Tuesday, May 31, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt nine)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

Taniguchi did not deceive himself about the practical, large-scale impact of his efforts. Throughout the world, he faced constant reminders of how little—if anything—people knew about the atomic bombings and survivors’ ongoing conditions and how erroneous their limited knowledge often was. Despite numerous complex international treaties that limited certain kinds of nuclear tests and weapons development, reduced stockpiles, and defined the world’s nuclear weapons states as the United States, the Soviet Union, China, France, and the United Kingdom, Cold War tensions persisted. In the 1970s alone, 550 nuclear tests were conducted worldwide, and nuclear stockpiles increased by nearly 40 percent, heightening the threat of nuclear war, if only by the sheer number of weapons that existed. By 1981, the world’s stockpiles totaled 56,035 weapons, 98 percent of which belonged to the United States and the Soviet Union. Every time a nuclear weapons test occurred somewhere in the world, survivors in Nagasaki felt a rush of chilling memories mixed with anger and despair. “Clever and foolish people have not changed at all since that August 9,” Dr. Akizuki remarked, disparaging the countries who conducted these tests. “What is sad is that they are still making the same mistake more than a quarter of a century later.” What kept Taniguchi going, despite constant pain and the discouraging realities of nuclear weapons development, was his sense of responsibility to all those whose voices, unlike his, that had been silenced—“hundreds of thousands of people who wanted to say what I’m saying, but who died without being able to.”

Monday, May 30, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt eight)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

The nuclear test took place just before dawn on March 1, 1954, at the United States’ Pacific Proving Grounds, located at the northern edge of the Marshall Islands, a 750,000-square-mile region in the South Pacific dotted with more than 1,200 tiny islands with a total combined landmass of only 70 square miles. The hydrogen bomb exploded on Bikini Atoll, a narrow, 3-square-mile crescent-shaped series of minute coral islands around a large lagoon. The bomb’s force equaled fifteen million tons of TNT—almost seven hundred times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

The blast instantly gouged a crater in the island a mile wide and two hundred feet deep. All vegetation on the atoll was destroyed. Within seconds, a fireball nearly 3 miles across rose 8 miles above the ocean, filled with tons of extracted sand, crushed coral, and water. Within ten minutes, the mushroom cloud’s diameter spanned 65 miles. U.S. forces had cleared a 60,000-square-mile danger zone around the test site, and residents of Bikini Atoll had already been evacuated years earlier for a 1946 U.S. nuclear test there. The bomb’s blast, however, was twice as powerful as scientists had anticipated, and along with an unpredicted shift in wind direction, radioactive fallout ultimately spread more than 7,000 square miles outside the danger zone. Two hundred and thirty-nine islanders, including children, elderly adults, and pregnant mothers, were exposed to radiation on four atolls more than eighty miles east of Bikini. Many developed symptoms of radiation illness. Twenty-eight American meteorological staff were also exposed as they observed the test from an island 155 miles east of the blast.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt seven)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

Do-oh was not alone. Although public opposition to the ABC was suppressed by occupation censorship, within the highly sensitive medical, political, and economic climate in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, hibakusha anger toward the ABCC intensified. At a time when hibakusha were just beginning to come to terms with their identities as the only victims of atomic warfare in human history, the Americans who dropped the bombs imposed on them a disturbing new identity as research specimens for the U.S. government. Many survivors hated being studied by doctors from the country that had irradiated them. The ABCC also transgressed cultural boundaries with invasive and intimidating procedures, by examining young people like Do-oh in the nude, collecting blood and semen samples, and taking photographs of survivors’ atomic bomb injuries. Other social and economic oversights alienated survivors: Polished waiting room floors were slippery for women wearing geta; English-only magazines were placed in the waiting rooms; and the ABCC insisted that examinations take place during the day, resulting in loss of pay for those who worked. Even the word “examination” seemed objectifying to many.

The largest complaint, however, was that the ABCC conducted medical examinations without also offering medical care. What Do-oh and other hibakusha didn’t know was that the ABCC’s mission to conduct detailed studies of survivors’ radiation-related illnesses included a strict mandate to provide them no medical treatment. As hibakusha became aware of this directive, many felt even more dehumanized, and they experienced powerful feelings of being used by the United States as guinea pigs in a military experiment. Some also resented the ABCC’s no-treatment policy in light of the shortage of medicine and medical equipment available in Japan after the war, contrasted with the millions of dollars that poured into the ABCC. In the United States, activist Norman Cousins praised the ABCC’s work as both excellent and important, but he openly criticized the agency for what he saw as a “strange spectacle of a man suffering from [radiation] sickness getting thousands of dollars’ worth of analysis but not one cent of treatment from the Commission.”

Saturday, May 28, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt six)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

Some diseases, however, were accurately ascribed to radiation toxicity, first by informal observation and later by documented research. After a period of latency, in 1947, physicians began observing increased rates of childhood and adult leukemia among hibakusha—and these rates swelled in the years that followed. Later studies confirmed disturbing figures: Depending on shielding, hibakusha exposed within three-quarters of a mile from the hypocenter were up to six times more likely to develop leukemia than those not exposed, and people exposed with a mile and a half of the hypocenter faced double the risk compared to those not exposed. At highest risk were children under ten within a mile at the time of the bombing, who developed leukemia at a rate eighteen times greater than the general population. Children ages ten to nineteen followed, with an incidence rate eight times higher than average. Autopsies continued to reveal the severe internal damages radiation had caused to survivors’ bodies. One young man, twenty-eight years old and healthy at the time of the bombing, became more and more sick in the years after the war and was eventually diagnosed with leukemia. He died in 1950. In their autopsy report, doctors described the man’s internal organs as “black and pulpy, like coal tar.”

Friday, May 27, 2016

How A Career Ends with Auburn's Kelsey "Turtle" Bogaards

Eleven months since the last published non-fiction and three and a half years after the most recent How A Career Ends, I jump back into the interview fire with inspirational Auburn shortstop Kelsey Bogaards thanks to the fine folks at Excelle Sports.

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt five)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

No specific censorship rules related directly to the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic bombings, but the CCD eliminated most statements about the nuclear attacks in print and broadcast journalism, literature, films, and textbooks. Public comments that justified the U.S. use of the bombs or argued for their inevitability were sometimes permitted, but subjects that continued to be censored included technical details about the bombs’ blast, heat, and radiation; the extent of physical destruction in the two cities; death and casualty counts; personal testimonies of atomic bomb survivors; and any photographs, film footage, or reportage of survivors’ suffering from atomic bomb injuries and radiation effects. Even phrases such as “Many innocent people were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki” were banned. Nagasaki named its annual commemoration of the bombing the Memorial Day for the Restoration of Peace, calling it a “culture festival” to appease U.S. officials, who believed these services were Japanese propaganda tools that indirectly called for U.S. atonement and hindered U.S. efforts to promote Japanese war guilt.

Some hibakusha writings slipped by occupation staff and were published locally in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but numerous books written by survivors were blocked from publication, including a small book by fourteen-year-old Ishida Masako, Masako taorezu [Masako Did Not Die], which described in vivid detail her memories of the Nagasaki bombing. The CCD felt the book was historically significant but banned it over the concern that it would “tear open war scars and rekindle animosity” toward the United States and tacitly indict the Nagasaki atomic bombing as a crime against humanity.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt four)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

One of the largest relief stations was set up in Shinkozen Elementary School, a three-story concrete building with shattered windows and other minor damages, situated south of Nagasaki Station and east of the bay, 1.8 miles from the hypocenter. As the news spread that doctors were available there, hundreds gathered outside the school hoping to receive help. Inside, every classroom on every floor was full: four rows per classroom, fifteen people per row, the feet of those in one row touching the heads of those in the next. Each room as enveloped in the smell of burned flesh, urine, feces, and patients’ vomit. Maggots hatched in every open wound. Volunteers carried seawater from Nagasaki Bay, boiled it in large oil drums, and sprinkled it over patients using watering cans. Three classrooms on the first floor were set up as operating rooms. Dr. Miake Kenji from the Sasebo Naval Hospital conducted surgeries in one of the rooms. “Most of the patients had suffered terrible burns all over their bodies,” he recalled. “Many had limbs missing or entrails hanging out. We performed amputations and stump formations and sewed up bellies, but all of the people who came across the operating tables died without even being identified.” The bodies of the dead were carried out and burned so quickly that no one could keep count or record their names.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt three)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

Nagasaki mayor Okada Jukichi had spent the night of August 9 atop a hill on the eastern border of the Urakami Valley, waiting in a panic for the fires below to diminish. At three a.m. on August 10, he made his way down the hill. In darkness lit only by scattered embers, he stumbled through debris and bodies to the place where his house had stood the day before, just a few hundred feet from the hypocenter. The soles of Okada’s shoes burned as he frantically combed through the hot ashes for his wife and children. Finding no trace of them, he hurried to the air raid shelter beneath his house to discover at least ten dead bodies, including those of his entire family. Simultaneously crazed and clearheaded, he proceeded to the next neighborhood over, where he identified the deceased family members of his deputy mayor.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt two)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

The five-ton plutonium bomb plunged toward the city at 614 miles per hour. Forty-seven seconds later, a powerful implosion forced its plutonium core to compress from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a tennis ball, generating a nearly instantaneous chain reaction of nuclear fission. With colossal force and energy, the bomb detonated a third of a mile above the Urakami Valley and its thirty thousand residents and workers, a mile and a half north of the intended target. At 11:02 a.m., a superbrilliant flash lit up the sky—visible from as far away as Omura Naval Hospital more than ten miles over the mountains—followed by a thunderous explosion equal to the power of twenty-one thousand tons of TNT. The entire city convulsed.

Monday, May 23, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt one)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

Fifteen-year-old Do-oh Mineko was, in her own words, a bit of a “wild child.” Her boisterous energy and strong competitiveness worried her mother, who warned Do-oh that the gods were watching her and would become angry if she didn’t demonstrate more feminine behaviors. “But I couldn’t see the gods, so I thought that maybe they didn’t exist,” Do-oh explained. “In Japanese, we have a word wanpaku [impertinent]. That was me.”

Do-oh’s family followed traditional Japanese gender roles, giving higher esteem and priority to men and boys. Her father, who had served in Manchuria, now worked as a high-level employee at Mitsubishi Shipyard. At home, he was a strict authoritarian who demanded absolute obedience from his children, including two hours of study a night. At dinner, he sat at a separate table in the front of the room, and even during the most dire wartime deprivation, he was given an extra serving of food. Do-oh thought men were pretty lucky.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt twelve)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

“No,” the judge repeated. “And, quite honestly, I don’t know that it got any better after that time, maybe a little worse, based upon what’s occurred and the fact that she’s kicked around and moved around.”

What the judge was saying, in essence, was: We all agree that you were poor and scared when you did this violent, hurtful thing, and if you had been allowed to go on working five days a week at Old Country Buffett, refilling soup pots and mopping up frozen yogurt spills, none of us would be here right now. You might have been able to save enough to move to an apartment that was de-leaded and clean in a neighborhood without drug dealers and with safe schools. With time, you may have been able to get Bo-Bo the medical treatment he needs for his seizures, and maybe you could have even started taking night classes to become a nurse, like you always wanted. And, who knows, maybe you could have actually become a nurse, a real nurse with a uniform and everything. Then you could really give your kids a childhood that would look nothing like the one Shortcake gave you. If you did that, you would walk around this cold city with your head held high, and maybe you would eventually come to feel that you were worth something and deserving of a man who could support you other than by lending you his pistol for a stickup or at least one who didn’t break down your door and beat you in front of your children. Maybe you would meet someone with a steady job and get married in a small church with Kendal standing proudly up front by the groom and Tembi as the poofy-dressed flower girl and Bo-Bo as the grinning, toddling ring bearer, just like you always dreamed it, and from that day on your groom would introduce you as “my wife.” But that’s not what happened. What happened was that your hours were cut, and your electricity was about to be shut off, and you and your children were about to be thrown out of your home, and you snatched someone’s purse as your friend pointed a gun at her face. And if it was poverty that caused this crime, who’s to say you won’t do it again? Because you were poor then and you are poor now. We all see the underlying cause, we see it every day in this court, but the justice system is no charity, no jobs program, no Housing Authority. If we cannot pull the weed up from the roots, then at least we can cut it low at the stem.

Friday, May 20, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt eleven)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

D’Sean was Bo-Bo’s father, and Vanetta thought she loved him. He was a good dad when he wasn’t drinking. The police had picked him up six months earlier for a parole volation linked to a drug-possession charge. As the judge weighed the facts of the case, he cited several 911 calls Vanetta had made when D’Sean got rough. “And then on October 10, a call from Vanetta Evans. And then on October 19, another call from Ms. Evans.” Mortified, Vanetta put her hands in her face and cried. She remembered those calls and what had happened after she kicked D’Sean out. He returned later, drunk, smashed the door down, and beat her. After that incident, Vanetta remembered the landlord taking her rent money with one hand and handing her a twenty-eight-day “no cause” eviction notice with the other. At the re-confinement hearing, the judge gave D’Sean eighteen months. Vanetta almost never drank, but that night she bought a bottle of New Amsterdam gin and passed out next to her children.

She slept through Crystal’s phone call. So Crystal hung up and dialed her cousins and foster sisters. Her arrangement with Patricia had come undone. Patricia’s fourteen-year-old daughter had taken Crystal’s cell phone to school and either lost or sold it. Crystal demanded compensation, but Patricia refused to pay. “I’m gonna get you out of my house!” Patricia yelled, drunk on wine mixed with E&J Brandy. Crystal called her people for backup. They waited in the car. The women took their argument outside, and Patricia lost her balance and fell to the ground. Staring down, Crystal lifted her foot and brought it down on Patricia’s face—again and again. Seeing this, one of Crystal’s sisters ran up and hit Patricia with a hammer. “Bitch, try it again!” she yelled before pulling Crystal away. In pain, Patricia lay still on the sidewalk, in a fetal position. Crystal asked to be dropped off at St. Joseph’s Hospital, where she spent the night.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt ten)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

In the early decades of the twentieth century, African-American families seeking freedom and good jobs participated in the Great Migration, moving en masse from the rural South to cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. When they arrived in those cities, they were crowded into urban ghettos, and the vast majority depended on landlords for housing. Ghetto landlords had a segregated and captive tenant base and had nothing to gain by improving their run-down houses. They began dividing their properties into small “kitchenette” units, throwing up so many plywood walls their apartments resembled “rabbit warrens.” Many houses lacked heating and complete plumbing. So black families cooked and ate in winter coats and relieved themselves in outhouses or homemade toilets. They came to know well the sound of the tuberculosis cough. In 1930, the death rate for Milwaukee’s blacks was nearly 60 percent higher than the citywide rate, due in large part to poor housing conditions. For the first time in the history of America, New Deal policies made homeownership a real possibility for white families, but black families were denied these benefits when the federal government deemed their neighborhoods too risky for insured mortgages and officials loyal to Jim Crow blocked black veterans from using GI mortgages. Over three centuries of systematic dispossession from the land created a semipermanent black rental class and an artificially high demand for inner-city apartments.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt nine)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

Arleen’s children did not always have a home. They did not always have food. Arleen was not always able to offer them stability; stability cost too much. She was not always able to protect them from dangerous streets; those streets were her streets. Arleen sacrificed for her boys, fed them as best she could, clothed them with what she had. But when they wanted more than she could give, she had ways, some subtle, others no, of telling them they didn’t deserve it. When Jori wanted something most teenagers want, new shoes or a hair product, she would tell him he was selfish, or just bad. When Jafaris cried, Arleen sometimes yelled, “Damn, you hardheaded. Dry yo’ face up!” or “Stop it, Jafaris, before I beat yo’ ass! I’m tired of your bitch ass.” Sometimes, when he was hungry, Arleen would say, “Don’t be getting in the kitchen because I know you not hungry”; or would tell him to stay out of the barren cupboards because he was getting too fat.

You could only say “I’m sorry, I can’t” so many times before you began to feel worthless, edging closer to a breaking point. So you protected yourself, in a reflexive way, by finding ways to say “No, I won’t.” I cannot help you. So, I will find you unworthy of help.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt eight)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

That evening, Travis told Ned and Pam they had to leave. They checked into a cheap motel. Sitting on a scratchy, overwashed comforter on the edge of the bed, Pam breathed slowy and talked to her baby. “Hold off. Until we sign that lease, just hold off.” The baby didn’t listen. Pam’s water broke, and an older woman staying at the motel gave her, Ned, and Kristin a ride to the hospital. The baby weighed seven pounds, ten ounces. Ned thought she was big for a girl. “That’s proof that cigarette smoking doesn’t cause low birth weight.” He laughed. They stayed in the hospital for two nights, one doctor’s orders, being charged for a motel room they were using only to hold their things.

Four days after the baby came, Belt Buckle called and told Pam and Ned that their application had been approved. Pam had two evictions on her record, was a convicted felon, and received welfare. Ned had an outstanding warrant, no verifiable income, and a long record that included three evictions, felony drug convictions, and several misdemeanors like reckless driving and carrying a concealed weapon. They had five daughters. But they were white.

Monday, May 16, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt seven)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

When the first of the month came, commas once again returned to Sherrena’s bank account. It wasn’t any ordinary month either; it was February, when tenants received tax credits and wrote big rent checks. One had cashed her tax return and paid Sherrena $2,375. Doreen came up with $950, as her stipulation dictated. Lamar paid $550 but, since his painting job had earned him nothing, was still behind as far as Sherrena was concerned. He would have to be evicted.

Maybe to fully efface the recent memory of being broke, or maybe just for the hell of it, Sherrena and Quentin took themselves to the casino on a Wednesday night. Sherrena put on a Rocawear sweatsuit, maroon and gold. Quentin spotted a G-Unit leather jacket, a straight-billed black cap, and a large pinky ring. He found a handicapped parking spot near the main entrance of Potawatomi Casino and hung from his rearview mirror the necessary permit, a gift from a handicapped tenant.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt six)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

Trailer park residents rarely raised a fuss about a neighbor’s eviction, whether that person was a known drug addict or not. Evictions were deserved, understood to be the outcome of individual failure. They “helped get rid of the riffraff,” some said. No one thought the poor more undeserving than the poor themselves.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt five)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

In high school, Quentin used to run with the Vice Lords, a street gang that originated in Chicago. He was never very active in the gang, and the two times he had been shot were not gang-related. Quentin took his first bullet when he was nineteen. He and his friends were in a heated confrontation with a group of guys when suddenly a van raced up, and he heard the pop-pop of a 9mm. Quentin was shot in the leg. The second time came a year later, during a mugging. That time, the bullet lodged in his shoulder blade. The shootings left Quentin on “super alert.” A doctor would diagnose him with stomach ulcers. Over the years, he had learned to relax. When tenants threatened him, he tried to let it slide. But every so often, something would happen, and Quentin would put on his black hoodie and black jeans, and Sherrena would shoot him a dirty look at the door but stay quiet because she had learned she couldn’t say anything when it got to that point, and Quentin would climb in the Suburban and call his guys and go deal with something. The last time the black hoodie came out, a tenant had intentionally and severely damaged one of his properties, out of spite.

Friday, May 13, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt four)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

Jayme didn’t choose to work at Arby’s. It was her work-release placement. She was in the final months of a two-and-a-half-year sentence. In the evenings, Jayme was transported back to the women’s correctional facility on Keefe Avenue. It was her first time in prison, for her first arrest, and she had mainly kept her nose in her Bible. She’d had a baby in a toilet and left it there. No one in the family knew why; she was already a mother of a toddler at the time. Jayme had been a bookish child, with large round glasses and a mature-beyond-her-years way about her.

Now that her prison sentence was coming to an end, Jayme was focused on a single goal: saving enough for an apartment that could accommodate her son, now six, on overnight visits. The boy was staying with his father.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt three)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

When Sheriff John walked into a house and saw mattresses on the floor, grease on the ceiling, cockroaches on the walls, and clothes, hair extensions, and toys scattered about, he didn’t double-check. Sometimes tenants had already abandoned the place, leaving behind dead animals and rotting food. Sometimes the movers puked. “The first rule of evictions,” Sheriff John liked to say, “is never open the fridge.” When things were especially bad, when an apartment was covered in trash or dog shit, or when one of the guys would find a needle, Dave would nod and say, “Junk in,” leaving the mess for the landlord.

John hung up the phone and waved the movers in. At that moment, the house no longer belonged to the occupants, and the movers took it over. Grabbing dollies, hump straps, and boxes, the men began clearing every room. They worked quickly and without hesitation. There were no children in the house that morning, but there were toys and diapers. The woman who answered the door moved slowly, looking overcome. A sob broke through her blank face when she opened the refrigerator and saw that the movers had cleaned it out, even packing the ice trays. She found her things piled in the back alley. Sheriff John looked to the sky as it began to rain and then looked back at Tim. “Snowstorm. Rainstorm. We don’t give a shit,” Tim said, lighting a Salem.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt two)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

“Hey,” Lenny greeted Susie as he took a seat behind his desk.

Susie Dunn was on her feet, as usual, sorting mail into the mailboxes that made up one side of the office. She was not placing letters in their boxes as much as punching them in there, fast and hard. It was her way. When Susie smoked, she sucked the cigarette down, keeping her hand close to her mouth. She couldn’t talk without also sweeping or scrubbing or rearranging patio furniture. It was as if she’d fall over, like a toy top, if she stopped spinning. Susie’s husband liked to call her the Queen of the Trailer Park. Other people settled for Office Susie, so as not to confuse her with Heroin Susie.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt one)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

Petite with chestnut skin, Sherrena wore a lightweight red-and-blue jacket that matched her pants, which matched her off-kilter NBA cap. She liked to laugh, a full, open-mouthed hoot, sometimes catching your shoulder as if to keep from falling. But as she turned off North Avenue on her way to pay a visit to tenants who lived near the intersection of Eighteenth and Wright Streets, she slowed down and let out a heavy sigh. Evictions were a regular part of the business, but Lamar didn’t have any legs. Sherrena was not looking forward to evicting a man without legs.

Monday, May 9, 2016

the last book I ever read (Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band: A Memoir, excerpt twelve)

from Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon:

It was complex, since Steve and Lee were in New York, and for the most part, Thurston and I were in Northhampton. After 2000, the studio in the city became more and more theirs. I was busy trying to balance and schedule our lives. If Thurston and I were rehearsing in New York, for example, that meant it made more sense to fly out of New York on tour, rather than flying out of the nearest airport in Massachusetts. If we were heading out for a short series of dates, that meant I would have to enlist a babysitter or caregiver to watch over Coco while we were gone.

Thurston didn’t have that same amount of forethought. Most people saw him as an exuberant, seemingly joyous person who lived entirely in the present. Privately, I knew that he was more calculated, because his lyrics were always well crafted, with rock allusions, and he put a lot of thought into his rock-and-roll strategy. Dan Graham once saw us play the song “Confusion Is Sex” at CBGB and said later, after watching Thurston self-consciously trying to make a “rock moment” happen, “You’re supposed to scream and then fall down on the stage, not fall down onstage and then scream.” I would never have attempted something like that—it just wasn’t me, and Thurston was the true rock-and-roller, the punkologist, the guy who idolized Richard Hell with his music, his poetry, and his self-adoration.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

the last book I ever read (Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band: A Memoir, excerpt eleven)

from Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon:

At one point during the recording, Courtney told me she thought Kurt Cobain was hot, which made me cringe inside and hope the two of them would never meet. We all said to ourselves, “Uh-oh, train wreck coming.” She also asked us for advice about her “secret affair” with Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins. I thought, Ewww, at even the mention of Billy Corgan, whom nobody liked because he was such a cry-baby, and Smashing Pumpkins took themselves way too seriously and were in no way punk rock. (It was a debate as old as time, who was “punk rock” and who was “alternative.”) Sure, everybody took their music seriously, but there was something grating about Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins—were they too pretentious? too image-conscious and acting?—that rubbed people the wrong way.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

the last book I ever read (Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band: A Memoir, excerpt ten)

from Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon:

In 1987, Thurston and I were both reading Philip K. Dick, whose writing has more in common with philosophy than science fiction, and whose descriptions of schizophrenia were better than those of any medical journal. Philip Dick had a twin sister who died shortly after she was born and whose memory plagued him his whole life—which is maybe how and why our new album ended up being called Sister. We never decided this, of course; everything between us always had an air of undiscussed ambiguity about it.

Friday, May 6, 2016

the last book I ever read (Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band: A Memoir, excerpt nine)

from Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon:

It was the first time anyone had paid any real attention to us, and in Artforum no less. Thurston and I interpreted it as Greil’s saying: “This small gesture is important and significant.” Later, Greil and I got to be friends.

In fact, the lyrics for the song “Brother James” came after I read about the blues in Greil’s book Mystery Train. “Brother James” appeared on an EP the band put out after Confusion Is Sex called Kill Yr Idols, a name we took from a Robert Christgau quote. Robert was the other big music critic of the time along with Greil, but he basically ignored us. Robert and the Village Voice, the downtown New York City weekly he wrote for, were never sympathetic to Sonic Youth or to the local rock scene in general, and the one night he came to one of our shows, someone in the audience tried to light him on fire. Playfully, though.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

the last book I ever read (Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band: A Memoir, excerpt eight)

from Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon:

Like most of the apartments at 84 Eldridge, my new space was a railroad flat. There was a bathtub in the kitchen and bars on the windows by the fire escape. The bed, a mattress on the floor, sat in the middle, at a slant, as railroad apartments were known to buckle slightly down the middle. Cockroaches were a problem, too, and to me the people who invented Combat, the little black roach-trapping contraption, are urban folk heroes.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

the last book I ever read (Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band: A Memoir, excerpt seven)

from Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon:

Marge also liked to drag me to peace demonstrations and love-ins. As the oldest of three kids, and a take-charge person, she was far tougher and more grown-up than I was. On the surreal, shocking night Bobby Kennedy was shot, Marge had gone to the Ambassador Hotel to see him speak. One moment she was talking about going over there, and two hours later RFK was dead—in L.A., too, that safe and beautiful place of movie-lot landscaping, shiny new cars, and tanned good-looking people, a city where thanks to the curfew laws no one was allowed to so much as loiter.

I graduated high school as a midterm grad. I was glad it was over, and as a “young” high school grad who had just turned seventeen, I decided to take a year off before starting Santa Monica College. My parents wouldn’t pay for me to go to CalArts, but I was bullheaded and had no interest in going anyplace else. Eventually I got bored waitressing and doing other menial jobs, and I moved in with a friend, Kathy Walters, a Santa Monica College student. If memory serves, the tuition at Santa Monica College was $30 a semester. Of course this was before Ronald Reagan wrecked the entire California school system, from the community college up to the state university level, with his brilliant ideas about freezing property taxes, thereby leaving no money for education. Next he would go after the whole country.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

the last book I ever read (Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band: A Memoir, excerpt six)

from Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon:

In junior high school I dated a Mexican boy a couple of years my senior. Be careful, my mother used to say. Where are you guys going? She was afraid the two of us would get harassed on account of the fact we were a “mixed couple.” At the time my mother worked for the ACLU, which always made me roll my eyes. There were other boyfriends in between, none of them serious. Then I met Danny Elfman.

Today Danny is a musician and film composer known for a lot of things—being the lead singer and songwriter for Oingo Boingo, scoring most of Tim Burton’s movies, even writing the theme song for The Simpsons—but in those days he was more into film and surrealism than anything else. Danny seemed to materialize one day at our high school. He was a grade ahead of me, charismatic and politically attuned, a boy who at least gave the impression he had a road map going forward. It was the fall of 1969 and a volatile time in the culture, to say the least. Our school was a microcosm of the world. There were demonstrations and teachers’ strikes. Lorna Luft, one of Judy Garland’s two daughters, was a student there, at one point bringing in Sid Caesar to direct a play. Later some people came to believe an actual cult had infiltrated the school, even though by then it was hard to tell the difference.

Monday, May 2, 2016

the last book I ever read (Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band: A Memoir, excerpt five)

from Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon:

At some point, while living in Malibu, my brother started dressing entirely in white. He grew a long beard and carried a Bible, not for any religious reason, he’d say if anyone asked, but more for its literary excellence. He began making up words, his own private alphabet and language. He began referring to himself as Oedipus, intended to be a funny reference to Sophocles. Still, this didn’t seem all that extraordinary, as back then there were lots of eccentric beard guys dressed in white roaming around L.A. Charlie Manson was starting to make appearances around the beaches and canyons of Malibu. Keller used to crash sometimes at a house at the foot of Topanga Canyon, where one night he met another Manson Family member, Bobby Beausoleil. Bobby would say repeatedly, “You should come up to the ranch sometime.” Fortunately, Keller never did. In high school, one of my brother’s ex-girlfriends, Marina Habe, was allegedly killed by the Manson Family. Marina was seventeen, and beautiful, and drove a red slinky sports car. She was home in L.A. for Christmas break from the University of Hawaii when someone shoved her inside a car and abducted her. Her body was later found off Mulholland Drive. She’d been stabbed over and over again.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

the last book I ever read (Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band: A Memoir, excerpt four)

from Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon:

When my dad was getting his college degrees, he got to be friends with a couple of his students, some hipsters, and later beatniks, who all turned him on to jazz. They lived in Venice in a worn-down house, at a time when it was unheard of to live there. Coltrane, Brubeck, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz—those were their reigning jazz heroes. John Coltrane was probably the most avant-garde of the bunch, but my dad loved him, too. I’m almost positive my dad’s jazz record collection later influenced me, or at least got me used to abstract music—that, and my parents’ blues, folk, and classical LPs, as my mom was always coming back from neighborhood garage sales weighed down with box sets of Mozart and Beethoven. But jazz has been a lifelong love and interest of mine. I remember when I was little, my dad and I went to visit one of those Venice beatnik guys, though I mostly remember his glam girlfriend with her long, straight black hair, her red-polished fingernails, and her guitar. She was the first beatnik I ever met. I sat in her lap, thinking, I wish my mom were as cool as this.