Real Patriotism In America

Real Patriotism In America
27 September 2017

The essence of PATRIOTISM is doing your fair share to help support the public welfare of the nation you call your own.

That “fair share” can be in the form of:

(1) equitable taxation (not the case in the U.S. today, corporations are robbing the nation; that is what the Republican Party and most of the Democratic Party are paid to do); and/or

(2) accepting the hazards of military service, as well as national emergency services (like the Coast Guard with rescues at sea during storms); and/or

(3) working in the many occupations and agencies that maintain the well-being of the public (e.g., pubic health, family services, fire fighting, persevering as under-paid educators, some of the nation’s cops, etc.), and

(4) maintaining vital infrastructure (e.g., roads, bridges, airline safety).

While you are “free” to devote your life in the U.S.A. entirely to making money for yourself, it is definitely unpatriotic to:

(5) use your intelligence (i.e., college education, especially if from a publicly funded school, and all colleges get some public money),

(6) use your money-wealth (like Trump, the Koch brothers, and the “1%”), and

(7) use your corporate and political connections

to try to take money and opportunities away from the public by cornering markets, getting special subsidies, monopolizing essential markets (as the banking and insurance industry does today with “health care”), destroying middle- and lower- class occupations to your gain (“offshoring,” corporate buy-outs with pension fund raiding), and generally just being a selfish gouging son-of-a-bitch/daughter-of-a-bitch.

It is all obvious.

The truly patriotic attitude is “all for one and one for all” (the “all” meaning “all people,” the “for” meaning “pitching in to help” not “getting used and suckered,” and the “one” meaning YOU!).

The truly unpatriotic attitude is: I, me, mine, and to hell with you unless I can use you.

In brief, socialism (in democratic form) is patriotism.

People who “can’t” understand this are simply trying to dissemble to defend their intrinsic selfishness without appearing in public as what they really are: parasites.

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The Real Inside Job

The Wall Street capitalism imposed by the banking and finance industries (FIRE: finance, insurance, real estate) is a gambling, loan sharking, shakedown and money laundering racket, with the US military as its international goon squad enforcement arm, which puts the muscle on the marks. Smedley Butler spelled it all out long ago.

While the US military is 60% to 90% parasitic economic bloat passing itself off as “patriotic service,” a minority of it is of substantial benefit to the public good. The US military and spying complex is the largest segment of American society that is 100% socialist, but in the Stalinist mold. There are lots of freeloaders in it, but there are also many unknown active duty military people and veterans who are national treasures of self-sacrifice and service for the public good.

Donald Trump, our parasite-in-chief, is a paragon of the character (lack of), culture (lack of) and moral squalor of the FIRE type of racketeers, high and low. These banksters, grifters, grafters and one-percenters divide people into two categories: the deserving (themselves) and the undeserving, which is everybody else. The undeserving are of two types: useful idiots (voluntary victims) and expendable slaves (involuntary victims).

The biggest “inside job” going on in the U.S.A. is that the FIRE racketeers have taken over the US government and are working to deepen their skim from the US Treasury and the public, under the feeble cover of Trump Bubble demagoguery.

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I Am Puerto Rico, So Are You

I Am Puerto Rico, So Are You
26 September 2017

The island of Puerto Rico has been destroyed by Hurricane Maria, and remains in ruins and with little outside assistance for about a weak now. What should be done?

The U.S. could (if it wanted to) send an aircraft carrier (or two or three) to Puerto Rico, and use its nuclear reactor as a power source for basic needs in San Juan (where it would most likely dock). It could offload mobile hospital units (MASH) and truck and/or helicopter such units to more remote locations; such units would include gasoline/diesel generators. Additionally, there are Marine units designed to set up helicopter landing zones and other forward bases (as in Vietnam), which today include the ability to set up some solar power systems (for very local electric power), as well as drone systems (for reconnaissance) to search for and locate places/people most in need of help. The US military also has hospital ships (as in Vietnam, during the US war), that could treat the most seriously injured, transported (by helicopter) from “the field.” The U.S. military, as well as the oil companies, have tankers that can bring in needed fuel (oil, gasoline). The US Corps of Engineers (basically the Army construction industry) can have units dispersed throughout the Island, to clear debris, repair and open up roads, and repair power lines. The combat engineers of the U.S. military (with the Navy, the famous Seabees) can also make amphibious landings and create temporary airfields and clear debris (they are intended to go into landing zones before the troops and clear mines and obstructions against amphibious assault).

One use of remote solar collector-to-electric power systems would be to power cell phone towers, and provide local cell-phone charging power outlets, so people isolated in the wrecked hinterlands can at least communicate, for both family/personal matters as well as financial matters. Establishing housing locations in sanitary conditions, with clean water and safe food available – “refugee camps” – can and should be established ASAP by combinations of the resources/forces I have mentioned. Basically, what is needed is the network of extended support services needed by US troops in a war zone – again, as in Vietnam during the US war there – only this time those being supported are Puerto Rico’s people, the victims of Hurricane Maria.

Had I been US President this would have been called into action as soon as Hurricane Maria’s winds had died down to below 60 mph at each locality on the Island. What we have now is that 6-7 days after the passing of the Mega-Weedwacker of Hurricane Maria, Trump has been prodded to make a speech – mainly to moan about the fact that bankrupt Puerto Rico “owes” billions to the vulture capitalists on Wall Street.

In my view, the abject failure to safeguard, or at least speed the rescue, of Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans during the administration of George W. Bush, and now particularly the case of Hurricane Maria devastation in Puerto Rico during the Trump Administration, is above the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for impeaching the Trump executive branch (too late for impeaching GWB, but not indicting him), and the congressional leadership, minimally of the Republican Party and probably also the Democratic Party. For Trump, I think such intentional negligence (how could it not be intentional?) rises to the point of being indictable for murder.

Would my emergency “invasion” of Puerto Rico by the US military cost money? Hell yes, a lot! But then there never seems to be a lack of billions and trillions to bomb dark-skinned people to smithereens all over the world for decades at a time. The Washington D.C. government is treating Puerto Rico like the Israelis treat the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Spanish is the primary language in Puerto Rico, and that island was conquered by the U.S. in 1898 (The Spanish American War). The residents of Puerto Rico were given US citizenship on March 2, 1917, and the U.S. (Wilson Administration) entered World War I on April 6, 1917; and men from Puerto Rico were drafted into the US military for that war and for every US war thereafter till the draft was replaced by voluntary induction in 1973. Tellingly, Puerto Rico was not given US statehood, nor allowed to have voting congressional representatives in the US government.

Realize what is happening here, the high rollers who have bought out the US government really only care about lining their pockets, and getting megalomaniacal orgasms from exercising power, and they really don’t care much about the well-being and security of the US population outside their class – the 1%, and also outside their clan-race affiliation (so Blacks, Muslims and Latinos are largely out of luck). Unless you are in one of the cared-for wealth classes, or favored “race” classes, you are only one hurricane, or tornado, or flood, or epidemic, or earthquake, or landslide, or fire away from ruin and very possibly survival.

So, instead of giving up and letting yourself end-it-all by instant gun-cop-shootout suicide, or not-so-fast suicide by opioids, or slow motion suicide by junk food, cigarettes and TV, wake up enough to find out who is actually worth voting for (let Bernie Sanders’s example be a template) and stop giving the usual pricks and prickesses your attention and ignorant support. If enough do this maybe in time we will see an improved people-oriented administration of the American Republic.

Look at the photos and news videos from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and sear this thought in your mind: I am only a 24-hour catastrophe away from those people, I am on hold to be the next destroyed Puerto Rico, we are all Americans, therefore I AM Puerto Rico.

Now, focus your outrage where it will do some good for us all.

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25 September 2017

The devastation caused in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria is shown in a series of photographs published by The Atlantic. As a matter of Constitutional duty, and simple human decency, it is essential that the Trump Administration move its ass and get assistance to the Island, much more and much faster. There are still people living in wreckage who have not been contacted since the Category 5 hurricane hit the Island about 5 days ago. The suffering and privation are universal (or almost nearly so), unsanitary conditions will spawn diseases for many if too little is done to late, and there could easily still be isolated injured and trapped people whose lives hang in the balance. Here is a clear emergency that requires a US President to act presidential, and an American government to actually demonstrate it is “exceptional.” The US news media has focused its sympathy and coverage of hurricane victims to Texas, Florida and the US Virgin Islands, and much less on Puerto Rico – where English is the second language. I see many parallels with the Palestinian Territories under Israeli Occupation. I would like it if the US Government acted so as to dispel that image from my mind.

https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2017/09/disconnected-by-disasterphotos-from-a-battered-puerto-rico/540975/

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I Am Puerto Rico, So Are You
27 September 2017
https://dissidentvoice.org/2017/09/i-am-puerto-rico-so-are-you/

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America United, A New National Anthem

America United

O beautiful for spacious skies
And amber waves of grain,
With purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
United people we,
In brotherhood
With worldwide good,
Our solidarity!

O beautiful for glorious tale
Of liberating strife,
When valiantly for love’s avail
Some gave up precious life!
America! America!
United people we
Till selfish gain
no longer stain
The banner of the free!

 

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_the_Beautiful

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Five Leftist Luminaries of My Time

Sacco and Vanzetti (anarchist cause célèbre)

The five Leftist Luminaries I want to give my impressions about are:

George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair, 25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950)

Avram Noam Chomsky (7 December 1928 – )

Eugene Louis “Gore” Vidal (3 October 1925 – 31 July 2012)

Christopher Eric Hitchens (13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011)

Alexander Claud Cockburn (6 June 1941 – 21 July 2012).

This article is an account of personal opinions and recollections, it is not a work of journalism based on exhaustive research.

George Orwell

For me, George Orwell was the essential Leftist Luminary of the second quarter of the 20th century, and he remains the source-point of political writing and criticism from the socialist point of view in the English language to this very day. I have read his two most famous novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, as well the two non-fiction works The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia. In addition, I have read Essays, a collection of “more than 240” of Orwell’s essays published by Everyman’s Library (Alfred A. Knopf), a 1370 page book. I recommend these all.

I had not previously written about George Orwell, but the following article (linked just below) mentions him along with Noam Chomsky, and a number of other historical personalities.

Left Conservatives Under Right Progressives
12 February 2016
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2016/02/12/left-conservatives-under-right-progressives-2/

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Noam Chomsky

In the fields of Linguistics, Political Philosophy and Political Criticism, Noam Chomsky is the equivalent of Albert Einstein to physics. Chomsky is the essential Leftist Luminary of the second half of the 20th century, and to this day. Besides being most brilliant and authoritative, he is supremely moral, ethical and gentlemanly. He is a man of deep feeling for humanity (read At War With Asia): a mensch. I have read many of Chomsky’s books, essays, articles and tracts. If you have not read him, The Chomsky Reader (edited by James Peck) and Deterring Democracy are excellent places to start.

The only article I have written about Noam Chomsky is this:

On Reading “At War With Asia,” by Noam Chomsky
20 June 2012
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2012/06/20/on-reading-at-war-with-asia-by-noam-chomsky/

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Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal was a Left Luminary author of fiction and political criticism, which both served the purpose of being witty intellectual entertainment. Vidal was very much a media star renowned for his appearances on television talk (and argument) shows. Essential to Vidal’s image was his projection of absolute overconfidence, and command of his material, giving him a withering authority expressed pithily in either the spoken or written word. I have read numbers of his essays (I read more non-fiction than fiction), and these may ultimately be what he is remembered for instead of his mainly historical novels, which were very popular during his lifetime.

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Christopher Hitchens

Chris Hitchens was a brash, outrageous and witty Left Luminary and intellectual entertainer in the Gore Vidal mode, but even more bristley. He was a confrontational person that assaulted rather than persuaded points of view that differed from his own. Hitchens succeeded in maintaining his very public career as a pundit even after heedlessly dashing the expectations of his original and most faithful audience, when he flipped from being a scathing leftist critic of US militarism and imperialism to a vociferous allegiance to George W. Bush’s “war on terror” (i.e., on Islamist militants) after the 9-11 attacks. The events of 11 September 2001 completely shocked and shook him, and he was characteristically and explosively indelicate about expressing his reformed view of international relations. Hitchens career success after 2001 was analogous to that of Bob Dylan’s after 1965, when Dylan trampled cacophonously on the expectations of his gentle folk music devotees by erupting onto the folk-pop music scene with an all-out rock-and-roll band and persona.

The memorial article I wrote soon after Christopher Hitchens died is this:

Christopher Hitchens, Coyote, or Saint Paul?
2 January 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci36.html

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Alexander Cockburn

Alex Cockburn was a close contemporary of Christopher Hitchens, also a product of the United Kingdom (an Irishman who went to boarding school in Scotland, and received his university education in England). Cockburn was essentially Hitchens’s twin as regards his US Leftist Luminary persona and highly sharpened attention-getting literary style, and he was also an intellectual entertainer. Both Cockburn and Hitchens assumed themselves to be hip Leftist Luminaries and projected that enthusiasm (presumptuousness?) as a supreme self-confidence that could at times reach the point of arrogance.

Where Cockburn and Hitchens differed significantly was in consistency of ideological commitment. Unlike Hitchens’s precipitous swing from left to right, Cockburn never wavered in his Stalinist-derived ideology.

Alexander Cockburn’s father, Claud Cockburn, was an Irish communist journalist during the Spanish Civil War, and also secretly a propaganda agent of the USSR. Claud Cockburn wrote some factually inaccurate news accounts of the fighting in Spain that were very favorable to the Republican side (despite them suffering a disastrous loss), which was being aided by Stalin’s foreign intervention. These false accounts were purportedly justified as helping buck up international socialist resolve to the anti-fascist (anti-Francoist) cause.

However, Stalin’s main concern was to directly control communist parties and socialist movements worldwide, and Stalin’s military, spy and police agents were vigorously undermining communist and socialist parties not obedient to the Kremlin, and having the leaders of such independent parties executed. One victim of this secret purge (during the “May Events” of 1937 in Barcelona) was the leader of the POUM, a small independent communist party in Spain that George Orwell had joined to fight against the fascists (led by Francisco Franco). It was Orwell who exposed Claud Cockburn (read Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia), and Claud subsequently lost his credibility, and with Stalin’s favor now replaced by his ire, and he lost his Irish foreign correspondent newspaper job and had to return to Ireland and Scotland.

Claud Cockburn later married for a third time, to a woman of means with whom he had three sons, the eldest being Alexander Cockburn. Claud continued with his literary career, and one product of it was the comic novel Beat the Devil, which American film director John Huston turned into a 1950s movie that was not too successful even though it starred Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre, and Robert Morley.

I was motivated to learn this story about Alexander Cockburn’s father, after an e-mail exchange with Alex in which he surprised me by scathingly dismissing my admiration for George Orwell.

Alex Cockburn was vituperatively critical (in his editorials in Counter Punch, his magazine with Jeffrey St. Clair) of the character of Christopher Hitchens. Cockburn’s ire was aimed not just at Hitchens’s ideological reversal of 2001, but at a graver sin in Cockburn’s eyes: betraying by ratting out on an earlier colleague who was in the crosshairs of a US government witch hunt. As I recall, the designated victim had been a left-liberal friend of both Hitchens and Cockburn, and he was being set up by government investigator-prosecutors as the culprit of some political-financial activity the government (the administration of George W. Bush) was seeking to criminalize in order to silence a critic of the regime. This is all plausible, as Hitchens never sued Cockburn for libel.

These US-from-the-UK Leftist Luminary battling twins, sadly, were fatally stricken with cancer at nearly the same time, with Hitchens dying first and Cockburn seven months later. Cockburn was entirely closed-mouth about his disease, which was only disclosed when his death was publicly announced. In contrast, Hitchens was completely open and publicly confessional, in print and on video, about his disease throughout its entire course. Cockburn was acerbically critical of what he viewed as Hitchens’s mawkish attention-getting, so in contrast to Cockburn’s own tight-lipped reserve during his own demise.

These were sad endings of the public presences of the Twin Battling Berserkers of Hip Modern Leftist Luminosity in the United States. A similarly sad and publicly sour ending of an American Leftist Luminant (as subsequently revealed by the legal battle over his will) was that of Gore Vidal, ten days after Alexander Cockburn’s final exit.

I hope that for both Cockburn and Hitchens the private within-the-family passings were as peaceful and loving as can be had for such an event. For Cockburn I have no doubt it was; for Hitchens I don’t know; and for Vidal I know it was not.

I believe that Alex Cockburn was always jealous of Christopher Hitchens for being more successful at accomplishing what they both wanted to accomplish in their careers: public recognition as major pundits. It seems to me as if Hitchens, despite his character flaws and likely ethical lapses, always threw shade on Alex Cockburn, even if unconsciously and unintentionally, and that Alex deeply resented this because he saw himself as the significantly more ethical man. I can’t judge.

I did not know Christopher Hitchens personally. From my several (not many) interactions with Alexander Cockburn, I have no doubt he was an ethical person and good family man. My only significant criticism of Alexander Cockburn is that he was inflexibly ideological and this inflexibility, much more than his lack of scientific knowledge, could even undermine his usually sterling ability for critical thinking – his ability to be rational and logical – on matters of science like climate change.

The memorial article article I wrote the night Alexander Cockburn died is this:

My Memorial for Alexander Cockburn
11 August 2012
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2012/08/11/my-memorial-for-alexander-cockburn/

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In Conclusion

Of my five 20th century Leftist Luminaries only Noam Chomsky, the third oldest, is still wonderfully alive and will complete his 89th year in December 2017.

For me, the lesson I think it is reasonable to draw out of this review of Leftist Luminaries is to value the honest and helpful insights offered by the thought-provoking, elegant and entertaining works of five very human men, who were clearly motivated in no small part by a sense of solidarity with the rest of humanity in the timeless quest for the lessening of life’s pains, and the emergence of a better and brave new world.

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Why I Think As I Do

The essence of who I am is the result of the loving care and thoughtful, generous upbringing I received from my parents. I was lucky in this regard, and very grateful for it. Beyond that, the most significant influences on the development of my way of thinking are, in rank order:

(1) Science,

(2) Buddhism and Taoism (Daoism),
as explained by Alan W. Watts,

(3) Carl Gustav Jung,

(4) George Orwell,

(5) Noam Chomsky,

(6) Decision Theory,
as formulated by Richard C. Jeffrey.

The events, or historical periods, or societal factors, or movements that I experienced and/or lived through (after 1958), and which had the most significant impacts on the development of my way of thinking are, in rank order:

(1) Vietnam War,

(2) Cuban Revolution, and the US war against it,

(3) World Energy Crises and Needs,

(4) Environmentalism.

Beyond all the above, I was influenced by art (mainly Old Masters and Impressionist paintings), literature (mainly classic novels) and music (mainly classical music). If you are curious about those cultural influences on me, you can search this blog for my articles on art (if any), books and music, and get some idea of what kind of cultural influences affected the development of my way of thinking.

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Hallelujah Armageddon

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Lumpers versus Splitters:
Incoherent hopes for socialism excluded
by relentless sociopaths driven to punish.

Blind:
A shrinking island of increasing opulence,
to a surrounding ocean of deepening ruin.

U.S. foreign policy is imperialism,
its economic policy is militarism,
its domestic policy is colonialism, and
its management policy is patronism.

American politics is how Money talks to itself.

The glory of American Capitalism:
There is nothing we can’t ignore today
and commercialize tomorrow.
“Nuclear Climate Change War:
How We Became Extinct.”
The greatest TV Series of all time:
Beautiful people unlike you
doing things you can’t afford to,
having thrills you’ll never know,
and getting rewards you’ll never see.
You’ll love it!
And forget your dreary lives for hours!
And buy the crap the commercials push
to keep your illusions alive
of connection to the fantasy.
We want your money, not you:
die broke, and thank you!

American Capitalism is too important
to let human survival get in its way.

The job of American police
is to enforce the race laws.
These are clearly understood
but not written down
to protect the egos of the privileged.
The crimes of all those arrested
are the same: existing.
The punishments vary:
impoverishment,
exclusion,
incarcerated torture,
execution.
The application of punishments is random.
The American Judiciary is paid to
protect the owners from the dispossessed.
The purpose of the High Courts is
to protect Capital from Democracy.
The purpose of the Low Courts is
to protect Property from The Poor.
Justice is incidental.
Am I being unfair?
Get arrested, then tell me.

Okay, now go pay your taxes —
for their government.

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My Favorite Classics

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This article originally appeared as:

My Favorite Classics
30 July 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci51.html

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Books

•   History Of The Peloponnesian War (~411 BC), by Thucydides (English translation by Rex Warner, Penguin Books)

A coolly analytical and psychologically probing account of the 5th century BC war between Athens and Sparta. War is the continuation of politics by violent means. Thucydides’s insights on the hows and whys of war and rebellion: democracy devolving to demagoguery, subversion, mutiny, revolt, atrocities, revolution, conquest, dictatorship, alliances, balance of power, foreign intervention, hegemony, and overreach, are timeless. This is a book for the ages.

•   The Three Musketeers (1844), by Alexandre Dumas (English translation)

This sparkling novel is the combination of a hero tale of a young man vanquishing opposition to gain an honored place in society, with a friendship tale of men bonded by “one for all and all for one” while maneuvering around the political intrigues of their nation’s first minister and shadow ruler, to maintain their personal honor and rescue that of their spoiled and indolent royal patrons, by relying on their valor and swordsmanship. Glorious.

•   The Brothers Karamazov (1880), by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (English translation)

This is a passionate philosophical novel about the moral struggles and ethical conflicts erupting through the love affairs, hunt for wealth, spiritual quests, cognitive dissonances, and crimes of the three (or four) Karamazov brothers and their dissolute father; and an expansive intricate meditation on the fracturing of the medieval Christian mysticism of the Russian psyche impacted by 19th century industrialization, and the seepage of rationalism and nihilism in through the fissures. Epic and probing.

•   Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn (1884), by Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Mark Twain wrote that “a sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience,” and Huckleberry Finn is “a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat.” Because of his innate good character and his beneficial friendship with Jim, an escaped slave, the adolescent Huckleberry Finn comes to see black slavery and its enabling racism as morally wrong despite their being treated as upright and legally essential to American society, by the white adults of his time. This is the quintessential American novel, scintillating and funny, still fresh, still relevant, still controversial.

•   The Rebel (1951), by Albert Camus (English translation of L’Homme révolté by Anthony Bower, Vintage, 1991)

This book is a philosophy of politics exploring the idea and attitude of rebellion throughout European history. Once you rebel at allowing a particular injustice to continue, you become increasingly open to rebelling against the continuation of other injustices. This expansion of rebelliousness as a consequence of increasing awareness of injustices distinguishes the archetypal socialist from his opposite, the archetypal Tory, whose mind shuts out sympathy to remain focused on the personal association with privileging power. Allowing increased awareness of injustices to expand your rebelliousness against the powers that are indifferent to them, or cause them, brings you into community with the bulk of humanity: “I rebel, therefore we exist.”

•   The Way Of Zen (1957), by Alan Watts

A book of organic completeness, elegant clarity, and absorbing calmness on the historical development of Zen Buddhism, and the expression of its practice through the arts and as a personal attitude. Buddhist insight about the human condition emerged from Hinduism, unfolded with breathtaking expansiveness as the Mahayana school, spread from the Indian subcontinent throughout southeast Asia and north past the Himalayas to Tibet and China, where it combined with Taoism to produce the Chan Buddhism of the Tang Dynasty, and spread to Vietnam, Korea, and Japan as Zen Buddhism, the thoughtless direct experience of enlightenment. Refreshing.

Music

•   Le Nozze Di Figaro (1786), music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte

The Marriage of Figaro is an effervescent comic opera on the wiles of the servants Figaro and his fiancé Susanna to thwart the philandering intent of their master, Count Almaviva, which threatens their wedding and their prospects for continued employment, as well as grieving Countess Almaviva. After a day of madness, all ends well. Da Ponte’s witty and politically clever adaptation of Pierre Beaumarchais’s play is spirited along by Mozart’s gloriously frothy and tuneful music, a masterpiece of art.

•   Variations And Fugue On A Theme By Handel, Opus 24 (1861), solo piano music by Johannes Brahms

Brahms invented a little Baroque theme for the piano, attributing it to George Frideric Handel, and then spun a glorious series of variations on it. Every tempo and musical mood is encountered here, from sparkling songbird-like warbling one could imagine in a Rococo landscape as painted by Watteau, to the ponderous pulsations of the dark lower depths of the collective unconscious of late 19th century Europe, when God died giving birth to psychology, Marxism, evolution, and quantum physics.

•   La Bohème (1896), music by Giacomo Puccini, libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacoso

The second half of Act 1, when Mimi and Rodolfo meet and fall in love, carried along by waves of the lushest romantic music ever composed, which swirls and swells through arias (Che gelida manina, and Sì, mi chiamano Mimì) and duets (O soave fanciulla) of wondrous melodic lyricism, can lift an appreciative listener out of the deadening banality of the routine, gladdening the heart and flooding the mind with the intrinsic beauty of life. The entire opera is a cascade of music as effulgent as the splendor and heartache of love itself.

•   Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook (1956), vocalist Ella Fitzgerald, orchestra conducted and arranged by Buddy Bregman, songs composed by Cole Porter

Cole Porter’s tunefully witty songs seem to say all that can be said about living and loving in the modern America that burst out of the 1920s and raced through a turbulent 20th century. Ella Fitzgerald was the unparalleled jazz and American popular song vocalist of that century. With Ella, the words are always so clear, the emotion so simple and direct, the voice so pure, warm, radiant and natural, and the song is always perfect.

•   West Side Story (1957), musical conceived and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, film version (1961) produced and directed by Robert Wise

Romeo and Juliet replayed in 1950s Upper West Side Manhattan, a musical theatre production with high-energy singer-dancers giving life to lyrics, music, and dance that are too cool to be classical, too classical to be pop, and too with-it to ever get old. In this retelling of the tale, Romeo Montague is a Polish-American boy, Tony, whose family-of-the-streets is the white boy gang, The Jets. The Juliet Capulet here is Maria, a Puerto Rican girl who, along with many thousands of her people, has migrated from the Island, and whose older brother leads a gang of Puerto Rican turf defenders, The Sharks. It is vivid, taut, rhythmic, and moving.

•   Morrison Hotel (1970), words and music by The Doors (Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore)

The flowering of the Baby Boom generation out of its 1960s adolescence and into its first golden years of adulthood was, for many American boy-men of the time, hammered back into itself by the oppressive demands for conscript warriors and national treasure by America’s Vietnam War. I was one the war was reaching to pull in. For me, the intensity of the cognitive dissonance between experiencing the expanding consciousness of maturing youth, awakening to the many possibilities of a long and fruitful life, yet simultaneously confronting the implacable colossus of Death intent to absorb me immediately by war, is captured by the rock and roll and blues music of this unrelenting album by The Doors. Spellbinding.

Films

•   The Maltese Falcon (1941), by John Huston, with: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Elisha Cook, Jr.

Unraveling a good yarn based on Dashiell Hammett’s detective novel of the same name, The Maltese Falcon has a taut screenplay unreeled at a fast pace, memorable characters, wit, mystery, suspense, action, and a hero possessing an admirable toughness of character. An unequalled American film classic that is impossible to duplicate.

•   Casablanca (1942), by Michael Curtiz, with: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Dooley Wilson

The greatest Hollywood movie ever. Why? Because it is about the triumph of character despite the selfish desire for love, and despite the onset of dark times with corrupting ideologies. In this story, a very regular and emotionally-damaged guy comes to realize that maintaining an incorruptible character is his greatest asset. From this, he can redirect his life into a principled fight against the evils of his time, and find fulfillment in that choice even with no guarantee that he and the other defenders of decency, freedom, and human dignity will be successful, or that he will survive. But, we know he will.

•   The Big Sleep (1946), by Howard Hawks, with: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Dorothy Malone, Sonia Darrin, Charles Waldron, Elisha Cook, Jr., Bob Steele, Louis Jean Heydt

A tangled detective story based on Raymond Chandler’s novel of the same name, unraveled in a most fascinating way, with lingering ambiguities, and accompanied by many witticisms, spasms of action, and numerous instances of exquisitely-sexual repartee. Perhaps having a future Nobel laureate as one of the screenwriters (William Faulkner) helped produce a film that rewards endless viewing. This is the ultimate hard-boiled detective story, “it has all that the Falcon had, and more.”

•   Seven Samurai (1954), by Akira Kurosawa, with: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima, Yukiko Shimazaki

This cinema masterpiece appeared nine years after Japan’s devastating defeat in the Pacific War and at the start of its four decades of amazing economic growth. In this film, Kurosawa and his collaborators looked to Japan’s past with new postwar eyes and hopes focused on the future. This film’s vitality reflected the resurgence of Japanese society, remembering its cultural wisdom and capacity for endurance as embodied in Zen and samurai traditions, while reinventing itself into a late 20th century Asian Tiger economy. The film itself has a wonderful screenplay, visually stunning photography (Kurosawa shone lights into mirrors and onto faces to make them glow, and dyed the rain black sprayed by fire trucks); and the pacing never falters whether in quiet and intimate scenes, comedy, expansive and majestic scenes, or during the fury and chaos of battle. “This is the nature of war. By protecting others, you save yourself.”

•   Lawrence Of Arabia (1962), by David Lean, with: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, José Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Wolfit, I. S. Johar

This is an epic about an Englishman’s romance for adventure ripening into bitter wisdom, by being subjected to the furious heat of desert warfare waged against Turkish artillery and mechanized forces during World War I by Bedouins with handguns on camelback. It is also an epic about “the great game,” the unprincipled schemes of European imperialists to gain control of the sources of the world’s petroleum, and of the related struggles by “the natives,” the many poor, dark-skinned populations living atop subterranean deposits of fossil wealth, to gain their independence. Finally, it is a story about love through companionship, and of the psychological scarring caused by rejection. This film is a glorious widescreen color epic with lush and rapturous music, and a stupendous cast with each member playing his part perfectly. Magnificent.

•   The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974), by Richard Lester, with: Oliver Reed, Faye Dunaway, Christopher Lee, Michael York, Raquel Welch, Charlton Heston, Richard Chamberlain, Frank Finlay, Simon Ward, Geraldine Chaplin, Jean-Pierre Cassel

These two scintillating films are the two halves of the perfect “Three Musketeers” movie. Originally intended to be shown together as a two-part epic, they were released as two separate movies a year apart because of a clash between contractual obligations to exhibitors, and the difficulties of completing the editing of the final product. These films follow Dumas’s novel reasonably closely, for which we are thankful, and the wonderfully written screenplay includes some inventive flourishes that help move the action along briskly and give the films their verve and kick. Oliver Reed at his peak embodies the character of Athos (an unmatched portrayal in my opinion), Faye Dunaway plays the malevolent Milady de Winter with delicious guile and enchantment, Christopher Lee is a superbly menacing Comte de Rochefort, Richard Chamberlain has finally given us a cinema Aramis with the wit of Dumas’s original, and the rest of the cast all play their parts delightfully. For those who love The Three Musketeers, this film is a joy for the ages.

Enjoy!

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