Hot Air: Debs, Guns & Frankie Machine

Heads Up

  1. Tomorrow begins a two-day celebration of the life of this holy land’s premier socialist, Indiana’s own Eugene V. Debs. A documentary film entitled — what else? — American Socialist will be shown at The Bishop followed by a discussion with historian Paul Buhle. The event is sponsored by WFHB, The Bishop, the Burroughs Century, the Indiana University Office of the Vice Provost in Charge of Research, The Ryder Film Series, and Verso Books. Buhle has written dozens of books about the history of radicalism in America.
  2. The next day, Saturday, there’ll be a day trip to Terre Haute to see the Debs family home now on the campus of Indiana State University. Then, at 5:00pm at the I Fell Gallery, I along with some of Bloomington’s finest wordsmiths and cogitators will read from Debs’ writings. My piece will be from his seminal 1902 labor tract, “What’s the Matter with Chicago.”
  3. My guest today on Big Talk will be Sue Sgambelluri, a fundraiser for IU, and candidate for the Dist. 2 seat on Bloomington’s city council. She’s facing two-term incumbent Dorothy Granger and environmental activist Daniel Bingham in the Democrat primary in May. The lone Republican to file for any local office in this year’s election, Andrew Guenther, is running unopposed in that party’s primary.

Ready, Shame, Fire!

Al Jazeera, still a top-notch news gathering outfit even after it discontinued its American cable TV operations almost exactly three years ago, Tuesday ran this illuminating piece on the NRA’s pernicious public relations apparatus:

An Al Jazeera reporter went undercover to infiltrate the NRA and cozied up to the flacks who spin the lobbying gang’s message that automatic rifles are more important to you than your internal organs.

Whenever some loon sprays a schoolyard with bullets, the sane among us wring our hands and wonder why we don’t have more stringent gun protections. That’s when the NRA spin masters earn their blood money. We’ve seen, countless times, social media posts from our more troglodyte-ish “friends” the finger-shaking “How can you politicize this horrible tragedy” scold directed at those of us who’ve reacted to said tragedy by calling for reasonable, rational gun laws. Well — guess what — that brand of bullshit is packaged and marketing by the NRA’s PR teams.

“Just shame them to the whole idea” of stronger gun laws, the flacks advise their enablers and abettors all over the world.

As if to be concerned about the lives of kids is something to be ashamed of.

A Writer’s Life

A new biography of literary titan Nelson Algren comes out next month. Never a Lovely So Real, will be released by WW Norton & Co. on the 16th.

Algren wrote the gritty The Man with the Golden Arm, an unflinching portrayal of poverty, brutishness, crime, love, morphine addiction, and assorted vices in Chicago’s Near West Side Polish neighborhood set in the period immediately following World War II. The city’s Polish community and its civic leaders in general suffered apoplexy when the novel came out in 1949.

The animus toward Algren lasted well into the 1980s when a section of Evergreen Street was proposed to be designated Nelson Algren Way. Algren had lived in a walk-up apartment in the Wicker Park neighborhood and had famously courted the French feminist author Simone de Beauvoir there. She later wrote that she experienced the first climactic event (ahem) of her life therein. This, of course, came (pardon the pun) even after she’d been keeping company with the philosopher/author Jean-Paul Sartre, illustrating one thing or another about the French and their putative boudoir capabilities. Anyway, local Polish-American leaders and other bluenoses fought tooth and nail against the proposal but ultimately lost.

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BTW: Frank Sinatra would star in the 1955 film adaptation of the novel directed by Otto Preminger. Sinatra’d already won the Academy Award for his comeback performance in From Here to Eternity and wanted to broaden his acting chops with his portrayal of Algren’s protagonist, the recovering addict and in-demand card dealer Frankie Machine. The movie, The Man with the Golden Arm, is one of those public domain titles that can be found, uncut, on the internet. For some reason, probably sloppy paperwork, whoever was in charge of such things neglected to renew the movie’s copyright. Same thing with another Sinatra vehicle, Suddenly, the tale of a gang conspiring to assassinate the President of the United States.

People might not realize what a fabulous actor Frank Sinatra was. Check out either of these two films and see for yourself.

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