23 July 2021

A Compilation of My Ten Grooviest Most Far Out Posts on the Sixties -- Right On!


Among my obsessions is the 1960s, which in addition to being during the formative years of my life, were transformative to Western culture and U.S.politics. Through its music alone the Sixties had an impact on the country still very much felt today, fifty years on. Of even greater importance were the social movements spawned by that decade. The roots of which can be found in the Civil Rights Movement. Direct action campaigns centered around Vietnam War and the attendant anti-draft protests that spread across the country and in many cases drew tens of thousands of marchers. Also spawned were the women’s movement and gay liberation. The Sixties saw a loosening of censorship rules, particularly in films, which led to the greatest decade of film making, the Seventies. I've written a lot about the Sixties over the past thirteen years and I believe are my top ten.

Your Guide to the Best Protest Spirit of the Sixties Songs  July 16, 2021. From last week, my look at the songs that best captured the rebellious, let's-question-authority spirit of the Sixties.


The Battle for People's Park, an Only Slightly Fictionalized Account June 15, 202. Last month’s excerpt from the novel I’m currently working on. While it is fiction I believe it gives a good historical perspective on the People’s Park demonstrations. It’s based on my personal experiences and research I've done for my book.


Presenting: Vibes 'N' Stuff -- 52 Years After I Found it, Someone's Lost Jottings June 11, 2021. The verbatim transcription of notebook I found in 1969. It is the mental meanderings of someone visiting the Bay Area for the first time. It is revealing about the time period and well-written.


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Other Excellent Films that Evoke the Sixties August 8, 2019. Few films have captured a time and place as well as Once did with 1969. It inspired me to look at other films that give a glimpse into the sixties.


One, Two, Three What Are We Fighting For? Don't Ask Me I Don't Give a Damn, Next Stop is Vietnam....September 30, 2017. The seminal experience for many in the Sixties was either being in, protesting against, or arguing about the war in Vietnam. Everyone had an opinion and they were usually strong ones. This post was inspired by the great Ken Burn’s PBS documentary series on the war.


The Vietnam War All Up in My Head February 10, 2016. This earlier post on the war gives an overview and relates to specific films and books on the war.


A Friday Night Gathering in Berkeley, 1968 June 11, 2015. This is a fictional piece I wrote that is based on my own memories of the Sixties and the type of people one might meet then.


The Author Contrasts High School Today With That of His Youth and Includes a Long Digression on Hippies May 26, 2015. Here I contrast high school in the Sixties with today but also have a long digression on those avatars of the Sixties, the hippies.


Trying to Live Up to My Remembrances of the Past, The Sixties Redux October 21, 2012. This is a short overview of the Sixties and what it meant to grow up then.


Experience the Sixties Through Contemporary Music, Films and Novels -- Power to the People! July 9, 2010. This was an early attempt. Movies, songs and books of the Sixties are listed. A lot of good photos too.


20 July 2021

The Five Movies I Most Recently Watched, All Were Good, None Were Botched

Suspicion with Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine

Warning: spoilers abound

Suspicion (1941) Hitchcock. Suspicion is an odd sort of film. It spends most of the final two-thirds of its running time establishing the fact that Cary Grant’s character is a cheat, scoundrel and oh-by-the-way murderer. Then in the end he isn’t. In the book upon which the movie is based Grant kills his wife but that wouldn’t do for film audiences of the early forties nor presumably any other time. Grant is too beloved, he has to be redeemed at the end. We can all sigh in relief when it turns out he is suddenly remorseful, did not kill his best friend and aims to do right by his wife. Never mind that it doesn’t fit. Still, I like the film. Joan Fontaine as the beleaguered wife, and Grant are so good in the lead roles that Suspicion is ultimately irresistible despite its tacked on ending. Grant is charming and menacing, playful and frightening. Yes, he was a big movie star, but like many such Hollywood luminaries, he could act (see Notorious, His Girl Friday and Mr. Lucky if you don’t believe me). Suspicion also has one of those oddball Hollywood romances mixed in, a love-at-first-sight special. I’ve seen Suspicion enough to no longer be frustrated by it and am able to enjoy its gifts.

Body Heat (1981) Kasdan. I hadn’t seen Body Heat in decades and wondered if it would hold up. It does. For one thing a young Kathleen Turner is simmering hot and will stay so for many more decades to come. My goodness. The film is a rarity for me in that Lawrence Kasdan directed it and I still like it — a lot. It ranks right up there with two similar films, The Postman Always Rings Twice and the great Double Indemnity. In all three, a single man falls for a married woman, she falls right back at him and they plot and execute the murder of the husband.  In all three the man doesn’t get away with it. In Body Heat the woman does. William Hurt is the poor sap in this iteration and he’s damn good. So too is a pre-Cheers, Ted Danson who plays a prosecuting attorney who’s both friends with Hurt and on to him. The love scenes in Body Heat are seamy and sizzling and highlight Ms. Turner’s deliciously long legs. (There’s also that voice of hers — oh my.) It’s a tried and true formula for a film and here it is well-told.


The Long Goodbye (1973) Altman. The mumbling detective. I love The Long Goodbye. Elliot Gould was a bold choice to play Phillip Marlowe (after Bogart played him, everyone else is) but he pulls him off with a seventies sensibility. The plot is manageable and interesting and pays homage to the source material (book of the same name) updating it to a time when female neighbors do topless yoga outside. It is not quite a perfect film principally because of two supporting players. Sterling Hayden was drunk and stoned when he did his scenes and he positively chewed up the scenery to the extent that it was a major distraction. Every time I see the film I want him to shut the hell up, already and take his walk into the ocean. Mark Rydell is fine as the mob boss but they give him far too much to ramble on about in a way that gets tedious. (What is it about a lot of film villains that they yammer on so much?) Jim Bouton was an interesting choice as Terry Lennox. He was more renowned as a baseball pitcher and author. He was no actor and it showed. Still, this is one of director Robert Altman’s many home runs of the seventies, a decade in which he cranked out hit after hit, many with Gould in the lead.


The 39 Steps
The 39 Steps (1935) Hitchcock. I’ve been watching The 39 Steps for about thirty-five years and never tire of it. It’s fairly early Hitchcock (he started in the silent era) and it presages many of his later work. Here we see the innocent man (Robert Donat) being falsely accused and on the run from the law and the bad guys while pursuing the truth that will set him free and foil the forces of evil. We also have the famous Hitchcock McGuffin, the plot device around which all the action centers. We also have our hero hook up with an initially reluctant blonde who comes to see his innocence, in this case played by the lovely Madeline Carroll. And we also have our hero hide in plain sight in public and we also have the climatic scene in a very public place. The 39 Steps is classic Hitch in so many ways not the least of which being how beautifully it is shot in glorious black and white. The framing, the shadows, the camera angles are all in support of wonderfully engaging story that I can’t wait to watch again.


Alice in the Cities (1974) Wenders. Here at last we have a film I’d not seen before and aside from 39 Steps it may be the best of the lot. How I missed Alice in the Cities for the entirety of its first forty-seven years? What a gem. Director Wim Wenders’ film recalls the best of other directors such as Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismäki who also manage to make entertaining road pictures sans chase scenes, explosions, evil villains or dazzling special effects. Instead he tells a human story. A man returns to Germany from assignment as a journalist in the U.S. and ends up escorting a ten-year old girl (Alice) whose mother will rejoin them in Amsterdam in a day — only she doesn’t. They have to hit the road. In doing so Wenders avoids cliches and makes something of a German version of Paper Moon, only as a more grounded, believable story. Masterpiece. Alice is a character and a movie that I look forward to re-visiting.

16 July 2021

Your Guide to the Best Protest/Sixties Spirit Songs

Joe McDonald, The Vietnam Rag

The 1960s were not only a time of great social upheaval, they were also a time of great music. And the twain met quite often. Great musical artists met shifting times and the music that resulted was often inspirational to social movement. Moreover, many of those songs remain popular today. Below are twenty such songs. For each I've provided key lyrics and linked the title to a you tube video of it. Some songs, such as Ohio, are responses to events. Some like Something in the Air, are clarion calls. Others, like All Along the Watchtower, capture the mood of the times. Some are angry, some are hopeful, some are prophetic. A few were not written or released until shortly after the Sixties, but all are close to the time. I undoubtedly left out some that others would have included but I flatter myself that I did a fairly thorough job.

Something in the Air  - Thunderclap Newman  Call out the instigators/Because there's something in the air/We've got to get together sooner or later/Because the revolution's here

What’s Going on - Marvin Gaye  We don't need to escalate/You see, war is not the answer/For only love can conquer hate/You know we've got to find a way/To bring some lovin' here today

For What it’s Worth - Buffalo Springfield There's battle lines being drawn/Nobody's right if everybody's wrong/Young people speaking their minds/Getting so much resistance from behind


Ohio - Crosby Stills Nash & Young Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming/We're finally on our own/This summer I hear the drumming/Four dead in Ohio


Street Fighting Man - The Rolling Stones  Ev'rywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy/Cause summer's here and the time is right/For fighting in the street, boy/But what can a poor boy do


Universal Soldier - Buffy St. Marie  He's five feet two, and he's six feet four/He fights with missiles and with spears/He's all of thirty-one, and he's only seventeen/He's been a soldier for a thousand years


All Along the Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix There must be some kind of way outta here/Said the joker to the thief/There's too much confusion/I can't get no relief


The Times They Are a Changing - Bob Dylan  And don't speak too soon, for the wheel's still in spin/And there's no tellin' who that it's namin'/For the loser now will be later to win/For the times they are a-changin'


San Franciscan Nights - Eric Burdon and the Animals Cop's face is filled with hate/Heavens above he's on a street called love/When will they ever learn/Old cop young cop feel uptight/On a warm San Franciscan night


Give Peace a Chance  - John Lennon & Yoko Ono Ev'rybody's talking about

Revolution, evolution, masturbation/Flagellation, regulation, integrations/Meditations, United Nations/Congratulations/All we are saying is give peace a chance/All we are saying is give peace a chance


Young Americans - David Bowie  Well, he wants the young American/Do you remember, your President Nixon? (ooh)/Do you remember, the bills you have to pay?/Or even yesterday?


I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag - Country Joe McDonald and the Fish And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?/Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam/And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates/Ain't no time to wonder why, whoopee we're all gonna die


A Well-Respected Man - The Kinks Key Lyrics: And he's oh, so good,/And he's oh, so fine,/And he's oh, so healthy,/In his body and his mind./He's a well respected man about town,/Doing the best things so conservatively


People Got to be Free - Rascals Key Lyrics: All the world over, so easy to see/People everywhere just wanna be free/Listen, please listen, that's the way it should be/There's peace in the valley, people got to be free


Out in the Country - Three Dog Night Key Lyrics: Before the breathin' air is gone/Before the sun is just a bright spot in the night-time/Out where the rivers like to run/I stand alone and take back somethin' worth rememberin'


Won’t Get Fooled Again - The Who Key Lyrics: We'll be fighting in the streets/With our children at our feet/And the morals that they worship will be gone/And the men who spurred us on/Sit in judgement of all wrong/They decide and the shotgun sings the song


A Change is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke Key Lyrics: It's been a long/A long time coming/But I know, a change gonna come/Oh, yes it will


Waist Deep in the Big Muddy — Pete Seeger Key Lyrics: It'll be a little soggy but just keep slogging./We'll soon be on dry ground/We were, waist deep in the Big Muddy/And the big fool said to push on


Mississippi Goddamn - Nina Simone Key Lyrics: I can't stand the pressure much longer/Somebody say a prayer/Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam


Eve of Destruction - Barry McGuire Key Lyrics: The Eastern world, it is explodin'/Violence flarin', bullets loadin'/You're old enough to kill but not for votin'/You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin'?/And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin'



13 July 2021

Look Everybody! It's the July Edition of Headlines

Olivio Rodrigo, still #1

Last Summer I started printing headlines from various news sources and writing comments about them that were either pithy, snarky, wise or brilliantly on point (or a combination thereof). The response was so overwhelming (thank you, Walpole Presbyterian of Kalamazoo, Michigan) that I have made this is a regular feature -- to enthusiastic acclaim. Here then is the latest edition of this critically-acclaimed monthly feature.

From the New York Times:

Our Favorite Presidents You’ve Never Heard Of

Wait, so there are presidents some Americans have never heard of. Ya know, Biden is only number forty-six, it's not like knowing all the kings of England. You may not know a lot (or anything) about Benjamin Harrison or Franklin Pierce but the names should at least ring a bell. 

‘Everyone Has a Tipping Point’: Hunger Fuels Cuba’s Protests

Hunger and living in a police state will do it. Cuba has lived under an oppressive regime for over sixty years (not to exuse the U.S. failure to recognize and work with the country) and something was eventually going to spark mass protests. Here's to democracy coming to the island nation. High time.

Wildfires Explode as Heat Wave Scorches the West for Another Day

Welcome to another in an on-going series of global warming stories. Horrible heatwaves and fires have become standard in many parts of the western U.S. during the summer. Hey climate deniers -- go f**k yourselves.

From CNN:

Taliban fighters execute 22 Afghan commandos as they try to surrender

These are people who claim to be Muslims, i.e. part of a religion and yet they shoot down people in cold blood, people who are in the act of surrendering. Tells you all you need to know about the hypocrisy of most organized religions and the perversions they commit on what are often loving philosophies. 

Texas House Democrats leave state to block Republicans from passing voting restrictions

Yup. Republicans are trying to suppress the vote because they know they can't win elections otherwise. They are the lowest of the low, with no understanding of what a democracy is or how a republic works. The bastards want to stay in power so that they can continue to service their wealthy overlords. They don't give a fuck about regular folk. Unconscionable. And good for Texas Democrats for pulling out all stops to fight them.

Coke is giving one of its most popular drinks a makeover

Who gives a sh*t if it's still one of the worst "beverages" a person can ingest. The stuff is terrible for you. If you value your health, don't drink it. Makeover or no.

From BBC:

Man in China reunited with son snatched 24 years ago

Talk about having a lot of catching up to do....But seriously this is a classic combination of good news/bad news. Good to be re-united. Bad to have lost all those years.

Capitol riots: What we have learned six months on

We've learned that Republicans want to let bygones be bygones and just forget that these people stormed the capitol building in an attempt to lynch elected officials and overturn the results of an election. We've learned that many of those arrested have no shame, no decency and are easily duped.

Giant goldfish problem in US lake prompts warning to pet owners

Humans are forever finding new ways to screw with the environment. Here is another example. This is nothing new. Homo sapiens have been throwing things off kilter since first emerging from the primordial ooze. Worst among human crimes is wiping out entire species. Worst among those cases is the "people" who do it while hunting for "sport."

From the Washington Post:

Inside Trump’s Election Day: Tumult, disbelief and advice to ‘just say we won’

Ladies and gentlemen I give you a candidate for least surprising headline of the year. Tumult because that't the way it was in Trumpy's world. Disbelief because the idiots refused to believe in polls. That stupid advice because these are a people without a conscience.

The new child tax credit could lift more than 5 million kids out of poverty. Can it help them learn, too?

This is a very good news headline (how rare!) about lifting children out of poverty with a silly question attached to it. Of course it'll help them learn. Any teacher can tell you anecdotally and research will back them up, that children dealing with issues stemming from want have a much harder time learning than other students. So to answer the headline's question: of course.

Republicans refusing to get vaccinated are owning no one but themselves

Yup, they'e going to show us by dying from the coronavirus. Brilliant.

Bonus headline from the Times so that I can use a photo 

Olivia Rodrigo Holds at No. 1 With ‘Sour’

Good for her.


11 July 2021

A Three-Part Post Featuring a Bit About a Poem and Another Better and then a Third About Joys

William Butler Yeats

In the fall of 1980 I was living in Boston. One day I was in a subway station — forget which one — where I discovered the poem directly below this sentence, written on a sign.

And slowing down behind a row of cars

Mumble a little sadly how love said

If she had boots she’d walk upon
Your head

And hid her face amid a crowded bar


I was immediately entranced by the poem. The rhythm, the tone, the ambiguity, the sadness. I copied it down in a notebook and later added it to the journal I kept at that time. Yesterday I was going through those journals and re-discovered the poem. Now with the power of Google, I could perhaps find the author and maybe more of the poem. Surely this was the work of a prominent poet.


It wasn’t. Or at least none that the world’s most powerful search engine could find. However the first thing that came up in my search was a poem by William Butler Yeats. Note particularly how the anonymous poet borrowed from Butler’s last four lines.


When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;


How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;


And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.


So my anonymous friend was merely a plagiarist. I still like his variation on Yeats — which is what I will henceforth refer to the poem as. Variation on Yeats.


End part one.


Begin part two.


I’ve been on a new medication for the last six weeks that has kept depression at bay and without any attendant side effects. This is very good news. HOWEVER, it does not keep me from being sad, which I get from time-to-time. Sadness is normal, though it plagues me more than most people. Damn it! The difference between depression and sadness is that depression is all encompassing and does not need a reason to visit. It also tells you that misery is your natural state. It can even poke at you when you’re feeling good, telling you the joy won’t last. Sadness is different in that you know its temporal and visits for a reason, albeit often an existential one. 


My new wonder drug does little to offset my anxiety which can be acute. Yes, I’ve struggled with more than my fair share of mental, emotional issues. It all gets enervating but there is so much happiness on the side that I’ve managed to plug along. Examples of the good things in part three as here is where part two ends.


And here is the beginning of part three. In the last few days I’ve listened to a lot of good music and yesterday added further to my CD collection. Right now I’ve got Dylan on. Later I could sample The Beatles, Joplin, Hendrix, the Doors, Amy Winehouse, Sidney Bechet, George Michael, The Who or any number of others. Nice. Music helps chase away the blues. I recommend it for sadness or depression. Maybe not so much dirges, but you knew that.


I’ve also been reading a particularly good book, A Separate Peace by John Knowles. It’s been around since 1959 and I’ve finally gotten around to it. Brilliant book. Shame Knowles evidently never cranked out anything approaching it. I have many more books to get around to in the coming days/weeks/months/years. Quite the backlog, actually. So there’s plenty of that.


Last night the missus and I watched The Philadelphia Story, one of 274 films in my extensive DVD collection. Like many of my DVDs I have the beautiful Criterion edition. I’ve seen the film maybe a dozen times and once already this year but it’s the kind of movie one came come back to again and again and never tire of. So I have films aplenty to choose from including what TCM presents and what’s on the Criterion Channel along with any number of ways one can watch a motion picture these days. Blessed times.


I’m also seven months into my latest novel and enjoying most every second of writing it. Lucky man. 


One wonders who I can ever be sad but then if you ever pick up a newspaper you can figure out some reasons right there, not to mention the whole mortality business. This is the conclusion of part three and also the entire post.

05 July 2021

Important News, Notes, Reminders and Announcements from Your Friends at Streams of Unconsciousness

Dramatic scenes from last year's fox hunt. 

Welcome to another edition of news and notes from Streams of Unconsciousness headquarters. A lot has been going on and a busy few months are ahead especially as restrictions loosen now that more and more people have been vaccinated. As a service to our readers, here are some important reminders and announcements.

Events:

The annual Streams of U fox hunt will be held on Saturday July 31 as scheduled. We’re expecting a record turnout. Look out foxes!


The date of next month’s hula hoop jamboree has been moved from August 11th to the 13th, mark your calendars!


Exciting news about the September square dance. Former presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama will all be in attendance (ex-prez Trump declined our invitation even though we did not proffer one). Be there or be square — dance!


Update: we will be holding our first-ever Uncle-nephew three-legged race during this Saturday’s picnic, a few slots are still available.


From the Gift Shop: 


We again have all children’s sizes in stock for our sweatshirts, tee shirts, rain ponchos and boxing gloves. All, of course, feature the Streams of U logo.


All of our stores are currently out of the following items: commemorative tea spoons, extra large dildos, Streams of U decaf French Roast and bullwhips. However, we expect to have all these items in stock by the end of this month. We apologize for any inconvenience.


New in stock are our 2021 calendars. Every month features a different Streams of U staffer — whether male or female — in a thong bikini. Don’t miss out, the calendars tend to sell out before the end of the year.


Good news: we now have Streams of U gas masks and bazookas in blue, green and red along with the traditional grey and green.


Personnel Moves:


Lonnie Appledumpling in accounting has passed away. We wish Lonnie the best of luck in the after life.


New to our accounting department is Lonnie’s son, Rex. Welcome aboard, young man. Do your dad proud, young fella.


Celeste in shipping is now Celeste in sales. That’s right, Celeste Grunch-Couplet, who started as an intern back in 2012 is now in our sales department. Way to go!


We brought aboard two dozen summer interns last month and have been keeping them all busy. They hail from such diverse universities as Harvard, MIT, The Amish Institute ROTC, Andy Dick Community College and the Kukla, Fran and Ollie Day Care Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.


Lyle Stuyvesant in Research and Development has announced his retirement effective at the end of September. Join us in wishing him well and while you’re at it, wish us well in finding a replacement to fill those size ’18 shoes.


Food and Drink:


Our cafeteria is now offering early bird specials for dinner from 3:30-5:00. All such meals are ten per cent off.


Our head chef, Bertha, suggests keeping an eye out for our daily Blue Plate Specials. (The creamed corn, chicken pot pie and tossed salad combo is said to be delish.)


The bar and grill is now offering lines of cocaine for $20 each. The perfect way to relax or get hyphy.


The World of Sports:


We’re proud of our polo team which remains undefeated (hope I didn’t just jinx them) and has clinched it’s fourth league title in seven years! Way to go, guys and gals!


Remember, our staff sumo wrestling tournament gets underway next Monday at 10:00 am in the Streams of U Pavilion. It goes on all week. Drop by!


Lastly, the Streams of U dressage club starts practicing on the first of August. Spectators always welcome.


Want more? Become a premium Streams of Unconsciousness subscriber and receive the weekly reminder via email or regular mail. Only $20 a month! Other benefits include discounts at the gift shops and all Streams of U eateries, and exclusive content and behind-the-scenes looks.

02 July 2021

The Author Reminisces But Also Discusses Sports and Politics

I did not attend this Summer camp

Yesterday the missus and I walked in a park and noted a lot of day camp activity. I never went to a day camp as a child. I did go through the rite of passage of attending two Summer overnight camps.

(At this point the writer waxes nostalgic.)


Turning in soda bottles for change. Nickel candy bars. When I was a kid we roamed the streets. No play dates. Little supervision. We figured it out on our own. We even put together our own baseball games. No corporate sponsors. We met at the field, chose sides, set the ground rules and played. We had fun too. (Okay, who was we? My friends and I.)


Summer camp. Having your care package of grandma’s peanut butter cookies swiped right in front of you and the contents devoured. I think I got one. Getting pantsed. How fucking stupid was that. Boys? I never understood bullies. I had less trouble with them then most non bullies. In large part because I would have been too much trouble, being athletic and all. Yeah, I was small, but wiry and tough as nails. Bullies preferred weaklings. Not someone who might fight back. 


I got into a few fights. Did okay because when I fought I went berserk. Tough to beat. I did get jumped in the bathroom once, high school. Outnumbered significantly by older guys. Not exactly a fair fight, but I took it without squealing. There was a point at which I knew what was coming and steeled myself for it. They didn’t really hurt me, not even my ego. Simply made for a story to tell later on. There was a bully in elementary school who we called the choker because he would choke his victims. Not seriously, but enough so it hurt your goddamned neck. He picked on me once too often and one day I went up to him during recess and gave him a karate chop on the shoulder. He never bothered me again. His name was Mark Furhman, same as the cop in the OJ Simpson case, but they were not one in the same ass face. Don’t know what became of him. Never cared.


There was occasional black-on-white crime at the schools I went to. You’re not supposed to mention it but it happened. Tough black kids knew they could get money off weakling white boys. I was rarely bothered. Once a kid smaller and younger than me tried to scare me into giving him a quarter. I laughed. He slunk away. True story.


Relations were pretty good between kids of different colors when I was a kid. As good if not better than today. I honestly thought we were moving away from racism when I was a teenager and into my twenties. Boy was I wrong. The signs were there, though. Civil Rights legislation had been passed, African Americans were being elected to political positions, there was greater visibility — and more positive — of Blacks on TV and in films. You heard of Black entrepreneurs. The n word was becoming a taboo, expect to use in context. Like it was cool then to say, “I heard this bigot call my friend a n——r.” I don’t think the total prohibition on using the word that we practice today is a good idea. (Of course it’s not my call.) It sure hasn’t kept racists from using it, if anything it’s emboldened them. Cant’ say that word? Watch me. Banning words is setting a bad precedent. If the n word then why not ban fag or faggot too? You could make a case for bitch as well — when you used about a woman. 


Anyway I was talking about how racism seemed — at least to a naive white boy like me — to be fading away in the seventies. I was shocked to leave Berkeley and go off to college and meet real-live racists. I thought they all lived in the south. Yes, I did. So I missed the call on that one although I think few people expected the resurgence of bigotry that emerged as a backlash against Obama and then with the tacit blessing of Trumpy. Boy did they crawl out from under their rocks after he was elected. That’s why he was so loved. You scratch a Trumpy supporter and you’ve got pure racist. Fuck those people.


I’m changing the subject.


It’s interesting what sports can do for you. Or to you. It can really give you perspective on the up and down nature of life. It can teach you to take the highs and lows of life in stride. Of course most sports fans don’t learn those lessons. No one can crash and burn like a sports fan. The hope is what kills you. If you really understand sports you become humble. You learn to appreciate. You take nothing for granted. You learn to ride out the tough times. You learn that sometimes in life you’ve just got to grind it out. But some people take it all too seriously and get angry or depressed when their team losses a big game  or suffers a heart-breaking defeat. I went through that for awhile, learned my lesson.


Tribalism. Your team, fuck the other teams, especially your rival. That’s fine in sports (except when it leads to fisticuffs or yelling at people) but it has infected our politics. No compromise. No attempt to understand the other side. No attempt to work for the common good. The other side isn’t just wrong, they are evil personified. There will be blood. Okay, there has been. But more’s a coming. I don’t see how this will all end. I don’t know how civility and reason can make a comeback in this country. I hope it will, but how is the question.

30 June 2021

Once Again I Comment on Newspaper Headlines, But for the Second Time, They're From 50 Years Ago


A regular and beloved feature of this blog is my monthly look at headlines from the day's newspapers. I accompany these headlines with my reaction and I am often pithy, snarky, wise, or brilliantly on point (usually a combination thereof). The response has been overwhelmingly positive (thank you Seacrest Malone of Thermopolis, Wyoming). As a change of pace and a bit of a history lesson I am -- for the second time -- going to print and comment on headlines from exactly fifty years ago (for the math-challenged that would be June 30, 1971). As I am incredibly old I have the advantage of remembering those times and will employ my memories -- as well as my study of history -- to pleasure you (so to speak) with my comments. I do hope you enjoy.

From the San Francisco Examiner:

Supreme Court Backs Papers by 6-3 Vote

The papers in question were the New York Times and the Washington Post and what they were being backed on and allowed to continue, was the publishing of the Pentagon Papers. In case you hadn't heard, there was a bit of kerfuffle in Vietnam that the U.S. managed to get itself tangled in for about a dozen years. The Pentagon Papers were a government-issued secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1945-1967. Suffice to say that it did not reflect well on the U.S. government specifically regarding decisions made by said government and the knowledge that the war was not necessarily winnable. The government had tried to suppress publication of the papers (swiped by the heroic Daniel Ellsberg). Happily for freedom of the press, they failed.

Nixon Blasts Permissiveness: 'Crime Softness is Over'

This from a future unindicted co-conspirator who violated the U.S. Constitution in a little bit of business called Watergate. How rich the irony.

U.S. Draft Law Likely to Lapse

This is about Congress's failure to extend the draft (thank goodness) thus allowing the law to die a natural death. The draft during the Vietnam war was one reason for that war's lack of popularity. If we could re-institute the draft now, there's be a lot less U.S. involvement in wars. Might be worth it.

From the Boston Globe

Senator Tries to Read Secrets Into Record

Senator Mike Gravel a Democrat from Alaska attempted to read parts of the aforementioned Pentagon Papers during a special meeting of a public works subcommittee. His intention was, of course, to put the papers into the congressional record. However, absent a quorum, he was unable to continue. Undaunted he led reporters to a senate hearing room where he read pertinent sections. Good dude.

Senate Rejects Cut in Defense Spending

Has the senate ever (I'm only being a little bit facetious here) EVER approved a cut in defense spending? Have they ever NOT voted to give the military every penny it asks for? Nope. 

Joseph Colombo
Colombo Assailant Posed as Cameraman, Used Stolen Gun
Mafia boss, Joseph Columbo had recently been shot (and at the time of the article was in the hospital in critical condition) as happened now and again to crime bosses in those days. The Mafia was still very much a going concern but by the 1980s law enforcement was nabbing more and more of the bosses as the code of omertà was being regularly violated.

From the Chicago Tribune

Illinois OKs Amendment on Vote at 18

Illinois thus became the 35th state to ratify the amendment that would allow eighteen-year olds to vote. Only three more states were needed to make it law. Spoiler alert: it passed and in the 1972 national election us kids got to vote. I barely made as I turned eighteen that year. I cast my first-ever vote in the California Democratic primary for George McGovern in June.

U.S. OKs $5 Million in Arms Aid to Chile

That's nice. The United States decided to help out the democratically elected socialist government in Chile led by Salvador Allende. It was a shame that two years later the CIA helped lead a military coup that toppled Allende and his government and led to military rule and all the attendant disappearances, executions and torture.

Seize $300,000 in Heroin, Nab 28 in Three Days of Raids

A drop in the bucket. Probably ruined a lot of weekends for users in the Chicago area, maybe even several weeks. But H came back and money was made and new addicts came aboard, and new dealers and deaths from overdoses, more arrests. The beat went on. And still does.

From the Atlanta Constitution

Nazi Atrocity Camp Leader Stricken, Dies

The Nazi in question was the notorious Franz Stangl who was serving a life sentence for his role in the extermination of nearly half a million Jews. He was a commandant at both Sobibor and Treblinka. Stangl, who died of an apparent heart attack, was sixty-three at the time of death. Good riddance.

'Fraternize' Ban Upheld by Court

At a quick glance of this story seems much too much ado about little Apparently it is a crime for an officer to fraternize with an enlisted man. Seems a tad harsh. Frowned upon maybe but a criminal act? Then you read on and see that in the case in question the officer was trying to "establish homosexual relations" with a seaman (no pun intended). That's a horse of a different color. Using your position of power to seduce someone is a definite no-no. Twas the use of the euphemism "fraternize" that threw me.

10,000 Red Troops Reported Poised for Push

After years of bombing, a huge commitment of troops and weapons, the U.S. was no closer to "winning" in Vietnam and indeed the North Vietnamese were preparing for a big push. Nixon was determined to get "peace with honor" in Vietnam but the peace only came after the North won the war and there was no honor to an administration that tried to bomb a country into submission and conducted illegal bombing raids in other countries. The U.S. lost face, lives and its dignity.

 







27 June 2021

My 50 Favorite Novels Offered Without Comment


1. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

2. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

3. Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe

4. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

5. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

6. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

7. The U.S.A. Trilogy (The 42nd Parallel, 1919, Big Money) by John Dos Passos

8. Sophie’s Choice By William Styron

9. Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac

10. Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

11. The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

12. Everyman Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

13. Stoner by John Williams

14. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

15. Town and City by Jack Kerouac

16. Time and the River by Thomas Wolfe

17. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

18. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

19. Crime and Punishment by  Fyodor Dostoevsky

20. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

21. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

22. Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

23. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

24. The Beautiful and the Damned by F Scott Fitzgerald

25. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

26. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

27. The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth

28. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

29. Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson

30. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

31. Blood Merdian by Cormac McCarthy

32. Shoeless Joe by W.P Kinsella

33. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

34. A Secret History by Donna Tart

35. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

36. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

37. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

38. Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

39. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

40. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

41. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

42. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

43. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

44. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

45. Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks

46. The Regeneration Trilogy (Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, Ghost Road) by Pat Barker

47. Little Big Man by Thomas Berger

48. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson

49. True North by Jim Harrison

50. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates