Chuck Berry — And the Whole First Wave of Rock and Rollers — Have a Right To Be Pissed

Can’t be said often enough about a peculiar phenomenon I have never understood. The sex-terrified reactionaries of the ’50s wanted rock and roll to just go away — by banning if necessary. Send that monster Elvis into the Army. Send that threat to white women Chuck Berry to jail.

And damned if it didn’t work in a funhouse-mirror way. The rock of the British Invasion and later (up to a point) is annoyingly present (just consider the nonstop soundtrack we had to put up with while the car was worked on this Sat. — maybe the single most painful part was the inclusion of “I Wanna Be Sedated” like it was the hit it shoulda been). But the whole original wave of rockers is neglected except for oldies moments.

C’mon everybody (ahem), you can program that stuff right in with the Boss and related acts.

Went To the March in Boston ..

I’m sure the largest gathering ever seen on the Common. And the peoples’ mood! I’ve never experienced such a heartening mixture of introspection, openness, camaraderie and determination. Wonderful.

My favorite poster picture was this old tabloid cover —


With King Donald’s mug replacing Old Nick’s.

Favorite printed slogan:



Favorite quote (from a father to his daughter, who looked about 10):

“Well, dear, I think everyone here is at least a little bit angry.”

“On Thermonuclear War” — Ageless Insanity

Sad to say, it’s still essential to get to know Herman Kahn. His masterpiece, On Thermonuclear War, is the most meticulously deranged book I know of.The horror just builds and builds. Of course we could get through an all-out nuclear war. My favorite suggestion is to feed the most radiation-contaminated food to the oldest people in the fallout shelter, since they’re gonna die soonest, anyway. Whether any sane person would want to live on in such a world is a question never asked. The utterly wacko tone hanging over it is, “well, you could get up in the morning and still salute the Stars and Stripes and that would make it all worth it.”

I despise fat-shaming, but I will say in this case, Kahn being gruesomely overweight added to the effect of his madness.

I Say It Started With Goot Ningrich

This very serious problem began in the ’80s with Goot’s rhetoric that, I realized one day, was describing his political opponents as outright enemies — evil people. This turn of language is inevitable once you accept a concept like the “moral majority” — those who don’t agree with this group’s ideology (whether they are a minority or not) are by definition immoral people.

I do despair more these days about humanity. All the predictable but ignored consequences down the line. This is as bad as the nonsense declaring that “money=speech.”

Richard Rorty’s Philosophical Prophecy

Sure does look visionary now. Adding an odd quirk of my own,  I posted the following more than three years ago when the current situation would have seemed, yes, like a nasty joke:

Impossible to understand when you’re a youth is the tone and texture of pangs you perceive after five or six decades hanging around. What follows is a weird metric of public life by any measure, but I just discovered it and it hit a gong inside.

Sixties activist Carl Oglesby, at one time the president of the mighty Students for a Democratic Society, is mentioned only twice in The New Yorker: first in a piece by Renata Adler about a speech he gave at the height of his influence in 1965; then comes 43 years of silence; then comes a “Briefly Noted” review of his book Ravens in the Storm, which calls it “a mournful tribute to the spirit of an age gone awry.” Three years later he was dead.

I liked Ravens in the Storm a great deal. Despite the rather stiff prose, I understood and felt more than before how that spirit went awry. (Even inspired me to check out the songs Oglesby recorded for Vanguard in ’69-’71: they’re terrible.) The textured pang came from one of Oglesby’s strongest arguments — that the New Left did not have to go the way it did. Jerks like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn were not the inevitable tone-setters. But they sure founded a corrosive legacy. Reactionaries constantly repeat, until this day, that Ayers is a big-time, long-term buddy of President Obama, though this has been proven utterly false over and over and over. But we now live in an age with a spirit so awry that the vision of the Prophet Reagan has come to pass: “Facts are stupid things.”