Put Your Body on the Gears: In the Words of Mario Savio

18 Aug
Mario Savio Free Speech Movement 1964

Mario Savio and members of the Free Speech Movement, circa 1964
image from npr.org

My last post delved into the life of Mario Savio, an inspirational, but oft-overlooked figure of the 1960s. Below, I’ll explore five quotes by and about Mario Savio that stood out to me while reading Seth Rosenfeld’s Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power. Continue reading

Mario Savio: The Voice of the Free Speech Movement

4 Aug
Mario Savio under arrest during his participation in the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkley, circa 1964

Mario Savio under arrest during his participation in the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkley, circa 1964
Image from chronicle.com

In between shocking exposures of unconstitutional surveillance and harassment, Seth Rosenfeld’s 2012 book, Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power, offers a fairly comprehensive biography of everyone from Ronald Reagan and Herbert Hoover to University of California president Clark Kerr. In fact, Rosenfeld has a habit of launching into the life story of every figure he introduces. Although this was at times tedious, it helped illuminate one of the most fascinating figures of the 1960s: Mario Savio, the UC student who helped lead the Free Speech Movement (FSM) at UC Berkley at the age of 22.

On October 1, 1964, a man named Jack Weinberg was arrested on the Berkeley campus while attempting to distribute political literature. He was put into a police car, but never made it to the station. As many as 3,000 students sat down to block the car from leaving, refusing to budge for more than 32 hours until the charges against Weinberg were dropped. During that time, students stood atop the car to advocate for the right to free speech on campus. Mario Savio was one of them. Continue reading

Bob Dylan at Americanarama: The Never Ending Tour Lives On

18 Jul
Bob Dylan Americanarama 7-12-13 at Toyota Park2

The man himself.
Photo taken by Joshua Mellin

“Tell Bob…I’ve given him a lot of money over the years,” my dad said, wishing me well just hours before my first Dylan concert. Last Friday, I followed in my dad’s footsteps, dropping a good chunk of change to see a legend in the flesh. Fresh off my intensive Dylan research, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would he be hiding behind a hat and wig? Would he mumblingly phone it in? Will all his songs be unrecognizable to me? Continue reading

One Legendary Party: The Hell’s Angels and the Merry Pranksters Meet at Kesey’s

7 Jul
Hell's Angels Group with Jackets

Guess who’s coming to dinner.
Image via nostalgiaonwheels.blogspot.com

WARNING: This post contains descriptions of alleged sexual violence. 

For the last six years or so, one party has been haunting me. It wasn’t any soiree I’d attended—this party took place on Saturday August 7, 1965 at Ken Kesey’s LSD-laced ranch in La Honda, California. It was a fete that epitomized the West Coast psychedelic movement’s embrace of drugs, music, and above all, the outlaw lifestyle. What made this party special wasn’t its mix of intellectuals—poet Allen Ginsberg and Harvard psychology professor Richard Alpert (aka Baba Ram Dass) among them—and countercultural icons such as Hunter S. Thompson and Neal Cassady; it was the 15-foot-long, red white and blue sign strung up outside the ranch: THE MERRY PRANKSTERS WELCOME THE HELL’S ANGELS. Continue reading

Baker’s Break: Big Lebowski White Russian Cupcakes

24 Jun
The Dude Drinks a White Russian - Big Lebowski

The Dude in his natural habitat
Image via drinkinginamerica.com

So I’ve been busy with decidedly non-countercultural writing, and I thought I’d jump back into this blog with a delicious post based on my favorite countercultural movie, The Big Lebowski. Instead of delving into why The Dude represents the antihero of 1960s counterculture who was left behind by mainstream society and dragged into the morally bankrupt malaise of a post-‘Nam, pre-Desert Storm America, I’m going to show you how to make white russian cupcakes.

Trust me, you’ll thank me when you get the munchies at your next Big Lebowski party.

White Russian Cupcakes Recipe Step 1

Here’s whatall you’ll need

Continue reading

The Bloody Beast in Its Tracks: Divorce Through The Eyes of Bob Dylan and Josh Ritter

1 Jun
Bob Dylan "Blood on the Tracks" vs. Josh Ritter's "The Beast in Its Tracks"

Two Men. Two Divorces. Two Albums.

Nearly 40 years separates the release of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Josh Ritter’s The Beast in Its Tracks, but the themes are still familiar: divorce, heartbreak, introspection, and cautious optimism about new love.

I was raised on a timeless mishmash of Dylan’s greatest hits, so it wasn’t until recently digesting his discography that I heard Blood on the Tracks in its entirety. It’s a phenomenal album, but I couldn’t stop comparing it to Ritter’s The Beast in Its Tracks, which came out only a few months ago. The two albums portray men at roughly the same age (Dylan at 35; Ritter at 36) reacting to their crumbling marriages and starting their lives anew. Continue reading

Authenticity is a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan Defines Hip for a Generation

9 May
1960s Bob Dylan Embodies Cool

“He has a visionary’s eyeball that could x-ray all that was corrupt and phony, and who knows what he sees when he looks at you.” -Dalton
Image from soundonsound.com

“He has to have the oldest, most authentic songs. He begins a rabid, quasi-spiritual quest for the obscure, the rare, the core sound.” -David Dalton

“This was the Beat ideal—a community of intellectual outsiders. But it was an ideal that the mass bohemianism of the ‘60s would blow up and wreck because, for one thing, it wasn’t going to be a secret too much longer, and it wasn’t the small elite group of insiders anymore. Two, three, years, it would all be gone. And Bob would be one of the major causes of its demise.” -David Dalton

If anyone embodied authenticity or the ephemeral concept of “IT” in the 1960s, it was Bob Dylan. David Dalton shines a light on Dylan’s hipster persona (among his many others) in Who is that Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan. He reveals Dylan as a vehicle for the pop-culturification of the Beat movement (frequently comparing him to Kerouac, both in literary style and lifestyle), and also exposes, yet again, the sheer unsustainability of Beat ideals. Continue reading

Who is that Man? David Dalton Explores the Many Faces of Bob Dylan

5 May
David Dalton Who is That Man Book Cover

Book Cover
Image from thenervousbreakdown.com

I just couldn’t get through Chronicles.  As a high-schooler and burgeoning Dylan fan, I was just looking for a true story behind the music. But I was quick to learn that when it comes to Dylan, there will never be a concrete truth, and the story you’re looking for is not going to be the story you’re going to get.

Enter David Dalton with Who is That Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan. This comprehensive Dylanography gave me many of the truths I sought as it taught me which truths to give up searching for. Continue reading

Hunter Thompson: “Fear & Loathing in America” After 9/11

23 Apr

Just hours after the terror attacks on 9/11/01, Hunter S. Thompson wrote an article for ESPN entitled “Fear & Loathing in America.” In it, he made some disturbingly accurate predictions, this one by far the most chilling:

“The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives. It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy.” Continue reading

Clunk Clunk Moo: Dilemmas of 21st Century Protest

16 Apr
Occupy Wall Street visitors check out books at the People's Library in Zuccotti Park, October 2011 Image taken by Emily Wachowiak

Visitors check out books at the People’s Library in Zuccotti Park, October 2011
Image taken by Emily Wachowiak

My mom took me to my first protest at age 15—a reading of Lysistrata at Chicago’s Heartland Café. This was early in 2003, before the invasion of Iraq. I ate some vegan pastry, laughed at an ancient Greek sex comedy, and listened to middle-aged folks talk past each other in the post-play discussion. I walked out with a “Not in My Name” button I hoped would counteract the one I’d seen around school that read “Hug a troop, not a tree, hippie!”

A few weeks later, bombs lit up the skies over Baghdad as spring lighting flashed over my suburb.

As an adult, I’ve marched and chanted in only a handful of Chicago protests, mostly anti-gun and pro-union affairs over the last two years. Each experience has both moved and unsettled me. I’ve born witness to the stories of old union activists and young gun-massacre survivors, their words stinging me to my core. But as I looked over the mostly middle-aged and elderly crowds, I also felt I was bearing witness to a dying tradition. Continue reading