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Note to Alexander

by FRED GARDNER

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 editor@beyondthc.com.

Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

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