Monthly Archives: February 2005

J.G. Ballard Quotes from RE/Search!

Here’s a plug for the latest output from RE/Search, the J.G. Ballard Quotes book, a compendium of wisdom and provocation from the British novelist, known for Crash, High Rise and many more.
On Feb 24 I attended a celebration for the book at City Lights, where V. Vale hosted and seven dangerous people read their favorite quotes from the book round robin style:  Mark Pauline and a couple other SRLers, R.U. Sirius, David Pescovitz of Boing Boing and more!
I recommend buying Quotes (direct from the publisher) and giving it to any impressionable young people you know.

Joe – 1970 film with Peter Boyle

Last night I watched the DVD of “Joe” from 1970. This was a very low-budget film that introduced Peter Boyle (as well as Susan Sarandon), and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Despite the over-the-top ending that seems to sit in-between ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and ‘Taxi Driver’ I thought this film was very revealing of certain undercurrents that have been with us for forty years now.

It gets off to a rather slow start getting the story set up (with Sarandon as a junkie). But then it shifts gears completely as we first see Boyle, sitting at a bar, looking directly into the camera, ranting at “The niggers, the niggers get all the money.” Boyle is Joe Curran, a blue collar worker from Astoria who’s got a few gripes, not only about the blacks and welfare, but also about the rich kids and hippies who are doing drugs and ‘or-gees’ and spreading it to all the other kids. As the movie goes on, it does a nice job of portraying the attraction/repulsion that Joe has for what the younger generation is up to.  He talks about his sons, but we never see them – they are apparently always ‘out.’

What was interesting about the film to me was that it seemed to really get at the resentments stirred up in the sixties, strong feelings that I believe are still fueling the ‘anti-liberal’ sentiments we see today. Another line from Joe’s rant: “Forty two percent of liberals are queer.” Joe hates what’s going on, and wants his piece of it.

Roger Kennedy @ Long Now, 11-Feb-2005

Roger Kennedy was the speaker at this month’s Long Now talk.  Kennedy’s had a distinguished career, acting as Director of the National Park Service in the nineties, and as Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History from 1979-1992.  I’ll try to give a summary of what he had to say, which was given the title "The Political History of North America from 25,000BC to 2100AD."

He began by showing some slides indicating the sites of major North American civilization that were booming in the period around 1200-1400AD.  They were (1) at the conjunction of the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers (2) at the bend of the Tennessee river and (3) along the Savannah river in Georgia.  We apparently know very little about the people who lived in these areas (Kennedy wrote a book called Hidden Cities that presumably discusses this and much more).  By the time white folks came into these areas, they were largely uninhabited, but mound remains were obvious.  However he felt it was obvious to the founding fathers that there had been past periods of activity, and that this somehow had a strong impact on the likes of Jefferson and Washington.  I’d like to find out more about this topic.

He then talked about the movements of Native Americans around the continent, and compared that to what’s happening now in America – the emptying of the plains.  Americans are moving to the south and west, areas that happen to be very prone to fire, particularly if temperatures were to rise a bit more. 

His main message was that there are cycles, periods of reform where great things can be achieved, and periods of lethargy.  Kennedy’s view of American history identifies these periods of reform: 1830s – a drive to stop the near pandemic of alcholism, 1860s – he felt it was ultimately about ending slavery, 1910s – progressive movement, 1940s – fighting fascism, 1960s – a new consciousness about the earth. His feeling was that the events of 9/11 had the additional unfortunate effect of short-circuiting a new period of reform.  His belief is that it is possible to use moral will in leadership to avoid impending disasters, but characterized the current leadership as "selfish" and "bigoted" (Kennedy is a lifelong Republican who would "like his party back").  All in all an optimistic view, and an inspiring talk.