"She Reads, Man!"

[both.JPG]It is 1969, the year I went to Ft Sill. Forty years ago this month, Joe Namath appeared at the head of his AFL Jets in the third Super Bowl. He was a young quarterback, so the grizzled and heavily favored NFL Colts figured they'd blitz him plenty. But every time his wideout saw the linebacker break, he'd cut into a quick post behind him and Namath would have the ball in his hands.

The Colts soon stopped the blitzing. "He reads, man," said one of them. It was the first year the AFL won the championship.
Reading. The means of working out measures to derive points at evidence in your own private trial. If you don't read, you're sitting in the stands, and all you know is what the cheerleaders say.

We're with you, team, so FIGHT!

We're from Bonham High School and
We're on the ball;
We're from Bonham High School and
We know it all!

This is hearing-knowing. This is passive. This is us.

The boys from our town who went to the Big City were defensive, most of them. They deplored the cosmopolitan and the complex, although they secretly longed to be considered one of that set. Wouldn't find me dead in a place like that, they snorted, and it was true, they wouldn't ... unless they were invited.

LBJ was a rube from the hill country gone to Washington, and he never forgot it. Fond of telling about the makeup of his cabinet, after he was elected president by Lee Harvey Oswald. 

...Johnson ... would remind people again and again that in the chamber where these great decisions were made, there sat the head of the Ford Motor Company, a Rhodes scholar, the dean of Harvard University, and one graduate of San Marcos State Teachers College. - The Best and the Brightest; David Halbertstam.

He really rubbed their noses in it, these effete Kennedy upperclass snobs. Made them convene for privy council meetings with him on the toilet. Insulted them before staff. Sat with his feet in the lap of one of his bootlickers. They had to take it all because they were at the apex of their careers and there was nowhere else to go of equal standing, and career is everything.
The virtue of his style, as Joni Mithcell sings to us, inscribed in his contempt for theirs. But reading was one point where the circles intersected. There is something elemental about reading. 

Hugh Sidey of Life, who had written of Kennedy's reading habits, decided to do a similar article on Johnson's. He started with George Reedy, who told him that yes, Johnson was an avid reader. What books? Sidey asked. All Reedy could think of was Barbara Ward's The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations, a book on how the rich should help the poor which Johnson liked because it was similar to his own ideas. From there Sidey went to see Moyers. Yes, said Moyers, he was an avid reader. What books? Well, there was Barabara Ward's book The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations. And from there to Valenti, who said Johnson read more books than almost anyone he knew. What books? Valenti hesitated and thought for a moment, then his face lit up. Barbara Ward's The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations ... - ibid

There is a rule you learn when first confronted by a used car hustler who assures you of his honesty and it runs like this: That quality most touted is least in evidence. Here is a more recent interview in People magazine with the Palin pantomime from the last election cycle (and, we can all hope, the next several).


How do you get that knowledge? 
SP: I'm a voracious reader, always have been. I appreciate a lot of information. I think that comes from growing up in a family of schoolteachers also where reading and seizing educational opportunities was top on my parents' agenda. That was instilled in me. 

What do you like to read?
SP: Autobiographies, historical pieces – really anything and everything. Besides the kids and sports, reading is my favorite thing to do.

What are you reading now? 
SP: I'm reading, heh-heh, a lot of briefing papers on a lot of issues that are in front of us in this campaign.

What about for fun? 
SP: Do we consider 
The Looming Tower something that was just for fun? That's what I've been reading on the airplane. It's about 9/11. If I'm going to read something, for the most part, it's something beneficial.

Remember the early days of this regime being flushed down the drain as I write this? Dohbya uttered the timeless mantra of morons everywhere: "I read people, not books." And then along came a people, and he read him. He deciphered his soul by gazing fondly into his eyes. Putin. 


Now he is - you guessed it, a "voracious reader," according to his tout. (The Bush Legacy League reminds me of several still vivid moments from my days on the ball fields of the VA Center. I'd watch one of Deadeye's fastballs zip right down the center of the plate, waist high, slap into the mitt. Shoot, I just stood there, admiring. I figured my chances of hitting were about the same as Mr Ed English, the plate umpire, missing. Maybe he didn't see it right. It might've looked outside to him, just an inch or so, but still. Mr Ed English would pause a moment only before raising that right arm, but I'd think, in that time, maybe. That's this Regime Remodel, now under way, what it's all about. Maybe history won't see it like it was.)


But the campaign for faux literacy is a strange one. If you take all your meals under the golden arches, it will show. And if you spend lots of your time in gyms, there are obvious results. It's the same with reading, and anyone who does will know these dimwits are lying and anyone who doesn't won't care.


Dyslexia works some eerie voodoo on the human soul in Ruth Rendell's A Judgment in Stone. And there's Bartleby the Scrivener, another white whale story from Melville, but this one about reading and how one might with dignity ask for help without actually doing it. 


In 1969, I took a course in remedial reading. 


I found myself in Ft Sill, with none of my former identity following along, amidst an army which did not read. I was one who firmly believed in the wisdom of W C Fields, who said, "Ah, yass, my doctor tells me if I don't stop drinking I'm gonna go deaf. But the stuff I've been drinking is so much better than the stuff I've been hearing ..."


Always what I read was better than what I heard, and here I was alone among strangers. If this, then that, was how reading goes. So one very fortunate moment occurred early on when Hennings came by the day room where I was on duty and asked, "Do you type?"


There are walls and walls of Army Regulations, and events every day which depend on them, and thousands who go about the post acting and thinking based upon hearsay. One who takes the volumes down and looks through them and finds out anything relevant may make a place for himself, I figured. I became a Battery Clerk, and was able to spend my entire remaining commitment, exempt from duty, right there and not in Southeast Asia. I was very fortunate, and it all began with Mrs Jennings and Typing I and II back at Bonhi, and because none of the lugs around me took that class.


Sgt Day done run away. He had 28 days left to ETS when he would be going home. I went with the apprehension team that brought him to the unit from the MP station. "Aw, you know," he explained. "You go out, you get drunk..."


All those who moved under that wall of regulations in every orderly room knew what happens next. He was gone three months, so he serves three more months and then his good time, that 28 days, begins. Everybody knew it. I didn't know it. I was ignorant. I couldn't find it in my books.


But why is my Personnel Officer and his NCOIC sitting in our orderly room one day shy of 28 from the time Sergeant Day was returned to military control? They are clearing post for him, to expedite. They had a call from one of those tough old buzzards at Finance, a civilian employee. She said, how come Sergeant Day hasn't cleared post? They said what anybody would say, what everybody knew. He's got a long time to go yet.


No, he doesn't, she told them. He is out of the Army this time tomorrow. Y'all hurry up, now, y'hear?


CWO Williard still did not understand exactly why it was Sergeant Day was leaving our happy crew so early. He said, if this, then maybe that. But the buzzard at Finance, she knows what's so is what all the ARs up on all the walls say, and not what everybody knows. She reads, man. 


For everybody else, the rules were pretty simple.


"We're with you, team, so FIGHT!"



  1. Let us not presume that reading and understanding and acting upon that knowledge are the sole province of those Harvard and Rhodes scholars who so aided and abetted the Madness of King Lyndon when he was becoming more and more stuck in his Vietnam tar baby. Anyone with security clearance could've easily learned the facts from CIA: for the period of the war the GNP of North Vietnam rose at its prewar rate of 6%, despite the intense bombing. In three years of war the US had barely touched the manpower pool of the North. Estimates were that no more than 40% of the males ages 17-35 had served in the Army, that more than 200,000 North Vietnamese became of draft age every year, and only about half of them had been sent off to the war. Their main-force army had grown during the war from 250,00 to around 475,00. The US was not even keeping up with their birth rate. So much for the vaunted Attrition strategy. But the enablers built a solid cocoon around a president drifting away from reality by the day. If you were even pessimistic about the war, you would be kicked to the curb and someone more cheery would be in your place. But the fallacy of their cooked figures was shown during a military briefing to a panel of the top civilian officials called the Wise Men, which included former Supreme Court Justice and UN ambassador Arthur Goldberg, who was not on the team of LBJ enablers.

    The briefing began with the military officer saying that the other side had suffered 45,000 deaths during the Tet offensive.
    Goldberg then asked what our own killed-to-wounded ratios were.
    Seven to one, the officer answered, because we save a lot of men with helicopters.
    What, asked Goldberg, was the enemy strength as of February 1, when Tet started?
    Between 160,000 and 175,000, the briefer answered.
    What is their killed-to-wounded ratio? Goldberg asked.
    We use a figure of three and a half to one, the officer said.
    Well, if that's true, then they have no effective forces left in the field, Goldberg said. What followed was a long and very devastating silence.

    - from The Best and the Brightest; David Halberstam


One non-reader writes (although not to me) about the possible purpose of these columns, as: "He impresses me as someone who writes to impress some one else, maybe himself too." Well, maybe, I'll have to wait for the cheerleaders, but in the meanwhile, here is another LBJ vignette which works perfectly as an allegory for binding local legend with universal myth, sort of the mission of Positively 4th St.


"He (McNamara) wields that computer and those figures like King Arthur wielded Excalibur," Jack Valenti told the President.
"Like what? the President asked.
"Like King Arthur wielded Excalibur," Valenti repeated.
"More like Sam Rayburn with a gavel, I think," the President said.
"Same thing, Mr President," Valenti answered.

- ibid






Bubbles in the Missed

Once there was a panel in an R Crumb comic of the early seventies which has remained with me when so much of that era hasn't. The story was a satire on the Cuckoo's Nest novel or movie, set in an asylum, and in the foreground of one sequence sits a nervous individual grasping his knees, shuddering, and proclaiming in some angst and woe, "I don't understand any of this."

The great Norman Zumwalt said of that forlorn critter, he is probably the most honest character in all literature.

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Thanks A Lot

A 14-year-old girl, with a habit of reading, looked up a reference she had seen online in a blog she had been following. Her older brother provided some of the translation. She wrote the story down and took it to school, to the horror and delight of her friends.

It went like this.

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Timmie, forties


This is now a ghost ship.

I'm going to leave it stocked and set the sails and allow it to plow the sounding furrows and eventually sink as it lists.

I looked for the key to scuttle it, but couldn't find it. 

The Bounty mutineers, on arriving on Pitcairn, debated what to do with the ship.  I think they should've cast it adrift under full sail.  I like to imagine the Bounty still out there somewhere on the high seas, with no direction home. 

Instead they burned it.  Where's the imagination in that?

I'm going to cut all my references and links and set this craft floating free.  I met some friends here.  Goodbye, friends.  Most of you have already abandoned ship.  It's all right.  Really.

From where the sun now sits, I will sail this barge no more forever.

Elle Fonts

My brother Reloj had an ambition when he was younger.  He wanted to buy more than one bull elephant. He liked how they could trumpet like Tarzan, and so might be induced into at least four notes.  That would be enough to play the lead in How High the Moon.

If at all possible, he would teach them to dance.

He would name them all Gerald.

Get it?

Elephants Gerald?

First Lady of Song
  • Current Music
    How High the Moon - Ella
Timmie, forties

The Wondrous Tracks of Dreams

I had a dream about Marrakesh...

I didn't know anything about Marrakesh.  But it appeared to me anyway.

[I've been keeping a dreamlog for some years now.  You can even add it to your RSS newsgathering service, so it will magically appear at your site anytime I update.  It will aid in your own dreaming by adding the one incontestable prerequisite; it will put you to sleep.  There are really no duller stories than someone else's dream...]

In the current Atlantic there is a travel section, and of course it features Morocco.  It came through the mail some days after the dream.  In the medina of Marrakesh, the old city, it is very frantic with the amateur tour guides, and yet it is very peaceful in the lovely seaside villages of Essaouira and Sidi Ifni.   Morocco was a French protectorate, you know, but the Spanish and the Portugese occupied this coast. 

There is even an island off  Essaouira, called Mogador, a nineteenth century penal colony and current hatchery for gulls.  I think maybe something comes into my dreams from elsewhere.

Once I read a very good story about schizophrenia called I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, in which a young lady carried an alien colony in her head.  She was constantly visited from the land of Yr, way off in the sky somewhere, and her psychiatrist tried a very logical argument to convince her of her delusion.

She said, no one from Yr knows anymore than you do.  That should have fixed it.  It should fix all religion, in fact, for how can centuries of these frauds maintain credibility as the agency of a divine being if they know much less than the studious secular?  In fact, the Dark Ages were merely the attempt by the stuporsticious to dam the floods of knowing.  Worked for a time.

And so I lost patience with all the hoaxers who tell me they are in tune with divinity (which is only a sort of candy after all).  There are past life travelers who have been everywhere, from the Garden of Eden to the Crucifiction to Alex the Great, and yet somehow they forgot to bring back any but the most superficial homilies, as if death bleaches out all sense and renders us all trite simpletons. 

But what if dreams teach you something you didn't know?  I wonder.  I'm listening.  There is in that dreamlog another which suggests a knowing not my own.  Here is the relevant portion of it:

I am rushing through a moving train. I have to tell Reloj something I've just read.

It was in Schopenhauer. See, the way I understand it, is, you cannot substitute one string of longing and desire for another. I see it as a golf ball. You cut into the cover and you unwind one length of thread and stretch it out on the table. Then you take another and you substitute it.

Schopenhauer says you can't do that. Any impulse or drive is so deeply rooted there is no way to synthesize another for it. I go to tell Reloj that, rushing through the cars, out one door onto the platform and into the next.

I wondered about where this had come from, and so I went to the Usenet newsgroups alt.philosophy and asked:

Following is a discussion resulting from a question I posted in the USENET group alt.philosophy about this dream:

Doubting Timus wrote:
> I had a dreammmm the other night...
> Here it is, the entry for 4 Oct 2005:
> I've read little to no Schopenhauer, and I'm wondering if by chance there is
> anything in this dream relating to sublimation but not quite which might
> resonate anywhere in Schopenhauer?

Yes, much;

Arthur Schopenhauer (February 22, 1788 - September 21, 1860) was a
German philosopher. He is most famous for his work The World as Will
and Representation. He is commonly known for having espoused a sort of
philosophical pessimism that saw life as being essentially evil,
futile, and full of suffering.

However, upon closer inspection, in accordance with Eastern thought,
especially Buddhist, he saw salvation, deliverance, or escape from
suffering in aesthetic contemplation, sympathy for others, and ascetic

...Schopenhauer's starting point was Kant's division of the universe
into phenomenon and noumenon, claiming that the noumenon was the same
as that in us which we call Will. It is the inner content and the
driving force of the world. For Schopenhauer, human will had
ontological primacy over the intellect; in other words, desire is
understood to be prior to thought, and, in a parallel sense, "will" is
said to be prior to "being".

In solving/alleviating the fundamental problems of life, Schopenhauer
was rare among philosophers in considering philosophy and logic less
important (or "less effective") than art, certain types of charitable
practice ("loving kindness", in his terms), and certain forms of
religious discipline; Schopenhauer concluded that discursive thought
(such as philosophy and logic) could neither touch nor transcend the
nature of desire -- i.e., the will.

In The World as Will and Idea, Schopenhauer posited that humans living
in the realm of objects are living in the realm of desire, and thus are
eternally tormented by that desire (his idea of the role of desire in
life is similar to that of Vedanta-Hinduism and Buddhism, and
Schopenhauer draws attention to these similarities himself).
Is it possible we all have strange visitors in the night?



This is Reloj, my beloved younger and wiser brother, in his twenties, as am I, the photographer.  Or else, it is me, in a photo taken by him.   We walked in the same boots in them days.  This is Sugarloaf, a little hill on the road which wraps around El Paso and heads north.  We spend a Sunday and much effort climbing Sugarloaf.  We were from the flatlands.

We're here because it's the end of Texas.  Along Reloj's gaze is the desert behind Juarez, and the hills of Chihuahua in the distance.  It's a dim picture, like memory.

If you go north, you're in New Mexico, and west is over the Rio Bravo, and south would mean that desolate country Travis staggered out of to open the film Paris, Texas.  If we go east, we're eventually back in the flatlands.

Borders are funny that way.  Once I attended a funeral.  My granny had died.  We were walking across the grounds of Willow Wild.  We were painstakingly proper.  I was in the front row, solemn, and one or two others strode abreast, and more somber folks followed. 

We paused as the hearse and the funeral home limo passed on the gravel road that traced through the cemetery.  There was a line of curbing, not a curb but a mark of ground, as for plots. 

We stood there at that line.  It did not mean anything to us.  But none of us moved, for a count of five, or ten.  We stood surreally in place, heads bowed.  We knew we had to proceed, because the graveside services would begin shortly.  It was all right we go forth.  There was nothing holding us back.  It's just an inconsequential line of concrete, probably no longer with any meaning whatsoever, and certainly not to us.

So why do we still only stand there?  We stood there because no one took the first step.  Each on the front rank awaited the other, and was confirmed in his inertia by the other's stasis.  (Every moment is allegory for your early childhood development.)  The second and later files could say, it was because the pious fools at our head held us up.  But why did we only stand there?  I have no idea.

It was something out of Camus.

We drove in the direction Reloj is gazing on another Sunday to see the greyhounds run.  I never saw anything so quick through a quarter mile.  We ventured bets, and were encouraged by our returns.  Hey, maybe this will work for us, we said.

The racing forms for the next weekend come to the 7-11s in El Paso on Wednesdays, and we were there for ours.  We intended much study this time.  Just look what we'd done as mere amateurs.

First lesson we learned is:  the form we'd followed at the track, we'd read it upside down.  We thought the study of the races of the various contestants read top to bottom in chronology, like a book, but it was the other way around.  Just wait until this weekend, we said. 
Our income was, forty five a week from post-military Unemployment, mine.  I had not worked since discharge, and didn't intend to anytime soon.  Reloj was an excellent drummer, and he picked up ten bucks every Sunday in a jam session at Lynette's Lounge, a strip mall beer joint.  Our rental was in a cinderblock apartment haven for seventy five a month.  Those were the days.

We'd come out to El Paso because there was no hope at home, and because our older brother Joey lived out here.  But Joey and especially his wife Rose were somehow not too glad to see a couple of impecunious freeloaders that season.  At the time, we pretended not to understand.

We lost everything we had at the track that next Sunday, which wasn't much, but that cured us of greyhound racing. 

That's the way it went that year.  Eventually we left. 

  • Current Music
    El Paso - Marty Robbins

Inside Out

I see a youngster on a bike approach from the rear.  There is an auto very properly turning right.  To do that, he in keeping with the drivers manual merges with the bike lane.  The kid on the bike comes up very fast, as if she wants to provoke a street theatre scene.  She makes as if to pass to the right of the blinking turn indicator; which she of course cannot do; she slows, glowers, then flips off the driver moving on to her right.

You see, they play in their driveways, in the park, just doodling around, and then without any instruction, license, or monitoring they just move on off into traffic.

Don't you hate allegory?  Here comes another.

Here comes such another.  He is on the wrong side of the street.  A lady in an auto is leaving the parking lot of the lumber yard and garden center.  She is turning right, so gazing back to her left, from whence all traffic might be expected.  The dud dude is shaking his head, frowning in disgust.  She doesn't see him, you see.  She doesn't see him, because he shouldn't be there, because he is on the wrong side of the street.

But he is licensed because he is on an eco-friendly vehicle, and she isn't, and he also is allowed a proper level of booster contempt because the driver of the auto is on her mobile phone all during the incident.

They play around, and then they move into traffic, without any instruction, training, or license.

Do you have a Myspace account?  It's in the news

Young women who too too recently were little girls are expressing themselves online as if they were still in their own private bedrooms with friends.  Then they move into traffic, and out on that highway the drivers can be a gross, sickly sort of depraved. is now owned by the rancid right media mogul Murdoch, who offers for our dereliction Faux News, the bunch of bush league bootlickers.  He is pressing the online community for more profit.  It's a particularly favorable proposition:  the users develop the content, and Murdoch has all the data on every user to sell to advertisers.  

You say there's an old guy hanging around your schoolyard?  You should beware.  It may be Murdoch ...

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  • Current Music
    Hey, Little School Girl - Taj Majal

Family Affair

First note in my imaging of Coretta Scott King was on the old Dick Cavet show.

"I am really a singer," she said, gazing demurely at Dick Cavet.

I told that to Norman, and he laughed, said, I know just the tune.  An old civil rights classic, "Abraham, Martin, and John."

"Has anybody seen my old friend Martin?
Can you tell me where he's gone?"

Next I heard she wouldn't allow the State tours into the King museum house until they paid her something.  Then she tried to copyright the I Have A Dream speech.  Then she and the family made an extremely lucrative deal with Warner or Time Warner for various books and projects, none of which I guess they ever produced.

Then she looked around, saw how the Kennedys lay down.  Figured "conspiracy" was a good selling point.  After all, Miss Jackie's early comment after losing her husband was, "He didn't even die for civil rights; it was just some silly little communist."

So the King family began talking up Conspiracy Theory Inc.  James Earl Ray, he didn't do it.  One of the sons kissing up to James Earl, the one who had killed his father, in his cell.

That's the way to build a brand.

It isn't absolutely certain venality was all there was to the marketing plan.  Maybe stupidity played a hand.  It usually does in Conspiracy Theory Inc.

Coretta Scott King
Handgrenades, Horseshoes, and Honors