Warden's World

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

I'm Going, I'm Gone...

"I've just reached a place
Where the willow don't bend.
There's not much more to be said
It's the top of the end.
I'm going,
I'm going,
I'm gone.

I'm closin' the book
On the pages and the text
And I don't really care
What happens next.
I'm just going,
I'm going,
I'm gone.

I been hangin' on threads,
I been playin' it straight,
Now I've just got to cut loose
Before it gets late.
So I'm going,
I'm going,
I'm gone.

Grandma said, "Boy, go and follow your heart
And you'll be fine at the end of the line.
All that's gold isn't meant to shine.
Don't you and your one true love ever part."

I been walkin' the road,
I been livin' on the edge,
Now I've just got to go
Before I get to the ledge.
So I'm going,
I'm just going,
I'm gone."

--Bob Dylan


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Still Feeling Blue

I'VE BEEN LISTENING TO a lot more radio lately, ever since I moved my bed across the room last month on a whim. Somehow after I had rearranged all the furniture I ended up with a small transistor radio on my nightstand, and now before turning in for the night, I like to spin up and down the AM and FM dial searching for signs of intelligence in this universe.

Last night I was rewarded big time, stumbling on the tail end of Delphine Blue's two-hour weekly show on WBAI-FM. Man, I go way back with Delphine, who turned me on to a metric ton of good music over the years. She hosted a weekday morning show on BAI called Shocking Blue in the late '80s / early '90s that me and Laine would always listen to at work, but then I lost touch with her for a long time.

It was great to hear her voice and even better to know she's still doing what she's doing lo these many years later. I don't love every single disc she spins, but it's always interesting and eclectic without being pretentious. Like me she's not above an unabashed stroll down New Wave Ave. every now and again -- especially her faves like The Cure and The Pretenders. And she doesn't foster some Hipper-Than-Thou attitude but instead can admit to digging classic rock bands like the Allman Bros. and Led Zep.

I always wondered what she looked like, and now with The Interwebs of course it's possible to find out. She has a terrific timbre to her voice as they say in the voice-over biz, but I pictured her with long, straight, raven-black hair, wearing 1960s-style cat glasses. Well, I couldn't have been more off, but she's still very easy on the eyes as they say in country music. Keep on rocking, Delphine, you've got a new old listener all over again.


Monday, May 03, 2010

Adding It Up

I REMEMBER CATCHING THIS LIVE on Letterman four years ago and being blown away. It popped up on one of my patented mix-CD's the other day, and man I was moved all over again, especially by the song's plaintive, brooding lyrics. You see, I just "celebrated" a birthday last week, and my naturally morbid state of mind has been consumed more than usual lately with thoughts of Mortality and Existence and maybe even plain old Terror about reaching the dreaded milestone known colloquially as the Big 5-0.

Twenty-seven years of nothin' but failures and promises that I couldn't keep
Oh lord I wasn't ready to go
I'm never ready to go
Let it ride

I mean, I'm about the last person to put any kind of stock into Society's artificial demarcations of time, but ya can't kid yourself anymore: the Great Hourglass of Life has been turned over and the sands of time are rushing down to the bottom with a loud whooshing sound. Or is it more like the Ultimate Halftime: You make your adjustments in the game plan against the Grim Reaper, then go at 'em in the second half. And hopefully it's Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life...

Then again, I surprised myself by responding optimistically when a good friend who turns 50 later in the summer asked me if I felt old now having reached the half-century mark. No, I said, because that would be a waste of time and energy; if I live another, say, 20 years, then how silly it would be to feel old at a mere 50 years old, and if I die in a year or two, then it would have been even more absurd to be wasting my last year on Earth bemoaning something as uncontrollable as my age. I think I channeled some of my ancient Greek homeys for that answer, but for a while I had myself convinced, and at the end of the day or the month or the year or even decade, that's all that matters.

Let it ride easy down the road
Let it ride
Let it take away all of the darkness
Let it ride

In fact, this limited, finite lifespan suddenly confronting me could even work in my favor. I've always been a bit of a procrastinator, a coaster through life, a supreme goer-with of the flow -- a Type Z personality, if you will. Maybe this will force me to complete projects now, faced with leaving almost nothing behind when I do go.

But my latest tack is a novel one, albeit not a big surprise if you know me at all. Being a full-fledged, card-carrying Numerologist, I believe there is much more to numbers than just using them to count. And toward that end, I did the math, and my best decades invariably came when my age had an odd number in front of it! That is, to generalize greatly but not necessarily unfairly, my teens were one big Zoo, my twenties not so much; the thirties rocked, my forties were fucked. Now it's on to another "uneven" decade, and I'm personally attaching a large heaping of Significance to this. You're welcome to play along at home, but results will vary.

Let it rock me in the arms of strangers, angels until it brings me home
Let it ride
Let it roll
Let it go


Friday, April 30, 2010

Jury Gets It (Half) Right

WELL, THIS IS ONE of those rare cases where we'd much rather have been wrong than right. But as we hinted might happen, after a two-week trial, the jury acquitted the ex-cop of reckless assault charges against the bicyclist stemming from a critical mass ride two years ago. Patrick Pogan was found guilty of making false statements to an ADA -- but that charge does not carry a mandatory jail sentence. His June 23rd sentencing hearing will determine whether Pogan goes to prison for any or all of the maximum four years he can be given.

The split decision came late yesterday afternoon, with the jury evidently choosing not to believe its own eyes when presented with clear video evidence of rookie cop Pogan body-slamming cyclist Christopher Long to the pavement. We had a sneaking suspicion that the jury might go all weak at the knees at the sight of an authority figure on the stand -- even an incompetent bully like Pogan. Then when we heard news of an alternate juror being rushed to the courthouse to replace someone who became too ill to serve, I thought a mistrial was imminent. In a nutshell, as the New York Post story put it: "The shove, they forgave. The framing was another story."This is a story we thoughtfully followed for you all week long here at Warden's World, but due to recent staff cutbacks we were unable to send anyone to physically cover the trial itself. Instead we've had to make do with reportage from the local papers, the all-news radio stations and of course The Internets.

It took the jury three days of deliberations to reach its decision, but according to John Eligon of the Times, none of them was available for comment following the trial. Pogan also left without commenting, wearing a "blank stare" following the verdict. And Long declared himself satisfied with the jury's verdict, in part because it would prevent Pogan from joining the police force again -- but curiously went on to say, "I don’t think he ever really intended to assault me.”

But even that bit of double-talk was not the most bizarre statement following the outcome. Predictably, that honor went to defense attorney Stuart London, who showed he would have fit right in with the Bush Justice Department -- if not Soviet Russia -- with his Orwellian declaration that even though his client made false statements,
"The important part to remember is, regardless of what’s on these documents, if at the time you filled them out you believe you’re being truthful, then that’s really all that should matter."
What a load of crap! That's what law schools are teaching these days? That the facts of a case or the truth about what happened do not matter as much as what the arresting officer "believes" he saw?

No, the important part to remember here, despite the testimony of what a born liar and coward like Pogan and the opinion of a paid, professional prevaricator like London, is that before multiple videos surfaced, it was the 150-pound cyclist charged with attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct stemming from what the 260-pound police officer apparently believed happened during a critical mass protest on the evening of July 25, 2008.

In conclusion, we submit that Exhibit A of why lawyers are almost universally detested is serial bad cop enabler Stuart London. All remains to be seen is whether the sentencing judge sees fit to set his own precedent against cops who have a problem with telling the truth despite being under oath.



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Justice Delayed

THE JURY IN THE CASE of the ex-cop charged with knocking a cyclist down in Times Square two years ago is apparently still deliberating -- with the fate of Patrick Pogan's next four years resting in its hands. Pogan's very freedom depends on whether the jurors believe the minute-long video of the event in question, or instead feel cyclist Chris Long somehow deserved to be violently body-blocked off his bike for not heeding the cop's order to pull over.

I know how I'd vote, but since I'm not on the jury, the real question is whether enough citizens see it as the abuse of power that it is -- or do they feel this specific "agitator" deserved to be made an example of in some way? Few arrests have more of a visual record than this one, but does it still come down to which lawyer spins the character question better?

Got the all-news station on, but nothing about the case. The News had a short piece in yesterday's paper, the Times nothing since last Friday. The cop's already off the force, having resigned once the video reared its blessed little head, and now faces the additional falsifying evidence charge after trying to cover up what actually happened leading up to Long's arrest.

Just when I was about to sign off, I check the good old New York Post website and sure enough there's news as of 11:46am. Big News. Seems a juror got sick, putting the brakes on deliberations as the tabloid's headline cleverly puns. Now the trial's on hold while Juror No. 9 gets her act together. Why is it always Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine? Now an alternate is en route to the courthouse, while the rest of the jury sits around and waits, and Pogan does the same thing not too far away but far more nervously.

Yet why do I have a sinking feeling he gets off with no jail time, if not scot-free? Experience, perhaps...


Monday, April 26, 2010

Candid Karma

WHEN LAST WE LEFT ex-cop Patrick Pogan in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday, he was taking the witness stand in his own defense, testifying about what happened on July 25, 2008 that ultimately cost him his job, the day of his confrontation with a cyclist in Times Square. Today he's scheduled for cross-examination by the prosecution.

What makes this such an interesting legal case is that, before footage of the incident emerged, it was the cyclist charged with assaulting a policeman; afterward, it was the cop on the defensive, the undeniable visual record leading to Pogan facing charges of assault against the cyclist Christopher Long, as well as falsifying the arrest record -- charges that carry up to a 4-year prison sentence.

The one-minute Youtube video of the knockdown taken by a tourist has been viewed well over 2 million times. Without the video, it's "troublemaker" Long looking at jail time, with his word against a fresh-faced rookie cop in just his 11th day on the force.

The video clearly shows the cyclist trying to swerve around the stationary cop in the middle of the street, but in his testimony, Pogan would have jurors believe that, "At that point, I know he’s going to try and use that shoulder against me. He’s going to try and come through me using the force of the bicycle." Nice try. But he went on to claim that his blatantly offensive move was “to protect myself from possible injury."

Pogan, who lives in Long Island, is a walking poster boy for why all big cities should have residency laws for police and fire departments. Without this video, he'd still be on the job and bullying or even framing who knows how many otherwise innocent people. Which isn't to say the cyclist in question is an angel; Long was discharged from the Army for marijuana possession, and earlier in the trial according to the Times, he testified "that he had struck and killed an elderly pedestrian with his car in North Carolina."

But Long -- who sued the City for over a million dollars but settled for $65,000 -- isn't the one on trial here, it's Pogan, who resigned from the force when the video surfaced. On Friday he defended his admittedly "very extreme" action as necessary to stop what he called the "professional agitators" on wheels -- but his sergeant is on record saying that his instructions to Pogan were to watch, not to interfere with the demonstrators.

MY ONLY PARTICIPATION in anything resembling a critical mass ride was quite different. In the mid-1990s I would commute to work 2-3 days a week on my bike, going from Astoria, through Brooklyn via the Pulaski Bridge, then take either the Williamsburg or Brooklyn Bridge into lower Manhattan. Along the way I'd sometimes meet a mountain bike chick named Bridget who lived in Greenpoint and also worked in the City, and she told me about a ride called "Time's Up!" that started in the Village and went to Central Park to protest the presence of cars there. So being equal parts a fan of Bridget and an opponent of urban pollution, I couldn't resist, and after work one afternoon I shot down to Washington Square and met up with Bridget and a few -- emphasis on few -- other like-minded souls.

The amazing thing was that, due to trouble on previous so-called critical mass rides, we had a full-fledged police escort in the form of 3-4 scooters and 2-3 cop cars. So we had clear sailing up 6th Avenue all the way to the Park, despite having no more than 20 participants on our end, and more like 17 if I remember correctly. It gave me a chance to chat up Bridget, who looked real good on her bike, especially the way her thick brown pony tail bobbed along under her helmet.

But when we got to Central Park, the whole mood of the thing quickly changed. Some of the cyclists were getting real confrontational with drivers, who according to the cyclists were supposed to be out of the Park by 7:00 pm. The bikers were banging on the side of the cars, ordering them to leave and yelling BREATHE IN, CARS OUT! BREATHE IN, CARS OUT! I was immediately turned off by the childish behavior, because while I sympathized with what the bikers were trying to accomplish, the methods they were using to get their point across would obviously prove counter-productive; these drivers would remember being insulted, and who knows they might take it out on the next person they see riding a bicycle, perhaps running him or her off the road just for spite.

So that left a bad taste in my mouth, and I peeled off from the group shortly with Bridget as we took the Queensboro Bridge "home" -- me to Astoria, she back over the Pulaski Bridge into Brooklyn. I ran into her a few more times and asked her out again, but nothing became of it. I definitely never went on another protest ride, but somehow the New York critical mass movement would take off without me. And if it never reached the epic tide of the San Francisco ridership, judging by the numbers seen riding alongside Long on the Youtube video, it certainly took off from the very early stages 15 years ago when "we" could barely scrape 20 riders together in one place.

Also, according to a new survey by the group Transportation Alternatives, New York City now boasts more cycling commuters than any other city, with its 236,000 daily riders a 28 percent jump from last year -- an increase partly attributable to the 200 miles of bike lanes installed over the last three years. Ride on!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Original Sin City

JUST GOT BACK from a great dinner with some friends at a local Spanish restaurant, El Olivo. After a few pitchers of Sangria, somehow Sodom and Gomorrah came up, so I told what I know about it from my recent reading about the Bible. Well, the story of the righteous Lot, his salty wife and horny daughters is a real hoot, and it is kind of unbelievable the first time you hear it. But Holly in particular didn't believe the part about the townsfolk wanting to have sex with the two angels, or the juicy bit about Lot's daughters basically date-raping him after they beat it out of the wicked city. Richard Dawkins uses the story to great effect in his unapologetic atheist apologia The God Delusion, which I just finished. He uses it as one of a number of Biblical "myths" that illustrate what a retributive, capricious and petty deity the Old Testament God could be.

But let's go to The Wikipedia. It's all there, or now here as the case may be:

In Genesis 18:2, God sends three men, thought by most commentators to have been angels appearing as men,[1] to Abraham in the plains of Mamre. After receiving the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah, his wife, God reveals to Abraham that he will investigate Sodom and Gomorrah, because their cry is great, "and because their sin is very grievous."[20:21] In response, Abraham reverently inquires of God if he would spare the city if fifty righteous people were found in it, then forty-five, then thirty, then twenty or even ten, with God affirming he would not destroy it after each request, for the sake of the righteous yet dwelling therein.[2] The two angels of God proceed to Sodom and are met by Abraham's righteous nephew Lot, who constrains the angels to lodge with him, and they eat with his family.

Genesis 19:4-5 describes what followed, which confirms its end (RSV):

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of
Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them (KJV: know them, RSV: know them, NIV: can have sex with them , NJB: can have intercourse with them)."

In response, Lot refuses to give his guests to the inhabitants of Sodom and, instead, offers them his two virgin daughters to "do to them whatever you like." [Gen 19:8]NASB However, they refuse this offer and threaten to do worse to Lot than they would have done to his guests. And they lunged toward Lot to break down the door. Lot's angelic guests rescue him and strike the men with blindness. Then, they command Lot to gather his family and leave, revealing that they were sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. As they make their escape, the angels command Lot and his family not to look back under any circumstance. However, as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with fire and brimstone by God, Lot's wife looks back, longingly, at the city in defiance of the angels' specific command not to look back and she becomes a pillar of salt.

Lot left Zoar and retired with his two daughters to a cave in an adjacent mountain. In Genesis 19:30-38, Lot's daughters who in their mind were taking responsibility to bear children to preserve Lot's family line, got their father drunk enough to have sexual intercourse with them on two consecutive nights, with each becoming pregnant. The first son was named Moab (Hebrew, lit., "from the father" [meh-Av]). He was the patriarch of the nation known as Moab. The second son was named Ammon or Ben-Ammi (Hebrew, lit., "Son of my people"). He became the patriarch of the nation of Ammon.

And here's the fan favorite Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in official Bible-ese, straight from Genesis 19, which is not the 19th studio album by Phil Collins' old prog-rock band, it just seems as ancient. So take heed as applicable and don't say God didn't try to warn all you sinners.

Okay, who brought the Manischewitz?


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stop Your Messing Around

WELL, IT'S JOLLY DOWN to the big Specials show tonight at Terminal 5. That's right, 6 of the original 7 members are back and touring, playing some festivals, some New York dates, and they'll be back for a free show this summer at Central Park (August 22). Try to make the scene before the scene makes you.

In all honesty, somehow I wasn't all that pumped for the show until I read a piece this morning in amNewYork, one of the local free papers. Then it hit me: It's the FUCKING SPECIALS, Man -- the Ska originators of classics like Message To You Rudy, Concrete Jungle, Too Much Too Young, Monkey Man, Do the Dog and my personal favorite Gangsters -- and that's just from their first album, the damn-near-perfect 1979 masterpiece produced by Elvis Costello. They've released records since then with the "new" lineup -- everyone except for Jerry Dammers, admittedly a huge part of the band as chief songwriter and keyboard player, as well as the driving force behind 1984's In the Studio, basically the last release by the first incarnation of the band. But even without Dammers, 6 out of 7 ain't bad.

I never got to see them live the first time around, in their prime. Remember showing up to Hurrah's hoping to get in one night around 1980-81, but no dice. Hurrah's was a small club to begin with, holding maybe 300 souls, so it was futile on my part to show up that night sans tickets expecting to get in. I did see The Specials in 1994, though, at Irving Plaza, and as I've written it was one of the most enjoyable shows in my long musical existence -- audience and band alike feeding off each other like few concerts I've been a part of. That was over 15 years ago now, which itself was about 15 years after their first record. Funny how it all worked out.

So I expect nothing less than a brilliant performance from the band, playing the first of their two nights at Terminal 5, a venue I've never been to. My friend Steve has been giving me a hard time for choosing The Specials over The Thermals, a good new band which are also playing tonight -- calling it Arena Rock and an exercise in nostalgia. But I disagree with him on this one. Legends are legends for a reason, and you shouldn't pass up an opportunity to see one before they go the way of all flesh. As guitarist Lynval Golding put it, "Six people wanted to celebrate 30 years of The Specials, while Jerry wanted to do his own band. Now we're all doing what we want to do. Democracy worked." Amen to that. Meanwhile, Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Removing All Doubts

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

THIS GREAT OLD ADAGE, usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln, has been consistently violated lately in American political discourse, both by a chronically misinformed citizenry and an out-of-touch punditry -- nowhere more so than when it comes to the phenomenon known as the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party. There were rallies all over the country on Tax Day, and the mainstream media is finally taking a good hard look at what it is, why it is, and just who is attracted to its virulently anti-liberal and anti-government sentiments.

Toward this end, on April 15 the New York Times assembled a small gaggle of commentators online, charged with getting to the bottom of What Tea Party Backers Want. Besides giving a good cup of tea a bad name, we know what they don't want -- to shut up and accept the results of the November 2008 election -- and we can guess by their all-white composition and more blatant displays of racism that they're not too keen in general on a black man in the White House. As expected, the "experts" gathered here are think-tankers and academics -- with some going on record as believing the Tea Party will have a Ross Perot-like impact on the upcoming midterm elections and further out in the 2012 presidential campaign. Others make way too much of a recent poll indicating a "significant percentage" of so-called Independents and Democrats are Tea Party members; and a "longtime political consultant" called Douglas Schoen thinks they're more diverse than they're portrayed and that it's somehow "extraordinary that close to 1 in 5 Americans call themselves Tea Party supporters." Why? That means over 80% thankfully are NOT identifying with Tea Party simpletons!

I'm not a longtime anything except old, but I think if anything there will be a backlash against any politician getting too close to this lunatic fringe.

But my candidate for hands-down dumbest take so far on the nascent-but-already-irritating Tea Party was a March 4th column by David Brooks, which found the Times' token conservative digging at the dreaded Pop Sociology well again. His modus operandi in such pieces is to come to a conclusion first, then retrofit the "facts" that fit his thesis. Last week, for instance, in a column titled "Relax, We'll Be Fine," he uses a few stats about population and income trends to back up a feel-good notion that "the U.S. is on the verge of a demographic, economic and social revival." None of it rings true, with the following paragraph an example of what might best be described as Brooks' very un-Toffler-like brand of future schlock on display:
"As the world gets richer, demand will rise for the sorts of products Americans are great at providing — emotional experiences. Educated Americans grow up in a culture of moral materialism; they have their sensibilities honed by complicated shows like “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” and “Mad Men,” and they go on to create companies like Apple, with identities coated in moral and psychological meaning, which affluent consumers crave."
Brooks' whole essence of American Exceptionalism, like most sheltered conservatives, can be boiled down to, If Americans are doing it, ultimately it's good for the world, because Americans always mean well. That's the only way I can make any sense of what he's saying.

He's been on an awful negative roll lately, just mailing in column after clueless column. And people are noticing. On April 7 Brooks reflected on the NCAA Championship game, using the prism of "spoiled" Duke versus "underdog" Butler to postulate on Bigger Issues in American society. Not a bad concept, but Brooks uses it to hammer home his point that the rich and successful are who they are for a reason: they work harder than the poor. It was great to see Matt Taibbi calling him out for this elitist rubbish on his excellent True / Slant blog. In "Let Them Eat Work," Taibbi as you might expect does not hold back:
"I would give just about anything to sit David Brooks down in front of some single mother somewhere who’s pulling two shitty minimum-wage jobs just to be able to afford a pair of $19 Mossimo sneakers at Target for her kid, and have him tell her, with a straight face, that her main problem is that she doesn’t work as hard as Jamie Dimon.

Only a person who has never actually held a real job could say something like this. There is, of course, a huge difference between working 80 hours a week in a profession that you love and which promises you vast financial rewards, and working 80 hours a week digging ditches for a septic-tank company, or listening to impatient assholes scream at you at some airport ticket counter all day long, or even teaching disinterested, uncontrollable kids in some crappy school district with metal detectors on every door."

But back to Brooks and his observation that the current Tea Party = the 1960s Antiwar movement. That claim is somehow even more offensive than his usual outlandish and off-base flights from a reality-based universe -- which obviously is saying something.

A proposal this bad needs a catchy title to match -- and "The Wal-Mart Hippies" does the trick. I'm shaking my head as I type the words here, but Brooks' childish position, that "The Tea Party’s raging against the machine echoes an older radicalism from the opposite end of the political spectrum," is absurd on the face of it. All too typically, Brooks presents little to no evidence to back it up -- making his column the reliably fact-free space on the New York Times' op-ed page that it's become.

After noting that both movements aim to "return power to the people, upend the elites and lead a revolution," he concedes there are many differences, including one being of the right, the other the left, one motivated by a war, the other by government spending. But then he plows right ahead toward his conclusion, claiming that "the similarities are more striking than the differences." This is where an editor should have shot down the idea before Brooks wasted everybody's time, because he uses the rest of the piece to prove no such thing.

Again wildly throwing around concepts in the hope that a few of these stereotypes might stick, Brooks finds great significance that both groups believe in what he calls "mass innocence," defined as: "Both movements are built on the assumption that the people are pure and virtuous and that evil is introduced into society by corrupt elites and rotten authority structures." What mass movement has members that don't believe in this? It's like a horoscope in that it's so general that it applies to everyone from Jehovah's Witnesses to the Black Panthers.

The remainder of the column is filled with gems like "members of both movements have a problem with authority" and want to "destroy the corrupt structures and defeat the establishment." Trees died for these observations, to paraphrase one legendary negative book review.

His tiresome conclusion is that the Tea Party will eventually self-destruct because they're shortsighted like '60s radicals were and therefore are not true conservatives, because "to remedy our fallen condition, conservatives believe in civilization — in social structures, permanent institutions and just authorities, which embody the accumulated wisdom of the ages and structure individual longings." See, according to David Brooks, the Left blew it back then "through their own imprudence, self-righteousness and na├»ve radicalism." I guess the Left just didn't see the "wisdom" of the Vietnam War which the "just authorities" of the time like Nixon and Kissinger were insisting was worth 55,000 dead Americans to preserve civilization as we know it. Glad that's been cleared up for us.

This March 4th column drew 261 comments on the Times' website, a healthy amount of traffic but nowhere near the 500-600 other opinion pieces regularly attract. (Today's Frank Rich column for instance already has 580 comments.) That alone should tell his editors something. Maybe it's time to give someone else his valuable op-ed real estate. It has to be at least on the table if there's anyone on the ball minding the store.

Quite a few rightfully indignant readers responded forcefully to Brooks' brand of hogwash, some of them upset that Brooks would even make such a boneheaded comparison. Like all good writing, I only wish I'd have thought of some of these Comments first, but it's enough to know others are thinking along the same lines. Here's a few choice ones that show there are plenty of people not buying what Brooks is selling:

We need a serious analysis of the Tea Party folks, but we won't be getting it from Mr. Brooks' pop sociology. The inchoate, but real and dangerous, rage of the marginalized white working-class grows out of 30 years of working harder and getting nowhere while the top 1% has grown ever richer and, alarmingly, less white--symbolized by Obama's election. As ever, Brooks wants to analyze American society without mentioning class or race, and so misses the target by a mile...

...There is little, if anything, about the Tea Partiers that isn't ugly. All too often, stupid, simple people, looking for simple solutions and simple slogans - being manipulated and courted by demagogues, dolts, and one very dangerous dame. And by the way - the New Left of the 60's touched an entire generation, and encompassed not only the politics of the major political parties - but also social justice movements for women, Afro-Americans, Native Americans, Indigenous peoples worldwide,as well as the oppressed and the exploited everywhere...
...David, the fact that The Tea Party Movement has people on Medicare and Medicaid complaining about the government's involvement in health-reform sums up their unbelievable (and frightening) intellectual ineptitude and proves that they truly lack any organized goals, objectives or ideas to have a legitimate debate. So I think it's shamefully egregious to compare the followers of MLK Jr. and others who championed civil and social freedoms, equality, love and acceptance - to 'people' as egotistical, zealous and uneducated as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and their Fox News addicted, Tea Party zombies.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea Party Tempest

ALTHOUGH I ENJOY ridiculing the Tea Party halfwits as much as the next sentient being, let's be clear that the movement as a whole is no joke. 5,000 of them showed up in Boston to see their patron saint of cluelessness, Sarah Palin, regurgitate the same old talking points. Palin like Glenn Beck is dangerous only because people take what she has to say seriously -- despite or who knows anymore maybe because of her disturbing propensity to make things up as she goes along.

In Washington today, attention junkie Michele Bachmann went for the jugular, using rhetoric loaded with code words to make her point: "We're on to this gangster government. I say it's time for these little piggies to go home ... We need you to take out some of these bad guys." Would it surprise anyone who's read about these meetings to discover that Tea Party loons could be heard chanting, "There's a communist in the White House!" Or that a "fair tax" type would be advocating, "We have got to take the country back by taking back the money they take from us" -- not bothering to explain who would be left to pay for a military budget that incredibly, obscenely is more than every other nation on the planet combined. After all, it takes a lot of tax revenue to win hearts and minds. But sometimes we do much more harm than good in places like Iraq, now seven years after the invasion. And you can make a strong case that we've doing a lot more harm than good lately to the people we're supposed to be helping in Afghanistan, to the point where you can't help but think it's high time for the U.S. to get the hell out of both countries. But the Tea Party loudmouths selectively fixate their outrage elsewhere. As an AP story about the rallies put it:
"Lost in the rhetoric was that taxes have gone down under Obama. Congress has cut individuals' federal taxes for this year by about $173 billion, leaving Americans with a lighter load despite nearly $29 billion in increases by states. Obama plans to increase taxes on the wealthy to help pay for his health care overhaul and other programs."
But then again, logic, reality and reason are not the strong suits of the simpletons gathered under the Tea Party banner. Facts are not likely to get in the way any time soon where the Tea Party is concerned. Republicans now own whatever ugliness comes out of it when all the heated rhetoric brews out of control and boils over into violence. Because it's a matter of when, not if...


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jokers To The Right

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions."
Thomas Jefferson

I stole that great quote out of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, recommended reading for oh just about everyone alive, which I am 100 pages into now and really digging. But of course Tom could have been talking about the current state of the Republican party and its scary outer-right fringes in the form of Hate Radio and the equally loud and obnoxious Tea Party.

I don't know what disturbs me more -- the nerve of these people to pretend we didn't just have an election, or their frightening ignorance on most issues. And let's just say their spellin' ain't so hot either, if the once-fine art of sign writing is any indication. If ever a political movement needed a roving proofreader, by golly these Tea Party folk will have to do until something worse comes along.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Guam Overboard!

BY THE WAY, HANK, the next time you feel like pontificating publicly on a subject which you know absolutely nothing about, it might be a good idea to assign one of your staff to at least print out the pertinent Wikipedia entry. If you had done even that bare modicum of due diligence, you would have discovered basic facts like the island of Guam is 30 miles long, between 4-12 miles wide, and has been inhabited, sans major geological disaster, for the last 4,000 years. That would have cut down some on your stumbling preamble, which, while masterfully demonstrating your ignorance, nevertheless pales in comparison to your beyond-ridiculous assertion that the collective weight of human beings might pose a threat to a land mass. It's a wonder Manhattan island has lasted this long, what with the millions of overweight tourists coming to the city every year.

The real story here might be how Admiral Willard keeps a straight face while the Georgia congressman floats his outlandish capsize theory: "My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize." Instead, with great restraint, Willard replies, "We don't anticipate that." Classic comeback!

Congressman Fears a Guam capsize with extra U.S. mili
Link to story here

Proposed new tourism campaign: "Come to Guam, but please step lightly!"

Friday, April 02, 2010

Holy Fool

IN WHAT MIGHT INITIALLY SEEM an odd subject for a blog entry, nevertheless today I submit for your approval the case study of one garden variety New York City subway nut, a street crazy, a ranting raving rambling spewer of random nonsense. Or was there a meaning to the seeming madness...? Stay tuned or, better yet, scroll down.

Here it is a day later and I still can't quite get over the encounter with this April Fool. I was coming home on the W-train early yesterday afternoon when he got on at Queensboro Plaza and got off at Astoria Blvd. just 5 stations later -- yet in between he carried on a nonstop soliloquy that entertained and/or bewildered half the train car depending on your tolerance for this sort of behavior. The thing is, this guy wasn't rambling at all, but extremely focused and obsessed, loud but not threatening. After a few minutes of his monologue it dawned on me that he was in all earnestness carrying on a conversation with Christopher Columbus in the form of his statue located on a small traffic island outside the Astoria Blvd. station, at turns imploring and exhorting the legendary explorer to:


This went on the entire time, with absolutely no break in the "conversation" as he faced the doors of the train, looking out, I would guess hoping for a glimpse of his hero at the earliest possible moment. Kids were moving closer just to hear what this guy was talking about. I used my cell phone to surreptitiously film three 15-second videos of this guy, but even though he was only about five feet away, it was still too far to pick up anything more than a low rumble with a few distinctly audible CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUSes, from a grand total of at least 100 mentions of his name during the short ride.

He was a tall white guy about 50, his clothes slightly disheveled but clean so not homeless. From behind I could see his glasses: huge square frames last popular circa 1979, and dirty lenses so enormous they should have come with a pair of venetian blinds or even windshield wipers. When he got on the train he was already carrying on a conversation so at first I thought he might be talking into one of those pitiful Bluetooth earpieces. But it became obvious after a minute that this guy had no need for a cell phone, the Internet, cable TV or for that matter friends.

Sure enough he got off at Astoria Blvd., mere steps away from his destination. Not to get all Oliver Sacks on you here, but I think some of his behavior might stem from somebody close to him, his mom maybe, insulting him recently; patronizingly or condescendingly asking him if he could manage to find the Columbus statue off the train stop as if were an imbecile, and now he was lashing out at that person publicly via his strange, sarcastic imprecations to old Chris. I think that's what his monologue was really all about. Or maybe he was just off his meds. Either way, if he gets this worked up about tiny Columbus Square, I hope he never finds out about the Monument in Columbus Circle or all hell might break loose.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ducks Out Of Water

"I was the goddam manager of the fencing team. Very big deal. We'd gone in to New York that morning for the fencing me
et with McBurney School. Only, we didn't make the meet. I left all the foils and equipment and stuff on the goddam subway." Catcher in the Rye

McBurney event isn't for another month (if I decide to attend), but with a day off yesterday and a Knicks-76ers game in the hopper for the evening, nostalgia was the order of the day as my fellow "Highlander" Johnny Starr and I decided to hold our own mini reunion-slash-J.D. Salinger tribute a little ahead of time. So with that in mind, we met in front of the old landmark facade (all that's left of the grounds) on West 63rd Street at 2:30 and hit Central Park with plenty o' time to take in the sights and sounds on a summer-like pre-spring afternoon.

If you really want to know the truth of it, the school itself closed shop in 1988 -- a piece of New York history gone forever after 72 years. Ten years later they announced plans for a condo tower to be built over the original five-floor building, and sure enough in 2000 there she rose 40 floors up. There's your progress in action, yes sir.

The old YMCA is still next door, where we had our locker rooms and shared the pool, gym, etc., with everyone else. We couldn't remember if the pool was on the 3rd or 4th floor, but we did manage to walk right past the front desk and wander about, trying unsuccessfully to find the cafeteria, the barbershop where me and 3 other members of the wrestling team shaved our heads one fateful morning, the cramped stairwell all the teams ran up and down as a punishment drill for whatever infraction or shortcoming the coaches came up with...

Right across the park wall is the rock where all the heads in high school would congregate and do their thing. Beyond was the rough patch of green between softball fields where we held football practice every day. The whole field was fenced off on this day, probably being resodded, and as we later discovered, so was the entire Sheeps Meadow.

The ducks were indeed alive and well and seemingly content in the Duck Pond, perhaps distant relatives to the ones the real Holden Caulfield would have ruminated about while spending 9th and 10th grade at McBurney in the '30s. Much later in the day we stumbled on the Carousel, still a New York bargain at only 2 bucks a ride, where Catcher's pivotal scene plays out: Holden for once totally in the moment, at peace with himself, watching his sister Phoebe on the Merry Go Round.

GOT TO THE GARDEN at about 7:00, then hung out at the Play by Play watching the start of the game on the bar's big screen until John's friends showed up, which was well into the first half. We didn't actually get to our seats until well into the second half. Which was just as well, because my pathetic 76ers, clad on this night in their eyesore all-red uni's, couldn't get it done yet again, losing 92-88 -- even with the Knicks missing their two best players in David Lee and Wilson Chandler.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Desperate Measure

I SOMEHOW MISSED THIS STORY when it came out, but a blog I follow, LIQCity, had a post about it. Seems a 38-year-old Greek guy, distraught over his very sick mom, over losing his job from taking time off to be with her, over his house being foreclosed -- you know, little things like that -- leaped to his death from a Long Island City condo tower last Saturday. Anastasi Calatzis evidently posed as a prospective buyer, then, while the real estate agent was showing him an apartment on the 25th floor, he texted his brother, asking him to take care of mom, waited for the agent to turn her back, and calmly jumped from the balcony as if he had planned the whole thing out. Another overwhelmed soul overcome by unforgiving circumstances in a city that can seem heartless even in the best of times.

The LIQCity post included a link to the hideous New York Post, where, in typical nutzoid fashion, some sick fuck in the newsroom made the appalling editorial decision to accompany their story with a photo of the condo tower and a big red arrow pointing down from the 25th-floor terrace to the street below where the poor guy landed. What is the purpose of this? In case you didn't have the mental capacity to figure out which direction a person falls from 25 stories up, the Post is there to help with its asinine diagram. Anyone who buys this dying tabloid needs to have his head examined. If it was free I wouldn't use it to wipe my butt if I ran out of toilet tissue.

In a not-so-unrelated matter, I happen to detest the very idea of these Astoria high-rises and the selfish yuppie scum that dwell therein, but hey that's just me; I'm only born and raised here. I'm not breaking any new ground here, but Astoria has become inundated with these self-absorbed hipsters who think they've discovered some authentic urban landscape, who come here from their small towns trying to "make it" and within 5 minutes consider themselves native New Yorkers. I've had it with these oh-so-interesting-in-their-own-minds "indie rocker" types who live four to five to an apartment and go out in packs frequenting all their favorite new sushi joints and fusion bistros and organic health food emporiums in the neighborhood, probably looking down on all the uncultured locals. They haven't earned that right yet. If anyone's gonna look down on Astoria dumbasses, it's me. But I really don't need to see Astoria or Long Island City turning into the new Williamsburg or Park Slope. Doesn't do a damn thing for me but drive the cost of everything up.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

I Work, Therefore I Am

TODAY MARKS A WEEK of workdays at the new, albeit temporary job. It may be premature to justify labeling me some kind of fancy Leading Economic Indicator, but the current stretch is by far my most intensive period of employment in well over a year. And that's nothing to sneeze at, mostly because with no health coverage of any kind, how can I afford to even cough?

Followers of this very space undoubtedly already know that in a previous life I worked at the same place for over 15 years -- which meant for better or worse I knew exactly where I was going almost each and every weekday morning. Technically, we're talking three different offices in three different office buildings: first 99, then 100 and finally 67 Wall Street. But my point if there is one is that freelancing is almost diametrically opposed to working at The Transcript all those years -- now day to day, even week to week I have lit'rally no idea where I'll be, and not in any existential sense either. Although sure, there's some of that too. Maybe a lot of it. But characteristically, I digress.

It's a very quiet office where I'm at now, bordering on monastic with its long stretches of silence and its hushed, almost reverential tones. I'm situated between three or four obvious veterans of the company, who speak their art department jargon over and around me. They're keeping me fairly busy with material, except for today which was deathly slow, but there's a Mac on my desk that I can use. After three days last week and two this week, still no feedback of any kind, which is unusual but not unheard of. I always like to explain my edits to the person on the other end, that's just the way I was raised.

I quickly discovered there's no affordable eats around the 60th & Madison area where I'm currently stationed, so for my first lunch excursion I foolishly grabbed a hideously lukewarm "hot" dog from a street vendor on Fifth Avenue near Central Park for 2 bucks. Next day let the record show I made my way to the more egalitarian confines of Lexington Avenue, where the food choices were sure to multiply exponentially. I was rewarded for my wandering, conveniently happening upon a thriving outpost of a dining establishment that evidently can trace its lineage back to none other than the Original, Famous Ray of antiquity. I made my way inside the bustling dining hall and took advantage of one of the house specialties: an Italian dish known as pizza pie. For a reasonable cost of two-dollars-fifty-five per individual slice, it's well worth the trip to partake of this traditional, hearty ethnic fare whilst sitting among my fellow working men and women, who I daresay are as unassuming and convivial a lot as the denizens of any large city you're likely to encounter no matter how wide your travels. In fact, I can say with some degree of certainty that this branch of the Ray's family culinary empire shall serve as my go-to locale for regular midday caloric intake.

Finally, let me close by relating to you my Readers that after one such luncheon, as I leisurely perambulated back to the office, I had a real-live celebrity sighting -- if, as I do, you consider PBS' long-time talkmeister Charlie Rose such a notable personage. Let me also pass on that as I espied Mr. Rose slowly shuffling along the Avenue, he looked quite the worse for wear, even acting a little bewildered as he piteously clutched a rather large beige valise. Then I remembered old Charlie had major heart surgery not too long ago. So there's that too.


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Sex A Peel

upon a small cache of Avengers DVDs at the Lincoln Center library a couple of weeks ago, and ever since it's been a veritable Emma Peel Marathon in my living room. With about 4 episodes per DVD, I've worked my way through about 8 of the hour-long shows, and see no good reason to stop now.

More to the point, is it just me or is it every male of a certain age's fantasy to be harshly interrogated at the hands -- or better yet leather boots -- of the smashing, winsome Mrs. Peel, played to perfection by Diana Rigg? I mean, WNTFL (what's not to fucking like)? With the possible exception of the sumptuous Julie Newmar as Catwoman in the 1960s Batman TV series -- also usually clad not uncoincidentally in a tight black leather jumpsuit -- nothing spoke to my already quite disturbed preadolescent psyche like watching Rigg as the take-charge Emma Peel dashing across the TV screen and beating up villains. Oh yeah and Patrick Macnee as debonair spy John Steed was pretty good too. I looked 'em up on Wikipedia and was glad to discover that he's still alive, in his late 80s now, while Diana Rigg is still kicking at 71.

I took out two DVDs from 1965 and one from '67 -- the latter episodes being in color. But you know what: I like the black & white joints much better. Now, my family didn't even have a color TV set until the early '70s, so growing up The Avengers and everything else was in black & white, and maybe that's why I prefer the series in B&W to this day. (I know there's an Avengers movie starring Uma Thurman, but Uma really doesn't do anything for me so I never got around to seeing it.)

There's one Avengers episode called A Touch of Brimstone that was supposedly banned in the U.S. for a while, yet was the most watched episode in series history in the U.K. when it aired in 1966. It's the one where Emma Peel goes undercover as a dominatrix called the Queen of Sin! AYFKM (are you fucking kidding me) or what? Coming across that episode would be akin to finding a great prize in your box of Crackerjacks when you were a little kid -- only now you have a better way to celebrate. No, believe it or not I've never been in therapy; why do you ask...?

And I didn't put together that clever little video here combining two of the finer exports 1960s England bestowed on the world: the original Avengers TV series and The Kinks. But I wish I had thought of it first. What I'd really like to find is a decent Time Machine in working order and beat it back to Swinging London a la Austin Powers. Until then I'll have to "beat it" here.