Category Archives: History

Memories of the Sixties & Seventies

A Few of my Collectibles From Back in the Day

This is just a part of the collection of my political memorabilia from the late sixties and early seventies. The button at the top left is from Radio Habana, as is the pic of Che, which has a 1973 calendar on the back. The button with the torch I got when I was in Cuba in 1973 as well; it’s from Cabo Verde y Guinea Bissau. The Cubans were providing military assistance for their liberation struggle and we were fortunate enough to be able to meet a few of their fighters, who gave us the button.

The one next to that is from the fight to lower the voting age to draft age (I couldn’t vote until I was 21.) Next over, to the right, as a Vietnam era veteran I was eligible for membership in VVAW and I worked very closely with them for several years during that time. The next one conveys my general feeling about drugs … which hasn’t changed much in the ensuing years. The last button is from the time when Angela was on trial for providing the weapons Jonathan Jackson used in an ill-fated attempt to free his brother, George Jackson, from prison while he was in court at the Marin County Courthouse.

Below that is my ticket to the fundraising concert for Angela, where I was one of the armed bodyguards for the McAfee family, who put their farm up for Angela’s bail. Finally, the ticket in the middle is from when I attended an event at UCLA where several of the defendants in the “conspiracy” spoke about their trial. Sacha Baron Cohen was, regrettably, not present that day. Neither was Abbie Hoffman.


Keep It To Yourself, Please

Recently, I came across an article on Axios.com with the title “America is losing its religion.” In the article, the author (Bryan Walsh) opens by saying, “New surveys show Americans’ membership in communities of worship has declined sharply in recent years, with less than 50% of the country belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque.” He goes on to list the Gallup poll results he rests his premise on and concludes with the following thought: “But conventional religion’s power is on the wane, and it might take a miracle for that to change.”

I can’t say I’m bothered in the slightest about this trend. Being an atheist, I have a somewhat dim view of organized religion, especially when it’s used to deny rights to others based on some cockamamie interpretation of words that were uttered thousands of years ago, when life, economics, and society in general were much different than they are now.

On the other hand, I understand, and empathize with, the desire for community that religious observance brings to those who practice, but belief in a supreme intelligence/being that literally created us and watches over us is, IMO, patently absurd. I find acknowledging and appreciating how physics, chemistry, and cosmology (in other words, science) explain where we came from far more compelling and beautiful than anything to be found in any religious text I’ve read. And to be clear, my general attitude toward religion is, “what you believe is none of my business … until you start telling me or others we are required to believe as you do or we’re damned.”

So … here’s the deal. If attending services at a “house of worship” is your cup of tea, and you attend with others who share your beliefs or your faith (however you define those) I say “zei gezunt,” which is Yiddish for “be well” or, as I tend to think of it, and somewhat more ironically “more power to you.” Just keep it to yourself. Don’t bring it to the commons. Enjoy it for you and those who you consider part of your fellowship, but don’t for one minute suppose you can tell others this is the ONLY way. Do that and you will richly deserve to be shunned by others who don’t feel as you do.

PS – You can read the article, which contains a bit more detail than I’m including, here.


Time To Really Amend The Constitution

While doing a bit of research on the original sin of racism in the United States, I came across this quote by Benjamin Franklin. I find it a powerful argument for why the Constitution of the United States needs to be either completely re-written or deeply studied and amended. I say this because it was written entirely by white men. At the time, this made “sense” as nobody else was allowed to own property or to vote; not women, indigenous Americans, or black people, all (or, certainly, the vast majority) of whom were slaves at the time.

“I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected?” he asked.

Benjamin franklin – September 17, 1787

Things have changed considerably in the ensuing nearly 234 years and I believe our guiding documents should be updated to reflect the profound changes that have occurred in our nation during that time. From the ending of slavery, through women’s suffrage, to the Civil Rights Movement, and to the first Native American to be appointed to a Presidential Cabinet position, nearly everyone has been “emancipated” politically, yet our founding document still rests on the “prejudices, passions, errors of opinion, local interests, and selfish views” of the Founders. I believe we can … nay, must … do better.


We Were Kings!

I made two shopping trips yesterday. Well … actually, it was one trip to two places – Trader Joe’s and Vons grocery store. During most of the pandemic I’ve been shopping every Wednesday and Sunday morning, when TJ’s designates the first hour they’re open (0800 – 0900) to us old farts, as well as immunocompromised individuals and pregnant women. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass not to be able to just run out and get something I forgot or just discovered I need for a recipe, but I’ve gotten used to it … and I do run out on occasion.

I bring this up because when I checked out at Vons I was given a handful of these game tickets for their newest gimmick to bring people in. I didn’t buy much there—Trader Joe’s gets the bulk of our business, but they don’t carry lots of things we do fancy—but it was enough for the cashier to hand me about eight of these “tokens.” So … despite my being a bit averse to these side shows, they were offering lots of “free” things, so I downloaded the app and scanned in the bar codes to see if I could win anything. When my wife, Linda, saw what I was doing, she gave me a bunch of tokens she had received when she stopped at Vons the other day.

One of the things I “won” (I’m still not entirely certain how I can claim it without spending more on shipping, handling, etc. than I care to) was a 5 x 8 notebook from Shutterfly. In order to claim it, one must go to Shutterfly’s website and enter the code, etc. Truth to tell, I had forgotten I was a member of Shutterfly, but LastPass (my password memory hole) remembered for me and I soon discovered I had a bunch of pictures uploaded there. When I say forgotten, the last time I uploaded a photo to their site was in late October of 2009, well over 11 years ago; that’s quite a span, IMO.

One of the photos I found I am sharing here, but the thrust of this post (the title might be a bit of a giveaway, but probably not until you’ve read what I’m about to write) has nothing to do specifically with the photo; it merely reminded me of something I’ve noticed over the years and gave me a bit of an “aha!” experience. Let me explain.

Arthur, Harold, Samuel, and Richard

This picture was taken sometime around 1980 and, I believe, was at Gulliver’s Restaurant in Marina del Rey, California. My wife at the time was a waitress there. My father’s oldest brother, Sam, was in town from Chicago and we were getting together for the first time in quite a long while.

A little family background from my father’s side: My father is the fourth of five children; the first born in the United States, and the third boy of four. My Aunt Sophie, who was in Chicago, her home, when this happened, was the only girl and the oldest as well. She, Sam, and Al (not pictured here) were all born in the Ukraine. My grandfather who, by the way, I have no recollection of, had come to the U.S. and it took him eight years to save up enough money to send for my bubbie, my aunt, and my two uncles to book passage to the states. They settled in Chicago, where my father was born a bit later.

Although I never heard much detail, I do believe they were escaping the pogroms taking place in Russia targeting Jews and they were lucky to get out intact. My zayde, his name was Max Wladofsky, came here (if my info is correct and I remember it correctly) around 1915, my bubbie and my aunt and uncles came around 1923, and my father was born in 1924.

So, as I’m looking at this picture I’m reminded of how many members of my family are named after English or Anglo-Saxon royalty. My father’s name was Edward, my name is Richard, and my brother’s name is Stephen. My mother’s name was Annette and, although I can find no Annette in a list of English monarchs, there is an Anne. It goes further. Note my one cousin in this photo was named Harold and his father, my uncle, was named Albert (no kings with that name, but there’s a famous Prince Consort named Albert – Prince Albert “in a can”) who was married to Queen Victoria. Harold’s older brother is named William.

Unfortunately, both of my parents are long gone and I can’t ask them about this somewhat strange number of people named after British royalty, but I can speculate it had something to do with a desire to not be discriminated against and to “blend” in to the new country they now called home. Having been born shortly after the end of WWII, I’m well aware of what I refer to as Jewish angst, the feeling that one is waiting for another shoe to drop, another insult or slight based on being Jewish, or that something bad might happen at any moment.

It’s worthwhile to note the two oldest siblings of my father were named Sophie and Samuel (more something like Schusa and Schmuel in Yiddish, which my paternal grandparents spoke fluently, as did my father.) Why the middle child was named Albert, though, I can’t figure; maybe it was in anticipation of their new home, despite the length of time it took to realize that dream. After that, it was Edward and Arthur.

At any rate, I’ve likely spent far too much time blathering on about my family but, hey, this is my blog and I’m allowed to sink or swim … or totally make a fool of myself. I started this blog in part as a way to record my thoughts, regardless of how valuable they might be or whether or not they resonate with anyone else. My interests tend toward the eclectic and I sometimes write as a sort of stream-of-consciousness activity to sort out my thoughts on a given subject. I’ve thought about this subject before; I’ve just never written about it, so here ’tis.


Trump’s Lap Dogs

Based on the activities of these six senators (at least these ones) I worked this up a while ago, then forgot about it. Just want to put it out there. These six are, in my estimation, particularly egregious in their subservience and sycophancy, though we all know it’s based on naked ambition. If there is a better argument against allowing these kinds of people to run for any office of public trust, I don’t know where it’s to be found.


White History Month’s Greatest Hits

I’m not normally fond of using WordPress’s “Press This” function, because it only pulls a few words into my blog from the original post. It’s good because it means anyone wishing to read the article can see it in its entirety as originally published, but it also means I might have to copy some words over to make the post a little more intelligible and to provide some needed context.

Nevertheless, this article is one I consider extremely important . . . for white people to read. As I commented when posting it to Twitter and Facebook: “We may not have invented racism, but we sure as hell have benefited from it these last 3 or 4 centuries. It’s up to us to end it. That’s the real “White Man’s Burden!”

Check this article out. You might want to read more at The Root as well.

After a grueling 28 days of watching corporations, institutions and random white people pretend to care about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman and that other Black guy with the big part in his afro (I think it’s Booker T. Douglass), we now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Source: White History Month’s Greatest Hits


Manzanar & Toyo Miyatake

In the Spring of 2018, my wife’s niece arranged for a few members of the family to take some portrait photos. She chose the studio of Toyo Miyatake, a photographer who was imprisoned in the Manzanar concentration camp, during World War II. My wife is Sansei (3rd generation Japanese-American) and grew up on Monterey Park, CA, where most of her family continues to reside. The studio is currently being run by his son, Archie, who took some wonderful pictures of my wife, our daughters, and her mother, sister, and niece.

Caption on photo reads “War Relocation Center – Manzanar, California”

The studio is in San Gabriel and it’s filled with lots of photos taken by Toyo and Archie and I snapped some pics with my phone to share. I didn’t get around to doing anything until now, for reasons I’m incapable of reciting. Nevertheless, here they are. In looking for information on Toyo and Manzanar, I came across the Densho Encyclopedia, which has this to say about their work:

From the Densho Encyclopedia’s website:

The Densho Encyclopedia is a free and publicly accessible website that provides concise, accurate, and balanced information on many aspects of the Japanese American story during World War II. It is designed and written for a non-specialist audience that includes high school and college students and instructors, multiple generations of Nikkei community members, confinement sites preservation groups, amateur and professional historians, librarians, journalists, documentarians, and the general public.

The Encyclopedia is thoroughly cross indexed and articles are linked to relevant primary and secondary materials from the Densho archive and from other websites that include still and moving images, documents, databases, and oral history interview excerpts as well as standard bibliographical sources.

https://encyclopedia.densho.org/about/
Caption on left reads, “Manzanar Spring 1944”

The history of America’s treatment of Japanese-American citizens during WWII is a stain on everything this country is “supposed” to stand for, yet rarely seems to be able to provide. It was the result of racism and chauvinism, of nationalism and white supremacy. It set the Japanese-American community back years, if not decades, especially for those families whose property was stolen by white citizens who remained behind. Some were able to reclaim their homes and farms, but many didn’t. Toyo Miyatake was imprisoned here in California, at Manzanar. Here is what the Densho Encyclopedia has to say about his time there.

From the Densho Encyclopedia’s website:

The exclusion order forced Miyatake, his wife and four children, to the concentration camp at Manzanar. He was able to store his photographic equipment but managed to smuggle a camera lens and film plate holder into the camp against government orders. Miyatake told his son Archie that he felt it was his duty to document camp life. An Issei carpenter in camp constructed a box to house the lens, and Miyatake was able to get film into camp by way of a hardware salesman and former client. The photographer eventually asked camp director Ralph Merritt if he could set up a photo studio, and Merritt, who learned about Miyatake from Edward Weston, consented with the provision that Miyatake only load and set the camera, and a Caucasian assistant snap the shutter. Eventually, that restriction was lifted, and Miyatake was designated official camp photographer, and granted the freedom to take photos of everyday life at Manzanar. While there, Miyatake met and began a longtime collaboration with Ansel Adams, who wanted to capture candid photos of people there; the two men later published their work together in the book Two Views of Manzanar. Miyatake’s groundbreaking Manzanar photographs have also been featured in a 2012 exhibition at the Eastern California Museum called “Personal Responsibility: The Camp Photos of Toyo Miyatake.”

https://encyclopedia.densho.org/Toyo_Miyatake/

The collage I’m sharing, below, is of Archie recreating one of his father’s more iconic photos. He was able to find the now grown men who were originally pictured in Manzanar and bring them to the site for the shoot. I think the photos are pretty self explanatory, but the second row has the money shots, IMO.

Manzanar then and now!

I’ll share three more photos I took while we were there. The photo on the left is of a portion of the front of the studio, where much of Archie’s work is displayed. It was there I saw large photos of people like Condoleezza Rice and Vin Scully, in addition to many others. The center photo is of Archie shooting photos of my family, which consisted of my wife, my MIL and SIL, along with My SIL’s daughter (our niece), her grand daughter by her other daughter (deceased) and our two daughters. The photo on the right is a collage of photos Archie took at the wedding of “Uncle” George Takei and Brad Altman. Click on any of the pics to see a larger version.

Aaaand . . . since I’ve mentioned George and Brad, I have one more photo to share, below these three. On September 19, 2019, Linda and I attended a talk at The Ricardo Montalbán Theatre, in Hollywood, where George was discussing his newest book, “They Called Us Enemy.” We purchased a copy and, while waiting in line to get it autographed, Brad walked through the line greeting everybody. We got a nice photo with him. Here’s how George’s book has been described:

George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s-and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future. In a stunning graphic memoir, Takei revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of over 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon-and America itself-in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.

https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/12579768

Linda, Brad, & Moi

TJ’s 5-Tab Browser

A friend of mine posted an interesting picture the other day. She’s a librarian and often posts items of interest regarding libraries, books, reading, and education in general. It was of a 300-year-old library tool that enabled a researcher to have seven books open at once. She also commented, “Now they’re all just browser tabs,” referring to how we do research nowadays using multiple tabs on whatever browser we happen to be using, whether it’s Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera, etc. Below is the photo from her post.

Old-Fashioned Browser

Seeing it instantly reminded me of a tool I had seen over a decade earlier when I had the opportunity to visit a vendor in Charlottesville, Virginia, the owners of which I had become friends with. I was on my way back home from a conference in Maryland and stopped to visit with them for a couple of days. Inasmuch as Thomas Jefferson’s mansion and slave plantation, Monticello, was nearby, I felt obliged to check it out. It was in Jefferson’s library that I saw the item this tool had reminded me of. It was another type of research tool (depicted below) that served the same purpose. Also, I remembered it specifically because, at the time, I thought the same thing my friend did; this was the 18th/19th century equivalent of having five (Jefferson’s wasn’t quite as lavish as the one above) browser tabs open simultaneously.

TJ’s Monticello Five-Tab Browser

I also had the pleasure of visiting the University of Virginia, which had been founded in 1819 by Jefferson. Seven years later, Edgar Allan Poe attended the University where, apparently, he had to raise money for tuition by gambling because his father hadn’t sent him to school with enough money to get my. Below are a few more pictures from my visits in Charlottesville.

Fully-Mustachioed Rick Apres-Visit
Jefferson’s Burial Plot Marker
I Think This Is The Entrance To The University Of Virginia
Edgar Allan Poe’s Dorm Room, Which Is Sealed. This Photo Was Taken Through A Window On The Other Side Of The Room. Can You Say, “Nevermore“?

Perseverance Arrives!

A Blue Martian Sunset

I was raised in the San Fernando Valley. Sputnik 1 was launched exactly four months after my 10th birthday. I remember lying outside on our front lawn, watching it go over. It was exciting and mysterious at the same time. I have a vague memory of seeing the United States’ first satellite, Exlorer, go over and I have a real vivid memory of seeing Echo as it orbited our planet. Echo was a giant aluminum balloon that, when inflated in orbit, was 100 feet in diameter and reflected the Sun, making it the brightest object in the sky except for the Moon.

I also have vivid memories of rocket engine tests in the Santa Susana mountains, just slight northwest of where I lived. Many of the tests were conducted at night, and I could see the sky light up over those mountains. As I grew up, I had friends whose parents worked at Rocketdyne, the company that built just about every liquid-fueled rocket engine used to power America’s space program, including Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, not to mention the Space Shuttle.

Little did I know that many years later I would, quite serendipitously, get sent on a temporary assignment to work at Rocketdyne. I had been working at a company that manufactured what were, at the time, high density hard drives. This was in 1986 – 1987, and high density meant something like 5 Gigabytes! It was, for some reason I still can’t quite fathom, a seasonal business and when demand dropped all the temporary employees got laid off. That was me. I lost my job on a Friday. Later that evening I got a call from Apple One, the organization I was temping through, telling me to show up at Rocketdyne’s Canoga Park facility the following Monday.

To make an exceedingly long story short, I started work on the FMEA-CIL (Failure Mode & Effects Analysis-Critical Items List) the document that would prove Rocketdyne’s RS-25, SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) was safe for the Shuttle’s return to flight almost a year to the day after Challenger exploded during the ascent of STS-51-L. (For clarity, I think it important to note those engines were not responsible for the loss of Challenger; they had worked just fine.) I had long been a space cadet (in far more ways than one) but I never imagined I could end up working there, as I wasn’t an engineer. Silly me. I just hadn’t realized it takes a lot more than engineers to run a business that large and complex.

I was hired in after a year as what they referred to as a “job shopper.” I was forty years old. I retired 23 years later and it was the best, most fulfilling job I ever had, though dealing with a huge corporation (and “the Rock,” as we called it, was part of Rockwell International, the Boeing Company, United Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney Division, and Aerojet) was why I left early. The Shuttle program was winding down and P&W offered everyone over 60 a severance package I just couldn’t refuse, even though it wasn’t terribly generous.

Nevertheless, I’ve remained deeply interested in space exploration. I have long believed it’s important to the survival of humanity we get off the surface of this planet. I believe we need to establish not merely a scientific, but also a cultural presence off-planet in case of an extinction-level event. Frankly, it’s my opinion if we don’t do something about climate change and our contribution to it, we may be the ones causing such an event.

At any rate, all this is to say I am happy Perseverance landed safely on Mars this afternoon (PST) and appears to be functioning as designed. I’m looking forward to learning more about the Red Planet. I’m especially keen on learning how well the Moxie instrument (see graphic, below) accomplishes its mission of producing oxygen from Martian CO2. Congratulations to JPL and the Perseverance team. Job well done!

PS – I’ve also posted a graphic depicting one of Perseverance’s scientific missions, the Ingenuity helicopter which, if successful, should dramatically improve our ability to send rovers to the most fruitful (scientifically) locations, after they’ve been scouted out by Ingenuity and its successors.


Why I’m Not a Journalist

In January of 1971 I was living in Berkeley (aka Berzerkeley), California. I was “working” at an underground radio station run out of the living room of one of the guys who lived in my building. The address of our building was serendipitously easy to remember; it was 1776 Leroy, just north of the UC campus. I had a one-room, no-water flat though, during that winter there were times when moisture dripped from the walls. I had to go down the hallway to get water, relieve myself, or take a shower. I had a hotplate in my room and, truth to tell, I don’t recall if I had a small refrigerator or we shared one in a common area.

Our studio put out 500 watts of power, but we only had a 1/10 watt transmitter our engineer had managed to sneak up and secure at the top of the Engineering Building on campus. We had dual turntables, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and various other recording devices, microphones, etc. With that little of a transmitter we only reached about 5 blocks square, which was a substantial portion of the north campus community.

In addition to playing music, I thought it was important for us to report on local news, as well as national political news if it happened nearby. On January 5 of that year, the trial of Angela Davis began in the Marin County Courthouse, a little over 20 miles away. One of the devices we had was a boom box that had a cassette tape recorder and I decided to haul my ass over to the courthouse and cover the trial.

I later provided armed security for the McAfee family, whose farm was used for Angela’s bail, when they appeared at this concert.

When Angela Davis’s attorneys came out to speak to the crowd, they were inundated by reporters, journalists, and photographers. There were so many of them (in case you aren’t familiar with this case, it drew international attention) her supporters could not hear a word that was being said. I knew that my boom box could be used as a megaphone, and I knew how to make it happen. I offered her attorneys the use of what I had turned into a way to amplify their voices and reach her supporters. They gladly accepted.

So … everyone got to hear the update Angela’s attorneys provided. Unfortunately, it meant I didn’t get to record anything. I returned to Berkeley empty-handed, save for the memory I had of the event. I had nothing to report other than that. No audio at all. Though I later published the Los Angeles version of The War Bulletin, which was produced in Berkeley, and I’ve written and published several newsletter over the years, that was really the end of whatever career I might have had as a journalist. I wasn’t capable of detaching myself from the story (at least not THAT story) and recognized I didn’t have what it takes to “get” the story.

PS – Today is Angela’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Comrade. Wishing you many more.


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