Lampshades on Fire

Darden Road

This Old World

BlindWillieJohnson

I’ve been on a big blues and bluegrass kick lately. Mostly I’ve been trying to fill in some of my ignorance of the these genres by listening to work from artists from the 20’s and 30’s. By chance, Blind Willie Johnson’s “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning” was the first song to come up this morning. I was struck dumb by the sheer beauty of this song and the interplay of Johnson’s voice with that the female vocalist (either his first wife, Willie B. Harris, or his second, a Angeline – It’s not readily clear) is haunting and sublime.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Lest We Forget: The Ludlow Massacre One Century Later

One hundred years ago, on the afternoon of April 20, 1914 William Snyder and his children made the mistake of climbing out of the pit they had dug under their tent in Ludlow Colorado. Outside, the Colorado National Guard and striking coal miners were engaged in a war that had raged since morning. For much of the day the pit had been their shelter from the indiscriminate gunfire that had ripped through the tent city that striking coal miners had erected near the town. The immediate reason for the battle has been lost to history, and both sides have claimed that the other started shooting first. Whatever the cause, the fighting seemed to be letting up and the Snyders took the opportunity to escape their pit and return to the relative comfort of the tent itself. Frank Snyder, a young boy of eleven, went to sit in a chair and his sister joined him on the floor between his knees. According to his father, Frank was in the act of leaning forward to kiss or caress his sister when the bullet that killed him ripped through the family tent and struck Frank in the head (Snyder 133). In his affidavit to the Commission on Industrial Relations William reported, “I was standing near the front door of my tent and heard the impact of the bullet striking the boy’s head, and the crack of the bullet as it exploded inside of his head” (133).

Elsewhere in the tent colony a strike leader named Louis Tikas was arrested and confronted by the militia leader, Karl Linderfelt, about who was at fault for the violence. According to Scott Martelle, as the argument escalated “Linderfelt grabbed his rifle by the barrel and swung it hard at Tikas, striking him in the head and breaking the gunstock” (175). Incapacitated by this attack Tikas and two other striking miners were murdered moments later by the mob of militiamen that surrounded them (176). Tikas was killed by three shots in the back. As Tikas was murdered, the tent colony was going up in flames. How the fires started remains a matter of contention. Guard members claimed that they started thanks to sparks caused by stray bullets and fueled by explosives hidden by the miners in the camp. The strikers contended that that attacking militia purposefully set the fires. Whatever the cause, the fire was deadly. In another pit under a tent like the one the Snyders had sheltered in, hid a group of women and children: twenty-seven year old Fedlina Costa her two children, Onafrio age six, and Lucy, age four, Rodgerio Pedregone, age nine, Cloriva Pedregone age four, Frank Petrucci, age six months, Lucy Petrucci, age three, Joe Petrucci, age four, thirty-seven year old Patria Valdez and her children Rudolph, age nine, Eulala, age eight, Mary age seven, and Elvira, age three months (223). In all, two women and eleven children remained hidden as the fires spread through the tents. They suffocated to death as the fires above them ate the oxygen in their supposed safe haven. They were not found until the morning after the gun battle (2).

Collectively these atrocities have come to be known as the Ludlow Massacre. Read more of this post

Interlude – Pynchon’s Trail

I wanted to briefly comment on Boris Kachka’s piece at Vulture on Pynchon and his new novel Bleeding Edge. Kachka’s work is, on the whole, nothing new. It’s not a bad piece, but pretty much any biographic piece on Pynchon falls into the same old trap: there’s no there there. Pynchon’s left such a meager trail that the story generally falls entirely to hearsay and speculation and Kachka is inevitably caught in that snare. Despite Kachka’s premise that Pynchon has fully ceased the wandering that marked the years when he wrote V. and Gravity’s Rainbow and returned home to New York to a life of luxury and comfort, there’s a real failure to show much of anything new (besides a brief review of Bleeding Edge that I purposefully avoided) in this piece. Read more of this post

Step in front of a runaway train…

Currently listening to José González’s “So Far Away” from the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack. Great track, great game. I probably should go play it again. Or, you know, do some work. There’s always that.

Have a listen.

V. Chapter Six – In which Profane returns to street level

Destitute_man_vacant_store

It might have been appropriate to begin this post with a declaration about my vacation. Something like: “I’m back from vacation refocused, reenergized, and ready to jump into the writing process.” I woke up about two hours earlier than I’m used to this morning in an effort to get back into a work schedule and I’m far too bitter with the universe about consciousness to exude such frivolities. Instead, while I try to get some coffee in my system, let’s just say that my vacation was superb and I’m in mourning about my vacation’s passing. I’ll get around to writing about it once I move through the stages of grief.

So, in the meantime, it’s back to writing about Pynchon and this is a fitting chapter to return with. Just as I’m returning from a sojourn away from the troubles of the world, Benny resurfaces in New York in this chapter. Admittedly, I didn’t go on vacation in the sewers where I explored the remains of a mad priest’s chapel and shot an albino alligator / Stencil in a diving suit. We can’t have everything though.  Read more of this post

Archival Gems

One of the elements that I miss from my doctoral work was the archival and historical research on the progressive era that I did on a regular basis. While I was usually searching for specific information, I regularly stumbled across little gems of information or research tracks that I never had the time to follow up. Lately I’ve found myself looking into some of the larger resources available online like the Library of Congress. I have a couple projects that are driving my work, but I’ve been coming up with enough intriguing snippets that I wanted to start collecting them here.  I hope that this will be the start of a new series of posts here. Sometimes I’ll include commentary. Other times I’ll just post the document, photo, or whatever it is I’ve stumbled across and let it speak for itself. I’ll always cite my sources in case any one else is interested.

First up is a sonnet by Katharine Warren from 1900. Originally published in The Atlantic, There’s a clear religious tone here. After reading so much radical literature during my doctoral work, it was intriguing and fitting to see this note struck in this particular poetic form.

A SONNET OF WORK.

WHERETO our labor and our bitter sweat?
The seed we sow we trample in the dark.
The flame we strike, our own tears quench the spark.
The white that we would purify we set
Our grimy print upon. And we forget
Thy ways and thoughts are not as ours, and hark
Toward what we take to be some heavenly mark,
And find we serve the devil to abet.
Then do Thou blind us, that we may not see
The measure of our own futility,
Lest, seeing, we should cease to work, and die.
Or give us sight, that we may know thereby
How through our labor, whatso end it meet,
We reach toward Thee who knowest no defeat.

Here’s the source and here are some other works by Warren.

Lead Belly

Image

I’ve been listening to a lot of Lead Belly this morning. I recommend the same to you.

Gallows Pole”

Where Did You Sleep Last Night

Anyone have a recommendation for a solid collection of his recordings that’s worth buying? I went to link something here, but was quickly overwhelmed by the number of options available.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Kill My Vacation Blues

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Just a note to say that the posting will be light to nonexistent for the next two weeks. I’ve decided to take a proper vacation. I originally thought that I’d keep up with posting while traveling, but I haven’t been satisfied with the quality of my work and instead of relaxing I was spending a bunch of time wondering why my writing was even more rubbish than usual. So it has dawned on me that I  need to either drop the blogging for the duration or drop the vacation. I’d say it was a hard decision, but that’d be a particularly egregious lie.

I wanted to post a picture of the best surprise I’ve received in a long time before I sign off. A certain friend (Mike) picked this up for me last year at a concert in San Francisco where he spent the opening act standing next to Corin Tucker without realizing it. I’m not sure if it was friendship that motivated him to get the cd signed for me or if he wanted to throw me off my vow to berate him about his obliviousness for the rest of time. (If the latter, he was obviously only partially successful.) Given that we weren’t going to see each other for eight or nine months though, we both forgot about it. (If only there were services that could safely transport packages across long distances for a small fee… No, too risky. Only personal delivery will suffice!)

Mike is, of course, awesome and I’m thrilled with the gift. I thought it was a good image to sign off with. It has that summer vacation feel and the right vibe for my upcoming travels. Many thanks to Mike.

See you in a couple weeks!