a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Issue #47 (May 26, 2010)

Sunrise in San Pedro

Photo by Mike Watt

Eyes Squeezed Shut
(Or, You Could Go Blind! Or Fat!)
(Or, Frenchmen Do Get Fat!)

By Carolyn Heinze

I can see why they didn’t put the Gérard Depardieu masturbating scene in the trailer. It wouldn’t make for good box office results. O.K. sure all right fine, if it had been Gérard Depardieu masturbating back in the Seventies it would have been an entirely different story. Back in the Seventies, Gérard Depardieu was kinda hot. But Mammuth came out just a couple of weeks ago, so in this film he’s all modern and masturbatory and present tense and present time and present decade and present day. And not to be shallow, but when you see Gérard in the flesh? In that full-fledged full-frontal fleshy façon ? Well not to be shallow or anything, but he’s gotten kind of . . . fleshy. (And get your minds out of the gutter — geez! — I’m not talking about that.) Actually, not to be to shallow or anything, but he’s...well he’s actually gotten kind of fat. Less in that jolly “ho-ho-ho” kind of way and more in that “wheeze-hack-wheeze-will-he-make-it-to-the, uh, climax” kind of way. So you can see where I’m, er, coming from.

D’abord : Some clarification, some precision, some facts, in the interest of actual accuracy for accuracy’s actual sake. In all actuality, in that (anti) climactic scene Gérard Depardieu is not actually technically masturbating. This is le show beez after all — there’s another droopy old fat-guy actor doing it for him. And technically, in all actuality, in the full-fledged-fleshy-full-frontal sense, you don’t see everything, tous, la totale totally fully up-front. But suggestion is worth a thousand unwelcome images as I like to say, and in Mammuth’s mammoth masturbation montage, you kinda — don’t look! — see enough. Or you kinda sit back, right there in the dark, and you close your eyes, or more like squeeze them tightly shut, so tightly shut that you kinda smudge and smear and stream your salon-issue swag mascara that you filched off a friend who works in such fields, and you sit back, voluntarily voraciously vision-impaired, hopefully not thinking of England and hopefully-definitely not thinking of the Queen, but hoping, with hope-inspired hope, with hope for hope’s sake, for it all to be hopefully over and wistfully, wantingly, wishfully, willfully thinking about Something Else. Like Gérard Depardieu’s career.

And here’s what you conclude: For a big-name, big-deal, big, publicly-personally in-real-life straight, once-married and many times heterosexually-involved high-priced A-list leading man, Gérard Depardieu’s not afraid to get it on with guys. Not on screen at least. And this wasn’t just at the beginning of his career when he was paying his dues and getting paid less, but in the middle of his career and now, too. You know how with some Hollywood actors, some sexily sexed-up sexy leading men, how they wear well-cut clothes so there’s rumors about them being gay and so they have to take parts that are all butchy and burly and macho and manly just to keep their rates up? Gérard Depardieu doesn’t seem too concerned with that. Nope, là-dessus, Gérard Depardieu ne me semble pas très inquiet. And he shouldn’t be worried: Word has it that he averages about 800.000 euros (the euro being what it is — or increasingly isn’t — that’s roughly $993,000 U.S.) per film, and in France that’s not change for chumps. And while admittedly, one must admit, that he hasn’t always made genius choices when it comes to scripts, Gérard Depardieu has made some kick-ass films. Especially the ones where he’s getting it on with guys. (What? You’re wondering why I didn’t make an ass-joke? Minds out of the gutter, puh-leez!)

Like remember Les Valseuses . . . “The Waltz-ers” directly but “Going Places” en américain ? You know, the film he always seemingly unconsciously refers to in interviews, as if he seemingly knowingly unconsciously knows that he and Bertrand Blier and Patrick Delwaere and Miou-Miou were onto something? Something Big? Something big and creative and artistic and innovative resulting out of them just freely fucking around? You’ve seen it, right? Right?? You probably have, with Depardieu being the single-most famous French actor on the other side of the Big Pond and all. I’m sure it played, like, everywhere. But if you haven’t then go out and get it, and if you don’t speak French make sure it’s with sub-titles and everything. I’m sure you’ll find it – how could you not? Because it’s goood, so good, so great, so gigantic that in my dictatorship, if I was a dictator, one would call it a chef-d’oeuvre and nothing else. This is the kind of film that other directors should wish they had made, the kind of dialogue that other writers should wish they had written. And that scene when Depardieu tricks Delwaere into sleeping with him? (Depardieu more or less actually rapes him, actually, but less in that Deliverance kind of way and more in that post-Nouvelle vague French cinema kind of way. . .) Well just quit shifting and squirming and bleating and squealing because that scene’s so damn-near perfect it’s an unconscionable understatement to call it merely “good.”

And then there’s Tenue de Soirée, also by Blier, starring Michel Blanc and Miou-Miou and of course, Depardieu . . . And he’s such a natural, such a pro, such a ham without being a ham (he’s still sorta svelte after all) . . . and you feel like you’re watching someone who’s understood, in the best and purest of ways, what he’s meant to do. Of course he gets it on with Blanc, and that’s kinda the point, but it’s kinda beside the point, too. I can’t remember who he gets it on with in Buffet Froid, or if he even does, but he plays a helluva charming killer in a helluva suitable setting: The bleak-blah-bland borderline-Paris business district of La Défense. Back when it was still being built. (Remember that first scene, where he kills the guy in the RER station? It...well it kinda killed, non?) It’s another one of Blier’s cult creations, in which his dad, Bernard, stars too. (You remember – he plays the police inspector who turns a blind eye to Depardieu’s murderous ways.) That film was sooo good, so clever, so creative, so classy that when French audiences first saw it they were so shocked that when the screenings were over a number of indignant viewers stomped back to the box office to demand their money back. Talk about being on to something! Right on!!

So what happened? Why, in so many of his more recent films does it feel like Gérard Depardieu is just putting in time? Arguably his period with Blier – during which he confessed going into it in the spirit of making movies, and going through it breathing and bothering with and living for Blier – was kind of like a college football star’s glory years, a glowy-glorious-gloriful gad-about an art form that seemed to be headed so far beyond where it actually ended up. Oh sure, he’s still a pro now, and a natural and a ham, too, with the more sophisticated hammish savoir-faire of an artist who’s refined his chops, who’s evolved and developed and matured. He’s the ideal unassuming husband to Fanny Ardant’s sultry-but-insecure wife in the typically French love story à trois that serves as the basis of Nathalie. And he does what it takes for Chabrol in Bellamy, the first time he actually worked with the much-loved, much-revered, much-adored adorable old Uncle Claude. You can’t accuse Depardieu of not delivering what’s called for, or for not simply doing his job; he shows up and jumps in, pulls it all together and gets it done. But you also feel a little sad, a little wistful, a little nostalgic all the same. A few years ago he announced his retirement — said he had made enough films. It was time to pay more attention to his wine châteaux, to be a man of the terroir, to fill his fingernails with dirt, to get back down to earth. No one believed him, of course, least of all himself, and he still shows up on the big screen, more often, so much more often than from time to time. It’s different, though, and he’s different, too – not ‘off’ but off all the same. Like something’s shut him down . . . turned around what used to turn him on.

“That’s the danger of cinema or of what television has shown us. The danger of uselessness, or of information. Now we know everything, but it serves nothing,” Depardieu recently lamented to Premiere. On the same Mammuth media push, he vented to VSD: “We live in a world where there are no more mysteries, where everything is clear. . . What impresses me about cinema is sometimes what bothers me. . .”

You can see why he took the role in Mammuth, a sort of road-trip movie by a sort-of similar-but-French version of the formidable frères Coen. We can beat up on Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern for making us watch Gérard beating off, but we sure can’t accuse them of indulging in inexcusably indulgent intellectual masturbation. Or of showing and telling too much – except for that part about, well, you know – when all we needed was a peek. On the surface this is a French story, a real French one, one that’s identifiable to any Frenchman or Frenchwoman who has ever battled their country’s Kafka-esque administration and lost . . . And they all have, and they all do. I could go into detailed descriptions of what Mammuth’s all about, recount how Depardieu’s blue-collar character is forced to embark on a fool’s errand to round up a few lost fiches de paye (that’s ‘pay stubs’) so he can collect on his retirement. I could rant about how ridiculous this exercise is, in and of itself, and how, yes, oui, mais bien sûr !, all French workers are expected to keep these documents for life or else. But that’s only one side of the story, the French one, and to reveal the farther-reaching human side would be to kill the mystère. Because Mammuth is a human story, grainy and great and mysterious, and it’s better to watch it and see then to be shown and be told. Besides, you’ll go see it, right? I mean, it has to be showing somewhere. What with Depardieu being such a big deal and all.

In its delightful little way, Mammuth is a throwback to Les Valseuses – tamer, sure, but subversive and savvy and superb and smart all the same. And in his seemingly unconscious conscious way, Gérard Depardieu seems to consciously-unconsciously make the connection. Once again venting to VSD: “Les Valseuses was in the spirit of youthful provocation, we were in the spirit of revolution. (With Mammuth), we’re in the spirit of demolition.”

Maybe so, peut-être, maybe so. And maybe not, peut-être pas, maybe not. Strong spirits are hard to demolish, after all, while revolutions demolish a lot. But in between there’s hope that some people get it . . . and, having filled their fingernails with dirt, revive their taste for stirring shit up.

Images: Depardieu in Mammuth (1 & 3); Depardeiu in Les Valseuses (2)

Photoessay by Joe Carducci

Along Hwy 130, Centennial Valley, Wyoming

South of Blue Diamond, Nevada

Above Warner Brothers, Burbank, California

Red Rocks, west of Las Vegas, Nevada

Northwest Arizona, along I-15

Along Hwy 130, Centennial Valley, Wyoming

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci...

Post Wars Europe seems to be rushing to recapitulate the American experience since the Civil War began our own anti-democratic new class imperative of federal level centralization of former state or county or municipal or individual authority in a fraction of the time. Since the new left’s integration into the Democratic Party here we’ve had our own fans of this Europe attempting to force our own former organic fifty-state-flavored re-shuffling of old world inheritances into these imported imposed social-central models. The Sunday NYT had this chart of Europe’s “Pension Problems”, a.k.a. “Societal Death Curve” to illustrate the math-that-can’t-be-retained (NYT readers were Humanities/WSJ readers Math and Sports).

Here’s a short roundup of reaction to this recent Greece-triggered watershed moment. Even the German financial newspaper editor the NYT found to applaud it all seems to concede the cart of union has always been ahead of the horse; he figures the horse will now gladly vote to put the harness on itself and pull that now even more burdensome cart.

Clive Crook in the Atlantic on Europe’s Missing Foundations:

“Lackluster leadership? I’d say Europe got into this mess because its leadership was far too lustrous for much too long. When did a united Europe ever capture the imagination of many of its residents? The European project was an elite-driven, top-down affair from the outset. Its leaders took the view, often explicitly, that Europe’s voters did not know what was good for them and would have to be led to enlightenment. There was never any willingness to let public indifference or outright hostility moderate the pace. For the most part, voters were not consulted. When they were, and voted No in the occasional referendum on further transfer of power to Brussels, governments resolved to keep on asking until the voters got it right. Germany adopted the euro despite a sustained majority opposed to monetary union. The political foundations for union were never laid. Governments kept building higher and higher regardless.”

Peter Boone and Simon Johnson in the FT, "How the eurozone set off a race to the bottom".

“Over the past decade, the eurozone has facilitated one of the largest moral hazard schemes of all time. Until Friday, this operated at two levels. Spain and Ireland built huge banking systems, drawn into a property bubble -- but really based on the rules of the eurozone, which implicitly underwrite its commercial banks without adequate supervision. Portugal and Greece ran old-fashioned out-of-control fiscal deficits, financed by bank lending -- with all the debt available to use as collateral for short term borrowing (‘repo’) at the European Central Bank; and underwritten by implicit too-big-to-fail guarantees, which became explicit this weekend.”

Gabor Steingart in the NYT, "It Takes a Crisis to Make a Continent".

“Yes, the rules governing the euro are being breached every day, causing panic in the market. But this is part of a movement forward, not dissolution. According to the monetary union treaty signed in 1999, member states were never meant to take on the debts of a fellow member state, and the European Central Bank, modeled on the German Bundesbank, was meant to ensure monetary stability at all cost. But, at this critical moment, Europe decided that monetary unity was not enough, that it was worth breaking the rules to bring its members closer together as a political unit…. Having forced itself into an era of continental policymaking, Europe must now play catch-up with its democratic system… if the achievements of this crisis are to survive, European leaders must figure out how to make sure the people are heard in the political process. Europe as a decision-making body is a fact; now it has to become more democratic.”

Martin Wolf’s FT blog on Carmen Reinhart’s diagram of the fiscal plot playing out soon in your theater and upon all the world’s stages.


Gillian Tett in the FT contrasts how the Irish have accepted what they must do, “Irish treat pain of crisis like a hangover: lying on sofa, groaning”, while the Greeks essentially demand more drinks on the house.


Here’s a marker of civilization to aspire to for Muslim believers and pretenders in these toast-modern times; it’s no mystery, they’ve heard of Christendom, Western Europe, America… Start by putting up with an Adam Gopnik canvassing recent Savior-Prophet-Nice Guy literature by all manner of fearless cream-sipping atheists “reading and unreading the Gospels” as he or his polyglot editor puts it. Put up with this vicariously and then expect some many publications, if not the NYer, to make you wear it too.

Husna Haq is an American correspondent at the CSM, but her plaintive, "What’s a Muslim-American to think?", regarding the ‘Everybody Draw Mohammad Day’, a protest over the censoring of Comedy Channel’s “South Park” program over its own wise-ass observing of the proscription against depicting the image of Mohammad, by putting him in a bear suit -- all this in a cartoon of course --, reveals that she had no conception that her fellow Americans expect her as a Muslim to put up with exactly what any Christian or Jew has had to put up with. Where did she get this dangerous idea that her faith would be exempted? Is she a NYer subscriber?

Right on cue hitting his mark, Jim Blanchard has Gospel Album art up on his new flickr page.

And also on schedule appears a Luis Buñuel documentary. Of his many playful critiques of Catholicism, Simon del Desierto (1965), about a desert mystic come down off his pillar for a night on the town is one of the best. Buñuel’s finale of this 45 minute masterpiece features the sometimes a great commotion, Los Sinners. The film itself is must viewing for all Muslim-Americans and “South Park” fans.

Reut Cohen at frontpage.com on Suad Joseph, Apologist for Gender Apartheid.

“Predictably for contemporary Middle East studies, Joseph paid tribute to Edward Said’s deeply flawed book Orientalism, which helps explain her rejection of any implied Western superiority regarding women‘s rights…. Incredibly, Joseph theorized that Arab women want to be claimed by men, and therefore have no objection to being subjects of a patriarchal and theocratic society in which their individual rights are abridged. The audience, which appeared to consist mostly of Center for Near Eastern Studies and Women‘s Studies faculty, nodded their heads in agreement with this troubling statement.”

Michael Young in Slate, "Reading Paul Berman in Beirut".

“But for me and others in the Arab world, Berman’s account of the European idealists posed an essential question deriving from our own experiences. This question Berman has posed again in the brilliant, uncompromising The Flight of the Intellectuals: What does it mean to be a liberal, and how does one uphold liberal values when politics, misshaped by passions and biases, self-righteousness and self-deception, can lead to the defense of thoroughly illiberal ideas?”

Simon Akam on Amy Mills’s book, Streets of Memory: Landscape, Tolerance, and National Identity in Istanbul, is another of a seemly endless unmasking of supposed Islamic ecumenical golden-age cosmopolitanism, stories often peddled by western double-dome leftist atheists for all it earns them in which battle they are waging? I forget.

Daniel Pipes on Ian Johnson’s book, A Mosque in Munich.

“Johnson opens with a review of the systematic Nazi efforts to recruit Soviet Muslims from among their prisoners of war. Many Muslims loathed Stalin; and between 150,000 and 300,000 of them fought for the Axis in World War II. In other words, over and above their unfulfilled propaganda effort directed at Arabs, the Nazis actually fielded a substantial force of mainly Turkic Muslims under the leadership of a scholarly Nazi enthusiast named Gerhard von Mende.

After the German defeat in 1945, Johnson follows von Mende as he continued his anti-communist work with ex-Soviet Muslims, now in a Cold War context. But his network of former soldiers proved not very competent at the task of arousing Muslim hostility against the Soviet Union. Their leading intellectual, for example, had served as the imam of an SS division that helped suppress the Warsaw uprising of 1944. Islamists quickly proved themselves far more competent at this political and religious challenge. Johnson explains that they ‘wear suits, have university degrees, and can formulate their demands in ways that a politician can understand.’

The heart of his fascinating study lies in tracing the evolution, much of it in Munich, from old soldiers to new Islamists. It's a classic tale of 1950s intrigue, complete with rehabilitated Nazis, CIA-front organizations, and dueling Soviet-American ambitions. Johnson shows how, without anyone quite planning it, the Americans usurped von Mende's network and handed it over to Said Ramadan.”


The dimming Path, Naomi Mapstone in the FT on neo-mayhem in the Peruvian highlands. When Fujimori’s away, the Maoists will play.

Philip Delves Broughton reviews recent testimony from Burma in the WSJ.

Seth Mydans in the NYT shoots the wounded in Udon Thani, Thailand. Whereas the paper went nutzoid over the constitutional defense against a President’s coup in Honduras, they are very understanding of the coup by the Thai urban elite against the rural majority’s choice. They even switched colors on us. Blue is Red; Red is Green; and Green is Brown. And now Wydot tells me I need my eyes examined!


Tobias Buck and Vita Bekker on Israel Inc’s families face backlash, in FT.


With ex-wildcatter-in-chief George W. in retirement the NYT feels it is safe to run very good background features which seem to accept the wild west culture still extant in the Houston-centered oil industry, even during this well catastrophe. Tuesday had both this hilarious portrait by Henry Fountain of Pat Campbell, former well-killer in Kuwait and before that with Red Adair, and this more sober story by Clifford Krauss and Tom Zeller about the remarkable sea-drilling specialty company, Transocean. Elsewhere in the paper and across the media pencil-pushers are beginning to blame President Obama which is stupid and might only pressure the state to mis-respond. When this well is “killed” the oil industry -- our oil industry -- will have learned invaluable things about deep water techniques. It would be a terrible waste for the paper-cut/clean-fingernail crowd in Washington to forbid the further use of this expertise. Nobody really wants Russian expertise or Chinese expertise to be filling these contracts in these deep water fields. Bury the brave men, pay their widows, clean up what you can and then let them get back to work.


Alexander Theroux on James Haley’s biography, Wolf: The Lives of Jack London, bemoans Haley’s thread fanning homosexuality flames out of the smoke of what, his fire in the 70° below Yukon night? But Theroux likes the book otherwise and American letters certainly needs all the exposure to Jack London it can get. One thing that stands out as I research my way into the swashbuckling era of early film production in the teens and twenties, is that all the many roustabouts and cowboys who made the films were under the living/aesthetic spell of Jack London.


WSJ editorial, "Climate change and the courts".


The short unsigned editorial in Monday’s WSJ gets right to the nub of the historical bait-and-switch which the many liberal defenders of the federal prerogative as it pertains to the extra-wide load they insist can be constitutionally driven through the commerce clause (all 16 words: “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes,”), because some part of interstate commerce moves along federally funded highways and thereby all social behavior in any business comes under its purview as administered jointly til November by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (call him Jay), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, and Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce.

In the NYT editorial, Limits of Libertarianism, and in the NYT’s resident forensic expert on Conservatism Sam Tanenhaus’s Sunday comment the far less efficient with their own and our time, because first they must pocket absurdum, before they presume federal authorship of human and folk patterns. Of course, as the WSJ alone insists, the old Confederate states were out of line as governments and this was a proper target for federal constitutional intervention. Ross Douthat, the NYT's new conservative columnist has valid criticism of Rand and Ron Paul’s political impulses and even the general outside-the-box dynamic’s danger to wander intently into conspiratorial swamps, but Douthat seems unaware that to sign up for merely what is politic is to fail to correct anything about where this country has drifted.

The truth that is left to the impolitic involved the using of the civil rights movement to take care of other pending business of the Left’s. That that business now deeply encoded at all levels of government is part of the current crisis of leveraged state spending which threatens the bills-paying private sector’s ability to outrun the red ink is making this what the Right is talking about. What is politic for politicians to bring up was once determined by the news media unified by post-WWII corporatism. Now a shell of its former robust self, can the news media still play its own invested rear-guard defense of this New Deal/Great Society quasi-constitutional state? I think not.


Matt Ridley in the WSJ, "Humans: Why They Triumphed".


Daniel Horan in the WSJ on Martin Preib’s book The Wagon.


Ben Ratliff in the NYT "Rethinking the Myth, Exile on Main St."

It’s hard to write well about music and sound and it is so rarely done you wonder whether most writers are really hearing anything but the marketing-buzz subchannel. It’s pop criticism rather than what you’d call music writing or rock criticism. I recently talked to author and Lightbourne college-chum Robert Cantwell and mentioned to him I looted his book, Bluegrass Breakdown, which I found in the library of North Central College in Naperville, for his description of the musical sensation Swing. Perfectly relevant to my rock book, in fact desperately relevant as there is so little such writing in rock criticism itself that I was forced to write it in the first place. I found Cantwell’s description so striking that I mentioned it to Lightbourne on the phone in Portland back then and he told me he knew Cantwell and had to go find the book.

Sunday’s NYT has Ben Ratliff tracking down the music-making truth under the Stones-myth encasing the “Exile” album. It’s less what Ben gets out of Richards and Jagger that tells, it his own intent listening and description of “Loving Cup”:

“It’s country gospel gone lurid, and it seems to rise up out of a nap. Nicky Hopkins’s piano chords circle around a G at slow tempo in an echoey room. Charlie Watts starts pumping a bass drum at the third beat of the second bar; he’s either late or early, but finding his way. Piano and drums roll up to the D chord at the beginning of the first verse, and Mick Taylor bends two guitar strings under Mick Jagger’s opening line: “I’m the man on the mountain — yes, come on up.” Onward, Mr. Watts weaves around the beat, smashing down on his high-hat, forming weird and clattering snare-drum fills. He both shapes and follows the group’s euphoria and the music’s subtle acceleration. The Stones gather around the song like pickpockets, jostling and interfering with it. Keith Richards, playing rhythm guitar and singing backup, quits harmonizing and starts to shout.”

How the rough, living, error-risking music-making of the sixties became a reactionary rearguard defense against the future of punk’s rough, living, error-risking music-making is a story still not told. But its what makes it almost impossible for me to listen to the Rolling Stones’s FM radio and Oliver Stone soundtrack staples when they pop up here. I mean, “Tumblin’ Dice”?! Whereas the left-overs, the non-hits and the old Brian Jones-era garagey Stones (“Fortune Teller”, “Its All Over Now”, “Play with Fire”…) are great to hear when some station mistakenly airs them. Still, I wouldn’t deny that free of Jones Keith Richard built a beautifully designed modern R&B-imbued rock sound where any power-chords were held mostly in reserve. It’s the sketchiness of this version of “Loving Cup” that allows one to listen down into the “jostling” clutter and contention of this early take and hear the music the players heard.

That so much musical history is mere uninspected boomer myth comes hinted at everytime there’s real listening attention paid again to actual recordings by greats-but-not-gods like Hendrix or the Stones. The human sounds of Hendrix’s “The Valleys of Neptune” and the expanded “Exile on Main St.” ought not be so surprising. But in the early seventies the pop critics took over the discourse as Lee Abrams and others took over radio programming, and before you knew it what Lightbourne called “European performance standards” were recuperated by those who considered themselves blues connoisseurs. They figured as long as they hated Boston they were clear no matter the sound engineering budgets required for music they actually preferred, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, etc. (Again, the Carducci rule on this: the dumber the music audience the more perfect the music must be.) I don’t have to tell you that, unlike the Stones’s loss of their visionary Brian Jones, Pink Floyd’s loss of theirs, Syd Barrett, yielded not much beyond musique concrète, (but it was perfect).

The actual result of that early decadent tax-exile phase of bringing the studio into your home as the Rolling Stones did for parts of “Exile” bears some perverse relation to D.I.Y. strategies soon to come. At SST the bands came into the recording studios of Los Angeles with their own engineer/producer so as not to be recording by the rules of the industry. I loved the look on the Reebok-wearing feathered-hair house-engineers’ faces when Spot entered and walked up to the board grinning and nodding like a cartoon character, wiggling his fingers at the board as if warning it that this would be no rule-following Van Halen sound-alike about to sound off. When Greg Ginn was forced by conditions to wear headphones they’d have to be duct-taped to his head; I don’t remember the engineer still being around by that point.

Now that classic rock and certain punk era musics are seen (heard) as connected in any decent historical mix on the web, the radio or a stadium P.A. perhaps the radio-programming music-publishing box-office winners will endow a pension fund for old-timey punks as the old-line industry once did for the blues and country musicians whose folk donations did so much to pour the foundations for the industry’s mansions in the hills.


Alec Wilkinson in the NYer follows Ry Cooder around as he follows Los Tigres del Norte around the Southwest. The piece sketches out Norteño music and the band’s interesting history and deep success. But its left to me to mention that the records are engineered by Joe Pope, formerly of SST recording artists, Angst, and once the owner/flunky of Systematic Record Distribution, not to mention boyhood chum of Jello Biafra.

“John Reilly, Los Tigres’ press agent… told me that most acts have to be taken through the kitchen when they return to their hotels, to avoid the fans in the lobby. Los Tigres have to go through the front door, ‘You take them through the kitchen, and you shut down the hotel,’ he said.”


Jason Gross asked a lot of music writers and editors, wtf? Listen mostly to me, and Byron if you must, but note it’s the music editors who really offer little but assertions of their own prerogatives. More reasons we are in such a mf’in golden age.


Bruce Kalberg (now there was a music mag editor!) has a photo exhibit up at Reserve soon and so they’ve put a full 1982 issue of his NoMag up for your perusal. Check out the Black Flag ad we threw together using the doodles a Unicorn studio engineer did on a band-photo with added punk graffiti-for-the-ages, plus read Chuck Dukowski’s ‘History of L.A. Punk’. Chuck wrote that at the Unicorn offices after Black Flag’s first UK tour. He knew all the bands out playing live and I remember Laurie O’Connell and I throwing in some of the artier fringe-dwellers for his consideration. Laurie (of the band Monitor and art cabal World Imitation) came into the studio with the Meat Puppets and stayed on as a Unicorn hand in the days when everything was still hunky dory.


Read Eddie Flowers pr spiel for the new Gulcher release, by Hollywood Squaretet, which features Larry Copcar, Todd Homer, Joe Baiza, and Dan Clucas, for some real furniture-breaking rock-writing as we once knew it back in the papyrus era when long-distance calls were too expensive to make.


Flipside is now an online zine.


John Garcia Euro tour late May/June. In Kyuss and thereafter Garcia is underappreciated as a vocalist. It took me some acclimation to his style to get into him but I managed it as I listened to those albums a lot. Here is my favorite recording of his, real soul-fury on “If Only Two” from Unida’s album, “Coping with the Urban Coyote”, on Man’s Ruin Records from 1999, back when everything was hunky dory.


Trashflow Radio, Saturdays, WAIF-FM, Cincinnati, Ohio, has an archive full of great themed programs.


Michael Hurley is on the road in Ohio, Penn. and Oregon.


Trip Henderson’s next roots and blues sit-in sets:

Whistlin’ Wolves
Saturday May 29, 9:30pm
Googies Lounge, 154 Ludlow St., NYC

The Second Fiddles
Saturday June 5, 8pm
Hurdy Gurdy Folk Music Club
10-10 20th St., Fair Lawn NJ


Here’s one of the best things written about David Lightbourne since his death last month. Joleen Knight posted it on her blog and its a great portrait of Dave in what turned out to be his Wyoming winter.


Thanks to Steve Beeho, Mike Safran.

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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, May 18, 2010

Issue #46 (May 19, 2010)

Over the 134 Freeway, Burbank

Photo by Chris Collins

Tale of the White Snake, Part II


Continued from Part I

Whether or not social analysis matters in defining an era, there are always those events which cast indelible colors and shadings upon, at least, how we perceive the movement of the times we live in. And, perhaps, our place in them. The early 60s were a heady time; the Historical Jury is definitely not out on that. The race to the moon was in full orbital swing and guys like Ed Roth and Darryl Starbyrd were boldly reshaping our automotive fantasies. Under the auspices of heavyweight boxing, Muhammad Ali's one-two punch knocked the bejeezus out of one nation's sensibilities and the Nation of Islam came along to chant the mandatory 8-count. Then there were those damned Beatles and all those screaming little girls making the average American boy skip his normal Saturday afternoon at the barber shop. And, as a word, "Woodie" had earned at least two meanings. In short, our country had passed colorfully through puberty and, having successfully smacked down the bullies of the Second World War, was now boldly dancing at the bandstand of its teenage years. The era had birthed itself into the pure philosophy of Rock & Roll as a way of Life, it had a good beat, and the West Coast was strongly calling the tunes and pointing the cameras. So why not an ultra cool California sports car that redefined the very essence of the term "hot rod?"

Why not indeed?

Getting to the heart of the tale, one bright Saturday afternoon I managed to talk my father into making an excursion to the Shelby-American factory. I had been working on him for quite awhile and this day he finally had free and would indulge me. I don't remember the actual month but it was in the early part of 1964. Naturally, we cruised out there in the aforementioned Galaxie 500XL, 352 humming demurely under the hood. Though this was the car that was bringing home NASCAR trophies, albeit powered by Holman-Moody 427 V8s, ours was an unabashedly domesticated version. Maybe I was a little embarrassed to be pulling up in such an obvious family carriage but, really, that wasn't concern. And, poetically, our white Ford happened to match the color of the only car in the parking lot. I saw it from a distance as we neared and my heart immediately started its engine, hairs came to attention on the back of my neck and I couldn't wait to get the seatbelt loose. There it was... a gorgeous, simply appointed 289 Cobra roadster. White. Black top. Wire wheels. Yes!

At this time the 289 version was the only snake being offered for sale (at a healthy, but not impossible, $5995.00!). Aside from prototypes and dedicated racing machines, the now better known 427-engined revision was about a year away from being manufactured. But no matter, this was a damned formidable machine and the one that created the legend in the first place. Legends do well against a backdrop of silence and it was very quiet that day in the parking lot of the low-profile brick factory. I had been to Hot Rod and Custom Car events and enjoyed the noisy aspect of "The Show" but here there were no mirrors, no impossibly polished chrome, none of the googah that screams for attention. Just one seriously cool car; the real deal, and walking around it, examining it under the late afternoon sky, the air gave forth a deep breath that stifled anything I could possibly utter other than an appropriate "Wow!" or two. Still, whether or not it could be voiced, a thick air of inactivity made it feel like we had arrived on exactly the wrong day. Just my luck! And further, as we stood admiring the roadster sitting at the edge of the lot, a man wearing a brown suit suddenly emerged from the front door of the building and locked it behind him with an air of finality. This didn't give me much hope. But, upon noticing us, he advanced toward us in a friendly manner. I observed his loosened tie and something about his demeanor suggested that this was a man who really wasn't an executive.

In the ensuing conversation it was determined that the business had closed for the day and, being the last one left, it was his job to lock up. He said he was one of the team drivers and had been doing some non-driving business. That explained the suit. Maybe he perceived my acute sense of disappointment or maybe just identified with my enthusiasm for the product he promoted but, either way, he reckoned he had enough time to give us a quick tour of the facilities. Hooray! I was suddenly feeling better about the way the day was turning out.

We followed him back to the front door, he unlocked it, we entered, he re-locked it behind him. We were the only ones in the whole damn place. There was no showroom area (as if there really needed to be one?). You either knew about this car or you didn't. The front end of the building was full of small office spaces with piles of slightly organized boxes, papers, stuff, etc. Definitely no place for neat freaks or proper Englishmen. The plain white walls were unceremoniously festooned with posters and photos of cars not unlike my own bedroom, mostly Cobras and other Fords. This was a place to get things done. I could relate to the whole vibe of the place--a business where the seriousness of fun was serious indeed.

There was a lot of unremembered detail that passed in those minutes. Being a small organization, all of the S-A workers--drivers and mechanics alike--had secondary duties such as office drudgery and sales. It was the only way to keep things rolling... no pun intended... the automotive DIY ethic. Our more than gracious host kept things interesting, answered a number of questions and plied me with the coveted materials--decals, promotional photos, brochures, printed stuff, the works. It was damned exciting even just being in the financial section of the business. But it was nothing compared to being in the presence of snakes.

I had grown up a fan of old Little Rascals movies and one of my favorite episodes was when these kids had fashioned themselves a makeshift taxicab pushed by a donkey harnessed to the rear of the vehicle. The animal (oddly named "Algebra") was motivated by a feedbag of oats just ahead of it in what would normally be the trunk. Those kids knew the mathematics of motion. The lid on the feedbag mechanism was Rube Goldberg'ed to a "gas" pedal. If they wanted more speed they applied more feed. Need to stop? Just ease off and close the lid. It was simple elementary physics. Spanky, of course, was the driver, the kid cabby from hell, and skibble-headed Stymie sat beneath the hood making engine sounds to lend an air of realism to the operation. When his "Mammy" asked what he and the rest of de chillun were up to Stymie proudly answered, "We'ze got an AUTEE-MOBILE and I is the FLOATIN' POWER!"

There was no substitute for being in the engine room, at least under the hood and in the presence of forces that converted ideas to motion. Of all things that can be said about universal principles the transference of energy is primary. Never mind the roar of rushing attractions or the smell of combustible elements, this is where particles advance pushing relentless realities one against the other, pros vs. cons, a banked track of super-collision pitting gravity against centrifugal dynamics. In this arena a spinout is just a small distraction to momentum's sleight of hand, a mere temporary condition. Without resistant physical planes there can be no gravity and in the absence of this realm torque and power are but ideas stripped of meaning. This would sadly leave Archimedes' screw a mere abstraction and the wrench a laughable daydream.

By this time our host had invited us to the rear of the office area where he casually unlocked a door and the gateway opened. Dorothy may have gotten conked on the head in a tornado and Alice may have tripped down the rabbit hole but I just walked straight ahead through a passage that lead into a dimming nest of deep magic. Beyond that threshold a different kind of air seemed to pull me forward not unlike a gasoline-scented suction drawing me into a manifold, into the abyss of a powerful cylinder. Not to explode, but to incredibly consider the vortex.

There is a certain quality of light that infuses this time of day and illuminates the march toward night and darkness but Man persistently allows himself to be fooled by it. Our senses being the grandest tricks of nature, Hide and Seek is a game most successfully played when the elements of Time and Space are revealed in the light of silence. The trick here is that brightness slants lower across our designated firmament of time. As the day carries onward light reflects less and less upon the direct, exposed surfaces of midday and more upon the deep shadows that have thus far been hidden by the light itself. Let the rational among us disagree but it is the fool who believes that mystery does not constantly surround us. And, in the seeking, it is especially this fool who cannot recognize the depths within which those mysteries hide.

And there they were. Cobras! Two potent, sleeping rows of them in various states of assembly, some hoods up, some hoods down, a few hoists hovering above hoodless engine bays. They faced off across a concrete-floored aisle in an idle workshop where no tool stirred. Some engines and transmissions scattered about in a deceptively random array. If chaos and organization had an immutable order, this garage was a perfect example of the very concept. 'Twas years before computerized diagnostics. 'Twas a time when mechanics and drivers alike, like industrial midwives, relied upon their ears and sense of touch and that thing called "seat-of-the-pants" as the sole informants to all that was right or wrong with their cars. And here, belied by the stony precision with which these snakes were arranged within their pit, their lethalness was a force implied. This was the heart of the nest, where heartbreak itself was built, honed and sharpened like poisonous teeth. Let the charmer beware and let the tool wielder not be faint of heart when all that was hidden is found.

There is always the failure of words and words fail me only slightly less 45 years later. Time pretends to stand still but it doesn't, really. It did slow incredibly as to burn its fleeting essence deep into my giddy, awe-struck memory. Frame after frame of kinetic images frozen in the grand emotion of the sun's rays angling lower, ever lower through the building's casement windows. The menacing forms of these aluminum-shelled reptiles seemed to taunt all who would challenge them. At any moment one or all of them could mercilessly awaken and spring forward to bite and to kill, and woe betide the hapless victim in the reflection of the predator's eye. Of all this I was aware. Then, suddenly and magnificently, the white body of the original prototype vehicle revealed itself. Perhaps the rarest of all Shelby-American creations, it still brandished the seminal AC-styled logo atop its snout. No punning intended, but if it had been a literal snake... I'd have been literally dead by then. It had been sitting undetected immediately to my right and with that discovery I realized that the bucks--yes, the original plywood bucks!--for the Daytona coupe were just a few feet away from it!

Such treasures.

Meanwhile, a room full of Cobras. Quietly waiting.

Bringing me back to a more mundane reality, our host suggested that he really needed to shut things down and get home. Unfortunately, I understood, yet I could have stayed there for a much longer time if not forever. But he needed to do one more thing, an important thing, before splitting the scene. "Wanna go for a ride?" he asked.

Still in a bit of a daze from it all, I mumbled, "Huh?"

"I need to put away that car out in the parking lot," he said.

This was the proverbial no-brainer. I don't remember exactly how I responded to this man's invitation but I think my dad interjected something and I think he smiled a bit as we were whisked away from the depths of the snake pit. Doors closed and locked, I had a firm grip on my souvenirs, and we were once again in the bright California sunlight standing next to the bright, white Cobra 289 roadster. Within seconds I was seated in the black leather passenger seat and belted in. The man in the deceptive brown suit settled into position behind the wheel and it suddenly became obvious that the spartan interior of this car was his true business office. A purposeful turn of the key brought the beast to throbbing, rumbling life and I was fully aware that there was not much distance between my ass and the vibrating exhaust pipe directly beneath me. To my right there was only a thin skin of lightweight metal shielding me from the elements. To my left, a short gearshift lever with a hand upon it, calmly evaluating the lumpy rpm's.

I was never one to raise my arms in the air whilst riding the roller coaster and I had no intention of such actions at this important moment. Such actions are reserved for amateurs and this, I knew, was one damned important roller coaster. Lore was that a most effective demonstration of this car's potential was for the S-A salesman/driver to place a crisp Ben Franklin note on the forward side of the windscreen, directly ahead of the prospective buyer in the passenger seat. If, at any point during that ride, the passenger was able to reach over the top of the glass and grab the bill, he could keep it. Dreams being free, Mr. Shelby apparently lost no money to flights of fancy.

After a minute the engine smoothed down to a solid idle and, as soon as the clutch let out and engaged reverse gear, I could just about tell what I was in for. Well, hell! I had read everything I could about the car and, sure, I relished every anticipatory second of this adventure even though we hadn't gotten close to the street yet! I wondered how astronauts felt before liftoff. Upon shifting into first gear I could sense every tight muscle that made this fire-breathing sled the beast it undoubtedly was. But still, I really wasn't prepared. Uh-uh. When we tautly traversed the edge of the driveway and injected ourselves onto the open blacktop, all previous reality fell away and, with an instantaneous rush of complete sticky traction, any doubts I could ever have had about being raised under the Blue Oval vanished rather quickly. was over, ignition had been executed, liftoff had commenced and the race was on.

Never once lighting up the rear tires, that first left turn threw me to the right and, just as quickly, pushed me rearward under the g-force of an acceleration that shot us toward the end of the short block. As if acting out a joke, a familiar red sign came running toward us maniacally and an intersection was following close behind and neither seemed intent upon stopping. But at the last possible second they both did as I was thrown forward against the restraining harness under the all-powerful grab of the big Girling disc brakes at each wheel. No rubber screeching, and then we were still. At that moment I realized that no, the gearshift lever had never moved and I don't think I had breathed. I had glanced at the speedometer during that flight while the rpm's wound up impossibly and the needle indicated 60 mph. And we never got out of first gear.

There was no one out on these streets. It wasn't residential and perhaps the nearest moving vehicle was half a mile away and the only structures blocking visibility were low wooden signs hawking acreage for sale. Another whipping left turn and we slammed into the long block--maybe a full quarter mile of straightaway--and this time the man in the brown suit shifted into second. Once again, a stop sign threw itself at us in a futile gesture of authority. Given the longer street, this time the acceleration was truly serious and it would have been crazy to even of trying to push myself forward to touch the windshield. With the engine wound out to the redline, and feeling like it could still wind out farther, I was a bit unnerved to see a defiant 100 mph showing on the speedo before the brakes instantaneously brought us to a matter-of-fact standstill. Not once was the gearshift lever pushed to third.

We threw ourselves onto another lusty short block and then the final straight where, for just a fleeting second, third gear edged us gently past the century mark and then, sadly, we made our reentry and slowed back to the parking lot where my dad and the family Galaxie waited. I disembarked, my legs a little shaky to hit the ground again, and watched the beast as it growled away to the rear of the brick factory and disappeared. The buoyant little machine had barely broken a sweat. A minute later our host walked back to bid us goodbye and I realized that I hadn't learned his name. He apologized for this oversight of formality and said, "I'm Bob. Bob Bondurant."

I may have tried to be cool and reserved at this point but more than likely my mouth dropped open and I stood there like an idiot, my mind racing with all the questions that it was too late to ask. There was really no more to be said at that point. I knew that he was one of Shelby's top team drivers along with guys like Dave McDonald, Ken Miles, Bob Holbert and the legendary Dan Gurney. I had not just been in the presence of a king, I had been given a ride on his magic carpet. These are the things boyhood dreams are made of and, at the risk of sappily quoting the Bard himself, the rest is silence.

Image sources: shelby american cobra/mustang guide; sports car graphic—september, 1984; road & track—april, 1985, and the following websites: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of London correspondent Steve Beeho...

Jay Hinman has posted a 78 (or maybe even 77) San Francisco zine in pdf which is, er, very much of its time. (I mean that in a good way). Contributors included Peter Urban and James Stark.

Here's the 14th January 1978 edition of Billboard which was its "new wave" special. (The very same month that the Nervous Breakdown session was recorded, unless I'm very much mistaken). A strangely fascinating time capsule - I'm impressed that they were hip to Slash, the Germs etc and even spoke to Pat Garrett from Dangerhouse. And the suggestion that Dangerhouse's approach would revolutionise the packaging for 7"s proved to be spot-on!

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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, May 11, 2010

Issue #45 (May 12, 2010)

Sheep Mountain, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Tale of the White Snake, Part I


Once upon a time... when automobiles in America had big, muscular engines and gasoline was cheap, cheap and plentiful, I was a budding teenager who had discovered hot rod magazines and custom cars. Yeah, typical boy stuff in the early 1960s. At the risk of alienating most readers should I say now that I came from a Ford family? Yep. This, even though there were tales of my dad once owning a Buick either before I was spawned or before I had any memory skills. All I remember is having Fords back in the day when that marque had the distinctive red, white and blue, tri-lion crest.

The first family Ford was the blue '52, of which I have limited memories, but I'll never forget that the front bench-style seat had an ashtray installed in the center of its rear face for the benefit of backseat passengers. Which leads me to think it was a four-door model. I'm pretty sure it also had one of those pull-ropes hanging in a shallow arc from left to right. But damned if I have any way of knowing whether it had a 6- or 8-cylinder engine and, at this late date, since both my parents have gone to the great drive-in in the sky, any way of finding

I definitely remember the white '56 Victoria coupe and with it the keen anticipation my sister and I had upon its arrival. Perhaps, and rightfully so, my first memory of large material acquisition. Kneeling on the couch gazing out the living room window, we peered into the darkness awaiting the bright headlights that would pull into our driveway the evening my dad traded in the '52 for the brand new family coach. Let's go for a ride!! And a cool, classic ride it was! With that smart looking front end, sexy hooded single beam headlamps, chrome jet-styled hood ornament and similarly sculptured side adornment that swept back to those round cat-like taillight lenses, this was a vehicle that, stylistically, easily outdistanced Chevrolet's offering that year. Not exactly a hot rod, the '56 Vicky was a sporty two door hardtop model with a turquoise interior, padded dash and a 292 Y-block V-8 under the hood. And I think it was in the back seat of this car where I met one of my first musical epiphanies. On a Sunday drive, whilst passing beneath some high power electrical lines, the AM radio played Toni Fisher's hit "The Big Hurt"--perhaps the first commercial recording featuring the flanging effect. And there was an otherworldly static induced by those power lines. A memory I'll never forget.

Also I think this was the car my mom learned to drive in. It was an era when women in general were coming to terms with being somewhat equal citizens and 1950s rock & roll stars were, in general, musically tearing down the traditional sexual and automotive barriers. Heady times for popular American culture. But being that there were now two drivers in the family there would eventually have to be two cars. So after some
ado, we became the classic two-car family. And though we only had a one-car garage at the time we quickly added the classic carport for the second vehicle. But I digress.

We jumped into two-car familydom with a sky blue '58 Fairlane 500. This was one of the two odd years between 1952 and 1964 when Ford's full-sized model was designed without their then trademark round taillights (the other year was 1960). The '58 had two pairs of oval-shaped tail lamps horizontally arranged within a sculpted nacelle. This perhaps a design concession to that year being the first to offer twin headlamps up front--an evolutionary standard most carmakers adopted that year. But there were fins! Very much the same style and proportion as those on the '57 model year but yes, there were fins! The front end, with a faux hood scoop and "gunsight" ornaments on the fenders above its dual beam eyes, had that classic forward gazing look. We were chasing that damned Sputnik and, though we hadn't realized it yet, the success of Explorer I would blaze the path that would eventually take us to the moon. And soon all the Russkies would see were this car's four taillights blazing away from them under the power of its big block 352 V-8. YeeFuckingHaw!

But this particular automobile was not just any F500. Ours was one of the prized hardtop convertibles, the model that was also referred to as the "retractable." Via a well designed system of electric motors, gears and geometry, this baby could dramatically flip its rooftop up, up, rearward and down into its awaiting trunk cavity whose lid had just as dramatically raised itself like a space age clamshell. Then the lid would lower itself and batten down to conceal its robotic pearl. With a minimum of muss and fuss but with a maximum of ooohs and aaahs, the driver of this vehicle could then carry onward into the promising sunlight or moonlight of open air touring! These were the days when a good AM radio was all the average person needed for his or her motoring soundtrack (unless you happened to be one of those damned 1950s intellectuals who liked either classical music or post-bebop jazz; then you got the AM/FM option).

Despite Chevrolet's grand pioneering of the small block V8 concept, it was this model's 352cid powerplant that ultimately became the high-performance charger that set the stage for Ford's near domination of NASCAR racing in the early 60s.* In other words, this sucker could get up and move if it needed to. I learned this on an otherwise uneventful nighttime family excursion. My father, upon hearing a wronged woman scream "HE STOLE MY PURSE!" and immediately seeing the crook running between cars and heading for the darkness of the next side street, jammed the pedal to the metal and gave chase, screeching around the corner and flying into the face of uncertainty. An ex-WWII pursuit pilot, something snapped in him and he once again had a powerful P-51 Mustang strapped to his ass. I'm sure late 1950s family life could make a warrior feel unsatisfied but, damn!, the bogey ducked between houses and got away. I'm sure my mom later gave him a domestic piece of her mind about "needlessly" endangering the family. Ouch!

At least, as attested to by a couple of decades worth of motoring songs, American manufacturers were fully capable of building steeds that a man could depend on. Witness the longevity of Ford's classic flathead V8 as both a motor for the modern Everyman and as a platform for pure hot rodding pleasure. And without belittling Chevy's aforementioned OHV effort, there's just too much high performance history to sniff at there. It was another 352 that purred underneath the hood of the next family coach, a classy, white 1964 Galaxie 500XL "fastback" hardtop with front bucket seats and the sporty center console languishing between them. Yep, by this time Ford was fully into proving its mettle through racing (whereas, notwithstanding some otherwise awesome powerplants, GM wasn't**) and this year's model was once again outrunning the Pontiacs and Chevys on the oval tracks of NASCAR. But wait... by this time the Dearborn firm had created a more than worthy competitor to Chevy's iconic pony V8.

In 1962--following extensive development in the late 1950s--and within a newly mid-sized chassis, Ford introduced the legendary Fairlane V8. Originally all of 221 cubic inches, this well engineered short stroke animal was fleshed out to 260cid in '63 and also thrown beneath the hood of the Falcon's Sprint model, a successful transplant which formed the basis of 1964's landmark Mustang. The rest would be history, and perhaps the cry in Detroit was "Let the pony parade begin!"*** Regardless, the cry in Indianapolis the previous year was "Gentlemen, start your engines!" when a couple of highly modified and maxxed out (albeit slightly debored) 260s were dropped into a pair of Colin Chapman's lightweight Lotus 29 chassis--behind the driver! god forbid!--to dramatically kick USAC racing into the future.

It was this stalwart 260 which powered the '64 Falcon Futura which my dad drove home within weeks of purchasing the above-mentioned Galaxie. Two car family, remember? And this gun metal grey "fastback" with the red interior and full bench seat was the perfect car for my mom and, I think, both parental units had taken this into consideration since my sister had just come of driving age and I would quickly follow. Yes, this was the car in which I learned to drive. Cleverly considered an economy car, the Falcon could have been potent. Even with an automatic transmission and stock tuned 2-barrel engine, this was a vehicle that really wanted to giddy up and join the rest of the ponies out on the range. Listening to the musical throb of its single exhaust was enough to make one want to put on their driving gloves and grab the reins. Too bad it was eventually rear-ended whilst parked in front of the house. Hit and run. In broad daylight. A brutal, insulting end. Drat! Otherwise I'm certain that it would have been bequeathed to me.

Then, of course, there was Carroll Shelby and the Cobra--the real story for which these ruminations are written. Perhaps the finest example of Ford small block muscle flexing, this was the car that put all bets off. Mr. Shelby, retired from race driving, had a dream. He wanted to kick Ferrari's ass. At that time the Italian team pretty much had top end grand prix, sports and GT racing sown up and the Texan couldn't stand to see the polite English racers their only serious competition. Sure, there were Corvettes you could put on the track but, even with a great engine, they were heavily unsophisticated in the handling department and no match for a well bred sports racing machine. And, as mentioned earlier, GM was not a supporter of racing (we can only imagine if they had been•). As yet, there was no viable American alternative to take the field so Shelby knew he'd need to build one somehow. In a nutshell, certain elements of fate would intervene:

Element #1-- the Ford Motor Company had made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase Ferrari in early 1963; they wanted a coveted piece of the "world domination via racing" pie. But in a classic example of tempermental Italian middle-fingered arrogance, Signore Enzo pulled out of the deal.

Element #2-- in 1962 the new Fairlane V8 had shown a lot of promise as a high performance platform.

Element #3-- there was the matter of AC Cars, a British concern that built a roadster called the Ace, a beautiful, lightweight sports car. It had great handling characteristics but had suddenly lost its supply of engines.

Element #4-- did I mention that Shelby had a dream?

Kindred conspiracies, perhaps, but at this point the FoMoCo crew was about to get snubbed by the prancing horsemen of Maranello and good ol' American Pride was at stake. Soooo a good ol' American combination of ingenuity, speculation and sheer bluster took over and in walked Lady Luck singing a chorus of "Hey, Big Spender!" and the payoff was big time. One story suggests that, without either company knowing the other hadn't been spoken to about it, Shelby "conned" both Ford and AC into believing his dream was a done deal. Another story insists that negotiations were on a much more "above board" order. Either way, the guys in Dearborn shipped him a couple of small blocks and the blokes in Thames Ditton shipped him a chassis and body. Sweet! And much can be written about how the fledgling company then created, tested and promoted this first prototype but here it's prudent to consider it as a dramatic math lesson. Shelby simply added one and one and came up with way, WAY more than two. The Cobra proved to be a winner in no uncertain terms.

The first production version was powered by a high performance 260--cam, solid lifters, headers, 4-barrel--pumping out an even 260 horses that, in street tune, easily pulled about 5 seconds•• in 0-60 acceleration tests. STREET tune, mind you. Its minimal spaceframe construction and aluminum body allowed it to tip the scales at slightly more than 2000 pounds dripping wet (a Corvette weighed in at about 3200 lbs). Underneath its skin was a unique suspension system which featured lower A-arms and, serving double duty as the upper member, a hefty transverse mounted leaf spring. Aside from the requisite shock absorbers and sway bars, that's all there was. Primitive, simple and effectively giving the car a handling characteristic not unlike a mega-Flexy Flyer. Some drivers more eloquently described how it "handled like a ballet dancer." By late '63 Ford had punched out their engine to 289 inches... and that's when things really got interesting.

By this time the Cobra was tearing up the tracks in SCCA racing,
dominating A Production and consistently showing it's taillights to Sting Rays, E-type Jaguars and all manner of Porsches. This is not to mention one of these animals, in '63, taking first in class and an impressive seventh overall in the 24 hours of Le Mans. It's easy to conjecture that Ferrari was already feeling the virtual bruises on its haughty Italian behind. Cutting to the chase, Shelby-American had created a monster. And, by 1964, had upped the ante by building both the highly successful Cobra Daytona Coupe for GT competitions and the King Cobra, a rear-engined, Cooper-bodied Sports/Racer that solidified the legend. And, wouldn't ya know it, this is not to mention Shelby's invaluable help in creating the first Ford GT-40 which, by 1966, pretty much beat the pants off any other GT racing machine on the European circuit.

I'd say that the Texan had achieved his dream. But, once again, I digress.

As I stated early on, hot rod fare was de riguer for the average teenager in the early 60's and this beautiful little American hot rod happened to be manufactured within mere miles of where my family lived at the time. The Shelby-American plant was located on some undeveloped acreage in the middle of what was once swampland in Venice, California; not very far at all from the old Hughes Aircraft plant where Howard had built the legendary Spruce Goose. For some reason SoCal's post-WWII landscape not only invited real estate developers but also, and perhaps more significantly, encouraged Oddballs and Beat-Gennies to erect their "freak flags" ala coffeehouse cool, pinstriped ethical, flamed surfboard, the Dodgers have left Brooklyn and come here! Ecstasy! WOW! So why shouldn't a rabid Texan establish a foothold in the middle of a cultural hotbed of ideas that was already infecting the rest of the nation's sensibilities? It couldn't have been a better time and California was full of both dreamers and doers.

I lived in a second-story bedroom on the northwest back corner of our house. This room had two windows, one that unceremoniously faced the house next door and the other that faced rearward to the low hills that separated my immediate world from my world of dreams. Beyond those hills was a hazy lowland that stretched westward to the Pacific Ocean and southward to what was becoming LA International Airport. The Red Line, LA's fabled light rail transit system, was gone but there were a few wide, open roads left over from the 1930s and '40s before automobiles were mandatory for 20th-century Angelenos. These asphalt ribbons plied through the then sparsely populated landscape which led to a magnificently undervalued--unless you were a surfer--shore break. At the age of thirteen it was impossible for me to break out and go easily to this world but on cool nights I would lay in bed and be bathed by the breezes which found their way inland and through that rear portal. Like any teenager worth his salt, I ran down many batteries listening to the clandestine transistor radio that wirelessly connected me to the outside. Tunes like Nelson Riddle's "Route 66" and Chuck Berry's "No Particular Place To Go" were already magical anthems but in the dark, midnight hours both the moving air and the moving airwaves made those tunes and those moments priceless. If only it were me motoring around in the moonlight, engine thrumming, wind in my face and hair, driving toward the heart of this or any other Life!

Continued here...


*In 1960 the 352 pumped out a solid 360 horsepower with a high-rise manifold/hot cam configuration making it a more than formidable competitor on the NASCAR circuit. It was this FE-series engine that evolved into the potent 390, 406 and legendary 427 powerplants.

**In 1957 the Automobile Manufacturers Association imposed a ban on factory involvement in motor racing. For the most part, GM honored it and, thus, Chevy was officially out of such activities. The exception was the Pontiac division which "leaked" their 389 and 421 "Tri-Power" big blocks to independent teams who cleaned up on NASCAR tracks in 1961 and 1962. Ford simply ignored the ban in 1962. Chrysler Corp. was quick to follow Ford's lead.

***The muscle parade had already amped up with (yes, once again) Pontiac's infamous grand theft of Ferrari's GTO designation. And perhaps mention should be made of GM's classic 215cid BOP (Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac) V-8 which, though not generally considered a high-performance engine, did find its way into the chassis of a 1962 Indy 500 entry.

•A little know n fact is that Shelby did approach GM seeking engines but Chevrolet balked at the idea of creating competition against its own Corvette.

••Acceleration times of the 289 Cobra are controversial at best. I have seen published 0-60 figures ranging from 4.2 to 6.8 seconds. It's worth taking into consideration that early tests with leaded gasoline would be noticeably faster.


Uncaptioned Photos: '52 Ford; '56 Ford showroom; '64 Galaxie; '64 Falcon

Image sources: shelby american cobra/mustang guide; sports car graphic—september, 1984; road & track—april, 1985; and the following websites: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8

Attack of the Carpet-Munchers
by Carolyn Heinze

Banques renflouées. État complice. Qu’est-ce qui est le plus morale ? Créer une banque ou l’attaquer ?* Doesn’t it all put you in a May 1968 situationist state-of-mind? Situationally speaking?

Under the cobblestones, the beach! Power is corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely! Pas de replâtrage; la structure est pourrie ! No re-plastering – the structure’s rotten! C’mon people now, smile on your brother . . . and gather up your banners and banderoles and blowhorns and blowhards and let’s manifest a good, old-fashioned French manifestation !! Allez, camarades !!!

Soyons cruels.
Let’s be cruel.

Ahem. O.K. sure, all right, fine . . . a bailed-out bank is much like Gothic churches in France: Seen one – you’ve seen ’em all. And a bank that cooks its books or invests in questionable investments or makes shaky-speculative speculations speculating on shaky-real real estate markets or a bank owned mainly by the public that uses public funds with the help of public officials in making its shaky-speculative real real estate-related speculations . . . well that’s all old hat, too. So looking back, back to the bon vieux temps, back to 1992, it’s no real shaky surprise that le Crédit Lyonnais (since re-branded with appropriately-adequate acronym appreciation as LCL . . . what’s up with M.B.A.s and their near cult-like adoration of acronyms?) almost went belly up. As in bankrupt. And that the guy who was France’s Director of Treasury (Jean-Claude Trichet, said like it’s spelled, ‘Tree-shay,’ just like you say ‘tricher,’ which, in funnily-enough French infinitive verb form means ‘to cheat’) got off scott-free for helping said near-belly-up-bankrupt bank cook the books? After that he moved on to become the Director of the Bank of France. He’s president of the European Central Bank now. Has been for the last seven years. In 2007, the Financial Times named him Person Of The Year. For his lickity-split Blackberry-bolstered super-vite reaction to the subprime crisis. You know, the one involving real estate. (He called a meeting! A video-conference! In August! From the beach! As soon as he heard that all hell had broken loose! And the meeting/video-conference he called happened a mere 45 minutes later! That Trichet, he really earns his 340,000 some-odd euros a year. Formidable !) (Is it juste moi, or next to entertainment journalists are financial scribes the biggest star-fuckers going?)

Basically, he robbed Peter to pay Paul. Trichet/tricher did, that is. Allegedly-then-case-dismissedly. In 1992, le Crédit Lyonnais showed a loss of 1.8 billion francs instead of a loss of 45 billion. Something about diluting and disseminating and distributing and dissimulating losses, illegally, from one year to the next. (I’ve never been good at cooking, beans or beets or books or otherwise, so it’s all a little confusing to little petite moi.) And neither was Trichet, as history would have it, because the bank was pretty much charred — actually literally charred, at least its Paris headquarters was, when in 1996 a mysterious unfortunate accidental fire literally actually burned and conveniently cooked and pretty much roasted the books. For pretty much the rest of the decade, the bank accumulated losses as fast as a short-order cook accumulates grease burns, and by 1998 the European Commission had placed le Crédit Lyonnais in bankruptcy proceedings. A year later the French government started privatizing it, and in 2003 Trichet, as mentioned, got off scott-free.

So he got away with being involved in one of the country’s biggest scandals involving one of the country’s biggest near-bankrupt banks, a bank that was nearly, at the time, almost all owned by the State, by which he was all-employed all along. Because this is France, and in France, everyone loves a good-ol’ bon français. And this being France, everyone knows that in France the top-de-chez-top, the best-of-the-best, la crème de la crème, les meilleurs des bons français all go to lycée Condorcet and then to Sciences-Po and then to that best-of-the-best, cream of the crop, top-de-chez-top formateur of France’s financial and business and political and presidential and sub-presidential parliamentary posse, l’École nationale d’administration. (It’s got an acronym, too: ENA. That’s l’ÉNA en français.) And when you go to lycée Condorcet and then to Sciences-Po and then to l’ÉNA/ENA and then to a few well-placed places in between you can get away with stuff. Lots of stuff. Lots of stuff that lots of other people can’t. Lots of stuff that affects lots of less-lavish middle-and-lower tax-bracketed un-tax-havened lives. Beaucoup de stuff, merci very much. Beaucoup.

Just ask Bernard Tapie. Said like it’s spelled: Tap-ee. Kinda the same way you say tapis in French, which means ‘carpet.’ And lemme tell you, when it comes to le Crédit Lyonnais – the since 2005 appropriately-acronymed LCL – in some judiciously judgmental jurisdictions, Tapie got called up on the carpet. And plain munched. Or, depending on how you see it, damn near eaten alive.

Here’s the thing: Bernard Tapie is the French equivalent of a rags-to-riches story, what the French refer to as a ‘self-made man.’ (Accent français obligatoire.) When it comes to self-made men, France is a little limited, mainly mostly because you need a diploma to do anything around here, mainly mostly, and even if you have one or two or five of them they only really ever roll out the red carpet for you if you’re from the right family and have the right friends and went to the right schools and put the right State-owned bank in the wrong position of going nearly-mainly-mostly bankrupt. But Bernard Tapie superceded this, at least nearly-mainly-mostly except for the mainly-nearly going mostly bankrupt part, because he has what Forbes and Fortune and the Financial Times and Fast Company and every star-fucking financial scribe out there would call the entrepreneurial spirit. There are a few of them around here, at least one or two or five, that actually have one. An entrepreneurial spirit, that is. Until it’s properly, correctly, according to the famous French règle de l’art, broken. Or until said spirit hauls ass and moves to the U.S. of A. Where they’re properly, famously, ferociously, surely, certainement most bienvenue.

Anyway. Tapie’s racket back in the day was televisions, back in the day when not every French household had one. This was back in the day when not every French household could afford one, either, but that was O.K. because back in the day Tapie would let the TVs out on loan for just a week or two . . . long enough for said households to decide that they really, surely, most certainly couldn’t – c’est pas possible ! – not afford one. From there he moved on, on to buying up dying companies, and he made a lot of money. And there was some stuff before and some other stuff after and a lot of stuff in between, like an album of chanson française or two and then a stint on a fictitious police series and some time in a real jail, a gig as a TV host, a number of parts in a number of plays . . . and he started his own B-school, the Tapie School of Sales (not sure if he’s into acronyms like the M.B.A.’s) . . . and he dabbled in politics, too, even started his own party, the left-wing pro-scrappy-blue-collar-bootstrapping Energie Sud, before moving over to the Mouvement des radicaux de gaucheat the urging of then-President François “Machiavelli” Mitterrand, who for the 1994 European elections didn’t want his own Socialist party prime minister and rival to succeed, and therefore saw Tapie as a tool to divvy up the left-wing vote. (It worked.) Oh and then there was that time he presided over that football team, the one down in Marseille, l’Olympique de Marseille it’s called (or just ‘OM’ for short) . . . and then there were boats and LCL (that’s le Crédit Lyonnais)-sponsored loans and tax-evasions and court trials and charges of corruption and book-cooking and football-match-making and cheating and carrying on . . . Well, carrying on the way mainly-mostly-nearly all men at that level carry on during the daily course of le business. No matter their pedigree. Only it depends on what your actual pedigree is if you ever actually hafta see your day in court. Or your days in court. Or how many times you’re called into court. Or what happens to you once you’re in court. Or if you ever really actually ever get to go to jail. It depends, ya know? Depending.

And then there was that time Tapie bought Adidas.

He bought Adidas, back in the days of the deutschmark and franc, back in 1990, for the equivalent of 244 million euros. (These days, that’s about $325 million américain...nearly enough to start a Nike sweatshop!) Two years later, for Bernard business was bad, he was over-extended, he had bills to pay, a few Crédit Lyonnais loan payments to fulfill, and so he put it back up for sale at a relatively modest profit of 317 million euros (that’s $420 million U.S.D. — for that you could scoop up a Nike sweatshop that’s Made in the U.S.A.). A year after that, an obscure group of investors snapped Adidas up at the bargain-basement price of 315,5 million euros (how many million greenbacks? about 418 . . . enough to cover the child labor-related bribes . . . ). Some months later, circa 1994, they turned around and sold it for 700 million. Euros. That’s $925 million. Uncle Sam Wants You! Just Do It!

It was enough to raise ol’ Bernie’s bushy eyebrows. He started asking questions. Who the hell were these obscure investors, really, anyway? Among them? None other than the nearly belly-up-bankrupt as-yet-to-be-re-branded LCL. You know, the bank who had issued his loans. The bank that was owned by the State. The bank that was owned by the State which is supposed to be owned by the People.

I don’t know about you, but I agree with Bernard Tapie for getting really, rightly, rapidly, ravenously, reeaaallly rightfully pissed off.

Here’s how it all went down:

A series of court dates. Like about 16 year’s worth. In 1994, the Tribunal de commerce de Paris places Tapie in liquidation judiciare. In the summer of 1995, he demands that le Crédit Lyonnais pay him 229 million euros – less than the difference that he missed out on on the Adidas sale. In November of 1996 the Tribunal de commerce de Paris orders the bank to pay Tapie 91,5 million euros in damages. A bunch of stuff in between, mainly involving lawyers and solicitors and barristers and paralegals and mainly mostly especially their fees . . . and then in November of 2004 an appeals court authorizes a mediation between Tapie and the State (since at the time of le scandale le Crédit Lyonnais was owned by the State) so they can arrive at an amicable agreement. September 2005: An appeals court orders le Crédit Lyonnais to pay Tapie 234 million euros in damages. The appeal is overturned the following year. Then in 2007 the State hired a special commission to clean up the whole bordel. Wanna know what happened in 2008? That same commission ordered CDR (the umbrella group under which le Crédit Lyonnais now stood) to pay Tapie not 91,5, not 234, but 285 million euros. Two, two hundred-and-eighty-five meeelliiion euros (cue blinking lights) ah ah ah! Point barre.

And get this: Because the French government owned le Crédit Lyonnais when the whole Adidas thing went down, Tapie’s pay-out, and the retainers held by all of those solicitors and barristers and lawyers and paralegals who counseled le Crédit Lyonnais and the State came from the State’s coffers. You know, the ones filled by those less-lavish middle-and-lower tax-bracketed un-tax-havened taxpayers. I don’t know about you, but I agree with those taxpayers for being really rapidly, rightfully-ravenously, really really reeaallly pissed off.

O.K., sure, all right, fine: In the end, Tapie only got to keep about 30 million. The bills and credit charges and late fines and legal fees and paralegal fees just ate up everything else. And all right, sure, O.K., fine: After 16 years in court, you gotta admit that he kinda sorta earned it. Or, well, kinda sorta bought it: 2007 was the year that Sarko was elected, after all. And he was French President in 2008 — still is now, because he’s just one of those guys who doesn’t know when to go the fuck away. And it’s true that Tapie supported the little shrimp . . . publicly . . . profusely . . . as one might with a fellow non-pedigreed non-graduate of the l’ÉNA/ENA. In the end, admittedly, you gotta admit, that in the end what Tapie did with the whole supporting Sarko thing made pragmatic, realistic, logistic, common synergistic sense.

There’s one more thing. Le Crédit Lyonnais’ slogan in 1994, around the time that it was secretly buying up athletic products companies while going nearly-mainly-almost all belly-up and bankrupt? Votre banque vous doit des comptes. That’s French for “Your Bank Owes You Something.”


*"What’s more moral? Creating a bank or attacking one?"

•Photo by Bart Bull (Banques renflouées. État complice.: Bailed-out banks. Accomplice State.) March 15, 2010, outside Le Crédit Lyonnais, re-branded in 2005 as LCL, branch Bonne Nouvelle (literal translation, “Good News”) on boulevard Poissonnière, Paris 9th arrondissement

More on David Lightbourne (1942-2010), The Metropolitan Jug Band, and Portland in the seventies…

Arthur Krim, Cambridge May 1, 2010:

David Lightbourne has suddenly passed from the scene in Laramie, Wyoming on April 30 where he established himself as a prominent roots musician with his group The Stop & Listen Boys. David was more than a musician, he was a keen observer of the American music scene as it developed, from his childhood family’s Breakfast Show on Chicago Radio to his work with the Metropolitan Jug Band in Portland, Oregon and his recent hosting of Sunday at the Buckhorn in Laramie. He had an uncanny ability to remember obscure lyrics and chord changes and was deeply immersed in rural roots and blues from long forgotten records and radio shows. He leaves a legacy of fine music and many friends.


Goose Hollow Blues
by Nicholas Hill

I spent the years 1973-1983 living in the Goose Hollow neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. There were two bars in the area. The venerable Goose Hollow Inn, and the far more funky Leaky Roof. The Leaky Roof was off the beaten track and happened to be one of only places in Portland, Oregon where a 19 year old could hear live music, and even have a beer. They had live music on Wednesdays and the combo that played was known as the Metropolitan Jug Band. Prior to 1981, when MTV in particular brought music from far and wide to the backwaters of Oregon, live music was what people heard. Radio was a joke, as particularly lame heavy metal ruled the FM airwaves. Information flowed in through record stores, and music magazines flown in to Rich's Cigars from all over the UK and New York.

In the early 70's, in this almost undisturbed petri dish of a musical environment there were two types of music that were extremely popular with the locals: Latin jazz as personified by Upepo and Felicidades with the younger dance crowds, and jug band music/30's jazz, which held sway with the folks who could get into the over 21 clubs. Fly By Night Jass Band, Melodius Funk, Puddle City and more were offspring of the legendary PH Phactor Jug Band, which had been one of Portland's more successful contributions to the psychedelic rock era.

The Holy Modal Rounders had landed in Portland in 1970, and took off as one of the biggest draws in the northwest. Their influence was huge on the live music scene, but their Portland era history, alas, is still untold, despite a promising but misguided documentary, which mysteriously all but leaves Portland out of their history, even though the group were a vibrant, working act in the NW much longer than in their east coast years. But I digress…

The Metropolitan Jug Band played weekly at the Leaky Roof in Goose Hollow. I had grown up with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band records looming almost as large as Jimi Hendrix or the Stones. The washtub bass player for The Metropolitan Jug Band was Kweskin's own Fritz Richmond, who had gone on to be a house producer for some of the wilder rock records on Elektra, and seemed to be settled into Portland now. The late Fritz Richmond had the reputation as foremost washtub bassist in the world, and was also the most successful professional jug player. Lo and behold. That was impressive for a young lad like me, at this, the only watering hole funky and slow enough to ignore the age discriminating liquor laws. The rest of the trio was Hugh Frederick on jug, and one David Lightbourne on guitar and vocals. I learned a lot about music on those Wednesday nights, and their sound is engrained in my dna.

These guys were great, and know one knows them. Portland has always been like that. David Lightbourne died last week at his home in Laramie, Wyoming, and I will miss his phone calls. His historical data, filtered through his cracked world was not like any other information coming down any old highway or road. His story is one to seek out.


On DL, Elliott Johnston in the Matter blog.


Outlaw Folk in Seventies Oregon
by Joe Carducci

Portland was a nice, little, unpretentious port town on the Columbia River that had had its great big rock and roll moment when The Wailers, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Sonics and others jumped from the Northwest’s vibrant dancehall circuit to the national charts beginning in 1959 and lasting all through the sixties. “In 1968... rumors spread that between 8,000 and 50,000 hippies were headed to the city” from suddenly drug-desiccated San Francisco, according to Valerie Brown (Oregon Historical Quarterly, Summer 2007). These didn’t show but the city did generate a music scene that featured all the influences of the period, blues, psychedelia, and folk. It wouldn’t have been too unusual for these influences to be politely discrete in local bands such as The PH Phactor Jug Band, Melodius Funk, Nazzare Blues Band, Dan Hicks, Portland Zoo, Sodgimoli Jug Band and others. If so, that surely changed when a small invasion of musicians a couple years older than the hippies began to show up from points east.

David Lightbourne performed with his friend Tom Newman in Iowa while at Grinnell. He spent time in the music scenes of Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles before moving to Eugene Oregon in fall 1969, and then onto Portland in early 1971. David lived with his Iowa friend Warren Calder and their girlfriends while Warren ran what Tom calls “a hippie hangout called Alice’s Restaurant circa 1968-70. Tom writes, “Wherever Warren lived was always the center of activity for everyone he knew.” Dave mentioned years later that the place was crawling with runaway girls. Warren, David, and Tom Wood made runs to Mexico and back; Wood made one too many and was presumed killed as the business got violent.

The city liberalized its restrictive licensing of bars for live music presentation in 1973 and Portland stages quickly filled up with pre-electric blues specialists as Bucks County, Pa., Vermont, and other formerly happening scenes emptied out of talent such as Steve Weber, Robin Remaily, Dave Reisch, Jeffrey Frederick, Jill Gross, Fritz Richmond, Gary Sisco

The Euphoria, The Earth Tavern, The Leaky Roof and other bars were soon showcasing The Holy Modal Rounders, The Clamtones, Michael Hurley, The Metropolitan Jug Band and others. Lightbourne was quoted in the Oregon Journal, “Portland is sort of a refuge for ‘60s folk musicians,” (2.4.1980) and he looked forward to luring Dave Van Ronk next. These guys were just hitting their stride too. They’d been perhaps a bit too green in their first attempts to sound blue or old-timey. Now they were ten-plus years into their music-making. They had all manner of criminal sidelines (drug using of course, but also smuggling, shoplifting, drug-store raiding, arson, and maybe even a crime or two against nature) and hip women to inspire them now, and they really were off-the-rails in formerly tidy, rain-scrubbed little Portland. It was some kind of revolution alright, and though largely acoustic it was metaphysically, if not always musically, a blues-style revolution. It was not dreamy and righteous as in folk-style. The women all shopped at resale shops, wearing what twenties dresses could bear up under the crush in these bars, and the wear-and-tear of strange new sexual customs still then unfolding. David’s girlfriends were often buyers and sellers of these former timber baron estate sale threads. He was in the used records stores and his girlfriend would be in the resale clothing shops.

Before I got to Portland David had lived in either large Victorians split up ten ways, or abandoned houses in the Albina ghetto with no power or water. This music scene was quite unique, for these transplants became the mainstream live music local currency. In Boston and Chicago and elsewhere this kind of acoustic/delta/piedmont/blues/etc. was already being presented as if behind glass in a museum. In Portland these musician-criminals couldn’t help but make the music live again as twenties-style rock and roll. I got to Portland in 1977 and mostly missed it as I wasn’t looking for that. Lightbourne was doing a 1950s rock and roll radio show and that’s the part of his musical brain I was picking as that seemed most relevant to the punk rock I was beginning to deal in. Thank God I did go and see his band a couple times, once at the Leaky Roof and once at a practice in Dearborn’s house, if I remember right.

The hip tavern culture of Portland peaked in the eighties, probably with the election of Goose Hollow Inn bar owner Bud Clark as mayor in 1984. He claimed his crowded “butt-to-belly” bar served 200 kegs of beer a month. The movie Drugstore Cowboy (1989) is based on events committed by friends of these musicians as the drugs and alcohol began to tread on the health of the scene. Lightbourne’s friends were co-stars in the actual nonfiction newspaper coverage; I found a set of clippings in his things of the arrest and the sentencing stories. Portland is a different town now!

It couldn’t last. They each at their own time stopped their drinking or drugging or they died. Some spent time in jail, Dave among them. He almost never drank anything but Coca Cola but he gave up heroin, though he continued to recommend it for depression. Until I read Sisco’s blog I didn’t appreciate what an a-hole I was drinking a beer in front of Michael Hurley. David had a number of friends who disappeared late in life into relationships with women that seemed combo rehab/matrimonies. He referred to these lost souls in the past tense, and described them as having married dominatrices. Dave’s girlfriends over the years were all good-looking, hip and smart but his own troubled childhood meant that he was pitched mightily against fatherhood and so these women left to pair off with more user-friendly men, though many stayed in touch with him. Dave left Portland in the early nineties.

There aren’t too many gaps in my rock book of a size sufficient to embarrass me but my missing this outlaw folk of Oregon is one. And I was so close to it… Dave said the MJB never recorded because Fritz, who’d been on Elektra, advised waiting until a label would put up a budget to record. Dave might have recorded for Delmark in the mid-sixties when he worked at Bob Koester’s Jazz Record Mart; he might have recorded for Adelphi in 1970; nothing panned out until I got The Stop & Listen Boys album together for him in 2000 -- there is a lot of additional recording from the Wyoming era, and maybe one hopes, some from the Portland era. David thought that the Have Moicy! album credited to Michael Hurley/The Unholy Modal Rounders/Jeffrey Fredericks & the Clamtones, was the masterpiece of the scene. There are other good records but something cosmic or chemical lined up for that album, though it was recorded on the east coast and Stampfel rather than Weber is holding down the Rounders franchise on it. It was recorded in two days in July 1975, mixed in three.

Rounder Records was founded in a dorm-room by fans of those first Holy Modal Rounders albums, but they soon got corporate with hammerhead bluesboy George Thorogood and public radio-rock pioneer Bruce Cockburn. And getting used to that kind of cash they got grabby with royalties and publishing on these earlier hand-shake peace-pipe deals they’d once made as if they were mere friends of musicians. In today’s WSJ its reported that Rounder Records has been sold to the Concord Music Group; they’re referred to as an “indie.” …I can hear Dave concur, “Rrriiiiight!”


Tony Hoch on being David Lightbourne’s landlord:

I'm probably an anomaly since I'm not a musician or a music person but we were brought together by our mutual friend Birgit when my basement was open and Dave was looking for a place. I had seen Dave at the Buck and he had read some of my newspaper articles.

First let me say that Dave produced a background noise in the house that I hadn’t given a lot of thought to, but now I miss. He played at all hours. I couldn’t really hear what he was playing, but he played all the time. My limited experience with Taoism and religious practice tells me that the greatest of sages do what they love, do it well, and do it over and over again. Dave was a sage.


Another email sent by David from NYC:

Subject: This Saturday
Date: Wed 01/10/07 02:43 PM

I'm booked out of LaGuardia @ 8:30 AM, arriving DIA at 11:00. That gives me plenty of time to shuttle to Fort Collins, hopefully to the hotel on Prospect. The weather doesn't look great but it looks worse on Friday; all other flights anyday got to Denver after 10 PM. The phone was off again and now we're busy recharging their charming cordlessness. Farrell just sent a short message, didn't try to make any of the gigs, says my e-mails make great reads. They took some good photos at the PDX bash, one in particular of Hurley & Reisch. Hurley looks like he's on a roll. Reisch had the sound-guy do digital 32 tracks off the board but noted that, often, one side of the stage had no idea what the other side was playing. His admonition: "Tapes don't lie". Four fiddles, three washboards, two saxophones.... equals Tennessee Klezmer. Still being billed as Weber's one last chance to resurrect, apotheosize, or take petulance to the mountaintop. Nobody even remembers that he was virtually run out of town as corpses fell on every side. Nor do any of these morons remember Martin & Lewis, Laurel & Hardy.... or even Dan & Connie. Stampfel, meanwhile, has made a bigtime outback comeback.


David’s sister, Priscilla Lightbourne, sends this column published in the Grinnell student newspaper “after his summer at Colby College in Maine. I would guess around 1962-63”. --JC

We should live in the future and not the past. That's the only way to get along. And even those who live for the moment are laggards. They're too close to the dangerous brink of some yesterday. They might slip over the edge and never take out life insurance or sign for time payments on a car.

Besides, we've got to forget the past as if it never happened. As if that couldn't be the way it was. It ought to be like some old and long-time gone October football game that you can forget if you want to - that nobody but the winning quarterback remembers clearly beyond the October chill and some wind whirling leaves on the grandstand steps.

But if you should be sitting by the telephone one night, talking to someone you haven't seen in miles, with some passing remark it can all so quickly return - garbled here and there, but still quietly sinister in its lessons and logic.

There was, once upon a time, a summer, in Maine perhaps, when the evenings were foolish around a piano or drunken in a hall, down a winding gravel road into the damp country night, and at random through the trees.

It all comes back in confused sequence, but the mood's still there, the images of Goethe's wonder under the moonlight's shadow, when all we had to do was wander abroad at midnight in summer jackets zipped halfway, the girl in your hand and pockets of gentle conversation up and down your path.

And if someone could discover how to regain that mood, how to sustain that self-possessing ease - maybe if someone could figure out how those times now gone slipped through our momentarily relaxed fists... Maybe then we'd know what we did then, and what we're probably doing even now, our faceless days before us, our elegant memories all far behind.


David left many short one-or-two page analyses. They don’t actually read like false starts; they seem complete. Some appear to be fictional scenarios. I know that Paul Nelson had him reading Ross Macdonald, and before that he’d gone on a Chester Himes jag. This one I found jotted down -- all caps -- on a bit of paper from a pad swiped from the Hilton -- he’d probably got it locally last summer when visiting Jane at her room in Laramie. --JC

Looking back over decades of dissolution, from reefer to junk, acid to coke, speed to booze and the multiple clap -- his only hope lay in the possibility of all his corporal systems failing in unison, timed to let no malady precede the rest of the pack. In the absence of Aids -- new needles forever -- he’d have to go with a heart attack triggered by multiple malignancies, in the course of simultaneous liver and kidney failures contributing, he wildly fantasized, to a massive brain hemorrhage. Then the band would play ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ and he’d ask for Dylan on his stone:

‘Say Hello to Valerie
Say Hello to Vivian
Send them all my salary
On the waters of oblivion.’


David Lightbourne's Rock and Roll essay; Carducci's fanzine, Options R, 1978


There is now a Friends of David Lightbourne page on Facebook where it’s expected people will tell stories on Dave and post images and news of a Portland memorial event and later a book will appear. I’ve put a few photos, flyers, a presskit pages up; more to come. --JC

The Stooges, “Raw Power”, Hammersmith Apollo, London
by Steve Beeho

I know the purist view of reunions is to run for the hills (as per Hercalitus’s “you can never step in the same river twice”) but I’m a firm believer in not denying myself pleasure when it’s available… and anyway, Heraclitus never had the Stooges playing Raw Power with James Williamson on board to contend with so what did he know.

They were absolutely phenomenal. When the lights dimmed they just strode on and launched immediately into "Raw Power", no milking the audience applause or twiddling with their instruments, just: BLAM!

Although I'd've preferred it if they’d stuck religiously to the original LP running order it made sense for "Raw Power" to kick things off. And anyway, next up was a ferocious "Search and Destroy" and one-two punches don’t get much better than that. Although Steve MacKay played sax on some of the Raw Power songs Williamson totally drowned him out so he didn’t mar them in the way he did on the recent Lille recording that's circulating where his presence sounded just plain wrong. MacKay really came into his own later on though.

Apart from the two obvious ones, the other big highlights were "Shake Appeal" and "Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell", where Williamson was on fire. It reminded me of how when I saw the Velvets the stand-outs were a wigged-out "Some Kinda Love" (of all things) and "Hey Mr. Rain" rather than the obvious classics. And "I Got a Right" was simply spectacular.

Funniest bit was after the (invited) stage invasion for "Shake Appeal", when the audience were vacating the stage and Iggy said to the final straggler “coming up here with glasses takes big balls” . Oh how we laughed (while surreptitiously removing our glasses).

I bet Mike Watt never imagined when the Minutemen were recording Paranoid Time that he’d end up playing "Cock in my Pocket" to thousands of people going mental. What a world.

On the first night they'd ended with "Johanna" (which I would love to have heard them play) but the second night finished with two (!) rousing versions of "Kill City" which was a much better way to end.

Incredible stuff – God knows where Iggy gets his stamina from. I just hope they do get round to immortalising all those lost Stooges songs in the studio – that could/should be stunning.



Suicide played first, performing their first LP. Although I love those first two records I’d never seen them live before and I didn’t enjoy them all that much. It was oppressively loud – I don’t know if this was an attempt to resurrect the confrontational ambience of the Mercer Arts Centre in 1973 but it seemed rather gratuitous in the circumstances. Marty Rev ended half their songs by just smashing his hands on the keyboards over and over again like a petulant child which became increasingly hilarious, although that probably wasn’t the intended effect.

Concert review from the Guardian

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci...

Obituary of the week.

Allen Swift, 1924-2010.

Since the paper of record left out his early Philadelphia home-made local television kids show, "Diver Dan", I must link you to another thrilling episode: "Savage Seaweed” (1961); Swift did all the puppet voices, and I suspect he’s doing Dan himself in this particular episode.


Chris Morris in Variety on Rhino Records temp reopening May 17-31, 1740 Westwood Blvd.


Jack Brewer has uploaded some great stuff to his youtube page. Here’s a track from the last first-era Saccharine Trust gig. Jack writes some background on each clip. If its too much for you click the “less info” button and it just goes away.


Ian Urbina and Justin Gillis and three more reporters reconstruct the drill platform nightmare in the NYT.


Klaus Heymach reviews Tamim Ansary: Destiny Disrupted, history as told by the losers; that’s the Enlightenment for you.


Matthew Kaminski in the WSJ on Ian Johnson’s book, A Mosque in Munich.

The mosque in the title of Mr. Johnson's book is the Islamic Center of Munich. It was founded in 1958 and became a hub of radical Islam in Europe. As Mr. Johnson tells it, American and German governments and several prominent Muslims brought the center to life and competed to control it, playing each off against the other. As Germany and America lost interest, the Muslim Brotherhood emerged triumphant, and Munich turned into a Continental mecca for Muslim activists. The Brotherhood's recently retired "supreme guide," Mahdy Akef, ran the center in the 1980s and, writes Mr. Johnson, "helped drive an unprecedented surge in the organizing of Islam throughout Europe." A planner of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, Mahmoud Abouhalima, frequented the mosque. German terrorist investigators have raided the mosque in more recent years, but never pressed charges.


Fouad Ajami in the WSJ, "Islam’s Nowhere Men".

I think of one Egyptian Islamist in London, a man by the name of Yasser Sirri, who gave the matter away some six years ago: ‘The whole Arab world was dangerous for me. I went to London,’ he observed.

In Egypt, three sentences had been rendered against him: one condemned him to 25 years of hard labor, the second to 15 years, and the third to death for plotting to assassinate a prime minister. Sirri had fled Egypt to Yemen, then to the Sudan. But it was better and easier in bilad al-kufar, the lands of unbelief. There is wealth in the West and there are the liberties afforded by an open society.


NYT’s Chinglish signs slideshow.


Nick Cohen in The Australian on Pascal Bruckner’s The Tyranny of Guilt


Honor Mahony in the EUobserver on Europe’s future marginalization.

A new report has listed a bleak catalogue of the problems the EU is likely to face over the next 20 years, making it clear that solutions will require courageous leadership, the very quality widely perceived as lacking in the current EU political landscape.

The 46-page document, drawn up by a 12-person committee of "Wise Men" chaired by Spanish former prime minister Felipe Gonzalez and published on Saturday (9 May), looks at issues where member states have failed to make progress despite the fact European politicians have known for several years that they need to be tackled.

The report's authors do not rate the EU's chances in global politics if it does not act now to reform itself

The "Project Europe 2030" report notes that the current financial crisis, which has seen national governments scramble to try and contain flagging market confidence in the eurozone, is a "wake-up call for Europe to respond to the changing global order."

"2010 could mark the beginning of a new phase for the EU and the next 50 years could be about Europe's role as an assertive global actor or, alternatively, the union and its member states could slide into marginalisation, becoming an increasingly irrelevant western peninsula of the Asian continent," it warns.


Europe not EU, by Bruno Waterfield in the EUobserver.

Euro zone leaders have raised the stakes in the battle to halt contagion from the Greek crisis. In doing so, the EU is bending its own rules and politically railroading the 11 non-euro countries for tactical, short-term measures driven by a panicked response to market movements. Britain, currently without clear government leadership, along with Poland, Sweden and others will be sucked into an EU wide bailout scheme and will lose their vetoes to block payouts potentially costing hundreds of billions.

There is such a rush that EU finance ministers must agree it all by midnight on Sunday night in order to have it all in place for when markets open on Monday. Hysteria, knee-jerk, panic these are the sorts of words that spring to mind.

The move, announced by Nicolas Sarkozy, while he postured Napoleonic style against a backdrop of euro zone national flags and deployed dramatic, martial language, is a clearly desperate, even last ditch attempt, to save the euro.


David Pilling in the FT on the "Death of a Dream in the Philippines".


Stephen Prothero in the Boston Globe on Blake’s conventional wisdom, “All Religions Are One”, 1795)

This naive theological groupthink — call it Godthink — is motivated in part by a laudable rejection of the exclusivist missionary view that only you and your kind will make it to heaven or nirvana or paradise. For most of world history, human beings have seen religious rivals as inferior to themselves — practitioners of empty rituals, perpetrators of bogus miracles, and purveyors of fanciful myths. This way of seeing has given us religious violence from the Crusades and the Holocaust to Rwanda and Nigeria. In response to such violence, the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment popularized the ideal of religious tolerance, and we are doubtless better for it.

I understand what these people are doing. They are not describing the world but reimagining it. They are hoping that their hope will call up in us feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood. In the face of religious bigotry and bloodshed, past and present, we cannot help but be drawn to such hope, and such vision. Yet we must not mistake either for clear-eyed analysis.


Kenan Malik in Eurozine, "How to become a real Muslim".

Why did journalists contact Abu Laban in the first place? The Danish press described him as a "spiritual leader". He was in fact a mechanical engineer by trade, and an Islamist by inclination. His Islamic Society of Denmark was closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood but had little support among Danish Muslims. Out of a population of 180,000 Danish Muslims, fewer than a thousand attended the Society's Friday prayers.

Abu Laban was, however, infamous for supporting the attack on the Twin Towers. From a journalistic viewpoint, it made sense to get a quote from someone so controversial. But politically, too, it made sense. For western liberals have come to see figures like Abu Laban as the true, authentic voice of Islam. The Danish MP Naser Khader tells of a conversation with Tøger Seidenfaden, editor of Politiken, a leftwing newspaper highly critical of the caricatures. "He said to me that the cartoons insulted all Muslims", Khader recalls. "I said I was not insulted. He said, 'But you're not a real Muslim'."

In liberal eyes, in other words, to be a real Muslim is to find the cartoons offensive. Once Muslim authenticity is so defined, then only a figure such as Abu Laban can be seen as a true Muslim voice.


Sonja Hegasy at Qantara.de on the death of “New Arab Enlightenment” figure, Mohammed Abed al-Jabri.


N+1 editors on digital revolution and other revos.

Alexander Blok was enchanted by the Bolshevik Revolution. The leading poet of the pre-revolutionary symbolist school, Blok and his pale handsome face had been freighted in the years before 1917 with all the hopes and dreams of the Russian intelligentsia. In early 1918, when that intelligentsia was still making fun of the crudeness, the foolishness, the presumption of the Bolsheviks—the way contemporary intellectuals once made fun of Wikipedia—Blok published an essay urging them to cut it out. “Listen to the Revolution,” he counseled, “with your bodies, your hearts, your minds.”

Three years later, Blok was dead, and Vladimir Mayakovsky, the tribune of the Revolution, wrote his obituary. “Blok approached our great Revolution honestly and with awe,” Mayakovsky wrote. But it was too much for him: “I remember, in the first days of the Revolution, I passed a thin, hunched-over figure in uniform warming itself by a fire near the Winter Palace. The figure called out to me. It was Blok. We walked together. . . . I said, ‘How do you like it?’ ‘It’s good,’ said Blok, and then added: ‘They burned down my library.’”


Adam Kirsch reviews two new books on Heidegger in the NYTBR.

Yet by the time of his 80th birthday, in 1969, Heidegger had largely succeeded in detaching his work and reputation from his Nazism. The seal was set on his absolution by Hannah Arendt, in a birthday address broadcast on West German radio. Heidegger’s Nazism, she explained, was an “escapade,” a mistake, which happened only because the thinker naïvely “succumbed to the temptation . . . to ‘intervene’ in the world of human affairs.” The moral to be drawn from the Heidegger case was that “the thinking ‘I’ is entirely different from the self of consciousness,” so that Heidegger’s thought cannot be contaminated by the actions of the mere man….

What distinguishes Emmanuel Faye’s Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy, which was published to loud controversy in France in 2005, is that it takes these critiques of Heidegger to their logical extreme. Most readers would agree that Heidegger was a Nazi, and that this matters to his philosophy; it has remained for Faye to argue that Heidegger was a Nazi philosopher, which is to say that he was no philosopher at all, and that his books are positively dangerous to read. In fact, he comes very close, on the book’s last page, to saying that Heidegger’s collected works should be banned from libraries: “They are . . . as destructive and dangerous to current thought as the Nazi movement was to the physical existence of the exterminated peoples. . . . Hitlerism and Nazism will continue to germinate through Heidegger’s writings at the risk of spawning new attempts at the complete destruction of thought and the extermination of humankind.”


Luke Johnson in the FT, "Politics of envy will kill wealth creation"


Thanks to Priscilla Lightbourne.

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