Last night, I had to write a kicker (the catchy phrase that precedes a photo caption) for a photo of a dour Nelson Mandela next to a beaming Beyonce. I came up with "AGE BEFORE BOOTY".
Friday, November 28, 2003
Lately, accomplished cartoonist/illustrator (see left) and old friend David Chelsea (whose cult classic David Chelsea in Love has just been republished) has been spraying the e-mail equivalent of Silly String on the Dawn Patrol's windshield.
First, after I started devoting more effort to faith- and values-related posts, he wrote to ask if I believed in Hell. I realize that an unapologetic apologist should always have a ready response to such questions. But without his asking any related questions as well, I just didn't feel like writing back with the one-word answer, "Yes."
I should have responded, because now he's pulling out the big guns. He just sent me an e-mail with a header that appears calculated to disgust me, since he knows I grew up in a Jewish household where such things are unheard of: "Eat your white bread and mayonnaise." In it, he writes of my post in which I described how I've yet to find a church service as deep and substantive as Jewish services:
"You seem disinclined to reply to e-mails in which I twit you about religion but I can't help myself. If you truly believe that one testament was not enough, then attending Jewish services is harmless but dilettantish, like reading the Bible as literature or putting on a Gregorian chant CD to groove on the harmonies. To carry your World Series analogy further, it's as if you've put your money on the Marlins but are sitting with the Yankees fans because their team has prettier uniforms."
Actually, now that I read it again, it's not such a bad question. Perhaps he's not spraying Silly String so much as giving me an unrequested squeegee.
I believe that what David is saying is that if I attend Jewish services—which I don't except on the rare occasions I go with family—I can't get true religious feeling from them, because I have accepted Jesus. What I tried to say in my post, but apparently did not articulate strongly enough, was that Jewish services do in fact give me a genuine religious experience. Messianic prohecies and references to eternal life run throughout the Jewish service. When I hear them, I think about how they were and are fulfilled in Jesus.
The reason I don't normally go to Jewish services is because I find them ultimately unsatisfying. I can add the words "in the name of Jesus" in my head as I pray, but everyone else there—for all their faith in God, which I don't doubt—is still waiting for a Messiah in whom relatively few of them actually believe. (I'm speaking of Reform and Conservative congregations, which, to my knowledge, have placed Messianic beliefs progressively lower on their articles of faith. Belief in the coming Messiah remains essential to Orthodox Jews.)
What I would like to find, and haven't yet, is a Christian service in which the prayers feel as meaningful as they do in a Jewish service—something I've described more at length in the post that inspired David's e-mail.
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Roy Currlin has asked that I let you know that his e-mail correspondence with me regarding his disagreement with my post on the Stop Abercrombie & Fitch campaign is now available on his own Web site. He says that, when I responded to him on this page, I mischaracterized his reasons for opposing the campaign.
Roy did make one observation that has led to my making a correction. When I responded to him, I did not have his e-mail in front of me, and I thought he had accused me of working for a bottom-feeding newspaper—or words to that effect. In fact, while he did point out that another paper owned by my employer used images that would fit in the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue, he never said that of the paper for which I work, so I've corrected it in my post.
They used to keep cartoon characters' floats in the Macy's Parade years after the characters were popular. Otherwise, how could I possibly remember watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV and seeing a float of Linus the Lionhearted go by?
UPDATE: Michael Lynch writes with the startling information that Linus the Lionhearted was in the Macy's parade from 1964 to 1991.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Do you ever have one of those moments in conversation when you say something that makes perfect sense to you, and the other person has absolutely no idea what you're on about?
It happened to me recently when I was talking with a male friend. We were talking about relationships—always an enlightening topic to discuss with the opposite number—and I commented that, at this point in my life, I believe I should start every relationship as though it were going to resolve into marriage.
And I totally lost him.
I think it must have sounded like I intended every relationship to end in marriage—which thankfully is not the case, otherwise I'd get hurt a lot more often than I do.
I tried to explain to him that it involved not doing anything at the beginning of a relationship that I would later regret. Even if something helps one win a mate, if it involves dishonesty, disrespect, game-playing, or a lack of ual restraint, it's not something one looks back upon fondly after years of marriage.
In the New York City area where I live, whether men and women meet one another in bars, at work, through friends, or through the personals, the for relationships remains the same for many: They become physically intimate to see if they want to be in a relationship.
That used to be my paradigm for a relationship too—the "let's have fun and see if it turns into something" philosophy. The underlying concept is the old Freudian conceit that people ual "needs," and that these needs can exist either on their own, or as the prelude to a relationship, but that it is unnatural to prioritize other types of intimacy ahead of them.
Although I myself do have these "needs"—or, rather, desires—I never really wanted to place them before emotional intimacy. I don't think it's natural for women to operate that way unless they have serious problems with emotional intimacy, and even then, I don't think it makes them happy.
Now that I'm no longer a hopeless fish in New York City's sea of singles, but instead a little ichthus swimming against the current, self-restraint is a priority, as are the other things I mentioned earlier: honesty, respect, and not playing games. Those last three in particular seem obvious, but they go against the nature of dating in a sophisticated urban social world that encourages men and women to hide their true feelings from one another.
The example I should have given my friend is that of drawing a circle. If someone asks you to draw a circle and you agree, you don't get cagey and pretend at first like you're going to draw a square. It messes the whole thing up. If you're a person of your word, you have to start the circle with the same steady curve with which it ends. Otherwise, the whole thing is no good.
Likewise, it's almost impossibly hard to start to draw a perfect circle without a compass, and it's impossible to start a relationship leading to marriage without a moral compass. It's even harder to draw a perfect heart...
Monday, November 24, 2003
Since last week when WMCA's Kevin McCullough spotlighted my entry about the Stop Abercrombie & Fitch campaign, "Nude, Where's My Country," The Dawn Patrol has been discovered by several other bloggers who purvey a blend of faith-positive messages and conservative commentary, topped with a nonlethal dose of worldly wit. As a result of this unexpected and welcome attention from people whom I'm proud to have as my peers in the blog world, I've been putting extra effort into my posts. This has not gone unnoticed by Eric Siegmund, who sent me a wonderfully supportive e-mail yesterday that nonetheless warned me to pace myself.
With Eric's advice in mind, I do indeed have something completely different tonight, a special treat from the Eden archives. For Monty Python fans, this should be self-explanatory:
Sunday, November 23, 2003
Last night at work, I had one of those rare moments where a story hands its own headline to me on a silver platter.
It was a tale of four midwives at St. Vincent's Hospital who quit in anger over what they considered intolerable work rules. For example, they claimed that the hospital insisted that they induce delivery if labor lasted six hours or more.
I know, I know. You can see it coming. Well, I could too. And while I'm not certain that the headline will appear exactly as I wrote it (I get a little comma-happy), I can tell you what I wrote (and my editor approved): "4 midwives quit St. Vincent's, claiming unfair 'labor' practices".
It's a Jungle Out There
After I left work last night, I walked as usual past Sixth Avenue's Rockefeller Center area, which has more tourists each day now that the holiday season is approaching. As I approached 43rd Street, something in front of me caught my eye. A man walking ahead had a metal contraption around his neck that was kind of like a giant version of Bob Dylan's harmonica holder, only there was a horizontal bar where the harmonica would be, and it was in the back. On top of it, above the man's head, was the largest cockatoo I'd ever seen. It was about the size of a small chicken. And it was facing me, bobbing serenely as the man walked along.
As I got within a few feet of the man—a neatly dressed, clean-shaven gent in his 30s with a trendy bangs-across haircut—I noticed some snakeskin hanging off his shoulder. Except...it wasn't snakeskin.
I don't know snakes, but whatever it was, it was about eight feet long. And it looked about as comfortable as the Buddha-like bird. Lucky for me I'm not afraid of those things—at least, not when they're hanging around another person's neck.
I looked over to the man walking beside the snakeman. He too was neatly dressed, clean-shaven, 30s, slightly less trendy hair. And he was holding something that I would not want to find in my apartment.
Saying hello to the snakeman (or should I say birdman), I asked what was that...reptile that his cohort held at his side.
"It's an alligator," he said simply.
He also explained why the walking menagerie. He was a photographer, and they were returning from a photo shoot.
Oh, of course. Silly me. Why didn't I think of that? Don't I know that everyone carries their alligator home from a photo shoot? The night air does them good.
But I didn't get sarcastic with the man. It wouldn't have been advisable under the circumstances anyway. So I said the first thing that came into my head—"That's great!—and went to catch my underground train home.
I did think about whether or not I should report the scene to the police or the paper where I work. But the alligator didn't look like an imminent danger to anyone—it seemed quite calm and content, just like the other creatures—and the man was carrying it in full view, in an area where there was a police presence.
As for reporting it to the paper, well, the truth is, this is New York. Things like that happen all the time. Well, maybe not all the time, but often enough that it's not news.
What I thought, as I walked on past the concrete lions of the New York City Public Library and down through Herald Square, was that when I feel like there's something missing from my daily life, I should remember that at least I work in the most extraordinary city in the world.
Friday, November 21, 2003
I am from tag soap and Robin Hood flourIn case you're wondering, no, I did not write that remarkable bit of poetry. Despite having spent nine years of my young life in Galveston, Texas, I myself am from underground trains with remants of tabloid newspapers scattered on the seats, all-night Korean delis with fake-crabmeat sushi rolls, and twentysomething women who walk the bar-strewn streets with gangs of friends on Friday and Saturday nights in 50-degree weather wearing jeans and a low-cut top with no cover-up.
I am from RC Cola and Moon Pies
The fragrance of the general store at the head of the holler
The pot-bellied stove with it stable of whittlers
Spinning tall tales, spitting ambure* into rusted cans
I am from poverty and want, egg money and wood fired cooking stove, ashes on the floor that are swept through the cracks in the poplar flooring planks
I am from under the house playing with chickens and pups
Searching for Doodle Bugs to call from their pits
I am from Floyd Charles, Lula Marie and Carrie June
I am sturdy stock, strong of back and will
I am bathed in Moonshine, reared in slate piles,
Coal mine grit rubs thin places in my ruddy skin...
No, those verses are from "Where I Am From," by Clarence Bowles, a 63-year-old self-styled "hillbilly philosopher" from Kenton County, Kentucky whose four-week-old Can You Hear Me Now blog is the most unusual and rewarding online read that I've discovered in a long time.
I would almost call Bowles the literary equivalent of a blissfully unaffected folk artist or outsider musician, only he's got just enough blogosphere worldliness that you know he's no fool. He comes from a Southern literary tradition that evokes Carson McCullers and a Pentecostal Harry Golden.** He writes with the sort of disarming candor that blogs are supposed to have but rarely do. Here's a typical gem, from his "About Me" page: "I have four grown children and have been married to the same woman for over 32 years. Can't find anything to complain about where she is concerned and only wish that the same were true for her. She deserves better but seems determined to stick with the choice she made. One tough lady is she."
With the current vogue for authors from down-home, non-literary backgrounds, I wouldn't be surprised if a literary agent (maybe even one who reads this blog, hint, hint) snapped Bowles up. One more excerpt, from an entry that had special meaning for me, titled "Looking at life with one eye":
"I can't see it!" she said.I wish I could take responsibility for discovering Bowles, but the truth is, not only have many others discovered him during the short time his blog's been live, but he found me (through Eric Siegmund's Fire Ant Gazette, I think). He wrote with some thoughts on my post on being a Jew who has accepted Jesus and asked, "What in tarnation is super-ultra-new-improved-crunchy Whizzo Christianity?"
How can she not see it? It's right in front of her, just a bit over her head, in the upper left corner of the patio door's glass panel. The bright sky as background, and the Ladybug moving along at a good pace for a small bug. Surely she can pick up on the movement.
Gail and I were calling out location coordinates as if we were all involved in a game of Battleship. I could see it so plainly, even from my seat at the kitchen table. It was then I realized that she didn't have on her glasses. It's easy to forget that Maureen has only one good eye and it needs help from a strong prescription lens to help her make her way through life.
What I meant by that was that some well-meaning Christians, in congratulating me for discovering Jesus, act as though I've gone from total unenlightenment to enlightenment. They seem to think of Judaism as something that is simply an ignorant choice—like using the bargain brand of single-ply paper towels—and can't understand why anyone would stay with it when there clearly is a better alternative.
That unwittingly superior attitude offends me, because it ignores the fact that Judaism is a great religion that comes from God, and Jews are upholding a godly heritage that extends back thousands of years. Just because the veil remains over the eyes of the Jewish people (Paul's analogy for the Jews' not recognizing their Messiah) does not take away the great holiness and wisdom of their faith, the foundation of Christianity.
Now I'm annoyed at myself for bringing this back to me, when it's supposed to be about Clarence Bowles. Read his blog. You'll thank me. And if you sign him to a literary agency, my finder's fee is a sushi meal. I wonder how far one has to go in Kenton County, Kentucky to find good sushi.
*"Ambure" is Bowles's spelling for "ambeer," which is tobacco juice. All excerpts used by permission.
**While searching for articles on Harry Golden, I found an excellent, sensitively written article that sheds light on some the problems in Jewish-Christian relations that I discussed in my "Mets Call the Whole Thing Off" post: "The Two Faces of Billy Graham," by Dennis Roddy. If you read it, please read it to the end, as it starts out appearing to be an anti-Graham piece but is actually a nuanced look at the roots of misunderstandings.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
On Sunday, someone at my work was talking about how the paper was going to publish an article in which five people of different backgrounds gave their views after watching a rough cut of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ."
"They should have asked me," I said.
My co-worker, who knew I'm a Jew who's accepted Jesus, said, "They wouldn't have wanted your opinion, because you would have come at it from a religious standpoint."
"That's why they should have asked me," I said. "Because I'm Jewish too. They could have done a 'Tale of the Tape' just with me. 'I think it's anti-Semitic.'/'No, it's not.'"
By this point, both of us were cracking up.
Gibson's depiction of Jews in the film, as described in media accounts, does not surprise me because he is a traditionalist Catholic. I have friends who are traditionalist Catholics, and I know that they believe what non-traditionalist Catholics and some Christian sects also believe—that the body of Christian believers has replaced Israel in God's eyes.
These people do not hate Jews. They look upon Jews as quaint relics. As much as they would like to believe what Paul says in Romans 11:1, that God has certainly not forsaken His people, they cannot conceive of what Paul describes as "a remnant" of Jews who will be saved. At the very least, they think it a very small remnant, and not enough to make it worth their trying to understand that Jews have never lost their importance to God.
I've noticed a pattern when I make friends with a traditionalist Catholic. (I would just write, "when I make friends with a Catholic," but it seems that all my Catholic friends are traditionalists.) After discussing religious and political issues with me for a while, they say something like, "We'll win you over."
I can't blame them for thinking I'm on the path to Catholicism, and I feel bad for disappointing them. I probably come off as a proto-Catholic to a lot of people when I talk about my love of G.K. Chesterton and honorary Catholic C.S. Lewis, and when I espouse my views in favor of family values and against the culture of death. And as far as the traditionalist wing's rejection of post-Vatican II popery goes, one look at my record collection tells you I already believe that practically nothing good happened after 1965.
But while I do in fact have serious reservations about certain Catholic doctrines, the main thing that's kept me from joining the Catholic Church, or any church, is the feeling of being an outsider. When I visit a church and the people there find out I'm Jewish, they tend to welcome me with this attitude of, "Congratulations! You've found something better!" It's as though I switched to New Coke or something. Pity those poor non-choosy Jews out there who haven't yet discovered super-ultra-new-improved-crunchy Whizzo Christianity.
What those well-meaning churchgoers don't realize is that I'm not switching to an aesthetically superior experience just by entering a place where the stained-glass windows depict the crucifixion of Jesus instead of the sacrifice of Isaac. Synagogue services have it all over church services.
At a good Conservative or Orthodox temple, I can pray like they did in Jesus' time, chanting in Hebrew to beautiful melodies. Many of the prayers describe hope for eternal life and the coming of the Messiah. There's also time for silent prayer and meditation. Best of all, the Word of God is brought out and read in the original language from a beautiful parchment roll like the one Jesus read from when he was asked to give the reading from Isaiah. The difference between a Jewish service's long, intense, ancient Hebrew prayers and a Christian service's comparatively lightweight, condensed, Evelyn Wood-like, copyright 1997 (revised 2002) English liturgy, is like the difference between experiencing a two-hour game at Shea Stadium and watching the five-minute coverage of it on the 11 o'clock news.
The catch is that the temple service is Game 4 of the 1969 World Series and the church service is Game 5.
If you're not a baseball fan, what I'm saying is that the temple service is the experience of surviving the battle but not winning the ultimate prize—waiting for a savior who has not yet come—and the church service is the experience of victory through Christ. So for me, in deciding where to worship, the choice is, would I rather have a deep spiritual experience that is ultimately unfulfilling, or a thin glossy one that reminds me of the Truth?
I'm afraid that until I find a church that understands Jews not just as curiosities but as branches from the same olive tree on which Gentiles have been grafted, I'll just stay home.
On Monday, when I had to write a headline for a story about a Court TV poll that showed most people believe Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone, I wanted to write something that would reflect the obsessiveness of JFK-assassination buffs. I'm not putting them down; I have friends who are assassination buffs, and, as an outsider to that world, I'm amused by the depth of their fascination.
I was thinking particularly of an old friend I haven't seen in a while, a talented musician and Sixties-pop superfan named Scott Finter. He was the first person I knew who had a video of the Zapruder film that showed it frame by frame. I don't recall that he actually believed in a conspiracy, but he had a thorough knowledge all the angles from which people had argued conspiracy theories. And that's how, armed with a mental image of him, I had my headline: "Conspiracy knoll-it-alls top JFK poll."
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
I've been having a nagging loneliness lately—the kind that, if I'm not vigilant, can devolve into open self-deprecation and self-pity. So I've done a few things to get my mind off it (cue French horns; we are now reverting to point-form):
Now, especially if you know me, you will notice that one of these things is very different from the others.
- Thanked God for saving me from real loneliness.
- Made plans to have dinner this week with my good pals Kittybeat and Michael Lynch to discuss the next installment of our POP GEAR! dance night at Rififi (Dec. 13).
- Bought a pair of the sexy knee-high black leather boots I've wanted for years—and, since they were half-off, bought a second pair too.
- Signed my name to the "Stop Abercrombie & Fitch" online petition.
Since when did I ever desire to waste any brain cells on Abercrombie & Fitch? Since when did I ever allow myself to pronounce the name of that preppy bastion? Since when could I ever conceive of why anyone would see some shapeless gray sweater in its window and think, "My life will be enhanced if only I spend $150 on this item"? When God delivered me from the copy desk of Women's Wear Daily, I thought that Abercrombie & Fitch could be safely relegated to my mental graveyard along with Federated Department Stores, Tom Ford, Pillowtex, "earnings before interest, tax, dividends, and appreciation," and Suzy.
That changed the other day when I heard WMCA "Good Guy" Kevin McCullough exhort listeners to read his WorldNetDaily editorial and join the "Stop Abercrombie & Fitch" campaign. The campaign is in protest of the chain's new Christmas "magalog," which follows its path of recent years by including several dozen photos of partially or totally nude teens and youths. Teens on teens, gay, straight, every which way, naked as jaybirds. Marketed to teens (though supposedly only for those 18 and over), the magalog boasts on its cover of "Group Sex" and includes articles advising teens entering college to have as many sexual partners as possible—and that's the mildest of its many sex tips. McCullough's call to action sounded like just another boycott, but I was curious enough to visit the Web sites he mentioned.
Notice I wrote, "just another boycott." Fundamentalists like the Rev. Donald Wildmon have been trying to clean up pop culture for years, and, like most people, I ignore them. I believe in free speech—short of shouting "theater" in a crowded fire—and I generally think it's useless to try to stem the flood of immoral trash that overwhelms our airwaves, theaters, TVs, computers, bookstores, and newsstands. Moreover, there are gems in that trash—even Playboy had a good interview with John Lennon once—and self-appointed censors aren't known for their grasp of nuance. I'm old enough to remember how Randy Newman was hung out to dry for "Short People."
With that in mind, I viewed the "Stop Abercrombie & Fitch" Web site with suspicion. However, I was soon won over—not just by the campaign's techniques, which eschew Wildmonesque intimidation in favor of a grass-roots petition initiative, but by two words in the petition: "moral relativism." It said, "With over 50 pictures featuring nude or partially nude youth models and a clear message that sexual immorality must be embraced to be cool, A&F has clearly become one of our culture’s most aggressive promoters of sexual hedonism and moral relativism to America’s youth."
My first reaction was laughter. It's quixotic enough to think that one can stop pornography with a petition. How can one even presume to stop moral relativism, which is the religion of our age? Just the idea of telling people that a catalogue promotes moral relativism is like telling a cigarette manufacturer that their products cause global warming. They probably do, but the causal relationship, and the drop-in-bucket effect if the offending action were stopped, seems too minor to contemplate.
But when I thought about it, I realized that the The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, which sponsors the "Stop Abercrombie & Fitch" campaign, had the right idea. We should unmask moral relativism as the real agenda behind this particularly heinous kind of advertising. We should refuse to pay obeisance to the god of our age. And we should give teenagers the message that they deserve to be loved for who they are inside, and they should save their love for someone who will treat them as more than just a body to be used and discarded.
In a letter notifying Abercrombie & Fitch of the petition campaign, National Coalition president Rick Schatz writes, "You diminish the values of many of the catalog’s readers with a philosophy that says personal restraint is a hindrance to happiness."
That's not a media soundbite. That's profound stuff. I signed that petition, and I hope you will too.
Monday, November 17, 2003
I don't go to nightclubs much these days, but when I do, something interesting usually happens—something that's exciting but stops short of "back to my place." That's probably a good thing, considering that I'm a bit too old and moralistic for such hijinks. All right, if you must—it's not probably, but certainly a good thing.
At a nightclub last week, I felt a hand rubbing my fur. Don't worry, it was fake fur—though I reserve the right to wear the real thing if it's been dead longer than I've been alive. I turned around to see the source of the shoulder-stroke and it was a man who had been a good friend of mine for a few years in the early-to-mid-Nineties.
I'd had a crush on him way back when—not an obsessive one, just a wouldn't-it-be-nice-to-kiss-him-and-see-what-happens kind of crush—but nothing ever came of it. He went on to settle down with someone, and we eventually drifted apart for reasons unrelated to my attraction. Since then, I'd occasionally run into him and we were cordial to each other, but, until this occasion, it had been a while since we'd last met.
He greeted me warmly and we talked for a few minutes about old times. Then he let loose with a bombshell—something no man has ever, ever said to me.
"I remember when I first kissed you," he said.
My jaw dropped—noticeably—and my eyes took on that kind of glaze that they take when I'm thinking, "Does not compute."
"Do you remember?" he asked.
Homina homina homina.
I let him remind me of the circumstances and tried to form a mental picture. After a moment, I had enough of an idea of what happened to be able to insinuate to him that I remembered, but I was really at a loss. I remembered imagining kissing him, but not actually kissing him.
Yet I had no doubt that he was telling the truth. People don't usually lie about those things, and this was a man of integrity—one of the reasons I liked him—who was not known for messing with women's heads.
After we parted—with kind words but no smooch—I was left to wonder, how could I forget such a thing? Am I a cad?
Now, having thought about it, my best guess is that I blocked out the "first time" he kissed me [does that mean there was a second? A third?] because I was embarrassed. He was a good friend of mine at the time, yet I couldn't resist flirting with him. It probably took many months of flirting to win that one smooch. Once I got it, I probably felt silly for trying to push the boundaries of our friendship when I knew I wasn't really a love match for him—and maybe even realized he wasn't one for me.
But that he himself should still remember it, and fondly—wow!
So, class, what have we learned?
One lesson I'll take from this is that I should stop assuming that men aren't romantic. I sometimes find myself falling into this stupid New York (Sex-and-the-)City proto-spinsterian cynicism, thinking that men don't experience romantic feelings the way I do. Apparently, on some level, they can experience them even more than I do.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
POP GEAR! at Rififi on November 8 was a shining success, with twice the crowd as our Columbus Day weekend debut. People were dancing to the mid-'60s pop platters spun by me, Kate, and Michael Lynch, staring transfixed at the poptastic vintage vids [Overheard: "Is that 'Fantom'?" and, "This is the one where Flint's brainwashed into thinking he's a psychiatrist..."], or just digging the scene.
I should really buy a digital camera so I won't have to rely upon the kindness of strangers—or, in this case, Mom and Ron, who brought a disposable camera. The photo above of me with Bill and this lovely shot pairing me with Kate are the only really good 'uns from the roll. Bill surprised me by being a super dancer—he rivaled my other fave-rave dance partners Michael Lynch and Pat Lozito for best male dancer on the floor. (The best female dancer, myself excluded, was Kelly, who, with her flowing brown hair, floral minidress, and knee-high boots, seemed to have stepped straight off the set of the '60s Europop TV show "Beat Club.")
Beautiful Kate has been told that she looks like silent-screen legend Lillian Gish, and I can't resist the opportunity to do a "Separated at Birth." That's Gish in the photo at right (from the excellent fan site SilentLadies.com).
I unfortunately don't have a shot of Michael, who looked fab that night with his paisley shirt and characteristic Michael Clarke hair (I prefer comparing him to Clarke than to a certain Mr. Jones, because I don't like mentioning That Band if I can help it). But I can share Michael's memories of the evening, which he sent to me and Kate the next day:
My two favorite moments of last night:Michael also sent a list of every record he played, which follows. The next POP GEAR! is Saturday, December 13—see you there! For more info, drop me a line (e-mail address art left). Michael played:
1) What a cool moment that was when Dawn first started playing "'Til The End Of The Day." During those three intro chords, there was instantly this vibe of everyone in the room basically stopping what they were doing, as if to say "Ah, I have to dance to this one!" That was great!
2) Hearing Blair recite the intro right along with [Cavern Club emcee] Bob Wooler when I played the Big Three record. I didn't know it was Blair at first...I could tell it was someone sitting near where he was...but I wrote him today and asked him, and his exact words:
"Yes, I'm the geek."
ANIMALS I'm Going To Change The World/BANANA SPLITS You're The Lovin' End/BANANA SPLITS Doin' The Banana Split/BAND OF ANGELS Not True As Yet/BEATLES A Hard Day's Night/BEATLES Help!/BEAU BRUMMELS Ain't That Lovin' You Baby/BIG THREE What'd I Say/DAY BROTHERS I Wanna Be Your Man/ELECTRIC PRUNES Ain't It Hard/ADAM FAITH We Are In Love/ GERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS It's Gonna Be All Right/GUESS WHO Shakin' All Over/JON HENDRICKS Fire In The City/LIVERBIRDS Oh No Not My Baby/MINDBENDERS Off And Running/MINDBENDERS I Want Her She Wants Me/MONKEES Pleasant Valley Sunday/MONKEES Let's Dance On/ MOODY BLUES Go Now/MOVING SIDEWALKS 99th Floor/LOS SHAKERS Break It All/LULU The Boat That I Row/N' BETWEENS Delighted To See You/ADRIENNE POSTA Shang-A-Doo-Lang/POWDER Hate To See Her Go/ PRETTY THINGS Roadrunner/P.J. PROBY Hold Me/RICHARD AND THE YOUNG LIONS You Can Make It/ROLLING STONES Around And Around/ ROLLING STONES Empty Heart/SEARCHERS Doncha Know/SORROWS Let The Live Live/CAT STEVENS Come On And Dance/WARLOCKS (The Grateful Dead, pre name-change) I Know You Rider
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Reading the "About the Publisher" section of Eric Siegmund's blog, I found a section in which Eric described his religious beliefs. It impressed me because it coincided so closely with my own, plus I liked its candor and wit. Eric's given me permission to reprint it below, along with a related item from the same page.
Two caveats: (1) Eric's bolder than I am in noting the relative merits of this world and the next. I normally avoid that because I don't want non-Christians to think I don't care about people who are suffering in this life. I do care. And I can tell from the rest of Eric's blog that he does too. (2) I admire Eric's being able to promise not to beat people over the head with his faith. I have not yet mastered the head-beating urge, though I'm working on it. Other than that, Eric's statements—including those on computer platforms—reflect the views of The Dawn Patrol:
Theology: Notice I chose this term over the more frequently used "religion"? I trust you're perceptive enough to understand the distinction, and the implications. But this area merits a little more detail, as it's important to me (unlike politics). Sometimes labels are helpful, even though no one likes being labeled ("I'm much too, um, complex for that"). In my case, you can label me a "conservative, born-again Christian" if that's something you understand and relate to (whether you agree with it or not). I believe in moral absolutes, and I look to God to help me make distinctions between right and wrong. I believe in Heaven and Hell as real places (as opposed to, say, Orlando and Las Vegas, which are obviously figments of someone's deranged imagination). I believe this life on earth is but a pale foreshadowing of that to come, and I can take great comfort in an eternal perspective of events that only seem to be unbearable at the present time. This also allows me to ultimately be an optimist, even if I present a very cynical view of events and people. And, finally, I'd very much like for you to have this same optimism (aka peace, love, joy and all those good things that sometimes seem just out of reach). But I won't beat you about the head if you decline.
Computer Platform: I suppose I should have included this under "Theology"...I'm a Mac user, of course.
I haven't had a lot of great headlines since Wednesday's "BLOATED 'ROSIE," but I do have a nice little nod to P.F. Sloan in today's paper. It's for a "floater"—a photo that's not attached to an article—depicting the singers* Eve, Sting, and Mary J. Blige at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Since they were there as a sideline to a night of lingerie-clad models, I went for a triple-pun: "Eve of seduction." My editor added a "The" before it, but the musical reference is still clear.
It's a good feeling to be able to use my media power to honor one of my favorite songwriters. Now, if I can just find a way to work "That's Cool, That's Trash" into a headline...
*None of which deserve bold type.
Friday, November 14, 2003
My friend Linus's enthusiasm for my Left Banke-related posts got me re-interested in Renee Fladen. I was the first writer to ever publish the last name of the inspiration for "Walk Away Renee,"* as well as the group members' description of her as a beautiful, flaxen-haired dancer—which is why she also inspired the group's other Top 20 hit, "Pretty Ballerina." I was also the first to reveal that she dated members of the Left Banke, but not the group's main songwriter, Michael Brown—which is why she reportedly also inspired still another song from their first album, "She May Call You Up Tonight" (though I can't recall offhand if I ever got Brown to verify that).
A Google search for "Renee Fladen" turned up a two-year-old thread on a Left Banke Yahoo group—which I didn't even know existed (and which has an astonishing 221 members!)—about what happened to Renee. Contrary to what a band member told me about her being a housewife in Philadelphia, according to some Web sites, she now teaches voice (including opera) and is a classical singer in San Francisco under the name Renee Fladen-Kamm.
As far as I could tell, the Yahoo group members never actually contacted Renee themselves; they just found Web pages about her. I'm tempted to contact her, only I don't really have reason to do so other than curiosity, and I don't know what she'd think about my having written of what others claim to have been her personal life (though the details are nearly 40 years old).
But I'd like to think that Renee would look favorably upon me, because I confirmed what she has probably been telling people ever since "Walk Away Renee" first hit in 1966: that it's about her. One of the mentions of her on the Web is from a member of a band called Outgrabe who says the Renee from "Walk Away Renee" was his voice teacher. He wouldn't have known that if she hadn't told him (unless he read my articles, that is), so she must be proud of it.
*I wrote about Renee Fladen in my interview-based articles on the Left Banke that appeared in The Bob (1986) and Goldmine (1987), and also in Bob Shannon and John Javna's book Behind the Hits (1986), for which I provided research assistance.
I think many of my readers* read the satirical publication The Onion regularly and have already seen the fictitious story "Mom Finds Out About Blog," but I just discovered it myself and I know it would make you laugh. While I can't relate to the concept of "blog as excuse to write about drugs and sex"—even if I were doing such things, I wouldn't write about them—and you know I don't curse if I can help it, I think you'll agree there are still some similarities to real life. I practically fell over laughing at the mom's concern that her son "looked tired" in his blog photos.
*Truthfully, I don't read The Onion much because it's so anti-God. And I'm not just writing that to make you proud of me.
My Web stats inform me that I am a worm. Let me clarify that. The Dawn Patrol is a Wiggly Worm in the Blogosphere Ecosystem of The Truth Laid Bear, meaning that relatively few blogs link to it.
If my status advances to Crunchy Crustacean or even Lowly Insect, I will have at least two bloggers to thank: Oscar Jr. and Eric Siegmund. My Web stats showed that Oscar had linked to The Dawn Patrol, and his blog in turn showed me that Eric had linked to it as well. I've never had contact with either blogger, and it's a great surprise to find that both have written kind and thoughtful plugs for this page.
Oscar reviewed The Dawn Patrol as part of his project to review all the blogs in Truth Laid Bear's Ecosystem. I can't get over that out of the thousands of blogs he has to choose from, mine is only #7. His review is short, so I won't spoil it for you by quoting from it here, but I like it that he appreciated David Chelsea's illustration (left) and Michael Lynch's jingle (which you can hear by clicking on the Dawn Patrol logo).
Eric Sigmund, whose blog is called The Fire Ant Gazette, writes in his Dawn Patrol review that he also liked the illustration and jingle. In addition, he enjoyed something I wrote on my main page, Gaits of Eden, but, again, I won't spoil it for you.
It really is heartwarming to read praise of my writings from total strangers. I was feeling kind of lonely today—partly my own fault, as I'm not as good at keeping up with friends as I should be (though my Bizarro World work schedule does make it difficult)—and these blogs gave me an unexpected boost.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Last night, I completely redid my Stan Freberg page, adding the main article I wrote about him in 1996 (previously, only the sidebar about his advertising career had been available). You are hereby requested to read the short (by Dawn Eden standards), easily digestible profile of America's greatest living comic genius, who's influenced everyone from the "Saturday Night Live" creators to Monty Python and, I have no doubt, the writers of "The Simpsons." His career spans classic Warner Brothers cartoons, hit records (his "John and Marsha" was the fastest-selling record in Capitol's history), and outrageously funny ads. I was greatly honored to have the opportunity to interview him.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
I know a lot of you out there enjoy reading about the Left Banke, so here's an anecdote I've never heard about them, courtesy of Steve Harvey:
A friend of mine saw them early on down at John Wanamaker's [department store in Philadelphia] where they played in front of the Eagle [a huge statue inside, which was the store's symbol]. Had to play 'Day Tripper' three times to fill out their one set!
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
The Weekly Standard's Web site has an informative article by Fred Barnes that also appeared in the Wall Street Journal: "How Ronald Reagan founded the modern pro-life movement."
The article includes a quotation from Reagan that is the most succint nonreligious argument against abortion that I've seen:
"I have often said that when we talk about abortion, we are talking about two lives--the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child. . . . Anyone who doesn't feel sure whether we are talking about a second human life should clearly give life the benefit of the doubt. If you don't know whether a body is alive or dead, you would never bury it. I think this consideration itself should be enough for all of us to insist on protecting the unborn."I often think that I should get more involved in trying to make the world a better place by becoming more active politically, as a volunteer, or both. While I've yet to settle on what to do—and I admit I'm not looking as actively as I should—I'd most like to help an organization that is aimed at making abortions illegal or dissuading women from getting abortions.
Politically and socially, there is really no issue more important than this. It is literally a life or death issue, brutally destroying the lives of one-and-a-half-million Americans every year. We don't think about it because we're so used to it, and we don't see the dead bodies. A woman's pregnant—and then she's not. The person inside her gets sucked down a trash chute.
To any sane human being, this is disgusting, yet we sanction it, because we're so afraid of making men and women responsible for the consequences of their sexual activity.
I didn't always think this way. I hated Reagan when he was president. I remember when he was shot and I quipped to someone, "You know what those bumper stickers said—"Reagan in '80/Bush in '81." I was only 12 then, but by the time 1988 came, I was old enough to vote—and I voted for Dukakis. Back then, one would have been hard pressed to find any item on the liberal Democratic agenda with which I didn't agree—including abortion, which I considered a right. That was the case from my childhood through the late 1990s.
Then I changed, and, yes, the change had to do with receiving strong faith. But when that faith gave me a new perspective on abortion, I realized that on a purely material level, I had been taking an obviously irrational view.
Believing in the rightness of abortion requires so many compromises, both moral and intellectual, all the way down the line. I like Reagan's statement because it points out the importance of, as he puts it, giving life the benefit of the doubt.
...is all you'll see in the photo of me and a very relaxed-looking Randy Newman that I just put up on Gaits of Eden. I put it up because Peter Horvath wrote to say he'd seen enough of the photo of me with Mike Smith, which had been up for six months or so. Here on dawneden.com, We Play Your Requests!
POP GEAR! went wonderfully Saturday night. I'll write about it later this week when the pix arrive, but in the meantime, I'll refer you to the kind entry that Linus wrote about it on the Home Office label's witty Weblog, Pepper of the Earth, which was nudity-free last time I checked.
Monday, November 10, 2003
I like to think that among my lurkers or known readers is at least one writer or aspiring writer who enjoys getting an inside view into the workings of a fellow scribe. So, if you are that reader, perhaps you'll be interested to read a snippet I discovered while attempting to clean out some computer files. (I say "attempting" because I'm one of those people who has trouble throwing things away.)
It was a snippet of a review I'd begun of Outrageous Cherry's album Out There in the Dark.
I never finished the review, probably because I wasn't excited enough about the album. I was attempting it at a time when it was slowly dawning on me that I could no longer make myself write about anything that I didn't either love or hate. Since the music I hate almost never deserves the press, and since most of the new music I love comes out on tiny indie labels that paying magazines don't care about, this meant I pretty much gave up on pitching review editors. (I still write occasional longform research pieces on Sixties pop, including the liner notes to Varese Vintage's upcoming 10cc collection.)
My computer file on Outrageous Cherry turned out to contain only a single sentence that I'd intended for my record review. That happens a lot, where I think of a good sentence that belongs in the middle of a piece, and then write around it. If I may say so myself, I still think this is a great line—anyone who would like Outrageous Cherry would probably understand the reference points I used to illustrate the lead singer's voice:
His earnest, slightly flat vocals can be endearing in an adolescent kind of way, like a cross between the Flamin' Groovies' Cyril Jordan and Joey Ramone with most of his adenoids removed.
Saturday, November 8, 2003
I do have a minor headache, probably from wearing a blurred contact lens, plus I'm busy preparing my music for POP GEAR!, so no Tom Jones tale this morning—sorry. I like to keep my promises, even if I'm not quite sure to whom I'm making them.
Had another good day at work; the duty chief again called out to find out who wrote a headline and it was mine. It was a banner headline for a story about how there's more TV and film production going on in NYC than ever before. I only had room for two or three words, and I really didn't want to make a pun on "reel" if I could help it. Come to think of it, I could have easily written "REEL-BIG CITY" and it would have fit. But I didn't.
I wrote: "CITY FLICKERS".
Wednesday, November 5, 2003
Clay Waters seems to be a very good sport. Before I used his site as a jumping-off point for a Dawn Patrol rant against neocons, his link to this page read, "Dawn Eden's Dawn Patrol (Manhattan music maven—and closet conservative?)"
Now it reads, "Dawn Eden's Dawn Patrol (Manhattan music maven and scourge of the pornocons)."
Tuesday, November 4, 2003
I am so happy! The duty chief (that's the chief editor on duty) just called over to ask who'd done a headline—and it was mine. That hasn't happened since "Durst detective can't get a head."
The one he liked was a banner headline that should be atop page 9 of tomorrow's paper (at least, the first edition), for a story on workers' walking out at '21' and another top restaurant: "JOBS AT STEAK."
The funny thing is, I didn't even think the headline was going to get used, because it was too short. My editor "blew it out" to a larger point-size and it was fine. I am now instructed that there is nothing to fear from increasing headlines' size. When in doubt, blow it out.
The funniest part is, I'm a vegetarian.
Monday, November 3, 2003
UPDATE: Several hours after writing the following post, it occurs to me that the way I describe my reaction to my friend's smoking comes off as pretty harsh. I'd like to stress that any apparent animus is towards the habit of smoking, and not towards Valerie, who is a beautiful person and valued friend. I was angry at seeing smoke go in and around her the way someone would be if they saw a piece of spaghetti stuck on the Mona Lisa's nose. (And yes, there's a reason why so many of my metaphors are based on food, as you'll see below.)
Haven't gotten as many responses as I'd like to recent posts on substantial topics like Neil Postman and porn conservatives (though I appreciate the feedback I did get from David, J.R., and Perry) so I'll do the usual blog thing for this post: respond to other blogs.
I'm so happy to read in today's post from Valerie that she is quitting smoking. I only discovered last week that she smoked (it's an easy thing to hide in Bloomberg-era New York), and I was surprised. It's not that I had any immediate consideration of how it might affect her health. I just consider it a dirty habit—literally. It's like discovering that a friend of yours likes to eat doggie doo when they're not at the dining table—it's bad for them, and you just know that some of it's going to get onto their clothes.
Having said that—and having overcome binge-eating problems where I would gorge on things scarcely better for me than doggie doo (one 7-oz. bag of Cheez Doodles = one serving)—I am very, very proud of Val and anyone who tries to break a harmful addiction. I recommend you visit her endearing and very well-written Weblog and write her a message of support.
The Anonymous Blogger today, besides giving a kind and welcome plug for POP GEAR!, has an interesting observation about the Mickey character played by Catherine O'Hara in "A Mighty Wind." It's about a subtext that I hadn't thought about when I saw the film, but now that he mentions it, I can see that it's there. What I really like, though, is that the enigmatic Mr. Blogger in one way had the same reaction I did when I saw the film: He looked past the broad comedic characterizations and saw something that moved him.
What's that saying about the best comedy being one step removed from tragedy? Even though "A Mighty Wind" is a heavily ironic film, I think its best moments prove that sentiment.
Saturday, November 1, 2003
It's been an unusually slow day at work, so I did something that is actually fairly low on my list of things to do when I'm bored: searched for Web sites that link to mine. I was surprised to find a new one by a conservative pundit (as well as writer of fiction and poetry), Clay Waters. While I don't recognize his name, I suspect we've met, as we travel in the same circles. He is the editor of the Media Research Center's TimesWatch.org, the Media Research Center's vehicle for "documenting and exposing the liberal political agenda of The New York Times." To which I say: "Cool."
But what really grabbed me was one of the links on Waters' site: a review of the Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies from a libertarian perspective. Now, Muswell Hillbillies happens to not be one of my favorite Kinks albums—and I unwittingly irked Ray Davies once at a press conference by asking him what the people of Muswell thought of it—but there was something in his review that I found very appealing. It was Waters' use of quotes from G.K. Chesterton—some very good ones, in fact, that haven't been overused—to illustrate his points. I thought I was the only Kinks fan—albeit a Sixties Kinks fan—who would ever think of quoting Chesterton in a rock record review. (At least, I know I've thought of it, though I can't recall if I've actually had the chutzpah to do it.)
Because of Waters' amazing feat, and his nice Dawn Patrol plug, I'd love to link you to his Web site. Unfortunately, judging by his own description of one of his links, his site appears to be on the growing list of WSIMOEBCBTACACs: Web Sites I Might Otherwise Endorse But Can't Because They Are Conduits for "Adult" Content.
As they say in Texas, shoot. The resurgence of porn-fandom-as-hipster-badge is bad enough among liberals, but it's a great disappointment when I find it among right-wingers, whom I believe should know better. Really, what is it with these "South Park" conservatives? Where's the moral edge over the Gore-voting "blue states" that James Taranto calls "The Porn Belt"?
UPDATE, 11/2/03: From Portland, Ore. (Gore, 47%), David Chelsea writes: "I've talked it over with all the other degenerates here in the Blue States, and we'll take the South Park conservatives if you'll take Joe Lieberman, Tipper Gore and Andrea Dworkin."
...is the title of Home Office Records' new blog. Featuring the writings of label head Linus Gelber and staffer Pierre Jelenc (who also maintains the highly useful Gigometer), it's marked by well-written, witty entries on everything from the local music scene to etymology. My favorite recent entry is "Rodents and Philology," on the connections between the roots of words for mouse and muscle—which somehow manages to work in the word "tsuris."
I should add that Pepper of the Earth is not a family-friendly site, which is why I'm linking to one entry and not the whole blog. However, while I may not always agree with Linus and Pierre on what makes good entertainment, I like their contagious spirit of warmth and good will—especially the generous way they let readers in on the wide range of New York City music, performance, and first-class beer that enriches their lives. Their rose-colored glasses almost Disney-fy the demimonde.
I'll make one more try at posting a Neil Postman artifact, and if it gets lost via a computer glitch again, I'll consider it kismet...
My friend Robert Barry Francos recently sent me (via Alan Abramowitz) a fascinating and heretofore rare piece of writing by Neil Postman, who died last month. He probably remembered that I'd been taught by Postman.
I'm sorry to say that my own memories of the much-loved author of Amusing Ourselves to Death are really not of interest unless you're a Postman completist, an Eden completist, or both. If you're neither, I recommend you skip to the genuine Postman material that appears below in an appropriately Luddite font.
I took Postman's "Introduction to Media Criticism" course in the spring of 1988, when I was a 19-year-old NYU junior. By that time, I had decided that I was not going to learn anything valuable in NYU's communications program, and the best thing I could do was coast through it, doing as little reading as possible, so I could focus on what was really important—researching Curt Boettcher, writing about music for Goldmine and about five other publications, aiding with bookings and publicity at Tramps nightclub, working for Bob Shannon, etc. So, sitting at the feet of the world's most revered McLuhan disciple was pretty low on my list of priorities. However, I did like the idea of getting college credit to write media criticism, plus Postman seemed like a more interesting and enjoyable character than the other profs, so I signed up for his course.
Postman did not give the impression of being thrilled to teach a room full of undergrads. I remember him as always being late, as he took long cigarette breaks with Professor Chris (as in Christine) Nystrom. They were the very best of friends and clearly relished one another's company. (I recall that during the extra daydreaming time I had before Postman arrived, I used to fantasize in my bored teenage way that the tweedy, graying professorial pair were secretly carrying on a torrid affair.)
When Postman did arrive, I recall that he didn't use notes. He would just extemporize on something, but always find a way to bring it back to media criticism and what it entailed. His points were no surprise to anyone who's read his writings, but there was certainly a pleasure in hearing him state them with such force and conviction.
They were also important points. The overall effect was the opposite of that Samuel Johnson quote: "That fellow seems to me to possess but one idea, and it is a wrong one." Everything Neil Postman said boiled down to one idea—and it was the right one. Truly, his dedication to his message invited respect.
Another outstanding memory I have of Neil Postman is that, while he treated his students (or at least us undergrads) with detachment, he was nonetheless respectful and exceedingly fair. He would frequently pose hard questions to the students in the Socratic manner for which he was known. If a student voiced an opinion with which he disagreed, but was able to back it up logically, he would pause to think about what the student said. If he couldn't come up with something to counter it, he would grant that the student might well have a point. Needless to say, that is a quality one only finds in very special professors.
Lastly, I liked him because he gave me an A.
Now, here's what I wanted to share with you, starting with a message from Lance Strate. That message and the Postman e-mail that follows originally appeared on the Media Ecology Association's listserv (click that link for more info on the MEA). It then appeared on the Remembering Neil Postman Web site, and I am grateful to Professor Strate for allowing me to reprint it:
We all know about Neil being identified as a neo-Luddite, and his criticisms of our use of computers, e-mail, and the Internet. But many of you may be unaware that Neil did once send a post to the media ecology listserv. This happened during the very early days of our list. It was only about a month old, there were only a dozen or two subscribers, and most were from NYU. Neil was not subscribed to the list, of course, not having e-mail, but his colleague Chris Nystrom was on the list, and showed him the messages we had been exchanging. Neil's response, which I have pasted in below, was classic Postman—witty, imaginative, a brilliant bit of writing. And there is also something ironic now, reading it after his passing, in his put on of a voice from another world. As he was channeling McLuhan, through the Internet we can now channel Postman:
* * *
Archive-Date: Tue, 13 May 1997 15:37:46 EDT
Subject: Observing the Law
This is the Ghost of Marshall McLuhan speaking to you. I don't have to tell you from what world I come. I am using Chris Nystrom's facility in order to reach you. I will say what I have to say only once. You will not hear from me again unless you persist in your foolishness.
Does the word "books" mean anything to you? Do you have so much time on your hands that you can afford to waste yourselves on this infernal machine? Have you already accumulated so much wisdom that you no longer need to read the best that has been thought and written? Is this the way you honor the work and life of my great friend and disciple, Neil Postman? Do any of you actually know how to spell?
I have now read all of your idiotic messages. Hear, now, The Law: Every medium taken to its furthest extent flips to its opposite. Thus the written word, which is the source of all the intellect we have, when used in this unholy fashion becomes a medium for the expression of all our stupidities. This, you have demonstrated amply. Enough, I say.
I must now return from whence I came. Remember what happened to the Hebrews when they did not follow the Law.