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Legends of comedy: Interview with Dick Gregory and Paul Mooney
02.29.2012
10:57 am
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Gregory and Mooney
 
San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop media/political activist Davey D recently brought together veteran comedians Dick Gregory and Paul Mooney for an interview on his OLMNews show. The result is a rare treat of an hour with two of the fucking funniest septugenarians ever.

Most of us recognize Mooney from his “Ask a Black Dude” and “Negrodamus” skits from Chapelle’s Show, but the man’s work goes way back. Before those appearances, he was best known as Richard Pryor’s writer for albums like Live on the Sunset Strip and Bicentennial N****r, and Pryor’s two TV shows in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Mooney also wrote for Good Times, Sanford and Son and In Living Color, for which he created the character of Homey D. Clown.

By intertwining his political activism with his comedy, Gregory became the pre-eminent black comedian that boomers could call their own. After sweating it out through the ‘50s on the black club circuit, Gregory got his first break appearing at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club in Chicago in 1961. He released a dozen albums and a clutch of books throughout the decade before putting his career on hold to dive into advocacy for a ton of causes and eventually a Presidential run for the Freedom and Peace Party. He’s recently made a welcome comeback onto the stand-up scene.

Watching these two conspiratorially minded cats is a pure joy, especially with Mooney’s infectious laugh in the air. Topics include: Obama and change; King Kong and In the Heat of the Night; stereotypes & minstrelsy; Bruce Lee and Sarah Lee; the Oscars and Denzell Washington; Herman Cain and the Federal Reserve; Snow White & child labor; Men in Black, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and shape-shifting; Jimmy the Greek; Christians, guilt & the Eucharist in the black church; black spending power; and “white folks are nervy.”
 

Thanks, Doug Pagan!

Posted by Ron Nachmann
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02.29.2012
10:57 am
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For Your Consideration: Women Directors not included in this year’s Oscars
02.26.2012
12:07 pm
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kathryn_bigelow_oscar_winner
 
In eighty-four years of the Academy Awards, only 4 women (Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow), have been nominated for a Best Directing Oscar.

Only 1 has won - Kathryn Bigelow in 2011.

Should we be surprised by this when:

The voting population of the Academy is 94% White, 77% Male and 62 is the average age.

Here then, for your consideration are some of the Women Directors Missing from this year’s Oscars.
 

 
With thanks to Kate Muir
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.26.2012
12:07 pm
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‘We’re the official OWS group!’ ‘No, we’re the official OWS group!’ and so forth


 
This is (almost) funny: So the upcoming OWS convention in Philly that we’ve been reading about all day? Another OWS group is publicly countering the legitimacy of that group now, claiming that the so-called 99% Declaration Group is not endorsed by the “official” group and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

What a bunch of pompous crybabies. Who gives a fuck? No one owns this movement. They can do it in their way, in their style and you can do it in your own way. Why try to hold this energy back in any way? What’s the point, you’re not on the same side?

Stop being such predictable Lefties!

Play nice! Thelemites get along better than these territorial children!

OWS PR working group statement on the 99% Declaration:

The 99% Declaration and its call for a “national general assembly” in Philadelphia in July is not affiliated with or endorsed by Occupy Wall Street, and the organizers’ plans blatantly contradict OWS’ stated principles.

Many news outlets are running articles suggesting that the Occupy movement is planning a “national general assembly” in Philadelphia in July. This initiative, referred to as The 99% Declaration, is driven by a not-for-profit corporation called The 99 Percent Working Group, LTD., and is not endorsed by the General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street (OWS). The group’s plans blatantly contradict OWS’ Statement of Autonomy, as passed by the General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street, where The 99% Declaration generated more controversy than consensus. The proposal was also rejected by the General Assembly of Occupy Philadelphia, which passed a resolution stating, “We do not support the 99% Declaration, its group, its website, its National GA and anything else associated with it.”

The people of Occupy Wall Street are doubtlessly animated by many of the same concerns addressed by the points in the draft 99% Declaration. However, the group’s plan to select delegates representing each Congressional District to ratify a petition to present to the U.S. government while threatening to run candidates for positions in this corrupted system runs counter to OWS’ commitment to direct democracy, grassroots people power, and building a better society from the bottom up.

When reporting on stories concerning the convening of national ‘Occupy conventions,’ registration of political parties and political action committees, and other high-profile initiatives, we strongly urge reporters, editors, and producers to vet these stories by contacting the official press relations working group of Occupy Wall Street.

From OWS’ Statement of Autonomy:  “Any statement or declaration not released through the General Assembly and made public online at www.nycga.net should be considered independent of Occupy Wall Street.”

The Press Relations Working Group of Occupy Wall Street
press@occupywallst.org
347-292-1444

LAME!

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.23.2012
08:01 pm
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Art Against AIDS: The B-52s and Friends (1987)
02.23.2012
02:12 pm
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In 1987, the B-52s produced an incredible public service announcement for AMFAR (The Foundation For AIDS Research) with the late NYC-based video artist Tom Rubnitz (best known for the “Strawberry Shortcut” and “Pickle Surprise” videos) and several of their closest famous friends. The colorful tableau vivant recreated the “Sgt. Pepper” album cover with the flowers spelling out “Be Alive”

Along with the B-52s, you’ll see Korean video artist Nam Jun Paik, Allen Ginsbeg, Dancenoise, “voguing” pioneer Willi Ninja, Nile Rodgers, Joey Arias, Tseng Kwong Chi, Mink Stole, ABC’s David Yarritu, “Frieda the Disco Doll,” John Kelly as the Mona Lisa, Lady Bunny, performance artist Mike Smith, Kenny Scharf, David Byrne and then-wife Adelle Lutz, model Beverly Johnson, NYC “It Girl” Dianne Brill and Quentin Crisp among many others.

If this isn’t eighties enough for you already, note the presence of “Randee of the Redwoods” (comedian Jim Turner) the acid-fried MTV “presidential candidate.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.23.2012
02:12 pm
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Occupy Wall Street will elect delegates, hold July convention in Philly


 
An Associated Press report today about the latest stirrings of the Occupy movement indicates that this Summer is going to be a hot one indeed, for both Republicans and Democrats alike.

A group of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement plans to elect 876 “delegates” from around the country and hold a national “general assembly” in Philadelphia over the Fourth of July as part of ongoing protests over corporate excess and economic inequality.The group, dubbed the 99% Declaration Working Group, said Wednesday delegates would be selected during a secure online election in early June from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

In a nod to their First Amendment rights, delegates will meet in Philadelphia to draft and ratify a “petition for a redress of grievances,” convening during the week of July 2 and holding a news conference in front of Independence Hall on the Fourth of July.

Any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is 18 years of age or older may run as a nonpartisan candidate for delegate, according to Michael S. Pollok, an attorney who advised Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge last year and co-founded the working group.

“We feel it’s appropriate to go back to what our founding fathers did and have another petition congress,” Pollok said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We feel that following the footsteps of our founding fathers is the right way to go.”

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and cited King George III’s failure to redress the grievances listed in colonial petitions as a reason to declare independence.

Interesting that the OWS iconography is now dovetailing with the Tea party movement in a congruence that I can’t decide seems forced or organic. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. In Bill Moyers’ fascinating interview with former Ronald Reagan economic adviser Bruce Bartlett, Bartlett expressed his prediction that a lot of former Tea partiers might come to decide that the OWS aims were more in tune with their actual beliefs.

One man and one woman will be elected from each of the 435 congressional voting districts, according to Pollok, and they will meet in Philadelphia to deliberate, draft and ratify a “redress of grievances.” One delegate will also be elected to represent each of the U.S. territories.

Organizers won’t take a position on what grievances should be included, Pollok said, but they will likely include issues like getting money out of politics, dealing with the foreclosure crisis and helping students handle loan debt.

Details of the conference are still being worked out, Pollok said, but organizers have paid for a venue in Philadelphia. Pollok would not identify the venue, but said it was “a major state-of-the art facility.” Pollok said the group planned to pay for the conference through donations.

Once the petition is completed, Pollok said, the protesters will deliver copies to the White House, members of Congress and the Supreme Court. They will demand that Congress takes action in the first 100 days of taking office next year. If sufficient action isn’t taken, Pollok said, the delegates will go back to their districts and try to recruit their own candidates for office.

Being able to hold this event right before the parties throw their respective conventions was a stroke of scheduling luck for the movement. Hopefully the media will be all over this—it’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t be under any circumstances—and the politicians will be forced to respond.

The Republicans are beyond being a lost cause, but the Democrats can be pushed to the left (it’s what happened before the New Deal). It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

I think there’s a misconception that this was going to be a predictable election cycle. Whereas the outcome (more Obama, not that this is necessarily a “good” thing, it just is) seems like a foregone covclusion, that there will be extremely high drama until then is starting to look like an inevitability. Bring it on.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.23.2012
12:09 pm
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F**KED: The United States of Unemployment
02.21.2012
05:52 pm
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Salon’s got a great series of videos exploring the lives and coping strategies of “the 99ers”—no, not the 99%, although they are certainly a part of that, too—the people who have exhausted 99 weeks of unemployment insurance and have nowhere else to turn.

In this most recent installment, Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Immy Humes listens to members of the longtime unemployed tell how the Occupy movement inspired them. There is something in the emotional core of this short film that captures perfectly, I think, the life-affirming realization of “Holy shit, this is really happening and it’s wonderful” that went on for those few months last Fall. Almost more than any other document I’ve seen about Occupy Wall Street, this one really speaks to the kind of experience I personally had there. It captures what it inspired in many people.

For our 99ers, an informal group of jobless New Yorkers who have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, the Occupy Wall Street movement came as a dream fulfilled.

As the protests took root in Zuccotti Park, the 99ers found a mass of people who care about the plight of the jobless and want to do something about it. As seen in last week’s episode of our video series, “Occupy Meets MacArthur’s Tanks,” Occupy Wall Street is just the latest in a long line of American protest movements demanding economic justice. The emergence of the Occupy movement, one 99er said, felt “like the early stages of a revolution.”

And then the question arose: What do America’s jobless want? As the video shows, the 99ers have some answers.

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.21.2012
05:52 pm
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Rebel Alliance takes on Goldman Vader: Occupy the SEC!
02.21.2012
03:43 pm
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In a Mother Jones piece that is starting to gain traction across the liberal blogsphere today, Josh Harkinson writes about the Occupy the SEC group that includes “financial insiders with the education and regulatory vocabulary to challenge high-powered lobbyists at their own game.”

Yesterday, a group affiliated with Occupy Wall Street submitted an astounding comment letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Point by point, it methodically challenges the arguments of finance industry lobbyists who want to water down last year’s historic Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms. The lobbyists have been using the law’s official public comment period to try to kneecap the reforms, and given how arcane financial regulation can be, they might get away with it. But Occupy the SEC is fighting fire with fire, and in so doing, defying stereotypes of the Occupy movement.

The financial industry is trying desperately to wriggle out of the controls that Dodd-Frank imposed on them. Occupy the SEC, a very, very smart bunch of current and former financial industry executives weigh in with critiques and suggestions concerning the government’s implementation of the “Volcker Rule” that limits the kind of derivative packaging that caused the financial meltdown. Since the meltdown, Goldman Sachs has been trying to get their little grubby hands back on the money faucet.  They’re spending Romney-type money on lobbyists, including hiring Barney Frank’s former staffer that got the reforms passed to help overturn those very reforms!

The most common complaint about the Occupy movement is that it does not present a clear and coherent position.

This 324-page letter blows that contention sky-high.

“Occupy the SEC is a group of concerned citizens, activists, and financial professionals with decades of collective experience working at many of the largest financial firms in the industry. Together, we make up a vast array of specialists, including traders, quantitative analysts, compliance officers, and technology and risk analysts. Like much of the 99%, we have bank deposits and retirement accounts that are in need of protection through vigorous enforcement of the Volcker Rule. Our experiences working inside the financial industry have informed our answers to the questions proposed, making us well-suited to understand and anticipate how the proposed implementation, should it stand, will affect us and the rest of the general public.

The United States aspires to democracy, but no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power…”

That last sentence should be the first line of the Declaration of Independence 2.0

Here’s the best mainstream overview, from TIME. If you read between the lines—and the wipe off its condescension—the truth appears… which is that the fuckers at Goldman Sachs and the champagne drinking overlords on Wall Street are being countered by experienced folks who know the financial industry grimoire inside and out.

Meet the Financial Wizards Working With Occupy Wall Street (Mother Jones)

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.21.2012
03:43 pm
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Malcolm X: The truth is eternal
02.21.2012
05:35 am
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Malcolm X was assassinated 47 years ago today.

In this two hour compilation of speeches, the brilliance of Malcolm reaches through time and space to touch us and remind us of the harsh truth that almost a half century after the man was killed America is still struggling with most of the same problems we were struggling with back then. Technology, drugs and the silhouettes of cars may have changed, but the reptilian brain still keeps us anchored in the murk of class war, racism and injustice.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell
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02.21.2012
05:35 am
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The Dialectics of Liberation: The Revolution will be re-enacted?
02.20.2012
07:17 pm
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When I “get into” a certain topic or musical genre or filmmaker or author or TV show, I’m one of those people who has to devour all of it. The whole thing. I don’t stop until I’m done and burping it up.

Recently it’s been the not-so twin topics of the “Laurel Canyon” rock sound of the late 1960s/early 1970s and plowing through the major works of The Frankfurt School, that have occupied a lot of my spare time. I’m especially enjoying re-reading the work of the Freudo-Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse, books I first read, well, thirty-some years ago. Although some of the groundbreaking ideas of Marcuse and the Frankfurt School seem rather more obvious today than they would have in the 1960s at the height of their influence, there are many useful concepts to be re-discovered there that are more relevant today than they have ever been. Marcuse’s work is ripe for a new generation—specifically this very restless up and coming generation—to pick up on, perhaps via the intermediary of someone who could popularize his admittedly somewhat difficult to read philosophy.

Although his name, sadly, rings few bells in 2012, Professor Herbert Marcuse was the “father of the New Left” with his influential books like Eros and Civilization, One Dimensional Man, and Counterrevolution and Revolt. For an elderly professor with a thick German accent, Marcuse was an intellectual rockstar in the 60s and early 70s. Back then, his work was discussed with the same seriousness as Marx’s or Sartre’s or Carlos Castaneda’s. He was denounced by right-wingers like Governor Ronald Reagan who was incensed that Marcuse’s salary was paid for by California’s taxpayers.

I discovered Marcuse in a fairly roundabout way. As I’ve written about before elsewhere, I was a huge Ayn Rand head when I was a kid. Ironically, it was via an article published in her magazine The Objectivist (“Herbert Marcuse, Philosopher of the New Left” by George Walsh) that I first came across the ideas of the New Left. Not all that long afterwards, I became much more interested in the types of philosophers that Rand and her disciples decried as academic barbarians, dangerous irrationalists and mutilators of student’s minds, than I was in Rand herself.

Not only did I find that the ideas of the New Left resonated more with my own innately experienced view of the world around me, it also seemed clear that if the ideas of Marcuse and the Frankfurt School terrified the Ayn Rand brigade as much as they obviously did, then they must also be more authentic ideas, too.

But the problem with some middle-aged infomaniac like yours truly recommending that you seek out the work of Herbert Marcuse is that few people actually reading this far will even bother to visit his Wikipedia page let alone buy one of his books. Books seem to have a lifespan of about fifteen years (with some major exceptions, of course) and no one wants to read an old book. Especially not these days, so how would it be that these ideas could spread in the culture again and flourish the way they once did? That’s tough. As a former book publisher, I can tell you for sure: it’s worse than tough, it’s nearly impossible.

That’s why I was so pleasantly taken aback by a very cool-sounding theatrical experience that I read about recently that aims to breathe new life into some old ideas, when some actors recreated an historically important counterculture gathering called “The Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation (for the Demystification of Violence).”
 

 
This event originally took place at the Roundhouse in London, between the 15th and 30th July, 1967. Aside from the grandfatherly Marcuse, the well-respected éminence grise of the assembled, the participants included anarchist prankster Emmett Grogan of the Diggers (who fucked with the heads of the attendees by delivering a translated speech of Hitler’s and passing it off as his own), performance artist Carolee Schneeman, Julian Beck of The Living Theatre, Paul Goodman, Gregory Bateson, poet Allen Ginsberg, R.D. Laing, Francis Huxley, “Auto-Destructive art” movement and “Art Strike” founder Gustav Metzger and Black Power leader Stokely Carmichael.

The Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation  was organized by the American “anti-psychiatrist” Joe Berke and others from the Institute of Phenomenological Studies. The idea was to spontaneously create a “free university” to revolutionize the masses, a notion inspired by Alexander Trocchi.

The event drew together the bohemian culture of New York’s Lower East Side with Europe’s own rebel groups in art, literature, politics and psychiatry, producing what has been justly described as the ‘numero uno seminal event of [London] 67’, a sometimes joyous but often angry anti-coalition of ‘politicos’ and ‘culture wizards.’

‘All men are in chains’, runs a flyer for the congress. ‘There is the bondage of poverty and starvation: the bondage of lust for power, status, possessions. A reign of terror is now perpetrated and perpetuated on a global scale. In the affluent societies, it is masked. There, children are conditioned by violence called love to assume their position as the would-be inheritors of the fruits of the earth. But, in the process, they are reduced to little more than hypothetical points on a dehumanized co-ordinate system. …We shall meet in London on the basis of a wide range of expert knowledge. The dialectics of liberation begin with the clarification of our present condition.’

The congress opened on the morning of the 15th with a lecture by the anti-psychiatrist R.D. Laing and closed on the 30th with a lecture by the Digger Emmett Grogan, following an happening by Carolee Schneemann and a performance by the British pop group The Social Deviants the previous evening. Gregory Bateson, Stokely Carmichael, Paul Goodman and the German philosopher, Herbert Marcuse were amongst other public figures who spoke. There were seminars in the afternoons and films and poetry readings in the evenings. ‘The Provos were there from Amsterdam. There were students from West Berlin, political activists from Norway and Sweden as well as a large contingent from the New Experimental College, Thy, Denmark. There were representatives from the West Indies, Africa, France, Canada, America, Holland, India, Nigeria and Cuba,’ and remarks by the poet Susan Sherman, one of Berke’s friends, who covered the congress for Ikon magazine.

The congress radicalised many black (and white) people in the audience and acted as an (ironic) influence on the Women’s Liberation movement. It also led to the foundation of the anti-university of London in Shoreditch in 1968, a further important experiment in radical education.

On February 12th in London, the Dialectics of Liberation conference was reenacted with the original organizers, and actors playing the roles of leading speakers. It’s difficult for me to say much more about a theatrical performance I haven’t seen, but this is an interesting idea to get certain ideas back into currency again. Apparently there were also earlier performances at Occupy London and a twenty-first century version of the Congress, called the Dialektikon, is planned for later this year in London. You can read more about it on their website.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.20.2012
07:17 pm
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Economic Malpractice and the Millennials, or ‘Heather McGhee, you’re my new hero!’
02.20.2012
03:22 pm
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Okay, so did you watch that amazing interview Bill Moyers conducted with former Ronald Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett about the economic shambles that George Bush left this country in and why bold initiatives—not Tea party platitudes—are the only way out of this mess? You did? Great, now proceed on to its perfect companion piece, Moyers’ fascinating conversation from that very same program with Heather McGhee.

McGhee is an attorney and the Washington, DC office director of the Demos think tank. You may have noticed her on MSNBC before, or even Fox News, but this is the first time I’ve seen her in a situation where she’s had such a sustained media platform. McGhee shines here. What a refreshing, sparkling—and incisive—intelligence to see in a younger person. I must say, I’m super impressed by what this young woman had to say here and by what she represents about the up and coming generation. This is someone looking at the world with her eyes wide open and what she says here about how “The Millennials” (those born between 1978 and 2000, representing 80 million Americans) view the current state of affairs cuts straight to the heart of the situation they have found themselves coming of age in.

We already know what the Tea Party “elders” (are any of them young?) think needs to happen, but they’re the ones who’ll be dying off soon, anyways, so fuck them!

If you want to understand what the younger generation are likely to demand of society, moving forward, this interview is a very, very good place to start. This is a very important document of our times. Big picture stuff. It’s also one hell of a bravura talkshow appearance!

One thought I had watching this interview was what a great future President Heather McGhee would make and I doubt very much that I am the only one who was watching and thinking that thought. She’s too young now to run for President, of course, but imagine a progressive wet dream ticket for 2016 of Alan Grayson and Heather McGhee! I think they’d make a formidable team.

McGhee is the most articulate new liberal voice on television since Rachel Maddow. Crooks and Liars editor Tina Dupuy and Heather McGhee need to meet, pronto, if they don’t already know each other.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.20.2012
03:22 pm
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