Friday, July 14, 2017


“Only the wild ones,
give you something and never want it back.”
         “Only the Wild Ones,” Dispatch

Leading off Dispatch’s new album, “America, Location 12,” “Only the Wild Ones” references Beat poet Gregory Corso and the anti-establishment Sixties Michigan band MC5.  The final chorus lines go:
Only the wild ones, are the ones you can never catch
Stars are up now no place to go... but everywhere
After playing “Only the Wild Ones” on WXRT, Marty Lennartz mentioned that Dispatch recorded “America, Location 12” at Panoramic Studio in Stinson Beach, California, where The Head and the Heart recorded “Signs of Light.”  Formed in 1996, the indie rock band Dispatch, originally from the Boston area, took a decade-long hiatus before re-forming six years ago and finally now coming into its own.

The word dispatch can mean killing someone, like when Myrtle Bennett shot her husband Jack over a bridge dispute, but it most commonly refers to sending off a report, such as dispatching a news story or communiqué.  Prolific novelist Stephen King wrote: When I was a kid I believed everything I was told, everything I read, and every dispatch sent out by my own overheated imagination. This made for more than a few sleepless nights, but it also filled the world I lived in with colors and textures I would not have traded for a lifetime of restful nights.”

On “Final Jeopardy” contestants had to deal with this question: “A landmark 1957 New York Times story called him ‘a powerful six-footer, olive-skinned…with a straggly beard.’”  Everyone got it right: The answer, in the form of a question: “Who is Fidel Castro?”  On February 24, 1957 (my fifteenth birthday), New York Times correspondent Herbert L. Matthews filed a dispatch that included an interview with the Cuban revolutionary from his hide-out in the Sierra Maestra mountains.  Matthews wrote:
  The personality of the man is overpowering.  It was easy to see that his men adored him and also to see why he has caught the imagination of the youth of Cuba all over the island.  Here was an educated, dedicated fanatic, a man of ideals, of courage and of remarkable qualities of leadership.
  Castro is a great talker.  His brown eyes flash; his intense face is pushed close to the listener and the whispering voice, as in a stage play, lends a vivid sense of drama.

1957 was the year that the Russians launched Sputnik into space, causing critics to question whether America had fallen behind the Soviet Union in its dedication to math, science, and space exploration.  The accomplishment led to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev becoming Time’s Person of the Year. 
Elizabeth Eckford being jeered on way to Central High School
On September 23, 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered National Guard troops to be deployed to Little Rock, Arkansas, with orders to protect 9 black students integrating Central High School in compliance with the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. The Montgomery Bus Boycott had come to a successful resolution just months before, signaling that Sothern Blacks were no longer willing to tolerate segregation. The photo of brave Elizabeth Eckford being jeered on her way to Central High School moved millions around the world.  Many American leaders realized this was no way to win the Cold War propaganda battle with the Soviet Union.  Harry Ashmore of the Arkansas Gazette was one of the few Southern newspaper editors who supported federal intervention: a boycott cost the paper millions of dollars.

Michael Herr’s “Dispatches” (1977) brilliantly captures the tragedy of the American military presence in Vietnam in 1967.  The two best Vietnam war movies, “Apocalypse Now” and “Full metal Jacket,” employ plentiful quotes from “Dispatches” that mock the folly of unleashing a deranged killing machine on a country and its people that, in Herr’s words, “could do everything but stop.”  Or win hearts and minds – just the reverse.  I can still visualize the Peace signs and mottos mentioned by Herr that marines painted on their helmets: Hell Sucks, Far From Fearless, Born To Raise Hel, and Avenger are but a few.  “Dispatches” begins:There was a map of Vietnam on the wall of my apartment in Saigon and some nights, coming back late to the city, I’d lie out on my bed and look at it, too tired to do anything more than just get my boots off. That map was a marvel, especially now that it wasn’t real anymore.”  Herr compared being in Saigon to “sitting inside the folded petals of a poisonous flower.”  The “Paris of the East” had become a cesspool of corruption.
Just lying there tracking the rotations of the ceiling fan, reaching for the fat roach that sat on my Zippo in a yellow disc of grass tar. There were mornings when I’d do it before my feet even hit the floor. Dear Mom, stoned again. In the Highlands, where the Montagnards would trade you a pound of legendary grass for a carton of Salems, I got stoned with some infantry from the 4th.

Distinguished NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel, 44, speaks Arabic fluently and has covered wars in Iraq and Syria as well as the “Arab Spring” in Libya and Egypt.  The show “On Assignment with Richard Engel” recently characterized Russia as a Mafia state fueled by graft and corruption, where enemies of Vladimir Putin are silenced, sometimes with extreme prejudice.  Engel was recently in Mosul covering the Iraqi victory over ISIS. Like with Vietnamese cities such as Hue, it became necessary to destroy the city in order to seize it from the caliphate.
 Puvungna Pow Wow at Cal State Long Beach

John Attinasi

I took Ronald Loewe’s “Of Sacred Lands and Strip Malls: The Battle for Puvungna” (2006) to former IUN colleague John Attinasi, a professor of Linguistics and Education at Cal State Long Beach and is back in Miller.  According to a publisher’s statement:
  A 22 acre strip of land—known as Puvungna—lies at the edge of California State University’s Long Beach campus.  The land, indisputably owned by California, is also sacred to several Native American tribes. And these 22 acres have been the nexus for an acrimonious and costly conflict over control of the land. Of Sacred Lands and Strip Malls tells the story of Puvungna, from the region’s deep history, through years of struggle between activists and campus administration, and ongoing reverberations from the conflict. As Loewe makes clear, this is a case study with implications beyond a single controversy; at stake in the legal battle is the constitutionality of state codes meant to protect sacred sites from commercial development, and the right of individuals to participate in public hearings. It is a compelling snapshot of issues surrounding contemporary Native American landscapes.

The main fight to save Puvungna took place during the early 1990s; Indian activists adopted the slogan, “PUVUNGNA: SAVE IT DON’T PAVE IT.”  Plans for a strip mall were eventually scrapped.  Attinasi greeted me wearing a Puvungna t-shirt and told me that Native Americans from all over the country attended the forty-seventh annual Pow Wow in March. He and Lillian had been back from Long Beach only a month but had a terrific garden in back, featuring corn, tomatoes, and other vegetables.
 Bill Buckley in 2008

Poet Bill Buckley brought me a batch of poems for the Archives, including “White Pines”:
I have always lived
in a house
if a white pine
grew nearby.

Today I have one in my front yard,
the only one
on our shady street.
Witness to my life,

I ask you:
“Do you absorb memories
in the embrace of your branches,
in these winds off Lake Michigan?”

In Upper Michigan,
there is the last
virgin white pine forest in North America.
I took my nine-year-old son there,

and watched his eyes widen
under the cathedral of those trees,
as if they were speaking to him.
Tonight, I wait,

for the pine tree in my yard
to speak to me,
in its witness to the births, marriages,
and deaths on my block,

where funerals parade up to a cemetery,
two blocks up,
and from where this silent pine
has lived

for 100 years.

When I saw HBO advertising “The Birth of a Nation,” I feared that it was the racist 1915 D.W. Griffith film, but it actually was about Nat Turner and the 1831 slave insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia.  Watching slaves being raped and brutalized reminded me of a July 4th address Frederick Douglass made in Rochester, New York, in 1852, which David Remnick used in a New Yorker article castigating Trump for eroding the dignity of the Presidency. Douglass told members of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society:
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
It’s been months since I’ve gone to the movies, but with, Toni out of town, I saw “Baby Driver,” starring Ansel Elgort as a getaway driver forced to go on one final job for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey).  Elgort came into prominence for playing a cancer patient with a prosthetic leg in “The Fault in Our Stars” (2014).  I’m no fan of car chase scenes, but Rolling Stone gave “Baby Driver” three and a half stars. Its campiness reminded me of Fargo without the kooky accents. It was a hoot seeing Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Lanny Joon, and Flea playing thugs Buddy, Bats, JD, and Eddie.  One laugh-out-loud moment is when Buddy listens on one of Baby’s ear plugs to Queens’s “Brighton Rock.”  Another is when JD, told to buy Michael Myers masks from the movie “Halloween” for a heist, comes back with Mike Myers masks from “Austin Powers”:
Eddie: [complaining about his mask] I said Michael Myers! 
JD: This is Mike Myers. 
Bats: It should be the “Halloween” mask. 
JD: This is a Halloween mask! 
Bats: No, the killer dude from “Halloween.” 
JD: Oh, you mean Jason. 
Eddie Bats: No!

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