Monthly Archives: January 2014

Pete Seeger – A Few Words, Not an Epitaph

I didn’t know Pete Seeger personally although he knew so many people that I’m one-degree separated via about a dozen folks I can think of off-hand if you count knowing on a scale from actual neighbors and colleagues in arms, to people active enough in various causes that he knew them and greeted them by name.

This little love letter is not being written for Americans – we know what we lost, but for readers in other places whose picture of America and its people has been distorted, for those who see the worst of us on television and other media and mistake that for the majority.

Pete was a beacon in the darkest times – by which I don’t just mean the War in Vietnam and the struggle for Civil Rights – but Mourning in America – the lost years that began even before Ronald Rayguns and continued after him. A time when it seemed to some of us that many had given up, when the southern strategy was fully adopted by a Republican party that had decided divide and conquer was a legitimate way to win elections, when urban America was no longer considered “real” America by the rural heartland and city-folk were equally dismissive of their country brethren, when our government continued both clandestinely and overtly to fight the cold war (which Reagan did not “win” by the way) through proxies in the mountains and jungles of Guatemala, El Salvador and various other places in the world where right-wing juntas declared war on their own people in the name of free-markets.

Pete was there. And by there I mean ubiquitous. He seemed to show up at every single demonstration, always buoying our spirits and bringing together crowds whose agendas were to say the least disparate. He’d not only sing a few songs, he’d sing the right songs – the ones we needed to hear and he’d make us all sing along and even harmonize. He might not have held the stage the longest, but he was a leader. There was patter and anecdote as well, and overall an amazingly American can-do spirit, that wasn’t so much soppy optimism, as a simple faith that MLK Jr got it right about the arch of history, but we also had within each of us the power to speed justice along a little bit, especially when we raised our voices together.

I still remember something he said between songs at some DC march – was it Nicaragua or El Salvador? Maybe it was nuclear freeze or something else. He talked about how certain right-wing types thought if you let Nicaragua go socialist then the next thing to go would be Guatemala and El Salvador and they called this the domino theory and it was why we lost so many for nothing in Vietnam, and who knows after Central America it would spread to Mexico and then to Texas and even Washington DC. Pete paused for a moment, and then said slyly, “if only it were that easy.”

Of course it isn’t, but he taught us if you keep marching year after year and long after it’s no longer in fashion, and you keep speaking out at injustice, signing petitions, talking to your neighbors, and dredging the garbage in your river, and you never stop singing, you’ll get there eventually and you won’t be alone.

(And btw, over at Facebook there’s a page asking for Governor Cuomo to name the new Tappan Zee Bridge after Seeger. This would be both awesome and appropriate as the bridge is just a bit south of Beacon, NY where Seeger lived, and it’s over the Hudson river which he spent many years trying (mostly successfully) to clean. So why don’t you go over there now and “like.” What’s not to like?)

Get Yer Sherlock Recaps on HNTP

Sure, you’ve probably already gone to some totally illegal site and seen the entire third season by now, but my recaps will still add to your viewing pleasure and are now available over at Happy Nice Time People, your Wonkette’s more beautiful younger sister. Take a look at my take on Season 3 Episode One, and Season 3 Episode 2, and to get you in the mood for the upcoming (for us Americans) season finale, check out the preview below.

Unlocking Sherlock’s Secrets

Nine more days to the US Premiere of Sherlock on PBS, which means ten more days till the folks over at HappyNiceTimePeople (Wonkette’s prettier sister) start running my recaps. Meantime, the Brits have now completed two thirds of a three episode third season of Sherlock, while we poor Yanks must suffer or become video-outlaws. There was a lovely seven minute webisode as if we weren’t already salivating at the prospect of the return of our boys – Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson. This Sunday, PBS will be throwing another bone our way when it premieres Unlocking Sherlock, a 57-minute retrospective and teaser, featuring interviews with the cast and creators. More good news – it’s already available online LEGALLY at PBS.

What do we learn from this special? First and foremost, the reason there are so many shout-outs and references to the original Author Conan Doyle stories is because series creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are major “fanboys” – so says Benedict Cumberbatch.

There’s a brief history of Conan Doyle’s career, and a shout out to his medical professor, Dr Joseph Bell, a genius diagnostician on whom he based his great detective (though no mention of the television series, Murder Rooms, a fictionalized account of Bell’s adventures, which is available in the usual places.)

Did you know that Holmes and Watson are the most portrayed literary characters ever? There’s footage of earlier cinematic attempts including silents and a version shot on the streets of London with Conan Doyle’s blessings.

Continue reading Unlocking Sherlock’s Secrets

L’Elisir D’Amore — A Star is Born

Last year we did not see the Bartlett Sher production of L’Elisir D’Amore with Anna Netrebko because we are idiots. We decided to rectify that mistake and see the revival also with Netrebko this year and bought tickets for its opening night.

I’ve seen Netrebko in the Willy Decker version of La Traviata thanks to youtube, but the only time the better-half and I saw her live was in this season’s dismal Eugene Onegrin, known in our house as Six Singers Flailing on a Stage in Search of a Production. So we thought it would be great to see her in a role in which she’d triumphed, in a production that actually had a director.

Not keeping up on all the gossip, we didn’t know that Netrebko was out with the flu and we’d be watching the Met debut of Andriana Chuchman. Fortunately, the Met knew, and Chuchman had been at the dress rehearsal. All we knew was what was on the note inserted in our Playbill. Someone we’d never heard of would be making her Met debut in a role we’d come to hear the sweetheart of the Metropolitan sing.

Pressure much?

The better-half who is also the nicer-half made it clear that unless she was terrible he planned to applaud her very loudly.

She started off a little soft and drowned out by the orchestra. It didn’t seem like she had the vocal power for the house, but then Continue reading L’Elisir D’Amore — A Star is Born

Heiress Trophy Husband Tom Friedman Knows What Public Schools Need

I did not get through whatever drool was spewing from the mouth of the Gray Lady who at this point deserves to face the death panels. I merely opened the new Week in Review Lite section when these words from the middle of Thomas Friedman’s column jumped out:

“In some cities, teachers’ unions really are holding up education reform.”

If you consider “school reform” stealing resources from public community schools to put them into corporate charters for a “lucky” few, then yes, teacher’s unions are standing in the way. If you want those charters to hire new grads eager to pad their resumes before going on to something else because who needs experienced teachers, then yup, the unions will try to block that as well, and sure if you then decide to close the public schools that you gutted to give the charters space and materials, then I’m sure the unions will not be pleased.

Greedy bastards, those teachers. Unlike men who marry heiresses, teachers are all in it for the money.

Friedman goes on:

“But we need to stop blaming teachers alone. We also have a parent problem: parents who do not take an interest in their children’s schooling or set high standards.”

Do such parents actually exist? Yes, they do. But most parents do take an interest, and they certainly want the best for their kids. They may need to work a couple of jobs making talking to the teachers difficult. They might not be proficient in English, and the only available translator might be their kid, but not taking an interest is generally not an issue.

Then he goes on to blame the students.

Finally, he blames the President for failing to create a national campaign to “challenge parents and create a culture of respect and excitement for learning.”

The President is not completely blameless here. His education secretary, Arne Duncan, has put too much faith in charters, but his administration has done more than any previous one to try to build 21st century skills into the curriculum, and to push for excellence, and anyone who popped into a public school during or after the election of 2008 would have seen how much the election of an African American President who extolled education, changed everything.

Instead of blaming teachers, parents and students, why not just try to make schools better? It’s not that hard to look at those schools that work best in poor areas, middle-class and wealthy ones to figure out what the best practices should be. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that poverty sets up numerous blocks to educational success, and that income inequality in this country is a growing problem. Is there a need for some tough talk with unions Continue reading Heiress Trophy Husband Tom Friedman Knows What Public Schools Need