Archive for the ‘1970s’ Category

GQ: I Do Love You


This song went to #5 on the American R&B charts in 1979. It is a cover of an older doo-wop song – the backing singers even sing “shoo-be-do doo-wop” in the song! Through the magic of YouTube I know that Barbara Mason (“Yes, I’m Ready”, 1965) did this song.


I do love you, ooooh
But it’s alright, alright, aaah

(I do love you)
(I love you, I love you)
I love you so right now
My my baby, hey, yeah
Little darlin’ I said
(I do love you)
(I love you, I love you, ooh-ho-ho-ooh)
I love you so right now
Never, never gonna let
Gonna let, gonna let you go, na-na-na
Pretty little baby
(I do love you)
(I love you, I love you, ooh-ho-ho-ooh)
I say, I want you to try to understand
That I, I want to be your lovin’ man, babe
(I do love you)
(I love you, I love you, ooh-ho-ho-ooh)

My baby, I love you so
And I don’t want you to go, no, no
Why don’t you listen to me, ya
I’m beggin’ you on bended knees

(I do love you)
(I love you, I love you, ooh-ho-ho-ooh)
My girl, I prayed that your love
It would come to me
(I do love you)
(I love you, I love you, ooh-ho-ho-ooh)
Because I love you so, babe
You’re about to drive me mad
(I do love you)
(I love you, I love you, ooh-ho-ho-ooh)
I love you so right now
Pretty baby, pretty baby
(I do love you)
(I love you, I love you, ooh-ho-ho-ooh)
I love you so right now
Oh, baby, I love you so
And I don’t want you to go
No, no, no, no, no, no
Why don’t you listen to me
I’m beggin’ you on bended knees
(I do love you)
(I love you, I love you, ooh-ho-ho-ooh)

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“Shaft” (1971) was Hollywood’s first blaxpoitation film to become a hit. It starred the then unknown Richard Roundtree. It is most famous for the Isaac Hayes song that opens the film:

Who’s the black private dick
That’s a sex machine to all the chicks?
You’re damn right

You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother-
(Shut your mouth)
But I’m talkin’ about Shaft
(Then we can dig it)

The parts in parentheses were sung by Stax singers Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson, who later became the Dawn of Tony Orlando & Dawn.

The opening scene shows John Shaft, a black New York City detective in a long brown leather coat, walking through Times Square as the song plays. A wonderful opening but then it  becomes like a late-night movie. Shaft tries to save the daughter of a Harlem crime lord to prevent all-out war with the Mafia. It only gets good again towards the end.

Blaxpoitation films were made by Hollywood in the 1970s for black audiences. They were mostly crime dramas with black leads. Pam Grier made her name starring in them. They pushed stereotypes of blacks as oversexed, badass and violent. Shaft himself is a good example of all three.

Civil rights leaders condemned it but black audiences loved it: back then almost no film had a hero who was unashamedly black.

“Shaft” had a black director, Gordon Parks, and two white screenwriters. One of them, Ernest Tidyman, created the character as a sort of black James Bond, writing seven books about him. Tidyman is one of the few whites to win an NAACP Image Award.

Sex machine to all the chicks: He has a main chick, Dina, who wears a wedding ring, another one on the side, Ellie, and, to put the “all” in “all the chicks”, he picks up a white chick at a bar for a one-night stand and has a shower scene with her.

Ellie: I love you
Shaft: Yeah, I know. Take it easy.

Shaft lives in a huge, well-furnished apartment and always takes the taxi – like he is made of money. He reads Essence magazine and uses what seems like too much slang. He likes to say “Right on!” and holds up his fist, like some bad stereotype of the 1970s.  Everyone is cat, dude or baby. That slang, I later found out, was put in over the protests of Tidyman.  But in the end it did not matter: the language was picked up by black teenagers. So was Shaft’s habit of crossing the street without looking.

In the opening scene, at the newsstand, you can see Naomi Sims on the cover of Essence.

It is amazing how much New York looks the same nearly 40 years later.

The film cost $500,000 (370,000 crowns) to make but brought in $13 million! Two sequels and a short-lived television series dutifully followed. In 2000 John Singleton brought it to the next generation with Samuel L. Jackson playing John Shaft’s nephew.

– Abagond, 2010, 2016.

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The following is based on the 13th and last part of Jacob Bronowski’s BBC series on the history of science and invention, “The Ascent of Man” (1973):

The human brain is three times larger than it was two million years ago. But almost all that growth took place in just three parts of the brain, those that control:

  1. The hand
  2. The tongue
  3. Foresight

Which allows us to build, to talk and to imagine our future far more than any other animal.

In addition, our minds are very plastic: most animals are wired to act just in certain ways, humans are not. We depend on knowledge, not reflex. That means a long childhood. And, even after we are grown, we must think and prepare before we act, we must balance short-term and long-term, our needs and those of others.  That in turn leads to ideas of justice, of right and wrong.

Most civilizations, like those of China, India and even the Europe in the Middle Ages, as great as they were, limited the imagination of the young, of those with talent. The son did what the father did what the grandfather did and on and on. Only the talent of a few is ever used, the rest is wasted. The West does not do this.

One way is through a democracy of the intellect: its thought and knowledge is built by scientists and thinkers not by kings and priests. The lives of Erasmus and John von Neumann show this.

Erasmus was a monk in the 1500s. Against orders he read the Greek and Roman classics. It opened up the world to him. He became friends with Sir Thomas More, who, like him, cared more for truth than for power and authority – so much so that the king had More put to death.

John von Neumann, who came up with game theory in the 1950s and did important work in understanding computers, took the other road. Towards the end of his life he worked for companies and governments, drawn to the centres of power. Science for the sake of power and money, not for the sake of truth. He wasted his great talent.

Likewise the West is in danger of throwing away its great promise:

I am infinitely saddened to find myself suddenly surrounded in the west by a sense of terrible loss of nerve, a retreat from knowledge into – into what? Into Zen Buddhism; into falsely profound questions about, Are we not really just animals at bottom; into extra-sensory perception and mystery. They do not lie along the line of what we are now able to know if we devote ourselves to it: an understanding of man himself. We are nature’s unique experiment to make the rational intelligence prove itself sounder than the reflex. Knowledge is our destiny. Self-knowledge, at last bringing together the experience of the arts and the explanations of science, waits ahead of us.

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The following is based on part 12 of Jacob Bronowski’s BBC series on the history of science and invention, “The Ascent of Man” (1973). This one is about genetics:

Gregor Mendel was a farm boy who became monk. He joined the Augustinian order in Brno, the second largest city in what is now the Czech Republic. They sent him to the university of Vienna to get a teaching degree. The university said he “lacks insight and the requisite clarity of knowledge” and failed him in 1853.

A few years later he began to do experiments on pea plants. People assumed that if you cross a tall pea plant with a short one you get pea plants of middling height. Instead of assuming Mendel tried it: he found that you get nothing but tall pea plants! And if in turn you cross those tall pea plants you get 75% tall pea plants and 25% short ones.

Why? Mendel said it was because each plant gets a height particle – what we now call a gene – from each parent. In the first generation of his experiment, each plant had a tall gene and a short gene, so all of them were tall. But in the second generation one fourth received two short genes and so they were short.

He had discovered the gene, one of the greatest discoveries in the history of science. It sank like a rock. Mendel was a nobody: the important science journals in France and Britain did not print it. In 1866 he had it printed in a Brno science journal and there it sat unknown to the top people in science till 1900.

The next big discovery was printed in Nature in 1953, so it was known instantly worldwide: DNA and how it works. DNA is what genes are made of. James Watson and Francis Crick beat out Linus Pauling in discovering how it works.

DNA is a double molecule, each half the mirror image of the other half. When the molecule splits in two, each half can create its missing half. But there is more: it is a long molecule that contains smaller molecules called bases: adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. These become in effect the four letters – A, G, C and T – of the language that genes are written in, containing the instructions of how to build everything in the body.

But genes and DNA are not enough to account for life as we know it. You also need:

  1. Sex, which mixes genes in new ways. Till sex came along life did not progress beyond the level of pond scum.
  2. Human sexual selection, which speeds it up even faster: humans, compared to other animals, put far more thought into choosing who they have children with. They also have taboos against incest which prevents a few older males from getting all the females and lowering the rate at which genes mix.

As John Donne said:

Love’s mysteries in souls do grow
But yet the body is his book.

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The following is based on part eleven of Jacob Bronowski’s BBC series on the history of science and invention, “The Ascent of Man” (1973). This one is about quantum physics:

We used to think that science could give us a perfect picture of the material world. But we now know, because of quantum physics in the 1900s, that absolute knowledge is impossible. There is a limit to what we can know – even with the most perfect and most powerful instruments imaginable.

For example, with a high-powered electron microscope you can see atoms. Yet no matter how much you increase the power you will never get a sharp image.

Even something as simple and straightforward as the position of a star in the sky is not perfectly knowable: different human observers come up with different positions and even the same person repeating the observation does not come up with the very same answer each time.

Karl Gauss in 1795 noticed that the observations made a bell curve – the closer you get to the average position, the more observations there are. But you cannot even say that the star is at the average position – all you can say is that it is the most probable position, which is not quite the same thing as its true position.

Gauss lived in Gottingen, a small German university town. It was here, over a hundred years later, in the 1920s, that some of the leading minds of physics came on the train from Berlin to work out the physics of the atom and its parts: quantum physics.

The atom is made of moving parts, such as the electron, and yet there is something very strange about them. Werner Heisenberg in 1927 found that you can tell what the position of an electron is but not its speed and direction – or, if you nail down its speed and direction, then you cannot tell its position. It is one or the other but never both at the same time. This is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

Gottingen had something else: a collection of skulls. These skulls were used to support a racist view of the world, a view of the world that dealt in inhuman certainties. It came to power in the person of Hitler. The skies darkened over Europe, as they had in the days of Galileo. The great minds of Europe fled – or fell silent:

It’s said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That’s false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance, it was done by dogma, it was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

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Paul Newman

Paul Newman (1925-2008) was a Hollywood actor and sex symbol, from the 1960s and early 1970s. He was married to Joanne Woodward for 50 years.

On this blog at the end of 2009 he was voted the eighth most gorgeous man in the world – over a year after he died at age 83!

His best films (those receiving an IMDb rating of at least 8.0):

  • 1958: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  • 1961: The Hustler
  • 1967: Cool Hand Luke
  • 1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • 1973: The Sting

The first he did with Elizabeth Taylor, the last two with Robert Redford, both Hollywood sex symbols in their own right. He is known for playing anti-heroes. He was acting almost right up to the end of his life.

His name was put up for an Oscar for best actor eight times, but only won once, for “The Color of Money” in 1987. Some say his acting got better with age – the Oscar nominations seem to bear that out.

He was born the son of a Cleveland shopkeeper. Both sides of his family come from Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Hungary, Poland). Like his father but unlike his mother he is Jewish.

In the Second World War he wanted to be a pilot and fly planes but his colour blindness prevented him. He almost fought in the battle of Okinawa but the pilot of his plane got an ear infection and they stayed back. Everyone else in their detail died in battle.

After the war he went into acting, at first on Broadway and television and then in Hollywood films. He did terribly in his first film, “The Silver Chalice” (1954), but then did well two years later in “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (1956) – a part he got through the death of James Dean. Soon he was starring opposite Elizabeth Taylor. His acting was not as good as, say, Marlon Brando’s, but his good looks made up for it.

In 1958 he starred with Joanne Woodward in “The Long Hot Summer”. That year he divorced his first wife of nine years and married Woodward. He has three children by each wife. In 1960 he and Woodward moved to Connecticut.

In 1978 his only son died of a drug overdose at age 28.

Newman was a race car driver. He came in second at Le Mans in 1979.

He used to make salad dressing as a Christmas gift. It caught on and in 1982 he started selling it under the brand name Newman’s Own. He later branched out into spaghetti sauce and popcorn. Since Newman was not interested in getting rich, he gave the profits to charity – education, health, the environment, disaster relief, etc. He joked that Newman’s Own brought in more money than his acting ever did (true).

In 1988 he started the Hole in the Wall Gang, a free summer camp in Connecticut, between New York and Boston, for children who are dying or who have spent a long time in the hospital.

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The following is based on part ten of Jacob Bronowski’s BBC series on the history of science and invention, “The Ascent of Man” (1973). This one is about the atom:

Dmitri Mendeleev played a game his friends called Patience: he wrote the chemical elements down on cards, one element on each card along with its atomic weight, and laid out the cards in different ways.

He found that if he laid the cards in order of atomic weight and yet put elements with like properties in the same rows, he could create a table – what we now call the periodic table of elements. He found that he could tell which elements had yet to be discovered and what their properties would be.

But what makes such a table possible? Why do properties repeat so that you can make rows in the first place? How can the different properties of an element, like density and colour, come from just a single property, atomic weight? The answer is: they cannot. Atoms must have more than just weight. Atoms must be made of parts.

In 1897 J.J. Thomson found the first part: the electron. In 1911 Ernest Rutherford said the atom is like a little solar system: the electrons go round the nucleus just like the planets go round the sun.

But Niels Bohr in 1913 saw that it could not be that simple: the planets are slowly running down and some day will fall into the sun. Not so with atoms. Bohr found the answer in Max Planck’s idea of quantum energy: just like matter comes in atoms, so energy comes in quanta. Therefore the electron can only be at certain energy levels or orbits. .

But what about the nucleus that the electrons were circling? That proved to be made of parts too: protons and neutrons, as James Chadwick found out in 1932.

All this, along with Einstein’s physics, made it possible in 1939 for Hans Bethe to work out how the sun shines. It does it by making two hydrogen atoms into one helium atom and, in the process, changing the left over  matter into heat and light. The sun is a young star, but older and larger stars, it was soon understood, turn helium into the other elements: carbon, oxygen, iron, gold and all the rest.

The stars evolve hydrogen into the elements while the earth evolves the elements into life. That is how nature works: one small step at a time.

That seems to go against entropy – the idea that the universe is running down, becoming more disordered over time. But entropy is a statistical observation. That means by and large it holds true, but it does not  always hold true.

Ludwig Boltzmann gave us our idea of entropy. He also championed the idea that matter is made of atoms. We take it for granted – partly because of him – but in 1906 there were still plenty of doubters. In despair, just before his side was about to win, he killed himself.

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