Stranded starfish have no place to hide

30 10 2012

Some of us are fine, some of us are not.

My neighborhood was barely hit: a lot of twigs, a fair number of branches, and a few trees down, but as far as I know, no flooding, no fires (Breezy Point!); there is electricity up and down the block.

As a weather nut, I thought of biking over to Red Hook or down to Coney Island to see what I could see, but then I thought, Well, if the police are doing their jobs, they won’t let in looky-loos like me, and besides, I’d only get in the way of work crews. Most importantly, the folks in the washed-out areas didn’t need a dipshit on a bike photographing them in their distress.

So this dipshit went to Prospect Park, instead.

The park got hit, and much worse than during Irene, but for the most part the damage was here-and-there, not overwhelming-and-everywhere.

Still, the clues to the damage were apparent at the Parkside entrance to the park:

Then right inside the entrance, a number of downed trees:

I went less than a mile and shot a bunch of downed trees, but after the fifth or eighth tree, I decided I didn’t need to shoot every sideways tree.

Still, I did take a few more shots. There’s a pavilion near the southeast corner of the park that I really like, so I checked to make it sure it was still standing and found this striking shot:

This tunnel leads to the bridge near the Audubon Center, so I trekked through to see how it fared:

It’s fine, as you can see.

I then made my way back to the road and circled the park. Leaves and needles and twigs  spackled the road, and in a few spots snapped trees blocked a lane, but at no point was the road completely blocked. There were plenty of walkers and runners and a few bikers, and dogs were eagerly pulling their people hither and yon.

Trucks were lined up along the west side of the park and crews were already beginning to chainsaw branches and chip up the mess.

And then, because I’d been sitting on my ass for over a week due to a bent back, I decided to take a few laps around the park in order to remind my body that it did, in fact, still move.

At the top of the second lap I stopped for a shot of the magnificent Grand Army arch and framing columns:

This part of Brooklyn, at least, still stands.

I planned on another lap or two, but the rain spat on that idea, so I headed home. I saw a couple of snapped trees on the way back, but, again, most of the houses and streets seemed to be in good shape.

The major concern for me at this point is how to get to work. The tunnels are flooded, and while I could grab a Q over the East River to Union Square, it’s not clear if any 4 trains would be running in either direction. My office in lower Manhattan and CUNY are both closed, but I don’t know if CUNY will be opening its campuses before the trains are back in service; if so, it’s not clear how I’ll get up to the Bronx.

Eh, I guess I’ll worry about that later; nothing I can do about it now. That maddening phrase makes a certain kind of sense, now: It is what it is.

Of course, it’s easy to say that when one’s home is intact and powered, and all its inhabitants safe.





Red rain is pouring down: FrankenStormMageddonLypse!!! (Mayan campaign mashup 2012/We might as well try combo edition)

29 10 2012

That headline may not be long enough.

Anyway, I was going to lead with snark—I snapped a coupla’ pics yesterday that showed precisely nothing happening, weather-wise—but since the air pressure has dropped so much I can feel the blood pulsing in my face, my snark has dissipated  right out the window.

The bite, however, the bite remains, so of course I’ll chew on Mitt Romney’s ass for suggesting that the federal government get out of the emergency management business:

First Romney says: “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. [emph added] Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

“Including disaster relief, though?” debate moderator John King asked Romney.

His response:

We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

Makes perfect sense to worry about the well-being of those in the future, because using the federal government to keep people safe now certainly is craaaazy.

Two further thoughts: One, such sentiments indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of business, which is to make money. How will business make money from people who have none? Who is going to hire these private actors to clear trees and debris and search for survivors and bodies and repair roads and bridges and homes? If the feds don’t step in to pay these folks, who is going to do it?

Which leads to the second thought. Romney and his ilk may want to send this responsibility back to the states, but how many states can afford to take on this responsibility?

(And a third, stray, thought: weather tends to stray across state boundaries, so some kind of supra-state entity—like, say, FEMA—to coordinate responses might just make sense.)

If a President Romney (may these two words never be joined) were to get his way, it probably wouldn’t affect me all that much. I live in a wealthy city in a reasonably wealthy state, so if any place could take care its own, it would be New York.

But Louisiana? Misssissippi? Alabama? Screwed.

That ain’t right. No, I like neither the weather nor the politics of these places, but they are a part of the United States and the people who live in those states deserve both security and dignity. And if their states can’t or won’t provide it for them—if those same people vote for politicians who don’t care about their security and dignity—well, then, goddammit, the rest of us, via the federal government, should.

Let me be as explicit as possible: Not only do I not mind that my tax dollars would go to states and localities which may want to have nothing to do with my kind, I think my tax dollars should go to those places, if that’s where the need is.

And no, I don’t expect them to be particularly grateful, if only because citizens of this nation should expect that their fellow citizens will take care of them.

Because that’s what it means to be a citizen: To take care of one another, to take care of where and how we all live with one another.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: I ain’t no limburger!

28 10 2012

John Sununu, Romney surrogate and White Man, discerned the only possible reason for Colin Powell to have endorsed Barack Obama:

SUNUNU: You have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or that he’s got a slightly different reason for President Obama.

MORGAN: What reason would that be?

SUNUNU: Well, I think that when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being President of the United States — I applaud Colin for standing with him.

That’s some mighty fine deduction, John—may I call you John? Feel free to call me Absurd—so I hope you don’t mind if I extend your logic.

You’re a white man, right? Thus, by your reasoning—and I want to give you full credit for this calculus, John—according to your logic, the reason you’re voting for Romney is because he’s white.

Wait, there’s more! Clearly, you are a man, as is Mitt Romney, so, again, applying your own logic, you’re voting for Romney because he’s a man. (Since both Barack Obama and Colin Powell are men, I guess this one is a wash.)

I gotta bit of a corker for you, John. I’m a short white bisexual woman voting for a tall black heterosexual man.

What does this mean?!

Okay, sure, I’m a leftist, so perhaps that whiteliberalguilt thing is at play; does this mean you’re voting for Romney out of whiteconservativeguilt?

(And what is whiteconservativeguilt, anyway? Isn’t that just resentment?)

And that I’m a woman—HolyMaryMotherofGod, what do I do with this? I mean, it’s obvious, as I noted above, that you’re voting for Romney because he’s a man, but why oh why would I as a woman vote for a man?

I mean, that’s. . . that’s. . .that’s absurd, isn’t it?

There must be something else going on, right, John? John? Hellooooo. . . ?





Rage against the machine

28 10 2012

Tina Fey said that if she had “to listen to another grey-faced man with a two-dollar haircut explain to me what rape is, I’m going to lose my mind.”

Don’t do it, Tina, don’t lose your mind, or you’ll end up JUST LIKE THEM.

This isn’t funny, not in the least—although I did laugh, a bitter, bitter little laugh.

Y’know that overused phrase, there are no words?

THERE ARE NO WORDS.

Only rage, ice cold rage.

~~~

This version of the chart from Brainwrap at ElectaBlog (h/t Dan Savage, The Slog); original chart by connecticutie at Daily Kos.





Listen to the music: Just as I turned to go

25 10 2012

I came late to Laurie Anderson, but I started listening to her, I listened with a vengeance.

I chilled to the ha-ha-ha-ha of ‘O Superman’, smirked at the line Put your hands on your head/Put your hands on your hips, chanted along with her chants, stretched my neck out and sighed at her serious absurdities. I used lyrics from three of her songs to head up chapters to my dissertation.

Un-hip-ily, my favorite cd is her most accessible, Strange Angels, mainly because of two songs: ‘The Dream Before’ and ‘Ramon’.  The first introduced me to Walter Benjamin’s angel of history:

She said, What is History?
He said, History is an angel
Being blown backwards the future

She sung this lightly, sadly. The image isn’t her’s—it’s Benjamin’s—but in this song, it’s her’s, all the same.

Lyrics from ‘Ramon’ made it into my dissertation, a song so odd and, yes, sad and right to the point of it all:

So when you see a man who’s broken
Pick him up and carry him
And when you see a woman who’s broken
Put her all into your arms
Cause we don’t know where we come from
We don’t know what we are

I used this for the last chapter, trying to come up with some way to make sense of what I had just done in trying to make sense of our biology and our technology and our existence, and this lyric, in all its uncertain and unknowing wisdom, seemed to make more sense than everything else.

I don’t always live up to this—I almost never live up to this—but this still seems to make more sense than almost everything else.

~~~

10. Laurie Anderson, Big Science
11. Laurie Anderson, Strange Angels
12. Laurie Anderson, Bright Red





I hate the asshole I’ve become

24 10 2012

 

I was an asshole today. Nothing major, but still: an asshole.

I generally try not to be an asshole, but, as happened today, I often fail. And I don’t write about these failures because they are shameful; being an asshole is shameful.

Sometimes I can go back and apologize, which, while not erasing the assholery itself, can mitigate its effects. Sometimes, however, I miss the chance, or I think I’m right and I think I’m right and then the twinge and then the shame and then. . . too late.

So, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being an asshole.

I’ll try harder not to be an asshole, but I know I’ll fail. And sometimes I’ll apologize and sometimes I won’t—sometimes because I won’t recognize that I’ve just been an asshole and sometimes because I don’t want to admit that I’ve just been an asshole.

Which is pretty much the definition of an asshole.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Which side are you on?

22 10 2012

I have no idea how this debate will play.

Obama seemed strong* to me, Romney less so, but, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Romney supporters thought he won.

And the undecideds?

Oh, do you want to hear another curse-filled rant? No, I am not feeling kindly toward those folks who haven’t decided between Romney and Obama.

Deciding between 3rd-party candidate (conscience) and Romney or Obama (compromise)? Okay. Between voting (principle, ideal) and not voting (resignation)? Okay.**

But between Romney and Obama ? Not okay, because in this case there are clear policy differences between the two candidates, differences which will not change between now and election day. If you don’t know if you want Romney or if you want Obama to be president then you don’t know what you want.

Oh, I’m picking on those poor undecideds, who insist that they’re really high information! Really!

Consider Buzz Bissinger, who’s so, so disappointed in Obama and so, so dispirited by his first debate performance that he’s decided to support Romney:

Buzz: But what has been the Obama policy? It seems it has been to use government to create jobs. I agree with it to some degree, [emph added] like the auto bailout (although GM still owes taxpayers about $50 billion), but government cannot become our major employer. That is not what America is about. And I think fundamentally that is what Obama thinks America is about — government as a social engine.

Jamelle: There’s no evidence anywhere that government is on our way to becoming the major employer. In fact, the economy has lost 600,000 public sector jobs in the last three years. It’s been a huge burden on the recovery, actually.

Buzz: I have absolutely no issue with Obamacare. It was right and it was bold. [emph added] I do think the costs are going to be far more prohibitive than we think. Placing cost containment in the hands of a panel is a joke: It never works.

But didn’t the stimulus and the auto bailout, all funded by the government, create private sector jobs?

Jamelle: They did, but that’s not the same as the government becoming an employer. If I get $100 from the government, buy some stuff, and that allows a business to hire more, those new jobs aren’t “government jobs.”

Buzz: You are splitting hairs. It is the government as the funder with taxpayer money.

. . .

Buzz: Call me a naive idiot, but I think Romney does care about a hundred percent of all Americans. More than Obama. All Obama is doing now is pandering to the middle to win. He does not like the wealthy, even though he has been fairly kind to them tax wise. [emph added] He has created class warfare. The wealthy in this country are not outsiders. They are not pariahs. They are part of the country. He treats them like outcasts.

Okay, unlike your interlocutor, I’ll call you a naive idiot. Especially when you continue to blame the president for the obstructionist policies of the Republicans in Congress and complain that he hasn’t done enough to reach those Republicans while simultaneously complaining that he hasn’t been tough enough.

Oh, and for saying that what really did it was that first debate performance: “I will never forgive Obama’s performance.” [emph added]

Actually, naive idiot [emph added] might be too kind.

And then there’s Scott Adams, who’s turned on the president over the continued war on drugs:

One could argue that the President is just doing his job and enforcing existing Federal laws. That’s the opposite of what he said he would do before he was elected, but lying is obviously not a firing offense for politicians.

Personally, I’d prefer death to spending the final decades of my life in prison. So while President Obama didn’t technically kill a citizen, he is certainly ruining this fellow’s life, and his family’s lives, and the lives of countless other minor drug offenders. And he is doing it to advance his career. If that’s not a firing offense, what the hell is?

Romney is likely to continue the same drug policies as the Obama administration. But he’s enough of a chameleon and a pragmatist that one can’t be sure. And I’m fairly certain he’d want a second term. He might find it “economical” to use federal resources in other ways than attacking California voters. And he is vocal about promoting states’ rights, so he’s got political cover for ignoring dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal.

So while I don’t agree with Romney’s positions on most topics, I’m endorsing him for president starting today. I think we need to set a minimum standard for presidential behavior, and jailing American citizens for political gain simply has to be a firing offense no matter how awesome you might be in other ways.

And the evidence that Romney would be better than Obama on the drug war? He’s a slimier bastard than the president!

I don’t care if these guys are voting for Romney, I really don’t, but when Bissinger claims he’s a high-info voter and Adams waves the rationality flag in support of his support for Romney, I have to wonder if we have the same understanding of the meaning of “high-information” and “reason”.

~~~

*Not that I loved everything he had to say (defense spending, drones drones drones) or didn’t say (anything about Mexico, Latin America, the drug war), but I’m not put off by a moderate-liberal Democratic president not veering too far off the America-is-aces path—given our politics, it’s gotta be done.

**Won’t explain tonight why it’s different—maybe because these are more forthrightly mood-affiliation choices as opposed to those which are allegedly about policy. Maybe if the undecideds were more honest about the fact they don’t know what they want and are simply waiting for their pleasure-buttons to be pushed I’d be less frustrated. But probably not.





Listen to the music: Can’t stop the music

21 10 2012

C. told me to rip all of my cds before I got rid of them. If I got rid of them.

I don’t know that I would.

I understand the reason—it’s the same reason that I’m filing away the bibliographic info on all of the printed out scholarly articles I’m going to toss: don’t lose what you have—but there’s something. . . satisfying about an irrevocable purge.

I had tapes of my favorite albums, but I didn’t rush to tape everything else before I got rid of my vinyl. (And I got rid of almost all of my tapes when I left for Montreal.) No, my attitude was what’s done is done, and no use hangin’ on just to hang on. No point in fetishizing the past.

I do that, fetishize objects—most obviously, my books. It’s damned near impossible not to imbue objects which deliver meaning with meaning themselves, and as long as the deliveries retain that meaning, I”m not too worried about my affection for the objects. But when the possession itself becomes the point, well, that’s when I need to rethink matters.

There were a few people who tried to talk me out of getting rid of the albums, certain that I was throwing away irreplaceable treasure (i.e., vinyl), but as I told them: I have a shitty stereo system and I hate it when the needle skips, and I see no particular worth in having to turn the album over after 20 or 25 minutes. Besides, I didn’t really listen to this stuff anymore.

That was the real reason to get rid of the albums: These were singers and groups I’d listened to since I started collecting albums, and my tastes had changed. There were a few albums that I replaced with cds—by Rickie Lee Jones, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, B52’s, Violent Femmes— but most of them? Nope. Done. Goodbye.

I don’t regret it.

Of course, if I really wanted to, I could find clips of those bygone songs online, but I’m fine with leaving them all behind. When something ends, it’s good to let it end.

I had a moment, in some cases, a long moment, with those albums, and those moments don’t matter any less just because they’re over. This is something to which I am slowly reconciling myself, that something can happen for the time being, and that being in time may be enough, may have to be enough.

I don’t know whether this particular musical moment is over—that’s the purpose of this listen-through, to find out—but if I’m no longer moved, there’s no point in pretending otherwise.

But I’d like it not to be. I’d like still to be moved.

~~~

Listened to thus far:

  1. *Joe Acker, The Times and Places of Love
  2. Afro Celt Sound System, Volume 2: Release
  3. Air, Moon Safari
  4. Air, 10,000 Hz Legend
  5. Akufen, My Way
  6. Luther Allison, Blue Streak
  7. Altan, The Blue Idol
  8. Tori Amos, Under the Pink
  9. Tori Amos, Strange Little Girls

*Joe was one of the aforementioned downstairs neighbors who decided to shed the jewel cases. He and his wife Tara were great neighbors, early on kindly letting me use their shower when mine went on the fritz. We got to know one another hanging out in the yard with their amazing dog Gracie, and then hanging out in their apartment. They gave me a key to their place so I could take Gracie out during the day or let her out at night if they were getting home late. We lost track of one another some time after they moved out—last I heard, Tara was pregnant with their first kid—but they remain one of my few good memories of Somerville.

And yes, the cd is nice, too. Joe and Tara (who was learning mandolin) were deeply interested in Americana music, and invited me to listen in when they invited friends-with-strings over to play old-timey tunes, but the cd hews closer to the singer/songwriter folk/rock style, which well-display Joe’s meticulous guitar skills and honey-warm voice.





Listen to the music

20 10 2012

I have a lot of cds.

Eight hundred? Nine hundred? Somewhere thereabouts. Not as many as true obsessive, but, y’know, plenty.

I almost never listen to them.

Oh, I used to, oh yeah, all the time. In grad school I had a cheapo mini-system on to which I could load 7 cds and let ‘er ride. Music accompanied my descent into and out of depression (multiple times), and one of my preps for dissertation-writing was picking out the cds which would take me from, say, 8pm-2am.

I was never much for 45s, but when I hit junior high I started hitting Helen Gallagher’s (the requisite black-light/poster/music shop which dotted small-town malls way back when) for albums. I asked for Foreigner for Christmas and my best friend J. and I listened to her brother’s REO Speedwagon live album (DOOT doot doodlo-doot) over and over again. D. and I would sit in her brother’s bedroom and listen to Pink Floyd and AC/DC (Bon Scott era), and in a junior high art class I carved a KISS sculpture out of a bar of soap.

It was pretty much hard and classic rock all through high school (93 QXM? QFM? out of Milwaukee)—a lot Who, AC/DC (Brian Johnson, this time), Led Zep, Yes,Rush,Loverboy—as well as my aforementioned beloved Supertramp, and then, when MTV hit, what was then called alternative music (mainly British post-punk bands).

I bought albums at Helen Gallagher, I bought albums up and down State Street in Madison. I bought albums at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis. And then when I decided to run away from grad school, I decided to sell all of my albums.

I bought cds instead.

I had just a few (20? 30?) when I hied on out to Albuquerque, maybe double or triple that when I slunk back to Minneapolis, where I was a regular at the Electric Fetus as well as a few other dusty shops in the Whittier neighborhood. I bought punk and post-punk and new wave and jazz and soundtracks and classical and electronica, then expanded into funky new-wave Nordic music and dub and neo-soul and soul and 1960s-era American and European singers and a few blues cds. I hauled boxes and boxes and boxes with me to Montreal, then set out to buy even more.

I ended up buying hundreds and hundreds of cds in the shops along Mont Royal and St Denis and Peel—but this was due in no small part to my apartment having been burglarized my first Thanksgiving in the city. Hundreds of those cds were replacements, but hundreds more were music which was recommended to me by music clerks and friends and stuff I’d heard on the McGill and U of Montreal radio stations and read about in the alt weeklies. I picked up Daniel Boulanger and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sam Roberts and Athena knows how many chill cds.

I listened to it all.

My cd-buying fell off when I moved to Somerville, in part due to my reduced financial circumstances, but I still hit up shops in Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston, adding both replacement and new stuff. I had so damned many cds that they overflowed my (generous) storage; I followed my downstairs-neighbors’ lead and took them all out of their jewel cases and just kept them in their sleeves in boxes.

Which is how I transported them to New York. I bought a few cds here, but the urge to survey the scene fell off and never returned: my desire for music had always been abstain-or-binge, but for the past few years I simply haven’t been interested.

It’s not even that cd shops are scarce: there are still plenty o’ joints in the East and West Villages where I could score tunes if I wanted, and, of course, I could always download stuff.  Nor is it that I hate all new music: I think Lady Gaga has fine set of pipes and I’m charmed by Adele and and Janelle Monae is somethin’ else and I’ll hear bits on WNYC or in stores and think Oh, that’s nice.

But the urgency, the need, to own music is gone. I don’t even bother buying music by acts I already know I like—Emmylou and Beth Orton and GY!BE—much less feel that I have to make any effort to find something new.

C. has said that there really is nothing new out there, and I think she may have a point. Some of the newer stuff I like sounds a lot like the music I listened to in the 1980s, so why not just listen to the old stuff? The one genre in which I have bought stuff is classical and (a very few cds of) opera, and that because it is all new to me.

It’s not bad that my enthusiasm has waned—more money for books!—but it is a loss. I loved music, loved listening to it and thinking about it and searching it out and sharing it and dancing to it and everything everything everything. I’ve lost something I loved.

So, I have a plan. I’m going to listen to every cd I own, in (rough genre-and-alphabetical) order, to re-acquaint myself with the sounds that once so moved me.

I’m not trying to recapture my youth (hah!) or somehow go back in time, but given how much this all once mattered, it’s worth it to see if I can recover or rediscover what was once there.

If not, if it’s gone, then I’ll let it go, I’ll let it all go.

But I don’t think it’s gone. I think I just need to crouch down and put my face close and gently blow those fading chords back to life.





We might as well try: Come to me, come to me, set me free, set me free

18 10 2012

Oh, for the love of all that is greasy and salty!

A federal court strikes down DOMA and Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast complains that the decision is. . . wait for it. . . too good.

TOO GOOD.

I’m a good American leftist, which means that I’m gloomy and pissy and rarely accused of optimism, but c’mon! This is is win!

Okay, maybe only a temporary win, maybe five members of the Supreme Court will decide that the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment doesn’t mean equal equal, y’know, equal for anyone who isn’t all regular and equal and everything (remember: gotta see the downside), but as Michaelson himself finally notes, “when it comes to the high court, you really never know.”

Oh really? After arguing that the standards of scrutiny two recent court rulings invoked in their reasons for overturning DOMA won’t be accepted by the Supremes, he finally gets around to noting:

It’s also worth stepping back from the legal details in cases like these. Intermediate scrutiny, narrowly tailored, suspect class … these legalisms are often critical to how the case turns out, but they don’t get to the human heart of the stories. What these cases are really about are widows like Edith Windsor who deserve equal rights. For her, of course, this case is an unqualified victory.

(Am I being churlish if I note that the victory is not “unqualified” if, in fact, the Supreme Court overrules it? I am not, because that is a matter of fact, not speculation. Unlike the rest of Michaelson’s higgledy-piggledy piece.)

I take inordinate pride in my scowl, and the side-eye I give the world is not an act, but even I think we leftists, liberals, and fellow-travellers might do ourselves a favor if we remembered the old cries of We want bread and roses, too! and If I can’t dance I don’t want to be a part of your revolution.

If we can’t find joy even in our wins, why the hell would anyone else want to join us?

Let’s leave the bitterness and fear to those who want to make our world smaller.

Let us be large. Let us embrace the whole, wide, messy world. Let us laugh and gambol around in the sand and leaves and snow. Let us throw our arms out to our fellow human beings and say there is so much more to to all of us, so much more for all of us.

Let us all be something more.