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Thursday, March 31, 2022

March 31, 2022: Stand-Up Studying: Katherine Ryan

[For this year’s April Fool’s series, I wanted to highlight one great routine each from a handful of the many wonderful stand-up comedians doing their thing these days—in case, y’know, you’re (like me) looking to move on from a problematic fave. Add your faves, present and past, in comments!]

Yesterday’s subject, Jim Jefferies, is an Australian immigrant who came to the U.S. by way of the U.K., and still incorporates those different cultures and perspectives into much of his comedy (although, to quote a great line from that gun control set-piece when he acknowledges that hostile audience members might tell him to go back where he came from: “No. I’m here legally, I pay my taxes, and your 1st Amendment means I can say that your 2nd Amendment sucks balls”). Whereas today’s subject, the very funny and thoughtful comic Katherine Ryan, is an American expat living in Britain, or at least was when she filmed her wonderful 2019 special Glitter Room.

That culture clash, or at least culture shock, is one main subject of Ryan’s special, particularly when it comes to raising her pre-teen daughter who appears (as Ryan tells it at least, and likely exaggerates it as all good stand-ups do) to be becoming more English by the day. But another, related main subject for Ryan’s thoughtful and funny observations is gender and identity, and particularly the wide range of limiting and oppressive images and narratives around gender that continue to influence both young girls like her daughter and adult women like Ryan herself (and, of course, all of us who live in this moment and global culture).

Those topics inform the special’s best set-piece, which also happens to be one of the most unique as well as smartest commentaries on Hamilton I’ve ever heard (the first hyperlink is the Ryan bit; the second is a Guest Post on the musical from my friend and three-time Guest Poster Emily Lauer). Once again, you can watch the whole of this bit at that first hyperlink, so I’m not going to say too much more—check it out and enjoy!

Last stand-up fave tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Takes on Ryan and/or other faves you’d share?

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

March 30, 2022: Stand-Up Studying: Jim Jefferies

[For this year’s April Fool’s series, I wanted to highlight one great routine each from a handful of the many wonderful stand-up comedians doing their thing these days—in case, y’know, you’re (like me) looking to move on from a problematic fave. Add your faves, present and past, in comments!]

Yesterday’s subject, Roy Wood Jr., is that rare stand-up comic who can talk about social and political issues without sounding the slightest bit pedantic or preachy—and he does so consistently, at least in the newest special on which I focused in that post. Today’s subject, the foul-mouthed Australian immigrant Jim Jefferies, tends not to talk about such issues much at all, at least not in his stand-up comedy (he does so more often on his Jim Jefferies Show, in which he offers similarly foul-mouthed takes on headlines and current events).

Which perhaps is part of the reason why Jefferies’ single most famous stand-up set-piece, drawn from his 2014 special Bare, is a 15-minute long segment (that’s just part one of two; the second video should show up on that page as well) on why he hates guns and is a strong advocate for gun control—I’m sure his audiences at the time were stunned to see Jefferies turn his attention at all to such a controversial political issue, much less to do so at such great length. But while that might have drawn initial attention to the routine, what has made it such a lasting part of our pop culture landscape is that it is both thoroughly hilarious and impeccably well-argued.

Want proof of the latter point? A couple years back, my older son had to write a persuasive essay for one of his classes, and he chose the topic of gun control. We had watched the Jefferies clips some time before then, and my son was not only able to recall them quite fully, but used many of Jefferies’ ideas as jumping-off points for his own arguments (which he was then able to back up with extensive use of sources and statistics). Am I saying it was the funniest student paper about gun control ever written? I just might be—and I know for a fact it had the funniest starting point and source.

Next stand-up fave tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Takes on Jeffries and/or other faves you’d share?

PPS. One note if you're going to watch the clips: like many Australians and Brits alike, Jefferies uses the c-word as a ubiquitous insult, for men at least as often as for women. Very different from our usage of the word in the States, so just FYI. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

March 29, 2022: Stand-Up Studying: Roy Wood Jr.

[For this year’s April Fool’s series, I wanted to highlight one great routine each from a handful of the many wonderful stand-up comedians doing their thing these days—in case, y’know, you’re (like me) looking to move on from a problematic fave. Add your faves, present and past, in comments!]

I’ve known about most of the comics I’ll highlight in this week’s series for at least a few years, but only discovered Roy Wood Jr. in the last couple months—or, more exactly, I learned about him during that time from one of my most reliable recommenders of cultural texts and voices, my Mom. I think I had previously known Wood from his longstanding role as a correspondent on The Daily Show, so I suppose it’s most accurate to say (and we know that humorists care a lot about using just the right words, rather than what Twain called the almost right ones) that I only started checking out Wood’s stand-up comedy when my Mom recommended to me his latest special, Imperfect Messenger (2021).

There’s a lot that’s pitch-perfect about Imperfect, but to my mind what makes it particularly excellent is that while a great deal of it focuses on social and cultural issues like race, politics, the age of Covid, and more, it literally never feels pedantic or preachy, a very difficult balance to pull off indeed. As the special’s title suggests, Wood recognizes that he’s not someone who’s necessarily going to feel like a wise voice of authority, that’s just not his persona—but ultimately, at least to this very entertained viewer, both that recognition itself and his natural voice and perspective make Wood feel both wise and authoritative in his pointed and hilarious observations about society, culture, and politics.

As with all of my highlights this week, I highly recommend watching the whole special if you get a chance. But if I were to single out one section from that special which epitomizes all those strengths, I would have to go with the set-piece about Leonardo DiCaprio as “an underrated white ally.” I really don’t want to say much more than that, since in this case (unlike with yesterday’s subject) you can watch the whole thing at that link. Hie thee hence!

Next stand-up fave tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Takes on Wood and/or other faves you’d share?

Monday, March 28, 2022

March 28, 2022: Stand-Up Studying: Anthony Jeselnik

[For this year’s April Fool’s series, I wanted to highlight one great routine each from a handful of the many wonderful stand-up comedians doing their thing these days—in case, y’know, you’re (like me) looking to move on from a problematic fave. Add your faves, present and past, in comments!]

This might come as a surprise to anyone who knows me to be the congenital optimist that I am—a critical optimist to be sure, but nonetheless—but I have a serious soft spot for very dark humor, the darker the better. Partly that might be the irresistible appeal of opposites (they do, as Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat knew all too well, attract). But I’d say it’s also and especially my sense that underneath most dark humor—and definitely the best dark humor—is a deep sweetness, a real compassion and care for the world, if one perhaps masked in humor because of the equally real concurrent fear of being hurt by that world.

I see all of that in the best darkly humorous comic—and quite simply one of the very best comics period—working today, Anthony Jeselnik. Jeselnik’s stock-and-trade is writing short jokes that offer darkly comic twists on audience expectations, sometimes in standalone singularity, sometimes as part of a long series (I defy anyone not to crack up at the dropping babies and murder-suicide series in his most recent special, Fire in the Maternity Ward [2019]). If there’s a sweetness underlying those jokes, I would have to agree with anyone who’d argue that it’s buried pretty deep.

But each of Jeselnik’s specials to date has ended with a long set-piece, one that still relies on a number of individual jokes of that ilk but that adds up to something more—and, I believe, something more clearly thoughtful and sweet (if still dark as fuck). And the set-piece that ends Fire, a 15-minute long “very true” story about the time he drove a friend to get an abortion (I apologize for linking to The Federalist, but that’s the clearest write-up of this specific set-piece I can find; click through at your own risk), is both a stunning dark humor tour-de-force and, again, a profoundly sweet representation of friendship, care, and love. It’s maybe the best single performance by maybe our best contemporary comic, and that ain’t no joke.

Next stand-up fave tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Takes on Jeselnik and/or other faves you’d share?

Saturday, March 26, 2022

March 26-27, 2022: 21st Century Rock and Roll

[On March 21st, 1952, Cleveland Arena hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball, an event widely considered the first major rock and roll concert. So this week I’ve AmericanStudied that concert and other groundbreaking rock and roll figures and stories, leading up to this special weekend post on 21st century rockers carrying the legacies forward!]

On a handful of the many contemporary rockers extending the genre’s legacies.

1)      Dave Matthews Band: I wrote in that post about the ways in which Matthews and his band reflect Cville’s cross-cultural and diverse story, and would say the same, as I’ve argued throughout the week’s series, about rock and roll. But the thing DMB are best known for is their epic concerts & jam sessions, and it’s important to wrap up a series inspired by the first prominent rock concert by coming back around to that idea—at its heart, rock has always been about performance, the experience of live music for all involved, and no contemporary artists have embodied that more than DMB.

2)      The Counting Crows: It’s easy to say that early rock music wasn’t so much interested in lyricism, and it’s true that many of those songs were quite minimal and repetitive lyrically (although some, like Chuck Berry’s “School Days,” were lyrically amazing nonetheless). But soon enough the genre expanded to include folk-influenced voices like Bob Dylan, artists whose lyrics rival the great 20th century literary works (as the Nobel folks recognize). And in the 21st century, I don’t know any rock artists who have extended that poetic lyricism more than Adam Duritz and the Counting Crows (who echoed and name-checked Dylan in their early hit “Mr. Jones”). Listen to “Raining in Baltimore” if ye doubt the claim!

3)      Lenny Kravitz: Long before the Crows engaged with Dylan’s legacy, one of the truly great American rock artists produced a searing cover of his “All Along the Watchtower” that quite simply obliterated the original. That artist was of course the towering talent that was Jimi Hendrix, an artist to whom Lenny Kravitz has been consistently linked and compared throughout his decades-long career. I’m not here to make the case that Kravitz is as great nor as influential as Hendrix (and he doesn’t have to be to be worth our listening of course)—but both of their careers reflect, among other things, the central role of covers and echoes, of comparisons and next generations, throughout rock history. And, for that matter, the still-too-often under-remembered role of Black rock artists.

4)      The Killers: What, you really thought I was gonna get through an entire weeklong series on rock and roll without a Springsteen reference?! Even before they dueted with Bruce last year, remaking one of my favorite of their songs in the process, Brandon Flowers and The Killers had been in conversation with Bruce throughout their long and evolving career. But to my mind it’s their stunning newest album, 2021’s Pressure Machine, that truly echoes and yet challenges and extends the legacies of singer-songwriter storytellers like Bruce (and many others, including another new collaborator with Bruce, John Mellencamp) and their portrayals of profoundly American settings, communities, histories, and lives.  

5)      The Linda Lindas: All those artists have been around for decades, though—and ultimately, as the Moondog Coronation Ball reflected clearly (even if they didn’t get to crown their teenage king and queen), rock and roll has always been a young person’s game. And it doesn’t get much younger, nor much more rock and roll, than this group of badass California teenagers. Moreover, the presence of an artist like Varetta Dillard on that 1952 bill reminds us that women—and women of color in particular—have been part of rock from the jump, as artists just as much as audiences. Here’s hoping that more and more multi-cultural young women like the Linda Lindas keep extending that legacy into the 21st century as well!

Next series starts Monday,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other contemporary (or historical) rock and rollers you’d highlight?

Friday, March 25, 2022

March 25, 2022: Rock and Roll Groundbreakers: Elvis Presley (and Frank Sinatra)

[On March 21st, 1952, Cleveland Arena hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball, an event widely considered the first major rock and roll concert. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy that concert and other groundbreaking rock and roll figures and stories, leading up to a special weekend post on 21st century rockers carrying the legacies forward!]

On the differences between influential and interesting, and why even the former can be problematic.

It seems to me that you can’t tell the story of American popular music in the 20th century—and thus the story of American popular music period—without including Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley in prominent roles. Indeed, given each man’s forays into acting, entrepreneurship, and other cultural and social arenas, I’m not sure you could leave them out of a broader 20th century history of America either. In their own ways, and in their own particular, most successful periods (Sinatra’s career extended well into Presley’s, of course, but he was at his most successful in its first couple decades, between 1935 and about 1955; Presley rose to prominence in the mid-1950s and was at his peak from then until about 1970), the two artists dominated their respective musical genres time and again, leaving legacies that extend well beyond record sales or awards (although both are among the most successful artists of all time as measured in those ways as well).

So I wouldn’t necessarily argue with definitions of Sinatra and Elvis as among the most influential musical artists of all time (although I might, in a moment, argue that point too). But influential isn’t the same as interesting, and on that score both artists fall short for me. Partly that’s just about taste and how there’s, y’know, no accounting for it (de gustibus, non est disputandum, as our Roman friends knew); I’m not a big fan of either crooners or rockabilly, and thus likely outside of the ideal audience for either man’s biggest hits or signature styles. But my point here isn’t simply about my personal tastes, which I don’t expect are hugely interesting either—I’m thinking as well about the nature of the men’s mainstream popularity and prominence. Despite the unquestionable (if, in retrospect, very silly) controversy over Presley’s hips, that is, I would argue that both men succeeded as consistently as they did because they were largely unobjectionable, hitting cultural sweet spots with regularity in a way that doesn’t seem as interesting as artists who push the envelope or challenge norms.

Moreover, I’m not sure that describing these two artists as influential is entirely justified either. After all, a significant percentage of both men’s songs were written by other songwriters or were covers of other artists; clearly their stunning voices and signature styles played a prominent role in making the songs as successful as they were, but I don’t know that simply singing and performing someone else’s songs qualifies an artist as influential. To be clear, I’m not trying to rehash the old argument about Presley exploiting African American music; that issue is part of the Elvis story to be sure, but the truth (as I argued at length in yesterday’s post) is that a great deal of early rock and roll, if not indeed the entire genre, crossed racial and cultural boundaries. Instead, I’m simply trying to differentiate between what we might call performers and artists, and to argue that those whom we would locate in the former category (such as two men whose most consistent successes were as performers singing others’ words, or similarly as actors reciting others’ lines) might be more important than they were influential or interesting.

Special post this weekend,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other rock and roll pioneers you’d highlight?

Thursday, March 24, 2022

March 24, 2022: Rock and Roll Groundbreakers: Chuck Berry and Little Richard

[On March 21st, 1952, Cleveland Arena hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball, an event widely considered the first major rock and roll concert. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy that concert and other groundbreaking rock and roll figures and stories, leading up to a special weekend post on 21st century rockers carrying the legacies forward!]

On a pair of foundational icons whose stories represent some of the worst and best of rock and race.

Lists are a famously contested way to commemorate musical history, but also one of the most common ways to do so—and for both reasons I have no qualms about starting a post on Chuck Berry and Little Richard by noting that the pair of musical pioneers account for no less than nine of the top 27 rock and roll songs of the 1950s per this (I’m sure quite authoritative and impossible to dispute) list. And in truth, while that list and all lists might be made for good-natured disputes, there’s simply no arguing with the fact that we can’t narrate nor commemorate the origins of rock and roll without a central place for Charles Edward Anderson Berry (nicknamed the “Father of Rock and Roll”) and Richard Wayne Penniman (nicknamed “the architect of rock and roll”; a nickname perhaps bestowed by himself, but what’s more rock and roll than that?!). They’re far from the only ones, as I hope this week’s series has made clear—but at the same time, if I were to going to narrow it down to just two groundbreaking icons (there’s that list idea again), I think I’d have to go with Chuck and Richard.

While they have much in common, then, it’s fair to say that Chuck Berry and Little Richard’s respective stories and arcs diverged quite a bit, and not just in the ways that the careers and lives of any two distinct artists and individuals always would. After dominating the charts, airwaves, and rock tours throughout the mid- to late-50s and into the early 60s, Berry’s career took a precipitous decline in 1962 when he was charged and convicted under the Mann Act and sentenced to three years in prison, an arrest and sentence that I can’t help but believe were tied to the power structure’s racist fears of both Black sexuality and rock and roll’s cross-cultural influences on young (white) people. To be clear, it seems to be genuinely the case that Berry transported a minor with whom he was in a sexual relationship across state lines, making him legally culpable under the Mann Act; but I would note that just a few years earlier, in 1957, the white rocker Jerry Lee Lewis had famously married a 13 year old (and his cousin to boot) and was to my knowledge never charged nor arrested, and certainly never convicted nor jailed, for doing so. Moreover, after gradually rebuilding his career, in 1979 Berry was once again sentenced to jail for doing something that numerous artists have done and likely continue to do—getting paid in cash to avoid paying taxes.

While Little Richard was not without his share of criticisms and controversies—many also related to issues of sex and sexuality, since Richard was a truly groundbreaking artist who consistently crossed boundaries around those issues, dress and appearance, and many related layers of identity (although he also went through frustratingly regressive periods)—he avoided any such legal challenges and maintained his striking 1950s success throughout the subsequent 60+ years of his career and life. Moreover, Richard similarly and even more influentially crossed boundaries when it came to race and music, as exemplified not just by the constant covers of his works by white peers (including tomorrow’s subject Elvis Presley, who told Richard in 1969 that he was “the greatest”), but also by his influences on The Beatles—the group opened for Richard on some early 1960s tour dates, and Richard apparently taught Paul McCartney some of his vocalizations in the process. The history of rock and roll can’t be told without remembering the racism and double standards faced by artists like Chuck Berry—but at its heart I believe it’s a profoundly cross-cultural and boundary-crossing genre, and no one embodied those trends more than Little Richard.

Last rock and roll remembrance tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other rock and roll pioneers you’d highlight?

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

March 23, 2022: Rock and Roll Groundbreakers: Fats Domino

[On March 21st, 1952, Cleveland Arena hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball, an event widely considered the first major rock and roll concert. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy that concert and other groundbreaking rock and roll figures and stories, leading up to a special weekend post on 21st century rockers carrying the legacies forward!]

On a few iconic moments in the career of a pioneering, legendary rock ‘n roller.

1)      “The Fat Man”: Domino’s first hit under his debut recording contract with Lew Chudd’s Imperial Records, co-written with his frequent producer and collaborator (and an influential artist in his own right) Dave Bartholomew and recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Recording Studios on Rampart Street, wasn’t just the first rock record to sell a million copies (although it did hit that groundbreaking number by 1951). It also embodies rock’s profoundly cross-cultural origins, on so many levels: from Domino’s own French Creole heritage (his first language was Louisiana Creole) to Matassa’s multi-generational Italian American New Orleans legacy, from Chudd’s childhood in Toronto and Harlem as the son of Russian Jewish immigrants to African American artist Bartholomew’s time in the US Army Ground Forces Band (an integrated band despite the army’s segregation in the era) during WWII. It took all those individuals and all those legacies to make “Fat Man” and get American rock music rolling.

2)      “The King”: Over the next couple decades Domino would record many more hit records and albums, with “Ain’t That a Shame” (1955) and “Blueberry Hill” (1956) the two biggest smashes. A February 1957 Ebony magazine feature dubbed him (on the cover no less) the “King of Rock ‘n Roll.” But it was an offhand line from another “King,” more than a decade later, that most potently reflects Domino’s status and influence. On July 31, 1969, Domino attended Elvis Presley’s first concert at the Las Vegas International Hotel; during a post-concert press conference, a reporter referred to Presley as “The King,” and he responded by pointing at Domino and noting, “No, that’s the real king of rock and roll.” At the same event Elvis took an iconic picture with Domino, calling him “one of my influences from way back.” I’ll have a bit more to say about Elvis and his influence in a couple days; but regardless of any other factors, this recognition for Domino from one of the most famous American rockers in history illustrates just how iconic Fats was within (and beyond) the industry.

3)      Katrina: Domino was known to be one of the most humble and grounded rock stars, and he and his wife Rosemary continued to live in their home in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward throughout the late 20th century and into the first decade of the 21st. Because of Rosemary’s ailing health they did not evacuate in the days before Hurricane Katrina hit the city, and in the storm’s chaotic aftermath their home was flooded and Domino and Rosemary were feared dead for a couple long days. But it turned out they had been rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter, and in 2006 and 2007 Domino made triumphant returns to the city and the music world: first with his 2006 album Alive and Kickin’, the proceeds from which benefitted Tipitina’s Foundation; and then with his last public performance (and first in many years), a legendary May 19, 2007 concert at Tipitina’s. If there had been any doubt that Domino represented New Orleans just as much and as well as he does rock ‘n roll, these culminating iconic moments laid them forever to rest.

Next rock and roll remembrance tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other rock and roll pioneers you’d highlight?

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

March 22, 2022: Rock and Roll Groundbreakers: Alan Freed

[On March 21st, 1952, Cleveland Arena hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball, an event widely considered the first major rock and roll concert. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy that concert and other groundbreaking rock and roll figures and stories, leading up to a special weekend post on 21st century rockers carrying the legacies forward!]

On two contrasting sides to the pioneering DJ, and how to bridge the gap.

If you’re like me, you probably know the name Alan Freed in conjunction with the “payola” scandals of the late 1950s, media controversies and eventually legal battles over the (at the time) frequent practice of bribing radio DJs to play certain songs and artists. Indeed, Freed has come to be so consistently associated with payola (the scandals around which caused him to lose his job and ended not only his DJing career but also in some clear ways his life, as they contributed to the chronic alcoholism that left him dead at the tragically young age of 43) that my initial focus for this post was going to be entirely on payola with Freed as Exhibit A in telling that particular story. Similarly, the 1978 Freed biopic American Hot Wax focuses on a very specific historical moment, one that happens to be at the height of the payola scandal (during the period in November 1959 when Freed [played in the film by Tim McIntire] famously refused to sign a radio station drafted statement stating that he had never received bribes, leading to his firing from New York’s WABC).

Payola may have ended Freed’s career and life, however, but it doesn’t take much additional research to realize that it most definitely did not define them. Freed was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the very first class of inductees in 1986, for two interconnected reasons: his central role in promoting rock and roll in its earlier moments (he’s widely considered the first DJ to play rock and roll music, and even the first the use the phrase “rock and roll” on the radio); and his consistent, vocal promotion of black artists and music during an early 1950s moment when such support was, to say the least, striking. I’ve written before about the cross-cultural origins of rock and roll in relationship to pioneering figures like Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, but it’s fair to say that no single figure better exemplified—and, indeed, did more to amplify—that 1950s cross-cultural moment than did Alan Freed. While Freed didn’t create such artists, he very much helped get their work and voices out to broader American and international audiences, a role and influence that more or less defines the best of what radio can do and be.

So what do we do with that duality at the heart of the hugely influential (if tragically brief) career and life of this radio pioneer? It’d be easy, and not inaccurate, to see it as a contradiction, an example of the worst and best of radio summed up in one telling figure. But I would also say that these two histories are intimately interconnected through one shared lens: that of radio’s profound cultural influence in and on mid-20th century America. In our current moment of YouTube and TikTok and so so so many other ways that artists and music can be shared (and even in prior moments of Napster and MySpace and so on), it can be difficult to really understand just how much power an individual DJ like Alan Freed could have on what music was being played and heard. But one easy way to understand that influence is to read about the payola scandal, during which for example Freed’s fellow DJ Phil Lind disclosed to a Congressional hearing that he had been paid $22,000 (roughly $200,000 in today’s society) to play a single record more frequently. For a time, DJs—and radio more generally—comprised perhaps the single most powerful cultural force in American society—and DJ Alan Freed specifically illustrates the profoundly progressive uses to which such power (and, yes, such illicit money) could be put.

Next rock and roll remembrance tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other rock and roll pioneers you’d highlight?

Monday, March 21, 2022

March 21, 2022: Rock and Roll Groundbreakers: The Moondog Coronation Ball

[On March 21st, 1952, Cleveland Arena hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball, an event widely considered the first major rock and roll concert. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy that concert and other groundbreaking rock and roll figures and stories, leading up to a special weekend post on 21st century rockers carrying the legacies forward!]

On three layers to a foundational concert (beyond the role of organizer and DJ Alan Freed, on whom more in tomorrow’s post).

1)      The Controversy: It’s strikingly telling that the first rock and roll concert ran into problems with the authorities, setting the stage for decades of such conflicts. In this case, the issue began with ticketing errors that led to roughly twice as many tickets being issued as Cleveland Arena could hold; when those roughly 20,000 ticket-holders understandably tried to stay in the arena, the event was eventually shut down (although the exact details of when and by whom remain uncertain and debated, setting the stage for the kinds of mythic stories/lore that have also accompanied rock concerts and rock and roll overall ever since). One thing’s for sure, though: the planned “coronation” of a teen king and queen at midnight, a clear reflection of rock music’s youthful appeal and audience from the jump, sadly did not take place.

2)      The Performers: While exactly when that shutdown occurred remains disputed, there’s no doubt that many of the night’s later acts, including Billy Ward and His Dominoes and Varetta Dillard, unfortunately did not get to perform. But as journalist and radio pioneer Valena Minor Williams recounted in her coverage of the event, the first two headlining acts did get to play, and each represents a unique thread to the history of early rock and roll. There was Paul Williams, the saxophonist turned R&B band leader whose signature sax sound, developed in hits like “The Huckle-Buck” (which gave his band The Hucklebuckers their name), embodied the evolution of jazz, blues, and R&B into early rock and roll. And following them were Tiny Grimes and His Rocking Highlanders, like Williams’ an all-Black band but in this case a group who performed in kilts, had scored a huge hit with their cover of “Loch Lomond,” and truly embodied the cross-cultural origins and evolution of early rock.

3)      The Legacy: There are all sorts of ways to remember a historic concert, including reading back into the coverage by Valena Minor Williams (and listening to as much of those artists/bands as we can, natch). But one of my favorite rock traditions is to keep concerts going, and starting with 1992’s Moondog Coronation Ball ’92—organized by Cleveland radio program director and legend John Gorman and featuring other legends including Ronnie Spector (rest in peace) and The Drifters—that’s been the case here. For decades after that 1992 revival radio station WMJI hosted an annual concert, although it seems to have paused (and perhaps stopped for good) a few years back. Those concerts could be labeled nostalgia, which of course has been a powerful force in rock (ie, “classic rock”) for a long while—but to my mind, live music is never simply nostalgic, and always a way to extend the legacy of the foundational such events like the Moondog Coronation Ball.

Next rock and roll remembrance tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other rock and roll pioneers you’d highlight?

Friday, March 18, 2022

March 18, 2022: AmericanThaws: Nixon Goes to China

[After a mild start, it ended up being a long, cold, very wintry winter. But all winters end, metaphorically as well as seasonally, and in this week’s series I’ll be AmericanStudying a few cultural and historical such American thaws—leading up to a crowd-sourced weekend post on what Spring means to you in literature, culture, history, and more!]

On two ways to better contextualize and AmericanStudy an undeniable turning point.

By any measure, President Richard Nixon’s February 1972 trip to the People’s Republic of China was a stunning moment in American and international history. It wasn’t just that no prior president had visited the PRC since its 1949 founding, but more that the two nations had barely recognized each other’s existence over that quarter century, at least outside of stereotypical narratives of evil enemies and occasional wartime foes. Moreover, the broader Cold War contexts add at least two more layers of stunning to the mix: the U.S. was still entrenched in a prolonged Southeast Asian war against “Communism” at the time; and that political concept, one tied nearly as strongly to the PRC as it was to the USSR, remained the nation’s most significant and terrifying boogeyman (and would for at least another decade and a half). For a leader who had come to prominence as a crusader against Communism, and one who had recently deepened the war in Vietnam to boot, to make this historic trip was, again, nothing short of stunning.

Yet we can recognize a moment’s truly unexpected nature and still find ways to contextualize it, to connect it to longstanding and ongoing histories and narratives. For one thing, if for the quarter century leading up to Nixon’s visit the U.S. had had no diplomatic relations with China, that period marked a turning point from the prior century’s worth of exchanges and encounters between the two nations. The individual identity and story of Yung Wing, the 19th century Chinese American student, diplomat, soldier, and educator about whom I’ve written at length in multiple places (and on whom part of my next book will likewise focus), offers a particularly salient starting point for engaging with those long-term US-China relationships. Over the course of the nearly eight decades between Yung’s 1840s arrival to the United States and his 1912 death “at his home in Hartford” (as his New York Times obituary put it), Yung experienced and exemplified numerous stages and shifts in those diplomatic and political relationships: from the most friendly, as illustrated by his Civil War-era mission to secure American arms for Chinese military needs (during which he also volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army); to the most hostile, as illustrated by his exclusion from the United States after the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the concurrent threats to his life he faced in China because of his prior American activities. To treat Nixon in China as a starting point for a relationship would be to forget these prior centuries of history.

Across the same centuries that those histories were unfolding, however, a longstanding and multi-layered narrative of bigotry and discrimination toward the Chinese was also developing in America. That narrative is best summed up by the phrase “Yellow Peril,” as it consistently depicted the Chinese as a threat to the United States in a variety of ways: physically, through diseases, drug addictions and other vices, rape and sexual dangers; economically, through everything from low-wage workers to the destruction of communal businesses and neighborhoods; internationally, through the image of an alien foreign power hell-bent on taking over the world; and more. (I imagine that China had its own, perhaps parallel developing narratives and stereotypes about America over the same years—I just am not familiar with them, and would welcome any thoughts in comments.) It’s important to note that the Cold War fears of “Red China,” despite the color shift, strongly echoed and extended the Yellow Peril narratives—and that those fears and narratives continued after Nixon’s visit, and indeed have endured into our present moment in many ways. Which is to say, stunning and transformative as Nixon’s trip was, there are longer histories to which it must be connected, contexts that help us understand the moment and the two nations far more fully.

Guest Post this weekend,

Ben

PS. So one more time: What do you think? Other thaws you’d highlight?

Thursday, March 17, 2022

March 17, 2022: AmericanThaws: Chivalry in War

[After a mild start, it ended up being a long, cold, very wintry winter. But all winters end, metaphorically as well as seasonally, and in this week’s series I’ll be AmericanStudying a few cultural and historical such American thaws—leading up to a crowd-sourced weekend post on what Spring means to you in literature, culture, history, and more!]

On an amazing moment of wartime humanity.

I’ve written many times here about the toll that war takes on all who fight and encounter it, and most especially about the way it requires a loss of humanity that is as damaging to those who lose it as it is to those they attack or destroy. A few years back, for example, I had a similar response to Clint Eastwood’s new film American Sniper, and specifically to the bigoted and hateful perpectives of the real soldier, Chris Kyle, on whose autobiography that film was based (and in which he expressed those perspectives clearly and proudly). Without excusing Kyle’s individual responsibility for his own perspective and words, that is, it seems clear to me, as I wrote in a Facebook post on Kyle and the film, that he was, in those perspectives as much as in his talents as a killer, “perfect for war. Which makes a perfect image for how horrible war is and always will be.”

I would stand by that perspective, on the film and its subject and more importantly on war overall. Which makes this unbelievable and unbelievably moving story, of a moment of shared humanity during World War II and all that followed it, even more striking and worth remembering and sharing. Honestly, I don’t want to take up any more of your reading time with this post, when I can ask you to read that story instead. If there’s a better example of the possibility of warmth, empathy, and even love, amidst the coldest, darkest kinds of human conflict and brutality, I don’t know it.

Last thaw tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other thaws you’d highlight?

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

March 16, 2022: AmericanThaws: William Mahone

[After a mild start, it ended up being a long, cold, very wintry winter. But all winters end, metaphorically as well as seasonally, and in this week’s series I’ll be AmericanStudying a few cultural and historical such American thaws—leading up to a crowd-sourced weekend post on what Spring means to you in literature, culture, history, and more!]

On late-in-life evolutions that don’t impress me much, and those that do.

In a footnote to this post nominating Nathan Bedford Forrest for an American Hall of Shame, I mentioned Forrest’s apparent, late-in-life reversals in perspective on issues like race. In that footnote, I called Forrest’s shifts “far too little and too late,” and I would stand by that assessment. Of course I’m glad that Forrest seems to have seen the error of his ways before the end, but unlike (for example) Ben Franklin, whose late-in-life change in perspective on immigration was accompanied by extensive writings and efforts, Forrest’s shifts seem to have been mostly in personal relationships, which are nice but don’t leave nearly the same legacy or influence. And thus, Forrest’s enduring legacies can and should still be defined by the worst of what he did: as a slave trader who designed a particularly “successful” system for such transactions; a Civil War general responsible for one of the war’s most brutal massacres; and, most of all, the creator of one of America’s most longstanding terrorist organizations.

Just because Forrest’s thaws don’t strike me as historically significant, however, doesn’t mean I would say the same for all Confederate veterans. I’ve elsewhere made the case, for example, for why and how we should better remember James Longstreet’s impressive post-war evolutions. Even more striking, and to my mind even more impressive, were the second-act shifts of another Confederate general, William Mahone. My fellow blogger and public scholar Kevin Levin tells Mahone’s story (in the article linked above at Mahone’s name) much better than I can here, but the sweep of it can be summed up in two details: the former railroad engineer Mahone rose to prominence leading the Confederates to victory in the Battle of the Crater, another of the Civil War’s bloodiest and most brutal battles; and yet in the post-war era he became a leader instead of Virginia’s Readjuster Party, a political coalition of African Americans, Republicans, and Democrats that offered a profoundly different vision of Southern politics and identity than most of the period’s trends and narratives. In 1881 Mahone helped the Readjusters elect both a new Virginia governor (William Cameron) and himself as a US Senator.

There are lots of reasons why I find Mahone’s shifts as impressive and inspiring as I do, but I would highlight two in particular here. For one thing, I can’t imagine a better example of going against the popular trend—not only in Virginia and the South, which by 1881 were well on their way to the dominance of Jim Crow and all its accompanying histories; but throughout the nation, which likewise was well on the way to becoming “distinctly Confederate in sympathy” (as Albion Tourg√©e famously put it in an 1888 essay). And for another, related thing, Mahone’s post-war choices and actions exposed him to unrelenting criticism and hatred from many throughout the state that had been and would remain his lifelong home (and in the 19th century development of which he had served a key role). To do something unpopular, at great personal cost, seems to me one of the most difficult and most admirable choices a person can make. The Readjuster Party may have faded in the century’s final years, but Mahone’s efforts, and the personal, political, and historical shifts they exemplified, have left a far longer and deeper legacy for us to remember and respect.

Next thaw tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other thaws you’d highlight?

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

March 15, 2022: AmericanThaws: The US and the UK

[After a mild start, it ended up being a long, cold, very wintry winter. But all winters end, metaphorically as well as seasonally, and in this week’s series I’ll be AmericanStudying a few cultural and historical such American thaws—leading up to a crowd-sourced weekend post on what Spring means to you in literature, culture, history, and more!]

On how a longstanding animosity began to change, and why the specifics matter.

Thanks to popular cultural texts from Paul Revere’s ride to Mel Gibson’s Revolution, it seems to me that even the most history-phobic Americans are likely to have a sense that our nation began through hostile conflict with the British. Thanks to a burning White House and a flag that was still there, many Americans might even know that we fought another significant war with the same British foe only a few decades after the Revolution. And the animosity between the new United States and its former colonial mother country didn’t end with the War of 1812—from the anti-European import of the Monroe Doctrine to border disputes between the two countries in Maine and Oregon, and through the extended British flirtations with allying with the Confederacy during the Civil War, the 19th century was marked by consistent diplomatic chilliness punctuated by occasional wintry storms.

Yet by the mid-20th century, of course, the two nations were staunch allies, fighting together in the two World Wars (yes, the US began each war officially neutral, but in each case we were aiding the UK’s cause long before we militarily joined it) and subsequently enjoying a so-called “special relationship” that has continued to this day. The late 19th and early 20th century shift that led to this new and enduring relationship has been studied by historians of both nations for many years, and has come to be known as The Great Rapprochement (a term perhaps first coined by historian Bradford Perkins in his 1968 book of the same name). As the many cartoons, lithographs, and other primary documents collected at this site illustrate, the shift was recognized on both sides of the Atlantic while it was happening, and was folded into many other narratives of the two nations’ expanding turn of the century identities, concurrent imperialistic ventures, and other social and cultural trends.

There was no single factor in that multi-decade rapprochement, but I would argue that tying it to those imperialistic endeavors is of particular importance. The first test of the two nations’ newfound friendship, after all, came during the Spanish American War; most European nations sided with their fellow colonial power, but England opted for their new ally, a choice that certainly contributed to the eventual American triumph in that conflict. Perhaps as a quid pro quo, and perhaps as just another reflection of the new relationship, the U.S. likewise sided with the U.K. during the bloody and controversial Second Boer War. It’s tempting, and not I would argue inaccurate, to tie these turn of the 20th century imperial alliances to the two nations’ leading roles in the early 21st century Iraq War, as well as the effects of both British and American influences on and presences in a nation like Afghanistan. But even leaving such contemporary connections aside, the role that imperialism played in bringing together the US and the UK is hugely telling of how the nations moved together into their 20th century and ongoing identities and roles.

Next thaw tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other thaws you’d highlight?

Monday, March 14, 2022

March 14, 2022: AmericanThaws: Eliot and Williams

[After a mild start, it ended up being a long, cold, very wintry winter. But all winters end, metaphorically as well as seasonally, and in this week’s series I’ll be AmericanStudying a few cultural and historical such American thaws—leading up to a crowd-sourced weekend post on what Spring means to you in literature, culture, history, and more!]

On the two modernist poems that exemplify alternative, contrasting, yet ultimately complementary narratives of spring and hope.

When it comes to literary images of spring, the first work that (pardon me) springs to mind is William Carlos Williams’ poem “Spring and All” (1923). Created at least in part in response to Williams’ work as a doctor (hence the “contagious hospital” in the opening line), and more exactly his experiences dealing with at-risk young patients whose very existence and future were in doubt (and possibly, as I’ve argued in recent years for obvious reasons, in specific response to his experiences during the 1918-20 influenza pandemic), the poem transcends any specific contexts to become both a realistic and yet an idealistic depiction of spring itself: of what it means for new life to make its struggling, haphazard, threatened, perennial, inspiring journey to the surface of a world that had been cold and lifeless (in terms of blooming things, anyway) only days before. Making the best use of an unpunctuated last line since Emily Dickinson, Williams’ closing line captures perfectly the precise moment of “awaken[ing],” as both an uncertain transition to whatever comes next yet also a miraculous achievement in its own right.

Williams at times consciously positioned himself and his poetry in contrast to high modernist contemporaries such as T.S. Eliot, and it’s difficult to imagine a more direct contrast to “Spring and All” than the opening lines of Eliot’s “The Waste Land (1922). “April is the cruelest month,” Eliot’s poem begins, and in case the reader thinks he’s upset about Tax Day or something, the speaker goes on to make clear that it is precisely spring’s rebirths to which he refers: “Breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire, stirring / Dull roots with spring rain. / Winter kept us warm, covering / Earth in forgetful snow, feeding / A little life with dried tubers.” Where Williams’ poem focuses on the season’s partial and uncertain but still powerful moves toward a future, Eliot’s thus looks back at a past, one that would be better left buried yet that is instead brought back with every new blossom. And where Williams creates images of awakening new life, of spring as birth, Eliot portrays the season as a painful re-awakening, back into identities already (it seems) too much in the world.

Those contrasts are genuine, and again reflect more overarching distinctions between these two poets as well. Yet I think in at least one significant way the two poems (particularly when we take all of Eliot’s into consideration, not just his opening line) complement rather than contrast each other. After all, one clear way to describe the modernist literary project is as an attempt to represent life in the aftermath of disaster, destruction, death, doubt, all those characteristics so amplified within a post-WWI (and, as we’ve now started to realize, post-pandemic) world. To that end, we can see both poems’ speakers as struggling with that question, and trying to imagine whether and how new life and possibilities can or should emerge into such an inhospitable world (whether represented through a contagious hospital or a barren wasteland). The poems do differ greatly in tone, but it’s possible to argue that the very act of writing is in both cases a hopeful one, a pushing through the wintry ground into some evolving new form. “These fragments I have shored against my ruins,” Eliot writes in his poem’s final lines—and what is spring (he said at the tail end of a New England winter) but a fragmentary yet inspiring annual rebirth of a ruined world?

Next thaw tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other thaws you’d highlight?

Saturday, March 12, 2022

March 12-13, 2022: The U.S. and the Philippines

[March 11th marks the 80th anniversary of General Douglas MacArthur’s famous departure from the Philippines. So this week I’ve AmericanStudied that moment and four other aspects of the war’s Pacific Theater, leading up to this special post on the U.S.-Filipino relationship!]

On what we should better remember about three stages of a defining international dynamic.

1)      Origins: One of my favorite historical facts to share with audiences of all types is that the first nation in the world to recognize the new United States during the Revolution wasn’t France, or any other European nation we might expect, but Morocco—one main reason why the Moroccan American community became a defining one about a decade later. Those specific details can help open up our sense of the Revolutionary and Early Republic periods as defined by international dynamics and multi-national communities outside of the familiar ones, and the same can certainly be said for the Philippines in general and the Filipino American community in Louisiana in particular. When Americans think about the Philippines at all, I believe they see that relationship as beginning with the Spanish American War and the U.S. occupation of the islands—but by that time the Filipino American community was a century old, a vital fact which reframes that occupation and much else besides.

2)      Occupation: It’s certainly true that that 50-year occupation was a defining moment in the evolving relationship between the two nations, and thus for the Filipino American community on every level. And it’s even more true, and even more vital to remember, that said occupation began with a 15-year war between U.S. forces and Filipino rebels, perhaps the nation’s longest military conflict until the recently concluded war in Afghanistan. But better remembering that early 20th century war is only half the battle, as early 20th century America was also shaped by a series of impressive and inspiring Filipino American lives, from individuals like Vicente Lim to families to like Agripino and Florence Jaucian to entire communities like the pensionados who studied in the U.S. as part of this evolving international relationship. Although Congress worked hard over subsequent decades to define Filipinos as “aliens” in the U.S., these and many other stories make clear how integral they were (as they had always been) to the nation.

3)      21st Century: My point here is a quicker but no less significant one: that better remembering these centuries of histories and interconnections can help us think about 21st century Filipino Americans as an equally defining American community. I’ll be more specific: Jos√© Antonio Vargas isn’t just one of our moment’s most impressive and inspiring journalists and writers, advocates and activists; he’s also a profoundly exemplary representation of this originating, evolving, foundationally American community. Am I saying Vargas is more American than Douglas MacArthur? I’m not—but he’s at least as American, and more fully representative of the best of our histories and stories!

Next series starts Monday,

Ben

PS. What do you think?

Friday, March 11, 2022

March 11, 2022: The Pacific Theater: “I Shall Return”

[March 11th marks the 80th anniversary of General Douglas MacArthur’s famous departure from the Philippines. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy that moment and four other aspects of the war’s Pacific Theater, leading up to a special post on the U.S.-Filipino relationship.]

On how one moment exemplifies the best and worst of a controversial military leader.

As I’ve written many times in this space, war is a consistently horrific reality that should be avoided as much and as fully as possible—but when inevitable wars happen, they do offer the opportunity for soldiers, individually and collectively, to model the kinds of active patriotic service and courage I traced in Of Thee I Sing. There aren’t many American soldiers who have had the chance to do so across three distinct wartime conflicts, but that was indeed the case with Douglas MacArthur: after beginning his military career during Woodrow Wilson’s 1914 expedition to Veracruz with individual acts of bravery that nearly earned him the Medal of Honor, MacArthur went on to be nominated twice for such a Medal (and to receive many other commendations including 7 Silver Stars and 2 Distinguished Service Crosses) for his extensive World War I service and then to finally receive that highest US military honor for his leadership during World War II. There are few American military resumes that can compete with even that brief summary of MacArthur’s service.

At the same time, there are few military leaders who have been part of even one controversial domestic scandal, and MacArthur was at the heart of two across multiple decades. The most famous was his rebellious and quite possibly illegal behavior during the Korean War, when, determined to foment a full-scale war with China (and thus by proxy global communism), MacArthur repeatedly defied orders from President Truman, leading Truman eventually to remove him from command altogether. But I would argue that even more scandalous were his actions against the “Bonus Army” in July 1932, violent and destructive choices about which I’ve written extensively here and elsewhere; as journalists Drew Pearson and Robert Allen put it, MacArthur’s treatment of the Bonus marchers was “unwarranted, unnecessary, insubordinate, harsh, and brutal.” MacArthur sued those journalists for defamation, but their countersuit revealed other misbehavior on his part and he ended up settling out of court and paying the journalists more than $10,000—not exactly a headline that screams “iconic military hero and active patriot.”

Each of those moments and stories, histories and contexts is complex and distinct, but together they paint a picture of one of the most multi-layered, and perhaps most contradictory, figures in American history. And I would argue that all of those layers and contradictions are necessary if we’re to grapple fully with the most famous single moment in MacArthur’s life, and indeed one of the most famous in American military history: his March 11th, 1942 departure from the Philippines. That moment turns out to be pretty fraught, not only because MacArthur was abandoning the islands to more than two years of Japanese rule and destruction (after having promised not to do so), but also because his superiors in Washington ordered him to revise his statement to “We shall return” and the ever-egotistical general refused to do so. But at the same time, MacArthur continued to lead Allied forces to victory throughout the Pacific Theater over the next two years, leading up to his, yes, return to the Philippines in October 1944. All of which is to say, when MacArthur announced “People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil—soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples,” he was modeling once more all the worst and best of this unquestionably iconic military and American life.

Special post this weekend,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other aspects of the Pacific Theater you’d highlight?

Thursday, March 10, 2022

March 10, 2022: The Pacific Theater: U.S.S. Midway Museum

[March 11th marks the 80th anniversary of General Douglas MacArthur’s famous departure from the Philippines. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy that moment and four other aspects of the war’s Pacific Theater, leading up to a special post on the U.S.-Filipino relationship.]

Trying to make sense of the two very different, and even opposed, public roles served by San Diego’s unique historic site.

Floating in San Diego’s harbor, just a few hundred yards away from the city’s downtown, is a hugely singular and compelling public space: the U.S.S. Midway, a formerly operational aircraft carrier that has (since 2004) served as a naval and aviation museum. The museum offers visitors at least three distinct visions into the lives of naval sailors and aviators: on the flight deck, a number of actual planes and helicopters, many of which the visitors can sit in; in the hangar beneath (alongside a few more planes), flight simulators and other re-creations of piloting and wartime experiences; and below-decks, an elaborately preserved and re-created vision of everyday life aboard the carrier for its officers, aviators, and sailors. When we visited the city and museum five years ago, my boys were particularly struck by the laundry room, with loads of fake clothes tumbling in the giant washers and dryers, and featuring detailed depictions of the sailors whose job it was to carry the hundred-pound bags of laundry around the ship.

That laundry room illustrates what is to my mind the most significant and inspiring public role of the Midway museum: to help 21st century visitors understand the experiences and identities of those men and women who served aboard the carrier and its many sister ships, at all times but most especially during times of war. As I wrote in my first Veteran’s Day post (in analysis of the post-World War II film The Best Years of Our Lives), when it comes to American Studiers and our connections to the American past, there are few acts of empathy more important than such understandings of what the experiences of war and military service have entailed; obviously such experiences are hugely varied, both in different periods/wars and for different individuals, but nonetheless a museum like the Midway offers a very striking and effective means to create those connections with past servicemen and women. I’ve visited a number of battlefields and other wartime historic sites, and would rank the Midway (and particularly its below-decks exhibits) among the most effective such connection-creators I’ve encountered.

There’s another side to that connection, though, and it’s one that is to my mind much less historical and more propagandistic. On the Midway I found it illustrated most succinctly by the placard in front of one of the flight deck planes; the placard was describing the plane’s role during the Vietnam War, and noted that it was frequently used for “close-in bombing” in the war’s later stages. Which is to say, although the placard was careful not to say this: these bombers almost certainly participated in President Nixon’s often secret, likely illegal, and thoroughly despicable carpet-bombing campaigns of Cambodia and Laos; even if they didn’t, they most likely dropped napalm and other weapons of mass deconstruction indiscriminately on North Vietnamese villages. Such bombings are quite possibly, as I wrote in my post on Dresden, an inevitable part of war; but that inevitability does not in any way elide their horrific brutality, and it most definitely did not make me view the plane being connected to such bombings with anything other than horror. But in the context of the Midway, with its stated motto of “Live the Adventure, Honor the Legend,” Vietnam and its bombing raids are folded into that adventurous, honorable, legendary history—which is perhaps just as disturbing as the bombings themselves.

Last PacificStudying tomorrow,

Ben

PS. What do you think? Other aspects of the Pacific Theater you’d highlight?