Jai Guru Deva. Om

 

I like the news. Last week CNN aired Our Nixon, a collection of home-movies and media reports from President Nixon's administration. It's not like I was enthralled, wondering where the plot led. Sorry for the ruining the ending, but Nixon leaves office after the Watergate scandal.

At the height of the Vietnam War, Nixon invited the über square group, the Ray Conniff Singers to the White House. President Nixon said, "And if the music is square, it's because I like it square." Oddly, I might say that, which scares me. Carol Feraci, one of the Ray Conniff Singers, hid a message reading, "Stop the Killing" in her dress. Once she walked on stage she removed it and said, "President Nixon, stop bombing human beings, animals and vegetation. You go to church on Sundays and pray to Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ were here tonight, you would not dare to drop another bomb. Bless the Berrigans and bless Daniel Ellsberg." Then she and the group break into a super saccharin rendition of Ma! He's Making Eyes at me.

The response from the room after the group finished included comments like, "She should be torn limb from limb."

The salient moment here is the time between the speech from Feraci and the start of the music. The schizophrenia of the time is remarkably obvious. A revolutionary response to an unpopular war is thrown at the audience with clear language about death and reality. Seconds later, this is swept away and replaced with music that is intended to sanitize and sedate. It is astonishing to see the obvious desperation here with everyone: the desperate revolutionary act, and the frantic desire to shut reality out.

Kent State University, Ohio, May 4, 1970

Ray Conniff, Friendly Persuasion

Party Like It's 1968, part 1

Last week I managed to crash this blog. I don’t know how, but Noreen said I did, so it’s probably true. In rebuilding the cabin, I found the year 1968 to appear more than any other. Now, a good editor would say, “Well, then, let’s make sure we cover other years.” But I say, “Let’s have more.” So prepare yourself.

I don’t know why 1968 shows up so much. It was a pivotal year in American culture. The Cultural Revolution was at its height. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, and Barbarella were released and depicted three distinctly different visions of the future. The Democratic National Convention in Chicago became a firestorm. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. And Richard Nixon was elected President.

In 1968, design had a wonderful combination of smart ideas mixed with a bolder palette and less rigid approach. On the whole, in design, this was the last gasp of the “simple big idea” school. By 1970, design had adopted expressive illustration and more intuitive solutions. If you think I had a personal connection to 1968, like high school graduation, you are wrong. I was four. We lived in the Haight in San Francisco, I was in an experimental co-op nursery school, and the first movie I remember seeing was Barbarella.