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Newark USA

A fotojournal about LIVING in Newark USA, New Jersey's largest and most cultured city, by the author of the foto-essay website RESURGENCE CITY: Newark USA.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

'Public Protest Battle', Closing Reception at Gateway Project TONITE


On April 30th, I attended, with my friend Jerry, who came in from Manhattan, the opening of the "Color Polemics" art show at the Gateway Project space in Gateway II. (Gateway Center is Downtown Newark's premier office complex.)


I was, frankly, confused by the advance-notice emails I had received about the Gateway show, in that they made it sound as tho the space devoted to an art gallery in Gateway Center had been massively expanded, whereas it was actually shrunk. In place of exhibition space, much of the area had been chopped up for individual artist studios, almost none of which had, as of that date, been leased.


There were some worthy pieces of two-dimensional art, a few of which I depict today. The works were supposed to fit within the conceptual framework of "Color Polemics", described below (from an email from The Gateway Project).


OOPS! (which I say with the short-OO of "good", not the long-OO of "doofus" or "stooge"). I was trying to take a picture of the artwork on the far wall, over the head of opening-reception attendees. I did not realize that I had just adjusted a feature on my camera that reset the flash to go off, whereas before that, it was off. I thus unintentionally, and rudely, shocked the gentleman in this foto with a flash in his face. I apologize. I would have apologized without showing the man's picture, but that might not have got thru to him in particular. Tho some people might think such a foto is a violation of privacy, let me explain a fundamental principle of law: THERE IS NO PRIVACY IN PUBLIC. That's why paparazzi can take pictures of anybody on the street. This gentleman appeared to think I intended to take his picture, but I had, and still have, no idea who he is. I'm still sorry for having set off a flash in his face. I hope it didn't blind him even momentarily. I have no idea how brite my camera's flash is, since I've never taken a picture of myself with it. I do know it doesn't carry very far, at least at nite. Indeed, I do not see any way, with MY camera, to take a "selfie" other than by GUESSING what the picture will show, in that my cellfone camera faces away from the keyboard.
The opening will premiere ... "Color Polemics: Unpacking the Movement Towards Racial Equality and Identity in America" (with works by Ayad Alkadhi, David Antonio Cruz, Derrick Adams, Chiraag Bhakta, Hank Willis Thomas, Himanshu Suri, Jc Lenochan, Kameelah Rasheed, Kara Walker, Laura Kina, Lunar New Year, Nick Kline, Nina Chanel Abney, Nyugen Smith, Richard Barnes, Tomie Arai, Travis Somerville).

This is more like what I intended the foto above to show.

That is the show that is closing tonite (May 28th).


There is also to be a performance-art "Battle", the third of three, that was described in an email about one of them that did not arrive in my emailbox until the day itself (so I did not go), described thus:

The Battles are a series of live and interactive performances that center around the artists [sic] piece Public Protest Post. The public is invited to engage with the mics and music and present poetry, rap, dance, song, spoken word, and a variety of other verbal and visual interactions with the piece.

So bring your A-Game and your voice, and join us for the PPP Battle!

As for PPP's host, his (her?) work is described below, in the indecipherable and pretentious verbiage I term "art-ese", that is employed by all too many arts organizations today. (I actually do not know whether "Jc Lenochan" is male or female, and HATE it when people use initials rather than a gender-specific name. Indeed, it should become a commonplace courtesy to the reader that people whose names are not generally known to apply to one sex or the other put "Mr." or "Ms." before their name. I recently discovered that there are some people whose parents stupidly named a girl child "Kevin". Those parents should be flogged, and that inappropriate name should be changed by government. The Soviet Union had to crack down on insane names, like "Tractor". I admire very little about the Soviet Union, but that is at least one I agree with. All the crazy names we are seeing nowadays, like "Rocket", "Rebel", and "Moon Unit" should be changed by government, and the parents who inflicted them should be flogged 200 lashes of a cat-o-nine-tails — unless a bullwhip would hurt more, in which case they should be flogged 200 lashes from a bullwhip.)


These two large-format fotos reminded me of pix I saw in an Open Doors show some years ago of Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson(?) by a Star-Ledger sports reporter, whose name I do not recall. They might not be by him, but they sure do look as tho they are.

You might get the feeling that these strings of cant or jargon actually mean something to the people who issue them but that those meanings are so deep within the person who utters them that no one else has so much as the vaguest idea of what they're talking about. Perhaps artists should stick to the visual and let a WRITER set out what they are trying to say, in terms that people outside the artist can understand. Visual arts and writing are different skills, and not every visual artist is capable of expressing him- or herself in writing. S/he doesn't have to. That's what writers are for, and every arts organization should recruit WRITERS to explain in words what their artists express in visual forms. There are over 7 billion people on Earth. No one person has to do everything. The way the human race has advanced so far is by specialization, as by letting artists 'art' and writers write. In any case, here is the description of PPP as it relates to the art of Jc Lenochan.


Public Protest Post, 2015, is an interactive installation created by Jc Lenochan that invites audiences to speak their mind about social issues in America like race, class, and more. [So far, so good: intelligible expository prose. But try to wade thru the following paragraf.]

"The work is a critique of epistemology through the process of deconstructing objects and de-circulating institutional relics, reconfiguring these commodities the way I think they should be perceived as an initiative to arts [sic] transformative function. Through investigative research, drawing, riffs on traditional sculpture and performance[-]based installations, my interests and concerns pursue ideas of re-appropriation and mis-representation of images, subverting text or forms that already exist, with personal/historical narratives embodying Socratic methods of questioning and humor as a post-colonial pedagogical dialogue on manipulating perspective of the dominant ideology, confronting cultural bias, perceptions of otherness and racial fabrications. Everything we see has the potential to become inexplicably something else for social justice, wherein concepts dictate materials and process. 'What deliberate role has institutional academics played in shaping our current cultural climate regarding race and what are the repercussions of our sociological and psychological condition regarding racial tension and cultural pedagogy?’" - Jc Lenochan, 2015

After Jerry and I had made a circuit of the art offerings, and Jerry had tasted of the scant food, we looked for a place to sit and talk. First we saw this newly prepared space for an artist's studio, but there were no chairs in there.

Huh? I have repeatedly been tested and found to have "very superior" intelligence, even "genius" IQ. But I can't make heads nor tails of that, because I am not privy to Lenochan's internal mental processes, so do not know what, exactly, s/he means by a host of the terms s/he uses. Nor can anyone else outside his or her head. Give us a break, and write something that people outside your head can comprehend.


This closer view of a typical wall within the newly carved-out artist's studios shows the paint or glue — or whatever — on the walls of one of the new spaces. Such stripes should not much matter to artists who are only going to put their own works up on any unpainted wall.

I present below my last quote from The Gateway Project's invitation to tonite's PPP event.
Join [us] this Thursday, May 28th from 6 - 9 PM for the final Public Protest Post (PPP) Battles. Special guests (TBA) will be in attendance for the final battle/closing party for the Color Polemics exhibition.

Jerry and I, who are both in our seventies — Jerry will be 74 in early July — did in time find a future studio with present chairs, and sat to chat. I looked up and took the foto above of an unfinished wall that does not go all the way to the ceiling of this major office building. I guess that would be fine for artists who either have quiet neighbors or who share their neighbors' musical tastes, but I would find it unsettling. Is this open-ceiling arrangement really what artists who rent studios in The Gateway Project's space, face?


Thanks for the invite, but I won't attend. I've already seen the 2D art, from the opening on April 30th, and I have no patience for performance art or videos. I learned that thru a one-time experience in an evening at Index Art Center's annual "Filmideo" (film / video) event. I felt trapped when things I did not care for, or even found objectionable (obscene) came onscreen, and I didn't want to see it. With an ordinary art show, you can move quickly from piece to piece. If you don't like one, you just move immediately to the next, all around the gallery. But with film or video, you are stuck watching something you may find you HATE, by which time it's too late. You can't "unsee", and the human mind has a very powerful visual memory, which has always been indispensable to the safety of the creature, in that you need to recall when something similar, earlier in life, proved dangerous, lest you fall victim to it this time even if you evaded destruction the last time. With performance art, film and video, you have to give over your time to something in which you may have no interest, or even dislike. I don't have that kind of patience, nor time. I am 70 years old, and life is (literally, at my age) too short to waste any of it on things I dislike.
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So, Gateway Project, by all means keep me advised as to future shows of 2D and 3D art. But leave that 4th D, time, out of it, and let me skip over things I'm not interested in. Deal?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hair What-ing?

I have backfilled (1) May 14th with a post about three cleanups in Vailsburg and (2) April 26th, with a post about Brennan Park. I'd rather not backfill, but I have so many gaps in recent months, and so many topics to address and fotos to show that just going forward won't suffice.

I was wandering around Downtown Newark today on one of my periodic updating expeditions. I wanted to check for any new developments in regard to planters in Military Park, construction progress in the Hahne's Building and NuPru (the large overflow building for Prudential Plaza, HQ of Prudential Financial, one of the world's great insurance and other financial companies), etc. I do these foto expeditions Downtown on Sunday in order to be reasonably certain of finding free on-street parking. To my great irritation, tho I did find a place to park, on Commerce Street near Commerce Court, the meters were still in use, 25¢ for 15 minutes. On a Sunday. Is the City trying to destroy ALL retail businesses Downtown? I grudginly shelled out $1.00, but that forced me to walk around a bit faster than I would have preferred, since I had to get up as far as Halsey and New Streets before heading back. And I don't walk well, in that I have had three knee surgeries (right-left-right). It was also very hot in the day's brilliant full sun, and I was wearing a flannel shirt in that the forecast had suggested that lighter apparel might be too cold. It's that old "best-laid plans" thing again.
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My first priority, however, was to take daytime pix of the Gibraltar Building, the third of early-20th-Century "starchitect" Cass Gilbert's major buildings in Newark. So I parked closest to that building and tried to find good angles from which to fotograf it. Unfortunately, views are restricted by the narrowness of some of the streets around it. I did nonetheless get some good fotos, which I will be showing here sometime soon.


As I walked up Halsey Street toward NuPru and Hahne's, I saw the elegant awning, above, outside a small business. Hm. Somebody spent a lot of money on an advertising awning that misspells a key term — TWICE, as in the two zoomed views below. It would seem that neither the business owner who ordered that awning nor the customizer of that awning knew the proper spelling.


Perhaps the spelling should be "brading", an inflected form of "brade", but the two terms are properly spelled "braiding" and "braid" (like "paid", but not "said"). This is why I am a spelling reformer. One should not have to know how things are "supposed" to be spelled to spell them right. We should simply be able to sound them out and plug in the appropriate spelling for each sound, to be right. You can do that with the bulk of words in, for instance, Spanish, Italian, and German. Why not in English?


My friend Jerry, who is no dope, somehow got the idea that the word "wander" should be pronounced with a short-A in the first syllable, like the visually parallel word "gander". I pointed out that altho that would be reasonable, it's wrong, and the word is pronounced as the altogether different word "wonder" should be pronounced, with a short-O in the first syllable, as in "ponder". Alas, "wonder" is actually pronounced with a short-U in the first syllable. It is this madness that is responsible for a preposterously high rate of functional illiteracy in the United States and other English-speaking countries. Indefensible tho such spelling irrationality obviously is, there are nonetheless people, in both education and publishing, who DEFEND such indefensible stupidity. People like me who want us to adopt rational spellings have gotten nowhere because bad spelling drives out good. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Monday, May 18, 2015

FOTD: Gaggle of Watering Cans

Now that enervating cold weather has ended, I've been out and about taking hundreds and hundreds of fotos, of different subjects and events in different parts of the city. That's the opposite of my winter behavior, when my ambition was stunted by the desire to hibernate, but it has produced a similar mismatch of tasks and energy, esp. since I'm not sleeping well, nor in a regular sleep cycle. I get very little continuous sleep and my prime time is the middle of the nite. I'd like to get up early in the day, but my biorhythms are not cooperating. My friend Jerry from Manhattan has a similar schedule, except that he takes Ambien to get a good stretch of good sleep. I'm wary of taking even prescription drugs, but do have a package of Unisom that I've had on hand for many years but never used. Jerry thinks it might have expired in efficacy. In any case, when we were making arrangements to meet up this past Saturday to attend the art-show opening reception at the Newark Print Shop ("NPS"), my fone rang at 4:15am Friday into Saturday. It was Jerry, and we were both still up.


In any case, I have started to draft a number of posts on a number of topics, but there are so many fotos I could use that restricting blogposts to only a few illustrations, and deciding which those should be, is a problem. It will take me many days to get online even a large fraction of the posts I have in mind to create. For now, let me just show as a Foto Of The Day what I found to be a visually striking cluster of gooseneck watering cans inside the garden of the Prudential Outdoor Learning Center of the Greater Newark Conservancy. I saw it in a brief sidetrip on my latest circuit of the construction site of the Newark ShopRite supermarket and residential complex. With regard to those progress pix, I can use a few of the fotos in a blogpost but add all the other presentable fotos to my Picasa Online Newark ShopRite album. (Most of the fotos I take are decidedly presentable — and you wouldn't know about the ones that are not, because they don't leave my house! I can erase all evidence that my crappy pictures ever existed by simply deleting them from my digital camera's memory chip, except that there will then appear gaps in the sequential numbering in each place where I deleted a foto.)
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So now you know of a few of the topics I am preparing to address: the NPS "Not Your Type" show, the Prudential Outdoor Learning Center's garden, progress pix of the Newark ShopRite. I also took nitetime fotos of the views from the top of the Indigo Hotel during the after-party for the Gateway Project's latest opening, which implies fotos of the Gateway Project show as well. In addition, I have fotos enuf to illustrate a bunch of other topics. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Watch Out for that First Step ...




... It's a doozy.
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I was walking around my neighborhood this morning and saw this house without front stairs. I guess it's being repaired.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

All Gone

I am very pleased to show today three conspicuous improvements to my neighborhood. I have been angry and indignant that someone, or more than one someone, has dumped various items on the grounds of an abandoned house (No. 299) just south of my property line, and actually intruding into my driveway.
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It started with a mattress, boxspring and a few other furniture-type things.


Then some chunks of wood (parts of a tree trunk) were added, which did not quite fit within 299's property line but pushed several inches into my driveway.


Then the two parts of a sectional sofa were added to the garbage mix, one in the tiny backyard of that house, but the other perhaps 35' farther down the driveway toward the street. I was puzzled. These things can be disposed of on bulk-pickup day, once a month (on my block, the second Wednesday). Why would anyone go to the trouble of moving heavy items from their own building to a place alongside an abandoned building, presumably within a couple of hundred feet of their own, when they could just wait for bulk-pickup day and put them out, much closer to home, to be removed by the City of Newark for free, and thus be properly disposed of instead of becoming an ongoing eyesore?


This is the house that had been occupied by a Puerto Rican family when I first arrived in Newark. The father was a nice enuf guy except that he had a pit bull terrier that he KNEW chased and killed cats and any other small animal it could catch, yet he allowed that dog to go outdoors unleashed. She was a well-behaved animal with people, but that's not good enuf. It turned out that she killed my long-haired white cat, Bianca, who somehow got out of the house. The dog tore off one of her rear legs when she tried to climb a tree to safety, and ripped her belly open. Permitting a dog to do such a thing is unforgivable behavior, and I called the police about it. A young patrolman saw the problem plainly, and the neighbor got rid of the dog. How, I do not know. It should never have come to that, and I do not understand people who let a vicious dog run off-leash. Such behavior should be severely punished by government. (My sister Sue Ann and I separately came to the stance that we could easily suppress dogfighting, a related matter, by putting the 'people' responsible into the dogfighting pit to be torn to pieces by the dogs they victimize. I'd favor a similar fix to the problem of people who let vicious dogs off-leash to attack other dogs, cats, etc. That would end the problem in a hurry.)
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In any case, that family moved to some Essex County suburb. A black (married?) couple, probably in their early 30s, moved in shortly thereafter. I didn't get to know them, however, because they had a tumultuous relationship, with lots of shouting and, one evening, the sound of a glass door shattering. They apparently split up, but at least 'split' from the neighborhood. That may have been four years ago. The house has been vacant ever since. Unfortunately, it is not nearly the only vacant house in the area, in that the Great Recession hit my part of Vailsburg very hard, and there is a high level of vacancy in what seem perfectly nice houses that should easily have found new owners at the stark discount from their pre-Recession value that banks that pick them up in foreclosure could offer to new buyers.


Initially, the bank that assumed ownership of No. 299 took care of the premises, sending a cleaning crew every few weeks to pick up the advertising packets in plastic sleeves that are left at every house from time to time, raking leaves, etc., so the house would be presentable to potential buyers. But after several months, that care stopped, and the house fell into malign neglect. Some teenagers got thru the locked doors and used the house for who knows what. A hangout beyond parental supervision? A place to drink or do drugs? A place to have sex? I don't know. The City of Newark is fairly good at sealing up abandoned houses with plywood over the doors and windows. That was eventually done with 299 (foto above). When I was taking pix of the completed addition to the North Star Academy charter school at Fortuna Street and Sandford Avenue, a few blocks from my house, I noted this other abandoned house sealed with plywood panels. There are, alas, many such plywood-sealed houses all around. But better they be sealed off than destroyed by squatters, thieves of, for instance, copper piping, or arsonists. Note that not all the windows are blocked with plywood. I guess the thought was that only those most likely to be used for illegal entry are blocked.


But then the dumping at No. 299 began. I don't know when these things were sneaked onto the premises. I certainly didn't hear or see anyone dump them, or I would have called the police at the time.
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That's how things got to be such a mess. Today, however, I walked around part of my property, to take pix of (mostly) winter-stunted azaleas, and was very pleasantly surprised to see this: all the dumped items had been removed! By whom?


c Similarly, I was appalled, on March 15th, when my car was snowed in and I had to walk here and there (or "hither and yon" — your choice), to see that the small front yard of another abandoned house, this one on Silver Street around the corner at the northern end of my block, was filled with castoff television sets and such. What kind of sleazeball does such things?


Today I saw that that mess too had been taken away! Again, by whom?


On April 28th, I noticed that part of the retaining wall of No. 299 had fallen onto and nearly blocked the sidewalk.


Today as well, as the foto below evidences, that mess had also been removed! Again, by whom?


Samantha Stephens (of the classic sitcom Bewitched) doesn't live around here. So by what magic have all three of these situations been fixed in recent days? Did the banks that assumed ownership of abandoned/foreclosed properties tidy things up? Did the City step in? I don't know, but am in any case very grateful.


There is, of course, some natural, biodegradable "litter" in the neighborhood, such as a massive fall of maple seeds at one point in my (very long) block. They occupied a large area of the sidewalk (above) and street (below), but only outside one or two houses. In looking for the term for the seed pods, designed by evolution aerodynamically to spin-glide gently to the ground, I found a website that says you can actually EAT maple seeds! But preferably when still green. The seeds in this and the next foto were already brown when I saw them.

A substantial contributor to the flite of the middle class from various neighborhoods is urban filth strewn by people who either blithely or maliciously drop garbage everywhere they go. A lot of middle-class people, black as well as white and Latino, tire of having to pick up 30 or more pieces of trash from their property every couple of days, and thus seriously contemplate leaving a house they love in a neighborhood they adore. It can get to be too much, and too infuriating, to have to make up for the misbehavior of slobs and retardates who make a mess everywhere they go.


The actual term for the seed pods is given in a different website. "Maple trees (Acer spp.) produce winged seeds called double samaras, which twirl to the ground in late summer or early fall. They resemble helicopters in motion, earning them the common name of helicopters or whirligigs. The seeds vary slightly in size and coloring among species, but all produce winged seeds affectionately called helicopters." Dictionary.com defines "samara" as "an indehiscent, usually one-seeded, winged fruit, as of the elm or maple"; and defines "indehiscent" as "not opening at maturity". By contrast, the seedpods of the yellow trees on my block do open to release their seeds, as do the seedpods of the rose of Sharon, which scatter flat, round seeds by the hundreds to be carried to new locations by the wind. If maple seeds are supposed to fall to the ground in late summer or early autumn, why were there hundreds and hundreds of them newly fallen on my block in May? (By the way, you might expect "samara" to be pronounced as sa.mór.a, where the O is short as in "orange", not an AU-sound, but it actually has two pronunciations, sáam.a.ra and sa.máir.a. This is another example of why I am a spelling reformer.

It is very heartening when the cumulative effects of dumping, littering, and trash-strewing are removed in a few short days. It's like a dark cloud lifting and letting the sunshine thru.
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After total suppression of crime and drugs, there may be no more important issue in the revitalization of a neighborhood, or a city, than making the streets, parks, and vacant lots beautifully clean. This is the kind of thing municipalities should be competing in, more than minor-league sports. I did a Google search on "clean city awards" but came up empty as regards "clean" in the sense not of "green energy" but simply litter-free. Did Google just not find a program that actually is in place? Or have we somehow failed to institute competitions among towns and cities (in various population categories) to be, and be recognized as, the cleanest in their state or the Nation?
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Not even a search on "clean city" turns up rankings just on a place's being free of eye-jarring, spirit-depressing garbage in the environment.
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In any case, my part of Vailsburg has seen a major improvements in recent days. I just hope that the same problems do not recur, so that the impression people get from a walk on our streets will be good and appealing things, like well-planted and well-maintained yards.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Duck, Duck, Goose

While I was walking around the part of the Lake in Branch Brook Park on which the boathouse fronts, April 29th, I saw two ducks swimming by the near shore, and a large Canada goose stationary on the grass, looking almost like a statue rather than a live bird. The phrase "duck, duck, goose" came into my mind. I knew I had heard it, but had no idea what it referred to.


I nonetheless rushed to take a foto, and just barely got all three birds in one picture, tho you might not at first appreciate that the two objects in the water at top left, almost outside the frame of the foto, are ducks.
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Judging from the article in Wikipedia, I doubt I ever played that children's game myself.
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As for where you might see more waterfowl in Newark, I think there is an area near the Adubato Sports Complex and two large clumps of winter-hardy bamboo where I have seen lots of ducks. When I passed by at the end of April, the bamboo had lots of browned-out, winter-killed leaves, but the plants survived. I think I have the same kind of bamboo in my backyard, which has grown to perhaps 12' tall.
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I have also seen ducks, geese, and even swans in the lake in Weequahic Park. The fotos I showed here on March 1, 2006, however, no longer appear, since AOL closed all members' online storage spaces years ago.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Paid Water Bill — Electronically!


Today's illustrations are screenprints (or, if you prefer, "screen captures") of the various visuals presented by the Newark City website to people who wish to pay their water-and-sewer bills electronically. Tho many people would find this all self-explanatory, I think there is no harm in 'holding someone's hand' to guide him or her thru this process the first time. I don't know if this service is brand-new or only quite new. The last time I made a (partial) payment of my water/sewer bill was March 3rd, and I had to do it by check, mailed via the United States Postal Service. I know that I tried to pay electronically then, but could not.

I have long complained, here, about the City of Newark['s]* not permitting residents to pay their water-and-sewer bills over the Internet. Well, Mayor Baraka's Administration has fixed that!


I have recently had to tend to some urgent financial matters, so had to suspend updates to this blog and to my Simpler Spelling Word of the Day website, which I would much rather tend to, in order to force myself to take care of financial exigencies. It worked. I forbade myself to use any of the hundreds of fotos I had taken in the prior two weeks or so, and permitted myself to take [19] more fotos only at the May 9th opening of the Index Art Center's two artshows, "We Laugh At Your Graff" and "Local Laniakea" (plus another 24 afterward in that vicinity), only because that opening was a one-time thing, so I either had to go that nite or miss it entirely. I would not, however, allow myself to use any of those fotos until I had tended to fínances. I don't LIKE dealing with money, or math, so HAD to force the issue, by forbidding myself from doing things I do like until I did what I could to put my financial house in order.


Because my mortgage had recently been transferred to yet another servicer, I had to investigate how to set up a new bill-pay account in my Bank of America checking account. This is at least the fourth mortgage servicer I have had to deal with in the less than 15 years I have owned my house: (1) Countrywide, (2) the successor-in-interest after Countrywide's bankruptcy, Bank of America, (3) the company BofA sold my loan to immediately after it fraudulently refused me a mortgage modification, Ocwen; and (4) Nationstar after Ocwen also fraudulently denied me a mortgage modification. (I got a notice of some class action against Ocwen that I have not read thru. But class actions almost never provide any significant benefit to the members of the class — indeed, they often provide NO benefit of any kind. Essentially all the benefits of the multitudinous class-action lawsuits this country permits, even tho they are essentially all scams, go to the lawyers. Thus, there seemed little reason for me to tend to reading that info urgently, esp. in that I had genuinely urgent matters to tend to.


This screen affords you several different ways of specifying what account it is that you wish to pay. You need enter only ONE of the several, alternative options.

Once I set up a new bill-pay account for Nationstar, I paid what I could toward my overdue mortgage account. I couldn't pay everything, as I usually would, because I had to spend $1,038.17 to repair several things in my 23-year-old car, or junk it. Even when I was working, I could not blithely expend such a sum. Now, when I am fully retired, dependent almost solely upon Social Security, such an enormous payment caused me substantial dislocation. However, the mechanic (a black man with a Dutch name, like mine, even to an OO in his last name) pointed out, how was I to replace it for $1,000? So I had the repairs made, in order that I might resume my normal activities without waiting for bus after bus. Altho the weather now is generally pleasant, rain can make waiting for a bus miserable, and the hideously cold weather we have had in the past two winters would make waiting for a bus this coming winter not just unpleasant but also hazardous to health, perhaps extremely hazardous, esp. if I would have to wait not just for a bus out and a bus back but also for connecting buses.


Assuming your account is found, this is the screen you will then see. I suppose there is a 'no account found' alternative screen, but I didn't see it. If you do, and you are sure you entered your information correctly, you will presumably not be able to use online bill-pay. I doubt that that would happen.

I also had the last of the cold-weather PSE&G bills to pay toward. I had a shut-off notice requiring me to pay about 2/3 of the amount of the April bill by May 11th. I didn't have to do that via BofA's bill-pay system. PSE&G has its own, internal electronic payment system that I am enrolled in, so I paid that shut-off amount thru PSE&G's proprietary bill-pay system well in time.


The one remaining major financial item I needed to deal with was my water (and sewer) bill (the sewerage and sewage-treatment portions of which exceed the water portion, which suggests that things are seriously out of whack and need to be investigated and fixed). Thru all my years in Newark (15, as of June 15th (14th?) coming up), I have had to pay my water-and-sewer bill by check, which I found very irritating because doing so entails several minor, but annoying, steps. (1a) Find my checkbook, which I use basically only for water bills. (1b) Write a check-register entry. (1c) Write a check, noting the account number on the Memo line — and one must be very careful to put the correct number there, lest your payment be credited to someone else's account. I personally have one further little problem, in signing the check, in that the cursive form of my last name (Schoonmaker) has FIVE loops in a row, to and thru the N and M, and I need to be very careful to write all of them clearly, lest the signature not be accepted. (2) Put the check into the preaddressed, mechanically created return envelope. (3) Lick the envelope flap, which does not EVER suffice, because for some reason the glue on that mechanically constructed envelope is too weak to hold. So (4a) Find my cellofane tape, (4b) measure out the right length for that envelope; and (4c) affix the tape to seal the envelope securely, so my check does not fall out. (5a) Get my wallet; (5b) fish out a postage stamp from a folder in the wallet; (5c) affix a stamp to the envelope; (5d) return the folder of remaining stamps to the correct compartment in my wallet. (6) Take the envelope to the post office, since on-street, outbound mailboxes have pretty much vanished from this country except outside post offices. I don't approve of that, and do not know if the postal service now routinely and reliably picks up outgoing mail from a person's residence — or NOT. Does anyone out there know what the rules are as regards picking up mail from individual houses? I certainly will not entrust an item as important as a check for water service to leaving an envelope on my porch for pickup by a postal employee. (7) Deposit the envelope in either the mailbox outside the post office (which is only some 4 blocks from my house) or the outgoing mail slot inside the post office. Then I must (8) check my online bank records to make sure that the check was cashed, not lost in the mail!


Once you have clicked on the pay button to institute the payment process, you are presented with this progress screen.

This may all sound ridiculously trivial, if you don't have to go thru it every month. These many tiny steps are the kind of thing into which efficiency experts have to break down tasks in time-and-motion studies in hopes of finding a better way to do things. There is today a MUCH better way: online bill-pay. And it is, now — FINALLY — available for City of Newark water-and-sewer bills.
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By "mechanically created return envelope", I mean the bottom portion of the tamper-evident form in which water-and-sewer bills (and, incidentally, tax bills or notices) are sent by the City of Newark. We all know these contrivances, in which you need to fold and tear off tabs on at least two sides, and often three, in order to open a confidential communication. With water bills, the bottom portion of the form, once opened, comprises a return envelope that you separate for mailing by tearing at a perforation just above it. Unfortunately, the form that Newark uses has another perforation perhaps one inch above that, and if you are not careful, you will tear off the lowest portion of the bill itself. Then you have another tiny step to deal with: taping, paper-clipping, or stapling that orphaned portion to the top of the bill.


Once your payment has been processed, you will be presented with this screen, which looks very like an earlier screen, before you provided your account information. This is a significant defect in the otherwise efficient online process. What should actually be presented at this point is a screen that says something like, "Thank you. Your payment has been received. An email to that effect has been sent to the address you specified above. You may now close this window." I recommend that the City provide such a screen to complete bill payments to the client's satisfaction that s/he has nothing left to do.

Electronic bill payment is plainly a much better way to operate. So I was delited when, hoping against hope but ever hopeful (that's my nature: often battered but never beaten), I checked the City website to see if this long-unavailable feature had finally been instituted. Lo and behold, it had, accessible from the far right at the screen shown below. The screenprints above show the various steps you will encounter if you pay your bill electronically.


Altho the website speaks of paying a water bill by fone, there is no followup information about that. Is that a mistake? And if so, is the mistake that there is NOT a way to pay by fone or that the option does exist but the paragraf about how to do that was omitted from the website? I don't know.
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The City website has been redesigned and extensively revised. I don't have the old version stored on my computer, so cannot compare the two, point-for-point, but my impression is that the new site is lighter, cleaner, easier to read, and possibly more informative. Good job!
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The website speaks at the first screenprint today of "a small convenience fee". How small, and how convenient? Here is some followup information.


The passage zoomed into below specifies the fee. The website needs punctuation (at least semicolons) to separate the items.


In the case of my payment of $247, for several months' service at around $30/month, the convenience fee was $5.56. Hm. Before I saw the initial, cautionary info and did the math in my calculator program, I thought the highest I would go is $5. But when I saw that the actual fee was only 56¢ higher, I grudgingly acceded to paying it. As I recall, NJ Motor Vehicles (by suchever** name they are using at the moment — DMV, MVC, whatever) charges a convenience fee of only $2, or is it $3?, for online payment of a registration renewal. That seems much more convenient to me. But 'tis a quibble as against all the trouble (enumerated above) that having to do things by check and postal mail entails.
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What I don't know is whether the information you provide once remains with your account, or you have to enter your information anew each time you pay your bill. I suspect, and EXpect, that the next time you log in, you will find that your payment information has been stored, and all you have to change is the dollar amount of the new payment. At least I hope that's what happens, tho having to fill in a few fields, even a long, meaningless field subject to inputting errors, like a credit- or debit-card number, isn't a grave imposition.
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Potholes Fixed! There have been two large potholes on my block for over a year. Potholes on some other streets in the neighborhood had been fixed, but those on my block (Smith Street between Silver Street and 18th Avenue) had not. I took pix of the two, along with the address numbers of the houses they appeared near, to report to whatever City department might repair potholes, but did not get around to the actual reporting. This past winter opened another big pothole on the block, which I had not yet fotogratted nor reported. But I didn't have to! A day or two ago I saw that all three have been filled in! — plus a large area on Silver Street that had exposed cobblestones underneath the asphalt. Terrific.
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Baraka Better than Booker? I almost miss Cory Booker (tho he was shown on Late Nite with Seth Meyers tonite in connection with the "memes" that terrorist organizations are allowed to promote on social media — which should be absolutely forbidden, with no excuses that somehow the 'intelligence' value of letting these recruitment sites for terrorists somehow exceeds the insanely unacceptable risks of people in the West — indeed, in the United States — actually being recruited into terrorist activity even in the United States. Booker says he knows something about memes. I'm glad someone does. "Meme" is a word that did not exist until 1976, and did not achieve anything like currency until very recent years. It apparently compares an idea or image to a virus or genes transmitted in an autonomous way, albeit subject to alteration during replication. In short, it seems a very bizarre and probably invalid concept, not necessary nor even really helpful to understanding a cultural item. But some people love feeling themselves "in" on the latest jargon, so the word is getting to be used commonly, often, I suspect, by people who don't really know what it means. There's a lot of careless and irrational language thrown around nowadays, such as the ever-popular "disease" for things that do not originate in microbial infections nor pass from person to person. I don't see that "meme" adds even a tiny bit of clarity to anything.
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In any case, Booker did a lot of good for Newark's reputation in the Nation at large. For one thing, "Newark" got to be heard a lot more often, and in positive connections. But I think Ras Baraka is doing a better job as Mayor than did Booker, and I am optimistic that Mayor Baraka is like the second stage of a multistage rocket: he will take us farther, faster. This is a trip I am glad to be on.
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* When I attended middle and high school (1957-62), the grammatical rule was that in constructons like this, the possessive was to be used: "Newark's", not "Newark". Grammatical standards have changed in the intervenng years.

** The 4 online dictionaries I regularly consult (Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, Oxford, and Cambridge), do not recognize "suchever". But writers influence or control the development of a language. I am a writer, who has at various times had MILLIONS of words online, and the meaning of "suchever" is perfectly clear, so I use it here unapologetically.