June 27, 2014

Are Hemingway and Obama beatnik writers?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:37 pm

Crop of LInda King

“Loving and Hating Charles Bukowski,” by Linda King, has been revised and the author was featured in a reading at the Beat Museum in San Francisco on the evening of Friday June 20, 2014. That, in turn, caused one member of the audience, who had been a North Beach resident in the late Fifties, to question the validity of the choice. Purists say that a writer had to have belonged to the coterie of novelists who drank with Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg to merit the right to be described as a beatnik writer (scriba beatnikus).

Defining who exactly can accurately be described as a “beat” writer and who can not has provided the academic community with many lively discussions concerning the correct application of the “beatnik” label. The word was coined by legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen.

A excerpt of Charles Bukowski’s “Notes of a Dirty Old Man” is included in “The Portable Beat Reader,” edited by Ann Charters.

Hunter S. Thompson, who for a time worked with and hung out with the crew at Ken Kesey’s home near La Honda, specifically identified himself with the Sixties journalists who insisted on having their own identifying label (scriba gonzo).

According to “Memory Babe,” by Gerald Nicosia, (based on an interview with one of Kerouac’s ex-wives) Ernest Hemingway (scriba nobeli) and Kerouac met and chatted at a party in Greenwich Village in the late forties. Is that sufficient evidence for calling Hemingway a beatnik writer?

Since knowing Kerouac and Ginsberg is such a limiting qualification, perhaps someone who has all the other necessary hallmarks, such as a love of peace, brotherhood and a disdainful attitude regarding the government (such as the Republican dominated do-nothing Congress) means that the Beat Museum could extend an invitation to speak and promote a (hypothetically speaking) new book to President Obama after he terms out.

As we were writing this column, when we got to this point a lighthearted attempt to write a whimsical report on a group of writers who were pop culture icons fifty years ago seemed absurdly inappropriate during a week when it was obvious that the threat of total anarchy was being used for a high stakes game of chicken involving Maliki and Obama and the countries they lead.

The mainstream media in the USA seemed to agree that Maliki had reneged on a promise to have an inclusive government and Obama indicated that a broken promise by Maliki was the basis for withholding the crucial military support that would be needed to keep Maliki in power.

Expecting Maliki to become cordial to Sunni Iraqi citizens is about as realistic as expecting the Republicans to give President Obama an award for outstanding achievement in the realm of conciliatory bipartisan negotiations.

If the Republicans can win a majority in both the House and the Senate in the November 2014 mid term elections, how long will they wait to start an effort to impeach Obama?

What we had not seen or heard in all the superfluous coverage of the diplomatic confrontation between Maliki and Obama was any speculation about how the events might have reached irreversible trend level that means the fall of Baghdad will soon be inevitable. All the coverage we encountered hinted that a siege might occur and that volunteer Shiite warriors were being rushed to meet the Sunni rebel troops. No mention was made about “the point of no return.”

All the high paid retired officers who offer “expert” commentary skipped over any comparisons with past wars. Was the current situation analogous to the Spanish Civil War? Would the Sunnis take Baghdad as effortlessly as the Germans took Paris in 1940? Would current events in Iraq be a replay of the fall of Saigon?

News broadcasts on TV and radio told the audience of the latest cities to be captured by Isis forces, but listing towns that have been captured when Iraqi troops ran away from any potential battle is just a bit like hearing the final score of last night’s baseball game.  (It has been more than a hundred years since a Giants pitcher has thrown two no hitters.)  Was it a pitchers’ dual? Was it a slug fest. What about the time the pitcher threw a perfect game for nine innings and then lost the game in extra innings?

If the World’s Laziest Journalist offered some wild speculation about what could possibly happen and guessed correctly, he might find himself explaining the lucky guess to some very skeptical folks rather than being in Too Fat City examining job offers from various world famous news media. It would be a noir version of Evelyn Waugh’s war novel “Scoop.”

During the week, we acquired a copy of Max Hastings’ book “All Hell Let Loose (the World at War 1939 – 1945)” and learned that early in the conflict Poland was left in the lurch. France expected more help and was disappointed in the British strategy. Norway and Finland expected more help from the Allies than they received. Has Maliki read this book? Did you know that after British troops were evacuated from Dunkirk, some were sent back to France and were subsequently evacuated a second time? Speaking of broken promises how is the investigation into the care of wounded veterans going?

Did you know that after the fall of France, (for about five weeks) British troops fought Vichy French troops in Syria?

Reluctantly we turned our attention back to the beatnik philosophy and the potential for column topics that could be found on the road. We noticed that Blazing Kat Productions is doing some fundraising to sustain their effort to document the lesser known efforts of activists all around the USA. Their itinerary, which is posted on their web site and promoted on their Facebook page, includes Mendocino and Oakland and perhaps we can do an interview and full length column about their efforts later this summer.

When will the mainstream media notice that the tsunami of adolescent aliens along the southern border might become a landlocked version of the Mariel boat lift debacle? Do the Democrats want that? Are the Republicans encouraging a potential humanitarian crisis just for political gain?

Is the Beat Hotel still open in Paris? Is the Hotel Scribe still in existence? Should we subsidize the necessary expenses that would be needed to provide some gonzo punditry about the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris? (If so, we’ll need a copy of “Europe on $5 a day.”) Can Hemingway be considered a Beatnik prototype? We are continuing our debate with Beat Museum proprietor Jerry Cimini on this topic and may devote an entire column to this question later in the summer.

We promised a young lady, newly arrived in Berkeley from Ireland, that we would plug the Human Rights Campaign in this column. (Google hint: HRC dot org)

[Note from the photo editor: A symbolic image of the North Beach area being reflected in the lens of a pair of sunglasses augments photos take at the Beat Museum on Friday, June 20, 2014 for this week’s column.]

Due to a National Holiday, next week’s end of the week column will be posted a day early, in the usual places.

The Beatniks who endorse the legalization of marijuana will have a difficult time refuting the implications of the article that appeared in the New York Times this week under the headline: “Cool at 13; Adrift at 23.”

For doing everything that infuriated the members of the Democratic party when George W. Bush was President, President Obama is causing the Republicans to discuss impeachment proceedings and all that the network news programs can say is that America is mesmerized by the World Cup Games in Brazil. WTF? The weirdness has only just begun.

Some soccer fans think that one word of dialogue should be added to the “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”sound track: “Go-o-o-o-o-o-ld!”

Now the disk jockey will play Johnny and the Hurricanes’ “Beatnik Fly,” and the song of the summer for 2014 Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” and Willie Nelson’s new album, “Band of Brothers.” We have to go see if we can catch a ride to this year’s installment of the Hemingway Days festival in Key West, Fla. Have a “Bite me!” type week.

Beat Museum photo intern at work

Intern at work

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