November 17, 1972: What will Nixon do with it?

We continue the PAST LIFEs series, in which we revisit the last few months of LIFE magazine, issue by issue, on the 50th anniversary of its departure.

This week we are up to the issue of November 17, 1972, which is one of the issues my grandfather saved. You can read along with it here.

Apropos de nada, my wife and I are suckers for recipes involving spicy, flavorful, oil-slicked Asian noodles. If you are also, you will want to make friends with this recipe, now if not sooner. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww yeah.

Anyway:

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As previously mentioned, this lemon-sucking still life depicts a man who has just won 49 states and the District of Columbia (I need not mention which fine American state turned up its nose at him) in the most dominant electoral victory in Presidential history. LIFE’s choice of cover photo is … interesting.

I am dreading a Hugh Sidey cover story. But I am obliged to open the magazine anyway, in the service of you, the reader. So here we go.

Bell Telephone takes out an ad reading Happy Valentine’s Day. The point, in mid-November, being that you can shower the people you love with love every day, so why not call tonight? (Like James Taylor, you can even set up a tape machine to do the job for you.)

Managing Editor Ralph Graves reports that the children of America are swamping LIFE with responses to its recent kids’ survey. Graves reports that LIFE’s Letters Department is working weekends just to answer all the letters. Only about a month-and-a-half later, the men and women of the Letters Department would look back fondly on the days when they worked weekends. When they worked, really.

We go directly into Sidey’s piece and it’s actually not a bad view of Richard Nixon at the moment of his greatest triumph. It is also mercifully brief and includes photos of Nixon smiling, which seems only fair. Of course Sidey can’t entirely see what’s coming, but he flags Watergate as something that could get in Nixon’s way, and that’s about as good as anybody in November 1972 was reading the tea leaves, I think.

LIFE also gives us a few pictures from the hotel room in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where George McGovern spent Election Night. Apparently, early the following morning, McGovern ate “a bowl of dry cereal.” This only further convinces me that George McGovern was an honorable man, and I yearn to know which kind of cereal he poured himself. (November 7 would have been too late for monster cereal — unless McGovern saved himself a box.) McGovern also gets a page to tell his story in first person, which Nixon didn’t get, unless he passed it up.

The ’73 Buick Century is not unattractive, but the ad Buick has drafted to sell it to America is simply a laundry list of features. Like the Solenoid-Activated Throttle Stop, “for quick, sure engine shut-off.” It was a problem at one point that your car wouldn’t shut off when you turned the key and took it out?

(I also love the Computer-Selected Chassis Springs: Apparently, based on the specific features of the car you ordered, a computer would choose the appropriate chassis springs for you. Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision, one assumes.)

Ooooh! An ad for Contac, the cold medicine consisting of hundreds of tiny colored balls inside a capsule. I thought that was cool when I was a kid, and I remember carefully twisting open a Contac capsule — or maybe some generic equivalent — to free the little balls inside my mouth rather than inside my intestines or wherever. Because, why wait for cold relief? Anyway, if you’re making a list of cool ’60s/’70s mass-market innovations, the Contac capsule has to be on it somewhere.

Bacardi tells us about all the rum drinks we already know how to make, like rum and Coke. Chrysler won’t stop talking about engineering for some weird reason. I had to scorch ginger and scallions in canola oil for dinner and my house smells magnificent in a short-order kind of way.

Oh, now this is ur-Seventies. Fisher, manufacturer of audio equipment, offers a coupon for your own copy of The Fisher Audio Standard. It’s an album of (allegedly) really high-quality, distortion-free sound that you can use to appreciate how much better Fisher gear sounds than anyone else’s. (“The nearest thing to the technically perfect LP record”!) I suddenly think it would have been fun to be back in 1972 with a disposable income, swilling rum and Coke, savoring the most nuanced of sound on my Fisher system, and popping Contac when seasonal illness overtakes me.

(You mean I would have had to read Hugh Sidey, too? No deal.)

The eternally entertaining Cyclops has watched a sequence of NBC’s Mystery Movies and raves about Richard Boone as Hec Ramsey. I wonder if his work is on YouTube or the Internet Archive, in some buried pirate’s corner; I’ve reached a point where, if Cyclops says it’s good, I’m interested in watching. (Cyclops’s description of Boone also, somewhat randomly, reminds me it has been far too long since I watched Robert Mitchum in Farewell, My Lovely. Legit, that was.)

Ohhhhhhhhhhh! Next we get a real treat — another of those ads where America’s Investor-Owned Power Companies tell us we gotta swallow a nuclear future and get it done with. This ad shows a photo of a middle-school class — allegedly from Ontario, New York — with the assertion that going to school every day exposes them to more radiation than the local nuclear power plant. (If you have been around here a long, long, long, long time, you might remember a post about the local nuclear power plant in Ontario, New York.)

Thirty-five to 40 years after this issue came out, I still had my grandfather’s old copy, and I went to work for a company that owned a nuclear power plant (not the one in Ontario, New York; rather, the one in Berwick, Pennsylvania.) I tore this ad out of the issue and hung it in my cube for quite a while as a conversation piece. What a trip to see it again.

For $8.50 and five end flaps from the cartons of Winston cigarettes — rather a high price for 1972 — you can get a square portable transistor radio with spaces to insert your favorite snapshots. So, I dunno, you can look at your friends and family while you listen to the radio. And cough up a lung. Peter Gabriel is still two years away from immortalizing Winston cigarettes in song; I suppose it would have been recursive fun to listen to “Broadway Melody of 1974” on a GE/Winston transistor radio.

Johnny Unitas, then nearing the end of his career, appears in an ad for Sharp televisions. Apparently, what Fisher’s LP is to audio — an all-knowing test — Mister Crewcut is to televisions. A book reviewer turns in quick takes on a bunch of books. Again, I wonder if anyone reads them now, or if they are paperback 25-cent specials wherever quality used books are sold. Here come the supernatural anesthetist.

Maytag reprints a testimonial from Marcia Krummel of Duluth, Minnesota, who bought a washer 17 years ago when her son was an infant. Today he’s a teenager and the blessed machine is still at it. Newspapers dot com confirms the existence of the Krummel family, and their shared fondness for golf. I sometimes think I could live in Duluth, Minnesota; I think I could tolerate some extreme northness. Pretty happy where I am, though.

(Wow. Have you ever looked at a map? Duluth makes Rochester look like Fort Myers. That’s some north shiznit. Anyway.)

Sherwin-Williams offers a sampling of nine of the wallpapers you will find at Sherwin-Williams stores … and I gotta tell ya, those are some fly, fly wallpapers. And I speak as a man who has, in his life, been blessed with some serious wallpaper. I want the wallpaper with the Continental soldier, who can sling ’em o’er his shoulder. Did I type that out loud, or did I just think it?

Richard Schickel gets to watch some good movies — he reviews Bunuel, Rohmer, Fellini, and Truffaut together in one essay. Savor it like calvados, mate; next week you’ll probably draw Shaft’s Big Score. Sleeping cheaply on the midnight show; it’s the same old ending – time to go. Some more of those one-eighth-page ads offer the reader the chance to borrow $3,000 “in complete privacy, by mail,” as well as the chance to buy a terrycloth monk’s robe. Um, what?

Schenley Canadian whiskey takes out an ad with a guy who, in the British Commonwealth, would be giving me a rude gesture. Thankfully, Continental soldiers saved me from that understanding. William Zinsser, who I still revere as a teacher of quality writing principles, turns in another stinkbomb of a Comment column. This time it’s literal, as he seems to be harpooning a cultural trend to wear musk oil. An ad for Old Forester bourbon accompanies. Yes, please.

Honeywell Pentax takes out a full-page ad for its cameras. Presumably the Honeywell Pentax is different from the Asahi Pentax K1000 that my grandfather bought circa 1981 or so; that I used for film photography for a while; and that now sits under a thick layer of dust in my basement, waiting for some sort of miracle. A good camera, the K1000.

Just like the stereo ads, this ad makes me think fondly of a time where one could be a sort of autodidact of consumer products — armed with the hippest-yet-most-affordable SLR camera, stereo, Japanese compact car, etc. Most likely I woulda slept alone anyway; none of these things substitutes for a personality.

Theater Critic Tom Prideaux is as kind as he can possibly be to Dude, which sounds like what my Philly friends would call a “hot mess,” 1972-style. An ad for George Dickel Tennessee whiskey accompanies, with a theme of holiday gift-giving. If Schroeder should wander past, he would remind us there are only 20 shopping days until Beethoven’s birthday. An ad for “counterfeit” diamonds follows, also with Christmas firmly in its sights.

Aw, man! This issue just keeps on giving — at least with the ads; the actual copy has been negligible, but who needs that? Now we get a two-page ad for the 1973 Volkswagen 412. This is the car that had a sort of slantback four-door incarnation and a square-back wagon incarnation. The car that got totally and thoroughly erased from history, in between the success stories of the Bug and Bus before it and the Rabbit afterward. I’ll take five 412s, please, and I’ll figure out where to park them later.

(The ad explains why VW is asking a rousing $3,275 for the 412. I guess that’s the downside of having a “viral” car like the Bug in your lineup — every time you try a new model, you’ve gotta explain why it’s not working the same super-cheap waters.) Suspension cracked on unmade road – the trucker’s eyes read ‘overload.’

“25 Years Ago in LIFE,” we see a “funny and now famous picture from 1914,” of British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst being removed from Buckingham Palace. Don’t lean on me, man, ’cause you can’t afford the ticket back from Suffragette City. (A relative handful of hip Americans knew what that meant in November 1972.) We also see a football player being “tackled” via a finger in the mouth, and a photo of ace placekicker Ben Agajanian of the Los Angeles Dons. If Wiki is correct, Agajanian was the Dallas Cowboys’ kicking coach in 1972; not a bad gig, as they go, if you don’t mind spending time in Dallas.

LIFE recommends itself as a good gift for Christmas. Not as good as those boxes of Life Savers you used to be able to buy, but good nonetheless. Also from “25 Years Ago,” we learn that it was a teen-girl fad to swap a sock and a shoe with a friend and walk around mismatched all day. That sounds, truth be told, like a damned cool way to approach life — distinctly cooler than anything the Class of 1991 ever came up with.

There’s also an ad for a cookbook Classic French Cooking – except this time it’s not by Julia Child, but by Pierre Franey and Craig Claiborne. LIFE in November 1972 might have been a dead end, but you could learn to coq au vin to your damn heart’s content, and that’s not nothing.

25 years ago LIFE visited with Mary Pickford but I’m more interested in the holiday-themed Canadian whiskey ad next door. There’s also a pic of war hero Audie Murphy, a name lost to the 21st century; he gave his medals to the woman he married, then divorced, and then he died in a plane crash. May as well drown life in a tide of distilled Canadian wheat, gift-wrapped at no extra cost. “It’s the last great adventure left to mankind,” screams a drooping lady offering her dreamdolls at less-than-extortionate prices.

Two pages of promo for electric heat follow. They have delightful cartoon art, including a butterfly. The good news is, we’re moving back toward electrification in the 21st century, and away from fossil fuels. The bad news? The electric heat system you put in in 1972 — if it’s still there — is as dated as the Andrews Sisters, and is probably costing you more than it would cost to just burn your furniture for heat. No solution works for long. Perhaps I should get that slogan tattooed on myself, somewhere …. starting with the inside of the eyelids.

The Letters page is always a groove and a gas. One letter writer blasts Frances Fitzgerald, the Vietnam chronicler with the green eyes and the exceptional figure; another declares, “She is engaged in the joyous search.” I’ll go back to ’72 with a Volkswagen and a case of George Dickel and engage in the joyous search; I’m not contributing much to 2022.

One Wayne Rogers writes in to share how much he enjoys working on M*A*S*H; you might know him as “Trapper John” McIntyre (Trapper John had a last name? Most people do, I guess.) Another letter writer from Lubbock, Texas, vouches that “Lyndon Johnson looks sexier in his ‘retirement’ than Burt Reynolds in his centerfold.” I’m sure that sentiment heartened the former President as he lay flat on his back with his daily thunderclap of angina, mentally offering anything and everything in his earthly possession for the reward of remaining alive two hours later.

Norge appliances takes out a two-page ad; somehow my only cultural association of Norge is that Bill Murray played a Norge repairman on Saturday Night Live the week he mooned America. Remember when that was edgy?

LIFE touts “Fresh Blood for a Sick Congress” — a new group of representatives and senators elected this fall. The irony, as I understand it, is that a tidal wave of newbies would be elected in the fall of ’74 after Watergate and Nixon’s resignation — a new wave to swamp anyone elected in 1972. John Heinz of Pennsylvania is one of the fresh faces; Jack Kemp of New York another; Joe Biden of Delaware a third.

It is interesting to think that most of these people are either dead now, or retired into a gray haze … but one — from Delaware, of all places — is still stuck neck-deep in the hubbub of national politics. Hopefully not for much longer. (Editorial comment: While Joe Biden has compiled an admirable record as a public servant, he is too old for 2024, and the Dems need to pick a successor, like, two years ago and start promoting and advancing him/her.)

Polaroid steps up with another two-page ad. “Think of it as your personal fun factory.” Good job divorcing your product from its base function and affiliating it with a sentiment. Don Draper would be proud. Don who?

The two editorials haven’t aged well. Neither has the spread for “Pippin.” Is anybody in 2022 America mounting a production of “Pippin”? A ’73 Chevy Nova hatchback is pictured in Plymouth, Massachusetts — wonder if that’s a dig at a certain other American auto brand, or just a stylish place for a photo shoot? Either way I will have to look long at this; I have tarried in Plymouth, now and again, and I wonder if I’ve been here.

LIFE presents the results of a survey on marriage. I should probably care but I don’t. Panasonic follows with a stereo ad, chock full of various pieces of gear, and in my mind I’m thinking of bass response and sound-wave patterns again. There is mad crazy woodgrain — and, for some reason, a separate phone number just for consumers in Connecticut. Why that?

An eighth-page ad features cheap watch faces with John F. Kennedy, Wilt Chamberlain, and Shaft. God bless America. A two-page ad offers a 97-LP Beethoven box set (OK, maybe not quite that exhaustive, but it has a 275-page full-color book.) Even Schroeder would have been swamped by this doorstop.

LIFE follows with a story on a Hawaiian who has found his way into Japanese sumo-wrestling culture. LIFE spends plenty of time escorting us into this curious realm. An ad with a young husband and wife welcoming a guest into their party distracts me; the guest holds a wrapped bottle of bourbon behind his back. Dude, I need to make some friends so people will come to my house and hand me bourbon. Is that the American dream? (And is it weird that the gift-carrying friend seems focused on his friend’s wife, and not on his friend?)

A spread on a New York City kid named Brian Sullivan sparks some memories. In the mid-’90s I worked for a newspaper editor named Brian Sullivan; he didn’t look like the kid in the pictures but I always wondered a little bit. (It wasn’t; the Brian Sullivan who patiently served as my boss grew up in the suburbs of Boston.) Wonder what became of Brian. He was a New York Rangers fan, apparently.

I remember the next story, too, about a Southern sheriff who reveled a little too long in his power. I don’t choose to look at Newspapers dot com to see what became of him, as I sometimes do with people I meet in these magazines. There’s an ad for a Ford Maverick the color of banana pudding and I’ll look at that instead. An ad for John Begg whiskey describes its buyers as the sorts who went in for VW Bugs in 1958; I wonder briefly if John Begg whiskey still exists, because it’s better than thinking of this redneck sheriff in Florida.

As the ugliness of the sheriff unfolds, there’s another tacky ad for $1 Santa Claus costumes for your dog, then an ad for Toyotas (with “leather-like padding,” and also with a separate phone number for Connecticut residents. Such a pain in the arse to live in Connecticut. Might as well move one state north.) The story ends with the sheriff finally being deposed by voters in his home county …. only about 20 years too late.

GE takes out an ad for its toaster ovens, outlining how it can keep the hunger of the average American household slaked from 7 a.m. to midnight. I am left with a desire to have a friendly chat with the person baking pizza at midnight. That couldn’t have ended well.

“Parting Shots” summarizes F. Lee Bailey’s involvement in a porn magazine, and David Frost and Diahann Carroll’s involvement with each other. A spread of unusual California vanity license plates provides a setting for some cheesecake. Eleven years later, the actress with the nice legs will appear in a minor role in Strange Brew, which is more than I’ve ever accomplished.

I was just thinking it was about time this issue ended already. And so it has. Only a handful left.

The arse is heard throughout the land …

… or at least in Beantown.

(Almost) every time I come out with a new Bandcamp recording, I canvass the websites of Massachusetts college and community radio stations, thinking:

Somewhere out there is a DJ who delights in declaring his complete independence and freedom from conventional radio restrictions, and his commitment to playing music you won’t hear anywhere else. I will find this guy and make him regret he was bor– … er, I mean, I will support and enable his self-declared crusade by providing him with left-of-center sounds that will truly set him apart.”

I don’t have any illusions about the amateurish and unappealing quality of the noise I make, and I’m not looking for either money or stardom.

Still, each time out, I make these modest efforts to get the “music” played. That just feels like the natural next step: Once you’ve put something out, you want to find somebody with access to a transmitter.

I have one or two inquiries out that I suspect will go nowhere. But I have already hit paydirt, from a familiar source:

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A couple of days ago I sent three songs from Unlimited Pleasure (that’s the new Bandcamp jawn) to WBCA, the low-power radio station partly operated by the city of Boston.

WBCA invites Massachusetts-based artists to submit their songs, as long as they’re airplay-clean (as “Bargain Arse” is — despite its outre title, the song is an instrumental.) The station accepted three tunes from 2019’s Watts and, in fact, continues to play them at a rate of roughly two a month.

I expected they might, y’know, at least send me an email to verify I was who I said I was.

But perhaps their previous acceptance of Watts opened the door and made me a known quantity there, because “Bargain Arse” — the first of the three songs, at least alphabetically — marched right onto the airwaves last night and made itself known, only about a day or two after I submitted it.

(I suddenly have an urge to wake up James Michael Curley or Honey Fitz Fitzgerald or one of the legions of stiff-backed high-collared Cabots and Crowninshields and tell them that, not only does the city of Boston own a radio station, but it’s playing a song called “Bargain Arse.”)

The latest encounter with WBCA has rekindled a long-burning question in my mind: In a city full of terrestrial radio stations, and a world full of online broadcasters, just how many people actually listen to this particular low-powered outpost, anyway?

I’ve never found an online record that tells me. I did, once upon a time, find a terrestrial coverage map — I think in one of the station’s FCC filings. The coverage area was basically Boston, with a few chunks missed in the city proper and a few chunks of neighboring communities added. The folks whose tax dollars pay for this are the folks who get to hear it while they doze off at night.

But terrestrial coverage maps only count for one piece of the action: In the age of Internet radio, little WBCA’s potential listenership is infinite. (Sure, there’s no reason why anyone in Ho Chi Minh City would tune in to the livestream. But there’s nothing stopping them.)

So, again: Just how many ears are out there at any given moment in time?

Presumably the city of Boston tracks listenership as a means of defending or evaluating its ongoing involvement in the station. I should figure out which municipal agency controls WBCA and see if they issue an annual report of their activities. Perhaps the answer, or at least a hint of it, is there…

… or maybe not.

I have read that the city acquired its share of WBCA after the Boston Marathon bombings, intending to use it as a tool to broadcast information in case of public emergency. So maybe the station’s potential role in case of disaster is enough to justify its continued operation (on a shoestring, no doubt), and it does not need to defend its existence by reporting how many people tuned in to hear “Bargain Arse.”

That’s probably a good thing.

Goodbye, Liquorice.

Your eyes do not deceive you; things look different around here.

I hadn’t touched the design of this blog since I launched it in February 2012, in keeping with my general attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t break it.” (This is the same attitude I bring toward blinds, kitchen cabinets, clothing … pretty much everything, really.)

As a word guy, I always figured the words were supposed to be the star of the blog, and the design was just a casing wrapped around the outside.

Plus, I figured if I stuck with a moldy old design long enough, it would eventually swing back around and become, if not cool, at least some sort of retro-distinctive.

Not sure what changed my mind. Maybe it was the realization that this is my last remaining active social media presence, so I ought to freshen it up. (Well, this and LinkedIn, but I don’t use LinkedIn too actively. I’m not interested in convincing people I worked with 15 years ago that I am a Thought Leader.)

So, kind of on a whim, I picked a different design. I don’t love everything about this one, but it works well enough for my purposes, I think. I’m not done screwing around with it, so you might see new touches show up here or there as time elapses.

I’m also toying with the idea of paying whatever WordPress’s annual fee is, so that the cheesy ads go away.

Sometimes those actively bother me — I loathe those kinds of ads when I see them on other websites, and I don’t love the fact that they’re on my own little corner of the Internet.

At other times I am proud of my low-rent-ness. I drink cheap beer, I play cheap guitars, I eat store-brand cereal, and I run a free blog. It’s consistent with my personal brand, y’know? It just so happens that the price of a free blog is those stupid ads … but I imagine my readers are smart enough to pay them no mind and just keep scrolling.

Anyhow, I did a little Googling and found the announcement — from March 2011 — in which WordPress announced the launch of my old template, which was called Liquorice. Kinda funny to look at the launch announcement when it was new and fresh and exciting. I think it is now retired; you couldn’t choose it now if you wanted to.

On rolls time.

Bunbury fields forever.

Wikipedia reports the death of British actor, cricketer, and record-company president David English.

In this precinct, English is most noteworthy for sweet-talking George Harrison into writing a song about an animated cricket-playing rabbit.

Yes: George Harrison wrote a song about an animated cricket-playing rabbit — with Ravi Shankar adding sitar, no less.

You can, if you so choose, hear it here.

In fairness to George, Ringo Starr voiced what was supposed to be an animated Liverpudlian mouse, but the show got shelved … and Paul McCartney has contributed to at least two animated films … which leaves John Lennon, off the top of my head, as the only Beatle not to get sucked in by the charm of animation, unless I have forgotten something.

Unlimited!

The new Bandcamp jawn? It’s out.

UNLIMITEDPLEASURE

Unlimited Pleasure is seven songs cut, pasted and sampled together from one of those private-press high school band albums released in the Midwest in the 1970s.

It’s a free download so take as many as you want.

(It would probably have been smart of me to hang around Twitter long enough to flog this before I quit. But Twitter never really drove that much traffic to my Bandcamp page anyway. Anyone who knows me knows to avoid my noise.)

I’ve just been to a New England Town Meeting — those have the capacity to stretch time and space, and this one did in spades. I feel slightly brain-mugged. So I don’t have lots of zippy things to say about the new release. It’s wonderful and a two- or three-minute listen costs you nothing except two or three minutes. More fun than stealing from horses.

November 10, 1972: Questions for a peace.

We continue the PAST LIFEs series, in which we revisit the last few months of LIFE magazine, issue by issue, on the 50th anniversary of its departure. There are only seven issues left.

This week we revisit the issue of November 10, 1972, which can be read online here. My grandfather saved this one so I have seen it before, though not lately.

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LIFE has turned its attention to numerous topics since I’ve been reading it, not all of which I agree with, but the issue of American prisoners of war in Vietnam is one they’ve returned to several times. It might have been genuine concern … or it might have been a way to needle President Nixon: No matter how many points he scored by promising the impending arrival of peace, here was an issue he hadn’t gotten his hands around.

Whatever reason they had for keeping the POW issue in their pages, it was the right thing for them to do, and a point in their favor.

(The 1972 Presidential election, incidentally, was held on November 7, three days before this issue’s cover date. So even if LIFE had been covering the POW issue to point out a Nixon Administration failing, this cover wouldn’t have been chosen as a final pre-election dig. Too late for that.)

Google tells me that the cover photo of Navy airman Ronald Dodge dated to 1967, and, unfortunately, he might have been dead for several years by the time it was printed on LIFE’s cover. His body was returned to the U.S. in 1981. I have also learned that Dodge played a season of minor-league baseball in his native Washington state at the end of the 1950s.

OK, let’s open the issue.

An ad for the Air Force provides a cut-out coupon that can be mailed to the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service Directorate of Advertising, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. The Directorate of Advertising sounds like an interesting place to work.

Managing Editor Ralph Graves devotes yet another column to a photographer profile — which I guess is not out of line for a photo-centric magazine. The subject this week is Bill Ray. Six years ago he’d visited Massillon, Ohio, clean-shaven, to photograph a story about the town’s first war death and residents’ attitudes toward the war. For this story he went back, now with long hair and a beard.

“The Beat of LIFE” features a formal portrait of the core members of the British royal family, taken on the occasion of the 25th wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. Mildly interesting to see the bushy-browed young man who would become King of England a scant 50 years later. Also from Blighty are two pages of photos from a guy who mounted an automatic camera at the base of a jump during a horse race, catching a jockey as he went flying from his mount. Finally, there’s a volcano in Zaire; thankfully the photographer there saw fit to shoot in color.

Hugh Sidey reports on peace being seemingly at hand. The tantrum bombings of Operation Linebacker II the following month must not be visible in the first week of November.

Benson & Hedges takes out one of its broken-cigarette ads, this one featuring a whale trainer, and the only thing I can think about is how much it must suck to crave nicotine so badly that you have to light up while you’re in the whale tank.

Buy a Frigidaire appliance by December 10, submit the proper info, and they’ll send you a poinsettia plant. Sure, why not.

Volvo gets all huffy that other car manufacturers are adopting disc brakes because people want them, whereas Volvo already offers them because they want you to be safe. The difference seems pointless to the driver; a set of disc brakes will do what a set of disc brakes does, regardless of why it’s on the car.

Encyclopedia Americana takes out an ad noting that its encyclopedias are “never used up” no matter how much you use them, and that your family will consult its copy for years and years to come. Well, sure … and every fact in the world will stay exactly as it was in 1972, so you can use the books forever.

Cyclops raves about the BBC production of Balzac’s Cousin Bette now showing on Masterpiece Theatre. Richard Schickel mostly criticizes “The Assassination of Trotsky” and “Young Winston.” GTE Sylvania offers a cameo, in a choice of three colors, to anyone sending in $1.25 and the bottom panel from a box of flashcubes before June 30, 1973. The ad notes that delivery cannot be guaranteed without correct ZIP code, which I didn’t think people still needed to be reminded about in November 1972, but I guess so.

Anthony Burgess raves about Cecil Woodham-Smith’s biography of Queen Victoria, and boy, there seems to be a lot of musty olde England so far this week. Maybe that’s why the issue bores me so much.

OK, here’s something piquant: Reviewer Maitland Edey praises Colin Turnbull’s The Mountain People, a book about the Ik tribe of Uganda. Changes in their ancient lifestyle have forced each member of the group to live completely and solely in their own self-interest; children and the elderly are cast out to fend for themselves. The description sounds too wild to be true, like the Tasaday, so 50 years later I go to the Wiki entry … which notes that the tribe’s established qualities also include an innate tendency to mislead Westerners. Hmmmm.

An ad by the American Gas Association praises natural gas as “the clean energy we need for a cleaner world.” “No smoke to ruin the air we breathe!” It will suffice to say that this is very much not how natural gas is viewed or presented 50 years later.

“23 Years Ago in LIFE” we saw a sewage mucker at work in the tunnels under New York City, and a re-enactment of a carful of teenagers playing chicken, which sounds like perfect raw material for the kind of what-are-the-kids-doing-now? mass panic that comes along every so often. At least they weren’t hopped up on goofballs.

The Letters section includes one of my favorites from this period, and something I hinted at a few weeks ago. Remember Jenifer Morris, the 12-year-old from Marin County featured in the spread about “Middle Age Children” aged 6 through 12? Well, a sharp-eyed reader in West Haven, Connecticut, looked closely at the photo of Jenifer practicing flute in her bedroom and noticed, on the wall behind her, the famous Rita Hayworth kneeling-on-a-bed pinup picture. Jenifer’s explanation: “She’s pretty, so I put her there.”

Another writer praises an unposed photo of a young student smiling up at her first-grade teacher and asks how the photographer got the shot — because, when the writer tries to take similar shots, the kids always pay attention to the camera instead of what they’re supposed to be doing. The pro photographer’s tips, paraphrased: Hang around until the kids forget you’re there, and watch for individual kids who are “into it” enough that you can catch them in an open moment. It’s a fun piece of shop talk that’s perfect in a photo-oriented magazine.

Still another correspondent asks why Neil Diamond charges $7.50 a ticket if he wants his fans’ love, not their money (a statement made by Mr. Diamond during his interview a few weeks ago.) Oh, buddy, I think. Let your friend from 2022 tell you about a little something called Ticketmaster.

On to the cover story, by Loudon Wainwright. It begins with an anecdote that drips with the frustration and pain felt by POW/MIA families, who are simultaneously eager for a peace that might bring their men home; concerned about the complex emotional challenges involved in readjustment to home life; and fearful that peace might instead bring them a firm confirmation of their son or husband’s death. (The piece tips its hat to the American families for whom a confirmed death in Vietnam is already a fact of life, but points out that POW/MIA families have their own distinct variety of pain to endure.)

We learn that a single photo of an American POW being herded out of the bushes at gunpoint has been identified, either firmly or tentatively, by 28 different American families. And, we read about the preparations the military has made to re-adjust these soldiers to their families and their society. The project is known, in classic impenetrable military-speak, as Operation Egress Recap.

LIFE talks to four wives of missing soldiers, and while the military appears to be drowning in doublespeak, they come across as sharp-eyed and acutely aware of the potentially rocky times to come: “It’s sort of like planning to get married again, only I haven’t seen the bridegroom in six years.” “He’s just not going to walk in that door and be the same man who left.” “The first time he opposes a decision I’ve made, it won’t sit well with me. I find myself thinking, if he lays one hand on one of the kids I’ve raised, God help him.”

The piece ends with a woman who has taken a leading role in a national POW/MIA organization, even though she doesn’t expect to see her son again, based on eyewitness reports of his helicopter crash. She has several unopened boxes of his clothing and belongings, sent to her after his disappearance; despite her hard-nosed exterior, she has not yet been able to open them and face the contents.

This is a clear-eyed, hard-hitting piece of work that swims in painful waters, and the finest thing I have read in these old magazines to date — rivaled only by the guide that told parents of children with learning disabilities how to navigate (nay, fight) the educational system to get help for their kids. Those have also been the only two pieces that made me think that America might actually have lost something substantial when this publication went to its rest.

From there we visit Massillon, Ohio, to find that 1966’s growing doubt about the war has been replaced, seemingly, by pure fatigue and a desire to move on, regardless of the needs or interests of those who have perfectly good reasons why they can’t.

In 1966, photographer Ray captured a haunting image of a shirtless boy on a bicycle watching a military honor guard carrying the coffin of Massillon native Robert Wuertz Jr. (It’s not reprinted here — you have to Google it — though the image reprinted here of Wuertz’s father clutching a folded flag will stay with you too.) In the fall of 1972, Wuertz’s embittered parents, dressed for the weather, visit his grave, in an image I remember from the first time I read this issue more than 35 years ago.

A handicapped veteran wheels his wheelchair down a city sidewalk. Ten others from Massillon who survived the war stand in a downtown intersection, arms around shoulders, holding up the one of their number who was badly wounded. A group of representative residents share their opinions on the war; none approach optimism. The final person heard from is the sister of a soldier missing in Vietnam for four years. She sits in half-darkness, hoping against hope. (Door gunner Ronald Stanton’s remains were identified by DNA testing almost 30 years later, in 2001.)

This is a powerful piece too … and I suspect that whatever comes next is going to seem pallid by comparison. A Lark cigarette ad and a photo of Sierra Leone’s biggest diamond confirm my suspicions.

The intermittent consumer column returns with an encouragement to all Americans, but especially pregnant ones, to wear their seat belts. The story notes that pregnant women tend not to belt up because they’re concerned the belt will injure their child in the event of a crash. But statistics show that the risk of injury to both mother and child is considerably greater when the mother is ejected from the car, which, of course, is much more likely when the mother is unbelted. I wonder if this advice reached a woman in the suburbs of Rochester, New York — not, to my knowledge, a LIFE subscriber — who as of November 10, 1972, might not even have known that she had a younger son on the way.

GM follows with a weird, blurry ad touting the fact that its regular, low-beam headlights now carry 25 feet farther than they used to. It’s good to know that their plans for 1973 call for actively contributing to fewer deaths.

Hiram Walker Cordials promotes three of the many drinks you can make with their products (the Sombrero, the Apricot Sour and the Blackberry Cooler, to be precise.) Pour me a drink and I’ll tell ya some lies.

One Judy Fayard follows up with a firsthand recollection of her experience on The Dating Game, which is expanded to serve as a contemptuous musing on the vacuity of American TV game shows. I guess it’s not LIFE’s fault that Ms. Fayard happened to wear a miniskirt on the set, but y’know, I was just thinking it had been an oddly long time since I saw a woman’s thigh. LIFE corrects its own imbalances.

(To be honest, I wasn’t actually thinking LIFE was overdue for a gratuitous leg shot; my mind is still about 10 pages back with those poor parents in Massillon looking at the bleak, black finality of their son’s gravestone. I semi-skim the article on game shows. In another time and place I might be more interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Safe, Inoffensive, Flirty Fun for the Masses. Not this week.)

Little-Brown Publishers of Beacon Street, Boston, Mass., takes out a full-page ad to promote The Wreck of the Penn Central, an apparently unflinching look at the remarkably rapid lurch into bankruptcy of America’s largest railroad. I might actually enjoy reading that. It is jarring to a newspaper buff to see a mention of the Philadelphia Bulletin in the ad. Once the largest evening paper — not just in Filthydelphia, but the entire U.S. — the Bulletin went under less than 10 years after LIFE did. I wonder if anyone wrote a tell-all about its failure. Maybe they did; they had a roomful of people with typewriters there, after all.

United Airlines begins its ad: “The men who are going places always know how to get there.” Interestingly, the ad is focused on flights to “there” (“there” being Chicago’s two airports) from “here” (“here” being two New York City airports, plus Newark.) I wonder if the assumption was that LIFE readers were heavily concentrated in the NYC area … or, more likely, if some numbnuts just re-used an ad from some more local setting without completely thinking through how it would play on a national stage.

As the Dating Game story wends on and on and on, we see a relatively rare phenomenon — ads of less than a quarter-page size. Since you pay less the smaller the ad gets, this opens the possibility of advertising in LIFE to a whole ‘nother group of businesses.

One of the advertisers is Roto-Rooter, the drain-cleaning people, probably getting their name out just before Thanksgiving. (Isn’t it a truism that plumbers are made extra-busy on Thanksgiving by people who think they can dump their turkey schmaltz straight down the sink?) The other is selling Rocky and Bullwinkle T-shirts that might or might not be licensed.

A Tampax ad begins with the assertion that “Cross-country skiing’s the new craze. Everything about it is different. … Just the sport for a girl like you. One who’s eager to try something new.”

I am curious to know whether cross-country skiing was ever, in fact, anything resembling “a new craze” in mainstream America, or whether it has plodded along for decades with a small number of adherents in the snowy regions. Nineteen seventy-two was a Winter Olympic year — remember when they held the Winter Games and Summer Games in the same year? — although I don’t think anything dramatic happened in Olympic cross-country skiing to create a “new craze.”

I did some cross-country skiing as a kid, and every time I think about it I ask myself why I don’t do it any more. It looks like terrific fun, and a low-impact workout besides. But this feeling has never pushed me quite far enough to go buy a pair of skis and have at it. My high school actually offered cross-country skiing as a wintertime gym class unit for a while, and I think that was the last time I was on skis.

The Postal Service takes out an ad urging people to use their ZIP Code. I learned from reading Hope Street that ZIP codes were introduced around 1963 and made mandatory around 1967. Surely people knew enough to use them by late 1972? I guess not. The ad counsels people to check the ZIP code section of their phone book; I can only imagine some labyrinthine section listing every five-digit code in the country. Yeesh,

“Part of the beauty of the new Plymouth Fury is the way it fights rust and corrosion,” an ad tells us. Nawwwww: Part of the beauty of the new Plymouth Fury was the way Telly Savalas would go rip-assing through New York City in them as if Abe Beame had given him exclusive license to use the streets. Who loves ya, baby?

This freaking story on game shows goes on and on and on and on and on. Apparently the Dating Game contestant and her chosen bachelor won a trip to Acapulco. By this point in the story they’re doing the cha-cha together down in Mexico. Could we leave them there? Finally we more or less do, as we learn that, while the guy was nice enough, the date didn’t work out.

I check Wiki to find out if the show is still on. Wiki tells me that it was relaunched in 2021 with celebrity dating guests, and Zooey Deschanel and Michael Bolton as hosts (I can only assume their names came up in a spirited game of Mad-Libs.) This version lasted eight episodes and was canceled, so we can have the comfort of knowing that we will go to bed tonight in an America that has no Dating Game.

Oldsmobile takes out an ad for two fine, fine, woodgrained station wagons. One of them has something called the Rocket 455 V8 and the “Disappearing Glide-Away tailgate.” Sweet Lord, take me downtown and let me rent one of these for two days on someone else’s card. I ain’t askin’ for much.

African jungle animals are shown living their lives in the harsh desert. While I enjoy the travelogue, I am not tremendously moved; the wonders of evolution have prepared these animals for the setting they inhabit, and while I couldn’t live there, they do just fine.

A two-page spread on UCLA quarterback Mark Harmon, son of former All-American quarterback Tommy Harmon, follows. I imagine that the core LIFE reader is probably a middle-aged man to whom the name Tommy Harmon sparks memories. Mark does not go on to play in the NFL — a smart, smart lad! — but you’re probably familiar with his other endeavors.

The Parting Shots column, so often superfluous, is doubly fascinating. First is a story about Olympic gold-medal marathoner Frank Shorter, hailed as a hero across the U.S. — except in Taos, New Mexico, where he trained.

It turns out that Frank had interrupted the attempted assault of two young women by a carload of locals, and since that time had become such a pariah that his father had to follow him on his training runs with a rifle to prevent people from running him down. When he won the gold medal, his father told the story to the media, leading to a civic eruption in Taos. I don’t know whether Taos ever came around to honoring Shorter; I’m also not sure whether, having conquered the greatest challenge in running, he particularly cared whether they did or not.

“All long-distance runners learn to expect snarling dogs and motorists’ taunts during their practice sessions along the highway,” the story adds. I guess I don’t run far enough to have experienced that. Either that, or I can give great thanks for living in the times in which I live.

The second anecdote is about Martha Raye, the Broadway veteran opening in a revival of No, No, Nanette, who has spent on average four months a year over the past seven years entertaining U.S. troops in Vietnam — or sometimes just visiting them and swapping stories in front-line language. No entertainer, we are told — not even Bob Hope — has spent more time or traveled more widely there. The piece ends with a great detail: Raye’s dressing rooms are often full of “ramrod-straight, crew-cut men awkwardly holding flowers,” whom she thanks with a crisp, “Yessir. Thank you, sir.”

It is perhaps a bad idea to form one’s opinion of a person based on a few inches of copy in a national magazine, but my image of Martha Raye — heretofore limited to denture cleanser ads in the 1980s — is at least somewhat deeper after reading this. (According to Wiki, she is buried at Fort Bragg in recognition of her contributions to the military.)

The section ends with photos of a British photographer who got kayoed after trying to photograph a boxing kangaroo up close. It strikes me as remarkable that they apparently had another photographer photographing the photo session … as if they expected the kangaroo to go all Smokin’ Joe Frazier on the shutterbug. This is a photo magazine, anyway, and what happens to photographers is news here.

(The shot of the kangaroo clocking the photographer while their camera goes sailing through the air is pretty priceless, I have to admit.)

The Smirnoff brunch-at-midnight ad and a Marlboro cigarette ad put the issue to bed. It must suck to crave nicotine so badly that you light up while you’re lassoing little dogies.

Cover versions.

American democracy is not well … but it did not receive the burking yesterday that a lot of people thought it might, so for that I am quietly grateful.

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Fifty years ago today, numerous American newspapers carried a wire item reporting on the unusual death of a 22-year-old disc jockey in Oregon. Michael D. Roberts of KYXI took his own life (off-mic) in the middle of a predawn shift on November 8, leaving the station transmitting silence.

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Another of my Bandcamp recordings will be along in the very near future, and this past weekend I spent some time on a step in the process that usually comes last — album cover design.

This basically consists of me combing my Flickr account for pictures that can be used or abused in some fashion … and the name of the album sometimes changes over the course of the cover design process, based on the pictures I decide to play with.

(This depends on whether there are lyrics and/or an overarching theme to influence the process. Ontario Queen of the Lakes, an album of songs more or less inspired by Rochester, was always gonna be Ontario Queen of the Lakes; it wasn’t gonna suddenly become, say, Buick Implosion Superstar. But most of my other crap — er, stuff lends itself more freely to artistic interpretation.)

This upcoming album began life as Bargain Arse, then mutated wildly through American Excitations, Unlimited Pleasure, Foul Ground and Please Come In. I’ll tell you the final title, and show you the final cover, in a day or two. (I’m not holding off because I think anyone cares; it’s just ’cause I haven’t made the album live yet.)

Usually the losing cover designs sit forever forgotten in a file folder. This time around I thought it would be kicky to show you some of the losers. Here are some things you won’t see on Bandcamp:

excitations

I took this photo years ago, in Pennsylvania, on my biscuit camera — a very small, very crappy Japanese digital toy I have since discarded. The photo looks like I imagine it looks like after you’ve had six beers and two shots and you try to drive home, if you’re still stupid enough to try that in the year 2022.

This made me think about how often the things that we are supposed to enjoy, and that have a reputation as treats, often end up making us duller or heavier or more gluttonish (think beer, or chicken wings.)

From there I free-associated to the non-word “excitations,” as used, wide-eyed and innocent, in the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” (“She’s givin’ me ex-ci-ta-tions!”) Somehow I imagined a 35-year-old in a Pennsylvania tavern, “enjoying” his weekend off from the cement plant, suddenly finding his weekend “excitations” of loaded nachos and Coors Lite and televised pro sports supremely unsatisfying.

That’s a long way back around to telling you that you won’t see this one on Bandcamp.

excitations2

More of the same only blue. Incidentally, Flickr used to have a great built-in photo-editing suite but has long since gotten rid of those useful tools. Now I use one or another free online photo editor to develop these things. The choice of typeface is always limited, which is why I tend to stick to a couple.

(Edit: Maybe I’ll call the next album More Of The Same Only Blue.)

FOUL GROUND

More biscuit, more Pennsylvania. The photo in this case is a field in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where a Detroit Tigers farm team played for, like, two seasons in the 1940s. I rather liked this design, and for that matter I don’t 100 percent rule out using it someday.

The only catch is that, whenever the next recording comes along, the cover design process will start anew, and I’ll jump in and come up with something else. Designs that are already made and in the hopper tend to lose their luster when compared to the shiny new ideas … even though they might actually be better.

PLSCOMEIN

I liked this one a lot at first (guess what? it’s more biscuit and more Pennsylvania. This is a nondescript building on a side road in the quiet, obscure borough of Coplay.)

But after I looked at it a while, it began to take on an air of slapstick, of easy humor. I’m not always sure what I’m going for with these things, but it’s almost never humor. Seen from a certain point of view, this is a cheap haw-haw … like calling your album Bass Solos and putting a picture of yourself mugging on the cover while holding a Bigmouth Billy Bass.

*a frisson of loathing runs up my spine and across my shoulder blades*

Yeesh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(I don’t know why I can’t get this one to center. For a refreshing change, this is not the biscuit, but rather a digital point-and-shoot photo of El Paso, Texas.)

I liked the look of this, especially the twin slanted names, which is very late-’70s/early ’80s. But then I remembered that I used a color-tweaked photo of a different city on an earlier album cover. And even though no one saw the old one, and no one is going to see the new one either, I still didn’t want to repeat myself, or risk somebody perceiving that I was repeating myself. So this one landed on the scrap heap.

UNLIMITEDPLEASURE2

One last. Pretty sure this is not the biscuit either, though I don’t remember. I don’t remember offhand where I took it, either, though I’m pretty sure it’s Pennsylvania someplace.

This design died the death because, in the end, it simply had nothing to do with the sounds on the record. But if I ever did a Gram Parsons-style “cosmic American” rock-country album, this cover would be perfect.

*a frisson of loathing runs up my spine, etc.*

Yeesh.

Wild stories from the choucroute jungle.

Have you ever smoked cabbage?

Well, chum, let me tell ya something: It’s a high.

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Backtracking to yesterday’s mention of getting out the grill:

Because I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing, I always build grill-fires that are larger and longer-lasting than I need to cook my main dish. It’s become habitual, then, for me to buy something extra I can throw on the grill to soak up some of the heat after the main dish is done.

Eggplant for babaghanoush is a classic example. I’ve done halved peaches, too. Tofu, sometimes, for use later in the week.

My wife is working late several nights this week; she can’t eat cabbage so I bought some for my own entertainment. On a whim last night, I quartered one of the heads and put it on the grill with the eggplant for a good long while.

Nibbling an outside leaf afterward, I was afraid I’d oversmoked the cabbage into raunchiness. But I decided to save it in the fridge anyway, after peeling off and discarding the outermost leaves. Still seemed worth a shot.

# # # # #

Tonight I made a quick and dirty choucroute garnie. It consisted of:

– Three-quarters of a head of smoked cabbage, chopped

-One-and-a-half small apples, chopped (I don’t peel apples unless honor is at stake)

-Most of an onion, chopped

-Three tablespoons apple cider vinegar

-A roughly equivalent quantity of apple cider — not in the recipe, but I had it in my fridge, and it seemed Alsatian enough. (Apparently the Alsatians add riesling sometimes, or maybe that’s the Lorrains)

-Several hearty squeezes of mustard — the recipe called for whole grain, but I had Dijon and ballpark-yellow, and that’s what I used

-A few good shakes of garlic powder

-A bay leaf that probably didn’t get enough cooking time to accomplish a damn thing

-About three-quarters of a rope of smoked sausage, sliced. Normally I would have used turkey smoked sausage, but the regular kind was on sale this week. Thrift being more important than the health of my arteries, I went with it

After I started it simmering, I thought it might not have enough liquid to prevent sticking, so I threw in another thwack of apple cider vinegar … and when I thought I might have added too much of that, I compensated with a thwack of cider.

Stir, simmer, cook a while, stir, simmer, cook a while. (The recipe said at least an hour, but I was hungry, and I figured the exposure to smoke had already enlimpened the cabbage to some degree. So, I et early.)

# # # # #

I am here to testify that the combination of apple cider vinegar, apple cider, mustard, and smoke is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. They will not eat better anywhere in Vosges this evening, and perhaps not even in Pont-a-Mousson.

I hesitate to call it healthy per se, based on the presence of the sausage … but you’ll notice there’s no added fat at all (no oil, no butter), as well as no added salt or sugar beyond what exists in the cider and the mustard.

It’s a long way from the classic French add-a-quarter-cup-of-goose-fat territory.

IMG_4936

Leftovers.

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I am torn between the twin sentiments of “where have you been all my life?” and “I will probably only have the ingredients and circumstances on hand to make this once every 10 years, but I sure hope I remember it at those times.”

The cabbage is the wild card, I suppose. I have zero method of quantifying how much I cooked it, and every future batch would be a crapshoot. It may be that I owe some genuflection to the patron saint of beginner’s luck, whoever that might be.

You’ll find me on my knees, then, digesting.

Smoked.

If you’ve come here from Twitter wondering where the hell I went, the explanation for that is in the previous post.

I grilled tonight for the first time in months. No better time to start again than the night when darkness arrives at 5 pm, eh what?

We were in extreme drought for pretty much the entire summer, so I didn’t use either the grill or the fire pit; a stray spark might have caused trouble that it wouldn’t usually cause. Because of this, my grilling technique has greatly atrophied, and I had to finish my shrimp in a pan on top of the stove. They came out fine, I think, pending the results of the did-I-throw-it-up-two-hours-later food-poisoning test.

Now I have an eggplant and a couple chunks of cabbage soaking up what’s left of the heat. The eggplant will become babaghanoush, while the cabbage has … other adventures ahead of it.

May we all.

# # # # #

Continuing to accumulate music, mostly classical vinyl rips via the Internet Archive.

Also enjoying a record called Movie Scene – The Heavy Sounds from Today’s Films, issued in 1970 by a pseudonymous gang of session types calling themselves the Bully Boys Band. They do something called the “Song From M*A*S*H;” did they not know the title, or did they not want to use it? There’s also a muy mellow version of Badfinger’s “Come and Get It,” on which flute, sax, acoustic guitar and piano trade off the lead. It’s ….. soothing.

Their CSN&Y medley is even better: You haven’t heard the final movement of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” until you’ve heard a blase saxophone stroll in to occupy the space usually occupied by Stephen Stills singing in Spanish. It’s …. a goof and a pleasure.

The record sent me to Wiki, where I learned for the first time that the final movement of “S:JBE” was also substantially sampled in 2010 for Cypress Hill’s “Armada Latina.” A distinctly overstuffed Stills makes a cameo appearance during one of the guitar breaks, looking even more out of place than you think he would.  It’s ….. absurd.

# # # # #

I guess the baseball season is really over now, as opposed to the preliminary “over” that comes when you don’t care much about any of the remaining teams. This was probably the first significant event I would have heard about on Twitter that I instead had to learn about from a news site.

I meant to make a hockey schedule this weekend for my area, so I’ll know who is playing where whenever I feel up for a game. Didn’t get off my arse so that will wait for another day. I haven’t watched live hockey in several years so that is a semi-priority for the coming winter, I think, unless life intrudes.

Wonder how that eggplant is doing.

Gone, I hope.

Years ago I saw somebody on Twitter express the sentiment (paraphrased here): “Leaving social media? Don’t announce it. Just go. Nobody gives a f–k.”

I’ve taken inspiration from that ever since, because I believe that, at a certain level, it’s true. No one plans their behavior around my social media presence, and no one will alter it if I’m not there.

And it’s not just me. For weeks I’ve seen people on Twitter talk about their exit plan if they abandon the platform — usually, they’re planning to establish a presence on the fast-ascendant rival platform Mastodon. But I’ve never seen anyone else ask another user where they planned to land if they decided to leave. The talk is one-way; the assumption is that someone somewhere cares.

Against my better instincts, I decided to make mention of my social plans here on the blog, just because the handful of people who might actually look forward to my posts on Twitter also read me here:

Yesterday I posted a thematically appropriate video (the final song from Night in the Ruts, an album chronicled a few times around these parts) and then logged off my Twitter account on all platforms. It is my intention not to come back.

Based on the comments I’d been reading, it seems that most of the Twitter users I followed were pretty much just waiting for some inflection event that would demonstrate to them that the platform isn’t worth using any more.

But I think the presence of America’s Richest Jerkbro as Twitter’s new owner is reason enough to quit. Every Twitter user’s content contributes at least a tiny sliver to his success; I don’t want to provide even that much.

And nothing the new owner has said makes me feel the slightest bit positive about the direction in which Twitter will be heading. If you get on a city bus and the driver reeks of bottom-shelf whiskey, you don’t have to wait for him to start sideswiping parked cars to know that you ought to disembark, tout de suite.

It would be a firmer statement of purpose if I canceled my account, and at some point I should do that. My only hesitations are (a) the fact that I left after the 2016 presidential election and then returned eight or 10 months later; and (b) the remote possibility that Twitter’s new owner will decide to eat his $44 billion investment and hand the platform over to a benevolent nonprofit that will make it a positive destination again.

(Sunday morning update: No further hesitation — I have begun the process of deactivating my account. I don’t know how long it takes to actually disappear. Any message that shows up there between now and its disappearance was pre-staged at some point in the past.)

35962276170_d2e0cbd976_k

Art for art’s sake.

I’ve used Twitter for more years than I care to count, and it’s been more to me than a destination for my snotty opinions and half-baked takes. When I lived in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, I connected via Twitter to a bunch of smart, funny, goofy, diverse locals — some of them natives of the area; others, like me, transplants from other ports of call. Their presence made a place that wasn’t home feel a lot more tolerable, and I am greatly thankful that I had a setting in which to connect with them.

I have also connected with a broad range of others — fellow newspaper vets, record collectors, baseball-card geeks, SABR members, etc., etc. — and I will miss them; they are good people.

But I have been looking to reduce my social media presence for a while. I think social media is ultimately malignant — it brings out the worst in us more than it brings out the best.

I got fed up with Facebook and got off years ago. I’ve been off Instagram for probably six months now, ever since they required me to input my birthday to have access, and I don’t plan to rejoin. And now, along comes a reason to get off Twitter as well.

As a professional communicator I should want to have my finger on every platform, just as a method of self-preservation … but no. I can’t do that. I don’t want to follow the evolution of social media to Mastodon or anywhere else. I want to get off.

I have wanted for some time to get rid of my Twitter addiction, the way a chain-smoker longs to cut his ball and chain … and the arrival of the aforementioned Jerkbro is the equivalent of the $2-per-pack price increase that drives the smoker to finally decide that today is the first day of the rest of his life.

Maybe that will lead to my using this blog more often, as a dumping ground for those fabulous takes that no longer have any other home. Or maybe I’ll just shut the hell up. Maybe I’ll live life as if it were 1979 again — get my news entirely from one or two newspapers, and save any opinions I have for the dinner table, like Archie Bunker or something.

We’ll see. I’ve now spent more words on this decision than it deserves.