However you may have arrived here, this is the old Not Not Silly Newsroom.

It's a long story -- hardly worth going into here -- but after this place was declared a Brownfield Site, we abandoned it for the NEW! IMPROVED!! Not Now Silly Newsroom.

Feel free to stay and read what you came here to read, but when it's time to leave go to the new place by clicking HERE.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Days With John Sinclair ► Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be

John Lennon wrote very few songs about REAL people, and when he did he disguised the name of the subject, like “Sexie Sadie,” who was “Maharishi” in the original version. However, Lennon wrote and recorded a song called “John Sinclair,” about one of Detroit’s a cultural icons. Lennon’s “John Sinclair” was just one protest song on “Some Time in New York City.” a double-record set (filled with political polemic as 3 minute tunes on one LP, and live concert with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention on the other). Lennon was protesting the sentencing of John Sinclair to 10 years of hard time for GIVING an undercover agent two joints. This made the already infamous Sinclair, who only had a regional reputation until then, an international cause célèbre, which is what prompted Lennon to write the song and later appear at a Free John Sinclair concert. However, I knew John Sinclair before he ever became a jailbird.

I first encountered John Sinclair way back in the '60s. I grew up in Detroit on Gilchrist Street (we called it Gilchrist Avenue because that was classier), one block and three houses south of the infamous 8 Mile (aka M-102) and five houses south of David Palmer, the original drummer for the Amboy Dukes. We were all in our middle teens then, but Dave was a year or two older which made all the difference back then. He wasn’t part of our clique, just a few doors down. His clique was far more exciting to us. We thought he was really cool because he was in a real rock and roll band who played real concerts and made real records. However, for some of us there was a more important reason for admiring David Palmer: When the administration threw him out of Coffey Junior High School because his hair was well-below his collar, he responded with a lawyer who argued that this was how Palmer made his living and he would be affected adversely if he had to cut his hair. Those of us who were still fighting the Hair Wars -- and still being kicked out for having long hair -- knew that it was only a matter of time before the rule fell, because David Palmer had already blown right through it.  The school was forced to make an accommodation with Dave: He had to wear his hair tucked in his shirt collar the entire day so that it was no longer than his shirt collar. From then on Dave wore wild paisley shirts, with even wilder ties to hold all the hair in. It was always a bit of a thrill to follow Dave out the door at the end of the school day, see him scoop his hair out of his collar, and watch it cascade down his back. When the Amboy Dukes rehearsed in Dave’s garage, all us neighbourhood kids would hang out at the end of the driveway to listen. They were my first garage band.

I was only 15 and most weekends  and would head to Plum Street—Detroit’s Haight-Ashbury—on weekends, where I’d occasionally get a glimpse of John Sinclair holding forth. He was Detroit’s Top Hippie and I was a weekend wannabe.  On more than one occasion I’d work up the nerve to talk to him. Despite the age difference, and his massive height, he never talked down to me and all these years later I never forgot that kindness. Sinclair seemed to be everywhere: He helped launch the The Fifth Estate (one of ‘Merka’s oldest alternative/underground newspapers) manager of the MC5, and head of the White Panther Party.

Skip ahead many years—through many twists and turns that no one could have predicted at the time. In the new century my nephew became John Sinclair’s merchandising manager. What a thrill it was to learn that.

That’s merely all background to the real story.

It’s Labor Day weekend, 2006 and I’m excited. I am going to the Detroit International Jazz Fest where I am going to see John Sinclair for the first time in about 40 years. More importantly, my nephew is going to officially introduce us, even though we met way back when. John is at the Jazz Fest performing with his band The Blues Messengers.

We get there early because my nephew has lots to do before the show and I'm directed to a little table in the VIP area to wait. I need to describe this VIP section so the story makes more sense. There are 8 stages around the downtown area and each has a VIP section. It's not backstage; it's off to one side or another in front of the stages. It's for audience, but special audience. Like me. The regular audience sits on fold-up chairs or the ground. We get real chairs and small cabaret tables to sit at. How civilized.

I'm killing time and I see John Sinclair arrive and sit at a table a few away from me. When my nephew comes back he says, "So, didja say 'Hi!' yet?" I reply, " No, he's going to do a show soon and I don't want to bother him now." I said that because I saw someone approach him only to be told, "I'm going to do a show soon. Don’t bother me now. I need to concentrate. I'll gladly talk to you after."

My nephew doesn't care about such niceties and drags me over and makes introductions.

John Sinclair says to me, "I've heard so much about you I feel like I know you. Your nephew talks about you all the time."

After I come back to earth I say, "John, I just want to thank you for treating me with respect way back when, instead of the snot-nosed Hippie weekend-wannabe that I was."

With that my nephew starts cackling, "I hear people come up to you all the time and say pretty much the same thing, John. But this time it's my uncle."

It turns out that for all our own reasons, the three of us are all thrilled at the meeting.

Introductions over, I go back to my table. Eventually Sinclair performs. We talk a bit after the set and then head off in separate directions, John to meet up with some musician friends and me to go see a 24-piece Big Band playing all Zappa music with Big Band arrangements. (!)

A few hours later I find myself at the same VIP table alone, rocking out to the Regal Brass Band of New Orleans, which I had seen earlier in the year during Mardi Gras, the first one after Katrina.  I didn't see anyone sit down next to me, but suddenly I was nudged from someone on the left. It was John Sinclair passing me a joint. I have to say that again: JOHN SINCLAIR PASSING ME A JOINT!!!

And, I do inhale.

As I begin to pas sit back he nods, as if to say, “Now pass it to the guy on the other side of you,” so I nudge that guy and he turns towards me. That's when Dr. John says to me, in his gravely voice, "No man, I gotta do a show soon,” so I pass it back to John Sinclair.

So now me, John Sinclair and Dr. John are all dancing in our seats to a New Orleans Jazz band. Amazingly, as we talk and smoke, I learn that Sinclair was also at that very same Mardi Gras I attended—on the other side of the street from where I was watching the parade. Exactly on the other side of the street. I'm amazed I didn't see him.  Eventually Dr. John gets up and leaves because his set’s on soon and the joint goes out. Sinclair rips it open and puts the shreds on the table. Then he starts fishing in his pockets. He pulls out several roaches and starts ripping them apart. He's determined to get one more joint out of this mess on the table and, believe me, I’m rooting for him.

While I’m watching John do his thing I vaguely become aware that the guy on stage has been talking longer than usual. I focus on what he's saying:

“...a really dear friend of ours. We'd like to have him stand up and say "Hello." He's a Detroit native, but now he's a citizen of the world, living part time in New Orleans and part time in Amsterdam. Please, a warm hand for Detroit's own, John Sinclair!”

John is in his own world. He’s on a mission. He doesn’t realize the applause is for him.

I nudge him.


“Stand up, John.”

He looks around a minute, sees that everyone is looking at him (at us!!!) and clapping, so he stands up and takes a small bow and then sits back down laughing. “Why did he have to introduce me then? Look at this table.”

"John, there was no other time to introduce you. What are you known for?”

<breathing air> And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my John Sinclair Story. However, I invite you to tune in to listen to John Sinclair at Radio Free Amsterdam, one of the oldest regular online podcasts going and just another one of the cultural touchstones John Sinclair helped create in his long and creative career. And, if you are in Ireland later this month, check out the BREATHIN' AIR - Irish Tour 2012 With Howard Marks.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Another Magical Tee Vee Moment ► David Frost Interviews Paul McCartney

Dateline: May 18, 1964 - Paul McCartney is interviewed by David Frost in the full flush of Beatlemania.

It's so funny they were talking about a possible retirement in 2010. who knew that 5 decades later Paul would still be making music and still making fans scream?

Thanks for all the music, Paul.

Harry Nilsson ► Thursday (Here's Why I Did Not Go To Work Today) ► A Musical Interlude

"Thursday (Here's Why I Did Not Go To Work Today)" has always been one of my favourite Harry Nilsson tunes. It comes from Sandman, a latter day effort. Harry's voice had never been the same after the John Lennon produced Pussycats during Lennon's "Lost Weekend." This was no fault of Lennon's. Nilsson had hurt his vocal cords and rather than tell Lennon he continued afraid to delay working with his hero. It only made it worse. While he never had that angelic voice again, he still wrote some lovely songs and this is one of them.It's also a song on which his raspy voice gave the song the exact right amount of pathos. What do you think?

I've always especially loved the lyrics nearest the end. They've always had a Cole Porter feel to them for me, and that's one of the highest forms of praise there is.

Monday is a blues day
That goes for Tuesday
Wednesday's just the middle of the week, yeah mm
Friday is just another payday
The weekend's just another heyday
But Thursday's surreptitiously unique

That's why I didn't go to work today

Thursday's got its own peculiar way
Of saying "hey"
Sometimes Thursday makes you want to run away

Thursday's such a crazy, lazy day
Thursday's such a crazy, lazy day
Thanks, Harry, for giving me a musical excuse to toss Thursday aside from time to time. However, today my clients were forced to cancel so I have the day off anyway.

So, while I have your attention: Here's another wonderful Harry Nilsson performance, 100% live, from a BBC broadcast on which he did his entire "A Little Touch of Schmilsson In The Night" LP live. It's sublime. And please note: Harry Nilsson was covering the American songbook long before Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, or even Linda Ronstadt.

If you liked that, you will love parts two, three, four and five, which are all on the YouTubery.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Aunty Em Ericann's Bun Fight With James Rosen of Fox "News"

Pic: Fair [and Balanced] use
I didn't start it, but those who know me, or those who have grown to know and love Aunty Em Ericann, know that I won't walk away from a fight. Johnny Dollar, aka Mark Koldys, is not the only person I've had a had a pissing match with on the interwoven nets lately. My Canadian friends won't know James Rosen, Chief Washington correspondent for FOX "News" Channel. My 'Merkin friends might know him only too well. Despite watching Fox "News" so you didn't have to, Rosen hadn't really registered on my radar until he reached out and introduced himself to me.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  It all started with a Tweet to John W. Dean. [Those who have known me a long time, and my obsession with President Richard Nixon, know what a thrill it is just to be able to say that.]

Wait!  What?  A Fox “News” person?  No kidding, Dean?  I happen to write about those.  I was in too much of a hurry to even glance at the name of the author when I bought the book.  I was merely using a bookstore to get from A to B more quickly when I spotted the book on a remainder table. Even with half his face cut off, I clearly recognized John Mitchell, President Richard Nixon’s Attorney General.  Here was a Watergate book I hadn’t seen before, even though I’ve always considered myself something of a Nixonphile.  I was born in Detroit in 1952, the year Nixon was first elected Vice President, and I have always felt a bizarre connection to the man.  By the time I was eight years old, with President Kennedy entering the White House and President Eisenhower leaving, Nixon was already a source of fascination to me.  [I had no hobbies, apparently.]  His winning the presidency in 1968 only added to my interest.  By the time he was reelected in ’72, I was already living in Canada and watched his presidency fall apart from afar.  Hours were spent watching the Watergate hearings instead of going to college classes.  By the time Nixon resigned it was clear to me that he made a Faustian bargain in order to become president.  That’s when I started reading books by and about Richard Nixon and Watergate. 

Some of my Nixon books. There are Nixon books behind the books.

On the day Richard Nixon died I happened to be in a K-Mart in Oak Park, Michigan when a woman started berating me about Richard Nixon, seemingly out of the blue.  It took almost 10 seconds to realize I was wearing my original 1972 “President Nixon Now More Than Ever” button on my denim jacket, where it had been for many years.  I’ve never worn it since.

Here's the truth: When I saw the John Mitchell book I grabbed it to add to my Nixon collection (pictured above). I stood in line, even though I was already running late.  After I paid for it I stuffed it in my knapsack without a second glance and hot-footed it to my appointment.  Later it occurred to me to tell John W. Dean about my new purchase.

Pic by Westerfield
As soon as Dean warned me off reading it, I ran to my knapsack, pulled out the book, and saw that the remaindered sticker covered the name of James Rosen, “Chief Washington correspondent for FOX ‘News’ Channel,” as the Fox web site puts it.  It seemed like ironic synchronicity that I was holding a book written by someone at Fox "News" when my side-vocation was to write about Fox "News" for NewsHounds. I told my BFF John Dean that I would read it anyway, since I read just about anything Watergate related, even the prison apologia/biography of Nixon, written by my former-countryman (until he renounced his Canadian citizenship) Conrad Black, or as I like to call him Lord Black of Black Bottom.

[BTW: “Tit in a ringer” is not sexist; it’s inside Watergate, inside John Mitchell, inside baseball talk.  If it needs explanation, it’s not worth it.]

And, that was that...or so I thought.

The next day I received the following tweet from the book’s author, who thinks himself some kind of Beatles expert. 

Oh man, this is GREAT!!! I have John Dean and James Rosen arguing over my head on Twitter. The gang at the coffee shop certainly heard all about THAT the next day. All those days of skipping college classes to watch the Watergate hearings, and reading all those books, is finally paying off. Meanwhile, I'm not intimidated by a cutebeatle or anyone else at Fox "News." If there's one thing I know more about than Watergate, it's The Beatles. So, I changed the subject and challenged Rosen with a Beatles trivia question.

Okay, maybe I made it worse with my next tweet.  And, maybe it was hubris on my part to also add Paul McCartney to my Beatles trivia challenge, but there it is:

And there it is, the gauntlet drawn. James Rosen will only play Beatles trvia with me if I promise to read his book and not be cowed by John Dean. Why do I suspect there is bad blood between Rosen and Dean and why do I feel that reading The Strong Man will provide the answer? But I don't have time for that because there's Beatles trivia with which to stump Rosen. Note my clue: You Can't Do That.

And there we have it. I must have convinced Rosen that I would read his book because he finally deigns to play Beatles trivia with me.

Rosen's second guess was Sophie Tucker, which if you know Beatles trivia isn't that crazy an answer. But it was still wrong.  Rosen never attempted a 3rd guess, arguing instead that at the '64 press conference The Beatles said Brian Wilson was their fave and at the '66 press conference The Beatles said "Sophie Tucker" was their fave group. I had to remind cutebeatle about the '68 press conference, when The Beatles were announcing the formation of Apple, they were asked their favourite 'Merkin singer and they replied, "Harry Nilsson" and then were asked who is their favourite 'Merkin group and they answered "Harry Nilsson," which is how I discovered Harry Nilsson for myself.

So...I thought me and Rosen had a good thing going. Days later, a s I began reading his book we were still exchanging tweets back and forth, mostly Harry Nilsson-related at my instigation. Now I would see what the NYT and Doris Goodwin Kearns raved about.

Then several things occurred almost simultaneously:
  • I started asking James Rosen uncomfortable questions about The Strong Man;
  • I was besting him in Beatles trivia;
  • I told him an off-colour joke about President Nixon [It's a pretty good joke. Rosen tweeted out that they had just released Nixon's love letters. I told him that Nixon had watched Deep Throat 6 times because he wanted to get it down Pat. Buh Duh Boom!];
  • Wrote about him for NewsHounds, when he pulled the 21st Century Equivalent of the age old Fox "News" tactic of "Some people say" by reading anti-Obama tweets on the air. What was I to do? I couldn't cut Rosen any slack just because he was now my Twitterific buddy.
Soon afterwards I learned that James Rosen, Chief Washington correspondent for FOX "News" Channel, had a very thin skin because he blocked me on Twitter. However, for a while I didn't know why. It could have been "All of the above" for all I knew. [He eventually cleared it up. It was "D."]

Meanwhile I was reading Rosen's book on John Mitchell just like I promised. Because so many things jumped out at me while I was reading it, I marked each one with a yellow Post It note. This is what the book looks like now that I have finished. Every one of those yellow slips is a question I have for cutebeatle.

However, more to the point, I believe I have unmasked Rosen's secret source. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had their Deep Throat, the secret source that was later revealed to be Mark Felt, 2nd in command at the F.B.I., who kept them on the right track. Rosen appears to have his own Deep Throat, a secret source to whom he guaranteed anonymity. It comes early in The Strong Man, on page 61: "A source close to the [Anna Chennault] affair--who demanded anonymity--strongly challenged the veracity of the prime witness." This is backed up by endnote 66, which reads: "E-mails from [a confidential source] to the author, January 21, 2003, 6:16 p.m.; and Wednesday January 22, 2003, 3:25 p.m."

Here's where we get into the weeds on Nixon. Rather than do that here, I am going to write a full review of The Strong Man by James Rosen, but I wanted to provide the background to why I would even bother to review a 4-year old book. Not only do I think Rosen made an overt challenge that requires a response in the form of a review, but now there are two other factors driving me: 
  1. It's a book that deserved greater attention and condemnation when it was released. It's full of contradictions, loaded language, softening of misdeads, and attempts to place the blame for Watergate on lower-downs; 
  2. I can break some news. I can not only expose Rosen's confidential source, but can also explain who still has a reason to cover up Nixon's misdeeds and why all these years later this confidential source still doesn't want the public to know what happened way back then.
However, I miss playing Beatles trivia with cutebeatle.

Further reading on Not Now Silly:

Did Roger Ailes Dupe James Rosen, Or Did Rosen Dupe 'Merka?

Monday, May 14, 2012

National Velvet ► Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be

During my long career as a professional writer, there have been times that I was on staff and on a publication's masthead and other times that I freelanced. As a freelancer, I would take just about any job that involved jamming words together. Once I wrote an entire work of fiction for a corporate brochure that made Scarborough, Ontario, Canada sound like a great place to live and work. It was fiction because I didn't really feel that Scarborough was a great place to live and work. Despite my dislike for Scarberia, as it is derisively called, the brochure won an award by the City of Scarborough, which couldn't read through to the sarcasm.  Another of my freelance jobs was writing for record companies. Occasionally these were the dry sales sheets, 200 words tops, which the salesmen would use to get the rack-jobbers to stock the LP. These were boring and tedious to write, but I could bang off up to 10 a day. However, my favourite writing for record companies was when I was hired to write artist biographies. These always involved meeting and interviewing the artists and I liked to spend as much time as possible with the artist/band before I ever sat down to write. And that's how I came to meet National Velvet, when I was hired to write their biography.