'One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star'- Nietzsche
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Monthly Archives: August 2019

By John Kendall Hawkins

“Stark Raving Dark.”

John Griesemer, No One Thinks About Greenland

“I loved you, I was a pentapod monster, but I loved you.”

Vladamir Nabakov, Lolita

According to WebMD, Epstein-Barr Syndrome is the virus that causes monomaniacus. Nicknamed “mono,”  or “megalo” if you’ve got it bad, it’s a “kissing disease,” and you must be careful because, as with Herpes, that wonderful messenger god, you’ve probably got it and don’t even know. Lots of people carry the virus but don’t get sick and tired of it, onaccounta they like kissing so much.

There’s all kinds of kissing. French Kissing involves passionate intensities and a little swashbuckling franca lingua, and a wink at Macron’s ‘still shapely’ wife.  With Kim Kissing, you lock your tongue behind your partner’s molar until a signal occurs, say a pussy grab, at which point you try to remove the tongue — only to have it seized by totaritalian teech that plomise to nevel ret you go.  There’s the Putin-Putout Kiss (aka, the Assange Maneuver), where you hack into your lover’s mouth with your tongue and unfurl a mickey onto their tongue in an effort to influence a presidential erection. With the Hong Kong Kiss your partner beats their tongue against your Great Wall of teeth and then breaks through like Genghis Khan — but in a good way. And there’s Curtsey Kissing, just a simple bow, and a whispered offer to sell you, say, the Kaaba, at members rates, if you don’t mention Istanbul. 

There’s even Greco-Roman kissing that involves tongues wrassling in sloppy spit, a Trump favorite from his Bruno Sammartino days — two empires reliving classical ecstasies. 

Such wanton kissing brought to mind, of all things, Greenland, which has been in the Media lately.  The permafrost is melting, all that sweet Greenland icing floe-ing down; the natives are muffing terrified. And it’s not enough, any longer, for them to snog, nose-to-nose, in the six-month darkness, throwing empty beer bottles at the moon. Catastrophically depressed, sitting there, like Kiekegaards, in a clean, well-lighted place, juke-boxes pushing out “Quinn the Eskimo,” now seeming ironic, given the melt. It couldn’t get worse, but then it did, when Donald Trump created another shit storm (rather than a preferred snowstorm) by announcing he wants to buy Greenland, Jacob Riis-like tenements and all. Let’s just say, not everyone jumped for joy when St. Grobian showed up instead of Quinn. 

The Danes said “No,” explaining Greenland wasn’t theirs to sell, and wondered out loud if Trump was joking, or just mad.  Trump pretended to be insulted, megalo-style, and claimed something was rotten in Copenhagen, and that — ally or not — maybe Denmark was a shithole after all.  Then cancelled his plans to visit there next month. To further tease and tweak the tensions, he tweeted with an image displaying an enormous golden Trump Tower set amidst his would-be ‘regentrification’ project. A terrifying image that set local teeth chattering, as the tower wore no condom.  Trump’s interest: gold, gems, precious minerals — a titular one-percenter’s notion of a silver lining to the global meltdown. Oh, what a world. 

Kisses, islands, monomaniacs.  It was probably a coincidence that Trump brought up Greenland, not long after Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide.  There was a shock value to it that seemed usefully distracting. The h8ful media converged on Trump. What did he know about Epstein and when did he know it?  Long ago, he told New York magazine, “‘I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy…He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side….’” But now Trump’s “no fan” and he advises the pressing press to “Find out the people that went to the island.” Classic deflection.

It turns out that all kinds of people have been to Little Saint James, Jeffrey’s getaway retreat in the British Virgin Islands, including Bill Clinton, Stephen Hawking, Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew and Kevin Spacey. Clinton said he was there just minding his own ‘is-ness’. Dershowitz is alleged to have had sex with an under-age girl. The Prince is a podiaphile and was there to get a sole rub. Spacey’s one-card-too-many career came famously tumbling down (but not necessarily at the island).  Hawking’s inclusion was a shocker: I shot up, like a meerkat, as if you’d told me Ralph Nader had broken bad and was now a serial killer. But Hawking wasn’t there for the sexual cosmology, but rather he’d dropped by for refreshments following his appearance at a Epstein-sponsored conference on gravity on nearby St.Thomas Island.

Slick Willy, blowing his own horn, on Arsenio.

Dershowitz may have had no contact with teenage girls, but he might be guilty of something even worse — as a lawyer for the firm Kirkland and Ellis, he was able to get felony charges of sexual trafficking of underage girls, a conviction that could have imprisoned Jeffrey Epstein for life, reduced to a single count of prostitution, leading to Epstein receiving just 18-months at a minimum security “stockade.”  His door was unlocked. He was on daily work release to a company he set up for the work release (and tore down the day after his sentence was finished).  He had five months knocked off — for good behavior. Alexander Acosta, Trump’s Labor Secretary (who recently resigned), was the Florida AG who signed off on the evil deal.

Balance and fairness requires us to remember that Jeffrey Epstein was a human being, and not just a predator.  New York magazine said Epstein had an ‘elegant’ mathematical mind. His was an “an in-depth knowledge of twenty-first-century science,” according to his friend Bill Clinton, returning Epstein’s regard for him as “the world’s greatest politician”  (swapping intellectual spit, as it were). Epstein had refined cultural taste, and was “a classically trained pianist.” He gave money to causes.

Have we earned the right to be ‘astonished’ and breathless at the scope of the doings of satyrs like Epstein? As a culture, we have saturated ourselves in venality, since long before the Internet turned it into another crisis.  There is a lurid undertow to our thinking that conveniently forgets the exploits of capitalism enforced by fascist-corporate powers. The fact is, the world is pornographic, and our desires are worked on from the gitmo.

We’ve had smash hit popular songs that seemed to ache for underage sex — in the Fifties, Maurice Chevalier singing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” Gary Puckett and the Union Gap in the Sixties: “Young Girl.” Later, in the Eighties, we all danced to the beat of Sting singing “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” an openly urgent paen to overwrought temptation.  Pop music is known for male musicians having to fend off groupies tempting their urgency.

Similarly, an impressive number of mainstream nymphet movies  have been produced, including two versions of Lolita. And there have been all kinds of kiddie pageants that have clearly sought to exploit and sexulalize little girls in disturbing ways, including the pageant depicted in the film, Bad Grandpa. The outrageous scene staged in this movie is not just a film fantasy — it happens in real life — and they are images that stay with you afterward. It starts this early: The monetization of desire.  These children are already broken in for Google, Amazon and Facebook algorithms.

Literature, too, is rife with images and tales of underage love.  We all know about Nabakov’s Lolita, and the stigma attached to reading it.  That’s too bad, because it’s great literature written by a master of lyricism. And as provocative as the subject matter is, what is often overlooked is its poignant and sharp critique of American hypocrisy — vis-a-vis sexual mores. 

This kind of literature traces its roots back to Europe. An early and, no doubt, influential forerunner to Lolita is the Marquis de Sade’s Justine. One can hear in this passage the later Nabakov: 

“O thou my friend! The prosperity of Crime is like unto the lightning, whose traitorous brilliancies embellish the atmosphere but for an instant, in order to hurl into death’s very depths the luckless one they have dazzled.”

There’s more than a trace of Humbert Humbert in the sentiment.  

You can wonder how all this sleaze and prurience continues to spice up the sexual olio of the world’s premiere corpocracy, where the Pleasure Principle is in full swing, and the rhyme or reason of our continued existence on this planet could be summed up in the advertising slogan: De-evolution for the hell of it. Your wonderment might have you hovering and circling, like a drone, over another kind of island, near San Francisco — an Enchanted Forest, where rich men gather, like Halloween Druids, under a full moon and the watchful eyes of a stone sage Minerva. A retreat to help such men move forward. And look, Kevin Spacey is there, beckoning us, speaking into our lens, telling us this is where the power of the world comes to rejuvenate.

Bohemian Grove.  An exclusive club for men, who bring their own silver spoons to the round table to feed on the golden porridge served up by young men dressed as distressed damsels, Globe Theatre style.  They’re all there, if we look through our romper room magic mirror — members and guests — Bill Clinton sitting knee-to-knee with Kirkland and Ellis’ Ken Starr (“Is that your Is-ness, Bill?” Ken asks, “or are you just glad to see me?”); Kevin Spacey playing solitaire; Prince Andrew with his feet up on the table; Alan Dershowitz lispening to Mike Tyson’s grin; Alexander Acosta picking pleas out of his mangy mane, like the Cowardly Lion. An opium-smoking Henry Kissinger playing Risk with the wispy ghost of Ho Chi Minh.

From the Mind of Minerva™, comes the voice of Walter Cronkite, like a voice transvestite. By himself now, crouched on a couch, Harvey Weinberg casts spells to complete his dis-enchantment. They are waiting for the play to begin — Teddy Bear’s Picnic. A story about white males who see themselves as men, with spoons (and bears), who never have to grow out of their privileged childhoods, and who only yearn harder for mommy’s liebfraumilch smile as they get older. They rule the world, and don’t they know it. Humbert Humbert is said to be there to play a cameo teddy and to read from Justine.

Later, there’ll be stand up comedy. This year, US attorney general, William Barr will deliver shtick, including one routine with Donald Trump — presently tying a golden shower around an old oak tree. Barr will be delivering prison limericks, political anecdotes he overheard, and pun-stories he remembers from summer camp — such as “If the Foo Shits Wear It.”  He’s also promised to read choice excerpts from the Mueller Report. The round table of besotted Nights will chant merrily, “Diss Barr Bill. Diss Barr Bill.”  Oh, and when the night’s over they will erupt, like little hands that gleefully laud a magic show and thrill for more. Always more.

And, by remote control, you will pull your drone back, let the laughter fade, ascend back into an ethereal oblivion, interrupted only by occasional bolts of news-spin lightning (the “traitorous brilliancies,” LOL) of Men at Work extinguishing the species, all of them.  

As Matt Taibbi recently points out in his new book Hate, Inc., we are divided, fractious and falling apart fast, the whole world is watching, and we are the world, we are the children.  Rome was not destroyed in a day; it started by crossing taboo rubicons in ruby shoes, and ends, after all the trials and ordeals, with two men talking. Fookin’ lawyers wouldn’t you know it.

It’s not dark yet, Bobby Dylan sings, but methinks the bard is wrong this time around.  We could learn something from Greenland, instead of, say, buying it, as we look, at paradigm’s end, in on the power broker’s at the table, unable to tell animal from human, like in the end days of Rome, wondering what became of Boxer, our working class hero, the glue of society. 

Fade to stark raving dark.

John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia. He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times.

By John Kendall Hawkins

It is among the white youth of the world that the greatest change is taking place. It is they who are experiencing the great psychic pain of waking into consciousness to find their inherited heroes turned by events into villains. Communication and understanding between the older and younger generations of whites has entered a crisis.

Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (1968)

Nixon: “Hoffman, Hoffman’s a Jew.” 

White House Tapes (1971)

In my early childhood days we played Cops and Robbers, or Cowboys and Indians.  Things were simple, black and white. We never asked about moral issues. We never wondered if maybe the Indians had a legitimate beef (let’s say genocide) and maybe the Cops should be pursuing the Cowboys instead. We watched Dragnet, Adam-12 and the FBI on TV and thought policemen were wonderful catchers of evil people; their corruptibility was beyond our fathoming and we knew (however so ruefully) that their truncheons would only be used on Black heads. We sighed, but lived on.

Then one day evil Viet Nam came on the airwaves and — wham! — like after Dylan hit the Beatles with magical obscurantism — our consciousness switched on and we turned off the TV and met in the streets to protest this hiccup in our heritage. Suddenly, it bothered us what had happened with the Native Americans — the smallpox blankets, the fire-water, and, later, the Bingo parlors.  We started thinking about the robber barons and the cops they lined their pockets with to keep it safe. Wow, we thought, some cowboys have black hats, like Paladin, “A Knight without armor in a savage land,” who seemed all the world like our foreign policy. ‘Nam was the smoking gun. We began to play Cops and Protesters.  

So that by the time we got to 1968 and the end of a decade of escalating death statistics in the MSM, having managed, along the way, to murder four leaders, at home, Black (MLK, MX) and White (JFK, RFK), we were pretty feisty and wanting change. It was a very traumatic year globally. As Nietzsche once said about ‘maturity being about regaining the seriousness of a child at play’, so we brought our role-playing forward into adulthood, with serious intentions, but always about actions.  We practiced non-violence, which frustrated the fascists to no end, and Abbie Hoffman called it “guerilla theatre.” The cops played it forward too, getting ever meaner: Call it “gorilla theatre.” It was all theatre — absurd, oppressed, battlefields — and all about expression versus repression.

On July 28, 1965, President Johnson announced to the nation an escalation in the war; more troops, more draftees.  Most of these draftees, between the ages of 18 and 21, had no right to vote (that came in 1971), and consequently had no say in going to Viet Nam. Blacks had only been given the right to vote in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They could hold jobs, pay taxes, but have no say in representation and how their tax money would be spent.  A bunch of Abbie Hoffmans once threw tea into Boston Harbor and started a revolution for less.

In March 1968, LBJ announced that he would not seek re-election, opening up the Democratic party to a brokered convention in Chicago later that year.  After Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were murdered earlier in the year, the national anxiety level and shock of gun violence, but Democrats went forward with nominating a status quo candidate — Hubert Humphrey — who seemed intent on continuing the war in ‘Nam. Anti-war protesters were determined to come to Chicago and get their message heard; forces of the state, controlled by Mayor Richard Daley, cops, army and national guardsmen were equally determined to ‘protect’ convention delegates from swarming, angry protesters. 

Two strands of leadership organized the protests in Chicago, the first was the Yippies, led by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, and the other was an umbrella group called National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE). In response to the city’s intention to give the war protesters a daily dicking with billy clubs, horses, and  the manly scrunch of leather accessories, the hairy, peaceniks decided to hold their protest in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and call it, in contrast to what was happening in ‘Nam, The Festival of Life. It would include bands rockin’, nudity, political speeches, stand-up comedians, the nomination of a sow, named Pigasus, for the presidency — in short, a kind of staging of the smash hit musical Hair.  Right on!

But things didn’t go as planned (or didn’t they?), as there were daily marches on the convention, resulting in myriad confrontations, and the protesters were not allowed to sleep in the park at night, which brought evening police raids to snuff out the Festival of Life. Demonstrators became more Bolsheviky™, cops got even scrunchier, bedlam even broke out inside the Democratic convention, where reporters were pushed back — why, Dan Rather even took a sucker punch for the team. “All in a day’s work,” he chimed, chin up, Korean War veteran smile.  Facing the public, Walter Cronkite, who earlier in the decade had given us the teary-eyed bulletin on JFK’s demise, now declared the violent events in Chicago as “a police state.”

Well, the long and short of it is, when it was over days later, The Police State blamed the peaceniks for the mayhem (apparently, many had recklessly thrown their heads at truncheons and boots), and rounded up the alleged leaders who would be known as the Chicago 8 — MOBEsters, Yippies, and a token Black man (and Panther) named Bobby Seale (it was supposed to be Eldridge Cleaver).  They were charged with conspiracy to cross state lines with the intention of inciting rioting — a felony charge, with serious prison time implications. 

Abbie was quick to take exception to the word “intention,” as it seemed to suggest a criminalization of “a state of mind” (a thought-dreams/guillotine kind of precedent), rather than a trial over Amendment rights — to wit, freedom of expression. What became startlingly evident during the trial was the government’s loose view of “conspiracy” — essentially, “just two guys talkin’” could be seen as a criminal activity, with equal punishment later, even if only one of the guys went ahead and nuked New Jersey. The Chicago 8 were eight guys talking, and the riots were New Jersey, in our scenario. Further, the government argued, conspirators only had to have the intention of a criminal act to have committed a crime.

When the trial for conspiracy began more than a year later, presiding Judge Julius Hoffman and the defendants had friction from the outset, and they seemed to be doomed to be handed contempt of court violations for their unruliness.  Abbie called the judge, “Dad.” He regularly interrupted, used Yiddish pejoratives, called the judge a Nazi and “a shame” to his race. He seemed to figure that if it was going to be a trial about “state of mind” and intentions therewith, he was going to get at the judge’s psyche and get him to reveal his prejudices.

Jerry Rubin, too, saw that the judge was a playable figure. As Rubin describes the scene in Larry Sloman’s Steal This Dream: “I was upset with the judge because of his name. It gave Abbie the total edge. You couldn’t have planned that better if a playwright had written it. Oh, the judge was great, a total Yippie judge. Whatever we planned for him, he outdid it.”(186) Guerilla theatre in the justice zoo.

The pair flew paper airplanes in the courtroom, raised power-to-the-people fists at the jury, and generally addressed the judge as if he were a Marx Brothers character from Duck Soup. One day the pair came in dressed up in judge’s robes (213), and when told to remove the robes, Abbie had on underneath the uniform of a police officer. They seemed to be working the judge like a classic Marx Brothers maneuver. Judge Hoffman took note of these antics, which later led to the contempt charges, but carried on tolerantly.

But when it came to Bobby Seale, the dynamic was anything but tolerant. Seale’s lawyer had been unable to make the opening of the trial on time, and Judge Hoffman forced William Kunstler, the attorney for the other seven defendants, to represent him in the session (and beyond) — something Seale vociferously refused to accept. Seale interrupted the proceedings, pointed out to the judge the portraits of slave-owning presidents (Washington, Jefferson) on the wall behind him, and continuously demanded that he be allowed, in the absence of his preferred lawyer, to defend himself. 

Abbie and Jerry had  run a pig for president, and kidded about “eating it for breakfast,” in what amounted to a biting, yet harmless criticism of capitalist excesses.  Bobby Seale, on the other hand, had also given a speech about “pigs” at the Festival of Life that ran against the generally non-violent expectation of the protesters, as he was talking about police and had suggested that “barbecuing some of that pork” might be an option. 

When things eventually got so hot they couldn’t continue as is, the judge had Seale bound and gagged, creating a tremendous tension in the courtroom, and bringing into living color a symbol of what the State appeared to be wanting to do in Chicago anyway — gag freedom. Eventually, Seale was removed and sentenced to four years for contempt of court (eventually overturned after he’d served two years).

It was a celebrity trial — all kinds of musical, political, and literary luminaries got up on the witness stand to attest to the peaceful, non-malignant design of the Festival of Life.  Judy Collins took the stand and favored the courtroom with a rendition of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”  Norman Mailer described a meeting he had with Jerry Rubin when they discussed the planning for the Chicago events: Rubin said, “We won’t do a thing.  We are just going to be there and they won’t be able to take it. They will smash the city themselves. They will provoke all the violence.” Reverend Jesse Jackson told the court of how he’s heard that “the shoot to kill order had come out” and that he had seen “shotgun shells that had overkill pellets.” 

In the battle of intentions, the State appeared to be losing. Chicago not only seemed prepared to encounter violence; it was aching for it. But that’s not the way it turned out with Judge Hoffman presiding.  The now Chicago 7 were acquitted of conspiracy. Five of the defendants —  David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin — were found guilty of crossing state lines to incite a riot. Eventually, it was all overturned for reasons to do with Judge Hoffman’s state of mind. Abbie and Jerry became celebrities in their own right, making, for them, lots of money for writing and speaking gigs.

The real undertold story of conspiracy is the one that followed a couple of years later.  After Richard Nixons’s White House tapes were released to the public, it became evident that the president was so rattled by war protesters that he sat down with Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman to identify and consider beating them. In it, they bring up the Chicago 7, the president identifying them as “Jews” and the discussion rounding up violent options for dealing with protesters during the coming May Day events in Washington (during which some 10, 000 people were arrested, the largest one-day round-up in US history). They crossed more than state lines. Abbie had his nose broken by a thug. Nixon should have been tried — for conspiracy.

Abbie was right to call the trial, even the era, a defense of the right to have  “a state of mind.” My Lai followed, and Kent State, and riot squads were restless, as Bobby Dylan would say, and the protesting got shriller, Nixon got more evil, and it looked like the whole spangling shebang was going to collapse.  Now we live in a global digital panopticon, our states of mind probed by the State for “terrorist” tendencies and monetized with algorithms by monster commercial interests. Abbie wanted to laugh the Bastards out of office, but not many people are laughing anymore.

Note: The film Chicago 10, part animation, part documentary, is a useful and entertaining re-telling of events.

John Kendall Hawkins is an American expat freelancer based in Australia.  He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times.

Toni Morrison at Nobel Prize ceremony

By John Kendall Hawkins

One of the strangest-turned-ugly conversations I’ve ever found myself trapped in had to do with the pronunciation of Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved.  Should you say it with or without the accent?  I was beginning a new career as an English teacher overseas — in Istanbul — and was unpacking my books in my new “digs” when an Australian female visitor noticed the novel.  An argument so pedantic ensued that it is shocking to remember to this day. A British woman was brought in to the tiff, aligning herself against the Yank (me), and we went around, like an Anglo menace, turning the accent mark off and on like a light switch. No mention of the novel’s contents ever braved itself into the mêlée.

Toni Morrison loved language, not just the way a writer does, but as direct source of liberation, of taking personal ownership of the meaning of one’s existence — a way of escaping the reification of utterances, and the black-and-white nuances that made libearal arts students canon fodder for the Ivy-towered academics who controlled the Ways of Seeing our common culture.  In the uncivil war that ensued between the plantationists and the counterculture in the Sixties, Morrison dodged many a canonball, in the fight for literary reconstruction in America that made her beloved Beloved a curricular — and an eventual Nobel prize-winning — possibility.

Toni Morrison reminds me of the Oracle in The Matrix, a source for insight, a  provider of clews to those lost in the Minotaur’s maze (ostensibly what the  Matrix System is to the unenlightened). Interestingly, in her Nobel Prize speech Morrison describes such an “old blind woman”  who is a seer of riddles. Some children come to visit the woman with a bird in one of their hands, and, as a prank, ask her to say whether it is dead or alive. She will have nothing to do with their game, and is uninterested whether or not there is a ‘diacritical mark’ attached to the bird.

Morrison continues, “Finally she speaks and her voice is soft but stern. ‘I don’t know’, she says. ‘I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.’”  

Morrison could easily be speaking not to mischievous children about a bird, but to the old childish guardians of classical culture who want to keep out the challenges of postmodernism in the curriculum by tripping up and undermining Morrison’s understanding of the Free Bird we call language. She seems to be saying to them, If the bird is language, it’s up to you who hold it to determine if the bird is to be dead or alive.  Nobel literary prize winners are often called on to address their contribution to language evolution. I consider Morrison’s gift of ‘the bird’ a kind of parable.

Her Nobel address also echoes the beginning of Beloved (inspired by the true story of Margaret Garner), where she places Sethe, an elderly Black woman, in a chair on the porch of her house, looking outward and inward at the empty landscapes.  The house is a kind of maze of memories from which she has escaped, but not without catastrophic collateral damage, the result of running away from monster slavery. Though hard to fathom anymore, because we live in the ever-white-noisy age of the Internet, Sethe sits there, her mind, between memories, bringing in the language of silence that comes at her like a microphone’s automatic gain. The language of people and the language of being. The tweet she receives is a bluebird’s.

When Sethe receives an old friend, he notes her existential blinding. She has: “A face too still for comfort;  irises the same colour as her skin, which, in that still face, used to make him think of a mask with mercifully punched out eyes. Even in the tiny shack, leaning so close to the fire you could smell the heat in her dress, your eyes did not pick up a flicker of light. They were like two wells into which he had trouble gazing. Even punched out they needed to be covered, lidded, marked with some sign to warn folks of what that emptiness held.”  Of course, the rest of the narrative recalls the evacuation of her humnaity.

Morrison is an oracle, a teacher, a guide.  And over the years I’ve tried to come to grips with her vision and her wisdom.  Earnest in my desire to relieve myself of one white man’s lifelong burden of racial ignorance, I have come to Morrison, like Neo, to beseech her, to find the common language that binds the riddler and riddlee.  Some critics have claimed that Morrison writes exclusively of the Black Experience, which she rejects, like the bird in hand, as a trick of language, pointing out the obvious: “Tolstoy,” she says, “did not write for me — a little colored girl.”  What I have garnered from Morrison requires traversing the inner terrain of my education and experiences in race relations growing up in America.

Well, it’s not like I haven’t tried to educate my way out of my racial ignorance.  Like Beloved, one recalls Kate Chopin’s tragic miscegenation tale, “Desiree’s Baby,” where a drop Black blood in a white-seeming woman results in racial catastrophe. One thinks of Sydney Poitier in A Patch of Blue, To Sir, With Love and In the Heat of the Night.  One thinks of John Edgar Wideman’s tragic life and his Homewood trilogy. Jack Johnson crossing state lines. Langston Hughes interrogating a raisin — until it explodes. The Last Poets.  Sun Ra.  To Kill or Not to Kill a Mockingbird.  Spike Lee. Malcolm X. MLK. And all Morrison’s early novels. It’s a lot to process.

And early days filled with violent intersections.  Being robbed at knifepoint in the snowy darkness on the way to a Boston shelter, carrying Dylan’s Planet Waves.  Robbed again outside a church hosting an all-night jazz festival looking to score some weed.  Playing violin chords in a jazz trio and blowing the vibe later by asking the Black saxophonist why he liked listening to Wagner. Once, once dropping the N-bomb in earnest, to my shame.  Living through Boston bussing, racist regentrification, and the American flag thrust as a weapon toward a Black man’s abdomen.

Time has shown me, over and over, the obvious: America can never get past its legacy of slavery.  It brings up, yet again, Morrison’s answer, her hope for healing such a glaring racial divide: Language.  In her marvelous introductory comments for the Oxford edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Morrison defends the continued teaching of Mark Twain’s novel, having come around to the value of its vernacular, after years of “a feeling I can only describe now as muffled rage, as though appreciation of the work required my complicity in and sanction of something shaming.”  What turned Morrison to defend Huckleberry Finn’s continued presence in the classroom is the dialectical equality that exists between Huck and the slave Jim, and her growing trust in Twain’s moral and literary integrity.

“The brilliance of Huckleberry Finn is that it is the argument it raises…Although it’s language — sardonic, photographic, persuasively aural — and the structural use of the river as control and chaos seemed to me quite the major feats of Huckleberry Finn…Some of the stillness, in the beautifully rendered eloquence of a child, is breathtaking.”  And it’s true, in Twain’s work, that there is a silent vista that opens up, especially around the river, that speaks a pre-lingual language that is largely emotional and doesn’t require justification.  On this level, Huck and Jim “speak” the same language.

As the generations pass — beyond the postmodern period — and past any notion of a Hegelian Master/Slave synthetic  rapprochement that progress us beyond the legacy, we seem driven to continue making one-step-forward-two-steps-backward progress.  Eminem shows a middle class white boy can rap. Quentin Tarantino will delight us with controversial dialogues between white and Black characters meant to make hip a tension that continues to deflect and fantasize the reality on the street.  Forcing the Master to give the Slave a blowjob, as Tarantino would in The Hateful Eight, serves only to validate sado-masochism, not freedom.

Jordan Peele, and other Black directors, will continue to make in-roads into relevant cinematographic portrayals of the contemporary Black experience.  In fact, Peele, arguably developing a new genre — Black political horror — may be an excellent forward-moving bearer of the Morrison vision. Inspired, perhaps, by James Baldwin’s long ago assertion that “inside all of us is a little white man,” Peele’s film Get Out seems to probe the co-mingliness of the black-white buddy trope, and suggest that inside every white person is the desire to have a hip Black man implanted.  A horrifying thought that leads to Peele’s title cry: Beware the MIghty Whitey’s psychical cannibalism.  

Us, too, seems to deal, appropriately, with the contemporary Black persona in crisis.  Not only is there the danger of the introjected Mighty Whitey inside every Black man, looking to “just get along,” but there is that terrifying 400 year-old fear, that Ralph Ellison explores so well in Invisible Man, that one is not quite real, that in the existential phantasmagoria of trying to be at all in the dominant culture, one is catastrophically dissociated and unable to recognize the doppelgänger in the mirror.  This trebles the horror expressed by Get Out: the Mighty Whitey counter-introjecting the doppelgänger in a kind of fetishistic celebration of pain-making over pain itself, the plastic Jesus dangling from the rear view mirror over Love sacrificed on the Cross in full view.

I saw the woman from Istanbul again recently.  She insisted again, after 25 years, that I got the pronunciation wrong.  But I can’t even remember any more where I placed the stress.



The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena

By John Kendall Hawkins

“The only reason I have is that I want to learn about it, just to know. But I assure you, don Juan, my intentions are not bad.”

“I believe you. I’ve smoked you.”

“I beg your pardon!”

The Teachings of Don Juan, Carlos Castenada

“‘Tis strange — but true; for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction.”

Don Juan, Lord Byron

I was having a reverie about angels. Dylan’s Three Angels? No, German angels, speaking Wim Wenders English. Something was burning. The Reichstag? Nein. They were in Paris, carrying on with the gargoyles from Notre Dame, playing high stakes poker with Tarot cards, Gauloises cumulus clouds, talk of Hegel’s master-slave, Being and Nothingness, the occasional chuckle festival as tourists below caught their eye, like a scene from Annie Hall. Someone startled my sleeping ears to hear it said, What have you been smoking? On CNN a cathedral burns.  “The Truth, man,” you reply, “about the Sixties.”

I always thought the Sixties would remain a sacred place as years passed — the Stonehenge of my life’s most sacrosanctimoniuos experiences that I would never get tired of circling, counterclockwise. A place I could look back on for the sustenance of levity and the earnestness of a collective naivete.  Some of us — many of us, at times — really thought we could change the world, flowers in muzzles, free love (free everything), ego-altering drugs, daily rallies, a press beginning to care. Fifty years later, I thought I’d be partying like it was 1969.  Instead, I feel like the Last Guy turning off the lights at the event horizon, not slamming the door behind me, trying not to wake the emptiness behind me.

There have been months of golden anniversary events — the moon-landing, Woodstock, Bowie’s Space Oddity, the Beatles last studio album, memories of my first rock concert, the Legacy of Leary and LSD.  But also the rise of Nixon and the imperial presidency. The brutality of Chicago. Vietnam. The Kennedys and MLK. But nothing starts me up; my Love Bug is syphilitic and old, like Nietzsche’s asylum brain, preserved in a kind of Cuckoo’s Nest, his sister Elizabeth, a Nurse Ratchett playing Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg while she dispensed the blues. Still in search of perspective.  What did it all mean?

That’s why I was so looking forward to Tarrantino’s Hollywood. But his was a stale, dead Sixties.  Why no Abbie and Jerry, two men walking and talking, wondering aloud what they call revolution-for-the-hell-of-it in Paris? The Manson stuff, ostensibly the Tarrantino Ending people were anticipating, totally lacked the helter-skelter we were fed growing up. (And maybe a story all wrong.) Why no further Pulanski, Rosemary’s Baby released the year before setting the stage? It was like discovering that Jimmy Jones induced mass suicide, not by kool-aid, but by forcing his captive audience to listen to him read from the Saturday Evening Post. (Making it a Post apocalypse.) Why no Beatles White Album songs?  Black Bird? Happiness Is a Warm Gun? Still relevant topics.

The Beatles have been in the news, anyway, because it was time to remember Abbey Road, their final album (sorta). I still struggle with the legacy of the Beatles.  Were they really deep, or was I very shallow? Everyone agrees they wrote shit until they were turned on by Bobby Dylan  and Ravi Shankar. Golden boys. Hell, even when those Alabama kids got enraged by a Lennon comment about Jesus and built a bonfire to his vanity with Beatles LPs, it was good news because it meant the little brats had to go to replenish their stock as soon as the rage burned out twenty minutes later. Now? I still wonder what Lennon meant in “Penny Lane,” when he sang, “And though she feels as if she’s in a play / She is anyway.”

Now all that’s left of the Abbey Road ‘mystique,’ are mainstream media shots of sets of clowns my age treading across the famous crosswalk like the Fab Four, with about as much frisson as elevator muzak.  You can feel the whogivesafuckedness of it all, as you zoom in, descend, on a live Google feed, like a memory god or gargoyle, to confront a keychain culture (remember the Berlin Wall?), where, like Dylan once observed, “Not much is really sacred.” Farewell, Abbey Road.  These days I’m haunted by their ghostly, psychedelic voices on “Blue Jay Way.”

And now we need to care about Bowie again.  The Moon Landing, 2001: A Space Odyssey (some say they’re related, wink), and Walter Tevis’ The Man Who Fell to Earth, resulting in the birth of a persona 50 years ago, Space Oddity, that Bowie would groom with great care over a long career. Biographer Simon Critchley, addressing Bowie’s aesthetic sensibility, writes, “Bowie’s world is like a dystopian version of The Truman Show, the sick place of the world that is forcefully expressed in the ruined, violent cityscapes of “Aladdin Sane” and “Diamond Dogs”…”

Thomas Newton, the alien of Tevis’ novel, who has journeyed from Anthea, his own self-immolated planet, which is virtually out of water (and thus life) to find salvation from Earth, is sidetracked by the American Way — women, jazz, capitalism, and the CIA — until it’s too late to help Anthea. Seeing a repeat of its demise on Earth, Newton seems indifferent to helping his terrestrial hosts: 

“I want you to save the world Mr. Newton.”

Newton’s smile did not change, and his reply was immediate. “Is it worth saving, Nathan?”

A half-century later, Planet Earth is still blue and there’s less and less we can do.

I tried to draw inspiration from looking and hearing back to my first rock concert — Led Zeppelin at the sold-out Boston Garden in October 1969, with the MC5 and Johnny Winter.  Crazy loud. Incredible drums. Everybody (it seemed) smoking doobies, while Robert Plant, according to one account, went “bouncing around like [Rudolf] Nureyev.” Cops looked on grim, Hells Angels looked grimmer, a fight broke out, eventually it all fizzled.  But today, the guitar work from “Stairway to Heaven” loops in my head like torture chords I can’t stop and I find myself hating the song almost as much as I hate the riffs from “Hotel California,” riffs which can never ever leave FM radio. Driving, it could cause an accident.

And Woodstock 50.  Just another joke like the first one.  Except this time they didn’t bother holding it all, so there was no food shortage or rain deluges to worry about.  Ciley Mirus was said to be interested in twerking out in the cowfields, but she ain’t Jimi and her butt can’t twang the Spangled.  Can anyone even recall Woodstock anymore? CCR? Janis? Does anyone even remember Dylan’s signature performance?

Well, too much of nothing can bring a man down; there can be no doubt about that.  I lean toward a Timothy Leary revival these days, now that cathedrals are spontaneously combusting and the center cannot hold, and the falcon cannot hear the falconer, on account of the talon-less shit is wearing earphones and flying clockwise backwards. The Tibetan Book of thr Dead as a trip.  Yeah.

I’ve been listening to The Psychedelic Experience by Leary, and in the introduction he’s quoted as saying, “We’re all schizophrenics now, and we’re in our own institution.” It sure does seem that way — disconnected, the sweet green icing of MacArthur’s Park melting all around us, even Silicon Valley execs looking to weasel out of the Apocalypse, just waiting for the AI robots to drop El Cid, discover consciousness, and bring us home to the promised El Dorado.  

What does it all mean? Did the Sixties even happen? And as the angels play with their cards all day, does anyone even care?


By John Kendall Hawkins

I had intentions of watching Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, and then writing a review, keened up, like most of his aficionados, with the anticipation it might be his last film, and eager to see how QT handled the Sixties, with limited retrospection, given that he was only six years old at the time of the events depicted. But I was disappointed by his “take” on the era, and I don’t quite know why.  Afterall, he hadn’t even been born when the events of Inglorious Basterds were set, and that turned out just fine — the edgy Hester Prynne engravings and the gorgeous, ravenous flame-licking fires. I never had so much fun watching Evil perish. We all did. But this was different.

I could say it was the ending, how I was tired of a certain trademark same-same (I’ll leave it at that), but that’s not it. It wasn’t the dialogue, or that Charlie Manson only made a strumming cameo, or that there were no signature pocket watch scenes.  The acting was fine; I liked the story; and the frisson of the zeitgeist was well-achieved. But I started to get bummed out at the Dumpster scene, how Tarantino handled it — a throw-away scene gratuitously inserted like the black cat in Zero Dark Thirty. There was a whole counterculture Tarantino left behind in that Dumpster. And I started to worry about what he might do to the beloved Star Trek movie he’s rumored to be directing next.

The Dumpster scene reminded me of Abbie Hoffman and Steal This Book, his handbook that lists the myriad freebies available if you need (or want) to survive on the street — “free” food, housing, and transportation are featured, as well as handy tips for living the revolution-for-the-hell-of-it lifestyle. Nostalgia kicked in. The rambunctious war years, of course, but also the Chicago 8 that became the Chicago 7 after a gagged and bound Bobby Seale (he was Black, you see) was taken away for a separate (but equal) trial. Another fun, connect-the-dots fact that came up was the coincidence of Abbie having the same name as Albert Hofman, inventor of LSD, and Julius Hoffman, his trial judge.  It came together quite cosmically, if you were tripping.

Everybody knows now that it was an era of Free-Lovin.’  And great music, too, with Jimi and Janis (RIP) for starters, and no need for Madonna’s ironical virginity or Cyley Mirus’ leather-tight twerks.  We suspected we had the Deep State on the run, with our love, but our criminal naivete was then just a misdemeanor. We were sure we could break free of our psychic bonds and and and self-actualize. Communes filled with Marxist banter, primal screams (Imagine that), and an environment of Infinite Love that made you feel like you were, together, taking back the night from Das Kapital.

Then bad acid, man, began hitting the freedom streets I recall, and a hard, hard rain began to fall, and I mean fall. I seem to remember race riots, Jane Fonda in a tank top, someone crying out ‘You don’t need to be a Weatherman to blow yourself up.’ And Abbie’s DNC riots seemed to get Dick Nixon elected.  And the war went on and on. And the Yippies had a falling out with The Man and with each other. The Beatles called it quits, Dylan was in hiding. Bummer days.

And conspiracy rumors were already orbiting that Stanley Kubrick had been hired by the US government to stage the whole moon-landing (which I watched live at a Catholic kumbaya summer camp, drinking ‘bug juice’ and eating cookies, in a kind of junior transubstantiation).  And every Lefty agreed that Woodstock was a disaster (and still is) — if for no other reason than that Jimi’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, an otherwise horrible song, wasn’t made the song’s national exclusive version.

Next thing we knew we were in the Seventies, Kent State, Patty Hearst. Watergate, and we were beginning to ask ourselves if our precious, exceptional Democracy was in danger.  After Nixon dicked out of town, a mood shift developed; Carter came in, people wanted peace — even the Middle-easters — and few people wanted to continue the struggles requisite of a healthy democracy.  They wanted love, but not a free love; it now had the tinge of sadness and weary resignation and military build-up.  Halliburton got busy with Marshall plans of the future. Never boring, always surprising. People began to get mowed down by gun violence Left and Right, and even when Senators got mowed down, they were afraid of getting eaten alive by the gun lobby and ran from the issue.

We are a long way from the heady days of muckraking journalism — sure-sounding pilots Alexander Cockburn (Beat the Devil), Sy Hersh (still at it) , Hunter S (Gonzo has left the building)., Jack Anderson (enemy of the state), etc, navigating the always-muddy, ever-changing river — and have settled into a stenographic, profit-driven MSM that fails to inform us properly, resulting in an often-laughable media today that Donald Trump sadly and sometimes-rightly refers to as “fake news.”  The hypothesized media influence of the Russians in the 2016 presidential perhaps made ‘plausible’ by the Fourth Estate’s  dereliction of duty in the World’s Premiere Democracy™.  

It’s easy to be discouraged today, given the state of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, moving rightward and surely fascist — or far worse. Another round of Trump from 20/20 should bring us the epiphanal vision we need. It’s easy to feel with Leonard Cohen,  “It’s over, it ain’t going / Any further.”  In the post-post-modern near future, with a new Cold War coming ironically as the Ice caps melt, it’s easy to feel our species has gone too far, catastrophic victims of a pandemic leached into our collective consciousness — just in time for the AI revolution. 

Well, maybe what Lebowski told Lebowski was true: the Bums lost, the revolution for-the-hell-of-it is over.  Time, as Bobby Dylan says, to Ring Them Bells for all of us who are Left. Head for the hall of the Big Sleep, exhausted, like Edward G. near the end of Soylent Green, time to exit to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Oddly and inconveniently thinking of something Timothy Leary once said in Steal This Dream of Abraham Maslow: “[He] was a very influential transitional person between medical psychiatry and humanist inner-potential, do-it-yourself psychiatry. The paradox was, as everybody knows, that Abe himself was a very depressed person. Abe told me once he never had a peak experience.”  Ain’t that a kick in the head. Time to let it go once last time, guided by the better angels of my nature.  You almost had to drop acid to be there. And not there.

John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia.  He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times. His blog: http://tantricdispositionmatrix.net/wp/.

Rachel Maddow: ‘Lock him up!”

Sean Hannity: ‘Lock her up!’

Bruno Sammartino, Killer Kowalski, Professor Tanaka, The Fabulous Moolah, The Sheik, Haystacks Calhoun, Chief Jay Strongbow, Ivan Koloff “The Russian Bear,” Billy Graham, Colonel Ninotchka, and The Progressive Liberal. Turnbuckle nose jobs, sleeper holds, flying splats, head chairs, an occasional Curley Shuffle, tag-team terror, caged grudge, and emcee Vince McMahon. Hatred never had so much fun wrestling with Truth.  Until Now. Entering the ring, none other than WWE Hall of Defamer, the one, the only, Donald J. Trump, aka Saint Grobian, champion of the deplorables, who onced “schlonged” Hillary Clinton, and is feared for his legendary hold, The Pussy Snatch.

According to Rolling Stone staff writer Matt Taibbi, this is the state of affairs in national politics today — a Spectacle of bizarre performers flipping each other in the public arena, to the titillation of the rabid masses, like some scene from the classic movie, A Face in the Crowd.  They are divided Left and Right, polarized bears wrassling over baby seal meat on the world’s last floe, united by their choreographed hatred for each other. The End of the World as Reality TV. Great ratings.  Matt Taibbi calls it all Hate Inc. — his new book.

Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity face off on the cover of Hate Inc.  Loud Democrats versus Loud Republicans.  Of the two, Taibbi takes issue with Maddow more because he sees her as “smart, quick, and funny,” and should know better than to slog the slimey end of Trump and Russiagate the way she has. Meanwhile,  “The Sean Hannity Show is an uncomplicated gruel of resentment, vituperation and doomsaying,” writes Taibbi. Both adhere, to varying degrees, to what Taibbi calls The Ten Rules of Hate, which include notions like, “There are only two ideas,” “Root, don’t think,” “No switching teams,” “The other side is literally Hitler,” and in fighting that other side everything is permitted.  For Taibbi, they are two faces of the coin of the fucked-up Realm.

We’ve been at the bread and circuses so long in America that it’s now difficult to conjure up the sad, but heady, days of catharsis that followed Dick Nixon’s TV resignation in 1974. Goodbye to ‘dirty tricks’ and, soon enough, the Apocalypse Then of Vietnam. We weren’t happy with Gerry Ford’s pardon of Nixon, but we managed to sublimate our bile through Chevy Chase’s regular depictions of Ford falling over himself on SNL. With Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Woodward and Bernstein, pushing to keep the Bastards honest, and with peanut farmer president Jimmy Carter, our dove among the warhawks, we felt we were moving toward our manifest destiny again. And the locusts sang that sweet mellow dee….

And then, lo, what rock through yon window breaks?  Carter announces he has had lust in his heart for “other” women and admits so amidst all the pink bunnies spread out all over the place in the pages of Male Gaze Magazine (November 1976).  Next thing you know, the press went berserk, and every time people started to forget about bunnies, and get back to kumbaya in the Middle East, John Updike put out another goddamned Rabbit book. Then Carter got into trouble again in 1979 when a naked bunny on the loose came swimming at his canoe with enough apparent purpose that he thwacked at “her” with a paddle. It was, all in all, a decade down the rabbit hole.

Well, it really wasn’t much of a hop to get from Carter’s hypothetical transgressions of the heart to Bill Clinton’s days of jizzy improvisation in the White House, a certain intern playing “Blind Willie Leaps” on his sexaphone, and all hell breaking loose inside the DC beltway (where belts never stay up long anyway) — the media frenzy, the special counsel, the calls to impeach, the partisan poli-dicking. The Clinton Show opened up a whole new can of whoopee-honkytonk.  Anita Hill, Judge Thomas, pubic hair. “What is is.” You felt you were tripping.  And some openly wondered how many people in Bosnia and Aftica were being taken out by cruise missiles to “detract” from the rocket’s red glare of Willy’s jism cycling the news back home.

Slick Willy, blowing his own horn, on Arsenio.

Then after the palette-cleansing events of 9/11 wiped the smirks off our faces in a hurry and turned a whole lot of us into overcompensating conspiracy-fearists for about ten years, here we are, back in the criminal slime of celebrity sexual promiscuity. Now, with Russians.™ The phenomenon that is Donald J. Trump. He’s not only lusted after bunnies, he’s grabbed them by the pussy.  Now we’re trying to figure out whether he grabbed Putin by the pussy, or if it was the other way around. And that’s all anyone cares about in America. Climate change? Nyet. Late stage capitalism? Nyet. Overpopulation? Nyet. Fashionable fascism? Nyet. Multiverses and the Singularity? Nyet. Welcome to America in 2019.

Hate Inc. brilliantly captures the current circus atmosphere and explores its roots in the political, economic and technological transformations of the last half century. Taibbi writes, “The Soviet Union let us all down by collapsing under the weight of its sociopathic leadership and systemic corruption, removing both itself and global communism as a functional adversary.”

That sucked. White Hat now alone in the spotlight, exceptionalism and neoliberalism looking more like Don Quixote than Sir Lancelot. So the Russkie demons had to be resurrected: Thank God Putin’s an asshole; it gives us something to work with. They gave us Sputnik; we gave them Stuxnet; now it’s their move. 

Taibbi trots out his linguistic mentors early — Noam Chomsky and Hunter S. Thompson.  One can see both at work in Taibbi’s style. He’s always keenly aware of the so-called “propaganda machine” that Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent, argues is behind all news production, the hidden vested interests, the profit-driven requirements of being in business, pandering to a readership. However, Taibbi’s prose is anything but academic; rather, it follows in the hip, snarky tradition of Hunter S. Thompson that is appropriate for a staff writer at Rolling Stone magazine. 

The Russian disappointment aside, Taibbi locates the beginning of the corruption of good, solid journalism in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Far from seeing the end in Nam as a military loss, let alone a moral loss, American war hawks came away angry that ruptures in the narrative — Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers, Sy Hersh’s My Lai account — had undermined and betrayed the so-called Noble Cause.  “The post-Vietnam story blamed an ‘excess of democracy’ for the loss,” writes Taibbi, “especially in the media: loserific criticism of our prospects for victory undermined the popular resolve to keep fighting a winnable war.” 

The Excess of Democracy silliness sounded ominously Kissinger-esque. He’d said of events in Chile, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” It was as though the hawks and chickenhawks had replaced ‘communism’ with ‘democracy’ and Chile with America.  New policy followed: Control the Messenger. One ex-CIA operative, Duane Clarridge, pardoned for his crucial role in the illegal anti-Sandinista campaign in Nicaragua, was shockingly candid with John Pilger about the fascist engine of American imperialism — “get used to it world,” it’s who we are. 

This ‘national security’ attitude became policy toward journalists from Nixon onward, ratcheted up incrementally through the administrations until after 9/11. You could argue that the national political beat became little more than the propaganda arm of the War on Terror.  As Glenn Greenwald and others have repeatedly charged over the years, the national press corps are made up of little more than stenographers being fed unattributed, often-uncheckable information.

Taibbi believes that part of the reason for the change in spirit that came over journalists is class-related.  He writes, “…[B]ack in the day, reporters often came from a different class than the people they reported on in government. He relates the story of old school journalist Walter Winchell who was asked if he worked as a reporter:  “He supposedly joked in reply: ‘Yeah, but don’t tell my mother. She still thinks I’m a piano player in a whorehouse.’”  

That changed after Nixon and Watergate, he recounts.  “Ironically, All the President’s Men, which made reporting glamorous, was about adversarial journalism. But the next generation of national political reporters viewed people in power as cultural soulmates because, at least socially, they were.” Suddenly, they were in a Georgetown nightclub together, grooving on Mose Allison tunes.

The economics of journalism has also played a role in the changes Taibbi alludes to.  The media mergers of the ‘80s and ‘90s downsized the market, resulting in fewer outlets for news, which, combined with the ascension of the Internet in the late 90s began to affect revenue streams, especially for the press.  Eventually, Taibbi argues, this began to affect news coverage and led to the transition to the current partisan bickering that represents contemporary coverage of events, especially national politics. It’s all come together like never before under Trump. 

Taibbi observes, “Few seem troubled by the obvious symbiosis between Trump’s bottom-feeding scandal-a-minute act and the massive boom in profits suddenly animating our once-dying industry (even print journalism, a business that pre-Trump seemed destined to go the way of 8-track tapes, has seen a bump in the Trump years).” Trump often refers to the “failing” New York Times, and categorizes other mainstream media outlets as purveyors of “fake news,” but such attacks have done wonders for their bottom lines.

As the Peabody Award-winning Linda Ellerbee used to say, closing out her NBC Weekend stints in the 1970s, “And so it goes.”

Now that Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress last week ended as flat as a whimpering bagpipe, instead of the big bang smoke that Democrats were hoping to get from Mueller’s mushroom cloudy brain to fuel impeachment proceedings, we move in our spectacle to the last wrassling encounter on the programme. In this corner, Saint Groban, whose own government distrusts him with the country’s top secrets. And in the other corner, Julian “Wicked Leaks” Assange, wearing his fearful torn-condom mask, who the Trump administration wants to prosecute for espionage and journalism.  A grudge match. The Pussy Snatcher versus The Sleepy Hacker. An atmosphere of pure hatred. Applause. The bell rings, we salivate.

Counterintuitively, The Whorehouse Pianist plays Rachmaninoff, musical pearls rolling before runting swine. Hunter S. Thompson would have loved it, dropping down another shot of whiskey, and heading upstairs for another round.