Commentaries - January 2010

Purging libraries

In March 1953, at the height of the Cold War, with the Rosenbergs awaiting electrocution, Senator Joe McCarthy investigated the presence of certain books in In March 1953, at the height of the Cold War, with the Rosenbergs awaiting electrocution, Senator Joe McCarthy investigated the presence of certain books in State Department-sponsored overseas libraries. One writer whose books the libraries stocked was William Mandel, United Press expert on the WW2-era Soviet Union. Roy Cohen, David Schine and McCarthy's other staff named Mandel as a member of the Communist Party. Televised throughout the U.S. and watched by 40 million viewers, Mandel's defiance of the powerful Senator was unprecedented. Here is a 30-minute preview of a film about the McCarthy-Mandel confrontation. Mandel's reasonable-toned rejoinders of senators' questions permits little entry-point for senatorial bullying and he goes on to give a fairly cogent reply to McCarthyism.

Robert Frank per Jack Kerouac

"sucked a sad poem"

After looking at the photographs to be published in The Americans, Jack Kerouac said of Robert Frank thaAfter looking at the photographs to be published in The Americans, Jack Kerouac said of Robert Frank that he had "sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film." At right is one of the 83 photographs published in the book. Kerouac wrote the preface.

David Milch's baroque cop

I've been watching episodes of season 3 of Hill Street Blues on Hulu, and discussing them with an adult "class" of a dozen or so people far flung (all by email). Here are some thoughts about the speech style of Lt. Howard Hunter and Sgt. Phil Esterhaus:

David Milch inherited the hyperbolic and circumlocutious speech of Esterhaus and Hunter, but he added the baroque grammar, upped the ironic euphemisms several notches, and made especially Esterhaus unforgetttably different from your usual TV cop.

About Hunter: I never warmed to that character at all. I enjoyed episodes in which Hunter's law-'n-order ideology directly conflicted with Henry Goldbloom's the-less-fortunate-are-not-to-blame liberalism, because at such moments other characters (including Furillo) had to take sides, and not predictably. But when Hunter's conservatism was ridiculed and left dangling as a non-starter (as in "Trial by Fury"--in the bathroom scene) I have the feeling that dialogue is being wasted for mere satire.

Bob Brown revived by Craig Saper

the word is out


I'm completely thrilled and grateful that Craig Saper--one of my favorite quirky teacher-scholar-writers--has been putting so much effort into focusing attention on the work of Bob Brown. Craig is working on a Bob Brown biography. He's just recently edited and re-published Words, working with the Rice University Press on a paper and web version. My printed copy is on its way from Texas, but I've looked long and hard at the web transcription and facsimile and am, as I say, thrilled.

Wallace Berman

Is this any kind of mother?


The postcard produced for the current Wallace Berman gallery show, upon which, earlier, I've commented here.