Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Live Blogging - 9:50pm EST

Okay. Here's how it is.

The Islanders have beaten the Rangers 3-1 at the Nassau Coliseum. Stick it to the man, I say!

Furthermore, it's very late and I'm letting my baseball-crazed 7 year-old son stay up very late to watch Game One of the World Series. Does this make me a bad father? Thanks to Chase Utley - Phillies are up 2-0.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


So we're all gonna die in 2012, right?

Oh, you didn't hear about this one?

Well, silly, in case you're behind things, Hollywood's special effects crap machine is about to release a multi-million dollar film about the world coming to an end. It's called '2012'. Watch the trailer, especially if you've been having a good day you'd like ruined.

Why is the world coming to an end? Why not? - I say.

Yes - 2012. The year it all goes ppphhuhhtt. Being an insomniac I catch a lot of 3am TV shows on the History Channel about the various prophesies that predict mankind will perish in 2012. Apparently, the world of crazy is hot to trot on this idea.

But why 2012? Surely there must be some empirical scientific evidence leading to this very dire conclusion. Right? WEEELLLLL, not exactly.

The interweb/television crap juggernaut have been sold on the idea that the Mayans devised a calendar that concluded with all earthly life ending in December 2012. The Mayans? You mean those guys who thought they had to carve out living, beating human hearts to make the sun rise? Yup, those guys. Ah, okay. Got it.

Everyday Americans toil with the unavoidable reality that our lives are going to be worse than the lives of our parents. Hollywood, a corporate arm of the corporate plague that keeps us down, exists to distract us from this awful reality. Usually they take to this task with a Vince Vaughn / Jennifer Aniston formulaic romantic-comedy brain-death. But here, they've created a film to help you soil your pants with the notions of an improbable end to tomorrow rather than letting you tangibly look at the reality of the now.

I suppose I'd break it down like this: as the 20th Century unfolded, mankind became deftly able to eliminate itself through nuclear Armageddon. Naturally, this is a scary thought, so we're conjuring celestial events like this 2012 nonsense to alieve ourselves of the responsibility that if the world explodes, it's our fault.

So shop for 2012's Christmas. Imagine the alternative:

"Honey, I love it."
"Do you?"
"Well,'s not my size."
"Yeah, I know - you's just that I thought the world was going to come to an end...and when it didn't...there were no more left in your size."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ghost Ships - Part 3, Baltimore

These are in Curtis Bay in Baltimore harbor. Amazing that such a smattering of wreckage can be found in a modern busy city's waterspace.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Photograph

"A stone has been cast into the reliable, immutable pond of the past, and as the ripples subside, everything appears different."

What's the point of digging up the past? Occasionally on this blog, I'll unearth some artifact from my youth. These are usually photographs of Memphis or some odd paperwork or letter that's resurfaced from the abyss of my cluttered closet. I occupy an indefinable space with these things and I let them haunt me. From lost time, they begin to elicit questions and it is the impossible task of answering these questions that I write about here. If I've learned anything, it's that the past is a viper pit, an endless path of unanswerable questions down which one can become utterly lost. This is what lost time is all about - descending into that which has been vanquished but wanting it all to suddenly make sense.

So does it do any good to dig up the past? In Penelope Lively's The Photograph, the answer is decidedly 'no'. Glyn is a widower, an professor of archeology, who happens upon a photograph of his late wife in an embrace with her sister's husband. It is clear to Glyn for the first time that his wife, Kath, had been unfaithful.

But what does Glyn do? Does he discard the photograph and relieve himself, his sister and brother-in-law of this emotional quandary? Well, being an archaeologist, an academic sort who lives in a world of piecing, somewhat unemotionally, the past - he begins to dissect this mystery. Ultimately his process inflicts more harm into the lives of all involved that it was probably worth.
As I am often my own worst archaeologist, I felt an unease as I read on and on in this book. Each character has his or her own unravelling as a result of this photograph's unearthing. This is almost half mystery, half character study and an amazing, unforgettable book.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whitestone Ghost Ship

This wreck can be seen when you're on the Bronx side of the Whitestone Bridge (looking west). It's incredible that in a busy New York City waterway, something this big can lie abandoned for so long. If anyone knows the story behind this ship, I'd be very curious to hear it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ghost Ships

These are a couple of pictures I snagged off of Bing Maps. I'm pretty sure if you click on these, a larger picture will come up.

I don't know the name of this ship (it looks like a ferry of some sort). It's located on the Delaware River in downtown Philadelphia, just north of where Spring Garden and Columbus meet. I saw this last weekend when I was dropping my wife off at a baby shower taking place in one of the brand new luxury towers incongruously placed right next to this relic. There's an interesting contrast in this shot - the looming tower of luxury starting to eclipse the decaying craft:

This second one is the late SS Aquarama, taken in Buffalo, probably around 2005. This vessel was a troop ship during WWII and then was converted into a cruiser on the Great Lakes. Click here to learn more about the late Aquarama (from Forgotten Buffalo).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Some months back, when The Shelf shared its commentary on the old, long forsaken USFL, little did I know that we’d see the return of yet another attempt at professional football, the UFL. The UFL is like the USFL-lite - they're only four teams. Honest to goodness, who in their right mind thinks that these things are a good idea?

So here we go:

California Redwoods. I’m trying to recall a time when a team was named after a plant and I’m coming up dry. You have to look at this logo a long time to make out the R it attempts to portray. It looks as though one of Braveheart’s loyal men attempted to shield himself from Zorro the Gay Blade…oh yes, and Zorro’s using a Black & Decker router instead of a blade.

Florida Tuskers. Here we have Orlando’s team, so let's all get Disney! And fitting too, that their logo features The Lion King’s Pumbaa, only now he’s hopped up on meth readying himself for another signature Florida home invasion.

Las Vegas Locos. We should begin by noting that Locos here is short for Locomotives. Because when you think Vegas you think trains, right? No? You think lapdances and gambling? Yeah...I suppose I do too. That said, my immediate reaction to this Loco Logo is that they are trying to convey the Spanish 'loco', being crazy. Now I know, I know, I know I’m supposed to see the front grill of an old timey locomotive engine here – but honestly…tell me you’re not thinking LA street gang when you see this?

New York Sentinels. I see this logo and all I can think of is Lego Knights. For a long time, my son was batshit for Lego Knights. We had them all – had the books and everything. The Green Knight’s name was Sir Rascus and he was the first one my son got. Now, my son is obsessed with baseball and Sir Rascus has gone the way of the partially disassembled, long forgotten toys, much like the New York Sentinels soon will be.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Allman Joy

It recently only took a very brief stay in the Bronx for my Mazda to be relieved of its antenna. With my radio now neutered and spayed, I had to resort to the long neglected CD’s that have taken up permanent residence in my glove compartment.

This morning I was pleased to find these two live CD’s – The Allman Brothers Band, First Set and 2nd Set (thanks to ssshmaly for group photo above).

Since the early 1990’s, this band (one of the survivors from the late 60’s) has existed solely to continue their geriatric live performances. I have seen them three times. The first time was the summer of 1994 at Mud Island Amphitheatre in Memphis, TN. Great show - the duration of which I found myself shirtless and Icehouse-ed. The second time I saw them was Spring of 1995 at Radio City. I had strep throat and a fever. The third time I saw them was for one of their annual shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York City 1996.

The Allman Brothers are the perfect merger of blues, country, soul and R&B. Whereas Lynyrd Skynyrd (and other such folk) venture too far into the trailer park of rock-n-roll, the Allmans have always established that, although they are country boys, they are equally rooted in Miles Davis as they are Muddy Waters or Sonny Boy Williamson. There has always been a moody contemplative element to their music that has made them unique and has anchored my adoration.

I often wonder what would have happened had Duane Allman not died in 1971. I've mentioned him before on The Shelf. This question ranks up there with the many impossible questions that keep me awake at night (could America have been saved if Bobby Kennedy had lived?). Duane’s guitar work was beyond comparison and I don’t think this band ever got passed his loss. That said, Warren Haynes has been his fill in for their modern era and the man is an unfathomably good guitar player.

But thinking back to that third show I caught at the Beacon - it was weird. The crowd I recalled from my first Allmans show in Memphis were essentially drunk shit-kicking rednecks – good fun. But the crowd at the Beacon in ’96 – it seemed overrun with what I uncreatively label 'the Deadhead lot'. The place was floor to ceiling packed with tie-die suburban hippies, obliviously doing that weird gyrating hippie-shuffle I find so annoying.

Now I’ve just plain ol' never been able to get into the Grateful Dead. I’m sorry - I know I just don’t get it. And as a card carrying liberal who’d graduated from a secular northeastern college, I fully realize that I should have a whole host of Grateful Dead credentials, but I don’t. I’m sorry.

Furthermore, I have to say that I get a little kvetched when people lump the Allmans and the Dead into the same category. Granted, I know the Allman Brothers, like The Grateful Dead, are known for long jamming, somewhat meandering songs, but I really find a stark contrast between the two bands. Whereas The Dead seem to exist solely to be trippy, the Allmans are working a deeply meditative and soulful narrative. The Grateful Dead just have always sounded like they're rehearsing one long song that lasts for four decades. Sorry.

For the melancholic beauty of The Allman Brothers Band, I recommend these songs:

Whipping Post
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
Please Call Home
Ain’t Wasting Time No More
Not my Cross to Bear

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Isles of Despair - Part 2

Well, Sports Illustrated have released their NHL predictions for the 2009-2010 season and low and behold the New York Islanders look to come in 15th in the Eastern Conference.

In other Islander related news – their owner Charles Wang (no offense) is pushing his Lighthouse Project. This is actually pretty interesting. The Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders’ current home, is widely considered to be a dump. Both the Islanders and I were born in the same year, a few miles apart. Since their inception, the Islanders have played at that coliseum which now is often referred to as the Nassau Mausoleum, both due to its age and the Islanders decrepit play as of late.

But Wang’s Lighthouse Project would refurbish the coliseum but more importantly, develop a dynamic urban center with self-sustaining housing and shops. I get giddy when I hear about stuff like this. I believe Americans should all live in small houses and drive small cars. If I had practical public transport, I’d prefer it to driving. I know many of my countrymen would label me anti-American for relaying affection for such Euro-aligned views, but so be it.

It’s just refreshing to see this type of change potentially coming to the place that was ground-zero for Robert Moses’ conformist suburban utopia that nearly killed urban America (highways as far as the eye can see, everyone in cars).
I hope this thing pans out. The team’s ability to stay in New York may depend on it. I’m sure the Lighthouse Project is going to get fierce resistance from Long Island hard-liners. To paraphrase one Long Island politician: “Mr. Wang shouldn’t tell us what to do with our town – and we won’t tell him when the Islanders need to start winning again.”

The Nassau Mausoleum, in it's current state:

It's Alright to Cry (thank you Rosey)

Have you ever seen former New York Giant / Los Angeles Ram great Rosey Grier singing ‘It’s Alright to Cry’ in the 1974 television special, Free to be…You and Me?

No? I suggest you do. I suggest you do so immediately. Really, I can’t recommend it enough.

Why did this television special come to be? Couldn't tell ya'. Much of television programming for children in the 1970’s seemed to acknowledge that we were all going through some sort of post-traumatic disorder. It’s okay…you can be you. You’ll get through this Just be you and I'll just be me.

Since rediscovering this clip, I can only say this - There's been an amorphous depressive existential malaise that's been following me since my early teens. I've tried to combat this through exercise or my career. No luck. Now though, I've added a new weapon to the war chest. To combat the blues, Rosy Grier's performance is now permanently bookmarked in my computer.
We should always be mindful of these beautiful lyrics:

It's alright to feel things
though the feelings may be strange
feelings such real things
and they change and change and change
(It's probably important to note that when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan was Rosey Grier who, while working as an aid to the Kennedy'68 campaign, apprehended the assassin).

Two Books - from England

An Academic Question - Barbara Pym - A woman supports her university professor husband, although she seeks some life of her own. She is the reluctant mother to a beautiful daughter (toddler) and she needs an au pair in order to maintain day-to-day sanity.

She eventually steals a research manuscript to further her husband's career. He, in turn, reciprocates by cheating on her. But this is academic England so there's no real need to blow up about it all. Our protagonist idly ponders old loves while weighing if it'd be proper to leave her husband.

Not much really happens in An Academic Question, so I can see why it eluded publication until after Pym's death. I would sum this book up as thus: entirely unlikable characters portrayed amid enormously likable writing.

Aiding and Abetting - Muriel Spark- Two men have entered the offices of psychiatrist Hildegard Wolf. Both men claim to be Lord Lucan, who in 1974, had brutally murdered his nanny thinking it was his wife. (His wife had also been attacked but survived and escaped). Lord Lucan escaped the scene, only to become the stuff of fugitive legend.
The murder itself is a true story, but Spark's brilliance is to place Lucen, and the Lucen impostor against this wonderful foil, the analyst Wolf. But here's the rub...Wolf herself is a fraud. She once fleeced pilgrims who believed she was a stigmatic phenomena. Just as the Lucens are on the is she.

This was a really well constructed fun read. A nice condemnation of the English aristocracy that (really, in real life) had probably enabled the real Lucen to elude capture.