Showing posts with label 1968. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1968. Show all posts

Friday, August 03, 2018

Look, it's everybody's mama at Winn an' Dixie!

Well, this looks like just about everybody's mama makin' groceries when I was a young'un.

(Midwestern translation: "This is amazingly close to how nearly everyone's mother looked when they were grocery shopping when I was a child.")

Add some curlers to the hair of that lady on the right, stick a cigarette in the mouth of that lady on the left, maybe add some cat-eye spectacles to that lady in the middle . . . and you'll be knowing that your butt is so gonna get whipped when you get home if you don't BEHAVE RIGHT NOW!

Welcome to domestic life in Baton Rouge, July 29, 1968.

And you just wait until your daddy gets home.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018


Bobby Kennedy died 50 years ago. It still hurts.

Actually, the assassinations of 1968 -- first Martin Luther King and then, two months later, Robert Kennedy -- hurt all the more as time goes by. Why is that? Why are these the wounds that never heal?

Some say it's because what we lost in that terrible spring of '68 was hope itself. Maybe some did -- I can't say for sure; I was just 7 at the time. But I remember the sadness, and I remember some of the fear. Still, 7-year-olds don't lose hope . . . not really. It takes longer for a body to really and truly lose hope.

I wasn't there yet.

Now, a half century on? I still don't know. My hope is battered and bruised -- besieged, actually, in this hateful and diseased Age of Trump -- but it's not lost. Not entirely, anyway.

But every insult to it -- every body blow, every instance when the unthinkable becomes not only thinkable, but reality -- adds, for me, to the grief over something that happened when I was but a child.

THE PAIN grows exponentially as Americans see what we've become, as we grow ever more acutely aware of what we lost that awful early Wednesday morning as gunshots rang out in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. As hope drained away along with the life of the senator from New York over the next 26 hours.

You know what I think about? I think about how different we might have turned out had we gotten a president who endeavored to heal a divided America, sought to end a deeply stupid and wasteful war, and reminded us that The Other was our brother.

I wonder what the story of the last half century would have read like without Richard Nixon's race-baiting "Southern strategy," the fulfillment of which sits today in a soiled Oval Office . . . and in every act of racial or ethnic hatred across this still-divided land . . . and on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria . . . and in the detention facilities filled with Mexican and Central American children torn away from their undocumented parents somewhere along our southern border.

I wonder about that. And then I grieve -- still -- over a murder from when I was just out of first grade in Baton Rouge.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

You can have 'diversity.' I'll take variety.

The CBS network lineup: Sunday, Nov. 10, 1968

Diversity. All we hear about these days is "diversity."

What is "diversity"? We certainly don't have ideological diversity among those most committed to the D-word today in the United States.

Racial and ethnic diversity seems more about building either an ideological monolith of rainbow hues or, alternatively, segregated racial and ethnic enclaves uneasily inhabiting common organizations, institutions or physical spaces.

Me, I think we ought to strive for variety, then go from there. If you're under 45, you probably have little memory of variety, which is what more or less -- sometimes more, sometimes less -- took place when shared common spaces were the norm and opportunities for, say, media self-segregation weren't. Of course, we all had our opportunities and mechanisms for self-segregation (and forced segregation) but we likewise had more spaces where interaction and cross-pollination was unavoidable. Like television.

THE BABY BOOM is the last generation to be forced in its youth, through prehistoric technology that had become just pervasive enough, to open itself a little bit to a lot of things.

And people.

And cultures.

We may not have had "diversity" (again, whatever the hell that might be) but we did on occasion achieve variety. That's not nothing, and in today's blasted moonscape of a political and cultural battlefield where warring monocultures try to cleanse America of the diverse Other, that long-ago variety begins to look like a lot.

And I really would have liked to hear the backstage conversation between Jefferson Airplane and Kate Smith.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Laughing ourselves to death

Click on the image for readable version

That I laughed and laughed and laughed at this letter from Hunter S. Thompson made me realize that I totally understand the political appeal of Donald Trump, mad as that might be.

The Donald shows appropriate disrespect for our political system, the feckless weenies in charge of his own political party and the Stalinist pall of political correctness that's stifling our debate and rotting our minds.

Unfortunately, though, with the satisfying comes the strychnine -- the malicious stereotyping of Mexicans and Muslims . . . his willingness to ban people from the United States solely on religious grounds . . . egging on a mob mentality at his rallies and among his supporters . . . the nasty remarks about a female fellow candidate and a disabled journalist.

IT ALL demonstrates Trump's uncomfortable shouting distance to the over-the-top epithet Gore Vidal hung on William F. Buckley in an infamous 1968 television debate -- "pro-crypto-Nazi."

Hunter S. Thompson was entertaining -- warped and high as a kite but entertaining. Sometimes, he skewered those who sorely asked for the insertion of a spit. Sometimes, it all was quite satisfying. I can see how some might feel that way about Trump, taken out of his particular toxic context.

But it would have been a horrible mistake to let Thompson anywhere near political power on any national scale. Ditto for Donald Trump. Not all that entertains us is good for us, particularly when it feeds upon what's bad in us.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Look, folks! They're not actually singing!

There really was a more innocent time in TV history. Hosts would tell you when the acts were faking it.

Well, OK. Maybe only Arthur Godfrey would tell you when the acts were faking it, er . . . lip synching . . . which is one of the dadgum hardest things to pull off in show bidness, dadgummit!

Certainly more difficult than getting the performers' names right -- when the Carpenters appeared on this 1969 episode of the syndicated Your All-American College Show, Arthur managed to turn Richard into "Ed."

No, Ed was the name of the slab of carved stone placed next to Godfrey. Back in the day, slabs of carved rock were known to have long-running variety shows on network television. We are hopeful this age's brightest archaeologists -- soon, one hopes -- will be able to explain this ancient practice.

ANYWAY, it was just as well that Godfrey proudly touted that "what they're gonna do is give you the number right off the album, and what these kids are gonna do is lip-sync it." Viewers would have figured it out from a few clicks and pops in the audio . . . because they were playing "Ticket to Ride" right off the album. Not a tape.

Thus was the world of syndicated TV shows in the 1960s.

AND FOR your trivia enjoyment, here from 1968 is The Carpenters' first TV appearance -- as The Dick Carpenter Trio, also on Your All-American College Show.

The Interwebs . . . you can find
anything in there.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A revolution on hold

Martin Luther King Jr. was looking to lead a revolution in 1968, a "poor people's campaign."

He never got the chance. To paraphrase
Facebook, "Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and millions of other Americans like this."

The trouble is, what the great civil-rights leader said on March 31, 1968, at New York's Riverside Church probably is even more relevant now than it was then. Change the name of a place here and there, change the name of
la guerre du jour . . . and there you go.

Back in 1968, despite the war in Indochina, despite the spate of political assassination that was to begin with King's martyrdom, we still kind of believed in hope. We still
kind of trusted in "progress."

NOW, AFTER a decade of grinding war and a few years of a Great Recession, mass unemployment, foreclosures by the millions and empty state and municipal coffers . . . now, not so much.

In today's America, we find much of the middle class being systematically turned into potential candidates for a Martin Luther King-style poor-people's campaign.

Here, as we wrap up another commemoration of his birth, 82 years ago now, are some excerpts from an important address -- one which happened to be King's last Sunday sermon. It happens to be the declaration of a nonviolent revolution . . .
a revolution interrupted.

Viva la revolución.
There can be no gainsaying of the fact that a great revolution is taking place in the world today. In a sense it is a triple revolution: that is, a technological revolution, with the impact of automation and cybernation; then there is a revolution in weaponry, with the emergence of atomic and nuclear weapons of warfare; then there is a human rights revolution, with the freedom explosion that is taking place all over the world. Yes, we do live in a period where changes are taking place. And there is still the voice crying through the vista of time saying, "Behold, I make all things new; former things are passed away."

Now whenever anything new comes into history it brings with it new challenges and new opportunities. And I would like to deal with the challenges that we face today as a result of this triple revolution that is taking place in the world today.

First, we are challenged to develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution. The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood.

Now it is true that the geographical oneness of this age has come into being to a large extent through modern man’s scientific ingenuity. Modern man through his scientific genius has been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. And our jet planes have compressed into minutes distances that once took weeks and even months. All of this tells us that our world is a neighborhood.

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: "No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." And he goes on toward the end to say, "Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." We must see this, believe this, and live by it if we are to remain awake through a great revolution.

Secondly, we are challenged to eradicate the last vestiges of racial injustice from our nation. I must say this morning that racial injustice is still the black man’s burden and the white man’s shame.

It is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle—the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic. And I can see nothing more urgent than for America to work passionately and unrelentingly—to get rid of the disease of racism.

Something positive must be done. Everyone must share in the guilt as individuals and as institutions. The government must certainly share the guilt; individuals must share the guilt; even the church must share the guilt.

We must face the sad fact that at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning when we stand to sing "In Christ there is no East or West," we stand in the most segregated hour of America.


Not only do we see poverty abroad, I would remind you that in our own nation there are about forty million people who are poverty-stricken. I have seen them here and there. I have seen them in the ghettos of the North; I have seen them in the rural areas of the South; I have seen them in Appalachia. I have just been in the process of touring many areas of our country and I must confess that in some situations I have literally found myself crying.

I was in Marks, Mississippi, the other day, which is in Whitman County, the poorest county in the United States. I tell you, I saw hundreds of little black boys and black girls walking the streets with no shoes to wear. I saw their mothers and fathers trying to carry on a little Head Start program, but they had no money. The federal government hadn’t funded them, but they were trying to carry on. They raised a little money here and there; trying to get a little food to feed the children; trying to teach them a little something.

And I saw mothers and fathers who said to me not only were they unemployed, they didn’t get any kind of income—no old-age pension, no welfare check, no anything. I said, "How do you live?" And they say, "Well, we go around, go around to the neighbors and ask them for a little something. When the berry season comes, we pick berries. When the rabbit season comes, we hunt and catch a few rabbits. And that’s about it."

And I was in Newark and Harlem just this week. And I walked into the homes of welfare mothers. I saw them in conditions—no, not with wall-to-wall carpet, but wall-to-wall rats and roaches. I stood in an apartment and this welfare mother said to me, "The landlord will not repair this place. I’ve been here two years and he hasn’t made a single repair." She pointed out the walls with all the ceiling falling through. She showed me the holes where the rats came in. She said night after night we have to stay awake to keep the rats and roaches from getting to the children. I said, "How much do you pay for this apartment?" She said, "a hundred and twenty-five dollars." I looked, and I thought, and said to myself, "It isn’t worth sixty dollars." Poor people are forced to pay more for less. Living in conditions day in and day out where the whole area is constantly drained without being replenished. It becomes a kind of domestic colony. And the tragedy is, so often these forty million people are invisible because America is so affluent, so rich. Because our expressways carry us from the ghetto, we don’t see the poor.

Jesus told a parable one day, and he reminded us that a man went to hell because he didn’t see the poor. His name was Dives. He was a rich man. And there was a man by the name of Lazarus who was a poor man, but not only was he poor, he was sick. Sores were all over his body, and he was so weak that he could hardly move. But he managed to get to the gate of Dives every day, wanting just to have the crumbs that would fall from his table. And Dives did nothing about it. And the parable ends saying, "Dives went to hell, and there were a fixed gulf now between Lazarus and Dives."

There is nothing in that parable that said Dives went to hell because he was rich. Jesus never made a universal indictment against all wealth. It is true that one day a rich young ruler came to him, and he advised him to sell all, but in that instance Jesus was prescribing individual surgery and not setting forth a universal diagnosis. And if you will look at that parable with all of its symbolism, you will remember that a conversation took place between heaven and hell, and on the other end of that long-distance call between heaven and hell was Abraham in heaven talking to Dives in hell.

Now Abraham was a very rich man. If you go back to the Old Testament, you see that he was the richest man of his day, so it was not a rich man in hell talking with a poor man in heaven; it was a little millionaire in hell talking with a multimillionaire in heaven. Dives didn’t go to hell because he was rich; Dives didn’t realize that his wealth was his opportunity. It was his opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus. Dives went to hell because he was passed by Lazarus every day and he never really saw him. He went to hell because he allowed his brother to become invisible. Dives went to hell because he maximized the minimum and minimized the maximum. Indeed, Dives went to hell because he sought to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty.

And this can happen to America, the richest nation in the world—and nothing’s wrong with that—this is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.


One day a newsman came to me and said, "Dr. King, don’t you think you’re going to have to stop, now, opposing the war and move more in line with the administration’s policy? As I understand it, it has hurt the budget of your organization, and people who once respected you have lost respect for you. Don’t you feel that you’ve really got to change your position?" I looked at him and I had to say, "Sir, I’m sorry you don’t know me. I’m not a consensus leader. I do not determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I’ve not taken a sort of Gallup Poll of the majority opinion." Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.

On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Spanning the Gulf betwixt skid marks, skid marks

When I was 7, I thought this commercial had it goin' on.

After 42 years, my opinion hasn't changed. No Nox against it at all.

Thank you! Thank you very much -- I'm here all week.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Your Daily '80s: Shakin' over Shirley

Welcome back to 1982.

In May of this year, Shakin' Stevens took this little ditty, "Shirley," to No. 6 on the British charts.

But for me, the original of "Shirley" hits a little closer to home.

WELCOME to 1959 -- two years before I arrived on the scene -- in my hometown, Baton Rouge, La. Then, "Shirley" was a little somethin' put to hot wax by John Fred and the Playboys.

ABOUT NINE YEARS later, John Fred and His Playboy Band had a No. 1 hit with another little something you might remember.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Eve four decades ago

Forty years ago, we were at the end of a hard year. 1968 was the year everything, seemingly, came apart.

White hatred killed Martin Luther King Jr. Arab hatred killed Bobby Kennedy. Ghettos burned across America, part of a spasm of inner-city violence that spanned the last half of the 1960s, off and on, and from which those communities never recovered.

THERE WERE student riots in Paris and police riots in Chicago. A communist offensive on the lunar new year convinced Americans that we really couldn't win in Vietnam and added the word Tet to our national vocabulary.

The world. Hell. Handbasket.

1968 was a year of grace, too. The video above depicts a big one we received on Christmas Eve -- God speaking to the world through His Word and three astronauts -- Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders -- circling the moon in an Apollo spaceship. Apollo 8, it was.

I was 7 . . . almost 8. I knew about Bobby Kennedy, and about Martin, and about the war. But it's grace that cuts through the chaotic noise when you're a kid. That was especially true in the '60s, which really were The Wonder Years, when we followed the space program like kids today follow . . . what?

Miley Cyrus?

1968 and 2008 -- radically different times unified in chaos and uncertainty. And the need for a little grace at Christmastime.

Friday, June 06, 2008

3 Chords & the Truth: 1968 + 40

1968. What a year.

An amazing year, a despairing year. A deadly year.

IT -- 1968 WAS -- the year we lost Martin and Bobby, who died 40 years ago today . . . murdered by yet another crazy-mad guy with a gun. Sixty-eight . . . the year of the police riot at the Democratic convention in Chicago.

The year of the Tet Offensive, in which the Viet Cong lost the battle but won the war.

1968. A year of wonder. Apollo 8 and William Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman reading from Genesis as their tiny command module orbited the moon.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness."
AS THE ASTRONAUTS read words more than half as old as civilization itself -- read from sacred scripture on Christmas Eve -- we saw the Earth rise over the horizon of the moon's surface.

I guess whether you remember 1968 as a year of strife and horror come to our living rooms every night on the evening news or, alternatively, as a year of possibility and wonder depends on whether you were a kid or not. I was a kid and, though the horror was there -- somewhere fuzzy in the background -- what stuck with me was the wonder.

The Wonder Years . . . somebody ought to make a TV show. . . .

I THINK THAT, now, as middle-aged man, is the time I really appreciate the horror on the periphery of my 7-year-old's existence during that fateful year. The gut-wrenching agony of the murdered Martin Luther King Jr. The mind- and soul-numbing senselessness and incalculable loss of another Kennedy gunned down.

I still see, in my mind's eye, the live TV coverage of the funeral train.

All the "what ifs" surrounding all the "never will bes." Possibilities thwarted. Hope denied.

Is four decades later too late to grieve?

1968. A hell of a damn year, that's for certain.

Well, at least the music was first rate. And we'll be hearing a lot of it on this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth.

Be there. Aloha.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I have been to the mountaintop. . . .

On April 3, 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last speech, in Memphis, Tenn.

HE WAS THERE in support of striking sanitation workers, who were protesting low pay and abysmal working conditions, and his oration that night -- prophetic, some called it -- would become one of his most famous.

Forty years ago today, on April 4, 1968, a bullet ripped into King's face and neck as he stood on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel.

It was about 5:45 p.m.

Doctors pronounced him dead about an hour and 15 minutes later. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was 39 years old.

From The Washington Post:

The Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles, a local minister and King friend who was there that night, believes King was forecasting his own death. "I am so certain he knew he would not get there," Kyles said. "He didn't want to say it to us, so he softened it -- that he may not get there." Later, Kyles would tell people that King "had preached himself through the fear of death."

What is often unremarked upon about that speech, however, is how resolute King was in his prescriptions for fighting the injustices suffered by the poor. He urged those at the meeting to tell their neighbors: Don't buy Coca-Cola, Sealtest milk and Wonder Bread. Up to now, only the garbage workers had been feeling pain, King noted. "Now we must kind of redistribute the pain."

The next day, King was in a good mood, almost giddy, Kyles remembered. Kyles was hosting a dinner for King at his home that evening. "I told him it was at 5 because he was never in a hurry." But when Kyles knocked on King's door, at Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel, to hurry him along, King let him know he had uncovered the little ruse: He had found out the dinner was actually at 6. So they had some time, and King invited Kyles to sit down. Abernathy was there, too. King liked to eat and was anticipating a lavish soul-food feast, so he couldn't resist razzing Kyles. "I bet your wife can't cook," King told his friend. "She's too pretty."

Just to tease a little more, King asked Kyles: Didn't you just buy a new house? He then told the story of an Atlanta preacher who had purchased a big, fancy home and had King and Coretta over for dinner. "The Kool-Aid was hot, the ham was cold, the biscuits were hard," Kyles recalled King jiving. "If I go to your house and you don't have a decent dinner, I'm going to tell the networks that the Rev. Billy Kyles had a new house but couldn't afford to have a decent dinner."

It was about 5:45 when King and Kyles left the room and stepped onto the second-floor balcony. Abernathy stayed put. King leaned over the rail to gaze at a busy scene in the parking lot eight feet below, exchanging words with his young aide Jesse Jackson, among others. Kyles was just about to descend the steps, with King behind him, when he heard the shot. "And when I looked around, he had been knocked from the railing of the balcony back to the door," Kyles recalled. "I saw a gaping hole on the right side of his face."

Kyles ran back into the room and tried to call for an ambulance, but no one at the motel switchboard answered. He took a bedspread and draped it over King's body.

King was pronounced dead at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph's Hospital.

"Forty years ago, I had no words to express my feelings; I had stepped away from myself," recalled Kyles, now 73, the pastor at Monumental Baptist Church in Memphis. "Forty years later I still have no words to describe my feelings."

For years, Kyles struggled with an internal question: "Why was I there?" And at some point, he can't remember when, "God revealed to me, I was there to be a witness. Crucifixions have to have a witness."