Category: History Lessons

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #057: Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #057: Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be

“These are the times that try men’s souls / In the course of our nation’s history the people of Boston have rallied bravely whenever the rights of men have been threatened / Today, a new crisis has arisen” – M.T.A., written by Bess Hawes and Jacqueline Steine.

Spats. Ethyl gas. Municipal steam baths. Mom’s Eats. Necco Wafers. Interurban trains. Screaming Yellow Zonkers. Montgomery Wards. Buggy whips. Magazines and newspapers. Yeah, I’m yelling at the clouds again.

Wait a minute. Magazines and newspapers? They’re still around. Sorta. Kinda. Almost. They’re coughing up blood, but they’re still around… if you know where to look. And while you’re doing that, say hello to Dr. Livingstone for me, will you? Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #057: Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #056: Oh, Yeah. It’s For The Children. Sure.

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #056: Oh, Yeah. It’s For The Children. Sure.

Damn near every time the self-appointed, self-righteous so-called morality mavens are opposed to some significant change in our social structure, they proclaim they’re stopping it “for the children.” If you oppose their efforts, therefore, you must hate children and unless you’re W.C. Fields that means you are evil.

To this, I loudly and profoundly call bullshit. Little kids who can barely read have been marching around carrying placards saying, “I’m sure glad my mother didn’t abort me!” for so long they’re putting those signs in the hands of their own little kids. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #056: Oh, Yeah. It’s For The Children. Sure.”

The Weed of Crime Bears Bitchin’ Fruit

The Weed of Crime Bears Bitchin’ Fruit

Earlier this month the Illinois legislature passed and sent to the governor a bill legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana. Within 24 hours, I had received a half-dozen emails and texts asking me when I was moving back home.

I’ve been gone a third of a century, but – like most obnoxious Chicago ex-pats – the city remains imbedded in my heart. The people, the traditions, music and the folklore, and the highly dangerous but totally fabulous junk food that is all such an integral part of the city’s culture remains remarkably seductive. Continue reading “The Weed of Crime Bears Bitchin’ Fruit”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #038: Crawling Through The Wreckage

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #038: Crawling Through The Wreckage

“Mr. Watson, come here, I want you,” Alexander Graham Bell shouted to his assistant. Watson didn’t hear him directly — but he did hear Bell over that newfangled telephone invention of his. “Screw you,” Watson replied. “You’re using social media to harass me!”

I’d rather avoid contradicting Marshall McLuhan. He said his piece to Woody Allen on-screen, but, damn, the medium is not the message. It only seems that way because we have a tradition of shooting the messenger. Social media has been made out to be a great evil, spreading fear and danger across the globe.

I have no overwhelming affinity for social media. You’re unlikely to find me gazing at my iPhone while blocking pedestrians at Grand Central Terminal. Social media can be a shit magnet, but it is one made of mirrors. Facebook did not invent White Supremacy, no more than D.W. Griffith did. Twitter didn’t invent body shaming; we’ve had teenage angst since the creation of acne vugaris. They provide the platform for anybody and everybody. We’re blaming these companies for delivering on their promises. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #038: Crawling Through The Wreckage”

Brainiac On Banjo #033: Stream On, It’s A Crazy Feeling!

Brainiac On Banjo #033: Stream On, It’s A Crazy Feeling!

Most likely you have noticed the shift from static broadcast and cable television and movies to streaming services such as Netflix and DC Universe… to name but two. This stuff is growing like amoebas on steroids. In the relatively few years since this all began, it has knocked the poo out of the free media industries.

Unlike their cohorts in cable and terrestrial broadcasting, theater owners saw this coming and, in order to protect their investments, started offering new experiences such as larger, more comfortable and more adjustable seating, a wider range of unhealthy overpriced foods and snacks, new screens that can be viewed from the International Space Station, and sound systems that will deafen you. Great fun!

For the moment, at least.

The American comic book industry jumped on this concept out of the same cultural-shift that affected these other entertainment industries. Peculiarly, American comic book publishers have not shown much in the way of innovation over the past 86 years; the last huge improvement came when Major Wheeler-Nicholson decided to commission new work instead of relying upon newspaper strip reprints. That happened a mere 84 years ago.

When comixology came along offering comics new and old to their subscribers to be read (but not stored) on computers and tablets, as well as on cellphones for those who enjoy squinting, most publishers were quick to embrace this new means of distribution. Since then, the quantity of such material has skyrocketed and now DC’s stream-liner, DC Universe, is claiming they will be offering damn near every DC-owned comic online as part of that service. It’s also available on your television set, assuming you enjoy squinting but doing so on your smartphone requires too much effort.

That’s cool. Technology marches on, and the side benefit is that we’re saving a lot of trees, creating more oxygen and using fewer fossil fuels to distribute pretty colors printed on the corpses of saplings. Some people, not all of whom are nostalgia-soaked geriatrics, don’t like this and that is completely understandable. Just wait until they must move their comic book collection to a new abode. With two-terabyte thumb-drives available and heading towards affordability, you can put a copy of every comic book ever published in America on maybe four such drives and drop them in your purse or pocket.

So, last week Apple announced their new Apple News+ program which will stream more than 240 newspapers and magazines into the ethersphere for $10 a month. Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue… lots of stuff, with the promise of more to come. Well, that sounds convenient, particularly to those of us with tablets, and even more so to my fellow geriatrics with growing vision issues. That 13” iPad is looking better to me all the time, and I haven’t subscribed to this new service – at least not yet. Several more daily newspapers of note would be nice.

Immediately and quite predictably, the naysayers started screaming nay. “This will kill magazines and newspapers,” they say. Oh, yeah? If you live within a convenient walk of a retailer who offers more than 240 magazines and newspapers, consider yourself very lucky. Most people do not. If you want to choose from a variety of publications, you better be ready to drive out to one of the rapidly-dwindling big box stores such as Barnes and Noble and then pray for the best. This distribution method, pioneered by Apple with iTunes, saved the music industry. Is FYI still around? How about Borders? Ya wanna get this stuff somewhere.

If there’s but one rule that pervades Earth history, it’s that change is constant. Maintaining access to editorial content must adapt. If you lust for the smell of old paper – and I kinda do myself – pull apart one of those CGC clamshells and take a good snort.

(A tip of the hoodie to Buddy Holly for our headline this week)

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #22: Bizarro-Congressman Says GOP Not Racist

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #22: Bizarro-Congressman Says GOP Not Racist

In this space last week, I pontificated on the hypocrisy of the Republican Party’s slapping Iowa Rep. Steve King on the wrist (fairly hard) for his overt racism without ever uttering a murmur about the 800 pound gorilla of racism, His Petulance King Donald The Last. Well, there was at least one other response to this story, and it appeared last week in the newspaper U.S.A. Today.

The piece was written by Congressman Will Hurd, Republican from Texas’s 23rd District. Rep. Hurd is something of an endangered species: he is the only black Republican in the House of Representatives. There have been only six others since the onset of the Great Depression; the fact that there’s only one such representative in 2019 does not inure to the benefit of his party’s image.  Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #22: Bizarro-Congressman Says GOP Not Racist”

Brainiac On Banjo #023: How Much Stuf Is Too Much Stuf??? By Mike Gold

Brainiac On Banjo #023: How Much Stuf Is Too Much Stuf??? By Mike Gold

If you need further evidence that the big money people are banking on wide-spread legalization of marijuana, you need not look further than the folks at Mondelēz International, current owners of Nabisco. They manufacture the all-time favorite food of stoners, Oreo cookies. And it seems the folks who make Oreos have a keen eye on the bounding weed market.

A couple days ago my editor texted me about this new product called “MOST Stuf Oreos.” More than Mega Stuf, more than Double Stuf, this stuff has enough Stuf to put your average American into a diabetic coma. She alerted me that it just came out, is a “limited-edition,” and is presently available at places such as Target, Walmart, and Rite-Aid. Well, there’s a Rite-Aid near me, and it is a drug store so it must be healthy, and I inferred my editor was making an assignment.

So the next day I labored out to the drug store where I secured the last package of Most Stuf Oreos they had.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #023: How Much Stuf Is Too Much Stuf??? By Mike Gold”

Brainiac On Banjo #021: Raymond Loewy, Jony Ive, Bill Maher, and Stan Lee… by Mike Gold

Brainiac On Banjo #021: Raymond Loewy, Jony Ive, Bill Maher, and Stan Lee… by Mike Gold

Back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, from time to time my friends and I would gather in the schoolyard and call out the makes, models and years of the cars driving by. You could do that back then, as damn near every car had its own identity, its own look and style. They were so distinctive that I think we could have ID’ed most of these cars by their silhouettes, as though we were World War II Civil Defense car spotters.

Between The Great War and The Great Vietnam Fiasco, the concept of “style” was critical to our culture. Movie theaters weren’t simply big rooms with white sparkly screens – many were cathedrals of film designed to inspire you to appreciate the entirely of the moviegoing experience. Drug stores had soda fountains that were overrun with chrome-plated art deco machinery. Designers unleashed mountains of energy defining the environment shared by four generations, led by the brilliant Raymond Loewy, who created the look of cars, refrigerators and other household appliances, furniture, corporate logos and packaging, and airplanes. In fact, he teamed-up with President John F. Kennedy in 1962 to design Air Force One.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #021: Raymond Loewy, Jony Ive, Bill Maher, and Stan Lee… by Mike Gold”

History Lesson: Mary, Queen of Scots

History Lesson: Mary, Queen of Scots

This article is an attempt at context. Often, in our popular culture, we are fed a view of history that is intended for one singular purpose. Money. The producers of the historical product are attempting to reap financial rewards for producing a work that is usually historical fiction. Therefore, as the film Mary, Queen of Scots is about to go into general release, we felt we would give some context to the known events of Mary Stuart’s life.

Mary was born on 8 December 1542. That was four hundred and seventy-six years ago for those without a calculator handy. This woman existed, and she lived to age of forty-four. Mary was the only child of King James V of Scotland and his wife Mary of Guise. She was also James’ only surviving legitimate heir. On 14 December that same year, at the age of 6 days old her father and king died, making her the Queen of the Scotland.

Mary’s Heritage and the Rough Wooing

It cam wi’ a lass and it will gang wi’ a lass!

James V of Scotland

In order to truly understand the complicated circumstances of Mary’s life, we need to know her heritage. Yes, she was the Queen of Scotland as an infant, but her familial lines are drenched in power. Mary’s paternal grandmother was Margaret Tudor, the older sister of Henry VIII of England. At the time of her birth, she became forth in line to the English throne behind her grand-uncle the King, his heir, and only legitimate son Edward, his oldest daughter Mary, and Elizabeth, who was born from Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Should all of those people die before having children, Mary would be Queen of England. This was a very powerful position for her to be in, and everyone at the time recognized it and did what they could to use it to their own advantage.

To reiterate, we are looking to give context here. When Mary was born, Henry VIII was fifty-one years old, Edward was 5 years old, Mary Tudor (AKA Mary I, AKA Bloody Mary) was twenty-six, and Elizabeth was 9. At this time, there were political tensions including battles between England and Scotland. There was a peace agreed to that was struck and sealed in the Treaty of Greenwich on 1 July 1543 which included a betrothal between the heir to England, Edward, and six-month old Mary, Queen of Scots.

Continue reading “History Lesson: Mary, Queen of Scots”

Happy Birthday America?

Happy Birthday America?

This year I noticed a lot of folks using the phrase “242 years ago” and then making some statement about the start of the American Revolution.

One Facespace pal took the opportunity to point out folks picked up guns 242 years ago and that’s why freedom is earned.

Here’s the thing: July 4th revolves around the signing of the Declaration of Independence in July, 1776. Not the start of the war. Continue reading “Happy Birthday America?”