activism, Climate Justice, Culture, Photos, Resources & Downloads, Video

Youtube – A Brief History of Nonviolent Direct Action!

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Direct action has a long and honored place in American history – from the revolution itself through abolitionists, suffragists, union organizers, civil rights advocates, feminist and gay rights activists, and on to today’s vibrant climate and social justice organizing.

Click here for A Brief History of Nonviolent Direct Action

Join author Luke Hauser for a profusely illustrated 25-minute journey through our past. We’ll focus especially on nonviolent organizing from 1980 to the present, with sections on the 1980s anti-nuke movement and 2011’s Occupy actions.

Originally created around 2000, the show has been updated with a revised text and many new images.

So make a big bowl of popcorn, pull up your beanbag chair, and get ready for a journey through our history!

Photo by Janet Delaney.

 

 

 

Culture, Video

Broadway – Six Hours of Video

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I not a big fan of Broadway music after the earliest years, when it overlapped with pop.

But I’m down for a documentary on any kind of music. I’d probably watch the history of elevator music if it had good visuals.

PBS Broadway documentary – youtube –  you can probably find a hi-res version online as well.

Narrated by Julie Andrews, this six-hour documentary features reels and reels of original footage from the stage and/or later Hollywood versions.

About the PBS Series

Broadway: The American Musical tells two stories: the 100-year history of musical theater and the story of its relationship to 20th-century American life. The six-part series begins with the immigrant experience at the turn of the century, when a melting pot of voices and styles gave rise to a popular new form of entertainment, and ends with today’s Broadway, where big-budget new productions and revivals of classic favorites compete side by side for box office success.

Read more at the PBS website – click here

PBS Broadway documentary – youtube

Photo: Daniel Evans’ 2016 production of the ground-breaking musical Showboat by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Culture, Music, Video

Godspell – Jesus for Hippies

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Get ready! 2021 marks 50 years of Godspell!

Godspell casts an ethereal Jesus and his all-too-human, multi-gendered disciples as a band of urban hippies.

If you think Christianity has nothing to offer, give Hippie Jesus 103 minutes of your time. Or listen to this playlist of the songs taken from the movies to get the flavor.

Songs from Godspell

It may not save your soul – but it actually gives a glimpse of what Jesus might look like in our world.

The musical is structured as a series of parables from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Eminently singable folk-rock tunes punctuates the teachings and ultimately the trial and death of Jesus – Day By Day was a top-20 hit.

Godspell was composed by Stephen Schwartz with the book by John-Michael Tebelak. The show opened Off-Broadway in 1971, and has since been produced by multiple touring companies and in many revivals.

The musical began as a project by drama students at Carnegie Mellon University and then moved to the Off-Off-Broadway theater La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in the East Village of Manhattan. The show was then rescored for an Off-Broadway production, which became a long-running success. 

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Economics, Video

Meet Mr. Ponzi!

Variants of the Ponzi scheme are rife today – ie, using new investments (or loans) to pay off old investors (or banks). As long as interest rates are low and money is easy, it may work. When credit collapses, bye bye to the debt zombies.

Here’s a documentary on the originator of the Ponzi scheme – an ex-con with an actual profit-making idea that went haywire.

Click here for more economics articles, satires, and features.

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Culture, Music, Video

Heilung – Intriguing and a Bit Disturbing

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

What do you do when music is intriguing, but the message and imagery are somewhat repulsive? When the visuals are fascinating, but you come away a bit queasy?

No, I’m not talking gangsta rap, although the same issue has occasionally been known to arise (cf Cardi B, my current favorite vocalist…)

I recently watched some videos by a unique ensemble from Northern Europe – Heilung. The band re-imagines prehistoric music, along with a heaping helping of Wagner-cum-Las Vegas grandiosity.

Click here for a compilation video

I was intrigued and amused (not that their videos and music betray the slightest humor or irony).

But after a while it got disturbing.

Stone-Age Techno?

The band re-visions what Stone and Bronze Age musical/ritual performances might have sounded and looked like. Using only materials that would have been available to our ancestors (along with microphones, pickups, etc), they “amplify” sounds from long ago.

Apparently our beloved forebears were into drony voices, slapping bones together, and pounding on anything else they came across. No one “plays” anything – the verb “to play” in all of its senses would be utterly out of place at a Heilung show.

The mix is undeniably engaging, and pushes “trance” music into a new zone – kinda like stone-age down-tempo house. I predict every Pagan band will soon have a veiled female vocalist wailing and banging bones together.

When the vocalists get going in polyrhythmic interplay, all the while pounding on big frame drums, the energy is incredible.

Militarism and Misogyny?

Yet I came away disturbed at an overall tone and imagery that ooze militarism and misogyny without any sense of implicit critique or even awareness.

The band disclaims any political intent or message. But when your performance mimics Wagnerian imagery last idolized by fascists, and you end the night with a bunch of spear-bearing warriors “dancing” around the stage – you might want to make just a mite bit clearer where your true sympathies lie.

Click here for the big spear-waving ending

The on-stage visuals are striking, and their videographer does a great job with angles and close-ups. There’s much pounding, yelling, and pulling of harsh faces.

The male voices are distant ancestors of today’s death-metal guttural groaners, and take their jobs very seriously. The one female vocalist is veiled and unmoving, as if stoically holding all of the pain and mourning of the male ensemble.

Imagery and Messaging

The band would surely deny any connection to fascism or intent to appeal to such elements. Here’s their wikipedia blurb, probably written by their agent:

“Heilung is an experimental folk band made up of members from Denmark, Norway and Germany. Their music is based on texts and runic inscriptions from Germanic peoples of the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Viking Age. Heilung describe their music as “amplified history from early medieval northern Europe”. Their music is usually about Norse deities, jǫtnar, and valkyries. ‘Heilung’ is a German word meaning “healing” in English.”

To pick a nit – last I heard, no scholar believes that runes can be read, pronounced, or that we have access to any ancient tradition of meaning. Modern runic divination is based on intuitive interpretation – well and good, but a flimsy basis for reconstructing lost languages and cultures.

To pick a further nit – is it my imagination, or does the band’s name carry a distinct echo of the salutation used by an infamous political movement of the last century when addressing their Great Leader?

Just askin’.

Male Aggressiveness and Female Passivity

At a broader level, this “reconstruction” of ancestral music and ritual suggests unremitting male aggressiveness accompanied by blindfolded, immobile women.

You can see where someone might read a bit of violence and misogyny into this.

Clearly the manufacturers of Hellblade, a poorly-animated adventure/fight videogame built around incessant threats to the physical well-being of a young woman, felt that the music was a perfect fit for their franchise.

Forget Them?

Is Heilung hopeless? Hard to say. The music is intriguing. Maybe what we’re seeing is just a warm-up for an extended Las Vegas run.

Whatever their goal, they are promoting dangerously ambiguous cultural imagery with no evident awareness of its history or implications.

At the least, I’d like to see some hint that Heilung is aware that our forebears had a sense of humor, that they interacted in ways other than growling and pounding, and that the goal of their rituals might not invariably have been to empower warriors.

Just a suggestion. Give them a look/listen.

Click here for a compilation video

Messianic Addendum

The lead singer apparently has a bit of a messiah complex – he reports that the band’s performances have resulted in numerous miraculous healings!

Messiah Complex Video

Sorry to laugh, folks, but this is a bit distasteful. Music can be healing – but performers are not messiahs.

Nuff said.

*****

activism, Culture, Video

Stonewall – 50 Years of Inspiration

June 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a pivotal event in the history of GLBQT rights.

Here’s links to documentaries on youtube. Sadly, PBS – “public” broadcasting – is so busy monetizing its properties that it allows us to see only the first 7 minutes of its hour-long video.

Maybe it’s time for another uprising?

Stonewall Documentaries on Youtube

Photo: Kay Tobin, The NY Public Library Collections.

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