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.