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Sammy Davis Jr. in Vietnam: Documentary from 1972
12:57 pm


Sammy Davis Jr.

I’ve always loved Sammy Davis Jr. As a kid, I read his 1965 autobiography “Yes I Can” and as an adult I still have a deep fondness for his upbeat, groovy, vibe.

Sammy Davis, Jr. went to Vietnam in 1972 as a representative of President Nixon’s Special Action Office For Drug Abuse Prevention. Davis was there to observe the military drug abuse rehabilitation program, and talk to and entertain the troops.

Sammy was a peacenik. “I was so opposed to the war in Vietnam that I initially refused President Nixon’s urgings for me to go there.”  But, he ended up going to entertain the troops.

Davis walked a fine line between being perceived as a House Negro for The White House and, in my opinion, a saavy infiltrator who instigated change from within.

For Davis, his role as a high-profile Black entertainer with a desire to change the tone of American society found him engaged in a delicate balancing act between winning hearts and minds while still sticking to his core beliefs of racial equality, peace, love and understanding at a time when the USA was deeply divided along race lines as well as pro-war and anti-war factions.

“Being a star has made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to go and get insulted.”

He got shit from all sides, called an “Uncle Tom” by some Blacks, hated by whites for marrying a white woman, and ostracized by trendoids for being a faux hipster, he defied them all by letting his talent do the talking.

In the following footage, you see Davis, working with a bare bones production, a trio of back-up dancers and a small band, creating some dynamite energy. It’s like a chitlin circuit roadhouse review compared to Bob Hope’s lavish USO tours. In one scene, Davis sings for a small group of soldiers working with nothing but a microphone and a drummer - no band, no backing tracks.

Davis chooses his words very carefully while discussing Vietnam and the drug issue. 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Shoplifters of the World Unite

On an individual basis, when you are staring one dumb kid in the face who can’t articulate why he wanted to burn a local shop to the ground, well then, yes, you can say it’s criminal behavior, someone who wasn’t raised properly or a matter of law and order. However, when mass-rioting is seen on a scale the likes of which occurred in England recently, it seems quite obvious that what we’re observing is a widespread social pathology resulting from end-stage capitalism.  From the tepid (and often counter-productive) response of the British government to the riots, one can only conclude that they have completely run out of ideas—or lack the will—to do anything about the root causes of the unrest.

Radical Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek writes on on the deeper meaning of England’s riots in the London Review of Books:

Repetition, according to Hegel, plays a crucial role in history: when something happens just once, it may be dismissed as an accident, something that might have been avoided if the situation had been handled differently; but when the same event repeats itself, it is a sign that a deeper historical process is unfolding. When Napoleon lost at Leipzig in 1813, it looked like bad luck; when he lost again at Waterloo, it was clear that his time was over. The same holds for the continuing financial crisis. In September 2008, it was presented by some as an anomaly that could be corrected through better regulations etc; now that signs of a repeated financial meltdown are gathering it is clear that we are dealing with a structural phenomenon.

We are told again and again that we are living through a debt crisis, and that we all have to share the burden and tighten our belts. All, that is, except the (very) rich. The idea of taxing them more is taboo: if we did, the argument runs, the rich would have no incentive to invest, fewer jobs would be created and we would all suffer. The only way to save ourselves from hard times is for the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer. What should the poor do? What can they do?

Although the riots in the UK were triggered by the suspicious shooting of Mark Duggan, everyone agrees that they express a deeper unease – but of what kind? As with the car burnings in the Paris banlieues in 2005, the UK rioters had no message to deliver. (There is a clear contrast with the massive student demonstrations in November 2010, which also turned to violence. The students were making clear that they rejected the proposed reforms to higher education.) This is why it is difficult to conceive of the UK rioters in Marxist terms, as an instance of the emergence of the revolutionary subject; they fit much better the Hegelian notion of the ‘rabble’, those outside organised social space, who can express their discontent only through ‘irrational’ outbursts of destructive violence – what Hegel called ‘abstract negativity’.

There is an old story about a worker suspected of stealing: every evening, as he leaves the factory, the wheelbarrow he pushes in front of him is carefully inspected. The guards find nothing; it is always empty. Finally, the penny drops: what the worker is stealing are the wheelbarrows themselves. The guards were missing the obvious truth, just as the commentators on the riots have done. We are told that the disintegration of the Communist regimes in the early 1990s signalled the end of ideology: the time of large-scale ideological projects culminating in totalitarian catastrophe was over; we had entered a new era of rational, pragmatic politics. If the commonplace that we live in a post-ideological era is true in any sense, it can be seen in this recent outburst of violence. This was zero-degree protest, a violent action demanding nothing. In their desperate attempt to find meaning in the riots, the sociologists and editorial-writers obfuscated the enigma the riots presented.

The protesters, though underprivileged and de facto socially excluded, weren’t living on the edge of starvation. People in much worse material straits, let alone conditions of physical and ideological oppression, have been able to organise themselves into political forces with clear agendas. The fact that the rioters have no programme is therefore itself a fact to be interpreted: it tells us a great deal about our ideological-political predicament and about the kind of society we inhabit, a society which celebrates choice but in which the only available alternative to enforced democratic consensus is a blind acting out. Opposition to the system can no longer articulate itself in the form of a realistic alternative, or even as a utopian project, but can only take the shape of a meaningless outburst. What is the point of our celebrated freedom of choice when the only choice is between playing by the rules and (self-)destructive violence?

The outright dismissal by many conservative commentators in England that there was ANY political content to the actions of the (supposedly pampered) rioters seemed idiotic to me. AS IF the observation of the mass behavior of thousands upon thousands of underclass young men deciding to burn their neighborhoods to the ground provided not a scrap of data to be interpreted by social scientists? Nonsense!

The liberals in the UK don’t seem to have that much better a grasp of the situation, as Žižek goes on to point out…

Watch for the repetitions. They’re going to be hammering us harder and faster until we start to wise up…

Read the rest of “Shoplifters of the World Unite” by Slavoj Žižek (London Review of Books)

Below, Slavoj Žižek: “What does it mean to be a revolutionary today?” speech from the Marxism 2009 conference.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Photographer trolls Christian publisher

Boy I hope this is true! Someone in the reddit thread found the book on Amazon.

(via reddit and 9GAG)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Rushing Like Lemmings Toward the Abyss: The Destructive Power of the Financial Markets

In Der Spiegel’s fascinating long, four-part report, “The Destructive Power of the Financial Markets,” the situation of advanced capitalism is summed-up (appropriately) in the starkest terms, with predatory hedge fund managers and the financial elites identified as the “bad guys” in the opening paragraphs:

The enemy looks friendly and unpretentious. With his scuffed shoes and thinning gray hair, John Taylor resembles an elderly sociology professor. Books line the dark, floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves in his office in Manhattan, alongside a bust of Theodore Roosevelt and an antique telescope.

Taylor is the chairman and CEO of FX Concepts, a hedge fund that specializes in currency speculation. It’s the largest hedge fund of its kind worldwide, which is why Taylor is held partly responsible for the crash of the euro. Critics accuse Taylor and others like him of having exacerbated the government crisis in Greece and accelerated the collapse in Ireland.

People like Taylor are “like a pack of wolves” that seeks to tear entire countries to pieces, said Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg. For that reason, they should be fought “without mercy,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy raged. Andrew Cuomo, the former attorney general and current governor of New York, once likened short-sellers to “looters after a hurricane.”

The German tabloid newspaper Bild sharply criticized Taylor on its website, writing: “This man is betting against the euro.” If that is what he is doing, he is certainly successful. While Greece is threatened with bankruptcy, Taylor is listed among the world’s 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers.

A well-read man, Taylor likes to philosophize about the Congress of Vienna and the Treaties of Rome. But is this man really out to speculate the euro to death? And does he have Greece on his conscience?

Taylor grimaces and sighs. He was expecting these questions. “The big problem is that in some cases these politicians are looking for the easy way out and want to blame somebody else and say speculators are taking Europe apart, taking the euro down and ruining the prosperity of our country,” he says, characterizing such charges against hedge fund managers as “nonsense.” “My capital isn’t the capital of the Rothschilds,” he says, insisting that he is working with the “capital of the people,” and that his goal is to protect and increase this capital. Taylor points out that no one from any of the German pension funds that invest their money with him has ever called him on the phone to tell him not to bet against the euro.

We’ve heard that one before. If bankers and hedge fund managers aren’t to be held culpable for the mess in the world’s financial markets, as they tell us over and over again, then WHO IS responsible? I’m not. Are You? All this bullshit about “market forces,” etc. If I’m not mistaken—and I’m not—the people who make these decisions that affect the rest of our lives have names and street addresses. They could have been, and should have been, brought to justice, but Obama was too damned timid to try. What’s stopping the rest of the world?

This series makes some extremely compelling arguments about what can be done to curb the financial markets, and why their power should be curbed. How fucked up is it that we’re all held hostage to this evil Leviathan that fucks most of mankind over while handsomely rewarding the greedy and immoral for their greed and abject immorality??? If the source of the destruction and turmoil can be identified—and surely it can be—then why is it allowed to continue?

The Republicans would like us to believe that the wealthy are “job creators.” Read this and tell me how this could possibly be the case. The “job creators” myth is becoming revealed as the most threadbare “big lie” in the GOP’s rather impressive repertoire of falsehoods…. What a decadent society we live in. It’s enough to make you want to puke.

Part 1: The Destructive Power of the Financial Markets
Part 2: ‘The Inability of Economists to Correctly Interpret the World’
Part 3: Rushing Like Lemmings Toward the Abyss
Part 4: Nothing More than Piecemeal Regulations



Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Wonderful punk and post-punk era photographs by David Arnoff

Stiv Bators, 1980
David Arnoff‘s post-punk era photography appeared in the NME, Melody Maker, Trouser Press, N.Y. Rocker and many other publications. The Cleveland-born, but London-based photographer and disc jockey’s work captures iconic bad boys and girls, relaxed and at their most playful. Arnoff is currently readying his photographs for a book and is looking for a publisher. I asked him a few questions over email:

Tara: Tell me about the Stiv Bators shot.

David Arnoff: I was hanging around with Stiv and his post-Dead Boys band in their hotel—pretty sure it was the Sunset Marquis—and we decided to do some shots of him on his own. He’d been messing about with a new air pistol, so we brought that along and just stepped out into the hall, after which it occured to him to maybe go back in the room and put some shoes on, but I said not to bother.  We started out doing some rather silly and predictable 007-type poses before he chose to just sit on the floor and look disturbed. I always thought the stripey socks made him look even more so.

Nick Cave, 1983
Tara: You worked with Nick Cave several times. He seems like a guy very concerned about his image, yet playful, too. What’s he like as a subject or collaborator?

David Arnoff: Nick is very easy and unaffected to work with. That shot with Harpo is the result of what started out as another cancelled session at the Tropicana Motel. He apologized for being up all night and indicated all the empty bottles on the TV as evidence, but was perfectly happy for me to carry on regardless even though he was not looking his best. The only downside was he was trying in vain to play “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” not really knowing the chords and the guitar was painfully out of tune.  Not an enjoyable aural experience. He was quite happy with the photos though.

Jeffrey Lee Pierce, 1983
Tara: Maybe it was the era, but several of the people you shot were junkies. Any “colorful” anecdotes about the likes of Cave, Jeffery Lee Pierce, Nico or Johnny Thunders?

David Arnoff: Far be it for me to say whether or not any of these people were actually junkies, but it’s funny you should mention Nick and Jeffrey together because I did squeeze all three of us into my little Volvo p1800 to go score on the street—Normandy, I think, around 3rd or somewhere. We then went back to my place in Hollywood, where Jeffrey became convinced they’d been ripped off. But Nick seemed more than happy with his purchase. Afterwards we went to that lesbian-run Mexican place near the Starwood. Nick tried to remember what he’d had previously and proceeded to attempt to describe what he wanted it to the baffled staff. I think they just gave up and sold him a burrito.

More with David Arnoff and his photographs after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Like many Americans of a certain age, I saw Santa Claus Conquers the Martians in a movie theater. A later generation caught it as one of Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s favorites in the 90s. It’s routinely listed as one of the “worst films ever made,” thus insuring its status as a cult film for years to come. It also stars a young Pia Zadora, but she’s hardly even an answer in Trivial Pursuit anymore, is she?

So, yeah, I actually saw this movie, twice, in a movie theater. I viewed it both times, UN-ironically, too, I might add and loved every minute of it (It was 1971, I was five, okay?). Although it’s a Christmas film, of course, its yearly screening in my hometown of Wheeling, WV, came on Halloween weekend.  Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was the lead film of a traveling holiday “road show” and I doubt there were that many prints struck of it, so smaller towns like mine probably got it first before it moved on to larger ones. It was an event as far as I was concerned, at least until I moved on to James Bond films and rock music…

Here’s the synopsis, from Wikipedia:

The story involves the people of Mars, including Momar (“Mom Martian”) and Kimar (“King Martian”), They’re worried that their children Girmar (“Girl Martian”) and Bomar (“Boy Martian”) are watching too much Earth television, most notably station KID-TV’s interview with Santa Claus in his workshop at the North Pole. Consulting the ancient 800-year old Martian sage Chochem (a Yiddish word meaning “genius”), they are advised that the children of Mars are growing distracted due to the society’s overly rigid structure; from infancy, all their education is fed into their brains through machines and they are not allowed individuality or freedom of thought.

Chochem notes that he had seen this coming “for centuries”, and says the only way to help the children is to allow them their freedom and be allowed to have fun. To do this, they need a Santa Claus figure, like on Earth. Leaving the Chochem’s cave, the Martian leaders decide to abduct Santa Claus from Earth and bring him to Mars. As the Martians could not distingtuish between all the fakes Santas, they kidnapped two children to find the real one. Once this is accomplished, one Martian, Voldar, who strongly disagrees with the idea, repeatedly tries to kill Santa Claus along with two kidnapped Earth children. He believes that Santa is corrupting the children of Mars and turning them away from the race’s original glory.

When they arrive on Mars, Santa and the children build a factory to make toys for the children. However, Voldar and his assistants, Stobo and Shim, sabotage the factory and change the programming so that it makes the toys incorrectly. Meanwhile, Dropo, Kimar’s assistant has taken a great liking to Santa Claus and Christmas, puts on one of Santa’s spare suits and starts acting like Santa Claus. He goes to the toy factory to make toys, but Voldar mistakes him for Santa and kidnaps him.

When Santa and the children come back to the factory to make more toys, they discover the machines have been tampered with. Voldar and Stobo come back to the factory to make a deal with Kimar, but when they see the real Santa Claus they realize that their plan has been foiled. Dropo, held hostage in a cave, tricks his guard Shim and escapes. Kimar then arrests Voldar, Stobo and Shim. Santa notices Dropo acts like him, and says that Dropo would make a good Martian Santa. Kimar agrees to let Dropo be the Martian Santa Claus and sends Santa and the children back to Earth.

Eventually, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians started getting shown on low-rent UHF TV channels and on “Creature Feature” type shows. Today, of course, there’s no waiting around for a yearly holiday screening of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. You can view the entire thing at Hulu, on YouTube or even watch a speeded-up version of this stinker condensed into 11-minutes. You can find a DVD of it in a 99 Cents Only store, too.

Here’s the trailer. Notice how the film looks all faded? It looked that way back then, too (not a result of aging, probably just technical incompetence or maybe they were smoking Angel Dust or something?).

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Hulk joins The Ramones
11:46 pm

Pop Culture

The Ramones
The Hulk

No way The Hulk could ever replace Dee Dee. What were da brudders thinking?

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Roy Orbison concert from 1973: 51 minutes of R&R bliss
09:22 pm


Roy Orbison

This is quite extraordinary. A high quality filmed performance of Roy Orbison in Melbourne, Australia in April of 1973.

Absolutely essential rock and roll from an artist who had one of the most authentically beautiful voices in all of music and was responsible for writing some of the most sublime songs in the history rock and roll. Mr. Roy Orbison.

Roy with Bruce Springsteen,T. Bone Burnett, Tom Waits, K.D. Lang, Elvis Costello and more after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Longtime Republican leaves authoritarian Reichwing ‘cult’

Michael Lofgren is a Republican staffer, who was, until recently, serving the Senate Finance Committee. Lofgren has worked on Capitol Hill for nearly three decades. He explains why he left his job in a recent column for TruthOut. The Republican “11th Commandment”Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican—is repeatedly violated in this barn-burner.

Some choice excerpts here, but the whole thing is a must read. His main target is the Republican Party, of course, but the Democrats are not spared, either:

But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.

To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachmann (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.

On burning his GOP bridges:

I left because I was appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans, like Gadarene swine, to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country’s future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them. And, in truth, I left as an act of rational self-interest. Having gutted private-sector pensions and health benefits as a result of their embrace of outsourcing, union busting and “shareholder value,” the GOP now thinks it is only fair that public-sector workers give up their pensions and benefits, too. Hence the intensification of the GOP’s decades-long campaign of scorn against government workers. Under the circumstances, it is simply safer to be a current retiree rather than a prospective one.

If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren’t after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté. They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be “forced” to make “hard choices” - and that doesn’t mean repealing those very same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked.

On the debt ceiling nonsense:

Everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care. This fact, which ought to be obvious, has nevertheless caused confusion among the professional pundit class, which is mostly still stuck in the Bob Dole era in terms of its orientation. For instance, Ezra Klein wrote of his puzzlement over the fact that while House Republicans essentially won the debt ceiling fight, enough of them were sufficiently dissatisfied that they might still scuttle the deal. Of course they might - the attitude of many freshman Republicans to national default was “bring it on!”

It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.

On “Real Americans”:

You can probably guess who those people are. Above all, anyone not likely to vote Republican. As Sarah Palin would imply, the people who are not Real Americans. Racial minorities. Immigrants. Muslims. Gays. Intellectuals. Basically, anyone who doesn’t look, think, or talk like the GOP base. This must account, at least to some degree, for their extraordinarily vitriolic hatred of President Obama. I have joked in the past that the main administration policy that Republicans object to is Obama’s policy of being black. Among the GOP base, there is constant harping about somebody else, some “other,” who is deliberately, assiduously and with malice aforethought subverting the Good, the True and the Beautiful: Subversives. Commies. Socialists. Ragheads. Secular humanists. Blacks. Fags. Feminazis. The list may change with the political needs of the moment, but they always seem to need a scapegoat to hate and fear.

On the wimpy idiocy of the Democrats, their rhetorical incompetence and their amateurish PR:

How do they manage to do this? Because Democrats ceded the field. Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? - can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative “Obamacare” won out. Contrast that with the Republicans’ Patriot Act. You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn’t the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?

You know that Social Security and Medicare are in jeopardy when even Democrats refer to them as entitlements. “Entitlement” has a negative sound in colloquial English: somebody who is “entitled” selfishly claims something he doesn’t really deserve. Why not call them “earned benefits,” which is what they are because we all contribute payroll taxes to fund them? That would never occur to the Democrats. Republicans don’t make that mistake; they are relentlessly on message: it is never the “estate tax,” it is the “death tax.”

On this point, I could not agree more. I do not understand why Democrats can’t master simple messaging. It always has to be nuanced, complicated, and wonky. Things I might understand but would have to boil down into far simpler terms for the average voter. It boggles my mind that Democrats (and this includes the President) cannot get a simple, easy message out there and hammer it home. Republicans seem to have mastered that.

And then there is this amazing excerpt describing the far reichwing of the GOP taken from a letter President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote to his brother Edgar in 1954. How times have changed.

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Their numbers are no longer negligible, but they’re certainly still stupid… At least one of their ranks wised up.

Read more:
Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult (TruthOut)


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Divine in highlights from ‘The Neon Woman’ from 1978

The fabulous Divine in highlights from The Neon Woman, Tom Eyen‘s sequel to Women Behind Bars, which was specifically written for Divine. The footage is a bit raw and gritty, but still gives more than a fair idea as to why Divine was so loved as a performer.

Produced in 1978, The Neon Woman is an “outrageous murder mystery” set in a run-down Baltimore burlesque house managed by a retired stripper, Flash Storm (Divine). The story was inspired by Gypsy Rose Lee’s classic burlesque thriller, The G-String Murders. Directed by Ron Link, and co-starring Helen Hanft, Brenda Bergman, William Duff-Griffin, Maria Duval, and Sweet William Edgar. The production ran for eighty-four performances at the Hurrah Discotheque, New York.


Previously on dangerous Minds

‘I Am Divine’: Teaser trailer for the up-coming documentary

Divine in ‘Tales from the Darkside’, 1987


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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