Bill Berkson, who died of a heart attack last Thursday, had only recently begun posting at First of the Month. But he already felt like part of First’s virtual family. He got close to my real family too.
This has to stop. It can’t continue to happen like this. Never again. But it never stops…
A woman’s body is a pool.
Jump in. Splash around.
First off, it’s, no surprise, an ad-hominem attack. Before you tell me why the other guy’s wrong, you should show me that he’s wrong. Is Curiel ese making bum calls? Who knows? I wouldn’t take Trump’s word for it. But let’s say he is. Where does “Mexican” come into it? He is an American, certainly, whatever Trump says. But he is connected to some Chicano law associations. If his connections are pro forma, just social niceties, they’re all irrelevant. But if he’s very active, holds high positions, or has an interesting paper trail, it starts to matter.
I’m a 1946 baby boomer. As a birthday present a friend once gave me a copy of LIFE magazine published the week I was born, a peek into the new world of post-war prosperity I would grow up in. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby dance across the cover, while inside Winston Churchill ponders and Rita Hayworth lounges amidst the ads for whiskey, toothpaste, gas stoves and a full page promise from the Bell Telephone System: “We are short of Long Distance telephone circuits now but we plan to add 2,100,000 miles of them to the Bell System in the next twelve months.”
And one surprise: a seven page section titled The Great Steel Strike Begins with a full page profiling the strikers, including the president of Local 1397 and his retired steelworker immigrant father across from a full page photo of a surviving participant in the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike at “the monument to his old friends who lost their lives.” No pictures of frustrated managers, no pictures of angry consumers, no pictures of resolute right-wing politicians. All this in LIFE magazine, the network news of ‘46.
Jon Langford of the Mekons goes back to the roots of his British Punk band’s feeling for hard country music before memorializing Merle Haggard.
Merle Haggard was probably the greatest singer-songwriter I’ve ever seen. The only artist I can think to compare him to is Sam Cooke, who like Merle possessed the gift for writing songs that were at once both deeply personal and universally applicable to the human condition.
Part two of an essay that begins here.
Richard Goldstein’s approach to the sixties was shaped by his sense “race was at the core of nearly everything.” But his lucidity about race matters is most evident when he’s writing about “revolution.” As rock ‘n’ roll turned into rock, Goldstein’s pop life got whiter.
Some months ago, the way others take up double-crossticks, I decided to figure out who killed Kennedy. My approach was to take the arguments in two books which believed his murder resulted from a vast, insidious conspiracy and compare them with the arguments in two books which believed a solitary madman responsible.
The horror in the Orlando night club brought to mind when I was 11 years old in the leafy Camden suburb of Collingswood, New Jersey. It was September 6, 1949, and in the Cramer Hill section of Camden a World War Two vet, Howard Unruh, 28, left his house at 9:20 in the morning for what became known as “The Walk of Death,” a stroll of 12 minutes during which he killed 13 people – three of them children – with a souvenir Luger.
The author of the following sweet treatment of an anti-Trump protestor realized she needed to fill in the surreal background from which a very real girl had emerged:
Black night in the city and police water hoses and smoke backlit. But almost lazily done by cops, just as any breakage by bare chest kids was momentary and quick. But it was a funny setting for her, so lively so in her life…
Not the happiest lot to choose from, Hillary Clinton is the best of the lot.
I can’t remember when I first heard of Muhammad Ali. It seems like he’d always been a part of my life. I knew this: my father loved him so therefore I did as well. (The same went for Frank Sinatra, Afro-Cuban music, jazz, the New York Mets and our home borough of Brooklyn.)
What follows is an excerpt from Richard Goldstein’s memoir, Another Little Piece of My Heart: My Life of Rock and Revolution in the ’60s. This chapter of the book centers on his experience of the civil rights movement in the Bronx.
Race was at the core of nearly everything in the sixties. Even more than sitars and exotic beats, it shaped the structure of rock. Even more than the war in Vietnam, it dominated politics. Even more than LSD, it defined the consciousness of my generation.
A version of this essay is included in Bob Levin’s Cheesesteak – his new “rememboir” of “the West Philadelphia years.” (There’s information on how to buy his witty book of Philly wonders at the end of this post.)
In the late 1950s, when I was in high school, two Negroes joined the periphery of my social crowd. Edward played piano and Lester bass, and they were jazz musicians. They never had gigs and, if they did, the gigs never paid; but that is who they were, and that is what they did. If I or Max Garden or Davie Peters had a car, we gave Edward and his bass a ride to their rehearsal. If you had a piano, that rehearsal might be your living room.
Both Lester and Edward were built slight, spoke soft, and dressed Ivy. But it was Edward, still in his teens, who became through Robutussin AC the first druggie I knew. And it was he who, when asked if he was going to college, uttered the line I fed a minor but weighty character in my first novel: “What, man, you mean be a everybody?”
“WHERE CAN I GET MY COCK SUCKED? WHERE CAN I GET MY ASS FUCKED?” Mick Jagger’s second pass at the chorus of “Cocksucker Blues”—and the feral moan that launches the track—“I’m a looooooonesome schoolboy…” seem to echo Richard Goldstein’s line in his new memoir on why he identified with rock stars (and girl groups) who started out with him in the 60s: “they were as hungry as me.”
The Phenomenology of Everyday Life, the unbranded brand of impromptu activity, proto-YouTube, beginning around 1960, of documenting anything and everything, the less obviously consequential the better, extended from a disposition toward collecting oddments (from baseball cards to bottle caps) gathered before, in the 50s, and likewise had a lot to do with recording devices. Somehow the record keepers have never gathered the strands––and no one yet knows the full import––of the sundry manifestations, in visual art, writing and general culture, of this passion to look, listen and record.
“My monthly income is $500. I just spent $130 of that on the newly released Dylan Basement Tapes. My daddy thinks I’m no good with money.” That’s the opening of the following diary in which the late Carmelita Estrellita noted down her responses to Bob Dylan’s sixties sessions with the Band in Woodstock.
Nat Finkelstein’s photograph of Warhol, Dylan, and Double Elvis
The following Q&A is an excerpt from an interview with filmmaker Agnieszka Holland originally published at Director Talk. In this section of the interview Holland talks about the Czechs’ response to the Soviet invasion in 1968, the subject of Burning Bush, a three-part HBO miniseries directed by Holland.
The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge–unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable. –Walter Benjamin
Paul Feyerabend—a half-forgotten Calibanal apostle straddling the right-wing Vienna side of European modernism and California anti/pseudo-science counterculture—was shot three times by the Red Army while retreating from the Eastern Front. His injuries left him neuralgic, prone to a particularly (in/post-)fertile depression, and impotent.
Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 by Adam Hochschild, Macmillan, 2016.
How is it that after so many years and so many wars and so many revolutions, counter-revolutions, assassinations, genocides, and betrayals, the Spanish Civil War continues to capture the imagination of idealists and romantics?