the useless crap.

During this past year's election campaigns, I made the mistake of following a link to the Obama campaign and got on the Democrats' email list. My inbox was deluged with pleas for money. Some days I'd get about 10 messages from the campaign, and separate emails from the President, his wife, Nancy Pelosi, the Vice-President, a few other top name Democrats, a couple of move stars and/or rock and rollers. I wouldn't have been surprised to get emails asking for money from John F. Kennedy or his brothers.

Over on Facebook, there are so many messages from "friends" and people or organizations I've "followed" that it can take a couple of hours to wade through one afternoon's activity. As it turns out, people who post can also post directly onto my "page". Wait - someone else can post on my page? Yup. It's not mine anymore. It's no longer the picture of me that I want to present to my friends or the world at large.

Things have gotten to the point that I seem to be somewhere over the horizon of "overwhelmed" whenever I sit down at the computer now. If I make even the slightest attempt to glance at the things my friends want me to see, I won't get the chance to visit my favorite sites or investigate subjects about which I'd like to learn.

And if I do get to a site, even a portal news site? There are ads my pop-up blocker can't seem to conquer. They superimpose over the text, and must be clicked off. Then another pops up from the bottom of the page. It can't be clicked off unless you click on it long enough for a promo video to start, click that off and then the  popup reveals the "x" by which you might close the damned thing.. Until you open another news article and it starts all over again. Then, as you start to read, something floats across the page asking if you want to take a survey.

I wonder what the price of a digital camera is like, and so go check a few ads. Suddenly, for the next month or two, I get emails from Amazon, EBay, Staples, 27 discount houses,and three auction sites for cameras. I wonder what would happen if I sought out porn, but I don't really want to find out.

An email arrives, asking me to sign a petition for what seems like a very worthy cause. I "sign". I'm suddenly asked to sign three more. And share on Facebook. Because I signed, I get an automatic email from the petition's creator, asking me to share the petition on Facebook.

I go back to the news, and as I'm reading an article a little window moves in from the right hand side of the monitor. Click here if you want to share on Facebook.

I've never felt the need to tell everyone I know what petitions I sign, what causes I support, what news articles i read, when i fart, whether or not it was a smelly fart or a wet one, and etc. ad infinitum. It's as if there is no acknowledgement that i might like a little privacy now and again. i stop using the capital "i".

i feel overwhelmed. It's December and the Christmas ads are multiplying with some weird exponential formula that seems intent on reducing me to a bowl of jelly.

All these years later since the day I turned on my Commodore 64c, i am beginning to be afraid of the places my computer wants to take me. The unwanted, unsolicited emails and posts have piled up around me. It would help if there was a song cue.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A note or two about my little town

Sometimes, most of the time in fact, I really love the town in which I live. It has been my intention to start writing a bit about it and telling a few of its stories.

Just yesterday, for instance, I started the day by hosting a Friday morning radio show on our all volunteer community radio station. Most of the two hour time slot was spent in a free wheeling discussion with Daryl Pillsbury, who works nights on the maintenance staff at our local hospital. I first met Daryl when he was the sole voice for the working class on the Selectboard which manages our town. He later spent 8 years as our county's representative in our State Government. Several years ago, he and another local citizen created the Heat Fund, a non-profit (no one gets paid a cent) which raises money to provide emergency fuel assistance in our county.  He'd come in after getting off work to promote the Heat Fund; we also talked politics and his work for the Marijuana Resolve (which he helped start) whose goal is to end the legal insanity and attendant costs of criminalizing pot smokers. By 9am I was training a new radio station participant, an older man who has spent years as a local realtor, whose show mixes advice on real estate with 1950's and 1960's rock and roll. As each song plays, he makes hand gestures as though he were performing the choreography of a doo-wop group. As I made my way to the post office, I ran into two different friends, both requiring stops for quick discussions. After running other errands, I attended the kick off of our holiday season at the tree lighting in the center of town. The tree is in a "vest pocket" park, which is a story or two in itself. Santa was there. As was a young father with his 3 or 4 year old son, both on Dad's bicycle standing off to one side. The Dad asked his son if he wanted to go over and meet Santa. The boy hid behind his Dad's legs and confessed that Santa Claus scared him. The park sits at the main intersection in town, in front of a Thai restaurant. By the time I made my way home, I'd had another training for another new DJ (Friday is our most difficult day to fill and it is filling up). Today, Santa will arrive via tractor, a yearly event in which he is, I believe, accompanied by Alfred, our local black drag queen (well, the famous one, anyway) who will be dressed as an elf. The annual sing-in of Handel's Messiah also takes place this afternoon. It has professional soloists, but those attending get to sing all the choral parts. There's lots else going on today - all in a town of 12,000 people. Well, it is the third largest town in the state.

Lest you think that I am joking about the Messiah Sing-In, here's an odd bit of video from You Tube. At the beginning of the video, there is a brief shot of the interior of the Centre Congregationalist Church where the event takes place. The church used to be on our town common, but was moved to Main Street and rebuilt close to the center of town back in 1843.



As I was starting the preparations for my regular radio show this week, I was thinking that I might use some of my research for a post. It was quite a surprise, therefore, to find that Laura over at the Austanspace blog had written about our Community Radio Station. As a part of my show, which covers the big band era, vocalists, songwriters, etc. I usually finish with a 15 minute or half hour broadcast from that era which is from the roughly the same week we are in, just a different year. As part of the set up to that finale, I read the news from the local paper published that day. As enjoyable and oddly familiar as the news might be, I think I get my biggest kick from the old advertisements. Here's a few examples from the paper of December 2nd, 1938:



This ad (above) was on the bottom of the front page!


The above ad was from one of the three movie theatres in town in 1938, the Latchis. 
It is part of the Latchis Hotel, one of the few art deco buildings in the entire state of Vermont.


The Latchis in 1938, the year it opened.
The opening was delayed due to the Hurricane that October, which hit the area pretty hard.

Above is the auditorium as it appears today, barely changed from the days when there were weekend stage shows (usually 5 acts of vaudeville) along with the movie. Many years ago I was successful in getting a series of Sunday matinees of classic movies played there. But the story of the Latchis, and my little part in its history, are stories for another day. In the meantime, I have a radio show to put together, and a gentle snow, the first able to leave a bit of accumulation on the ground, is falling. I must make coffee and stare out the window for a bit. 





Sunday, November 25, 2012

Courage

There was a time not so long ago that my Sunday morning rituals included a pot of coffee, a couple of newspapers, and Ella Fitzgerald records. For over 25 years, one of those newspapers was the New York Times. That paper, and worthwhile newspapers in general, are far too expensive to purchase now. This past winter, there was a special discount for the Times' online service at 99 cents per month. I signed up, carefully creating automated notes which would be sent to myself to cancel the account as the deal's expiration date neared. Their gambit has paid off, and I have yet to end my service; even though the price has gone up, it is still cheaper per month than purchasing just two editions of their Sunday paper. One of the differences between the online and newsprint edition is that online some of the features stay around for a bit. And so it was that this morning I read an obituary published yesterday of an everyday woman who did remarkable things.

Her name was Vladka Meed. She born Feigele Peltel in Warsaw, Poland. She was a teenager when the Germans walled off Jewish portions of the city into a over packed ghetto of misery and despair. She was working as a seamstress sewing Nazi uniforms when the round up and deportation of Jews to the Treblinka camp 190 miles away began. When members of her family were taken, she joined the Resistance. With Aryan looks, she was recruited to live on the Christian side of the wall, adopting the code name Vladka. She helped circulate information that something was wrong at Treblinka - trains filled with Jews sent to the camp would return empty, but no food or clothing was being shipped there. She began smuggling goods into the ghetto, and children out. Most of such activity was performed by women who could pass as Aryan - men were readily identified as Jews by their circumcisions. She purchased and smuggled across the wall guns, bullets, gasoline for bombs, dynamite and other contraband which helped arm the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazis. Ordered not to take part in the four month uprising's final battle, she watched the smoke rising from the ghetto while pretending to enjoy a ride on a carousel. She would later note that with death all but certain, "there was little left to fear."


After the war, her book, "On Both Sides Of The Wall", was one of the first eyewitness accounts of the uprising published. She and her husband, Benjamin Miedzyrzecki (a resistance fighter who had escaped while on a forced work detail and who smuggled many people, including his future wife, to safety) made their way to the United States with $8.00 between them. Around 1950, they changed their last name to Meed. They worked to make people aware of what had happened in Europe. At a time when most people wanted to forget, they started the reunions and registry of Holocaust survivors, and were instrumental in creating the Washington DC and New York City Holocaust museums and memorials. Benjamin died in 2006; during the last few years Vladka slowly declined into Alzheimer's disease. I wonder if it was a blessing.

When I was younger, I always thought that such action in the face of evil was an easy choice. It never occurred to me to think otherwise. But I recall a shameful moment in the late 1970's, early 1980's. I was walking down 6th Avenue in New York City with friends at 2 in the morning. A young man was walking alone a half a block in front of us. Suddenly two other men crossed the street, and to yells of "faggot!" broke a bottle over the head of the man who had been walking by himself. I yelled "let's get them" and started off after them. My friends grabbed me and held me back, telling me not to get involved. The two bashers ran away while their victim walked steadily forward, never stopping, never looking back. To this day I wonder why I let my friends stop me, why we didn't beat the shit out of the bashers, or hold them for arrest. And it makes me wonder, in similar circumstances to hers, would I really be able to show the everyday courage of a Vladka Meed?




Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Kids table

When I was young, Thanksgiving dinner was always held at my Grandmother's.

My Grandfather had died two years before I was born. Nana had remarried and moved to the next town down the road when I was three.

Her parents (my great-grandparents) would be there. And her three sons, (and the eldest's wife), my brother and myself. And Nana's second husband's son, wife and at first two, then three kids. Then my youngest uncle would add a wife and a couple of children of his own. It was quite a crowd. All of us kids would have our own table. At first we were put at a card table in a corner of the dinning room, but in following years we were put at the table in the kitchen. It was special, and I dare say that we all felt very grown up to be off on our own. I'll bet our discussions were a lot more fun than at the big folks table. I do remember that once or twice an adult came in to quiet us down.

In those days, it would have been considered horribly rude to have the television on during dinner, or to eat in the living room with it on. There were no big football games to be watched - they hadn't started televising them yet (if they were even held), and no one in my family would have been interested. We did have Thanksgiving football, though. While the morning was given over to watching the Gimbels parade on the tv, early afternoon, for anyone interested (none of us were until our teenage years), was the high school's final football game of the year with our traditional and properly hated main rival.

For the feast itself, we'd not only put the extensions into the dining room table (and lay down the extra table mats), but we'd get out the special china, the special silver service (which came out of a dark wood box luxuriously lined with green felt), the crystal water glasses (we did not have wine, although I do not know if that was common or just my family - there were dark rumors of a relative from the 1800's who had been "lost to drink"... ). We dressed in company best clothes, too, even though we saw each other constantly - it was a nod to the day. My great grandfather always wore his suit.

That was all a long time ago now. These days, I live an 8 hour drive away from the town where I grew up, and all of my direct family members are gone; only an aunt, stepmother, and stepbrother and his family remain. I would love to see them all, but it's too long and expensive a drive (these days I have no car), and it is too expensive to go by train. I get together every year with Laura of the Austanspace blog for dinner - it's our own little tradition in a world where even traditions are now merchandised and made meaningless. But we carry on. We don't dress up, and there is no special china, or freshly polished silverware in a dark brown felt lined box, it's been years since Laura had a dining room (instead, we lounge around her living room - it's the modern version of the kids table). But there is still a feast to celebrate another year of our survival in an increasingly difficult world, memories to share of times and people gone by, lots of gossip, and an unspoken celebration of our family of friends who care about each other. And for that, I am truly thankful. May we all be so blest.






Best Wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fruitcake Weather

Sometimes in life there are unexpected consequences, or in this particular case, unexpected benefits. I haven't had tv since last February - a little matter of the cable bill. Where I live, there is no tv without cable. And even though there is a wealth of it on the internet and dvd, it somehow isn't the same when one is not partaking of the communion simultaneously with millions of our mass media brothers and sisters. The benefits include missing out on the incessant frenzied hyperbolic chatter when there is nothing new to report on an inane topic of intense focus, as well as missing out on the barrage of post Labor Day vulgar corporate Chri$tma$ hucksterism.


There is far less tension and anxiety in my world as a result. And now that I am retired, I will not have to spend the next 30 some days in a constant state of aural fear as the overproduced humbug of alleged holiday music is blared at one and all to further engender that holiday shopping urge - in a food store. It makes me wonder if we are being prepared for the day when an appropriate gift will be a can of genetically modified vegetables in a sauce of  tasty chemical additives. Oh, wait...

It was all so much simpler when I was young.



Every generation gets to say that, and for just about every generation, there is much truth in the statement. When I was young, it was considered unseemly to use advertising to implant Christmas desires before Thanksgiving. Holiday music was written by people who knew how to write real songs, and performed by people who could actually sing - and wasn't played until about two weeks before The Day. Christmas Holiday cheer was saved until Christmas was nigh. 


Last year, I discovered that most of the old Christmas specials and tv show episodes - the ones that could actually bring a bit of the spirit of joy and sharing into our lives, were either played continually on cable channels, or (for the better shows) available only on pay per view. The programs on pay per view were originally broadcast for free - or the price of watching a commercial. It tells you something about our modern world that the current corporate owners of those programs keep them unavailable until they are paid by each viewer for each viewing over a closed wire system which must also be paid for. 

And, sadly, some of the best programs have gone missing for one reason or another. I still have fond memories of a muppet Christmas special which had only one human character - Santa Claus, as played by Art Carney. I seem to recall it was rather sad, and I've never heard of it again. I thought I was imagining it until Laura over at Austanspace told me she remembered it too. Carney, by the way, was absolutely great as the Santa in the Twilight Zone episode, "Night of the Meek".

But the special I want most to see again was an ABC Stage 67 program, "A Christmas Memory". It was adapted from a Truman Capote short story by Eleanor Perry and Capote, who narrated it. It won Emmys for Geraldine Page and for the script. It also won a Peabody award. There is a multi-part post of it on You Tube, but it is in black and white. There is a good, clear print of it in color, but it is variously reported as missing, destroyed, or tied up in rights. It's complicated.

The story begins on a crisp cold morning in late November as... well, here, let Mr. Capote tell it:

" ...she is sixty-something, We are cousins, very distant ones, and we have lived together—well, as long as I can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over us, and frequently make us cry, we are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. We are each other's best friend. She calls me Buddy, in memory of a boy who was formerly her best friend. The other Buddy died in the 1880's, when she was still a child. She is still a child.... It's always the same: a morning arrives in November, and my friend, as though officially inaugurating the Christmas time of year that exhilarates her imagination and fuels the blaze of her heart, announces: "It's fruitcake weather!"

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. The current version of holiday madness is about to begin in earnest. I try to find joy in the sheer vulgarity of it all, the overwhelming garishness of the decorations, the frenzied mobs I try to avoid, the steep prices that will be reduced the day after The Day, but it gets harder every year.

But there is something about Thanksgiving that gets us.  Everyone seems to celebrate it, friends and families draw together, and every year it seems like we have to triumph over ever increasing odds just to do it. But we do it. Even though it is mostly ritual now, often devoid of meaning, we still do it. There is something in us that understands. It is more than just a day of thanks giving. It is the start of a time which exhilarates our imaginations, and fuels the blaze in our hearts. And it always starts the same, on a cold morning in November, when it's fruitcake weather...



















Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cleve Duncan

The Penguins, (top to bottom) Bruce Tate,
Dexter Tisby, Cleve Duncan, Curtis Williams
I've just discovered the sad news that Cleve Duncan passed away earlier this month at the age of either 77 or 78. Mr. Duncan was unknown to me, but his voice wasn't. He was a member of the doo-wop group the Penguins, and sang lead on their only hit, "Earth Angel". His voice soared.

"Earth Angel" was a huge hit in 1955. It was recorded in a garage as the "B" side to "Hey, Senorita" . Then a DJ started playing the flip side. It moved up the charts until Billboard listed it for three weeks as #1 on the r&b chart, and simultaneously at #8 on the pop chart - a rare feat.

It is regarded as the first #1 rock and roll song in America.

In those days, many groups would perform and or record their own versions of hit songs. The Canadian group the Crew-Cuts released a popular version that went to #3 on the pop charts, and started them on a career of doing r&b covers. But I grew up near Philadelphia, then a hot bed of music and early TV. Philly radio stations gave preference to the Penguins. It was still popular when I was a teenager in the 1960's. I can remember slow dancing to it at the monthly teen dances in the old American Legion hall before that venue was condemned as unsafe. And it was still on the jukeboxes in area diners. As a kid, I bought the 45rpm re-release on the Mercury label. The Penguins never had another hit; their manager spent more time on, and gave the better material to, his other clients, The Platters. In 1958, the Penguins disbanded. Mr. Duncan would later re-form the group with a succession of new members. The new group lasted another 40 years, and were still performing earlier this year. Of  "Earth Angel", Mr. Duncan said, “I never get tired of singing it, as long as people never get tired of hearing it.” I can't speak for anybody else, Mr. Duncan, but I sure won't.






Rest in Peace, Mr. Duncan, rest in Peace.


Something's Gotta Give...

Jeeezus. It's that time of the year already. Thanksgiving is just a few days away. The annual holiday madness is about to descend upon us. And this year, to add extra spice to the surge in travel, heavier use of electronics and communication devices, and SEED (Seasonal Emotional Excess Disorder - I just made that up but it fits, and there will be lots of fits - trust me), we have Mercury retrograde. Basically, when observed from our planet, mercury appears to go backward in the night sky. It is an illusion. But, like many an illusion, the effects it engenders are all too real. I am very glad I no longer travel long distances this week. Because this year, it's probably gonna be a mess out there. It's already been bad enough with computer problems, machinery breaking down, the computer acting up - what should have been a few hours work putting in a new hot water heater (my studio apartment has hot water baseboard heat) has now taken most of a week and still isn't finished, etc. And I have the added joy of being a Virgo. My ruling planet is Mercury. It would probably be best if I were to stay in bed, pull the covers over my head, and touch nothing mechanical or electronic. Oh, just for extra added kicks, it's shadow Mercury-Scorpio. If you don't know, it's best not to ask. Trust me. Mercury will go direct again on November the 26th. Two days before a Lunar eclipse (swelling dramatic something is about to happen shark music). It'll all be over around December 14th - provided we survive the darker reaches of the soul introspection thing. Don't ask.

Today is a beautiful but cold sunny Sunday morning. And it's already weird. At our Community Radio station, the guy who plays older gospel was in for his 6am show, but both the 8am show and the 10am show are missing in action. The 6am guy hadn't been doing his show for months - and re-emerged three weeks ago when Mercury Retrograde started. The two shows following him are both dependable and always there - except today.

Two favorites of mine have birthdays today. It was on this day in 1928 that Mickey Mouse made his debut in the first synchronized sound cartoon, "Steamboat Willie". It was actually the third Mickey Mouse made, but the first released. The first two were silent, although by the time they saw release they had added soundtracks. Disney considered this date Mickey's birthday, and that's good enough for me. And, it's a very Mercury retrograde kind of thing...



And Joy! be upon us. Ralph arrived late for his radio show (problems with traffic - you now know what at work), and he is doing a birthday tribute to the other birthday celebrant I wanted to mention, a b-i-g Stevil music fave, Johnny Mercer. The first hour plus of my own radio show last night was a Johnny Mercer celebration. How important is Johnny Mercer to the Great American Songbook? Well, look at it this way - in the late 1950's and early 1960's, at the height of her powers, Ella Fitzgerald recorded a series of nine 'songbooks'. Of them, only one was dedicated to a lyricist - and that lyricist was Johnny Mercer. In 1942, along with a Hollywood executive (who was also an occasional songwriter) and a record store owner, Mercer co-founded Capitol Records. Although he started on Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, he had gone  west in the early 1930's. The numerous songs he wrote for the movies earned him 19 Oscar nominations. He won four times.

Just to name a few Mercer penned hits: Jeepers Creepers, Blues in the Night, Hooray for Hollywood, And the Angels Sing, You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby, Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread), This Time the Dream's On Me, That Old Black Magic, Travelin' Light, Skylark, One for My Baby and One More For the Road, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, My SHining Hour, Dream, Come Rain Or Come Shine, Early Autumn, Autumn Leaves (English lyric), Something's Gotta Give, The Days of Wine and Roses... and that just scratches the surface.



Here's one of the ones which won an Oscar for Best Song (although the print quality and color are a disservice to this production number):



Here's another of his Oscar winners:


After Johnny Mercer passed at the age of 66, his wife gave his last lyric to Mercer's friend Barry Manilow, who set it to music. Here it is performed by Rosemary Clooney backed by the Glenn Miller ghost band on a New Year's Eve in 1988. Oh, yeah, the song became a bit of a hit. And I have to tell you, at my age (I'm now 62), this one has really begun to hit home.



So Happy Birthday, Johnny Mercer, and Thank You for all the music.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The butter dish

Good Lord (or name of deity of your choice used in a manner not deemed to be offensive) it's been a week since I last posted. So, okay, the thing is this; I have more time now. Where has it gone? I took early retirement, and my last day of work was last Saturday. I had a number of things to take care of, and Monday was the first day in which I could just goof off a bit, even though I did try to be productive for a good portion of the day. Same thing for yesterday. Ran errands, stopped by the radio station on Monday as I'd left my clipboard there, stopped by the radio station on Tuesday as we were rewiring our dsl and phone line, read a bit of the new Archer Mayor book, "Paradise City", which has to go back to the library in a few days, that sort of thing.

Now, over the last couple of weeks I had run into a small problem. I'd purchased pumpkin spice English muffins (which were delicious, by the way), and a week later a loaf of oat bread. I don't often buy these things. The slight problem (if one can even realistically call this a 'problem') was a simple one - the butter was not soft enough to spread, even after the bread product was toasted. Once again, I wondered what ever happened to my old, well loved (and well used), neon fiesta-ware style cobalt blue butter dish, the one whose top I used to use to burn incense during my Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist phase? I miss that dish.

antimacassars on a
 wing back chair

Thoughts of that simple little piece of utilitarian porcelain passed though my mind on Monday. Monday was November 12th, the day in 1955 that Marty McFly messed with the space time continuum by returning to the future but leaving something rather important behind. Realizing this, the data bank that is my memory suddenly brought forth images of heavy thick chairs with foliage print slipcovers and antimacassars, "I like Ike" buttons on the table in the bay window in the dining room (Oh, my Lord [or deity... etc.] dining rooms!), the -was it three?- doorbell chimes hanging on the wall near the staircase to the 2nd floor, Aunt Lorraine standing at the kitchen sink, her hair in a long ponytail... and a glass butter dish which fit neatly into the Frigidaire.

So, I decided to take a look on this internet thing. Amazon has lots of butter dishes. One in particular that caught my eye was a delightfully tacky little piece of whimsy whose cover was a porcelain rendering of a cow. It is sold through an intermediary company, with a "dollar off" sale price of $16.95. Considering the symbiotic relationship of cows and Vermont, and that it wasn't tarted up with paint, I kind of liked it. If I had a large kitchen or a dining room, I might even consider purchasing it. 

As I searched further to see what other kinds of butter dishes were out there to be had, I found what appears to be the same butter dish sold through a different intermediary company, with a price of  $26.99. Needless to say, it was not on sale. I was also amused to note that the higher priced version was, well, more white. Higher more unrealistic cost, white. This made me think of the Republican Party and the election of 2012. 

Anyone who has even attempted to read the news on the internet in the past week has had to have noticed that there has been great wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the Republicans over the outcome of the election, all gleefully reported by columnists and hordes of bloggers. I almost typed "whores" of bloggers. There has also been a great deal of analysis (root word "anal"?) regarding the reasons for the "surprise" Republican defeat.

Heck, I can answer that fairly easily. You can blame Karl Rove, better Democratic get out the vote tactics, or what have you all you want, but all that does is assign blame. The real problem is that the Grand Old Party was taken over by a bunch of religious right wing zealots who gave the word "conservative" a repulsive connotation. Even worse, the people in charge of that party created an alternate reality which many bought as gospel truth. This isn't anything new - its most recent incarnation goes back to the days in which Ronald Reagan put the brakes on the social and political changes started in the 1960s which was given expression in the taste the freedom excesses of the 1970's (reference the end of WWI and the Jazz Age, flappers, etc.). The problem, as I see it, is that the meaning of what it is to be a conservative has been co-opted and changed.

To my mind, a real conservative would seek to preserve our environment and our national parkland instead of selling it out to the highest bidder who wants to drill or mine there (and not pay a fee for the oil or minerals they take - which are the property of the American People, after all).  A real conservative would insist on people having their rights, period - not their rights as dictated by someone else's religious beliefs. The right to be properly educated and not fed a bunch of malarkey, for instance. The right to be treated the same as everyone else - regardless of financial status, race, creed, sexuality or any other qualifier. And, yes, this means the right to have an abortion. 

Morality is a touchy issue, and let's face it, people have lived their lives for eons in ways that are opposed to the religious and moral beliefs they profess. This is/was reasonably easy for people with money, who didn't give a hoot about what they were "supposed" to do. The middle, working, and  lower classes had a tougher time of it.  In the 1950's, if a teenage girl or unmarried woman got pregnant, there were few options for dealing with reality. They might go away for awhile on a cruise, or to visit that maiden aunt no one remembered the family as having, or go into a sanitarium for a rest cure, or have a risky illegal abortion. Now let me be clear here, I have very mixed feelings about abortion. I dislike it as a method of birth control. I do think the father should be involved in any decision. But I would not force my doubts or views on someone else. It would seem to me that the (Christian) thing to do would be to make sure that there is proper education about sexuality and that birth control be available as part of healthcare (even if these are in spite of a young person's parental objections - this is necessary information which should not be held hostage), and that safe abortions be available. I remember when my office in NYC was in front of another building with an abortion clinic in it. That clinic had constant harassment of those seeking its services, had constant bomb threats, and was in fact bombed twice in just a couple of years. That wasn't Christian in my book. To my way of thinking, a true conservative would want to preserve and protect these freedoms.



I could go on, but I've been trying to write this all day in between phone calls, messages, emails, a visit from my landlord to see the new water heater, etc. and I think I've made a portion of my point by now. The current Republican party has lost its way - many people no longer support it because it doesn't support them - it supports big business and religious bigots. This isn't an image sold by the opposing party. The recent Republican candidates made this clear, however inadvertently.  Times have changed, but the folks running the current version of the Republican party haven't. The majority of the population has moved past what the party now represents. If the Republicans truly want to understand why they lost, they need to take off the 1950's Hollywood movie and tv show moral blinders and deal with the reality of people, the reality of government being there to help people meet their needs instead of meeting big business' needs, and the reality of those needs today. They need to remember an older Republican party which used to stand for, and believe in, and act upon the equality and fairness they espoused.  This country has been trying to live up to the ideals which have been expressed to us all our lives as being the ideals upon which our government was founded. After all, they are good ideals, and we really do believe in them. Just like dealing with the hurricane, we need to stop and understand the problems we the people face today and try to address them together, and not stage photo ops of us doing good without actually doing good. And then maybe I can go back to peacefully dealing with reality and looking at butter dishes, wistfully remembering well made furniture which we protected with antimacassars, and contemplating messing around with the space time continuum.







Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Times they are


In 1963, Bob Dylan wrote a song that I think he first performed publicly the day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It became an anthem of my youth, just as I entered into my teens.

"Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone..."

Last night, the American People returned Barack Obama to the Presidency.
As I just explained in my last post, I am not an Obama guy.
But I find tears of joy welling up in my eyes nonetheless.
And it isn't because we dodged what I fear was the Romney bullet.
It is because a huge portion of my country rejected fear, which in my view was the hidden power behind Republican positions - the fear of change chief among them.

When Dylan wrote that song, the idea of a black American president was close to ludicrous.
But times have changed.

Last night, at least two states voted to allow gay folks to marry.
One of those states, Maine, can not be called a liberal bastion - its Governor is a Republican. Since 1815,  it has had only two US Senators who were Democrats, the last in the 1970's.
When Dylan wrote that song, being publicly identified as homosexual was enough to get one fired and/or evicted from one's home. And killed. I well remember one of the "men's magazines" from those days that my brother kept hidden in his closet, the kind of pulp trash that featured uniformed nazis torturing blond women on its cover, which had a photo expose of the men who visited Fire Island. The pictures, taken at a distance, had the men's faces covered with black squares. Last night, not only was the first openly gay when running for office candidate for US Senator elected, the subject was not an issue in her campaign.

Last night, for the first time I can remember, citizens of at least two different states voted to allow the use of marijuana - and not just for medicinal purposes. If this can become a national movement, we would cut our prison costs and populations dramatically.  And that is just a start, but that is a topic for another day.

Last night, the American People stood up to conservative religious bullying and defeated a mindset that holds women to be subservient to men. It is with great happiness that I note that the men who made incredibly ludicrous statements about rape and pregnancy were defeated.

If Obama holds true to his promise to get us out of Afghanistan (and that target date is too far away to suit me) the US will end over a decade of having our armies and our National Guard (who should not have been used for such purposes) entangled in foreign wars.

I could go on, but I have to go off to work, and I think I've made my point.

Last night the people of the United States voted to resume the changes started in the 1960's, when it became important to our people to begin to live up to the fine words and ideals expressed in the opening lines of our Declaration of Independence, that -all- of us are created equal and are endowed with rights. I'm no longer a freshly minted teenager, I'm 62 now. It has been 50 years to get here, far too long. For now, I'm setting aside the pattern of "red versus blue" states and what that means, I'm setting aside the obscene cost of this election and what could have been accomplished with that kind of money. I'm setting aside the frustration I felt yesterday listening to young adults state that they weren't voting or had no time to vote. No, for now, for just a short bit, I'm going to savor those tears welling up in my eyes. And I'll be humming an old Bob Dylan song to myself all day.