Saturday, December 18, 2010

two planes collide over Park Slope

Reporters at the New York Times have spent a lot of time lately re-reporting the crash of two commercial flights over the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. They've discovered some (obvious) big changes in the way such disasters are covered by the media, but they've also unearthed a slice-of-history sense of how such a neighborhood was enduring a "transition" (white flight) and how newspapers tended to ignore the social background.

Daniel Bell

In Daniel Bell's The End of Ideology (1960) he waits until the epilogue to deal the final death blow to the 1930s. Much of the book implicitly denigrates the "chiliastic" passions and utopianism of intellectuals of that decade. The fifties and, he predicts, the 1960s will be a quiet time or moderated passions and adult choices, compromise and centrism. Here, below, are the first paragraphs of a subsection of the epilogue:

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The Loss of Innocence in the Thirties

FOR A SMALL GROUP, the thirties have a special meaning. These are the individuals who went through the radical movement and who bear, as on invisible frontlets, the stamp of those years on their foreheads. The number is small. Of the four million college and high-school youths, less than twenty thousand, or one-half of one per cent, took part in radical activity. But, like the drop of dye that suffuses the cloth, this number gave the decade its coloration.

A radical is a prodigal son. For him, the world is a strange place whose contours have to be explored according to one's destiny. He may eventually return to the house of his elders, but the return is by choice, and not, as of those who stayed behind, of unblinking filial obedience. A resilient society, like a wise parent, understands this ritual, and, in meeting the challenge to tradition, grows.

But in the thirties, the fissures were too deep. Seemingly, there was no home to return to. One could only march forward. Everybody seemed to be tramping, tramping, tramping. Marching, Marching was the title of a prize-winning proletarian novel. There were parades, picketing, protests, farm holidays, and even a general strike in San Francisco. There was also a new man, the Communist. Not just the radical--always alien, always testing, yet open in his aims -- but a hidden soldier in a war against society.

In a few short years, the excitement evaporated. The labor movement grew fat and bureaucratized. The political intellectuals became absorbed into the New Deal. The papier-mache proletarian novelists went on to become Hollywood hacks. And yet it is only by understanding the fate of the prodigal sons and the Communists that one can understand the loss of innocence that is America's distinctive experience of the thirties.

Murray Kempton, in his book Part of Our Time, has looked at the small band who dreamed, and who--because of having a dream "possessed no more of doubting"--sought to impress that dream into action. But in action, one defies one's character. In some, the iron became brittle, in some it became hard; others cast the iron away, and still others were crushed. In the end, almost all had lost the dream and the world was only doubt.

The story opens, naturally enough, with Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers. Kempton retells the familiar story, but with a special nuance. What united the strange pair was their symbiotic relation to Baltimore, a mildewed city which was Kempton's home and whose musty character he captures so well. Hiss, from a shabby, genteel Baltimore family, fled its faded elegance to meet Chambers, the tortured man from the underground, who settled gratefully into its Victorian dust. Each found, in the secret craving of the other, the lives they were rejecting, until, locked in defeat, they both sank beneath the waters.

The story spreads out and touches on the writers attracted by the myth of the revolutionary collective, the "rebel girls," the militant labor leaders, the youth movement, and others who were riding the crest of history's waves. it is not a formal history of the left, but a series of novellas. What gives it its special cast and enormous appeal is the elegiac mood, the touch of adolescent ache in the writing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

1960 symposium recordings now available

Install the Flash plugin to watch this video.

Now available at PennSound:

* segmented audio recordings of Snelson on Cage, Kaufman on Guest, Perelman on Donald Allen, Nichols on Berkson/O'Hara, Silliman on Duncan, Goldman on Brooks, Funkhouser on Mac Low, Gallagher on Baraka, Hennessey on Daisy Aldan, DuPlessis on O'Hara, and Bernstein on Eigner;

* audio recording of the complete program (downloadable mp3)

* video recording of the complete program

Click on the video player above for (obviously) the video, or go here for links to the video and all audio: link.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

versions of Ike's speech on military-industrial complex

The archives show many versions of Eisenhower's farewell address warning of the military-industrial complex. The speech was delivered in January 1961, just before JFK took office. But versions of the idea and even of the speech itself date through 1960.

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New York Times
December 10, 2010
In Archive, New Light on Evolution of Eisenhower Speech

The phrase that would emerge as the most enduring legacy of what became, arguably, the most famous farewell address since George Washington’s evolved over 20 months and was agreed to only a few days before it was delivered.

The words, in a speech by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, were transformed from a warning against a “war-based industrial complex” into a “vast military-industrial complex” and finally into a more vanilla “military-industrial complex,” which seemed controversial enough without the qualifier.

Documents released Friday by the National Archives shed new light on the genesis of the phrase in the televised address, which Eisenhower delivered on Jan. 17, 1961, three days before his successor’s inauguration.

In the final version, the president recalled that until recently the nation had no permanent arms industry, that “American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well,” but said that the country could no longer risk “emergency improvisation of national defense.” An adequate military establishment and arms industry were vital, he said, but their conjunction and “its total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” also had “grave implications.”

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” Eisenhower warned. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”

In the version he read from that night, those words were underlined. Several were typed in capital letters.

The newly released letters, memos and speech drafts — 21 in all — were received by the National Archives from Grant Moos, whose father, Malcolm, was Eisenhower’s special assistant and chief speechwriter.

“It’s probably the most important farewell address of the modern era,” said Karl Weissenbach, director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kan. “And now we get to see its evolution, which started in May 1959 and didn’t end until it was delivered. We also learn the important role of Milton Eisenhower, who was instrumental in making sure that his brother’s thoughts would be correctly portrayed.”

The earliest White House memos suggesting a farewell address mentioned only an appeal for bipartisanship. But the president wrote his brother on May 25, 1959, of “the importance of getting our people to understand that local affairs have a definite relationship to foreign affairs.” A year later, another White House aide was urging the president’s speechwriter to read Washington’s farewell address, especially its warning of “overgrown military establishments.”

On Oct. 31, 1960, another speechwriter, Ralph E. Williams, warned of a “permanent war-based industry” run by former military officials.

An undated draft titled “commencement” called for “jealous precaution” (Milton Eisenhower later deleted “jealous”) by civilian authorities “to avoid measures which would enable any segment of this military-industrial complex to sharpen the focus of its own power at the expense of the sound balance which now prevails.”

The president’s staff later expressed surprise at the phrase’s durability.

“I am sure that had it been uttered by anyone except a president who had also been the Army’s five-star chief of staff, it would long since have been forgotten,” Williams recalled years later.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

1960 last night

Bob Perelman presenting on Don Allen's "New American" anthology and Mel Nichols talking about the Bill Berkson/Frank O'Hara collaboration at the 1960 symposium last night at the Kelly Writers House. Stay tuned for video and audio recordings and, later, transcripts of the discussion and various essays in response.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

they worked for Goodyear, Caterpillar, Phillips 66

In a recent essay for the New York Times, Oscar Robertson remembers the 1960 U.S. Olympic basketball team as a turning point in the sport--the last truly great amateur team.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Yves Klein, leap into the void

Yves Klein, "Leap into the Void" (1960). Le Saut dans le vide. The photograph served as the cover for Architecture de l'air (Air Architecture), published in 1961. This print I saw at the Yves Klein show at the National Gallery just yesterday; it was borrowed from the Collection Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. How ever did Klein pose this shot?

Monday, May 31, 2010

the class of 1960

Penn in 1960. Women at Penn then were part of the so-called College for Women. The now legendary dean of that segregated set-up was Jean Brownlee. I joined the faculty at Penn in 1985 (25 years ago this year) and found the rhetoric used to mention Brownlee--when she was by then mentioned at all--was mythic. I have always thought of her as supportive of the young women in the school and presumed she was quietly advocating for curricular and other forms of integration within the core of Penn life (centered on the men). But here is an informal account of one member of the class of 1960 - the two times this friend met Brownlee. Perhaps it's not at all representative but it does strike me as suggestive:
I only actually spoke to Dean Brownlee (of the College for Women) twice: once when I met with her to ask whether I could take a joint degree in English in the college and Finance or Economics in the Wharton School (she was about as nasty about me having already made a choice as anyone could have been); and then again when we were practicing law in Hartford in about 1964, at a reception for Penn alumnae at a Dr. Pepper's old mansion on the edge of Elizabeth Park, when as I walked out the door she told me how lucky I was as a female graduate to have been invited. So I shouldn't have been surprised, although I was, to learn that at opening day for the College for Women she told the assemblage of freshmen that Penn was committed to the Education of Women and that although of course they would never do anything with their educations she hoped it would make them better mothers. Better to have had my experience where the boys moved when two of us sat down in Dietrich Hall [in the Wharton School].
A student who arrived at Penn in 1966 responded:
I came to know Jean Brownlee quite well as both an undergraduate and an alum (we lived in the same apartment building). We spent many enjoyable dinners together over the years. In all the time I knew her (I matriculated in 1966), she was very supportive of women. I don't think she could conceive of total equality (and, let's face it, it hasn't happened yet), but for a woman of her generation--who did become a Ph.D and a powerful force at Penn--she was all for women being able to do whatever they wanted to do. In fact, she wrote my letter of recommendation when I applied for my MBA at the Wharton School. Jean did have an abrupt way of speaking. She was a no-nonsense person. I remember her telling me about her "chat" with Candice Bergen, who was cutting a lot of classes to model in NY. "I told her, be a Penn student or be a model. You can't do both," she said. Bergen chose modeling.
Our Class of 1960 friend responds:
Who knows how differently we would interpret events if we knew then what we know now. For many diverse reasons (among them an invalid mother), I was hell bent on attaining a situation where I could be independent and live my life on my own terms (as if anyone can) as part of the "real" world, not stuck away in a house all day. And I was very naive and very quiet and shy with thick glasses, not much of a presence or a communicator. Economics and particularly finance were interesting, but I wanted to study them for a purpose, really literature, philosophy and sociology were what I cared about and studied in my spare time whenever I could. That said I still treasure every little thing I learned in the Wharton School. It's been useful in many different ways. Since I was exposed to undisguised gender-based discriminatory behavior on a pretty constant daily basis I was more sensitive to it than the girls in the College would have been.

Anyhow, after a quick look online, I see that Dean Brownlee didn't really have much authority at that time. She wasn't even the real dean although as I remember she was considered to be in charge. She had no jurisdiction over me since I was in Wharton and I knew next to nothing about her. I was probably the only person who ever asked her if I could get degrees from two different schools at the same time (I did offer to stay at Penn longer if that was what was required).The lecture she gave about making my choice must have been her stock lecture since it sounds very similar to what she reportedly said to Candace Bergen. I couldn't feel any connection to her at all and I was really hurt - she treated me as if I had done something wrong and neeed disciplining. And I was irritated when she said that as a woman I should be so grateful to have been invited to the reception. She probably just meant (innocently from her perspective) that there had been progress in that area at Penn. I certainly wasn't perfect and was probably too quick to make a judgement.

Nevertheless, in her position, she should have had some inkling of social change in the offing. She must been able to imagine equality for herself - it wasn't that much later that she started teaching political science in the Wharton School. I can't imagine that the Dean of Women at Wellesley or Smith or Bryn Mawr would have told Freshmen girls that she knew they would never use their educations but hoped that the education would make them better mothers (that's what Brownlee reportedly said). By 1966 (the blogger's graduation date), Gloria Steinhem's book had at least raised consciousness levels and I think that Dean Brownlee was teaching in the Wharton School.

As far as having to make a choice - not being able to do two things at once\ diversity diminishing education - is ridiculous and short sighted. We had Gene Scott and Donald Dell at UVA Law School when I was there and they managed (with help and concessions of course) to play on the Davis Cup tennis team in their 2nd year. If that's all there was to Candace Bergen's situation, it would have been more productive to try to figure out a way that she could do both things. I left that room with the clear conviction that it would not make sense to study the humanities at Penn, I would have to transfer to a place that could provide a much better education than the College for Women was making available.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

1960 item by Wallace Berman

The earliest-dated item from the recent Wallace Berman show, Fall 2009-January 2010. It is untitled and dated 1960: a collaged mailer with a photograph of Shirley Berman. (The photo was taken by Wallace.) The whole thing measures 6 x 2.5 inches.

Friday, January 29, 2010

beats in Life

This is the photograph featured on the first page of a long article about the Beats written by Paul O'Neil for the November 30, 1959 issue of Life. Carefully posed squalor.

Celan's Meridian

On October 22, 1960, Paul Celan gave a speech in Darmstadt, Germany, on the occasion of receiving the Georg Buchner Prize. Here is the text of that speech--called "The Meridian"--as translated by Rosemarie Waldrop.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

field = feel

The newest episode of PoemTalk (number 27 in the series) is a discussion of Robert Duncan's prologue-poem to The Opening of the Field (1960).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

poet-to-be at Harvard

In 1960 Robert Grenier was not quite yet a student of Robert Lowell at Harvard. But Grenier was at Harvard and in my recent interview with him, we talked a good deal about the period 1959-61. Click here for more and for a link to the audio recording of the interview.

Monday, January 4, 2010

cut-up rejoinder to Life

"Writing is in fact cut-ups of games and economic behavior overheard." That's Burroughs in 1960.

The poems of Minutes to Go more responsively and interestingly render the “rounendless talk” of the world and ambient incessant language-making and -uttering than did the earlier, more coherently and singularly subjective Beat narratives such as On the Road or Howl. Because it in effect overhears the American cultural response, the Burroughs/Gysin piece titled “Open Letter to Life Magazine” responds more effectively to the sensational, erroneous, dismissive and culturally conservative Life article about the “Beat Generation” published on December 5, 1959, than would the conventional Beat rejoinder to the predictable and perhaps inevitable hegemonic absorption of the challenge represented by this ecstatic, frankly obscene, linguistically awry, anti-quietist opposition. In works like “Open Letter to Life Magazine,” that oppositional mode is very much at hand, undiminished, but with a crucial difference: the words and phrases themselves originate from the source, turned (literally) now into the Kerouacian, Ginsbergian ecstatic manner that tends to prove at least to sympathetic readers that the language of alterity is already in the American ambience. Here is the opening passage of the piece, constructed entirely of text strips from Life’s condescensing hatchet-job:

Now, not tourists visiting North Beach but the poets themselves do the staring. Whose life is suspended? Not much of an accident is required to shift the gaze back on the gazers, those curious about the Other who opts out of Americans’ hideous professional crouch. Risen from that, embackwards, they merge with street bums, opium eaters and “Negro-ruby dance rounendless talk on the truck preoccupation.” Was the latter originally a reference to pushing jalopies cross-country, to the inevitable seeking out of African-American urban neighborhood? The line—-“Negro-ruby dance rounendless talk on the truck preoccupation”-—with its internal rhymes and syncopations, seems right out of Howl, composed by the best minds of the generation, and yet it’s the work of Life’s writers. “Sample a drug,” says Life, if you only look at the language a certain way, “called heavy commitments.”

I've made available a PDF of the whole piece.

More here on Minutes to Go and Gysin's "discovery" of the cut-up method.