What a beautiful world this could be.

Someone is going to have to explain Elon Musk to me. I know the basics — founder of Tesla, fighter with New York Times auto writers, etc. — but beyond that, all I have to go on are a few clues. I’ve noticed he seems to be very popular with a certain sort of young libertarian male, who believes all we have to do is cut the chains that keep our young geniuses from soaring, and man, will they ever soar! Etc.

But I read this the other day, and I have to say…well, you tell me:

Tesla and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk is announcing his plans for the “Hyperloop” Monday — a high-speed transportation system that, ideally, could take passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles for a fraction of the cost and faster than the $68 billion high-speed rail system scheduled to begin running in 2028. Musk has said the Hyperloop, as he envisions it, could get you from San Francisco to Los Angeles in about 30 minutes, traveling at about the speed of sound.

As exciting as all of that sounds, the key word here is “ideally.” Musk described the Hyperloop at the D11 conference in May, and the outline was less than scientific.

“It’s a cross between a Concord and a rail gun and an air hockey table. If they did a threeway and had a baby somehow,” said Musk, you’d have a kicking, screaming Hyperloop.

O rly? There are other buzzwords in the piece, including my fave (“he is publishing the plans as open source”) and my other fave (he “requested ‘critical feedback’ from the general public via Twitter”). It’s all very something-something-and-then-a-miracle-happens, although I suppose there is room for people like that in the world. In the Henry Ford museum, you can walk through Buckmister Fuller’s Dymaxion house, which he envisioned as a sort of metal yurt that could be easily collapsed and transported to another site, should you want to move but not necessarily live in a different house. It was all very futuristic, except that reality intruded and the miracle never happened.

Ninety minutes from New York to Paris, why by ’76 we’ll be A-OK…

So, I needed to get out of the house for a while today, and chose to work at the library. What’s this, the American Spectator? God, it’s been years; the editorial page editor used to subscribe, and I used to read it regularly. Let’s see how this once-proud journal of the conservative movement is attracting the next generation. OK, the cover:


Yep, that’s a paean to AM radio, and that cover says so much, doesn’t it? Gathering around the console in some fantasy of the past — how old do you have to be to even get the cultural reference of a living-room radio? (My age at the absolute youngest.) How old do you have to be to give a fat rat’s ass about a radio band you only subject yourself to if you’re…well, that you never subject yourself to, because who cares?

But that was just the cover, which could be excused as a nostalgia piece. What else is in the July/August issue? This:


Those are the movie reviews, by the way. “Reminders of America’s decline.” OK, so, anything else?


And this:


Yep, that’s Ben Stein, taking his Diary column into its 4,821st year. Because the life of a Hollywood whatever-he-is is nothing but fun. Finally, Taki, also a contributor of many years, winds up and takes a swat — because that’s what he does, slaps like a little bitch — at that menace to society, Barbara Walters:


I used to read this rag and get angry. Pity is a new feeling.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

50 responses to “What a beautiful world this could be.”

  1. Sherri said on August 13, 2013 at 2:09 am

    Elon Musk is part of the PayPal Mafia, the group that founded and made their fortunes from Paypal. They’re libertarian and techno-utopian to an extreme. Like many techno-libertarians, Musk seems to assume that his success with a company means that he holds the answers to life, the universe, and everything. There are no shortage of those types in Silicon Valley, but PayPal in particular seem to spawn a particularly virulent strain.

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  2. MaryRC said on August 13, 2013 at 2:47 am

    I had to laugh when I saw the Spectator article by Taki. I sometimes read Taki’s blog, not for its disgusting bloggers (including John Derbyshire who was fired from NRO for being too racist!) but for Taki’s occasional posts, every one of which reads exactly like the fragments of paragraphs from the Spectator above: three parts name-dropping and two parts nostalgia for the days when he was a jet-setting young swordsman (in his eyes anyway). The latest one is about how well he remembers meeting King Farouk in Egypt, ah those were the days. It’s wonderful how he keeps this up but the whole act is pretty musty by now. He sounds like Grampa Simpson reminiscing about he used to wear an onion in his belt, that was the fashion then, you know.

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  3. brian stouder said on August 13, 2013 at 7:35 am

    It sounds like the “mainstream conservatives” (if that’s not an oxymoron) are conceding that they’re out of ideas/inspiration/goals/gas.

    If Chris Christie wins the presidency in ’16, what will they do? Simply attacking or denigrating everything will go off the boil, because “their team” will be on the field…or at least they will have to either root for the incumbent or else concede that they’re irrelevant, altogether.

    Or maybe that’s what they’re doing right now

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  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 13, 2013 at 7:38 am

    I’m not sure “The American Spectator” has ever been mainstream anything, and proudly so.

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  5. beb said on August 13, 2013 at 7:49 am

    I’m sure Nancy was reading the “Get off my Lawn, you young punks,” edition of the American Spectator.

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  6. alex said on August 13, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Elon Musk isn’t something you spray on your pisser when you want to get some kisser? I thought for sure it was. It sounded kind of ’80s-ish, when everything was marketed as having “élan.”

    If this were a just world, the Spectator would be rechristened the False Witness. I’ve been subjected for some time now to little right-wing automatons walking around repeating Ben Stein’s mansplanation of the financial crisis — it was Barney Frank and the liberals forcing banks to give million-dollar mortgages to welfare queens so they could park their Cadillacs in front of McMansions that you and I are intended to pay for. If that rodeo clown is banned for life from the Missouri State Fair, then what’s Ben Stein still doing stinking up the otherwise edifying CBC Sunday Morning?

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  7. beb said on August 13, 2013 at 8:10 am

    During the first BART strike this summer the techie website, Slashdot had an article about the strike and the responses by Silicon Valley workers was rather incredible — dismissive, condescending, arrogant. In the glorious future invisioned by these IT workers one need only hang out one’s resume and employers will be beating a path to their door. And people who can’t cut it should just kill themselves.

    All of which is only slightly related to Elon Musk who decided to spend his millions creating an electric car – and he did. And he formed SpaceX, a rocket launch company that has delivered two cargo loads to the space station already. So he’s really a guy who can deliver. But this hyperloop thing seems a bit too much like pie in the sky.

    Duncan Black (aka Atrios) has argued that just improving the railroad track so passenger trains could go an average of 100 mph would qualify as high speed rail in comparison to the present situation.

    WE don’t need to go 800 mph. That seems something of a boy’s dream.

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  8. Jolene said on August 13, 2013 at 8:38 am

    I dunno, beb. I was just listening to a guy from Popular Mechanics talk about this, and his view was that the obstacles were more political and regulatory than technical. He claims this system could be built for a tenth of the cost of the high-speed rail that is currently being planned.

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  9. Joe K said on August 13, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Ya know they said the wright brothers would never fly.
    Why not give the guy a chance?
    Oh shit, not a Dem!
    Pilot Joe

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    • nancy said on August 13, 2013 at 9:01 am

      OK, I’ll give the guy a chance. But he says he doesn’t want to spend it, even though it will only cost $6 billion, and he can’t really explain how it’ll work. Six billion doesn’t buy what it used to, but this would be real entertainment.

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  10. coozledad said on August 13, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Just follow the money: if ALEC runs it, or funds it, it’s mainstream conservative. North Carolina is currently running a Ben Stein economy, and what it looks like is 46th in the nation.

    Once they get the schools out of the way and get more of these heifers knocked up with white babies, we’ll push her to 48, and that’s the bottom of real America, hoss.

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  11. Joe K said on August 13, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Any one read about the gas pipeline that exploded last night in Erie Illinois?
    I was going to Des Moines then Detroit about 1am and you could see it for about 60 miles. This was just east of Moline. Massive flames, no one hurt
    Pilot Joe

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  12. Deggjr said on August 13, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Reminders of America’s Decline, which started when Truman demobilized rather than join forces with the Wehrmacht and continue east. The American Spectator is reopening old wounds that have just barely healed.

    The ads probably identify their demographic very clearly.

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  13. nancy said on August 13, 2013 at 9:19 am

    I’m glad to hear you say that — ads are the id of any publication, and the smaller they are, and the closer they are to the back of the book, the more accurate the reflection. I regret to say I didn’t check, but I once noted that the conservative political magazines had a lot of increase-your-word-power product ads back in the day. These days, I imagine it’s all for freeze-dried food supplies and super vitamin formulas the government doesn’t want you to know about.

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  14. alex said on August 13, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Dentu-Cream and Old Spice. And Elan Musk.

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  15. coozledad said on August 13, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Speaking of dumb animals beyond the reach of the most rudimentary behavioral training, we had to cut the horn out of the face of an old wether yesterday. The horn continued to curl toward his face, beneath his left eye, even after we trimmed them up to the blood line in 2005. My wife said as soon as she could get him penned up I needed to have my hacksaw ready.

    She penned the crazy fucker, finally, And I went out with the hacksaw and a rope. I can’t rope, but we eventually got him to snag himself through the loop with the horn that wasn’t buried in his face.

    This was after he hurled himself at the welded goat panel enclosure and bowed it like a sail with nothing but his 175 lbs, adrenaline, and a four inch thick skull. I thought he was going to kill us both by virtue of his utter stupidity. His long jump from a near standing position is around fifteen feet.

    It was hot yesterday, so I couldn’t feel where the capillaries stopped in his horn, and after I straddled him and started sawing he began leaking blood at about the rate of one of those single handled faucets that never work worth a damn. I had to be careful to avoid his eye on the forward stroke and his ear on the backstroke, while he sprayed blood and tried to get the fuck out from underneath me.

    The horn had grown about an inch into his cheek and would have fused with his zygomatic arch given another month or two.

    Day on the farm. Thought I’d share.

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  16. brian stouder said on August 13, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Way back in the day, I considered William F Buckley (et al) as belonging to my dad, and R Emmett Tyrell and PJ O’Rorschach (etc) as contemporaneous with me.

    At some point, I wrote (and mailed!) a (type-written!) response to some hard-left commie pinko thing or the other that Nancy had said in her N-S Telling Tales column, and cited something or other from Tyrell, in response.

    This drew a withering response from Madame Telling Tales, who pointed out (amongst many other things) that that guy had attacked the concept of curb-cuts for handicapped Americans (must have been back when the ADA was still sort of new).

    Sorta took the shine off him, going forward.

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  17. Bob (not Greene) said on August 13, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Hey Kim, I’m going out on a limb and saying that the James Bowman who authored the “Reminders of America’s Decline” which Nancy has just highlighted above is Jim Bowman from Oak Park, frequent WJ letter writer, sometime columnist and author of a newsletter he used to fax (he’s now emails it around). It was all hyper conservative. He still pesters the WJ news staff to complain about the paper.

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  18. Bob (not Greene) said on August 13, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Oh, OK, just did a little more checking. It’s another conservative crank with the same name. Oh well.

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  19. Deggjr said on August 13, 2013 at 10:09 am

    On The American Spectator ads, my guess would be ‘how to game Medicare to get our products and services’. That guess is based on the presence of AM radio nostalgia and Ben Stein.

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  20. Deborah said on August 13, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Whoa Coozledad, what a day that was.

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  21. brian stouder said on August 13, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Deborah – you took the words right outta’ my mouth!

    Cooz is definitely a real farmer, though; because if I found myself upon the horns of that dilemma, city-boy that I am, something would be dead now (the animal or me), or else I’d be paying someone else to do what Cooz did.

    I suppose that’s the one legitimate claim to “exceptionalism” that a rural red-state person could make; if she or he really will “get into the arena” and do what needs done (as opposed to whatever easy alternative presents itself), come what may

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  22. Dorothy said on August 13, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Geez, Cooz, I was practically holding my breath reading that recitation! Whew.

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  23. Julie Robinson said on August 13, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Pardon me while I go off to toss my cookies. That should be required reading for all the farmer wannabees.

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  24. Sherri said on August 13, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Pilot Joe, most of Elon Musk’s political giving has been to Democrats. I have no idea what he considers himself, but most techno-libertarians of my acquaintance don’t tend to believe that either party captures their special specialness.

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  25. LAMary said on August 13, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    I might be delusional about this, but I’ve seen Elon Musk interviewed and he doesn’t strike me as a jerk. He was on The Daily Show a while back and seemed to have a conscience. I know Space X was looking for a recruiter a few months ago and I thought it sounded like a pretty cool job. I didn’t have the engineer recruiting experience they were looking for, but I wish I did.

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  26. brian stouder said on August 13, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Y’know how they designate some cars “S X” so that the idea of ‘sexiness’ is in there somehere, for their potential buyers?

    I wonder if “Space X” did that, too, to entice their investors.

    (“Go around the world with outa’ this world Space-X”)

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  27. Peter said on August 13, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Hat’s off to you, Cooz. I’m sort of with Brian on this one; sort of because I’d be saying “well, the feller had a good run…”

    6 Billion for a 350 mile pneumatic tube? I think someone’s not counting land acquisition costs, and don’t tell me you can plop this baby down in the interstate median. But pish posh those are details for the little people to figure out. Now I will discover a cure for cancer and develop more theories about the brontosaurus.

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  28. Basset said on August 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Two words, Cooz… angle grinder. Bzzzzzt.

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  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 13, 2013 at 2:12 pm


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  30. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 13, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    What are the odds, anyhow? But it’s the time of year, and the cycles of nature are similar all over. But reading that made me think of the above, and of course this tale, with pics:


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  31. Dexter said on August 13, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    We have to go back to World War II days to recapture the glamor of the living room radio. By the late 1940s table top radios were the electronics of choice, then TV came along and radios moved to the kitchens of America, radios as big as a loaf of bread. Small portable radios powered by batteries were en vogue when I was a kid in the early 1960s, and we all listened to AM radio. By the end of that decade, every community had FM radio, but FM installed into car radios was still a luxury until the early 1970, maybe a few years before in luxury cars.
    FM radio in the early days, circa 1970, was a hotbed of radicalism and hip, cool music, and we had the advent of the entire album being played at once, a wonderful concept. Then, and now, corporations moved in and ruined radio. Homogenized playlists picked by computers, droning generic women DJ-ing mostly…only a few big corporations controlling most of the radio market. And then a miracle happened twelve years ago when satellite radio ht the road running. No longer were we tied to endless commercials and moronic playlists and the droning of the PBS talkers…we had entertainment again! For a few bucks a month we can enjoy wide ranging genres of tunes and talk, politics Left and Right, and it’s great.
    AM radio still is big. Even though sports are available on satellite, the games are still broadcast on free AM stations, and big cities still command audiences day and night with their talk and opinion shows. It’s not dead at all. I understand many kids never will own a transistor AM-FM radio, and have not owned them for years, so be it, but some of them will still have cars with radios someday, and be exposed to old-time radio, at least for a few more years.

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  32. brian stouder said on August 13, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    My brothers liked WLYV (an AM station) and the Lyve Guys – most especially Phil Gardener.

    The morning they switched formats from Rock & Roll/Top-40 to country music (owing to the fast-rising FM music stations), Phil still played some Rolling Stones or Foghat (or whatever) and afterward said “I just can’t do it!!” and before long he was gone.

    But my mom had her AM-only kitchen radio set for Paul Harvey* at noon, and otherwise – she went into country music mode, and loved Loretta Lynn, et al.

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  33. LAMary said on August 13, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    I remember a looong time ago, hearing the Breakfast Club on the radio at my friend Barbara’s house. Don Mc Neil I think? We never listened to the radio at home, so it seemed exotic and wonderful to me. I was probably about seven and easily impressed. I will always associate that radio show with nice summer mornings, swinging in a huge hammock strung between two oak trees with Barbara figuring out what we wanted to do that day.

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  34. Prospero said on August 13, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Illegal alien Marco Rubio has the immigration solution. He and his parents only got in because they had Batista money.

    How in the world does anybody claim there is such thing as Country Music anymore. Steve Urban is a rocker, and so is Kenny Cowboy Hat. Good guitar p;layers too. Particularly Mr. Kidman. These guys are arena rockers. Steve Urban and Alecia Keyes:


    That boy can play and that girl can sing.

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  35. Prospero said on August 13, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    And I remember when WKNR switched to FM in Detroit, shortly after WXYZ. And I remember when BCN switched to all FM in Boston. First song, I feel free:


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  36. Kirk said on August 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    There is good country music; you just have to find it, and it definitely isn’t on mainstream radio. Check out Dale Watson, for one.

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  37. coozledad said on August 13, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Prospero, Kirk, Basset: I done tried puttin’ this up once, but I think lightnin’ eat it:

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  38. Jeff Borden said on August 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm


    You bring back many memories. My mom and dad had a table-sized AM/AM radio when I lived in Medina, Ohio, which I used to tune in some funky rock stations. The hosts were soooooo cool –I pictured bearded guys in dark turtlenecks smoking non-filter cigarettes while they sorted through the LPs– and the music they introduced me to ranged from Gil-Scott Heron to Louis Jordan. Eventually, the term “AM radio” became a slur because we equated it with another generation.

    Two of the raging assholes who ruined radio in general and FM radio in particular proved they had lost none of their skills when they were running Tribune Co. I speak, of course, of Randy Michaels, who helped make Clear Channel one of the largest and most homogenous radio chains, and Lee Abrams, the unctuous dickhead who introduced us to AOR and the so-called Super Star format. More than any two radio executives, these are the assassins of creativity, locality and nerve.

    I’d be lost without satellite radio and it was the only option I ordered in my new toy car — a Fiat 500 Abarth sans Romanian supermodel. It’s cool to be able to flip through the channels so easily compared to the after-market received I have in the other vehicle.

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  39. Chris in Iowa said on August 13, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Agree with Kirk at 36 about Dale Watson. I’ve also become a fan of Wayne “The Train” Hancock. In his dreams, Kenny Chesney will never sound this good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH4NajwNR1k

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  40. Joe K said on August 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Ray whiley Hubbard,
    Shooter Jennings
    Hank Williams the 3rd
    Robert earl Keen
    Elizabeth Cook
    Tift Merritt
    Just gotta look for it,
    I love satellite radio, use it in my plane
    But I liked xm’s play list better serius.
    Pilot Joe

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  41. Basset said on August 13, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Willie’s Roadhouse on Sirius, Joe…

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  42. Chris in Iowa said on August 13, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    I’ve moved on from satellite radio to Spotify, where I can set up channels or playlists for just about anything imaginable.

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  43. alex said on August 13, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    I got an app called Photon on my iPhone and use it to live stream my favorite radio stations from elsewhere. I plug it into the stereo at home and play over the speakers throughout the house. Problem with that app, however, is that it drops your connection if you don’t touch the screen of your phone at least once every five minutes. Otherwise I have AccuRadio and HeartRadio apps that offer a lot of different genres and let you customize your playlists. I doubt these have the same number of stations as Sirius or XM but then they don’t cost anything either.

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  44. Suzanne said on August 13, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    I remember what a totally cool thing we thought a transistor radio was back in the day. My goodness! You could take it with you places! It ran on batteries!!

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  45. Minnie said on August 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Got a battery-powered portable for my twelfth birthday. It was acid yellow and black and heavy. It went where I did.

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  46. Bitter Scribe said on August 13, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    In his memoir, Tony Hendra tells how, when he and P.J O’Rourke (whom he couldn’t stand) were co-editing the National Lampoon, O’Rourke kept trying to get R. Emmett Tyrell’s stuff into the magazine. Hendra described Tyrell as “an odious little fruitfly” and his writing as “great swatches of Latinate alliteration draped over gutter-level bigotry.”

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  47. basset said on August 13, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Appreciate the link, Cooz, but my irony filter is running a little stronger than usual tonight… can’t get into it.

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  48. Dexter said on August 14, 2013 at 2:09 am

    Radio really did provide me with much pleasure. As a young boy, I had to ask permission to use the only radio we had so I could listen to baseball games: Cubs, White Sox, Tigers,Redlegs, Indians, and then at night I could get New York Yankees and Pittsburgh games at times. For my 13th birthday Mom bought me a radio that was similar to this http://radioattic.com/item.htm?radio=0080077
    and I was ecstatic, being able to hear sports, music and news in my room. Shortly after, I took my paper route dough and bought a little record player and I joined the Columbia Record Club. The next spring I bought a little Motorola transistor radio. It never stopped. For all the sports and news and music I heard on my radios over the years, three events stand out clearly. First, the Medgar Evers assassination in Mississippi in 1963. Second, the September, 1963 killings by bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, where four girls — Denise McNair, 11, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson, all 14, were murdered. That was three days before my own 14th birthday, and I have always felt a kinship to those kids, all these years, and every year as my birthday nears, I curse that day in Birmingham. Lastly, November 22, 1963. Dallas. I ran home and brought back a cheap little transistor I had bought so my classmates and I could hear the reports after JFK had been pronounced dead. Nobody knew if a nuclear war was about to commence or what the hell. It was one fucked-up day. And we had to play Hamilton High School in a basketball game that night. We heard people talking…”The killer was eating chicken in a building when he shot the President….” Ain’t that America, sang John Mellencamp, years later.

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  49. Tim said on August 14, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Radio and baseball were a perfect match. You could listen while working or doing anything else, to a game that doesn’t demand much attention unless you’re a really intense fan (and then you should be at the park), and you could take a break whenever one of the rare exciting moments came up. I especially enjoyed listening to a World Series that way at a Chicago print shop when most of the Series games were played in daytime.

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