Friday, July 4, 2008

Brooklyn Beat on the Road: Saratoga Springs on the 4th of July

At the foot of the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs, NY, is a city in Saratoga County, New York, USA. The name reflects the presence of mineral springs in the area. While the word "Saratoga" is known to be a corruption of a Native American place name, authorities disagree on what the exact word was, and hence what it meant.

More interesting is the meaning of the word 'Adirondacks.' It is an Anglicized version of the Mohawk latilontaks (ratirontaks), meaning they eat bark, a derogatory name which the Mohawk historically applied to neighboring Algonquian-speaking tribes. When food was scarce, the Algonquians would eat the inside of the bark of the white pine. The Mohawk word is composed of several morphemes, as is usual in the language: lati, a third-person plural masculine agent prefix; lonta, an incorporated noun root for 'bark'; k, a verbal root for 'eat'; s, an active state aspect suffix.

Saratoga is a resort town, artistic but less bohemian than Woodstock or even New Paltz to the south. The racing season in late July and August brings a big crowd of horse enthusiasts and the Saratoga summer set.

The fourth of July was a big to-do in town. Many businesses close altogether or close early for the holiday. Lots of folks downtown along Broadway celebrating in pubs and restaurants that are open. Then, a trail of locals, tourists, kids, punk music fans, guys with Lacoste shirts and massive watches, starts to make its way downtown toward Congress Park, at the end of Broadway. There, it was a little bit of "Ain't That America" (to someone from NYC, it seemed scripted by Rod Serling, a blast from the past), as a brass band played patriotic music, folks sat out on blankets on the grass, waiting in the twilight for the fireworks display. No irony here. Locals told us that last year the fireworks display was rained out so it was held on Labor Day instead. It is a small town fourth of July. Ain't that America?

While Judy and I were in the hotel gym, we were watching CNN and saw reports about the energy crisis and all of the other issues that suggest that we are at the End of Empire. Gas crisis, Middle East crisis, econo-political challenges from a resurgent Russia and China, continuing threat of terror, weakened economy, recession threatening, according to Dmitri Medveded, aka Putin 2, to slide into Depression, the Patriot Acts threats to freedom, 8 years of George Bush, Democratic disarray, the need for new energy infrastructures and new technologies, the need to make the world Safe for Democracy, balance religious and cultural freedoms with protecting ourselves internally and externally from religious intolerance. To quote Boris Badenov, "Hoo-boy, we are in Big Trouble, Natasha, get me Moose and Squirrel.")

Challenges, yes, but possibilities always. The land of potential and always the land of remarkable freedom. The ability to bring about change. After 8 years of the conservative revolution, the wheel seems to be spinning with the potential for change. In 2002,and then in 2006, as the Endless Term dragged on, one thought, how can we survive this Neo-Con Ascendancy? But we did. And people, even those rabidly pro-Bush, finally saw the truth. Ain't that America ?

Barack Obama will face challenges. He is the presumptive candidate of the Democrats. But, just as it it possible that the Bob Barr Libertarian party run can steal and de-stabilitze the GOP run, could poor campaign management or Demo party disappointment as Senator Obama moves to the center, threaten his candidacy at the Convention ? Stranger things have happened. In Saratoga I saw kids with painted faces and Obama Tshirts. I also saw teenagers with "Viva Reagan Revolution" shirts and others with John McCain buttons.

Interesting also that States-rights advocate and US Senator Jesse Helms now shares the fourth of July with Jefferson and Adams.

Yes, in Saratoga Springs, it is a small town, Jeffersonian fourth of July, picnics and popcorn, brass bands, flags and fireworks, as opposed to the Hamiltonian fourth of July celebration in New York City, all corporate and sponsored, with fireworks best viewed from a penthouse or a yacht. Ain't that America?

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Current Reading

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  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
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  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
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  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
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  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
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  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
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  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
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  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
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  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
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  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
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  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
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  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
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  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
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  • Dali: Painting & Film
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  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
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  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
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  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

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  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
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  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
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  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo