In my mind, there’s little doubt that Barak Obama will go down in history as one of our greatest presidents. He is presiding over a country almost as torn by divisions as it was in the Civil War. Our greatest presidents come out of troubled times.
You would have to be totally blind if you ignored the fact that the source of the strident words is one thing–pure unadulterated racism. It’s there on the faces of the tea party goers. It’s there on the faces of even the suavest of Republican politicians. They can’t hide the otherwise inexplicable hatred writ large on their pasty visages.
Years ago I was much more tolerant of Republicans than I am now. As a journalist, I covered a lot of Republican politics. I became a drinking buddy with Ed Reinecke, the former California lieutenant governor and congressman who went to prison for 18 months in the Watergate scandal. I always felt he was a patsy, taking the fall for other higher ups who should have been not just been sent to jail, but given a fair trial and then hung. We both liked women and booze and had a belief that the Warren report lied about who killed John Kennedy.
As part of my duties in covering politics, I used to go to Republican parties in the late ’60s where I regularly flirted with Maureen Reagan, daughter of the then California governor. She loved her father, but also knew that he was not the sharpest knife on the shelf. She hated Nancy, her stepmother, who had turned her father from Democratic to Republican politics. Her mother was Jane Wyman, who divorced her husband in part because of their political differences. Read more
Our Gaza correspondent, Mohammad S. Arafat
By MOHAMMAD S. ARAFAT
I don’t think that the story of mothers told in this article is unique to Gaza where I live. I think it’s a story that can be found not only in Arabic nations, but in many other countries in the world, in London and perhaps New York. The names of the mother and the son are being withheld, for reasons I think you will find obvious. A friend of mine got this letter from his mother and it affected him a lot. You’ll see when you read it. His mother called her son harsh.
To my dear son who I loved and still love and will love forever.
I don’t know where to begin. I’m not even sure how to say it. But I know there are things that must be said. I’m talking about things that have been on my mind for a quarter of a century. You should listen to what I say. My neighbours tried to persuade me to tell you my story, your mother’s stories, in the way they thought best, but I realised I had to chose my way so you can understand what I have learned in this lifetime. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
As I thumbed through my copy of Tony Verna’s entertaining memoir, “Instant Replay,” I became mesmerized by the pictures in the book’s photo section of the celebrated figures he had worked with during his long television career. There were pictures of him with Jonathan Winters, Joe DiMaggio, Kirk Douglas, President Ronald Reagan, Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul II.
I sent my old friend an email alerting him of one significant omission—a picture of him and God. He immediately shot back, “I’ll be seeing ‘Him’ soon enough.” Read more
A Short History of Progress. Ronald Wright. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2004. 211 pp.
Generally I don’t pay attention to very short books that try to trace the entire history of the human race, and worse, present the author’s pet theory of why we are now on the verge of collapse. Ronald Wright tackles this daunting task in an undersized binding, 8 X 5.5 inches, and a text before notes and index that runs to only 132 pages in a generous sized type. Still, he has an ear for the mot juste, a sure sense for the revealing anecdote, and a theory that, even in this highly abbreviated presentation, rings true.
The theory is the progress trap. The first great progress trap was the invention of spears and bows and arrows for hunting. The earliest stone tools date back three million years, at the dawn of the Old Stone Age, which lasted until the most recent retreat of the Ice Age glaciers 12,000 years ago. The revolution in hunting weaponry, which Wright suggests may also have been used to exterminate our closest hominid relatives, solidified around 15,000 years ago. By that time humans were established on all the continents exceptAntarctica. Read more
Sonji Kimmons (photo by Susan McRae)
By LIONEL ROLFE
I see my friend Sonji Kimmons as kind of a metaphor for this country’s relationship to its collective soul. Sonji grew up in South Los Angeles–her mother was a nurse at the County-USC Medical Center. She sang gospel in church and when she was 13 cut some of her own 45s with Dot Records, one of the archetypical Blues music labels. It wasn’t until she got to Europe that she forged a really good concert career as a jazz pianist and singer. She’s been back in Los Angeles since just before the turn of the Millennium. She returned because her mother was sick. But of late she’s developing an obsession–it’s time to return to Europe where she was treated as the real artist that she is.
America has a history of allowing Europe to recognize its greatest talents first. The greatest American writer of all times, Mark Twain, was dismissed as little more than a humorous newspaper columnist and raconteur of the California Gold Rush. It was the English who first realized his importance. Read more
By Honey van Blossom
(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste.)
Tina Fey won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. My daughter and granddaughter howled to her Bossypants Audiobook on their drive to Conquered. To laugh at the lovely Fey’s humor would be, for me, like laughing at Martian jokes of there are Martians and if they tell jokes or like laughing at Turkish humor.
Turkish humor is an oxymoron like industrial parks or military intelligence or marijuana initiative. A former colleague from Turkey – Zeynep — was funny.
Once she said something, and it was funny, and I could not breathe. My head only got larger. She said, “I know. Turks aren’t funny.” I later learned she was a Kurdish Turk. Not any of the Kurdish Turks I met when I lived in Turkey were funny and there’s also a good chance they think the term Kurdish Turk is an oxymoron.
When I mispronounced Turkish words, no Turks laughed but only looked at me with alarm. Who would know that the Turkish word “to squeeze out (laundry)” sounds almost exactly like the word for “to have sexual intercourse?” Not many I bet. It wasn’t my fault what happened next. I also could not ever get straight whether the curse on taxi drivers was, “I jump in your grandfather’s mouth” or “I shit in your grandfather’s mouth.”
I once asked a trick question on an exam on LA history: what is a zoot suit? An Armenian answered, “A law suit that goes really fast.” I’m open to the possibility Armenians are funny — after all, there was Saroyan.