Category Archives: Thinkers

A melodious voice, provocative insights


John Henry Faulk was a remarkable character, an academic fokloristic who became a humorist, and who waged and won a seminal battle against the Hollywood blacklist, a secret database used by the entertainment and electronic media industries to bar people whose beliefs were deemed threats to national security to be barred from public screens and airwaves.

He’d have turned 100 last August if cancer had finally stilled his rich, melodious voice, conveying sophisticated thoughts cloaked in idiom and Texas dialect.

Here’s Faulk in a wonderful 1985 conversation with Frank Morrow for the legendary public access series Alternative Views:

FAULK AT HIS FINEST: Meet Uncensored Humorist John Henry Faulk

Proogram notes from AlternativeViewTV:

Austin’s beloved folk humorist tells tales from his new book The Uncensored John Henry Faulk. The stories, which range from childhood recollections of life on a South Austin farm to commentary on political figures, embody a populist, egalitarian spirit. Some of these stories are from Faulk’s well-known one-man show Pear Orchard USA. Through the use of these folk characters, Faulk is able to make political commentary which is palatable even to people who might disagree with the message, such as the anti-Nixon stories which he has used before audiences of businessmen. The last section of the program is a Faulk mini-retrospective, featuring clips of the humorist’s past appearances on Alternative Views.

One of esnl’s favorite folksingers, Phil Ochs, paid him tribute in this 1962 song:

Phil Ochs: The Ballad of John Henry Faulk [1962]

From the lyrics:

And you men who point your fingers and spread your lies around,
You men who left your souls behind and drag us to the ground,
You can put my name right down there, I will not try to hide —
For if there’s one man on the blacklist, I’ll be right there by his side.

For I’d rather go hungry to beg upon the streets
Than earn my bread on dead men’s souls and crawl beneath your feet.
And I will not play your hater’s game and hate you in return,
For it’s only through the love of man the blacklist can be burned.

Quote of the day: Amazon and the Panopti-con


From a Jonathan Franzen essay for The Guardian, “What’s wrong with the modern world”:

In my own little corner of the world, which is to say American fiction, Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the four horsemen. Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world. But what happens to the people who became writers because yakking and tweeting and bragging felt to them like intolerably shallow forms of social engagement? What happens to the people who want to communicate in depth, individual to individual, in the quiet and permanence of the printed word, and who were shaped by their love of writers who wrote when publication still assured some kind of quality control and literary reputations were more than a matter of self-promotional decibel levels? As fewer and fewer readers are able to find their way, amid all the noise and disappointing books and phony reviews, to the work produced by the new generation of this kind of writer, Amazon is well on its way to making writers into the kind of prospectless workers whom its contractors employ in its warehouses, labouring harder for less and less, with no job security, because the warehouses are situated in places where they’re the only business hiring. And the more of the population that lives like those workers, the greater the downward pressure on book prices and the greater the squeeze on conventional booksellers, because when you’re not making much money you want your entertainment for free, and when your life is hard you want instant gratification (“Overnight free shipping!”).

But so the physical book goes on the endangered-species list, so responsible book reviewers go extinct, so independent bookstores disappear, so literary novelists are conscripted into Jennifer-Weinerish self-promotion, so the Big Six publishers get killed and devoured by Amazon: this looks like an apocalypse only if most of your friends are writers, editors or booksellers. Plus it’s possible that the story isn’t over. Maybe the internet experiment in consumer reviewing will result in such flagrant corruption (already one-third of all online product reviews are said to be bogus) that people will clamour for the return of professional reviewers. Maybe an economically significant number of readers will come to recognise the human and cultural costs of Amazonian hegemony and go back to local bookstores or at least to barnesandnoble.com, which offers the same books and a superior e-reader, and whose owners have progressive politics. Maybe people will get as sick of Twitter as they once got sick of cigarettes. Twitter’s and Facebook’s latest models for making money still seem to me like one part pyramid scheme, one part wishful thinking, and one part repugnant panoptical surveillance.

Quote of the day: Bucky Fuller on earning a living


From our old friend R. Buckminster Fuller [previously], quoted in New York Magazine, 30 March 1970:

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

 

Our moment of Zen: Alan Watts in conversation


The late British-American Zen philosopher and Sausalito houseboat owner Alan Watts in a 1971 telecast “A conversation with myself, discusses the addiction to technological solutions and the fundamental flaw in our understanding of ourselves and the world.

A fascinating monologue, worthy of our time.

Assange, Chomsky, and Ali: On popular risings


Though Julian Assange may be holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, waiting for word on his bid for refuge in that land, he’s still at work, as witnessed by the latest of his interview webcast for RT.

It’s an important discussion about the rise of popular movements, primarily in Latin America and the Middle East, among Assange, MIT prof and provocateur Noam Chomsky, and Tariq Ali.

The Julian Assange Show: Noam Chomsky & Tariq Ali

The program notes:

A surprise Arab drive for freedom, the West’s structural crisis and new hope coming from Latin America. That’s the modern world in the eyes of Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali, two prominent thinkers and this week’s guests on Julian Assange’s show on RT.

Quote of the day: The true nature of the beast


From “CANCER CAPITALISM: Humanity’s Evolution or Destruction. Regaining Social Control Over the ‘Real Economy,’” a remarkable essay by John McMurtry, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, Canada, posted at GlobalResearch.ca.

[T]he system has run far beyond society’s control and knowledge of its workings. It destroys the life-world by its nature. Its ruling global corporate conglomerates are, in fact, lavishly subsidized and armed-force defended by states to pollute the world at every level, draw down its non-renewable resources, competitively disemploy and underpay workers across cultures, systematically shirk public tax obligations and run down public infrastructures, destroy the habitat of species, and so on. There is no mystery as to why, although no-one says it in public. Every vector of global life-system depredation is corporately driven by roaming money-profit “investors” whose rights are the sole rights recognised in trade and investment treaties, and which governments are now structured to ensure even if they produce nothing – as with the ruling big banks which governments endlessly save at the rising life costs of their peoples.

Read the rest.

H/T to Moussequetaire.

Quote of the day: A year for wakening?


From a Michael DeLang essay in the always-provocative Swans Commentary:

One of my favorite blogging gadflies likes to describe the prevailing American socio-political-economic condition in the following terms, “There’s a Club, and you’re not in it.” This may represent an oversimplified summing up of an exceedingly complex structure, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to hide or deny the plain, succinct truth that underlies the core of this sentiment. Looking back, certain events of the past year seem to contain signs that a growing portion of the American populace is finally beginning to wake up to the inherent economic disparities created by an unregulated capitalism driven by the consumerist illusion of limitless growth.

Read the rest.