Culture

History of California – Kevin Starr

This pleasant but superficial overview looks at California history from today’s perspective – it’s not a recounting of everything that happened, but of those things that “had to happen in order that California become what it is today.”

Audible Audiobook | Amazon

While useful as an organizing tool, this vantage point tends to give the book a triumphalist tone, where whatever negative events happened were necessary in order for California to fulfill it’s (American capitalist) destiny.

The book is strongest on issues like the development of the water infrastructure, where it recounts in detail how the North and South halves of the state grappled with this thorny issue. Chapters on the growth of San Francisco and Los Angeles, including a quick history of automobile traffic, are solid and entertaining.

Starr offers good coverage of early politics, including land-grabs and railroad scams. But he scants the role of the original Peoples of the regions – presumably because they were not strictly necessary to the destiny of the state.

Likewise, he gives a good, quick survey of architecture – but scarcely mentions that the raw materials were obtained virtually for free by decimating the redwood forests, with unforeseeable environmental impacts on today’s California.

Perhaps most offensive is his celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge as a masterpiece comparable to the Parthenon. Given that over 1000 people have committed suicide from the bridge, we’re left wondering what exactly constitutes a Californian masterpiece?

Three stars for Kevin Starr – with hopes that a more thorough and balanced history of the state is recorded soon.

Wix-KevinStarrCalifornia-Cover

 

Culture, Music

Duke – In a Sentimental Mood

Time for some world-changing trombone playing!

Written and recorded by Duke Ellington and his orchestra in 1935. Probably Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton on the trombone.

Solo at 1:58 – and don’t miss the trombone’s heart-wrenching entry just after 2:40:

Someone later put lyrics to Duke’s melody. Here’s Ella’s version from 1957:

All Duke all the time – starting with East St Louis Toodle-oo:

Duke-Writing

Culture

Firesign Theatre – 50 Years!

Surreal audio at its finest! These mind-bending journeys into the absurd recesses of American culture have aged well – or perhaps they haven’t aged at all.

It’s like listening to an old radio show, only there are always several things happening at once, and they don’t quite make sense till you understand the whole album and figure out who all the different characters are.

Which takes about 200 listens. So get started! See youtube links below.

Historical Note – classic rock-era albums require repeated listens to grasp the flow of the entire work. The early tracks on an album make more sense after you get to know the later ones, etc. Ditto for Firesign – there are layers of interweaving meanings, references, characterizations….

Choose one or two albums and play them a hundred times in the next week/month/year/decade. Don’t worry – all will become clear in the end!

Where to start? Depends on who you ask, and what time of day. Try these:

How Can You Be In Two Places At Once (includes Nick Danger episode @ 28:11)

Don’t Crush the Dwarf (featuring “High School Madness”)

Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death (End of Millennium Radio Show)

Firesign-ImmortalityCover

 

activism, Immigration, Satires

Forget the Wall – I Want a Dome!

Build a wall to stop homo sapiens from traveling across the continent?
The Rocky Mountains didn’t stop people. The Bering Strait didn’t stop people.
And you think a wall will do it? Maybe if you include lots of decorative razor wire?

Supply & Demand – Capitalism 101

Let me pause briefly to explain capitalism.
Sometimes there’s a demand for a product, or for labor, or for a better place to live – and as if by magic, a supply crops up to fill it!
It’s almost like there’s an invisible hand benignly guiding the whole operation.
People want flat-screen TVs? Capitalism fills the demand (and fills the Earth with the old models – more on that presently).
People want illegal drugs and non-prescription pharmaceuticals? There’ll be a supply – you can bet your stock-market money on it.
People demand better snack bars? Voila, Nugo bars, with 12 grams of protein and they taste like a Snickers bar! Now that’s progress!
So – when US farmers need cheap labor, when US yuppies need cheap house-cleaners, or when the CIA ransacks Latin American countries and induces people to trek hundreds of miles in search of a livable home – gee, small surprise that a supply rises to fill the demand.

Walls Just Won’t Work

Walls will never stop the law of supply and demand. There’s never been a wall, or a sea, that could stop humans bent on their destination.
Nor will walls stop 911-style fanatics or Oklahoma City-type domestic terrorists, which some people think might be a greater threat than the Southern border.
 (Nor will walls stop rising sea levels. But that’s another – if closely related – story).

Time For a Dome

No, if we want to secure the Beloved Capitalist Homeland (ie, the patches of Earth that on maps are labelled “USA”), a wall will simply never work.
We need a dome.
And not just any dome, but one designed by American ingenuity and technological prowess.
A noble dome, projecting our justice-loving essence upward and outward toward a hostile world that hates us because we are so free.
Picture it – a shiny bubble of ultra-high-tech plasticene, crowning our purple mountains’ majesty, above the fruit-filled plains where our much-revered corporate farms grow the bio-engineered corn that will sustain us after we fire all of the immigrant laborers.
And the jobs it will create! The plastics industry will boom. Engineers will grow rich computing and testing the exact parabolic arch of the dome. Universities will wax fat on the research handouts.
Even manual laborers will find work cleaning and polishing the dome’s inviolable surface.

Please Donate Now!

We face a national crisis! The government is stymied by legislative paralysis, party politics, lack of vision, and the Bozo in the Oval Office.
We The People must act to ensure our domestic security. If we begin constructing a dome, the American electorate will rally to our righteous cause, and the government will be compelled to assist us!
Please contribute generously, and we will begin building a dome now! Or at least talking a lot about it!
Email small, unmarked bills to: BuildTheDomeNow@Scammail.us
Freedom now! Build the Dome!
Decorative razor wire photo from Military Times.
RazorWireWall-MilitaryTimes
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activism, Resources & Downloads

Direct Action – Classic Issues!

Before it was smash best-selling novel, Direct Action was a tabloid newspaper published by Livermore Action Group of Berkeley from 1982 to 1986.

Direct Action – free downloads

In fact, some have gone so far as to suggest that the novel’s author swiped not only the name, but the type-font as well, from the paper. We’ll let you be the judge when you download back issues of this classic activist rag from the 1980s!

Continue reading “Direct Action – Classic Issues!”