Monday, December 11, 2017

Ouf, Je Suis Fatiguee

Traveling today and also recovering from one of those weeks when I realize that I'm no longer in my thirties.

Also, it appears that one of our world's more excitable types has blown pieces off of himself somewhere in the subway system, thus delaying today's travels.  We'll be back shortly, or as soon as we're able to find an internet connection.

Spoof, Right?

Sexual Revolution Working Out Great, Reports Nation Full Of Perverts
According to the country with dozens of famous celebrities, television pundits, and politicians currently embroiled in sexual scandals, the sexual revolution was a necessary period that allowed the nation to throw off the outdated, restricted shackles of religion and biblical morality.

“I really pity all those backward parts of the world that haven’t had the privilege of experiencing their own sexual revolution,” one politician said as he checked Twitter to see if his own personal indiscretions had been revealed yet. “One day, they’ll be enlightened too.”

An Obituary of Note

Bruce Brown, longtime surf filmmaker and director of the seminal “Endless Summer” just passed at 80 years old

He was the creator of the documentary that significantly altered or ruined my life, depending on whom you ask.

Brown was profiled in The Coracle a couple of years ago.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tales from Our Post-Christian Society

Atlanta Targets Good Samaritans Sharing Food with Homeless
Feed yourself in a public park. Feed the pigeons and the squirrels there, too. Whatever you do, though, don't share your food with a hungry person.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Zora Arkus-Duntov

"This is the most beautiful car I have ever seen." 

When I was a lay brother at an Episcopal Church monastery, and the junior member of the order, I would be expected to fulfill a variety of obtuse, non-traditional responsibilities.  For example, while I did maintain the altar and its various vessels and appointments, I would also have to re-shingle the tool shed, clean the bishop's guest room on the occasions when he had stayed out too late playing poker and didn't want to return home just yet, extract the honey from the hives that supplied the product sold at our roadside stand, and clear the spiders and their webs from the cloister.  [The other monks were afraid of spiders.] I would also have to maintain the monastery's automobiles, which was the best part of the job.

Monasteries, like churches, receive a variety of in-kind donations, some of which are actually useful.  I've never served in a church that didn't have a closet filled with such things as obsolete fax machines and computers, or didn't have a piano with a cracked soundboard sitting about gathering dust.  I credit our Father Superior with making sure that, if we were to receive an in-kind donation, it wasn't someone's junk being used to pad their tax deductions, but something that would actually be useful to the order.  This meant our stereo system in the monastic enclosure was primo, as was our riding mower and our supermarket account.

Best of all, we had been given a twelve-passenger Dodge van, an Oldsmobile Ciera, a Volvo 240, and the Father Superior's pride and joy, a Mercedes saloon [or, in American, a sedan].  My job was to keep the vehicles clean inside and out, change the oil, rotate the tires, and arrange for repairs when necessary.  [They knew I had once worked at a GMC Truck garage.]  While I had grown up in a Chevy and Ford family, with all car needs met by the corner "filling station", it was a completely different experience when taking the Superior's Mercedes to the dealership's garage.

Instead of Gomer and Goober, I had to deal with Hans and Ignaz.  Rather than oil-stained shirts with their Teutonic names embroidered above the pocket, they wore lab coats.  Stain-free lab coats, like the one worn by the guy who had taken out my tonsils in childhood.  Like the rocket scientists who worked with my Dad and, also like the rocket scientists, with German accents that were nearly impenetrable.  They regarded any owner/driver with apparent disdain, as if it were personally insulting to them that someone had allowed a fine machine to be less-than-perfect.

One day while I was there, waiting in the well-appointed ante-room with its better-than-gas-station quality coffee on offer [this was in the days before Keurig machines and Starbuck's burned muck]  and with portraits of the great Mercedes cars and drivers decorating the walls, I heard a startling exclamation.

"Vas ist das?!"

Hans [or maybe it was Ignaz] had just witnessed an abomination.  He was joined milliseconds later by Ignaz [or maybe it was Hans] who also stared at this wonder with bulging eyes and slack mouth.  He, too, repeated, "Vas ist das?!"

You see, someone had the temerity to bring before them a Mercedes-Benz roadster, the two-seat convertible, that had been...altered.  The owner, a young executive with the dominant local industry, had outfitted his otherwise perfect car with, Gott mit uns, "mag wheels".  That is, jazzy wheel covers that didn't match the stately dignity of the rest of the car.  They would have looked more at home on a candy-coated, lowered 1956 Chevy.  It was so upsetting that Hans [again, maybe Ignaz] refused to work on the vehicle.

I suspect that a similar exclamation was made by Zora Arkus-Duntov the first time he saw a particular car with its hood open.  The car was the showpiece of General Motors' Motorama auto show of 1953, held in New York City.  Made from that new material, fiberglass, and adorned with a bright perma-white finish, the Chevrolet Corvette was intended as a "concept car", a one-off product designed to bring in crowds to look at the more pedestrian sedans and station wagons that they would wind up buying.  Instead, it was so wildly popular that even the execs at GM realized they were on to something.

Arkus-Duntov, while recognizing the beauty of the car, also noticed its fatal marketing flaw.  Despite that it was the first real American sports car [some claim it still is], its exterior beauty was not matched by the most important part of a sports car's being.  It's engine was a pathetically under-powered 235 cubic inch, in-line six cylinder.

Arkus-Duntov knew something of engines and cars.  He had already, in his native Germany, been a motorcycle racer, automobile racer, engineering student, and the author of several important papers examining issues of automotive engine design.  So revered are engineers in German culture that he was considered glamorous enough to have married a popular dancer who had worked in the Folies Bergère.  When World War II began, Arkus-Duntov and his wife being Jews, knew enough to get out of Germany.  He did so by joining the French air force along with his brother, while his wife, Elfi, moved to Paris.

They had little chance to engage in dog fights, as the French surrendered shortly afterwards.  With their countrymen now rapidly crossing France, Arkus-Duntov and his brother hid in a...well...a house that supported what is certainly the oldest profession, while Elfi raced their MG roadster ahead of the invading panzers, meeting the Arkus-Duntov siblings and fleeing to the ports of Portugal and, ultimately, a ship to New York just in the nick of time.  [I'm trying to imagine the conversation upon their reunion.  "You were hiding...where?"]

The Arkus-Duntov brothers started a successful business in New York, eventually becoming the manufacturers of the aluminum overhead valve combustion chamber used on what is easily regarded as the best auto engine of the era, the Ford V8 flathead.  [Still the engine of choice for hot-rodders.]

So, imagine what it was like, not long after the Motorama, for the chief engineer of Chevrolet to receive a letter from Arkus-Duntov offering his services in any way that General Motors saw fit, as long as it included making the Corvette into a true sports car.  Not only was the car to be attractive and functional, but it was to be powerful enough to give an enthusiast a thrill and compete against the European marques in continental road racing.  They said "yes", obviously.  So, Zora Arkus-Duntov, late of the race tracks of Europe, author of numerous, groundbreaking studies in engineering, French air force hero [almost], and the enabler of the single best engine yet in existence, became an assistant engineer in Detroit at the age of 44.

The pre-Arkus-Duntov Corvette

And the initial Arkus-Duntov version

Not caring about his status, and completely committed to this new project, Arkus-Duntov wrote the seminal paper in American sports and muscle car development, "Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot-Rodders, and Chevrolet".  In it, he established the philosophy of the Corvette, almost a theology, actually, that determined everything from construction to appearance to marketing.  Not only was the Corvette to be a pretty car, albeit one with a massively powerful engine, and not only was it to be a popular plaything of gearheads, but it would challenge in both showroom and track the products of Porsche, Ferrari, and Mercedes.

Corvettes on the track
General Motor's reaction to his all-encompassing philosophy was to grant him a new position within the corporation: Director of High Performance.  Not satisfied with simply having a desk job, Arkus-Duntov fitted a new version of a small block V8 in the Corvette and raced it himself in the Pikes Peak climbing competition, setting a record for a street vehicle.  He also took the Corvette to Daytona Beach and drove it to a speed record of 150 miles per hour, an unheard of figure in 1956.  In between racing adventures, Arkus-Duntov found the time to design a fuel-injected engine and disc brakes, both firsts on mass-produced automobiles.

The famous and extremely innovative wrap-around split window 1963 version,
continuing Arkus-Duntov's record of innovation
While Arkus-Duntov would retire in 1975, indelibly recognized as the "Father of the Corvette" and the creator of its lasting brand and image, he maintained his participation in the marketing of the car as he was very much in demand at auto shows and other gatherings of gearheads.  Even into his eighties, he continued to push the Corvette as the one vehicle in the GM stable that represented the newest and most innovative engineering and would perpetually stir the heart and imagination of any car enthusiast.

The 1975, the last to be directly supervised by Arkus-Duntov
Zora Arkus-Duntov would die in Detroit at the age of 86, not too many weeks after an appearance at a trade show where he was the keynote speaker.  His ashes would be interred at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  There are a number of magazine articles and some books about Arkus-Duntov and the Corvette, and a particularly important obituary written by George Will for The Washington Post that sums up his contribution not just to the development of a particular car, but of the can-do attitude of the post-WWII United States.

As Will writes: " Zora Arkus-Duntov died the other day in Detroit at 86. And if, 700 words from now, you do not mourn his passing, you are not a good American."   Thus, yet another immigrant used his vision and talent to contribute to the multi-faceted and ever-protean experience that is America.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Before People Get Too Hysterical about the Jerusalem Decision...

From USA Today:
When running for president 25 years ago, Bill Clinton promised to “support Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel.” President George W. Bush criticized Clinton for not following up on that commitment, but then W failed to make good on his too. During Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, he stated that, “we should move our embassy to Jerusalem” but never recognized the city as the capital once he was elected.
Update: At 5:32 p.m. on June 5, 2017, 90 senators, including many currently criticizing yesterday's action, voted to reaffirm Jerusalem's status as Israel's capital.  It's not about principle, it's just about party.  Choose your heroes wisely, kids.

More Needlehooks

“I just want to say that, predisposed as I am to think of Weinstein as an evil power-abuser, I don’t accept the portrayal of all of his facilitators as machine parts. He couldn’t have built a machine out of people. They had to make themselves complicit. An individual can go wrong in many ways (including through mental illness or substance abuse as well as through evil), and those who form relationships and do business are morally responsible for noticing such a person in their midst and not becoming part of his ‘machine.’ I’m going to be tough on the unwitting as well as the witting. If this really is The Reckoning, let’s look at the whole picture.”

This Is Judged As "Accurate" By The Coracle Foundation

How the Winless Cleveland Browns Won the 2017 Season

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Uncles and Cousins


I occasionally come across quotations that snag my attention like a needle-hook to yarn.  I may or may not agree with the writer's perspective, I may find them derivative or vulgar [as a person, I'm much closer to an Edwardian ne'er-do-well than I am to a 21st century tech-infused social microbe], but they represent something that stirs my thinking and, sometimes, imagination.

From time to time, I'll share them and their source, but caveat emptor.
Meryl Streep, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and the other members of the sisterhood have turned their backs on Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Charlie Rose, John Conyers, Al Franken, Glenn Thrush, Matt Lauer, and the like. They say that they didn’t know or that, at most, they had heard a rumor or two. They are for the most part lying. Nearly all of them knew, as did Gloria Steinem and the liberals who defended Bill Clinton. The scale and the scope of these men’s misconduct were too large to have been anything other than an open secret.
Once you've seen the elites with their masks off, you can't go back to pretending any more.

Actually, This Is a Common Hiding Place in Statuary

A Piece of History Is Found in the Rear End of a Jesus Statue

Yeah, But Look at How Snazzy They Were

The Many Ways in Which Cars Were Stupendously Unsafe 60 Years Ago

Probably 3 Out of 5 If the Harry Potter Books are Discounted

1 in 5 Can’t Name an Author, New Survey Finds

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Glad I Went to Princeton

The Association of Native Americans at Yale this weekend condemned Shaka, an all-female Polynesian dance group, for appropriating Hawaiian and Tahitian culture and demanded that the group disband.

The puzzle-witted children of the privileged are really hooked on the narcotic of animosity, aren't they?  It takes a lot of negative energy and bile to create something infuriating out of innocuous activities.

My current view of Yale students was established by a young woman I observed in New Haven the other day.  I was stopped at a traffic light and watched her walk into the side of a car in front of me.  Just plumb right into it.  She left a dent.  I'm guessing she's either a STEM scholar [my physicist/mathematician Dad and his NASA colleagues could be a little ditsy from time to time] or had been "triggered" by some act of "appropriation" that had left her "micro-aggressed".

Archaeological News

Detectorists strike gold as British Museum reveals record haul

Space News

Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years

Put Down the Video Game Controller, Turn Off the Phone, Go Outside

Most American Kids Today Will Be Obese by Age 35

Monday, December 4, 2017

Everything You Know Is Wrong

U.S. experts concerned about efficacy of flu vaccine this year
A recent study shows this year's version of the flu vaccine was just 10 percent effective in Australia, suggesting it could be a rough flu season in the United States.

This Is Judged As "Accurate" By The Coracle Foundation

Archaeological News

Archaeologists find first evidence for Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain

That Would Be a Start

Want to Raise Boys to Become Good Men? Stop Calling Them Predators-in-Training

Also, stop blaming ordinary men for the abhorrent behavior of a bunch of millionaires in politics, media, and entertainment.  Maybe the issue is monetary worth and the power that comes with it rather than something intrinsic to men in general.

The Old Reporter in Me Is Bothered by This, Too

58 People Were Killed In Las Vegas, We Still Don't Know Why Or How, And Nobody Cares

And here's a big one: Why haven't we seen any video footage of Stephen Paddock whatsoever? Paddock carried out his attack in one of the most monitored cities in the world. You can scarcely find a nook or cranny of Las Vegas that isn't under video surveillance. Yet not even one second of Paddock video has leaked? No video of him carrying the gun-laden bags into the hotel? No video of him checking in? No video of whatever went down between Paddock and Campos? Not even any video of Paddock at one of the many casinos he frequented? We're told Paddock spent a lot of time in Vegas. There must be literally hundreds of hours of footage of him spread out between dozens of hotels and casinos. None of it has leaked? All of it was confiscated immediately?

Anyone who has ever been in a casino, from Vegas to the "Indian" ones in the Northeast, has probably noticed the security cameras.  Not only are the visible cameras seemingly everywhere, but there are hidden ones as numerous and ubiquitous.

How is it, in a surveillance culture such as this, that we don't know more, much more, of what happened?

My old editor would have asked, "Who benefits from this story going away?"

Sunday, December 3, 2017

This Is Not a Surprise

Over half of today’s Young Adult readers are over the age of 18.

Given the adult popularity of childish fare such as "Star Wars" and the comic book superhero movies, this shouldn't be a surprise.  In fact, academic discussion with millennial scholars is peppered with references to the Harry Potter characters.

Of course, at one time Tolkien's works were intended for the Young Adult reader, and they seem rather popular in the retirement communities that I visit.

This is Really Interesting and Worth Reading

The American Indian foundation of American gun culture

Friday, December 1, 2017

Chester Himes

"I would sit in my room and become hysterical thinking about the wild, incredible story I was writing. But it was only for the French, I thought, and they would believe anything about Americans, black or white, if it was bad enough. And I thought I was writing realism. It never occurred to me that I was writing absurdity. Realism and absurdity are so similar in the lives of American blacks one cannot tell the difference."

The late 20th and early 21st centuries are the age of the liminal individual.  Liminality, which is one of those fussy academic words, refers to the sensation or actuality of being "caught between" portions of reality.

Those of a mixed racial background often describe themselves as such in regards to their relation to general society, as do teenagers while in that awkward developmental stage where they are caught between childhood and adulthood.  J.D. Vance, in his recent, bestselling autobiography, Hillbilly Elegy, addresses the liminal when he describes what it is like to be born in Midwestern poverty and familial addictive disorder and feel out of place even while excelling at Yale Law School.

It is interesting to note that, in American literature of the 20th century, the best explorations of liminality are found in detective fiction.  Dashiell Hammett's main character, Sam Spade, in the novel The Maltese Falcon, operates with his own moral sense, impervious to the corruption that surrounds him.  Raymond Chandler's private eye, Philip Marlowe, does the same, often commenting on the isolation he senses when he abides in that liminal ground between criminal larceny and police corruption.  Certainly, cinema has worked, re-worked, chewed upon, vivisected, dissected, consumed, and destroyed into a cliche the notion of the "anti-hero" as a liminal character.

Of Marlowe, Chandler once wrote in an essay, “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."

Into this rich mine of fiction are two other characters, Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, woefully neglected on the contemporary scene, who deserve notice, as does their creator who was, without question, a classic liminal man himself.

Chester Himes' father was a college professor and his mother a teacher.  They were educated, middle-class professionals living in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.  The locals described his mother as "high yellow".  However, as they were also black, they experienced the common, and remarkably casual, racism in the south of the early 1920's when Himes older brother, wounded in a school project involving gunpowder [Schools have really changed, haven't they?], was refused emergency treatment at the "white" hospital.  Himes would later note in his memoirs that this incident at the age of twelve revealed for him the liminality of the black experience in American culture.  It would become the theme of his life and fiction.

Shortly afterwards, the Himes family moved from Arkansas to Cleveland, Ohio, a more racially differentiated city with a strong, black middle-class and the absence of Jim Crow laws.  As Langston Hughes, a leading literary light of the era, had begun his writing career in Cleveland, it was recognized as second only to Harlem in promoting black writers.  It was here that Himes would be educated and also begin his adolescent adventures in liminal reality.  Mainly, this was realized during his college years at Ohio State University when he would sometimes sneak off campus to explore the gambling dens of Columbus.  He would eventually be caught doing this and expelled.

While literary biographers tend to gloss over Himes' next seminal experience, and the circumstances are a bit nebulous, we know he was convicted of armed robbery in 1928 and sentenced to 20 to 25 years of hard labor at the Ohio State Penitentiary and, later in his sentence, transferred to the London [Ohio] Prison Farm.

[An aside:  One of the other prisoners at the prison farm during this time was my great-uncle, Bob, who, as if from a scene in a Victor Hugo novel, had stolen bread with which to feed his and some other local families whose resources had been stretched during The Great Depression.  Well, he stole a truck that happened to have bread in it.  Either way, he had been caught.  Great Uncle Bob once noted to me that the London Prison Farm was well-run and encouraged vocations that would ensure the prisoners would have something to help keep them out of "the system" in the future.  He also noted that the food there was better than the food at Mansfield State Penitentiary, where my other great-uncle had served time.  They used to argue their respective points at family get-togethers.  This is my family, folks, and I would have had no other.]

While in London, Himes began to write fiction, mostly in the form of short stories, that were published in the pulp magazines of the era.  As he honed his ability, his work came to be published in better journals, such as Esquire, drawing the attention of Langston Hughes, who encouraged Himes' avocation, eventually enabling him to be released in 1936, only eight years into his sentence.  Himes recent, and most careful, biographer notes that his subject did not experience some transformative experience while incarcerated.  In fact, he grew even angrier and more bitter about race and class and the absurdity of black life in America.  While this could make his stories unpleasant, uncomfortable, and even violent, it also imbued them with an energy that made them compelling.

Accepting odd jobs and writing whenever he could, Himes began to explore previously taboo subjects about race, intimate human interaction, and homosexuality; rare topics to be so confronted in the 1930's and '40's.  As with many disaffected people, he found fellow travelers in the American Communist Party and reflected their language and social attitude in his fiction.  [Another aside: One may see the same language and social stratification in the current Black Lives Matters movement, which is also tied to the American Communists.]  Barred from military service due to his prison record, Himes published his first novel, If He Hollers Let Him Go, in 1945.  It met with positive criticism, with Himes being compared favorably with Richard Wright, the author of Native Son.  Wright would later help Himes and, as with Hughes before him, find his friendship ultimately rejected.

If He Hollers... is shockingly violent, at least in terms of the protagonist's imagination, and while it caused those who read it some discomfort, it also drove readership and interest in the author.  However, a steady diet of bitterness is not an attractive sales feature, and the public quickly tired of Himes' world view; his next two novels were failures.  His reputation was not secured by his personality, either, as he was unpleasant, prickly, and vindictive with critics and fellow writers.  After an unsuccessful period as a Hollywood screenwriter, Hines, realizing that he would not be regarded as equal to or above the triumvirate of Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin, moved to the more favorable racial atmosphere in Paris, where many African-American artists and musicians had gone to live in the years after World War II.

While in Paris, Himes made the acquaintance of Marcel Duhamel, an actor/screenwriter/translator who also owned a publishing house specializing in French crime fiction, who suggested that he write a detective story, as they were the rage in the French literary market, especially if set in the United States and exploiting the country's supposed social flaws.  It was then, at the age of 48, that Himes began the most critically and commercially successful portion of his life when he published A Rage in Harlem.

Concerning the cons, tricksters, sex workers, huckster clergy, hapless fools, and, in particular, police department of New York City, Himes wove a tale of betrayal and revenge that captured the quirky wonder of what is sometimes called "black humor".  At turns macabre and absurd, in his plot Himes introduced his two lasting characters, the NYPD detectives, Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, the absolute representations of the liminal man.

Being the only black detectives in Harlem, Jones and Johnson work without the white cops, save for their sympathetic lieutenant.  On one side, they face the criminal wiles of the residents of Harlem, on the other, the corrupt and racist members of their own department.  Because of their special status in Harlem, they are left alone to establish justice through resolute means.  Jones and Johnson will beat, shoot, slice, or otherwise brutalize criminals in order to save those in their community whom they deem innocent and in need of their protection and, on occasion, vengeance.  However, they will also tolerate the gamblers, drug addicts, the procurers and their women who do what is necessary to survive in the neighborhoods.  In this, they maintain the classic role of the detective as the one who maintains a highly individual, yet rigid, moral system.
"As far back as Lieutenant Anderson could remember, both of them, his two ace detectives with their identical big hard-shooting, head-whipping pistols, had always looked like two hog farmers on a weekend in the Big Town. Grave Digger has a lumpy face, reddish brown eyes that always seem to smolder, and a big and rugged frame. He is more articulate than Coffin Ed who has one distinct feature - his face, which has been badly scarred by a thrown glass of acid. Their nicknames indicate the respect they receive in Harlem. They drive the streets in a nondescript battered super-charged Plymouth and work mainly through sheer presence, chance and, what we call today, brutality. As Grave Digger says to the commissioner, "We got the highest crime rate on earth among the colored people in Harlem. And there ain't but three things to do about it: Make the criminals pay for it - you don't want to do that; pay the people enough to live decently - you ain't going to do that; so all that's left is let'em eat one another up."
A Rage in Harlem was so popular in France that it won the Grand Prix de la Litterature Policière in 1958 and launched what is now known as Himes' "Harlem Detective" series, especially after American publishers discovered the book and contracted Himes to write as many as he wanted, all to be published in the United States.

Eight novels in this series would be published during Himes' lifetime, securing his reputation as a writer and enabling him to earn a healthy living.  His gambling, occasional drug use, and suppressed anger would eventually take its toll on his body and, after a stroke and nervous disease, Himes would die at the age of 75 in 1984.

Since his death, Chester Himes reputation as an artist has continued to grow, even if his querulous personality continues to vex.  He is considered by some critics as the father of noir fiction, or certainly on the podium with Hammett and Chandler, and the direct inspiration for Walter Mosley's novels about Easy Rawlins.  Even his other novels, those not about Harlem cops, reveal the same darkness and rage, the same existential absurdity that, if not as artfully presented as by other black authors, retains its raw energy and unflinching regard.

His only request of his widow, granted on his death bed, was to "keep my books alive".  Certainly she, and those who recognize Himes place in 20th century American literature, have done so as the Harlem Detective novels are still in print as are most of his other books.  His two-volume autobiography, (The Quality of Hurt, 1972, and My Life of Absurdity, 1977), is an excellent meditation on his sense of liminality and should be read by any student of race in America.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Contemporary Scholarship in the Humanities is Largely Buffoonish

The View from My Room in Edinburgh

When I consider how many things in my life have changed over the last forty-six years, I'm glad at least one is exactly the same.

Count on It

USA Today: Overdue backlash mustn't turn into sexual McCarthyism

The Coracle Foundation judges the following statement, offered by Glenn Reynolds of the University of Tennessee School of Law, to be prescient:
Not much change for powerful figures, but ordinary men will have to sit through HR presentations on why you can’t compliment someone’s sweater.

This Isn't Possible. If It Were, Then I've Plagiarized Several Sermons.

But, This Would Mean That Bureaucrats Lie. How Can That Be?

D.C. Miracle Turnaround School Exposed as a Fraud
Ballou teachers reported students with woefully inadequate academic skills. Only 9 percent of Ballou students passed D.C.'s standardized test for English last year, and none passed the standardized math test.
Well, at least we still have the media to represent both truth and moral fortitude.

This is Too Logical Not to Break Someone's Narrative

If you can't accept the Pence Rule at work, can we at least agree on the Pants Rule?
Male bosses should keep their pants on for the entirety of business meetings with colleagues.
As I've mentioned before, I was ruefully amused by my ordained colleagues who reacted so strongly to the current vice-president's sensible rules for how to comport oneself with female subordinates, especially in the presence of alcohol.  For all of their Episcopal howling, we have the same rules as part of our "safe church" practices.

The Feast Of St. Andrew

While Andrew is mentioned along with the Twelve, usually in conjunction with his brother, Simon Peter, he appears with particularity three times within the Gospel of John. When the curious Greeks wish to speak with Jesus, they first approach Philip, who then approaches Andrew, and the two of them then mediate with Jesus (John 12:20-22) about the meeting.  Before Jesus feeds the five thousand, it is Andrew who brings forward the "lad with five barley loaves and two fish." (John 6:8f).  Also, Andrew is the brother to first meet Jesus and the one to take that news, and the holy invitation, to Simon Peter (John 1:35-42).  It is Andrew who first proclaims, "We have found the Messiah".

Thematically, on each occasion when he is mentioned as an individual, it is because he is instrumental in bringing others to meet the Savior.  This has long been regarded as the specific ministry of Andrew, something recognized in the Episcopal Church through the Fellowship of Saint Andrew, an organization devoted to encouraging personal evangelism and inviting one's friends and colleagues to a knowledge of the Gospel.

Several centuries after the death of Andrew, some of his relics were brought to Scotland by a missionary named Rule, to what is now known as St. Andrew's, popularly recognized as the site of world-famous golf course and university. Hence, Andrew becomes strongly associated with that northern jewel of the British Isles. [Having a Scottish mother, I had to say that.]

According to pious legend, Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, as represented on the design of the official flag of Scotland.

The Collect of St. Andrew:
Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your Holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

For those interested, the flag of the United Kingdom, the "Union Jack", is a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew [white x-shaped cross on a blue field], St. George, the patron of England [red cross on a white field], and that of St. Patrick, the patron of Ireland [red x-shaped cross on a white field].

Sorry, Wales and St. David. You got left out.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tales of the Post-Christian Age

Archdiocese of Washington files lawsuit against WMATA after Christmas ad rejected

You know, it seems a bit mild:

It's hardly "promoting" a religion, except to mentally ill, Christo-phobic bureaucrats.

Get Used to Hearing This Now

"Him?  Oh, everyone knew."

This Is Why We Are in the World, But Not of the World

Charles Manson, Norman Mailer, and our inauthentic, but hip, society
We shouldn’t conform ourselves to society. There’s something wrong with it.

This is Judged to be Accurate by The Coracle Foundation

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Because We Have to Pay the Government for Our Civil Rights? Since When?

Honestly, when it comes to rationally regarding the role of churches in the United States, some people are on the level of livestock.  Excuse me, I have to arrange my poll tax.

In Today's Adventures in Doctoral Abstracts

I have absolutely no idea what this sentence means.

Any Trained Philosopher Has Been Asking These Same Questions

Heck, even untrained philosophers.
A rational person cannot possibly believe all eight of these points simultaneously. He must choose. He may say that men are inherently dangerous, therefore they shouldn't be in the women's room and women should probably carry guns. He may say that men can be women so there's no reason to fear men or treat them any differently. He may say that law enforcement officers are part of a conspiracy to exterminate the black population therefore we should all grab machine guns, form militias, and violently overthrow the state. He may say that police are mostly very trustworthy and dutiful in their jobs, therefore we have no reason to buy our own guns and protect ourselves. He may find a combination of two, maybe three, of these points and put them forward as fact. Or, better yet, he may reject them all and choose instead to be right. What he cannot do, if he wants to be taken seriously, is argue in favor of all of them.

Monday, November 27, 2017

An Important Royal Note

I've always had respect for Prince Harry as he's a proper soldier, known both for repeatedly risking his life in Afghanistan and also for partying like an animal in Las Vegas.  Sorry, bluenoses, but the adrenaline from repeatedly surviving will result in an overzealous celebration of life once one is again safe.  Which reminds me, I owe Charley's Bar in Somers Point, New Jersey for some glassware that was inadvertently smashed back in 1975.

Anyway, his wife-to-be will never be Princess Whatever Her Name Is, regardless of what the millennials who slept through history class who work as researchers for NBC News seem to think.  She may never bear the title of "Her Royal Highness", either.  That's just the way it goes, as Harry isn't first in line for the throne.  She will, however, be the Duchess of...Earl or something, whatever Harry's lesser title may be.  Not bad for a D-list TV actress who, at 36, is about to "age out" of the good acting roles.

Interesting Update:  The Crown has declared the Duchess of Earl-to-Be a "Protestant".  She is to be baptized and confirmed in the Church of England before the wedding so that she and the duke may be married in Westminster St. George's chapel at Windsor.

Given his recent comments, we're assuming the Archbishop of Canterbury, who I am told is also Grand Knight of Snobbery and Lord of the Privy (I don't recognize these titles, but this isn't really my specialty given I'm an American and all), will have her assure him that she is not a supporter of the current occupant of the White House.

Tales of the Post-Christian Age

A chart of the number and amounts of settlements given to those harassed or otherwise man-handled by members of Congress over the last twenty years.  Yes, it's tax money.

By the way, what was going on in 2007?

A Post-Christian Observation

"Look back to the two great crimes of our century—nazism and communism—and you will see what happens when a substitute religion bursts upon the world, untempered by belief in God's judgment. Never before has such destruction, or such contempt for human life, visited our planet" - Roger Scruton

As Noted in the Article, and as Realized Through Personal Experience, One is Treated Better by the Airline Staff

Stop dressing like a slob when you're traveling

Sunday, November 26, 2017

This Sentence Could Have Ended with the Word "Baffled". Or "Christians".

Archbishop of Canterbury baffled by Christians who back Trump

His Grace is the historic defender of the monarchy, so the exercise of democracy would, in his words, be baffling to him.  Christians exercising the free will to do what he would not is pretty puzzling, too, I'll bet.

(No, hysterics, I'm not a Trump or Clinton defender, but I do like the freedom to make my own choices, regardless of the judgment of some tedious Pharisee who lives in a palace.)

Seriously, this is where he lives.  With servants.  Y'know, just like Jesus did.

Yes, I Work with Many of Them

The list of attacks goes on. But none of this should surprise us. There has always been a malicious, vengeful streak in sections of the compassionate new left. Consider how they have always boasted about ‘hating the Tories’, as if hatred is an emotion to be proud of. The far left always talk of ‘smashing’ or ‘fighting’ things, whether it be capitalism, racism or the system. The rhetoric of caring and combat paradoxically go hand-in-hand. As Albert Camus observed in his attack on Sartre in his 1951 L’Homme révolté, the more someone professes to care about humanity, the more they tend to dislike people as human beings.

Because This Was Keeping Me Up at Night

This top NYC chef won’t judge you for eating IKEA meatballs

You Mean, Besides Everything?

What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation

Friday, November 24, 2017

Orangey and Frank Inn

I'm not sure where to begin with this, as it's a bit of a departure from the usual Friday fare.  Well, as my old-school editor used to say, "How about at the beginning?"  He was a real wit, wasn't he?

With the coming and going of the World Series, and the inevitable defeat of the Cleveland Indians, a number of baseball and baseball-themed movies were being shown on television.  The usual ones were there, such as "Bull Durham" [which is actually a good film], "Field of Dreams" [that guy, again], "A League of Their Own" [zzzzzzz], "The Natural" [not bad, although the protagonist should have died in the end], "Major League" [a terrible movie, but it's about the Indians so I have to like it or get thrown out of the Cleveland Club], etc.

There are two baseball films that never seem to make it to the schedule, though, and I suspect that's because they're old and in black-and-white and young people are micro-aggressed by the absence of color.  Both star Ray Milland, which may be another reason as he's hardly a recognized actor these days.

In the first, "It Happens Every Spring" [1949], Milland plays a college chemistry professor who is a baseball fanatic.  While mixing mysterious chemicals in his lab, a stray baseball flies through the window and smashes the beakers.  The resulting compound, which cannot be duplicated, repels wood.  Milland soaks a baseball glove in it, thus causing baseballs to flee from wooden bats, and uses it to become the greatest pitcher in the major leagues.  Naturally.  There's some drama with gamblers, gangsters, and kidnapping, of course, but it all resolves into a happy ending.

The second, which I argue is the greatest baseball movie ever made, concerns a wealthy owner of a hapless, Brooklyn team who, upon his death, bequeaths the team to his feline, a former alley cat and absolute terror of whom even guard dogs are afraid.  The cat is named Rhubarb, the slang term for a bench-clearing baseball brawl, and in the eponymous movie, Rhubarb is placed under the legal care of the team's publicist, again played by Ray Milland.  There's some drama with gamblers, gangsters, and kidnapping, of course, but it all resolves into a happy ending.  [Yeah, I said it twice.]


So, my wife and I watched it the other night on a streaming service, finding it perfectly enjoyable, not as painfully corny as one might expect, and with something for the whole family, grandchildren included, to enjoy.  It also caused us to reflect on one of our own cats, who was of the same coloration and so notoriously bi-polar as to be cantankerous one moment and companionable the next.  The neighborhood dogs were afraid of him and he used to go and eat the neighbor's cat food right off of their porch while their cat hid inside.  In fact, there was a time when I almost re-named him Rhubarb.

Rhubarb meets his team. Notice the young actor in center screen enjoying his first movie role.  He would live long and prosper.

This made me curious about the cat who played the title character as he was not only photogenic, but was in almost every scene either calmly sitting among the actors [!] or engaged in doing his own stunts, including racing across the Brooklyn Bridge. [Well, an artificial version of Brooklyn and Manhattan, but that's the movies.]  That's when I discovered the remarkable world of animal wranglers and their considerable contribution to the creation of fine cinema.

Rhubarb was portrayed by a cat named Orangey.  It was his debut role, but by no means his last, especially as he won a Patsy Award for the "Picture Animal Top Star of the Year, 1951".  [That's where the acronym "Patsy" is from.]  He was so strongly associated with his premier role in cinema that for many years he was listed in film credits as Rhubarb, rather than by his Christian  proper name.

Because of this initial success, and the fact that he could be, for a cat, rather patient with the demands of film and television production, he would appear in seminal films and TV series for the next seventeen years.  Orangey played Minerva, Eve Arden's cat on "Our Miss Brooks", the cat that terrifies and stalks the protagonist in "The Incredible Shrinking Man", Rose Marie's cat, Mr. Henderson, on "The Dick Van Dyke Show", and various others on "The Beverly Hillbillies", "Mission Impossible", and as the Catwoman's pet on "Batman".

Orangey, now famous enough in the industry to be billed by his Christian proper name, would even win a second Patsy Award for his performance in "Breakfast at Tiffany's".

All in all, it was an enviable career, and one that was enjoyed without the usual humiliation and misconduct that characterizes an actor's life in Hollywood.  However, it would not have been possible if Orangey had not been the discovery and ward of Frank Inn, Hollywood's greatest animal trainer.  His story, too, is one of accomplishment.

Inn with his best-known client
A Midwesterner from a quiet, Quaker family, Inn sought work in Hollywood, initially as a maintenance man for MGM.  On his way home from work one night, he was struck by a drunk driver and left for dead.  He was saved when a collection of medical students at the L.A. County Morgue realized the corpse was still warm.

It was a very long recovery, with Inn's mobility severely limited.  A friend gave him a dog named Jeep to stave off depression and Inn would train the dog to do what companion dogs and other animals now do for their stewards: Jeep would learn to fetch Inn his newspaper and his keys and open and close the icebox door.

Eventually, he returned to work and while cleaning the set of the movie that would eventually become "The Thin Man" with William Powell and Myrna Loy, he noticed the animal trainer having difficulty with the dog, named "Asta" in the film, whose scenes were of some importance to the plot.  When he showed the animal trainer what he could do with Jeep, he was hired as the trainer's assistant.  If the viewer has ever been amused by the antics of Asta or his "wife and kids" in The Thin Man series of movies, it is to Inn's credit

While originally in the employ of Rudd Weatherwax, the trained animal expert who introduced the cinematic world to "Lassie", Inn started his own business in the early 1950's with Orangey as his first, major client.  We've seen what happened with that fruitful union.  So successful was Inn with the Patsy-winning cat that he would spend the remainder of his life training a variety of animals for movies and television.

A partial list of only the most famous of Inn's clients would include not only Orangey in all of his appearances, but also Cleo, the basset hound who served as the narrator of TV's "The People's Choice". [As voiced by Ann Southern, I recall from childhood that Cleo got all of the good lines.  In fact, the show was almost cancelled during its first season until the writers hit on the idea of a dog narrator.  From that point forward it was a hit.]  Arnold the pig on "Green Acres" [another scene-stealer], Tramp the dog on "My Three Sons", the chimps on "Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp" [don't ask], and virtually all of Ellie May Clampett's critters on "The Beverly Hillbillies" [included in that collection was, you guessed it, Orangey].

Frank Inn's most successful client, however, was a stray dog of mixed heritage who became the star of a series of movies.  While his street name was Higgins, he is best known to fans of children's cinema as "Benji".  In all, Inn's clients won about 40 Patsy Awards.

Inn kept a vast property filled with a variety of animals, even those with no acting talent, and taught many young assistants how to, with affection, create stars from even the most discarded of pets.  After his death at the age of 86 in 2002, his daughter continues the business and still provides well-cared animal actors for movies and TV.

While Frank Inn is buried in Los Angeles' famous Forest Lawn Cemetery, there is also, on his rambling estate, a place filled with cenotaphs hosting the cremains of his famous clients.  Like many animal lovers, he could never quite let go of them.  Someday, I would hope to make a pilgrimage to the place of Orangey's final repose, if merely as an exercise in Franciscan respect for God's creatures, or for the fact that a simple movie still amuses me, even after several viewings.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My [New] Favorite Thanksgiving Recipe

As noted in yesterday's post, I'm not a big fan of turkey.  I don't mind it in a deli sandwich, in fact I used to enjoy one planted in a kaiser with homemade mayo and plenty of freshly ground pepper that was constructed by a now-defunct deli in Grand Central.  That, and a bag of cheese waffles, used to be the highlight of my weekly Friday journey from the city to Fairfield County.  However, I think the full bird is too much fuss to cook and too bland a meal around which to build a holiday.  It's telling when the stuffing is usually far superior, unless some lunatic puts water chestnuts in it.

When I was growing up with the Indians on the frontier, we would enjoy the annual Thanksgiving deer hunt and savor the fresh meat from our kills as our dinner.  [Although Grandma always had a half-dozen of Grandpa's chickens on reserve in case we came home without a trophy.]  It's best I not share that info with the more genteel folk with whom I spend my current days, though.

The cousins with our Thanksgiving entree
In addition to our traditional fish tacos, we've also enjoyed steamed lobster and lobster pie a few times over the years, especially on those lucky occasions when we've been able to spend a couple of days on the shoreline.  Last year, having just returned from Australia, we brought with us the recipe for the single most glorious sandwich ever invented.  My only regret is that one cannot buy either Carlton Draught or Victoria Bitter in the United States, as those two beers complement it perfectly.  [Foster's is not Australian beer; it's canned in Pittsburgh.]

Here's the recipe, and be prepared to open your mind to new gastronomic possibilities.  

Behold, Crocodile Bob's Aussie Works Burger:

Ingredients [serves four]:
1 pound ground beef 
1 large onion, sliced 
4 eggs 
4 slices Canadian bacon 
4 pineapple rings 
4 slices Cheddar cheese 
1 (8.25 ounce) can sliced beets, drained 
4 slices tomato 
4 lettuce leaves 
4 Kaiser rolls, split 
ketchup (optional) 
yellow mustard (optional) 
dill pickle relish (optional) 
mayonnaise (optional) 

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.
When the grill is ready, lightly oil the grilling surface. 
Form the ground beef into four patties, and grill for 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. 
Add onions, and fry until soft. 
Remove the onions from the skillet, and crack the eggs in the same skillet over medium heat. 
Cook until the yolks are solid, turning over once. 
Remove eggs, and set aside. 
Place the Canadian bacon in the same skillet, and fry until toasted. 
Remove the bacon, and turn the heat to high. 
Quickly fry the pineapple rings in the bacon drippings just until browned on each side.

Set bottom of kaiser roll on a plate,
1. top with burger, 
2. a slice of cheese, 
3. a slice of Canadian bacon, 
4. one fried egg, 
5. fried onions, 
6. a slice of beet, 
7. a slice of pineapple, 
8. a slice of tomato, 
9. and a leaf of lettuce.  

Serve to those shocked with wonder.

Since this year my wife and I are on our own for Thanksgiving, a first in our marriage, we're going to spend the day digesting this 920 calorie delight by raking some leaves and watching any team but the Cleveland Browns play football.

In addition to the traditional annual viewing of Endless Summer, we may re-watch the first season of the wonderful Australian TV show, "Rake".

The staff of The Coracle will take tomorrow off.  A Friday profile will be posted.  It's a corker.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

My Former Favorite Thanksgiving Recipe [This Year's Favorite Will Be Revealed Tomorrow]

Since people ask me what we do for Thanksgiving [I know you're just being polite, but be careful what you ask for], there is a particular dish that I like to prepare to either delight or horrify those with whom we share the holiday. [If you're looking for a turkey recipe, you've come to the wrong place. We never eat turkey at Thanksgiving. What are we, a buncha Congregationalists?] The recipe and preparation instructions follow:

Surf City Curbside Fish Tacos


1 lb of fresh swordfish steak
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 doz corn tortillas
Vegetable oil or butter (optional, depending on how you heat your tortillas)
Lime Mango sauce [see instructions]
1 ripe Avocado
Cabbage or iceberg lettuce
Cider vinegar

Prepare the sauce. This can be done either the simple or the complex way. The simple way is as follows:

1. Go to Stop and Shop
2. Buy some lime mango sauce in aisle 6

You may use it as a marinade for the fish and then, with the addition of some sour cream, use the remainder as the sauce for the finished dish. Naturally, don't use the sauce in which the fish has been marinating for the presentation sauce. At least, that's what Jenni always tells me. What she doesn't know won't hurt her.

The more complex way is to do the following:

Place two ripe, peeled and pitted mangoes and some lime juice [two limes or equivalent] into a food processor and blend until pureed. If the sauce is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of cold water. Stir in one diced jalapeno with seeds and skin removed [unless you like four-alarm sauce, like I do, in which case toss the seeds and skin into the whole shebang] and there you go. Save it until taco construction.

Prepare the cabbage and avocado. Thinly slice the cabbage and put it in a small serving bowl, sprinkle it with cider vinegar (about a tablespoon) and salt (about a teaspoon). Mix in the vinegar and salt. Peel the avocado and remove seed. Chop and reserve for later.

Heat the tortillas. There are two ways of doing this.

1. Simply heat them in the microwave for 20-25 seconds on high heat, on top of a napkin or paper towel to absorb the moisture that is released.

2. Or heat a cast iron skillet to medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan or spread a half a teaspoon of butter on one side of one tortilla. Place tortilla in the pan (butter side down if you are using butter). As the tortilla sizzles, flip the tortilla with a spatula so that the other side gets some of the oil or butter from the pan. Continue to flip every 10-30 seconds until the tortillas begins to develop air pockets, after about a minute. You can always skip the butter or oil.

Remove the tortilla from the pan and place it folded on a plate. If the pan is large enough you can prepare two or more tortillas at once. Continue until all the tortillas (estimate 3 per person) are cooked. Set aside.

Cook the fish. Soak the fish fillets in cold water for at least one minute. Pat dry with a paper towel. Heat a large stick-free skillet to medium high heat. Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet. Place fish on skillet. Cooking time depends on the thickness of the fillets. A thin fillet may take only one minute on each side to cook. A thicker fillet may take a couple of minutes. Fish should be still barely translucent when cooked. Break off a piece and test if you are not sure, or give it to your cat and see what he does with it. Do not overcook the fish. When done, remove the fish from the pan to a separate plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the plate of tortillas, fish, the sauce, cabbage, and avocados on the table and let everyone assemble their own. You go to a separate room where it's quiet and watch a football game. Preferably, Ohio State, since Princeton's season is over.  Or maybe stream Endless Summer and look at photos from Hawaii, Fiji, and Australia.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Time to Re-Institute Tar and Feathers

Pennsylvania: Couple Sues Over Police “Drug” Raid That Mistook Hibiscus for Marijuana

Anyone who mistakes hibiscus for marijuana is custodial.

No One is Above Sin, Even If He or She Agrees With Our Politics or Reflects Our World View

For Every Woodstock, There's an Altamont

And here's a haunting fact.  The  murderous rampage that took seven lives at the homes of actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski, himself back in the news for his own repellent activities, and then supermarket exec Leno LaBianca and his wife occurred in August 1969 --  48 years from today, but only 24 years from the liberation of Auschwitz. It was considerably closer to Nazi times than to ours.

Perhaps humanity had not learned because the Manson murders were their own mini-Holocaust, a death cult spawned at the Spahn Ranch. That it all began at an abandoned movie set was eerily appropriate for L.A.  It also happened at a time when this city was reaching its supposed cultural zenith.  Everyone wanted to come here.  The Mamas and the Papas were singing "California Dreamin'."  The Beach Boys were boosting the superiority of "California Girls." The surf was up.  The cinema was the thing to do.  You too could be the next Billy Wilder or John Huston.  What could go wrong?

Well, a lot.
In the midst of surfers, flower children, and SoCa gear heads in Huntington Beach, Charlie Manson would perform at a small club on Main Street.  Such was, and is, the California experience, with darkness visible.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

This is Why I Preferred Being a Print Reporter [That, and I Have a Face for Radio]

We All Have That Friend Who Has to Make Faces Whenever Someone Takes Out a Camera

An Obituary of Note

Radio DJ Helen Borgers, L.A.'s longtime voice of jazz, dies at 60

I would always listen to Helen when on a West Coast surf adventure.  As we are of the same generation and came to jazz the same way, through the study of literature, I appreciated our shared understanding of the interpenetrating experience of the most American of music.

When radio stations began to stream on the Internet, and KJAZZ 88.1 became one of them, I couldn't have been more delighted to be able to listen to Helen whenever I wanted and wherever I was.  It was truly a treat.

When she was laid off by the station over the summer, a heavy blow to jazz fans, as difficult as it was not to hear her show during the week, it was tempered by knowing she would turn up somewhere and be streamed again.  Now, this heavier blow has been leveled.

Friday, November 17, 2017

An Existentialist View of the Book of Revelation

"Our world does not need lukewarm souls, it needs hot hearts." - Albert Camus

Jack Good

Rock ’n’ roll, if it is anything, is pure joy in sound.

Except as represented in Hollywood dross, there really is no singular rock and roll type.  Rockers come from all over the country, all over the world.  I've known rockers who read Rimbaud between performances, and others who were...well, I believe the scientific term is "pre-verbal".  I've known those who made their way to the stage through blues bands, jazz bands, garage bands, country bands, and church choirs.  I've known, and built a guitar for, a rockabilly singer from Australia, a metal head from Brazil, and a ye-ye girl from France.

They have different body types, different accents, different styles.  Some have been married forever; other have a more open regard for the institution.  Some will never, ever be able to turn down a drink, a syringe, or some pills [often all at the same time], others will not even permit a beer in their studio.  I once sat backstage with the bassist of a group for whom we were opening and discussed Beat poetry while his drummer sat in a dark corner and injected himself with heroin.

So, it really should not be a surprise that the fellow who brought the psychedelic world of rock to American living rooms was a middle-aged, bespectacled, umbrella-wielding Oxbridge Englishman in a proper suit.

Jack Good was born in London in 1931.  He graduated from Balliol College of Oxford University where he participated in the theatre community.  This lead to his being hired by the BBC where, by 1957, he had become a producer and was given an extraordinary responsibility.  While the practice in the early days of BBC television was to suspend broadcasting from 6pm to 7pm, ostensibly so that parents could settle their children for the evening, Good thought it an apt time to offer a youth-oriented music show.

Good had been to the States and had seen Dick Clark's American Bandstand and, although he enjoyed the music, found the production too staid and controlled given the style of the music.  Seeking to avoid that in the BBC's version, he found a disk jockey more frenetic than Clark, cleared the sound stage of any sets or props, and filled it with the bands, the audience, and the dancers.

At 6:05pm on February 16, 1957, with the words, "It's time to jive on the old six five with our band, Don Lang and the Frantic Five", the Six Five Special had its debut.  It was nothing like American Bandstand as it was live, largely un-rehearsed, and filled with a mad energy.  That really could have been a description of Good, too.

While intended to fill the broadcasting schedule for a month or so, the Six Five Special was popular enough to be given an open-ended contract, eventually staying on the air for a year-and-a-half.  It probably would have stayed on indefinitely, but the BBC managed to alienate Good by altering his vision of the show and reducing the amount of music.  They also added an educational portion and the football [that is, soccer] scores.  Without Good's vision, the show began to fail and surrendered by the end of 1958.

By that time he had left the BBC for its rival, ITV.  His new bosses noted the possibilities of the Six Five Special and wanted to Good to re-create it for their schedule, and in accordance with his un-diluted vision.  On September 13, 1958, Oh, Boy! premiered with all of the recognizable Good features: open sets, popular music, something resembling dancing, and the adrenaline that comes from an absence of rehearsal.

In turn, Oh, Boy! was succeeded by Good's Boy Meets Girls, another incarnation of the same idea.  By this time, Good's style was being copied by both the BBC and European television studios.  Realizing that the United States was a vast market waiting for something more vivid than Dick Clark's bland product, using his own money, Good produced a pilot episode of an Americanized version of the shows he had been producing in the United Kingdom.  It was rejected by everyone to whom he brought it.  With that, Good returned to England to work on stage production and as an actor in a couple of films.

For the 1964-65 season, ABC-TV was hungry for something that would appeal to the growing youth market and began to review some of the rejected pilots.  When they came across Good's, they offered to purchase his pilot but staff it with their own producer.  When Good promised to have The Beatles on the first broadcast if he were given the role of producer and carte blanch to shape the show, the deal was finalized.

On September 16, 1964, Shindig! was aired. For those at least my age, the show altered our understanding of popular music and captured, as did nothing else at that time, the raw energy of the music.  Shindig! was frenetically filled with performances, dancers, an appreciative audience and occasional, and blissfully brief, interviews with the artists.  Consider this opening medley and the range of music styles represented:


With Shindig!, the so-called British Invasion began, through which Jack Good served as an able curator. Among all of the "one hit wonders" who claimed their fifteen minutes on ABC's stage, there were also groups that not only rose to stardom and fame, but, at least in one spectacular case, are still performing.

Good knew, as few did in the U.S., that it was the blues musicians of the American south who most inspired the music of the British rockers. This was why, against the objections of a few at ABC, he demanded that black musicians appear on the show.  With this willingness to de-segregate pop music on television, and the promise that their idol would appear with them, The Rolling Stones appeared on Shindig! with Howlin' Wolf, the obscure bluesman whom they idolized and who, at the age of 55 and after four decades of performance, became an "overnight" sensation.


As with the BBC, the executives at ABC couldn't help but continually interfere in what was a successful product, and Good, again, left the production. As with the Six Five Special, without Good it ultimately failed. Shindig! was replaced by Batman in the fall of 1966.

Without question, it is Good's vision that determined the look, the sound, and the influences of rock music; an impact that would continue for the remainder of the decade, if not the century. This is why his name should be as well known by those of us who enjoyed the music of the era as are the names of the successful musicians.  Certainly, if for only presenting as many black artists as white, he should be as well-known as Dick Clark.

Good would return to the U.K. and produce musical theatre, occasional documentaries, and even act from time to time. Eventually, he converted to the Church of Rome and spent the remainder of his life in Oxford, selling his religious-themed paintings and recounting the great stories of his days with the rockers to anyone willing to sit with him. He would die at the age of 86 just a couple of months ago.

Upon his death, Good's assistant producer, among the other memories he shared, such as Good pinning "I Love Shindig!" buttons to the cardboard cut-outs of Lawrence Welk that adorned the ABC studio lobby, said that he was hopeful that his former boss had achieved his singular realization of the eternal: “His idea of heaven was Jerry Lee or Cliff Richard or Elvis giving it 100 percent.”

Yeah, he's not the only one.  Thanks, Jack; and thanks for making Howlin' Wolf known, too.  Oh, and those Stones guys.