Tuesday, September 7, 2010

“1952 Vincent Black Lightning”: Lyrics That Tell Us What We’re Not

> An examination of Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” lyrics, and what they tell us about ourselves

Here’s a deceptively simple question: What makes “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” such an incredible song?

My relationship with Richard Thompson’s most-popular tune has always been an uneasy one. I love it, but I don’t know why. On a passive listen, it seems like a fairly vapid, melodramatic love ballad. In a word, it’s cheesy. Yet I can’t listen to it without the risk of my chin quivering.

For years, without having devoted much thought to the matter, I offhandedly assumed its old-world Irish vibe just gave it a romanticism that resonated with me (yes, Richard Thompson is British; but the song feels Irish). Half the blood in me can be traced back to Ireland...but I need go back only as far as the late ‘70s to tap memories of drunken relatives singing “Danny Boy” or “Harrigan” or some such folk song. Anytime I hear a Celtic-sounding guitar or the flitty drone of bagpipes, I well up by reflex. Mix in lyrics about star-crossed lovers and a young man’s death, and you have an effective recipe for drawing the melancholy out of me — whether the art snob in me likes it or not.

But the song is much, much more than that.

For those of you who don’t know the song or its tale, I’ll give you the synopsis:

Girl (Red Molly) meets Boy (James) when she notices his cool motorcycle (a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning) > Some unspoken courtship happens > Boy proposes marriage to Girl, but discloses to her in earnest: “I’m a dangerous man / for I fought with the law since I was 17, / I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine. / Now I’m 21 years, I might make 22, / and I don’t mind dying but for the love of you.” > They marry > Boy gets shot during a robbery > On his deathbed, Boy sums up his existence: “In my opinion, there’s nothing in this world / beats a 52 Vincent and a red-headed girl” > Boy dies, but not before handing the keys to his prized motorcycle to Girl/Wife.

On the surface, it’s a ridiculously simple story that’s fraught with dubious morality. James is an unyielding criminal, for one thing. If he robbed for some known purpose — like food or rent, or even a certain desperately wanted motorcycle — that would be one thing. But none of these are the case. At the start of the song, James already has his motorcycle. And by the second verse, he has his girl, too. These are the only two things that matter to him. So why, if he truly loved Red Molly, would he not change his ways so that they could have a life together?

Because his one-dimensional existence is exactly what she loves about him. And by extension, it’s what we love about him, too — because he’s everything we are not.

James is a sort of Nietzschian √úbermensch (“Superman”). He has no fear of pain or death. He has no kids to worry for. He never stresses over money. He suffers no regret. And he certainly doesn’t envy someone else’s possibly greener grass.

James is who he is.

Now, I understand how underwhelming that sounds. So what, right? Each one of us is who he is, right? Wrong. We are all, each of us, someone else. And none of us really knows who.

The renowned documentary filmmaker Errol Morris was once asked about the interview process. Specifically, he was asked why he believed people were willing to open up and speak honestly to a camera. “I’m not sure we truly have privledged access to our own minds,” he said. “I don’t think we have any idea who we are...we’re engaged in a constant battle to figure out who we are.” The interview process, he believes, is a means by which some portion of that access may be granted. Like meditation or counseling, it’s a process of isolating yourself from the outside world — and the nonstop bombardment of stimuli it projects — to let the white noise fade...and then listen to what’s left. The truth.

But even for those of us who can get there, personal truths are only glimpsed in moments: the profound dream, the Freudian slip, the breakthrough on your analyst’s couch.

I remember the night I first heard “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” I was sitting at the bar in the Khyber, alone, waiting for my friend T. My memory of this stands out for two reasons. First, upon hearing this song I’d never heard before, I had the distinct suspicion I’d known it all my life. The feeling was comforting and strange at the same time.

The second thing I remember continues to embarrass me to this day.

T. was late. The opening band was about to go on. More and more hipsters were floating into the place and congregating in little groups. My self-consciousness started to build. I felt like a pariah sitting there by myself. (The brunette by the jukebox with the tarantula tattoo, is she giggling to her friend about me?) I couldn’t take it. So I looked down the far end of the bar, as if I saw someone I knew down there, and pitched my eyes up as if to say, “Hey!” I even lifted my glass and air-toasted the invisible man. It was pathetic. I couldn’t simply sit there, my pure lone self, and wait for my friend. No. To avoid the secret mocking of strangers (which probably wasn’t even happening), I had to act like someone else — a cooler, more-social version of myself, a version who ran into random friends wherever I went.

Erroll Morris argues that we can’t truly know ourselves. But the harsher reality is, we can’t even be true to who we think we are. That alternate version of Greg I adopted at the Khyber: I did that for strangers. And I’m certainly not alone; we’ve all done something like this, and not just under the tension of an uncomforable social situation. We pull out different versions of ourselves in different day-to-day contexts. Which you are you when you’re with your boss? Your father? Your priest? Your most-successful friend?

The first Noble Truth of Buddhism is: Life is suffering. The second is: The origin of suffering is attachment. Maybe the complexities of existence can be reduced to those two simple statements. Each of us has attachments. We’re attached to what we love, what we fear, what we find inspiring, what we find boring, what we feel is right, what we feel is wrong, and on and on.

James is the opposite of us. He does not suffer, even after a shotgun blast to his chest. For James has managed to do what we, as well-rounded real-life humans, cannot: he’s avoided all the trappings and obligations and existential weights of the world (save for two: his motorcycle and his red-headed girl). He even owns his own unique vision of death: “angels and ariels in leather and chrome / swooping down from Heaven to carry [him] home” — as if it’s almost charming to him; you can picture him smiling as the lights go out.

The richest irony is that, only through attachment can we connect with James. Through our attachment to song and lyrics — to the mysterious art of music — we can embody his perfectly reductive and enviable soul, if only for a short time. For the 4:43 we’re listening to this song (or the 5:16 of the live track above), we vicariously exist as James does: with complete, unbridled freedom.

Kris Kristopherson wrote, and Janis Joplin famously sang, that “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” And that’s the difference, right there. We always have something to lose — some attachment we’re desperate to hold on to. We love “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” not because of its romanticism or its melancholy. We love it because we love the impossible idea of what James is: a way we’ll never be.



Monday, August 30, 2010

On Liberal Arts Education

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
- Thomas Jefferson

Make sure you’re in a serious mood before you click “PLAY.”



Monday, August 16, 2010

Marguerite Nanton

In loving memory of a truly one-of-a-kind lady — shown here in 2007, spellbinding my then four-year-old daughter, S. Regretfully, this is the only photo I have of Marguerite.



Monday, August 9, 2010

Thought of the Day

“I think over again my small adventures,
My fears, those small ones that seemed so big,
For all the vital things I had to get and reach.

And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing:

To live to see the great day that dawns,
And the light that fills the world."

- Anonymous Inuit (Native American) saying

(And yes, I got this from TrueBlood.)



Monday, August 2, 2010


Back in June, President Obama presented Paul McCartney with The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The night featured loads of incredible musicians doing their renditions of McCartney songs.

This may have been my favorite: Herbie Hancock and Corinne Bailey Rae taking on “Blackbird”:




Monday, July 26, 2010

The Magus

For no particular reason, some great morning reading: an excerpt from the opening chapter of John Fowles' The Magus (one of my all-time favorites):


Monday, July 19, 2010

XPoNential Music Fest 2010


Great time yesterday at the XPoNential. I was with my 7-year-old daughter, so I kept my rockin to a minimum. Did catch Dr. Dog’s set, which was excellent...


XPN did a terrific job with the event: the Children’s Garden was a blast, the merchants provided a wide variety of food and drink, and the layout (as always) was easy to walk and fan- and family-friendly. And the people there — the volunteers, the vendors, the attendees — were incredibly, wonderfully human; everyone was watching out for his/her fellow concertgoer in the potentially dangerous heat.

Oh, and the music was fantastic, too.

If you missed it this year, keep it on your radar for July 2011.



Monday, July 12, 2010

Rod Serling

Happy Monday. Enjoy this: Mike Wallace interviewing Rod Serling in 1959, just before premier episode of The Twilight Zone.




Monday, June 14, 2010

The more things change…

“This song goes out to the Exxon corporation.”
- Michael Stipe, in regard to the Exxon Valdez disaster, 1989




Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Stroke of Insight

If you haven’t yet heard about Jill Bolte Taylor — and her book, My Stroke of Insight — lucky you: now you have.




Monday, May 24, 2010

wild life rifle fire

My friend and colleague Paul Siegell has a new book out: wild life rifle fire.

If you’ve never heard of Paul or his work, both are truly out there. “Poet” doesn’t accurately categorize him. Paul’s work is a strange amalgam of poetry, word play and visual art.

I won’t waste your time trying to describe it. You have to experience it for yourself. For a quick taste, check this out:



Monday, May 17, 2010

SHS Reunion, Class of 1989

Went to my high-school reunion this past Saturday night (SHS Class of ’89). It’s been almost 21 years since graduation, and almost as long since I’ve been back home (my parents divorced and my mom sold the house during my first year of college, alas).

It was deep dusk by the time I pulled onto Stokes Road and approached old Medford. A good number of things have changed, but a lot of it seemed frozen in time — the cedar-shingled houses, the sour smell of the lake, lightning bugs flashing in trees. Driving along, looking at these old houses, it struck me that our parents were around the age we are now when they were raising us here. They worked, stressed over money, self-doubted, and worried about the countless things that come with having children. And also like us, they had no idea what they were doing.

But we never knew that. We woke up in those houses every morning, ate our breakfasts, got on our yellow buses…and whatever tensions and tangles we encountered out there in the jungles of childhood, we could always find solace in this notion of Home — in the sights and smells and sounds that were the fabric of this place (Medford / Tabernacle / Shamong). Nothing inherently special about it, except that it was ours…the one place in the great wide world that felt safe and right, the one place where we belonged.

Yeah, you could say it was nice to be back.



Monday, May 10, 2010

Stormy Weather

Jazz great and all-around superb lady Lena Horne has died at age 92.

I heard a story years back, possibly apocryphal, that when Lena first started checking out the Harlem jazz clubs back in the early ‘30s, she was given an odd bit of encouragement from Billie Holiday (who was already a superstar in that context):

The two had been introduced, and a new set about to begin. Billie suggested to young Lena that she get up there and do a song or two in the star’s place to kick it off. Lena protested, saying that she didn’t know how to sing the blues. Billie pushed back: “You got a man treats you bad? You got bills? You got kids? Get up there and sing the blues.” And so she did.

Hilarious since, again, Lena was only about 16 at the time. But she wound up joining the mike chorus at the Cotton Club right after that.

Monday, May 3, 2010


For your listening pleasure: “Pilgrim” by Steve Earle (w/the Del McCoury Band & Emmylou Harris on backing vocals). Just a great, great song.


I never actually saw Steve Earle until I came across a photo a couple of years ago. Prior to that, having only heard that road-weary, campfire voice of his, I’d always visualized some vague version of the Marlboro Man. But then there it was: all this wistful, roadhouse wisdom pouring from a balding homunculus.

The lesson, once again: Kickassitude comes in all forms.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Quintessence of Dust

A quick nod to The Bard, born on this date in 1564.

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason. How infinite in faculties. In form and moving, how express and admirable. In action, how like an angel. In apprehension, how like a god. The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me.”

- from Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2


Monday, April 19, 2010


This has been on YouTube for some time, but I just found out about it. Funniest thing I’ve seen in a while. It’s a montage of cheese-whiz David Caruso one-liners from CSI: Miami.


The action of putting on his sunglasses before every line, followed by the Daltrey scream punctuating it, makes each clip ten-times funnier.


Monday, April 12, 2010

The King (not-Elvis edition)

This is a celebration. A celebration of LeBron James, who is about three weeks away from claiming his second straight MVP nod.

So let the debates begin. Let’s hear the naysayers come out with arguments for Kobe, for Durant, for D-Ho (?). Please.

Just check out this small sampling of what the King has done on the court this season:


Good golly, Miss Molly.

I’m not going to get into stats and PERs and win/loss and all that. ESPN has twenty-seven different writers who will be hashing all that out over these next weeks. LeBron is my 2009-10 MVP for this reason:

If I ran a good NBA team, and we had to play one game (or for that matter, a 7-game series) for our lives, I’d rather play against any other team than the Cavs. And LeBron is the reason.

Even the Lakers — with a fading-but-still-awesome Kobe, a superior supporting cast, and a coach who makes Mike Brown look like a child — don’t put that icy fear in me like the Cavs do. (And to be clear: I’m assuming Shaq is done for the season.)


P.S. This is kind of beside the point, but screw it: LeBron does things that honestly seem to defy the laws of physics. On a breakaway once, I watched him blaze downcourt and somehow get from the top of the key to the rim in ZERO TIME. It looked like a “glitch in the matrix,” where he somehow moved from Point A to Point B without any time elapsing. It was even blurry on the slow-mo playback. Unreal. (I’ve seen only three players in my lifetime who made me jump out of my seat and yell, “Whoa!!!” — a whoa that meant, “How is that humanly possible?!” Those three players? Magic, MJ, LeBron.)

P.P.S. Speaking of MJ: When did Jordan win his first title? His 7th season. What season is LeBron playing right now? His 7th season. (And by the way, he’s only 25 years old.)


Monday, April 5, 2010

Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris

If you haven’t visited this exhibit yet, do yourself a favor and get there. Just a wonderful collection of Cubist work — along with some other miscellany: photographs and the like — culled together from traveling pieces, as well as some of the Phila. Museum’s own.

The exhibit kicks off with a self-portrait Picasso made in 1906:

As you walk in, you’re given a personal MP3-player device, through which you can listen to an “audiotour.” The narrators told me, through my headphones, that Picasso had intended this portrait to show him as a man on top of the art world. Having gone through his Blue and Rose periods, Picasso felt that he was capable of anything and everything; so much so that he illustrated himself without paintbrush — a man beyond tools — implying that he was almost superhuman in his artistic abilities.

But take a close look at Picasso’s face here. Does it say “supreme confidence” to you? He looks lost, like a man at some kind of crossroads. Perhaps, an artist who HAD achieved great success, and now didn’t know what to do for an encore ... expectations — from his critics, his patrons, himself — like weights on his chest ... and he, the artist, standing center-stage, without a clue what to do next (the missing paintbrush as metaphor).

Just saying, maybe.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010


With thoughts of Vincent van Gogh, born on this day in 1853.

“An artist needn’t be a clergyman or a churchwarden, but he certainly must have a warm heart for his fellow men.” -vvg

“Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.” -vvg

“One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way.” -vvg


Monday, March 22, 2010

H.R. 3590

Said Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”

On the morning following the House’s historic vote on national health care reform legislation, I’ll let the good people at The Onion address all the disappointed constituents out there:



Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pictures of You

The fourth-grade chorus at PS22 sings “Pictures of You” by the Cure.


This clip is the quintessence of, “Man, you just never know.”


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Bracket

Just finished my bracket. I already hate it.

[bracket image]

Syracuse feels like a better team than Ohio St., but I just can’t bet against Evan Turner (if that makes any sense). I’m vexed. Oh well, f**k it. I always lose these things.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Peter Graves, RIP

Man, that was quick. Someone already edited together a Peter Graves/Airplane tribute and posted it on YouTube. Bon voyage, Captain Oveur...



Monday, March 8, 2010

The Death of Cool

Greg Ippolito: The Death of Cool


Goldberg Variation

Absolutely jaw-dropping. Truly must-see:


No cutaways, either; this is a one-camera, one-shot film.

The song is pretty rockin', too.


Monday, March 1, 2010

The People v. Bad Company

Bad Company, you are hereby charged with ripping off Joni Mitchell.

Your self-titled song, “Bad Company,” is an almost note-for-note copy of Joni’s transcendent “Woodstock.”

Jurors, let’s examine the evidence. First, “Bad Company”:

Next, “Woodstock”:

In closing, we do recognize that without you, Bad Company, we wouldn’t have Stillwater — and that’s worth noting. But we also recognize that Stillwater isn’t even real, yet “Fever Dog” is a better song than anything you guys ever recorded. That’s right: you guys aren’t as good as a pretend band. That’s also worth noting.

Now, back to the song in question. Beyond being a blatant rip-off, it’s also self-titled. Who does that? A self-titled album, okay. But a self-titled song? Unless you’re name is Wilco, you’re just walking into a hornets’ next with a stunt like that.

Bad Company sucks.

The plaintiff rests.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Shutter Island

I stopped getting excited for new Scorsese movies after Bringing Out the Dead. And I’ve never loved anything Lehane wrote. But somehow, Shutter Island intrigues me. It intrigues me in a I-look-forward-to-Netflixing-it sort of way, but still.


Ben Kingsley pulling a full-on Donald Pleasence (at the :58 mark) cracked me up: “It’s as if she evaporated...straight through the walls.” I hope she escaped to a nearby Nifty Fifties, where she shared a malted with Michael Myers. (Can you picture them? One glass, two straws. Aww.)


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sarah Silverman: Genius

Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” By his gauge, Sarah Silverman has to be considered one of the most sophisticated comedians alive today.

Yes, I’m talking about the same woman who simulated f**king a sack of Babybel cheese. I’m talking about the woman who’s said things like, “Whether you’re gay or bisexual, it doesn’t matter ... because at the end of the day they’re both gross” and “whether you’re black or white or Asian — but just those three — we’re all the same.”

Silverman’s genius is that she crafts faux intolerance that is so ludicrous, it makes its very real counterparts seem even more ridiculous. For example, the aforementioned gay/bisexual joke is funny because the idea of someone secretly feeling that way (that homosexuality is “gross”) is preposterous. (Even if you feel that way yourself, you have to admit — it’s senseless. Not all emotions are legitimate, especially the knee-jerk ones.)

This is so obvious, I feel self-conscious pointing it out. But the thing is (which Silverman keeps revealing): Apparently, it’s NOT that obvious. Because people keep getting offended by it.

Sarah Silverman spoke at the 2010 TED Conference last week, and...apparently offended more than a few. Afterward, via Twitter, TED organizer Chris Anderson criticized Silverman, saying her speech had been “god-awful.” She replied in kind: “Kudos to @TEDChris for making TED an unsafe haven for all! You’re a barnacle of mediocrity on Bill Gates’ asshole.”

Then AOL founder Steve Case chimed in, writing to Silverman (in an open tweet): “Shame on you. The sad thing is you’re not that funny.”

To which she responded (and my God, I love this): “@SteveCase You should be nicer to the last person on earth w an aol account.”

The video has yet to be released (it may never be), but the main offending joke seems to be Silverman’s claim that she’d like to adopt a retarded child, but...

“The only problem with adopting a retarded child is that the retarded child, when you are 80 is, well, still retarded and that [I] wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms of setting them free at age 18, so [I’m] only going to adopt a retarded child with a terminal illness so it has an expiration date.”

So simple. So...why are we still not getting the joke?


P.S. It is rumored that half the TED audience gave Silverman a standing ovation. Perfect.


Monday, February 8, 2010

J.D. Salinger

Strange. Salinger had vanished from the public eye for so many years, his death almost didn’t resonate; it was like we’d lost him years ago and gotten over it. Almost.

For those of you who have been feeling the void (at whatever level), check this out: the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik discussing Salinger with Charlie Rose:



P.S. Also, if you haven’t experienced Salinger in awhile, do yourself a favor and read “Teddy” (the last short in Nine Stories). If you have a little more time, pick up Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, which was always underrated.

P.P.S. Big Love officially sucks now. I may not finish the season. Extremely disappointing.


Monday, February 1, 2010


I haven’t watched the Grammys in years. I flipped it on last night out of boredom, waiting for Big Love to start (which has been a real let-down so far this season, hasn’t it?). Saw Beyonce. Lots and lots of pomp...that just didn’t resonate. Then I caught this (below):


Just so well-done on so many levels, I don’t have the proper words to sum it up (...not a mere 12 hours after-the-fact, anyway). Beautiful song. Brilliant theatrical presentation. Stunning performance. And no one saw it coming.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

“School is a complete failure...”

Linchpin author Seth Godin on the conspiracy of the public school system. Ironically, it’s a thinker.


Friday, January 22, 2010

10,000 Maniacs

Great band, terrible name. Maybe that’s why 10,000 Maniacs failed to achieve mainstream success in an era when absolutely nothing important was happening in pop music (unless you consider Guns ‘n’ Roses important).

Anyway, here’s Natalie Merchant, Steve Gustafson, and the late Robert Buck (yes, Peter’s brother) performing “Dust Bowl” in 1989 — one of the best tracks on an almost completely forgotten-about album (Blind Man’s Zoo).


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Harry Potter

This Onion piece (from “Today NOW!”) just killed me. Watch and enjoy. Unless you’re a person over the age of fourteen who claims a Harry Potter book to be one of your favorite all-time novels; in that case, watch and feel embarrassed.

Adults Go Wild Over Latest In Children's Picture Book Series


Monday, January 18, 2010

Insufficient funds

Everyone knows the stirring end of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. But when is the last time you read the beginning? In honor of the day and the man, please find it below:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream...

- Dr. Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963

Monday, January 11, 2010

Andre Dubus III

The cure for your Monday morning boredom: a four-part interview with Andre Dubus III, from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: