The Pirates of Los Angeles: Music, Technology, and Counterculture in Southern California

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[Editor's note: this article originally appeared in the Intersections column on the KCET Departures website, June 27, 2013.] In 1978, with a new album on the way and a growing popularity that had started among the Hell's Angels in Southern California, the Doobie Brothers made an unlikely guest appearance on the television show "What's Happening!!" Set in Watts, the popular series focused on the comic tragedies that befell its three main characters (apologies to Dee) Raj, Dwayne, and Rerun. In a February episode, the Doobie Brothers planned to hold a fundraiser for the Watts High School music program, a show all three boys hoped to attend. However, as these things go, tickets proved … [Read more...]

Radical Politics, Disgruntled Veterans, Internment, and the Fear of Dependency: The Military and Social Welfare Reform: Best of AHA 2014, Part 3

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Over the past couple of decades, categorizations like “military history” have undergone numerous permutations. Georgia State’s John Southard ruminated on the state of the field for ToM in 2012 and ToM devotes an entire page to the subject. (There’s even something for the Civil War buffs. ToM has even posted some original research in the area of the military and postwar suburbanization.)  Historians like Roger Lotchin, Ann Markusen, Carol Lynn McKibben, and Andrew Myers have offered new insights into the ways military installations in the South and California have interacted politically, economically, and socially with local cities, towns, and suburbs in which they are located or abut. The … [Read more...]

Transnational Protest, Media Bias, and Monopolized Airwaves: Best of AHA 2014, Part 2

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In part II of ToM’s AHA 2014 coverage our correspondents begin with papers on the efforts of Latin American students, workers, and rebels of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970 to use non-violent activism as a means to gain greater rights and autonomy in the face of increasingly repressive regimes.  We end with talks on media bias, conservatism, Rupert Murdoch/Fox News and the NAACP. What does it mean if we have more voices and greater diversity with those appearing in the media, but more and more of the airwaves under the control of fewer and fewer individuals? Remember, we went to the AHA so you didn’t have too.  For Part I of AHA 2014 - Bed-Stuy, The Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus … [Read more...]

Filtering Music through a ToM Lens

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"Starting with the affirmation of man/ I work myself backwards using cynicism," Mike Watt sings on the Minutemen's classic track "The Glory of Man." "I live sweat, I dream light years/ I am the tide - the rise and fall." For many of our writers individuals like Mike Watt and bands like the Shins or rap groups like Das Racist have served as a means to connect and filter our understanding of late 20th  and early 21st century culture and history. Needless to say it was a veritable red letter day when Watt tweeted at ToM regarding an article we had written about the band.  Undoubtedly, Watt remains a testament to the ethos of the hardcore punk movement—"Punk rock is an idea, not a musical … [Read more...]

Swimming in Dysfunction?: McCarren and the Long Perspective on Municipal Pools

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This is the third installment of our Summer 2013 pool series: Part I - A Dive into the Deep End: The Importance of Swimming Pools in Southern California - a cultural history of the pool in Socal (published at KCET Departures) Part II - Waters of Community, Waters of Hostility: The Messy History of Urban America and the Municipal Pool After reopening in summer of 2012 following decades of dormancy, Brooklyn’s Robert Moses era 1937 landmark, McCarren Pool, resumed operations for its second season in late June.  In New York, where media outlets from the New York Times to Curbed NY (writers enjoyed frequently  deploying the term “shit show” to describe it) to New York Magazine eagerly … [Read more...]

Waters of Community, Waters of Hostility: The Messy History of Urban America and the Municipal Pool

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[Editor's Note: Just in time for summer heat waves, this is the first in a series of posts in the upcoming weeks on the swimming pool in American life.  For those interested in cultural history of the backyard pool, check out ToM's RR via @KCETDepartures - "A Dive into the Deep End: The Importance of the Swimming Pool in Southern California"] “Caddy Day,” read the Bushwood Country Club Swimming Pool sign in the 1980 comedy Caddyshack, “Caddies welcome 1:00 – 1:15.”    In the roughly five minute scene, the Bushwood Country Club grudgingly hosts its lowest rung of employee: the caddies.  As the motley crew of lower middle and working class white kids, the group’s ethnic population … [Read more...]

Thin Is In: Rethinking 40 Years of Intellectual History in the Age of Fracture

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But let us honestly state the facts. Our America has a bad name for superficialness. Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it. The quote is by Ralph Waldo Emerson from “Fate,” the first essay in his 1859 collection, The Conduct of Life – a somber, more dialectical late-career work in light of his reputation as an irrepressible optimist. In the essay, Emerson describes at metaphorical length the necessary tension – a fistfight even, like “two boys pushing each other on the curbstone of the pavement” – between Fate and Power (or at another point Nature and Thought). If America is to achieve its … [Read more...]

After the Fracture: An Age of Disaggregation and Reaggregation

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In recent years, I have taken to calling the Sixties lecture in my U.S. history survey “The Age of Fracture.”  Of course, I start by telling my students that I borrow the title from a famous historian at Princeton, but then I explain that I beg to differ with his periodization and nomenclature. Here I will propose that the last quarter of the twentieth century mostly occurred after the fracture, and that the period Daniel T. Rodgers examines so masterfully in Age of Fracture might be better understood (using his own terms) as a transitional time of disaggregation and reaggregation. First of all, let me give credit where credit is due. Age of Fracture is a marvelous and thought-provoking … [Read more...]

When Genius Fractured

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It is hard not to sympathize with Alex’s complaint about Age of Fracture: Rodgers’ implicit avoidance of the question of why. Age of Fracture is not the place to turn to if you are looking for an explanation of America’s twenty-first century malaise. Age of Fracture is a diagnosis, and a second-order one at that - an analysis of failed analyses, neither a prescription nor a cure. But for students wondering at the their elders’ impotence in the face of economic austerity, financial collapse, long-term unemployment, deindustrialization, mass surveillance, and so on, it is the unavoidable place to start. I read the book as a catalogue of elite failure. Each chapter is a series of logically … [Read more...]

Teenage Wasteland: Moral Panic and Adolescent Sexuality in the Age of Steubenville

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Yeah, she could drag me over the rainbow, send me away Down by the river I shot my baby Down by the river, Dead, oh, shot her dead. - Neil Young, “Down by the River,” from Everybody Know This is Nowhere In 1969, Canadian Neil Young released Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.  Containing “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “Cinnamon Girl,” the album received largely positive reviews initially, but in recent years, critics have lined up anew to praise its virtues. “Everybody Knows was a sort of big bang for Young, a dense moment of creative explosion that saw possibilities expanding in every direction,” wrote music critic Mark Richardson in late 2009.   While many critics chose to focus on … [Read more...]

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