Friday, August 31, 2007

Allman Brothers - "Jessica"

We're headin' to the Allman's tonight on what looks like the perfect late-summer evening! Here is a nice clip of the band from the early eighties. Have a great holiday weekend everyone...

Support the "Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007"

Please watch this (3min 30sec)...

...then go here and take a look at Chris Dodd's "Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007":

Chris Dodd's "Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007"

Here is what ACORN, which has been working on the ground in New Orleans since the hurricane hit, has to say about the bill:

Two years after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, damaging a million homes in four states and destroying 300,000 residences, at least 106,000 mostly low-income families remain displaced.

Although billions of dollars have been allocated to house evacuees, little direct assistance has reached homeowners or created new rental housing.

Instead, ACORN - helped by hundreds of volunteers - has gutted 3,500 New Orleans homes without any kind of government assistance.

The Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act, S. 1668, cosponsored by Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), would mitigate the problems faced by evacuees struggling to return and provide a variety of housing solutions necessary for the region’s renewal.

Almost three-quarters of the homes destroyed by the storm were affordable to low-income families. On the storm’s second anniversary, 65,000 families are still living in FEMA trailers and manufactured homes and 11,5000 families are continuing to receive Department of Housing and Urban Development disaster assistance, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The return of these families is vital to the Gulf Coast’s economic recovery.

The Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007, now in the Senate, would accomplish several important tasks to jump start progress. To help homeowners, the act authorizes funds to cover the Road Home shortfall, allowing homeowners to rebuild, and requires the Federal Housing Administration to use pre-hurricane credit histories so storm survivors can become homeowners again.

To help those who were renters before Katrina, the bill designates $1.7 billion in FEMA funds for rental housing, authorizes the repair and rehabilitation of public housing and supplies replacement housing vouchers. FEMA is required to transfer funds to HUD to provide rental assistance to families still in need of temporary housing, and the State of Louisiana is required to use $55 million for community development pilot programs.

Finally, the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act establishes much needed accountability so that funds are used properly, setting up monitoring and reporting requirements for FEMA, HUD and the states to prevent fraud, waste and abuse.

When Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day, the Senate should approve the Gulf Coast Recovery Act of 2007 to help residents finally return and begin rebuilding their lives.

Take action now to write your senators, tell them to vote for S. 1668.

To check out ACORN's full coverage of Katrina two years later click here!

...please write a letter and spread the word. This is the least we can do...

Ten Lessons from Katrina

This essay, by Bill Quigley, comes from In the intro to the piece, Quigley writes:
The hi-speed catastrophe and no-speed recovery of New Orleans has provided us with unwanted lessons about the nature of the U.S. regime and the criminal class in power. The besieged citizens of the city have, by necessity, become thoroughly politicized, as they cling to home and hearth by their fingernails - while a great Diaspora languishes in scattered patches of the American vastness, internal exiles. Those who remain have undergone a crash course in what it really means to be a citizen of a country that respects only money. They have learned the imperatives of activism, self-reliance, and leadership-creation from the ranks.

Here is the full article:
Bill Quigley, "Two Years of Katrina: The Ten Most Important Lessons Learned"

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Katrina: Two Years Later, the Tragedy Continues

Well, here we are, two years after the worst natural disaster in American history. Two years after Hurricane Katrina killed roughly 2,000 people and forced the dirty little secret of race and poverty in American society into the mainstream consciousness, at least for a few weeks. And, here, two years later, the Gulf Coast remains devastated... and poverty runs rampant across the nation. This is the shame of our society, domestically.

Over the next few days I will be posting what I think are some good materials on Katrina during this anniversary period. I hope you will take some time to check them out and I hope we might all meditate deeply on the implications of this ongoing disaster for our nation... and give some thought to what we might do to make a more compassionate and just society.

I am starting with an essay by Earl Ofari Hutchinson because it focuses on poverty, which is by no means a regional issue. It is a national epidemic, yet there remains no political will to do anything about it. For a nation so wealthy, this is pathetic... and immoral. Remember after Katrina hit, there was all this blabbering by politicians, business leaders and other "important people" about a new "War on Poverty"? Nothing ever came of it. The money that was appropriated, like much of the money that was thrown at Iraq, was wasted, or mismanaged, or "disappeared" altogether.

I live in Nebraska. Omaha is home to the third poorest black community in the nation and the poorest for black children. A full 60% of all African American children in Omaha live in poverty! That is not a typo. Sixty percent! I grew up in Cleveland, one of the poorest cities in the country. About one third of all people in that city live in poverty. And on and on and on...

In the article, Hutchinson writes,
"They all missed the real story and tragedy of Katrina: the naked face of poverty that shocked the world two years ago remains just as naked and shameful two years later. And Bush and the Democrats are to blame for it...

"The national soul searching about attacking poverty has evaporated. The nearly $100 billion that Bush says his administration has shelled out to aid the recovery effort has either been wasted on showy and ineffectual redevelopment, public works reclamation and retrenching projects, inflated construction contracts, or has flat-out been 'misappropriated' (some would say 'stolen')."

Here is the full article:
Hutchinson, "After Katrina - Poverty Is Still America's Shame"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Air Giutar... t-shirt!?!!?!

I heard about this invention a year or so back, but I thought THE WHOLE WORLD should know about it, so I am blogging on the subject now...

Some guy has developed an air guitar t-shirt... or as they call it, "a wearable instrument shirt (WIS)." Here is how they explain it: ”Our air guitar consists of a wearable sensor interface embedded in a conventional 'shirt' which uses custom software to map gestures with audio samples. It’s an easy-to-use, virtual instrument that allows real-time music making – even by players without significant musical or computing skills. It allows you to jump around and the sound generated is just like an original mp3.”

Well, that is about the coolest sounding thing ever. All my childhood fantasies have come true. I can finally become a rock star... without taking any guitar lessons!

Here is the story:
Air Guitar t-shirt

And, while we are at it, if you plan to pick up this new gadget, you best head to your video store and rent "Air Guitar Nation"...

"Air Guitar Nation" reviews at

Karl Rove hijinx!

Apparently, someone wrapped Karl Rove's car in plastic. The pranksters also placed little eagles and stickers on the vehicle, including one that says "I Love Obama"...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Microsoft Zune Phone ad

This is very funny... for Apple lovers everywhere... or Microsoft haters.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rally for Alex Svoboda

About 250 people turned out this afternoon for a rally to support Alex Svoboda, the young Lincoln woman who was brutally and unjustly attacked by police officers in North Providence, Rhode Island, recently. Both of Alex's parents spoke emotionally to the crowd about Alex and the incident. They stressed how peaceful Alex is and how proud they are of their daughter's commitment to social justice. They also related the gruesome details of Alex's injuries. In short, the police virtually ripped off Alex's leg. Literally... all four ligaments were torn, the major artery severed, and most of the other connective wiring and tissue in the knee messed up. Alex has a long road back to health and may very well be impaired for the remainder of her life.

Here is the latest Journal Star article:
Journal Star article on rally

Please scroll down to my original post on this case to read more about it and to find out how you can help! Funds are needed to cover the expenses associated with Alex's various surgeries. Letters are needed to express citizen concern over this incident. Again, see below for details...


Here are some photos from today's rally (click any photo to enlarge):

Here is what one person wrote to the newspaper in R.I. I think it is compelling...
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Americans have a sacred right to protest

"News and pictures of the police assault in North Providence on American citizens exercising their constitutional right to protest seem to reinforce the general view held by many around the world that the cause of civil liberty in the United States has taken a beating.

"The excuses for the police excess given by local authorities appear weak, at best. I applaud the courage of the small group of people who took to the streets to try and do something regarding a situation about which they felt strongly. Whether you agree with them or not, I should think that our American friends should be concerned that the freedoms of which Americans have always been justly proud have over recent years been eroded, while the power of the state to silence and intimidate has grown.

"It must not be forgotten that the right to protest and to speak up for the cause of the weak is a sacred right, paid for over the years by the blood of many Americans. It is how progressive change has been achieved in democratic societies.

"I hope that justice in this case will prevail, especially for the young lady who was severely injured."

Robert Neshevich
Milton, Ontario

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Attack on Alex Svoboda!

Recently, a young woman from Lincoln, Alexandra Svoboda, was brutally attacked by police in Rhode Island during a peaceful workers rights demonstration. The photos of Alex, who is a member of Nebraskans for Peace, are horrific (see below image and/or press the link to other photos). Her leg is pointed in a very wrong direction from her knee. She has had three vascular surgeries to save her leg and has a number of upcoming procedures yet to go. She is also facing a number of serious legal charges. Please read on to find out more details and how you can support Alex.


Here is a letter her dad sent out:
Our daughter, Alexandra Svoboda — who is a member of Nebraskans for Peace, has been is a step-down ward from Intensive Care in Rhode Island Hospital for over a week now. She was injured when three policemen “arrested” her in North Providence, RI during a peaceful demonstration for worker’s rights. (see attached articles). Alexandra has undergone three vascular surgeries on her left left; has an external fixator from her lower tibia to her pelvis; a detached left fibula and torn ACL/PCL/MCL ligaments in her left knee. We’ve yet to start on the orthopaedic reconstruction of her knee and fibula.

Alexandra, 22, was charged initially with three felony assault charges (on officers), one disturbing the peace and one charge of resisting arrest. (North Providence is a separate township than Providence). The charges are bogus and my wife, Jan Enstrom and I have retained excellent legal council for Alex. Our main goal is a healthy recovery and as for the court. We will not settle for anything less than all charges being dropped or acquittal.

The main pt is that Alexandra is a peaceful and sensitive young lady who would never “attack” any officer and eyewitness and photos back this up. Note: We have and have had federal, state and county law officers in our family and Alex would NEVER attack an officer. Period. You, who are parents, already have that protective instinct and when something like this happens, it raises everything to a new level of support and protection. I pray that you never receive a phone call at 6am from your child, half-in tears and drugged, explaining that she is in the hospital with a broken leg and had surgery the night before. You never expect it and, trust me, it’s not a good way to start the day.
We are dealing with some VERY serious (and bogus) charges and we are resolved to get a very good criminal law attorney and have the charges dismissed or acquitted in a court of law. The photos are below are gruesome. The police action, even more so.

I’m not pleased with the LJS’s coverage as it’s incomplete and dated and slanted to show (in my opinion) to favor the police/mayor of N.Providence.

I want to make sure that as many voices are heard in RI from NE as possible. For that matter, Nebraskans need to hear about this and I am NOT happy with the lackluster coverage that the LJS has provided thus far. Compare the two articles. “Google” my daughter’s name. There’s ample info out there and growing. WE NEED HELP IN SENDING A MESSAGE TO THE RI GOVERNOR and Attn General for a full, thorough and independent investigation.

Every letter and email will help, whether to the Lincoln Journal Star, Providence Journal or officials listed below. We need your help.

Scott Svoboda

Support Alex Svoboda website

Collection of Photos (WARNING: Some of these images are gruesome)

Recent Lincoln Journal Star article that does not do justice to the grave nature of Alex’s injuries — or even accurately reflect the information in the local Rhode Island paper!

North Providence, Rhode Island news story

A bank account to help with Alex's medical expenses has been set up at the following address, if you'd like to contribute:

Alexandra Svoboda Fund
c/o Citizens Bank
120 Waterman Street RI-018
Providence, RI 02906

Please write letters of concern to the following:

Donald L. Carcieri
Office of the Governor
State House
Room 115
Providence, RI 02903
Telephone: 401 222 2080
Fax: 401 222 8096

North Providence Mayor:
Charles A. Lombardi
North Providence Town Hall
2000 Smith Street
North Providence, RI 02911
Telephone: (401) 232-0900, ext. 226
Fax: (401) 232-3434

State Attorney General:
Patrick Lynch
150 South Main Street
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: 800 852 7776

Police Chief:
Ernest C. Spaziano
North Providence Police Department
1967 Mineral Spring Ave.
North Providence, R.I. 02904
Business line: 401-233-1433
Fax number: 401-233-1438

Hoopin' It Up w/ Barack!

Dag. Check this out... he nails it!

I particularly like the "yeah, I'm baaaad" swagger after it goes in...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Users are Losers"

This is an inset from "Users are Losers," a 1970s anti-drug comic book made in California. (click on the image to enlarge) In many ways, it is typical of the genre, regardless of its publication date: the moralizing and lecturing of the younger generation by various older (and presumably wiser) "authorities" (such as, parents, doctors, scientists, cops, etc.), the alarmist tone, etc. More specific to its historical moment, I think this comic also underscores the growing reaction against the counter-cultural impulses of the 60s and early-70s.

Of course, drug abuse and addiction are serious matters, but these propaganda pieces always seem to end up more comical than compelling... What's up with those funny little zonkered cartoon guys throughout the comic? And, who knew meth was used to cure bed-wetting? Or, what's a sure sign that your kid is a doper? Her/his "ideas become far out"! Remember, "The human brain is made for thinking, not fumigating! Be wise, not wierd!"

To see the full comic, go here:
"Users Are Losers!" comic (1970)

Thanks to Ethan Persoff for digging this up and posting it...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Presidential Music

If you had to pick your Democratic presidential candidate by the music they play at their events, who are you going with:

- Clinton's official campaign theme song is Celine Dion's “You and I (Were Meant to Fly)," which was originally used as a 2004 ad for Air Canada.... She also has used BTO's "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" and "Right Here, Right Now" by whoever did that one in the 90s...

- Edwards likes to play John Mellencamp's "This is Our Country," which was originally released as a Ford ad campaign theme song at the same time it came out on JM's CD.

- Kucinich uses an instrumental version of "America the Beautiful." God love the Boy Wonder. He is my folks' representative in Congress and he stands for many very good things, but dag, could he be any less hip?

- Chris Dodd apparently does have a little soul in him. He likes to play, "Get Ready" by the Temptations.

- Joe Biden has used John Fogerty's "Centerfield." Isn't that about a guy who's sitting on the bench but itching to play... Charlie Brown, anyone? Strange choice.

- Bill Richardson has played, "Lean On Me" and "Baby I Love Your Way," performed by Fuerza Juvenil. OK. OK. Not bad. I'd like to hear that version of BILYW...

- Mike Gravel uses John Lennon's "Power to the People." If he weren't so wierd and if this weren't a little too obvious, I'd like this call...

- When we saw Obama recently, they played Ben Harper's tune "Better Way." The sound of the song harkens back to The Beatles, "Tomorrow never Knows," with an Indian-type groove... It is kind of a swirling, rising, plaintive, meditative, prayer, mantra, plea, with righteous lyrics. I've also read that Obama uses Aretha Franklin's "Think!" Moreover, he has been quoted, "I'm old school, so generally, I'm more of a jazz guy, a Miles Davis, a John Coltrane guy, more of a Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder kind of guy. But having said that, I'm current enough that on my iPod I've got a little bit of Jay-Z. I've got a little Beyonce."

Here's the order for me, based on the music. It's really no contest in my ear:

What's your preference? And, if you could choose the theme song for any of the candidates, what would you select?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Max Roach, R.I.P.

Max Roach, one of the great drummers in jazz history, passed away on August 16th at the age of 83. As my friend Joe Germuska wrote, "Roach was a giant of the music who kept innovating after most of his generation had passed on and the rest had largely settled into a pretty comfortable niche. Roach, on the other hand, always pressed forward, advancing radical political views as well as a very fresh approach to sound." Amen.

NPR did a really nice segment on Roach. You can listen to it here:
NPR appreciation of Max Roach

Here is a groovin' clip of Max Roach jammin' with Billy Harper, Cecil Bridgewater and Reggie Workman:

New York Times
Washington Post
L.A. Times

Other YouTube clips:
Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln
Roach drumming to MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech
Max Roach and Art Blakey dueling
M'boom project

Richard Harrington of the Washington Post suggests the following CDs:

• "Max Roach and Clifford Brown," Vols. 1 and 2, and "Daahoud" (all 1954). These three classic albums define the hard bop sound of the '50s, and give the promise of what would have been a seminal quintet had not Brown died in a car crash in 1956.

• "The Max Roach 4 Plays Charlie Parker" (1958). A pianoless quartet explores music by or associated with Roach's first great musical partner.

• "We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite" (1960). A fiery melding of politics, racial justice and social aspiration, with lyrics by the late Oscar Brown Jr.

• "Percussion Bitter Sweet" (1961). Another politically tinged outing with help from Eric Dolphy and Clifford Jordan, among others.

• "M'Boom" (1979). Rhythm was fundamental to the instruments used here, but used in way that reflected what Roach called "the traditional definition of music . . . an equal triangle of harmony, melody and rhythm."

Op-Ed: "The War As We Saw It"

A dissenting op-ed, written by several infantrymen and non-commissioned officers in the 82nd Airborne Division, appeared in the NYTimes yesterday (Sunday). It is extremely unusual for servicemen to write an opinion piece like this. The article takes dead aim at the increasingly rosy proclamations about Iraq emanating from the White House in recent weeks as we lead up to the September briefing by Petraus. In short, the authors argue, "To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched."

Here is a more extensive excerpt:
As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)...

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a "time-sensitive target acquisition mission" on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force....

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run....

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Add these gentlemen's names to the now long list of military people, from generals on down the line to enlisted men and women, who have harshly criticized the Bush Administration's execution of the war in Iraq and who see a bleak future ahead if we do not significantly alter our course. Who do you believe, the military people who are actually fighting and dying, or the neo-cons pushing the same old line from their comfortable armchairs along the sidelines?

For the full essay, see:
"The War As We Saw It"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sign of the Times: Darwinism vs. Creationism in Ohio

During my Sunday scan of the mainstream and alternative press, I noticed a strange opposition in my home state of Ohio:
Apparently, people are flocking to Cincinnati's fundamentalist-backed "Creation Museum," which opened not too long ago. The museum features dinosaurs alongside Adam & Eve. According to an article posted at, "there is no shortage of references to Darwin [at the museum]... But the clear purpose is to demolish not celebrate them." Here is the full article:

"Americans are Flocking to a Hi-Tech Creation Museum Where Man and Dinosaurs Frolick Happily Together"

Meanwhile, over at, an article announces that Case Western Reserve University plans a year-long celebration of Darwin to "make clear the enduring soundness and profound impact of Darwin's concept." That article can be found here:

"Case to Honor, Celebrate Darwin in 2008-2009"

Is it the 1920s all over again? The Scopes "Monkey" Trial? Anyone seen Clarence Darrow? William Jennings Bryan? It is true, Cincinnati has always been a more culturally conservative city than Cleveland, but I found this juxtaposition interesting, nonetheless...

Any thoughts?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mrs. Obama: "Be not afraid"

Here is the intro speech by Michelle Obama from yesterday's event. At the beginning, as the camera pulls in tight, look in the bleachers behind her to the right (just up from the Secret Service guy standing and wearing tan) and you'll see Drea's long dark hair and pink shirt. I'm next to her in a light blue shirt and our friend Les is next to me in light green.

Mrs. Obama has been getting raves for this speech, which has been plastered around the internet...

See also:
"Meet Michelle Obama" (video)
Michelle Obama on Countdown w/ Olbermann (video)
"Make-Up's Too Much Work for Michelle"
"Michelle Obama Adds New Role to Balancing Act"
"Michelle Obama's Career Time-out"
"Michelle Obama's Front-Page Move"
"'A Girl from the South Side' Talks"
"Michelle Obama: Campaigning Her Way"
"Michelle Obama Embraces her Husband's Campaign"

Thursday, August 16, 2007


We went to see Barack Obama today in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he spoke mainly about foreign policy issues. The great thing about the Iowa caucus system is that you have direct access to the candidates. We sat ten yards from the stage in a middle school gymnasium with about 250 people around us. When you can feel the politics in this way, you naturally come out jazzed about the process and democracy.

We were all very impressed with Barack and his wife, Michelle. They are both extremely charismatic and reasonable. Of course, we heard a stump speech, so here and there we would have liked a few more details, but overall we came away excited about the prospect of Obama as president. In his prepared remarks, Barack countered the criticism he has received recently over his foreign policy pronouncements in a very clear and fairly compelling way. He stressed a new approach to foreign policy that is refocused on the 9/11 culprits in Afghanistan and Pakistan and away from Iraq, a policy that is not only based on military might, but also on diplomacy, foreign aid to help countries combat poverty, and an openness and respect for the American people as citizens and, ultimately, the overseers of the nation. After his canned remarks, he opened it up to questions from the audience. The whole event lasted about an hour or so.

Here are some of the photos I took:

Obama in action...

Barack working the crowd...

Drea after she shook Obama's hand:
"I'll never wash this hand again as long as I live!"

Drea and Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama was impressive. She'd make
a great First Lady and, hell, probably a pretty darn good President

I always like the various buttons that come out with each presidential cycle. I got this one from a woman outside the school after the event...

Here is a related article by the NYTimes:
NYTimes: "Obama Takes Sharper Tone to the Trail"

Would an Obama presidency be good for prosperity? Buffett thinks so...
Bloomberg article

For more information on Obama's campaign, to find out where he stands on the issues, to get involved or donate some money, go here:
Obama '08

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Herbie Hancock - "Chameleon" (live 1975)

Dig this! Herbie Hancock and the gang layin' it down on "Chameleon" from his classic "Headhunters" album. Is that a calculator watch Herbie is wearing on his wrist???!!!?? Either way, smokin' hot...

... if you thought that was groovin', check this one out:
Herbie Hancock, "Hang Up Your Hang Ups" (1979)


September 15, 2007: National Day of Peace and Protest

September 15, 2007, is the next national day of peace and protest. A large march and rally is planned for Washington, D.C., while hundreds of cities across the country will be holding their own events.

Check it out in your area. Spread the word...

Info and resources:
September 15th Day of Peace and Protest

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stax Records relaunches

Most people know about Barry Gordy and the Motown Records hit factory in Detroit, but fewer know about the other great soul label, Stax Records, in Memphis, Tennessee. Stax - a.k.a. "Soulsville U.S.A." - was home to Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MGs, the Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, Albert King, the Bar-Keys, Johnnie Taylor, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, the Rance Allan Group and other great acts. Recently, in conjunction with the label's 50th anniversary, Stax embarked on a massive relaunch, promising a trove of new and old music and various other goodies.

Here is a promotional spot about Stax and the relaunch:

Even better, here is a trailer for the recently aired PBS documentary on Stax.

Here is the Stax 50th Anniversary Site, which has lots of good stuf:
Stax 50th Anniversary Site

Here is the link to the Stax Records museum:
Stax Museum of American Soul Music

And here is one more interesting Stax site:
The Stax Site

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Strange Politics of Race in Germany

The following images are part of an ad campaign by UNICEF in Germany. The campaign purports to raise awareness about educational inequality in African nations, but strangely has opted to use white German children posing in blackface as uneducated African children to convey that message. According to the ad agency that created the campaign, the poster "shows four german kids who appeal for solidarity with their contemporaries in Afrika." The text that goes along with each image is translated beneath the ad:

"in africa, many kids would be glad to worry about school"

"some teachers suck. no teachers sucks even more."

"I'm waiting for my last day in school, the children in africa still for their first one."

"in africa, kids don't come to school late, but not at all"

Not surprisingly, the ads have generated quite a bit of heat as they zoom around the world on the internet.

Malena Amusa has written at, "Besides claiming that every single person in 'Africa' isn't educated, and doing so in an extremely patronising way, it is also disturbing that this organisation thinks blackfacing kids with mud (!) equals 'relating to african children'. Also, the kids' statements ignore the existence of millions of african academics and regular people and one again reduces a whole continent to a village of muddy uneducated uncivilized people who need to be educated (probably by any random westerner). This a really sad regression. Bottom lines of this campaign are: Black = mud = African = uneducated. White = educated. We feel this campaign might do just as much harm as it does any good. You don't collect money for helping people by humiliating and trivializing them first."

In response, one reader wrote, "The ads seem to be trying to evoke in the viewer a sense of 'what if these were our children.'" Another posted, "Cultural context and imagery are handled slightly different in Germany. Sublime and slightly overboard. Why not using imagery like that for a pressing issue? Don`t apply US PCism." A different reader charged that those criticizing the campaign were merely "looking for the racist element in everything." And one final person asked, "This is clearly an attempt to help some poor kids. Why make a BIG DEAL out of it?"

Check it out the full Alternet piece at this link (be sure to scroll through the comments):
German Ad Campaign Uses White Children in Blackface to Portray "Uneducated Africans"

So, what is this all about? Is it just another example of racism, white supremacy and neo-colonialism? Or, is it American PC run amok, American cultural police imposing their values and perspectives on the rest of the world? Or, is it well-intentions gone awry? Or, is it some knowing use of historically loaded imagery to make a statement, or get attention? Or, is it something else altogether...?

For what it is worth, when I saw this story, I was reminded of a story from 2005, about a German city (Augsburg) that had decided to have an African cultural celebration inside their local zoo! The exhibit included real human beings along side the exotic animals. Anti-racist organizations throughout the country and around the world reacted. Here is the story:
BBC: "Row over German zoo's Africa show"

Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead...

I think it is going to be a good week. I woke up this morning to the news that Karl Rove, chief henchman... er... "architect"... of the Bush years, will be leaving the Whitehouse at the end of August. No word on what is behind this move, yet: Is he leaving so he can try to run the next Republican election cycle? Will he still advise the President from afar, like Karen Hughes? Is he dodging mounting Congressional subpoenas and accountability for his role in various administration scandals? Is his name in the D.C. Madame's little black book? Does he have to return to the Death Star for reassignment? Or, is he just a good old fashioned family man who wants to spend more time with the wife and kids, as he claims in the Wall Street Journal?

Sure. Sure. This is "too little, too late," the damage has been done, but we'll take it, right? Can't say I'm sorry to see him go, that is for sure... Rove has been the mastermind behind the sleezy politics of destruction and division, the corrupt corporate feeding frenzy and the general disdain for American democracy that we have all experienced over the last six-plus years. Time to turn that page, for sure...

Might Rove take Dick Cheney with him wherever he goes? Pretty please...?

(click above cartoon to enlarge)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Honoring Larry Doby

I grew up in Cleveland and have been a long-suffering Indians fan since I was a kid (and, by the way, aren't Cleveland sports fans the longest and deepest suffering fans of all??!! But I digress, that is a separate post altogether...). The Indians have the honor of being the first American League team to have a black player, Larry Doby. That made Doby the second African American player, overall, in Major League Baseball, eleven weeks behind Jackie Robinson. Unfortunately, Robinson's fame overshadowed Doby's accomplishment. In addition to integrating the AL, Doby was a 7-time All-Star and key piece to Cleveland's last World Series... in 1948... and their record 111 wins in 1954. Despite his achievements, baseball largely forgot Doby until 1997 - the same year MLB retired Jackie Robinson's number throughout the league. That year, as MLB took its traveling lovefest for Robinson across the country, a Sports Illustrated editorial pointed out that Doby had faced the same trials as Robinson, only without the media attention or support.
Finally, in 1998, long overdue, the Veterans Committee of MLB elected Doby to the Hall of Fame. Larry Doby died in 2003.

Tonight, the Indians are playing the Yankees at The Jake along the shores of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland. It's August. Both teams are in the playoff hunt. All of the Indians players are wearing No. 14 to honor the 60th anniversary of Doby's pioneering effort. Very cool.

Here is the story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
PD on Doby celebration

Here is an article from on Doby

As a Clevelander, I was particularly happy to read, "They never booed him [in Cleveland]," Larry Doby Jr. said. "He said the people of Cleveland always had his back." Right on, C-town, right on. Here's to you, Larry...

Thelonious Monk - "Straight No Chaser" (documentary)

Thelonious Monk is one of my favorite jazz pianists. Along with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and others, he was at the epicenter of the BeBop revolution. Yet, he is not as well-known as those other artists and his music is often misunderstood. Some folks don't like the angularity of Monk's sound, the sudden stops and starts, the jagged edges of his music, but those are some of the reasons I dig it so much. Monk was also a very strange character...

A decade or so ago, Clint Eastwood did an excellent documentary on Monk, "Straight, No Chaser," named after one of Monk's classic tunes. It focuses on the man as well as the music. Part one is posted below. The rest of the documentary can be watched through the links that follow. Any single segment runs about 8-10 minutes and each is worth watching all by itself, if you can't check them all out...

Straight, No Chaser, part 2
Straight, No Chaser, part 3
Straight, No Chaser, part 4
Straight, No Chaser, part 5
Straight, No Chaser, part 6
Straight, No Chaser, part 7
Straight, No Chaser, part 8
Straight, No Chaser, part 9
Straight, No Chaser, part 10

Or, if you just want to see Thelonious and his group jam out, click here for a fine version of "Blue Monk"

Dig it! Happy Friday...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Nancy MacLean on "the scary origins" of the Supreme Court's recent anti-integration decision

Nancy MacLean, a well-known History professor at Northwestern University, has written an excellent article over at History News Network on the ideological origins of Chief Justice John Roberts's recent decision to oppose the use of race in public school integration plans. According to MacLean, "[Roberts's] opinion has its lineage in a well-documented conservative strategy to hijack civil rights rhetoric to roll back advances toward substantive equality." She continues, "[Historically, conservatives have] used their peculiar readings of the Constitution to limit what democratic government could do for its citizens, an approach embraced today by the Federalist Society and the conservative block on the Supreme Court. [Conservatives] fought the quest for social justice at every turn. They urged the defeat of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and every measure to promote true fairness thereafter."

I think MacLean wants us to see the new conservative majority's ideology for what it is. Abstract theoretical arguments between "strict constructionists" and "liberal constructionists" aside, the fact is that conservative jurists have consistently thwarted attempts to create a more just, inclusive and egalitarian society. Their decisions have catered to large wealthy interests over the interests of ordinary Americans, private property over the common good, inequality over democracy. Folks can try to dress that legacy up in whatever rhetorical jujitsu they'd like, but the facts remain.

Take a look at MacLean's full article here...
Nancy MacLean, "The Scary Origins of Chief Justice Roberts's Decision Opposing the Use of Race to Promote Integration"

The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy - "Television"

"Television, the drug of the nation, breeding ignorance and feeding radiation... on television, the drug of the nation..."

Michael Franti and Spearhead is one of my favorite groups: conscious, funky, soulful, positive!

For Franti, before there was Spearhead, there was The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and the classic "Television." DHH were much more of a hip hop group than Spearhead and they packed a dead ahead hard-core political message. It doesn't go down as smooth as Spearhead, but it has a driving urgency... and more than a dash of Public Enemy in it.

This video is worth a look.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Presidential Approval: Nixon, Reagan, Clinton & Bush

This is an interesting graphic (click on it to see a larger version). It shows approval rating (0-100%) along the left axis and year in office (1-8) along the bottom axis. The small orange diamonds (the smallest marks on the graph) represent Reagan's approval rating throughout his presidency. The blue squares represent Clinton. Note the similar trajectories of these two presidents over their eight years in office. The yellow dots represent Nixon's approval and the red diamonds represent Bush's approval. Note the post-9/11 and post-Iraq invasion spikes in Bush's numbers, as well as Bush's consistent decline over the last five years. Of course, Nixon's numbers plummet with the Watergate scandal, Reagan's dip below 50% during the Iran-Contra hearings and Clinton's drop to coincide with the Lewinsky/Impeachment crisis... Perhaps surprisingly, Clinton fairs best, overall.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Lions, Camels and Elephants on the Great Plains!?

For many years now, the Great Plains region has been experiencing prolonged economic decline and population loss. There is continuous debate about what to do to revitalize this region. One of the more fanciful proposals was articulated in Scientific American several months back and recently received some coverage in the Washington Post. According to Joel Achenbach, the plan is to:

"Replace the extinct megafauna that once roamed the American West, back in the Pleistocene. We're talking lions, camels, elephants, cheetahs, and so on. Obviously you can't reintroduce an extinct species without some kind of Jurassic Park technology (that currently doesn't exist), but you can introduce the close cousins of said species, the ones still on Earth on other continents. They'd be kind of like Civil War re-enactors. The elephants would stand in for mammoths. The Asian lions that would be introduced are, according to the proponents, the same species as the lions that disappeared in the Pleistocene. Bactrian camels, now endangered in the Gobi desert, would be proxies for the extinct Pleistocene camel known as Camelops."

Check out the full article here:
Washington Post on Great Plains Plan

What do you think, lions, camels, elephants, cheetahs, and other exotic animals on the Great Plains? If so, do you think more people people will come visit me out here...?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hiroshima Peace Remembrance

Each August 6th, people around the world remember the WWII bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Those first and only atomic bombings took the lives of an estimated 100,000 people, many civilians. Many more suffered the effects of radiation and ruination. In the article linked below, Ron Takaki writes, "The history of this world-shattering event offers us lessons on war, race, leadership, reason, judgment, and the importance of cross-cultural understanding. Those who do not know history, a philosopher warned, will be doomed to repeat it. Hiroshima is a past that is not even past, and we ignore it at our peril."

Hiroshima Day gatherings often take place in a park, near a lake, and feature music, speeches, poetry and prayers. The point is:

- to remember the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
- to vow to never use nuclear weapons again
- to generally meditate on peace

People draw or write messages of peace on paper lanterns and then float them on the lake at sundown. It is always a very beautiful event. Check it out in your town.

For more information...
Ron Takaki, "The Lessons of Hiroshima"
Nora Gallagher, "The Soul of a Destroying Nation"
Hiroshima: What People Think Now

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Jake Gillespie

This is Jake Gillespie standing in front of one of his canvases. Jake is a friend here in Lincoln who is also a really great artist. He has had shows in Kansas City, Omaha, Chicago and Lincoln.

Below I've posted a few examples of Jake's work from 2003-2007. Recently, he has been doing video and animation work, in addition to painting. Jake is one of the co-founders of "Tugboat Gallery" in Lincoln, which focuses on younger and emerging artists.

These canvases, done at the beginning of this period, are much more abstract than Jake's later work:

A lot of Jake's work comments on or references popular culture and mass media...

This is a drawing from one of Jake's animated shorts...

Here is a more recent painting, "Alphabet 2, torture and interrogation"...

This one hangs on my wall...

For more information and many more examples of Jake's work, go here...
Jake Gillespie website