Guy Cicero

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Having reached the age of 68, I seem more and more compelled to think on the past. Mostly, in my time, I have felt like Little Big Man (a book by Thomas Berger and movie with Dustin Hoffman), a witness to great history, but a very minor player. In telling my stories now, and the stories of others related to my stories, there may be meaning for readers in casting new light on events and trends and people that they knew, too. I hope so, but in any case, I am needy of getting them out of my brain and heart, even if they go no farther. If you feel like this, too, please do the same, for self-therapy if for nothing else.

dylan_headline_65

Flash: Folk music star says, “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm…no more.” Some clapped; some boo’ed; Pete Seeger fumed, but got over it. The rest of us took notice and tried to understand.

It’s embarrassing now to admit that I didn’t really get it. I’d been hanging on every word, exquisite line, image and metaphor in Dylan’s evolving folk music song book since ’62. I’d been to one concert, in Chicago, that was all blue jeans and acoustic: Don’t Think Twice, Masters of War, Only a Pawn in Their Game. While all the other folksters, who I  loved, too, were singing about failed love stories that probably never even happened back in 18th century England, or mythologized criminals from another time and place, Dylan had re-written the American folk genre with his own personal stories and his own takes on current, actual events we’d seen on TV. Not that he was the only one, but only the most creative and prolific one, by many a mile.

Now, enough was enough, apparently. He wasn’t gonna work for Maggie, or her brother, or her pa, whoever they were. Jeez, now what?

Bob Dylan’s 1965 Newport Folk Set Proved He Was the ‘Greatest Poet’ of His Generation | Village Voice.

A must-add to my 2015 “reading” list….

The most popular talks of all time | Playlist | TED.com.

TEDTED is the Chautauqua circuit of today – the best, most intelligent speakers on important topics for today. Well worth your regular attention.

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It’s the wonder of holding your dad’s hand, walking through that dark tunnel, and seeing a huge open space where men play a little boy’s game.
Billy Crystal, in Ken Burn’s Baseball 

Wrigley Field

tea and sympathy

11/17/2014 — 1 Comment

Tea_and_SympathyThis year’s elections are taking shaping as a battle between Tea Party-ers and progressives. One can only hope this means the end of Republicans and Democrats. Probably not.

But I love the more starkly drawn line between this year’s combatants: Progressives vs. Tea Partyers. Continue Reading…

1968

07/22/2014 — Leave a comment

One Man's Meat1968 was the worst year ever. MLK and RFK. Riots. Viet Nam. An unrelentingly bad outlook for a mostly clueless college junior turning 21 that summer and thinking a lot about what sort of world he would be graduating into the following year (a much better year!).

Drugs and beer brought no relief that summer of ’68, only heightened paranoia and deeper depression. Books and music saved me. Among these was E.B.White’s One Man’s Meat. A celebration of life. Natural peacefulness. Great writing. I’d read Strunk and White (The Elements of Style) in freshman English. “Omit needless words” was a mantra. I pursued clear and concise writing that said something meaningful in an elegant, graceful way.

One Man’s Meat became my paragon for prose, and has remained so. I recommend it to anyone, but especially to people who love good writing and need healing. I am very impatient with anyone who would have us go back to a better time in America. Times don’t really change much. But how we see them does, apparently. White was an intelligent observer of some very awful events in the 30s and early 40s, but gave us a clear, untinted lens through which to view world events in any time. Today, it’s hard to find this kind of seer. Read One Man’s Meat and then go back to reading the news and today’s observers. Compare and contrast. Repeat as needed.

View all my reviews

Catastrophe

07/16/2014 — Leave a comment

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28, 1914. A month later, no one was at war. A month after that, 20,000+ were being killed in a single day on battlefields in Europe. By the end of 1914, France alone had suffered one million casualties (killed, wounded, missing, or captured) in the first five months of World War I.

Today, we can do a better job of heading off the kind of all-in response that resulted in those casualties, and the many more to come. But we could also generate one million casualties in seconds rather than months.

Looking at the events during that first month after the assassination, with the delays in communication, the misunderstood messages, the complexities of world politics, and the pent up demand for war among the leaders of many countries, it seems inconceivable that today, with our instantaneous information networks, our simpler balance of power scenario, and our ability to react in a fraction of the time it took to do anything in 1914, we could see anything like the run-up to WWI.

But can we be sure?

Check out the NY Times WWI site. Fantastic.

Since I got our first Kindle seven or eight years ago (?) I have read much more than in the preceding 20 years. But I’ve never had reading projects per se until this year. Now, I’ve really gone overboard:

Goals

  • Read the Robert B. Parker Jesse Stone series. Six books read so far.
  • Read the Ruth Rendell Inspector Wexford series. Read four so far.
  • Read Charles Todd Inspector Rutledge series. Read nine so far.
  • Re-read the Aubrey-Maturin series. Five read so far.
  • Listen to The Destroyermen series. Have listened to all nine books. Waiting for #10.
  • Read about WWI on the 100th anniversary of its beginning. Reading book of primary sources, The WWI Reader. Listening to Catastrophe by Max Hastings. Have five+ others teed up.
  • Finish William Manchester The Last Lion. Done.
  • Read/Listen to other books:
    • Caesar and Christ, Will Durant. Audio.
    • Moby Dick. About 40% read.
    • Mole, Jo Nesbit. Leading Norwegian detective novelist.
    • A Higher Call, two WWII pilots re-unite.

So what?

I feel a lot more informed and well-rounded since starting to read more. And now that I’m reading about writing, it seems like everyone (Stephen King, Mary Carr, Ann Lamott, etc.) says the key to better writing is doing a lot of reading. I’m teaching courses on self-publishing and finding that the biggest problems would-be self-publishers have are all about writing. So, get the old Kindle out and get going!

 

About blogging

07/13/2014

I have a love-hate thing, apparently, with blogging.

Since I can remember, or at least since I was 7, I’ve always seen myself writing. Blogging is the perfect way for me to quickly and easily write down my ideas, musings, and reflections.

And yet, I have this mostly insurmountable barrier to getting started. Here, in this “invitation only” blog, I can write to my heart’s content and not have to be concerned about what a reader might think. We’ll see how it goes.

Star Cub Andy Pafko was a local legend – Daily Herald.

Andy_PafkoBy the time I got my Andy Pafko autograph fielder’s mitt when I was about eight, Pafko had already moved on from the Cubs to the Dodgers and Braves. I never knew he was the center fielder on the ’45 Cubs(the last Cubs team to play in a World Series) AND the left fielder who looked up as Bobby Thompson’s HR sailed over his head at the Polo Grounds to give the Giants the pennant in ’51. He died recently, after living 40+ years as a local hero in the very town where we now live. A lot of things, you just never know. Continue Reading…