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The events of November 1978 were terribly difficult for the city of San Francisco.

The The Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ… was “a new religious movement founded in 1955 by Jim Jones” in Indianapolis, IN. “Jones used the Peoples Temple to spread a message that combined elements of Christianity with communist and socialist ideas, as well as an emphasis on racial equality.” The Peoples Temple had moved a few times, relocating to San Francisco in the early 1970s.

In 1974, the Peoples Temple rented land in Guyana and “created the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, or, informally, ‘Jonestown.’ It had as few as 50 residents in early 1977.” After Jim Jones left for Guyana in 1978, under increasing media scrutiny, he encouraged Temple members to follow him there.

“On November 17, 1978, Leo Ryan, a U.S. Congressman from the San Francisco area investigating claims of abuse within the Peoples Temple, visited Jonestown. During Ryan’s visit, a number of Temple members expressed a desire to leave with him, and, on November 18, they accompanied Ryan to the local airstrip.”

They were intercepted by “self-styled Temple security guards who opened fire on the group,” killing Ryan, NBC News journalist Don Harris, NBC cameraman Bob Brown (who filmed the shooters), San Francisco Examiner photographer Greg Robinson and defecting Temple member Patricia Parks. “The murder of Congressman Ryan was the first and only murder of a Congressman in the line of duty in the history of the United States.”

That evening, in Jonestown, Jim Jones ordered his congregation to drink a concoction of cyanide-laced, grape-flavored Flavor Aid . In all, 918 people died, including 276 children, mostly from the Bay Area. I remember an ashen Mayor George Moscone announce Rep. Ryan’s death, and soon thereafter, the massacre.

Then, on November 27, Moscone and San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk were shot and killed in City Hall by former Supervisor Dan White. “White was angry that Moscone had refused to reappoint him to his seat on the Board of Supervisors, from which he had just resigned, and that Milk had lobbied heavily against his reappointment.”

I watched then-Board President Dianne Feinstein weep as she announced the murders of Moscone and Milk, almost certainly the most prominent gay politician in the United States of that time.

Harvey Milk, the subject of a 2008 film starring Sean Penn , graduated from New York State College for Teachers in Albany in 1951, the predecessor of my alma mater, UAlbany. Feinstein became the first female mayor of San Francisco and eventually U.S. Senator for California.

Some believe the two events are even more related, because some politicians gave early support to the charismatic Jones, including Moscone, Milk, governor Jerry Brown and state Assembly leader Willie Brown (no relation).

Most of this I remembered reasonably well, given the fact that it took place 40 years ago. One piece I did not know was that Jackie Speier , a congressional staffer for Ryan, was shot five times at the Guyana airstrip and waited 22 hours before help arrived. She survived and now is a member of Congress representing much of the district that Ryan, her mentor, served.

For ABC Wednesday

gallery of the louvreAt work, I’ve got an office for the first time in 12 years. I’ve been in cubicles, and for more than two years in a part of a storage space; long story.

*The only thing on the wall in the latter location was a picture of John Lennon c 1972 which my friend Rocco of FantaCo gave me decades ago.

My wife and my daughter decided to rectify that situation. Most of the items were in the attic, not getting the love they needed.

*The largest item is a print my wife had of Gallery of the Louvre, 1831-33 by Samuel Finley Breese Morse. Yeah, the guy who invented the telegraph was also an artist.

It appeals to me, a picture of pictures in a picture. But I also appreciate that one can be an artist and an inventor too.

*My friend, the late Raoul Vezina, did a pencil drawing of me as the duck and had it framed. The large word balloon reads “SURPRISE, ROGER!” The thought balloon was of me thinking, “Is it time for Agronsky and Company already?” That referred to a news talk show I watched regularly.

The duck is reading a New York Times Magazine, which featured the actual content of the issue dated Sunday, March 7, 1982, SELF-SEARCHING IN ISRAEL by Michael Elkins. I think Raoul gave it to me the next day. The picture reminds me of Raoul, of course, who died in November 1983, but also FantaCo, and my birthday.

*A little picture of a pear in the foreground. The caption: “‘Whoever you are, you’ve got Charisma!’ exclaimed Red Ball.” My wife tells me it’s suggestive. Whatever.

In a WTEN (Channel 10, Albany) interview of me before I appeared on JEOPARDY! in 1998, I noted that passing the test doesn’t necessarily mean I’d be on the show. The interviewer said what makes the difference between appearing and not. I said, cheekily, “I don’t know, charisma?” And for about five years after that, one of my work colleagues noted that I had CHARISMA.

*There’s a tiny photo of the top of Binghamton (NY) City Hall, which my friend, and ex-girlfriend, gave me. My hometown.

*The last piece is abstract so difficult to describe. I expect from the color scheme it was from Central America. We got it as a wedding present, I believe.

Pete Shelley

The lead singer/songwriter of Buzzcocks, Pete Shelley, has died, apparently of a heart attack, at the age of 63. Yeesh.

Back in my FantaCo days, c. 1978, I remember listening to Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) on Q-104, WQBK-FM, quite often. I loved, among other things, the double contraction. Someday, maybe we’ll have a conversation about how much on target that title was in my life.

My neighbor Don Levy wrote on Facebook: “Buzzcocks were there at the beginning of punk, and one of the bands (along with The Sex Pistols and The Clash) to receive a fair amount of commercial success. What set them apart from their contemporaries was that they were less concerned with Thatcherism/consumerism/urban violence and more preoccupied with personal relationships.”

Don notes that both Buzzcocks’ first single, Orgasm Addict (1978) and Shelley’s first solo single, Homosapien (1981) were both banned by the BBC, the latter, at least, for “explicit reference to gay sex.”

Arthur, now a half a world away, had a sudden recollection about Homosapien. “Around that time, I remember seeing guys in Chicago wearing white t-shirts with the word ‘Homosapien’ and no other printing. I was sure they were kinsmen, and, at the time, it seemed like they were giving a knowing wink to anyone who knew the song.”

Totally new to me, though, was something Chuck Miller linked to: “Pete Shelley had “a solo LP called XL-1 that got lots of play on my college radio station WHCL. I should note that XL-1 had a feature that allowed one to somehow load the LP into a Sinclair computer and produce a digital music video that ran synchronously with the LP. Thankfully, somebody synched up an old XL-1 copy to a Sinclair … HERE IT IS.” This is, to use the erudite lingo of the record reviewer, REALLY COOL. The lyrics pop up as well as interesting graphics.

Read some tributes from fellow musicians and from Rolling Stone.

Beatles TshirtI was listening to some little ditty which involved the 76-year-old Paul McCartney dancing to one of his new songs from his #1 album Egypt Station, encouraging fans to send in videos doing the same.

Then YouTube, in its infinite wisdom, suggested How Do You Sleep? (Takes 5 & 6, Raw Studio Mix Out-take), John Lennon’s searing takedown of his former writing partner.

From the notes, “excerpted from the 120-page book in the Imagine Ultimate Collection Box Set,” John noted: “You know, there’s two things I regret. One is that there was so much talk about Paul on it, they missed the song. It was a good track….

“And I should’ve kept me mouth shut – not on the song, it could’ve been about anybody, you know?… Dylan said it about his stuff… most of it’s about him. The only thing that matters is how [Paul] and I feel about those things… Him and me are OK… I’ve always been a little, you know, loose. And I hope it’ll change because I’m fed up of waking up in the papers. But if it doesn’t, my friends are my friends whatever way.”

But how was the relationship between John Lennon and George Harrison, who, not incidentally, is seen playing on How Do You Sleep, just before John was shot?

Several fans noted that John showed little interest in George’s songs during the Beatles, he was negative about George’s three-album box set All Things Must Pass and that John had been upset that George had not mentioned him enough in his autobiography (I, Me, Mine).

At some level, December 8, the day in 1980 that John Lennon died, always reminds me of a couple things. How people can be frozen in time, with John forever 40. How you don’t always get a chance to reconcile difficulties with others in life.

When I moved into my new office in October, one of my colleagues kindly bought me a poster of all the Beatles’ albums. This was the week that my intern, who was born in India, noted that she had never heard of The Beatles! Also around that time, Drake broke the Beatles’ Record for Most Top 10 Songs in a Year, though with all of his guest appearances on others’ records, and in a download age, I naturally think the designation deserves an asterisk.

So I bought that T-shirt that reads, “Some Of Us Grew Up Listening To The Beatles, The Cool Ones Still Do,” mostly because it’s true.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon

(Just Like) Starting Over – John Lennon

Coverville 1240: The 15th Annual All-Beatles Thanksgiving Cover Show

civil diobedienceWhile I usually find Facebook debates exhausting and unuseful, I was in the middle of one recently that actually clarified things for me. (All names have been fictionalized. Except for mine, because…)

George posted this article from The Atlantic, Left-Wing Protests Are Crossing the Line. “Protesters harassing prominent conservatives in their private lives fall short of the standards of civil disobedience.”

I agreed with Bethany who noted, “Torches at the front door are NOT the best or most civilized answer. One must use discernment and perspective along with the idealism and righteous anger.” I added, “WE need to be BETTER than they are.”

The pushback began.

Doug: So when an individual uses their professional position to target the well being of other individuals, other individuals admonishing and harassing them as individuals for their actions is inappropriate?

Got it. They can use their pulpit to attack other’s private lives, but once they step off, they’re in the ‘safe zone.’

Noel: We’re dealing with people who don’t care about any of that, though. They want power and supremacy, and they’re willing to hurt real people to attain that goal. Kindness and passiveness are wasted on them.

Doug: I have LGBTQ friends and family, and anyone whose stated purpose is to remove their rights or their personhood entirely is no friend of mine.

Atlantic: The people who scream at Tucker Carlson or Kirstjen Nielsen or Ted Cruz have good reason to be angry. The president of the United States is a bigot. He spreads conspiracy theories; he treats the rule of law with contempt.

[Yet] protests like these, that target people’s private lives, are wrong. They violate fundamental principles of civil disobedience, as understood by its most eminent practitioners and theorists. And they threaten the very norms of human decency that Trump and his supporters have done so much to erode.

Margaret: I identify with Doug’s feeling that someone professionally engaged in causing or fostering harm shouldn’t feel ‘entitled’ to insulate him or herself from confrontation. I must agree with Noel that kindness and consideration is wasted on @$$#0!3$, but also take Roger’s warning that we risk coming off as ‘just as bad’. All this stuff is true.

Atlantic: Whatever the merits of the causes they promote, they are embracing methods that are deeply corrosive. It matters how activists oppose a government. When they prevail, the approaches they embraced in opposition to power deeply shape how they exercise it.

The problem [with those protests] is that they are not sufficiently ‘public’ and ‘conscientious.’ By public, Rawls meant that civil disobedience is a form of political argument. Normal criminals try to break the law without anyone knowing about it. People who commit civil disobedience, by contrast, publicize their infractions to dramatize the injustice they seek to change.

For civil-rights activists… the point was to demand service openly, accept arrest, and thus communicate with the public. In his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” In so doing, they “arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice.”

Bethany: It’s the minefield we must cross. We’ve already seen how confrontations… have been quickly turned against us by our privileged adversaries. We need to win the crowd! We need to invite people to join us, not disgust them or scare them away. We need to cling to honor and exhibit discipline — and show some righteous self-control while bravely confronting forces that could literally destroy the planet — or at least, democracy.

[Each] extreme seeks to achieve rule by intimidation. It becomes autocracy by means of bullying and intimidation. Essentially it comes down to ‘we want your vote, but we have no interest in your (closer to the center) ideas.’ No wonder we are so polarized and dysfunctional. There is no dialogue, tolerance, listening.

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