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Hear Our Voice: Write to Your Senator With Some Help From Amoeba

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 5, 2017 07:40pm | Post a Comment

The Women's March, 10 Actions 100 Days

The Women's March was spectacular. On January 21st, over one million in Washington, D.C. and over The Women's Marchfive million worldwide came to march, speak, and be heard/seen/counted. It was made clear in the U.S. that the election and the ensuing civil liberties-destroying madness don't represent the choices and opinions of every citizen. We marched hard and we wore vaginas on our heads, but unfortunately the fight doesn't end there. Since inauguration day, we've seen daily assaults to decency from the top down with the immigration ban, approved construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline, withholding of federal funds from sanctuary cities, Steve Bannon's installation to National Security Council as a permanent member of the principals committee, the firing of Attorney General Sally Yates, regular use of "alternative facts," and many more fresh hells served daily. It can be a daunting task just to get out of bed and check the news, but, as I covered in my last post, DOING SOMETHING is what's going to get us through this. DOING SOMETHING is what makes history.

The Women's March has launched a new campaign - 10 Actions For The First 100 Days and Amoeba Hear Our Voice postcardMusic is helping you get started with Action 1 of 10: write to your Senator!

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What the Heck to Do With Yourself on Inauguration Day In The Bay

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 17, 2017 12:11pm | Post a Comment

Inauguration Day

As you are undoubtedly aware, this Friday, January 20th, is Inauguration Day (or T Day, or The Day Freedom Died...take your pick). If you are located in the Bay Area, chances are, statistically speaking, that you have a lot of anxiety about the incoming demagogue. With more than two dozen Democratic representative boycotting the inauguration and with UC Berkeley's Robert Reich (AKA Facebook's favorite economist) calling for a civilian boycott to create poor ratings (Trump's worst nightmare), it can be tempting to hide your head in a bucket of your favorite budget beverage that day (as a lot of people have told me they plan to do) and feel like you're making a difference.

Robert Reich

However, as someone who walks around with a steaming pile of anxiety and nameless dread on their shoulders daily, I can honestly say that DOING SOMETHING can often be a beneficial way of working through one's angst and is always more preferable to ruminating alone in a dark room about building a fall-out shelter, while half-watching endless episodes of Man In The High Castle. Added bonus: DOING SOMETHING is a visible, effective, and positive method of rebellion. And it's infectious (in a good way, unlike apathy or measles/mumps/rubella). AND no one will really notice that you are not at the inauguration anyhow. So, Bay Area...Yeay Area? Can I call you that? Please consider this list of events, protests, and actions as my gift to you this Inauguration Friday and weekend. Get out of the house, forge new bonds with like-minded people, march in solidarity of Truth and Freedom, and don't forget your Inauguration Aggravation umbrella! This $hit is going down rain or shine.

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John Sinclair Talks to the Amoeblog Before Performing at Amoeba SF

Posted by Billy Gil, October 24, 2012 05:35pm | Post a Comment

Harry Duncan’s Roots and Rhythms Series returns to Amoeba SF Saturday Oct. 27 from 2-5 p.m. To hear a sample of the music Duncan spins, listen to In The Soul Kitchen with DJ Harry Duncan on KUSF In Exile Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. Listen to past shows here.

This Saturday’s show will include a rare appearance by legendary poet and activist John Sinclair. Sinclair was once the manager of Detroit proto-punks MC5 and lead anti-racist and pro-marijuana efforts in the 1960s. He was imprisoned in 1969 for the possession of two joints of marijuana, which spawned the John Sinclair Freedom Rally in Ann Arbor, Mich. in 1971, which featured John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman and another of other luminaries from the time. He was soon after released, and the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the state’s marijuana law was unconstitutional. He was charged with two others in the 1972 Supreme Court case United States v. U.S. District Court, which upheld that warrantless domestic wiretaps were illegal.

Sinclair is now based in Amsterdam, where he continues to write and record poetry, which is often accompanied by blues, jazz and rock musicians. He hosts a radio show at RadioFreeAmsterdam.com where he plays jazz, blues, R&B and other music, and maintains a blog, Fattening Blogs For Snakes. I caught up with Sinclair over the phone as he was working on a documentary in Healdsburg, Calif.

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(In which we consider Paul Robeson.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 7, 2010 03:22pm | Post a Comment

Harry Houdini vs. Laurie Anderson

My actual heroes in this world are few and disparate. From Harry Houdini to Laurie Anderson, from John Lennon to Mrs. Mary Eales, they reflect people who may inspire and impact me with their art, their political activism, their bold-faced chutzpah, or any combination thereof.

But perhaps no one embodies all these traits to such heightened super-awesomeness for me than the great Paul Robeson.


Rad.

Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1898. His father was an escaped slave-turned-church minister; his mother was from a Quaker family, and died tragically when Paul was six, which isn’t funny at all, so don’t laugh.

Paul received a full academic scholarship to attend Rutgers University, which I hear is a pretty good school, though I’ve never been there myself because I’m allergic to schools. Seriously. If I even step foot on a campus I start itching, sweating, and my head comes completely off and falls to the ground and rolls away.

While attending Rutgers, Robeson distinguished himself as one of the finest football players. He was valedictorian of his class, which allowed him to excuse himself from class to get water from the drinking fountain without the need of a hall pass.

Robeson went on to study at Columbia University. He continued to pursue sports and also performed on stage in theatrical productions. Sadly, it was during this period that his mother died a second time. The young Robeson soldiered on despite grief, occasionally finding solace in rowing, sometimes in boats, other times, less successfully, in giant holes dug into the earth by mole-people.

It was also at Columbia that he immersed himself in language studies – an interest that would come into play throughout his life. He would become fluent or near-fluent in twelve languages, with many more languages represented in his musical repertoire, such as Russian, Japanese, Yiddish and Klingon.

In 1921, Robeson married Eslanda Cardozo Goode, and while their marriage lasted until her death in 1965, it wasn’t a monogamous relationship, and saw near divorce when Paul was going through his (historically misunderstood) “lederhosen phase.” They gave birth to one child, a son, Paul Robeson, Jr. (It’s interesting to note that he was not named after his father as many people assume, rather an entirely different Paul Robeson of no familial relation, who’s similar moniker is merely a remarkable coincidence.)


"I love looking at floors with you, honey..."
Paul Robeson & Eslanda Cardozo Goode

Robeson became increasingly popular as an actor and singer. He found acclaim performing the lead role in Shakespeare’s Othello, which, though the character is black, was most often played by white dudes in blackface. He also originated the role of Joe in Show Boat, one of the most significant pieces of American musical theatre.


The ballad "Ol’ Man River" from Show Boat would come to be Robeson’s signature song. It was through his insistence that the original lyrics were changed from…

Ol' man hamburger,
Dat ol' man hamburger
He mus'know ketchup
But don't say pickles
He jes'keeps grillin’
He keeps on grillin’ along.


…To the now famous lines we know today. Throughout his career, and reflecting his increasingly political beliefs, he would continue to change the lyrics to the song, transforming it from a soulful but depressed ballad to a defiant and triumphant call for justice and equality.




Robeson and his wife moved to and lived in England for a little over a decade, until the outbreak of World War II. During this period, Robeson starred in a variety of films – many of these roles being strong, dominant men and profoundly disturbing to the more racially intolerant American audiences. Besides the film version of Show Boat, perhaps Robeson’s most famous film was The Emperor Jones, an adaptation of a Eugene O’Neill play he had also starred in on Broadway. The movie had a scene in which Robeson’s character killed a white man – a first in film at that point. This scene was cut for U.S. audiences, some of whom were enjoying scrumptious bags of buttery, hot popcorn! Yum!


His radio performances of pro-American songs during the War won him national celebrity. It was also during this time that he did other stuff and, y’know, things. He probably ate some good food, talked to peeps – whatever. I mean, I don’t have any evidence, but the odds are pretty good. I’m guessing he probably didn’t vanquish fire-breathing dragons and steal their treasures, or follow dwarves into underground caverns where he learned to forge weaponry from enchanted silver, but again, this is speculation based on educated guesswork. I can’t know everything, people!


Robeson’s travels and interest in cultures exposed him to the suffering and hardships of the poor and working-class. His fight for racial equality evolved into a fight for equality of social classes. Increasingly, he saw the capitalist structure as an oppressive force. He became more outspoken about his politics, supporting many controversial, socialist institutions. His support of the newly founded U.S.S.R. invited generous and heated criticism from the conservative and paranoid U.S. government and conservative and paranoid white supremacists.


Robeson sacrificed his career and reputation to fight against injustice as he saw it. He was vilified and persecuted by those in power. Like fellow crusader Martin Luther King, Jr., Robeson was under constant surveillance by the FBI and CIA. Between 1950 and 1958, Robeson’s passport was confiscated by the U.S. Government, who wanted to suppress his political activism. Also, they were mad at him for not inviting them to his totally awesome pool party.


By the early 1970’s, as hella cool hippie types began to undermine the controlling grip of right-wing squares, there was a resurgence of appreciation for Paul Robeson. By this time, poor health and exhaustion led him to keep a low profile. He lived in his sister’s house in Philadelphia, until he passed away there in January of 1976. Since then, he has recorded no new songs, though there have been talks about a possible side-project with T.I..

Paul Robeson is my hero because he is everything I want to be when I grow up: a Renaissance man, skilled in sport and the arts, a linguist, a brave and noble fighter, never shrinking from the dictates of his conscience, and totally mother-effing handsome. I wish there were a lot more like him.



Minnesota's New Senator: Al Franken

Posted by Whitmore, June 30, 2009 12:05pm | Post a Comment
The Minnesota Supreme Court Tuesday morning ordered that Democrat Al Franken be certified as the winner of the state's never ending Senate race and recount that was decided by only a few hundred votes. Finally, the paint has dried ...
 
The high court rejected a legal challenge from Republican Norm Coleman, whose options for regaining the Senate seat dwindled to almost nothing. Shortly after the decision was announced, Coleman accepted the loss, conceding and congratulating Franken on his victory. Coleman told reporters outside his St. Paul home, "The Supreme Court has made its decision and I will abide by the results; in these tough times we all need to focus on the future, and the future is that we have a new United States Senator."
 
Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said the earliest Franken would be seated is next week because the Senate is out of session for the July 4th holiday.
 
The unanimous court wrote that "because the legislature established absentee voting as an optional method of voting, voters choosing to use that method are required to comply with the statutory provisions." They went on to say that "because strict compliance with the statutory requirements for absentee voting is, and always has been required, there is no basis on which voters could have reasonably believed that anything less than strict compliance would suffice."
 
The 58 year old Franken was born in New York City but was raised in St. Louis Park, Minn., a suburb near Minneapolis. He graduated cum laude in 1973 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Harvard University. Best known as a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live from 1975-1980 and 1985-1995 and as the radio talk show host for The Al Franken Show on Air America Radio from 2004-2007, Franken has also authored several books, including Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations (1996) and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (2003).

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