I first encountered Indiana poet/musician Peter Davis’s work only a few months ago, but his laconic slacker sensibility, quirky playful sense of humor and self-deprecation immediately appealed to me.
His poems start off ordinarily enough, and then often veer into strange territory, defying expectation. Underlying much of it, the poems are about self-justification and what we say to ourselves and others in order to get us out of the existential jam that we have no idea what we’re doing, even as we proceed with bluff assurance.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my reading of some of Peter Davis’s poems as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI NY, WBAI.org, and Pacifica affiliates across the country.
Jeremy Brecher has just come out with a revised and updated 50th anniversary edition of his brilliantly readable book called STRIKE! about the history of strikes in the United States. It’s an eye-opening history in so many ways, but for now, I’d just like to excerpt from the book an editorial that was published in the Seattle Union Record concerning the general strike that had taken hold in Seattle in 1919. The general strike involved shipbuilders, dockworkers, laundry workers, restaurant workers, milk-wagon drivers, and many more trades who brought the city to a standstill. If this rings a bell for you today, it’s not a coincidence.
There will be many cheering, and there will be some who fear.
Both these emotions are useful, but not too much of either.
We are undertaking the most tremendous move ever made by LABOR
in this country, a move which will lead—NO ONE KNOWS WHERE!
We do not need hysteria.
We need the iron march of labor.
LABOR WILL FEED THE PEOPLE.
Twelve great kitchens have been offered, and from them food
will be distributed by the provision trades at low cost to all.
LABOR WILL CARE FOR THE BABIES AND THE SICK.
The milk-wagon drivers and the laundry drivers are arranging plans
for supplying milk to babies, invalids and hospitals and taking care
of the cleaning of linen for hospitals.
LABOR WILL PRESERVE ORDER.
The strike committee is arranging for guards and it is expected that
the stopping of the cars will keep people at home..
A few hot-headed enthusiasts have complained that strikers-only
should be fed, and the general public left to endure severe
discomfort. Aside from the inhumanitarian character of such
suggestions, let them get this straight—
NOT THE WITHDRAWAL OF LABOR POWER,
BUT THE POWER OF THE STRIKERS TO MANAGE WILL WIN THIS STRIKE.
What does Mr. Piez of the Shipping Board care about the
closing down of Seattle’s shipyards, or even of all of the
industries of the northwest? Will it not merely strengthen the
yards at Hog Island, in which he is more interested?
When the shipyard owners of Seattle were on the point of agreeing
with the workers, It was Mr. Piez who wired them that, if they so
HE WOULD STILL NOT LET THEM HAVE STEEL.
Whether this is camouflage we have no means of knowing.
But we do know that the great eastern combinations of capitalists
COULD AFFORD to offer privately to Mr. Skinner, Mr. Ames and
Mr. Duthie a few millions apiece in eastern shipyard stock.
RATHER THAN LET THE WORKERS WIN.
The closing down of Seattle’s industries, as a MERE SHUTDOWN,
will not affect these eastern gentlemen much. They could let the
whole northwest go to pieces, as far as money alone is concerned.
BUT, the closing down of the capitalistically controlled industries
of Seattle, while the WORKERS ORGANIZE to feed the people,
to care for the babies and the sick, to preserve order—
THIS will move them, for this looks too much like the taking over
of the POWER of the workers.
Labor will not only SHUT DOWN the industries,
but Labor will REOPEN, under the management of the appropriate trades,
such activities as are needed to preserve public health
and public peace. If the strike continues, Labor may feel led
to avoid public suffering by reopening more and more activities.
UNDER ITS OWN MANAGEMENT
And that is why we say that we are starting on a road that leads—
NO ONE KNOWS WHERE!
When an arts center depends on its community, how do you deal with lockdown conditions? Ellen Kodadek, artistic and executive director of Flushing Town Hall, talks with us on Arts Express about some of the strategies they have implemented at her institution, including virtual hangouts and virtual jazz jams.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI NY radio and Pacifica affiliates across the country.
Leslie Nielsen starred in this television show, Police Squad, that was cancelled after six episodes. But Nielsen had the last laugh as the characters were resurrected in the wildly successful Naked Gun films.
Two summers ago at the Ashokan Summer Hoot in upstate New York, a young woman named Nora Brown just knocked the crowd out with her amazing virtuoso banjo playing and evocation of traditional Appalachian music. I was very happy to interview her for the Arts Express radio program.
Click on the triangle or the mp3 link above to hear the interview with Nora Brown and some of her music as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.
At the time, 1975, the song was a highly unlikely candidate for a pop hit. It may have been the first pop song for young women of high school age that wasn’t for the cheerleaders. It might be hard to recall now, in the age of Glee, but songs examining the inner lives of high school students who saw themselves as social outcasts were not, at the time, the common fare. Millions of young women saw themselves in the lyrics of the song, and suddenly the singer/songwriter, Janis Ian, who at age 14 had had a qualified (and often censored) hit with her song of interracial love, “Society’s Child,” was overnight an international star.
The clip above seems so raw, true, and natural that you might think it was just an amateur effort turned lucky. But Ian by that time had already had seven albums of music released and was an accomplished songwriter. It was the one time, though, she said, that she had penned a song and told her manager that she had just written a hit.
Last week I posted Part One of my interview with Jodi Dean, author of the new book, Comrade. In that part of the interview, she talked about the origin and unique importance of the word, “comrade,” and how it differs from other terms like friend or ally.
This week we continue with Part Two of that conversation as we talk about what happens when comrades and party part company, and what the opening for a real politics might be in the time of pandemic. As events occur at lightening speed, her point of view becomes more important than ever.
Click on the triangle or the mp3 link above to hear the interview as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.
I keep a file on my computer labeled “Quotations,” which consists of various clippings I’ve picked up along the way. Every once in a long while I like to re-read them, so I thought I’d share some of them with you.
“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.”
― Elbert Hubbard
“The big thing about directing is to find out what gives the actor confidence. Once the actor has confidence they are free to extend themselves.”–Paul Newman
“You must never, never despair, whatever the circumstances. To hope and to act, these are our duties in misfortune. To do nothing and despair is to neglect our duty.” — Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
“My teachers should have ridden with Jessie James for all the time that they stole from me.”
“The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form.” — Stanley Randall
“When you feel overwhelmed, you’re trying too hard. That kind of energy does not help the other person and it does not help you. You should not be too eager to help right away. There are two things: to be and to do. Don’t think too much about to do—to be is first. To be peace. To be joy. To be happiness. And then to do joy, to do happiness—on the basis of being.So first you have to focus on the practice of being. Being fresh. Being peaceful. Being attentive. Being generous. Being compassionate. This is the basic practice. It’s like if the other person is sitting at the foot of a tree. The tree does not do anything, but the tree is fresh and alive. When you are like that tree, sending out waves of freshness, you help to calm down the suffering in the other person.” —Thích Nhất Hạnh
“It is hard enough to remember my opinions, without also remembering my reasons for them!”–Friedrich Nietzsche
“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it”
George Bernard Shaw
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” –Anton Chekhov
“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” -John Cleese
“Son, never trust a man who doesn’t drink because he’s probably a self-righteous sort, a man who thinks he knows right from wrong all the time. Some of them are good men, but in the name of goodness, they cause most of the suffering in the world. They’re the judges, the meddlers. And, son, never trust a man who drinks but refuses to get drunk. They’re usually afraid of something deep down inside, either that they’re a coward or a fool or mean and violent. You can’t trust a man who’s afraid of himself. But sometimes, son, you can trust a man who occasionally kneels before a toilet. The chances are that he is learning something about humility and his natural human foolishness, about how to survive himself. It’s ***ed hard for a man to take himself too seriously when he’s heaving his guts into a dirty toilet bowl.”― James Crumley
“Against stupidity, even the gods are invictorious.”–Friedrich Schiller