Saturday, August 08, 2009

*Happier Blue- A Chris Smither Documentary-"One More Time"

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of Chris Smither performing "Train Home".

DVD Review

Chris Smither, One More Time, Homolumus Productions, 2007

The last time I mentioned the name Chris Smither in this space was in a review of a few of his CDs that I have listened to over past fifteen years or so. Chris, although he has been on the folk scene in the Boston area since the 1960’s and has played all the venues associated with that folk revival and its current dwindling remnant, has become an acquired taste picked up almost accidentally by hearing him being interviewed on NPR in the early 1990’s. I will use the first paragraph of that CD review to start the DVD review of this present musical documentary because the same question asked there applies here.

“If I were to ask someone, in the year 2008, to name a male folk singer from the 1960's I would assume that if I were to get an answer to that question that the name would be Bob Dylan. And that would be a good and appropriate choice. One can endlessly dispute whether or not Dylan was (or wanted to be) the voice of the Generation of '68 but in terms of longevity and productivity he fits the bill as a known quality. However, there were a slew of other male folk singers who tried to find their niche in the folk milieu and who, like Dylan, today continue to produce work and to perform. The artist under review Chris Smither is one such singer/songwriter.”

I do not know if Chris Smither, like his contemporary Bob Dylan, started out wanting to be the 'king of the hill' among male folk singers but he certainly had some things going for him. From the very informative interview segments that are interspersed between songs in this film it is, however, hard though to read his appetite for success that one can easily read in Dylan, early on.

Chris was in close contact and around those who were influential in that folk revival, especially Dick Waterman who was crucial in getting the old Southern black blues players like Son House a moment of glory. Chris, moreover, plays that signature blue guitar (not used in the film) for all it is worth, as seen here on several songs including Blind Willie McTell’s "Statesboro Blues". Or "Love You Like A Man" (covered with certain flair by Bonnie Raitt and others)

Moreover he is as capable as a songwriter as any of writing of longing, lost love, thoughts of mortality and...being stupid in the world. Witness "Let It Go" on that last point. Then turn it up a notch with a bittersweet song like "Caveman" (males-haven't we all had our stories of love and lost like that). Yes, Chris had the tools to go out and slay the dragons of the folk world. This film is thus a very important piece of folk music history as a work in progress. That work may not be well known outside the precincts of the graying folk world, but it should be.


Here's the lyrics to Chris Smither's "Love Me Like A Man" that Bonnie covers so well. They go back to the old days in Boston at various venues and might have ahd the same manager early on. Chris tells the story that most of those who have had success covering this song are women. Touche, right?

Love Me Like A Man

The men that I've been seeing
They got their soul up on a shelf
You know they could never love me
When they can't even love themselves

And I want someone to love me
Someone who really understands
Who won't put himself above me
Who just love me like a man

I never seen such losers darling
Even though I tried
To find a man who can take me home instead of
Taking me for a ride
And I need someone to love me
Darling I know you can't
Don't you put yourself above me
You just love me like a man

They all want me to rock them
Like my back ain't got no bone
I want a man to rock me
Like my backbone was his own

Darling I know you can't
Believe it when I tell you
You can love me like a man

Came home sad and lonely
I feel like I wanna cry
Want a man to hold me
Not some fool who ask me why
And I need someone to love me
Baby you can't
Don't you put yourself above me
Just love me like a man

Here is a song that Chris covers from the older blues tradtion-"Dust My Broom", originally done by Robert Johnson and then creatively covered by Elmore James.

Dust My Broom

I'm gonna get up in the mornin',
I believe I'll dust my broom (2x)
Girlfriend, the black man you been lovin',
girlfriend, can get my room

I'm gon' write a letter,
Telephone every town I know (2x)
If I can't find her in West Helena,
She must be in East Monroe, I know

I don't want no woman,
Wants every downtown man she meet (2x)
She's a no good doney,
They shouldn't 'low her on the street

*AP News Article- "U.S. Eyes Vietnam For Afghan Tips"- Anti-Imperialists Are Not The Only Ones Trying To Learn The Lessons Of History

Click on title to link to article on who else is interested in "learning" the lessons of Vietnam as we witness the deeper escalations of U.S. imperialism into the Afghan quagmire.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

*Humankind….Unplug Thyselves, Please!!

Click On Title To Link To Wikipedia's Entry For Luddites.

Social Commentary, Of Sorts

Let me set the following scenario that will help explain the title of this entry. Recently, in preparation for a vacation I had to do the following things. Make sure that my cell phone and charger plug-in were set, including my capacity to text message, etc. Make sure that my answering machine was set with an appropriate message. Make sure that I had my DVD player at the ready so that I could watch rented movies from NetFlix that I had ordered on my computer. Well, of course, the ubiquitous computer, complete with card (and separate charger unit to boot that baby up). Moreover, no one can leave home without an MP3 player (and another separate) charger, including in my case an additional CD player (old fogy stuff) in order to play CDs to find tracks I want on put on the MP3 player. I could go on but you get the drift. And all of this is even before I even got out of the house. Enough, right?

Now before I am accused of being something of a technological Luddite (click on title to see Wikipedia’s entry on this subject, for those who are unfamiliar with the term) I want one and all to know that I am more than happy, on most days, to use all that technology has to offer, including the capability necessary to post this little pearl of wisdom. I confess that in the old days I WAS something of a Luddite, at least in those days when I purposefully lived in a rooming house, hitchhiked (for the younger reader you may have to look up that old custom on Wikipedia, no link though-for that one you are on your own), lived off the land, lived out of a knapsack and didn’t seemingly have the burdens of leaving the house that one incurs today.

Moreover, in the bright socialist future that I keep spewing reams of propaganda about in this space technology and its innovations that will make humankind lazy (in the good sense of being able to pursue more important goals than struggling for the necessities for survival) we will have scores of scores of troops of technocrats working on every conceivable practical(and some impractical) ways to make the lot of the human race easier.

What worries me, and ultimately is the point of this screed, is that not all technologies are created equal. For every breakthrough in, say, complex surgical procedures and the like that allow people to recover the function of some lost body part that does all of society proud there is a seemingly parallel use of technology that has a socially isolating, anti-personal and, I believe, thwarting effect on the development of the human personality.

Am I the only one who shutters a bit to see the almost universal use of the cell phone (or among the young, text-messaging) rather than face-to-face or other more personal way to communicate. The strangest event may be the use of e-mail to communicate with someone in the next room at work or school. Let’s leave it at this- let technology create abundance for all, everywhere under socialism so we can all be lazy enough to sit down and talk together. Of course, for all that we need to get rid of the capitalists and their system for openers, and to do that we need a workers party. So we have plenty to talk about face-to-face before that bright day. I'm off.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

* In Defense Of The Cuban Revolution-Free The Cuban Five- Latest (Bad) Legal News On Their Case

Click on title to link to Free The Cuban Five web site for latest legal news on their case. Defense of, and political and legal struggle for the freedom, of the Cuban Five is a concrete act of solidarity with and defense of the Cuban Revolution. Ahora.

Monday, August 03, 2009

*Update on Leonard Peltier From The Partisan Defense Committee

Click on title to link to Leonard Peltier Defense Committee web site for updates on this long and sordid case against a central leader of the Native American struggles (and ours as well). Free Leonard Peltier!!!

This information concerning Leonard Peltier is passed along from the Partisan Defense Committee.

Freedom Now for Leonard Peltier!

(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)

A parole hearing for class-war prisoner Leonard Peltier was held on July 28, with a decision still pending. We print below a June 29 letter by the Partisan Defense Committee sent to the United States Parole Commission.

The Partisan Defense Committee joins with those supporting the release of political prisoner Leonard Peltier. A prominent member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), Mr. Peltier is in prison only because of his courageous activism on behalf of Native Americans, the victims of centuries of genocidal terror.

Between 1973-1976, hated Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agents and FBI-trained thugs terrorized Indian activists at the Pine Ridge Reservation, carrying out over 300 attacks and killing at least 69 people. In June 1975, 250 FBI and BIA agents, SWAT policemen and local vigilantes descended on the reservation and precipitated a shootout. Two FBI agents were killed. Mr. Peltier and three others were charged. All charges were dropped against one AIM activist, and two others were acquitted in a separate trial in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Jurors at that trial stated that they did not believe the government witnesses.

Mr. Peltier’s 1977 trial was moved to Fargo, North Dakota. The judge ruled out of order any evidence of the documented government violence against Native American activists at Pine Ridge. The prosecution concealed ballistics tests that showed that Peltier’s gun could not have been used in the shooting. As Mr. Peltier said at his sentencing, “I’m not the guilty one here; I’m not the one who should be called a criminal.”

One court proceeding after another has laid bare the evidence of his innocence and of massive prosecutorial misconduct. In a 1985 appeals hearing, the government’s lead attorney admitted, “We can’t prove who shot those agents.”

In 1986, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the trial jury could have acquitted Mr. Peltier if records improperly withheld from the defense had been made available.

In November 2003, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals stated, “Much of the government’s behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and in its prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed.”

In 2001, in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act and lawsuits, the U.S. government admitted it had withheld a staggering 142,579 pages of evidence of its secret COINTELPRO efforts to persecute and convict Mr. Peltier.

The long trail of injustice against Leonard Peltier has been documented in the film Incident at Oglala, narrated by Robert Redford, and the book In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen. He has been framed up for crimes the government knows he did not commit. Millions worldwide have demanded his freedom.

It is an injustice that Mr. Peltier was ever incarcerated at all. The more than 33 years of unjust imprisonment have not only robbed this honorable man of a majority of his lifetime. They have taken a devastating toll on his physical well-being as he suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, partial blindness and a heart condition. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Leonard Peltier.

*Outsourcing For Fun And Profit- A Film Review Of "Outsourced"

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of the trailer for "Outsourced".

DVD Review

Outsourced, starring Josh Hamilton, directed by John Jeffcoat, 2006

Okay, it was bound to happen, right? After all the gnashing of teeth about the lost of American jobs to other countries, after all the India-China bashing as the symbol of those loses and after all the strident, if fruitless, lambasting of those facts by every yahoo politician and cretin-like labor bureaucrat we were bound to get out of Hollywood (or Bollywood, for that matter) a comedic take on this phenomenon. And, given the political ethos of these times, a little ‘lesson’ in multi-culturalism to boot.

It may be unfair to lay the vagaries of the world labor market and the current phase of capitalist “globalization” on a simple film, and I won’t, at least not much because this was actually an entertaining film on its own terms, but its subtext (nice weasel word, right?) does fit in rather nicely about the state of the still fervent “outsourcing” strategy that virtually every large corporation in America (and elsewhere) has hit upon in order tot reduce (and reduce significantly) their wage bills, particularly administrative costs and the price of unskilled and semi-skilled labor.

A quick sketch of the plot is in order. An American telemarketing corporation in order to cut those high administrative costs fires it’s American–centered order-taking staff and out sources to the highly skilled but cheap wage Indian labor market. A middle level executive, the star of the film, Josh Hamilton, is called upon to bring the Indians up to speed and the twists and turns of the plot turn around the struggle to get the Indians to conform to the Taylor productivity speed up system well-known in American business circles. The faults and follies of this transformation drive the, sometimes understated, comedy of the film. Along the way, naturally, said executive gets an up close and personal lesson in multiculturalism from a very fetching Indian love interest.

But here is the point for our purposes-in the end, and I am really giving nothing away here, the Indian employees in their turn are fired so that the corporation can set up shop in the even cheaper Chinese labor market. In short, the race to the bottom continues on its merry way unabated. It is that unabated condition that I will finish up with. I’ve mentioned those cretin-like labor bureaucrats above who have “belly-ached” about the flight of jobs to other countries without lifting finger one to organize labor internationally to drive wages up and make the flight of jobs out much less attractive . Hell, they haven’t, at least since the great wave of industrial unionism led by the CIO drives of the 1930’s, done anything to organize labor in the cheap-labor American south or, and here is the real crime, Wal-mart. This is hardly the end of the discussion. Let’s leave it at this for now- organize globally and think locally. Thinking the other way around gets us no place- American, Indian or Chinese.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

*Turning Swords Into Ploughshares, Oops! ….Iron Men

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Trailer Of The Film "Iron Man"

DVD Review

Iron Man, starring Robert Downey, Jr, 2008

In the normal course of my work in this space I don’t generally review current commercial films, except when they provide some kind of political or social comment that is in line with those aims. Or when I am feeling a little whimsical or wicked after watching a “light” film that is just pure entertainment. That turns out to be the case here.

Let’s face it, how can one seriously knock a film that is based on a comic book character? Reading about or viewing such characters was virtually a rite of passage for any child, right? Here whiz kid (or elder kid) and mega-rich defense contractor Tony Stark, played very nicely by Robert Downey, Jr., just happens to have had a “conversion” experience in of all places, modern day Afghanistan (if one can accept that as a correct term in that benighted country) as a result of a very close call with the results of his own weaponry at the hands of a Taliban-like organization.

As a result, Brother Stark will not, however, ‘go gentle into that good night’ and begin to preach some form of pacifism but will turn the nature of modern nasty and brutish combat on its head and return, via high technology, to the good old medieval days of individual knightly combat. One on one, up close and personal. Needless to say, that knight will be none other than the whiz kid Stark. Throw in a little off-hand old-fashioned chaste romance with his fair damsel, oops, Girl Friday (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) and you have the makings of a very good…comic book story. Kudos for that part.

No kudos, however, for the little premise that was always behind these super-hero adventure stories. Wait on an individual ‘savior” to come by and save us from ourselves. If we wait for the “white knight” to come and save us from this wicked old world we are in serious trouble. Although this film was fun to watch and a nice spoof I’ll stick with the mass plebeian struggle to turn those swords into ploughshares. And by the way, individual knight or massed troops isn’t it about time to get out, way out, of Afghanistan now. The comic books, and their very appealing characters, are of no use for use on that proposition though.

*"Bella Ciao"- But "Bandiera Rossa" (Red Flag) As Well- We Are Indeed Partisans Of The Struggle

Here is a link to a new Renegade Eye post. We need our revolutionary songs as part of the struggle, no question. "Bandiera Rossa" (Red Flag) would be my choice rather than the more amorphous "Bella Ciao". I have posted our classic anthem "The Internationale" in the past for May Day and the anniversary of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Bandiera rossa [Red Flag]

Avanti o popolo, alla riscossa
Bandiera rossa, bandiera rossa
Avanti o popolo, alla riscossa
Bandiera rossa trionferà.

Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Evviva il socialismo e la libertà!

Degli sfruttati l'immensa schiera
La pura innalzi, rossa bandiera
O proletari, alla riscossa
Bandiera rossa trionferà.

Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Il frutto del lavoro a chi lavora andrà.

Dai campi al mare, alla miniera
All'officina, chi soffre e spera
Sia pronto è l'ora della riscossa
Bandiera rossa trionferà.

Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Soltanto il socialismo è vera libertà.

Non più nemici, non più frontiere
Sono i confini rosse bandiere
O socialisti, alla riscossa
Bandiera rossa trionferà.

Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Nel solo socialismo è pace e libertà.

Falange audace cosciente e fiera
Dispiega al sole rossa bandiera
Lavoratori alla riscossa
Bandiera rossa trionferà.

Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Evviva il comunismo e la libertà!
Forward people, to the rescue
Red flag, red flag
Forward people, to the rescue
Red flag will triumph.

Red flag will be triumphant
Red flag will be triumphant
Red flag will be triumphant
Long live socialism and freedom!

The exploited's immense formation
Raises the pure, red flag
Oh proletarians, to the rescue
Red flag will triumph.

Red flag will be triumphant
Red flag will be triumphant
Red flag will be triumphant
The fruits of labor will be for he who works!

From the country to the sea, to the mine
To the workshop, those who suffer and hope
Be ready, it's the hour of vengeance
Red flag will triumph.

Red flag will be triumphant
Red flag will be triumphant
Red flag will be triumphant
Only socialism is true freedom.

No more enemies, no more frontiers
The borders are red flags
Oh socialists, to the rescue
Red flag will triumph.

Red flag will be triumphant
Red flag will be triumphant
Red flag will be triumphant
Only in socialism is there peace and freedom.

Bold, conscious and proud ranks
Unfurl the red flag in the sun
Workers to the rescue
Red flag will triumph.

Red flag will be triumphant
Red flag will be triumphant
Red flag will be triumphant
Long live communism and freedom!