Author Archives: billmohr

Bill Viola (1951-2024)

Long Beach, CA — July 18, 2024

The first time I saw Bill Viola’s video art was at the Long Beach Museum of Art, an institution that in the 1980s won my affection for its tenacity in not letting a limited budget and exhibition space become an excuse for mounting anything less than shows worth a long drive. At that point, I lived in Ocean Park, thirty miles north of Long Beach, so setting aside a good chunk of one’s day off on a weekend was the major price of admission. LBMA was the first place at which I saw Bill Viola’s “Reflecting Pool,” which I lingered in front of far longer than I do for most works of art. Even though the technology had only become available in the post-modernist period, Viola’s poetics immediately struck me as being embedded in the pre-Socratic. Heraclitus and Zeno should be the starting points for tuning oneself up to encounter Viola’s work, although it wouldn’t hurt I thought to myself to spend a half-hour listening to Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports.” “Selecting Pool” exuded the calmness of the incomplete’s penultimate culmination: the transitory approaching the limits of the irreducible. It did not surprise me, therefore, when earth, air, fire, and water became central tropes in his “Martyrs” series.

Viola died at his home in Long Beach recently and is survived by his collaborator spouse, Kira Perov, and two songs. Viola indeed left profound gifts behind for many travelers to discover their nexus to “neatness.”.

https://www.billviola.com

The unfolding of consciousness, the revelation of beauty, present even after death, the moment of awe, the space without words, the emptiness that builds mountains, the joy of loving, the sorrow of loss, the gift of leaving something behind for the next traveler.
– Bill Viola

For further reading:

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-07-06-ca-41-story.html

ART REVIEWS : ‘Waterworks’: A Summer Tonic at Long Beach Museum
by CATHY CURTIS — July 6, 1990 12 AM PT

*******

Bill Viola, Who Helped Make Video an Art Form, Dies at 73

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2024/jul/14/bill-viola-obituary

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2024-07-13/bill-viola-dead-video-artist

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2024/07/15/remembering-bill-viola-the-artist-whose-video-work-expresses-the-heights-and-depths-of-human-emotions

“The Pledge of Aggrievance” by S.A. Griffin

Tuesday, July 15th

I returned home from Olympic Valley last night, after a week of reading little else other than prose devoted to memoir, hungry to read some poetry. While stacking several boxes of books I am setting aside as a small portion of what I hope to give to the CSULB library, in 2025, I happened to spot S.A. Griffin’s collection, PANDEMIC SOUL MUSIC (Punk Hostage Press, 2023); one of the poems, “The Pledge of Aggrievance,” struck me as summing up the mood of many of us who are despondent about the undeclared civil war that may well have just experienced its Fort Sumpter moment. Let us hope that we, as a nation, can pull back from the precipice.

“THE PLEDGE OF AGGRIEVANCE

I pledge aggrievance
to the flag
of the United States of Reality Show
and to the profit margin
for which it stands
on one knee
under siege
invisible and divided
with no civil liberty
or justice
we fall

— S.A. Griffin

(Copyright 2023 by S.A. Griffin; reprinted by permission)

Photograph by Bill Mohr
(c) Bill Mohr

Heading to Olympic Valley, Looking Back 50+ years

I first heard of a place called “Squaw Valley” in 1960, when at the age of 12 I watched the American hockey team win the gold medal by defeating the Russian team, 3-2. Fourteen years later, I heard about a one-week writers’ conference that featured Michael McClure and Kathleen Fraser. Other poets who attended included Gary Soto, Gary Young, and Suellen Mayfield.

Fifty years later, with two chapters of a draft of a memoir completed, I headed back to what is now called “Olympic Valley” to bear down on the writing and to get some feedback on the project from David Ulin. It was a productive week, and I want to thank group #9 for sharing their works-in-progress with me and for their comments, which led me to reconsider the pertinence of a draft of a short chapter I’d written many years ago entitled “Ice Milk.”

I hope to have a complete first draft of my memoir about Momentum Press done by mid-November. I’m a slow writer, so this is a very ambitious schedule. There’s nothing like looking in the mirror and seeing how much differently one looks than one did thirty years ago to realize how little time is left to complete all that remains unfinished in one’s life.

I’m happy to report, though, that tasks are getting checked off. I just sent Michael Docherty the final revisions on a chapter on the “renegade” poetry of Los Angeles for his upcoming volume. for the Cambridge Companion Series.

Onward, indeed, with assiduous haste, even as I look back on a life far different than anyone who knew me in 1960 might ever have expected. It’s even a more improbable outcome than the victory of the American hockey team in 1960. Of course, such a transformation involves a “team effort,” and everything listed below would not have come to pass without the friends and comrades listed in a blog entry on June 18th.

****************

William Mohr, Ph.D.
Professor / Department of English, California State University, Long Beach
WEBSITE: koankinship.com. /. BLOG: billmohrpoet.com

Act One (1970-2000)
Poems and reviews published in over three dozen magazines, including Antioch Review, Santa Monica Review, Sonora Review, Blue Mesa Review, Zyzzyva, Beyond Baroque New, Hungry Mind Review, Bachy, and Invisible City, as well as in Hidden Proofs Bombshelter Press, 1982.)

Vehemence (Lawndale: New Alliance Records, March, 1993). 36 track solo project. Compact disc and cassette spoken word collection. Produced by Harvey Robert Kubernik in association with SST Records (founder, Greg Ginn, bass player for Black Flag.) Tracks highlighted by KCRW’s Liza Richardson.

Editor/Publisher: Momentum Press (1974-1988). This work was supported by four grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as additional support from the Atlantic Richfield Foundation and the California Arts Council. The Momentum Press archives were purchased by the University of California, San Diego’s Geisel Library in 1996.

Visiting Scholar, Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles), Fall, 1995.

California Arts Council Artist-in-Residence 1982-1984

Put Your Ears On: a poetry video show. 1990-1998. Producer and host. Century Cable Network.

Act Two (2000-2024)
George Drury Smith Award. Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Venice, CA. 2014.

Literary archives (1970-2020) purchased by the University of California, San Diego’s Geisel Library Special Collections in 2023.

Displacements. Los Angeles: Magra Press. 2024. A chapbook of prose poems and a dramatic monologue.

The Headwaters of Nirvana Reassembled Poems. Los Angeles: What Books. 2018. This full-length, bilingual volume of poems is an expanded selection of the work done by my translators in Mexico, earlier in the decade. That collection, Pruebas Ocultas (Bonobos Editores, 2015) was chosen as one of the two dozen best books of poetry published in Mexico in 2015 by a panel of Mexican critics.

Holdouts: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance 1948-1992 (Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 2011). Book reviews of Holdouts appeared in American Literary Scholarship (2013); Western American Literature (2013); and Southern California Quarterly (2013).

Bittersweet Kaleidoscope. (Los Angeles: If Publications, 2006). 21 poems, 37 pages.

Poems, critical articles, and essays appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB), Chicago Review, OR magazine, William Carlos Williams Review, Journal of Beat Studies, Trampoline; Anacapa Review; Hummingbird; Bloomsbury Handbook of Contemporary American Poetry; Blue Collar Review, SPOT Literary Magazine, Miramar. Caliban on-line, Pool, KYSO and Stand Up Poetry; An Expanded Anthology, edited by Charles Harper Webb (University of Iowa Press, 2002), as well as Cambridge Companion chapters.

Writing translated into Spanish, Croatian, and Italian. Poems selected for over a dozen anthologies.

Frequent participant and contributor to conferences organized by the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA), American Literature Association (ALA, and the Modern Language Association. Keynote lectures delivered at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; UCLA; and in Mexico City, Mexico, and Dijon, France. Featured poet at several dozen venues, including festivals.

photo: Jane Bullen

Bill Mohr and Bart Edelman — on Harry’s Poetry Hour (Link to Recording)

Harry Northup has been hosting and producing a poetry reading series out of the production studios at the Motion Picture Television Fund for several years, and his guests have included James Moore, Sarah Maclay, Pam Ward, Phoebe MacAdams, Jim Cushing, Jeanette Clough, Edmund Kerrigan, Jamie O’Halloran, Mark Edward Rhodes, Lois P. Jones, James Pagan, Alicia Portnoy, Adele Slaughter, Sandra McPherson, Beth Ruscio, Carine Total, and Edwin Torres.

In February, I had the good fortune to be joined with Bart Edelman in a reading that was recorded and then uploaded. Thank yo again, Harry, for giving me a chance to share a piece that was written almost 40 years ago, but which I have not often read in public.

“From Venice to Venice” in Venice, this Friday

The Venice Public Library will host a reading on Friday, June 28th, starting at 1:00 p.m. to celebrate the publication of a new anthology of poets associated with Venice, California and Venice, Italy. The poems of the Italian poets appear in both Italian and in translation by one of the editors, Anna Lombardo, who will be one of the poets reading at the event. The other readers include Susan Hayden, Richard Modiano, Pam Ward, Harry E. Northup, and Bill Mohr. Please join us!

Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch Library
501 S. Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291

FROM VENICE TO VENICE
edited by Mark Lipman and Anna Lombardo.
El Martillo Press / Los Angeles

List of Poets-Editors, Translators, Cultural Workers, and Friends Who Have Supported My Work

June 18, 2024

I turned in my retirement application a couple weeks ago and will cease teaching full-time at California State University, Long Beach as of mid-August. It’s not that I don’t want to keep teaching full-time. I simply don’t have the physical stamina to do it anymore. The CSU system has a program in which tenured professors who retire are allowed to teach one semester a year for up to five years. I have my doubts that I will be capable of teaching even one semester a year in 2029, but if I’m still alive, I will not have enough money coming in from the pittance of a pension and social security to get by on at that point, so I had better darn well be able to rouse myself enough to get into the classroom in the meantime.

In looking back on what little I have been able to accomplish, I want to acknowledge the contributions of friends, editors, publishers, reviewers, translators, and cultural workers who have assisted me along the way. Thank you. Collectively, you shaped my life in a way that no one would have ever predicted sixty years ago, when I was about to enter my senior year of high school as an abject outcast and object of utter derision to my classmates at Marian High School in Imperial Beach. Well, I can’t deny that I was indeed the ugliest man on campus and only minimally coordinated. That I didn’t deserve to be bullied should go without saying. My ability to endure the daily torture I was subjected to — and those in charge of the school knew perfectly well what was going on — grew out of some inexplicable inner conviction that I would someday meet people whose lives my decisions and actions would benefit. I fell short, of course, of what I might have done for all of you, had the times been more auspicious, but at least the ministers of grace helped me to redeem what little I could.

Once again, thank you, and let not a dozen people whose names I have retained in cherished memory but who are not listed not think I have forgotten them.. In the garden of my heart, you arethe ones for whom I recite the lines: “Surely thine hour has come, thy great wind blows / Far-off, most secret, and inviolate rose.”

Friends and Editors/Publishers/Translators/Cultural Workers

Paul Vangelisti
Jim Krusoe
Jack Grapes
Brooks Roddan
Lea Ann Roddan
Harley Lond
Lawrence R. Smith
David Garyan
Laurel Ann Bogen
Anthony Seidman
Jose Luis Rico
Robin Myers
Harvey Robert Kubernik
Bob Peters
Leland Hickman
Alicia Ostriker
Christopher Buckley
Linda Fry
Jim McVicker
Terry Oates
Susan Hansell
Gail Wronsky
Gerry Locklin
Doren Robbins
Natalija Grgorinić and Ognjen Rađen
George Drury Smith
Michael C. Ford
Charles Harper Webb
Suzanne Lummis
Cecilia Woloch
Neeli Cherkovski
Kenneth Funsten
S.A. Griffin
Lynn McGee
Lynda Claassen and Brad Westbrook (UCSD Special Collections)
Holly Prado
Harry E. Northup
Phoebe MacAdams
Kate Braverman
Jim Cushing
David James
Wanda Coleman
Kevin McNamara
Steven Axelrod
Timothy Steele
Ronna Johnson
Nancy Grace
Kevin Opstedahl
Michael Davidson
Donald Wesling
Alan Golding
Stephen Motika
John Lowney
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Terence Diggory
Frank Kearful
Kathryn McMahon
Natalie Gerber
Edward Brunner
Jim Moore
Brian Kim Stefans
Dennis Cooper
Cathay Gleeson
Audri Phillips
Rae Armantrout
Sandra Tanhauser
William (“Koki”) Iwamoto
Jim Conn
Rod Bradley
John Harris
Joseph Hansen
Helene Ali
Patricia Hampl
Lenny Durso
David Antin
Gail Newman
Ron Silliman
Marine Robert Warden

A poem from Mexican poet Claudia Sánchez

June 8, 2024

In the middle of the last decade, I made three trips to Mexico to read my poetry at several different cities and venues. These trips were an extension of the interest that Jose Rico and Robin Myers had in my poetry, which resulted in a a full-length, bilingual edition of my poems being published by Bonobos Editors. This publication and these readings remain the most gratifying moment of my literary journey.

On the third trip, I visited a classroom full of young poets and talked with them for a couple of hours. One of them has stayed in touch with me and recently sent me some poems, which I have asked a poet friend from Argentina to translate.

La densidad del aire

El polvo que nadie sacude,
ese que se queda en las casas abandonadas,
un punto en los pulmones que poco a poco se hace piedra,
partículas secas que flotan en el aire.

Habrá que preguntar a Medusa,
la más hermosa de las gorgonas,
recluida con su manzana dorada,
cuándo nos convertiremos en piedra,
en sombras que el viento no se llevará,
cuándo estaremos realmente muertas.

********

The density of the air

The dust that nobody shakes,
the type that stays in abandoned houses,
a spot in the lungs that little by little becomes a stone,
dry particles that float in the air.

We should ask Medusa,
the most beautiful of the gorgons,
secluded with her golden apple,
when we will turn into stone,
into shadows that the wind will not carry away,
when we will really be dead.

(Translated by Cesar Verrier)

*************s

If Claudia Sánchez;s poem were untitled, much of the power of the ending would be lost, for it is only the “density” of the air that allows our lives have a sculpted shadow of absence that cannot be carried away, but remains on the pedestal of other’s sorrow, effaced yet utterly precise in its profile.

Happy 100th Birthday, Edward Field, Stand Up Poet Par Excellence

June 7th, 2025

Today is Edward Field’s 100th birthday.

Mr. Field is one of only two surviving poets who appeared in Donald Allen’s anthology, The New American Poetry, in 1960 Gary Snyder, who is a half-dozen years younger, is the other survivor.

Edward Field was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Lynbrook in Long Island. At the age of 20, he was a crew member on a bomber plane that crashed on the way back from a mission over Europe. A film was made based on the poem he wrote about the experience of surviving that crash.

He has had a dozen books of poetry published, including Stand Up, Friend, with Me, the title of which inspired the name of a school of poetry largely associated with Los Angeles in general, and Long Beach, California, in particular. Poets such as Gerald Locklin, Charles Harper Webb, Suzanne Lummis, Laurel Ann Bogen, and Jack Grapes all contributed to its emergence as a significant component of West Coast poetry.

Field also has edited several anthologies, including two editions of A GEOGRAPHY OF POETS, which was the first mass-published paperback anthology to give poets in Los Angeles, such as Eloise Klein Healy, any significant recognition.

With gratitude for all you have done for poets, Edward Field, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

As a way of sending you a birthday card in this blog post, I have obtained permission to reprint a poem by Gerald Locklin that is dedicated to him. It appears on page 152 of the recently published book, REQUIEM FOR THE TOAD: Selected Poems, edited by Clint Margrave (New York Quarterly Press).

“where we are” (for edward field)

i envy those
who live in two places:
new work, say, and london
wales and spain;
l.a. and paris
hawaii and wwitzerland
there is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are. i have
always loved both the freshness of
arriving and the relief of leaving. with
two homes every move would be homecoming.
I am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: I am talking about hope.

&&&&&&

“MINOR ACCIDENT OF WAR”

New animated film honors Edward Field, WWII veteran and a hero on several fronts

Rolling Stones on Tour: Sixty Years and Counting

May 19, 2024

The Moody Blues was a notable band in the era of popular music that followed the initial success of the so-called British Invasion. All five of its original members are now dead, including Denny Laine, a guitarist who remained prominent as a guitarist in Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles band, Wings. Founded in 1964, the Moody Blues is yet another example of the long acknowledged fact that it wasn’t the baby boomers (those born after 1946) who instigated the cultural changes that marked the 1960s; rather, it was their elder “siblings” (those born between 1939 and 1945) who startled the status quo of Frank Sinatra and Baby boomers, in fact, did contribute to those changes, but it was as an audience. To offer a variation on a phrase by Peter Schjeldahl, baby boomer were a transmission generation. To a large extent, baby boomers represent a major instance of “reader response,” without which the songwriters born between 1940 and 1944 could not have had the impact on world culture that they did. The extent to which that listening influenced other avant-garde efforts includes the Language writing movement. Rae Armantrout, for instance, has specifically written of the impact that “Satisfaction” had on her as a young poet in San Diego in 1965.

No sooner did the demise of all the original members of the Moody Blues get announced than the obit book was closed on the final surviving member of the MC5 (aka the Motor City 5). Dennis Thompson the drummer, outlived bandmate Wayne Kramer less than four months. In contrast, not only are three of the original members of the Rolling Stones still alive, but each continues to be fully engaged with their preferred projects. Although Keith Richards gained deserved attention as a co-author of an autobiography, it is the original bass player, Bill Wyman, who has produced the most books as well as releasing solo albums of his own songs. One might attribute his artistic longevity to his decision to stop touring in what amounted to an oldies band in the 1990s, but that conjecture runs into the ever revivifying staying power of the collaborative songwriting partnership of Sir Mick Jagger and Richard, both of whom are leading the latest iteration of the band on a national tour that began in late April and will last until early July.

As vigorous as the frontman remains, and as invigorating a sense of a pivotal increment as the music still manages to attain, age has caught up with the band. One only has to look at the schedule of the 1966 tour with its nocturnal leap-frogging across the continent, with a show in a different city almost every night for a couple weeks in a row, to gain a perspective on this year’s tour, with its interlude of three days off between shows. Recovery time is understandably needed, and one wouldn’t want or expect them to move at any other clip. In part, the need to support the level of entourage assistance over such an extended time as the current tour has to be factored in when considering the price of the tickets.

Given the unlikelihood I’d be able to attend their next tour, I”m half-tempted to splurge and see this band for only the second time in my life, but I doubt that it would be worth the money. I don’t need my morale about my physical dilapidation getting another gut-punch by watching Jagger strut on the tight-rope of senescence. As for Richards, I saw him perform on his solo tour for “Talk Is Cheap,” and that suffices as one of the most exquisite musical evenings of my life.

I certainly wouldn’t discourage any young person from seeing the surviving version of The Rolling Stones, but I would urge them to first invest in some serious vinyl recordings. Cassettes and CDs, unfortunately, do not truly catch the mix of sound that comes across from the original vinyls. I am quite serious when I say that if one had a choice between spending a few hundred dollars on seeing the current tour or of acquiring vinyl, one shouldn’t hesitate to acquire the vinyl. The tour only provides a fraction of the music that makes this band intriguing. To put it bluntly, unless one is familiar with the following four dozen or so songs, one lacks the context to appreciate what one might hear on the stage in 2024.

Love Comes (At the Speed of Light)
One Hit (to the Body)
Yesterday’s Papers
Stray Cat Blues
Continental Drift
2120 South Michigan Avenue
What a Shame
Mona (Down Home Girl)
Stupid Girl
Gomper
I Just want to See His Face
Cool, Calm, Collected
Doncha Bother Me
Cry to Me
That’s How Strong My Love Is
She Smiled Sweetly
The Spider and the Fly
Dear Doctor
Connection
As Tears Go By
Play with Fire
Lady Jane
Tell Me
You Gotta Move
Child of the Moon
Time Is on My Side
No Expectations
Sweet Black Angel
2000 Light Years from Home
Under My Thumb
Under Cover of the Night
I Am Waiting
Time Waits for No One
Salt of the Earth
Loving Cup
Sway
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
Wild Horses
Moonlight Mile
Miss You
Ruby Tuesday
Shattered
Locked Away

Encore song:
The Last Time (cf my blog post: Brian Jones and the Fiftieth Anniversary of “The Last Time”)

“Locked Away” is, of course, not a Jagger-Richards composition, but it would feel appropriate as a coda to an anthology of their songs that represents the extraordinary range of musical influences that Richards and Jagger have absorbed and disseminated with redolent embellishments. The crucial “color” added to their songs by musicians such as Brian Jones, Nicky Hopkins, and Mick Taylor, not to mention Wyman, the Late, beloved drummer Charlie Watts, and Ron Wood, can hardly be overlooked without leaving any account of this band open to charges of sycophancy.

How many of the people who see The Rolling Stones on tour in the United States this summer will be familiar with the above songs? My guess is less than 20 percent. One can hope, I suppose, that the show will encourage them to dig into the backlist, but that’s not likely to happen. As I think about it, one of the reasons I am not interested in attending their show is that I would prefer to hear them in the company of people who know the band’s work. I never enjoyed large crowds, and at this point actively dislike them. To feel that the people around me are ignorant of the context of the music leaves me dismayed at how little curiosity most people have. The sad fact is that at least those who listened to “You Gotta Move” then went out and bought an album by Mississippi Fred McDowell. I can’t imagine that happening now to any significant extent.

Suppose someone were to offer me two free tickets to attend the current tour. Would I go, despite my discomfort with large crowds? I would certainly be tempted, if only to help erase the rather insipid taste that I still have from the one time I did see the band, in Los Angeles in 1972; it wasn’t an impressive show. It was a matinee performance, and the band seemed to treat it as a dress rehearsal meant to make up for a lack of preparation. Perhaps my indifferent reaction was in part due to their set list, which included several songs that hardly rank as among my favorites. Lyric content aside, “Brown Sugar” always struck me as a song that never amounted too much after the first eight seconds, which get one’s instant attention, but which gets frittered away with a predictable road-house bravura. The songs they performed from their new album at the time, “Exile on Main Street,” didn’t seem to have made a full transition from the studio to the stage. The best of the show seemed to be “Gimme Shelter” and “Jumping’ Jack Flash,” two songs that are included in their 2024 tour.

Here’s the tour, with both dates already played and those yet to come:

April 28th, 2024 — NRG Stadium HOUSTON, TX

May 2nd — Jazz Fest NEW ORLEANS, LA

May 7th State Farm Stadium GLENDALE, AZ

May 11th Allegiant Stadium LAS VEGAS, NV

May 15th Lumen Field SEATTLE, WA

May 23rd MetLife Stadium EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ

May 26th MetLife Stadium EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ

May 30th Gillette Stadium FOXBORO, MA

June 3rd Camping World Stadium ORLANDO, FL

June 7th Mercedes-Benz Stadium ATLANTA, GA

June 11th Lincoln Financial Field PHILADELPHIA, PA

June 15th Cleveland Browns Stadium CLEVELAND, OH

June 20th Empower Field at Mile High DENVER, CO

June 27th Soldier Field CHICAGO, IL

June 30th Soldier Field CHICAGO, IL

July 5th BC Place VANCOUVER, BC

July 10th SoFi Stadium LOS ANGELES, CA

July 13th SoFi Stadium LOS ANGELES, CA

July 17th Levi’s ® Stadium SANTA CLARA, CA

Post-Script: For baby boomers who remember hearing their music in the 1960s, you might enjoy these outtakes of
18 recordings from 1967 featuring Brian Jones.
Mord Und Totschlag (opening credits) – harmonica: https://youtu.be/XLCUyWJHbcA?si=IWCKY64_ff1tBrwB
Mord Und Totschlag (recorder theme) – recorder: https://youtu.be/UkTesw51tM0?si=ejdX3_n8Ka99Nzis
Mord Und Totschlag (sitar theme) – sitar: https://youtu.be/Svr8fxUU30w?si=635qDu_VREmKRIjj
Mord Und Totschlag (dulcimer theme 1) – dulcimer, sitar (drone) & autoharp: https://youtu.be/JiVF4h0Kffo?si=do0fQI8gRgQxdVov
Mord Und Totschlag (harmonica solo) – harmonica: https://youtu.be/_7rYxrZ6bkE?si=u0bMj6ttn9WX-MR4
We Love You – mellotron: https://youtu.be/WOWvT5dPGJE?si=sezj2yPOc5EjZzST
Dandelion – soprano saxophone: https://youtu.be/-dufQk7apX0?si=n3JGo6BYs8l0anS-
You Know My Name, Look Up The Number – soprano saxophone: https://youtu.be/iMhKWOP6EZQ?si=QIuucvgyQCC5mWh3
Citadel – soprano saxophone, recorder & mellotron: https://youtu.be/I9KJAeM3NCc?si=PUgQH2hVNRVW_ys2
The Lantern – organ: https://youtu.be/9dRyCruH3d4?si=i2glC741TpAGd1YS
She’s A Rainbow – mellotron: https://youtu.be/zKfJXUey8r0?si=uaJbVKrrJpquA28V
In Another Land – mellotron: https://youtu.be/jBJbo5kLXVs?si=P74B6ywTO5YKqaoY
Gomper – electric dulcimer & recorder: https://youtu.be/12VrOX-ogAw?si=bwXmL7FefxMQthA1
2000 Light Years From Home – mellotron: https://youtu.be/RLhFT7YXnoI?si=KlvdExs6sEF0UmDu
On With The Show – mellotron: https://youtu.be/SYwqJmRIQng?si=JiRTLeKen7186cQI
Acid in the Grass – concert harp: https://youtu.be/F8Uu0Kl680s?si=QPna5pJbw9-l-YAX
Majesties Honky Tonk – organ: https://youtu.be/kADe7QFC2cE?si=ohrgDXvWQ3eL1_dE
Gold Fingernails – harmonica: https://youtu.be/X0xFaDN0jLs?si=4iOFKYhNrrORhcKr
Photo: Gered Mankowitz

“Unfrosted”: 1950s’ Cereal Wars as Uniparty Politics

Thursday, May 9, 2024

A couple of years ago, I was walking on the campus from the library to my office in the McIntosh Humanities Building (MHB) and happened to notice a middle-aged man taking photographs of nearby buildings. Since the architecture on our campus is not of a caliber that would ever interest an historical preservation committee, I was curious about his diligence in getting just the right angle. “Oh, I’m a location scout,” he said. “The assignment is for a film set in the 1950s and I thought there might be something here we could use.” CSU Long Beach was founded in the late 1940s, so some of the buildings do hark back to that period. We chatted for a bit, and I asked him about the film. “Oh, it’s about competition between cereal companies in Michigan. It’s called ‘Unfrosted’.” “Good title,” I said, but when I didn’t hear anything about a film by that name being released as of a year ago, I just figured it was yet another Hollywood project that got shelved or ended up going straight to DVD.

The film did get made and released, and it seems that very few people are neutral about it. A large plurality enjoyed it very much, but around a quarter of its audience gave it the lowest possible evaluation. One plausible expiation for this polarization is the politics of the film. In particular, people who still believe that the 2020 election was “stolen” would be very likely to regard the final half-hour of the film as “not funny at all.” After all, the protest at the end of “Unfrosted” quite obviously invokes the riot that took place on January 6, 2021, soon after the outgoing president harangued a crowd of followers about their need to fight for what they believe in. In the film, one character is a blatant invocation of Jacob Chansley (aka “the Canon Shaman”).

Both those who thoroughly enjoyed the film and those who detested it, however, miss the most important point of the film. The competition between Kellogg’s and Post cereal companies is a faux competition, in the same way that the Democratic and Republican parties are not competing systems, but only competing administrative policy machines. Of course, that competition does have actual real world consequences, but the question of whether capitalism’s global hegemony needs some legitimation narrative to prop up its self-justification as a system is not worth any more attention than a cereal company would give to explaining why children need to eat Frosted Flakes (or pop-tarts).

In other words, “Unfrosted” is the best recent film that underscores how there really is only one political party at work in the country. Cereal companies in Michigan, in the 1950s, are the perfect analogy for the uniparty that sustains the corporate domination of politics in this country.

If we are derive any nutrition from the “breakfast” (not of “champions,” but of politicians), it’s up to us to add some fresh fruit (banana; or blueberries) to our bowl. We certainly can’t count on those who market elections, spewing out text messages with requests for campaign contributions, to remedy the double catastrophe of high rent and the incessant rationing of medical care.