January 14, 2017

A Sunny Day in The Park

January 14 marks the 50th anniversary of the Human Be-In in the Polo Field in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, a few tens of thousands of people from just outside the mainstream of American culture gathering there for an afternoon, taking in the sun, taking in Ginsberg, taking in Timothy Leary (who trademarked "turn on, tune in, drop out," on the occasion), taking in Gary Snyder and Michael McClure and Jerry Rubin, and the Grateful Dead, a big bunch of people having a joyous, peaceful time together, much to their own astonishment and that of the assembled regional, national and international news media, who marked the occasion with contemporary reports suggesting strongly that evidently something or other was going on here.

And indeed something was, a virtual, one-time-only Committee of Correspondence convening on that day to blossom over the next 5 decades into what might best be described as a distinct shared cultural inclination, as variously adopted in all its willing communal looseness now by people around the globe, whose relation to the environment, to militarism, xenophobia, foodstuffs, sexuality, dress, New Agey argle-bargle, and, above all, to the pleasures of really big crowds, loud music and drugs, came together in broad daylight for the first time there at the Be-In. The dance halls in the city had been hopping for the past year, drawing crowds in the hundreds to concerts featuring the first wave of San Francisco rock bands, but this, under pellucid January skies, out in the open, was a revelation. Six months later the Monterey Pops Festival crystalized its international phase.

Only few miles from where I grew up. I took the 28, the bus that passed a block from my house on its way up 19th Avenue to and through the Park, and I got off at Lincoln and wandered down to the Polo Field.

There was a standard in those days, a standard of dress and public composure, or else the hegemonic conformity of the time would have had nothing to refer to, and looking at footage of that day it's clear that most of the attendees still conformed to that set of standards, though lots of the people there, "freaks" they called themselves, were having none of that, dressing instead as pure, enthusiastic provocation.

It was so obvious on inspection that everyone was having fun sharing in an infectious music and drug-induced glee that spread on that sun-dappled day from that core of freaks to baptise the entire crowd in the new thing.

A guy parachuted down and landed just behind the crowd. The Polo Field is big, there was plenty of room for a landing. I hadn't noticed the plane leaving him off overhead or how far he'd glided until I glanced back to stare at all the people (who, in number and kind, were a bit of a revelation to me at the time), only to notice up there coming down from the sky, the parachuting guy. I remember thinking, "Hey, there's something you can't do, just jump out of a plane like that in the middle of the city."

December 22, 2016

Bated Breath

There is a summit meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in the foreseeable future.

December 18, 2016

Morning Comes West

Seabright Beach State Park, Santa Cruz CA,  December 15, 2016

December 13, 2016

Post-Civics 101

Should Trump expect a fee for facilitating, by his nomination of Exxon's Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State, the Arctic petro deal Russia and Exxon want to make? Just a taste, a little something to wet the beak? Inquiring minds want to know. 5% would be so sweet.

December 12, 2016

The Republican Creed Prayed Out Loud

I have very high hopes that the new administration will lead the nation to greater strength, prosperity and peace.
—Mitt Romney, circa Dec 10, 2016 on Facebook

The tacit conventions on which the understanding of everyday language depends are enormously complicated.

Thanks, Mitt.

December 01, 2016

Wily Blend

Coyote in the pasture, Arana Gulch, November 2016

November 29, 2016

The Quasi-Enfranchised of California

Below is a list of electoral college votes of states the population of which, taken together, is roughly equal to that of California. The figures in the middle column are the electoral college votes granted each state, and their total, compared to the electoral college votes granted California. The rightmost column represents the percentage of the total population of the United States living in each state, and the sum of those percentages, compared to the percentage of the population of the United States living in California.

Each group, the one with fourteen states in it, and the group with one, comprises roughly one eighth of the population of the United States. There are 538 electors in the electoral college, and one-eighth of 538 is not that much more than 67, which, if electors were apportioned democratically, would be the number shared out among each group. Sixty-seven. Not 81 for the one group and 55 for the other.

The groups are further distinguished by the fact that one voted for Donald Trump for president, and the other for Hillary Clinton.

State EC Votes % of U.S. Population
Missouri 101.89
Michigan 16 3.11
Oklahoma 71.22
Arkansas 60.93
Utah 60.93
W. Virginia 5 0.57
Idaho 4 0.51
Montana 3 0.32
N. Dakota3 0.27
S. Dakota3 0.24
Alaska 3 0.23
Wyoming 3 0.18
TOTAL 81 12.24
California 55 12.18

November 28, 2016


I don't feel in any way responsible for Donald Trump's recent promotion, having publicly raised the significant eyebrow against his election from the first, and having cast my vote for his opponent in the event, but now, just by being American, I find myself uncomfortably complicit in the acts of his coming presidency. Sad.

In Donald Trump's mind the actual and considerable plurality of votes for Hillary Clinton for president can be explained away, giving him the true plurality of votes, if the millions of illegitimate votes for his opponent are discounted, as they should be, being illegitimate.

Evidence of these illegitimate votes is utterly nonexistent, except as yet another instance of arbitrarily tendentious untruth created by our nearly president, Trump.

Otherwise, clearly and unarguably, nearly three million more Americans gave Hillary Clinton their vote for president than gave their vote to Trump. A solid majority of the people in this country did not vote for him and don't believe he's going to do this country any good at all as president.

Donald Trump's initial reaction to such slights is to speil a counter-narrative based on some singularly untrue assertion. That is to say, his first impulse is to make shit up. He won the plurality, he claims, not her! A landslide!

Donald Trump's initial rhetoric is always followed by perpetual grudge. He will hold it against most Americans that they so clearly signalled their disdain. And he'll find a way to get back at them, because that's what grudge does.

November 22, 2016

Alas, Dallas

Fifty-three years ago today John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

It's hard to fully express the jolting tangible change of catastrophe engulfing those of us who lived in that moment, death of course the capital catastrophe, with its irremediable denial of what we are allowed to believe about the world. The rest of the future may be arguable, but the future may not include the dead. The dead are gone and not to return. Kennedy took a bullet to the head as he travelled in a motorcade through Dealy Plaza. He died soon after.

The jolt shook everyone who lived in that moment, shook hard. Kennedy's assassination knocked American culture, all of its political, social and religious institutions, completely off-kilter, and the people living through it felt and remarked on the lasting nature of the change. It was an epoch-making event, and for years newspapers noted the anniversary of his assassination right there on the front page.

But history, bearing a succession of catastrophes of equal or greater weight down the intervening decades, marches on. Kennedy's murder has long since ceded its place on the front page to other fresher woes.

Rest in peace, you shiny man.

November 16, 2016

A Close Reading Always Bounces You Outside The Text

Chat of Dr. Strange and psychedelia brings to mind the Tribute to Dr. Strange, a dance concert at Longshoreman's Hall in San Francisco in October of 1965, featuring the pre-Grace Jefferson Airplane, the Charlatans (the archetypal hippie band), and the Great Society, the group Grace was in when she wrote White Rabbit and where she first sang her brother-in-law's song Somebody to Love. Hosted by KYA's all-night DJ, Russ "the Moose" Syracuse, and produced by the pre-Chet Helms Family Dog, it was quite the tribute, from all reports. This was all a few years before the cover of the Pink Floyd album A Saucerful of Secrets, which incorporates the nod to the good Dr. referred to in the Crooked Timber post, demonstrating perhaps that America was chewing through its cultural capital about two and a half years faster than Britain was at the time.

November 14, 2016

Thanks, Comey

President-elect Donald Trump will appoint Steve Bannon his chief strategist, a sort of co-equal to newly named Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, whose current position as head of the Republican National Committee presumably will be filled by Trump soon, too.

November 10, 2016

Famous Last Words

—Leonard Cohen, September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016

November 03, 2016

Wait 'Til Next Year

No one can deny this years World Series was a corker. The Chicago Cubs ended their historically long World Series Championship drought with a seventh-game extra inning one-run victory over the Cleveland Indians, a club which hadn't won the Series itself since 1948, despite leading this year's Series 3-1 before the Cubs rattled off three consecutive victories to take it all.

The seventh game will be talked about endlessly by people who love to talk about baseball. It was so rich in incident, in catastrophic failures and galvanizing heroics, that the ten innings just bulged with them.

Thus closed the 2016 MLB Baseball Season, with an absolutely classic instance of the genre.

For fans of the club, there's still the rankling end to the San Francisco Giants season, which came earlier in the playoffs against these same Cubs in a game the Giants led 5-2 going into the top of the ninth inning. The Cubs, pitted against the gravely inferior San Francisco Giants bullpen [which had to that point blown 30 such save opportunities since the start of the season (leading the National League in that dubious category)], rallied to win the game, 6-5.

The season began to crumble for the Giants after the All-Star break, and they barely outlasted the St. Louis Cardinals in vying for for the final Wild Card slot into the playoffs. In various invocations of the multiverse the Giants survive the ninth against the Cubs and send Johnny Cueto out to the mound for the do-or-die fifth game, which path our universe did not happen to take.

2016 San Francisco Giants Season Evaluation Checklist

☒ A. Beat the Dodgers
☐  1. Every time
☑  2. Most of the time
☐  3. Foil them in their quest for the pennant

☒ B. Win all games at least half the time
☐  1. Half the time
☑  2. More than half the time

☐ C. Win The Pennant

☐ D. Win The World Series

The Whip Hand for the Home Stretch Of It

At Slate, Frank Foer reported on the very peculiar transmissions between a Trump computer and a computer owned by Alfa Bank — a Russian bank run by oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin. The transmissions began early this year, peaked in early August, and then abruptly ceased a few weeks ago when a New York Times reporter began inquiring about them.

According to the New York Times, The FBI opted for "an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts." They go so easy on presidential candidates at the Bureau these days.

October 25, 2016

A Furlong or Two From the Post

"Unlike the period from June 1 to today, we have no organized calendar of events for the next 14 days," Eisenberg said. "Rather, when the opportunity presents itself, we will have ad hoc fundraisers."

It is the the very essence of the proper highwayman, e.g., to engage in ad hoc fundraising whenever the opportunity presents itself, and likewise the core chore of the chancers and grifters improvising their way out of town as the situation warrants, as well.

October 23, 2016

The Odd Bit Of Politics

So often our opponents' policy proposals grow out of character flaws that lend themselves to succinct elucidation in public.

The Art Of The Email In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction

Julian Assange has taken the unusual step of intervening in the US presidential election by releasing through his organization, Wikileaks, a trove of mind-numbingly boring political emails from the hacked files of John Podesta, currently chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential election campaign. Taken as a whole the emails prove conclusively that John Podesta is engaged in POLITICS!!!!! ON Hillary Clinton's!!! BEHALF!!!! A wet punk for what was presumably meant to be bombshell.

[The Roman Catholic Church, which, as an aside, looks down its nose at all Protestants, let alone evangelicals, probably split into progressive and reactionary wings around the first Lateran Council, so the fact that Podesta, a known liberal Catholic, took some swipes at the reactionary wing of his own faith in emails sent to a fellow Catholic is thin soup for scandal. p.r.]

Donald Trump boiled the matter down to "Hillary hates Catholics" somehow, a rudeness that presumably passes for wit among his ilk, in remarks at the Al (pretty famously Catholic) Smith Dinner this past week.

October 19, 2016

Election Update

Donald Trump's refusal tonight to say he will accept the results of the election is an invitation to civil war. And he has white men with guns.

October 10, 2016

This Week In Philandering

The recently disseminated copies of recorded remarks made by Donald Trump to Billy Bush back in 2005 have proved some kind of tipping point in this year's presidential election.

It has escaped no one's notice that following the revelation that he uses Tic Tacs to mitigate the imposition of his kisses on unsuspecting women, Donald Trump describes in this conversation the latitude granted to a star's behavior toward women. "You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything." Given those ground rules, pussy grabbing by a star is just not sexual assault. It just isn't. Not for a star. It's not clear that Trump admitted to the act or merely gestured toward the latitude of what you can get away with when you're a star, while strongly hinting at being one himself.

Speaking to Bush, he, Donald Trump, recently married to a then-pregnant wife, did admit to embarking on a predatory sexual adventure involving a married woman of their mutual acquaintance, which regrettably came to nothing in his account.

October 08, 2016

Mysteries of the Electorate Exposed

Caught in passing:
Throughout the campaign, white evangelicals have overwhelmingly supported Trump—often with higher majorities than Romney got from them.
This would be the traditional, unapologetic not-a-Mormon bonus given by white evangelicals to any candidate who isn't. Say what you will about Trump, he is obviously not a Mormon.

October 05, 2016

Giants 3, Mets 0

Wild Card Week has ended with a Giants victory over the New York Mets in the Wild Card Playoff Game, giving them the opportunity to advance to this year's five-game National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs. The winner of that series will meet the winner of the Washington/Los Angeles Division Series in the seven-game National League Championship Series later this month.

Madison Bumgarner excelled against the Mets, excellence being standard for him in post season play, and Conor Gillaspie undoubtedly experienced the peak moment of his baseball career, a guy-out-of-nowhere at-bat that resulted in an utterly crushing ninth inning three-run homer in a victory ensured by Bumgarner's complete game shutout.

The bullpen cheered from a safe distance.