Friday, October 7, 2016


“The judge said five to ten, but I say double that again
I'm not working for the clampdown
No man born with a living soul
Can be working for the clampdown.”
         “The Clash, from “London Calling”

Rolling Stone named the double album “London Calling” by the English punk rock band the best record of the 1980s.  Headed by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, the Clash followed that triumph with the overtly political but uneven triple album “Sandinista!” which contained 36 songs.  The group’s biggest hit, “Rock the Casbah,” came in 1982, a year before Strummer and Jones parted ways, and was a critique of Iran’s clampdown on Western music imports.  My favorite lines in “Clampdown” refer to the 1979 Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown: “I’m working in Harrisburg, working hard in Petersburg, working for the clampdown, Beggin’ to be melted down.”

New York magazine printed excerpts from Lil Wayne’s book “Gone Til November, written in 2010 in journal format while he was incarcerated at Rikers Island after convicted of criminal possession of a pistol. It’s hard to imagine a white celebrity being punished that severely for being armed.  Treated with a modicum of respect by staff, he earned a paid position on the overnight suicide watch.  Wayne (Dwayne Carter) admitted being nervous when asked to rap for fellow inmates and vowed never to rap about prison experiences.  A prisoner saved his butt by convincing him that his future was more important than fighting someone who baited him.  In a section titled “What’s Really Real” he wrote:
  I don’t ever want to come back to this bitch!  There’ absolutely nothing cool about jail.  It’s nasty.  It’s dirty.  I got into an argument on the yard and went straight gorilla.  That’s when this dude was like, “You go home to something nobody else here goes home to . . . dude, leave that nigga alone.  He’ll be back in this bitch next month. You don’t want to be back in this bitch, man.  Don’t act that way.  Go home, bro.  You’re a millionaire. You’re a superstar.  So act like one! I couldn’t argue with that shit – damn – and yeah.
He lived for Visitors Day, as the following paragraphs emphasize:
  I chilled in the dayroom waiting on my visit. And what a great visit it was. Diddy kept his word and visited me today. It was total chaos! Every captain in the building was down there! Even the deps and the warden! Everyone just wanted to see him. It was kind of aggravating, but it is what it is.
. . .
Just got back from my visit. I have the best friends, fans, and family in the world. I've been in this bitch for a good minute now and have never missed a visit yet. You get two visits a week and I haven't missed one yet! That shit is incredible ’cause I've never seen Jamaica get a visit. The only visit I saw him get was the mothafuckas who deported his ass came and got him. Coach has never got a visit. Dominicano has never got a visit. Charlie has never got a visit. I got every visit I was supposed to get. I've been able to look forward to seeing someone every chance I was able to see someone ... THANK GOD!
. . .
I have to give props where props are due ... big shout-out to Diddy, Chris Paul, and Kanye for coming to see me, especially with their schedules. I know that they had to go through some extra shit, because you just can't walk in this bitch and say, "I want to see Dwayne Carter.”

 A fascinating aspect of Diane McWhorter’s book on 1963 Birmingham, “Carry Me Home,” is her odd family history.  Her grandparents were genteel, cultured members of Birmingham’s most exclusive country club.  Rebelling against his ow father’s expectations, Diane’s dad was a mean drunk who carried out dirty work for the Ku Klux Klan.  In 1963 Diane and her fifth grade classmates saw “To Kill a Mocking Bird” at a downtown theater and sympathized with Tom Robinson, the black man Cary Grant as Atticus Finch defended. In gym class Diane’s classmates cheered news of JFK’s assassination.  She wrote: “The main reason I hadn’t joined in was that I was standing next to my best friend, Caroline McFarley, a Kennedy admirer and nonconformist who, a few years later, would name her dog after [liberal justice] Hugo Black.

Diane’s favorite uncle, Hobart McWhorter, once an adviser to Governor George Wallace, hosted Mountain Brook Country Club’s first black member in order to avoid the PGA pulling its annual tournament.  When a longtime waiter he called “preacher” was hospitalized with a life-threatening illness, Uncle Hobart visited him.  Told only family members could see him, he claimed to be his uncle.  Ironically, neither Hobart McWhorter nor George Wallace were at heart ardent segregationists, but they held that position out of political expediency. They made a devil’s bargain with Ku Kluxers and a former baseball announcer named Eugene “Bull” Connor who turned Birmingham into “Bombington.”  McWhorter ends “Carry me Home” with these words:
  The Magic City [in 1963] was barely 90 years old.  That was a short time to produce a history so terrible.  From it had come a gift, America’s most stirring example of democracy.

In his History seminar Chris Young assigned a book edited by Michael Burlingame and containing excerpts from “Abraham Lincoln: The Observations of John G. Nicolay and John Hay.”  Kansas Republican Jim Lane appears in a section called “Frontier Guards at the White House: April 1861.”  After the bombardment of Fort Sumter General Winfield Scott called on volunteers to defend the Executive Mansion in the event of a Confederate attack.  Senator-elect Jim Lane rounded up 50 “Frontier Guards” (as he named them) who slept in two long rows with their muskets stacked in the center of the room.  Nicolay and Hay wrote:
  At dusk they filed into the famous East Room, clad in citizens’ dress, but carrying very new, unvarnished muskets, and following Lane, brandishing a sword of irreproachable brightness. Here ammunition boxes were opened and cartridges dealt out; and after spending the evening in an exceedingly rudimentary squad drill, under the light of the gorgeous gas chandeliers, they disposed themselves in picturesque bivouac on the brilliantly-patterned velvet carpet – perhaps the most luxurious cantonment which American soldiers have ever enjoyed.  Their motley composition, their anomalous surroundings, the extraordinary emergency, their mingled awkwardness and earnestness, rendered the scene a medley of bizarre contradictions, a blending of masquerade and tragedy, of grim humor and realistic seriousness – a combination of Don Quixote and Daniel Boone altogether impossible to describe.

A native Hoosier, Jim Lane had fought in the Mexican War and became a leading Free Soil advocate during "Bleeding Kansas," the prelude to the Civil War.  In 1862 Lane, though still a member of Congress, was appointed brigadier general and recruited a volunteer regiment of black troops that defeated a band of Confederate guerrillas at the Skirmish at Island Mound.  In 1866 Lane shot himself in the head, depressed over accusations of financial irregularities and possibly deranged.  After lingering in feverish agony for ten days he finally died.  

As the baseball playoffs begin, the dictates of TV prevail.  Games will occur place at crazy times on obscure cable stations with so many off days that the World Series will be decided in November, probably in freezing temperature if the Cubs are fortunate to survive that long. They open a five-game series with the Giants, three-time World Champion (2010, 2012, 2014) in the past five years.
Spencer Cortwright reported:
  If you are walking through a forest at this time of year, you may come across a somewhat creepy looking plant whose fruits look like someone plucked out eyes from a series of dolls!  In autumn we call this plant “doll's eyes,” but in spring we call it “white baneberry.”  Either way if you see a scattering of these plants, then you likely are walking through a healthy forest, one that hasn't been logged too much or had nasty nonnative plants grow amuck!  But don't eat doll's eyes berrries - they are poisonous!  Fortunately, birds can eat them, so the seeds can be dispersed.

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