Saturday, February 10, 2018

Speak To Me Of Mendocino-With The McGarrigle Sisters Song On The Same Theme In Mind

Speak To Me Of Mendocino-With The McGarrigle Sisters Song On The Same Theme In Mind

By Zack James

Sid Lester had often wondered whether Lena, Lena of the Caffe Lena, the small coffeehouse that weaned many folksingers in the days when such activity was on deck, in the time of the now fabled early 1960s folk minute, now too but she the grey eminence had long gone to the shades and so that is not her bother had ever gotten to the Mendocino of her dreams and the song that the McGarrigle Sisters had reportedly written for her when she dreamed the dream of West Coast dreams. This was no mere academic question since Sid was asking it not only to himself but to his lovely companion, Mona Lord, who was accompanying him just that moment on the Pacific Coast Highway about fifty miles from that very spot, from the Mendocino of his dreams if not hers (but probably about three hours away given the hairpin turns that he increasingly hated to take along some very treacherous stretches of that beautiful view highway having almost gone down an un-guard-railed embankment to the ocean around Big Sur a few years back).

It was not like Sid had not been to the dreamland before, having made the trip up from the fetid seas of Frisco town (fetid in comparison to the Mendocino white-washed breakers eroding the sheer rock at a greater rate than he would have expected) a number of times mostly with his old time now long gone to “find herself” Laura, Laura Perkins whom he had talked into going up those several times based on nothing more than that he liked the song. Liked too that she, Laura liked it as well and would cover the song anytime she could find somebody to do a duo with her at “open mics” and features depending on how she was feeling. Mona having heard the song exactly once (she didn’t like the fact that Laura had liked the song and had been to Mendocino before she had and so would not listen when Sid tried to play it on his car CD player as they got closer to the place). Moreover she was reserving judgment on the relationship between the song and the place.

And that last point, the point for Sid anyway, was exactly how the song and the place connected. Was the real source of his wonder about old Lena back in the tired old East. Did she long like he had to be done with Eastern pressures and pitfalls. To stop worrying about where the money would come from for rent, to pay the utilities, hell to pay the performers and stop them from having to play for the foolish “basket” like when they  had just started out on some forlorn street in Cambridge , Berkeley, Ann Arbor, Old Town or the Village. Stop all of that and head West, head to South Bend for a minute, head over the Rockies and suck in the breezes of the new land, of the new dispensation. Yeah, he bet though that she never got to the West, never could leave her cats, never could get that café out of her system, would probably fret even if she only went out for a week or so.

As they, Sid and his new Mona, approached the outskirts of Mendocino he wondered, seriously wondered whether Mona would ask him someday to speak of Mendocino, to let the place get under her skin. Yeah, speak of Mendocino.                  

Inside The Social Media Buzz Saw-The Struggle For A Historical Perspective At The American Left History Blog-The Complete Down And Dirty Saga

Inside The Social Media Buzz Saw-The Struggle For A Historical Perspective At The American Left History Blog-The Complete Down And Dirty Saga    

By Sam Lowell


No question I was, am, a central figure in the still on-going fallout over the purge, and that is exactly the right term although half the writers here who were down and dirty in the fight prefer to tell the tale that the previous site manger “retired.” Like Allan Jackson, yes, I am using his given name despite the notice from new site manager Greg Green that we were in the future in the interest of “moving on” not to mention him by name or speak of his accomplishments (presumably Allan’s down sides are still fair game), would voluntarily retire from something he helped create and loved. I also acknowledge here that although I was Allan closest and longest known friend going back to elementary school that I sided with the young rebel writers, the self-styled “Young Turks” although I hate that term when it came to choosing sides.

Allan was getting more and more wrapped into some 1960s and forget the rest of the world, of history thing that disturbed me no end as I continually told him especially when he went over the edge in that overkill of the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love, 1967 stuff in 2017. So when I “conspired” with the younger writers (some of who had before Allan went hog wild over the situation never heard of that event, were too young to give a fuck about the legendary in the mist 1960s) I told everyone straight up that this would have to be a purge-no quotation marks needed. We, Allan and me, had come up in the rough and tumble of radical 1960s politics so he knew that my defection meant only one thing if we were to be successful. He would be out, in exile, although don’t believe all that stuff about him being holed up Utah sucking up to Mitt Romney and that white underwear Mormon crowd or Kansas with the hard-shell flat-landers trying to cadge and interview with Dorothy and Toto that is just urban legend stuff. Stuff that he, or somebody at his direction, made up to make this whole thing seem like a Stalinist coup and he, Leon Trotsky-like heroically suffered defeat and exile in some American Siberia for his efforts. I know my Allan and I would not be surprised that a counterattack against me and the blog, “his” blog, will come any day now.

As part of the change in course and presumably as a safeguard against things going haywire like they began to do under the Jackson regime Greg initiated on his own a seven member Editorial Board to filter ideas and motions through. Some people, some opponents have called the board a group of toadies and “yes” people for whatever Greg has in mind. That is their opinion. In any case I was asked to sit on the board and I have along with several younger writers and one of the older writers who had abstained on the Jackson removal vote (there were several abstentions by older writers which makes me think I was not alone in thinking Allan had gone over the edge but didn’t want to buck him for any number of reasons. I would argue that had any one of them voted for Allan then my “desertion” would have meant nothing except I might have been the guy rumored to be in Utah or Kansas looking for the ghost of Tom Joad. Such is life.) 

Although the board has been  up and running for a few months now it has only been asked to approve one item-the “erasing” of Allan’s name from this site in the interest of whatever Greg thought that erasure served. I have been around enough to know that it is beyond poor form to “erase” the past especially on a site dedicated to putting a big shining light on that past particularly the parts that get short shrift in the history books and mainstream media. I voted “no,” the lone dissenter with that one older writer’s abstention which may be his mode of operation on tough questions. Maybe that dissent will put me in better grace with Allan. 

This introduction was originally posted as a segment when I took a jug band CD review assignment, a Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band assignment because I am still crazy about this kind of music and because at least three of the original members of the band, Jim, Geoff, Maria are still performing occasionally together but usually individually and over the past several years I have seen them in various admittedly small venues around Greater Boston. I was surprised though when Greg mentioned to me that he no longer wanted to see pieces about “f—king” jug band music in the future and that this would be the last time he would let it pass since nobody under about the age of sixty gave a damn about this kind of music anymore. This is another cause for my concern of the future despite what we did to long gone John Allan.

Since Greg is considerable younger than I am I could see where it did not mean anything to him when he was growing up in Westchester County in New York but to cancel out in advance any reference to an important part of Americana in the 1920s and the revival in the 1960s seemed short-sighted. Allan who also was crazy for jug music and who turned me onto the stuff in high school when he took me and our dates to the Unicorn Coffeehouse in Back Bay Boston to hear the legendary Harper Valley Boys do their jug, washtub, wringer magic would freak out if knew Greg’s position on jug. I will be bucking Greg a little on this one in the future if I can find a spot to sneak a jug piece in.

Finally, and this part has nothing directly to do with jug music or anything else that has been presented here over the past almost fifteen years of this blog’s existence and prior to that the hard copy of it and it predecessors. I, like a number of irritated readers and a not a few writers have grown tired of seeing more than enough coverage of the internal crisis of the past few months here leading to the new regime. This new mandate by Greg with the majority of the Ed Board’s approval of “erasing” Allan Jackson’s name and work is kind of a watershed making me think the whole public airing has gone too far. Moreover the story is all over the place depending on who has their hackles up. This must stop and a return to ordinary commentary and reviews is in order.  

As a decisive member of the Editorial Board I have been able to negotiate with Greg a truce, an “armed truce” as one older wag put it which seems strange since the majority of personnel here have some very strong anti-war views. The “truce” has two parts. The first- all articles now in the pipeline, about fifteen, can carry whatever commentary about the internal dispute the writer wants to talk about. In return after that amnesty cohort is posted there will be no overt references to the previous site manager or his achievements or failures. The second is that I will write as probably the most knowledgeable person around about all aspects of this publication and its personnel a full history of the site and of the internal dispute to be after it completion referenced in the archives as such for anybody to cite and refer others to -either writer or scholar. No guidance was given about how to do this task but I have decided to cut it up among the various parts of the American Songbook series which the jug band piece was one example and then post the whole thing with comments from the two Ed Board members Greg has assigned to me for this work on February 10th.              

If anybody has read the introduction (see above) to my review of an early part of these American Songbook series about the legendary Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band dated January 11, 2018 In The Beginning Was The Jug…in the archives you will already know that I have been given the task of writing the history of this site and it personnel as well as the internal in-fighting that roiled the publication over the last few months of 2017 in order to finally put an end to the turmoil. Below is one part of that history which I have decided I need to cut into parts or the whole project will overwhelm me.     
Present At The Creation

The American Left History blog has been in cyberspace, on-line, for the past fifteen years or so which readers can reference to any particular article via the ALF archives. What many people do not know is that there has been a much longer history to the ideas and purpose of the site going back to the 1970s and maybe even a little to the 1960s if you add in Peter Paul Markin’s work, the real Peter Paul Markin who I will talk about later when I explain why I used the word “real” before his name. In those days, the Summer of Love, 1967 days the 50th anniversary last year which started the firestorm that followed over the latter part of 2017 at this publication Markin worked on and off for The Eye and The East Bay Other two of what were called in those days alternative newspaper to distinguish them from the main stream media which gave short shrift to the political and cultural events that stirred us, you know the New York Times and Washington Post.  Sound familiar? Except those alternative publications did not deal with so-called alternative facts or carry on about conspiracy theories like today but other things of interest to young people, “hippies” for lack of a better word like acid rock, drugs, communal living, that the mainstream media were clueless about.           

That Peter Paul Markin that I mentioned above won a few awards for his articles, his series on his fellow Vietnam War veterans some who like him had a hard time adjusting to what they called the “real” world, the non-Vietnam world and set up camps and such along the rivers and railroad tracks out in Southern California where he joined them for a time because he himself had a hard time adjusting as well and told their stories. No, that is wrong, let them tell their stories. The series entitled The Embattled Brothers Of Westminster (one of the biggest railroad campsites) would from what I heard inspire Lenny Lawrence to write a very popular song about those lost souls using that title if I recall. So that was one early piece of what would follow over the next forty years or so.

Markin, everybody called him Scribe when he was growing up and that name stuck but I will use Markin here was not alone in working for those publications. After he got back from Vietnam he reunited with Josh Breslin, yes, Josh Breslin who writes for this blog even now so you can start to make the long drawn out connections, a guy from up in Olde Saco, Maine whom he met out in San Francisco during the Summer of Love, 1967 (you can also start to see how that event, how those times played a key role as well in what followed) and Allan Jackson whom he, we, had grown up with in North Adamsville and had followed Markin, as I did as well, out to the Summer of Love. The three of them were all crazy to write, write about the war, write about the counter-culture everything and The Eye and later The East Bay Other were ready-made for guys who wanted to look at the steamy, seamy side of life down at the baseof society.          

Like most things in the 1960s when the hammer went down, when the war turned everybody sour, and then later in reaction the other side decided that things had gone too far and started a counter-offensive which more than one writer, young or old, in this space has noted has been going on for the past forty years or so things like grassroots, fly-by-the-seat-of –your-pants and woefully underfunded alternative newspapers were going to ground in droves. That was the fate of those two papers. Josh, Markin, Allan and I would join them as well in the mid-1970s after I had been roaming around the country “sowing my oats” as my grandfather used to say although he would have been mortified at my motto, our generational motto-“drugs, sex, and rock and roll” were crazy to continue writing, writing the kind of stuff they had been writing but with a little more of a political twist than those mainly culturally-oriented papers had been. That is where the idea for Progressive Nation came from in the beginning. The Progressive Nation that a number of us still write for on occasion although it had changed from our hands and from our brand of left-wing street politics many years ago.         

That idea though almost went stillborn for a while for one main reason-that real Peter Paul Markin who I have been alluding to. We had gathered some seed money from a few still extant “hippies” with trust funds to get the publication started mainly through Markin and Josh’s connections via The Eye and The East Bay Other. The rest of the financing would come from advertisers (we were totally naïve about the horrible influence that source would have on what we were trying to do with our good idea. If you want a current day example of just how off the rails a good idea can go once the advertisers sink their claws in check out an early version of Rolling Stone and one today-Egad) and other “angels” and subscribers. Then Markin ran away with the money to buy dope, to buy into the emerging cocaine high that he would eventually become addicted to and which would cost him his life down in Sonora, Mexico over a busted drug deal when he was the loser, the six feet under in a potter’s field grave which still has unexplained parts to the story until this day.        

That obviously is the bad part about Markin, that “from hunger” part that he more than the rest of us from the old North Adamsville neighborhood never got over. And which Vietnam only accentuated. Not that the war did him in like many others but it did not help either the few times he would talk about his experiences, about what he had had to do, and had seen others do as well in that hell-hole. But the good part, the part that wanted the revolution to win, the world to be turned upside down is the part we knew and loved. Not all the guys we grew up with had those same feelings, the guys who had no dough like us and hung around street corners to get out of tumultuous home life, but a small crew did, a crew that was always led by Markin. Not a leader in the organizational sense that was Frankie Riley who has written a few things here about Markin, but in the spiritual sense is the best way I can put it.

That is what has bound Allan Jackson, Si Lannon, Jack Callahan, Bart Webber, Frank and me over the long years. That buying into Markin’s vision even though he personally could not go the distance, came up short. Funny before we lost track of him, or really Josh Breslin lost track of him since he was his housemate in Oakland in the days when they had a communal house there and he was the last person to see Markin alive in America Markin would always say that Progressive Nation would carry us into our old ages. That did not happen since I have already mentioned he flew the coop and later when we got some more dough and published for a while we sold that enterprise off when the political winds shifted dramatically in the 1980s and we had to cut our loses. What did happen and made Markin a prophet after all was that we then established the hard copy version of ALH and then went on-line I think in 2003. All from that original ideal spawned by the real Markin. So it was a no-brainer when we started the on-line version that Allan Jackson our site manager when it came time to take cyberspace necessary monikers would go back to the old days, to our growing up days and honor our fallen brother by using his moniker in this space. Hell, it just seemed right.

Getting Through The Dog Days

With the seed money we were able to gather after the sale of Progressive Nation we put together the hard copy version of ALH. We, as well, got a big financial boost from our old high school friend and great running back for the North Adamsville Red Raiders, Jack Callahan,  who now is Mr. Toyota of Eastern Massachusetts and has sold a million cars based on his charming ways (and that of Mrs. Toyota, Chrissie McNamara, his forever high school sweetheart whom he is still married too unlike the rest of us who have at least two marriages per person, a ton of kids, and two tons of college tuitions which are still being paid for or only recently extinguished).  Our idea, really Allan’s idea, no again, really way back when Markin’s idea was to do in a journalistic way what Boston University professor the late Howard Zinn did with his book The People’s History of the United States which is to say look under the rocks, the crevices, the off-beat places in the American experience. Tell the story that doesn’t make the mainstream media, or didn’t for a long time certainly in the time of Reagan’s time in the 1980s when everybody but us it seemed was keeping his or her head down.

So in a funny way we were running against the stream, having only a small steady dedicated readership and writing staff made up of guys I have already mentioned and who readers will know including Josh Brelin from up in Maine who we treated like one of our own. That last statement is important because what happened (and might be the real genesis of what brought about Allan’s downfall) was that for financial reasons, emotional reasons, and a certain tendency on the part of all those involved to get wrapped up in a nostalgia trip back the halcyon days of the 1960s when you couldn’t walk a block in most cities and college towns without running into fellow kindred spirits, some cause bringing people to the streets, and a feeling that the new breeze that Markin had talked endlessly about from high school days on was going to happen almost by default. We were going to turn the world upside down and for keeps.

Obviously at the height of the Reagan era (1980-1992 throwing the first Bush, number 41 in the succession, into the mix) and beyond for a while that was a very tough dollar to pull off as the years going by would develop a divide between the old-time “hippie” base and the generation turning into two generations who were off in a different direction, could as I mentioned in the recent internal wrangling “give a f- - k” about the 1960s except maybe the dope and cool fashions now somewhat revived in a retro movement. For years though Allan and the rest of us were in a running battle over where to go and still deal with our basic mission which is still on the masthead of this blog. Allan would wax and wane with that deep tendency to drift back to the 1960s and cover stuff like all the folk movement stuff when the folk minute (almost literally) was in bloom.

Against a reality, against the real world where except Bob Dylan, and even that would be suspect, nobody knew any of the folk singers and the spirit that drove Allan and me as well, probably everybody but Si Lannon who to this day cringes whenever anybody mentions a guy like faded folksinger Erick Saint Jean whom we thought would be the next Dylan. Spent much cyber-ink of stuff like film noir which was all the rage in college town 1960s film festival retrospectives, Bogie, Robert Mitchum, the French “New Wave.” And deeply into reviewing and commenting on books and the politics of the times which had clearly faded into the dust and that even our older readership got tired of hearing about since they had drifted out of politics seeing the whole thing as a “bummer” to use a 1960s-etched expression or had drifted rightward to the party of the possible-the Democrats. They definitely did not want to hear about the finer points of the Russian Revolution, the Stalin-Trotsky fist fight, or the food fight among American radicals toward the end of the 1960s and early 1970s.                

Every once in a while we would change course a bit, would get more into contemporary politics, move onto the newer versions on the musical scene, review more current books and films but there was something missing. Something that the younger writers in the recent dispute hollered about endlessly when asked to write about the 1960s 24/7/365 when Allan finally went off the deep end for good in the summer of 2017. Having to endlessly write about the Summer of Love, 1967 which set up the explosion that brought everything to a head. Having to write about stuff they were clueless about which is what we were feeling when we confronted the changes in the 1990s. Even then Allan would try an end around and force everybody like he did last year with Alden Riley to write stuff as “punishment” for not knowing every single piece of arcana from the 1960s even if was about, oh I don’t know, plastic surgery, something weird like that.

As you could expect off of this lack of focus drained individual writers, we lost Sal Rizzo, Danny Shea, Henry Sullivan to the ennui, to hubris and lack of candor. Lost a lot of money too, a lot of Jack Callahan’s dough although he was always too much of a good guy to complain (and would tell us “I will just sell more Toyotas”). So we had to when we saw an opportunity to keep going with an on-line publication we did. That would cut expenses dramatically (and Jack would say I don’t have to carry such a large car inventory now) not needing a large office, paper costs and such. We also, or rather Allan came to a big decision which we rubber-stamped, a very big decision once we did transfer to an all on-line operation-bringing in new blood, bringing in younger writers with the original idea to get a more current take on the American political, cultural, social experience. It was a tricky proposition since the older core, including me and Allan, were worried that bringing in more professionally trained writers which is the norm these days since nobody can get anywhere without some kind of Iowa Writers Workshop pedigree would run circles around us. They, I, could not see then that this was necessary, In the end we, Allan, squandered that talent by the straight-jacket maneuvers mentioned earlier driving them to write second-rate stuff just to fill space and fill Allan’s ego when crunch time came.

Prancing Through Cyberspace

Maybe it is best to go back a little, go back to what we who started back with the predecessor to this publication Progressive Nation, a publication which has veered very sharply toward the Democratic Party since we sold it many years ago and which is now heading on-line as well for many of the same reasons we took ALH in that direction, were trying to achieve with our work. Almost all of us initially had come out of some aspect of the radical politics of the 1960s either through having gone through the military during the Vietnam War period or having been deeply affected enough by it to go round the radical bend. Moreover the core, almost totally male, although we had many women stringers who would eventually goes elsewhere when the women’s liberation movement seemed better suited to their talents and politics. While we males formally accepted a lot of the tenets of that movement in the day to day reality this was a “guy” place, still is, although with the addition of Leslie Dumont, who was around for part of the old days, and the expected arrival of more women writers, including my long-time companion Laura Perkins on a more steady basis, hopefully that will change.
See we had come from “from hunger” backgrounds like the few guys whom Allan Jackson and I had grown up with who came over to the left with us (not all the old neighborhood guys did, not many really). So many of us toyed with, no, more than toyed with Karl Marx’s idea of the working class taking power and making the world a better place for poor folk like the stories of most of us growing up, That infatuation too drifted away a bit although there is still a very working class-oriented atmosphere here even when most of us through cunning or guile left our working class origins behind.         

But back then we were gung-ho to change the world and thought it would happen until the mid-1970s at the latest told us that the tide had ebbed, that we had once again been thwarted in our efforts, as the late Peter Paul Markin used to say before the drugs got the better of him “turn the world upside down.” But we still had a “holy remnant” idea even though most of us had moved away from day to day radical politics and while not necessarily going whole hog back to bourgeois society started families (that plural meaning not only one family but the first of several in most cases including my own three failed marriages and parcel of kids, mostly good kids). What we had become aware of during that whole radical- Marxist-ebb tide movement was that we were woefully ignorant of the subtext of history in America and worldwide. The stuff we had to painfully pick up from places like the late Boston University professor Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States and reading Phillip and Eric Foner’s books on slavery, 19th radicalism, and the intense labor struggles of those days. Our idea then, and still is although we had gotten away from it a bit of late to my regret, was to provide a space to look at a lot of the history, politics, culture through the prism of our own experiences. To do some educational good waiting for the next time that people rise up to “turn the world upside down.” That was our idea anyway and everybody still around today including the exiled Allan Jackson will formally agree that those ideas are still good currency.        

Except, a big except, two interconnected things happened, or one didn’t happen. First the push to turn the world upside down, or the American part, has not surfaced as yet after a forty plus year hiatus and secondly the original core got old, got old and in a few cases passed to the shades or fell off the wagon. Got old and maybe as aging people do start to dwell on the halcyon days of their youth and deny the current reality a bit. I don’t if there is a strong physiological explanation for some of that but it certainly when looking at the archives of ALH became apparent to me a couple of years ago that were trending water over the 1960s hump. Neglecting not only post-1960s events of historical and social importance but falling down on our educational task of being a source for long ago important milestone events, movements, intellectual currents.

I should step back a shade here and point out that it was not a straight line withdrawal but the trend was there. We all got caught up in the promise when a goodly portion of the world, especially the youth came storming out of the gates before the Iraq War of 2003 which is still with us today one way or another and started protesting like we hadn’t seen since our youths. But that proved ephemeral, proved to be a blip. When we realized that was the case maybe in 2006, 2007 a certain dark atmosphere began to descend and really kick-started the rush back to 1960s memories, Including Allan who in his own way encouraged that perspective.       

The hard fact was that as we collectively turned sixty-ish we started losing writers to the grim reaper, writers like Ricky Rizzo, Dean Morrison, Lenny Long, and a bunch of stringers who had been a little older than us and had a perspective from the 1950s, especially on the classic age of rock and roll which we of the 1960s generation grew up on at the edges. Lost a few more to tiredness and retirement. All understandable but also death to what we were trying to accomplish in that silver-aged youth. It wasn’t that we had retired from the political struggle. As I and others have written about, notably Ralph Morse, we took our political perspectives back to the streets, through vehicle of Veterans Peace Action which kept us hopping and still does. The problem again is that organization was at its core made up of Vietnam War era veterans and not the younger kids, young women and men, who fought the Iraq and Afghanistan war. Those kids dealt with whatever anti-war feeling they had in a different way-not on the streets like we were very familiar with, had down to a science. So the same problems crept up sliding back to the nostalgic 1960s .        

In about 2010, maybe early 2011 we had an important meeting of those still standing, almost all old white guys which more and more reflected what was being written about. Like I said, and Allan really does bear the brunt of criticism on this, we had been very poor on bringing women in as the case of Leslie Dumont brought out graphically when she and I were talking that issue out as part of this piece. She had been our Josh Breslin’s companion and was a hell of a writer, better than most of us who were untrained, and perhaps untrainable when it got right down to it. Josh begged Allan to bring Leslie on board but no he kept her as a stringer like he had many other women who came and went until she left and eventually got that coveted by-line at New York Today.

The same was true of Josie Davis and Laura Perkins and both of them had been Allan’s companions when they were stringers. (Although Laura and I had known each other for many years then it was not until much later that we became companions after she left to teach at a local college and then became an executive at a high tech company before retiring a few years ago.) Again both could, and did, write circles around us looking again at the old Progressive Nation archives. Here is the sad part beyond that trio I can’t think of any other female stringers who stayed long enough for me to remember.

If we were bad on the reality of women writers we were even worse on black writers, or as the term latter more inclusively gained currency writers of color. That despite Allan personally having been involved in the 1960s black civil rights movement down South (much to our growing up neighborhood displeasure at the time which we have both written about elsewhere). Allan, and I will admit that I had a little of the same perspective for a while, never really broke from the quasi-black nationalist idea that black writers should write for black audiences and white writers for white audiences. Meeting who knows when to beat down the beast. That issue came up again a couple of years ago when the Black Lives Matter movement took off and we had a chance to grab DeShaun Lewis and Allan nixed the idea (as did DeShaun’s literary agent). Other than that forlorn attempt the only two black writers of note in the long forty year history I am detailing were Preston Thomas and Harold Bonner. Both of them were from our days on the Captain Crunch bus when we were travelling up and down the California coast which I have also written about extensively elsewhere in this space.                   

Sorry to go off on a little tangent but those two examples are specific cases of the need to bring in new blood in. And we did, although not without a little resistance from Allan and a couple of the older writers who felt threatened by the idea of new blood coming in almost certainly with professional training and writing circles around them. I will discuss that more in the concluding section when I run through the internal struggle from last year, from 2017. That is how we got Zack James, our friend Alex’s youngest brother who recently did such a great job on editing our remembrances of Peter Paul Markin and the magical ride he took us on for a time in the 1960s. Of course Allan might have considered that catch as a double-edged sword since Zack was and is one of the “Young Turks” who rode Allan out of town on a rail. Same with Lance Lawrence, Brad Fox, Jr. and Lenny Griffin to name just the leaders. 

Alan brought these younger writers, by the way none of them as young as twenty-something Kenny Jacobs brought in by Greg Green, but younger than the hoary old mass we were until the new blood arrived, but didn’t really know what to do with them. Or did know what to do with them but that was not the way to go as I knew telling him for maybe the past two years when I saw what was brewing. First off to appease the older writers, including me, Allan out of nowhere, and contrary to every 1960s instinct we still possessed, gave all the older writers the title of “Senior” whatever department they were writing for like my title was Senior Film Critic although I wrote other stuff for other departments. Secondly and this would rear its head in the open last year finally he would assign the younger writers what would be called in the internal dispute “the leavings” of what the older writers didn’t want or worse have to do a rehash of the older writers’ subject from a younger perspective whether they knew or cared about the subject or not. He let the older writers write whatever they wanted without question even if it retreaded fifty million times 1960s stuff, maybe especially if it was that kind of piece. The younger writers from early on had to wage a “civil war” to get clearance for any independent project. The smell of rebellion was in the air although I was by no means on top of it from the beginning.

[I will put this as an aside since it reflects my personal fall a couple of years ago and I am still not sure how much it affected my “treason” of siding with the “Young Turks” when the deal went down, when it was time to vote up or down on Allan’s demise on this site. A couple of years ago I started seriously questioning Allan about the direction of the blog and of the uses he was putting the younger writers too which was making our perspective even narrower than in previous years. That is about the time he started making noises about my “retirement,” about how maybe we needed a new face, new faces, at the film critic desk. 

What I didn’t know was that he was in touch with his, our, old friend Sandy Salmon over at American Film Gazette who told Allan he was looking to finish his career out on less stressful note than the day after day film reviews.  (Greg Green who also had come over from the Gazette amazed us one night when he mentioned that publication had produced over 40, 000 reviews.) That led, not without a smidgen of relief, to my being “pushed up the ladder” in Allan’s famous around the water cooler words, to “film critic emeritus” and Sandy taking over the day to day operations. Allan also bringing in Alden Riley as an associate film critic since he planned an expansion of the number of films reviewed that was a condition that Sandy insisted on when coming over. Things were okay, I won’t say great, for a while but I noticed that I was first not getting many assignments and then was getting turned down for ideas that I had for pieces. So when I mentioned earlier that Allan knew he had been “purged.” I knew he had been purged since I know from whence I speak have been “purged” myself just like in the old day cutthroat politics we grew up on.]          

The Buzz Saw Of Social Media Down And Dirty

In a sense this last section is a bit anti-climactic since I have laid out the history leading up to the split, my part in it, and the result with the removal of the former site manager Alan Jackson in what I have described truly as a purge. (Some “fragile” types on both sides have backed off from that designation saying it is too rough but Allan knows, just as well as I do both of us veterans of many old-time political struggles in radical circles, that he had been purged.) That elevated Greg Green who had originally come over from the American Film Gazette to run the day to day operations to site manager. As part of the post-Allan regime Greg decided that he would create an Editorial Board to oversee everything and back up his decisions. For transparency reasons I should note that I sit on that board. I should also note that although it has only been in existence the past few months that there has been gripping about it being a rubber-stamp, a group of Greg toadies, and other derogatory remarks from young and older writers alike. Greg has also hired a couple of younger writers, really twenty something out of journalism schools and English majors. Brought on Josh Breslin’s former companion, Leslie Dumont, who many years ago worked here as a stringer but getting nowhere with Alan’s regime left and finally wound up with a big by-line at New York Monthly. Brought on my long-time companion Laura Perkins who also worked as a stringer and got nowhere with Alan and left for an academic and high tech career. Still no soap on getting any black writers, or more generically “writers of color.”

Those are the results thus far not without controversy and some hard feelings especially by the older writers who have been stripped of their titles, younger writers too who had worked for titles. Worse and which almost caused another explosion every writer now can be assigned any topic on any subject to as Greg says “broaden their horizons.” But enough of the current doings and back to the spring of 2017 and the genesis of the in-fighting that has brought these changes.

It almost seems like some twisted kiss of fate that Alex James, Zack’s oldest brother (who by the way is about ten years older than Zack showing a good example of the relative sense of “younger” writers Allan was bringing in. Certainly nobody as young as twenty something Kenny Jacobs), an old friend of ours from the old neighborhood, who went on to become a successful lawyer, went on a business trip to San Francisco last spring (2017). While there out of the blue Alex saw an advertisement on the side of a bus for something called The Summer of Love Experience, 1967 at the de Young Museum in famous Golden Gate Park. Sneaking (according to Alex) out one afternoon he saw the exhibition and was positively floored by the experience. See, he, we, under the “guidance” of the late Peter Paul Markin had been in the thick of the “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” mantra which all of that experience went under. When he got back to Boston Alex called or e-mailed everybody he knew from back in the days who was still standing and who had gone out there to see what was happening, to see as Markin had called it “the world turned upside down.” He gathered a number of us, including Zack who had gone to journalism school and was a veteran of various workshop programs, together in order to propose that in honor of our fallen brother Markin each write our “memoirs” of those times with Zack as editor and publisher. Those who agreed included old friend Allan Jackson who had also gone out there with us. The venture was a great success and various portions were posted last summer on the ALH blog as well as in booklet form.     

That seemingly small exercise in 1960s nostalgia apparently snapped something in Allan’s head. I have already mentioned the drift of the blog on the part of the older writers who were allowed by Allan to pick whatever subject they wanted (with the left-overs to the younger writers). Last summer right after the memorial booklet was published and articles posted Allan decided to do a massive blanket coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love by assigning a million topics related to that time. If you couldn’t link the Summer of Love, or the 1960s “hippie” experience, into your article he would red-pencil what you had written. (Allan liked to use a red pencil to “edit” something about his radical red youth he said when asked why he didn’t use the usual blue pencil.) This was no joke on Allan’s part. I was doing a little piece on figure skating after reviewing a Sonja Henny 1930s film. Allan asked me why I didn’t bring up the ice skating rink at Fillmore and Pacific where “hippies” would go to skate during 1967 when we were out there. WTF.

All of this came to a head when young Alden Riley, a new hire for the film department to help Sandy Salmon out with the increased load of films that were projected by Greg on the site. He was “assigned” by Allan, over Sandy’s head, to do a review on a bio/pic about Janis Joplin, a key musical figure in the heady days of the Monterey Pops Festival. Reason? After Sandy had done a review of D. A Pennebaker’s documentary about the first Monterey Festival he mentioned Ms. Joplin’s name and Alan said he did not know who she was. Allan heard about that blunder and ordered the assignment as “punishment’ is what he told Si Lannon, another of our old friends. Things only got worse from there as Allan double-downed on the Summer of Love connection for each article.

I am not quite sure who called the first meeting of essentially the whole rank of younger writers (average age somebody figured out about forty-five years old) to see what they would do about Allan’s manic behavior and their dubious assignments which to a man they could give f - -k about to quote Zack. Maybe it was Zack since he Lance Lawrence and Bradley Fox were the three ringleaders of the uprising who in water cooler legend were dubbed the “Young Turks.” They decided to go to Allan and put their cards on the table. He rebuffed them out of hand. That is when I came in, came to one of their meetings being invited by Alden, to see if I could reason with Allan. I proposed to Allan that we get Greg Green from American Film Gazette to come in to do the day to day operations leaving Allan time to write some stuff on his own or think about future assignments. He bought my argument once I explained that we might lose the whole cohort if things didn’t change. They didn’t as Allan pressed Greg to hand out these never-ending freaking 1960s world assignments.

To make a long story short the “Young Turks” (and me) had another meeting, an ultimatum meeting with me as the emissary to Allan again. The proposal of the group was either Allan “retire” or they collectively would quit. The decision to be determined by a majority vote-for or against. For some reason even I don’t understand to this day Allan agreed. You know the rest including my “traitorous” vote with the “Young Turks.” My decisive vote since we won by one vote. What you may not know is that while the split was almost directly along generational lines there were several abstentions among the older writers from the tallies. Any one of them casting a vote for Allan would have shifted the totals the other way and I would have been the one “purged” and working in Kansas someplace. So some of the older guys had also doubts about the wisdom of going back to the past. Now that you have the whole story this episode should be at rest. (With the exception of any articles still in the pipeline before the truce with Greg was negotiated.)          

Support the Olympic Truce in Korea Rally at Park Street Station Saturday, February 10, 1pm

Support the Olympic Truce in Korea

Rally at Park Street Station
Saturday, February 10, 1pm

On Saturday, February 10 at Park Street Station, activists will celebrate the Olympic Truce, which President Moon Jae-in convinced President Trump to observe, putting off the very provocative war games that the US and South Korea conduct on a regular basis.  We hope that the truce can be extended and that the war games will end.
We will also demand that President Trump stop threatening Kim Jong-un and North Korea with attack, including nuclear attack.  Koreans have a very well-founded fear of the US, remembering or learning about when their country was devastated by US war planes during the Korean war. 
The fact that the two Koreas will march together at the Olympics and that the South Koreans elected a president who favors living peacefully with the North are reasons for hope.  The bills in Congress limiting the president's power to attack North Korea on his own authority are also encouraging.
The Winter Olympics and Paralympics that begin Friday night in Pyeongchang, South Korea, offer a unique moment to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula. In November 2017, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution – supported by both North and South Korea -- calling for an Olympic Truce, or a cessation of hostilities during the Winter Games. Urge our government to end the march toward war and to support the continuation of the talks now taking place between North and South Korea. Tell Vice president Pence to stop using his trip to the Olympics to undermine these talks.
To get involved in the Olympic Truce Project call 617-354-2169 or go to

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Veterans For Peace Condemns Military Parade

Veterans For Peace Condemns Military Parade

Veterans For Peace completely condemns the Trump Administration's plans for a military parade later this year. We call on all people who believe in our nation's democratic ideals to stand together and say no to this outrageous, pomp and circumstance parade of military personnel and hardware for no reason other than to feed a pompous ego.
The Administration claims that the purpose of the parade is to give, "a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation." But there has not been a call by U.S. service members or veterans for a parade. In fact, Military Times conducted an informal poll with more than 51,000 respondents. As of the afternoon of February 8th, 89 percent responded, "No. It's a waste of time and troops are too busy."
If the president wants to show gratitude to the troops, provide real support:
  • Develop better programs and services to reduce suicide rates
  • Cultivate a culture where asking for help to manage Post Traumatic Stress is not perceived as weak.
  • Stop trying to privatize the Veterans Health Administration and provide it with more funding and staff.
  • Continue to reduce the number of homeless veterans.
  • Increase the pay of service members who must use SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps) to feed their families.
  • Stop Deporting Veterans, separating them from their friends and families including their children. Thank them for their service by bringing them home.
Finally, stop these endless wars and turn away from war as the main tool of U.S. foreign policy. Nothing is more sacred to a soldier than peace. Countless deployments and a foreign policy that consistently creates new enemies is abusive and immoral. It guarantees a stream of deaths and broken families, bodies and minds. Killing and hurting people does not come easy.
With all this in mind, Veterans For Peace asks, what is the real reason for this parade? It can't be for the people in uniform. Trump has been ramping up U.S. current wars which have no end and continue to deplete the service members he claims to support. After sixteen years of war, the U.S. has sent more troops to Afghanistan, with no plans to withdraw in sight. The U.S. is keeping a force in Syria and continuing a presence in Iraq nearly fifteen years after the March 2003 invasion. Trump is set on a conflict with Iran though most of the world is trying to work through the tensions. And the U.S. has troops in twenty countries in Africa that until October of last year, no one seemed to know about.
The parade proposal is only one of the ways Trump has been preparing the country for a new war on the Korean Peninsula for months. He keeps reminding us that all options are on the table. He has escalated rhetoric with the president of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un. He has all but said, war is the only option. And now Vice President Pence is attending the Winter Olympics in South Korea to ratchet up tensions.
This parade is an attempt to increase emotional zeal and pride in the U.S. populace for our Armed Forces. It is an effort to quash dissent by elevating U.S. military prestige and daring anyone to speak against, "the heroes that protect us". He is attempting to pave the way for an attack on North Korea that will not be questioned without looking as if dissenters hate this country and will not support the men and women defending us.
But this is only part of his larger effort to change the meaning of our democracy. If this president is allowed to continue to increase his personal power, by default it will increase the power of the executive branch, with the military as the nation's central institution. This is the natural outcome of years of abdication by Congress, (both Republican and Democrat) to hold the executive branch accountable for the conduct of endless wars with no boundaries, bloated military budgets, extrajudicial killings and torture, while also giving the executive branch limitless tools for surveillance.
This is a parade, not about service members, but about a delusional president who sees himself as the American strongman. The parade is one more step towards making his delusion our reality.

2/10 encuentro5 Peña "African Heritage Influence and Resistance in the Diaspora/Herencia Africana, su influencia y resistencia en la Diáspora"

Please join us at encuentro 5 On Saturday, February 10, 2018 at 7:pm to
commemorate and celebrate African Heritage influence and Resistance in
the Diaspora in the Americas especially in the united states ofnorth
America {USNA).

*9A Hamilton Place across from Park St. train station (Green and Red
lines) and next to Orpheum Theater.*

We will honor our ancestors by sharing pieces of history not widely
known or spoken about, such as the African-Native Americans.

The Indigenous Peoples of the Americas who themselves had been enslaved
(before Africans were kidnapped, transported to this part of the world
and enslaved)maintained collaborative relationships with Africans. This
is a piece of history not mentioned or included in USNA textbooks.

Join us on this journey and enjoy African Heritage influences in music,
dance and food throughout the Americas and Caribbean..Bring and or share
Afrocentric music, instruments song and stories.We have organized a
diverse program and need you to help make this a memorable evening!

*/To view flyer/* <>

/El Sábado 10 de febrero /

/esperamos a las 7:pm para conmemorar y celebrar la herencia Africana,
su influencia y resistencia en la Diáspora en las Américas especialmente
en los estados unidos de norte América./*9A Hamilton Place acruzar de
estación de Park St. (lineas verde-roja) y alado del teatro Orpheum.**//*

/Honraremos a nuestros ancestros compartiendo historias que nos son muy
conocidas ni difundidas. Entre estas historias, que no se incluyen
comúnmente en libros de texto en estados unidos de norte américa, se
encuentran las de relaciones colaborativas entre los pueblos originales
de américa (fueron esclavizados previamente antes de los africanos) y
los africanos que fueran secuestrados y esclavizados también en estas
tierras. /

/Les invitamos a participar y compartir con nosotros en este viaje para
disfrutar ejemplos y expresiones artísticas y culinarias diversas que la
Influencia y herencia africana nos prestan./

/Compartan sus historias personales, poesías instrumentos musicales
típicos y canciones./

/Hemos /

/ un
​cultural  con artistas ​
 para este evento y necesitamos de su participación y apoyo para que
esta celebración sea inolvidable!!!/

*/para ver volante /*

​ Fo/r more information/para mas información (617) 922-5744
<tel:%28617%29%20922-5744> /​

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