The year, 1969, and I was a senior at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida. I had a small circle of friends and acquaintances, oddball, intellectual types like myself, and one of them was into shortwave radio.
His last name was Drescher, and that’s what we called him, because he wasn’t fond of his first name, but what it was I forget. It doesn’t matter, what matters is that, one night when the etheric circuits were properly aligned, Drescher found himself communicating with another ham radio operator in China, which in those unenlightened was called “Red China” to distinguish it from the fortress island of Taiwan, 1,307 miles (2.103 km) off the eastern coast, held by rebel Gen. Chang Kai-Chek, one of the most inept military leaders of the 20th Century, against the forces of the Red Army led by Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse-Dong, who enforced a Spartan lifestyle on his billion or so “comrades” with an iron fist in a steel glove.
Now that you understand a little of what this part of the Cold War was about, imagine Drescher, alone one night, picking up a shortwave operator who speaks English in China! What are the odds? What are the odds that he was talking with a Communist Party member? Remember, in what the West calls a Communist society (actually an atheist cult of totalitarian hero-worship), The Government owns everything, including your ass, and resources are allocated according to the unalterable decisions of The Party, who operate in the best interests of The People, which, for some reason, never includes you. So an individual owning something as revolutionary as a short wave radio was a crime, because anything that revolutionary could also become an equally effective weapon in counter-revolutionary hands!
It was the custom of international short wave operators at that time, and may still be today, to exchange cards with each other, documenting the date, time, frequency and location of the operator they had contacted, and having supplied this information, Drescher one day came to school and astonished all of us with his readings from a copy of The Sayings of Chairman Mao, the sacred text of the Red Chinese masses!
It was a fat book, with large type of an odd font, and rather small, with a slick, plastic over then unknown in the West, undoubtedly so it would be more durable in the hovels of the peasants who pored over this manual of Party orthodoxy. It would either have made George Orwell proud, or very, very afraid. The impression was of something foreign trying to pass for ordinary, except for that glaring red cover. You couldn’t avoid that, any more than you could avoid the first stanza of the Red Chinese national anthem, The East is Red, broadcast by the first Chinese satellite to orbit the Earth, after every 30-second data dump. The East is Red, over and over and over again ad infinitum, until the damn thing’s orbit decayed and it incinerated itself in the atmosphere as it tumbled down from the skies, years later.
I think hearing that piece of music repeated so often must have driven some Chinese scientists nuts, but that’s the price you pay for choosing to be born into a closed, totalitarian society run by a sociopathic mass murderer. It does have its price! We can honor them without knowing their names.
The Red Book made Drescher an instant celebrity not only among our group, but all the students at school, and was written up in the local papers. I’m sure his story even made the AP wire. I don’t know about the others, but I felt rather proud of Drescher for having taken this step toward international peace, trust and reconciliation. Among Drescher’s skills was he also played ping-pong, and this flowered into the Era of Ping-Pong Diplomacy. Last I heard, Drescher had been invited to Red China to participate in some kind of international ping-pong tourney against other players from Latvia, Tibet, Albania, Slovenia and Brooklyn, N.Y. I don’t know how he did, because we all went to different colleges and I never heard from him again.
What matters, and has stayed with me all these years, is some of those sayings. Profound, but profoundly cynical and brutal, too.
• Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
• Women hold up half the sky.
• The guerrilla must move among the people as a fish swims in the sea.
And so on. It is thus in remembrance of Drescher and his Little Red Book that I present the following sayings, pieces of wisdom and random scraps of data, most of them by myself but some by others (credited, where known), for your amusement, contemplation and pondering. Let a hundred flowers bloom, and we’ll all have hay fever! Bring on the Revolution, and up against the wall, motherfuckers! Pigasus for President, Yipee! — Chairman Malcolm
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the thermonuclear reactor. – Chairman Malcolm
What does not kill me, gives me post traumatic stress disorder. – Fred-Rick Neat O’Shea, Irish-German philosopher & drunkard
I love NASA, but they have the ability to sometimes transform the ethereal into the mundane.– Michael Collins, Apollo astronaut.
If you happen to be smoking a joint with a fire-breathing dragon, remember not to ask it for a light. – Toasty the Bear
If you invite a porcupine to a balloon party, do not be surprised when it blows up in your face. – Chairman Malcolm
He who lives by the reality show, dies when his ratings plummet. – Chairman Malcolm
She had no time for horses, she was just too busy with all those men! – Lucy Worsley, English historian, on the sex life of Catherine the Great, Czarina of all the Russias and rumored zoophile (another Commie lie, turns out)
If we as a species are to be judged by superior beings on the basis of “Tiger King,” then we are most assuredly fucked. – Chairman Malcolm
You cannot kill a lie with another lie, you can only kill a lie with the unvarnished truth. But it should be delivered as gently as possible, because nobody likes to realize they have been stupid enough to believe a lie. – Chairman Malcolm
If you can handle it with Kubrick, then you can handle anything, because he’s 44 times as difficult as anybody else. – Anton Furst, production designer on Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam movie Full Metal Jacket.
“Doing the right thing” is, in the short run, often unprofitable. But in the long run, it is inevitable. – Chairman Malcolm
The last four years have proved that ignorance is less blissful than advertised. – Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show, in late 2020
It was a very attractive location on the Baltic Sea. This was a dream holiday destination for people like myself, back in the ’30s. I soon sensed that the facility was consciously designed as a kind of ghetto for scientists. – Ruth Kraft, rocket scientist, on Peenemünde, the German Army rocketry works, before World War 2
Evangelizing is just advertising for a belief set rather than a product or service. – Chairman Malcolm
Any human, dropped naked five miles from shore, immediately loses at least 100 I.Q. points no matter how smart they were when dry. – Dripper the dolphin
I’d rather die a big death than live a small life! – Elfo the elf in Matt Groening’s animated series Netflix series Disenchanted
I always wanted to be in entertainment… you know, in Hell I was a communications major! – Luci the demon in Disenchanted
Seems like whenever people get in a hole, they get jealous of dogs. – Paul Sackler, screenwriter of Fear and Desire, Stanley Kubrick’s first low-budget film
What made me an American radical? History, unvarnished history! – Chairman Malcolm
To live a long and happy life, absorb this fact: Every day, all over the world, people die horrible, unnecessary, agonizing deaths. Try to avoid being one of them. – Chairman Malcolm
That concludes today’s study lesson, comrades! Remember, you will be tested on it! Now return to your jobs in the People’s Manure Factory, and long live Chairman Malcolm a zillion billion years, unless it gets boring! Then, all bets are off.