Towse: views from the hill

January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letter From Birmingham Jail

Filed under: history,people,video — Tags: — Towse @ 12:45 am

A reprise of something written on an earlier MLK, Jr Day, with links updated.

Monday is a federal holiday to honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Schools, libraries, city, state and federal offices are closed. The Post Office won’t be delivering mail. The stock market is closed. But here in Silicon Valley, most private firms are not taking the day off.

People remember, are familiar with, King’s I Have A Dream speech, but King should be remembered not only for his dream, but also for his work to bring that dream to reality, for his decision that the time had come to take steps to reach that dream.

In April, 1963, four months before he gave his Dream speech, King was thrown in jail for leading protests in Birmingham, AL.

Local white clergymen in a letter to the Birmingham News criticized King for coming to Birmingham as an “outsider” to lead demonstrations that were “unwise and untimely.”

King responded with what is probably his second-best known work, his Letter from Birmingham Jail wherein he says


We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.


I would hope, that if King could somehow see where we are today, he would be encouraged by how much things have changed.

I would hope, that if King could somehow see where we are today, he would not despair, that things have not changed as much as they could … or should.

August 12, 2010

McMurtry memoirs disappoint

Filed under: books,people — Towse @ 11:04 am

I was disappointed in the book the-ladies-who-read chose for this month’s reading: Books: a memoir by Larry McMurtry. Oh, I wasn’t disappointed when we chose it. I was, after all, the person who had come up with the list of about six titles we chose from. I’d even read the first pages that Amazon offers before I added it to the list. Seemed like a readable memoir from a writer I wanted to know more about.

First pages can be misleading.

For someone who writes fiction so well — Pulitzer Prize winning Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment, Horseman, Pass By (the book that became the movie Hud), Last Picture Show, and many more — his book seemed a tedious conglom of memories written on 3×5 cards and then reshuffled for coherence. Each card was then expanded a tad to fill a very short (one- or two- pages usually) chapter. The memoir consisted of a rare few noteworthy bits of gleam caught up in a tubload of mud.

Not to be dissuaded (and because I’d picked up the book when I was down at the Mechanics Institute Library to pick up Books), I continued on with the second in his trio of memoirs. The first of the trio covered his book selling/book seeking yen. Yesterday I finished Literary Life: a second memoir, which covered his memories of life as a writer. Although marginally better than BOOKS, the prose was still pedestrian, the stories colorless. Surely this man must tell a good story at a party. Why can’t he translate that into prose?

Hollywood: a third memoir, which covers his days in Hollywood and his life as a screenwriter, came out Wednesday. I’m not going to bother. …

December 11, 2009

RIP Gene Barry.

Filed under: people — Tags: , — Towse @ 6:11 am

RIP Gene Barry. His three TV series were among my favorites growing up.

AP article by Bob Thomas

LOS ANGELES — Gene Barry, who played the well-dressed man of action in the television series “Bat Masterson,” “Burke’s Law” and “The Name of the Game,” has died at age 90 of unknown causes, his son said Thursday.

Fredric James Barry said the actor died Wednesday at a rest home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Woodland Hills.

Gene Barry essentially played the same character in all three series, which spanned the 1950s to the 1970s. Always fashionably dressed, the tall, handsome actor with the commanding voice dominated his scenes as he bested the bad guys in each show.


Thomas Hoving, 78, dies of cancer.

Filed under: people — Tags: , , , — Towse @ 6:07 am

Thomas Hoving, 78, dies of cancer. Globe and Mail article by Verna Dobnik.

Thomas Hoving’s charismatic but controversial leadership of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is summed up in his autobiography Making the Mummies Dance.

Dr. Hoving died yesterday of lung cancer at his Manhattan home, his family said.

As the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1967 to 1977, he turned an institution he said was “dying” into a happening museum with blockbuster exhibits. The treasures from Egyptian King Tutankhamun’s tomb was the most popular exhibit in the museum’s history, drawing more than one million visitors in New York, plus another 5.6 million at five other American museums.

But Dr. Hoving also raised dust in other ways, paying $5.5-million for a Velazquez masterpiece while selling works by Van Gogh and others to help pay for it. And he had no qualms about letting people sit and snack on the museum’s front staircase, which he had enlarged.

Dr. Hoving’s philosophy was: anything to make people notice great art.


July 21, 2009

Rachel Maddow: "we regret the errors"

Filed under: history,news,people — Towse @ 4:34 pm

If you don’t watch Rachel Maddow, at least occasionally, you should. I watch her whenever I’m in a hotel that carries MSNBC and I watch her over the Web. (Our dirt-cheap cable subscription does not include MSNBC.)

Last week Maddow and Pat Buchanan got into a brouhaha over Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court and affirmative action, which Maddow supports but Buchanan does not.

Here is a snippet where Maddow corrects some of the “facts” presented by Buchanan during the debate.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

The original debate is here:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

July 10, 2009

I’ve never had a problem with drugs, only with policemen.

Filed under: books,music,people,quotation — Towse @ 1:12 am

Keith Richards.

Jessica Pallington West has a book out, What Would Keith Richards Do? Daily Affirmations From a Rock and Roll Survivor, from whence the title gem came.

Amazon info but no free reads inside the book. Alas.

June 6, 2009

Naked, Drunk, and Writing – Adair Lara

Filed under: books,commentary,people,writing — Towse @ 5:32 pm

Naked, Drunk, and Writing: writing essays and memoirs for love and money by Adair Lara. [an Amazon click]

Adair Lara was talking about her new book this past Wednesday at Book Passage, Corte Madera. (She also teaches classes there on occasion.)

I mentioned her appearance on Facebook (although I didn’t drive across the bridge to see her) and added

Adair Lara wrote a column for the Chronicle … until she didn’t. I liked the column. Miss her.

A sample of her column work.

Fun thing about Amazon is that you can (often) poke into a book and see how it begins. On the first page of Lara’s new book, I read

If I even think about writing, I find myself in the pantry eating cereal straight from the box. Writing is a scary, vulnerable, and in a way conceited act, one that says the words you set down are worth a stranger’s time to read, and that this is a worthy use of your own time.

I may take Lara’s book to Camp to read, even if I’m not intending to write a memoir any time soon. …

March 27, 2009

Brooksley Born – Cassandra?

Filed under: financeconomics,history,people — Towse @ 4:12 pm

Brooksley Born – Prophet and Loss, an article in STANFORD Magazine, March/April 2009.

An article on his nibs’ cousin is the cover feature in the current STANFORD Magazine. Interesting writeup of the happenings at the CFTC in the late nineties.

If they’d listened to Born and implemented her proposals, could it have prevented the meltdown?

Update: She’s also getting one of the Kennedy Library Foundation’s 2009 Profile in Courage Awards for the days back then.

February 26, 2009

The Tenderloin National Forest

Filed under: art,causes,life,people,San Francisco — Towse @ 5:53 pm

The Tenderloin National Forest

We were at a North Beach Neighbors dinner at Lichee Garden on Powell last night. (Terrific dinner. $28, including tax and tip, for a ten-course dinner. No-host beer and wine, if desired. Fun time was had by all. Interesting conversations. Good food.)

Rigo was with a group at our table at dinner that included Fernando [last name?], from Portugal. Fernando was sitting between Rigo and me and only spoke Portuguese. Although I know Brazilian Portuguese is a far cry from Portuguese, I wished it had been less than fifty years since I last had a conversation in Portuguese. There are not many words I remember.

Talked with Rigo about ONE TREE and TRUTH, two of my favorite Rigo public works, and about what he’s up to. Turns out he and Fernando are currently working on a mosaic for the Tenderloin National Forest on Cohen Alley, off Ellis.

(photos of the Tenderloin National Forest from Dave Schumaker on flickr)

I plan to wander by some day soon and see how it’s coming along.

February 10, 2009

Creative bday present

Filed under: people,San Francisco — Towse @ 10:30 pm

Leah Garchik writes in today’s Chron that Joe D’Alessandro’s staff at the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, where he is CEO, created a Joe D’Allesandro Wikipedia page for him for his bday.

Adds Garchik, “This not only was a nice ego booster; it also differentiated him from Warhol-era sex symbol Joe Dallesandro.”

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