Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Culture Clash

Interesting, isn't it? Everybody going nuts over the alleged Gloucester High School pregnancy pact is from over the bridge*. I imagine the locals are pissing themselves laughing.

Wakeup call. Although Gloucester is another unique community that is being poisoned by gentrification, it hasn't quite succumbed yet. For two years that I'll just call "interesting," I worked as a contract data centre manager there. The critical mass of the people who worked for me were Gloucester women: natives, not gentry. Yuppies, these are not your kind of people, but in a lot of ways they were mine: earthy, flawed, very hard-working. They came out of a society in which being pregnant at 16, certainly by 18, was still common, though not as universal as it had once been. I have no problem at all believing the "pact" idea began as someone having the principal on. When the supremely gullible media, and especially Time, got on to the story the locals must have thought they had died and gone to Heaven.

I don't have quite enough time in the evenings to run down to Pratty's** for a look around, but if I feel the earth moving down here in the next day or two, I'll figure it's the collective laughter of about 10,000 Gloucester natives, having put one over on the entire country, and that dive will be the epicentre.

* If you don't know what that means, you haven't been inside the mind of Gloucester.

** At this link, you have to scroll down a little to get an honest take on Pratty's. Let me put it this way. In Gloucester, if you want a quiet drink, you go to a bar with windows (or the Crow's Nest, now that fame has gone to their heads). Avoid 1) bars that have glass block windows and 2) bars that have filled in the windows with concrete block. Both are signs that one drunk too many has been thrown through the windows. Pratty's is a squat concrete block bunker. You figure it out.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How terribly apropos!

Just walked out on some wingnut on the News Hour, fearful of the legal consequences of people from the 26 Red bastions getting married in California, coming home and filing suit.

Somehow I thought those states were like Iran: they don't have homosexuals (chortle).

But all this recalled to mind a bit of verse I hadn't heard in 40 years, so I surfed around and found it. It is the work of a sardonic mind too often forgotten these days, Richard Armour:

So leap with joy, be blithe and gay
Or weep, my friends, with sorrow.
What California is today,
The rest will be tomorrow.

(I made a particular point of getting an exact quote.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

A different spin on sobriety patrols

I'm the first to admit that it's been many, many years since I lived in Portsmouth, NH. However, I worked there much more recently, and from that I can attest that Portsmouth's drinking habits remain, shall we say, robust.

That's why you can't convince me that only 1.25 percent of Port folk on the roads between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. of a weekend night were so drunk that they should be arrested. And just one stoner? Come on now!

I would have expected the reverse. I suspect a news leak. I imagine this news was posted on every john wall of every drinking establishment in the seacoast area. The ten arrested were probably too shit-faced to read the warning graffiti. That in itself is a sobering thought.

Now of course, the results are published for all the (sober) world to see, so that earnest hope expressed in the story is likely to come true. Some day very soon, the seacoast NH gendarmes and MADD madames will indeed have zero drunk driving arrests in their 10-2 sweep.

All the drunks will smarten up and drink until 2:30 a.m., because nobody in authority can resist having their 15 minutes of fame.

Meat's back on the menu!

It was a sad day during the winter when the new chef at my favourite waterfront bistro decided that the steak bomb pasta was too declasse and took it off the menu.

Voices of protest were raised. Repeatedly. Especially from the bar end of the establishment, where I usually hang out. Even the addition of three more taps failed to mollify the irate mobs of hungry Headers.

I don't know if it was the voices of protest, or the imminent reopening of Maddie's, that prompted the recantation, but I was down today for a business lunch and steak bomb pasta is BACK! In all it's tri-colour pasta, grilled tips, don't ask for the calorie count of the sauce glory!

Happy day!

(PS: my fasting cholesterol was last Friday. Pfft!!!!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I do believe I've had enough

Warning: "When I was a boy" rant from old fart follows.

Time was when conservatism and conservation of resources went hand in hand. In the US, that tendency was probably fueled by guilt over the rapacity of the robber barons on the part of their children and grandchildren. It was one of the few behaviours that made conservatism tolerable.

But no more. If we are to judge by such childishness as "carbon belch day," any form of personal responsibility that involves the environment is out. Rapacity, gluttony and denial of consequences are in amongst those who profess conservatism.

I accept only that unholy trio as excuses for the obstinate denial of climate change, and human involvement in it. The spectacular stupidity of it is that the attitude is much the same as that of the producers of pre-petroleum fuels and lubricants, chiefly lard and whale oil. While the first petroleum producers were applying innovation to provide plentiful, cheap alternative energy, the entrenched interests sat on their hands and watched their monopolies slip away in a decade. Innovation, that little god of capitalism, is on the side of those who are taking on climate change with solutions, not excuses, not witless refusal to accept reality.

The lard-assed whiners may whine all they want, but they are on the sidelines now. The game is for people who are acting and solving and innovating. Too many solutions? Of course there are: that's what a period of innovation is all about. The solutions with staying power will not involve the deniers at all. Their world will resemble the rotting waterfronts of whaling ports in the 1870s, filled with rotting minds that could not accept change.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sic Transit Gloria Pluto

Space is a lot like Earth. They demote you, and then they give you a new job title.

Pluto is now a plutoid.

If I were Pluto I'd take the hint, send out my resume, and find work in a solar system that appreciated me.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Took my meds

OK, two political posts out of the last three is a sign of ill health.

Just to return to normal, I have to admit that my least favourite Red Sox shortstop rose above his level of incompetence today. Shocking, Julie, shocking.

And gad, isn't it cool when Wakefield gets it rockin?

Odd that no one else has said it

So there it was, on a Yahoo take from Bloomberg. The quote that I've been waiting for.

"Obama is a mediocre Chicago politician who voted present more than 100 times while in the Illinois Senate,'' said Linda Mahoney, a paralegal from Silver Spring, Maryland. "Even if he gets a female to run for vice president, we will not vote for him.''

I will carefully avoid every metaphor that comes to mind about the person being quoted: we've had enough of that. I don't want to throw insults, I want to point out that Americans have a completely wrong and wrong-headed set of expectations about presidents. This worked to Clinton's advantage, because she could parlay eight years in an honorary national position, another eight years in an honorary state position, and concurrent terms as a Republican chew toy, into "experience."

Through all this campaign, I have been irresistibly drawn to consider the last Illinois politician with a similar lack of experience to run for, and win, the presidency. His opponents were sure they were more experienced and better qualified. They were perhaps right, so the Illinois politician brought them into his cabinet to get the benefit of that experience. The politician was belittled and reviled by most of his own party and by most of the media for the bulk of his first term. Once he delivered a speech that the most learned speaker of the day recognised would outlast both of them. Not one reporter reviewed it favourably, and the politician himself thought it was a failure.

His gifts of persistence, of patience, of organisation, his genius for making the right gesture at the right moment were invisible to most Americans until after he was dead. They are still invisible to the dogmatists amongst us. Despite those gifts, the Illinois politician did make mistakes. At times, he did not quite rise above his own clay and the prejudices of his time. But he rose just often enough and just far enough to justify the respect in which he is held, long after his own time.

There will be a quiz.

The point about that politician from Illinois, and our current one, is that once in a very great while there is a profound shift in events, and the human race is fortunate when that part most affected by the shift in events, and the person who can ride that shift, come together. They can come together in the most unlikely ways, and the person can be the most improbable one could imagine.

I believe this is happening. We have reached one of those moments when the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. So, my confidence is with someone for whom what was matters less than what lies ahead. No conventional experience is preparation for that.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

There is joy in Mudville

In a week with an above average portion of good news, the word that GM may throw the Hummer over the side may be the best.

If there is any seriousness about dealing with environmental challenges, this thing should be the first to go. The Hummer combines worship of the American road-bound militarism that has helped prevent us from prevailing in most of our wars for 60 years, with a perfectly obscene level of conspicuous consumption.

As the old-timers hereabouts say, "to hell I pitch it."

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Political Confession

I helped elect Richard Nixon in 1968, and with that helped to introduce the republican hegemony that has ruled this country most of my adult life.

Notice I do not say that I voted for Nixon, for I did not.

Many thousands of my peers that year voted for no one. I couldn’t do that, so I did the next worst thing and voted for Gene McCarthy. There: that’s the first time in my life I’ve ever actually said for whom I voted.

People forget or don’t know that George Wallace ran a potent third-party conservative candidacy that year. It was an election that Nixon should not have won. But no: we couldn’t pull together. We cast quixotic votes or stayed home.

Just as the shadow of my modest involvement with the war of that time has cast a shadow over my entire life, so I’ve never forgotten my foolish idealism and its aftermath.

So yes, Clinton supporters. Have your vent, but remember 1968. Consider too that your candidate may have received tens of thousands of votes from people who were registered Democrats for the sole purpose of being spoilers. That's a twisted sort of sexism that the pundits don't seem to address. Only a friend, a recent dweller in West Virginia and not exactly a progressive, would put it into words for me: "most of those people would rather die than vote for either a woman or a black man for president."

I do think Hillary Clinton has advanced womens' opportunities in presidential politics to an unprecedented level, but my inner realist asks Charlie Brown questions: "how many of those votes were sincere votes?"

People more than one degree left of centre have an option, right here, right now.The reactionary hegemony can end now, this year. If it does, it will end for perhaps two generations, far into a changed world in which the politics of hate, fear and division have no further value. Or the hegemony can win another election it should have lost whilst Democrats exercised their penchant for the politics of self-absorption, and perhaps after that there will be no more progressive politics in this country.

Don’t make your decision in righteous anger, but in the cold blood of realpolitik. Whatever you choose, you’ll be living with that choice the rest of your life.

I loved ya, Gene...but in November, I should have held my nose and voted for Humphrey.

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Another Reason to Step back from Nostalgia

As a rule, those of us trained as historians draw a sharp line between history and nostalgia. This can be odd, because people who take up history-related interests as adults are as often driven by nostalgia and escapism as by an interest in getting to the facts of the matter.

What has me thinking about this was a certain amount of teasing about whether I should post a picture of my 1968 self in bell bottoms.

In this case, I was there as an adult, and nostalgia has it wrong. In most of the country, in 1968, the consumers were way ahead of the manufacturers. When the year started, bell bottom jeans were the exclusive property of sailors. As the year went on, demand far exceeded supply. It wasn’t until late in the year that I managed to score a pair, in a store that catered mainly to sailors.

When you have something this desirable and hard to obtain, you tend to be careful with it. For quite a while, anyone lucky enough to own bell bottoms wore them as party wear, not everyday.

Nostalgia has also conflated hippie with mod, the earlier British fashion movement. They came together eventually, but that was in late 1969-1970. For the most part, you wore jeans with fairly austere tops…austere at least compared to the nostalgia.

A couple of years later, I had no problem at all obtaining bell bottoms, but that was somewhat more compulsory.

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