Berberians at the gate
Phillipe & Jorge are tickled pink (with a hint of fuchsia around the edges)
that Our Little Towne's head ramrod, Mayor Buddy "Vincent A." Cianci, is trying
to turn the Columbus Theater into a showcase for musicals. It is on
Broadway, after all. (Which reminds your superior correspondents of the time 25
years ago when we were traveling on Broadway in Pawtucket with a friend
visiting from Bangladesh. "Is this the famous Broadway?" he blurted out. Just
imagine, if you will, what the Bud-I would have told this guy had he hauled him
aboard a gondola for a half-hour spin.)
Of course, there is that pesky little problem concerning the shutting down of
a profitable, tax-paying, and legal business, a business whose historic
building the Berberian family has kept in good repair all these years. But what
is this compared to the fact that the Bud-I don't want no porn in the
Renaissance City? The hell with the Constitution.
Given the special niche the Columbus has cultivated in the last three decades
(we understand that when word got out about the Bud-I's initiative, the
manufacturers of the London Fog raincoat placed black cloths on their heads),
we feel that after the mayor lays dubious claim to the building and rousts its
legal owners, the Columbus's initial offerings should be something that makes
note of its heritage. Who better than the Bud-I to promote a new production of
Hair? Or howzabout a special Providence version of Oh, Calcutta!?
Restaging famous musicals to fit the legendary Columbus shouldn't be hard
(whoops!). Right off the bat (whoops, again) we can think of My Bare
Lady, Oklahomo!, and Annie Get My Gun. When you think about
it, the possibilities are endless.
Get down, Dom!
A huge sigh of relief now that Superior Court Judge Dominic Cresto has recused
himself from the Gerber Gang Trial of the Century. After the Supremes plucked
the (Gerber) baby from the bath water and reinstated the charges, P&J were
ready to settle in for round 4 of the Biggest Little's version of the Ultimate
Mr. Man Contest by way of the Longest Case in History.
While Cresto's motivation for leaving had more to do with the unseemly
urination derby between the judge and AG Jeff "Pinetop" Pine, the fact is that
the Vo Dilun public, long suspicious of the notion that the privileged own a
stack of "get out of jail free" cards compliments of a good-ol'-boy judicial
system (a.k.a. Old Politicians' Job Placement Center), needs to have the facts
presented before them and a jury decision reached. It's as necessary for our
well-being as a good, old-fashioned hosing down is upon our exiting Lupo's.
Of course, Phillipe & Jorge were hoping for a truly spectacular move by
Pinetop (i.e, trying to get Taunton's former "Officer Good" of cable TV fame as
a special bench assignment for the case), but we'll just have to settle for
Learning in a vacuum
Glenn Brewer, chairman of the North Kingstown School Committee, is all bent out
of shape because the Rhode Island Department of Education has devised a student
survey asking hundreds of questions about kids' attitudes toward their school
and home lives, self-image, etc.
"It asked a lot of questions about feelings. Whether you're too thin or fat.
How many servings of vegetables did you eat over the last 24 hours. A lot of
questions about activities with parents. This is not an area [that] schools
should be involved in. They shouldn't be asked questions about their home
life," Brewer is quoted as saying in last Tuesday's BeloJo.
Is it that Chairman Brewer thinks that people (in this case, kids) live in
some kind of compartmentalized world, where, say, nutrition has nothing to do
with one's ability to learn and where social life, self-image, and one's
relationship with his/her parents and other adults have no impact on
achievement in school? If so, then Chairman Brewer is living in a dream world.
If we want to find out how schools can best educate students in the 21st
century, we won't find the answers by sticking our heads in the sand and
pretending that every aspect of a child's life is a separate experience.
Brewer's complaint that certain personal questions about attitudes and feelings
on the survey have no direct connection to academics flies in the face of both
common sense and what we already know about how children learn.
Your superior correspondents are going to take an educated guess here that
Chairman Brewer is a partisan of what is known as "the religious right" and
that his objections smack more of politics than education. He seems endowed
with the spirit that brought us the imprisonment of Galileo and that little
Dayton, Tennessee, dust-up 73 years ago over Mr. Scopes and the study of
evolution. There are plenty of other education issues that merit scrutiny. This
ain't one of them.
Who are you?
The following report from the Toronto Globe and Mail caught P&J's
A lone agent was rebooking a long line of travelers on a canceled flight.
Suddenly, an angry passenger pushed his way to the front of the line and asked
loudly so that the passengers behind him could hear: "Young lady, do you have
any idea who I am?" The agent smiled and picked up her public address
microphone. "May I have your attention, please?" she began, her voice heard
throughout the terminal. "We have a passenger here who does not know who he is.
If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to the gate."
We are told that ex-Governor Sundlun's flight was otherwise uneventful.
As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week, we must
also consider the decidedly mixed legacy of Mr. J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI.
After all, the reason why the Dr. King holiday is still controversial in some
quarters is directly related to the negative side of the Hoover legacy -- i.e.,
Hoover's decade-long vendetta against King, which featured unprecedented (and
illegal) wiretapping, attempts to link the civil-rights movement with "the
communist conspiracy," and the highly selective release of information in a
concentrated effort to destroy Dr. King and his work.
That the "communist influence" tag (based almost solely on the fact that close
King advisor Stanley Levison was once a Communist) has any influence today is a
result of the lies and deceit of Hoover. He was a foe of racial integration (he
referred to Dr. King as a "burrhead" and a "degenerate") who, once he had
driven Levison away from King, tried to slur advisor Harry Watchel and, even
more incredible, MLK Sr. (a longtime Republican) as communists. Hoover knew
that this wasn't true.
While much of the resistance to celebrating the legacy of a man who, to your
superior correspondents, is the hands-down most important figure for all that
is right and good in 20th-century America is undoubtedly motivated by low-level
racism, the communist angle gives cover to those who wish to mask their
aversion to Dr. King. Among those too young to remember those days and have
grown up in an age of public cynicism, this tactic can have the same effect as
the ludicrous Holocaust deniers' rant -- "gee, maybe there's something to
this." There's nothing to it, except Hoover's obsession with Dr. King and his
despicable campaign to destroy his reputation.
Casa Diablo has long had a copy of Taylor Branch's Pulitzer Prize-winning work
Parting the Waters, and we have just finished the second volume of
Branch's massive history of America in the King years, the recently published
Pillar of Fire. We heartily recommend these books to one and all as a
scrupulously chronicled account of that time and as an explanation to younger
people of why there are still some who wish to deny that, as a great orator,
pragmatic politician, and unswerving advocate of non-violence and brotherly
love, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stands head and shoulders above the crowd.
Kudos and congrats . . .
. . . to Smithfield police captain William Shepard who, in "enforcing the law
impartially," has gone on an anti-massage crusade in that town, closing down
licensed masseurs in an Apple Valley Mall salon, a gymnasium, and the
Smithfield Senior Center. A boneheaded ordinance addressing fears of illicit
"massage parlors" (none has ever existed in Smithfield) apparently makes no
distinction between the therapeutic value of a vigorous rubdown and Willie and
the Hand Jive. Time to revisit moronic laws. And also to wonder who rubbed
Captain Shepard the wrong way.