Saturday, June 24, 2017

English Pyscho-Ingrid Bergman’s “Gaslight” (1944)-A Film Review

English Pyscho-Ingrid Bergman’s “Gaslight” (1944)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Sandy Salmon

Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotte n, 1944

Lowering gaslights (indicating pre-electric light times, 19th century times), strange noises from the attic and deep London fog which aids in nefarious work. All the ingredients for a full-blown old-time example of a suspense film without any gore or pyrotechnics. Oh yes, and a mad man obsessed by something which is driving him beyond the edges of rationality. This is what drives this first-rate classic Gaslight which garnered the beautiful and talented Ingrid Bergman last seen in this space playing the loyal wife, well kind of loyal wife, of Nazi-resister Victor Lazlo in the film Casablanca her first Oscar.          

Here’s why beyond her beauty and the depth of her performance in the part. Paula, Ms. Bergman’s role, is a sensitive and reserved young woman having had her famous opera singer aunt whom she lived with as a young girl murdered for unknown reasons. Paula follows in her footsteps or tries to. Then love enters the scene. The love of a pianist, Gregory, or whatever his real name was as we shall find out, played by Charles Boyer (whom I do not recall having mentioned in this space previously) who sweeps her off her feet. They marry and return (at his request) to the London house where Paula came of age.

Then the craziness begins. Craziness egged on by our boy Gregory who has an ulterior motive for attempting to undermine Paula’s sanity. A goodly portion of the film is spent on detailing the many vulgar and nefarious ways Gregory plays out his hand. He almost had her over the edge (with help from that noise in the attic, the London fog and those damn flickering gaslights-and a little help by the snooty housemaid played by a very young Angela Lansbury).     

Naturally this torture can’t, or won’t, go on forever, because of a chance encounter with one Inspector Cameron, played by Joseph Cotton, last seen in this space hunting down like a dog his old friend Harry Lyme in Vienna who had gone over his own deep end. The Inspector had been an admirer of Paula’s aunt as a child and wondered about the craziness going on between Paula and Gregory. Once he stepped in you knew it was curtains for the dastardly Gregory. Yeah, the mad monk Gregory had in his younger “wanting” habits days killed the aunt with the idea of grabbing her precious jewels and living the high life instead of being a stumblebum pianist for budding students. The whole ruse was to get control of that London house so he could grab the jewels hidden somewhere up in the attic in peace. All he will get in the end will be the hangman’s noose. A little loose in places and some of Ms. Bergman’s emoting seemed overdrawn but a very good suspense film without like I said gore or bells and whistles.          

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love, 1967-The “Blues Mama” Of “The Generation Of ‘68”- The Music Of Janis Joplin

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love, 1967-The “Blues Mama” Of “The Generation Of ‘68”- The Music Of Janis Joplin

Zack James’ comment June, 2017:

Sometimes you just have to follow the bouncing ball like in those old time sing along cartoons they used to have back in say the 1950s,the time I remember them from, on Saturday afternoon matinees at the old now long gone Stand Theater in my growing up town of North Adamsville. Follow me for a minute here I won’t be long. Earlier this spring my oldest brother, Alex, took attended a conference in San Francisco which he has done periodically for years. While there he noticed an advertisement on a bus for something called the Summer of Love Experience at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. That ad immediately caught his attention he had been out there that year and had participated in those events at the urging of his friend Peter Paul Markin who was something of a holy goof (a Jack Kerouac term of art), a low rent prophet, and a street criminal all in one. When Alex got back to the East after having attended the exhibition he got in contact with me to help him, and the still standing corner boys who also had gone out West at Markin’s urging to put together a tribute booklet honoring Markin and the whole experience.

After completing that project, or maybe while completing it I kept on thinking about the late Hunter S. Thompson who at one time was the driving force behind gonzo journalism and had before his suicide about a decade ago been something of a muse to me. At first my thoughts were about how Thompson would have taken the exhibition at the de Young since a lot of what he wrote about in the 1960s and 1970s was where the various counter-cultural trends were, or were not, going. But then as the current national political situation in America in the Trump Age has turned to crap, to craziness and straight out weirdness I began to think about how Thompson would have handled the 24/7/365 craziness these days since he had been an unremitting searing critic of another President of the United States who also had low-life instincts, one Richard Milhous Nixon.

The intertwining of the two stands came to head recently over the fired FBI director James Comey hearings where he essentially said that the emperor had no clothes. So I have been inserting various Thompson-like comments in an occasional series I am running in various on-line publications-Even The President Of The United States Sometimes Must Have To Stand Naked-Tales From The White House Bunker. And will continue to overlap the two-Summer of Love and Age of Trump for as long as it seems relevant. So there you are caught up. Ifs not then I have included hopefully for the last time the latest cross-over Thompson idea.           
Zack James comment, Summer of 2017                

Maybe it says something about the times we live in, or maybe in this instance happenstance or, hell maybe something in the water but certain things sort of dovetail every now and again. I initially started this commentary segment after having written a longest piece for my brother and his friends as part of a small tribute booklet they were putting together about my and their takes on the Summer of Love, 1967. That event that my brother, Alex, had been knee deep in had always interested me from afar since I was way too young to have appreciated what was happening in San Francisco in those Wild West days. What got him motivated to do the booklet had been an exhibit at the de Young Art Museum in Golden Gate Park where they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the events of that summer with a look at the music, fashion, photography and exquisite poster art which was created then just as vivid advertising for concerts and “happenings” but which now is legitimate artful expression.

That project subsequently got me started thinking about the late Hunter Thompson, Doctor Gonzo, the driving force behind a new way of looking at and presenting journalism which was really much closer to the nub of what real reporting was about. Initially I was interested in some of Thompson’s reportage on what was what in San Francisco as he touched the elbows of those times having spent a fair amount of time working on his seminal book on the Hell’s Angels while all hell was breaking out in Frisco town. Delved into with all hands and legs the high points and the low, the ebb which he located somewhere between the Chicago Democratic Convention fiasco of the summer of 1968 and the hellish Rollins Stones Altamont concert of 1969.     

Here is what is important today though, about how the dots get connected out of seemingly random occurrences. Hunter Thompson also made his mark as a searing no holds barred mano y mano reporter of the rise and fall, of the worthy demise of one Richard Milhous Nixon at one time President of the United States and a common low-life criminal of ill-repute. Needless to say today, the summer of 2107, in the age of one Donald Trump, another President of the United States and common low-life criminal begs the obvious question of what the sorely missed Doctor Gonzo would have made of the whole process of the self-destruction of another American presidency, or a damn good run at self-destruction. So today and maybe occasionally in the future there will be some intertwining of commentary about events fifty years ago and today. Below to catch readers up to speed is the most recent “homage” to Hunter Thompson. And you too I hope will ask the pertinent question. Hunter where are you when we need, desperately need, you.       
Zack James comment, Summer of 2017 

You know it is in a way too bad that “Doctor Gonzo”-Hunter S Thompson, the late legendary journalist who broke the back, hell broke the neck, legs, arms of so-called objective journalism in a drug-blazed frenzy back in the 1970s when he “walked with the king”’ is not with us in these times. (Walking with the king not about walking with any king or Doctor King but being so high on drugs, your choice, that commin clay experiences fall by the way side. In the times of this 50th anniversary commemoration of the Summer of Love, 1967 which he worked the edges of while he was doing research (live and in your face research by the way) on the notorious West Coast-based Hell’s Angels. His “hook” through Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters down in Kesey’s place in La Honda where many an “acid test” took place, where many walked with the king, if you prefer, and where for a time the Angels, Hunter in tow, were welcomed. He had been there in the high tide, when it looked like we had the night-takers on the run and later as well when he saw the ebb tide of the 1960s coming a year or so later although that did not stop him from developing the quintessential “gonzo” journalism fine-tuned with plenty of dope for which he would become famous before the end, before he took his aging life and left Johnny Depp and company to fling his ashes over this good green planet. He would have “dug” the exhibition, maybe smoked a joint for old times’ sake (oh no, no that is not done in proper society, in high art society these days) at the de Young Museum at the Golden Gate Park highlighting the events of the period showing until August 20th of this year.   
Better yet he would have had this Trump thug bizarre weirdness wrapped up and bleeding from all pores just like he regaled us with the tales from the White House bunker back in the days when Trump’s kindred one Richard Milhous Nixon, President of the United States and common criminal was running the same low rent trip before he was run out of town by his own like some rabid rat. He would have gone crazy seeing all the crew deserting the sinking U.S.S. Trump with guys like fired FBI Director Comey going to Capitol Hill and saying out loud the emperor has no clothes and would not know the truth if it grabbed him by the throat. Every day would be a feast day. But perhaps the road to truth these days, in the days of “alternate facts” and assorted other bullshit would have been bumpier than in those more “civilized” times when simple burglaries and silly tape-recorders ruled the roost. Hunter did not make the Nixon “hit list” (to his everlasting regret for which he could hardly hold his head up in public) but these days he surely would find himself in the top echelon. Maybe too though with these thugs who like their forbears would stop at nothing he might have found himself in some back alley bleeding from all pores. Hunter Thompson wherever you are –help. Selah. Enough said-for now 


Janis Joplin: 18 Essential Songs, Janis Joplin with Big Brother and The Holding Company, Columbia Records, 1995

It is virtually a truism that every generation has its own cultural icons, for better or worst. The 1960’s, the time of this reviewer’s “Generation of ‘68”, was no exception. Although there were no official creeds in the matter, in fact we scorned such thinking, a rough translation of what we thought we were about then could be summed up as follows- live fast, live young and live forever. Other, later generations have put their own imprint on that theme although I sense without our basically naïve and hopeful expectations of that phrase. All this is by way of saying that the artist under review, urban white blues and soul singer Janis Joplin, was one of our icons. That she crashed and burned well before her time, and well before forever, only adds poignancy to her fate.

The role of “blues mama” for a generation is certainly no task for the faint-hearted, as Janis’s life, life style, and fame attest to. That she was able to translate the black blues idiom and style of the likes of her idol “Big Mama” Thornton, of necessity, had to take its toll on that tiny hard scrabble Texas-raised body. But that is the fundamental tragedy (and beauty) of the blues. Not only must you ‘pay your dues’ but this genre cannot be faked. If you have not lived a hard scrabble existence, faced the depths of what society has to offer and come out swinging you flat-out cannot convey that message the way it is suppose to be done. Janis could. Other white women blues singers as fine performers as they are, like Tracey Nelson and Rory Block, approximate that sound but there is just a little too much “refinement” in the voice to pass this test.

So what did Janis (and her fellow musicians of Big Brother and The Holding Company who generally rose to the occasion and created great sounds to go with that Joplin voice) leave us? Well, as contained in this above average CD compilation of her work, most of the essential woman’s blues numbers of the 1960’s that will stand the test of time. Not bad, right? Start off, as always, with ‘Big Mama’s” “Ball and Chain” (that blew them away at the Monterrey Pops Festival). Move on to the classic Gershwin tune “Summertime”. Feast on her own “I Need A Man To Love” and “Kozmic Blues”. And close out with Kris Kristofferson’s 1960’s traveling anthem “Me And Booby McGee”. And in between a dozen more memorable tunes. I defy anyone to find a song in this compilation that is less than above average. And that kind of says it all. Janis Joplin’s star burned out far too quickly and those of us from her generation are now coming to terms with the fact that, despite our youthful beliefs, we will not live forever. Her music, however, will.

Ball And Chain lyrics

Sittin’ down by my window,
Honey, lookin’ out at the rain.
Oh, Lord, Lord, sittin’ down by my window,
Baby, lookin’ out at the rain.
Somethin’ came along, grabbed a hold of me, honey,
And it felt just like a ball and chain.
Honey, that’s exactly what it felt like,
Honey, just dragging me down.

And I say, oh, whoa, whoa, now hon’, tell me why,
Why does every single little tiny thing I hold on to go wrong ?
Yeah it goes wrong, yeah.
And I say, oh, whoa, whoa, now babe, tell me why,
Does every thing, every thing.
Hey, here you gone today, I wanted to love you,
I just wanted to hold you, I said, for so long,
Yeah! Alright! Hey!

Love’s got a hold on me, baby,
Feels like a ball and chain.
Now, love’s just draggin’ me down, baby,
Feels like a ball and chain.
I hope there’s someone out there who could tell me
Why the man I love wanna leave me in so much pain.
Yeah, maybe, maybe you could help me, come on, help me!

And I say, oh, whoa, whoa, now hon’, tell me why,
Now tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me why, yeah.
And I say, oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, when I ask you,
When I need to know why, c’mon tell me why, hey hey hey,
Here you’ve gone today,
I wanted to love you and hold you
Till the day I die.
I said whoa, whoa, whoa!!

And I say oh, whoa, whoa, no honey
It ain’t fair, daddy it ain’t fair what you do,
I see what you’re doin’ to me and you know it ain’t fair.
And I say oh, whoa whoa now baby
It ain’t fair, now, now, now, what you do
I said hon’ it ain’t fair what, hon’ it ain’t fair what you do.
Oh, here you gone today and all I ever wanted to do
Was to love you
Honey you can still hear me rock and roll the best,
Only it ain’t roll, no, no, no, no, no.

Sittin’ down by my window,
Lookin’ out at the rain.
Lord, Lord, Lord, sittin’ down by my window,
Lookin’ out at the rain, see the rain.
Somethin’ came along, grabbed a hold of me,
And it felt like a ball and chain.
Oh this can’t be in vain
And I’m gonna tell you one more time, yeah, yeah!

And I say oh, whoa whoa, now baby
This can’t be, no this can’t be in vain,
And I say no no no no no no no no, whoa,
And I say whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Now now now now now now now now now no no not in vain
Hey, hope there is someone that could tell me
Hon’, tell me why love is like
Just like a ball
Just like a ball
Oh daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy
And a chain.

Call On Me lyrics

Well, baby, when times are bad,
Now call on me, darling, and I’ll come to you.
When you’re in trouble and feel so sad,
Well, call on me, darling, come on call on me, and I’ll help you.

A man and a woman have each other, baby,
To find their way in this world.
I need you, darling, like the fish needs the sea,
Don’t take your sweet, your sweet love from me.

Baby, when you’re down and feel so blue,
Well, no, you won’t drown, darling, I’ll be there too.
You’re not alone, I’m there too,
Whatever your troubles, honey, I don’t care.

A man and a woman have each other, baby,
To find their way in this world.
I need you, darling, like the fish needs the sea,
Don’t take your sweet, sweet love from me!

Please! So baby, when times are bad,
Call on me, darling, just call on me.

I Need A Man To Love lyrics

Whoa, I need a man to love me.
Don’t you understand me, baby ?
Why, I need a man to love.
I gotta find him, I gotta have him like the air I breathe.
One lovin’ man to understand can’t be too much to need.

You know it
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be this loneliness
Baby, surrounding me.

No, no, know it just can’t be
No it just can’t be
There’s got to be some kind of answer.
No it just can’t be
And everywhere I look, there’s none around
No it just can’t be
Whoa, it can’t be
No it just can’t be, oh no!
Whoa, hear me now.

Whoa, won’t you let me hold you ?
Honey, just close your eyes.
Whoa, won’t you let me hold you, dear ?
I want to just put my arms around ya, like the circles going ‘round the sun.
Let me hold you daddy, at least until the morning comes.

Because it
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be this loneliness
Baby, surrounding me.
No, no, no it just can’t be.
No it just can’t be
Oh, baby, baby, baby, baby, just can’t be.
No, no, no
No it just can’t be

And why can’t anyone ever tell me, now ?
No it just can’t be
I wake up one morning, I realize
No it just can’t be
Whoa, it can’t be.
No it just can’t be
Now go!

Whoa, I need a man to love me
Oh, maybe you can help me, please.
Why, I need a man to love.
But I believe that someday and somehow it’s bound to come along
Because when all my dreams and all my plans just cannot turn out wrong.

You know it
Can’t be now Oh no
Can’t be now Oh no
Can’t be now Oh no
Can’t be now Oh no
Can’t be now Oh no
Can’t be just loneliness
Baby, surrounding me

No, no, no, it just can’t be
No it just can’t be
Oh, baby, baby, baby, baby, it just can’t be
No it just can’t be
And who could be foolin’ me ?
No it just can’t be
I’ve got all this happiness
No it just can’t be
Come, come, come on, come on, come on, and help me now.
No it just can’t be
Please, can’t you hear my cry ?
No it just can’t be
Whoa, help ...

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels-*Tell Me Utah Phillips- Have You Seen Starlight On The Rails?

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels-*Tell Me Utah Phillips- Have You Seen Starlight On The Rails?

If I Could Be The Rain I Would Be Rosalie Sorrels-The Legendary Folksinger-Songwriter Has Her Last Go Round At 83

By Music Critic Bart Webber

Back the day, back in the emerging folk minute of the 1960s that guys like Sam Lowell, Si Lannon, Josh Breslin, the late Peter Paul Markin and others were deeply immersed in all roads seemed to lead to Harvard Square with the big names, some small too which one time I made the subject of a series, or rather two series entitled respectively Not Bob Dylan and Not Joan Baez about those who for whatever reason did not make the show over the long haul, passing through the Club 47 Mecca and later the Café Nana and Club Blue, the Village down in NYC, North Beach out in San Francisco, and maybe Old Town in Chicago. Those are the places where names like Baez, Dylan, Paxton, Ochs, Collins and a whole crew of younger folksingers, some who made it like Tom Rush and Joni Mitchell and others like Eric Saint Jean and Minnie Murphy who didn’t, like  who all sat at the feet of guys like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger got their first taste of the fresh breeze of the folk minute, that expression courtesy of the late Markin, who was among the first around to sample the breeze.

(I should tell you here in parentheses so you will keep it to yourselves that the former three mentioned above never got over that folk minute since they will still tell a tale or two about the times, about how Dave Van Ronk came in all drunk one night at the Café Nana and still blew everybody away, about catching Paxton changing out of his Army uniform when he was stationed down at Fort Dix  right before a performance at the Gaslight, about walking down the street Cambridge with Tom Rush just after he put out No Regrets/Rockport Sunday, and about affairs with certain up and coming female folkies like the previously mentioned Minnie Murphy at the Club Nana when that was the spot of spots. Strictly aficionado stuff if you dare go anywhere within ten miles of the subject with any of them -I will take my chances here because this notice, this passing of legendary Rosalie Sorrels a decade after her dear friend Utah Phillips is important.)

Those urban locales were certainly the high white note spots but there was another important strand that hovered around Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, up around Skidmore and some of the other upstate colleges. That was Caffe Lena’s, run by the late Lena Spenser, a true folk legend and a folkie character in her own right, where some of those names played previously mentioned but also where some upstarts from the West got a chance to play the small crowds who gathered at that famed (and still existing) coffeehouse. Upstarts like the late Bruce “Utah” Phillips (although he could call several places home Utah was key to what he would sing about and rounded out his personality). And out of Idaho one Rosalie Sorrels who just joined her long-time friend Utah in that last go-round at the age of 83.

Yeah, came barreling like seven demons out there in the West, not the West Coast west that is a different proposition. The West I am talking about is where what the novelist Thomas Wolfe called the place where the states were square and you had better be as well if you didn’t want to starve or be found in some empty arroyo un-mourned and unloved. A tough life when the original pioneers drifted westward from Eastern nowhere looking for that pot of gold or at least some fresh air and a new start away from crowded cities and sweet breathe vices. A tough life worthy of song and homage. Tough going too for guys like Joe Hill who tried to organize the working people against the sweated robber barons of his day (they are still with us as we are all now very painfully and maybe more vicious than their in your face forbear)Struggles, fierce down at the bone struggles also worthy of song and homage. Tough too when your people landed in rugged beautiful two-hearted river Idaho, tried to make a go of it in Boise, maybe stopped short in Helena but you get the drift. A different place and a different type of subject matter for your themes than lost loves and longings.  

Rosalie Sorrels could write those songs as well, as well as anybody but she was as interested in the social struggles of her time (one of the links that united her with Utah) and gave no quarter when she turned the screw on a lyric. The last time I saw Rosalie perform in person was back in 2002 when she performed at the majestic Saunders Theater at Harvard University out in Cambridge America at what was billed as her last go-round, her hanging up her shoes from the dusty travel road. (That theater complex contained within the Memorial Hall dedicated to the memory of the gallants from the college who laid down their heads in that great civil war that sundered the country. The Harvards did themselves proud at collectively laying down their heads at seemingly every key battle that I am aware of when I look up at the names and places. A deep pride runs through me at those moments)

Rosalie Sorrels as one would expect on such an occasion was on fire that night except the then recent death of another folk legend, Dave Von Ronk, who was supposed to be on the bill (and who was replaced by David Bromberg who did a great job banging out the blues unto the heavens) cast a pall over the proceedings. I will always remember the crystal clarity and irony of her cover of her classic Old Devil Time that night -yeah, give me one more chance, one more breathe. But I will always think of If I Could Be The Rain and thoughst of washing herself down to the sea whenever I hear her name. RIP Rosalie Sorrels 


I have been on a something of a Utah Phillips/Rosalie Sorrels musical tear lately but I want to pay separate attention to one song, Phillips’ “Starlight On The Rails", that hits home on some many levels- the memories of bumming around the country in my youth, riding and living free (or trying to), my on and off love affair with trains as a mode of transportation, and, of course the political struggle to fix what ails this country. And as Utah acknowledges below in introducing the song (from the Utah Phillips Songbook version) we get a little Thomas Wolfe as a literary bonus. Utah and I, in the end, had very different appreciations of what it takes to do this political fixin' mentioned above but we can agree on the sentiments expressed in his commentary and song.

Utah, aside from his love of trains as a form of personal transportation when he was “on the bum”, also was a vocal advocate for their use as mass transportation. He originally argued this proposition at a time when the railroads were losing passengers in droves to the great automobile explosion. Utah wrote a song for one of his sons “Daddy, What’s A Train?” on the demise of this more people-friendly form of getting around. Since then there has been, due to the mercurial economics of oil and some conscious social and environmental policy planning, something of a resurgence of the train as a means of transportation.

Nevertheless the saga of the train in this writer’s imagination remains more of a boyhood memory than an actuality today. I can still see those historic old names: Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, B&O, and Boston & Maine. I can still hear the whistle blow as the train comes into the station. The conductor’s yell of “All, aboard” or the station’s name. Those rattling sounds of wheels hitting the metal of the rails. But, mainly, I think of the slower times, the time to look at the scenery as the train ambles along and to understand the how, if not the why, of the contours of the way America sprouted up as it out moved in all directions from its Eastern shores.

I noted in a review of a PBS American Experience documentary, “Riding The Rails” (see archives, “Starlight On The Rails, Indeed”, November 4, 2008) growing up in the 1950’s I had a somewhat tenuous connection with trains. My grandparents lived close to a commuter rail that before my teenage years went out of service, due to the decline of ridership as the goal of two (or three) car garages gripped the American imagination in an age when gas was cheap and plentiful. In my teens though, many a time I walked those then abandoned tracks to take the short route to the center of town. I can still picture that scene now trying to hit my stride on each tie. As an adult I have frequently ridden the rails, including a cross-country trip that actually converted me to the virtues of air travel on longer trips.

Of course, my ‘adventures’ riding the rails is quite different than that the one looked at in the American Experience documentary about a very, very common way for the youth of America to travel in the Depression-ridden 1930’s, the youth of my parents’ generation. My own experiences were usually merely as a paying passenger, although when down on my luck I rolled onto a couple of moving trains. An experience not for the faint-hearted, for sure. But this was mainly slumming. Their experiences were anything but. The only common thread between them and me was the desire expressed by many interviewees to not be HERE but to be THERE. I spent a whole youth running to THERE. But enough of this- let Utah tell his story about the realities, not the romance of the rails.

Guest Commentary

Starlight On The Rails- Utah Phillips

This comes from reading Thomas Wolfe. He had a very deep understanding of the music in language. Every now and then he wrote something that stuck in my ear and would practically demand to be made into a song.

I think that if you talk to railroad bums, or any kind of bum, you'll see that what affects them the most is homelessness, not necessarily rootlessness. Traveling is all right if you have a place to go from and a place to go to. It's when you don't have any place that it becomes more difficult. There's nothing you can count on in the world, except yourself. And if you're an old blown bum, you can't even do that very well. I guess this is a home song as much as anything else.

We walked along a road in Cumberland and stooped, because the sky hung down so low; and when we ran away from London, we went by little rivers in a land just big enough. And nowhere that we went was far: the earth and the sky were close and near. And the old hunger returned - the terrible and obscure hunger that haunts and hurts Americans, and makes us exiles at home and strangers wherever we go.

Oh, I will go up and down the country and back and forth across the country. I will go out West where the states are square. I will go to Boise and Helena, Albuquerque and the two Dakotas and all the unknown places. Say brother, have you heard the roar of the fast express? Have you seen starlight on the rails?

(Bruce Phillips)

I can hear the whistle blowing
High and lonesome as can be
Outside the rain is softly falling
Tonight its falling just for me

Looking back along the road I've traveled
The miles can tell a million tales
Each year is like some rolling freight train
And cold as starlight on the rails

I think about a wife and family
My home and all the things it means
The black smoke trailing out behind me
Is like a string of broken dreams

A man who lives out on the highway
Is like a clock that can't tell time
A man who spends his life just rambling
Is like a song without a rhyme

Daddy What's A Train

Most everybody who knows me knows that I'm a train nut. In Dayton, Ohio, when I was 12 years old during the Second World War, there was a railroad that went close by Greenmont Village. A bunch of the kids and I built a fort out of old railroad ties, half dug in the ground and half above the ground. We let a bum sleep in there one night - I think he was the first railroad bum I remember meeting - came back the next day and it had been burned down. He'd evidently set it on fire or started it accidentally.

Playing around in that fort we'd see the big steam engines run by. The engineers would wave, and the parlor shack back in the crummy - that's the brakeman who stays in the caboose - would wave, too. Put your ear down on the rail and you could hear the trains coming. We'd play games on the ties and swing ourselves on the rails. Also we'd pick up a lot of coal to take home. I understand that during the Depression a lot of families kept their homes warm by going out along the right of way and picking up coal that had fallen out of the coal tenders.
This song is written for my little boy Duncan. His grandfather, Raymond P. Jensen, was a railroad man for over 40 years on the Union Pacific, working as an inspector. There's a lot of railroading in Duncan's family, but he hasn't ridden trains very much.

(sung to chorus tune)
When I was just a boy living by the track
Us kids'd gather up the coal in a great big gunny sack,
And then we'd hear the warning sound as the train pulled into view
And the engineer would smile and wave as she went rolling through;

She blew so loud and clear
That we covered up our ears
And counted cars as high as we could go.
I can almost hear the steam
And the big old drivers scream
With a sound my little boy will never know.

I guess the times have changed and kids are different now;
Some don't even seem to know that milk comes from a cow.
My little boy can tell the names of all the baseball stars
And I remember how we memorized the names on railroad cars -

The Wabash and TP
Lackawanna and IC
Nickel Plate and the good old Santa Fe;
Names out of the past
And I know they're fading fast
Every time I hear my little boy say.

Well, we climbed into the car and drove down into town
Right up to the depot house but no one was around.
We searched the yard together for something I could show
But I knew there hadn't been a train for a dozen years or so.

All the things I did
When I was just a kid-
How far away the memories appear,
And it's plain enough to see
They mean a lot to me
'Cause my ambition was to be an engineer.

Copyright ©1973, 2000 Bruce Phillips

On The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"(2017)-Poets’ Corner- The Zen Of The “Beats”- The Poetry Of Gary Snyder

On The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"(2017)-Poets’ Corner- The Zen Of The “Beats”- The Poetry Of Gary Snyder

Click on the title to link to an "American Modern Poetry" entry for the "beat" poet, Gary Snyder.

Book Review

Riprap And Cold Mountain Poems, Gary Snyder, Counterpoint, 2009

As circumstances would have it I recently have been going through a reading, or in most cases a re-reading, of many of the classics of the 1950's "beat" literary scene as a result of getting caught up in marking the 40th anniversary of the death of Jack Kerouac. Thus, I have re-read Kerouac's classic "On The Road", Allen Ginsberg's great modernist poem, "Howl", and the madman of them all, William Burroughs' "Naked Lunch". And along the way, after a 40 year hiatus, Kerouac's "Dharma Bums".

That is where the connection to this recent release of poetry by one of the key West Coast figures in the "beat' movement, Gary Snyder, an early American devotee to Zen Buddhism comes in full force. "Dharma Bums" is a novelistic treatment of Jack Kerouac's bout with Zen enlightenment, with Buddha and with his own inner demons. And central to guiding old Jack through the Zen experience was the aficionado, Gary Snyder, posing under the name Japhy Ryder. I noted in a review of that novel that while I could appreciate the struggle to find one's inner self that dominated that novel I was more in tune with Dean Moriarty's more adrenaline- formed material world adventure quest than Ryder's.

This characterization, however, never encapsulated Gary Snyder's poetry that, while not as to my liking as Allen Ginsberg's rants against the post-industrial world , nevertheless was superior to his when comparisons between their poetic understanding of Buddhism were in play. Snyder was, and I presume off of the reading here still is, serious about the Zen of existence. Ginsberg was all over the place, and I think what really influenced him came from the cabalistic tradition in Jewish life, despite his very OM-saturated period in the 1960s. Read the "Han Shan" poems in this collection first, and then Snyder's and you will see what I mean.

Four Poems for Robin
by Gary Snyder

Siwashing It Out Once in Suislaw Forest

I slept under rhododendron
All night blossoms fell
Shivering on a sheet of cardboard
Feet stuck in my pack
Hands deep in my pockets
Barely able to sleep.
I remembered when we were in school
Sleeping together in a big warm bed
We were the youngest lovers
When we broke up we were still nineteen
Now our friends are married
You teach school back east
I dont mind living this way
Green hills the long blue beach
But sometimes sleeping in the open
I think back when I had you.

A Spring Night in Shokoku-ji

Eight years ago this May
We walked under cherry blossoms
At night in an orchard in Oregon.
All that I wanted then
Is forgotten now, but you.
Here in the night
In a garden of the old capital
I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao
I remember your cool body
Naked under a summer cotton dress.

An Autumn Morning in Shokoku-ji

Last night watching the Pleiades,
Breath smoking in the moonlight,
Bitter memory like vomit
Choked my throat.
I unrolled a sleeping bag
On mats on the porch
Under thick autumn stars.
In dream you appeared
(Three times in nine years)
Wild, cold, and accusing.
I woke shamed and angry:
The pointless wars of the heart.
Almost dawn. Venus and Jupiter.
The first time I have
Ever seen them close.

December at Yase

You said, that October,
In the tall dry grass by the orchard
When you chose to be free,
"Again someday, maybe ten years."

After college I saw you
One time. You were strange.
And I was obsessed with a plan.

Now ten years and more have
Gone by: I've always known
where you were--
I might have gone to you
Hoping to win your love back.
You still are single.

I didn't.
I thought I must make it alone. I
Have done that.

Only in dream, like this dawn,
Does the grave, awed intensity
Of our young love
Return to my mind, to my flesh.

We had what the others
All crave and seek for;
We left it behind at nineteen.

I feel ancient, as though I had
Lived many lives.
And may never now know
If I am a fool
Or have done what my
karma demands.

Hay for the Horses
by Gary Snyder

He had driven half the night
From far down San Joaquin
Through Mariposa, up the
Dangerous Mountain roads,
And pulled in at eight a.m.
With his big truckload of hay
behind the barn.
With winch and ropes and hooks
We stacked the bales up clean
To splintery redwood rafters
High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa
Whirling through shingle-cracks of light,
Itch of haydust in the
sweaty shirt and shoes.
At lunchtime under Black oak
Out in the hot corral,
---The old mare nosing lunchpails,
Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds---
"I'm sixty-eight" he said,
"I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.
I thought, that day I started,
I sure would hate to do this all my life.
And dammit, that's just what
I've gone and done."

Trump vs. Grand Canyon: Say Which Side You're On

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According to The Guardian, powerful mining interests and allied officials in Arizona and Utah are urging a receptive Trump administration to lift the Obama-era ban on mining uranium in the area around the Grand Canyon -- a serious threat to the groundwater and anyone who drinks it.

Instead, we need to demand that the whole area be designated a national monument, thereby protecting it.

The mining industries are pushing hard to remove protections from national lands. We need to expand them. The Grand Canyon is an important case.

Past mining operations contaminated the groundwater that many rely on, including the Havasupai people who've lived in the area for generations.

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Veterans For Peace: No More Troops in Afghanistan

Veterans For Peace: No More Troops in Afghanistan

The Trump Administration announced it has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine troops levels in Afghanistan. It is widely believed that Mattis favors sending several thousand more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Why? Perhaps to break the “stalemate” as described by the Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson when describing the war to the Senate Armed Services Committee. In his June 13th testimony, Secretary Mattis told the same committee, “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now.”
Veterans For Peace calls for a different direction than more war. We call on Congress to stop funding war and demand a plan for a peaceful solution. We call on the President to immediately begin withdrawal of U.S. troops and take a new direction towards diplomacy and peace. And we call on the people of the U.S. to resist war and demand policies that foster peace and prosperity at home and in Afghanistan.
It should be clear after 16 years and the death of tens of thousands of people that no one is a winner in Afghanistan. There is no clear concept of what it means to win there. In fact, it is no longer clear why the U.S. continues to keep troops in Afghanistan and now is on the brink of increasing the number of men and women in harm's way.
The U.S. has claimed to be at war in Afghanistan to deny “terrorists” training and staging areas to attack the United States and to protect the people of Afghanistan. After this long period of war, what does the U.S. have to show for its military efforts? 
Since the horror of September 11, 2001, the U.S. has been on a path of war, wreaking havoc on millions of people around the globe. Because of displacement, death and maiming of loved ones by U.S. wars, animosity towards the U.S. has increased and the world has become less safe.  The animosity caused by the wars has created a larger pool of people willing to fight the U.S. In 2001 al Qaeda had limited influence and ISIL did not exist. Now Al Qaeda and ISIL have affiliated groups and sympathetic supporters around the globe.
The protection of the Afghan people has been a total failure. It has been widely reported that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan found that there were 11,418 civilian casualties (3,498 deaths and 7,920 injured) between January and December 2016, an overall increase of 3 percent. An appalling number of those casualties were children – 923 deaths, and 2,589 injured – a 24 percent increase over record-high numbers from 2015. In addition, 3,535 coalition forces have died; three of which were recently killed as a result of an insider attack fire from an Afghan soldier. We must add to these losses all the people who are physically and psychologically broken and families torn apart.The human cost is immeasurable. But there is also a dollar cost to war. The U.S. has spent over $1 trillion in this failed and depraved effort in Afghanistan. These dollars represent lost opportunities to repair U.S. infrastructure, pay for healthcare, create jobs and address a host of human needs.
It is not too late  for a different direction. War was always the wrong option. Perhaps it was not clear 16 years ago. It should be clear now more than ever!