Rod McKuen – the bridge years

January 29th, 2015


I haven’t been feeling that great, of late.  I won’t say that I’ve really been sick, but a very bad cough is what I’ve had.  Illness slows people down, reminds them of the basics.  Being ill can clarify things, can separate the wheat from the chaff as it were.

In this latest spate of sickness or wellness or getting encouragement to get weller, I realized that violence and violent images are no friend of health.  I was going to write a post about it; about the “shoot’em up movies” of my youth, the westerns and war movies that tried to take a good life and make it all bad.  The target was me, not personally me, but very personal just as well.

Then there was this “Breaking News” on Twitter.  Rod McKuen was dead, had died, had moved on to the ranks of the silent majority.  It’s always the breaking news angle that will get you.  That’s the way of the world.  It’s about ‘the next new thing,’ the ‘latest,’ the ‘newest fad,’ the ‘what is hot, what is not’ mantra.

I’ve become very distrustful of the media, the temporary temporal powers that be, of those that wield so much authority about what we see, who we see, how often and when.  The argument can be made that it’s ALL just a movie.  There is such a thin line between the silver screen and the stage.  They are both staged.  The actors, and actors guild, say it’s just ‘entertainment.’  That’s true if it is entertaining, meaning, “interesting and pleasurable; diverting; amusing;” the operative word seems to be diverting.

The NEWS, the latest news, breaking news is always diverting.  Life can change in a heartbeat because of an attack on Pearl Harbor, the blowing up of Twin Towers, the murder of Charlie Hebdo, or the bombing of the King David Hotel.  Usually, the truth of the matter doesn’t matter.  The diversion is made with those first flashes of mental imagery that come with the notion of urgency that impels each of us to seek consensus at a time of great peril.

If you don’t want to be railroaded, get off the tracks.

Obviously, most events in life are not of the magnitude of, “stop the presses.”  Most changes are more like the role of tracks for a train.  The tracks control where the train is headed.  Stop the train, I’m leavin’, may be the only solution.


I saw Rod McKuen live in San Francisco in 1966.  The venue was a club on the south side of Broadway in North Beach.  The place was chosen by the concert promoters because it had a greater seating capacity than the Purple Onion where sometimes he played.  I can’t say it was really a concert, it was a poetry reading mostly.  The venue was a bar.  I believe there was a small cover charge, and the main charge was the cost of the drinks.

I was still just seventeen then, in the spring of 1966.  The drinking age in California was 21.  This meant that I had to pay the (now) equivalent of  $30 for 3 very watered down Cokes.  There were two of us, it was my dates idea that I should be there, so that meant $60 for 6 watered down Cokes served all at once, about 30 minutes before the show was ever begun.

To say that I actually ‘saw’ Rod McKuen would be a bit misleading.  I have no memory of there ever being a stage.  It was just flat floorspace mostly, packed with tables and chairs, a real firetrap fire situation, maybe too close to going ‘into the warm.’  At least with the lounge acts at Harrah’s (and the Mapes Hotel) in Reno you could see the performer and the stage.  That was where I had driven down from – Reno, just to see Rod McKuen and to eat at the (original) Spaghetti Factory in North Beach.  North Beach was where the Beat Generation hung out, the Beatniks, the Bohemian crowd that were not members of the Bohemian Club.

You might think that in this era of the web that I could find a site that listed, in order and by year, every concert or venue where Rod McKuen ever played.  Maybe I’ve missed something, but I don’t think it exists.  Let me know if you find something.

Rod McKuen was from Oakland, just across the bay.  San Francisco was open to his lifestyle, it liked poets like those that hung around City Lights.  He was promoted (then) as just a local boy that had done good, had gained a following, a foothold of sorts.  Few were calling it the ‘gay agenda’ back then.  Something else much bigger was happening.  It was the year before Flower Power, the summer of love, ‘free love’ (heterosexual style) and the happening (if not the awakening).  Everything is made reasonably clear HERE.

So, I guess that there are not too many still around that can say they saw Rod McKuen in the early days in San Francisco, or that at least heard him, so to speak.  Most of his followers seem to have come to follow him much later, when he became a bigger and brighter star in the world of success that was often seen as “anti-hippie,” meaning more the pro-war establishment thing.

There are so many versions of history and life and ‘what happened back then’ versions of things.  It all depends on the agenda.  It all depends on the track you are on, and were on then.

For me Rod McKuen will always occupy a very special place.  It is about a literal Stanyon Street and other sorrows.  It is about a poem about a bridge and about a greater loss, about death.  It is about a time (in my life) when the fame or notoriety of one place intersected my place, my space.

Was it just a diversion, an entertainment thing, not amusing, not pleasurable?  I certainly was diverted.  My whole life was diverted.  Detour ahead, and behind, and what was it all that was behind it?

The multiple faces of #Twitter

January 16th, 2015

I never did face book, I never had an account and I never accessed one either.  “No, no, not me.”  I had no use for ‘social media’, and not because I’m not social.

I like face-to-face transaction, interface.  Facebook was like a yearbook (face photos) gone live.  But, in my day, the only good thing about a yearbook was getting it signed, the signatures, the comments – some were rude, most were not.  The rude comments could easily ruin a yearbook, the rude comment writers are the ones that support Charlie Hebdo.  I don’t.

When I was young there were still those alive that thought that movies had ruined vaudeville.  There were those that felt that the talkies were adversely effecting conversation.  In 1954 and 1955 I was often criticized for the number of movies I saw.  It was not about the money it cost (I had movie passes), but it was more about the shear number, which was, for awhile, an astonishing three or four different movies per week.

I saw, they said, “too many movies, too many cartoons,” and maybe too many newsreels too – too much news (of any kind) is not necessarily a good deal.  And those were funny cartoons, and animated – often satirical and penetratingly clever.  Not like the too many cartoons chucked out by Charlie Hebdo.

In time television came, what was often called, “the great American cultural wasteland.”  And like all the previous upgrades using all the new inventions and technology this new medium, this social media and medium, was introduced as offering ‘high hopes’ with the promise of doing so much good for the world.  Many remember it as just Queen for a Day, Candid Camera, I Love Lucy, and the Beverly Hillbillies – at best.

So, this brings us up to the minute with Facebook and Twitter.  There are probably well more than 1 billion Twitter accounts today in the world.  About 15% (1 in 7) users use Twitter about once a month, 85% don’t.  Of those that do, it’s often just ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘Candid Camera’ and ‘Queen for a Day’ all over again, with a lot of the ‘Beverley Hillbillies’ thrown in.  It’s often just ‘all about me (and a few friends)’, all about Hollywood and the Hollywood Hills and the creatures (and ) thereof.  So many on Twitter think they are a ‘Queen for a Day’, and probably everyday.  And this of course brings us back to Allen Funt and his ‘Candid Camera’ crusade, selfies and surveillance, surprise – he had it all then, Twitter has it all now.  Like the Charlie Hebdo attitude and affair, “nothing can ever be too rude, or too obnoxious or surprising.”

But, Twitter also has its potential.  One can create (or use) a hashtag at will.  There’s a #Ebay site that is free and totally free from ebay (and it has all the color).  Every tourist site in America, including ‘brick & mortar’ stores (whatever they are), has a hashtag site, think #DisneyWorld and #Sears and the #WhiteHouse maybe.  Maybe everybody is just always trying to sell you something.  But (too), so many things and places get lost, are lost.  Old places, old people, old memories out of the ordinary, are often always lost and absent on Twitter.  There’s little or no following or followers.

That’s the problem with Twitter, its so ORDINARY, so expected, so usual.  It’s just a flashy new format for the, “same old, same old” thing, just a new generation doing what (and seeing what) the older generations came and saw and eventually rejected.  They said I wasted my time then (on the movies and television and the telephones and such) and when I’m on Twitter I’m probably wasting it (my time) now.  I’ll never learn I guess.  I’m a bit addicted, I’m hooked, I’m acting a lot like a loser.

This post is not as pointless as it may seem.  The point is that there is a creeping (and very creepy) invasion into our lives, of technology and of media, and of the surrogate ‘viritual’ reality thing.  One never knows when (or if) tweets are being posted or intercepted or taken down or never put up, or if they really stay there.  No one even really knows if there is anyone else really on Twitter, or if the Twitter experience is not just a big computer just tailored to YOU.  Maybe the ‘right tweets’ are rewarded, and ‘bad tweets’ are just ignored and never get retweeted.  In time one learns what to tweet (and think) and what not to.  One learns where to go, and when to stay home and be perfectly silent.  As always, the purpose of social media, all media, is to socialize you, to make you do and say what is expected.

Its all a bit dystopian really – the telescreens everywhere, always on, everyone always watching the things.  seems to be the new reality, and it has been a very long time in its planning and coming.  The difference between George Orwell’s version of things and what we have now is that he never made clear (or didn’t know) that the secret to the success of the media was to make it interactive, to make people think that they have choices that they really don’t have, to make people think that there are people that exist that (just maybe) really aren’t out there or really don’t care.  One is not even ‘a face in the crowd’ when one has their face buried in Twitter, Facebook, a cellphone conversation, or a modern newsreel that’s not even real.

Every ‘next new thing’, every invention, every device that has ever been used to seperate man (people) from nature has been promoted, advocated, and sold with the “everybody is doing it” mantra.  New books come with the claim of a million ‘in print’, when the reality is that maybe only 60,000 copies have been sold, or will ever be sold.  Google and Facebook and Twitter and all the rest of the media is like this, even Fox News and CNN and Radio Russia – there is no one really minding the store.  It’s all about the illusion, about being deluded.

So, pick your way carefully out there my friends.  Watch your step and your steps.  The path that you follow may one day be a highway, a freeway, a way not so free as the walls and the barricades go up and the off-ramps become fewer and fewer and further between.  The old expression, “it’s my way, or the highway” now is more likely to mean, “their way, or nothing at all.”

On my Twitter account I introduce myself this way: “Turn it off. Build the unbuilding. Abandon the cities. Embrace simplicity. There are no political solutions. Think harder, longer.”  It’s what I really believe, although I’m not sure I will get there.  I too, do have a dream, hope against hope, you might find it all on Twitter.  And, “That’s all Folks.”

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Online & Live

January 14th, 2015


I used to print things, and publish things, on the web.  That was back in the days (circa 1974 and more) when ‘web’ meant a web printing press, the rotating and very rapid type printing press that the  magazine is printed on.  These presses were (and are) quite efficient.  Copies are cheaper (per copy) if the run is longer.  Long runs, like in the millions, like with #Charlie can be VERY profitable if the copies actually sell.  And the latest of January 14, 2015 is selling very well.  Three million copies were sold in the first two or three hours.

I learned a long time ago that publishing things on the (real, meaning electronic on-line) web was far faster, far cheaper.  The problem was, “how to profit.”  The truth is, the effectiveness of web advertising is largely unproven, but people do it anyway.

Anyway, this brings us back to the Charlie Hebdo magazine affair.  Anyone ‘following’ on Twitter quickly learned that the magazines in Paris and in France quickly sold out and that all of London was to receive only 1,500 copies.  The French really hate the British, and vice versa.

Two end games were obvious, starting 12 or 14 hours ago.  First, the #CharlieMagazine would be a big hit on Ebay.  Like scalpers everywhere, shortages plus demand equals profit.  In this case the profit was thanx to the defamation of a prophet.

The second end game was also very obvious.  Anyone with a half-decent flat-bed scanner could scan all the pages of the ’14 Janvier’ issue and issue it themselves, on-line, on the web, and offer it for free.

I posted (on Twitter) that such an act constituted, “satire on satire.” It was “freedom of the press,” or “freedom of speech,” of the kind that Charlie Hebdo promoted – over-the-top, irresponsible, irreverent, in-your-face, and maybe even dangerous.  Anyway, nine hours later it happened, the web edition happened.  You can see it all here:

I posted the link a few places, then a few places more.  Something strange happened.  My Twitter posts were being censored, the posts didn’t post to where the hashtag destination sites were.  I stopped getting notifications.  Free speech was being silenced.

There are a lot of issues involved regarding my simple story.  #CharlieHebdo is viral, 30-40 new posts per minute, perhaps 2,000 per hour.  And thousands more on Facebook and a hundred other hashtag and social media sites.  There’s a war going on about the war going on about the war going on.

Yesterday I posted about how wrong the magazine was to do what it did (and does).  65 million people live in France, The Charlie Hebdo magazine printed 60,000 copies and probably sold a lot less.  Only one in a thousand Frenchmen (and French women) even saw the magazine and its vulgar, rather unpatriotic, and very disrespectful and unfair racist depictions.

What changed?

“Who benefits,” is always the question.  The anti-immigrant politicians are always reasonable culprits.  The Vietnamese and Algerians chased out the “white”French militants housed on their turf – why isn’t turn-about always fair play?  It’s like every “white” French businessman and tourist and resident in Vietnam or Algeria was labeled a ‘commando’, a member of the Légion étrangère (the French Foreign Legion), composed almost entirely of hired mercenaries and the worst of French social misfits, meaning criminals of the criminal class.

So, as always, the usual suspects are (1) Racists, and (2) Militants and the Militaries.  Most French Muslims don’t come from Vietnam or Algeria, they come from Morocco or Mali or the French Sudan and elsewhere.  They never fought the French.  They were given the right to live in France as a reward for their good behavior.  And now it stands to be a promise (and agreement) broken.

Charles De Gaulle (now remembered only as an airport) was always very anti-American and viewed American colonialism with a great distrust.  He dropped out of NATO because of it and established an independent French nuclear force.  He set up institutes for the protection of French culture and language.  He opposed the idea that France might ever become an American economic and cultural colony.

And now we have (France has) McDonald’s restaurants everywhere, a Paris Disneyland, a new and brasher NATO, and a government that panders to every U.S. demand.  Charles de Gaulle would die, if he weren’t already dead.

But M. De Gaulle was not really a racist.  It was the language thing first, the cultural thing second.  Now, the (white) French that attack the Muslims for retaining their culture are more American (culturally) than they are French (culturally).  This is perhaps best illustrated by the French ‘Rights of Man’ document that reads:  “The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.”

The American term is “free speech.”  The relevant French culture position, with all French linguistic precision, is “print with freedom.”  The four million (3.7 million marchers) of French persuasion would be defending Charlie Hebdo’s right to print with freedom, not call for the American culture’s “right of free speech.”  It sounds far too much like Mario Savio in Berkeley, California (U.S.A.).

Or maybe it doesn’t sound enough like Mario Savio.  #Mario (#jesuisMario) was for the downtrodden of other races.  Mario was not a militant advocating American Military solutions (with ‘partners’).  Mario was for the working person, the poor.  Mario did not hate religion, he used religious tenants as an inspiration for fair play and for the rights of man.  In all this Charlie Hebdo is lacking.

So,I guess it is #jesuisDeGaulle.  The Muslims in France (many of them) embrace the message of De Gaulle in embracing their culture, in practicing it, in defending it.  Such action is at the heart of French tradition.

Whether the French tradition approves of acts of violence is a problematic question at best.  The French revolution was dangerously violent.  Napoleon, especially his march against Russia, was violent.  The French colonial policy was very violent.  The treatment of ‘collaborators’ was especially violent.  Even the French expression “C’est la guerre” (that’s war) implies violence.

Yes, there is a war going on in France, maybe a revolution, or a counter-revolution.  10,000 troops have been deployed, the police have been militarized and activated.  The result may not be pretty.  Like the French enclave of Beirut, a city where every race and religion once got very well along, France as a whole is now hopelessly threatened.  It was NOT the Muslims that broke the peace, tranquility and beauty of Beirut; it was the intervention of outside, state-sponsored, hostile neighbor, forces; anti-Muslim, anti-Arab forces.

It is the hidden hand that must always be watched.  It is the hidden hand that might stop the on-line Charlie Hebdo link (or links) from going viral.  It is the hidden hand that might be behind all the shooting.  The real alliances are NOT what you might think they are.  Best to keep it simple.  And there really are NO POLITICAL SOLUTIONS.

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Leadership v. Swarm, Freedom of Speech v. Freedom of Image

January 13th, 2015

It’s a new year out there, and a new world.  Things look a bit different out there, and things are.  First, let me state quite clearly, leadership, as it was traditionally known, and advocated, is really quite dead.  That’s what the polls say.  The point is that the “leaders” of the past, those thought to have wisdom and experience and the best of ideas that were a cut-above the mainstream and masses, are out.  The leaders have all been replaced by crowd pleasers.

The reason for this is obvious.  The ideal of democracy is the swarm, and swarm behavior, the crowd – what once was termed by the advocates of “representative democracy” (the electoral college type folks) as “the mob,” a metaphor for the danger of mob behavior.  That crowd behavior might be seen as ‘danger’ or as being dangerous, is buried in the far past of political think, a long-dead relic of past political thought.

Now, we call the crowds flash mobs, concerts, ‘Je suis Charlie’, demonstrations, marches, rallies.  It’s the idea of the swarm; it’s the insect thing and the bird and bat thing; swarms and flocks and armies of ants all on the move with a unity of purpose and no leaders to guide them or stop them or to question behavior.  To put it quite bluntly, “the age of reason” is dead.  The minority report is dead.  The lone wolf and the voice in the wilderness are dead too, and as the swarm people say, “good-bye and good riddance, the past is so 2014.”

If you are still “2014” in your thinking, you probably got caught up in the words.  You probably read ‘swarm’ and thought ‘insect’ and not birds, and you know that bats are actually mammals.  That’s the point.  Words are speech, images and imagery is different.  Life isn’t about words anymore, it’s not about vocabulary.  Life is about images and imagery.  Life is about photos, video sound-bites, go-pro downloads, cartoons and the like.  Talking has become tweeting, a word that reminds us of, “like what birds do.”  And like the birds, Tweets are limited to 140 spaces, usually less than fifteen or sixteen words.  It’s hardly enough words for a thought, but it IS enough words to create an image, a mental image.

In America the Bill of Rights grants three basic rights: free speech, freedom of the press, the freedom to assemble freely.  It is the freedom to assemble that allows the right for four million (people) to block traffic on the streets of Paris and elsewhere and to bring the normal economic commerce to a standstill.  Compared to the #Blacklivesmatter protests in America, the Paris (crowd action) was gargantuan in its violations of property rights, economic rights, and rights involving freedom of movement.  The disruption of subway service, the cost of police and policing, the shutdown of vital emergency services to those ill, sick, or injured (who live in the area) are left undiscussed by the ‘Je suis Charlie’ crowd and the crowd’s legions of supporters.  Like the dissembling abuse of the freedom of the press actions by Charlie Hebdo, his supporters confuse freedom of assembly with license, with “crowd values,” with the will of the mob, or the flash mob.

There is nothing new about this of course.  The Nuremberg rallies of the Third Reich were crowd actions, the thick walls of people at Hitler parades were crowd actions too.  The throngs at Red square celebrating and saluting the Red Army and Stalin were also crowd actions, the America First rallies at Madison Square Garden were allowed (and supported) to make clear, “the will of the crowd.”  Least we not forget too, the earlier crowd actions in Paris that were the scenes of countless public beheadings in the name of, “liberty, equality, fraternity,” where ‘justice’ was doled out without any pretense of evidence or trial.

So, the ‘Je suis’ movement is more at one with the Nazis and Stalin than it is with Gandhi in its methods.  In the name of free speech, maybe Charlie Hebdo could picture Gandi as a philanderer, or slander him as being a pimp or a prostitute, or magnify him or trivalize him as a big bucks banker.  Hebdo would call it humor (of course).  Then Hebdo could maliign and besmirch Gandi’s followers and cohorts purveyors of violence, as arms dealers, as mercenaries out to overthrow governments that never do good.  What fun!?  No, not really much fun, not really so much the grounds of support.  It’s not freedom Charlie’s after, or was ever after, its defamation, defaming.  He claims the right to defame and defile; and his supporters, in supporting him, claim that such a right should be universal, ubiquitous, widely used.  The crowd (in its confusion) claims it is their right to create images and imagery of this defecation, to speak it, to bring such words and such pictures to mass meetings and assemblies, and to inundate the airwaves and websites and Facebook and Twitter and even Google with hate speech, hate words, hateful images, and hateful happenings, too.

It’s almost as if the Hebdo supporters wish to remove the words incite, provoke, and provocateur from the lexicon of the language (or all languages).  It is impossible (they seem to say) to, “incite a riot.”  No “agent provocateur” ever provoked anyone or anything.  There are no plots anymore, no conspiracies, no, anything said, or uttered, or demonstrated, or acted out that is not just, “freedom of speech, “freedom of expression, an, “act of artistic endeavor.”

It has long been said that one person’s ‘terrorist’ is another person’s ‘freedom fighter.’  It also might be said that one groups ‘freedom of action’ is another groups ‘terrorist act.’  This gets back to the fact that there’s a war going on; one where, “Arabs and Persians (Iranians) and Muslims and the Muslim religion” are all seen as the enemy; where the ‘forces of freedom’ (the militant west) has to, everyday, reinvent reasons for people to continue to support (or at least not oppose) the daily murder of countless innocent civilians and (also) unwanted journalists who might report on, or document, images of the slaughter.  The western journalists are detained and even murdered by the government forces of the leaders that marched in the ‘Je suis Charlie’ Hebdo procession last Sunday.  Hypocrisy is high on the agenda of tyrants posing as being at one with the people.

So, the inconvenient truth of the matter is that there is no clear line between acts of free speech, and free imaging, and freedom of expression –  and acts of violence, even acts of murder, rape, and rage.  The “free speech” march in Paris of ‘Je suis Charlie’ Hebdo was orchestrated and plotted and planned to give support to the continued murderous drone strikes that kill (on average) ten innocent civilians for every ‘terrorist’ death, to give support to Syrian airstrikes by ‘partners’ and to ground operations that kill, murder, and rape hundreds of Syrian civilians (all unreported).  All of which gives support for military expenditures that cause ‘budget shortfalls’ that cause death and hunger and divorce travails that often lead to acts of violence against women and children just because there is not enough to eat in many places in America, and that can cause (and does cause) unbearable tension, and violence, and harm.  And now do you still support Charlie Hebdo?

Make no mistake, the world is not really so different in 2015 than it was in 2014, or 1914, or 1940, or on so many dates even before.  There have always been those that have confused freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, and the right to assemble freely – to pursue either peaceful or violent ends.  Freedoms are as often cited to make war, as they are to make peace.  The pages of history are littered with the speeches, the pontifications, the pleadings, the plastered posters, the pathetic smiles, the ploddings, the pushes and putsches, the marches and marching, the moments of silence and the sounds of silence with candles burning until the wax meets the hand and real thought and reason and compassion are finally restored.

There is ‘a lost generation’ out there that cannot, and does not, and perhaps never will understand the concept of ‘license.’  There are those that say, and always have said, “anything goes.”  It has always been the messy end of history, hate speech and all; ‘dis’ and disrespect, and disrespecting others not the same as yourself.  It’s vulgar of course.  And vulgar insults always cut deeply.  The U.S. (America and Americans) have always used nasty cartoon characters and images to demonize, discredit, and denigrate Indians, Asians, Negroes, and Blacks.  So, why would Americans be surprised that those in France would follow?  The cartoons created an atmosphere in which it was “OK” to murder and kill and lynch and steal at will from the targeted people and peoples.  It wasn’t OK then, and it isn’t OK now, especially in a so-called bastion of civilization.  Charlie Hebdo is just not civil, his behavior is not civilized.

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2015 Timeline

January 1st, 2015

2015 Calendar


January 1, 2015:

  • Snow:  Pictures on Twitter.  Luminaria links on Twitter.

January 2, 2015:

January 3, 2015:

  • Veteran Walker, Migrating Holidays on Twitter.

January 4, 2015:

  • Storyboard about radiation, retweet ABQ pictures, Saigon Caravelle on Twitter.

January 5, 2015:

  • Waffle House founder Manhattan Project on Twitter.

January 6, 2015::

January 7, 2015:

  • Gun attack on French magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ kills 12

January 8, 2015::

January 9, 2015::

January 10, 2015:

  • Donald at Trader Joe’s.

January 11, 2015:

January 12, 2015:

  • Investigated picture scanning and scanners, Go-pro.

January 13, 2015:

  • Charlie Hebdo posting on Twitter, magazine sales go viral, twitter link, on Twitter.

January 14, 2015:

January 15, 2015:

  • Morning frost, roof and lawns are white.