Friday, December 23, 2011

Freewheeling on Freylinghuysen

To quote Wikipedia,
Route 27 crosses into Newark, Essex County at the Virginia Street intersection, where it becomes Frelinghuysen Avenue, a road that heads north through the Dayton neighborhood of Newark, passing through urban areas and by Weequahic Park.
Ah, Frelinghuysen Avenue, you are my darling, Come sit you down upon my knee, And tell to me the very reason, Why I am slighted so by thee... It's not just me feels slighted by this desolate street in Newark, New Jersey. I'd think anybody who pitched up there late at night, as I did recently, would wonder about the ill  luck or terrible fate that brought them to this stretch of poisoned post-Soviet pavement.

When looking at these photos I hope you will agree with me that there is even serenity and peace on the edge of desolation, under the silent halos of the streetlights.

I felt at times that the streetlights were in some kind of secret conversation with the leafless trees.

A thoughtful reminder from some steely locals... I did not need any for my nerves.

The ghastly green afterglow from a visiting fliegende Untertasse.

But it was the trees that struck me as most alien... silent, still, gnarled, angular...

...stark in the glow of the neon streetlights... 

...that, and Chicken Holiday and Pizza!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens succumbed to cancer of the oesophagus last week, at the age of 62. He died in Texas, of all places, which I personally felt was kind of apt. 

Why apt? Texas is a place of extremes -- extremes of weather, terrain, people, and events. Hitchens has been eulogized, even lionized in the (American) press as an extreme contrarian, a man for whom nothing was sacred, not even Mother Teresa or Princess Diana -- or even his long-held left wing ideals, which he ditched with utter finality when he came out in support of President George W. Bush's War on Terror, after September 11th. 

I can't say I had much admiration for Hitchens, though his last stand against religion and superstition was courageous. He did seem a bilious, unpleasant type, at least in public. Also, I feel that his adulation in some quarters of U.S. society came from the well-known American tendency to be suckers for anything and everything that comes with an English accent. And I feel that in argument, he wielded an intellectual bludgeon, where perhaps a sharp stick might have worked just as well. The hideous monsters he took arms against (the Catholic Church, religious bigots, Henry Kissinger) would never have afforded him nor anyone, graciousness in defeat, but that is no reason for him to be ungracious. If you're going to kill a man's argument, it seems unkind to not give him an arm up out of the hole he dug himself. 

As it was clear he was suffering terribly from the effects of his cancer and treatments, Hitchens physically looked terrible, so in deference to all our vanities, here is a photo of him in his heyday, the piercing stare, pursed lips, "Looking as if she were alive..." Or about to explode!

UPDATE: Others with greater insight have committed their Hitchens hatchet-jobs to the public sphere, including this conclusion, bringing us back to the lone-star state: "the older Hitchens was so full of shit that you could use him to fertilise all of Texas for decades.

Indeed. In 2006, one of his Vanity Fair columns trumpeted a study that he said claimed to show that women had less of a sense of humor than men. There followed an unfounded, uncalled for, appalling screed of misogyny:
There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three.