Here is your open thread for March 30, 2020.
Today is Tracy Chapman’s 56th birthday.
I saw Chapman live during the big Amnesty tour in ’88. She killed it with an acoustic guitar in JFK stadium. Then she came back out to sing the Kate Bush part on “Don’t Give Up” in Peter Gabriel’s set. Amazing.
The song above is terrific, but I was also tempted to go with her biggest hit, “Fast Car” (which, I repeat, is what “Thunder Road” sounds like from Mary’s point of view). Or maybe with “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution.” That song has aged well, but it has still aged — and it’s dismaying to sing along with lines like “Finally the tables are starting to turn” and realize you’d been singing along with that line for 32 years, and to think about what those 32 years have wrought. It wasn’t a pipe dream back then — revolution was in the air in 1989 and the world was changing, massively, right before our eyes — but the past three decades have shown us something about how such change does and does not happen. I no longer believe the sleeping giant will awaken because I no longer believe the sleeping giant is real. If waking the sleeping giant is still Plan A, and Plan B, and Plan C, then I think we need a better plan.
Speaking of revolutions, the Sicilian Vespers began on March 30, 1282. The people of Sicily overthrew their French rulers, elected local leaders, and set out to create independent, proto-democratic city states. That soon devolved into a war involving several kings, a pope, and an emperor. They had a new foreign king by September. This was not the last time that the attempt to create a free society by slaughtering French nobility failed to produce the desired outcome.
March 30, 1854, was election day in Bleeding Kansas. Armed thugs from Missouri took over polling places, violently suppressed free-state votes, voted fraudulently themselves, and otherwise outrageously cheated to “elect” a pro-slavery legislature in the territory. John Brown may have otherwise been misled by the wake-the-sleeping-giant illusion, but he wasn’t wrong about Kansas.
On March 30, 1867, US Secretary of State William H. Seward purchased what is now the state of Alaska for $7.2 million. That anniversary is a good excuse to reiterate my recommendation of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan and three others were injured by a gunman outside of the Washington, DC, Hilton. Reagan recovered quickly and saw his popularity increase enormously in the wake of the assassination attempt, allowing him to push his planned budget cuts through Congress. America has yet to recover from those.
Mary Whiton Calkins was born 157 years ago today. She was a psychologist and philosopher, an academic who was also an activist in support of women’s right to vote. When Harvard refused to allow her, as a woman, to receive a doctorate, Radcliffe offered her one, but she turned it down because she wanted to continue pressuring Harvard to change its discriminatory policy.
Sean O’Casey was born 140 years ago today. I’ve never seen any of his plays, but I used to go to the Plough & the Stars in Philly after rehearsals.
Albert Pierrepoint was born 115 years ago today. “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Millionaire media mogul and religious deformer Paul Crouch would have been 86 years old today. Crouch died in 2013, but his Trinity Broadcasting Network continues to crucify Christ anew, 24/7, check your local cable provider for listings.
Happy 90th birthday today to John Astin. Happy 83rd to Warren Beatty. Eric Clapton turns 75 today. Robbie Coltrane turns 70.
Paul Reiser turns 64. MC Hammer touches 58. Tabloid TV host and internet-dunkee Piers Morgan turns 55. Celine Dion turns 52. I’ve never bought her albums, but I respect the pipes.
Norah Jones turns 41 today. Since I saw them play this one at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, and since we just learned that John Prine is critically ill with coronavirus, goddammit, here’s Jones and Richard Julian doing “That’s the Way That the World Goes Round.”
March 30 is National Doctor’s Day. Most years we don’t all have an easy way to support doctors or to express our gratitude to them for their work, but this year we really, really do. Stay home. And call your representatives at every level of government to demand that doctors and nurses and everybody else on the front lines has access to the tools and PPE they need to do their jobs safely.
It’s a mighty mean and a dreadful sorrow, but talk amongst yourselves.