Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Jack Kerouac and UFOs?

When the UFO phenomenon hit the front pages on July 8, 1947 because of the Roswell "flying saucer" incident, our hero Jack Kerouac was living in Ozone Park and just about to hit the road on his first of several cross-country trips that he would later memorialize in On The Road.  What did he think about the UFO phenomenon? I'm not sure. I did a Google search and a quick scan of a couple Kerouac biographies, his letters, and the Facebook Kerouac group: nothing. I need to do more in-depth research.

My own interest in UFOs probably started on Saturday afternoons during my youth, when my friends and I watched Monster Movie Matinee, featuring B-movies like Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, The Thing From Another World, The Day the Earth Stood Still, It Came From Outer Space, etc. I've never had much of a personal UFO sighting experience, although I've seen some weird things in the skies, most notably during a bluegrass festival in upstate New York in the 80s. But I digress....

For the last couple of years, I've been listening to podcasts on my drive to and from work. For one reason or another, I got hooked on a couple in particular that take up the topic of anomalous phenomena (or "Forteana" - see my previous post here) like UFOs, cryptozoology, the paranormal, and the like. My favorites are The Gralien Report, Where Did the Road Go?, and Radio Misterioso.

One of my favorite guests on those podcasts is Red Pill Junkie (RPJ), who I recently commissioned to do this drawing of Crystal:

Graphic by Red Pill Junkie
.
If you're interested in having RPJ do some graphic work for you, he can be found on Facebook and Twitter as well as his blog at https://absurdbydesign.wordpress.com/.

RPJ recently did the cover art and contributed an article to an anthology titled, UFOs: Reframing the Debate, so I felt compelled to get the book and read it. RPJ asked me to write a review on Amazon, which I will do, but I decided to publish it here on my blog as well. 

So, without further ado, here is my review. What does this have to do with Jack Kerouac, you ask? Stay tuned for a future blog post....


A Review of UFOs: Reframing the Debate


There is a disturbance in the ufology force, and it is a book titled, UFOs: Reframing the Debate. Edited by Robbie Graham, this anthology brings together pieces by 14 different authors who each bring a unique and cutting-edge perspective to a field which of late seems to have lost its way, with many researchers zealously fixated on the ETH (Extraterrestrial Hypothesis) and focusing their efforts exclusively on nuts-and-bolts explanations.

As Diana Walsh Pasulka points out in the foreword, “leaving behind the ‘nuts-and-bolts’ approach and embracing the complexity of how the phenomenon affects and shapes belief frees researchers and allows them to gain a broader view of the mechanisms of the phenomenon.” That is the case with the 14 authors included here, who expose the reader to everything from personal experiences to thought experiments in an effort to understand -- not make conclusions -- about what is going on with UFO contact events.

After Dr. Pasulka’s cogent foreword, editor Graham -- no stranger to ufology -- presents an introduction framing the anthology and providing a concise summary of each author’s contribution. A brief biography of each author is included at the end. One of the extremely valuable features of the book are the extensive and relevant citations within the entries as well as in the endnotes. One could follow this path of literary breadcrumbs and easily go down a ufology reading rabbit-hole for months if not years.

There’s something here for veteran ufology fans and researchers as well as for beginners, but a word of caution is in order: there is some tough going here. The authors do assume a certain amount of prior knowledge, plus they are not afraid to challenge longstanding beliefs and perspectives. There are times when readers will be tempted to put the book aside because an author’s perspective is so out of alignment with their own, but as Graham advises, “Don’t do that.” There is a great pay-off for thoughtful persistence through each of the entries.

In this wide-ranging and brilliant collection regarding the current state of ufology, the reader can expect to learn about parapsychology, the role of belief, parasociology, cultural influences, religious connotations, high strangeness aspects, a new classification system, the back story of the Roswell Slides debunking, co-creation, anarchist subversion, trauma analogies, the importance of empathy, and more.

What does all of that have to do with ufology? Get a copy of the book and find out. You won’t be sorry.

UFOs: Reframing the Debate
Cover Design by Red Pill Junkie



Sunday, June 4, 2017

Happy Belated 91st Birthday to Allen Ginsberg

I was aware yesterday that it was Allen Ginsberg's birthday, but I delayed blogging in order to take the easy way out and have something to blog about today (Sundays are the first day of the week in my calendar and I am trying to keep up a weekly streak of posting that has gone on for some time).

Happy 91st Birthday, Allen. While admittedly this is a Kerouac-obsessed blog, without Ginsberg there would be no Kerouac, at least not as we know him today. Ginsberg was a muse to Kerouac as well as a tireless -- and effective -- advocate for getting  Jack's work published.

In his honor, here is a goofy picture of Allen  I'd never seen until yesterday.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Albert Saijo's The Backpacker and a story



Faithful readers of The Daily Beat need no introduction to Albert Saijo, but in case you are dropping by and new to Jack Kerouac, here is a little bit of information.
Albert Fairchild Saijo was born in Los Angeles, the son of a Christian preacher and a Japanese schoolteacher and writer. Studied Zen Buddhism in LA in the late 1940s and in the 1950s moved to the Bay Area, where he met and befriended Jack Kerouac and other Beat poets in San Francisco’s Chinatown. A cross-country drive in 1959 with Kerouac and Lew Welch resulted in a book of “road-trip haiku” called Trip Trap (1973) to which all three contributed. Spent his final years in Hawaii. (Source: Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend, http://www.beatbookcovers.com/kercomp/)
Saijo came to mind a few weeks ago when we were discussing Kerouac's novel, Big Sur, in my Kerouac class at the University of Maine at Farmington. Saijo appears briefly in that novel as George Baso. I had not previously thought about what Saijo may have published besides Trip Trap, and a little searching on Amazon revealed a book titled, The Backpacker. So, on a whim, I ordered it (used was the only option).

Imagine my surprise when the book arrived with a most wonderful note from the seller, Tammy (daughter-in-law of the previous owner). I hope you can enlarge the below photos and read it in its entirety.







As a fan of synchronicity, I point out the following:

-The note on the outside of the envelope ended with "not all those who wander are lost." I own a T-          shirt with that saying on the front (I am not a big Tolkien fan, but love the sentiment)
-The former owner, Earl Douglas Allen, was a teacher, as was I (retiring officially in 3 days)
-Allen, as he liked to be called, loved to hike, as do I.
-Allen was an author, as am I.
-Allen's son, Jonathan, is an author who wrote about shipping out as a merchant seaman, something        our Jack could relate to.

If you are interested in either Allen's or Jonathan's writing, check them out on Amazon.

Warpaint on the Grasshopper by Earl Douglas Allen

The Big Bucks Guide to Shipping Out as a Merchant Seaman by Jonathan Allen (NOTE: Jonathan has other titles as well).

Tammy, I am going to send along a note in the mail and hope you can access this blog post. Thank you for sharing your Dad's story with me. It makes my copy of The Backpacker that much more special. You have given my eventual heirs a fantastic idea for dispersing my book collection!



Monday, May 22, 2017

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac: Make your reservations NOW

In the mail today I received a flyer from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! about the festival this October 5-9. It reminded me that it can be challenging to get lodging in the city as there is really only one choice: the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. Staying there makes most events walkable, or a short UBER or cab ride.

In previous years, we have not had a lot of luck getting rooms at the Inn, so I just went on-line to make reservations. Expedia showed nothing for those dates, but Trivago did and it said it had 4 rooms left when I pulled the trigger on our reservations.

If you are a regular attendee at LCK, you already know it's a worthwhile event to attend if for no other reason than to hang out with fellow Kerouacians for a few days. On top of that, there are open mikes and academic talks and musical events and (this year) a marathon reading of On The Road and, of course, you can schedule a visit to Jack's grave (as we always do). And so on . . . .

So, here is what you shall do. Get on the Trivago website and reserve a room right now at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center for October 5-9. For details about the festival, you can visit the LCK website here: http://www.lowellcelebrateskerouac.org/festival.

I see that link is not yet updated, so for now you can see some details in my previous post from May 14: http://thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com/2017/05/preview-of-lowell-celebrates-kerouac.html.

See you in October, the month when everybody goes home . . . .

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Kerouacian gift from a student



One of my students made this woodburning for me as a retirement gift. It's from Part 1, Chapter 4 of On The Road.

What an excellent and thoughtful gift, right? I love that she made it herself!

Purists will note a small discrepancy from the text, but that is understandable. I suspect my student may have gotten the quote from Goodreads, which cites the original scroll.

Here is the Goodreads quote:
“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”

Here is the original scroll's version:
"...because there's nowhere to go but everywhere, and keep rolling under the stars, generally the western stars."

Here is the classic text's version:
"...because there was nowhere to go but everywhere, keep rolling under the stars, generally the Western stars."

As you can see, there are several differences between the original scroll and the classic version, and the Goodreads entry is not exactly the same as either (bad on Goodreads). Somewhere along the line, someone took this great line and changed it just a little bit and it got repeated by others.

My student gets a pass on this. First of all, it's the thought that counts. Second, it's pretty damn close to the actual quote. Third, when I Google the quote, the top 6 entries are wrong. Fourth, she's one of my majors and not from my Kerouac class. Fifth, even though she wasn't in my Kerouac class, she still knew about my Kerouac obsession. Sixth, even if you wanted to fact-check Goodreads, it's pretty difficult to find passages in the original scroll unless you really know the book (given that there are no chapters and no paragraph breaks, and Goodreads provides no page number).

Lesson to readers: There are lots of misquoted or misattributed "Kerouac quotes" out there. Be careful. One good resource is the Kerouac Wikiquote (but even that is no help in the above instance -- perhaps someone will edit the Wiki to address that): https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Jack_Kerouac.

To my student (if you read this): Sorry to make a lesson out of your gift, but I know the Kerouac community and someone was bound to point this out. Better me than them.

 




Preview of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival October 5-9, 2017

I recently received the below e-mail from the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Committee. With participants like John Leland (author of Why Kerouac Matters), Kerouac friends and musicians Ramblin' Jack Elliott and David Amram -- how can you  miss it? Also, this is the 60th anniversary of publication of On The Road in 1957, so a marathon reading of Jack's most famous novel will be happening at Pollard Memorial Library where Jack spent many a day playing hooky from high school reading his way into literary history.

If you go -- and I hope you will -- make sure to take flash pictures during Ramblin' Jack Elliott's performance. He loves that. (Not! To wit, see my January 13, 2013 post: http://thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com/2013/01/san-francisco-kerouactivities-report.html).

UPDATE ON MAY 16, 2017: The LCK Committee has announced since the below e-mail that Ramblin' Jack will not be at the festival this year.

Here's the e-mail:

Preview of Coming Attractions:
The 2017 Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival
October 5-9, 2017

Save those dates as it will be a great time in Lowell for Kerouac devotees. Some of the events for the 2017 LCK Festival are being built around the 60th anniversary of the publication of On the Road. The featured speaker will be John Leland, a feature writer for The New York Times and the author of Why Kerouac Matters--The Lessons of "On the Road" (They're Not What You Think).

A marathon reading of OTR is being scheduled to be held at Lowell's Pollard Memorial Library.

Our featured performer will be Ramblin' Jack Elliott, a contemporary of Jack Kerouac, Woody Guthrie, and others of that era. He'll be on at Zorba's Music Hall on Saturday night, October 7.

No LCK Festival would be compete without the enduring and loving presence of David Amram. He'll be on at Zorba's on Friday night for a showing of the classic film Pull My Daisy, followed with commentary by David and Nancy Fox. This will be followed by an evening of jazz with David and local musicians. The annual Amram Jam will happen, of course, on Sunday afternoon.

And there will be the usual array of tours, open mikes, art exhibitions, Talkin' Jack, and--perhaps most important--the reconnecting of Kerouac aficionados from around the country and various parts of the world.

The full schedule will be up on our website once we get it in place; www.lowellcelebrateskerouac.org. Make your plans now to be in Lowell come October!

The Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Committee





Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Buddhist Bible: Jack's only book on Desolation Peak



I just scored this used copy of Dwight Goddard's A Buddhist Bible. It was a significant influence on Jack Kerouac, so much so that, according to John Suiter in Poets on the Peaks:

Kerouac took only one book with him to Desolation: his leather-jacketed Buddhist Bible, with its marker ribbon set to the pages of the Diamond Sutra.....Jack read the Diamond Sutra, following his practice of studying one paramita/chapter a day in a weekly cycle, as he had been doing more or less regularly since 1955. (p. 210)

Jack borrowed and never returned his copy of A Buddhist Bible from the San Jose Public Library in early 1954 during a visit with Neal and Carolyn Cassady. According to Suiter:

...he had a rough leather cover made for it and carried the book around with him all over the United States and Mexico, reading it nearly every day for the next four years. The Diamond Sutra especially inspired him -- "the diamond that cuts through/to the other view," as he would call it in Orizaba Blues. (p. 166)

For some back story on Kerouac's use of the phrase "MAY YOU USE THE DIAMONDCUTTER OF MERCY" in The Dharma Bums, see my April 14, 2012 post at http://thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com/2012/04/beat-generation-back-story-jack-kerouac.html.

Perhaps in retirement I shall take up Jack's reading practice in order "to condition ... [my] mind to 'emptiness' and, if possible, to actually bring on a vision" as he was trying to do on Desolation (Suiter, p. 210).


P.S. Don't you wonder what Jack's fine has accumulated to at the San Jose Public Library?