Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wall Street Journal-- DJ AM, the sought-after disc jockey who became a celebrity in his own right with high-profile romances and a glamorous lifestyle and survived a plane crash just months ago, was found dead Friday at his Manhattan apartment. He had a history of drug problems.

Police found a crack pipe and prescription pills in the apartment, according to a law enforcement official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing. Paramedics had to break down the door to the apartment before they found him, shirtless and wearing sweatpants, in his bed at about 5:20 p.m., the official said.

Kennedy Laid to Rest After Day of Honor

Perhaps Irish Central's Pearly Gates correspondent, Monsignor Pat Blather (see below), will have an update?

Friday, August 28, 2009

When the Choices Available Are So Limited

Shock! News! from Irish Central:
Kennedy 'wanted to go to heaven' says priest who stayed at his bedside
Thursday, August 27, 2009, 7:33 AM
The Irish priest at Teddy Kennedy’s side as he died says “Teddy wanted to go, he went in peace and it was beautiful.” Monsignor Patrick Tarrant, a native of Cork who has been a priest for 56 years, was called to the Kennedy home on Tuesday evening from the nearby Our Lady of Victory Parish when Kennedy took a turn for the worse.

The truth is, the priest said that, “he expressed to his family that he did want to go. He did want to go to heaven. He was ready to go."
Was it ever in dispute that he wanted to go someplace else? Did I miss a report that "Kennedy weighs options: Beirut or Heaven for Eternity?"

Note map from Irish Central which, though titled "Ireland's 32 counties," in fact shows Ireland's four provinces. You can't trust anybody these days.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stinky Times Again in the South Bronx

If you have any interest in current local events and news in the Bronx, I cannot recommend the Bronx Reporter highly enough, one of several web sites maintained by Matthew Lee under the umbrella title Inner City Press. Above photo from Blue Jake.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Poem for Today, Wednesday, 26th August, 2009

This is one of my favorite poems. I am always newly appalled when one reaches that line of ultimate menace:

I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together.

My Last Duchess

By Robert Browning 

That's my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said 
"Fra Pandolf" by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
That depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 't was not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say "Her mantle laps
Over my lady's wrist too much" or "Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:" such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart - how shall I say? - too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed: she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 't was all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace -all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech, 
Or blush,at least. She thanked men - good! but thanked
Somehow - I know not how - as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech - (which I have not) - to make your will
Quite clear to such a one, and say, "Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss
Or there exceed the mark"- and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse
- E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will 't please you rise? We'll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence 
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting is my object. Nay, we'll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me.

Saddam Hussein Did 9/11

Researchers seeking to explain [pdf] why so many Americans believed the Bush Administration's lies linking Saddam Hussein to the September 11th attacks, have discovered that many people believed it in reverse, also known as getting it ass-backwards: they already accepted that their government would invade Iraq... and the 9/11 link made sense.

We identify a number of social psychological mechanisms voters use to maintain false beliefs in the face of disconfirming information, and we show that for a subset of voters the main reason to believe in the link was that it made sense of the administration’s decision to go to war against Iraq. We call this inferred justification: for these voters, the fact of the war led to a search for a justification for it, which led them to infer the existence of ties between Iraq and 9/11.

Does that make sense? Errrr...

Edward Kennedy Dies at 77

Same age as my dad.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Yesterday I met someone who did not know what the word 'vagabond' means. But then, he also did not know what the KGB was, or is. That's because he doesn't even remember the Cold War. That's because he was born in 1989. I found his youthyness actually heartening: wow, someone born so recently that they've reached adulthood and never felt the hideous, churning fear I associate with 'nuclear holocaust.'

I told this person what 'vagabond' meant, while inside I was thinking, as I often do, that I love words! I love words the same way someone once wrote, "I love yellow," the simplicity of his ardor thrilling me to my heart. I love the way words can be as slippery as numbers and equations are exact. So I was pleased some months ago to come across the Visual Thesaurus, which allows users to see a word visually (above), in relation to its synonyms. So I used it for 'vagabond' today.

Each word is clickable and draggable, creating new word maps, like the word-octopus above. In addition to the strange and compelling little wordopus from the Visual Thesaurus, here are some other definitions, uses and synonyms of vagabond.
Historically, "vagabond" was a British legal term similar to vagrant, deriving from the Latin for 'purposeless wandering'. Following the Peasants' Revolt, British constables were authorised under a 1383 statute to collar vagabonds and force them to show their means of support; if they could not, they were jailed. Under a 1495 statute, vagabonds could be sentenced to the stocks for three days and nights; in 1530, whipping was added. The assumption was that vagabonds were unlicensed beggars.
Vagabond, adj: aimless, destitute, down-and-out, drifting, errant, fancy-free, fly-by-night, footloose, idle, itinerant, itinerate, journeying, mendicant, migratory, moving, nomadic, perambulant, perambulatory, peripatetic, prodigal, rambling, roaming, rootless, roving, sauntering, shifting, shiftless, straggling, stray, strolling, transient, travelling, unsettled, wandering, wayfaring, wayward...
A person who leads an unsettled life; traveler
...bindle, black sheep, derelict, drifter, floater, gutterpup, guttersnipe, hobo, stiff*, tramp, transient, vagrant
* = informal/non-formal usage
Main Entry: vagabond
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: person who is idle, worthless
Synonyms: bad lot, black sheep, bum, loafer, ne'er-do-well, no-good, profligate, rapscallion, scalawag, scamp, tramp, waster, wastrel
And not forgetting...
"These vagabond shoes / Are longing to stray / And make a brand new start of it / New York, New York / I want to wake up in the city that never sleeps..."
The first time I heard the word vagabond may have been (no surprises) from the Bible, which my father read aloud daily at home. First mention is in Genesis chapter 4, verse 12, part of the curse God puts on Cain for murdering his brother, Abel:
When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
My first clear memory of the word came from a little old book on astronomy, in which comets were called, rather grandly, "Vagabonds of Space."

Officials Weigh Circumcision to Fight H.I.V. Risk

NEW YORK TIMES — Public health officials are considering promoting routine circumcision for all baby boys born in the United States to reduce the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.

Experts are also considering whether the surgery should be offered to adult heterosexual men whose sexual practices put them at high risk of infection. But they acknowledge that a circumcision drive in the United States would be unlikely to have a drastic impact: the procedure does not seem to protect those at greatest risk here, men who have sex with men.

Circumcision will be discussed this week at the National H.I.V. Prevention Conference in Atlanta.
Among the speakers is a physician from Operation Abraham, an organization based in Israel and named after the biblical figure who was circumcised at an advanced age, according to the book of Genesis. The group trains doctors in Africa to perform circumcisions on adult men to reduce the spread of H.I.V.
[Inherent in Operation Abraham, I suggest, is surely this unpleasant logic: "Thank goodness for HIV! It has allowed us to dress up our weird and barbaric religious mutilation ceremony in a costume of medical legitimacy!"]
Members of Intact America, a group that opposes newborn circumcision, will protest the conference. “Circumcising babies doesn’t prevent H.I.V.,” said Georganne Chapin, who leads the organization.
Time Out New York, a weekly better known for its exhaustive cultural and restaurant listings, introduced a “Sex and Dating” section in early July. Along with articles on finding strippers and getting checked for sexually transmitted diseases, it features photos of local singles in the hunt, with e-mail contact information.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

An Odd Story; Ending is Happy part 2

In 1989, someone who is a friend of mine now, let's call him Terence, visited New York City from Columbus, Ohio, and stayed with a woman with whom he had been close to at high school. She had already moved to NYC and was working for the Brooklyn District Attorney: we'll call her Alice.

He stayed for a week, then left, and ultimately headed onwards to Europe for a few months. He left a t-shirt at her apartment by accident.

Soon after this in Columbus, someone with the same name and appearance as Terence, and carrying his I.D. which he had lost in Ohio, was murdered — shot in the face — in Columbus.

Alice heard this news and naturally assumed Terence was dead: the details all matched and there was no face left to compare with photos. She even called the Columbus police officer investigating the murder. It seemed the murder victim had to be her friend.

She was distraught. Time passed and she became an attorney. She would occasionally wear his t-shirt. It reminded her of him.

This past week, her husband by strange chance came across Terence on a social networking Web site, which shall remain nameless. Alice and Terence are now in touch again.
"Irish priest Father Michael Mernagh has arrived in Dublin after an eight day "walk of atonement" in reparation for the clerical abuse of children. The Belfast Telegraph reports that Fr Mernagh set out from St Coleman's Cathedral in Cobh on December 29 as part of his initiative to show solidarity with abuse victims."

I must say, this really helped me get over my initial horror and revulsion at the latest news of child abuse by Catholic Church staff. Just knowing that Father Mernagh was plodding along wee wet country roads, gamely encouraged by idiots who had his cell phone number, certainly made me think that he and the Church were really seriously penitent.