Saturday, October 28, 2017

In Honor Of The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" Allen Ginsberg's "Howl"- The Film- A Guest Review

In Honor Of The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"  Allen Ginsberg's "Howl"- The Film- A Guest Review

Click on the headline to link to a Boston Sunday Globe article, dated September 26, 2010, concerning a review of Howl, a film adaptation of Allen Ginsberg's famous poem.

Markin comment:

Needless to say this little cinematic effort to put the sense of Allen Ginsberg’s seminal modernist poem, Howl, on the screen is more than welcome in this space. As I have repeatedly emphasized on previous occasions any poem that starts of like this one is going to get my attention and keep it every time:

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn, looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night . . .’’

I have also of late made note of the influence of the “beats” in my own youthful political and social development. A prima facie case can be made by me, and has recently in this space, that Ginsberg’s Howl is his search for the blue-pink great American West night that animated my youth and that I have been ranting on about.

In Honor Of Jean Bon Kerouac On The 60th Anniversary Of “On The Road” (1957)-"One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Jack Kerouac’s “Big Sur”'- A Film Review

In Honor Of Jean Bon Kerouac On The 60th Anniversary Of “On The Road” (1957)-"One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Jack Kerouac’s “Big Sur”'- A Film Review

By Book Critic Zack James

To be honest I know about On The Road Jack Kerouac’s epic tale of his generation’s search for something, maybe the truth, maybe just kicks, stuff, important stuff has happened or some such happening strictly second-hand. His generation’s search looking for a name, found what he, or someone associated with him, maybe the bandit poet Gregory Corso, king of the mean New York streets, mean, very mean indeed in a junkie-hang-out world around Times Square when that place was up to its neck in flea-bit hotels, all night Joe and Nemo’s and the trail of the “fixer” man on every corner, con men coming out your ass too, called the “beat” generation.  Beat, beat of the jazzed up drum line backing some sax player searching for the high white note, what somebody told me, maybe my older brother Alex thy called “blowing to the China seas” out in West Coast jazz and blues circles, dead beat, run out on money, women, life, leaving, and this is important no forwarding address for the desolate repo man to hang onto, dread beat, nine to five, 24/7/365 that you will get caught back up in the spire wind up like your freaking staid, stay at home parents, beaten down, ground down like dust puffed away just for being, hell, let’s just call it being, beatified beat like saintly and all high holy Catholic incense and a story goes with it about a young man caught up in a dream, like there were not ten thousand other religions in the world to feast on- you can take your pick of the meanings, beat time meanings. Hell, join the club they all did, the guys, and it was mostly guys who hung out on the mean streets of New York, Chi town, North Beach in Frisco town cadging twenty-five cents a night flea-bag sleeps, half stirred left on corner coffees and cigarette stubs when the Bull Durham ran out).
I was too young to have had anything but a vague passing reference to the thing, to that “beat” thing since I was probably just pulling out of diapers then, maybe a shade bit older but not much. I got my fill, my brim fill later through my oldest brother Alex. Alex, and his crowd, more about that in a minute, but even he was only washed clean by the “beat” experiment at a very low level, mostly through reading the book (need I say the book was On The Road) and having his mandatory two years of living on the road around the time of the Summer of Love, 1967 an event whose 50th anniversary is being commemorated this year as well. So even Alex and his crowd were really too young to have been washed by the beat wave that crashed the continent toward the end of the 1950s on the wings of Allan Ginsburg’s Howl and Jack’s travel book of a different kind. The kind that moves generations, or I like to think the best parts of those cohorts. These were the creation documents the latter which would drive Alex west before he finally settled down to his career life (and to my sorrow and anger never looked back).              
Of course anytime you talk about books and poetry and then add my brother Alex’s name into the mix that automatically brings up memories of another name, the name of the late Peter Paul Markin. Markin, for whom Alex and the rest of the North Adamsville corner boys, Jack, Jimmy, Si, Josh, and a few others still alive recently had me put together a tribute book for in connection with that Summer of Love, 1967 just mentioned.  Markin was the vanguard guy, the volunteer odd-ball unkempt mad monk seeker who got several of them off their asses and out to the West Coast to see what there was to see. To see some stuff that Markin had been speaking of for a number of years before (and which nobody in the crowd paid attention to, or dismissed out of hand what they called “could give a rat’s ass” about in the local jargon which I also inherited in those cold, hungry bleak 1950s cultural days in America) and which can be indirectly attributed to the activities of Jack, Allen Ginsburg, Gregory Corso, that aforementioned bandit poet who ran wild on the mean streets among the hustlers, conmen and whores of the major towns of the continent, William Burroughs, the Harvard-trained junkie  and a bunch of other guys who took a very different route for our parents who were of the same generation as them but of a very different world.
But it was above all Jack’s book, Jack’s book which had caused a big splash in 1957, and had ripple effects into the early 1960s (and even now certain “hip” kids acknowledge the power of attraction that book had for their own developments, especially that living simple, fast and hard part). Made the young, some of them anyway have to spend some time thinking through the path of life ahead by hitting the vagrant dusty sweaty road. Maybe not hitchhiking, maybe not going high speed high through the ocean, plains, mountain desert night but staying unsettled for a while anyway.     
Like I said above Alex was out two years and other guys, other corner boys for whatever else you wanted to call them that was their niche back in those days and were recognized as such in the town not always to their benefit, from a few months to a few years. Markin started first back in the spring of 1967 but was interrupted by his fateful induction into the Army and service, if you can call it that, in Vietnam and then several more years upon his return before his untimely end. With maybe this difference from today’s young who are seeking alternative roads away from what is frankly bourgeois society and was when Jack wrote although nobody except commies and pinkos called it that. Alex, Frankie Riley the acknowledged leader, Jack Callahan and the rest, Markin included, were strictly from hunger working class kids who when they hung around Tonio Pizza Parlor were as likely to be thinking up ways to grab money fast any way they could or of getting into some   hot chick’s pants as anything else. Down at the base of society when you don’t have enough of life’s goods or have to struggle too much to get even that little “from hunger” takes a big toll on your life. I can testify to that part because Alex was not the only one in the James family to go toe to toe with the law, it was a close thing for all us boys as it had been with Jack when all is said and done. But back then dough and sex after all was what was what for corner boys, maybe now too although you don’t see many guys hanging on forlorn Friday night corners anymore.
What made this tribe different, the Tonio Pizza Parlor corner boys, was mad monk Markin. Markin called by Frankie Riley the “Scribe” from the time he came to North Adamsville from across town in junior high school and that stuck all through high school. The name stuck because although Markin was as larcenous and lovesick as the rest of them he was also crazy for books and poetry. Christ according to Alex, Markin was the guy who planned most of the “midnight creeps” they called then. Although nobody in their right minds would have the inept Markin actually execute the plan that was for smooth as silk Frankie to lead. That operational sense was why Frankie was the leader then (and maybe why he was a locally famous lawyer later who you definitely did not want to be on the other side against him). Markin was also the guy who all the girls for some strange reason would confide in and thus was the source of intelligence about who was who in the social pecking order, in other words, who was available, sexually or otherwise. That sexually much more important than otherwise. See Markin always had about ten billion facts running around his head in case anybody, boy or girl, asked him about anything so he was ready to do battle, for or against take your pick.
The books and the poetry is where Jack Kerouac and On The Road come into the corner boy life of the Tonio’s Pizza Parlor life. Markin was something like an antennae for anything that seemed like it might help create a jailbreak, help them get out from under. Later he would be the guy who introduced some of the guys to folk music when that was a big thing. (Alex never bought into that genre, still doesn’t, despite Markin’s desperate pleas for him to check it out. Hated whinny Dylan above all else) Others too like Kerouac’s friend Allen Ginsburg and his wooly homo poem Howl from 1956 which Markin would read sections out loud from on lowdown dough-less, girl-less Friday nights. And drive the strictly hetero guys crazy when he insisted that they read the poem, read what he called a new breeze was coming down the road. They could, using that term from the times again, have given a rat’s ass about some fucking homo faggot poem from some whacko Jewish guy who belonged in a mental hospital. (That is a direct quote from Frankie Riley at the time via my brother Alex’s memory bank.)

Markin flipped out when he found out that Kerouac had grown up in Lowell, a working class town very much like North Adamsville, and that he had broken out of the mold that had been set for him and gave the world some grand literature and something to spark the imagination of guys down at the base of society like his crowd with little chance of grabbing the brass ring. So Markin force-marched the crowd to read the book, especially putting pressure on my brother who was his closest friend then. Alex read it, read it several times and left the dog- eared copy around which I picked up one day when I was having one of my high school summertime blues. Read it through without stopping almost like he wrote the final version of the thing on a damn newspaper scroll. So it was through Markin via Alex that I got the Kerouac bug. And now on the 60th anniversary I am passing on the bug to you.           

A "YouTube" film clip for the movie trailer of "One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Jack Kerouac’s “Big Sur”.

DVD Review

One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Jack Kerouac’s “Big Sur”, Jack Kerouac, his “beat” friends, and some latter-day literary followers, Kerouac Films, 2008

No one who knows this space, or at least knows this space since sometime last year needs to be reminded of my admiration for the literary work of the “king of beats”, Jack Kerouac. I have reviewed most of his beautifully, if painfully, written works that illuminated the middle third of the 20th century for those of us who had hungry “be-bop” rhythm- craving ears to listen and blossoming word- starved eyes to read. On the top of the pyramid, way up on top as it turns out, of course, is the master work of beatitude, “On The Road”. That mad adventure of a Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady-mastered-minded, now very lost hitchhike old road, fast car-driving, white-lined, two-laned road America, even at a remove, gave us a way to plod through those lonely Eastern (or Western) nights when the road was dark and we wandered to find some light, even if only a flicker from someone else’s lantern in the distant skyline. Thanks, Ti Jean.

In a very direct sense, but a bad, bad sense, as this documentary, poignantly at times, makes very clear, that vision projected out beyond those lonely, hard fought roads was Jack’s downfall. Jack’s vision of the pitfalls, pratfalls and punkishness of the modern world, as filtered through the stream-of-consciousness prism of a medieval-craving mind, crushed him beneath the weight of his new found notoriety, fame, and media and fan targetability after the too, too belated 1957 publication and positive reviews (and hurtful negative reviews, as well) of “On The Road.” Some writers might have craved the limelight generated by that notoriety; swinishly bellied-up and hogged it; cleared everyone else away from its reflected glow; asked for more, hell, demanded more; or, at least, wrapped it around themselves for the entire world to see. Novelist Norman Mailer, Jack’s near contemporary, comes readily to mind.

But not Jack. He, frankly, wrapped himself around that old favorite of an older generation of American writers, alcohol, to stop the ringing in his head that all the notoriety produced and that was fogging up his mind from creative activity. And, maybe, wrapped himself, as well, around his ever-hovering mother’s shield, which could also help explain his later literary and personal decline. But that is a separate story, and a lesser one for the subject here. The long and short of it was that Jack, San Francisco-ed, West Coasted, toasted, and roasted as “king of the beats” had to get away, away from the crowds, away from the questions, away from the acolytes. And get away not just anywhere but, like a lemming to the sea, to his Breton-rooted ocean. Well, before they became some kind of Mecca for the ill-at-ease of the world such a place in Northern California would either be Mendocino or Big Sur. Here, it comes up Big Sur courtesy of poet, bookman, and City Lights Bookstore entrepreneur, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. And what comes out of it, beyond a deeper, deeper, drinking problem (to be kind) is a secondary masterpiece of Kerouacian word play and thought, the novel/confession/diary/ cry in the wilderness, “Big Sur”.

This documentary, including a run through of the cast of usual suspects seen in other, earlier such efforts reviewed in this space; his surviving (as of 2008) old “beat” buddies and old flames (including old, best buddy and inspiration Neal Cassady’s wife, Carolyn, keeper of the Neal "flame"), new aficionados, creative personalities influenced by Jack’s work, like Tom Waits and Dar Williams, and the usual crew of “talking heads” who add “color” to such productions walk, talk, and cry their way though the creative process that lead to “Big Sur”. Some of it is over-blown, some mere trade-puffing. However, collectively, they have some very decent insights into what Jack was trying to do, trying to work through, and trying to break out by his various sojourns to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in Big Sur in an attempt to figure out his new world reality.

As a fellow aficionado I am here to say they all get part of the story right, including Lowell’s Paul Marion who has assigned himself the task of being the local “keeper” of the Kerouac flame. But, I am still left with a hole in my head about what the sodden Jack was all about in “Big Sur”, which when all is said and done, is not a masterwork on the level of “Road”, other than as an example of the maddening descend into hell. Unless great works can thrive and survive the bouts with alcohol. It is certainly left as an open question, this film commentary aficionados’ novel puffing aside, about its world view value, at least in my mind.

To give my two cents worth I do not believe that Kerouac ever got over his big man in a small pond status in youthful football-drenched Lowell and certainly never broke, despite Buddha-tranced, Desolation Angel momentarily escape, from that damn Catholic thing that drove, and inhibited, his work. I know that Catholic weight-heavy chain by heart, and his Gallic-derived version which is even worst, as well. One quick ride up the road to Lowell convinced me of that- Lowell is still that old beat mill town that Jack left long ago. But here is what you don’t realize until you get up close- there are about eight zillion Catholic churches there. Well maybe not that many but the place reeks of ritual, relics and that everlastin’ guilt. Guilt for living, guilt for not living, guilt at maybe living. Jesus, how did he get out alive, except by pure writerly inspiration. So watch this thing but just don’t get carried away with the “skinny” from the talking heads and other aficionados about “Big Sur’-go back to the roots and read the earlier Lowell-based stories, like “Maggie Cassidy”, for that.

In Boston -DORCHESTER STANDOUT FOR BLACK LIVES Thursday, November 16, 5:30-6:30 PM at Ashmont T

Come to the next monthly 
Thursday, November 165:30-6:30 PM 
(and the third Thursday of every month)
at Ashmont T station plaza.
(Standouts suspended for the Winter after this one)

Kelley writes:
The Standout for Black Lives Matters had a lower turnout this month but the rambunctiousness of our youngest members who started (and continued) a chant of Black Lives Matter more than made up for it. Once again besides members of DPP, we had representatives from Veterans for Peace, and local neighbors who had seen us in the preceding months and came down to join us. Honking from cars and trucks, extra roars from motorcycles, thumbs up from bikes and cars gave testament to the urgency of the myriad of concerns that our signs reflect: mass incarceration, education, health care, jobs not jails and more. As we packed up our things, we realized we were mostly in the dark. So next month will be our last. Please join us on November 16 at 5:30 at Ashmont and bring a friend to make it clear that Black Lives Matter.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact Kelley, or Becky,, or call Dorchester People for Peace 617-282-3783

From Veterans For Peace- U.S. People's Treaty with North Korea

Call to Act for Peace on Armistice Day, Nov. 11 From Veterans For Peace

Armistice Day

Call to Act for Peace on Armistice Day, Nov. 11

Diplomacy Not War in North Korea

Veterans For Peace calls on all members and all peace-loving people to take a stand for peace this Armistice (aka Veterans Day), Saturday November 11. We call for nationally coordinated local actions to demand diplomacy not war with North Korea, and the abolition of nuclear weapons and war. Veterans For Peace joins with the wider peace movement for actions before and after November 11th.   
In 2017, ninety-nine years after the end of  World War I, “the war to end war”, the world finds itself on the brink of a nuclear war. The threat of a horrific nuclear exchange is possibly higher than it has ever been. The President of the United States Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to attack North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea - DPRK), going so far as to say, while speaking to the U.N., that the U.S. will “totally destroy” the country. North Korea has also caused great alarm with its own threats, while testing long-range missiles and nuclear bombs. Twitter confrontations and saber rattling have only served to escalate tensions.
The road to war is a slippery slope on which one misstep can lead to the beginning of catastrophic war. Even the use of conventional weapons would lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Millions will die if there is a nuclear exchange. Such horrific acts of violence can spread like a virus and easily lead to further global instability and a new world war. The people of North and South Korea should not face the possibility of horrible killings and destruction that they experienced during the 1950-53 period in the Korean War. The people of the world must speak out and act together to demand peace.
Veterans For Peace calls for the observance of November 11 to be in keeping with the holiday’s original intent as Armistice Day, to be “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace," as it was celebrated at the ending of World War I when the world came together to recognize the need for lasting peace. That desire for peace led ten years later to the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War (Kellogg-Briand) which made war illegal.  The U.S. ratified the treaty and is bound by its terms pursuant to Art. 6 of the Constitution. After World War II, the U.S. Congress decided to rebrand November 11 as Veterans Day. Honoring the warriors quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war. Armistice Day, as a result, has been flipped from a day for peace into a day for displays of militarism.
This year with a rise of hate and fear around the world it is as urgent as ever to ring the bells of peace. We in the U.S. must press our government to end reckless rhetoric and military interventions that endanger the entire world.
Instead of celebrating militarism, we want to celebrate peace and all of humanity. We demand an end to all forms of hate, patriarchy and white supremacy and we call for unity, fair treatment under the law and equality for all. We call for a tearing down of walls between borders and people. We call for an end to all hostilities at home and around the globe.
Today the U.S. has a president who says diplomacy with North Korea is a waste of time. Diplomacy is in fact the only hope, no matter the cost. War is the immoral and tragic waste. The world has said it before and is saying it again now.  NO to WAR!
If you need tabling materials or VFP promo items for Armistice Day, please e-mail! No matter what action you decide to take, please let us know so we can promote the work that you're doing.

Let's #ReclaimArmsticeDay as a day for peace. This is what you can do today:

Ideas for Action on Armistice Day:

  • Join together with others for local actions (peace march, rally, vigils) to call for No War on North Korea.
  • March in the Veterans Day Parade with signs calling for “No More Korean War; From Armistice to Peace Treaty with N. Korea; End the Korean War Now; Yes to Talks, No to Bombings, etc.
  • Ring bells at 11am on November 11th, as was done at the end of World War One. Approach churches and ask them to ring bells at 11am on November 11th.
  • Support SOAW Border Encuentro. This year's theme "Tear Down The Walls, Build Up The People."   Please join VFP and many other peace & justice groups at the border in Nogales, Arizona from November 10-12.
  • Write an op-ed or letter to the editor. Please send to for inclusion on our website.
  • Share Your Vision of Peace! Submit a 10–20 second video illustrating your vision of peace. When you create your video, please state your name and city/state and complete the following sentence: "As a veteran, I believe peace is possible when _______________."
  • Take action on Twitter! Use these sample tweets:
    • I will be celebrating #VeteransDay as a day dedicated to peace #ReclaimArmisticeDay @VFPNational
    • Veterans will ring 11 bells this year to remember #ArmisticeDay, a day of #Peace @VFPNational  
    • Instead of celebrating militarism, celebrate peace & all humanity #VeteransDay #ReclaimArmisticeDay @VFPNational

In Cambridge-Free Film Screening "Last Days in Vietnam" / Sunday October 29, 6-8 pm

To  act-ma  
*Film Screening **"Last Days in Vietnam"*

*Sunday October 29, 6-8 pm*

*Center for Marxist Education, 550 Mass Ave, Cambridge (Central Square)*

Commentators: Richard Pendleton, CME Steering Committee, Al Johnson,
Smedley Butler Brigade of Veterans for Peace and Duncan McFarland, United
for Justice with Peace

During the chaotic final weeks of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese
Army closes in on Saigon as the panicked South Vietnamese people
desperately attempt to escape. On the ground, American soldiers and
diplomats confront the same moral quandary: whether to obey White House
orders to evacuate U.S. citizens only—or to risk punishment and save the
lives of as many South Vietnamese citizens as they can.

The events recounted in the film mainly center on the US evacuation of
Saigon codenamed Operation Frequent Wind. Join a discussion following the
film including antiwar protester Duncan McFarland, and Alfred Johnson, who
spent over a year in an Army stockade for refusing orders to Vietnam.

more information:
Act-MA mailing list
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Reality Winner's legal team ups the ante in new bail appeal

stand with reality winner
Reality's defense team hints at precedent-setting whistleblower defense
Reality’s defense team filed an appeal last week, seeking to reverse the decision to deny her bail and hold her in jail until March, setting the stage for a precedent-setting trial with implications far beyond this one case.
The appeal is important for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s important to keep fighting for Reality’s release because she doesn’t deserve to be in jail. She has not been convicted of any crime, has no criminal record, and has a spotless record of service to her country.
But it's also important because it is laying the groundwork to fight back against the government's abuse of the Espionage Act, crafting a defense strategy that, if successful, will have an impact far beyond this one case.
Reality’s defense team wants to force the government to prove what harm was done by the release of this document. Doing so would permanently end the government’s ability to use the Espionage Act as a loophole, and force them to acknowledge the legally guaranteed whistleblower protections of people who leak classified information, protections which pre-date the Espionage Act.
TAKE ACTION: Help us fund the fight to end the abuse of the Espionage Act by becoming a sustaining donor through Reality's trial in March, or making a one-time donation. Donating just an hour's wage per month makes a difference.

TOP SECRET CLASSIFIED INFORMATION, now available for download
All of the documents in Reality Winner's case are now archived on our website, including the top-secret document Reality is accused of leaking, considered too dangerous for discussion in open court.
We encourage you to download this top secret classified document and share it as widely as possible. The prosecution managed to ban discussion of the document in open court, but they can't stop it from circulating in public.
We'll be updating our website with all the documents related to Reality's case as they are filed.
STAND WITH REALITY WINNER ~ PATRIOT & ALLEGED WHISTLEBLOWERc/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610 ~ 510-488-3559 ~