Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I've heard from several sources that the MLK march here in San Antonio is the largest in the nation (which, I guess, makes it the largest in the world?). I'm always a bit suspicious of hyperbole. Besides, the important thing is that the turn-out today was quite massive.
I attended with Dar and Andy. Last night I had trouble sleeping. It's been brutally cold lately and I've closed off my bedroom so the rest of the place warms up more. (I also keep the bathroom door closed because one of the little glass panes is missing from the window.) This left me with a sofa to sleep on which isn't all that comfortable. All night long it pissed down with rain. How this slop failed to freeze, I don't know. It was about thirty degrees as I drove to the park-and-ride station at the Alamodome.
The wind kept up briskly, but once the march started moving, I warmed up. There were a couple of moments when the crowd clumped up a bit, and we able to stand there in the middle of the street and turn to see the full length of the march, which strung out a mile and a half or two miles behind us. But otherwise, the march moved pretty smoothly.
Here's a photo Dar took of me and Andy.
The organizations running this event had it all down well. There were plenty of news crews on the streets and 'copters above. I was hoping more chanting and rousing of the rabble, but I think the cold (bitter as hell for us Texans) kept most of the folks with bullhorns a bit sedate. But it's always a kick to see entire families out with peace signs and homemade posters.
Has Dr. King's absence ever been more sad and telling than these last few days? Five days ago Bush gave his address to the nation explicating this new troop surge. One of the bizarre elements of this speech was that video was allowed, but not still photographers. The online and print media outlets were given a choice of using video frame grabs (of questionable quality), or the Big Brother style images provided by the White House. I have nothing but the most hostile contempt for the world of public relations and marketing. In fact, they seem to have successfully replaced the world of journalism. In previous generations, the fourth estate wouldn't have taken this shit lying down.
As I recall, the American people coughed a bit, low in our collective throats, and set forth a fairly clear mandate back in November. We don't like your war, Mister President. Yeah. We said that. So why is this clown and his vile cohorts continuing to carry forth this abysmally unpopular action? It gets worse because — not so much in Bush's speech, but from a recent interview with Cheney — it seems Iran is the intended new front. It all seems so sad and desperate. And if it weren't for an insane stockpile of our own WMDs this could be quite comical.
We're pushing the third act here. And it could turn ugly fast. We the people need to move beyond our vocal yet rather passive actions at the polling place and get active. We had these guys on the ropes, dammit! Don't let them bounce back. And just because some blowhard by the name of Nancy Pelosi says, “Impeachment is off the table,” we need to remind her and all these other officials we've elected, that it is our table, and we'll jolly well pile it with what we want.
There have been two recent passings that sadden me. Robert Anton Wilson died on January 11th. I was reading through the Boing Boing site when I saw the notice. My sister soon sent me an email. In her blog she writes about a reading / stand-up performance she's attended in England years ago while studying abroad. We had also seen him give a performance in Dallas, at, of all places, the auditorium of the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, (does this mean Wilson's Masonic connections were legit?). Somewhere around here I have a photo Paula took of me getting a book signed by Wilson. Man, that must have been back sometime in the mid '80s.
I guess I first discovered Wilson by reading the Illuminatus Trilogy which he had co-written with Robert Shea. It was just at that perfect time in my life and my readings where many of the inside jokes of the novels could resonate. I was maybe 17. I was heavily into Lovecraft and all those Weird Tale writers. I'd gotten deep into Beckett (but not yet Joyce). Everything William Burroughs had written up to that point I had read. I was nibbling around the edges of the Edwardian New Age, reading Crowley and Ouspensky and Gurdjieff. I'd read some of the cheesy popularized forays into the quantum world such as Zukav and Capra. I'd explored the upper rind of zen with Christmas Humphreys and Alan Watts. I was pretty much current with all the stuff — fiction and nonfiction — Colin wilson had written. I had a smattering of knowledge on anarchists and kindred idealists and activists.
Reading the trilogy and all of Wilson's other work made me feel much smarter than I actually was. I was just getting the references is all. He wasn't synthesizing all these desperate writers and ideas, he was simply bringing his somewhat obscure interests into the same simmering stew pot. It was a heady concoction, and I loved it. He certainly set me off on half a dozen other intellectual pursuits. The Sufis, Yates, the Warren Commission, forgotten '60s garage bands, and on and on.
He'll be missed.
Also, Alice Coltrane passed away late last week. When I'm in the mood for post-bebop free jazz, I often find myself pulling out my Alice Coltrane albums. In fact, it's safe to say I more often listen to her that I do to her husband. She's probably best known for her work on the harp, but I mostly think of her work as a keyboardist. When she approached the piano, the sound came out clean and bright, more melodic than Taylor, Monk, or Sun Ra, but still beautifully challenging in its straightforwardness. Apparently she reappeared from retirement in 2006 for a few performances. I need to do some research and see if recordings were made.