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Off the Record (March 8, 2023)

AVA PEOPLE were kicking this big subject around today: Why are there no protest songs like the 60s & 70s?

Lazarus of Willits popped up out of his grave to offer his opinion: “Completely different scenario. In the 60s/70s, the draft was still in effect. The military was forging an active war in Vietnam. Americans were being killed in what turned out to be a pointless war… And the 60s were in a renaissance. And that only happens every 400 years, or so I’ve read. The young were better educated, there were more of us (Baby Boomers) and the media was becoming the message.”

EXCEPT FOR his odd riff about the 60’s being a renaissance I agree with Laz. I don’t know about “better educated,” but we were still pretty much print-based with music and movies the only distractions from SERIOUS PURPOSE. The diff, I guess, between now and then, print people seem better able to focus, cyber people get their information in almost subliminal blips. These days, distractions are a way of life, and us print dinos are routinely met with startled statements like, “You mean you don’t have a  cell phone?”

THE DRAFT in the Sixties forced young men to make some serious choices in the context of a huge section of the population fully aware that the War On Vietnam was based on a lie — the claim that a North Vietnamese little boat attacked one of our big boats. That lie was as big as the lie about Iraq’s non-existent nukes, and then there was the lie about those 18th century Afghans representing a threat to everything good and true to 21st century shopping malls. Re-institute the draft for all 7 (?) genders, no exceptions, and the barricades would go right up. But I think we’re going to go as the poet predicted, “Not with a bang but a whimper.” (My phone! For god’s sake where’s my phone!)

WHICH REMINDS this gaffer about a German kid I met in ‘67. He was barely able to speak English but I think he’d applied for citizenship when he got a draft notice. “What I do now?” he lamented. Very simple, my young kraut, get on a plane back to your motherland. All the jokes about Germans being authoritarian-oriented seemed to be wrapped in this one guy. A direct order from a government, any government, and his every instinct was to obey. The American instinct is to figure a way around anything ordered by the government. Last I heard he reported for duty.

I’D GONE directly into the Marines in ‘57 straight out of high school. By the time Vietnam jumped off I was in the jive reserves, whose comic weekend meetings I attended so seldom I got threatened with Vietnam if my attendance didn’t improve. Just as the Corps seemed ready to move on me, I signed up for the Peace Corps, and was no longer a lean, mean fighting machine by the end of ‘63. If I’d been born in, say, ‘43, I’d certainly have been fodder for that murderous debacle. (Funny thing about the Peace Corps was I got held up a couple of weeks in training while my background was vetted because (1) my military background — furriners might think I was a CIA agent and (2) I had a FBI file because, I supposed, I’d been hanging around “subversives.” The Peace Corps was worried I might be a Communist. Which I was, but a small ‘c’ commie, as several million of us certainly were by ‘67. 

JOHN PHILLIPS WRITES: Your question about where have all the protest songs (60/70’s) gone, got me thinking.

Here are those thoughts:

• The people that sang those songs are either dead or senile.

• While I have some experience with music (17 festival productions), I do not keep up with all the new stuff. Sometimes I see video (e.g. on Counterpunch from St. Clair), and it’s not the kind of music I would look for…lots of loud, simple lyrics, sometimes to the point of “fuck the system” kinda things.

• Part of that speaks to the void of innovative artists in the last couple of decades…again, I don’t look around much, staying within the compound of my past.

• How much “protest” is there anyway? There is Extinction Rebellion and some others I can’t recall at the moment.

• And what is there to protest? As MLK pointed out on the national stage, exploitation is universal; war is only one aspect of that. I imagine if we look closely enough, there are people singing about poverty, oligarchy, capitalism, etc. Maybe not.

• You mentioned that you meet very few “engaged” young people. I see some of that too. The 30 and 40 year olds I know are struggling to stay on top of life’s challenges (esp. without the weed economy). But this doesn’t mean they aren’t well-informed about the bigger or more overriding causes of our universal problems. Hard to write and play songs when every day is taken up with survival.

• Which plays into the times of past when perhaps we had more time. When I went to college, it was more party than study. I was not rich, in fact qualified for food stamps. It was more the attitude and the atmosphere. Maybe that time gave opportunity to be creative. It also helped that we had major protests and movements (civil rights, foreign war, women’s rights, etc.). Those times were hot and heavy. Songwriting and music was affected by all of this. Maybe the outburst of certain drugs offered insights too.

The protest music that preceded those decades (e.g. Guthrie, Seeger, etc.) gave roots to the Dylans, et al. I think there’s a lot to do with music being a reflection of the times.

That’s all I can think of at this moment. Got to sign off as my electricity is limited until PG&E gets things back up.

From over here, JP, Willits.

DEAR MR. ANDERSON: “Recently, during a regular account review, we noticed you've only been using a portion of your credit line. To better fit your card usage, we've reduced your credit limit to $5,000. We have kept your credit card limit significantly above your highest balance over the last year to ensure you can continue to use your card as you have been, while providing flexibility for future spending. Sincerely, Capital One”

TRANSLATION: Run a big balance so we can charge you extortionate interest every month. 

THE LAST TIME I even had a balance, it was $248 for which this bank charged me $39 in unexplained “fees,” and $17.6 percent in interest. Our president, as some of us will recall, strenuously represented the Delaware-based credit card companies all his years in Congress, one of many reasons he emerged from his years of “service” as a multi-millionaire.

ATTENTION GOURMETS: “I implore you and all of your readers from this general area, to please go to Mariposa Market, in Willits, and get their pot pies. Made in house, and extremely delicious. I haven’t had the steak one yet, but I’m told it’s very good. The chicken pot pie is truly amazing. I do not work for Mariposa Market, I’m just a customer who did finally get the pot pie, and I am all in on that damn pot pie. I only wish to share the gospel.”

BILL RAY WRITES: Word is that Luke Breit died. It looks like your long ago article about his life and times will be a dubious epitaph.

Mary Norbert Korte is gone, died November 14, 2022. Her memory will be honored here in Willits March 12, 2-6, at the Grange.

March 12 would have been Jack Kerouac's 101st birthday. Hitchhiking on Highway 101 in the early Fifties, he wrote that if his first book succeeded he would buy a ranch in Ukiah where writers and artists could visit to work.

 I am in on the program with Dan Roberts and Linda Noel. The NYC editors of her posthumous book will attend and speak.

Although you probably have not traveled to Willits since the Chase printing shop days, it would be good to see you — possibly to comment on poetry in Mendocino County during the last half-century. End of an era. Bill Ray, Willits

Mary Korte

ED NOTE: I'm afraid Breit wrote his own obituary, as we all do with the lives we've led. I'm saddened that he died without an obituary or any other formal announcement of his death. Lots of people knew him, but it must have been at his request there was no announcement of his passing. I was very fond of Mary, and still laugh when I remember her poem Throwing Fire Crackers Out the Window While the Ex-Husband Drives By. And I've always admired the work of you and Linda Noel. I wouldn't want to wreck the event by arguing with probably half the people present about many of Mendocino County's larger events where I've invariably found myself in the minority.

PAUL BUNYAN DAYS IS BACK on track for Labor Day Weekend 2023. With new officers and a new board, everyone is ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. It takes a lot work, volunteers, and community support, to pull off one of the largest events on the Mendocino Coast, Paul Bunyan Days. As it gets a little closer to the date, more information will be available on how you can participate, or even help, with this fun packed event.


[1] Having a sensitive and well maintained Bullshit Meter, the more ridiculous something becomes the more powerfully motivated I feel to oppose it. This particularly applies to all of the newly coined “genders,” sexual mutilation of confused adolescents, mandated obeisance to “preferred pronouns,” and the like.

In the past few years rational people have been intimidated into silently pretending that these things are reasonable and should be respected. But lately, when I call bullshit on that stuff, I am seeing a few timid souls start to blink their eyes and say “Wait! Is it ok to start pushing back?” 

Yes. It is past time to push back. A generation from now young people will rightly ridicule this stuff and those who acquiesced in it. Better to be remembered as one of those who overthrew the woke regime than as one of its acolytes.

[2] The kingdom of the antichrist will be erected from the ashes of this world, that is now entering into a world war. Proclamations of peace, will be proclaimed by the antichrist, who’s deceitful lies will be accepted as truth. In the midst of chaos and confusion, many will be appeased by a mark of damnation, that will be presented under the appearance of convenience, and necessity, for the things of this world, that brings death to the soul.

[3] a. My brother overdosed on Fentanyl in Willits. He was 26. Just a kid. Single dad. Left me his daughter. 7yr old. Her mom is a homeless addict in Ukiah as well. Her choice, heroin.

b. My condolences, everyone in these parts has a story, a loved one, a mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, cousin or family friend who has one form of addiction or another. People like those who are dealing death to our families, friends and neighbors need to be dealt the steady hand of the law. They need to be locked up for a substantial amount of time that they no longer can deal their poison disguised as drugs to our children teens and families. The people who hide these dealers, and do not report these dealers need to begin speaking out and calling the Sheriff department Tip Lines. Enough is Enough, Take Mendocino back from the death dealers! If you know of people dealing, selling it, trading Fentanyl in our community, call the Mendocino County Sheriff Department:

Non-Emergency Tip Line: (707) 234-2100

[4]  a. I agree it was Trump who caused Covid to explode. First of all, he denied it existed, thus leading to the initial exposures, as people were not protecting themselves with isolation or masks. Then he dragged his feet coming forward with testing. I mean, if there is no danger from the illness why bother with tests, right? It is my belief many people died without ever even being diagnosed with Covid, thus our estimation of how many died is way short of the mark. So people who had it were infecting others without even knowing they were infected. Then there was the problem that those who got it were not ready for the seriousness of the illness. They couldn’t take care of themselves regarding such basics as getting food or self-medicating, even if they had had an idea of what to medicate with. Hospitals were not ready to treat it and were tragically overwhelmed. It was the classic scenario of an incompetent leader in the cross hairs of a national disaster. Blaming Covid on China is pointless in light of these issues.

b. LARRY LIVERMORE: No matter how racist you are, you’d have a hard time convincing any rational person that the Chinese are stupid enough to try waging biological warfare against the US (and/or the world) by releasing a potentially deadly virus in the middle of their own country.

Presumably there would be at least one evil scientist clever enough to realize, “Hey, if we want to wipe out the Americans, maybe we should release the virus, like, somewhere in America?”

And presumably an even smarter scientist would have pointed out that, “Hey, if we release a highly infectious virus anywhere in the world, it will eventually infect us too.”

As Bruce notes, whether the virus evolved naturally or was manmade, any lab leak would have been purely accidental, and if it ultimately had the effect of killing well over a million Americans, well, I don’t think even the most farsighted Chinese germ warfare specialist could have anticipated that in an allegedly civilized and advanced nation there would be that many people who would refuse to follow basic public health protocols because the person issuing them was from the wrong political party or simply because of “mah free-dumb.”

In more advanced nations, including China and nearly all of Asia, the virus exacted much less of a toll because people are mature and educated enough to realize that viruses don’t recognize political affiliations, and also because they trust their governments not to try to kill them. Trump lied repeatedly and flagrantly about the danger of the virus while secretly receiving the best treatment available from modern medicine. Fauci said what he knew, when he knew it, and did his best to save lives; anybody mind-warped enough to think the nation’s chief public health officer was deliberately trying to kill mass numbers of Americans is, well, somebody who probably believes Trump is capable of a) telling the truth; b) acting in anyone’s interest other than his own.

Bottom line: America racked up by far the biggest death total, whether in raw numbers of per capita, precisely because of the anti-intellectual and irrational sentiments pandered to by the Trumpists (and, to be fair, by a fair sprinkling of quasi-leftist New Agers). When the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, the average life expectancy in that country was 37. Since that time, it has more than doubled. Meanwhile, the American life expectancy has fallen dramatically, and is now lower than China’s. I’d say America is rapidly becoming a third world country except that would be unfair to third world countries, most of whom handled the COVID epidemic far better than the good old US of A did.

[5] “I am sure you are all aware of Robert Marbut and his assessment of our communities and the plan he provided to help us deal with this issue. The City of Fort Bragg took this valuable tool seriously and started implementing his guidelines into our policies. Although his approach was deemed severe by some, or tough love if you will, I am here to tell you it works and the best time to get started is yesterday. But today is not too late.”

Congrats to Fort Bragg officials, citizens and homeless. Glad the Marbut study we all paid for is working somewhere in Mendo Co. UKIAH officials, can we please start using it? PLEASE!

[6] I think lots of people care. From where I sit, the problem is that we’ve been attacked on every possible front. Our children are being indoctrinated and mutilated, our words are censored, our jobs are threatened, our food is being poisoned and/or destroyed, our factories are burning, our infrastructure is in ruins, we’re being harvested to provide funds for Ukraine, we have no borders, our streets are unsafe . . . I could go on, but there’s no need. It’s overwhelming. Even if we had unlimited resources, I’m not sure what would need to be done to tackle all or even a few of these things. I wouldn’t know where to start, but I suspect that all of us would choose, from this list of outrages, those we find most threatening. We wouldn’t agree on what those things were, and we’d argue among ourselves as to where to spend our resources. 

I can’t see any way out of this except for the whole toxic mess to be leveled and rebuilt from scratch. That may happen without our doing anything to help it along, since the system is rotten through and through. It will be ugly, but it has gotten so bad that the end of it may be welcomed even so.

[7] My finance professor back in the day told me American debt was “special” though, by virtue of it being American in the first place. You’re not saying that old bastard lied to me, are you? I might pop on down there to the admin building and see if I can’t get a refund on my so-called “education,” if that’s the case. I think the prof has already long since “self-liquidated.”

[8] Just returned from little excursion to nephew’s home to bring late birthday present and collect plate I brought the previous birthday on. My great-nephew, lying on the couch, didn’t look up from his device when I came in. Never really thanked me for the cake I had brought him some months ago.

No one thought to return the plate to me, although they come into town all the time.

Bottom line: The idea of manners and courtesy, not to mention maybe actually learning to make an effort to have a conversation (with an older relative) in a social situation, seems to have totally flown out the door.

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