Friday, December 30, 2011

The Sixth Floor Summit

(Update - On Friday, 2/17/2012, Andy and I went to Dallas for our JFK Oral History Project interview. It went very well. Read all about it HERE.)

Some of you know the story - two boyhood pals in suburban New Jersey: While other kids were playing sports, Andy and Jeff were consumed with the JFK assassination. We both vividly remembered where we were on November 22, 1963, and from the time we met in 1967 at age ten through our teenage years and early twenties, we delved into the Crime of the Century - reading books, engaging in deep discussions of conspiracy theories, examining the Zapruder film frame by frame. We vowed to one day visit Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Over the years, we lost touch, but reconnected in 2002. We remembered The Vow, and that neither of us had let go of it.

Then, in 2005, I learned I had to go to Fort Worth for business. By that time, Andy had relocated to Houston. I contacted Andy and the plans were underway. On November 16th, 2005, 11:45 CST, we both arrived at the parking lot of the Sixth Floor Museum - formerly known as the Texas School Book Depository - each clutching our copies of Best Evidence.

We spent the day at Dealey Plaza, covering every inch of the Grassy Knoll, visiting the Sixth Floor Museum, re-enacting the frantic drive from Elm Street to Parkland Hospital, even visiting the grave of unsung 11/22 hero J.D. Tippit.

A while back, I heard about the JFK Oral History Project, which:
explores the history and culture of Dallas and the 1960s, and preserves personal recollections regarding the life and death of President John F. Kennedy. These candid, informal interviews offer insight into the Kennedy legacy and the local—and global—impact of his assassination.

I contacted Andy and we knew we HAD to do this. So, on November 22, 2011, we simultaneously contacted the curator of the Sixth Floor Museum, who found our story compelling enough to invite us to Dallas to be interviewed on video for the Project.

Our interview is scheduled for Friday, February 17th, 2012, at 2:00pm CST. I will fly to Houston the night before, Andy and I will head to Dallas Friday morning, on the ultimate road trip. The journey will be documented on video and in writing. Stay tuned to Pick's Place for updates.

The video of our interview will be archived for viewing on the website or at the Museum itself. We will not only talk about history. We will be part of history.

This will be HUGE.

This will be EPIC.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 airing of "The Spirit of Christmas", featuring the Mabel Beaton Marionettes

This vintage Christmas special, featuring marionette performances of  "A Visit From St Nicholas" and the story of the Nativity, has been shown in TV every year since 1950.

As a public service, Pick's Place is providing the show times for "The Spirit of Christmas":

The Mabel Beaton Marionettes perform " 'Twas The Night Before Christmas" and "The Christmas Story" 
Where: WHYY Channel 12
When: Saturday, December 24 - 10:00am, Sunday, December 25 - 1:30pm

You can now see these vintage shows on YouTube, or DVR them, or buy it on DVD, but there's no substitute for catching them in real time on regular TV (for me, at least).

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pitman Punts

"Even though the prospect sickens, brother here we go again"
 - Tom Lehrer, "A Christmas Carol"

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year again folks, and it wouldn't be the "Holiday" season without the War on Christmas, and all its battles, real and imagined, from the annual rumors that our secret Muslim President is changing the name of the White House Christmas Tree to the Holiday Tree, to the real story of the Governor of Rhode Island and the State Holiday Tree, to the various whining talking heads on Fox "News", and the usual skirmishes over Nativity scenes on public property, which can easily be fixed by placing a Menorah beside them.

But there is a real war on Christmas right in my own backyard, in Pitman, NJ, where someone has hung a sign above Broadway (Pitman's main drag), that reads, "Keep Christ in Christmas". Now, you don't need to be a constitutional scholar to understand that this sign breaches the wall of separation of church and state, and one First Amendment advocacy group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has complained.

Now, this sort of thing is not unusual, but the response of the Pitman Borough Attorney, Brian Duffield, is quite interesting:
“We found out that the banner is attached on one end to the old bank — which is privately owned — and on the other end it’s connected to an Atlantic City Electric or Verizon pole which the borough does not own. Also, Broadway is a county — not a borough — road. Everything related to the sign is not on Pitman public property.”

Huh? According to my map, the location of this banner lies withing Pitman's borders, hangs in Pitman's airspace, yet the Borough of Pitman has no legal jurisdiction to take it down? The banner, according to the Borough, hangs in some generic part of Gloucester County, not in Pitman. The banner just appeared by magic. Using this logic, I suppose I can park my car at one of the metered spots on Broadway without putting money into the meter, and no cop would give me a ticket because Broadway is out of Pitman's jurisdiction.

Pitman takes pride in its origins as a Methodist encampment and its many churches, but there is no religious test to live in Pitman, nor is there a religious test to travel to or through it, to park on its streets, or to shop at its Mom and Pop stores on Broadway. A banner with a religious proclamation, hanging in a public street, whether it's a municipal road or a county road, is inappropriate and should come down.

Duffield's punt on jurisdiction here pretty much ensures that the banner will remain in place, at least for the near future, but with Christmas just over a week away, it will be down in a few weeks anyway.

So, what can church/state separation advocates do? A legal battle would not be resolved between now and December 25th.

How about some civil disobedience, climb up there and take the sign down ourselves? After all, since the banner is out of Pitman's jurisdiction, we can expect the police to stand idly by and wait for the Gloucester County Sheriff to arrive, by which time the sign and the removers will be long gone, right?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Disgruntled Eagles fan declares "Christmas in Distress"

(Update: the final sentence of this post refers to a lost Vinny Testaverde ornament. In what can only be described as a Christmas Miracle, a new Vinny ornament arrived in my mail Monday night, 12/12, the work of a mysterious benefactor).

I've been accused of being a Scrooge, and a Grinch, but I like Christmas. Really, I do. I like the lights on our house and our tree. I especially like my ornaments, in particular, my Jets and Eagles ornaments.

Eight Christmases ago I ordered an Eagles ornament from Danbury Mint, and every year (springtime, I think) I get the new year's ornament. Then I put it away and wait until December, when I enjoy adorning my tree with my ornaments.

However, this year has been different. The Eagles have been terrible. As in they suck, they suck really bad, and each game they find new ways to suck. If they suck so bad, how can I be enthusiastic about putting their ornaments on my tree?

Yes, I know you should be loyal to your team through thick and thin, and I am. But I cannot simply do my usual ornament thing without making a statement.

The Solution:
As we all know, the American flag flown upside down is a sign of distress. And distress is what I would call the Eagle's situation this year (as of this writing they are ahead of the Miami Dolphins, but I don't care. I'm not watching it). So I have decided to display my Eagles ornaments on the tree, upside down, as a sign of protest against a team in distress.

Maybe next year will be different. And maybe next year I will find my lost Vinny Testaverde ornament :(

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Closer Look at Rick Perry's Video "Strong"

Perry's homophobic video, "Strong", has overtaken Rebecca Black's "Friday" for the record of YouTube "dislikes", at 535,249 and rising as of this writing.

Pick's Place has done a closer examination of "Strong" and found some subliminal messages. Rick may not be as homophobic as we think.

In fact, Rick actually supports marriage equality:

Here Rick shows us a sample from his music collection:
Candace Gingrich may be an Obama supporter, but she still {{hearts}} Rick:

While Fox may be Rick's favorite TV station, he still likes to Lean Forward with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow:
Somewhere in Heaven, Harvey Milk is smiling at Rick:
Do you have any  of your own? Email them to and we'll post them.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I heard the news that day, oh boy

Where were you on December 8, 1980?

That night, actually. I was 23 years old. It was just after 11:00PM EST, I was watching the news on New York City's NBC channel 4 in my bedroom in New Jersey. Chuck Scarborough was delivering the news when he was handed a bulletin: "We just received some startling news. A man believed to be former Beatle John Lennon has been shot outside Central Park". That was all the details he had. Later in the broadcast he confirmed that the man was indeed John Lennon, and he had died.

I then shut the TV off and tuned my radio to WNEW-FM ("Where rock lives"). DJ Vin Scelsa, his voice shaking,  was riffing on the shocking event that had just happened, lamenting that "the life of a man of peace would end in such a damnable manner". He then cued-up "Watching the Wheels" from John and Yoko's comeback album, "Double Fantasy". I fell asleep listening to the radio.

I cannot say that the death of John Lennon affected me personally, but like many of my generation, for us, the music of The Beatles was the soundtrack to our childhood and coming-of-age. From their arrival in 1964, a welcome antidote after the assassination of John F. Kennedy (another "Where were you?" moment) when I was in 2nd grade, to the break-up in 1970 when I was entering high school, to Lennon's surprise appearance at an Elton John concert in Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving 1974. I had a third row center seat that night, and it was, of course, one of the highlights of my life as a music fan. It was also the last time Lennon would ever appear on a stage.

It is impossible to say what John Lennon would be doing now if he had lived. I am almost certain, however, that he would have continued to be an outspoken critic of war and an advocate for peace.

Would he have made more music? I hope so.