Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Presentation at White Plains Library Documents Germany’s Official Remembrance Policy of the Holocaust

      Photo Courtesy of
HHREC

The genocide of Jews in Germany is certainly not unique in world history. The Rape of Nanking, Rwanda and Manifest Destiny tally a short list that the perpetrating nations would officially like to forget. But in that aspect, Germany stands alone and the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center in Purchase offered a presentation last Thursday at the White Plains Library to acknowledge the manner in which the atrocity is remembered as policy by a nation.

“Germans don't shy away from the Holocaust, they face it head on,” said Steve Goldberg, HHREC’s co-director of education during his presentation of Monuments and Memorials in Germany: Creation and Controversy.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe resides at the Brandenburg Gate where the regime’s beating heart once pulsed. "It's located at the key Nazi administrative center in East Berlin," said Goldberg.

Completed in 2005, the spirit follows in line with the abstract trend that began with the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. Covering 4.7 acres, it consists of over 2,700 rectangular concrete blocks that resemble coffins. But they're all different sizes and not necessarily perpendicular, while the ground and rows are uneven. "It looks orderly but it's not," said Goldberg.

The abstraction coincides with a Nazi state that was lockstep on display, but quite different at its core. “The regime was obviously discombobulated and irrational,” asserted Goldberg of artist Peter Eisenman’s inspiration.

In turn, the monument adheres to Germany's principal spec. "They need to be part of the city and not separated from the main flow of life," he said.

This often has people entering the space to relax and eat their lunch, and while that has led to criticisms, the effect has taken hold. A remembrance started by Gunter Demnig is spreading across the country and is squarely in step to demonstrate the notion.

Stolpersteine, which translates to “tripping stones,” marks the actual spots in bronze cobblestone where Jewish families once lived and the tragic fate befell them.  "Each one is raised a quarter of an inch above existing stones on streets,” said Goldberg, and are hard to miss – if not actually living up to their name, he added.

Unfortunately, in some places, entire streets are lined in the bronze obstructions. Similarly, train stations represent another reminder that Germany doesn't hide from – especially given their role in the Holocaust.

The Memorial to Deported Jews at the Grunewald Train Station in Berlin stages one of the most haunting. An 18 meter rectangular concrete slab, the hollowed out human figures aren’t hard to equate to the hundreds of thousands of disappeared ghosts they represent.

But the art is not all heartbreak. Frank Meisler was a youngster who escaped in a prewar exodus known as Kindertransport. Parents loaded up 10,000 children from the Berlin train station en route for survival in England. “In all likelihood, they never saw their families again,” said Goldberg.

Meisler went on to build five statues to commemorate the transport alongside the daily hustle and bustle. "It's amazing how many commuters stop to take a look everyday," says Goldberg.

Forgetfully, that was also the case during the many Book burning ceremonies infamously held at Humboldt University in Frankfurt, which was the primary academic and cultural center. Today, the abomination would be hard to strike from the record in the square where 451 degrees of Fahrenheit measured the nation’s hysteria. Encased in the ground, a glass covering houses empty bookshelves to symbolize the mania.

Interestingly, a nearby 200 year old plaque foretold how serious this action would be in human costs. "Those who burn books will one day burn people," the German intellectual Heinrich Heine’s words are immortalized.

Of course, the memorials are not only contained to the Jewish plight. Gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled and political prisoners are part of the memorial movement, while the government mandates that children are well versed in the history.
In fact, each child is required to visit the numerous sites and death camps across Germany. "It's just a phenomenon you don't ever see," he reiterated in conclusion.

New York City Indie Music on the Shuttle

Monday, December 28, 2015

J.J. Abrams Haters of Star Trek show their Youthful Inexperience


Donald Trump, the NRA and Two Broke Girls – a lot of the things make me angry. But the hate some Trekkies have for the J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek, and my genesis wave cascades in fury. But I think I’ve found a reason on some counts for their lapse in logic.

Wondering if these kids can steer, I’m going with youthful in experience. They are simply late to the party and missed their elder’s evolution on Star Trek visionary storytelling versus adventure and its penchant for frivolous fun.

Let me begin with new movies.  I’m not really crazy about the two storylines that Abrams came up with. I mean if Nero can time travel to implode Vulcan, why not take the black hole back to Romulus’ pre-nova sun and inject the red matter.  Problem solved, Ahab averted and timeline preserved.

On Into Darkness, as the needs of the many began to reveal themselves, I could not contain my agitated mumblings to the dismay of the audience around me. “I think I’ve seen this movie before,” wrung true as 72 souls in stasis were revealed.

The remake in place, the three dimension strategic thinking that made Kirk roar was severely lacking here.  Was superior intellect really necessary to figure out that Spock was sending torpedoes rather than the expected cryogenics? Apparently this Khan was too smart for his own good.

But the inconsistencies expected in all science fiction movies aside, I love how J.J. Abrams has filled in the backstory that has long been a given and established the comedic baseline that is one of the key backbones of the franchise.  “I like this ship,” the new Scotty says it well.

Of course, the forward thinking and thought provoking vision is pretty much lacking. No kidding.

Probably seeing the movies at too early an age, your generation was simply too young to realize that saving the whales or passing on the end of history did not represent some sort of grand epiphany into the exploration of humanity.  For us in on it from the 70s or before, the movies frustrated us as frivolous romps that substituted Roddenberry’s vision for finding a wider audience on a bigger screen.

Reluctantly accepting the wildly entertaining II and IV, only Star Trek : The Motion Picture is original to the “Human Adventure.”  We know because most of the “action” takes place on the bridge, and the exploration reaches into the soul instead of bursting off the screen.

The 80th episode of the original series in my estimation, dusting off the franchise came up short at the box office, and economics forced the new paradigm.  Fortunately we got Star Trek : The Next Generation and the mission was on again.


So we of the rerun generation have just long accepted that the movies are for the expanse and the series are reserved for the introspection.  Star Trek Beyond and streaming on CBS, I cannot wait to round out my Trek.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Basketball at Its Birth

With its high flying, slam dunking Madison Avenue image, the NBA looks as similar to its origins as a Playstation Xbox does to Atari Table Tennis. Showtime versus short, white Jewish boys playing in settlement houses and club leagues for $5 a game. "Watch the women play in the WNBA and that's what it was like," says Herman Romash of his playing days, which began at Stewart High School almost 70 years ago.

Winning the Manhattan Championship before losing to Dewitt Clinton for the city title, Mr. Romash lost the chance for a college scholarship when he hurt his knee. He went on to play club basketball for Union Temple at the 92nd street "Y" with other college players in the absence of any pro leagues. "It was a game," he said. "It wasn't a business."

Part of the culture sprung up around the settlement houses created for youth during the depression by Jewish affiliations. "They had camps for underprivileged kids from the east side who didn't know what a tree looked like," he says, and basketball leagues on Saturday nights in the city.

Courtside had a whole different meaning too. After basketball, it was a social event that included a band and a Saturday night dance. "You had it made, spend an evening, and take out a girl," he said.

The pro game emerged in the mid 1940s when a newspaper reporter named Ned Irish began renting out the old garden on 48th street and bringing teams in from around the country to challenge New York City at its game. "He was the guy who put basketball on the map," said Mr. Romash.

Today, 20 to 25 old time, club league, college and original NBA players escape the New York winters and get together every Tuesday for bagels at Shelby's in Hillsboro, Florida. Among the members for the last 20 years, has been original Knicks Ossie Schectman and Sonny Hertzberg, Hank Fishman of LIU and Yeshiva University coach Red Sarachek. "We throw around a lot of rah-rah and BS," he says. But they remember to keep it real.

"These guys are great athletes, much, much better than we were, and if anybody tells you we were better than them, they're just full of it," says Mr. Romash, who detailed these long lost days in his book, A Life's Story. Nonetheless, what he prefers to spread with his cream cheese is how they played a game that required more smarts.

"They shoot the eyes out of the ball," says the summer time New Jersey resident, and nobody passes. Back then coaches like Claire Bee devised intricate game plans and slowed the pace "so you had to think a little bit," he added.

Nobody was biggest than the game either. "Now, if you're Michael Jordan, you can foul and get away with it.  Nobody is going to stop you, because without you, the league is no good," he said.

In addition, traveling and palming calls have been displaced to a degree that coincides with the astronomical rise in the value of courtside seats. "If you bounced the ball between your legs back then, they'd have sent you home," he said, as the rule changes reflect the game's need to capture the entertainment dollar.

Mr. Romash still likes to watch the college game since it retains some of the original purity, but not all of the New York basketball alum at Shelby's shun today's stars. Some love the pro game and watch all the time, he says, while others have lost interest.

But they can all agree on the place Red Holtzman holds in history as a bridge to their past and the game they knew. Holtzman played for Sarachek's Workmen's Circle club team in the early 40s and the end result showed thirty years later. "That team," said Mr. Romash of the 1970 Knicks, "you had to love because they played basketball like we were taught how to play."

Unfortunately, he feels, the basketball fraternity that once existed in New York City between players and fans has all been lost to $215 retro-jerseys and multi-million dollar contracts. "To put it frankly, he says, "if you weren't there, you couldn't really appreciate it," and he knows it's never going to come back.

NYC around and in Grand Central

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Peekskill Girl Goes Retro


These days there can be so much retro in the clothes we wear that the style loses meaning to abundance. By definition, the 1940's and 50's custom-made dresses Alana Felton of Peekskill produces could easily fall into that category. But her Retro Shreds stand the most import test to originality that any girl could ask for.

One of her own biggest customers, she says, "Not a day goes by when some boy asks me out on a date."
At this point with a boyfriend of four years, she's not a taker but her original interest in dress design began on a much smaller scale when she was 10. "I sewed clothes for my dolls," she says.
Eventually, actual sized dolls - like herself - became a fit to her fashion sense. "I learned to sew grownup clothes when I was 16 and it took off from there," she says.
Starting with plaid and mini skirts, her high school interest in Punk Rock was the vehicle that let her time warp to where she wanted to be fashion-wise. It's a short step from old school Rock 'n Roll and then rockabilly, she says. Off that continuum, she took on a new look, and going back to the future, became a business through all the compliments she got from both boys and girls.
Officially, that would be in 2007 when she went to a rockabilly festival in North Carolina with nothing but a dress and a new business card. Nonetheless, she says, "I wouldn't sell my first dress until 2009."

In turn, with a dress like the "Goody-Goody" or the "Going Steady" a Retro Shred can eliminate a girls biggest fear. "You don't want to be caught out wearing something another girl is wearing," she says.
At Chucky Cheese or out to dinner on a date - probably not a big concern, but at a swing convention or square dance, the wrong retro could easily make a chick look like a copy. Starting with seven baseline dresses, she has a long conversation with the client to iron out the right fabric, trims, colors and buttons. So once she buys just the right amount of fabric, it takes a few weeks to make a dress that no one else in the world has.
Of course, what a great gift for a GI to give his girl but should a strong man really know how to sit down with her to custom piece a dress together? A gift certificate is so the boy can pick out a baseline dress for his riveter, she says, and Rosie can take it from there.
Either way, she'll make no judgment as to the fact that he always picks out the sexiest 50's dress, but it evens out as she finds a lot of girls are weary of dropping two or three hundred dollars on her designs.
As is, she sold nine dresses last year in between her work at the Peekskill Coffee House and the Coop at 103 South Division Street . It's just a small business, and I don't really have time to branch out, she says.

On the other hand, if she does get a sudden bump in sales, her wardrobe would be the only thing suffering the shortage of time. I still make most of my own clothes, she says, and I'm sewing all the time anyway. That's just as well, it seems there's no time for boys anyway.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Ato Essandoh of Copper Takes Pride in Role of Real Life African American Civil War Doctor


Ato Essandoh of BBC America’s Copper Takes Pride in Role of Real Life African American Civil War Doctor
 
By Rich Monetti
Ato Essandoh is (or was?) one of these actors who’s face you definitely know but appears before on screen with no name recognition. Movie roles in blockbuster films like Blood Diamond and Hitch have been frequently woven around TV appearances in shows such as Damages, The Good Wife and Law and Order. Most recently, the Schenectady born actor has emerged into a reoccurring role on Elementary with Lucy Lui. But now also playing Dr. Matthew Freeman on Copper has finally given him a permanent place to hang his shingle every week. Set in Civil War New York City, he couldn’t help but continue in that vein in accepting a small part in Django Unchained – even if it meant playing “the method” to a bloody conclusion. Actually mauled to death by a vicious dog as an oft escaped slave, Essandoh gladly met his untimely end in exchange for the chance to work with Quentin Tarantino. At least that’s what the internet reported.
 
Times Square(TS): I’m confused, I heard you were dead.
 
Ato Essandoh(AE): Yes, I’m calling from Heaven. Actually, I’m calling from Hell.
 
TS: Small gruesome role but I guess you really wanted to work with Tarantino.
 
AE: Hell yeah. There was no way I was turning that down.
 
TS: I get it. So you studied Chemical Engineering?
 
AE: Yes.
 
TS: Did you act before then?
 
AE: I didn’t. My girlfriend at the time dared me to do a play. I was on my way to a PhD at some point to become a professor or researcher, but that brought the acting bug out of me.
 
TS: What did your parents think?
 
AE: My parents went crazy but now they see me on TV, and they’re ok with it.
 
TS: I would think so, but when actors complain about the difficulty of their job, do you tell them to go try learning physics?
 
AE: All the time – especially when somebody is trying to memorize lines. I’m like dude, I did organic chemistry. You have no idea.
 
TS:  I studied Computer Science so I have a pretty good idea. Tell me about Copper’s Civil War setting.
 
AE: Outside of Gangs of New York, you have never really seen this side of the city. It was grimy and gritty – just a cesspool of disease and awful people in the Five Points section.
 
TS: Is it Copper as in Cop?
 
AE: Yeah from the copper badges, but the origin is still up in the air.
 
TS: I heard it stands for Constable on Parole. I mean patrol
 
AE: Parole, yeah that was how bad it was. The cops were like a gang too.
 
TS: So when you get this role of a black doctor, do you go look it up?
 
AE: Oh absolutely. I thought it wasn’t possible but there were actually six practicing African American doctors during the Civil War. Educated in Scotland, Freeman was the first with a degree, had a practice and wrote many papers excoriating a lot of the eugenics ideas that were being pushed by people like Thomas Jefferson.
 
TS: What’s it mean to you to play this part?
 
AE: It means a lot, and there’s a notion that it’s hard to be cast in meaty three dimensional roles as a minority actor. But here I am, offered this incredible role that’s not just a token character that appears once in a while to give some token advice or something. He actually has a life and struggles of his own to deal with. That then carries a responsibility to portray this as realistically as possible, and it’s hard not to feel pride that I get to represent this part of African American History on TV.
 
TS: How have you used personal experiences with racism to play Dr. Freeman?
 
AE: What I realize is that because I live in these times I haven’t experienced racism anything like then. So my character can’t pop off like if somebody used the N-word now. There’s a fine line you have to walk because you’d get lynched doing that.
 
TS: Do you have to remind yourself after a scene that it’s Bob the Irish actor who just spewed that horrible dialogue and not a real racist?
 
AE: What is funny, and kind of pisses me off, is I get people who apologize to me before doing a scene. I’ll be like Dude, you’re ruining it – I know it’s fake. Like there was this one actor approaching me, and you could see he was about to apologize. I cut him off – do not apologize. This is the only chance you’re going to get to call me that word and live to tell about it. So have at it.
 
TS: How do you feel about not having much name recognition?
 
AE: I love the anonymity because nobody knows who you are so you can get away with a lot more. Not to pick on Paris Hilton but imagine if she was an incredible actress, but because we know her so well, it would be hard for her to pull off playing - let’s say, Mother Theresa. It also helps in keeping me from becoming typecast, and resulted in all these amazing characters I’ve played.
 
TS: You’ve played the bad guy and the good. What do you like more?
 
AE: I’m a nice guy so to get away with playing a bad guy you have to find what makes you bad, which is way more interesting.
 
TS: Seems like Dr. Freeman is a nice guy.
 
AE: I get a lot of leeway – especially in the second season. He’ll be less perfect, more warts on display, which will make him even more compelling to play and watch.
 
TS: You ever get confused going from Elementary to Copper?
 
AE: I do. Sometimes I’ll be shooting in Toronto til late, and then I’m jumping right on a plane to New York. Dr. Freeman stands and talks completely different from the thuggy character on Elementary. You’re all jet lagged, and you essentially have to get into another body and mind. Then before you know, there’s a cell phone in your hand, and you’ve got to figure out who you are.
 
TS: When is the season premiere of Copper?
 
AE: June 23rd
 
TS: I’m not just saying this, but how do I get BBC America?
 
AE: Call you’re cable company.
 
TS: Thanks, really nice talking to you.
 

AE: Nice talking to you too.

The War on Drugs nothing but a Legal Restructuring of Jim Crow


“Weldon Angelos will spend the rest of his life in prison for three marijuana sales. Angelos, a twenty four year old record producer, possessed a weapon which he did not use or threaten to use at the time of the sales. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the sentencing judge was obligated to impose a fifty five year mandatory minimum sentence. Upon doing so, the judge noted his reluctance to send the young man away for life for three marijuana sales. He said from the bench, ‘The Court believes that to sentence Mr. Angelos to prison for the rest of his life is unjust, cruel, and even irrational.’”

This is one casualty of the War on Drugs. There are millions more and the resulting under caste represents a restructuring of racial control that begin with slavery 300 years ago, according Michelle Alexander’s, The New Jim Crow.

Initially, indentured servitude of blacks and whites was the economic model, but when the Bacon Rebellion aligned each against the planter class in 1675, the original "racial bribe" was issued.

Planters opting for full fledged African Slavery, poor whites received just enough privilege to give them a stake in the new paradigm and American racial politics were born.


1865 requiring the next legal restructuring, Reconstruction’s end revealed Jim Crow as its successor. As in the Bacon Rebellion, the populist movements of the 1890’s resulted in another brief cross-racial alignment, but raising the specter of white supremacy through the KKK reinforced Jim Crow for decades to come.

Scrambling to find a new model in 1964, conservative elements began to tie civil rights unrest to crime. This coincided with the actual rise in crime which was attributed mostly to the sheer numbers of the baby boom generation – with young males always committing the most crime.

But the racial discourse now needed to be coded and Nixon’s rhetoric of "Cracking down on crime" sufficed.  While not resulting in policy changes, the “Southern Strategy” appealed to poor whites who opposed the Civil Rights agenda. The racial divide began once again.

Reagan then seized on Nixon’s initiative. "Welfare queens," “criminal predators” and colorblind rhetoric on taxes and state's rights spoke directly to the demographic Republicans were after.  Kicking off his campaign in Philadelphia Mississippi, where three civil rights activists were murdered in 1964, Reagan hammered home the message. “I believe in state's rights,” he coded. 

In 1982 the drug war began at a time when only 2% of the population thought drugs were the number one issue. Law enforcement funding skyrocketed, while funding for education and treatment plummeted. The administration then launched a media blitz to sensationalize the emergence of crack. 


DEA agent Robert Stuntman’s remembered his role. “The media was only too willing to cooperate because as far as they were concerned, crack was the hottest combat reporting story since Vietnam.”

Falsehoods, such as “epidemic” and “instantly addictive,” highlighted the headlines. As such, the Washington Post admitted the 1565 crack stories run in 1988 showed that the paper had lost “all sense of proportion.”

This coincided with the collapse of the manufacturing sector – escalating the incentive to sell drugs. Alexander wrote, “Joblessness and crack swept the inner city precisely at the moment that a fierce backlash against the civil rights movement was manifesting itself through the drug war.”

By 1991, the House appropriated $2 Billion to fight the war. The public fully complying, 64% deemed drugs the number one issue but with no discernible rise in drug use.

The penalties followed in kind with five year mandatory minimum sentences for first time possession of crack, and the prison population exploded.

Clinton exasperated the situation, angling to appear even tougher on crime with three strikes laws and a doubling down of the drug war to capture white swing voters. Clinton implemented Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, which imposed a lifetime ban on welfare or food stamps for a felony drug offense, which included marijuana possession.

The erosion of 4th amendment rights paved the way - the groundwork laid in 1968. The court ruled that if an officer observes “unusual conduct” in someone believed to pose a threat, a search is warranted. Known as the “stop and frisk rule,” only Justice Douglas dissented.  “Granting police greater power than the magistrate takes a long road to totalitarianism.”

Still, people must consent to a search – not realizing they are allowed to refuse. In fact, the court acknowledged in Schneckloth vs. Bustamonte that the practice would likely end if those being targeted were aware of their rights.

Traffic violations then provide addition fodder for the current system of control. Given that it is nearly impossible to cover any distance without violating something, police discretion is the main criteria.  Based on the racial makeup of our prison population, the target is obvious.

Finally, almost no cases go to trial, and prosecutors can dismiss or “overcharge” at their leisure. That leaves defendants compelled to plead guilty to lesser felonies in the face of mandatory minimum sentences – even they are innocent.

Still facing multiple years, 80% cannot afford representation and public defenders aren’t much help.  The results: prison population has risen from 350,000 in 1980 to 2.3 million by 2008.

And then it begins – the New Jim Crow. Today 5.1 million felons are denied public housing or assistance, discriminated by landlords and are required to list felonies on job applications. “In this system of control, failing to cope well with one’s exile status is treated like a crime,” says Alexander.

35% of all prison admissions are parole violations (compared to 1% in 1980). Two thirds of those cases were for technical violations such as missing a parole appointment or failing to remain drug free or employed. 

In the face of that, many opt for the drug trade, where three strikes means life. More than a failure, the War on Drugs is simply a crime against humanity and needs to end.

Please sign my petition to end the War on Drugs at : http://wodpetition.blogspot.com/

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Japanese Version of Godzilla is an “A” Movie with Bite

Easily available on Full Movies, we've all probably seen the original Godzilla - Hooky toy dinosaur, breathing lightning and smoke, as Tokyo is trampled. This all while Raymond Burr looks on paternally - knowingly equipped to save the model buildings and emasculated Japanese Army. But the comical B-movie farce we know actually owns a real story line, which was too much to bear for American censorship - leaving a brilliant piece of political commentary without any bite. 

Even from the dumbed down American version, it isn’t hard to draw a line back from the radioactive lizard to the Hiroshima bombing, but the original carries far more depth. Aside from the banning of any mention of atomic warfare in occupied Japan, the H-bomb testing that took place on the nearby Marshall Islands during the early 50s provided the impetus.

A non-descript warning issued prior to the first test, one fishing vessel took advantage of the open waters and made a monster haul – if you will – of tuna. On the other hand, when the crew of The Lucky Dragon #5 saw the boom of flashing light, the fisherman knew they bit off more than they could chew.

All soon would die of radiation poisoning but not before selling the fish. In turn, a Geiger counter search for the contaminated tuna revealed the whole country was being inundated with radiation by both American and Russian nuclear testing.

So on film, when Godzilla emerges after a flash in the sky and fishing boat #5 disappears, all of Japan easily traced the actual line being drawn. Of course, havoc ensued for both American and Japanese audiences, but the latter bluntly deviates on its vision for the present and future of atomic weaponry.

Developing a WMD called an Oxygen Destroyer, scientists inject the device below the waters of Tokyo Bay to asphyxiate the slippery beast.  In the process, the scientist who develops and deploys the technology cuts his own oxygen line so the secret and the real monster die with him.

Not bad for a B-movie – no thanks to America.

My Occupation of Wall Street


Occupy Wall Street kind of excites me but attending means a trek into the city. The distance would seem shorter if my like minded friend rode the train south with me. I was correct in assuming that he'd exercise unrest from his couch, but on Saturday, I finally set my sights on the occupation.

My first action was to get lost in lower Manhattan. I found a member of the 99% and asked for directions to the revolution. "Huh," was all the hotdog man could muster until he realized I was talking about "the big crowd over there."

Making my way past the tourists, I anticipated something big. I reached Zuccotti and was first struck by - I'm sad to say - body odor. I walked further and more of the same, but as I continued, that was it. Intermittent traces of body odor contained among a thousand people. Sorry detractors, you could say the same about the Subway and there's no talk of hosing down that undeniable vehicle of civilization, democracy and capitalism.

Overcoming the olfactory aspect of my initiation, I likened my next impression to going to a football game. On TV, football looks like this grand game far removed from mere mortals. But when seen live, you realize, it's just 22 men playing a game.

In other words, both come off less dramatic than when focused by the camera. Of course, that doesn't leave either devoid of the drama due it.

That said, seeing there were actually people living onsite was inspiring. I found two mic-checked speeches interesting and counted myself among a mass of people who probably hoped being there could make a difference. Signing numerous petitions also helped me justify my appearance.

A Laptop booth put a modern spin on revolution and kept a running count of online signatures. Importantly, a comment box enabled me to provide the cohesive message that I came prepared with in case the media - absent an ice pick - tried to portray me as a Trotskyite.

I didn't smell so there was little chance of that. But I had already devised one for the family derision I'll get from a group that last collectively nourished a novel when The Catcher in Rye came up on their high school syllabus - save one or two. Needless to say, I am surrounded by conservatives.

Nonetheless, my cohesion is this. The founders based our society on a balance and separation of power. Currently, our economic and political system is so dominated by money wielded by the rich that our republic is in danger of becoming something that exists only on paper.

In accordance, I looked for common ground from at least the "save one" from above. That would be my conservative brother. He believes many things that would upset liberals, but if you take him on, be ready because he'll put you in your place. He has a PhD in Math and devours books like they are Doritos at the mercy of a bong circle.

What he says about the 1% is that despite their shortcomings they are the ones who make the continental shifts that move the country. All those buildings above and transportation systems below didn't get there by following Jerry Garcia around in a fog or kicking the stuffing out of a Hacky Sack.

I agree and an efficient middle ground might have the 1% possessing half the political power instead of all of it. Luckily, attending OWS allowed me to place our disproportionate society in terms of a daily occurrence that all could understand. When I'm flipping radio stations and have a choice between Katie Perry and The Who, I choose Katie Perry.

Huh!

The Beatles first indoctrinated me in the 70's. I had my 15-20 albums and couldn't get enough of the old Album Orientated Rock format. Due to my economics and the corporate control of Rock, that amounts to a pretty small sampling.

So by the mid 80's, classic rock became a repetitive droning that only the likes of the latest Katie Perry could cure. So who cares? Sitting down to the Hari Krishna song circle at OWS provides the answer.


It was rhythmic, soulful and uplifting. Who knew? The point is the corporate controlled art form that Jack Black held so dear limited us to 200 songs to maximize profit. In turn, the shortened play lists that incurs less risk has made Lady Gaga seem more talented than Neil Pert. Me being swayed by Hari Krishna music shows I've been thrown out of balance and so has our country.

July 4th America in pictures

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Peekskill Stills

Baseball’s Turn to Say it Ain’t So for Joe Jackson


Joe Jackson was likely involved in a plot to throw the 1919 World Series.  He, along with his White Sox cohorts, had to be suspended permanently for the survival of the game. But almost a hundred years later, can we lift the ban and give him a plaque in the hall.  There’s simply far more significant wrongs to make this a right.

As is, A. Bart Giamatti declined Jackson’s reinstatement in 1989, Bud Selig kept the consideration under review during his tenure and current commissioner Rob Manfred officially rejected the last petition.  Come on, the utter hypocrisy.

Let’s begin with baseball’s original sin.  The first ban on black players was instituted in 1867 by Pennsylvania State Convention of Baseball in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The official ban at the major league level occurred in 1890. The final straw, among a number of player mutinies, happened when the St. Louis Browns refused to take the field against the New York Cuban Giants.

I wonder if this action altered the outcome of any baseball games in the next 56 years.

This abomination in place, the players then got what they deserved when the owners missed the outcome of the Civil War.  The Reserve Clause had its partial beginnings in 1879 and served as baseball’s Peculiar Institution for the next 95 years.

Of course, the U.S. Government didn’t find it a laughing matter when the Federal League sued the National League to apply the Sherman Antitrust Act to baseball. Preventing companies from colluding to set prices or pay scales, the Supreme Court ruled that baseball was amusement and not interstate commerce. 

Someone should tell that to owners who ran Curt Flood out of the game when he challenged this system of legalized slavery. Charles Comiskey might take note also.

At the time, the rest of the baseball could.  Forcing his players to launder their own uniforms, the White Sox responded in accordance to their stingy owner and were known to have the filthiest uniforms in the major leagues.

The amenities aside, salaries were certainly not commensurate with the powerhouse that the White Sox were to the era. But Comiskey could make his case easy enough, according to Tim Hornbaker’s Turning the Black Sox : The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey  “"Not every athlete deserved the money they thought they were personally worth, and it was up to a discerning owner to figure out who truly merited the big bucks," Hornbaker affectionately conveys Comiskey’s reasoning.

Such logic works perfectly in the absence of the free market. You know, the same place where Hornbaker can easily judge the value of his work, and the location of the banks that the owners laughed all way to.

Anecdotally, Ty Cobb made 20,000 a year and Joe Jackson, his certain equal, made a paltry $6,000. Comiskey also sat out his star pitcher Eddie Cicotte to prevent him from winning his 30th game and earning a $10,000 bonus.

Window dressing to the larger crimes, again I’m not arguing against the immediacy that Jackson’s infraction required, but isn’t it time we let it go. Is there really a danger that baseball players will suddenly miss the message Commissioner Landis sent a hundred years ago – especially since the free market largely legislates the issue out of existence.

Pete Rose takes care of the rest of the problem, but if Joe Jackson continues to be left out of the hall, we diminish far more significant areas where baseball itself should be saying it ain’t so.

More Bridge Lane

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Meetles Can't Be Beat in the NYC Subway System


A lot of times just the thought of descending into the subway can compound the complexities of living in New York City. But not even the spirit of the most hardened New Yorker can be sunk as the sounds of live Beatle's music rises to greet them every Friday and Saturday night at the Times Square and Herald Square Subways.
The four man, two woman recreation is known as The Meetles. “It’s a play on the Beatle’s album, “Meet the Beatles,” says the band's drummer Eric Paulin.
With the numbers and gender identity obviously off, the Meetles make no attempt to recreate the long ago visuals. “It’s more like a people’s Beatle's cover band,” he says.
And he’s not the only one who stacks the Meetles up against more polished productions such as Broadway’s Rain. “We have more rough edges," he says, "but people who’ve seen both are very charmed by the organic quality of what we are doing."
The four hour long party among the masses has got to go along way toward accomplishing that. On the other hand, the subway presents the Meetles with the same types of survival of the fittest issues that the rest of us face.
Aside from the rough atmosphere, non sanctioned freelance artists attempt to infringe on their space. "Sometimes they give us grief, and we have to get the cops to help us,” he says. "So it can turn into a bit of a scene."
The fact that most of the cops love the Beatles, and their act eases the eviction, but no wave of blue support can warm their chilled instruments or frozen digits when winter sets in.  Although it is summer that truly gives the band pause.  Adding 20 degrees to the New York City heat and humidity, he says, "you have to be extremely careful and pace yourself because a heart attack is definitely in play."
That said, the middle aged Meetles still go at it full tilt. Keeping the breaks very short and enduring the cold and heat almost every weekend throughout the year, he says, "I truly believe this is the hardest working band in the subway."
But it must suffice in order to sustain what the Meetles are after. "We get a crowd. We want to keep the crowd," he says. "So yes we want to make money, but we also want to keep up the fun and good spirits."
Metrocards submerged, Meetlemania puts destinations on hold and tapping feet on the move – even if New York has dealt them yet another difficult hand. "A lot of people come up to us and say 'we’re having a miserable time but you just made you our day,'" he relays.
The Meetles, who definitely dabble into other feel good classic Rock 'n Roll, were unfortunately born out of the worst day in Beatle history. Every December 8th (and on John Lennon’s Birthday) musicians from all over converge on Strawberry Fields in Central Park. There they play homage to the fallen Beatle. Paulin has been doing it since 1998, and the first stages of the Meetles grew out of that. "We played there so many times that we decided to get together and do some projects," he said.
By 2007, they would go on to become a house band at various Beatle Meetups, (which also serves in the origins of the name), and in 2009 Paulin convinced the first iteration of the Meetles to play the subway. "All those people checking you out and digging what you are doing," he said, "band mates liked the gig."
But he concedes that the first Meetles were not quite there. Additionally, playing in the subway created a different type of groupie that always kept things in flux. "So many fans wanted to play in the band," he says, "and it just got way too loud and big."
Settled on six for about a year, which includes his wife Naomi on base, the dollars pile up in varying degrees. “Sometimes the money is ok, and sometimes it’s very good, he says.
In contrast, the Meetles met up with a little more financial bulk when a producer from 30 Rock saw the show in the subway and invited them to play the rap party.  "They didn’t get to see us in all our Times Square glory, where we're getting a 150 people going, but they all liked the music and were very cool to us," he said.
Still, their most connected acknowledgement came quietly in the form of a simple gesture. "She stopped for 30 seconds, smiled and gave us a peace sign,” he says as Yoko Ono passed them playing at Strawberry fields in 2005.
A day in the life the Meetles won't even try to beat

John Tortorella Couldn’t Get the New York Rangers to Follow His Lead but His Press Conferences Said a Lot About the Media


The Rangers just fired John Tortorella. He refused to yield his style to the makeup of the team roster and got what he deserved. But I'm definitely going to miss his press conferences and not just for the entertainment value.
Why is it necessary - especially in the playoffs - to stick a press conference in the face of an athlete who's just suffered a devastating loss? All you're going to learn is whether an athlete can manage the pain of a loss.
How enlightening. It's like watching a train wreck, and as we judge, most of us would not do much better.
But real train wrecks are probably exciting, and Tortorella's definitely qualify. He was vintage after a brutal loss in last year's playoffs.
Reporter: Did you feel this was the kind of effort you needed to win tonight?
Tortorella: No.
(The final score should have made that obvious.)
Reporter: After the great effort in game four, are you disappointed with what your team brought tonight?
Tortorella: Didn't I answer that the first time?
Apparently not and there's plenty more of that on Youtube.
Of course, the media is definitely serving the fans when we gain insight into the decision making process at crucial junctures in a game. Why was a ball cutoff or how come you passed on that three?
Hearing from the winner probably has value too, but I do not need a coach reluctantly explaining how the defense looked in the first half. "Well, we have to do a better job fighting over screen and switching on the pick and roll."
No kidding and do I really need half the screened blocked off when the interview runs into the third quarter.
Nonetheless, there must be a demand for this. Are we so sure?
As soon as I hear an athlete is about to be interviewed on sports radio, I turn it off. It's not that they have nothing to say, but uttering anything the least bit interesting could find a leadoff hitter awakening from a coma two days later - "Rawlings" knowingly imprinted on their forehead.
Either way, we in New York take pride in the demands made of our athletes, and the relentless reporting of our media verifies our passion. But does it really serve us?
It seems that 27 Yankee championships provide the proof. How then do explain the Knicks, Rangers, Mets, Nets and Jets.
Conversely, The San Antonio Spurs, St. Louis Cardinals, Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils say something all together different…A vigilant media has very little to do with success - especially since an owner can never be fired.
Furthermore, how many athletes have been run out without a fair chance? But New York will never be St. Louis and I'm glad. How pathetic is it that they never boo their own. No matter, a kinder, gentler fan base means little if a player doesn't have the goods.
So where am I going with this? Seeing the Tortorella press conferences gave me delusions of grandeur. Athletes and coaches would follow suit, and we'd be spared the spectacle of the media and leagues thinking that they are delivering something compelling.
Never going to happen, but this all doesn't mean I don't want to take part in the agony. I just believe it's done best through the emotional analysis of the sports radio personality or similarly suffering columnist - not in reveling in the discomfort of the athlete who fell short.

And if all you care about is pain, Ranger season tickets are on sale now.

Valley Girl Brings you Back and Makes you Believe



Ah the 80’s, did they really ever happen? Did I actually live through them? I recently dialed up 1983’s Valley Girl on Full Movies to find out.

It’s the old story of the boy from the wrong side of the Hollywood sign who tries to woo the valley girl from the right. In 1985, my first viewing of Nicholas Cage as “Randy” made me believe and definitely “stopped the world” in Modern English.

That’s even in consideration of a tubular dialogue that never quite made it to the valley I was in. Devoid of all that talk in the Saranac River Valley, where I attended Plattsburgh University in upstate New York, the film still allowed for an uplifting translation.

But 30 years later, it is a little difficult to stomach the, so like, flighty girls, and wooden guys with their turned up collars.

On the other hand, Valley Girl returned me the chance to suspend the decades that have passed in disbelief. Deborah Foreman, as Julie, stands in as the girl with the eyes, hair and smile who did the world melting and stopped my own heart.

So suddenly you’re Nicholas Cage and missing a beat is once again a must. But all the inspiration that was stunted when it actually counted finally finds a voice and sings out for you.

Then like a real person, you actually get to decide if it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. 

Taking her song back to the lowlands, you’re familiar enough with that. Conversely, I no longer lack the wave of my long lost hair and playing it cool seems second nature in the winning-her-back moves Nicholas Cage must have learned from me.

Coyly showing up on a series of Julie’s dates with her finely combed boyfriend, we are hard to resist.

Remaining anonymous on each occasion to the privileged valley boy, the inside joke between Randy and Julie is not quite enough to do the trick. But it’s certainly refreshing to imagine that you’re not your own worst enemy, while muscle and disapproving girlfriends are all you need to overcome.

If only life were that easy, she wouldn’t have stood a chance in the 80s I was actually from.

So why not believe and crash the prom from the couch in a last ditch chance to get her back. Easily over matched in a fight to win over the girl, a punch in the face pales in comparison to the fractured heart I routinely carried up and down Court Street at my old Alma Mater.

On the other hand, the corresponding kick in the nuts that Randy levels does the trick.

Valley Girl now sees the final act, and the two bounce for the limo bought and paid for by the brainless hunk.

Feeling young, I’m no longer jaded by the reality that love is more finite than forever. Julie’s smile says it all and any spark had for the antagonist flies out the window in the diamond bracelet presented earlier to possess her.“Valley High Plaza sir,” the limo driver defer.

We know what that means, but Randy hasn’t lived as long as me and Nicholas Cage. The smile and sigh of relief could be seen to imply the obvious escapades they are about to embark on. Not here.


Innocence and hope are expressed magically in the face of this future Oscar winner. It made me believe the 80s did happen, I lived through them and were worth the journey – even without the Hollywood ending. 

Tarrytown - North Broadway

Stop with the Voter Fraud Nonsense


In a democracy, like professional sports, if you’re not cheating you’re not trying.  So I don’t blame Republicans for trying to suppress voters through Photo ID laws. Trying to rig the system, it’s what you do – just ask FDR, LBJ, JFK and George W. Bush. But what I do take issue with is Americans who buy the Republican line that voter fraud is an issue that can skew our elections. It’s just not how political parties have gone about it historically.
According to a New York Times 2007 analysis, only 120 cases were filed with the justice department over a five year period. That said, I don’t think this necessarily makes my point. Voter fraud attempts to go undetected and cases filed can’t be used to determine the total number.
That’s where common sense comes in. First of all, in a country where less than 50% of the population votes in presidential elections, people are actually going to peruse the state to cast multiple votes. Please?

That entirely leaves a concerted effort from above. Let’s examine a state election. The New York State race for governor had 3.5 million voter turnout in 2014.  So in an election with a 1% margin, approximately 17,500 votes would have to be altered.

The endeavor then becomes a matter of dividing up the labor. 3,500 people enlisted to vote 5 times, 1,750 to vote ten, etc. No matter, you now have a conspiracy consisting of thousands of people.

That means each person will have to be vetted, and just because they take part, doesn’t mean they’ll be mum if the authorities start poking around. In addition, what of those that decline you’re offer? This leaves your conspiracy far from water tight and puts the organizers in a pretty untenable position.A conspiracy on this grand scale must also carry penalties that escalate in kind.
The practical alternatives have been historically abound and typically involve getting control of ballot boxes. The Lyndon Johnson-Coke Stevenson Senatorial Election of 1948 is my favorite.
Detailed in Robert Caro’s Means of Ascent, Stevenson held a 20,000 vote lead and results only remained from San Antonio, where Johnson lost by a 2-1 margin in the first primary. Instead, the rout was turned to an 87 vote victory for Johnson. 

This had various county officials casting ballots for multitudes of absent voters.  One precinct’s entire results suddenly appearing – almost all in favor of Johnson.  Additionally, there were numerous areas like Jim Wells County where Johnson received 200 more votes when a seven in the hundreds place was changed to a 9.

And even though a Federal District Court ordered Johnson’s name off the general election pending an investigation, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black voided the move.  
But in a modern sense, Florida Attorney General Katherine Harris takes the cake in the 2000 Presidential election in which a computer program keyed on ex-felon names to do a mass purge on the voter rolls. Only using last names and since a highly disproportionate amount of the prison population is African American, 47,000 likely and legal Democratic voters were disenfranchised along with the felons.
Of course, not even a 7th grade programmer would make that mistake, but the manipulation provided enough plausible deniability to escape punishment and throw the election to George Bush. So much for mobilizing thousands of people when you can be thousands of more times effective by feigning stupidity or making sure key supporters have proximity to the count.  The same goes for perpetrating a mass disenfranchisement by raising the level of a false threat and disenfranchising people who are more likely to vote Democratic.

I hope this clears up question as to the motives of the Republican Party, and if you’re still not deterred, here’s your options.
The first is you think the Democrats have their own versions of voter fraud, and you feel this is fair game, which I think is a valid point of view.
That leaves that two possibilities – either you don’t believe in Democracy or you’re a racist.