Zócalo Public SquareChronicles – Zócalo Public Square http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org Ideas Journalism With a Head and a Heart Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:01:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Aesthetic Translationhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/17/aesthetic-translation/chronicles/poetry/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/17/aesthetic-translation/chronicles/poetry/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 08:01:30 +0000 By Natalie Scenters-Zapico http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89404

 
*This poem includes text in italics from “Drug War on Doorsteps All Over Ciudad Juárez,” by Stephen Holden and “Ciudad Juárez, a Border City Known for Killing, Gets Back To Living,” by Damien Cave, both published in The New York Times.

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*This poem includes text in italics from “Drug War on Doorsteps All Over Ciudad Juárez,” by Stephen Holden and “Ciudad Juárez, a Border City Known for Killing, Gets Back To Living,” by Damien Cave, both published in The New York Times.

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Virgil Avenue & Other Geographieshttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/10/virgil-avenue-geographies/chronicles/poetry/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/10/virgil-avenue-geographies/chronicles/poetry/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 08:01:54 +0000 By Lynne Thompson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89294 I

It was a beginning like any other which isn’t
quite the way it was. With beginnings,

where to start? The house that was my first
was a house that Daddy brought to Virgil

atop a flatbed truck. He made his boys fix
it to the foundation, then do whatever else

was necessary to create a kind of permanence.
I wasn’t there then. Then I was, driving Daddy

through the old neighborhood where the house was,
as memories tend to be, smaller than he remembered.

II

I was part of his vision of a wind-whipped Schwinn,
part get-away, part stay-put, all pout and tough rules,
Dragnet and Jack Benny. But I had a mind, and I began
to pursue the life of it. Only half-present, only vaguely
aware of something beyond presence. Of those years,
I recall a boy—Henry—not as I knew him then, but
the way I knew

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I

It was a beginning like any other which isn’t
quite the way it was. With beginnings,

where to start? The house that was my first
was a house that Daddy brought to Virgil

atop a flatbed truck. He made his boys fix
it to the foundation, then do whatever else

was necessary to create a kind of permanence.
I wasn’t there then. Then I was, driving Daddy

through the old neighborhood where the house was,
as memories tend to be, smaller than he remembered.

II

I was part of his vision of a wind-whipped Schwinn,
part get-away, part stay-put, all pout and tough rules,
Dragnet and Jack Benny. But I had a mind, and I began
to pursue the life of it. Only half-present, only vaguely
aware of something beyond presence. Of those years,
I recall a boy—Henry—not as I knew him then, but
the way I knew him when I was never to see him
again, realizing too late his Armenian surname had
been thrown on a heap. You might ask why he never
told me. You might ask why everyone is always looking
behind; perhaps it is

III

…because it is all ephemeral by which I mean to say
every one of us gets suckered by the gods. California,

for example, the first of the fifty states to honor an insect—
a Dogface butterfly with a glide-range that can’t

outspread the topograph’s shifting, golden borders—
it’s bluish-black, sulfur-yellow insufficient to hoodwink

impermanence with its showy display in the chaparral of
the southern Santa Anas. Tribe: coliadini; genus: z. Eurydice.

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Contingencieshttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/03/contingencies/chronicles/poetry/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/03/contingencies/chronicles/poetry/#respond Fri, 03 Nov 2017 07:01:28 +0000 By Nicholas Reiner http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89180 We cross the Vincent Thomas bridge
in our Hyundai Santa Fe. We’re on our way
to my grandparents’ house
& then the market to get husks for the tamales.
Our car begins to shake
& the ground beneath seems to wiggle.
It is time for the bridge to collapse
after 83 years. Cars begin careening
off, some hang over the edge like they’re about
to go skydiving but not quite ready to jump. Some zoom right
off like they’re racing. All the cars
have noise-canceling interiors so
it is silent. You & me knew
this would happen eventually
& we are prepared. We press the
“Fly” button in our car
& soon the red car is lifted
off the crumbling ground
not by wings. We are not scared. This is happening
at the crest of the bridge. The cars
below are becoming smaller
& to our right
there are five

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We cross the Vincent Thomas bridge
in our Hyundai Santa Fe. We’re on our way
to my grandparents’ house
& then the market to get husks for the tamales.
Our car begins to shake
& the ground beneath seems to wiggle.
It is time for the bridge to collapse
after 83 years. Cars begin careening
off, some hang over the edge like they’re about
to go skydiving but not quite ready to jump. Some zoom right
off like they’re racing. All the cars
have noise-canceling interiors so
it is silent. You & me knew
this would happen eventually
& we are prepared. We press the
“Fly” button in our car
& soon the red car is lifted
off the crumbling ground
not by wings. We are not scared. This is happening
at the crest of the bridge. The cars
below are becoming smaller
& to our right
there are five seagulls
flying almost together.
They do not look at us
in our flying sedan
because what are we to them?
Do you want to hold hands now? I don’t need
to have them on the wheel.

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The Beginning of the Endhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/27/the-beginning-of-the-end/chronicles/poetry/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/27/the-beginning-of-the-end/chronicles/poetry/#respond Fri, 27 Oct 2017 07:01:07 +0000 By Sarah Louise Garrido http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89026 Stitch up the trees,
tripping over
the end of time.

Could it be jubilant
to come apart?

Earth to fire to air
in a brilliant instant,
nuclear alchemy
splitting the bone.

I try to remind myself
how petty we are
in the face of life’s evaporation.

Captured by tides:
resistance // embrace.

An ocean growing slowly between us.

Spouting from secret wells,
glimpses of terror
at 2:30 p.m.: will you leave will you
love will you believe in me even now.

These small stakes break us,
make sure we don’t hear

the winds beginning
to pick up, the light shifting,
the branches cracking.

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Stitch up the trees,
tripping over
the end of time.

Could it be jubilant
to come apart?

Earth to fire to air
in a brilliant instant,
nuclear alchemy
splitting the bone.

I try to remind myself
how petty we are
in the face of life’s evaporation.

Captured by tides:
resistance // embrace.

An ocean growing slowly between us.

Spouting from secret wells,
glimpses of terror
at 2:30 p.m.: will you leave will you
love will you believe in me even now.

These small stakes break us,
make sure we don’t hear

the winds beginning
to pick up, the light shifting,
the branches cracking.

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62http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/20/62-2/chronicles/poetry/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/20/62-2/chronicles/poetry/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 07:01:38 +0000 By Parker Tettleton http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88896 I dream about you during the work week with teddy bears in my mouth &
you with a sword impossible to own. The second sentence is love isn’t
loving anyone for less than your entire life if you want your life to last that
long
. We come together for the sake of not knowing what else to do. The
words are the ones, along with the sounds, that define us & lay us down to
rest. The living part of me believes the earth is a chapel.

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62
appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

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I dream about you during the work week with teddy bears in my mouth &
you with a sword impossible to own. The second sentence is love isn’t
loving anyone for less than your entire life if you want your life to last that
long
. We come together for the sake of not knowing what else to do. The
words are the ones, along with the sounds, that define us & lay us down to
rest. The living part of me believes the earth is a chapel.

The post

62
appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

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22http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/13/22/chronicles/poetry/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/13/22/chronicles/poetry/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 07:01:43 +0000 By Celina Su http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88763 His ardor turned into an antelope-shaped ice sculpture, its taste and shape memorialized
at film festivals all over Spain. Hers fossilized into ambivalent scorn, trapped under a notebook
in Arkansas.

Whenever you wish to, you may conjure me. If I were little beside these digital images,
serving as half-erased traces of whatever latest—or oldest—interpretation you attempt to
inscribe in pixilated ink.

Global landscapes are not altered alone, or via central planning. Think of the big bowl in
Brasília, the Cross-Bronx Expressway, the route between kitchen and bathroom where you
live. I see the steps we have taken; our gloves sit listlessly at the bottoms of our drawers,
bins, knapsacks. My hands are frostbitten, his bear the burns from last summer. Still, this is
migration, this is the making of homes.

These days, Beijing counts the number of “blue sky days” each year on a single hand. Acrid
yellow sandstorms from

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His ardor turned into an antelope-shaped ice sculpture, its taste and shape memorialized
at film festivals all over Spain. Hers fossilized into ambivalent scorn, trapped under a notebook
in Arkansas.

Whenever you wish to, you may conjure me. If I were little beside these digital images,
serving as half-erased traces of whatever latest—or oldest—interpretation you attempt to
inscribe in pixilated ink.

Global landscapes are not altered alone, or via central planning. Think of the big bowl in
Brasília, the Cross-Bronx Expressway, the route between kitchen and bathroom where you
live. I see the steps we have taken; our gloves sit listlessly at the bottoms of our drawers,
bins, knapsacks. My hands are frostbitten, his bear the burns from last summer. Still, this is
migration, this is the making of homes.

These days, Beijing counts the number of “blue sky days” each year on a single hand. Acrid
yellow sandstorms from Ulaanbaatar lash against Tokyo, against Juneau, against San
Francisco. The waters no longer sing.

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Toward a Weddinghttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/06/toward-a-wedding/chronicles/poetry/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/06/toward-a-wedding/chronicles/poetry/#respond Fri, 06 Oct 2017 07:01:49 +0000 By Jordan Nakamura http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88581

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We Eat Like Kingshttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/09/29/eat-like-kings/chronicles/poetry/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/09/29/eat-like-kings/chronicles/poetry/#respond Fri, 29 Sep 2017 07:01:55 +0000 By Marc Malandra http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88220 Briny and smiling, he stood
in the kitchen, pulled me over
to the pot, lifted the lid:
an odd insect with pomegranate-
seed eyes waved its feelers
like awkward chopsticks.
I pitied this fish-knight,
fully armored and fallen
into a boiling, iron bay.
As teenagers we poach lobster
after midnight to slip Gamies,
craft traps in the canyon,
smuggle them aboard our skiff,
bait chum and let them sink.
By dark we hoist stuffed
lobster pots up from the coves,
spider crabs, leopard sharks,
captives thrashing or side
-stepping across the deck, eels
slipping from traps like tongues
cut loose from a jaw. Reaching
in for gold, we twist off tails,
count each one as cash
in town where we sell bugs
secretly to restaurants. We
eat like kings all summer:
lobster & steak, lobster & eggs,
our hands swollen and scarred,
our eyes tired and belying a double
life

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Briny and smiling, he stood
in the kitchen, pulled me over
to the pot, lifted the lid:
an odd insect with pomegranate-
seed eyes waved its feelers
like awkward chopsticks.
I pitied this fish-knight,
fully armored and fallen
into a boiling, iron bay.
As teenagers we poach lobster
after midnight to slip Gamies,
craft traps in the canyon,
smuggle them aboard our skiff,
bait chum and let them sink.
By dark we hoist stuffed
lobster pots up from the coves,
spider crabs, leopard sharks,
captives thrashing or side
-stepping across the deck, eels
slipping from traps like tongues
cut loose from a jaw. Reaching
in for gold, we twist off tails,
count each one as cash
in town where we sell bugs
secretly to restaurants. We
eat like kings all summer:
lobster & steak, lobster & eggs,
our hands swollen and scarred,
our eyes tired and belying a double
life that might cage us.

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How the South Recast Defeat as Victory with an Army of Stone Soldiershttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/09/28/south-recast-defeat-victory-army-stone-soldiers/chronicles/who-we-were/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/09/28/south-recast-defeat-victory-army-stone-soldiers/chronicles/who-we-were/#comments Thu, 28 Sep 2017 07:01:25 +0000 By Gaines M. Foster http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88197 Monuments to Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders have long been controversial, but monuments to nameless Confederate soldiers, those lone stone figures in public places, are far more common and have long served as an iconic symbol of the South. Understanding the origins of these stone soldiers who still loom over present-day towns and cities may help us better understand current controversies over them.

The white South began to erect soldiers’ monuments soon after the Confederacy’s defeat. In the first two decades after the war, communities most often chose a simple obelisk or other monument of funeral design and placed it in a cemetery. Former Confederates thereby mourned their dead and memorialized their cause. Even in the early years after the war, though, some monuments featured a sculpture of a soldier and occupied a more public place—a practice that increased over the next two decades.

The vast majority of Confederate

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What It Means to Be American Monuments to Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders have long been controversial, but monuments to nameless Confederate soldiers, those lone stone figures in public places, are far more common and have long served as an iconic symbol of the South. Understanding the origins of these stone soldiers who still loom over present-day towns and cities may help us better understand current controversies over them.

The white South began to erect soldiers’ monuments soon after the Confederacy’s defeat. In the first two decades after the war, communities most often chose a simple obelisk or other monument of funeral design and placed it in a cemetery. Former Confederates thereby mourned their dead and memorialized their cause. Even in the early years after the war, though, some monuments featured a sculpture of a soldier and occupied a more public place—a practice that increased over the next two decades.

The vast majority of Confederate monuments were erected between 1890 and 1912, and most of these consisted of a single soldier, with his hands folded over the top of his rifle’s barrel and with its stock resting on the ground. Typically, the soldier stood atop a column on the courthouse lawn or some other central public space. These statues hardly seemed martial, much less ready to attack. Indeed, they looked surprisingly calm and at ease. They did not always face north, as folklore has it but, rather, whichever way the courthouse faced.

An advertisement for soldier monuments in the magazine, Confederate Veteran. Image courtesy of Gaines Foster.

The origins and purposes of these monuments to the common Confederate soldier is complex. They resulted, in part, from a commercial campaign. Monument companies advertised in veterans’ magazines and hired agents to travel the South. They offered credit terms (lest the veterans die before a town could raise the money for a memorial) and, in one ad, even offered a free marble breadboard to the secretary of any United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter that ordered a monument.

The companies, though, were exploiting an important cultural movement. Putting up soldiers’ monuments was a central ritual of the Lost Cause, a shorthand term for an organized attempt by the Daughters, Confederate veterans, and many other white Southerners to shape the memory of the Civil War. Southern whites erected Confederate soldier monuments for at least three interrelated reasons.

The leaders of the Lost Cause first sought to honor the veterans of the war. The monuments expressed white society’s appreciation and respect for the soldiers’ wartime sacrifice, constituting a more profound and permanent version of today’s off-hand “thank you for your service.” The monuments also reassured the veterans that, despite losing on the battlefield, they had fought honorably and well—and for the noblest of reasons.

The Lost Cause and the monuments that emerged from it also sought to vindicate the Confederacy itself. The white South’s memory of the war claimed that soldiers fought for states’ rights and the defense of their homes and families. The Lost Cause also proclaimed secession to be legal, denied the centrality of slavery to the war, ignored the evil inherent in the South’s peculiar institution, and over time romanticized it. The monuments thereby celebrate not just the veterans but the Confederacy and, despite the attempt to deny it, its cause—slavery.

The Lost Cause thereby offered a vision of the “proper” social order, one in which the lower classes deferred to leaders, women proved loyal to men, and African Americans remained subservient to whites.

Finally, although they celebrated the Confederacy, the monuments and the Lost Cause were as much about the present as the past. In honoring the faithful soldier, the Lost Cause’s leaders made him a model for the lower classes in a turbulent period of change in the South and the nation.

The erection of the monuments followed the populist revolt and widespread labor unrest. The soldier statues were a reminder that, as during the war—when Confederate soldiers loyally followed aristocratic leaders like Lee into battle—the middle and lower classes should be loyal to a hierarchical society. The Lost Cause thereby offered a vision of the “proper” social order, one in which the lower classes deferred to leaders, women proved loyal to men, and African Americans remained subservient to whites. In the same decades in which most of the soldiers’ monuments went up, the white South created a repressive racial order based on segregation, disfranchisement, lynching, and other forms of white racial violence.

The story of the Lost Cause’s monuments to the Confederate soldier reveals the difficulty of knowing how to honor soldiers’ sacrifices without embracing or even justifying their cause—a problem also faced by later generations of Americans struggling over some subsequent wars. It shows that monuments emerge more from memory—an attempt to shape the past—than from the history that actually happened. And, in the midst of a public debate over Confederate monuments, it reminds us that memory and its symbols have less to say about history and more to proclaim about the shape of society in the present and the future.

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How Bullwinkle Helped Us Laugh Off Nuclear Annihilationhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/09/25/bullwinkle-helped-us-laugh-off-nuclear-annihilation/chronicles/who-we-were/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/09/25/bullwinkle-helped-us-laugh-off-nuclear-annihilation/chronicles/who-we-were/#comments Mon, 25 Sep 2017 07:01:46 +0000 By Beth Daniels http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88138 “Mr. Chairman, I am against all foreign aid, especially to places like Hawaii and Alaska,” says Senator Fussmussen from the floor of a cartoon Senate in 1962. In the visitors’ gallery, Russian agents Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale are deciding whether to use their secret “Goof Gas” gun to turn the Congress stupid, as they did to all the rocket scientists and professors in the last episode of Bullwinkle.

Another senator wants to raise taxes on everyone under the age of 67. He, of course, is 68. Yet a third stands up to demand, “We’ve got to get the government out of government!” The Pottsylvanian spies decide their weapon is unnecessary: Congress is already ignorant, corrupt, and feckless.

Hahahahaha. Oh, Washington.

That joke was a wheeze half a century ago, a cornball classic that demonstrates the essential charm of the Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends,

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What It Means to Be American “Mr. Chairman, I am against all foreign aid, especially to places like Hawaii and Alaska,” says Senator Fussmussen from the floor of a cartoon Senate in 1962. In the visitors’ gallery, Russian agents Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale are deciding whether to use their secret “Goof Gas” gun to turn the Congress stupid, as they did to all the rocket scientists and professors in the last episode of Bullwinkle.

Another senator wants to raise taxes on everyone under the age of 67. He, of course, is 68. Yet a third stands up to demand, “We’ve got to get the government out of government!” The Pottsylvanian spies decide their weapon is unnecessary: Congress is already ignorant, corrupt, and feckless.

Hahahahaha. Oh, Washington.

That joke was a wheeze half a century ago, a cornball classic that demonstrates the essential charm of the Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends, the cartoon show that originally aired between 1959 and 1964 about a moose and a squirrel navigating Cold War politics.

High-flyin’ duo: Giant balloons of Rocky and Bullwinkle soar over Broadway in Manhattan during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Nov. 28, 1996. Photo by Doug Kanter/Associated Press.

I’ve been wistful about the show of late, as I’m sure many of my generation are. Last month, we lost the great June Foray, the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and many others. Her passing gave me pause to reflect on how important the show was during my formative years and how far-reaching its influence is on satire today. Bullwinkle was, like so many of the really good cartoons, technically before my time (I was born the year it ended). My sister and I caught it in syndication as part of our regular weekend cartoon lineup of Looney Tunes, Jonny Quest, and The Jetsons, from elementary through high school.

It wasn’t that Bullwinkle the character was especially compelling. He was an affable doofus with a loyal heart, if limited brainpower. Rocky was the more intelligent straight man: a less hostile Abbott to Bullwinkle’s more secure Costello. They were earnest do-gooders who took every obviously shady setup at face value. Their enemies were far cleverer, better resourced, and infinitely more cunning, but Rocky and Bullwinkle always prevailed. Always. For absolutely no good reason. It was a sendup of every Horatio Alger, Tom Swift, plucky-American-hero-wins-against-all-odds story ever made.

What we didn’t know in the ’70s, when we were watching, was that this was pretty subversive stuff for a children’s program made at the height of the Cold War. Watching this dumb moose and his rodent pal continually prevail against well-funded human saboteurs gave me pause to consider, even as a kid, that perhaps it is a silly idea to believe that just because we’re the good guys we should always expect to win.

The animation was stiff but sweet, the puns plentiful and painful. The show poked fun at radio, television, and movie tropes, and took playful aim at Cold War spycraft. Part of the fun was that Bullwinkle wasn’t a regular cartoon, but an animated half-hour variety show. And variety shows used to be so much of a thing that I am stunned there is no niche cable network devoted to them today.

Every episode of the Bullwinkle show featured two cliffhanger segments in the adventures of Bullwinkle J. Moose and Rocket J. Squirrel, pitted against master spies Boris and Natasha, all narrated breathlessly by erstwhile radio star William Conrad. Between each serial installment were stand-alone features, including Peabody’s Improbable History, wherein Mr. Peabody, a genius dog, and his pet boy, Sherman, travel through time to make terrible puns; Fractured Fairy Tales, updated twists on Grimm Brothers classics; Dudley Do-Right, a parody of silent melodramas starring a cleft-chinned Canadian Mountie; and Aesop & Son, modernized versions of Aesop’s fables as told by Charlie Ruggles, star of silent and classic films. Other features included Bullwinkle’s Corner, an over-enunciated poetry reading, and Mr. Know-It-All, in which Bullwinkle tries and fails to teach us something.

Tom Lehrer’s topical, bitingly satirical songs exemplified a dark vein of humor that ran through the Eisenhower-Kennedy era. Image courtesy of Lawrence/Flickr.

The variety show format enabled three things. First, its gloss of adult sophistication completely undercut by silliness was incredibly attractive to me and my sister. Secondly, it got us to delight in the work of a revolving cast of top-notch, old school voice actors who’d grown up in radio and knew how to sell a line. June Foray, for example, is the common thread that weaves together the everyman fast-talkers of Warner Bros. films (she voiced Granny and Witch Hazel for Looney Tunes), the pop culture and political satire of Stan Freberg, and the Cold War kiddie fare of Bullwinkle (as Rocky, Nell Fenwick, Natasha, and more).

Fractured Fairy Tales were narrated by veteran actor Edward Everett Horton, a Warner Bros. stable favorite, and featured Daws Butler (Elroy Jetson), a Stan Freberg comedy show veteran, along with Paul Frees and June Foray. Before giving voice to Dudley Do-Right’s nemesis Snidely Whiplash, Hans Conried was better known as Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan, as well as for his years’ long yeoman’s work on radio mystery shows, I Love Lucy, and Burns and Allen.

Finally, the show’s format and depth of talent connected my sister and me to a world of comedy that was well before our time, but helped us navigate what came afterwards. Apart from Sesame Street and The Electric Company (whose cast was a gift to future Broadway lovers) the cartoon landscape during the 1970s was bleak. I don’t know what happened during the Summer of Love to cause formerly respectable shops like Hanna-Barbera to go from Jonny Quest to Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, but it can’t have been pretty. In those grim years when cable was not yet available to the common man and one had to physically get up to change the channel (or make one’s sister do it), we relied on three networks, a local PBS affiliate, and a couple of random UHF stations for our home entertainment. By setting the contemporary junk fare right up against reruns of infinitely better material, regular television gave my sister and me a great education in quality satire, voice recognition, and genius parody.

There was also the added benefit of our mother’s healthy collection of comedy albums—Stan Freberg, Tom Lehrer, Nichols & May, and vintage Woody Allen—all of which are of the same era as Bullwinkle and feature some of the same performers. My parents and these comedians belong to the so-called “Silent” Generation—that cohort born between 1925 and 1945—too young to be the Greatest and too old to be Boomers. Born during times of economic insecurity, this group came of age during the McCarthy Era and is marked, understandably, by a desire not to rock the boat too much. While they weren’t as culturally radical as the Boomers of the ’60s, the artists and cultural provocateurs of the Silent Generation loved to take a whack at the Eisenhower status quo, not to mention psychoanalysis and the Bomb.

The late June Foray, shown on the job on Nov. 2, 1967, gave voice to Rocky the Flying Squirrel, babies, birds, cackling witches, and many other animated characters. Photo by George Brich/Associated Press.

Because we loved these old records and shows, my sister and I ended up singing along with Tom Lehrer about German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun (about whom we knew nothing), did the Vatican Rag and the Masochism Tango (ditto).

And so, through Bullwinkle, we were granted access to nearly a century’s worth of comedy and satire, three generations of backhanded patriotism tempered with gentle skepticism going back to vaudeville, a sort of atavistic psychic tool chest for navigating strange and scary times.

Bullwinkle was there when PBS pre-empted all programming to air the Watergate hearings in the summer I was eight, my last before sleepaway camp. At P.S. 19, we were still having bomb drills and the Cold War was still very much on, as was a hot war in Vietnam, but there was no recognition of these facts in the Archies or Hong Kong Fooey.

Bullwinkle’s playful critique lives on today in Spongebob and The Simpsons, shows whose creators openly acknowledge their debts. (Spongebob’s Squidward’s voice is Ned Sparks; Plankton is Walter Brennan. All the male Simpsons have Bullwinkle & Rocky’s middle initial “J.”) These shows are a loving critique of the ways that American ideals and American reality are often out of whack.

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