Monday morning, the incredible Jackie Wilson, Mr. Excitement, at his height, leads you in your morning exercise routine.
The clip is from the “Shindig” television show, back before they allowed too many black dancers on TV. But Jackie just makes the onstage whitebread crew look foolish. He influenced Elvis and Michael Jackson and through them, just about everyone else in pop music.
Thanks to YouTuber Dariane Mello Jackson
In celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday this past week, Mary Murphy and I put together a short segment about the Shakespearean sonnets, aired last night on the Arts Express program (on radio station WBAI 99.5 FM NYC). I talk a bit about the history and structure of the poems, and then we read five of our favorite lesser-known sonnets. Click on the triangle above to wish Will a Happy 455th.
By the way, the portrait above may just well be the only extant likeness of Shakespeare done in his lifetime, . It is purported to be Shakespeare at age 39. I like the idea of seeing of seeing him with a full head of hair and a sly smile.
And here’s yet one more installment of the humorous news commentary that I wrote a few times a week in 2014/15 for a local radio personality. I don’t know that the references (or humor) hold up anymore, but I thought you might enjoy reading some of them, because remember:
Fame is fleeting, but Bad Jokes are on the Internet forever.
A U.S. federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked President Barack Obama’s plan to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Some 26 states, led by Texas, sued the administration to halt the programs, arguing that Obama’s orders violated constitutional limits on his powers.
Comment: Because the President only has the right to secretly bomb the crap out of foreigners, not to give them asylum.
Hoping to better understand the health effects of oil fracking, the state in 2013 ordered oil companies to test the chemical-laden waste water extracted from wells. Data culled from the first year of those tests found significant concentrations of the human carcinogen benzene, in some cases, levels of benzene thousands of times greater than state and federal agencies consider safe.
Comment: I’ll have my Vodka-benzene martini shaken, not stirred.
Among the items discovered by Neil Armstrong’s widow, Carol, while cleaning out their suburban Cincinnati home was a bag containing long-lost Apollo 11 artifacts. Neil never told anyone on earth about the items and no one knew about the existence of the items during the 45 years since he returned from the Moon.
Comment: Armstrong’s widow declared, “Hey, that’s what happened to all my Helen Reddy, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and Peter Lemongello record LPs!”
Five’ll -Get-You-Ten Dept.:
The national debate over so-called ‘education reform’ has come into sharp relief in Philadelphia, where a pro-charter organization has offered the cash-strapped city school district up to $35 million to enroll an additional 15,000 students in new charter schools; but the Philadelphia School District says it would cost as much as $500 million to enroll the new students in new charter schools—about 20 times more than the amount offered by the non-profit.
Comment: It’s the new math: we give you a few dollars with one hand, then take your shirt and pants with the other.
Bacteria that haven’t evolved for more than 2 billion years have been discovered in the ocean floor sediments off Western Australia.
Comment: The bacteria were caught watching Milton Berle re-runs and explaining to their offspring that color TV has not yet been perfected.
Pennsylvania groundhog ‘forecasts’ 6 more weeks of winter
The handlers of Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, said the furry rodent has forecast six more weeks of winter.
Americans Dismiss Climate Change And Reject Theory Of Evolution In New Survey
A new survey in the U.S. has revealed that huge numbers of Americans reject the theory of evolution and don’t believe that human activity is in any way responsible for climate change.
Comment: They do believe, however, that the weather can be predicted by a groundhog.
Snowden files show that Canada’s electronic spy agency has been intercepting and analyzing data on up to 15 million file downloads daily as part of a global surveillance program.
Comment: In related news, thousands of Canadian intelligence agents reportedly quit, saying they couldn’t stand snooping on one more freakin’ phone conversation about hockey and Celine Dion.
Pope Francis will push for climate change policies, in a year when global warming is shaping up to be a central issue both for the Vatican and Washington. He’ll push United Nations leaders to write an international agreement to reduce emissions and help poorer countries adapt.
Comment: His Holiness will recommend green farming methods such as compost heaps and home-made fertilizers. However, he warned, Catholics may only use the fertilizers the three days a month when there is no danger of conception.
Monday morning the signal goes out and Josh Turner’s friends and family from around the country check in to sing this wonderful version of The Weight. That’s Josh’s dad and mom in the opening lines. Great work by Josh on putting the video together.
More at Josh Turner Guitar
Woman At War (Kona fer í stríð) is the most thrilling film I’ve seen in a long time. It’s the story of an Icelandic woman who decides to take direct action against the new money vultures who are invading her country. The slick capitalists are bringing in their heavy industry to destroy the Icelandic environment and change the Icelandic collective way of life, so this humble woman, Halla, a choirmaster, decides to take responsibility. She drags her bow and arrow across the moss-covered Icelandic interior moonscape and shoots a line of metallic wires across the newly built, landscape-spoiling, power lines. Snap, Crackle, Pop. The lines short and knock out the power to the new aluminum plants. The Mountain Woman has struck again.
The authorities, of course, do not take kindly to such shenanigans. They are on the lookout for this “criminal” and they use all the powers of a newly minted surveillance state. For these new capitalists, who seek to extract as much as they can from the previously clannish Icelandic village way of life, can only impose their will by enforcing it with an extensive surveillance and propaganda effort. Within hours of the power knock-out, the government apparatchiks have laid down the outlines of their counter-offensive. The Mountain Woman is immediately labelled a terrorist. The film neatly shows us how the discourse rapidly spreads from the politicians’ mouths across television, radio and locker rooms. The media buzz insists that it’s the resister and her friends, not the slick politicians who are the threat to democracy. She is falsely labelled as armed and dangerous with remarkable speed. The newly installed surveillance cameras and drones across the country make her a woman on the run, but still no less determined to accomplish her mission with the help of well-wishers and fellow travelers she meets along the way.
You can’t help but identify with the righteousness and intelligence of the woman, Halla, who gets pursued across the country. The film is constructed so that it is thrilling up to the very last moments. And in the end, in a daring and hilarious twist, our hero ends up having eluded the authorities, even as the rest of her—and our—future remains uncertain.
The acting of the lead character Halla, by Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir is a marvel. The one thing that can not be faked on a large screen is intelligence and depth of conviction. Perhaps I have been watching the wrong movies, but I almost never see this on the American screen. Ben Kingsley achieved it in his portrayal of Gandhi, but it is very rare to find an American actor whose internal political conviction and understanding is developed enough. Perhaps this is because of the difficulty of becoming a successful artist in this country; what is rewarded and what becomes the surrounding artistic environment is one of triviality, where political affiliation is a fad of the day, more like team sports, and the propensity to actually risk one’s moral convictions with action is nearly non-existent. But Ms. Geirharðsdóttir is not only fully convincing onscreen, you know she would be fully convincing off screen as well.
As if to counterpoint the seriousness of Ms. Geirharðsdóttir’s performance, the writer and director Benedikt Erlingsson contrasts the weighty theme with many elements of humor, not the least of which is the introduction of a character who is Halla’s twin sister—also played by Ms. Geirharðsdóttir. The portrayal of the sister is a funny, canny performance of a woman who looks inwardly towards meditation and yoga, in contrast to her twin who looks outwardly towards political action. I blinked a few times watching the two sisters together, because although they seem physically similar, their attitudes are so different that it was only with rolling of the credits that I was able to confirm that they were both played by Ms. Geirharðsdóttir.
Director Erlingsson also introduces some Brechtian-like characters who break the fourth wall, including a trio of musicians who show up at key times in the story, like a Greek Chorus. They inhabit the same space as the other characters but are unseen by them. There is also a scruffy bike-riding fellow wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt who keeps getting arrested for Halla’s crimes, but who is always let go for insufficient evidence. If you’d like to think that these characters are a commentary on the fact that when one person takes a strong moral stand and acts, there are always unseen supporters and allies, then we’re in agreement.
I was initially exhilarated by the movie, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. My wife and I had spent a brief time in Iceland last year and we both enjoyed seeing locations and streets that we recognized. It brought back memories of the basically egalitarian society we found there that was on the brink of challenge from the super-capitalists.
And yet a few days later, the movie had me down. Because as thrilling as the film was, as wonderful as it was that the forces of good won out in the end, it became clear to me that the story was a fairy tale. The director puts in Brechtian elements, but forgets why Brecht did so: Brecht wanted always to point out that what was onstage at any given time was just a story, not reality. Don’t get too caught up with the characters and forget about what is really going on in the real world, says Brecht. In Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, this is illustrated in the most direct way possible: through a set of coincidences the hero is saved from hanging by the authorities at the very last moment with a pardon from the Queen. A happy ending. But the cast slyly declares that this is just a story, and in real life, it doesn’t happen that way. In real life, people get hanged. Don’t get too caught up in the story, says Brecht. It’s a story. A fairy tale.
But Woman At War gives no such reminders. The hero in the story gets saved over and over from perilous circumstances by sheer dumb luck. She is followed by drones, tracked by police helicopters, surveyed by cameras, followed in cars, demonized by the worst, slickest media propaganda, stripped of allies by a populace anesthetized by the inanity of the discourse of capitalism, yet still always escapes. This is perhaps a story that is perfect for Iceland, because it is a society that is still on the precipice of the old and the new; it is a society that has worked very hard to move towards an egalitarian society, rooted in a collective memory of a people who had to rely on each other for survival. The relatively new neo-liberal vulture capital class is seeking to overturn all that. You can see the tension between these forces even in a casual visit to the country. The story, fortunately, has not been resolved in favor of the capitalists yet.
In a stroke of irony, though, I just read that Jodi Foster has bought the rights to this film and is going to star in a re-make. She will set it in Midwest America. I have great respect for Jodi Foster, but it’s a mistake. This can only be an Icelandic movie. The forces of capital have not reached the same tipping point there as they already have here. Here in America, we are surveilled, numbered, data mined, credit checked. We are militarized, racialized, families pulverized, children incarcerated. It’s too late in America for Erin Brockovich or Karen Silkwood. Their time has passed as possibilities. Julian Assange is thrown in prison. Chelsea Manning, once pardoned, now in prison, too. And both major political parties couldn’t care less. We are way beyond the point in this country where such a fairy tale would even have meaning: even a fairy tale has to have some plausibility. We in America have lost.
Our American cinematic fairy tales now are only of force, comic book tales of being able to beat up, destroy others. The Marvel and DC Worlds. We cannot even think in any other dimension. Perhaps Iceland…
Despite my reservations, this is a great film. It will have you thinking about courage and the State and just what it is that we can do as human beings to resist the madness around us.
The wonderfully versatile singer, actor, and songwriter Nellie McKay spoke with us a while back, following her engagement at Birdland in New York City. You can listen to the interview as broadcast yesterday on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5FM NYC by clicking on the little triangle above.
(Click to enlarge)
“The Peace Fountain is a 1985 sculpture and fountain located next to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in the Morningside Heights section of New York City by Greg Wyatt, sculptor-in-residence at the Cathedral. The sculpture depicts the struggle of good and evil, as well as a battle between the Archangel Michael and Satan. The sculpture also contains the Sun, the Moon, and several animals. Although it is called a fountain, there is currently no water on the site. A plaque at the base contains the following inscription:
Peace Fountain celebrates the triumph of Good over Evil, and sets before us the world’s opposing forces—violence and harmony, light and darkness, life and death—which God reconciles in his peace.When the fountain operates, four courses of water cascade down the freedom pedestal into a maelstrom evoking the primordial chaos of Earth. Foursquare around the base, flames of freedom rise in witness to the future. Ascending from the pool, the freedom pedestal is shaped like the double helix of DNA, the key molecule of life. Atop the pedestal a giant crab reminds us of life’s origins in sea and struggle. Facing West, a somnolent Moon reflects tranquility from a joyous Sun smiling to the East. The swirls encircling the heavenly bodies bespeak the larger movements of the cosmos with which earthly life is continuous.
Nine giraffes—among the most peaceable of animals—nestle and prance about the center. One rests its head on the bosom of the winged Archangel Michael, described in the bible as the leader of the heavenly host against the forces of Evil. St. Michael’s sword is vanquishing his chief opponent, Satan, whose decapitated figure plunges into the depths, his head dangling beneath the crab’s claw. Tucked away next to the Sun, a lion and lamb relax together in the peace of God’s kingdom, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah.”
Kerouac reads from his seminal Beat novel on The Steve Allen Show, while Steve provides backup. This is the only known film of Kerouac reading his own work.
Thanks to YouTuber Historic Films Stock Footage Archive