Thursday, August 23, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday Gene Kelly, R.I.P. (8/23/1912 - 2/2/1996)


Gene Kelly, son of James Patrick Joseph Kelly. Known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good looks and the likeable characters that he played on screen. Indeed, a good looking and talented man.

The American Film Institute named Gene Kelly #15 on its list of the Greatest Male Stars of All Time. This scene from Singing in the Rain is a film classic.

Here's a great shot from that classic scene:

Here's another great Gene Kelly performance, from the movie Summer Stock. A bare floor, some newspaper, and magic:

Gene Kelly was a progressive who believed in helping the poor and standing up for the rights of citizens. In 1947, he was part of the Committee for the First Amendment, a delegation from Hollywood which flew to Washington D.C. to protest the hearings of the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC).

Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra appeared in three films together, which was a great opportunity for singing, dancing and some fun acting. In this scene from On The Town, they perform the famous song "New York New York" (it's a fabulous town, the Bronx is up and the Battery's down):   
Gene Kelly did serve in the Navy during World War II, but he did not serve overseas.  Because of his movie star talent, he was thought to be more valuable at home boosting morale and selling war bonds.  The public got used to seeing Kelly in a navy uniform in his movies, and he served in the Navy in real life.

An American in Paris is considered by many to be a perfect film. Gene Kelly discovered his co-star Leslie Caron in Paris, and brought her to the U.S. to be in the film. Kelly did most of the choreography for all his films, but the dance scenes in this one are particularly beautiful.

An American in Paris is a story about a young American artist (Gene Kelly) who meets a young beautiful Parisian (Leslie Caron) and falls in love. The music is is from George Gershwin's masterpiece of the same name. In this scene Kelly sings and dances to Gershwin's song "I Got Rhythm":  

Happy Birthday Gene Kelly, and thanks for the dance.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Woodstock: August 15-18, 1969: 3 Days of Peace and Music.

.In August of 1969, a music festival was scheduled to take place on some open land, rented from a farmer, near the town of Woodstock in upstate New York. Outdoor music festivals were relatively popular at the time, and the promoters anticipated a large crowd because of the terrific line-up of performers they had scheduled.

As it turns out, the number of music fans who decided to go to Woodstock grossly exceeded what anyone expected. Hundreds of thousands of young people traveled to upstate New York for that three-day festival in brightly-colored vans, some hitchhiking, all planning to celebrate with others from around the country and listen to some good music. The rumor has it that the New York State primary freeway was shut down for a time because of the enormous number of vehicles headed to Woodstock. Eventually a half a million people ended up at the Woodstock Festival.

The young people who attended, cheered, celebrated Woodstock soon became known as the Woodstock Generation. They have been vilified, demeaned, ridiculed by the war-loving right-wing that took control of this country under Reagan and kept control through two Bushes, one Clinton and an Obama. But the Woodstock Generation was possibly the smartest generation in this country for decades. Had their ideas and views been followed, we would undoubtedly have a better country and more peaceful and humane world.

(Melanie:  "Lay Down," with the Edwin Hawkins Singers)

Among the performers at the Woodstock Festival were the following:
Richie Havens
Ravi Shankar
Arlo Guthrie
Joan Baez
Country Joe McDonald
John Sebastian
Canned Heat
Grateful Dead
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Janis Joplin
Sly & the Family Stone
The Who
Jefferson Airplane
Joe Cocker
Country Joe and the Fish
Ten Years After
The Band
Blood Sweat & Tears
Johnny Winter
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Jimi Hendrix

Nice shot of the crowd:

The Woodstock Generation, although consisting of a loose connection of young and not always so young people, embraced certain beliefs and principles about life which at the time were considered revolutionary, and which terrified the ruling powers in this country. Here are just a few of the principles of the Woodstock Generation.

1. Stop Polluting The Environment. Rachel Carson brought the nation's attention to this issue in her book "The Silent Spring," and the Woodstock Generation was the first to demand that changes be made. Stop polluting the air and water. Simple concepts, but at that time the people who ran this country tried to cover up the truth. How much of the cancer in this country, and disease in the world, is the direct result of corporations dumping chemicals and poison in the earth and water?

2. Live Simply. Don't spend your life chasing more or competing with the neighbors. Consume less and contribute more. Help your neighbors. Don't hoard. Don't take more than you need.

3. Local Food Control. Eat simply. Eat locally-grown produce. Don't buy the corporate-produced food which is packaged or sprayed with poison. Take back control of food. And help people in other countries do the same.

4. Population Control. The churches oppose this, and encourage their members to breed as if there was no limit to our resources. But the fact is all people should be limited to 1/2 of a child. After that, get yourself fixed. We should cut the world's population in half immediately, and possibly cut it by another half after that. We are well on the way to destroying every living plant, all food stuff, and every single animal or fish in the world, because of gross, excessive and obscene overpopulation. And in the meantime, the Republicans on TV celebrate the Americans who have 12 kids, or 18 kids, and act like this is all good fun. It's suicide. It's also likely to destroy the entire earth and all living things. If the demands of the Woodstock Generation for population control had been followed, we probably would not be facing the extinction of so many animals on this earth.

5. End All Wars. The Woodstock Generation was against the war in Vietnam. But they were also against all wars, preferring the idea of creating strong international organizations with the authority to send in peacekeeping troops to protect civilians. Possibly mandatory mediation of disputes. War consists of one macho male sending the young men from his country into another country to kill the women and children. That's always what it comes down to. Killing children and babies is wrong. We have the sophistication and wealth to end war for all time, if we wanted to. If this principle had been adopted, think of the millions of lives that might have been saved.

(Burning a draft card, refusing to go to Vietnam).

6. De-Criminalize Drugs. Who came up with the stupid idea that we should use the military to fight against addiction? The U.S. has troops all over Central and South America propping up dictators and despots, providing security for U.S. corporations that are stealing resources from those countries. And this military occupation is done under the guise of a "war on drugs." Nonsense. There is no war on drugs. Our military is used to make sure that "our" puppets get control of the drug trade, and send their profits to Wall Street to be handled.  We're fighting over resources, and using our military to do so. 

Millions of Americans have smoked marijuana.  Very few people ever develop a dependency of any kind.  The government's own studies have failed to show any health problems caused by smoking marijuana, in radical contrast, for example, with the hundreds of thousands of people who die each year from (legal) tobacco, alcohol, and the crappy food they call "fast." 

An enormous percentage of drug addiction is among people who get their drugs the old-fashioned way:  they buy them from their doctors.  Not in Columbia, not in Mexico, not in Afghanistan, but right down on main street U.S.A..  We don't have to murder people in far-off lands.  If somebody insists on murdering drug pushers, they can go to any medical office building in the country and likely find at least one.

Drug addiction is a medical condition and should be treated as such. If this idea had been adopted, our country could have saved billions of dollars that has been wasted on guns and wars used against poor people in other countries. And our massive prison population includes way too many young non-white people whose only crime is that they like to get high.

7. End Racism. This went way beyond the minimal rights acquired during the 1950s civil rights movement. The Woodstock Generation promoted the idea that all people were equal, were the same, and should and must live together in peace. This included the idea that black, white, hispanic, and Asian people should date, marry, form families without regard to racial or ethnic identities. Marry who you love.  This was an idea that was considered shocking to much of the country at that time.

(Huey P. Newton, Black Panther Party. The members of the Black Panther Party, standing in defense of their communities, were framed, imprisoned, assassinated, and exterminated by an illegal program of the U.S. government and F.B.I. known as Cointelpro.)

8. Equality For Women. Again, this was a radical concept. Through the 1950s and early 1960s, women had to belong to some man, provide unpaid slave labor for life to a man and to however many children her body turned out, in order to have a place in society. Women had few opportunities to work or earn a living, often had no birth control, had no legal rights to prevent their husbands from beating them. Divorced women were considered whores and single women past a relatively young age were considered spinsters, completely banished from the rest of society. No options for women. The Woodstock Generation promoted the idea that all people, regardless of gender or race, are equal, and should have equal opportunities.

(Angela Davis)

9. Create And Nourish Community. It had already become apparent that the single family suburban neighborhood was destroying community. Imagine people living in cubicles, not even knowing their neighbors, working in cubicles and being prohibited from even speaking with their co-workers. I worked on a lawsuit once in which a worker was fired by a big retailer which claimed she was guilty of "theft." Based on that charge of criminal behavior, the worker was even denied unemployment compensation. But it turns out that the only "crime" the employee had committed was that she spoke with a co-worker during working hours, asked how her week-end went. The company's employee handbook said any conversations among co-workers unrelated to work were considered to be "theft" of company time. People have no community, live in isolation, and they therefore have no power. How can people organize to protect their own rights or their community when they don't even know who lives right down the street?

(Grateful Dead)

10. No Nukes. If only this idea had been pursued at the time, think how different the world might be today. Because the right-wing took control of our country, they promoted the widespread distribution of nuclear weapons to our "friends," which now means we live every day within minutes of having the entire world annihilated by some moron, either in a cave or in a government office.  Of course nuclear power plants continue to cause cancer and birth defects.

11. Recycle. Stop Consuming. Stop filling the ocean and the earth with junk. Re-use. The U.S. corporations hate the idea of people using their own independent judgment to decide that they will not spend their lives buying the crap sold to them by the corporations.

12. Free Love. It is not the place of the government or the "community" to dictate to other adults when they may have sex, with whom, or in what manner. It is also not the place of the government or the community to dictate to other adults whether they may use birth control (as late as the 1960s, some states still made birth control illegal) or whether, or when to have children or to terminate a pregnancy.

13. Workers Rights. The Woodstock Generation marched and demonstrated and boycotted along with the United Farm Workers to demand that all workers get a decent paycheck, have safe working conditions, healthcare, decent pensions, vacations and holidays.

14. Freedom And Independence For Other Nations. The Woodstock Generation promoted the view that all people are entitled to be free and independent, to run their own countries without interference from other nations. If only these views had been adopted, how different the world would be today.

(Che Guevara, hero of the Cuban revolution.)

In this 43rd anniversary of Woodstock, the right-wing, the corporate-owned media, and both major political parties continue to ridicule and demean everyone who was part of the Woodstock Generation, and to reaffirm the concept that "real" Americans love war, guns and violence, and hate their neighbors.

To the victors go the spoils.  The forces of death won.  Our nation is now a belligerent war-machine that starts new wars before the old ones are done, steals our money and gives it to corporations for more weapons, is shutting down public schools, plans to terminate social security and medicare, and does not really care that 20% of our children go hungry every day. 

They can lie, but they can't erase history as long as we remember and honor the truth.  The Woodstock Generation consisted of true patriots, people who loved this country and democracy, and who were creative and innovative in trying to find new ways for all of us to live in peace in this world.

(The Who)

In addition to having important and creative ideas about how to change society and the world to be cooperative instead of combative, there was also a tremendous flourishing of music, film, and fine arts during this time. The idea was that art became fun, a part of people's lives rather than something to be shut away inside museums and judged by a small panel of upper-class white men as to whether the art did or did not have merit. Young people all over the country decided for themselves whether they liked some art and, if they did, collected the reprints and posters and tacked them up all over their rooms. People's art, as it were, shown throughout this post.

During the entire history of the U.S., under or after slavery, it had always been understood that black and white people should live completely separate lives. In the 1950s, blacks spent years demonstrating and marching for such minimal rights as the right to sit down on a public bus, the right to buy food in a restaurant, the right to vote, the right to not be murdered by white men. Black people were often legally prohibited from buying homes other than in "black" neighborhoods, their children were legally prohibited from attending schools with white children, and they were legally prohibited from marrying a white person. Even in states which did not have those laws, segregation was strictly upheld in all classes of society.

The Woodstock Generation took enormous leaps forward on the issue of race, and demanded that all racism, all segregation be ended. This was a radical position at the time. The Woodstock Generation had a view that all people were equal and should live together in one community, in peace. Not that this was necessarily successfully implemented, but just the fact that these people embraced that idea was horrifying to the white men who ran this country.

For example, Jimi Hendrix performed at Woodstock to wild acclaim. Just a short time later, by the 1980s, under the regime of Ronald Reagan and the white boys who re-took control of our country, a black performer like Michael Jackson had to physically alter his appearance to make himself look white and female, in order to be "acceptable" to be presented to a white audience.

Jimi Hendrix didn't appear white or female. He was a sexy black man, publicly celebrating his rejection of the stereotypes that confined previous generations, openly expressing his anti-war views and politics, something which had always been forbidden for black men in this country, and he was worshipped by many of the young white people who made up the Woodstock Generation.

We need to throw out all the politicians from both parties and start new parties of, by and for working people. No more millionaire kings and princes should rule over us. They are criminals, thieves, Wall Street whores, and they cannot be trusted to protect and preserve our nation. Make Love Not War. No Nukes. Peace.

We've got to get ourselves back to the garden.

The Time For A National Movement To Demand Full Civil rights For Women Is Yesterday, Not Some Vague Time Down The Road.


I hear the constant refrain:  women must get out and support Obama, or some other politician.  But I never hear anyone demanding that Obama, politicians, or any other group get out and support women.  Instead, despite the ongoing assault against women in every area of life, I hear the same tired old excuse:  women need to wait.  There are more important things.  We must end the wars, create jobs.  I'm tired of waiting.  The time for a national movement to demand full civil rights for women is yesterday, not some vague time down the road. 

People need to stop telling me who I need to support, and start telling me what they have committed to doing to protect and defend women.  It's not a one-way street.  It's useless blather which accomplishes nothing except getting millionaires elected to office.

We lack the discipline and honesty to sit down at a table and reach a negotiated agreement. Instead, it is simply assumed that one group, such as women, can be called upon to support politicians in an election. Who is supporting us? Where are the people committed to helping women? You can't say that the right politicians will take care of the problem, because they haven't and we don't have enough time to wait anymore.

Women still receive radically less in pay every paycheck for their entire lives. They are routinely battered at home, sometimes murdered by husbands and boyfriends, raped by both and by strangers, and demeaned, trivialized and ridiculed in public.  That needs to change by direct action and civil disobedience, picketing, boycotts of businesses, picking them off one by one, until they raise women's incomes to the same level as men.

There has been a decades-long commitment by the federal and state governments to try to end smoking, educate the public about how many people die, how bad it is for their health, encourage people to get support to end that terrible addiction.  Why don't we have a similar commitment to ending violence against women including the "bitch and ho" popularity among young people as well as the crotch-shots and boob-shots which saturate popular media and diminish all women down to the level of body parts for porno sites. 

For the most part, women are either ridiculed, sexualized or ignored. It's like an embarrassing issue. If you raise any issue about women, it's always the same answer: there are more important issues right now. We need to end the wars, we need jobs, we need to win the election. But women do not deserve to be constantly shuffled aside and told that they are not important. We are important, and the time for full equality for women is right now.  When do women get support from other members of our society?  When are our needs put to the front?  Everybody expects women to support their group, but nobody shows up for us.

You see this lack of negotiation and coalition commitment with the whole gay marriage issue. Gay groups are up in arms because some black ministers are against gay marriage. Yet I don't recall ever seeing organized gay groups out in the streets working with black groups demanding basic civil rights for black Americans including jobs, education, housing, and a commitment to make sure all Americans have a decent opportunity at life.

The Republicans and their supporters have much in common. They are wealthy, white, and often racist. They share the fundamental views of the Republican party: cut their taxes, hate everyone, and beat down most of the rest of us. Their supporters show up because the Koch brothers give them money. For the rest of them, they are so enraged by fear of everything, hatred of non-whites and immigrants and of women with a brain, that they carry guns with them everywhere, just hoping they get the chance to shoot us. That is what unifies them.

We need to stop acting like children waiting for a superhero, and form a national coalition of groups representing the traditional democratic base.  We need to get together and enter into a coalition to support each other. Not support the politicians, but support each other.

If the members of one group are not personally supportive of an issue from another group, then they need to decide whether their personal views are so important that they will continue to watch our rights be destroyed and our democracy ended. Or, if they are sufficiently adult, they can put aside their differences and make a commitment to the coalition, make a commitment to support other people's rights.

For people who don't like abortion, don't have one, but don't use your views to force other women to bear unwanted pregnancies. For people who don't like gay marriage, don't marry a gay person, but don't kid yourself that this issue is more important than is the need for a coalition, national and local, and people who are disciplined enough to commit to support each of the groups. If there was a defense of abortion action scheduled in one city, I want to see the unions, the Hispanics, and the blacks out there supporting it. If they don't, then don't bother calling me about your own issues.

This is one of the key indicia of immaturity in American politics, that every group thinks their issue is important, and they do not grasp the need for large coalitions, negotiated agreements, and a commitment of people and time to support each other. Support each other, not support the politicians, not support the elections. That is what is lacking on our side. The maturity to negotiate and the integrity to then show up and honor the agreement.

Just think how different everything would be if we had women, blacks, hispanic, unions, teachers, seniors, children, the poor, all show up at an anti-war demonstration because they had made a commitment as part of a coalition; all show up to picket a school board that was planning to close a school; all show up to demand banks write down the principal of loans in their communities to avoid the further devastation of neighborhoods caused by foreclosed and abandoned homes.

Organize, establish a coalition for each of the groups, negotiate the terms, then live up to the commitment. There is no politician or political party that is going to help us, and none of us can do this alone.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Jerry Garcia (RIP) 8/1/1942 - 8/9/1995

Named after Jerome Kern, Garcia was best known for his phenomenal talent on the guitar and endless touring with his group, The Grateful Dead.

Uncle John's Band - The Grateful Dead

In 1987, Ben & Jerrys came out with a new flavor of their fabulous ice cream, which they named "Cherry Garcia," after the Grateful Dead's famed guitarist, Jerry Garcia. [For those of you who have never lived] it is cherry ice cream with cherries and dark chocolate chunks. yummm.

People who went to a lot of Grateful Dead concerts were known as DeadHeads. 

Truckin - the Grateful Dead.
In 2003, Jerry Garcia was named #13 on Rolling Stone's 100 greatest Guitarists of All Times.

Jerry Garcia is best known for his work with The Grateful Dead, but he also played with many other groups, and played on albums with other groups including the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Deja Vu, and Jefferson Airplane's album Surrealistic Pillow.

Casey Jones - The Grateful Dead
(Drivin that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you'd better watch your speed).

Jerry Garcia died at the age of 53 from a combination of long-term heroin and cocaine addiction, obesity, cigarette smoking, diabetes, and ultimately, a heart attack while in rehab trying to get clean.