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What Circle of Hell is This? (or A Deuce that Beats a Full House)

25 Jul

 

 

I am, of course, without credentials(except one that I maintain is sufficient) to validate the assertion that follows: The horrifying youth rally in which many commentators saw echoes of The Third Reich has made shockingly apparent that this nation has entered a period of national psychosis.

 

Tom Englehardt, who has been reliably offering commentary and links to other commentators who are still practicing real journalism (ala George Orwell’s mandate, “Journalism is printing what some else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.”) on his web journal Tomdispatch, recently published Bombing the Rubble, a sharp eyed, well argued condemnation of USA imperial policies since the NYC city bombings way back when we were entering a new and hopeful millennium. Now this is not the first time that Tomdispatch has offered a critique of US government policy but I am hopeful that now is the time my fellow citizens have caught up with history and are receptive to voices that are not bleating and braying the same gibberish and misdirection

 

 

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176310/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_bombing_the_rubble/

 

Providing entertaining gallows humor, Charles Pierce, has had months to hone his piquant sense of the absurd during these dark time. His daily bulletins are apple vinegar of reportage , going some distance in detoxifying the environmental disaster that is the current presidency and its enablers and scavengers

“And all this was going on as the president* was said to be reconsidering his hand-picked attorney general because that AG had failed to cover the presidential hindquarters regarding the investigation of whether the 2016 Republican presidential campaign ran on a volatile mixture of vodka and borscht. This, it was said, would be to install a more compliant marionette, who then would fire the special counsel looking into the Russian ratfcking. This, it was said, would touch off A Constitutional Crisis, although the Republican congressional majorities have shown all the spine of an orchestra of crickets.”

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a56549/mccain-healthcare-vote/

My sense of the 115 Congress is that it is composed of many people professing to be christians who are given to mentioning god with frequency. Personally, that affiliation is irrelevant to me though I would feel more appreciatively inclined to all this religiosity if these people would forgo the usual blessing and instead offer this prayer, “God save the Republic”

That’s something a even a godless Jew like me can agree with…and to quote another godless Jew the good Doctor Freud, The Voice of Reason is Small But Persistent…

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True Dat: An Oral Biography

21 Jul

 

While understanding the appeal of biographies I have not found that the door stop comprehensive tediously factual compendia of a life (even of an admired or world historical personage) bear the weight of such attention— though Ben Bradlee managed to write a weighty tome about Ted Williams that held up well through its 800 plus pages. The concise biographical essay (around 200 pages) by a sympathetic writer introduced in a series by James Atlas seemed to me to adequate for most general (those not seeking to bathe in the minutiae of a life).

 

 

There is another approach to biography that in the two instances that I encountered them I found extremely effective— the oral biography. Crystal Zevon’s assembly of commentators on her late husband I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon and Robert Altman: The Oral Biography by Mitchell Zuckoff. There are, of course, a number of reasons why these two lives lent themselves to the oral history approach, not the least being the outlier, colorful personalties of Zevon and Altman.

 

 

 

 

Except for Che (Guevara), no one comes to mind who has greater cross generational universal appeal than Bob Marley. Setting aside the fact import of more than 500 books devoted to the late Jamaican musicIan, his image adorns more consumer products than one can reasonably imagine (except Swatch watch only  a Che adorned wristwatch. And it is the complexity and wide reaching appeal that Bob Marley generated in his few 36 years before succumbing to cancer that makes So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley by Roger Stevens both exponentially useful and definitive

 

 

Roger Steffens is one of the world’s leading Bob Marley experts. In compiling this biography in over 40 years he interviewed more than seventy-five friends, business managers, relatives and confidants of Bob Marley. As an early adopter of reggae music Steffens was present t the creation and with the zeal and determination of the true believer he draws out the telling stories from Marley’s original group the Wailers ( Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso and Cherry Green) as well as his intimate relationships (wife Rita Marley and long time companion Cindy Breakspeare.)

 

 

As we should expect, Steffens elicits little-known stories, about of some of Marley’s songs, the Wailers’ difficulties with  producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, singer Johnny Nash’s  mentoring and the assassination attempt (see Marlon James novel), which led to Marley’s   stirring performance two nights later still carrying the bullet embedded in his arm.

So Much Things to Say allows to witness Marley’s conquest of a planet wide audience— for example, his visit to Zimbabwe to sing for freedom fighters  and a host  of other international public appearances. Clearl,y Marley packed a substantial life in his three and a half decades. Most compelling are  the accounts of Marley’s post Cancer (controversial) diagnosis and his rapid decline. Bob Marley (1945-1981).

Even a cursory viewing of a Bob Marley concert video will provide one of  those light  that get through the cracks and that he gained sufficient cultural/political valence to occasion conspiracy theories about the alarmingly late cancer diagnosis, ties to the CIA and casting shadows on Chris Blackwell, Island Records owner. Bob Marley’s  musical legacy is inestimable (as you can get a taste of in the videos I have included ) and if you are inclined  to attend to 464 pages (including 40 pictures) about a remarkable life, this should be the one.

 

 

 

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1.Serviceable Online biography of  Bob Marley… https://www.biography.com/people/bob-marley-9399524

2. I should note that Jon Lee Anderson’s  biography of Che Guevara is exhaustive  accessibly with lots to recommend it as Anderson is  superb example of a disappearing calling— the foreign/war correspondent. Here’s a chat I had with him back in 1997 when his Che biography was freshly minted…https://ourmaninboston.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/talking-cuba-and-che-with-jon-lee-anderson/

Four (not Miles Davis’s)

11 Jul

 

 

 

Heretics by Leonardo Padura

 

We’re now at the halfway point of the summer and, to quote Beatle (it pains me to think that there are people who don’t know who he is) George Harrison, “life goes on within you and without you…” Reading being part of the thing that goes on within you. As there is a yearly onrush of pre-season beach/summer reading list/listicles one might expect an imminent outbreak of reading across the land—which honestly has escaped my attention—though I would be curious to know what was actually being read. I think I had an entry in the summer reading derby but it is a few weeks later I (understandably?) missed a few fine novels. An oversight I correct here and now.However I am omitting the book that to me is the most important novel of the year—Heretics by the Cuban novelist, Leonard Padura, The combination of being set in Cuba and using the infamous SS St Louis incident (  in 1940, 900 hundred Jews fleeing the horrors of the Third Reich were denied entry to Cuba and sent back to Europe.) Heretics is a big book with many pages and travels the world and the centuries making a bit off the beaten track for our domestic reading public.

 

On the other hand,  the quartet of  novels I am lauding below are both well=wrought and accessible

 

 

 

 

You Belong to Me -Colin Harrison

 

Harrison is a writer who I came across almost thirty years ago when he was fiction editor at Harper’s.  Since then I have read with pleasure most of the eight novels he has written.  This new tome (coming eight years since his last) is set in contemporary Manhattan. It displays Harrison’s commanding understanding of the various life forms that accrete to the Universe’s center of ambition which results in some terse and mordant social commentary.This, as well as a propulsive plot and a fascinating protagonist, pasted me into my seat,  reading it straight through (you know, the “within you ‘ thing).

 

Megan Abbott’ opines,

 ‘Harrison loves his schemers, especially the high-stakes New York City variety, and his exuberance for plundering financiers, money-grubbing heirs and double-dealing musclemen for hire is the fuel that propels “You Belong to Me.” At the center is Paul, whose comfortable lifestyle comes from his boutique law practice but whose passion lies in obsessive rare map collecting…”

The story that follows is deliciously twisty and, intermittently, startlingly violent. With such a wide cast, its many characters risk feeling like types, or even stereotypes, but Harrison attempts to give most of them a moment in the sun: an explanatory back story, a convincing moral justification, even a Rosebud moment. “Everyone had a private journey,” Paul observes, “and no one was ever completely known by anyone. *

 

 

* Megan Abbott’s  explication of You Belong To Me

 

The Force Don Winslow

 

If you come  to this new novel by Don Winslow unaware of his  body of work, then make it a point of at least looking up the press on his magnum opus , The Power of the Dog and its second part The Cartel (Winslow has apparently set himself the task of a part 3) which unpack the web of complicity that is the thing called the War on Drugs. The Force is set in New York City and the title refers to the New York City Police Department. I doubt you have ever read a procedural like this one (Princes of the City comes close). In a brilliant introduction to the story the book’s epigram quotes, Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely,

 

“Cops are just people, ” she said irrelevantly.

They start out that way, I’ve heard.”

 

 

 

Prussia Blue Philip  Kerr

 

I came to Scottish-born writer Philip Kerr by reading one of his stand-alones A Philosophical Investigation about 30 years ago. It was only later that was drawn in and hooked by Kerr’s Third Reich era Berlin Homicide detective  Bernie Gunther of which there now exist eleven volumes. I have been pleased to chat *with Kerr on a  few occasions in which I found him to be as entertaining as was reading his stories.  Serendipitously I across Jane Kramer’s smart article on Prussian Blue the most recent in The Gunther Saga.  Among other of her  elucidations—

I never knew how hard it was to describe a thriller, especially one in which fact and fiction blend so seamlessly, until I sat down with “Prussian Blue.” Thrillers are thorny gifts for critics.  With a great thriller, the important thing is to tell the story while never giving anything away, certainly not who did it and, in the case of a Gunther thriller—densely populated and always dizzyingly complex—the logic by which our redoubtable protagonist finally gets his man.

The best thrillers share some of that depth and density. They are really social histories, disguised in nineteenth-century-novel form, though often with a bit of late-twentieth-century nouveau roman thrown in, perhaps to signal the sensitive self-searching of some of their toughest sleuths. They paint what could even be called ethnographic portraits of societies in which particular kinds of crimes consistently appear and of the people who tend to commit those crimes.

 

*My first chat with Philip Kerr

 

 

 

 

Isadora Amelia Gray

 

Based on reading her stories in Gutshot, that Amelia Gray chose to examine the life of Isadora Duncan after Duncan suffered an unimaginable personal was something unexpected. But put surprise that down a lapse in my understanding of the growth of a young writer. If you are  expecting a window into the famous dancer’s art you will be disappointed as Gray’s focus is Duncan’s post-tragedy life

Gayle Brandeis gushes* (with justification)

 

…She [Gray] brings her characteristic wit and observation and sense of the absurd to this novel. As with her other books, it is divided into fragments — each chapter almost a work of flash fiction or prose poem unto itself — but it is the most deeply sustained of her books to date, the most epic and ambitious. It is a brutal novel in many ways, completely unrelenting in its depiction of pain, yet that makes it exhilarating, too. Gray is a fearless writer, a writer willing to look into the most profound darkness and find strange, compelling music there. I started out reading this book wishing I had written it; I finished it deeply grateful Gray had.

 

 

* Gayle Brandeis writes on Amelia Gray and her newest novel...

 

 

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On the Beach…Summer Reading

21 Jun

 

 

 

New York Daily News 1954

 

 

It appears I have lost the fire in my belly as the media attention to the well -worn rubric  ‘summer reading’ has come and gone> And unlike times past,  I have not excoriated the whole damn herd of literary commentators for this vacuous listicle-inducing category. Despite years of an inability to take seriously this meaningless category, it is clear that my meager efforts to staunch this yearly silliness have failed.

 

So, I am joining the herd … with some modification. While I am certain that my recommendation can be read on the beach and/or during the summer. I also positive that they can be read, in the bathroom, while waiting interminably at the Motor Vehicle Bureau (or at any government agency) or basically anywhere  there is ample light and a place to plant oneself out of the fray

 

 

 

 

 

The Force- Don Winslow

This new offering by Winslow may replace his important epic novel The Power of The Dog (and the sequel The Cartel) as his magnum opus. Set for the most part in that other country, the US-Mexican border such was its vivid depiction of the spider’s web of worldwide complicity in the so-called War on Drugs much like any good John LeCcarre story there is an abundance of truth packed into this fiction. In the new opus, Winslow has focused his ample powers of observation and narrative skills on the workings of and the psyches and pathologies of an array of characters of the New York Police Department— kind of  Prince of the City on steroids. When I received my copy I  was vexed by what I saw as blatant hyperbole best selling by thriller writer “Intensely human in its tragic details, positively Shakespearian in its epic sweep – probably the best cop novel ever written” —   After I read  the novel  I could understand Child’s enthusiasm ffor this story*

Heretics Leonardo Padura

Cuban novelist iPAdura is probably best known for his noir quartet featuring Havana homicide detective Mario Conde, which the Spanish have produced as a four part series as Four Seasons in Havana. Certainly entertaining, I was more impressed by his novel The Man Who Loved Dogs which followed the life of  Leon Trotsky’s assassin, with particularly heart-rending episodes set in Hitler’s dress rehearsal for  WWII, the Spanish Civil War. Now comes his new creation Heretics a story that radiates from the infamous incident surrounding the May 1939 voyage of the ocean liner St Louis with 937 ‘stateless’ Jews to Havana, radiating forward to 2007 and  traveling back in time a few centuries with fascinating tangent about a Rembrandt painting that ends up in a Polish stetl.  More revealing (as in real) about the perfidy of the Cuban officials in 1939 (and the later travails of Cuban exiles in Miami) than any documented history could provide, Heretics manages to convert  a few hundred years of history into a story, accessible and intelligible without an excess of factual data…And remember, much takes place in the  US amusement park, Havana…

 

 

 

 

Ancient Minstrel Jim Harrison

 

The recently departed Jim Harrison a true meat eating literary lion produced a series of volumes peculiar to him, three novellas ( you don’t know what a novella is?) tomes. This posthumous volume features as its entitled piece, a fairly accurate portrayal of Harrison and exhibiting him as the observant, good-natured, ravenous and droll to hilarious good fellow. You laugh *I’m not sure about crying), you smile, you ponder, you marvel. All the wonders of a well-turned page can evoke…

 

Augusttown Kae Miller

 

Jamaican-born poet and a well-travelled resident of Brixton London Kei Miller,  provides radiant snapshots and thumbnails of post-colonial village life proximal to Jamaican capital, Kingstown. It’s long on Race and Place, which for literary citizens of the world have great value…

 

 

 

 

There Your Heart Lies Mary Gordon

 

 

I think Mary Gordon has written eight novels but this is the first that I have read. Ostensibly I was drawn to yet another recent narrative set in the perilous center of the Spanish Civil War.To which, not sufficient attention is paid. There are numerous interesting plot twist and turns but the portrayal of the 90 year old Spanish Civil War veteran and her grandchild and their relationship is quite plainly, seductive.

 

 

 

Who Killed Pier Barol Richard Mason

South African born and London resident, novelist  Richard Mason completes his triptych about low-born Dutchman Piet Barol and his struggles to rise to the moneyed upper class. Set in pre-WWI  South Africa, Barol is a clever and multitalented con man who meets and marries a woman equally as talented and bent. This story takes you into the bush and into the lives the land’s original people at a time when they are beginning to suffer the depredations of what would soon become apartheid and genocide. Barol is a shrewd reporter on the class and racial conventions and his prose from the point of non-human sentients is a wonderful leap of imagination (something that Jim Harrison and the recently departed Brian Doyle did well with).

 

 

 

The Bones of Paradise Jonis Agee

 

A mystery and a history not set  in the favorite locale of Western writers— unacknowledged third nation that exists around the USA Mexican boundary—this narrative is set in a western state called Nebraska. All the major players are represented —Whites, Mexicans, Native Americans, Nomads Emancipated Women. Set ten years  after the US Army’s Seventh Cavalry’s infamous  massacre known as  Wounded Knee , Jonis Aggee’s great storytelling places the reader in the still wild  19th West and clears away some of the view obstructing mythology…

 

The Crossing Andrew Miller

 

Though I don’t  recall ever reading a review or a mention of an Andrew Miller novel in a US medium, I have without understanding why,  picked- up some of his novels in the past and been pleased that I did. I especially enjoyed Pure set in France in the late Eighteenth century witb character tasked a very unusual mission. His new opus, ostensibly begins with Scenes from a marriage but gracefully and seamlessly transits to a solo oceanic sail. Not having sailed  farther than the ocean around Manchester (MA ) harbor, lacking any particular interest in sailing or oceanic conveyance  I was still transfixed by the  by the vigilance and energy required to cross an ocean in a small ship. The last novel that I recall which had oceanic sailing as a vantage point  was Robert Stone’s.Outerbridge Reach— a story of one Stone’s troubled characters  involved in a world circumnavigating ship race

 

 

Milena, or The Most Beautiful Femur in the World by Jorge Zepeda Patterson , Adrian Nathan West (Translator)

 

Despite Mexico’s  proximity (as Mexican’s intone, “So far from God and so close to the United States”) and various Latin BOOMS and BOOMLETS, Mexican novelists are just beginning to get recognition in USA.Imprints such as Deep Vellum and Restless Books are making valuable contributions and this award winning (in Spain)  does  for human sex trafficking and  hybrid modes of corruption what Winslow’s The Power of the Dog did for the narcotic drug  (Wall Street/Cartel industrial complex) industry. One would hope (against hope ) that the increasing presence of this pestilential activity in  contemporary crime stories (see Season Three of John Ridley’s American Crime would occasion some serious efforts by world’s power structures.But much like PEACE, there is no money in eradicating human trafficking. I leave to you to figure out what this quirky title is about.

 

 

So Much Blue Percival Everett

 

As such things go, I was unaware of writer Percival Everett until I saw mention of him in one of the early 2000’s  literary web sites, unfortunately saddled with the inelegant rubric  ‘blog .  Manned by a delightful mind whose name escapes me, The Minor Chord , The Major Fall was a many levels above the jejune unfiltered gibberish to which media careerists claimed the Internet gave license. It was resonantly valuable to me as I have been delighted to read most every thing Everett has written since. And at least once a  companionable conversation that you can find on line and anthologized in Conversations with Percival Everett. I came  across a  lucid  essay on Everet’s new novel by Jesse McCarthy. Here’s a snippet**

 

  In a characteristic Everett move, Kevin’s race is only glancingly evoked in the novel. The first overt mention of it unsurprisingly comes from The Bummer, a character in the El Salvador section who is the walking embodiment of crude explicit racism. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you’re a nigger,” he warns. When Kevin’s son Will asks him what he wanted to be when he was growing up, we learn that Kevin had an uncle Ty who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, an illustrious heritage deflated by the knowledge that “Uncle Ty was a fucking asshole.” One of Everett’s great achievements has always been his unassuming portrayal of characters that defy the grotesque strait-jacket of racialized characterization, which so much of American fiction (or American culture in general) simply can’t give up. But racial invisibility is as pure a fantasy as racial stereotype…

 

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  1. http://don-winslow.com/books/the-force/

2. https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/sad-and-boujee/

Pearls? Before Swine?

27 Apr

 

 

 

 

The Bedlamite

Our President. Really.

 

 

Until I can get help for this condition, I find myself expending some effort on the so-called social media platform entitled FACEBOOK. This activity is troublesome as there are multitudes of useless monads of information (validating the notion that it pays to choose your friends wisely) and much silliness as well as bombast and, well I could go on… So…when I occasionally review my contributions to the din, I am pleased that some are worth anthologizing,  And thus, with some tweaks here are  my recent Facebook posts:

 

1 More from the dissident hymnbook for the choir…

Chomsky, “And it turns out that the most powerful country in human history, the richest, most powerful, most influential, the leader of the free world, has just decided not only not to support the efforts [Paris Conference, December 2015] but actively to undermine them. So there’s the whole world on one side, literally, at least trying to do something or other, not enough maybe, although some places are going pretty far, like Denmark, couple of others; and on the other side, in splendid isolation, is the country led by the most dangerous organization in human history, which is saying, “We’re not part of this. In fact, we’re going to try to undermine it.” We’re going to maximize the use of fossil fuels—could carry us past the tipping point. We’re not going to provide funding for—as committed in Paris, to developing countries that are trying to do something about the climate problems. We’re going to dismantle regulations that retard the impact, the devastating impact, of production of carbon dioxide and, in fact, other dangerous gases—methane, others.”

 

Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the UnIted States.”

It’s possible your high school history covered the US theft of a vast swath of Mexico in the 1846 invasion known Guerra de Estados Unidos a Mexico (“War of the United States Against Mexico”). And maybe even included the scam known as thew Gadsen Purchase. Novelist Carmen Boullosa’s elucidation in her novel Texas the Great Theft sets the record straight. Among other things validating the Mexican saying, “Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the UnIted States.”

3

Some clever shit about some dumb shit  Lindy West writes the truth…

  We must keep calling these ideas what they are, and to do that we need a shared understanding of what words mean. That’s why Trump’s 100 days of gibberish aren’t just disorienting and silly – they’re dangerous. Trump approaches language with the same roughshod imperialist entitlement he’s applying to the presidency (and, by extension, the world) – as though it’s a resource that one man can own and burn at will, not a vastly complex collective endeavour of which he is only a steward.

 

4 HBO should submit this for a Pulitzer…

5. Too true... Perhaps Andy Borowitz can have a shot at being Press Secretary

 

CHICAGO (The Borowitz Report)—In an appearance at the University of Chicago on Monday, former President Barack Obama unloaded a relentless barrage of complete sentences in what was widely seen as a brutal attack on his successor, Donald Trump.

 

6 If I oppose inviting the Bedlamite president* to the US Holocaust Museum that is not censorship or some mysterious infringement on the 1st amendment…

Not only did the US Holocaust Museum follow tradition and invite POTUS to speak but  screechy clown Ann Coulter attempted to desecrate the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. One writer demurs from the sophistry that this is a 1st amendment issue

“To treat the open forum of the classroom or the campus like just another town square—and thus to explain value judgment and knowledge prioritization on campus in terms of censorship or “shutting down” speech—is misguided. No one really thinks Coulter’s ideas are “shut down” if she doesn’t get a chance to talk to Berkeley students. Indeed, as I’ve argued, the marketplace of ideas is more likely to reward controversy than substance. It’s reasonable for us to disagree over the value of bringing someone like Coulter to campus; but it’s unreasonable to insist that if people make successful arguments for why Coulter shouldn’t have a campus platform, that’s tantamount to censorship. Obviously, students can read, watch, and hear professional provocateurs like Coulter without an institution of higher education hosting her speech. An education opens minds and expands horizons by introducing students to people and ideas they otherwise won’t find trending on Twitter over the latest monetized controversy.”

download

7. As I am enamored of Julie Buntin‘s debut novel Marlena, I thought I would share the joy but pointing you all towards another bright, young writer...

“Influence is a tricky thing. I think it starts with love, with resonance, with the exhilarating feeling that what you’ve read articulates something you’ve always felt but never had the words for. It’s reading something and jumping into the conversation to say, yes, it was this way for me too. Yes, and. The and is the writing. The and is the book that is your answer. There are details and moments in Marlena I hadn’t even realized I’d borrowed—a family of French Canadians, for example—and there are also more direct links. I remember knowing I wanted to write a scene where the girls just laugh, really hard, and for no good reason, and when I wrote it I thought of Berie and Sils as much as I thought of moments in my own adolescence when my best friend raising her eyebrow could make me sick with laughter. And writing about memory by structuring a book as a series of memories: I looked closely at Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? to try to figure how to do that, how the transitions might work, how to hide the seams.”

 

8 More reading for the choir…Henry Giroux:

“…What has often surprised me is not that it unfolded or the neo-liberal orthodoxy that increasingly made it appear more and more possible. What shocked me was the way the left has refused to really engage this discourse in ways that embrace a comprehensive politics, one that go beyond the fracturing single-issue movements and begins to understand what the underlying causes of these authoritarian movements have been and what it might mean to address them.

You have to ask yourself, what are the forces at work in the United States around civic culture, around celebrity culture, around the culture of fear, around the stoking of extremism and anger that give rise to a right-wing populism and neo-fascist politics? About a media that creates a culture of illusion, about the longstanding legacy of racism and terror in the United States. I mean, how did that all come together to produce a kind of authoritarian pedagogy that basically isolated people, and made them feel lonely? All of a sudden they find themselves in a community of believers, in which the flight from reality offers them a public sphere in which they can affirm themselves and no longer feel that they’re isolated.”:

 

9 Here’s a hymn book for the choir… ever vigilant dissident Tom Englehardt at Tomdispatch

“…America’s forever wars have now been pursued by these generals and others like them for more than 15 years across a vast swath of the planet — from Pakistan to Libya (and ever deeper into Africa) — and the chaos of failing states, growing conflicts, and spreading terror movements has been the result. There’s no reason to believe that further military action will, a decade and a half later, produce more positive results.

What happens, then? What happens when the war honeymoon is over and the generals keep right on fighting their way? The last two presidents put up with permanent failing war, making the best they could of it. That’s unlikely for Donald Trump. When the praise begins to die down, the criticism starts to rise, and questions are asked, watch out.”

 

 

Matt Taibbi, Keith Olbermann, Lucian Truscott and Charles Pierce are erudite commentators on US politics and  unabashed critics of the 45th POTUS and his regime Taibbi, Pierce and Keith hit the trifecta

 

10 Here’s Keith:

11. Charley Pierce‘s miscellany

. “If he’s done nothing else, this president* has given every Republican politician license to let their freak flags fly. (Lindsey Graham is anxious to tee it up on the peninsula, too, it seems. This is insane.) But Pence seems to be liberated more than most folks.”

12 Mask? What “mask”? Historian Eric Foner is interviewed

 

The Nation: In the introduction to Tom Paine and Revolutionary America, you say that your aim in writing about the history of American radicalism was, in part, “to provide modern-day social activists with a ‘usable past.’” What does that phrase mean to you?

Foner: The “usable past” is a term that became popular in the late 1960s. Howard Zinn used it; Jesse Lemisch used it. Radical historians began talking about it. I like the term because the past should be usable. That does not mean propaganda; a distorted past is not useful. A past like the one I was taught in school when I was growing up is not a usable past. It was just about how America was created perfect and has just been getting better ever since.

 

 

 

13 Matt Taibbi reminds us of the real histiory of the USA

 

“Seventy years ago, affluent white people could huddle in the suburbs, watch Leave It to Beaver, and pretend that cops weren’t beating the crap out of people in East St. Louis or Watts or wherever the nearest black neighborhood was. But these days, the whole country regularly gawks at brutal cases of police violence on the Internet. Nobody can pretend it’s not going on, but millions of people clearly don’t want to do anything about it – just the opposite, in fact. They want more. Is this a twisted country, or what?”

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Fuck this world, and fuck those who would impose their frail conceits of good and evil on it. Fuck the black man and the white, the junkie and the crusader, the philosopher and the fool. Fuck those who swagger and those who cower, those who pretend to truth and those who flee from it. Fuck the poet and the book burner, the leader and the led. Fuck God and justice and every other lie that ever held men back. Only when one set it all aflame and forsook it could one return, if only for a breath, to that time of purity when fire was the only philosophy…   from Nick Tosches’ Trinities

Books about Baseball Part II

10 Apr

 

 

 

 

 

Remember it was a tight sphinctered guy from St. Louis who opined that April was the cruelest month. Just ask any baseball fan about April. More than most, followers of the hardball understand failure and adversity.and yet… So, the 2017 Liges Grandes season has opened and the World Championship Chicago Cubs have already despoiled a perfect 162-0 season by losing in the Cardinal’s home opener (but eventually taking 2 out of 3). In any case, you will understand my focus on the books that follow below when I tell you that I am an expatriate Northside Chicagoan whose relationship with the Windy City’s National League outpost traces back to the time of Ernie Banks`and a team that never even achieved a .500 win-loss record.

So no surprise that a number of books have taken up some aspect of the Chicago Cubs…

The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Cubs: A Decade-By-Decade History

Until further notice, this tome should serve as the semi-official record of the current MLB Champions. As one of Chicago’s two metropolitan dailies left standing in the 21st century, The Chicago Tribune has a vast archive of information dating back to the Cubs’S origins in 1876 as the Chicago White Stockings. The paper’s sports department culled through that archive, assembling a decade-by-decade  history and a paean to the “Friendly Confines” also known as Wrigley Field. A straightforward survey of the Cubs, for what its worth, this 336-page volume includes a good number of photographs never published before.

 

 

 

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The Plan: Epstein, Maddon, and the Audacious Blueprint for a Cubs Dynasty by David Kaplan

The fact that Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein was anointed  “The World’s Greatest Leader ” by Fortune magazine is, on the face of it laughable ( Alibaba’s Jack Ma came in second), but don’t tell that to northside Chicagoans and northern New Englanders. Having engineered the end of the championship droughts of two cities made him  (his religion notwithstanding)him eligible for beatification. Chicago journalist Dave Kaplan ( CSN Chicago and ESPN Radio) chronicles the team tear down, the hiring of an imaginative manager in Joe Maddon and the making crafty trades as well as investing in a farm system that five years into Epstein’s tenure (as in his posting in Boston) yielded a World Championship team built to achieve the exalted status of dynasty.

 

 

 

 

Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages by David Ross

To anyone who watched the Chicago Cubs last season, 39-year-old, 15-year veteran backup catcher David Ross’s value to a team laden with young talent was obvious. Simply as ace Jon Lester’s personal catcher, Ross’s contribution was significant. Early on in his two-year stint, the young Cub studs Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, dubbed him  Grandpa Rossy”  extolling his positive presence in the locker room as well as on the field. And as is now part of baseball lore, Ross hit a key home run in his career’s final at- bat in the 7th game of the world series… that’s quite a feel good story.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse by Tom Verducci

Amidst a gaggle of journeymen baseball announcers and reporters, Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated baseball writer and FOX Sports analyst) presents himself as thoughtful and insightful and it is to his credit that he was given full access to the Cubs organization and Theo Epstein’s post-Moneyball team operating manual, The Cubs Way”. This approach was not a dismissal of the sabermetric revolution in sports but an expansion of the understanding and belief  in the value of team chemistry and clubhouse culture. Mix in the unorthodoxy of manager Joe Madden (known for coining prosaic phrases such as “Don’t Suck”) and you have substantial evidence of what a thoughtful blend of statistics and intangibles can achieve.

 

 

A Nice Little Place on the North Side: A History of Triumph, Mostly Defeat, and Incurable Hope at Wrigley Field by George Will

Gasbag 19th century Conservative,  bow tie wearing, pundit and Chicago Cub fan George Will (who has in some ways redeemed himself with his disavowal of the Bedlamite POTUS) had put together what he asserts is a “true, hyperbole-free history” (given his propensity to overblown prose and metaphorical acrobatics) updated to include “bonus material on the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win” Of course he missed a chance to comment  on  the abomination that is the “Budweiser Bleachers” (not even to comment on the irony of  naming rights being sold to the owner of the arch-rival St. Louis Cardinals.)

Here’s some copywritten hyperbole —

In the end, A Nice Little Place on the North Side is more than just the history of a ballpark. It is the story of Chicago, of baseball, and of America itself.

 

Oh my…

 

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Tourette’s like Outbursts Posted to that Inescapable Social Media Platform

7 Apr

 

 

 

If you grew up on the mean streets of the 50th Ward in Chicago, Tucker Carlson, the embattled Fox Network Cerebus, comes off as a preparatory school prick. Now comes an article in the hallowed’ New Yorker magazine, providing more information and coloration than I ever wanted to know about a Fox headliner. Essentially learning that Tucker is a human being.

The big surprise for me is what the late, still great Christopher Hitchens observed about Tucker Carlson ( which is a timely reminder about the distortions of Television).

2. Syria is the nation, bordering Lebanon (in which arguably the USA has been complicit in that country’s destabilization) Yet another disgrace in which the world leader’s use human beings as shuttlecocks in their game of “World Domination.” Keep in mind this has happened before. There was even a time when the USA accepted refugees from areas where “national interest ” was allegedly operative, Hungary in, Cuba,1959 onward. Apparently also, unofficially, suburbs full of Persians (aka Iranians) landed in Beverly Hills. Need convincing of the awfulness of Syria and blaring moral failure attendant?

Here, from someone who knows…

https://www.democracynow.org/2017/4/5/the_assad_regime_is_a_moral

3. Innovation without progress…Company Town tells about the bad shit that attends to the so-called sharing economy…

4.Pussy grabbing Bedlamite weighs in on one of the worst people in the world

 

 

5. Still your president

6 I expect many of us who view the Bedlamite regime as a nightmare wonder when the tipping point, the critical mass, the crossed Rubicon, the broken camel’s back, will come…

Enter Erik (the dark) Prince…(WAPOST to be commended for exposing this shadow play.

1. “…Current and former U.S. officials said that while Prince refrained from playing a direct role in the Trump transition, his name surfaced so frequently in internal discussions that he seemed to function as an outside adviser whose opinions were valued on a range of issues, including plans for overhauling the U.S. intelligence community.

He appears to have particularly close ties to Bannon, appearing multiple times on the Breitbart satellite radio program and website that Bannon ran before joining the Trump campaign.

In a July interview with Bannon, Prince said those seeking forceful U.S. leadership should “wait till January and hope Mr. Trump is elected.” And he lashed out at President Barack Obama, saying that because of his policies “the terrorists, the fascists, are winning.”

2. …War moves quickly: In less than an hour in Baghdad in the fall of 2007, American contractors working for Blackwater shot and killed 14 Iraqis, including children. Justice is slower, and it took until Monday [April 2015] for four of those contractors, who were convicted in August, to be sentenced to jail for 14 of those deaths. Three received 30-year sentences, while a fourth will spend his life in prison.

3. “Using a catchall term for the company, which keeps changing its name after successive scandals, the FBI’s Chris Briese didn’t mince worlds in court. “For an extended period of time, Academi/Blackwater operated in a manner which demonstrated systemic disregard for U.S. Government laws and regulations,”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/blackwater-founder-held-secret-seychelles-meeting-to-establish-trump-putin-back-channel/2017/04/03/95908a08-1648-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html?utm_term=.9e6af43b910a&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1
.
7.

Life isn’t fair, right? And sports, well…

 

8.

 

DON’T YOU HAVE TO KNOW YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES TO BE A CONGRESSMAN—REP TED YOHO SHOULD BE RECALLED…
Oliver saved his harshest critique for the defense that Nunes’ fellow House Republican Ted Yoho delivered on MSNBC, in which he tried to claim that Congress members work for the president and not their constituents.
“No! You absolutely do not! You do one of them, and explicitly not the other. That is literally the point of Congress,” Oliver exclaimed. “And that’s why this story is Stupid Watergate: It could very well take down the government, but nobody involved understands why, or how to cover it up, or what the government fucking is, or possibly how to breathe without getting regular reminders.”
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Baseball Books 2017 Part I and more

30 Mar

In a few days the valiant ( relatively) few who enjoy what once was the NATIONAL PASTIME and of which scholar Jaques Barzun opined the dubious  and simplistic, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” will have the pleasures of the opening of  the 2017 Major League  Baseball’s regular season. From now through November we will have sanctuary and perhaps some relief from the metastasizing toxicity emanating from the Bedlamite regime. But since almost all the owners of major league baseball franchises are billionaires there is no guarantee that that some faux patriotic  gesture might not make its way into some of MLB’s consumer-oriented spectacles (think All Star game, Home Run Derby etc)

As has been the case for a long time, Baseball has attracted talented insightful writers to produce a substantial bibliography about the nuances of the sport and the people who are associated with it. And that circumstance makes reading about the sport as enjoyable as watching, Every year there is a plethora of new tomes and before I get onto noting the new there are a handful of books that have acquired the status of classics.Or at least I place thek in my pantheon of ur-texts,

 

1. The Dickson Baseball Dictionary (Third Edition)  by Paul Dickson with Skip McAfee

Dickson’s well-researched and comprehensive compendium of baseball information features more than 10,000 terms with 18,000 individual entries, and more than 250 photos.

 

2.

Baseball: A Literary Anthology .ed Nicholas Dawidoff

This Library of America volume is a gem. Here’s the publisher’s description,

“… offers a lively mix of 70 stories, memoirs, poems, news reports, and insider accounts about all aspects of the great American game, from its pastoral nineteenth-century beginnings to its apotheosis as the undisputed national pastime. Here are the major leaguers and the bush leaguers, the umpires and broadcasters, the wives and girlfriends and would-be girlfriends, fans meticulously observant and lovingly, fanatically obsessed…

Drawing from the work of novelists from Ring Lardner to Don DeLillo, sportswriters from Damon Runyon to Red Smith, and poets from William Carlos Williams to Yusef Komunyakaa, and gathering essays and player profiles from John Updike, Gay Talese, Roger Angell, and David Remnick, Baseball: A Literary Anthology is a varied and exuberant display of what baseball has meant to American writers….”

 

 

3. Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Lewis is as good a writer/reporter as there is publishing today—which a quick scan of his bibliography will validate. This book became a seminal work in the field of talent evaluation and helped fans to some understanding of the burgeoning sabermetric approach to building a baseball roster as well as game management. All wrapped up in a readable narrative focusing on the small-budget Oakland A’s and their wily general manager, Billy Beane Lewis recounts

I wrote this book because I fell in love with a story. The story concerned a small group of undervalued professional baseball players and executives, many of whom had been rejected as unfit for the big leagues, who had turned themselves into one of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball. But the idea for the book came well before I had good reason to write it—before I had a story to fall in love with. It began, really, with an innocent question: how did one of the poorest teams in baseball, the Oakland Athletics, win so many games?

,

 

 

4. The Bill James Handbook 2017 by Bill James and Baseball Info Solutions

Bill James is the most prominent practitioner in the sabermetric world and his annual includes annual Fielding Bible Awards, insightful essays, and lots of statistical analysis you won’t find anywhere else. Lifetime stats (including playoff stats) for every player in the major leagues (plus a few others) through the end of the regular 2016 season. Plus cover features a photo of Big Papi Ortiz arguably the most popular ball player of his era.

 

5. American Jews In America’s Game  by Larry Ruttman

 This is useful and well-crafted work of oral and cultural history, featuring the life stories of well-known and as well as lesser known and unheralded Jews. Compiled from 50 engaging interviews and arranged by decade “…each person talks about growing up Jewish and dealing with Jewish identity, assimilation, intermarriage, future viability, religious observance, anti-Semitism, and Israel. Each tells about being in the midst of the colorful pantheon of players who, over the past 75 years or more, have made baseball what it is…”

My LAST 10 FACEBOOK POSTS

3 Mar

 

This is solidarity

 

1. PRESIDENTIAL? REALLY? WHO DAT?

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This is your leader

 

2. MR PIERCE ON ‘BALANCED’ JOURNALISM
“The change in tone was the overall theme of this morning’s coverage. The Washington Post noted the president’s “muscular but measured tone.” The New York Times said Trump “appeared restrained and serious.” At the top of the hour on “Morning Edition, the anchor took note of the president’s “more optimistic tone.”

Yeah, those assessments were really stupid and make me wonder if the people writing them actually listened to that pack of lies. Judging that speech on the basis of performance is massive journalistic malpractice. And, if NPR really thought the speech had any kind of an “optimistic tone” at all, then Morning Edition is two tote bags short of a spring fundraiser.

[POYNTER] Watch the references to Trump’s physical appearance and the quirks of his speech.

One of the “quirks of his speech” is that he lies like most people breathe. Is there a strategy you have for handling this?”

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Blah, blah, blah…

3. COLD WAR II?

 

 

 

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Cold to hot…

“… the primary reason for Trump, for Brexit, and for growing right-wing über-nationalism throughout Europe is that…

prevailing neoliberal policies have destroyed the economic security and future of hundreds of millions of people, rendering them highly susceptible to scapegoating and desperate, in a nothing-to-lose sort of way, for any type of radical change, no matter how risky or harmful that change might be.

But all of that gets to be ignored, all of the self-reckoning is avoided, as long we get ourselves to believe that some omnipotent foreign power is behind it all.”

 

4. In his quiet and effective way, James Fallows demurs from the chicken shit press that called the Bedlamite POTUS ‘presidential’—
“…But because this was by Donald Trump, and because stylistically it was such a contrast to his other big-deal rhetorical presentations, it is in my view receiving a significant grading-on-the-curve benefit. For other presidents, sticking close to the pre-released text was a routine expectation.

…I’ll pass over Trump’s inclusion of a group prominently featured at the Republican convention: relatives of those who were killed by illegal immigrants. This is hateful in my view—you’d have a much larger pool to draw from if you were choosing relatives of those killed by domestic violence, or by drunk drivers, or by accidental or intended gunfire, or by opioids or heroin, or by suicide and depression, or by other modern evils—but I know this (and the related, odious VOICE program) are part of the Trump brand…”

 

navy-seal-01-ekm

The father of the Navy SEAL killed in useless incursion into a sovereign nation

5. For those who have not yet come to the realization that checking in with Chas Pierce on a daily basis is a useful balm to the vexations generated by the neo-fascist regime of the Bedlamite prexy and his goon squad of predators, thieves, mountebanks and sub-humans I offer you this—

“Presidential, was it?

Even I didn’t believe they could lower the bar far enough that an otherwise sensible fellow like Van Jones would take the indecent exploitation of a war widow’s fresh sorrow and turn it into Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. Even I didn’t believe they could sink the bar far enough into Middle Earth that otherwise critical observers would look at a pile of deceptive leaves and see a coherent tree. Every day in every way, this administration and this president* taxes the far limits of even my cynicism. For example, it is not true that nobody profits from “lawless chaos.” How do you think Vladimir Putin created the gangster’s paradise that helped Rex Tillerson and Wilbur Ross get even more wealthy?

When one calls that speech “presidential,” whose presidency are you summoning? Pierce? Buchanan? Rufus T. Firefly? Jesus, people, at least try to sound like you graduated middle school.”

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The Shadow President

6. Not that I would begrudge them this payoff but still…

 

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Barry and Michelle hit the number

7. A person who is a Facebook friend, who I don’t know, announced he had reached the 5000 friend threshold. I responded,”You should join a support group.” Another Facebook friend who I don’t know ‘liked’ my rejoinder. Tell me this isn’t a little nuts…

Indeed

8. Judging from the unreliable sampling of my Facebook timeline, I am struck by the what seems to me to be much wasted words and emotional energy. Much of it is eloquent and heartfelt and if they help energize a resistance to an apparent neo-fascist regime, great. Fabulous. Rock on. Yes, we can. Power to the Peaceful. Keep in mind the not oft-quoted remark by Edmund Burke, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.

 

10. NEXT TO BE BARRED FROM WHITE HOUSE PRESS ROOM—

 

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Sarcasm?

11. POTUS 45’s lying liar causes a stir—big fuckin’ deal—

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There is fake news and then there is “who cares”news…

 

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From My Buddy Howard…

1 Mar

 

 

Howard’s response to last night’s (by the Bedlamite POTUS) performance art,

It was inevitable that as soon as President Treblinka managed to speak for more than a minute and not to sound like he is suffering an incurable intellectual deficit or a cognitive disorder that he will calm a lot of people down and demonstrate that quality so highly revered called “presidential.” Actors do a better job of it. Reagan proved that.

What’s incontrovertible and unchanging—and horrifying in the prospect of seeing how people are reassured by a measured expression of the same insane and intemperate political goals for our country—is that virtually all of his “hopeful” speech last night is simply unfeasible, which is to say, impossible, economically. That is, not without doing what will, finally, be irredeemable damage to the social and democratic integrity of our country.

Howard’s a nifty guy (he is, after all, my friend). He has his own piece of web real estate, 1 Standard Deviation. One would do well to  take a peek as he is an accomplished photographer as well as luminous wordsmith…

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