Note to Alexander
The NY Times arrived this morning with the magazine devoted to “The Lives They Lived,” an extra round of obits for those who exited in 2012. Guess who wasn’t mentioned? I suppose if they’d included you we’d say “Nothing they love more than a radical the minute he dies.” But they should have.
After you split a Counterpuncher named Andrew Levine wrote that your last columns posed the most important questions, above all, “What is to be done?” I thought so, too. I was meaning to write you a note like I was meaning to finish that piece about the editor from Parade shilling for the “What We Earn” issue on Morning Joe (worth watching only for Mika Brezinsky’s mugging… living proof an ugly man can have a beautiful daughter).
Chris Hayes has had a few radicals on his morning talk show in recent weeks. Kenneth Alexander Gray (sure was good to see “Counterpunch.org” on the screen above the fridge) criticized the Democrats from the left, which disconcerted the mayor of Atlanta. Yesterday was Herr Professor Ricky Wolff’s turn and he denounced capitalism cogently in the brief time allotted. Wolff was back an hour later on the C-SPAN book channel, which had taped his talk at City Lights. He did a good job of explaining the benefits of worker-owned enterprises. He was too rhapsodic about the Occupy movement, but honest enough to say it had resulted in his book going into a third printing.
“We are the 99%” is a powerful slogan but also misleading. The richest one percent have concentric circles of protection around them —top- and middle-level management and privileged labor, including the police, who are armed to the teeth and ready to pounce. Whoever intends to change the system, i.e., take power, will have to contend with the privileged 20 percent and everyone who identifies with them.
Everybody gets it that ending the draft and creating a so-called volunteer army was the Power Elite’s practical and successful response to GI dissent in Vietnam. But nobody gets it that creating an array of single-issue groups was their practical and successful response to the same movement at home, where the cities had been in flames and Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were beginning to use the word “socialism.”
Our slogan in the new O’Shaughnessy’s is “the entourage effect applies in politics as well as in pharmacology.” Pretty snappy, huh? Translation: “Let’s break out of the single-issue trap!”
It’s night now, and cold. I just read the Times obit mag and you are well out of it! A book critic named Dwight Garner produced this steaming pile of word shit: “The most profound tectonic shift in our literary culture in 2012 was one that, by and large, no one noticed. The last of our great curmudgeonly essayists —Gore Vidal, the art critic Robert Hughes and the historian and social critic Paul Fussell— died this year. Add to this list of punishing, witty and literate writers Christopher Hitchens, who died at the end of 2011, and it begins to seem as if the Mayan calendar, which predicted global ruin, took aim instead at our stinging pubiic intellectuals, our necessary horseflies.”
Well out of it.
The look of the mag is as bad as the writing. The art director rules and s/he lets you know it. Instead of Donna Summer’s life we get a full page graphic that is explained in a box on the facing page: “The artists scanned the cover of Summer’s 1978 album, ‘Live and More,’ stretched it and printed it onto curtain fabric. They hung it in [their] London studio to make this photograph. ‘We wanted,’ they said, ‘to give her one last blast.’”
No they didn’t, they wanted to give themselves a chance to show off. It is unbelievably disrespectful. “She Works Hard for the Money” is one of the greatest records ever released. Why not give us the details behind its production? Why not tell us about the singer’s life?
Instead of any info about Nora Ephron —our fellow ‘41er, whose mum’s –the-word exit strategy was similar to yours— we get another full-page graphic explained in a facing-page box: “A collage recreates Meg Ryan’s soliloquy from Nora Ephron’s ‘When Harry Met Sally’ using letters cut from Ephron’s obituary in The New York Times.” The soliloquy is a faked orgasm with a lot of ohs and Gods and yesses, all snipped out by the artist with her little scissors.
Dave Brubeck’s life goes unremarked but there’s an astonishingly ugly graphic of him sitting at the piano, explained thus: “The artist created this tribute to the jazz composer by layering black and white paper. The figure of Brubeck is flat with 3-D elements. The piano is 3-D.” But since the printed page is 2-D, this is meaningless. (BTW, Mark Scaramella wrote a great tribute to Brubeck in the AVA, in 9/8 time.)
My new year’s resolution is to not cause extra work for Jeffrey, so off this goes at 7:59 a.m.. Here comes twenty thirteen.Twenty twelve to the guillotine!
Ripped Van Winkle
Ripped Van Winkle walking in the hills
Known for herb the local pub distills
Decided to step in and hoist a glass
With conscious members of the peasant class
By the time he headed out the door
Stars were overhead he wasn’t sure
Where the trail led to his scolding wife
Whom he’d see no more of in this life.
Ripped Van Winkle lay down for a rest
In his Hudson Bay down-filled vest
Pine needles soft beneath his bones
Guiness Book of World Records stoned
This happened the last night of sixty nine
He was reported missing at the time
His wife died, his kids grew up and had
kids who’d never known their granddad
Ripped Van Winkle felt the morning sun
Got up, stretched and thought of how much fun
He’d had last night or was it just a dream
Involving some Catskills bowling team?
The old trail was nowhere to be found
He blamed it on that potion he had downed
Cannabis some alchemist had boiled
a super concentrate thick as oil
The underbrush was wet and twice he slipped
And though he didn’t feel all that ripped
Van Winkle sensed something was amiss
My beard, he thought, was it so long as this?
Down he sauntered, feeling kind of stiff
A man who did not fear the fiscal cliff
A man whose very concept of today
Was four point three decades away
The woods let him out on Stillman Lane
The scent of ozone hit him then the rain
A vehicle came down the road and stopped
A short-haired man said where you heading, pop?
The truck looked science-fiction new
(A Ford Bronco built in eighty-two)
The radio was playing James Brown
Woodstock, Ripped said, just north of town
The man said something bout the Knicks
Ripped was too awed to try and mix
He tumbled out with a grateful nod
To see all that had been wrought by God
Now war they say creates a heavy fog
And Ripped might just be a shaggy dog
But I’ll make it short and to the point
While you roll another joint
Ripped Van Winkle is my self-mistake
Who tried to give reality a break
And stuck in the sixties as they say
Sees things from waaay far away
When upside-down attitudes prevailed
Before they had two million of us jailed
When anti-war soldiers had some clout
When money wasn’t all it’s all about
When being in the movement meant more
than even ending seeming endless war
even more than even civil rights
more than the sum of all our fights
Now it’s a thousand separate groups
Going round a thousand separate loops
Funded by enlightened billionaires
Ensuring longterm value for their shares
You don’t have to be Ripped to see
No threat to Inequality
If they let us legalize pot
While the System stays have and have not
Fred Gardner edits O’Shaughnessy’s, the journal of cannabis in clinical practice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.