a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Issue #30 (January 27, 2010)

Chicago, From the Former Sears Tower Skydeck

Photo by Chris Collins

Milton L. Rakove - Machine Dreams (Cadenza)

by Rebecca Pavlatos

"This will probably be the last class I teach… Pretty soon I’ll be going to that BIG University in the sky." It was the first day of class and Professor Milton Rakove just told us he was going to die. When he said “BIG University in the sky” he pointed upwards. His lips were parched as he spoke, probably from the cancer treatment he was undergoing. Through his thick black glasses you could see his eyes were slightly squinted with gentleness and reassurance. He had a smile on his face with a hint of mischief. There were about 100 of us, all undergrad students at the University of Illinois Chicago Circle campus. There was no response in the room. It was silent. We all just looked at him. It was the spring of 1983; Rakove died 8 months later at the age of 65.

I don’t remember that many details from the class. I didn’t want to be there. I had to stop pursuing a degree in music theory and transfer over to Circle because my dad was out of work and it was less expensive than where I was at. It was the “great” recession. I went from analyzing Bach Fugues to this concrete ugly place with lecture halls that had no windows, too many students and a professor who just told us he was going to die. What did I get myself into? I was in a daze.

At the start of the class, I didn’t know that Rakove had analyzed and chronicled Chicago Machine Politics, written two books about it, and that it was his life’s work. The name of the class was “International Relations”. The text book he chose for us was The Theory of International Relations by Hans Morgenthau -- Rakove’s mentor at the University of Chicago. Morgenthau was interested in the study of power on an International Level (that’s the short of it). Rakove kept hammering away at Morgenthau’s definition of “the balance of power”. He wanted us to understand that.

What I remember the most about “the balance of power” though, was not what it meant, but that it became the pivot point in his lectures that took us from power as it applied to International Relations; to the type of power he loved to talk about the most: the Chicago Daley Machine.

He couldn’t help himself and he did it with that same smile that he had when he told us he was going to die -- only more animated and more mischievous. He was onto it all. He was telling a story and that’s what it felt like every time he talked about the machine. It was a story he loved telling.

The classes continued in the same fashion for a while. We’d crack open the Morgenthau; the phrase came up “balance of power” and bam -- next thing you know, right into Chicago Machine Politics.

As time went by, the pivot occurred in shorter and shorter intervals until one day he surrendered and said something like “I know some of you really did want to learn about International Relations.” He shrugged his shoulders apologetically and with that same smile he said something like, “I’m sorry” or “Oh well” or “what are they going to do fire me?" And then he let it rip. For the rest of the semester he was like a soloist delivering a cadenza in a concerto; virtuosic and ornate. He talked about what he loved full-on, and in that deliverance he emanated love. Even though it was so long ago, and I was in a daze, I remember that with absolute clarity.

He believed that the Chicago Machine preceded Daley and would survive after Daley. I don’t think he’d be surprised that Daley Jr. took back the throne. I wonder what he thought of the University’s plans and how they partnered with Daley Jr. to level Maxwell Street, at one time one of the largest open air markets in the world. The ground work was being laid for that maneuver right around the 80’s. I’m sure he knew about it. What about the leveling of Meigs Field. The X’s carved into the runway. The parking meters. Barack Obama. The beauty of his analysis is that it continues to provide a framework to understand these events and those to come in the City of Big Shoulders.

I never made it over the hump with Circle Campus. I eventually took out as many student loans as I had to to get myself back to my music theory degree. I left all of that concrete and was reunited with beauty. I was happy to see all of the pianos in the building that I had come to know. Having encountered Professor Milton Rakove though, was a different kind of beauty that I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience.

[Milton L. Rakove photo courtesy UIC]

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Kroehler Desk of Joe Carducci…

Gordon Chang in the CSM believes “China is now reaching the peak of a bubble.” He notes that its stimulus spending was double the announced figure of $586billion but figures this “sugar high” has only reinforced the state economy and stalled the needed development of a domestic consumer economy necessary for China to mature beyond its export-dependent first stage. But the FT has been full of evaluations of “lower-tier” urban infrastructure spending. James Kynge’s column is cautious about whether this state spending is prelude to the development of a continental economy within or is just more functionary to functionary corruption, but Geoff Dyer visits Wuhan, “one of the giant cities in the centre of China barely known outside the country…. That vies for the title of ‘China’s Chicago’, a hinterland centre for logistics, services and industry.” Of course Chicago had to not only connect the product of the Great and lesser plains from Fargo to Galveston to the urban Northeast and Europe, it was also the new jumping off point to reach the west coast. The PRC has no “west coast” facing the future development of Asia and a final tying together of a world economy. China has no Great Lakes and it peters out in contested inland high deserts or mountain ranges, so it will have no Chicago but many Pittsburghs and Clevelands, some the size of Mexico City may God have mercy on their souls.


The Google move to leave China contains a deeper threat than at first was visible. The urban elite prefer Google to the more popular but more provincial Baidu and so while there is predictable semi-official anger expressed as summarized here in the FT, there is also a strange lack of a definitive response from the government. Meanwhile Google.cn has now been open to unfiltered searches for close to two weeks. Currently most searches of taboo subjects are filled, but some censoring seems intermittently to occur bringing this response: 据当地法律法规和政策,部分搜索结果未予显示。("Due to local regulations, some results have not been included.") What must this mean? The Tuesday NYT has this roundup of the US military’s search for a cyberspace strategy and this puts me in mind of the equation, Google.cn = 9-11, which has a poetic resonance to it because it was 9-11 that interrupted what seemed a duel shaping up between China and the US. Before Al Qaeda tossed their crisis onto our plate it was the bringing down of the spy plane by a Chinese fighter ace over Hainan Island that seemed to represent the most urgent concern. And like the 9-11 attack and further the Bali bombings in Indonesia (which forced that government to acknowledge and fight an Islamic extremism that was already incubating in Sulawesi and might have spread wider and deeper throughout Indo), Google’s decision that the hacking that followed the tightening of censorship was too much to take dramatized the low-level early stage danger to the West’s benefit. The ex-citizen of the USSR Sergei Brin now won the argument he’d been losing to the other two owners of Google, and this cyber-threat is out of the tech-blogs and defense blogs and into the news media. In that NYT piece: “In the final years, the Bush administration started a highly classified effort, led by Melissa Hathaway, to build the foundations of a national cyberdeterrence strategy. ‘We didn’t even come close,’ she said in a recent interview…. Ms. Hathaway was asked to stay on to run Mr. Obama’s early review. Yet when an unclassified version of its report was published in the spring, there was little mention of deterrence. She left the administration when she was not chosen as the White House cybersecurity coordinator.” The post was just filled after seven months vacant so hopefully Hillary Clinton’s challenge asking China to investigate the hacking of Google indicates this is all back on the state’s plate. And China’s heated response to the Clinton speech marks it as a very deft challenge. For all their bluster, the lack of action against Google in this period indicates the PRC is actually knocked speechless, at least until those in the PLA military-intelligence loop are forced to confess what they’ve been doing to a Party leadership that is likely only quasi-computer literate. But as Tuesday’s CSM editorial summarizes China-based hacking of American energy companies, “For all the shock and spectacle of an al-Qaeda terrorist attack, the Monitor investigation makes clear that a largely silent war is going on via the Internet and deep within the databases of international companies. The stakes in the global cyber-war are at least as high as those in the global war on terror.”


The Quants, by Scott Patterson, excerpt in WSJ:

“Oddly, the Bizarro World of quant trading largely masked the losses to the outside world at first. Since the stocks they’d shorted were rising rapidly, leading to the appearance of gains on the broader market, that balanced out the diving stocks the quants had expected to rise. Monday (Aug. 6, 2007), the Dow industrials actually gained 287 points. It gained 36 more points Tuesday, and another 154 points Wednesday…. The huge gains in those shorted stocks created an optical illusion: the market seemed to be rising, even as its pillars were crumbling beneath it.”


The Relentless Revolution by Joyce Appleby, reviewed for the NYTBR by Stephen Mihm. Karl Marx was notably unromantic about feudal economic patterns, but when his Communist Manifesto popularized the term Capitalism to describe the evolving network of market structures, his readers naturally presumed it might be easy to choose something other than capitalism. This many still believe though they have nothing to go on but their imaginations. According to the reviewer Appleby begins noting “the rise of the economic system we call capitalism was in many ways improbable.” It is striking how soft-headed the left becomes once the new left relaunches Rousseau and radicals begin to give up on economics and scientific progress and focus on the dream of living in the manner of pre-industrial societies. Soon after the sixties the use of the word controversial migrated to apply to populist, traditional, or conservative ideas rather than as a virtual marketing term during the dashing late sixties phase of the cultural revolution. And then right after that the left began complaining about the transformative energy unleashed by freer market structures -- capitalism was so damn revolutionary! As Mihm and Appleby stress government involvement in postwar era capitalism they seek to discredit capitalism but reassign credit for its pitiless transformations to legislatures and bureaucrats, and presumably the guiding hands of experts such as themselves. This sort of writer prefers an economy dead on its back so as to allow their slow-moving minds the time to get it more fully in focus; as intellects they are professionally hostile to living systems.


What’s interesting about this M.D.’s book review of another M.D.’s book The Trauma Myth in Tuesday’s NYT Health pages is that she, and apparently her, don’t feel NAMBLA’s self-interested literature on this bizarre leavening of the what - alleged? - damage to children’s psyches by sexual abuse, is worth mentioning. Camille Paglia is another, somewhat more visible and disinterested dissenter from what she thought of as the infantilization of rape victims, though she referred more to older girls and women.


Francis Beckett on the British boomers.


Greece is testing the eurozone’s relative forces of attraction-repulsion as one knew it would, with a line forming behind it consisting of Portugal… Italy... The FT is best on this one while it’s still on the margins. Martin Wolf on Wed has it as “The Greek tragedy deserves a global audience”, and Wolfgang Munchau on the weekend has it as “Spartan solutions from Brussels will be fought by Athens”. Wolf traces the resultant lengthening of resultant EU-wide recessions, while Munchau sorts through the four options: Default with bail-out, Default without bailout, Greece makes the budget cuts and tax increases necessary to get itself into compliance, and lastly, what he believes most likely and most dangerous to the eurozone itself, fudging it. Greece’s emergency bond-sale likely buys time for what’s behind door number four.


Samuel Brittan in the FT reviews three books on liberalisms.


Simon Shuster on the trail of the Kazakstan immaculate arms delivery.


Islam criticism: the German feuilleton debate.


The New Republic is the most successful of the old-line political magazines, not that any of them are profitable. But its politics are grounded in philosophy, art, and literature to insure that it’s off the liberal reservation enough to know what the world outside looks like. And every few months it presents a long essay on art or media or politics that prompts a quick decision to buy the issue. That’s not enough so save TNR so it’s just launched “the Book, An Online Review at The New Republic,” and it's loaded with interesting essays:

Damon Linker on Michael Kimmage’s book The Conservative Turn: Lionel Trilling, Whittaker Chambers, and the Lessons of Anti-Communism, writes that “Kimmage traces in considerable detail the circuitous paths that led Chambers and Trilling into and out of the communist orbit. But he is equally interested in the contribution of each man’s anti-communism to the development -- and more important, the moderation -- of political ideology in postwar America.”

Adam Kirsch on Zeev Sternhell’s The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition, notes that “ordinarily, when historians of ideas talk about conservative and nationalist thinkers such as Burke and Herder -- eighteenth-century figures who opposed the rationalist and universalist ideas of their age -- they speak of the ‘counter-Enlightenment.’ The term was popularized by Isaiah Berlin, a rationalist who explored deeply the works of the Enlightenment’s critics and suggested that the ‘counter-Enlightenment’ was a useful corrective to some of the excesses of the tradition of Voltaire and Rousseau, or at least a potential resource for combating the Enlightenment’s hubris.” Kirsch scores Sternhell for meaning by his construction ‘anti-Enlightenment’ an abject dismissal of the critique: “Yet it was not just these thinkers who felt that the advance of science and liberalism was making the world less happy. The same intuition can be found in almost all the literature of the nineteenth century, from Wordsworth to Dostoevsky, and sometimes even in Mill, the greatest liberal of all.”

John Summers on the 1962 Dwight Macdonald collection, Against the American Grain, writes “It was not wealth (he had little) or Yale (from which he was nearly expelled) or bad politics (he was a democrat, and a friend to radical youth) or exotic taste (Poe was his favorite writer) that led Macdonald to locate creativity in small, self-selected communities. It was his experience in magazines. Masscult was unimprovable. Midcult was pernicious.” It’s useful to revisit all the cranks of the last century as the media evolution in America was so fast that it will take this century to trace all that happened that century and diagnose what caused what. Lightbourne’s old paperback fell apart recently but he saved the first essay and after restapling it together at Kinko’s I reread “Masscult and Midcult“, and Macdonald’s onto something even when he’s wrong or more often simply uninterested in what’s new, like say rock and roll. Things in 1962 were far from boring.

Still, stepping back I’ve begun to think that what has played out was something the Vatican called during the Renaissance: Turn man’s attention from God and he will again be mere animal. Music had its high period and then sure enough its thrilling, interesting collapse until there isn’t a drop of high in low, and humans will only lift a finger to trigger a machine that rocks out like an engineer. That may mean we don’t even make decent animals these days.

And in the TNR itself Gabriel Sherman notes the peculiar Washington Post-flavor of newspaper blues. They were uniquely dominant in D.C. and lazy about certain things and their web-side gets no respect, but that’s true of many if not all still surviving dailies. What I had noticed about the Post in the past was that it was the ugliest daily still surviving from the hot lead-typesetting lay-out days, before it finally went to computers and color.


Svetlana Kunin’s episode 5 of her “Perspectives of a Russian Immigrant” in the IBD starts, “Visitors to national parks are warned not to feed the wildlife because this interferes with the natural survival ability of the animals. Progressives do not make the same connection with human nature.”


The NYT noted Saturday that a majority of union members are now “Employees of the Government.”

Steven Greenhouse quotes Fred Siegel of the Manhattan Institute, “In four big states -- New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California -- the public-sector unions have largely been untouched by the economic downturn. In those states, you have an impeding clash between the public-sector unions and the public at large.” The WSJ columnist Steven Greenhut writes about California’s public employee unions, “Approximately 85% of the state’s 235,000 employees (not including higher education employees) are unionized. As the governor noted during his $83 billion budget roll-out, over the past decade pension costs for public employees increased 2,000%. State revenues increased only 24% over the same period.” When former Speaker of the Calif legislature (1981 - 1995) stuck his little toe outside the Democratic Party reservation in a single item of his SFC imitation-Herb Caen column, the unfortunately named Dick Meister, former labor editor of that paper went off half-cocked. Willie Brown really owes California at least an 800-word column length mea culpa, but as he said and his secretary took down:

“Talking about this is politically unpopular and potentially even career suicide for most officeholders. But at some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact that 80 percent of the state, county and city budget deficits are due to employee costs. Either we do something about it at the ballot box, or a judge will do something about in Bankruptcy Court. And if you think I'm kidding, just look at Vallejo.”

There will be no sidling from the coming showdown; the thirties are over. Remember Vallejo.


This is the kind of idiot who doles out Ford Foundation money decades after the family loses control of Henry’s fortune, which unlike say the Kennedy’s was not stolen by gaming the stock markets in ways illegal even then. The Kennedy School of Government! Naturally…


Philip Stephens in the FT channels the European id after French minister Alain Joyandet complained the US was occupying rather than helping Haiti, “The US must act as the world’s policeman and, when necessary, as its white knight. But it must never presume to be in charge.” France, the U.N., the U.K., Israel, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Turkey, Poland, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Tibet, the Philippines, Vietnam (again now), and many others have sought to collar American military power for their security or profit. And in truth it could be hard to tell when it was in our interest as well during the cold war, and maybe it’s only become more difficult to tell now. But the UN fetishists keep finding out that when American soldiers are in battle we are best in charge if only for the good safekeeping of their own political careers.


Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph once led reasonable people to expect the heavens to vaporize into the… well somewhere higher up I guess. He was part of that email conjob cooking up the next number string to send us over the tipping point into truly funding their genius which is stratospheric to say the least. Mann’s job is saved by stimulus grant for now according to the WSJ. But will a mere $541,184.00 plus an additional grant of $1.9million get his jobs done?

Meanwhile the IBD recounts a NASA data problem which could easily require many multiples of those dollar figures given this is the NASA bureaucracy that will have to unjigger and then rejigger the numbers, including the inconvenient ones left out. And more: the London Times: UN to Earth: Mistakes were made. Drop dead anyway.


Ueli Bernays, music writer for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, on falsetto through the genres. He doesn’t stress the gospel context of certain country and soul falsetto manoeuvres which helped rich-up the resultant ecstatic vocalizations. And I think it was the comic Franklyn Ajaye who used to do a very funny stand-up routine where black dude is caught between his woman on one side and some punk on the other; dude turns to his woman and in deep, low-pitched tones tells her to back off and let him take care of it, then turns to the guy and assumes a high-pitched voice to recite an inventory of injury he promises he will deliver to him. He has to turn back and forth between his woman and the man and each time he switches from baritone to falsetto. Saw it on TV in the seventies; couldn’t find it on youtube.


Mike Watt follows up his radio show with Jack Brewer with the Joe Baiza episode, includes some interesting Watt-Baiza / Pedro-Wilmas seventies prehistory.


Craig Gray interviewed on the Toiling Midgets and by extension the Sleepers, and Negative Trend.


N.Y. Rocker cover art.


Chicago replaces “rock” promoter Jam Productions (and their $147million contract!) to run the Maxwell Street market which by all accounts was once fine in its own state of anarchy.


John Kass on the Trib’s Michael Madigan investigation begins by imagining Madigan’s eyes as he reads the two-parter “The Madigan Rules” which paints as good a portrait of local politics as there’s been put to canvas lately. Madigan is the Daley of the state of Illinois legislature -- that is, he’s saved from the venal temptations those who aspire to higher office often succumb to in their nervous fear of missing an opportunity. Thus freed to take a significant job, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, he applies all his focus and skills on making it work to his, and his family, and maybe on occasion the public’s benefit. Unfortunately for the state, the Speakership is not as visible as a Mayor and much of Madigan’s culpability for Illinois’ woes over the decades since 1983, with a two year interruption, stick to all the sundry Governors who pass along much more quickly into history, muttering about Michael Madigan as they go.

One more interesting Chicago-related bit: All five members of "The McLaughlin Group" on Friday agreed that Rahm Emanuel would be out as the President’s Chief of Staff by the end of the year.

(thanks to Mike Watt, Steve Beeho, Andy Schwartz, Julie Carducci)

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Issue #29 (January 20, 2010)

Vladivostok, Russia

Photo by huan.matus

fragged mentation
by Chris Collins

Weather of Catastrophe

The worst storm of the winter season thus far came upon Los Angeles Sunday, depositing several inches of rain and menacing homeowners along the periphery of the burn area from last summer's Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest with the threat of mudslides.

Southern California is classified as semi-arid desert. Its climatic analog is the eastern Mediterranean, also in the mid-30s north latitudes and exhibiting similar terrain and scant precipitation.

The city rests in a sandy basin bordered on the north by the San Gabriel Mountains. The range is composed of rugged and almost sheer eminences which top out at about 10,000 feet. Lower elevations are covered in thickets of combustible scrub oak. Pine growth is confined to the higher elevations.

Rainstorms of such prolonged intensity in Los Angeles occur roughly every other year. Your loyal NV West Coast bureau reporter went on a tour of conditions in downtown Burbank on Sunday. Unfortunately the inclemence which waxed in increments left illegible ink remnants of his notes. However, he did return with these photographs.

All were 8 to 15 second exposures taken with a finicky Pentax Spotmatic using a red filter over 35mm black and white negative film.

The rain halts occasionally but more storms are on the way. Through it all, the Angeleno civic spirit, with its intractable, nigh-psychotic tenacity in the face of Mother Nature's despotry, has not buckled.

[In milder conditions: the reverse of the Hollywood sign, Bronson Canyon below and Griffith Observatory seen in the distance]

Extra: James Bowman memorializes French auteur and Cahiers du Cinema alumnus Eric Rohmer (1920-2010)

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the midwestern oak desk of Joe Carducci...

Sadanand Dhume ex- of the defunct Far East Economic Review, on Islam in Asia claims,

"For the most part, it arrived through trade rather than conquest, by Indian dhow rather than Arab charger. It was preceded by more than a millennium of Hinduism and Buddhism, whose achievements included Borobudur, a massive ninth-century Buddhist stupa, and Majapahit, a Hindu-Buddhist empire whose influence stretched to present-day Cambodia."

That caveat "For the most part" is wide enough to drive a prehistoric demi-holocaust or two through. The coming of Islam to the Indian subcontinent which he is vaguely referencing is now considered to have been the bloodiest event up to that era, though as V.S. Naipaul reminds us the victors wrote the history and labeled their handiwork the Golden Age of Islam. The later arrival of Islam to Sumatra, then, must have been more polite as it was not brought by a land army of plundering Seljuks. Still, even Mr Dhume sees a problem today in this post-Golden but still rather Coppery-tasting Age of Islam.


Michael Kimmelman in NYT on the art of the populists in the EU.

Do not send an art critic to defend western civilization. What seems important to Kimmelman:

"Never mind that there are only four minarets in Switzerland to begin with, and that Muslims, some 340,000 of them, or 4 percent of the population, mostly from the Balkans and Turkey, have never been notably zealous."

He goes on to blithely accept the construction that cartoonists "provoked violent protests around the world." Cartoonists drew, therefore many people were killed! This etiquette, we'll-call-it, which is "the politeness" Naipaul is referring to above, does not run both ways you'll notice. The west in the form of Swiss voters are not allowed to be provoked to defend the Switzerland they have inherited and created, by even such as terror, while Islam is conceded a reflexive violence in response to... art, in the form of political cartoons far less scatalogical than any of a thousand pseud-art scandal-mongers he'd approve of and cheer on as they try to get one more rise out of the western bourgeoisie. The art critic's purview is the poster art and how the pros in Zurich done it, but the truth is the Swiss trust the Muslims to be Muslim but they do not trust their own political class to protect them, rather than preen their cultural distance from them to the elites of internationalism in global capitols -- the so-called Davos man -- which includes the odd art critic apparently. That said, I did enjoy Michael's NYTMag 2005 profile of noted art-cartoonist/anarcho-fundamentalist Raymond Pettibon.


FT's John Lloyd review of Marxist critique of the EU, The New Old World.


Andrew Anthony in the Guardian on the death of a Brit academic true-believer unlucky enough to get to meet an idol of his idealism long ago in a Phnom Penh far away.


On Google's exit from China, from the FT:

"With the US technology giant allowing uncensored searches in Chinese for the first time, citizens of the People’s Republic are this week indulging their curiosity ahead of a widely expected crackdown. 'I’ve been doing all sorts of crazy searches, really distracting myself from my work,' says one. 'I’ve done Tiananmen Square, the love affairs of national leaders, the corruption of leaders’ children. Everything.'"


IBD asks, Is China Really Growing that Fast?

"Last year, Derek Scissors, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, likewise critiqued China's economic record-keeping — and asserted China's current economic model of high growth based on forced lending by the government is unsustainable. 'In the past, the People's Bank would report loan growth in the 15% range, supporting better-than-10% GDP growth,' he wrote. Last year, China's lending surged by a third, thanks to its own $590 billion 'stimulus' package. But growth was just 8%."


Jean Sabate in LeMonde on Vladivostok, "Russia's ruined Far Eastern Metropolis." With all the globalization action in Asia, beginning with Hong Kong and Japan in the sixties, followed most notably by South Korea, Taiwan, and China, I've wondered over the years whether Russia's smudged window on the far east, Vladivostok, might not jump-start the new Russia with a wild east boomtown -- a Slavic Seattle... So I've periodically checked the one or two English-language V-stock news sites but nothing particularly seems happening other than a hellacious trade in used and stolen automobiles which somehow has everyone in town driving their right lane roads with right-side steering wheels. Think about it! How can they amount to anything doing that? No drive-thru banking, no drive-thru liquor stores... Generations of Russians exiled to Valdivostok for being too clever or too wild can't seem to overcome the dead hand of all those military bases and facilities built up over the last century and a half.

[Photo by huan.matus]


The Inuit Circumpolar Council has sued the EU to overturn last year's ban on the import of seal products. "The legislation was one of the most non-partisan bills to pass through the European Parliament. Believing the issue to be massively popular amongst EU citizens ahead of elections to the chamber in June, some 550 deputies voted in favour of the ban, with just 49 opposed."


Retail in Chicago.

Carson Pirie Scott & Co. closed in Feb 2007; since then Whole Foods, Roundy's, Fox & Obel, Billabong... have announced they would open up in Louis Sullivan's State Street landmark only to have plans fall apart. Now Target...?

Mayor Daley is still working the angles to try to allow Wal-Mart past the unions and the city council's blockade. He seems to have manoeuvred the more radical aldermen and -women into path of job-hungry, shopping-crazed females expecting they'll be torn limb from limb. But it's been going on awhile now.


Jeffrey Ball in the WSJ peers through the cloud of subsidies to try to chart the actual relative costs of producing this or that energies.


There are sons of Haiti in the NHL.


The FT on China's blogger/race-car driver Han Han. "Driving is safer."


Duane Eddy is still alive and he's just played Orange County.


This Ain't the Summer of Love - Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk, by Steve Waksman.

"When not on the make with the Runaways, Kim Fowley was always hustling for other opportunities. Contacted by Murray Krugman to see if he had any lyrics he could contribute to the upcoming Blue Oyster Cult album, Fowley arranged a meeting between Krugman and Don Waller, a Los Angeles musician and journalist known for his affiliation with one of that city's most important early rock fanzines, Back Door Man. Waller laid out all his lyrics on the rug of Fowley's apartment floor; Krugman singled out "This Ain't the Summer of Love" as the one for the Blue Oyster Cult to record."


Migrating Forms, formerly the New York Underground Film Festival (and named for the second feature film by James Fotopoulos) has its call out for experimental film and video submissions:

Early Deadline: January 15, 2010
Regular Deadline: Feburary 15, 2010
Late Deadline: March 15, 2010

Festival: May 14-23, 2010 at Anthology Film Archives, New York, New York


Dave Kehr in the NYT on early sound film releases to DVD.

In my research for my upcoming film book I've been leaving TCM on whenever they run a string of pre-1933 films. The early sound period, especially 1928 to 1931 is full of interesting production clumsiness where the generally invisible Hollywood narrative mode was suddenly quite visible and audible. On top of such interest there are a good number of well done films as well and the flatter production style with naturalistic sound if not acting leaves a better taste in one's mouth than the superslick greased narrative propulsion of recent years. Of the early sound period Kehr writes, "Most of the studios made revue films as a quick way to get their stars before the microphones -- and to see who would survive the transition and who would not.... From Warner Brothers, 'The Show of Shows' seems almost aggressive in the way it pits the studio's biggest stars of the silent era, including John Barrymore and Rin Tin Tin, against peppy newcomers like Sally Eilers and Chester Morris." It wasn't quite that Darwinian but the studios used the changeover and its new expenses to look for savings elsewhere and the fat salaries of stars in the late silent era were big targets.

What is generally forgotten is that Edison never intended for there to be a silent era. Film was to be another wax cylinder-style player -- a kinetoscope, playing a celluloid cylinder and synced to the sound cylinder, these to be seen and heard by an audience-of-one at a nickelodeon or an arcade. Edison did not patent his projector technology as he did not imagine it feasible to assemble an audience for a scheduled projection of an image. Perhaps he felt it could only be a poor substitute for the live theater of flesh-and-blood actors if put under a similar proscenium arch. His underling, William K.L. Dickson, played along out of respect for the old man, but Dickson believed in projection and left the Edison Co. in 1895 for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company which focused on the coming film projection standard (and where ten years later D.W. Griffith began putting together the narrative grammar most film and video-makers have depended on since, not to mention its backspin influence on theater, fiction, journalism and cartoons). But way back at the end of the 19th century, the moving image accompanied by music alone, and the odd title card, launched an enormous new cultural industry and had a thirty year-run at the top of the artistic food-chain; it's now called the Silent Era. Here's the first Dickson-supervised Edison sound film production from 1894 (the once broken wax cylinder was recently reassembled digitally and synced up).

[USPS stamp: William Dickson]


Obituaries of the week.

Jan Gabriel, voice of smokin' US-30 Dragstrip, and the Santa Fe Speedway near Hinsdale, noted for his opening, echoing call: "Sunday!!!" He was also a disc jockey beginning in the late fifties in northwest Indiana and the Chicago area, and host of "Up Tempo" on local television, sock-hops, etc.

George Leonard, Look Magazine, Esalen, Aikido...


Jack Brewer guests on the new episode of the Watt from Pedro Show.


(thanks to Steve Beeho, Andy Schwartz)

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Issue #28 (January 13, 2010)

East River at the Queensboro Bridge

Photo by Joe Carducci

Experience from the Experiment: “Mad Men” (AMC), Part II
(Continued from Part I)

by Janet Lynn

Bill Clinton at a charity event last year was laying out the usual cant: health care, diversity, profiling... and then he stopped, and looked at the audience and said: “this is different than a crowd of white men that might be seen on the TV show 'Mad Men.' "

Did I hear "Mad Men"?

“You ever watch that TV series?” he asked as though he were in the living room next to you. He pointed out an episode in the early 60s-era series that portrays racism, “a painful reminder,” he says as he goes on to the number one painful reminder of the series, the plight of women back then. “If I keep watching this program… will I ever find a happy person?”

Leaving aside just what Bill's definition of a "happy person" might be, this question, as Clinton may know, hangs over the new feminist generation like a spectre. A new study compares women’s happiness since the early 70s to the present (see the full report by Wharton Professors Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers). It has spawned a weekly column in the Huffington Post and various other columns and research projects. Clinton knows that, regarding "Mad Men", he is talking to both generations of women, mother and daughter, and he is addressing their common vulnerabilities.

However, despite what he calls the painful reminders, and his ringing tribute to feminists’ accomplishments, the study sees no difference (or downward trend) in the level of happiness in the modern woman compared to women four decades ago at the same age. Clinton goes on about "Mad Men" to remind us with rather unseemly excitement, “The way women were treated is appalling.”

However, if we look at two of the main characters in "Mad Men", Don and Betty Draper, in 1963 at the precipice of the changes to come, we see an ideal couple living the American dream. They are a man and a woman who have followed the cultural ideals of their genders, submissive and dominant. Don is a successful ad man, but also a ladies' man and unfaithful to Betty. Bet is a mother; educated, refined and distantly restless.

It would be rewriting history, and rewriting fiction, to justify Clinton's term “painful” because the context had not yet been tainted by politics. It is true that there were blatant sexist remarks at the ad agency where Don worked, but Clinton is also referring to the undercurrent in remarks that Don made to his wife. For example, when Bet announced she wants to leave him, Don disparaged her by assuming she was just not feeling well.

But painful? Betty still has several options. She could have agreed that she was sick and then rhapsodized about the sickness of her soul, letting him know. She could have expressed her feelings and possibly had a new start with him. Or she could have told him she wants a job, or even confessed her attraction to another man whom she hasn’t slept with, though the AMC promotional department implied as much. But Betty did nothing. She was at a standstill. The best she could do to assert
herself was to leave.

But it wasn’t "appalling" until the left labeled it "appalling", adding an element of shame. Clinton is speaking in the voice of a 60s female radical with a contempt similar to the gossip girls of that day. There was no open discussion, no elders over thirty, no religion to advise her about marriage and family. There was an undercurrent of discontent among women, a network, registering shame. And by the end of the decade, women changed. Overnight, without notice, they just walked.

What happened is that their cultural ideal changed -- from being submissive and self-effacing to being assertive and expansive. Women changed their self-concept and had a new ideal to strive for. The extreme left, in the persons of the Weathermen, arbitrarily changed partners to break up emotional attachments, that’s how much they had turned against their own compliant trends.

It is apparent Clinton doesn’t want his audience to look inward, just forward. He doesn’t want the contemporary woman to take that moment that Betty Draper did not, and just be open to possibilities. He wants her compulsive, committed, without introspection, as in the way Bet walked out on Don.

But Clinton betrays himself in his feeling-their-pain gambit, because he’s not talking to the contemporary woman as anything more than an ideologue. There is something that falls short in his appeal to feminism’s past accomplishments when there's no emotional component that he's appealing to in the contemporary woman. She is no longer that compliant woman who needs to overcome her man’s aggressiveness or change those dependency trends within herself.

And she is no longer dealing with the same kind of man. Today the ideal man is detached, neither dominant nor submissive, but removed, uninvolved on an intimate level, valuing his independence and self-sufficiency more than a relationship. Karen Horney, in her pioneering work in feminine psychology, discovered that this detachment is another distinct, more elusive cultural ideal, and not a resolution of conflict as it appears ("Our Inner Conflicts"). It is moving away from conflict, instead of engaging in it. In the detached personality, the old trends are just taken out of operation. Where those opposite trends used to be active between men and women as the war between the sexes, the new state of affairs is a pseudo-solution, appearing as objectivity or even wisdom, while instead being a depletion of the inner resources.

Kay Hymowitz has described the new detached man as the child-man. They have extended their youth without responsibilities, and are not in tune with the biological foundation of a woman’s needs.

Women, on the other side, are not quite proud of exercising their rights on behalf of their fertility (especially when on the pill), with its concomitant biological foundation of ethics. Rather, they need to pursue self-sufficiency because they have learned from their mother’s generation that they can’t depend on marriage.

The detached ideal is, above all, an androgynous ideal. The pill has put the contemporary couple on equal footing, but the contemporary woman, with the loss of her own biology as a basis for her ethics, has no guidance for handling her sexual difference. Behind the objectivity of the detached couple, the birth-controlled hookups, and the nonjudgmentalism, there is a sense that the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater.

New studies have come out proving once again how basic and unconscious the factors of attraction are, particularly the latest study, which found the highest correlation of attraction was during a woman’s ovulation. The contemporary woman on the pill has lost the need to exercise the full spectrum of her personality as she does when she is ovulating and her fertility is at stake. To say Yes and move towards another (think of Molly Bloom’s monologue by James Joyce), or to say No, to move away (think rape escape in the self-defense movement). By not keeping closer to her human nature, she has lost the ability to be what Horney calls “whole hearted” in any of her choices or moves. She has therefore lost a necessary factor in the always-elusive question of women’s happiness, if not attractiveness.

Don Draper had something to stand up to and something to submit to. And then there was the bargain he made in marriage: something to fight for, and something to believe in.

It is significant that Don Draper (actor Jon Hamm) even won the GQ Man of the Year award despite the fact that the award had never before been given to person who isn’t real. It seems Don Draper succeeds where the contemporary man fails, indicating that the modern day truce is not working. Many women are now blogging, as though a whole era hasn’t gone by, about how they could never walk out on a man like Don Draper, as though consciousness had never been raised for daughter by mother. (Maybe they are thinking of who they got for a stepfather.) Betty is giving him up just as ideas about marriage were beginning to change.

In the 60s women lost connection to their human instincts. They began to reach for definitions of happiness and the ideal for the way one should be, but the new politics never offered contentment with one's human nature. Instead, one's human nature as a woman was forever being agitated by the unacknowledged dissonance. The more alienated from their real self, their human nature, or as existential psychologists would say, the full expression of their human potential, the more they are caught in a merely politically correct, liberal world where imagining a world based on your human nature is unspeakable and isolating.

David Horowitz chronicles the roots of this alienation in the 60s in his memoir, Radical Son: “In the radical view, existing sexual norms reflected nothing about humanity’s biological experience, but were merely a social construction to preserve the privileges of a dominant group…"

The answer to why women are not happy lies, in the end, in the immutability of Don Draper’s attraction for both mother and daughter. It is not just that he’s not detached, and it is not because he overcame his macho insensitive ways, which he did not, but because he’s different. He thinks outside the pretenses of his generation and is not stuck in one way of being. From the first episode he asked the question himself: what makes women happy? His merely asking the question makes him part of the answer.

As we go off into the season’s commercial break with Betty and Don broken up, we know anything could happen. If I were there then, I, for one, would find out the name of the place he goes for that drinking problem he seems to have, and I’d introduce him, being a little younger, to some good weed. I would take him to the Piers on the West-side highway and watch the sun setting over NJ as it's starting to change. And I would try to pick up where Betty left off -- fast -- before she or that other woman comes back. And step children? children? -- I don’t know -- but there’s always that hope it will all work out and we won't have to change the channel again.

[Photo: January Jones and Jon Hamm as Betty and Don Draper (AMC); Betty Draper artwork by Dyna Moe;
Clinic photo from the Karen Horney Clinic website]

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Mid-town Manhattan desk of Joe Carducci...

A lot seems changed in NYC since I was last here.  Universal News is half size over on 8th Ave, and the newer one on Lex is closed and the space for lease.  The NY Observer isn't much anymore and a double spread farewell to the movie and music stars who died last year by the still lingering Rex Reed is just too sad to actually read.  I'd rather read about the dead baby shampoo heiress in the NY Post.  It's as if the Observer and the NY Press, which used to provide roosts for old worthies and a first niche for young writers on the way up, can't find codger nor kid to fill interesting pages.  And the Village Voice is about as useful as L magazine or Time Out if you want to know what's playing when, but it used to usually be more than that.  All this has been going on for ten years but now the judgement seems final.  Only the non-profit institutions dedicated to film would keep me here, because how much longer can Universal News stay open?  Although I did just find the long-rumored Brooklyn Pilsner sitting in a 1st Ave mag-shop cooler...


Here's NYT media columnist and Soul Asylum fan David Carr and Tim Arango reporting on their interview with Roger Ailes of Fox News.  They dug deep to find out whether Roger's News Channel is really an embarrassment to Rupert Murdoch or only to his sons and his son-in-law the unfortunately named Matthew Freud.  Ailes, the NYT notes, "the son of a foreman at the Packard Electric plant in Warren, Ohio," is quoted:  "I built this channel from my life experience.  My first qualification is I didn't go to Columbia Journalism School.  There are no parties in this town that I want to go to."  Ailes is another old Nixon hand, yet with us.  It's forgotten in the Manhattan media's green-hot envy at Fox News that it was Peter Jennings who stopped ABC News's planned opt-out of the mainstream news media's political consensus.  ABC News, if had any institutional memory, would be greenest of them all over Ailes ongoing triumph because they might have capped it and wired up Disney, ESPN, conservo-news to the top.  Jennings was really a scion of the CBC with a laughable fixation on the BBC and CBS's Edward R. Murrow (but only when he was in London in a trenchcoat ducking buzzbombs), even long after the only classic BBC enunciations you'd hear were from ex-colonials whose radio dreams were formed in jungle huts listening on shortwave. Everyone else reporting the news for BBC sounds like a soccer hooligan yelling into someone else's mic.

Here Arango on his own does an oral history of the AOL-TimeWarner deal of the century, decade, moment, pfft!

NY Governor Paterson threatens Pols to their faces, or to the tops of their heads anyway.


Thomas Sowell is probably the man to explain his colleagues.  His new book, Intellectuals and Society, 1st excerpt, in the IBD.


Stanley Crouch maintains he is a negro even at this late date in these postmodern late capitalist end-times.


Science, Defence and Strategy by Adam Elkus at Open Democracy looks at what one might call the marketplace of strategy in both the military itself and the government it serves.  However, in practice you'd have to use the plural for both military and government.  The long march for Special Forces is first a bureaucratic odyssey.  The military was first the Infantry, then the Cavalry was added, and the Army's first mission became defending its connection to the state's purse against even newer Arms:  the Navy, the Air Force.  And struggles for budget within these Arms as the Marines, the Seals, Delta Force multiply as well.  In the sixties Special Forces were headed up by a two-star general -- thus they were side-tracked and given the back of the hand, no matter JFK's personal policy commitment to the Green Berets.  They could only be used in meaningless tactical, existentially absurd exercises that at best gained the force experience and exacerbated the enemy's paranoia.  Still the Military -- the one blue collar profession, and as tough a boys club as there is -- does feel pain and make corrections once it is in the field.  And the American military is uniquely responsive to pain and nimble if allowed by its civilian leadership to make adjustments.  That these discussions are so public makes a difficult job tougher, except for the less culturally nimble enemies we face.


Der Spiegel editorial on the European failure to defend a cartoonist against Islam.

"It was like listening to the blind talk about art, the deaf about music or eunuchs discussing sex based on hearsay. Because with the exception of the left-wing Die Tageszeitung, the conservative Die Welt and the centrist Die Zeit, every German newspaper and magazine followed the advice of Green Party co-leader Claudia Roth, who said "de-escalation begins at home..."

The Met hides image of Muhammad. Sure, but what are those prayer rugs doing up on the wall?


1979, Japan, P.M. Thatcher and twenty karate-ladies.


Never mind the silence of God, we can't even get the black hole at the center of our galaxy to speak up.


Steve Sailer's SoCal crime crunching.


IBD Perspective column by SMU and U. Tennessee profs:

"What climatologists are learning from economists is how to increase their importance by promoting a theory that gives politicians more power."


I'm always impressed with my brother Mark's command of economic/business/financial/monetary issues.  Here's his New Year's Day email response to a year-end Barron's column by Randall Forsyth that begins, "'RISK-FREE' IS HOW TEXTBOOKS refer to 'government securities.' After 2009, the textbooks should be rewritten."

"Dear Randall,

Nice review of debt securities for 2009.  One important note: since the Fed is always following the bond investor/trader masses, when the Fed raises the federal funds, the 10/30 year yields have already done most of their climbing.  Longer maturity bonds actually usually decline (with attendant bond price increases) by the time the belated Fed realizes it's time to hike the fed funds and does so.  In this way the smarter bond money leads the Fed's attempt at avoiding what would be worse return-erosive inflation down the line.  Of course the "undertow" now for the bond market is finding buyers for the burgeoning gov't debt without hiking their yields too such an extent they crush the economy further.

Thanks, Dr. Mark Carducci"


George Will on college football programs through history.


Helen Gahagan Douglas gets her book. The review, in the NYTBR by Thomas Mallon probably contains most of what is of interest about this actress turned New Deal pol, wife of Melvyn Douglas, paramore of LBJ God-help-her, and bug on the windshield of Richard Nixon's Buick.


The NYP reviews You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier, visiting scholar at the Dept. of Computer Science at Columbia University who coined the term "virtual reality" and warns of the young now subject to the hive-mind of web 2.0 social nets, and in danger of losing the thread of what it means to be human.


Nightmare in Chicago. How it was.  How it is.


Detroit addendum, entrepreneurs hope like hell they have started at a bottom.


Jayson Williams man!  The Mayor of nothing, unless who knows... things get even worse in our cities.

And even then Jayson fails to make the NYP's Chill Factor lists - any of them!  Gilbert Arenas hits #2 from Washington!  Without firing a shot!


The FT has lunch with Stewart Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog, WELL, and "his latest project... the Whole Earth Discipline, a book that attacks what he sees as the romantic, anti-science strain of environmentalism.  Its four themes might have been chosen as deliberate provocations to back-to-the-land hippiedom.  If the Earth is to be saved, Brand argues, it will require mass urbanisation, a shift to nuclear power, genetically modified or 'genetically engineered' foods (all foodstuffs, he says, are genetically modified), and geo-engineering: directly modifying the planet's climate.  'We are as gods', he writes again, this time followed by the exhortation 'and we have to get good at it.'"


Saint Vitus is playing Los Angeles.  Not sure when that last happened.  Dave Chandler's been living in New Orleans for years and he seems busy with Debris, his band with ex-Trouble bassist Ron Holzner.  As for Saint Vitus gigs, they've been few and far between but what there's been have occurred in Chicago, Europe, and recently the east coast.  These have been reunions of the "Born Too Late" line-up with Wino singing, but recently Armando was replaced on drums.  Not sure the story but I always liked what Armando did so subtly with all those drums in those wide open spaces the Vitus pace could put into a bar of music.  I just talked with Decibel magazine for a feature they are doing on "Born Too Late" and arranged for them to publish two Naomi Petersen photographs of the band from that period.  That should be the March issue, out Feb.

Thursday, January 28th, 7:30pm
Ultra Violet Social Club
2662 Lacy Street
Los Angeles, CA 90031
All Ages - Bar With ID
Tickets $29.50

Dave Chandler (guitar)
Scott "Wino" Weinrich (vocals)
Mark Adams (bass)
Henry Vasquez (drums)

Also Appearing:
• Saviours
• Totimoshi
• Ancestors
• Crowned By Fire

Advanced tickets are available now EXCLUSIVELY through 8thDayTix

Saint Vitus (Myspace)
Wino (Myspace)


Byron Coley, Thurston Moore, and Eva Prinz are partying around their new Ecstatic Peace issue 10 at White Columns Friday in NYC.  And check out Doug Biggert's project link too.

Night in Manhattan

Photo by Joe Carducci

To receive a weekly update notice for the NV, send an email to newvulgate[at]sbcglobal.net with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. To stop receiving notices, do the same with the word UNSUBSCRIBE.

• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Issue #27 (January 6, 2010)

Parque Nacionale Huequerque, Chile

Photo by Jon Fine

Carl Sandburg
by Bart Bull

Carl Sandburg, once neck and neck with Hemingway as America’s most famous writer (while unequivocally winning the droopy unpaid laurel of “America’s Most Famous Living Poet,” Non-Academic Division), has long since been given the unceremonious heave-ho from any and all AmLit surveys, defenestrated from the Pantheon’s upper deck, his literary stock sent plummeting like a brawny-shouldered Illinois anvil shoved sidelong off the once-and-former Sears Tower skydeck. But Sandburg was back in those days considered — and especially on the Left — as America’s Poet, probably the most widely known American literary figure since Mark Twain.

Sandburg had lived the type of life that would later become a standard joke, the fabled Proletarian Novelist’s Pedigree, practically a literary genre all on its own. (And one which as much as anything was inspired and shaped by Sandburg’s chronicling of the Great Rail-Splitter’s own homespun linsey-woolsey checkered past.) Child of Swedish immigrants, an illiterate blacksmith father and a mother who loved books, he had been a porter, a shoeshine boy, a kid with a milk route, a short-order cook, a hobo who did ten days on vagrancy charges, a dishwasher, a harvest hand, a house painter, a volunteer in the Sixth Illinois Regiment of State Militia when the time came to drive the foul Spaniard from Guantanamo Bay, a Socialist labor organizer, a salesman, a newspaper reporter, a poet (whose hog-butchering poem “Chicago,” actually won a $200 prize in 1914, a mark that may not yet have been eclipsed when you consider what $200 bought then, and what poetry in print pays then or ever), a pro folksinger and published folk song collector, and finally, as he would be best known from 1925 on, as the biographer Abraham Lincoln might have wished upon himself.

But Sandburg was beyond all this, because like it or not, he was actually a poet, and a great one, though a great one of sorts. At his worst, he was too direct, too maudlin, and plainspoken to a severe fault. These were his strengths as well, because he was determined to speak directly, a reporter-poet ready to risk the emotion raised by the drama of daily life observed closely, and he was especially determined to talk in his poetry rather than declaim, to talk, to talk as an American, to risk missing the arch tone of the poet if he could achieve the poetry of a joke made at lunchbreak. A committed Socialist, he was determined to trouble the political waters, but he was at least as determined to locate poetry in the land he’d surveyed around him, the same land young Abe had surveyed as frontier. It’s a pretty tough row to hoe, this political poetry jazz, and he missed more often than he hit. It was a batting average to be proud of.

Sandburg’s Lincoln biography, begun as “a book for young people,” bloomed beyond that but maintaining a certain intended sweetness at heart, was in its day considered to be one of the great literary works of America. “A Lincoln whom no other man than Carl Sandburg could have given us,” said Mark Van Doren; “A monument that will stand forever,” wrote Robert E. Sherwood, and the New York Times reviewed it as, flatly, “...the best biography of our day.” The very few nay-sayers it ever gathered derided it as a hagiography but it was less A Life of the Saint than A Life of the Christ. The Prairie Years, published in two volumes in 1926, and originally titled simply “Abraham Lincoln,” had more of its juvenile origin in its genetic code, but after its great popular, critical, and financial and public success, Sandburg spent much of the next thirteen years working on the four volumes that would be The War Years, with their unavoidably darker vision. It was the Prairie Lincoln, though, — railsplitting rockabilly Abe, the Young Elvis, not the bearded Las Vegas President Lincoln — that was everywhere in the Popular Front years. Sherwood’s own play “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938, and was dutifully turned into a dull Hollywood movie in 1940, lagging behind John Ford’s 1939 Young Mr. Lincoln.

The book that followed on the heels of The Prairie Years, was a pioneering collection of songs, The American Songbag. Sandburg had always closed his poetry readings and lectures on Socialism with a few songs played on guitar, and on some nights members of his audience taught him new ones before the evening was ended. He described his collection as “ 280 songs, ballads, ditties, brought together from all regions of America.” He went on to declare the songs’ sources, commencing with “That notable distinctive American institution, the black-face minstrel...” and he spoke of railroad, hobo, work-gang, steamboat songs. He mentioned Mexican border songs before he touched on the lumberjacks, loggers and shanty boys, and even before bringing up the ballads of the southern mountains or the Negro spiritual. He was on the seventh paragraph of his introduction before he mentioned something called “folk songs.”

There had been collections of American songs before this one, and he pointedly acknowledged a number of the most recent ones. He suggested the songs be sung any way you could manage, and — listen; take note; pay attention here and now — he didn’t end up owning any of the copyrights. He didn’t claim any of copyrights. He didn’t get into any of the legal squabbles that the other folksong collectors who followed did whenever some tune they knew got on the radio, and the pennies began to pile up in somebody else’s account, even though they all knew they hadn’t ever written it. He proved that it was possible to print a folk song collection and not gut the wallet of any folk too dumb or dead or poor or stupid to have heard what a lawyer might do.

(excerpt from a forthcoming work)

At the Inubosaki Lighthouse, Tokyo
A Photo-tour by Mike Watt

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci...

Obituaries of the Week

Sportswriter Bill Gleason, 1922-2010.

Chicago has its own culture of course, but actually it has many, and yet unlike New York or Los Angeles it wasn’t stitched-together after the fact from neighboring entities. It really is one big town, the biggest one in North America (unless Houston has passed it and made it the Second City for the first time). The south side is twice the size of the northside, though its cultures don’t travel as well as the north’s anymore. Bill Gleason was a southsider sportswriter for long-gone papers going back to 1942 at the Southtown Economist. In the Sun-Times’ obit he’s quoted, “If it weren't for Wrigley Field, I rarely would have crossed Madison Street.” There are some clips on youtube of the cable show "The Sportswriters," which grew out of the WGN radio show he did with Ben Bentley, Bill Jauss, Rick Telander and others. This was not the model for ESPN, shall we say. My brother Matt tells me he got good seats behind home plate at Wrigley the day after Don Zimmer had been fired as Cubs manager in 1991. He was surprised to see Zimmer himself in the seat directly behind him. Bill Gleason was surprised too, and he came up to Zimmer and asked, “What are you doing here, Zim?” According to Matt, Zimmer answered that he was there because he liked baseball, and that if Gleason was also there because he liked baseball he was welcome to sit down next to him, which he did and they talked the rest of the game about the game in progress.

The Sun-Times is where he spent his prime years so they provide the most coverage. The Tribune’s obit , which even links to the Sun-Times!, has nice early family detail from Gleason’s sister.

And here’s a Southtown Star interview with Gleason from 2008 where he describes the first episode of "The Sportswriters" on WGN radio, October 1, 1975: “The first show was the night of the ‘Thrilla in Manilla.’ Chet Walker, the Bulls player, was at a viewing party at a hotel and he was calling Ben Bentley every two rounds.... That started it weekly, and I stayed for 12 years on radio. We did another 12 years on TV.”

Here’s a TV clip , "The Sportswriters'" Comiskey Park farewell. Not the best one maybe but there isn’t much up. The show was generally done in a darkened studio around a poker table.

[Trading card: Joe Kuhel, Chicago White Sox (1938-1943, 1946-1947), Gleason's favorite baseball player]

Billy "the Kid" Harris, street ball, Dunbar High, NIU, San Diego Conquistador, 1951-2010.  Here's a repost of a Slam feature from 1998.


[Eddie Zima Band, 1947]

Mary Wisniewski on Chicago polka style. She quotes radio host Chuck Schafer contending that the Chicago polka sound began with “music derived from Poland’s Krakow region.” But the music was changed here and developed into Honky and Push styles. Wisniewski’s article has some nice musicological detail that tracks with what we know happened in country and jazz styles. Here’s the Chicago encyclopedia page entry on the city’s polka. I was surprised how little good stuff is on youtube; guess kids don’t mess with the stuff. I taped a lot more interesting stuff from the late 80s/90s off of leased and public access channels as well as the radio, but it's all back in Wyoming. I’ll have to dig through it this summer. Here are some interesting clips though:

Li’l Wally - Cyganka, 1988

Li’l Wally information is around but no completists appear to be on the trail of his legendary trail of independent record label releases. I tried to find a catalog of his label, Jay Jay Records, but couldn’t on short notice. Sounds like it was a juggernaut, at least in the Slav neighborhoods of the midwest to the northeast. Jake Austen’s hand puppet interviewed Wally some months before he died on his cable access kids’ show, Chic-A-Go-Go. And the Miami New Times did right by him ten years ago.

• Full Circle Polka band featuring Lenny Gomulka, “Got to Go Polka”

• Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones - “You’re Talking to the Wrong Man”

Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push - “Willie’s Wedding Polka”

Stas Golonka & the Chicago Masters, 1991

In the punk era, The Polkaholics roamed the taverns and published a nice polka fanzine which is defunct now. Here’s a German TV report.


Coming: The Ruins of Detroit, by Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre.


SecDef speechwriter on the fifties pre-folk revival.


The New Yorker’s economics writer (!), John Cassidy, celebrates the end of the utopian Chicago School of Economics in the person of Richard Posner and his, what, sadly too late embrace of Keynes? (piece not posted.) But this is mere political economics in the senses that 1) we do not have laissez-faire, savage Anglo-Saxon/Chicago/Austrian/Hong Kong free market economics (or there’d be no Fannie Mae, Fed, et.al.), and 2) the purpose of closing up the remains of economic freedom is to employ tens of thousands of costly, unproductive college grads. That this might in the end be destructive of that class’s own interests is a measure of where the utopian ideological drive truly lies. The whole piece seems to mistake certain mechanical questions for The Laws of Motion. Of course changes must be made; that they will not be fundamental would be the actual Austrian if not Chicago complaint. Not to say there aren’t many economists who accepting the challenge of working in or through the political realm haven’t become as ego-invested in ephemera as this or that science journalist. And indeed there are yards if not miles of rigorous theory on the shelves of our finest libraries speculating on exactly how socialist economics will work.


Take it from an associate professor of English:

“It's hard to tell young people that universities recognize that their idealism and energy -- and lack of information -- are an exploitable resource. For universities, the impact of graduate programs on the lives of those students is an acceptable externality, like dumping toxins into a river. If you cannot find a tenure-track position, your university will no longer court you; it will pretend you do not exist and will act as if your unemployability is entirely your fault. It will make you feel ashamed, and you will probably just disappear, convinced it's right rather than that the game was rigged from the beginning.”


Is this dust-up over a University of Chicago letter to applicants related to the above? Or the above the above? Who can really say…


The Battle of Issus by Albrecht Altdorfer by Judith Dobrzynski in the WSJ.


Raymond Pettibon exhibit up til Saturday in London


International Times archive

Coordinator: Mike Lesser
Secretary: Johnny Void

Database by: Geoff Laycock

Working group: Tony Allen, Mick Farren, Hoppy , Ian Hutchinson, Nicola Lane, Dave Mairowitz, Chris Osland, Pete Stansill, Robert Tasher, Heathcote Williams, Grant Warrell


The FT reports on Israeli soccer fandom.


Video Business: Theatrical tops disc movie sales for the first time in a decade.


(thanks to Andy Schwartz, Bart Bull and Steve Beeho)

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
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