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Black Lamb


Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.


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Archive for the 'Goldberg' Category

Big Dave

Before Dylan, Dave Van Ronk was the bull goose

June 1st, 2016


The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir
by Dave Van Ronk, with Elijah Wald
Da Capo Press, 2005

One night on MacDougal Street, one of the major thoroughfares in Greenwich Village, I was listening to Dave Van Ronk at the Gaslight, a cellar folk club much mentioned in this book. It was, maybe, 1962. The cliche description of Van Ronk as a “bear of a man” was both easy and correct.

He was big, broad, bearded, and lank-haired; his head almost hit the top of the proscenium. Two drunk high school kids sat at one of the minuscule tables and kept up a loud conversation during Dave’s set. He warned them twice, but they resumed chattering before long. vanronkFinally, Dave set down his guitar, stepped off the stage and grabbed the bigger of the two by the collar. “I told you to shut up!” he growled, then cold-cocked the kid. His shocked buddy dragged him out of the club and up the stairs to the street, accompanied by the applause of the other patrons. Dave then resumed the stage and continued as if nothing had happened. There were giants in the earth in those days.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Black Lamb Review of Books, Book Reviews, Books and Authors, Goldberg | Link to this Entry

The sweetest sound

Sometimes simple is best

January 1st, 2016


When I was a little boy, my grandfather told me that he had been in Spain and wanted to see a bullfight, but lacked the money to get in. As he stood by the gate, a haughty fellow walked up and said to the gatekeeper, “I am the toreador!” He was immediately ushered in.

A few moments later, another grand fellow walked up and announced, “I am the matador!” He was granted access, as the gatekeeper bowed and scraped.

Not long after, the process was repeated, this time by a dude proclaiming, “I am the picador!”

Whereupon, Grandpa walked up to the gate, declared, “I am Isadore!” and walked in.

pennywhistleGrandpa was born Isadore Banberger in Bucharest, some time in the 1880s. Family legend has it that he wandered Europe for a few years before immigrating to New York. He may or may not have financed his adventures by a run of con games and pool hustling. His eyes would twinkle while he refused to confirm or deny it.

My mother once told me that “he learned to cook and screw in six languages.” He could speak English, Yiddish, and Romanian fluently. He was conversant in German, French, and Italian, and he had a little Spanish. During the Depression, he helped keep his five kids fed selling Blue Coal, representing himself credibly in almost any ethnic neighborhood as a fellow countryman.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, Goldberg | Link to this Entry

The true religion

December 1st, 2012


This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.
— John Adams

I write about religion a lot, so I may be plowing some old ground here. Religion permeates every corner of our world, its politics, its laws, its culture, its personal relationships.
Allegedly a force for good, for comfort, for strength, it is more often a tool of oppression, repression, rancor, and avarice. It is historically in league with the tyrant, an excuse for torture and mass murder, for control of one over another.

The golden rule exists in some form in the religions I know something about, and is honored more in the breach than in the observance. The priest, or what you may call him, too often loses sight of the distance between himself and the deity he serves. Sadly, the ministry to the flock becomes camouflage for unspeakable acts, from larceny to child abuse, more and more in our time. Or are we just more willing to expose it these days?

Among Christians, the rock on which Jesus founded his church is gravel, in pieces. There are some big ones, like the Catholic Church, and some whose entire membership can fit into a storefront on a side street in a small town.

Ecumenism, the idea that the Christian shards should be more united, can’t work. The Interfaith movement, attempting the same unity among all religions, is a delusion, a feel-good will o’ the wisp.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Religion Issue, Goldberg | Link to this Entry

The eyes have it

Some thoughts on the nature of evil & how to recognize it

August 1st, 2012


Evil is easy, and has infinite forms.
— Blaise Pascal

I have been ruminating on Evil. The first thing I realized is that I wasn’t even sure what it meant. It wouldn’t be in the religious sense, because those definitions are narrow and self-serving: masturbation and extra-marital sex are evil, but slaughtering heretics, i.e., anyone whose idea of god is different from yours, isn’t?

I asked a friend who teaches philosophy, and she told me that philosophers don’t like to deal with fuzzy concepts like “evil,” for which no objective definition can be found. So I went to the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the shining beacons of my faith. The first definition: Bad in a positive sense. Delicious, and unimprovable, although I’m not sure what it means.

I was disappointed to find that Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary does not define the word.

I also knew that the similarity between evil and devil is simply a coincidence of spelling. There is no etymological connection. The devil will be absent from this discussion. I think.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Goldberg | Link to this Entry

Once is not enough

Is what's worth doing worth re-doing?

March 1st, 2012


One more time!
— Count Basie, not for the first time

I once wrote a throwaway bit for a radio show I was doing. It was a phony underwriter, the Once Is Not Enough Café, specializing in twice-baked potatoes, double-cooked pork, and refried beans. Once was enough for that one, because I couldn’t come up with any more examples of food done twice.

In my distant youth, the “do-over” had an honorable place on the sandlots and schoolyards. If there was an unresolvable dispute between two teams, you did a do-over, ran the play over. It was an article of faith, back when I still had some, that the do-over would set things right. It was considered good sportsmanship to accept the result without (much) grumbling. Gloating was very rare, and looked on as bad form. Would that the world ran on the moral tracks of sandlot baseball.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Goldberg | Link to this Entry

The anniversary schmalz

January 1st, 2012


Number 9, Number 9, Number 9….
— “Revolution 9,” The Beatles, 1968

This is the ninth anniversary of the Black Lamb monthly, and congratulations to Terry Ross for his perseverance, and for reading and enjoying my brain droppings for these years. I have relished the soapbox for my views on everything from the moribund condition of the literary novel, to the state of pop music in twenty-first-century America, to why George Romero’s zombie movies transcend their own genre.

I have received mostly positive comments, even from people who may disagree with me. Recently, Terry printed a dyspeptic rant from someone who found my politics to be, oh, bullshit, I guess. It was a great piece of verbal psychodrama and talking-point bile, and did nothing but reinforce everything I wrote.

(Just to set the record straight, I do not own a bumper-sticker festooned Volvo, but a Ford hybrid with no stickers. Unlike, say, Sarah Palin, everything I believe can’t be reduced to a slogan. And, does he still deny that Rick Perry is a preening ass and moral leper? I am not a red, although there’s nothing wrong with that, but I am deeply pink. I also take pleasure in the fact that the writer lives in Berkeley, and every day for him must be a vista of hell. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.)

Nine is a fraught number. In its printed form, it is not unlike a spermatozoa, or a stylized embryo. Human gestation lasts nine months. One is high on Cloud 9, or in the Ninth Circle of Dante’s Inferno. The pop geniuses Lieber and Stoller knew that the real-deal love potion was Number 9, and the literary lion Kurt Vonnegut made the apocalyptic substance that destroyed the earth Ice-nine. There used to be nine planets. (Sorry, Pluto.)

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: 9th Anniversary Issue, Goldberg | Link to this Entry

Third time a charm?

April 1st, 2007


Today’s the day we’ll say “I do,” and we’ll never be lonely anymore….
—The Dixie Cups, “Chapel of Love”
(Words and music by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector)

No one jerks off more than married men.
—Lenny Bruce

One woman told me that if we got married we’d always have a date for New Year’s Eve. So we did, and it was true. I have always had a date that night, just not with her. We had a big (200-plus people) wedding, rabbis, flower girls, my best man smoking weed in the crapper before the ceremony.

I’ve been married three times really, but only twice legally. You see, back in the dark ages of the 1960s, divorce was illegal in New York, owing to the gigantic influence of the cardinal who perched in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Yes, in wicked, sinful New York divorce was not an option.

So, the usual sham substitute was an annulment based on breach of contract: Yes, your honor, she/he told me we would have children, but now she/he doesn’t want any.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Goldberg | Link to this Entry

Monkey see, monkey do

March 1st, 2007


I recently saw a news photo in The New York Times of a miserably poor town in what was once a fairly prosperous Latin American country: tumble-down shanties, garbage and sewage in the streets, pretty grim. monkeyseemonkeydoBut that was not what grabbed my attention. Hanging from the electrical wires pictured in the photo were strings of sneakers. Now here in the USA, for at least forty years, there have been athletic shoes hung from the wires. I have no idea where or when this phenomenon started. Or why.

There are many explanations available, none of which makes much sense, except that it is a manifestation of bullying. (Not a gang sign or a marker for drug activity. The phenomenon existed long before the current gang/drug culture.) The weakest, dorkiest or fattest kid got his US Keds tied together and launched over the wires. With the price of sneakers what it is now, this can be a financial hardship.

(One small bit of civic pride. Here in Portland, home of high-quality eccentricity and creative nonsense, one may see conjoined spike heels or dog booties or baby shoes dangling from wires. No received wisdom here in Little Beirut. One town’s bullying is another’s artistic statement.)

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Goldberg | Link to this Entry

You don’t have to S&D to have fun (ha-ha)

November 1st, 2006


I started smoking when I was twelve but waited another year to begin drinking.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Smoking & Drinking Issue, Goldberg | Link to this Entry

Grab the antenna and stand over there

March 1st, 2006

thecontinental.jpgBY ED GOLDBERG

The Boob Tube. The Idiot Box. The Vast Wasteland. The Plug-in Drug.

All of these terms and more have been leveled at television and with justification. I’ll be surprised if one or more do not appear elsewhere in these pages. To say that ninety percent of everything on the tube is crap is to say nothing; ninety percent of everything is crap, except for poetry, where the number is more like ninety-six percent.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Television Issue, Goldberg | Link to this Entry

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