“Burn On, Big River…” Cuyahoga River Fires

1969 Cuyahoga River fire in Cleveland, Ohio

“In June 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio caught fire — a river long polluted with oily wastes, chemicals, and debris. The river fire, coming at a time of emerging national concern over pollution, made big news and became something of a famous disaster. The incident helped give momentum to a newly emerging national environmental movement. Only months before, on the beaches of Santa Barbara, California, an oil spill from a Unocal Oil Company offshore rig in January 1969, had soiled some 30 miles of California coastline, killing sea birds and other wildlife. Oil industry pollution and oily wastes were part of the Cuyahoga River concoction as well, described by Time magazine as being ‘chocolate-brown, oily, [and] bubbling with subsurface gases.’ In fact, it was the Time magazine story that helped bring national attention to the Cuyahoga River and nearby Lake Erie into which it flowed, both of which became poster images for the severe water pollution of those times. U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), a promoter of the first Earth Day in 1970, would later invoke the Cuyahoga-in-flames as an example of the nation’s most severe environmental disasters. Carol Browner, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the 1990s, would also recall in speeches the impression that images of the burning Cuyahoga had made on her. But the Cuyahoga River fire of June 1969 wasn’t the worst the river had experienced. A 1952 fire – shown in the two photos here – was much worse. Time magazine in its August 1969 story, had used one of those photos, incorrectly attributing it as the 1969 fire. Turns out, there is a long history of Cuyahoga River fires – at least a dozen or more dating from the 1860s – several of which resulted in more damage than the 1969 incident. More on those in a moment. Still, when the June 1969 Cuyahoga River fire occurred, many people found it surprising that pollution could be so bad that a river would burn. That wasn’t supposed to happen. ‘[A] river lighting on fire was almost biblical,’ said Sierra Club President Adam Werbach referring to the Cuyahoga fire during a CNN interview some years later. ‘And it energized American action because people understood that that should not be happening.’ The Cuyahoga’s plight – and particularly its association with oil pollution – caught the attention of singer/ songwriter Randy Newman, who penned a famous song about the river’s tendency to catch fire. …”
Pop History Dig (Audio)
Fact-Checking Five Myths Of The 1969 Fire On The Cuyahoga River
Photo Slideshow: Vintage Collection, Before Clean Water Act
YouTube: Celebrating the Comeback of the Burning River, 1969-2019
YouTube: Burn On

The Cuyahoga River, near the site of the 1969 fire. Now property of Arcelor-Mittal.
Posted in Environmental, Music | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Unlearned Lesson of My Lai

“When U.S. Army soldiers ended their massacre of elderly men, women, and children in a South Vietnamese hamlet 50 years ago—on March 16, 1968—perhaps 500 civilians lay dead. The green troops expected to meet Vietcong forces, but instead found unarmed families. ‘During the next few hours, the civilians were murdered,’ Seymour Hersh later wrote. ‘Many were rounded up in small groups and shot, others were flung into a drainage ditch at one edge of the hamlet and shot, and many more were shot at random in or near their homes. Some of the younger women and girls were raped and then murdered. After the shootings, the G.I.s systematically burned each home, destroyed the livestock and food, and fouled the area’s drinking supplies.’ The My Lai massacre still shocks the conscience. It’s hard to fathom how a group of young American men, most of whom would never have killed anyone but for the Vietnam War, spiraled out of control together, perpetrating atrocities that rival any committed in the annals of human warfare. A country can minimize the evil perpetrated in its name, by its soldiers, by going to war only as a last resort; maintaining discipline as best as is humanly possible during armed conflict; holding war criminals responsible for their deeds; and treating those who stop or uncover crimes against humanity as heroes rather than villains. The hero of the My Lai massacre was helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson Jr. Along with the members of his crew, Glenn Andreotta and Lawrence Colburn, he began observing the U.S. troops in Sơn Mỹ Village from the air, believing them to be attacking enemy forces. It took time for him to realize that the soldiers of Company C were committing mass murder. At that moment, he could easily have just flown away.And yet, whenever a country’s civilian leaders decide to send young men to fight any war of sustained length, it is almost certain that discipline will break down somewhere, that savagery will take hold sometime, and that shameful evil will be done, as had happened during the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. …”
The Atlantic (March 16, 2018)
TIME: Only One Man Was Found Guilty for His Role in the My Lai Massacre. This Is What It Was Like to Cover His Trial (Video)
Arab News: 50 years ago, the My Lai massacre shamed the US military
PBS: American Experience – My Lai, Chapter 1 (Video)

Posted in My Lai, Vietnam War | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Four Tops – Reach Out (1966)

“The Four Tops are a vocal quartet from Detroit, Michigan, USA, who helped to define the city’s Motown sound of the 1960s. The group’s repertoire has included soul music, R&B, disco, adult contemporary, doo-wop, jazz, and show tunes. Founded as the Four Aims, lead singer Levi Stubbs, Abdul ‘Duke’ Fakir, Renaldo ‘Obie’ Benson and Lawrence Payton remained together for over four decades, performing from 1953 until 1997 without a change in personnel. … Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote most of Levi Stubbs’s vocals in a tenor range, near the top of his range, in order to get a sense of strained urgency in his gospel preacher-inspired leads. They also wrote additional background vocals for a female group, the Andantes, on many of the songs, to add a high end to the low-voiced harmony of the Tops. Ivy Hunter’s ‘Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever’ was one of a few exceptions. August 1966 brought the release of the Four Tops’ all-time biggest hit and one of the most popular Motown songs ever. ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There‘ reached number 1 on the U.S. pop and R&B charts and the UK chart and soon became the Tops’ signature song. It was almost immediately followed by the similar-sounding ‘Standing in the Shadows of Love‘; its depiction of heartbreak reflecting the opposite of the optimism in ‘Reach Out’. It was another Top 10 hit for the Tops. The Top 10 U.S. hit ‘Bernadette‘ centered around a man’s all-consuming obsession with his lover,[2] continued the Four Tops’ successful run into April 1967, followed by the Top 20 hits ‘7-Rooms of Gloom‘, and ‘You Keep Running Away’. By now, the Tops were the most successful male Motown act in the United Kingdom (in the United States, they were second to the Temptations), and began experimenting with more mainstream pop hits. They scored hits with their versions of Tim Hardin‘s ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ in late 1967 (mid-1968 in the U.S.) and the Left Banke‘s ‘Walk Away Renée‘ in early 1968. These singles and the original ‘I’m in a Different World’ were their last hits produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, who left Motown in 1967 after disputes with Berry Gordy over royalties and ownership of company shares. …”
W – Reach Out (Four Tops album)
amazon, iTunes
YouTube: Reach Out (I’ll Be There), Bernadette, 7 ROOMS OF GLOOM (RARE VIDEO FOOTAGE), Standing In The Shadows Of Love

Posted in Music | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Tin Drum (1959), Cat and Mouse (1961), Dog Years (1963) – Günter Grass

The Tin Drum (German: Die Blechtrommel) is a 1959 novel by Günter Grass. The novel is the first book of Grass’s Danziger Trilogie (Danzig Trilogy). It was adapted into a 1979 film, which won both the Palme d’Or, in the same year, and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film the following year. The story revolves around the life of Oskar Matzerath, as narrated by himself when confined in a mental hospital during the years 1952–1954. Born in 1924 in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland), with an adult’s capacity for thought and perception, he decides never to grow up when he hears his father declare that he would become a grocer. Gifted with a piercing shriek that can shatter glass or be used as a weapon, Oskar declares himself to be one of those ‘clairaudient infants’, whose ‘spiritual development is complete at birth and only needs to affirm itself’. …”  “Cat and Mouse, published in Germany in 1961 as Katz und Maus, is a novella by Günter Grass, the second book of the Danzig Trilogy, and the sequel to The Tin Drum. It is about Joachim Mahlke, an alienated only child without a father. The narrator Pilenz ‘alone could be termed his friend, if it were possible to be friends with Mahlke’ (p. 78); much of Pilenz’s narration addresses Mahlke directly by means of second-person narration. The story is set in Danzig (Gdańsk) around the time of the Second World War and Nazi rule. …”    “Dog Years (Hundejahre) is a novel by Günter Grass. It was first published in Germany in 1963. … The novel consists of three different chronological parts, from the 1920s to the 1950s. The main characters are Walter Matern and Eduard Amsel. Walter Matern and Eduard Amsel are friends. Eduard is half Jewish and at the young age of five is a genius at making scarecrows. The narrator in Book One, the mine owner Brauxel, tells of the friendship of Walter and Eduard when they are children in the Vistula estuary, which is a German-Polish borderland (the interwar Free City of Danzig) peopled by Mennonites, Catholics and Protestants. …”
W – The Tin Drum, W – Cat and Mouse, W – Dog Years
Slate: On Rereading Günter Grass
NY Times: Beneath the Adam’s Apple, the Tin Drum Beats On (August 11, 1963), NY Times: Scarecrows and Swastikas (May 23, 1965)

Posted in Books | Tagged | Leave a comment

Jane Collective

“The Jane Collective or Jane, officially known as the Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation, was an underground service in Chicago, Illinois affiliated with the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union that operated from 1969 to 1973, a time when abortion was illegal in most of the United States. The foundation of the organization was laid when Heather Booth helped her friend’s sister obtain a safe abortion in 1965. Other women with unwanted pregnancies began to contact Booth after learning via word-of-mouth that she could help them. When the workload became more than what she could manage, she reached out to other activists in the women’s liberation movement. The collective sought to address the increasing number of unsafe abortions being performed by untrained providers. Since illegal abortions were not only dangerous but very expensive, the founding members of the collective believed that they could provide women with safer and more affordable access to abortions. Initially, the organization directed the women to male doctors. After a few years, however, they learned that one of their most-used doctors had lied about having medical credentials. This created a conflict in the group, causing some members to leave. Others realized that if a man without medical credentials could perform a safe abortion, then they could learn as well. A few of their number learned how to perform surgical abortions, with the dilation and curettage method most commonly used. Members of the group performed an estimated 11,000 abortions, mostly to low-income women who could not afford to travel to the places where abortion was legal, as well as women of color. In 1972, one of the Jane Collective apartments was raided by the police, and seven of its members were arrested. Each was charged with eleven counts of abortion and conspiracy to commit abortion, carrying a maximum prison sentence of 110 years. Their attorney was able to delay court proceedings in anticipation of the Supreme Court‘s decision on Roe v. Wade. As the attorney hoped, the Court’s decision in Roe in 1973 struck down many abortion restrictions in the US, and the charges against the Jane Collective members were dropped. As women now had access to legal abortion, the Collective disbanded shortly afterwards. While their abortions sometimes resulted in complications, none of their clients were known to die from their abortions.  …”
NY Times – Code Name Jane: The Women Behind a Covert Abortion Network (Video)
How to Run a Back-Alley Abortion Service
9 Older Women Share Their Harrowing Back Alley Abortion Stories
NPR: Before ‘Roe v. Wade,’ The Women of ‘Jane’ Provided Abortions For The Women Of Chicago (Audio)
Comic: The Story of the Jane Collective, the Women Who Started an Illegal Abortion Service

Posted in Feminist | Tagged | Leave a comment

Expo 67

“The 1967 International and Universal Exposition or Expo 67, as it was commonly known, was a general exhibition, Category One World’s Fair held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, from April 27 to October 29, 1967. It is considered to be the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century[1] with the most attendees to that date and 62 nations participating. It also set the single-day attendance record for a world’s fair, with 569,500 visitors on its third day. Expo 67 was Canada’s main celebration during its centennial year. The fair had been intended to be held in Moscow, to help the Soviet Union celebrate the Russian Revolution‘s 50th anniversary; however, for various reasons, the Soviets decided to cancel, and Canada was awarded it in late 1962. The project was not well supported in Canada at first. It took the determination of Montreal’s mayor, Jean Drapeau, and a new team of managers to guide it past political, physical and temporal hurdles. Defying a computer analysis that said it could not be done, the fair opened on time. After Expo 67 ended in October 1967, the site and most of the pavilions continued on as an exhibition called Man and His World, open during the summer months from 1968 until 1984. By that time, most of the buildings—which had not been designed to last beyond the original exhibition—had deteriorated and were dismantled. Today, the islands that hosted the world exhibition are mainly used as parkland and for recreational use, with only a few remaining structures from Expo 67 to show that the event was held there. … Over 1,000 reporters covered the event, broadcast in NTSC Colour, live via satellite, to a worldwide audience of over 700 million viewers and listeners. Expo 67 opened to the public on the morning of Friday, April 28, 1967, with a space age-style countdown. A capacity crowd at Place d’Accueil participated in the atomic clock-controlled countdown that ended when the exhibition opened precisely at 9:30 a.m. EST. An estimated crowd of between 310,000 and 335,000 visitors showed up for opening day, as opposed to the expected crowd of 200,000. …”
W – Habitat 67
Expo 67: Montreal Welcomes the World (Audio)
YouTube: Expo ’67 Doc: World’s Fair in Montreal, Canada (1967) | British Pathé, Expo 67 Raw Footage 1967 Montreal World’s Fair Henry Charles Fleischer

Posted in Documentary, Sports, Vietnam War | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

R. Crumb’s Portraits of Aline and Others

“Whatever one thinks of his subject matter, it’s difficult to deny R. Crumb’s prodigiousness with the pencil. He’s a master of crosshatching, and his illustrations and comics boil over with ideas, all sketched in his distinctive style: controlled yet frenzied, obsessed with proportion, often lewd and also oddly sweet. In his Art of Comics interview, Crumb hints at the birth of this style when he discusses how dropping acid for the first time fundamentally altered his work—and his view of the world. ‘I remember going to work that Monday, after taking LSD on Saturday, and it just seemed like a cardboard reality,’ he says. ‘It didn’t seem real to me anymore. Seemed completely fake, only a paper-moon kind of world.’ In lieu of the real world, Crumb created his own realm, some twisted amalgam of past, present, and subconscious. A new show at David Zwirner, ‘Drawing for Print: Mind Fucks, Kultur Klashes, Pulp Fiction & Pulp Fact by the Illustrious R. Crumb,’ gives us a glimpse into Crumb’s mind through comics tear sheets and rarely shown pages from his private sketchbooks. Perhaps most striking among the sketchbook selections are his portraits of Aline Kominsky-Crumb, his longtime creative partner and wife. Lost in thought, she stares out from the page. She relaxes on the couch with her eyes half closed. She reads in the sunshine, her ‘ass getting sunburned while posing.’ In a body of work notable for its horniness, these pictures of Aline stand out for their care and tenderness. No matter how lost Crumb gets in his own world (the introduction to his Art of Comics interview notes that as he worked on The Book of Genesis, ‘he pursued his vision in a desolate shelter in the mountains outside town, working for weeks without human contact’), he can always return to Aline to get his bearings, to find his way through this cardboard reality. Images from the David Zwirner exhibition—including a few of the Aline pages—appear below.”
The Paris Review
Drawing for Print: Mind Fucks, Kultur Klashes, Pulp Fiction & Pulp Fact by the Illustrious R. Crumb

Posted in Books, LSD | Tagged , | Leave a comment