My Sixties Reading List (1969-1971)

28 Aug

 

 

 

 

Man With the Golden Arm

Catch 22

 

 

Magister Ludi

 

V

Howl

 

 

 

Trout Fishing In America

Soul On Ice

 

 

The Self and Others

 

 

 

16778476586-1

The Raymond Chandler Omnibus

 

 

Things Fall Apart

 

 

 

 

 

At Play in the Fields of the Lord

 

 

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

 

 

 

Slaughterhouse Five

\

Dune

 

Naked Lunch

 

a Fan’s Notes

 

 

One Hundred Years of Solitude

 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

 

The Wretched of the Earth

 

 

Hall of Mirrors

In Brief: Mud Wrestling next for CNN

24 Aug

 

 

It occurs to me that it is may be possible to derive pleasure from being able to say anything that you want…it doesn’t appear that THE VULGARIAn POTUS receives any joy from his lack of impulse control. On the other hand schismatic former White House direct of Communication  “the Mook” and whatever-it-is-she-does Kellyee Conway are having a blast…Here’sConway*

 

 

“A couple nights ago on television he said he wondered whether or not the president was fit to be president. Fit to serve. If James Clapper is watching right now, what’s your message to him?” asked “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy.

“It’s such an absurd analysis playing armchair psychiatrist,” she responded. “It’s not just him. It’s a lot of people on TV.”

“I’m old enough to remember when news stations reported the news,” the 50-year-old Conway continued. “And didn’t just have a parade of pundits going out there and opinionating and pontificating and conjecturing. It leads to analysis like this because people end up with very little to say.”

Do I hear reports that CNN is negotiating a mud wrestling match between Conway and firebrand Nicraguan born Ana Navarro who also appears to be enjoying herself. Apparently, Trumpalvania was upset by Senora Navarra’s post-Chancellorsville tweet ( tweets are short form digital communications platform that appears to serve some societal function):

 

“Only possible defensible explanation for Trump’s disgusting, unpresidential, narcissistic behavior, would be early-on-set dementia. Maybe,”

 

 

*http://thehill.com/homenews/media/347770-conway-slams-clapper-an-armchair-psychiatrist

CUBA SI

22 Aug

 

So,  the Bedlamite regime has cast an evil spell/toxic pall on  America, like the thumb blocking out the sun, dominating the daily news cycle and social media for nearly two years. Exacerbating an already sketchy level of interest of matters global. A recent report which claimed that Cuba had been targeting US diplomats  quoted a 2007 State  Department’s Inspector General’s  64-page report asserting

 

that the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana suffered from poor morale as a result of the Cuban government’s deliberate efforts to create hardship and discontent in the lives of the diplomats. “Retaliations have ranged from the petty to the poisoning of family pets. The regime has recently gone to great lengths to harass some employees by holding up household goods and consumable shipments. The apparent goal has been to instigate dissension within USINT ranks.”

And this news item was a reminder that the world has kept turning despite the antics of our vulgarian POTUS.

 

 

 

 

I have an unusual if not special connection to Cuba. As an immigrant boy living in Chicago, Illinois in the late 50’s, a coalescence of things brought Cuba to my impressionable mind. Whenever snatches of music got past the rising mania of Elvis Presley, it tended to be Latin— Prez Prado, Xavier Cugat even Desi Arnez and soon after Dizzy Gillespie’s Afro Cuban explorations. And then the overthrow of US sponsored thug Fulgencio Batista brought a cadre of hirsute guys variously known as Fidelistas or the Bearded Ones onto the world stage. Perhaps the first time in recent memory that revolutionaries were (briefly) embraced by their Uncle Sam.

So since that time, things Cuban have always had an allure for me. And as my preoccupation ripened as I became familiar with the richness of Cuba culture and gustatory delights from fulsome cigars to the island’s rums…so it did not escape my attention that on 26 July not was made of the anniversary*of Cuba’s revolution, entitled The 26th of July Movement. So called because Fidel cars led an unsuccessful attack on the Army’s Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba in July 1953. Defeat notwith- standing, Cuba celebrates that attack as a national holiday taking three days off.

US aggression or inattention, Cuba continues to avoid the pitfalls of a dreary socialist state which, it should not go unsaid, is amazing. Among other things, author Leonardo Padura’s noir quartet has served as the foundation of the Four Seasons in Havana series on Netflix And

And Padura’s latest novel, Heretics, is a robust narrative touching on the infamous SS St Louis incident of 1940, a wandering Rembrandt painting and the changing face of pre revolutionary Cuba. Jon Lee Anderson lucidly profiled Padura in The New Yorker which is worth reading as Jon Lee and is a reliable reporter and knows Cuba

 

 

Heretics by Leonardo Padura

In fact, Anderson’s biography of Che Guevera is an insightful snapshot into recent Cuban history. Add Ned Sublette’s Cuba and Its Music and The American Slave Coast

 

and one can begin to fill in the compelling history of the largest island in the Antilles.

Of course, if you really want to immerse yourself in depths of Cuba’s presence in the history of the Western hemisphere, there is English historian Hugh Thomas’s magisterial opus, Cuba: Or the Pursuit of Freedom  published in 1971 running more than 1700 pages is the authoritative source

 

Today’s Cuba is not all old cars and cigar smoking, guitar strumming campesinos, as a recent exhibition at the Pérez Art Museum Miami makes clearOn the Horizon: Internal Landscapes** was dedicated to contemporary Cuban art created on the island and intends to be the launch of a series.

 

 

 

 

However, Cuba is presented in the news and whatever the conventional understanding of Cuba’s place in world history, one should always keep in mind that Fidel made a career out of pulling on Uncle Sam’s nose and thus he gained great credibility and admiration around the world…

 

 

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* http://www.lahabana.com/content/july-26-1953-anniversary-of-the-attack-on-moncada-barracks/

 

** https://hyperallergic.com/387021/cuban-artists-find-escape-and-entrapment-in-the-sea/?

View at Medium.com

 

 

Journalism is printing what some else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations *

2 Aug

 

 

I don’t care that the Indians reside in Cleveland, I still follow them.  And frankly being a godless Jew (I have developed an indifference to racial slurs).Thus I am not offended by their longtime mascot Chief Wahoo, a caricature of a Native American, It is interesting that Indians have supposedly bowed to societal pressures and stopped using Wahoo, relying on A big red ‘C’ as their logo. what then to make of the continued sale of MLB approved Indian paraphernalia festooned with the banished Chief?

Chief Wahoo

 

Matt Taibbi’s ‘Castle Trumpsylvania’ **rivals Charles Pierce’s ‘Camp Runamuck’ for my favorite mordant sobriquet for the current regime.

The body of former White House Director of Communications Anthony Scaramucci was discovered on the White House lawn Monday. Scaramucci’s neatly-coiffed head, along with the mushier, more panicked capitulum of former chief of staff and freshly-resigned rival Reince Priebus, was found a short distance away, gored on the White House gates as a message to their replacements.

 

 

So, the response to the new Netflix series Ozark*** has, appropriately, been positive, as an ensemble including Laura Linney, Jason Bateman, and Esai Morales warrants. I noted a number of comments along the line of looking forward to watching this narrative as an “escape from the real world.”Which suggests to me a disturbing naivete. Stories about money laundering, drug dealing cartels over zealous government agents and corrupt police are about a very real world. That narco terrorism has become entertainment ( including the grimly imaginative methods of torture and murder employed )is as disturbing as the grossly stupid War on Drugs. Another symptom of the cultural desensitization to the chaos around us.

WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE BASEBALL… ****

 

 

 

NFL should be indicted under RICO statutes*****

“…If NFL players can access that science and find the beginnings of CTE—cases can range from mild to severe—would they retire at 24 or 25? If it can be detected in NCAA players, could the multibillion-dollar edifice of “amateur” athletics at institutions of higher learning justify football’s existence? Will universities justify brain injury in overwhelmingly black athletes for the entertainment of overwhelmingly white students? If it can be something easily detected at the high-school level, would football be impossible to insure or morally justify?

These are the questions that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will need to confront openly if his sport is going to have a future. Or he could just say that the report is “fake news.” That also seems to be working well these days, and such a move will undoubtedly be supported by more than a few of his bosses in the owner’s box. Let’s hope Commissioner Goodell has more character than the person that NFL owners supported to become president.”

And oh yeah the NFL  doesn’t encourage violence…oh what’s this*****?

 

 

#####

 

* George Orwell

**  Matt Taibbi…http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/taibbi-there-is-no-way-to-survive-the-trump-white-house-w495284

***Re Ozark…https://www.whats-on-netflix.com/news/ozark-season-2-netflix-renewal-status-and-release-date/

**** Me opining on baseball books and whatever https://ourmaninboston.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/baseball-by-the-book-or-lets-play-two/

*****Dave Zirin talks about the organized crime organization called the NFL https://www.thenation.com/article/new-concussion-report-calls-the-nfls-future-into-question/

****** Ranking the football training camp fights https://www.sbnation.com/2017/8/2/16082508/nfl-training-camp-fights-julian-edelman-vontaze-burfict

For What Its Worth : ON STEPHEN STILLS

30 Jul

 

 

 

Highly regarded short story maestra, Lorrie Moore who is obviously a long standing Stephen Stills fan girl reminded me of how great  Stills is in her notice* of Stephen Stills: Change Partners by David Roberts, a new biography of the rock and roll guitar god. And additionally, Moore makes lucidly makes a case for the value of his accomplishments, having written great songs  (beginning with the hippie anthem “For What Its Worth”) and assembled some wonderful musical aggregations (Buffalo Springfield and variety of configurations including David Crosby, Graham Nash   and Neil Young) Manassas and more.

 

 

Stills brought a distinctive combination of country, folk, Latin, blues, and rock to every band he was in. One can already hear these influences converging in “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (1969), a folk-rock love song written about Judy Collins, whose rousing coda has a strong Latin flavor, due to Stills’s overlaid vocal track. CSN performed it at Woodstock. Stills wrote songs of great variety of style and mood and composed quickly but unconventionally, often pulling together tracks he had recorded earlier in his studio before he knew where they might land—the equivalent of a writer’s notebook or a chef’s pantry. Stills liked to cook, both literally and figuratively, for his bands. “Carry On” was written in eight hours.

 

 

Stephen Stills performing on the Dutch television program Toppop, 1972           ( Vara Broadcasting Association)

 

Stills may be hobbled by arthritis—backstage he bumps fists rather than shakes hands with fans; he has carpal tunnel and residual pain from a long-ago broken hand, which affects his playing—and he is nearly deaf, but his performance life has continued. Drugs and alcohol may have dented him somewhat, forming a kind of carapace over the youthful sensitivity and cockiness one often saw in the face of the young Stills. Some might infer by looking at the spry James Taylor or Mick Jagger that heroin is less hard on the body than cocaine and booze, which perhaps tear down the infrastructure. (“Stills doesn’t know how to do drugs properly,” Keith Richards once said.) But one has to hand it to a rock veteran who still wants to get on stage and make music even when his youthful beauty and once-tender, husky baritone have dimmed. It shows allegiance to the craft, to the life, to the music. It risks a derisive sort of criticism as well as an assault on nostalgia.

 

Listen here…

 

 

And

 

##################

The miniaturization (perhaps contraction is  more accurate?) of cultural horizons in the last few decades may account for the general  indifference to the great musicians who linger over four or five decades. It’s as if they thrive  outside the small -minded commercially driven  block buster mentality which has made performing precedent over recording. This may end up being a harder task than the boom years of the music biz, but performing is the great leveler and thats were players like Stephen Stills shine

*http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/08/17/aint-it-always-stephen-stills/

Baseball by the Book or Let’s Play Two

30 Jul

 

 

Just after the All-star Game break in the long slog of the MLB 162 game  marathon and we  are in the beginning of season 2* of the three seasons (the playoffs being season three).*  The fragile state of our republic, whose governance is currently in the hands of a coterie of three-card Monte dealers, carny barkers and generally sleazy types (that have always been part of the deal). This is a disheartening and deflating state of affairs,. There is, of course, baseball to divert us from the Real World. And as an added pleasure, baseball occasions the publication of countless books actually worth reading.  As one of the oldest recreations in American culture, the sport has always been peopled with odd characters and athletes of extraordinary talent. This season there is a plethora of books of focused on some of those—some well known, some from  ‘back in the day’, some with unusual stories…and some displaying heroic character.

 

 Papi: My Story  by David Ortiz with Michael Holley

If I have to introduce the recently retired  Boston Red Sox slugger, you may want to go elsewhere for some edification. Needless to day David Ortiz was one of the most popular players in the modern baseball era. This is his story

 

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

 

 

 

 

Epstein (Foreword),with  Don Yaeger

Former Red Sox backup catcher David Ross , who stands as the paradigm of the valuable locker room presence was signed by the Chicago Cubs in Deember of 2014 after they acquired former Red Sox  ace lefty Jon Lester and became Lester’s personal catcher . And given the youth of the 2016 Cubs, he quickly assumed the mantle of sage personage with the sobriquet Grampa attached. Ross’s final season as a major league player found him on  a  World Series champion. Ross’s story is a bit of a fairy tale —which in his case is not a bad thing.  

Product Details

Lou: Fifty Years of Kicking Dirt, Playing Hard, and Winning Big in the Sweet Spot of Baseball by Lou Piniella and Bill Madden

The title of Piniella’s baseball memoir is an excellent lead into the fiery Sweet Lou’s persona. He went from a career as  NY Yankee star in the 70’s to managing 5 different teams

Here’s a  signature three-minute temper tantrum by Pinella

 

 

 

 

 

 Lefty O’Doul: Baseball’s Forgotten Ambassador  by Dennis Snelling

I’m guessing you have never heard of  O’Doul (me neither). He is credited with being the father of  Japanese baseball. In 1949, General McArthur who was charged with overseeing the post war the reconstruction of Jaspan asked O’Doul to bring a baseball team to Japan and the rest is, as they say, history. And having mastered the difficult art of hitting a baseball (4th highest batting average in baseball history), he became, for among others, Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams’s hitting guru. And on a minor note, San Franciscans mourned the closing of the bar O’Doulopened in 1958. Lesser figures have  warranted a hard cover paper and ink biography

 

Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character by Marty Appel 

Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel’ was an important  baseball figure in the by gone era when major league managers had personalities ( a bit of trivia: the only person in history to wear the uniforms of all four New York teams: the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, and Mets.) As manager of a dominant New York Yankees, he won ten pennants and seven World Series Championships. New York Yankees’ historian and  author Marty Appel  has assembled what will no doubt stand as the  definitive account of this Hall Of Famers life and  recapped the sense  and spirit of a mid 20th baseball

 

 

 Rock Solid: My Life in Baseball’s Fast Lane by Tim Raines with Alan Maimon  

Tim Raines (nicknamed ‘Rock’)a former unanimous MVP for Montreal Expos was inducted into the Hall of Fame  on his 10th and final year of eligibility  After seven seasons with the Expos, he played on Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, and Florida Marlins, ultimately earning three World Series rings. In mid career, Raines overcame a cocaine addiction and returned to baseball, a compelling side bar to his splendid career.

 

 

Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War  by Ron Kaplan

If you think Jackie Robinson had it tough in the racist environment of post-WWII baseball, attend to  Detroit slugger Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg big league career. While a persistent target of anti-Semitism,  Greenberg always did his best to shut the noise out and concentrate on baseball. In the year that this book focuses on, the Jews of the world were keenly aware of the events in Europe and Hitler and the  Nazi’s genocidal program. Greenberg rarely spoke about the anti-Semitism he dealt with, but as world events unfolded,  the slugger he took  a new role upon himself— saying, “I came to feel that if I, as a Jew, hit a home run, I was hitting one against Hitler.”

 

 

Ballplayer by Chipper Jones  with Carroll Rogers Walton  , Bobby Cox (Foreword)

 
For nearly 19 years Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones Jr.(retiring in 2012) manned the hot corner for the perennially contending  Atlanta Braves. A nine time All Star, Jone’s team s were skippered by highly regarded Bobby Cox. and included a dominant trio of arms‚—Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and  John Smoltz. In an addition to recounting his experiences playing on a talent laden winner Chipper freely opines on his sense of baseball in its era of financial opulence.

 

The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life  by Rick Ankiel  with Tim Brown

You won’t find the condition known as Yips in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders but as a condition that afflicts athletes, it has attained visibility going back in baseball to at least 1972 with pitcher Steve Blass and later infielder Chuck Knoblauch. Currently, Chicago Cubs ace Jon Lester presents with a very challenged ability to throw over to 1st base. Inthe most famous case, and thus the resultant chronicle of his travails, Rick Ankiel was a stud starting pitcher who without any warning lost his ability to pitch (as in throw strikes). He then spent 4 years struggling to return to the major leagues as an outfielder where he played for a few more years

 

Here’s Ankiel relating his  experience

 

 

They Call Me Pudge: My Life Playing the Game I Love by Ivan Rodriguez with, Jeff Sullivan 

 

It would not be a stretch to value position of catcher in baseball equal to starting pitchers. And when you factor in the number of games per season required of the starting catcher, the scales may tip into the stud behind the plate. At the age of  19 Puerto Rican born Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez debuted with the Texas Rangers in, 1991 and retired in 2012. Pudge played for he played for the Texas Rangers (on two different tours,   Florida MarlinsDetroit TigersNew York YankeesHouston Astros and Washington Nationals. He  made14 All-Star appearances, received 13 Gold Gloves, a Most Valuable Player Award, and won a World Series with the 2003 Florida Marlins. This year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Here are two tidbits from his book:

 1978
I started really focusing on baseball at the age of seven. Pretty much my whole family played baseball, and at the time both my dad and my mom were playing in softball leagues. I loved the game from Day One. I actually used to be a pitcher and a third baseman. That’s how I started. But my dad was my first coach, and he noticed pretty quickly that I had a strong arm. So one day he sat me down and told me, “You are not going to pitch or play third base anymore, you’re gonna be a catcher. And I think you’re gonna be a good catcher.” I immediately started crying. I didn’t want to catch. I wanted to be a third baseman and hit home runs. He said, “You can cry as much as you want, but you’re gonna catch from now on.” I was eight years old.I cried for about 15 minutes. But from that point on, I was a catcher.

 

 

1989
I got my nickname on the very first day of camp. People always think I’m called “Pudge” because of Carlton Fisk. That’s not the case. I’m a huge fan of Carlton Fisk. He’s one of the greatest to ever play the game. But he had nothing to do with me being known as Pudge. Chino Cadahia, who was a Rangers coach at the time, gave me that name. He saw that I was short and stocky, so, from Day One, he started calling me “Pudge.” It caught on, and the rest is history.

 

 

 

Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son by Paul Dickson

Paul Dickson who has done fine work in documenting various aspects of baseball including the very useful. The Dickson Baseball Dictionary has written a long over due biography of  Leo “THE LIP” Durocher. A former big leaguer and manager whose career spanned 40 years,  Durocher rank high as one of the more colorful characters ever attached to the game. The aphorism, “Nice guys finish last” is mistakenly attributed to him. Nonetheless, he was unabashed in entitling his memoir, Nice Guys Finish Last. Reportedly, he actually said,”Look at Mel Ott over there. He’s a nice guy, and he finishes second. Now look at the Brat (Eddie Stanky). He can’t hit, can’t run, can’t field. He’s no nice guy, but all the little son-of-a-bitch can do is win.” **  Nonetheless he was unabashgewdHe was no doubt happy to entitle his memoir, Nice Guys Finish Last. Leo Durocher was a combative player  ( a three-time All-Star) and became a storied manager (in the top five with 95 career game ejections), winning three pennants and a World Series in 1954.

 

Tomorrow the Liges Grandes season begins in earnest as it is the trading deadline when teams add a piece for this year’s pennantstrecth drive or give up and make deals for the future…

 

########

*On a personal note the Chicago Cubs are showing early signs of shaking off their season long (to date) lack luster play (and they went out and obtained a first rate starter)

** The 2017 Hall of Fame induction ceremony is today with Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell this year’s honorees.

*** An alternative attribution “Nice guys! Look over there. Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any of the other Giants? Why they’re the nicest guys in the world! And where are they? In seventh place! Nice guys! I’m not a nice guy – and I’m in first place.” After pacing up and down the visitors’ dugout, the Dodger manager waved a hand toward the Giants’ dugout and repeated, “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.”

Low Hanging Fruit or The White House F Troop

29 Jul

 

 

images.duckduckgoIt may be that one of the few benefits of what ace commentator Charles Pierce calls Camp Runamuck is the mordant but no less acute commentary on the activities emanating from that viper’s nest. Small consolation for the derangement loosed on the land but as the good doctor Freud opined, “The voice of Reason is small but persistent…”

Two public figures have jumped onto center stage occasioning both stunned reactions and insightful observations. Sen McCain, whose declining health has made him the object of an outpouring of sympathy, led Charles Pierce to write* :

But the ugliest thing to witness on a very ugly day in the United States Senate was what John McCain did to what was left of his legacy as a national figure. He flew all the way across the country, leaving his high-end government healthcare behind in Arizona, in order to cast the deciding vote to allow debate on whatever ghastly critter emerges from what has been an utterly undemocratic process. He flew all the way across the country in order to facilitate the process of denying to millions of Americans the kind of medical treatment that is keeping him alive, and to do so at the behest of a president* who mocked McCain’s undeniable military heroism.

images-2 

McCain does present as a paragon of contradiction and this vivisection from 1999 is still applicable** :

McCain is deeply loved by the press. As Silverman puts it, “As long as he’s the noble outsider, McCain can get away with anything it seems – the Keating Five, a drug stealing wife, nasty jokes about Chelsea Clinton – and the pundits will gurgle and coo.”

Indeed they will. William Safire, Maureen Dowd, Russell Baker, the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, have all slobbered over McCain in empurpled prose. The culmination was a love poem from Mike Wallace in 60 Minutes, who managed to avoid any inconvenient mention of McCain’s close relationship with S & L fraudster Charles Keating, with whom the senator and his kids romped on Bahamian beaches. McCain was similarly spared scrutiny for his astonishing claim that he knew nothing of his wife’s scandalous dealings. His vicious temper has escaped rebuke.

images

And then there is the White House’s newest Pagliacci , Anthony Scaramucci , aka the Mooch. freshly appointed White House Communications Director ,who immediately made headlines with effusive declarations of love and fealty for POTUS, and an over-the-top expletive laden phone call to a reporter. The New Yorker‘s David Remnick exhibits his well-honed chops ***:

Scaramucci, who was endorsed by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, seems to have been installed to carry out Trump’s form of personnel management—to help demean and get rid of retainers who have proved disappointing or threatening to his interests. Sean Spicer. Reince Priebus. Steve Bannon. Jeff Sessions. And, ultimately, Robert Mueller.

In other words, the Mooch matters because the Mooch helps to clarify what matters most to the President and his family. What matters most is Trump’s grip on his base voters and his survival in office. Everything else—a sane health-care policy, the dignity of the transgender people who have volunteered to serve their country, a rational environmental policy, a foreign policy that serves basic democratic values, rule of law—is of tertiary interest.

 

You have to love the New Republic‘s Jeet Hewer’s venture into ethnography,” Trump, “Mooch,” and the Rise of the New York Douchebag”:****

 The New York douchebag thrives throughout the tri-state area, particularly in New Jersey and the outer boroughs of the city proper. Usually white, he is belligerent, garrulous, ruthlessly competitive, and excessively confident in his persuasive abilities. He is also hypersensitive; the smallest perceived slight will trigger a full-scale defense of his pride. He demands to be respected at all times.

And so as the saying goes, “The dogs bark and the caravan rolls on…”

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*http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a56570/mccain-healthcare-speech/

** https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/20/the-horrors-of-john-mccain-war-hero-or-war-criminal/

*** http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/why-anthony-scaramuccis-attack-on-reince-priebus-and-steve-bannon-matters

**** https://newrepublic.com/article/144103/trump-mooch-rise-new-york-douchebag

 

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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