26 February 2023

It Happened During My Freshman Year of High School, 1967-68

Monday September 4.
Governor George Romney of Michigan who was considering a run for the Republican Party nomination for the presidency in 1968, appeared on  a Detroit TV Show where during an interview, he explained why he had changed from supporting to opposing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He said that when he along with other American politicians were provided a tour of South Vietnam in 1965, "I just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get when you go over to Vietnam, not only by the generals, but also by the diplomatic corps.”

Sunday September 10. The CBS television network censored that evening’s The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, by removing a performance by Pete Seeger's of his antiwar song "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.” CBS objected to the closing verse, "Now every time I read the papers/That old feelin' comes on/We're waist deep in the Big Muddy/And the big fool says to push on." CBS executives considered the words as clearly meant to insult President Johnson.

Friday September 29. At a speech San Antonio, Texas, President Johnson said that he was “ready to talk tomorrow with Ho Chi Minh and other chiefs of state" to discuss an ending to the Vietnam War, but added that an immediate halt to bombing would happen only if he believed it would "lead promptly to productive discussion,”and that "It is by Hanoi's choice— not ours, not the world's— that war continues." He justified continued American presence by saying: "I cannot tell you— with certainty— that a southeast Asia dominated by communist power would bring a third world war closer to terrible reality, but all that we have learned in this tragic century strongly suggests that it would be so. As the President of the United States, I am not prepared to gamble on the chance that it is not so... I am convinced that by seeing this struggle through now, in Vietnam, we are reducing the chances of a larger war— perhaps a nuclear war.”

Thursday October 12. U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk said during a news conference that, because of North Vietnam's opposition, proposals by the U.S. Congress for peace initiatives are futile. 

Wednesday October 18. Students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison protested over recruitment by Dow Chemical on the University campus; 76 were injured in the resulting protest.

Saturday October 21. Approximately 70,000 Vietnam War protesters marched in Washington, D.C. and rallied at the Lincoln Memorial; in a successive march that day, 50,000 people marched to the Pentagon, where Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, and Jerry Rubin symbolically chant to "levitate" the building and "exorcise the evil within.”

Tuesday November 21. United States General William Westmoreland told news reporters: "I am absolutely certain that whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing.”

Monday November 27. The Beatles released Magical Mystery Tour in the U.S. as a full album. The songs added to the original six songs on the double EP included "All You Need Is Love", "Penny Lane", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Baby, You're a Rich Man" and "Hello, Goodbye.”

Saturday December 9. Jim Morrison, the lead singer for The Doors, was arrested on stage in New Haven, Connecticut during a benefit concert for the New Haven College scholarship fund. Police charged Morrison with an "indecent and immoral exhibition" in the form of an angry speech that he gave to the crowd of 2,000 after interrupting a song; Morrison said that a policeman had fired pepper spray in the singer's eyes during an argument in the offstage dressing room. Morrison was released after posting a $1,500 bond.

Thursday January 11. Police and anti-war protestors clashed outside the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco where Secretary of State Dean Rusk was giving an address in which he said: “this country is committed to free speech and free assembly. We would lose a great deal if these were comprised.”

Tuesday January 30. The Tet Offensive begins, as Viet Cong forces launch a series of surprise attacks across South Vietnam.

Thursday February 1. A Viet Cong officer named Nguyễn Văn Lém is executed by Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, a South Vietnamese National Police Chief. The event is photographed by Eddie Adams. The photo makes headlines around the world.

Tuesday March 12. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson barely edges out antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, a vote which highlights the deep divisions in the country, and the party, over Vietnam.

Saturday March 16. U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy enters the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

Tuesday March 19. Students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., signal a new era of militant student activism on college campuses in the U.S. Students stage rallies, protests and a five-day sit-in, laying siege to the administration building, shutting down the university in protest over its ROTC program and the Vietnam War, and demanding a more Afrocentric curriculum.

Thursday April 4. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is shot dead at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots erupt in major American cities, lasting for several days afterwards.

Saturday April 6. A shootout between Black Panthers and police in Oakland, California, results in several arrests and deaths, including 17-year-old Panther Bobby Hutton.

Tuesday April 23. Students protesting the Vietnam War at Columbia University in New York City take over administration buildings and shut down the university.

Sunday May 5. North Vietnam launches its May Offensive with the Viet Cong, initiating a second phase of January's Tet Offensive, attacking  119 targets throughout South Vietnam, including the capital, Saigon.

Monday May 13. An advance team for the Poor People's March on Washington begins erecting prefabricated buildings to create "Resurrection City" as temporary housing for the marchers to stay in for five weeks. Governmental permission had been obtained for the occupation of fifteen acres at West Potomac Park near the Lincoln Memorial. The organizers had obtained a permit from the National Park Service to remain for thirty-seven days.

Wednesday June 5. U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Sirhan Sirhan is arrested.

Thursday June 6. Robert Kennedy dies from his injuries after being shot the previous day, he was 42. 

20 February 2023

The Good Old Days...They Were Different and Always Will Be

When I was a kid…..When the phone rang someone  answered it. There was no caller ID, no screening calls, no voice mails. Pretty simple. If someone knocked at the door you went to see who it was. Even at night. Nowadays only murderers knock on doors. Or delivery people letting you know your package has arrived. I walked to school. It was over five blocks. Today children can’t even stand outside without armed guards. I guess no one used to kidnap children. When we “went out to play” we often traveled around the neighborhood. Even went downtown. My friends and I walked to the movie theater together. I might even go alone and meet a friend there. Of course there are no longer any downtown theaters in Berkeley to walk to. The last one closed earlier this month. At one point Berkeley boasted six downtown theaters. Before the pandemic there were three. Now zero.

Time was when the only requirement for entering a sports event was handing someone your ticket. Now you have to go through security. We didn’t use to have gun-wielding mass killers trying to go to basketball games. There are lots of restrictions on what you can bring into a sports venue. No umbrellas. If it’s raining you better put on poncho. No bottles or cans because you might be tempted to throw it at a game official or player on the opposing team. 

The world is a lot more safety-conscious these days. At the same time we have a lot more mentally ill people with automatic weapons laying waste to complete strangers. One person one time brought an exploding device onto an airplane in a shoe. Now everyone, everywhere has to take off their shoes before getting on a plane. We’re all suspects.

Free speech was freer. Put another way, people got away with saying more insulting, insensitive, sexist, racist, homophobic comments. Talk about a double-edged sword. Today you have to be careful about what you say and certainly what you write on the internet. You might offend somebody or even an entire group of people. I’m glad racial slurs are no longer tolerated and that you can’t make fun of gay people or those with special needs. But like a lot of things it has — in my opinion — gone too far. Often people feel inhibited about speaking and are more conscious of conforming to newly-established norms rather than expressing themselves. As a society we need to figure this one out.

We didn’t use to have trigger warnings. People had thicker skins. 

Before the internet we didn’t know as much about complete strangers, especially people who aren’t even noteworthy for accomplishments behind being famous for being famous. We have a lot more of that today: people known for being known. Used to he you were expected to have done something to earn your notoriety. 

I started off mentioning phones. They used to stay in houses. If you had a long extension cord you could maybe drag out to the front porch or backyard, but you didn’t take it with you anywhere. It sure didn’t fit in your pocket. Thus people didn’t stare at their phones wherever they went. People used to talk to each other a lot more. Attention spans were longer. More people read books. 

Taking a photograph was a much bigger deal. First of all you had to have a camera with you. Secondly you needed to have film in that camera. Course once you took a picture you had to wait until the roll (of film) was finished then you took it to be developed (ask your folks) then you paid money to get your photos some of which might be blurry or a person’s eyes were closed or you hadn’t centered it quite right. If you wanted video of something you need a video camera. They weren’t cheap. You generally only used them for special occasions. 

Computers existed mostly in fiction, at special university labs and in people’s imaginations. The thought of having one in your home was ridiculous. The thought of having one in your phone which you carried in your pocket was….well, it didn’t exist as a thought.

People didn’t wear bicycle helmets. It was uncommon to see adults on bikes and crazy to think of a grown-up biking to work. 

You didn’t have to take out a second mortgage to buy a ticket to a concert. A middle class family could afford good seats to a football game. High school kids didn’t think twice about going to hockey games, it was just a few bucks. The prices at concessions stands didn’t make you blink, let alone faint.

College football and baseball were pretty much as they had been for decades and would remain so for a few decades more. Today old-timers have no idea what has happened to the sports they once loved other than than money has been the ruination of them. 

People dressed a lot more nicely. Men wore ties. You dressed to go to a nice restaurant. Now, regardless of the weather, half the adult males you see are wearing sandals and shorts. (We're seeing way to much of men's feet these days.) People go to the theater dressed as if on their way to see the Grateful Dead.

There were no TV channels that openly presented biased versions of the news. There was an actual effort towards objectivity. Editorials and opinions were rare and when they did appear were properly labeled. They also lasted a couple of minutes rather than a couple of hours. Of course this was back when there was something called “political compromise” and bi-partisan initiatives were more frequent than a blue moon. This was also at a time when you had the loyal opposition not a bunch of wing nuts more intent on fighting bogus cultural wars than helping improve the lives of American people.

Used to be that cigarettes and the attendant smoke were everywhere. Busses, restaurants, sports venues, offices, movie theaters and bars. Now you’re almost as likely to smell marijuana as tobacco.

Times have changed and I guess they always will.

12 February 2023

My Long Novel is Getting Trimmed, A Casting Change for a Classic Film, What's Trending and Oscar Nonsense

It Happened One Night

Done. Finished. Completed. Novel number three ready to go. After two years and three months I've finished it. But hold on a second, what’s the word count? 195,997 words!!! Oh my, that’s long. That’s longer than Sense and Sensibility (119,394), A Tale of Two Cities (135,420), One Hundred Years of Solitude (144,523), Cold Mountain (165,511), The Grapes of Wrath (169,481), Catch-22 (174,269) and Jane Eyre (183,858). This is not good for someone trying to peddle a novel to picky literary agents and publishers. They like books from first timers to be not much more than 100,000 words, preferably less. (The fact that I’ve self-published two novels does not enter the equation.)

Quite frankly the book could have done with a little bit of trimming anyway. Okay, a lot of trimming. I was unsparing in putting everything into it. Plenty of minor characters and story digressions. Vignettes that didn’t move the story further. A lot that was interesting but that wouldn’t be missed and slowed the proceedings down.

So I went through the book with an aim to cutting. Shouldn't be too hard. Extra sentence here. Wordiness there. An unnecessary paragraph there. Great, finished. How did I do? I reduced it by a whopping 708 words. Funny, eh? I realized I was going to have to get serious about the business. Entire characters would need to be excised, a whole chapter axed, several storylines eliminated. I am now about halfway through my second round of trimming and am being more unforgiving. About 13,000 words into the ether. That puts me at 182,00 and at a pace for in the neighborhood of 170,000. My goal is to get down to at least 125,000. Goodness me. How can I? Been hard enough so far. Cutting scenes that I put so much time and effort into is bloody painful. I want people to read them. The ruthlessness required is not something I’m good at. I suppose it’s a skill I’ll have to develop. More to be revealed. 

After that comes an even more difficult task, indeed a distasteful one: writing the query letter and synopsis and doing all the other nonsense necessary to “sell” a book to a prospective agent or publisher. The process serves to drum home the point that you are one of many currently doing the same thing and the competition is fierce. If only I were already well-known I’d have a huge edge. Book publishing often being a case of the rich getting richer. Maybe I should change my name to Tom Hanks. Well, I aim to give it my best effort, not to give up. I believe in the book, albeit there’s increasingly less of it to believe in.


The missus and I watched the wonderful It Happened One Night (1934) Capra on Friday evening. We’d both seen the film many times though not in the past few years. Always worth a re-visit. It’s well-known for sweeping the big four awards at the Oscars (best picture, best director, best actor and best actress). It’s also credited with being the first screwball comedy and a precursor of the road picture. With Clark Gable as a reporter and Claudette Colbert as an heiress in the leads and Frank Capra directing it has a definite edge over your run-of-the-mill picture. It also boasts a solid supporting cast as good films from Hollywood’s Golden Age did. Film buffs are well-acquainted with the likes of Walter Connolly, Ward Bond, Alan Hale, Irving Bacon and Roscoe Karns. 

In reading about It Happened One Night I noted that Colbert wasn’t the first choice for the role of Ellie Andrews. This got me thinking, in the roundabout way my brain often works, about if Barbara Stanwyck had been cast, not as Andrews, but as the reporter portrayed by Gable. Stanwyck was brilliant in Meet John Doe as the journalist, Ann Mitchell. Of course the love story between the heiress and reporter would be slightly different in that they would be a lesbian couple but that would have added another element to the story. (I here acknowledge that Hollywood would never have released such a picture in 1934, I’m just having a flight of fancy here). A Stanwyck-Colbert romance would have been great fun to watch and for all we know they might have had better unscreen chemistry that Gable-Colbert. 

Many years ago a friend suggested something similar with Sunset Blvd. (1950) Wilder saying that if it was Norman Desmond rather than Norma Desmond this classic film might have been even better, Maybe. I don’t countenance remakes of great films but if one simply must then that would be the way to do it.


You notice how streaming services tell you what’s hot or popular or — better yet -- trending? Evidently a lot of people put great stock into this. If something is popular, they reason, then it must be good. But more than that they take comfort in watching what “everyone else” is watching. It’s part of fitting in, being part of the crowd, part of the conversation. At work or school you’re going to feel left out if all your friends are talking about a show and you haven’t seen it. Better catch up. I guess it’ll come as no surprise that I never pay attention to what’s hot. Too often it’s cookie cutter type of action or rom com stuff that doesn’t interest me. When Bergman or Fellini are trending, let me know. I suppose I come off as something of a snob at times. If the shoe fits…. I’m neither ashamed nor proud of being a cultural snob — especially when it comes to cinema — it’s just the way it is. We like labels, don’t we?


Excited or upset about the Oscar nominations? Looking forward to the ceremony? Not me. It's all a bunch of hokum. Let me illustrate that point. Here’s a sampling of Best Picture winners none of which are ever in the conversation when great movies are discussed and none of which got a shout in the prestigious Sight and Sound Poll Greatest Pictures Poll: Cavalcade, The Life of Emile Zola, Going My Way, The Greatest Show on Earth, Marty, Around the World in 80 Days, Tom Jones, Oliver!, Kramer vs. Kramer, Ordinary People, Out of Africa, Driving Miss Daisy, Braveheart, The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Crash, Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, Argo, Spotlight, Green Book and CODA. You want a list of great films that DIDN’T win Best Picture Oscars? There’s not enough room.

Also, remember this, Oscars are campaigned for. There’s nothing to add to that sentence. 

01 February 2023

Two Young Pot Smokers Inspire a Discussion on Various Topics


Was walking through the little civic park across the street from the high school a few days ago. Saw two girls — looked like juniors or seniors — smoking. That’s bad, I thought. People of any age should all know how bad cigarettes are for your health. It’s not like when I was a kid. Smoking was everywhere then. Cigarettes were still advertised on TV until I was sixteen. You could smoke virtually anywhere including airplanes, restaurants, offices, busses, movie theaters and sports venues. Today there’s virtually no place in which smoking is permitted. So why bother? I’m amazed that there are still people in this country who light up. How dumb to you have to be? And here I saw two cute, intelligent-looking teenagers smoking.

But I noticed something as I get closer to them. The odor. Those aren’t cigarettes at all. They’re smoking a joint. Well, that’s better! Or is it? It’s the middle of a weekday. They should be in school, not in a park getting high. There are times and places to get stoned. (Here I note that when I was a high school you could sometimes find me on a weekday afternoon partaking of marijuana or alcohol or even LSD — not often, mind you, but it happened. So perhaps I’m being something of a hypocrite. Maybe I shouldn’t “talk.” Then again I have extensive experience with various methods of getting high and practiced them into my early thirties when I finally recognized that I was an addict and alcoholic. I’ve been clean and sober for several decades.)

One thing twelve-step programs teach us is not to judge others. That can be a tough one. In any case I didn’t judge the high school girls. I wondered about them. I often wonder about females. I grew up with a mother who was mentally ill so obviously I wasn’t close to her. I had no sisters. Maybe this somehow contributed to my enduring fascination with females. I even married one and sired two. Women can seem such mysterious creatures. First of all there are their bodies which have different shapes, different genitalia and breasts that come in various shapes and sizes. They are softer creatures than we men. They are often very pretty to look at it. Men often expend a great deal of energy picturing these creatures in a state of undress. 

Sadly many men do not treat women very well. Some men are misogynists. Society, despite recent advances, is still male-dominated and women — remarkably — still earn less pay for the same work. Sexism, two decades into the 21st century, is still prevalent.

Women are speaking out and seeking redress, no longer tolerating such insults as unwanted sexual advances. Men are being called out more for their bad behavior. This is a welcome change. 

But my head spins at some of what goes on in our culture. I saw a young woman on Twitter asking for someone to pay her airfare for an upcoming trip. In the comments I noted two men — who appeared to be middle aged if not older — made offers. It didn’t even seem that it was transactional (though it very well might have been). Old guys just fork over cash to young women merely for the asking? On the same day someone drew my attention to his daughter’s college roommate (they are freshmen) who had in her TikTok profile a link to her Venmo for “sugar daddies.” I guess leering older men buy her gifts and give her money. Not sure what they get in exchange. I suppose in some cases there are meetings in which some form of sexual activity occurs. In other cases perhaps they have a zoom call in various states of dress and undress. I don’t know and I do believe I want to keep it that way.

So very pretty girls are squeezing money and gifts out of older men. It seems so cold and cynical and very sad. I can’t make sense of it. I suppose one could say that the young women are smart capitalists making a buck. But I wouldn’t. Again, I don’t know what I’d say about it.

Earlier I mentioned the differences between men and women. Pretty elementary stuff. Birds and the bees and whatnot. But hold on. Maybe not so simple, not like when I was a lad. I grew up in a world in which homosexuality was not discussed. Until high school I was not even aware that two men ever had sex. By the time I left for college I was much wiser in the ways of the world. I had a friend who was gay and had been propositioned (not by my friend). I’d heard members of a gay awareness group speak at my school. I acclimated to all this rather easily and had shed myself of homophobia not long after discovering that such a thing existed. That was simple enough and I’ve since worked with dozens of gay men and lesbians and numbered many among my friends and have been a vocal advocate of full equality among people without regard to who they choose to fuck. 

But all this preceded the burgeoning trans movement. Seemingly overnight pronouns have become a point of contention and people on the right are having meltdowns over who gets to use bathrooms and how people identify (to be fair some people on the left are also having trouble dealing with this). I admit to some confusion about the whole gender identity issue having grown up in a world in which such talk would have seemed like science fiction. However I am not rigid and allow for times to change and support people being their true selves.

Let’s see….this all started because I saw two high school girls (do girls and boys became men and women on their 18th birthday? Seems as good a demarcation point as any) smoking a joint in the park in the afternoon of a school day. Surely among my legions of faithful readers (I see you Collingwood Longfellow Peterburger III of Ripton, Vermont) there are thousands of high school girls. So here’s my advice to you young ladies: don’t light up a doobie during school hours. Indeed reserve getting high for weekends, vacations or at least at night AFTER you’ve finished your homework. Even at that be judicious. You’re young and have many years of pot smoking ahead if that's what you choose to do with your leisure hours (also moderation in all things -- as if I'm one to talk). As for alcohol most definitely save that for college and in all instances by careful. Not all young men are gentlemen as I was in days of yore. Unscrupulous lads try to take advantage of girls who are high. Sad but true. So be careful. Have a friend around, know your environment. Don't overdo it.

Have fun everybody!