Friday, June 26, 2009

Finally Summer Friday Random Ten

Back in February, my coworker/friend Sarah predicted that this would be one of those years where Chicago went straight from Winter to Summer, with no stop at Spring. She was, lamentably, correct. But alas, summer is here. Long may it run.

1. Woodstock- Joni Mitchell
2. Nite Klub- The Specials
3. Back In the USSR- The Beatles
4. Dophin's Smile- The Byrds
5. (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais- The Clash
6. I'm Straight- Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
7. Interstate Love Song- The Stone Temple Pilots
8. Kentucky Rain- Elvis Presley
9. Career Opportunities- The Clash
10. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts- Bob Dylan

1. CSN & Y, who were at Woodstock covered this song by Joni Mitchell, who was not there. Crazy world.
2. Love the line: "I won't dance in a club like this/All the girls are sluts and the beer tastes just like piss!"
3. This song started out as "Back in the USA," but ended up being "USSR," because the line sounded better. Right wingers were, of course, mortified.
4. The more the years go on, the more I love the music of the Byrds.
5. Probably my favorite Clash song. From their first album
6. "I'm certainly not stoned, not like Hippy Johnny..."
7. We bought this one for Rock Band recently. I sing it. It's one of my favorite-ever songs.
8. What's this? This one came up two weeks in a row in my shuffle! Good thing it's my favorite Elvis song.
9. Another one from their first album. "I hate the civil service too/I won't open letter bombs for you..."
10. Classic Dylan story-song, from Blood On The Tracks, and album that still sounds great 35 years later.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

John Calloway

If you're not from the Chicago area, you probably never heard of John Calloway, who passed away yesterday. He was a fixture on Chicago-area television for decades, particularly with WTTW, our public television station.

I was surprised to hear that he was from West Virginia, and not Chicago-- he was a Chicago guy through and through. For years, he did fascinating features on Chicago-related stories. The one I remember most is the feature he did a few years back on the tragic 1958 "Our Lady of Angels" fire (I did a post last year, on the fiftieth anniversary of the fire).

I had two run-ins with John Calloway in my life. The first was in 1980, when Calloway moderated a debate at Triton College about nuclear power, between Ralph Nadar and a representative from the Commonwealth Edison electric company. Calloway was, as always, genteel, erudite and elegant, despite the debate becoming heated. The second encounter with Calloway was face to face; I waited on him at Nida's/The Smokehouse, a BBQ restaurant I worked at in the '90's (he sat at your table, Lulu!).

Having worked as a server on and off for 29 years, one of the things I've learned is that it tells a lot about a person, whether they're polite to people they don't have to be polite to. Calloway was exactly as he seemed on the television-- gracious and pleasant, completely unfazed by the fact that he was a local celebrity. He was the real deal-- a guy who really was as nice as he seemed to be.

Mr. Calloway leaves a large body of work; many of the features he did are available on DVD now. I'm saddened by his passing, but glad he told a little of Chicago's story, and glad that I got to meet him.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Maybe He Should Be Appointed Secretary of Foreign Affairs

"I was just responding to my critics-- they kept telling me that I should accept the stimulus package."-- Gov. Mark Sanford, (R) South Carolina

My old friend Dan pointed out that Fox "News" is up to its old tricks-- when they broke the story, they "accidentally" listed Sanford, who is a Republican, as a Democrat. They apparently do this all the time with disgraced Republicans. See link below.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Occasional Forgotten Video, Foreigner, "I Want To Know What Love Is"

When I was in high school, Foreigner's first album came out. It was an instant classic, with hits like "Feels Like the First Time," "Cold As Ice," and "A Long Way From Home." They continued their success into the early eighties with their album "4," which had several more hits-- "Urgent," which featured a sax solo from Junior Walker, and "Waiting For a Girl Like You," which showcased beautiful, haunting synthesizer by a then-unknown Thomas Dolby, who would have his own top five US hit with "She Blinded Me With Science," in 1983.

Foreigner took a three year hiatus, but the wait was worth it: "I Want To Know What Love Is," which was written by Mick Jones (not to be confused with the Clash member by the same name) was their only #1 US hit, in 1985. The beautiful gospel touch was provided by the New Jersey Mass choir.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Honest To Goodness, The Bars Weren't Open This Morning...

"Honest to goodness, the bars weren't open this morning
They must have been voting for the President or something
"Do you have a quarter?" I said yes because I did
Honest to goodness the tears have been falling all over the country's face
It was better before they voted for what's his name
This must be the new world...."

The New World, X

Double Door, June 19, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

X at the Double Door Tonight

X was one of those bands or musicians that pretty much defined my tribe musically-- along with Johnny Cash, The Replacements, The Blasters and a handful of others.

Pretty much everybody I know is seeing X during a four-night stand at the Double Door, in Chicago. Though I didn't say anything, Kim must have realized that I was kind of bummed out that I couldn't afford to go see them. So she got me a ticket to tonight's show for Father's Day, bless her heart.

I saw them once before, in 1987 at the Caberet Metro in Chicago. Original guitarist Billy Zoom had been replaced by Tony Gilkyson, and Exene Cerveka was 8 months pregnant with her son by now-ex-husband Viggo Mortenson. Tonight's show will have the original line-up. I have a hunch that I'll run into some folks I know.

I'm hoping they'll play my favorite of their songs tonight, "White Girl." Until then, here's a Youtube clip of them at a show from last year at the Caberet Metro.

Summer So Close I Can Taste It Friday Random Ten

Yesterday, we finally had a nice Spring day here in Chicago-- now that Summer is almost here. I took advantage of it to go to a Cubs game yesterday. Now, if it ever stops raining...

1. Teenage Lobotomy- The Ramones
2. Last Child- Aerosmith
3. A Summer Song- Chad and Jeremy
4. Bad Little Woman- Shadows of Knight
5. Wouldn't It Be Nice?- The Beach Boys
6. Push A Little Daisy- Ween
7. Lonely Days- The Bee Gees
8. I Shall Be Free #10- Bob Dylan
9. The Bird- The Ramones
10. Kentucky Rain- Elvis Presley

1. Classic Ramones.
2. From "Rocks."
3. Perfect song for today.
4. A Chicago group best known for their cover of Van Morrison's classic "Gloria." This song is from the Nuggets garage rock collection.
5. A sweet little number from one of my favorite bands.
6. Whatever happened to these guys?
7, This one was from between the Bee Gees folk and disco periods.
8. Some early Bob Dylan-- he refers to Cassius Clay (now known as Muhammad Ali) in the song.
9. Joey and the boys covering the Trashmen's classic.
10. Probably my favorite Elvis Presley song. It was co-written by Eddie Rabbit.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Watch For Me

No time to blog today-- my old friend Dan called this morning-- he has an extra ticket for today's Cubs/White Sox game. Watch for me in the bleachers-- I'll be wearing a CBGB's t-shirt and a Red Sox cap.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Summer Mix, 2009

My stepdaughter and I started a tradition a couple of summers ago: to come up with a "Summer Mix" each year. It's the Itunes version of a mix tape for the summer. I put mine together tonight.

Anybody care to join our tradition?

1. Summer Rain- Johnny Rivers
2. Coming Up Close- 'Til Tuesday
3. Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You- Bob Dylan
4. Elusive Butterfly- Bob Lind
5. Mainstreet- Bob Seger
6. No More No More- Aerosmith
7. Lowdown In The Street- ZZ Top
8. Time Will Tell- Holly Golightly
9. Bad News- The Barracudas
10. Tom's Diner- Suzanne Vega (the original a cappella one, not the club hit version with DNA)
11. Baby Should Have Known Better- Palmyra Delran
12. Ain't No Way- Aretha Franklin
13. In My Life- The Beatles
14. Baby, It's You- Smith
15. See No Evil- Television
16. Reeling- Stew
17. Next Plane To London- The Rose Garden
18. Alex Chilton- The Replacements
19. Itchycoo Park- The Small Faces
20. Twistin' the Night Away- Sam Cooke
21. Up and Down- The Chesterfield Kings
22. Should She Cry?- Wire Train
23. Lonely Apache- Los Straightjackets
24. A Summer Song- Chad and Jeremy
25. The Boys Are Back In Town- Thin Lizzy
26. Hold Me Now- The Thompson Twins
27. Sittin' On A Fence- The Rolling Stones
28. Love Is Here (And Now You're Gone)- The Supremes
29. Til The End of the Day- The Kinks

Now that I have a Summer Mix, maybe Summer will get here...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Some Changes

When I started this blog 2 and a half years ago, it was mostly an intensely personal blog. I was reeling from the murder of my close friend Mark, and dealing with a couple of other things-- the loss of a teaching job I loved, and my father having cancer.

These days, things are calmer. My father is doing well. I'm getting ready to start school for one last career, one that I have a feeling will be my most fulfilling yet. And at the end of the summer, the guy who took my friend's life will go on trial for that murder (he's going on trial for the murder of one of the accomplices, who he was afraid was going to "roll" on him, at the end of this month).

My blog will remain personal-- I still find it a nice venue for thinking out loud, for writing a little about the wonder I find in life, no matter what difficulties are thrown my way, and of course like any parent, I love braggin' on my kids.

I've always had a pretty big political component in my blog, and occasionally a little history. I plan on doing all the other things, but would like to expand the history part of it. My ideal roll model for this is Erik's blog, which blends the historical, political, artistic and personal as nicely as I've seen it done in the blogosphere. And I'd like to get back to blogging every day. As busy as I am, these days, I find blogging rewarding.

When you talk to most people, and ask them what subject they found most boring, it is frequently history. I don't think it's the fault of history-- it's the fault of historians. History is innately interesting-- a fact not always conveyed adequately by some historians.

In 1994, I went to visit one of my closest friends, Viktor Zeitgeist, in Frankfurt, Germany, where he was living at the time. One day, we were walking through downtown Frankfurt, and he pointed out some ruins right in a central plaza there. He told me the story about it: the town of Frankfurt had decided to build a new city hall. When they began excavating for it, the construction workers ran into ruins. It turned out that the ruins were Roman. Previously, it had not been believed that the Romans were in that area. That day, the ruins, which had lain there for more than a thousand years, changed history.

History is alive, never dead, and moving, never static. It's essential to understanding our present and our future. Blogger Kristi recently discovered one of my favorite quotes about history, by George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Watching our "leaders" make mistakes recently that had entirely predictable results (banking deregulation, an unnecessary war, etc.), those words have never rung truer.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Garden Walk

Adam helped out my neighbors/friends/landlords by chalking a sign directing people from the St. Ben's Garden Walk to the beautiful backyard that they've put together.

Two thoughts. First, wow-- I am amazed. We are fortunate to share this lovely backyard. The second is wondering how I ended up with a kid who is such a smartass.

Oh, yeah, that's right-- the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Friday, June 12, 2009

That "At Least It's Not Raining" Friday Random Ten

We're still waiting for warm weather here in Chicago-- it's mid-June, for Christ's sake. At least it's not raining today.

In the meantime, Kim and I are looking forward to having the Bubs' over for dinner and drinks. Bubs always has some great mixed drink up his sleeve. I'm betting tonight will be no exception.

1. Don't Run Wild- The Del Fuegos
2. Positively 4th Street- Bob Dylan
3. Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore- John Prine
4. Sunday Morning Coming Down- Johnny Cash
5. Your Bird Can Sing- The Beatles
6. The World Is A Ghetto- War
7. Pressure Drop- Toots and the Maytalls
8. Love You To- The Beatles
9. No More Songs- Phil Ochs
10. Famous Blue Raincoat- Lloyd Cole

1. Hands down one of my favorite songs of the eighties. Singer Dan Zanes does children's albums now, and plays at the Old Town School of Folk Music, just a few blocks from my house, every year or two.
2. A very angry song.
3. One of my favorite-- and most irreverent-- anti-war songs ever.
4. Kris Kristofferson wrote a lot of great songs that other people covered-- Sammi Smith' "Help Me Make It Through The Night, Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobbi McGee," and of course this one.
5. Picking a favorite Beatles album is like trying to pick your favorite kid. Revolver is definitely in my top five.
6. Bruce Dickinson must have produced all of War's album-- lots of cowbell!
7. The Clash redefined this song when they covered it, but the original still sounds damned fine.
8. Whaddya know-- another song from Revolver. George Harrison gets his sitar on in this one.
9. A beautiful and sadly prophetic song by Phil Ochs, who was stricken by writer's block in the years before his suicide in 1976.
10. From "I'm Your Fan," a wonderful Leonard Cohen tribute album. The song takes the form of a letter Cohen is writing to a friend who his live-in lover cheated on him with-- even signing off "Sincerely, L. Cohen." One of my favorite covers of a Cohen song.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Occasional Forgotten Video: Men Without Hats, "The Safety Dance"

The eighties were the golden age of rock videos. And then there were the dumb ones. And then there were the ones that were so dumb you loved them. Men Without Hats' "The Safety Dance" was firmly in this category.

The synth-laden sound of Men Without Hats came from Montreal, Canada. The core of the band was Ivan Doroschuk and his brother Stefan. The band continued on after "The Safety Dance," with varying line-ups, but never repeated the monster success of "The Safety Dance."

"Everybody look at your hands"

Monday, June 08, 2009

Ain't That What Dreams Are Made For

"There's a road up ahead and it's a long one
It's written on the restless and young
With a want and desire we'll move
You know there ain't nothin' else that you can do, oh yea yea

Ain't this what dreams are made of,
Ain't this what dreams are made of, oh yea yea"

--Dreams, the BoDeans

Yesterday morning, I awoke at 6:20 am, without needing an alarm to wake me up. It was a day I've been looking forward to, with a little anxiety, for a couple of months.

A little after seven, I got a call from Jessica, another soon-to-be-student in the nursing program at Truman College. A couple of months ago, when the letters were sent out to the people who'd been accepted into the two year RN program there, I'd gone to the Nursing office to drop off my signed letter accepting my slot in the program. I discovered that I'd been slated for the nights/weekend program. It was not an ideal schedule-- I work nights and most of the time I can share with my kids is during the weekend days. They and I would have to tough it out, I figured. When I dropped off the letter, I mentioned to Erica, the lady who runs the nursing office, that a day schedule would be better for me. She told me that they usually let people who had conflicting schedules switch at orientation, a few months away.

I got home, studied for my class (Anatomy I), and ran some errands. When I got back, I discovered that Erica had called; right after I was in there that day, a woman who'd been accepted into the program-- the day program-- had come in and asked about switching to the night program. Erica remembered that I'd needed to switch to the day program. She left a message, asking if it was all right for Erica to contact me about the switch. The next day, I called the Nursing office and told Erica that by all means, yes, give the other student my contact information.

Yesterday morning, that student, Jessica, and I made plans to meet right before orientation to make sure we got the switch. We sat in the front row of the auditorium, to make sure to be able to ask questions-- which turned out to be fortuitious. The head of the nursing department sent out a sign-in sheet, and ran through the orientation, telling us about books, uniforms and other information we needed, including which cohorts were open-- time slots and hospital clinical observation time and locations.

As they got ready to start signing us up for our classes this fall, they told us that we'd be called up in the order of the sign-in sheet. Jessica and I suddenly realized what a stroke of luck had just happened; because of where we had sat, we were 5th and 6th on the sign-in sheet, out of the 100 or so people there. We'd have prime choice over class times and clinical location/times. Our lives were about to become very busy and complicated, but having a schedule that fit the rest of our lives, and a hospital location that was easy to get to would simplify things some.

Back a month and a half or so, Kim and I sat our kids down on a Friday night. She and I had Freixinet Cava (Spanish Champagne) and they had sparkling apple juice-- kids' champagne-- and had a toast. We told them that me getting into nursing school was a big deal-- it was a change in life. I was about to be immersed in work. For the next two years, there would be times that I wouldn't be able to spend the time I would like with them. But the end goal is a big one-- it would mean them being able to go to whatever college they wanted to, and study whatever they wanted, coming out of school without crippling debt. It's #1 on the 40-item list of goals I made for myself about five years ago.

This weekend, I spent all day Saturday with my kids. We hadn't had a lot of time together for the last month or so for various reasons. It was good to hang out with them. A lot of people assume that they're blood siblings-- both have done a great job in their parts of creating our "blended family" since Kim and I got married. They're kind to one another and have become better siblings than my siblings and I ever got to be.

I'd traded shifts with someone to work Friday, so that I could attend "Atwoodfest" on Saturday. Its an event a bunch of old college friends and I have every year around the time of the birthday of our friend Mark "Atwood" Evans, who was shot to death in a robbery three years ago. I had a really good night at work the previous evening, and so I had a few extra bucks to treat them a little bit. In keeping with tradition, I made them their favorite breakfasts that morning. Then we watched "The Rocker," a movie I knew they'd love. And then we went out to lunch.

We had originally planned to go to Hot Doug's, a place they love, and a place my son and I have been going to since he was little. Today, in the newspaper, I came across the fact that Anthony Bourdain has declared Hot Doug's to be one of the dozen restaurants you have to to to before you die. That would explain why it was a two hour wait to get in on Saturday. We switched gears. Hoping to come back to a shorter line, we moved up our schedule, going to another great Chicago institution, Uncle Fun's. They had their usual great time picking from Uncle Fun's enormous collection of kitsch, and chatting up the employees, who have watched them grow up.

We returned to Hot Doug's to find a line that was no shorter than it had been when we left. We had a family conference. We'd been planning to stop at a local Chinese restaurant, the Orange Garden, for a long time. With it's great Art Deco facade, it had been long beckoning us. I promised them that this summer, we could go to Hot Doug's on a weekday, when the line was shorter. They agreed-- off to the Orange Garden it was.

We got a booth-- big bonus-- and had a great meal. We had lots of good discussion-- something that always happens when I'm with my kids. Mel had a birthday party to go to later. She was a little apprehensive about it-- it was for her friend Anya, who is fascinated with Japanese culture. Consequently, they were going to a Japanese restaurant. Mel wasn't sure how she was going to feel about sushi. Adam was encouraging; he could compared sushi to his beloved smoked salmon, and likes sushi as well, and urged her to be open-minded about it. He is such a great big brother to her.

We ran home, where Mel got ready for her party, Adam played his World War II fighter game on the Wii and I took a nap, getting ready for the gathering of the middle-aged people trying to act like they were in college again.

I'd been nervous about "Atwoodfest." I'd missed last year's event-- I hadn't been able to get out of work in time. Last year, around that time, I was struggling financially, trying to recover from being fired from a job that had turned into a fiasco, and couldn't afford to take a night off. This year, I still couldn't really afford to take a night off, but was fortunately able to switch the night. It was too important to miss.

I had a marvelous time.

I've talked before about my friend Mark, who I met in college, and what a staggering loss to me his murder was. He was one of the people who I had planned on being friends with until we're old guys, one of a select handful. They're mostly people I met in college, like Larry, Jim, Dan, Dobie, Carolyn and a handful of others-- though people I've met since college, notably Bubs have been added to that list. But I tell my kids that they may keep the friends they have for a lifetime, but in my experience, you meet the people who are your lifelong friends in college. Being able to pay for my kids' college is really important to me.

At some point on Saturday, when my kids and I were running around, I heard the Replacements' "Hold My Life" on Little Steven's Underground Garage. The Replacements were, after The Clash, my second favorite band as I entered college and adulthood in the eighties. And "Unsatisfied" and "Hold My Life" were my two favorite Replacements songs.

Growing up, I was usually uncomfortable navigating between my blue collar roots and my white collar life; my father had gone from being an electrician to being a computer repairman to eventually helping run the network for one of the country's biggest banks. He never went to college. I was not only the first one in my family to go to college, but went on to get a graduate degree, in Political Science.

All of the professors on my Master's oral committee, as they announced that I'd passed, urged me to go on to get a PhD.

I didn't.

I wanted to wander down a lot of paths. I realized I had a lot of anger to burn off, and a lot of other things I wanted to do. I wanted to pursue a lot of avenues before I was limited to one career. I wanted to pursue some relationships, friendships and love affairs with people I would never have otherwise met if I hadn't gone down the avenues I went down. But I didn't see anything clear in front of me. As Paul Westerberg sang:

..."hold my life until Im ready to use it" For years, it felt like my theme song.

After this weekend, and after yesterday morning, I realized that I'm ready. I'm doing exactly what I should be doing, what I want to be doing, I'm doing what I love. I love being a parent, more than I ever, ever thought I'd love it. And after getting three other college degrees, two bachelor's and a master's, I'm getting a damned associate's degree that will lead to a job that I'm actually excited about. Not that I'm done-- I still may go back and get that PhD in Political Science.

I talked to my kids this weekend about plans and dreams. I recalled to them about how when I was in high school, one of the best high schools in Illinois, we college-track students were expected, by junior or senior year, to have figured out our next 50 years or so. Hardly anybody I know even got close to finding their path until they were 30 or older. I want them to go to college, explore a little bit, make lifelong friends and then figure out what they're going to do.

I chuckled to myself, remembering my trip to my old high school back in January to pick up my transcripts in order to get my nursing school application in on time. I remembered having to get directions to the records office-- and wondering if I could find my way to my old locker. I remembered walking through the halls of my old high school, thinking that if someone had told me, my senior year of high school, the path I'd take, I would have laughed.

My son is in high school now. My stepdaughter will be in seventh grade next year; this is the year that the Chicago Public School system looks at when determining if you can get into one of their "selective enrollment" schools. I've got a few more years with them. And then it's off to college.

Yesterday morning, as I walked out of the orientation and registration, I felt a huge sigh of relief. Yeah, it's going to be a tough two years-- the workload is huge. But it's going to end up with me having a profession I have a feeling that I'm going to love, and one that'll give me the financial stability I've craved for years, and enable me to fulfill my life goal of giving my kids a college education. And best of all, I got a schedule that'll allow me to be there on Saturdays and Sundays, continuing our tradition as I cook breakfast for my kids, and sitting down with them and catching up with their everchanging lives. Ain't that what dreams are made of?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Get The Summer Started Friday Random Ten

It's nearly officially summer, but we're still waiting for summer-like weather here in Chicago. I think today we may finally get it.

1. Treat Her Right- Roy Head
2. Shake Appeal- The Stooges
3. Masters of War- Bob Dylan
4. Rock Island Line- Johnny Cash
5. Billy, Don't Be A Hero- Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods
6. American Music- The Violent Femmes
7. Wild Billy's Circus Story- Bruce Springsteen
8. Jet Pilot- Bob Dylan
9. Stranger In The House
10. Slave To Love- Bryan Ferry

1. Love this oldie. It's the song at the end of "The Commitments."
2. From "Raw Power," a must-have album.
3. One of the most powerful antiwar songs ever.
4. A Johnny Cash song about a train? Wow, that hardly ever happens...
5. A big hunk of '70's cheese. Probably the worst antiwar song ever.
6. Heard a Violent Femmes song in a commercial recently. Never in a million years...
7. From Springsteen's second album.
8. An outtake that was included on Dylan's great box set, "Biograph."
9. First heard this one on Little Steven's Underground Garage.
10. I remember first hearing this one at Live Aid, which I watched on television in the summer or 1985.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

What We Can Expect

I've been watching, with fascination, and, I admit, a little bit of glee, the self-immolation of the Republican Party.

It's been alternately exhilirating and ghastly, watching it all. For all intents and purposes, Rush Limbaugh has become the head of the Republican Party. Nearly anybody in the party who dares to question his leadership has been punked and compelled to apologize, most notably, the actual head of the party, Michael Steele. Thusfar, only one person who has questioned his "leadership" and the direction Limbaugh is leading the party, retired general Colin Powell, has refused to back down from his criticism. Though I don't agree 100% with Powell politically, I have the utmost respect for him. To watch draft-dodging pricks like Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh tear into him has been painful.

As a student of politics and history, I can think of two examples, one on the right and one on the left, that compare to this: the Nazi Party and the Weathermen/Weather Underground.

As World War II ground to an end, Hitler and the rest of the party at first held out for a delusional miraculous victory over the enormous arrayed Allied forces. As even they were forced to conclude that their cause was a lost one, they blamed not their mad schemes and bad decisions, but the German people for their failure; Hitler even plotted to take the German people with him in death. In 1944, a group of German officers, including Field Marshall Irwin Rommel, tried to end the headlong dive into disaster by attempting to assasinate Hitler. They failed, and Germany lurched into a disastrous end to the war.

The Weathermen were an offshoot of the leftist student group, the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). The SDS did an enormous amount of good work in the sixties. Some people within the group, however, harbored violent fantasies about their role in society, and split off from the non-violent SDS to form the Weathermen. The group, which in the end were a bunch of rich kids playing at "revolution," took their name from a line in Bob Dylan's song "Subterranean Homesick Blues," ("You don't need a weatherman/To know which way the wind blows") They embarked on a violent-- and juvenile-- campaign of violence. It culminated in one of the most stupid demonstrations of all time, the "Days of Rage."

The dynamics of the group, like many insulated groups, was to reinforce the already delusional beliefs of the group. It led to a faction of the Weatherman concluding that American society was teetering, and all it needed was a good shove and it would topple. The shove was the "Days of Rage." The "Days of Rage" involved a splinter of the Weathermen, the Weather Underground, running down the streets of Chicago's downtown, smashing store and car windows. The participants, no doubt remembering the beatings protestors had received by the Chicago police the previous summer at the 1968 Democratic Convention protests, donned football helmets and other protection.

Their stupid actions were predictably futile. One would think that they would reaccess their worldview and strategy (especially if they saw how silly they looked in their football helmets). Instead, they concluded that they weren't violent and radical enough. They went "underground" and embarked on a campaign of violence and terror that included bank and armored car robberies that resulted in murders, the bombing of the US Capitol building and other acts of idiocy. As each act failed to bring down American society, and as the Vietnam War ended, they continued to become more and more radical and more and more isolated, kicking out members that didn't toe the "party line." In the end, they were an isolated and irrelevant group. When the law finally caught up with the remnants of them, in 1980, there was hardly any interest in even prosecuting them. They weren't even considered that dangerous-- except to themselves; in March of 1970, a nail bomb they were preparing in a "safe house" in Greenwich Village exploded and killed three Weather Underground members.

As a group becomes more and more insulated from reality, it creates its own little reality that makes sense inside its little universe-- and is complete nonsense to the rest of the world. The members enforce the whacko orthodoxy within the group by throwing out members who challenge their nutjob worldview by intruding with reality (see "Colin Powell and the Repubican Party"). Limbaugh, Cheney, Rove and the others have created an intellectual guilded cage that they're wealthy enough to furnish indefinitely. There will be no intrusion of reality into their world. What we can expect is for their assertions, demands and statements to become more and more bizarre until they create the intellectual equivalent of the Village Townhouse explosion.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Never In A Million Years

Back in 1990, I was working as a bartender at a long-gone Chicago bar. They had a big "projection" television, which they usually showed sports on. One night, I made the owners put a new show, The Simpsons, on instead of sports. I was a big fan of the comic strip "Life In Hell," which, like The Simpsons, had been created by Matt Gruening. I made them put the show on because I was certain that the general public would never get Matt Gruening's humor, and that the show would tank after 5 or 6 episodes.

How wrong I was. The show is still going strong after nearly 20 years.

I was running around this morning doing errands. Among those errands was a stop at the post office to pick up stamps. To my surprise and delight, I was able to purchase the stamps pictured above. Never in a million years did I ever think...

My last stop was my local grocery store, where my bank is. While waiting in line to make a deposit, I heard a song over the piped in music that I recognized: Living Color's Cult of Personality. Never in a million years, I thought, for the second time in the day.