Sidelines and Sessions


Before I go…

Filed under: History Fishing — spsukaton @ 4:19 am

shower and decamp up to the roof to prepare for the fireworks (it’s 6pm and still daylight in Honolulu) just a thought from one of my favorite senators. But first, some background.

Carl Schurz was one of the Forty-Eighters, a generation of young Europeans radicals who fled abroad (mostly to the US) after the failed democratic rising in 1848.  The German states were fragmented, and these young people wanted to unify Germany under a constitutional monarchy. Their efforts, like the efforts of so many others across Europe, failed in the face of absolutist repression and violence.

Forty-Eighters, while mostly German, came from all over Europe, and settled all over the world – Australia, the UK, and Switzerland have all benefited from Forty-Eighter attention. Regardless of where they came from or settled, the Forty-Eighters succeeded admirably in their new countries – Schurz’s wife Margaret, for example, created what we now know as “kindergarten.” In the US especially, German Forty-Eighters had an enormous impact on culture, demographics, and political life where they settled.

Schurz himself backed the failed German onstitution as a youth and fled to the US. He settled in Wisconsin, where his convictions opposing nativism and slavery led him into the nascent Republican Party, where he developed a following among German-Americans in the Midwest and became a major player in the Republican convention, supporting first Seward and then Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln in turn appointed Schurz as minister to Spain, major general in the Union army, and chief of staff to a Union army in Georgia.

After the war, Schurz was elected to the Senate in 1869 from Missouri, and was appointed Secretary of the Interior in 1876. Schurz was the first German-American to sit in the US Senate. He also made a name for himself as a newspaper publisher – he hired Joseph Pulitzer (yes, “Pulitzer Prize” Pulitzer” as a cub reporter) and continued to build German-American political power in the face of nativist, anti-immigrant sentiment.

Schurz was legendary in his day for being a polarizing figure, but one deeply loyal to his vision of America:

“I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: “Our country, right or wrong!” They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: “Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.””

This July 4th, keep this patriot from another shore in mind. America is in the heart, and we can all cherish it – and call it out when we expect that it can do better.




Dear Michael,

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 1:12 am

It’s Sam. We haven’t met, and we never will. Your recent passing left me with some things I felt needed to be said, though, and though I know you’ll never read this, I feel like I need to write it for myself before I go crazy.

As a student and would-be writer undergoing his novitiate in the American media, I winced in pain and embarrassment as my so-called ‘elders’ and ‘role models’ spun your death so quickly and so startlingly that it hurled the rest of the world out of the American eye – even Farrah Fawcett, who finally exchanged her Charlie’s Angels’ wings for real ones (if you believe in that sort of thing.)

As a student-musician, poet, and would-be literary artist, I squirmed as those same media outlets punched your ticket into the Pantheon of Self-Destructive Artists Who Went Apeshit And Ruined Their Lives And Careers, where you will sit alongside other mad geniuses of the Western canon, as well as some of my personal favorites: “dipsomaniacs” Faulkner, Hemingway, and Agee; junkies Hendrix and Yardbird Parker, and suicides Cobain and Plath.

When I got the news, I expressed the lip-service of every American born after, oh, 1975. Let’s be real: I didn’t know you very well. Your work was never that big in my house, and I was born too late to fully experience the legend of Michael Jackson. I bumped “Thriller” on Halloween, and slow-danced to “You Are Not Alone,” but I was on the tail end of your boom. My generation didn’t know you as the brilliant musician you were; we saw you as the crazy bastard dangling babies over balconies and waving away accusations of pedophilia.

That said, I do miss you. It took a few friends exposing me to “Man in the Mirror” (A cappella’s done a lot to bring me back to the classics of pop music) and a memorial party in Hawaii to think more about who and what you were.

Yes, you were crazy. Yes, you squandered goodwill and cultural capital for most of my lifetime. Yes, you were one of the greatest musicians in the English-speaking world. I regret not immersing myself in your music when I was younger, and I mourn for the talent that you represented gone – the oncoming brilliance of London and a possible resurgence, the dramacracy and paparazzi, the kids, Neverland Ranch.

As a historian, I know the verdict is still out on you. For now, I suppose I can get back in your work and find out how you did it. At the very least, I wish you the wishes given to the equally vacillating Hamlet: Good night, good king, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

…I still think North Korea and Iran had you assassinated to redirect American media attention, though. Regardless, rest easy.




On Slam:

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 12:12 pm

Harold Bloom called slam poetry “the death of art” and “cant and nonsense” in an interview with the Paris Review. I’d link to it, but the PR seems to have removed it.

I just came back from my first full-on poetry slam (at the Pipeline Cafe in downtown Honolulu) and I confess myself impressed. Slam isn’t an ideal art form, and I’m not sure if I personally click with the slam scene, but nonsense, cant, and a threat to Western civilization it certainly is not. Bloom is being a book snob as usual. I’d go on about how judging texts aesthetically without contextualizing them in society is crazy, but it’s late out and I have a letter to Michael Jackson brewing in my head.

In short: I feel kind of awkward in the slam crowd, I don’t feel everything they’ve got to say, but the medium itself is really interesting – and it calls to my skill set. A decade and a half of saxophone lends an ear for rhythm. Free ranging in libraries, across keyboards, and across pages of newsprint and printer paper have lent me a inchoate erudition and an audial sense for language. And I’m a ham when I want to be.

Let’s try this. Anybody know any spoken word/poetry slam outlets at or near UCLA?


I think I’m over it.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — spsukaton @ 4:20 am

Hawai’i, that is.

More specifically, I’m over the idea of Hawai’i as a vacation, the assumption that this “summer program” is more “summer” and less “program.” I have little money, I’m insanely tightfisted with what I do have, and I’m under 21. This was recently brought home to my by a quick look at my wallet and the expeditions of my fellow Bruins. This, coupled with my total ignorance about Honolulu and environs leaves me at a serious disadvantage. And it’s only July 1st!

This is not to say I’m miserable, far from it. I’m just over being lazy and vacation-y and other weaksauce adjectives. I want to start working, start writing, start exploring. I’ve said before that mental and physical  indolence are painfully destructive for me. Running up and down Waikiki these past few days has erased the accumulated stupor of three weeks, but an afternoon in the dorms has eaten up those gains. Eff.

Field trip to the Leeward side of O’ahu tomorrow. I’m bringing my notebook.

I need to get up early tomorrow.

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