May 1, 2011

"It's not a protest without Ben."

Thinking about Ben Masel, the Madison activist who died yesterday, I looked back at his old comments on this blog. The first one, in July 2006, was on a post about the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin. Ben said:
Advice for the 1st time user of psilocybin or other psychedelics...

Go to the woods with one or more folks you like and trust. Ideally, deep enough into the National Forest that no-one will care if you take your clothes off.

At least one of the group should not consume. Only this individual should carry a cell phone.

Start with 1/4 of the suggested dose, wait to see your reaction, then, if favorable, take the rest.

Just because your first trip was wonderful, do not repeat the experience inmmediately. Space by at least a month.
I found another drug-related one. (Drug legalization was a big issue for Ben.) I'd blogged about accepting Ben's invitation to join the Facebook group "I'm proud to say that LSD-25 has contributed positively to my life," and he said:
Kudos on the courage to accept the invite. As yet, none of the "A list' lefty bloggers I simultaneously invited have signed on.
That's some high-level, drug-related kudos. Note, as I noted then, that you don't have to have taken LSD to have benefited from it. I loved the psychedelic music and art and many aspects of the hippie culture that had something to do with LSD.

Then there were the more clearly political things. In February 2007, I was saying what I thought about presidential candidates hiring bloggers, and Ben said: "I'm not hiring any house bloggers for my 2012 Senate campaign, as I prefer to be lambasted for my own scurillous posts." He really would have run too.

In August 2008, I put up a photograph of the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda and commented on its visual beauty. Ben commented:
Besides the look, there's the acoustics. The building went up just before electric amplification, and there's patterns on the floor directing speakers to the sweet spots.

I once heckled a Tommy speech, much louder than he was with amplification. Whoever placed the now permanently installed speakers had no idea.
Those acoustics played a huge part in the protests that took place in the rotunda this year. When I saw Ben a few weeks ago, he was extolling those magnificent acoustics, which make free speech in the rotunda uniquely valuable. It's not enough to say there's somewhere else where you can protest. This is the place. (Tommy, of course, is Tommy Thompson.)

March 19, 2007, I blogged a couple long, funny videos by Uncle Jimbo, who was covering some Madison anti-war rally, and Ben said: "I'll accept jimbo's piece as goodnatured fun, and appreciate he gave me the last word, but making the same wisecrack about me twice shows a deficiency of creativity."

Here: I've pinpointed the wisecrack:



Risking a deficiency of creativity, let me repeat that wisecrack, once more, with feeling: "It's not a protest without Ben."

***

Yesterday, we were talking about Ben, and chickelit said:
Masel was convicted in 1976, of assault, for spitting on U.S. Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson.

I think one had to live in Madison then to appreciate how outrageous that was even then.
And Harry Phartz said:
I did live in Madison then and pardon me for telling this great story one more time, but...

Masel got arrested for the famous spittle deposition on Scoop Jackson and managed to get released on bail fast enough that on primary Tuesday he was out and on the streets making noise. I was walking to class along Lake Street that morning, ready to turn up the Library Mall to the campus when I see on the NE corner of Lake and State, Ben Masel in a sandwich board sign urging people to write him in as candidate for President. He was right there in front of what was then Rennebohm's Drugstore as I passed and he exorted the passersby "A vote for me is a spit on all candidates!"

37 comments:

AllenS said...

I'm sorry that the man died so young. But, the more I hear about him, the more he appears to be nothing but another fucking liberal jerk. Instead of protesting, how about everyone help reduce this state's deficit/debt. And, if there's time, let's work and creating jobs.

Also, don't do drugs. Don't be a fucking idiot.

edutcher said...

Agree with AllenS.

Not to be disrespectful of the departed, but is it a requirement for professional protesters to act like ignorant, classless slobs?

garage mahal said...

It's much more polite to quietly let the lobbyists in the side door of the Capitol to discuss how to carve up the state's finances in private.

AllenS said...

Somthing else I just remembered concerning this protest bullshit. Meade, you were supposed to interview one of the Democratic fleebaggers. How did that go? I can't remember you posting anything about the meeting you had with him.

MarkG said...

In forty years we might be reading teary-eyed tributes of Jim Shankman, Madison icon. You just never know.

Fred4Pres said...

The New Jersey disapora in action!

ricpic said...

Heckling speeches, oh what heights;
Contra lows post LSD flights.

Quilly_Mammoth said...

I disagree with Allen S. I'm sure I disagree with some of his stances, but 100% with his free speech activism. Because life would be so boring if everyone thought exactly like I do.

There's a difference, Allen, between disagreeing and being disagreeable. If everybody who disagrees with you is to be hated you must have a miserable life. Cause _nobody_ agrees 100%.

Nothing I've read leads me to think he was a classless slob. Reading his comment to Althouse about the FB invite leads me to think the opposite.

Bob said...

Sorry, he was just another self-centered parasite from a whole generation of parasites. Good riddance to him and all his kind.

dbp said...

"Note, as I noted then, that you don't have to have taken LSD to have benefited from it. I loved the psychedelic music and art and many aspects of the hippie culture that had something to do with LSD."

If you think it helps artists then why not have taken it back when you were an artist? Not that you are not an artist now, but I think you know what I mean.

AllenS said...

If everybody who disagrees with you is to be hated you must have a miserable life.

I never said that I hated the man, Quilly, those are your words. He sounds to be nothing more than a drug using jerk. Anybody can protest. Anyone can complain, but what we are seeing less of in this country, are men who are willing to stand up and help solve some of the problems that we have. Blowing hot air through a bullhorn, ain't cuttin it.

WV: wismoha

Shouting Thomas said...

I'm sorry your friend passed away, Althouse.

My most sincere condolences.

This bio is, however, kind of bereft of any actual reference to the guy having a personal life, or a personality apart from the usual cause mongering.

I've met dozens who fit this description in my travels in the Village, San Francisco and Woodstock. I don't dislike them. Don't find them interesting company either.

AllenS said...

One more thing, Quilly, this jerk was convicted in 1976, of assault, for spitting on U.S. Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson. Now, I ask you, whose free speech was he in favor of. Jackson's or his own? I think we know the answer, don't we?

Free speech for me! You, not so much.

KenK said...

Nothing says "commitment to free speech like spitting on someone trying to speak,eh? What is it about college towns that they make guys like this pillars of the community?

MarkG said...

It depends who you spit on. If he'd spit on Jesse Jackson instead of Scoop Jackson, he would've had to move back to Jersey.

SteveR said...

Spitting on anyone is pretty uncool, no matter the circumstances. Perhaps there was charming elements to the story which evolved. Spitting is not "free speech". I assume he apologized.

AllenS said...

Perhaps there was charming elements to the story

I don't know where you're from, but around here, there is nothing charming about spitting on anyone. Apologize? Jerks don't apologize. I'll bet he never did.

Shouting Thomas said...

Just curious, Althouse. It would be very generous of you to respond.

This guy kind of falls under the general label of "street character." As I said, we've got our own supply of these in Woodstock. San Francisco and the Village have them, too.

You seem to have maintained your tolerance and, you seem to generally like this type.

How do you do this?

As I said, I don't dislike these characters. Their public posture as a "character" is usually all they've got going. Many, if no most of the them, live on SSI. Years ago, I sat down to talk with them in the local cafes. Kind of lost interest and haven't talked with them in years.

Besides their pet causes, they generally have absolutely nothing going on and nothing to talk about. Their personal lives are usually nonexistent. Their ability to tolerate another (real) human is almost zero, while they carry on endlessly about the duty of other humans to tolerate them.

I get writing about them as characters and a long term presence in Madison.

But, do they really interest you? Do they really strike you as some sort of positive manifestation, and not as... well... mental cases?

SteveR said...

Allen, I am certain there wasn't anything charming about it, but what explains the admiration beyond what is obvious to you and I.

chickelit said...

Hey, don't spit on the man's grave.

Ben Masel was a rabble rouser and he probably suppressed inhibitions from that half of his brain which restrains most of us. But in the end, I think he was good for both sides.

Ann Althouse said...

"This guy kind of falls under the general label of "street character.""

That's a generic type that I don't particularly know. Ben was an educated and very intelligent man. He was quite rational and sensible, and he had a sound idea of how he wanted to live and he stuck to it. Most people go with convention and don't have an individualistic idea of a different kind of life to live. Or they're individualistic when they are young or only in their off hours.

Here's a quote of his: "Life's a movie. Don't be an extra, star in your own."

Ann Althouse said...

When I had trouble with that threat, he helped me.

AST said...

So his mind expanded to the point that it killed his body?

Larry J said...

Not meaning to be confrontational or anything, but did this man ever have a job? I mean a real job, where he showed up and put in a day's work for a day's pay?

Shouting Thomas said...

Thanks you the answer, Althouse.

MadisonMan said...

Did not know about the acoustics at the Capitol. Next time I'm up there, I'll try to find the sweet spots.

garage mahal said...

Saw this old comment from Ben that made me laugh

AllenS said...

Comment?

WV: unglogic

No shit.

Shouting Thomas said...

And, I'll add...

It really doesn't matter what Ben was, or what I think of his life.

He was a child of God. God bless him.

garage mahal said...

Oops, try again here

KenK said...

Sounds like an asshole. He was for "free speech" but spits on people speaking. Smoked for decades till it killed him, despite knowing better. Seems to have had no visible means of support mentioned. Asshole loser. At least Ann Arbor's Shaky Jake would busker for a donations or sell you a t-shirt or bumper sticker.
http://blog.mlive.com/annarbornews/2007/09/shaky_jake.html

dreams said...

Yeah, it seems he was jerk. Only a liberal could love that jerk crap. He really made a difference, yeah sure. A life well lived, I don't think so.

William said...

I enjoy watching the Larry David series, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry is blessed with leisure, a luxury home in a sunny clime, interesting friends, and until recently an attractive wife. You could be reincarnated a million times and not fall into the deal Larry has. Despite that, every week Larry finds some reason for misery. It's a curse. You can have everything a man would want, and the only catch is, you have to be miserable in paradise.....I suppose the Catch 22 is that if he found joy in his blessings, he would not be Larry David and would not have found such success.....Ben sounds something like Larry David. He had a kind of idyllic life if all you want to do is take drugs, screw coeds, and read a lot of books. Nonetheless, the only thing that roused him from his reveries was the chance to protest a world that treated him with such indulgence....The irritatant in the oyster becomes a pearl, and maybe his irritability engendered something worthwhile.....It would be nice if after we died God let us see all the possible parallel universes that would have existed if we had been a little better or a little worse.

Shouting Thomas said...

It would be nice if after we died God let us see all the possible parallel universes that would have existed if we had been a little better or a little worse.

I think that He probably does.

Uncle Jimbo said...

That really is a shame. I had many long and entertaining conversations w/ Ben. People like him are why Madison will always be my favorite city.

Blue Skies Ben.

Cordially,

Uncle J

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

Don't have the obit but it was on the front sidebar of one of the sections of the Dallas Morning News; good on them. But Stoney Burns died last week. He ran a countercultural newspaper in Dallas. Thoughtful soul; Jewish guy I guess. Nonviolent; open mnded. Seemed to have his own gyroscope for what was proper. I guess that was what was appealing about this guy. Spitting on Scoop Jackson was a little ungrateful; Scoop was in part responsible for getting the Russians 'to let my people go.' I guess insanity about the VN war was/is to be excused if not taken as akin to virtue though generally.

Karl said...

William said.. a lot.

And that is why I read this blog.