Archive for November, 2010

Quarter To Three


About 36 hours after I posted this video came news that Willie Nelson had been arrested for marijuana possession at a border-patrol checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, Texas.

What foolishness.

Almost every band’s tour-bus is an automatic bust, but especially so is Nelson’s. This is a man who has made no secret of the fact that he’s daily smoked marijuana for the past several decades; Nelson is co-chair of the NORML advisory board, has filmed pro-pot NORML commercials, has appeared on the cover of High Times. The stuff doesn’t seem to have done him any harm: in Nelson’s life as a stoner there has emerged no evidence of sloth or paranoia, usually the worst side effects of steady marijuana consumption. It was when Willie was a drinker, not a dope-smoker, that he caused problems for other human beings.

Nelson is a native and long-time resident of Texas; in fact, he is probably the best goodwill ambassador that state has. Arresting Willie Nelson at this stage of his life is like putting the cuffs on Santa Claus.

Border-patrol agents who opened the door to Nelson’s bus encountered the odor of marijuana. Well: duh. A search uncovered six ounces. The agents contacted Hudspeth County sheriff’s officials, who apparently made the decision to arrest. Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West seems to seek admittance to the Texas Asshat Hall Of Fame, telling the press:

“It’s kind of surprising, but, I mean, we treat him like anybody else. He could get 180 days in county jail, which if he does, I’m going to make him cook and clean. He can wear the stripy uniforms just like the other ones do.”

That’s right, hoss. Put a 77-year-old man in stripes and then make him clean your boots for you.

Jeebus wept.

“Men Should Put This On For One Day”

This is a brave woman. Amal Basha, of Yemen. One of maybe 22 women in that country who does not wear the veil.

“I had to wear the full niqab when I was 8 years old,” she says of the face veil worn by women here. “I couldn’t breathe. I saw the world in dark colors. I fell down because I couldn’t see when I walked. Men should put this on for one day. They would change their thinking. They don’t know how horrible it is under sun, heat and sweat. It’s a kind of torture. I decided I wanted to see the beautiful colors of life—red, blue, green. Not black.”

Basha is a descendant of the prophet Mohammed; today she heads the Sisters’ Arab Forum For Human Rights, in the planet’s poorest Islamic nation. In the light of her mind she reaches back to Mohammed—”you know,” she says, “we’re all created from the same soul”—but in life she must contend with the darkness of a world dominated by the ossified barnacles that have attached themselves to her forebear . . . such as Yemeni cleric Shiek Abdul Majeed Zindani, who claims to possess “scientific proof that women cannot speak and remember simultaneously.”

“Yemen is the home of the Queen of Sheba,” Basha retorts. “How can you say women can’t govern? Yemen is a failed state today, and men have been the rulers.”

Basha’s work documenting torture in her country moved the United Nations to call for an official investigation. She strives to legislatively end the practice of marrying off Yemeni “women” as young as eight years old. She seeks to help Yemeni women who are victims of domestic violence, of sexual harassment, of illiteracy, of caste prejudice. She advocates for prisoners and refugees.

For her pains, Basha has been threatened with death, had the brakes cut on her car, had acid hurled at her face. She has been branded by her countrymen as “un-Islamic,” a “Zionist,” an “agent of the West,” a “temptress of Eve.” Her accusers forgetting that it was Adam who received the injunction against plucking the forbidden fruit. Not Eve. Eve was innocent.


A Lot Of Flowers In This World Are Never Seen

My daughter’s award-winning poem, which can be read here, and which I recently mentioned here, is reminding me of Eugene Field’s wistful little fable “The Robin And The Violet.”

I placed Field’s fable in my queue here probably 16-18 months or so ago, but never got around to actually posting it.

I think the original idea was that I was going to bloviate at length about Field, a person people these days have forgotten.

But we’ll forget about that now, and just go with the fable.

I do remember that I intended to dedicate the fable to my daughter, because it kinda reminded me of her. Pretty uncanny, now, given what she’s since written.

Appended to “The Robin And The Violet” is a Chris Isaak song, “Fade Away,” relating to both my daughter’s poem, and Field’s fable, and to other things as well. Happily I managed—though who knows for how long—to smuggle this song through the Maginot Line that YouTube in recent days has erected to mess with my music.

So it goes.


He’s Not There

Here in the First World, we acquiesce to lives in which it is virtually impossible to get away from ourselves: enchained by birth certificates, social-security numbers, driver’s licenses, tax records, credit histories, martial and marital documents, bank accounts, fingerprints, thumbprints, blood-typing, DNA samples, retina scans—the list is endless. I personally am not happy with much of this: like the doomed cowboy in Lonely Are The Brave, “I don’t need a card to figure out who I am. I already know.”

So one of my reactions to the following story is pleasure in knowing that there are still places on this earth where people exist independently of paper and pixels and purloined pieces of their bodies.

Another reaction is that I probably really shouldn’t have become locked into referring to members of our nation’s intelligence community as “Clouseaus.” Because, now, every day, in every way, they are living up to this name, better and better.

Today, for instance, we learn, via Mean People at the New York Times, that for months and months Afghan notables and American poohbahs have been jawing with senior Taliban official Mullah Akhtar Muhammed Mansour, believed to be #2 to the fabled Mullah Omar hisself. This Mansour has been gifted with great wads of American money in “traveling expenses,” and has raised high the roofbeams that Peace Is At Hand, because his demands have been so modest—”that the Taliban leadership be allowed to safely return to Afghanistan, that Taliban soldiers be offered jobs, and that prisoners be released.” He did not, for instance, “demand, as the Taliban have in the past, a withdrawal of foreign forces or a Taliban share of the government.”

Alas, all good things must come to an end. This, then, too. For now it has been determined that this Mullah Mansour, is not Mullah Mansour at all.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”

American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.

Yet, like jilted lovers who cannot grasp what has happened to them, some of the duped and deluded are hoping the non-Mansour will keep on a-comin’.

Neither American nor Afghan leaders confronted the fake Mullah Mansour with their doubts. Indeed, some Afghan leaders are still holding out hopes that the man really is or at least represents Mr. Mansour—and that he will come back soon.

“Questions have been raised about him, but it’s still possible that it’s him,” said the Afghan leader who declined to be identified.

A more cynical Afghan believes the non-Mansour was probably a knee-slapper sent by the Taliban, who “are playing games.”

“The Taliban are cleverer than the Americans and our own intelligence service,” said a senior Afghan official who is familiar with the case.



We Have All Been Here Before

The windows overlooking the airfield were smoked and double glazed. On the runway aircraft landed and took off without making a sound. This is how they tried to win, Jerry thought: from inside sound-proof rooms, through smoked glass, using machines at arm’s length. This is how they lost.

—John Le Carre, The Honourable Schoolboy

The government of Pakistan has refused the US military permission to expand its drone show into Baluchistan province. It is believed that this is where the Afghan Taliban leadership—including the fabled Mullah Omar—today gathers, in and around the densely populated city of Quetta.

Though the drone blunderbuss is now extinguishing the lives of 98 innocents for every 2 jihadis killed, US knuckleheads apparently thought it a good idea to start sending the things over an area occupied by nearly a million civilians.

Pakistan said forget it. It has instead offered to permit an increased CIA presence in the region, with US Clouseaus yoked to teams of agents from the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service. That should work out well, since it is the ISI that protects and promotes the Taliban; the ISI has a history of bamboozling the CIA into lending its agents and equipment to operations that facilitate the ISI’s own, very selfish ends. “They are so innocent,” a Pakistani official has said fondly of US spooks.

Meanwhile, out in the badlands of North Waziristan, a semi-autonomous “tribal region” where the US is tacitly permitted by the Pakistani government to fly drones, those Al Qaeda homeboys known as the Haqqani are getting out of the way of the aircraft by elbowing into the neighboring high-mountain region of Kurram.

Flying drones over Kurram is apparently not an option. “It would mean big trouble between the two countries,” says Pakistani journalist/analyst Imtiaz Gul. “It would amount to a lot of friction.”

The Haqqani are bad dudes: they brought suicide bombings to Afghanistan, nearly succeeded in assassinating Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008, and last May took on the heavily fortified Bagram airfield near Kabul. And like the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani are friends and fellows of the ISI, which has allowed the Haqqani to use North Waziristan, and “regards the Haqqani group as a valuable hedge against Indian influence in a post-U.S. Afghanistan” (see: India again).

The Pakistani military has long promised to move into North Waziristan to sweep out such riffraff, and has even pocketed a $2 billion bribe from the US to do so. But, like General Tommy Franks in Operation Iraqi Fiefdom, it has insisted on the right to “close with and engage the enemy at a time and place of our choosing.”

“I think they’ll start the operation,” opines tribal-region analyst Khadim Hussain, “once every single fighter has moved out of North Waziristan and into Kurram.”


My Daughter, The Award-Winning Deviant

As I recently noted in this post, my daughter is now hanging out with deviants; specifically, the people at deviantART, a tubes-nest of illustrating and elucubrating young people.

She has posted there her novel, Maiden of Woodland Secrets, the first of a projected seven-part saga. It is a rollicking tale of magic and mystery, featuring a mother who is a raging madwoman, and a father who is a good-hearted but feckless drunk, and thank jeebus the work is in no way autobiographical.

This novel, as I indicated then, can be accessed from my daughter’s deviant page, here. I now note that this page has been updated to include a photograph that indicates my daughter may have become a dominatrix. I reprint: you decide.

Anyway, the deviant people began by giving her feedback on her book, which was nice, and now they have gifted her with an award for that book, which is even nicer. She has been named Featured Author Of The Month.

Further, one of her poems has been selected as Poem Of The Month. That poem can be read here. It features La Musica and Variations in B-Flat, is subsumed in Eros but haunted by Eternal Recurrence, and thus is extremely depressing.

It’s a genetic thing, I guess.

My daughter is also mentioned in this deviant newsletter. A Different One explication of why the deviants believe my daughter to be Good may be found here.

I am glad that these deviant people recognize that my daughter is A Star, for that is indeed what she are.

I, as evidenced by the sentence above, am, unlike my daughter, no poet. And I know it. : /

It’s Time To Water The Plants

The advent of first Delaware’s Christine O’Kooky, and then Nazi dress-up man Rich Iott of Ohio, delivered Nevada’s Sharron Angle from the role of premier screwloose in election 2010. Yet now that all these people have lost, it is Angle’s that is the campaign that most keeps on giving.

For instance, we last week learned that the uber-paranoid Angle, she of the Strangelovian fluoridation fears, developed a Secret Code so that workers in her campaign could alert one another when Bad People attempted to Infiltrate.

Team Angle put campaign volunteers through a three-hour indoctrination. Included was an instruction of what to do if anyone came into the office who looked like a Democrat, a Reid supporter or a member of the media—they all look alike!—and that order was to dial a certain extension in front of the interloper and say, “It’s time to water the plants.”

Further, Angle had to be repeatedly restrained from publicly fellating murderous dictators like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. Told by Sane People in the GOP to put a cork in it, she pouted: “Sometimes dictators have good ideas.”

Said sane people additionally identified the wild-hair teabaggers who infested the Angle campaign as “The Island Of Misfit Toys.”

This is a reference to the immortal “animagic” opus Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which features a collection of children’s playthings so Wrong and Mutant they are forcibly exiled to an ice floe.

News on other Wrong Mutants, specifically Fox News freakazoid Roger Ailes—a being so repugnant in every way that not even his own hair will allow itself to be associated with him—and that animal-human hybrid, Louisiana lizard-man James Carville, beyond the “furthur.”


Behind Closed Doors

Like secret lovers traveling for a tryst, heads of state venturing abroad must ofttimes squirt squid-ink to conceal the true purpose of a journey. And so it was recently with President Barack Obama’s sojourn to India. Few have divined the motive force propelling him to that nation: “extensive discussion with Indian leaders on the challenges being faced in Afghanistan.”

As I discussed here, Pakistan considers any Indian involvement in Afghanistan as a form of encirclement. Many in Pakistan are convinced that India wishes to swallow their nation, and seeks influence in Afghanistan as a means by which to do so. As detailed in the afore-embedded link, ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, in January of this year deliberately sabotaged peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai, arresting some 24 Taliban leaders under Pakistani protection because “[w]e are not going to allow the [Taliban] to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.” In the world that is real, the Indians did not seem to be involved in these talks. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Pakistanis believed that they were.

Obama has repeatedly stated that the US will begin withdrawing combat troops from Afghanistan beginning in July of next year. As is set out beyond the “furthur,” there is reason to believe that he will stick to this timetable. The mess the US leaves behind in Afghanistan will be, uh, less messy, if Pakistan can be convinced to eschew enabling the most grotesque elements of the Taliban. Pakistan supports these cretins primarily because it believes such support is necessary in order to frustrate real or imagined Indian hegemony. Thus, Obama’s “extensive discussion with Indian leaders on the challenges begin faced in Afghanistan.”


Good Times That Haven’t Happened Yet, But Will

Nobody Paid Much Attention

In the old Soviet Union, Ukrainian women were considered the most beautiful in all the Russian empire. As is often the case with such things, this caused the women themselves more problems than not. And things haven’t changed much since the Union disunited, and Ukraine set out on its own.

Ukraine is today one of the largest “exporters” of women in the international sex industry. Women who freely choose such work are one thing, but many Ukrainian women have been lured into the trade under false pretenses, or are more or less forced into it for economic survival. Many are minors; some are simply slaves. Of an estimated 500,000 Ukrainian women who migrated to Western Europe in the late 1990s, an estimated 100,000 wound up in the sex trade. Ukraine itself has become a prime destination for those involved in “sex tourism”; the sex trade in Ukraine now rakes in $700 million per year, more money than the company makes that supplies the nation with natural gas.

An activist group of Ukrainian women traveling under the rubric Femen is not happy about this. “This is insulting to us and it harms the country’s image, since we’re increasingly becoming a country of destination for tourists whose sole purpose is to have sex with our women,” says Femen’s Anna Gutsol (pictured above, on the left).

Of late, Femen activists have, counterintuitively, begun protesting against the country’s treatment of women by staging demonstrations where they appear topless. Who knows—it may work. It has already embarrassed the hell out of Vladimir Putin.


America Held Hostage

Former ABC media personality Ted Koppel has taken to the Washington Post to cry in his beer that television news has been ruined—ruined, I tell ya—by the likes of sportscaster Keith Olbermann and falafel freak Bill O’Reilly.

Proving once again, I suppose, that it is an occupational hazard of being human that at some point you will start hallucinating that your own personal prime was a sort of Golden Age, and that everything since has gone straight to Hell.

And if and when I reach that point, I want the keyboard ripped out of my hands, and duct tape slapped across my mouth.

Anyway, Koppel in his Post piece portrays himself more or less as a Christ-like figure of journalism. He is apparently unaware that when he first stumbled onto the air, people like myself regarded him as more akin to Bozo the Clown. In my karass, Koppel for years was an object of rude mockery and derision; finally, we simply stopped watching him. The dude, we concluded, was a stooge.


Magical Mystery Tour

For a while there the people aboard the Carnival Splendor would not get off of my radio. Every hour arrived some breathless update on how these waylaid wayfarers were Coping without electricity: there on their ship out on the sea, they were forced to resort to all sorts of new and outre activities, like reading, or talking to one another, or gazing out at the ocean.

Now, I realize that these people were uncomfortable. A fire in the engine room knocked out the ship’s power, setting the craft adrift some 200 miles off the coast of Mexico, definitely diverting the vacation plans of the 3300 people on board. But to contend that these folks were “experiencing hell in real life” seemed a bit much. Particularly as around the same time babies were dying of cholera in Haiti, women were being raped en masse in the Congo, and howling im-beciles were being ushered into the halls of Congress . . . and all without the sort of attention lavished on the Carnival Splendor sufferers.

As far as I have been able to determine, none of these people were ever in any real danger. It is true that the toilets stopped working and nobody could have a shower, but that’s been the situation in Haiti for nearly a year, and nobody feels compelled to provide hourly updates about that on my radio. Free liquor was liberally dispensed to all on board, and the US military quickly leaped into action, raining down 50,000 pounds of Spam and Pop Tarts onto the Splendor, until the craft could be hooked up to the USS Ronald Reagan (gag) and nudged towards shore.

I think what was most interesting to me about this ordeal is that Mr. Ha-Ha had contrived to place an entire convention of professional magicians on board the Carnival Splendor. More than 100 of these people, described as “excellent magicians wanting to hone their trade,” were out there when the power went out. But it seems that despite their numbers, despite their knowledge of the craft, despite their expressed desire to “hone their trade,” when presented with a real opportunity to “hone their trade” by performing some real, needed magic . . . well, they just couldn’t produce. As they say: “sometimes the magic works; sometimes it doesn’t.”

We Shall Fight Them On The Beaches

More beyond the “furthur.”


Ennui Through The Ages

Adam was bored alone; then Adam and Eve were bored together; then Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were bored en famille; then the peoples of the world were bored en masse. The nations were scattered over the world but they continued to be bored.

—Soren Kierkegaard

Orwell’s Bad Day

Many thanks for your letter. I am going up to town as soon as I have finished the book I am doing, which should be at the end of October. I haven’t settled yet where I am going to stay, but somewhere in the slums for choice. A friend wrote offering me the lease of part of a flat in Bayswater, but it would choke me to live in Bayswater. No, I have never seen a tortoise drinking. Darwin mentions that when he was in the Galapagos Is. the big tortoises there which lived on cactuses & things on the higher ground used to come down into the valley once or twice in the year to drink, & the journey took them a day or two. They stored the water in a kind of sack in their bellies. I have been reading some books by Lafcadio Hearne—tiresome stuff, & he idolises the Japanese, who always seem to me such a boring people. I also tried to read Lord Riddell’s diary of the Peace Conference & After. What tripe! It is amazing how some people can have the most interesting experiences & then have absolutely nothing to say about them. I went to the pictures last week and saw Jack Hulbert in Jack Ahoy which I thought very amusing, & a week or two before that there was quite a good crook film, which, however, my father ruined for me by insisting on telling me the plot beforehand. I have practically no friends here now, because now that Dennis & Eleanor are married & Dennis has gone to Singapore, it has deprived me of two friends at a single stroke. Everything is going badly. My novel about Burma made me spew when I saw it in print, & I would have rewritten large chunks of it, only that costs money and means delay as well. As for the novel I am now completing, it makes me spew even worse, & yet there are some decent passages in it. I don’t know how it is, I can write decent passages but I can’t put them together. I was rather pluming myself on having a poem in the Best Poems of 1934, but I now learn that there are several dozen of these anthologies of the so-called best poems of the year, & Ruth Pitter writes to tell me that she is in 4 of this year’s batch, including one called Twenty Deathless Poems.

I nearly died of cold the other day when bathing, because I had walked out to Easton Broad not intending to bathe, & then the water looked so nice that I took off my clothes & went in, & then about 50 people came up & rooted themselves to the spot. I wouldn’t have minded that, but among them was a coastguard who could have had me up for bathing naked, so I had to swim up & down for the best part of half an hour, pretending to like it.

—George Orwell, letter to Brenda Salkeld, August 1934

I Think That We Will Be Able To Communicate Soon

It is said that when a Los Angeles classical radio station first played the Symphony No. 3 (”Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”) by the Polish composer Henryk Górecki in the early 1990s, cars could be seen pulling to the side of the freeways, because the drivers’ eyes were full of tears.

—Gregory Wolfe

In the early 1970s Polish composer Henryk Gorecki was still beloved by the practitioners and devotees of avant-garde classical music, as his early works had hit all the right notes: modern, experimental, atonal, dissonant, serialist. Gorecki was “a fiery figure, fashionable only among a small circle of modern-music aficionados.”

True, a couple of Gorecki’s more recent choral pieces had made some folks in that world nervous, wary, as the composer seemed therein to be distancing himself from noise, nonsense, and chaos. But none of these people were prepared for his Third Symphony, which debuted at Royan in France on April 4, 1977.

For Gorecki, like such classical composers as Beethoven, Debussy, and Dvorak before him, had been drawn into the traditional folk music and stories of his people. And from these, and from plumbing the depths of what it means to be human, Gorecki with his Third Symphony fashioned a work transcendent—mournful, aching, beautiful.

The symphony was savaged. All six critics who reviewed the Royal premiere condemned it. Heniz Koch complained that it “drags through three old folk melodies (and nothing else) for an endless 55 minutes,” while Dietmar Polaczek dismissed it as “simply adding to the decadent trash that encircle[s] the true pinnacles of avant-gardism.” The Third Symphony was pronounced an embarrassing failure, Gorecki scorned as a man who had unaccountably gone off the rails.


In Country

(I posted this three years ago for Veterans Day over on the Great Pumpkin. I post it here, in a somewhat different form, for this Veterans Day.

(This one’s for possum.)

Today marks the 28th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the finest piece of public art in the history of this country. The vision of a haunted ex-Army infantryman, realized by a 21-year-old Asian refugee, The Wall has become a place of pilgrimage, a secular shrine, something unprecedented, unrivaled in our country. Tens of millions of people have brought hundreds of thousands of mementos, gifts, talismans, offerings to The Wall.

Among them, this letter:

Dear Nick:

The little baby you never saw turned 17 in August. She looks like Scotty now; she used to look like you when she was younger.

This was all such a waste. Maybe your sacrifice means this won’t happen again.


Oh, vain hope. Not to be, not to be . . . .


“They Can Not Surrender To Aircraft”

Leamas saw. He saw the long road outside Rotterdam, the long straight road beside the dunes, and the stream of refugees moving along it; saw the little airplane miles away, the procession stop and look toward it; and the plane coming in, neatly over the dunes; saw the chaos, the meaningless hell, as the bombs hit the road.

—John Le Carre, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

As I mentioned here, the Wikileaks release of documents pertaining to Afghanistan held no surprises for those who have attentively followed Operation Enduring Fiefdom. Similarly, the more recent Wikileaks release of documents pertaining to Iraq holds no surprises for those who have attentively followed Operation Iraqi Fiefdom.

Still, Wikileaks is to be commended for making these documents public, and those who leaked them are to be commended for doing so. In the world to come, these last will deserve some sort of medal.

I find that what has struck me most, so far, is something that was not even in the Iraqi document dump itself, but instead a paragraph closing a New York Times piece regarding the release. To wit:

Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The trench warfare of World War I remains the zenith—or, more properly, the nadir—of militarized madness, in the sense that day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, men were ordered to run across open ground directly into machine-gun fire. This continued until a sufficient number of men in both the French and German armies walked away and went home: they simply would no longer put up with such mad shit.

But now we must confront the fact that WWI seems, in another sense, to have marked a sort of high-water mark of non-barbarism. Because at least most of the people who were killed in that war signed up to die in it. Nowadays, by a ratio of 10-1, those whose lives are snuffed out in war are innocents.


Passed Ball

The Dodgers professional-baseball franchise, that famously broke what was then known as “the color line” by signing and playing Jackie Robinson, had a similar opportunity to break “the sexual orientation line” . . . but muffed it.

That seems to be the conclusion of a new documentary film, Out: The Glenn Burke Story, premiering tonight at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, and on Bay Area Comcast stations.

Burke’s Dodger teammates were ready: Out reveals that they had come to accept this young black man who did not make a secret of the fact that he was gay. But team management most decidedly was not.

First the Dodgers brass offered Burke $75,000 if he would get married. Burke’s response is recalled in Out by former Dodger teammate Reggie Smith: “Glenn, being his comic self, said, ‘I guess you mean to a woman?'”

Having rejected Potemkin marriage, Burke then began dating the estranged gay son of Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. According to one reviewer of Out, this resulted in “a Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner moment.”

Lasorda to this day denies that his son, who died of AIDS, was gay. “My son wasn’t gay,” the denialist dad is quoted in Out. “No way. I read that in a paper. I also read that a lady gave birth to a fucking monkey. That’s not the truth.”

The Dodgers’ office-level discomfort with Burke’s out homosexuality moved them to trade him to the Oakland Athletics . . . which was more or less a death sentence for his career. For the A’s were then managed by Billy Martin, who was—how should I put this?—a nasty, vicious drunkard. Out recounts how Martin introduced Burke to his new teammates:  “Oh, this is Glenn Burke, and he’s a faggot.”

Burke’s A’s teammates were nowhere near as accepting as the men on the Dodgers: Out offers former A’s pitcher Mike Norris drearily invoking the old “showers” nonsense: “It became pretty obvious to a lot of people that Glenn was gay, and he started to make a lot of people uncomfortable in the locker room and the showers.” As can be glimpsed in the Out trailer embedded at the end of this piece, his former teammates on the A’s do not come out of the film at all well.

Burke left the A’s in 1980. At age 26, when most players are just entering their prime, he was out of professional baseball. For good.



Something from Willy DeVille, for the extra hour, as “the time changes.”

Down In The Flood

When I reflect on the continuing devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, I keep coming back to a very long article I read, some years ago, I think in Atlantic Monthly, about international shipping in the era of global capitalism. The piece appeared before I became aware of the intertubes, so I haven’t a prayer of retrieving it. Though I’ve several times tried.

The meat of the thing was that there is no margin. To ensure that we live in a world where, say, Americans can eat pineapples, strawberries, and mangoes year round, requires the allocation of enormous amounts of resources, on a split-second schedule where delay is intolerable. The system is therefore extremely vulnerable; the author, in the course of the piece, de-monstrated how the entire structure would collapse if interrupted for but three days. The most powerful interests on the planet therefore contrive to ensure that these uber-modern trains continue to run on time, regardless of consequences. They will subvert whole governments, if that is what it takes, to timely deliver the cucumbers.

This rings to me of Katrina. Because in the wake of that storm we were confronted with the fact that in the lives of so many of our fellow citizens there too is no margin. But that such people are not protected by the system and the interests that ensure that I can eat a mango in January in Icepick, Minnesota. Those who most suffered through Katrina are people who, in the normal course of things, are shunted off to a siding, barely tolerated, barely acknowledged. And who, when in three days their entire world had collapsed, were simply abandoned.


Satan’s Jeweled Crown

Over the past couple months I was on a number of occasions so rash and so bold as to make some predictions, involving the politics of sport, and the sport of politics.

Now that the events to which I applied my prognostications have come to pass, it seems only fair to review how I did.

Let us say: my record was not perfect.

In truth, I am heartened by this. For this is Lucifer’s world. And if my predictions had perfectly aligned with what came to be, this would, it seems to me, be an indicator that my mind tracks too closely that of the Evil One.

So I’m glad that, at least some of the time, I was wrong. Could be there’s hope for me yet. : /

Complete results beyond the “furthur.”


What It Is

Just so we’re clear about where we are, the photo below depicts on the right the new House Majority Leader, John Boehner, and on the left Rich Iott, a teabagging freak who sought, unsuccessfully, a seat in the House from Ohio’s Ninth Congressional District.

Iott is the fellow who likes to dress up as a Nazi and “re-enact” Nazi victories in WWII.

Boehner gave him $5000, and went to Ohio to campaign for him.

The Nazi unit whose regalia Iott dons was one that had among its members Josef Mengele, who later went on to fame and fortune as a noted torturer of Jews. The unit itself methodically killed Hungarian Jews in March and April of 1945, before surrendering to American forces in Austria.

Iott loves him these Nazis:

“I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that here was a relatively small country that from a strictly military point of view accomplished incredible things. I mean, they took over most of Europe and Russia, and it really took the combined effort of the free world to defeat them. From a purely historical military point of view, that’s incredible.”

Beyond the “furthur” you can find a picture of Iott smiling in his Nazi get-up, wherein he assumes the name “Reinhard Pferdmann.” As well as an immortal comment posted to the Great Pumpkin from one mellowinman, describing his reaction to the news that GOoPers have now so debased themselves that they hug to their breasts office-seekers who get their thrill from impersonating the people who perpetrated the Holocaust.

That’s who’s in charge of the House of Representatives now, folks.


When I Worked

November 2010