Friday, March 30, 2007

Some Memory Serves Well

If your memory serves you well. We were going to meet again and wait. This Wheels on Fire. They used to play it on the radio in Milwaukee. And the all of us got excited about that and wanted to go to the East. Where it was kabloom! The Atlantic water coast. Turning sky things ablaze. Where Dylan had been writing this stuff. Him and Allen Ginsberg.

So Jeff and me got a ride - they had ride boards, maps of America, and you’d hook up somehow - ride with a Physics major who ate a lot of candy and who said to us learnedly and secretly ‘in a group orgy whatever feels good: feels good.’ Who knew? We shred a glance and the Physics major eye the road with hands on the Chrysler’s wheel.

And he drove us to New York and it was a bright day and then was turning toward outta-work time, and we were going down the subway as a million people were coming at us. Crazy working people! We got lost that night - almost stayed in a shelter - but tore up our Free Clinic passes, and took our chances. We got lost that night and then found NYU. And it was about 2 am when some great red-dressed girl met us and took us home. A garret grotto Village pad no less. All she asked was we buy her pomegranates - something I’d never seen before. And she called them Chinese apples. Next day to hook up with Dave and Jim.

Last night. We were in empty loft, sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor. Down the street from Teddy Roosevelt’s boyhood home. I remember. Had heard Crash on the Levee. Dylan’s latest tome. Signal through the ether. It’s king for king and queen for queen the worst old flood anybody’s ever seen. This night, the guy who owns the loft tells us hip places to go. We’d asked. There’s such and such, MacSorley’s on th Street. And there’s the place where the factory crowd hands out on 42nd St by the Library. A Mulligans perhaps.

So that’s where we go. And we get there. And there’s Allen Ginsberg! Our old friend.

Well we’d seen him in Madison. But we saw him just the night before too. Driving down 8th St in our International. I saw him on the sidewalks. I said Hey I just saw Allen Ginsberg getting in a cab.

Nooo! Couldn’t be

No I’m sure. I’m sure it’s him.

So we slow down and let his cab come upside us. Down on Flaming 8th St. - And when his cab is next to us, we speed up, align, and say:

Hey Al, you want to write a poem?

And he leans forward, opens front window of cab - back ones don’t open then. Yeah, he says whadya want?

We’re hipsters from Wisconsin and
We want to write a poem!

He says:

8th St.
red lights
blinking in my eyeballs

And Dave says

for a break

And then Ginsberg asks what we’re doing.

And I say: Looking for stardom. And he says: Look to your heart. And his cab takes a left .

Now Ginsberg is sitting on a chair. The only thing you see there down the long expanse of Irish stew and Miller beer bar. And we go in right pat him. We must have been drinking beer and straight to the men’s room. And there in the booth with him more hidden is Dylan. I see him as we’re moving past. And as Dave is at the urinal, I hit him on the back, Hit him as hard as I can saying Dylan’s in there. And him and Jeff and him look at me .

Are you kidding.

No I am not.

I have at times since then this to brood over. Read Chronicles. Where schmucks were parking out on Dylan’s roof - like raccoons - as no doubt he tried to sleep. We weren’t too different. Can’t take back lost time or call as a witness those Wheels on Fire.

We run of course into the booth next to them. Start looking over our shoulders some. Dylan and Ginsberg are talking with Russian poets just in town maybe at Carnegie Hall. Ginsberg as ever is talking about breath control Dylan is laughing. As they leave we grab their beer bottles, and I peel off the Miller slogan.

THAT WAS THE NIGHT and I saw Dylan in New York.

Dylan’s leaving, right? We all get up to leave too. Follow him to the door, with Ginsberg and the Russian poets. Dave says: Bob, you want to write a song? Dylan says: Nooooo..

So all a sudden we’re all getting waltzed out.

Ginsberg asks: You know who that was?


He embraces all. Except me. I shake hands. And he says: Boy I wish I was as smart as he is.

Click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Haggard, Price, Nelson

Some tremendous old geezers are on tour in the North at present. Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price. Merle and Willie separately toured with Bob Dylan in the last few years [on the last go-round Bob called on lesser but quite distinguished Texas mortals Jimmie Vaughan and Jr. Brown to open] and it is nice they got idea to tour together and to the inimitable Price, who forged I’d say the Countrypalitan sound, is Texan, like the other boys seeped in Bob Wills, and who now bears a strange resemblance to Walter Cronkite [in a Countrypalitan suit with those odd arrow vector accoutrements.] Asleep at the Wheel did backup! Bob Wills is still the King, the thread, fountain and the source here.

To read Ben Ratliff’s NYT music review [A Half-Century of Honky-tonk with a Trove of Hits] of show at Radio City Musci Hall is tob awed by the show one missed and by the great portrayal by Ratcliff. From NYC the show [called Last of the Breed” – let’s hope not] went to the Riverside Theature in Milwaukee.

Radliff calls Merle “itchy and inscrutable.” How apt! Word is that he did Rambilin Fever and Sing me Back Home. He described the best part of the show as a “delicate tenebrous, alchemical .. section .. that was something else, something unknowable. The critic admits it is ultimately unknowable. Wow. And what does ‘tenebrous’ mean? Dark! Gloomy! Obscure! That’s entertainment.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

John Backus, Fortran originator, dead at 82

John Backus, leader of the original IBM Fortran development team, has died at 82. Fortran is widely held as the first successful high-level computing language. As such, it began the evolution of mainstream software programming away from the realm of machine and assembly coders, allowing a more ‘human-readable’ approach to programming.

One of his first jobs at IBM allowed him to work with famed computer scientist Wallace J. Eckert - then director of IBM’s Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory - to compute lunar orbits.

Like many other engineering efforts, the drive to create Fortran was at least in part the drive of an individual to eliminate some form of tedious work. In the biography of Backus on the IBM web site he says: “Much of my work has come from being lazy. I didn’t like writing programs, and so, when I was working on the IBM 701, writing programs for computing missile trajectories, I started work on a programming system to make it easier to write programs.”

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Shroud Take Mar 17, 2007

Then I was a smock-suited Jr member of the shroud brigade. Working in the naphtha division I had been into feedback some, certainly I don’t get any feedback from you by the Bird Conquerors. And I loved that music. The chance to finally work for Dr Shroud, the father of full feedback and the inventor of the Weiner mobile, to work even just as a runner in the paint factory, it seemed to begin to fulfill things that I always thought would happen. I was young. It was all fun.


The PA speaker would boom out announcements of lectures in Quantitative Concepts in Cybernetic Dynamics. This was lunch in the Mutually Assured Benefits hall, where we would eat under phosphorescent illumination. And I’d note those announcements, as my work pals from Racine Street would frag me with cole slaws, and I would show up at the lectures for free with my girlfriend, Margaret. She was working as a stewardess in the Golden Shroud Dome Ride, was much smarter than me. But she was enjoying the traversal. We’d banter in cybernetics arguments, then erupt in anxious petting and muy violent cooing. Finish off at Mac’s Big Boy. Make and kiss up.

In the summer noontime light, the WeinerMobile would gleam outside the lunch hall windows, like the shiny hot dog it was. This was a throwaway of Shrouds, but one that adhered like fly paper. In a speech to the Wisconsin Poet Coop, he’d coined the term “planned obsolescence" as a description of the industrial research and development leaders mission, and the subsequent hullabaloo was something he sought thereafter aggressively to avert, tragically so it turns out, from my point of view. A little known fact about the WeinterMobile..there was more than one at any one time. I saw a tolley car stable of them on summer evening, at a time I’d just been fired from a job, and it is something that has always stayed with me.

WeinerMobile would gleam outside the lunch hall windows, like the shiny hot dog it was. This was a throwaway of Shrouds, but one that adhered like fly paper. In a speech to the Wisconsin Poet Coop, he’d coined the term “planned obsolescence" as a description of the industrial research and development leaders mission, and the subsequent hullabaloo was something he sought thereafter aggressively to avert, tragically so it turns out, from my point of view. A little known fact about the WeinterMobile..there was more than one at any one time. I saw a tolley car stable of them on summer evening, at a time I’d just been fired from a job, and it is something that has always stayed with me. The original model could go 210 mph.

There was a lot more to planned obsolescence as Dr Shroud would have it. “As I spoke, and I remember this like pylon poles passing on 32, there was a change in the values being portrayed and of the perspective simultaneously,” he once told me.

Note: This Wikipedia gives a lot of credit to the Mayer family for conveivning something that I have come to credit to Brooks Stevens. But who first had the idea for hotdog anyway. And a hot dog as a means of conveyance.

On St Patrick's Day. The Irish Rover

On the fourth of July eighteen hundred and six
We set sail from the sweet cove of Cork
We were sailing away with a cargo of bricks
For the grand city hall in New York
'Twas a wonderful craft, she was rigged fore-and-aft
And oh, how the wild winds drove her.
She'd got several blasts, she'd twenty-seven masts
And we called her the Irish Rover.

from the shanemacgowan site

Last St Pat's Post [and links to previous]

Poques in Boston Mar 15, 2006 reviewed

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Shroud Take March 15, 2007

Our story so far:Shroud Take March 10, 2007

Shroud talks:
Spysmasher..he had the patent on the rheostat. Wire-round variable resistor controlling ovens, heaters and the like. For making bleeder circuits and voltage dividers. You know. But nobody remembers. I am all that’s left. Spysmasher was a monster euchre player. He could play the game of euchre . Which it was not my game. My game was coon can. I watched him with that euchre.

Drove a 500-mph Gyrosub. At one point he was brainwashed by The Mask using a Brainograph.

A Brainograph was actually conceptually pretty similar to a glass harmonica. Programmed to overthrow U.S. government. Programed to kill. First person he kills: The Mask. Went on a saboteur spree, sister. Not the Spysmasher with the Tommy Gun bursting into warehouses and flying on exploding dynamite barrels. But somebody reversed the process that made him an anarchist. Or he just got over it.

But his was the acme of cliffhangers, really. [At which point an index card dotted with resistor schema fell out of his 'cigarette pocket.'] He could leap like a bloddy lizard. And built a nice place up on Fence Lake. By then he was driving a Rocket 88, about 110-mph. Wore goggles. And still a silk scarf, ha! Watch out for spokes, Isadora, that’s what I said. He was a great guy.

When he’d play Euchre he’d have 7up and Seagram 7 at hand, you know if he could. He could have take the rheostat 24 ways by 7. But it didn’t figure. A good guy. But not interested in coon can.

The question was who was Spysmasher. The answer was another question. Who was Dr Shroud?

Also see:
Spysmasher Serial
Google Search on Gyrosub

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dave Gerber Loans Sign, N.O.


Took pic in New Orleans in about 1999. Ran through filter. Was on way to Smith & Wollensky's Steak House, in the evening as the sun went down

Shroud Take March 10, 2007

People living now think that serials like Spysmasher and Capt. America were fabricated out of whole cloth. But the fact of the business is that you had to be there. From the 1930 through the 1940s and into parts of the 1950s, even, industrial scientists, barnstormers and transient fellows somewhere between lawman and outlaw uncovered new apsectds of chemistry and electronics on a level not seen since. Quasi-secret organizations flourished in the Midwestern parts of the United States, many with the express purpose of forwarding science and art. It’s simply overlooked in the histories today, and why not? Reality is paling as enhancements to the serial heroes come to profligate on the Multimedea.

In Europe there were the Mussolini futurists, the left wing Dadaists. But the end of world war 2 things were pretty much down to the Kiwanis and the Elks. But I knew the real heroes of technology. I knew Shroud. Sort of a paramilitaries before I met him [in the days when he led the chemical dept in calisthenics’ and ultimate volley ball games] he’d become by the early cold war a semi-influential cathode visage.

The Shroud Valley Boys volley ballers still played and drank prestigiously into the 60s. his lab on the hill continued to churn out smoke as the sons of the original Shroudista volley ball team had pancake breakfasts below.
He became Shroud in a laboratory accident. What was SpySmasher like? I, a lad, asked.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Film of Bowen Court. ITube for dummies

I got this film of my life on Bowen Court in Madison. It starts with Bill driving his orange-yellow well-kept Dodge away after groceries. Leon and Eric drive down the street on cycles like Angels. Leon does a wheelie laughing. Brusha comes out the door acting like Tarzan, posing and posing, always in front of the camera, holding a banana most suggestively.

Barb emerges crossing her breast with the banana peel, points ‘thataway’ and a second later we see the old bowlegged surgical-hosed lady waddling down the street.

Then its another day, the after our last Bowen Court party, and Jim H. comes out the front door now, Peggy and Greg join him; Greg has the longest –craziest fizzed hair, like a fern in need of re-potting under his Milwaukee Brewer’s hat. Then Mazik and then Paul putting on a busboy’s white jacket. It’s two in the afternoon and he’s obviously just waking up. Bruce, shirtless proud physique coming out with a fried egg on a spatula laughing.

Then Brusha again, pointing to the flying “A” on his jersey, you can read his lips: “The Scarlet Letter.” Although it is yellow. Then the cats, Tina and a contented Raga. Ray Jackson. Me. The end.

The Saturday Evening Review of the NewYork Times: Western Man is tense

“Western man in the middle of the 20th century is tense, uncertain, adrift. We look upon our epoch as a time of troubles, an age of anxiety. The grounds of our civilization, of our certitude, are breaking up under our feet, and familiar ideas and institutions vanish as we reach for them, like shadows in the falling dusk.” *

The late Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote these words, which appear in History, Written in the Present Tense. an appreciataion found in Sunday's NYTimes. He's described as the last great public historian..which may be a bit much. But this selection shows a tremendous sweep .. and very well sums up the era I grew up in, and the prose poem that was in the air then. Described in his obit as partisan he was. Maybe that is where the sweep comes from!

He was the great intellectual of Kennedy's Camelots. With many buds he fathered American studies.

One of the subtexts of this blog has been: Famous people I saw on the street. And Arthur Schlesinger Jr. is one of those folk. In the '80s I guess I was covering a press conference that was announcing the papers to be read at ISSCC, a grand event each year, in New York, in December, usually at a swanky place. Flying down to NYC on Pan Am or taking the train to hear about the fabulous semiconductors was a great kick. And a far cry from the hardscrabble days of working in a drug store and living on the Lower East Side. This particular year the weather was ghastly. I think the event was held at the Yale Club. The elite were reading their papers and smoking their pipes. And there was Arthur, like Mr Peeprs, in a rain coat, looking for a cab or a red cap, paper under arm, looking for something, anyway - the historian and advisor to presidents. The air of an earnest liberal and thoughtful martini drinker. Gee, New York, just like I pictured it. **

History, Written in the Present Tense
With the death last week of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., at 89, America lost its last great public historian. The notion may sound strange, given the appetite, as voracious as at any time in recent memory, for serious works of history, and in particular the vogue for lengthy, often massively detailed biographies of the founders and of presidents.

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a Partisan Historian of Power, Is Dead at 89
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the historian whose more than 20 books shaped discussions for two generations about America’s past and who himself was a provocative, unabashedly liberal partisan, most notably while serving

Elsewhere, when you look at the Times Sunday Magazine spread of Mean's Wear Designers, you expect the atrocious wardrobe, the lack of toothsome smiling, poses that flaunt and preen the cherished notion that, well thoughts are few and far between in the land of teeshirts and seersucker hoodies and teeshirts and misbuttoned fine-gauge cardigans and teeshrits and $122 davenport sack blazers. But the lack of thought is elsewhere in the mag as well. Dont get excited in approaching the lead Story Why Do We Believe, or How Evolutionary Science explains faith in God, because noting happens - it is a bunch of words in a civilized [read: decadent] sleepwalk at the edge of thought. The preening and vacant gazing is there too - Two pages of scrabble that is supposed to recreate the Beginning Word Big Bang in reverse. Why do we believe? How could we with egos this size? Let's do brunch! Science and religion are difficult topics one would expect something between William James and Tom Wolfe. Skip ahead to another unsmiling intellectual pillow fight on display to see the way things are going down New York way - that is Campus Exposure, about a new crop of college sex magazines - again: words, words, words. Non partisan, of course. This has been an age of ideas, not good ones, but ideas. They've boiled down to a handful - "slacker" is one of the big ones. Bloodless ideas take a while to fade away. Schlesinger Jr. in his obit is described as compelled by the interplay of ideas and action. We recall WC Wms admonition 'no ideas but in things' and offer a diagnosis of the present blight of thought about.


*My version, circa 1969 from a paper on humanism and science..
"Our's is an age of massive alienation, violence, anxiety, depression and dehumanization. "

**My version circa 1991, when I saw Arthur..
"With my head down Jim Taylor style and through a few 80mph skyscraper gusts, and I get to the Century Club on 43rd st. Site of the IEEE’s briefing. I slowly figure out what it is a gentlemen’s club, as they were in those days – I saw Arthur D. Schlesinger Jr [maybe pop taught Mailer at Harvard] he’s maybe getting his galoshes. I didn’t ask for an autograph. What do yo say to a presidential adviser from a long ago epoch? “Gee, I really dug the way you handled the Cuban Missile Crisis.”? When I saw Art I made a point of sussing out the club bulletin board; a Rockefeller was a member, Hugh Downs was up for initiation."

Have been reading Dark Side of the Moon.

Notes: After writing about the bomb, Gerard DeGroot was looking for a more upbeat tale. He undertook then the composition of a book about the 1960s quest to reach the moon. But upbeat gave way as he learned a deeper story about the fortunes made on the space race. And the short-cuts made that cost lives.

Prehistory first: The importance of the view of space promulgated by entrepreneurs. Simulated trips to Venus and Mars at Transportation Pavilion at 1939 World’s Fair. The lesson of the failure to turn space into enterprise..Goddard comes off as petty and short on such vision. And not too original. And not a good publicist. Was hurt by poor treatment by press in early going. Did not share ideas with the community of scientists. 'Ended up in something of a void.' Still have to get to that Auburn field [now a golf course] where he first practiced his rocketry.

Early Von Braun comes across pretty much like Tom Leher painted him. Being a Nazi was convenient to his doing rocket science. His cronies too. Over 1300 rockets were fired at London, causing 2700 killed there. 20,000 concentration camp inmates died in the process of building and maintaining the mostly underground rocket labs. Hitler spend the equivalent of $500 m on the project. That was about ¼ of the entire cost of the Manhattan Project. 'Our most expensive project was our most foolish one,' said Speer.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Mojo Cold War Bio

I was born on March 9, 1951 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The trial of the Rosenbergs was in its first week and the Fifth Air Force was dropping jellied gasoline, or "napalm," in Korea. Born under such stars, I count myself a Cold Ware baby. Now, tonight, I thinks myself the man who lost his mojo. But I am going to find it, while Donald Rumsfeld..well on his finding his mojo I would not wager. Click on the link to the MP3, and listen in -MP3 audio

Fewer old Bohemians - fewer young 'uns too school

St johnsRacine

Old St. John Nepomuk, Racine's Bohemian parish, which Irish Jack and brother Mike and Dave M., and others attended, is closing the school. The associated comment feed was pure Web 2.0 - vitrol drove all!

I made a comment - I recalled the playground..that seemed to shut down the buzz. It must be art!

Deracinated Jack wrote:Lunch. The playground. In winter, chopping at the ice with our shoe heels all recess long. Tackle topper. 8th Grade Boys storming across the iced snow. Early on, comparing lunches. Rich K. with sugar on butter on Wonder Bread. Another guy with butter on Graham Crackers sandwiched. [This was DairyLand!] Wondering if John P. would need two Twinkies today. Ineptly returning Mary G.'s kick ball back, hitting Patty McD by mistake. Dread when Mary says: "Nice Play, Brainzo."

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Stewart Brand showed up in NYT

Good to see Stewart Brand showed up in NYT science pages last week. The founding editor of The Whole Earth Catalog has never been quite the harmonist in the church choir, and there’s no sign that’s changed on reviewing the piece: An Early Environmentalist, Embracing New ‘Heresies’. What are the heresies here referred to? Well, Brand is ready to accept a renewal in nuclear plant building. I am ready to agree with him: The risk of global warming, and the planet’s inhabitant’s tendencies to want electricity, warmth, and individual mobility at this point mitigate in favor of the certainly risk-encompassing nuclear solution.

As a viewer of earth phenomena Brand is non par. Twas Stewart who retrieved the Apollo program from cultural insignificance as he forwarded the conception of the importance of seeing the earth in whole in a photo.

I have been largely entertaining and often much influenced by Stewart Brand over 30 years now. Since the day I first saw the Whole Earth Catalog at Dave M.’s. He was on to Weiner and McLuhan, and people I didn’t know, like Buckminster Fuller. Cybernetics as some type of system view on technological evolution, seemed in the offing here, as well as saunas, mulchers and kayaks. All the things to escape from the Nixonian Brain Police State!

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Technicians of the Sacred, bungee chords .. how much did Brand’s pubs hip me too?!

All this became just as pointed and convincing in the CoEvolution Quarterly [The compendium I still have of that is aptly titled News that Stayed News]. Ginseng in Wisconsin, R. Crumb’s history of America .. the list goes on. The special key was that he was not afraid of computers as were a whole lot of the barricade stormers of the same eras.

In the Times piece it’s noted that Brand used Weinterian principles in his original “America Needs Indians” light shows with the Merry Pranksters. Fuller is discussed. The times I’ve been wrong is when I assume there’s a brittleness in a complex hsystem that turns out to be way more resilient than I thought.”
He now looks at the rapidly growing megacities of the third world not as a crisis but as good news:

To look at Brand’s publications today is to find many notions that are now ‘new’ again. All somehow more illuminate in the light of first principles. Yoiks away, Stewart!


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Tower talk- Are there surprising things to discover?

Are there surprising things to discover. We all no the answer is yes, everyday. Yet consprirasists linger like Wilkes Boothes in the wings saying it can be so and here is a little germ of truth that I will blow on and conjure confusion.

Had a discussion about Twin Towers on fire as hijacked planes hit with Jeff Hull. Caused me to revisit some PBS sites, and some overheard conversation with Failure Student Henry Petroski. I caught up with him in Tampa about three weeks after 911..when flying was really spooky..and heard him discuss failures of engineering [his specialty] and remember the [software] engineers around him discusing the recent great conflagaration....

Let's be base: What happened to the towers was not anticipated. Most structural engineers were surprised when the World Trade Center towers collapsed. Suprise is always possible as there are always new things to learn. Structural engineers are not dealing with a completely closed systems and they are always learning new things or variations on themes.
What was unique here? The objective of the plane hijackers was not to avoid the towers. Was to hit them head-on. Was to hit them on with almost the maximum amount of jet fuel. Because this building was super was able to go at it...if it had been one among similar buildings..if it had been smaller.. the effect, even given the plane hijackers specific objective might have been more diffuse..
What has been surprising in the study of the collapse of the towers.. Henry Petroski was asked...he responded.... Among the most interesting results of engineering failure analyses of the collapsed towers has been the incontrovertible evidence that fire and the heat that accompanies it can trigger the collapse of a structure...
The building was designed to take the impact of a Boeing 707, though engineers apparently did not take into consideration the plane's fuel load. Temperatures of the fuel fire may have reached 2,000°F.
Understand: No evidence has turned up that the fires burned hot enough to melt any of the steel [I had thought that some of the less virile steel {level 3 or 4 in the steel pecking order, tressing steel, say} might have] .. but eventually the steel lost 80 percent of its strength because of the intensity of the fire. And this was very logical key to dissolution observed of towers.
Because anything incendiary is susceptible to the maneurivings of relatvistic opionion freaks .. I think it is improtant to be sure about the validity quality of sources.l Petroski me thinks is a valued source...

From a Petrowsi interview:

Among the most interesting results of engineering failure analyses of the collapsed towers has been the incontrovertible evidence that fire and the heat that accompanies it can trigger the collapse of a structure the way they did in New York. There had been fires in skyscrapers before, but none had collapsed, because the fire and the attendant structural damage was confined to a floor or two and thereby localized in their effect and the structural damage they caused. In the case of the World Trade Center, the massive structural damage due to the impact of the hijacked airplanes, in combination with the intense heat of the resulting fires, produced a theretofore incredible combination of forces on the buildings. Such combinations of forces are, obviously, no longer incredible.



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