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Orson Welles talks about the conspiracy to suppress ‘Citizen Kane’ in 1960 interview
05.21.2015
07:08 am

Topics:
Movies
Politics

Tags:
Orson Welles
Citizen Kane


 
This short interview from 1960 has some fascinating comments from Orson Welles on the uphill battle he faced getting Citizen Kane into theaters. It was often speculated of course, that the titular character was based on publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst, who only exacerbated this notion by using all his resources to try and prevent the film’s release—this is without ever having seen it. (You’d think a strategy of denial might be a little less self-incriminating!) Welles manages to get in a snide jab with: “Kane isn’t really founded on Hearst… in particular,” specifying that Kane was a composite character.

Even more fascinatingly, Welles does not shy from the more explicit politics of the film, admitting “it was intended consciously as a sort of social document, as an attack on the acquisitive society, and indeed on acquisition in general.” This clear critique of power managed to get him branded as a Communist in the states and banned in the Soviet Union—can’t win for losing, I suppose. As it was, Hearst actually did succeed at limiting the run of the film in the US—by a lot. Few theaters even showed the film. The box office numbers suffered, and though Citizen Kane is now considered one of the greats, it damaged Welles’ career from the very start.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Mice should not vote for cats: ‘Mouseland,’ a political parable to make you think
05.18.2015
06:08 am

Topics:
Animation
Politics

Tags:
Tommy Douglas
Mouseland


 
On top of the ever-rising economic inequality and a pretty revoltingly flying death-robot-based foreign policy, we have now learned that it is possible that our current President lied through his teeth to make the assassination of Osama Bin Laden look super-action-movie-cool. It is also equally possible that our then-Secretary of State—who is also likely to become our next President—was in on it. All of this is all pretty discouraging from a political perspective, so it is during these oppressive times of despair that I return to one of the greatest political speeches of all time—here in digestible animated form—“Mouseland.” It’s a perfect little take-down of the two-party system.

It’s the story of a place called Mouseland. Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do.

They even had a Parliament. And every four years they had an election. Used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. And got a ride for the next four years afterwards too. Just like you and me. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats.

Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada for last 90 years and maybe you’ll see that they weren’t any stupider than we are.

Now I’m not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws—that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren’t very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouseholes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds—so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.

All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn’t put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.

Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: “All that Mouseland needs is more vision.” They said: “The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouseholes we got. If you put us in we’ll establish square mouseholes.” And they did. And the square mouseholes were twice as big as the round mouseholes, and now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever.

And when they couldn’t take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat.

You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the color of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.

Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, “Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don’t we elect a government made up of mice?” “Oh,” they said, “he’s a Bolshevik. Lock him up!” So they put him in jail.

But I want to remind you: that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can’t lock up an idea.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams did a variation on “Mouseland” in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, that it seems likely was read by David Icke where lizards are the leaders. No one likes this (save for the lizard overlords themselves, naturally) but the electorate still keeps voting in these unpopular reptiles:

“...because if they didn’t vote for a lizard… the wrong lizard might get in.”

 

 
The short animation below is actually introduced by Kiefer Sutherland, who is grandson to social democratic politician, Tommy Douglas. Tommy Douglas, the most famous orator of “Mouseland” (though it is actually first credited to Clarence Gillis, another Canadian social democrat), immigrated from Scotland to Canada as a child with a nasty case of osteomyelitis; had a Canadian orthopedic surgeon not offered to operate under Douglas’ knee for free (for the observation of medical students), his leg would have been amputated. Today Douglas is widely considered to be “The Greatest Canadian,” on account of his introduction of the Canadian single-payer health care system, and his disdain for the false choice of a two-party system run by elites. The “Mouseland” metaphor is simple in its eloquence, insisting that mice need not vote for cats (though bringing that up might get you branded a “Bolshevik” and thrown in prison).

At least nothing’s inevitable, eh?
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Bootleg Led Zeppelin album covers from Soviet Russia
05.15.2015
08:50 am

Topics:
Art
Music
Politics

Tags:
Russia
Led Zeppelin


 
The Cold War seems an awful long time ago, long enough that it’s sometimes hard to remember that a huge percentage of our planet’s land mass was officially denied the right to listen to classic rock. You couldn’t just wander into the USSR with a bunch of Mott the Hoople albums under your arm and expect anyone not to mind, there were actual policies about this. Those people who had heard about and liked Led Zeppelin had to resort to illegal, grassroots ways of disseminating the music, and that process included pressing albums illegally and creating fake, yet plausible, album covers.

In the r/vinyl/ subreddit, reddit user “zingo-spleen” uploaded scans of several awesome album covers that were created for illegal Russian pressings of Led Zeppelin albums. Represented are the band’s second through fifth albums, being II, III, IV, and Houses of the Holy, which is hilariously called V in the Russian version.

Helpfully, “zingo-spleen” provided some background about the fantastic covers:
 

these are two double albums in gatefold sleeves, with a cover on each side. II and III are together as a set, while IV and V (Houses of the Holy) are together as a set. Not sure why the first one is not included - blame the Russians and their twisted logic. I found these in a thrift shop a long time ago and couldn’t bear to get rid of them, even though I’ve had offers.

 
The record label, AnTrop, was a major force in underground bootlegs, releasing illegal versions of all the most notable classic rock acts:
 

AnTrop was named after the legendary Russian underground producer and sound engineer, Andrey Tropillo, who in 1990, on the wave of “perestroika,” became the head of the St. Petersburg branch of Melodia. Since there was much turmoil in Russia at the time, he made the St. Petersburg branch independent of central headquarters and started releasing a series of classic Rock albums. These releases were not legitimate. They started with releases by The Beatles, Jesus Christ - Superstar, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and eventually Pink Floyd. All these records were released using Melodia facilities, but AnTrop was operating as an independent record label and was putting the Antrop logo and their own numbers and copyrights on the covers. However, since all the records were printed in Melodia owned and run facilities, AnTrop had to give its releases additional Melodia catalog numbers, which is why there are two catalog numbers on the releases. Antrop is the label that released most of the Pink Floyd albums in Russia. “P” in the AnTrop catalog numbers stands for Russian letter “P” (that looks like Greek “Pi”). AnTrop records were all pressed in Aprelevka.

 
According to “zingo-spleen,” the quality of the pressings is “really not bad at all ... certainly listenable.”

I think reddit user “arachnophilia” speaks for us all when he says, “oh man, i love aeg threenneauh.”

(Clicking on the images will spawn a larger version.)
 

 

 
More Soviet Zeppelin after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Sexist’ chicken cutlets are a thing in Germany?
05.13.2015
12:32 pm

Topics:
Feminism
Food
Politics
Sex

Tags:
sexism
chicken


“Poultry mood for dream couples—finally, a poultry product for her and him!”
 
A company in Germany called Friki recently unveiled a puzzling product—two chicken cutlets, one “For Him” and one “For Her,” in a single package, with pink and blue coloring on the package to distinguish them visually. The kicker? The man’s version is spicy, while the woman’s one is mild. 

If you go to this page on Friki’s website, you’ll see the picture at the top of this page, with a caption in German that translates roughly as follows
 

Tender “minute” chicken cutlets, finally in typical female and, on the other hand, in typical male flavor-profiles ensure that poultry enjoyment will now be more fun than ever. The new dream couple comes in the flavor varieties “Fruity Lemon/Spicy Chili” and “Spicy Tomato/Spicy Peppery.”

 
In the first pair, fruity lemon and spicy chili are (according to the text and the colors) appropriate for the lady and the gentleman, respectively; I haven’t seen a picture of the second pairing yet, and I suspect it hasn’t even been manufactured yet.
 

Photo by Alice Atmega on Twitter
 
This one merits a huge eyeroll for sure. I like spicy food and I’ve not noticed this to be a particularly gendered issue. I’ve met plenty of women who enjoy spicy food, and I’ve met plenty of men who prefer milder fair. And I bet you anything that the wonderful women of India and Mexico can handle spicy food just fine. In my estimation this has something to do with Mitteleuropa above everything else—if I may indulge in a bit of cultural stereotyping of my own, I spent several years in Austria, with occasional visits to Germany, and that experience left me with the impression that the German-speaking world as a whole has some difficulties with spicy food, not so much that they don’t like it (they do not) but that they have a kind of phobia about it, as if the worst thing that could happen to you is that you eat a little vindaloo when you were promised tikka masala.

For what it’s worth, Charlotte Haunhorst of the respected newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote an editorial about this with the hilarious title “Hört auf mit der Hühnerkacke!” (“Stop the chickenshit!”). She thinks that the whole controversy has been concocted by Friki as a media ploy, although she does confess that she gets irritated when she orders a fatty breakfast and the waitstaff somehow assume that the bacon was ordered by her male companion.
 

 
Interestingly, there’s a clear precedent for this. The Kühne company has put out “his” and “hers” pickles, with the names “Gurken Madl” and “Gurken Bub”—that is, “Pickle Girl” and “Pickle Boy.” The jars come in pink and blue, with the girls’ one being “knackig und lieblich” (crisp and sweet) while the boys’ one is “knackig und kräftig” (crisp and strong).
 

 
via Nerdcore

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The communist art of René Mederos, Cuban propagandist for Vietnamese revolution


“Como en Viet Nam,” ca. 1970
 
Retrospectives on communist art and design are often dominated by some pretty inaccessible (and sometimes downright godawful) aesthetics. For example, many people find the grey boxes of GDR architecture a bit alienating, and while I personally adore it for kitsch value, most folks don’t dig on Socialist Realism paintings, as all that beatific portraiture of Stalin can get overwhelmingly corny. Dictators and stark buildings are not however, the whole and sum of communist aesthetics. There has been a lot of exoteric art produced in the name of the workers state, and with his unmistakable saturated colors and revolutionary tableaux, René Mederos was one such propagandist of the people.

Born in 1933, self-taught Cuban artist Felix René Mederos Pazos began his career at a Havana print shop when he was only 11 years old. By his mid-twenties he was Chief Designer for the big Cuban television station, and in 1964 he started making propaganda posters as head of a design team. In 1969 Mederos was sent to Vietnam to paint the war alongside the Vietnamese communists that were fighting it. Despite the brutality and violence he witnessed, Mederos often produced alluring, joyful images, a direction that some Cubans felt wasn’t dark and/or anti-American enough.

Mederos actually returned to Vietnam in 1972, and though he also did series on Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution, Vietnam remains his most famous subject, and a major touchstone in Cuban graphic design.
 

1969
 

“Como en Viet Nam, Mes de la Mujer Vietnamita” (Month of the Vietnamese Woman), ca. 1970
 

More Mederos after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Could Russell Brand end up being THE deciding factor in the upcoming UK election?


 
Most Americans pay absolutely no attention to British politics, and frankly why should we? Our politicians are actual goddamn sideshow freaks, whereas the UK just has a bunch of drips, simps and wimps with only one actual lunatic in the person of Ukip’s unhinged dingbat, the Palinesque (and I don’t mean Michael) nincompoop Nigel Farage. BORING.

I do follow British politics (I lived there for a while during the Thatcher era) and like many actual Britons, I too believe this is one of the most important elections for the country in our lifetime. The UK is most assuredly at a pivotal juncture politically, with issues of wage stagnation, structural unemployment, immigration, the conservatives’ much hated NHS reform, affordable housing, tax cuts for billionaires and many, many other serious matters seeing that this election has an extremely high level of public awareness.

Again, most of my fellow countrymen couldn’t care less about any of that stuff, but now they have a reason to pay attention because there is a celebrity angle: Comedian and social activist Russell Brand has done a bit of a U-turn and decided that INDEED there is a reason to vote and he’s throwing his support behind the Labour Party and Ed Miliband. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Big deal, some celebrity big ups a politician, who cares?” Owen Jones writes at the he Guardian that “Brand matters” and why the comedian’s surprise endorsement of Miliband should have the Tories quite worried:

And however much bluff and bluster the Tories now pull – maybe more playground abuse from David Cameron, who called Brand a “joke” – his endorsement of Labour in England and Wales will worry them. More people have registered to vote than ever before: between the middle of March and the deadline to register, nearly 2.3 million registered, over 700,000 of them 24 years old or younger. In countless marginal seats, disillusioned voters who were either going to plump for a protest party or not vote at all could well decide whether we are ruled by David Cameron, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith for another half a decade.

Even in a country as large as America, 2.3 million newly registered voters *SNAP* like that in would be seen as a somewhat staggering number, so in a nation the size of Great Britain, this should be seen as an incredibly significant development. Russell Brand’s opinions matter to young people, even if, it would seem, that (happily) many of them ignored his “Don’t bother voting” hectoring last year that he obviously doesn’t even believe himself anymore.

And don’t think any of this is lost on the current resident of #10 Downing Street as Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly spoken with scorn at Brand’s surprise endorsement of his political rival. In recent weeks this race has gone from merely tight to a real who-knows-what’s-going-to happen nailbiter and he knows it. Politically speaking, tectonic plates are shifting in Great Britain, this just makes the situation even more volatile.

Brand shot back at the Tory leader:

“David Cameron might think I’m a joke but I don’t think there’s anything funny about what the Conservative party have been doing to this country and we have to stop them.”

Standing ovation!

We’ll soon see how these newly registered voters tip the scales politically in the UK, but just hours away from the vote, the flux and uncertainty of the situation is impressive to say the least. Brand’s last minute endorsement of Miliband, and the effect this might have on the election’s outcome, is interesting to contemplate. Even if you’re only tuning in now and following the broadest strokes of the horse race, it’s worth paying attention because all bets are truly off.

Let’s hope Brand gets a chance to meet with Bernie Sanders soon, eh? Keep it inneresting, mate!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
NYC’s rock Apocalypse: ‘The Day The Music Died’ (with Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison)


 
Altamont wasn’t the only hippie rock festival that started with a groovy idea and ended up impacted in the poop chute of the Aquarian Age. 1970’s New York Pop Festival was intended to be three days of fun and music. The result was about as much fun as a weekend with Squeaky Fromme at the Spahn Ranch.

The producers of the festival, appropriately named Brave New World, had put together a truly impressive roster of bands with headliners like Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Ravi Shankar and Van Morrison. But they immediately ran into problems when The Black Panthers, White Panthers, Young Lords and a dozen-plus activist groups wanted in on the action. The feeling among many in the radical community was that rock festivals had made millions of dollars off the counter culture and it was now time for some payback. Among the demands being made was 10,000 free tickets and $100,000 in bail money for an incarcerated Black Panther. There were other causes, other concerns, other demands. Despite attempts by Brave New World to find some common ground the whole thing turned into a fiasco. But the festival did go on. Though there were some musical no shows that angered an already tense audience, including 30,000 who got in free when fences were kicked to the ground. The most notable absence was Sly and the Family Stone. Sly lived up to his name and was smart enough to pull out when no money was forthcoming.

Bert Tenzer’s Free is a film of the New York Pop Festival that combines documentary footage with scripted sequences. For instance, DJ Murray The K adds some goofy commentary even though he was nowhere near Randall’s Island at the time. The film was released in 1974 and made little impression. Tenzer even went so far as booking the film with unknown bands performing in the cinema. No one cared. Tenzer then re-edited Free and released it as The Day The Music Died in 1976. Doing what he could to try to recoup his investment, Tenzer added clips of Marvin Gaye, The Beatles, The Doors and more, none of whom were actually at the festival. Archival footage of Angela Davis, The Vietnam War, Richard Nixon and Malcolm X was also tossed in to the mix to give the film some political and sociological context. Still no hit.

Despite its boxoffice failure, The Day The Music Died has a lot going for it, capturing a period of time when doing the right thing often ended up a casualty of good intentions gone bad, a time when revolution often spun out of control because of a failure to see the bigger picture. By 1970 the idealism and hope of the Summer Of Love was replaced by cynicism, weariness and the realization that even the purest of Owsley’s acid wasn’t enough to flush the toxins out of the collective consciousness that had accrued over thousands of years of bad karma. The flower children had gone to seed and our heroes were dropping like flies. Mission aborted. We needed to re-group and think things out. We needed to get real.  “You say you got a real solution / Well, you know / We’d all love to see the plan.”

The Day The Music Died echoes the chaos that erupts when the mistrust between political groups, anarchists and street gangs grows unmanageable. The bottom line is capitalism and revolution is a volatile combination, both determined to destroy the other. The ideas that radical movements should get a free ride on the artistic and cultural products of others isn’t revolutionary, it’s parasitic.  As long as artists expect to be paid (as they should) it might be a good idea for political movements to throw their own fucking festivals. Power to the people means all the people, not just the ones that get the Panthers’ seal of approval. I remember when the movie Woodstock opened in Berkeley in 1970 and hippies were picketing outside of the theater where it was being screened.  Warner Brothers was banking millions off the counter culture and the longhairs were pissed. Even back then I thought the protest was silly… and I had hair down to the crack of my fucking ass. I didn’t go to the movie. Altamont had left a bad taste in my mouth and I had an Aquarian Age size hangover.

Towering over all the bullshit that happens in the The Day The Music Died is Jimi Hendrix who started a revolution without dogma, without arrogance and without rules. But he did have a plan and it was called music. There’s an argument to be made that rock and roll did more to positively change the world than any political movement, radical or otherwise. I may be wrong, but it’s an argument worth having. Whatever the case, I ain’t interested in any revolution that doesn’t include a sense of humor and monster guitar licks.

Watch in HD mode. It ain’t great but it looks a bit better.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Joey and Marky Ramone mock George Bush on Howard Stern, Republican Johnny does not


 
The partisan animosity within The Ramones is arguably the most fascinating political subtext in punk history. Most famous is the story that “The KKK Took My Baby Away” was left-wing Joey’s kiss-off song to right-wing Johnny, who had recently taken up with Joey’s girlfriend. Joey’s brother disputes this interpretation, maintaining that the song actually referenced an ill-fated romance between Joey and a black woman, but the lyrics indicate a clear streak of a bleeding heart, regardless. There is also Johnny’s famous acceptance speech at the band’s induction into the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame, where he proclaimed “God bless President Bush, and God bless America” during that oh-so-embarrassing post-9/11 era of G.W love. There were other internecine jabs and some of them were in public.

The clip below is from one of The Ramones’ memorable appearances on The Howard Stern Show—this segment from 1990 probably didn’t help ameliorate the animosity between Joey and Johnny. The sketch features Billy West—best known as the voices of Ren of Ren and Stimpy and Fry from Futurama—as an oblivious President Bush. With surprisingly good comedic timing, Joey and Marky set up West to portray Bush as cavalier and avoidant, preferring golf to the responsibilities of the presidency (sound familiar?).

One can presume from Johnny’s political record (and his lack of participation) that he was not amused by such irreverent humor at the expense of our then commander-in chief.

Note Howard bemoaning his resemblance to Joey and the reference to Dee Dee’s mercifully brief career as a rapper under the name Dee Dee King,
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
On the 45th anniversary of the Kent State massacre, a talk with one of the students who got shot
05.04.2015
04:19 am

Topics:
Activism
History
Politics

Tags:
riots
Kent State
Alan Canfora


 
The Kent State massacre, 45 years later, remains a red mark on our nation’s history. On a sunny spring day, May 4th, 1970, National Guardsmen attacked—with a 13 second barrage of bullets—a group of unarmed students, gathered for an anti-war protest. Nine were wounded, and four (Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandy Scheuer and William Schroeder) were killed. Those four, forever immortalized in Neil Young’s “Ohio,” bear witness to a divisive political landscape that exists as much today as it existed in 1970. The recent events in Ferguson and Baltimore make the remembrance of this national tragedy all the more timely.

Alan Canfora, a young student at Kent State, and a member of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS),  was involved in the Kent protests during the days leading up to the massacre. These protests, sparked by Nixon’s announcement that the Vietnam War was to be expanded into Cambodia, came at a particularly emotional time for Canfora. A few days earlier, he had attended the funeral of his friend, Bill Caldwell, who was killed in Vietnam. As a memorial, Canfora prepared a black flag for the May 4th demonstration, declaring “I purposefully chose black material to match my dark mood of despair and anger following the recent death of my friend.”

A photograph of Canfora waving the black flag before a crouched, aiming regiment, moments before they fired 67 rounds into a group of unarmed demonstrators and bystanders, has become one of the iconic images of that tragic event and of the anti-war movement itself.
 

Alan Canfora, on the practice football field, 250 feet away from aiming Guardsmen. Ten minutes before the massacre. Photo by John Filo.
 

Minutes after that photo was snapped, the National Guard fired a volley into the crowd. Canfora, who was shot through the wrist by an M-1 bullet, claims that only eight of the thirteen victims were active in the protest. Five were simply bystanders, including Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder who were killed while walking to class.

Canfora’s website contains a heart-breaking account of the events of May 4th. What is noteworthy, throughout Canfora’s recollection, is the utter disbelief that the Guard would be using “real” bullets on unarmed students:

Just as I reached safety, kneeling behind that beautiful tree during the first seconds of gunfire, I felt a sharp pain in my right wrist when an M-1 bullet passed through my arm. With shock and utter disbelief, I immediately thought to myself: “I’ve been shot! It seems like a nightmare but this is real. I’ve really been shot!” My pain was great during that unique moment of unprecedented anguish but I had another serious concern: the bullets were continuing to rain in my direction for another 11 or 12 seconds.

Among the 76 Ohio National Guard soldiers stretched across the hilltop, only about a dozen members of Troop G—the death squad—stood calmly aiming in a firing line. They killed four Kent State University students and wounded nine others, including me. One wounded victim, Dean Kahler, remains paralyzed as a result.

During the gunfire, I was in great pain and distress but quite aware that I had to remain tucked behind that narrow, young tree which absorbed several bullets intended for me.

I then heard my roommate Tom Grace screaming his severe pain after a bullet passed through his left ankle. While the bullets were still flying, I yelled over to my best friend, Tom Grace, “Stay down! Stay down! It’s only buckshot!”

 

Canfora, wounded, kneeling behind a tree, an M-1 bullet wound having pierced his right wrist—225 feet downhill from Ohio National Guard shooters. This tree saved Canfora as well as Tom “Aquinas” Miller, who was standing behind the tree. Canfora and Miller are looking right to Tom Grace who was shot through his left foot nearby.
 

Even as he had reached the hospital for treatment of his wound:

When I got to the hospital, as I walked alone toward the emergency room door, I looked inside the open rear door of a parked ambulance. I saw my friend Jeff Miller lying dead and bloody on a stretcher. I assumed he was only unconscious from a facial flesh wound. I still wrongly-assumed non-lethal shotguns shot us.

During those terrible seconds as I stood alone gazing at my friend’s bloody form, I vainly hoped that plastic surgery would repair Jeff’s face where a gaping 2-inch bloody hole destroyed Jeff’s always-smiling face. I did not know that a powerful M-1 bullet had passed through Jeff’s head and he was killed instantly.

 

Photo by John Filo
 

Canfora went on to graduate Kent State with a Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies and a Master’s Degree in Library Science, and has remained a vociferous activist, both as a student organizer, and in the justice movement for the victims of May 4. He took time out of his busy schedule, working on the 45th anniversary commemoration, to talk to Dangerous Minds about the events at Kent State and their repercussions today.

The iconic photograph of you waving the black flag before a National Guard regiment, with weapons raised and pointed at you, has been compared to the image of the so-called “tank man” at Tiananmen Square. Both photographs evoke a David vs Goliath sentiment—standing up to a monstrously armed force of authority. Of course, our cultural narrative programming has us shocked that an unarmed student would be fired upon in the United States—and maybe also shocked that a man standing in front of a tank in Communist China could stop that tank from rolling forward. Do you see similarities in the two images?

Alan Canfora: The “tank man” definitely was risking his life, at a time when many students were actually killed. By standing in front of the tank he showed great courage. It’s similar to my situation in 1970 in that he did risk his life for the cause that he believed in.

So, when that image was taken, at that moment you felt that your life was in danger?

AC: Absolutely. I think any time that there’s someone aiming guns at you with their fingers on the triggers, you definitely think that your life may be in danger. I had to confront the possibility at that moment. I certainly didn’t plan for the moment. I had no idea I would be in that situation until the Guardsmen got down and started aiming at me. It seemed like an absurd situation—I didn’t think that I was doing anything to deserve being shot or to even have guns aimed at me—I was 150 feet away—it was broad daylight—they hadn’t shot anyone while the National Guard was on campus the two previous evenings, even though some students were stabbed by bayonets, and other students were beaten with clubs the night before on May 3rd. I just didn’t think that in broad daylight on a sunny Spring afternoon that they would just start shooting into a crowd of unarmed students.

At that moment I started thinking about why I was there. Only ten days prior, myself and my roommates had attended the funeral of a nineteen-year-old soldier who was killed in Vietnam—his name was Bill Caldwell—so we were at that funeral on April 24th, and we were already very anti-war, and some of us were very experienced with protest actions… and at that funeral we swore a vow that we would take action at the soonest opportunity to send our message to President Nixon that he should stop the war in Vietnam. Too many young people were coming home dead or wounded, and we understood that the war in Vietnam was genocidal—our government was killing two or three million Asians.

Six days after that funeral, Cambodia was invaded by Nixon—the war was expanded into another country. We watched the announcement on television, and we were very angry, and we said tomorrow night we are going into action. From May 1st through 4th, we were some of the leading militants on the streets of Kent. And so when I was out there with them aiming the guns at me, that was the culmination of four days of protests—and I didn’t anticipate that moment, but I had to think to myself “this is why we’re out here—to make the most powerful statement that we can about stopping the war.” So I didn’t back down, I stood my ground there, and I basically tried to communicate with the Guardsmen who were aiming at me from 150 feet away… I remember shouting at them “if you support the war in Vietnam, then why aren’t you IN Vietnam?” I said “my friend was killed there just a few days ago, and we attended his funeral, and that’s why we’re out here—we’re trying to stop the war.”

Their commanding officer ordered them to stand up and then march away—it looked like a retreat—they started going back up this hill, and then when they got to the hilltop, that’s when they got the order to turn and fire.

That’s when the shooting broke out.
 

The Guardsmen depart the practice field in what many thought was a retreat. They soon marched uphill & fired 67 gunshots downhill into a crowd of unarmed students. Canfora was shot when he ran to a tree—225 feet away from the hilltop shooters.
 
That’s what seems so absurd—there was no imminent threat to them whatsoever.

AC: They were under no significant threat throughout the entire twenty-four minute confrontation—we all knew that they had stabbed people the night before—every step of the [confrontation] is on film and you can see second-by-second that every time they marched toward the students, the students evacuated.

Just as they started to shoot, there was one student standing off to the side raising his middle finger toward the Guard—he was shot twice—once in the stomach, once in the ankle. He was 72 feet away. Another student behind him was 90 feet away, just taking pictures—he got shot in his chest. Down near the bottom of the hill is where I was—225 feet away when I got shot through my right wrist. When I heard the guns firing I thought “they must be firing blanks, there’s no reason to shoot.” But I thought “just in case these are real bullets,” I started to zig and zag as the bullets were flying around me and I jumped behind a tree, and just as I did I felt a bullet go through my right wrist.

Having read your heart-breaking account of those events, what affected me the most was the confusion you felt. The assumption that the Guardsmen would not have bullets in their guns—and then, even when you were aware that you had been shot, you were still assuming that it must have been “buck shot”—I get the sense that the realizations about the use of deadly force in that moment may have been just as traumatic for you as the physical pain of being wounded.

AC: It just didn’t seem like any kind of a shooting situation, in fact, when you consider what had happened already on May 1st in downtown Kent—about 43 windows were smashed out—about 28 of those were in one bank, and other specific corporate targets were hit like the gas company, the electric company, the telephone company, the conservative Republican newspaper—those windows were all smashed out and nobody got shot down there that night—fourteen students were arrested. The next night, the Kent State ROTC building was burned down—the National Guard arrived that evening and they didn’t shoot anybody—so, by May 3rd several students were bayoneted after a peaceful sit-in in the street. Several male and female students were slashed and stabbed by the National Guard, and a bunch of students were beaten with clubs—but no one was shot. [By comparison] the rally on May 4th was anti-climactic. We didn’t have any plan or agenda—it was just a gathering. As soon as one student got up and spoke about a national student’s strike, that’s when the Guardsmen attacked with teargas and then [shortly thereafter] began aiming guns at me and others. To attack our rally on May 4th—we were doing NOTHING wrong—we were just standing there starting to chant anti-war slogans. One kid just started to speak, and that’s when they attacked. Ultimately they shot 67 gunshots into a crowd of unarmed students—and that was the ultimate absurdity.
 

Canfora, upper right in photo, face covered by scarf, with black flag at hilltop as Ohio National Guard attack and chase students away from Victory Bell and over Blanket Hill. Note KSU student, Allison Krause, under concrete “pagoda” at hilltop. Allison was shot in the chest & killed 20 minutes later.
 
There’s no logic to it.

AC: It’s so illogical unless you understand that among the 26 Guardsmen who marched out against us, tear-gassing us, chasing us over a hill, there was a small group there called Troop G of the 107th cavalry unit, there were about a dozen of them and several of their officers—they were like the cream of the crop of the hardcore nastiest National Guardsmen on the scene. When those guys knelt and started aiming, those guys were picking out their targets, and who they were aiming at?—there were two black flags that day, I made both of them, and my room-mate was carrying the other one—who’s carrying a black flag? Who’s throwing stones? Who’s giving the finger? Who’s cursing at them? Who’s taunting them? And among the group that they ended up shooting, Jeff Miller was very active—he was killed. Allison Krauss threw a couple of stones—she was killed. I was waving a black flag—I got shot. Joe Louis was giving the finger—he got shot. John Grace was a protester standing next to me when he got shot through his foot. Eight of the thirteen victims were active in the protest. Five were just by-standers.

You had a group of Guardsmen who were on a twenty-four minute hunting expedition, seeking human prey. And once they committed that massacre, they simply turned, regrouped, and marched away. Mission accomplished.

And what did the Guard do after the shooting?

AC: They had three big lies that they tried to perpetrate. The general had two news conferences that afternoon and said, first of all, “the students were shooting at us, there was a sniper, and we returned gunfire.” That was a lie. The second big lie was “the students were about five feet from us, about to overrun us, we thought our lives were in danger, and we thought they were gonna take our guns from us.” Well, the photographs came out the next day, and the closest student was not five feet away, but 72 feet away. The third big lie was they said the students were throwing rocks, bottles, and other objects, and their lives were in danger so they fired in self-defense. That was proven to be false. When the FBI came to town over the next two months, at the end of their investigation, the Department of Justice concluded that the National Guard’s claim of self-defense was, and I quote, “fabricated, subsequent to the events.”

Some people were throwing stones, some people felt so provoked that they picked up whatever was lying on the ground—but there was such a distance between the students and Guardsmen that day, that the stones fell short—there were also photographs showing Guardsmen throwing stones at students—and those fell short too. So both sides stopped that—it was basically a stalemate. And then when the [Guardsmen] were retreating, we felt “the confrontation is over, they’re going away.” And they got to the top of the hill and that’s when there was a verbal command, “Right here. Point. FIRE.”

A student cassette recording made at the scene was found which corroborates this—verified so far by three digital audio analysts.

All of this information and evidence is on my website alancanfora.com and on may4.org.

This was an intentional massacre based on an order to fire.
 

Canfora returns a tear-gas cannister toward the attacking Guardsmen.
 
Discussion of the events at Kent State seems especially timely considering many of the events that have recently occurred in Ferguson and Baltimore. We have seen the National Guard called out, and it seems to have the opposite of the intended effect, making people much more frustrated, angry, and volatile.

AC: I think it does. For example, when we saw those 1200 Guards rolling into Kent on May 2nd, we thought it was provocative to send in armed troops against students who were only assaulting property. And we knew that same thing was happening all across the country. It was like throwing fuel onto the fire. Especially with those “weekend warriors,” as they were known. These were not full-time, professional, law enforcement personnel. They were beating the students, and stabbing the students, and ultimately they shot us. They were poorly trained, they were over-armed, and they had very poor leadership—unlike full-time professional law enforcement personnel. It’s really a recipe for disaster.

I don’t think the National Guard should be called into a civic disturbance. No longer are National Guardsmen sent into a crowd control situation armed with M-1 rifles. Now days they try to emphasize non-lethal weapons, which of course are still actually lethal. But I don’t think you’ll see another situation where they shoot 67 gunshots into a crowd of unarmed protesters. That was such an extreme example of excessive force. It was about a year after Kent State that they started using rubber bullets, plastic pellets, beanbags, and different things like that. I don’t think you’ll see the same kind of carnage on a mass scale—at least I hope not. When you consider the volatility of our country right now, when you have people that are so oppressed because of income inequality and class discrimination—people that are driven further and further down into poverty, that they are so desperate that they go into the streets—I think there’s a danger that this could be happening not just in Baltimore or in Ferguson, but it could start happening across the country simultaneously [and if this occurred] people would realize that our country had descended into a revolutionary situation.

There’s a cultural polarization that takes place that allows for events such as these, and then people are actually surprised when it happens!

AC: Our governor at the time, James Rhodes, was very hostile against civil rights protests in the urban areas, but he was also very hostile to student protests - especially the ones right before the upcoming election - he was already the governor of Ohio but he was seeking to become a US senator - and he was 8% behind in the public opinion polls [due to student protests]. So he was desperate, and he had to act like he was cracking down on the protesters. He came to Kent and gave a news conference on May 3rd, the day before the massacre, and was pounding his fist on the podium with all of the TV cameras pointed at him, and he said “these Kent State students are the worst type of people we harbor in America. They’re worse than the Communists and the Brownshirts.” And he pounded his fists and said “we’re going to eradicate the problem.” He exaggerated the situation in order to appeal to the conservative Republican voters that were going to be voting in that primary election on May 5th. And he basically provoked or incited the National Guard to commit violence that evening when they stabbed students, and also the next day when they shot us.

April 7, 1970, less than a month before the Kent State shootings, Governor Ronald Reagan in California said “these students want disruption - if it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with.”

There is a real danger when a situation is polarized—and then you put guns into the hands of the people that are the most hateful, and that’s a formula for a disaster. They hated us, they didn’t understand us, they resented us, to the point where they shot us with absolutely no hesitation.
 

Canfora and roommate confront Ohio National Guard from 250-feet distance on practice football field minutes before Guardsmen march uphill & shoot.
 
Anyone who experiences a traumatic situation like this deals with effects of it for the rest of their lives. Many members of the radical left or anti-war movement of the Vietnam era have assimilated into mainstream culture. Would you say that being shot in 1970 was a crystallizing moment that kept you dedicated to activism?

AC: No. My father was a union activist in Akron, Ohio, with the UAW; and he was very political, and raised all four of his kids to be very strongly liberal and progressive minded. He led a two month strike against Goodyear in the 1950s. In the ‘60s he was on our hometown City Council as a liberal Democrat—a very progressive guy. So we were already politicized in my family from the time, even back to the 1950s when my dad opposed a “right to work” law—he had us aware of that stuff even when I was nine years old. When I saw the students beaten in the streets at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, I knew that I wanted to become an activist—to try to fight for the same cause. At Kent State, I first joined the College Democrats, and within a month I quit them and joined the SDS, because they were more leftist intellectuals - the leadership of the SDS at Kent was among the most brilliant and militant in the whole country.

Jerry Casale from DEVO  [was in the Kent State SDS, and] was there, and he witnessed the massacre. Two of his good friends, Jeff Miller and Allison Krauss were killed, and that radicalized a whole lot of people who witnessed the event including Jerry Casale who was already a radical. He formulated his theory of de-evolution—that human society was de-evolving, and the Kent State massacre helped him reach that conclusion—that society was not evolving any longer.

Terry Robbins [of the Weathermen], who got blown up in a townhouse, saw me at the SDS events and looked at me and said “you’re an action freak.” For Terry Robbins to call me an “action freak”... I consider that to be quite a compliment.

By 1969 most of the leadership of SDS had gone underground and joined the Weathermen. I did not. I thought that was a tactical mistake. I thought we had to stay above ground and continue to organize and fight against the war, out in the open. There were only a few of us from SDS still there, and we continued to remain anti-war, and when the invasion of Cambodia happened in the Spring of ‘70 we were among the most active students, sparking the protests. I don’t think that being shot made me more of an activist, but it made me more of a proponent for justice against the cover-up of murder.
 

“They hated us, they didn’t understand us, they resented us, to the point where they shot us with absolutely no hesitation.”
 
In finishing up our conversation, I mentioned, off-the-cuff, that many people consider Canfora to be an American hero. He was very quick to dismiss such praise, stating, “I’ve never considered myself to be a hero - I consider myself a foot soldier in the anti-war army.”

Canfora will be participating in the 45th annual commemoration at Kent State and is currently in final-edit of his memoir, which should be wrapped up by Summer. His website contains volumes of information on the events at Kent State, and is well worth your time and research.

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Gov. Jerry Brown and Dr. Timothy Leary talk toad-licking
04.09.2015
05:15 am

Topics:
Drugs
Politics

Tags:
Timothy Leary
Jerry Brown


 
Jerry Brown stayed busy during the 28-year interval between his two stints as California’s governor: he made a bid for the presidency, got elected mayor of Oakland, and became the state’s attorney general. Before he was mayor, he also founded a commune in Oakland called We The People. The house at 200 Harrison Street doubled as a salon; Brown envisioned it as a place for “philosophers, artists and activists to discuss and plan ways to work change.” On weekdays in the mid-90s, he broadcast a talk show (also called “We The People”) from the commune over the Bay Area’s Pacifica station, KPFA.

On one afternoon in October 1995, Brown’s guest was Dr. Timothy Leary. Leary owed his host a favor. Two decades earlier, Leary, having already escaped prison once with the help of the Weather Underground, was doing hard time in Folsom State Prison, where he was looking at a lo-o-ong sentence (95 years, says Wikipedia). In 1975, Brown’s first year as governor, he pardoned Leary. (If you think this means Brown is some kind of hippie with an enlightened attitude to drug policy, guess again; he’s actually been a wiener on this issue.) After Leary’s federal parole was granted the following year, he was a free man. He was arrested in Texas for smoking a cigarette in protest of no-smoking rules in 1994, but he stayed out of the slams for the rest of his life. I’d think he must have had warm feelings about Jerry Brown.
 

 
Leary had sought the office of governor in California’s 1970 election. He planned to take on the incumbent, Ronald Reagan, armed with a campaign song by John Lennon. Sadly, what might have been one of the most entertaining gubernatorial campaigns in American history was cut short by Leary’s incarceration some ten months before the election. Wise elders, why didn’t you send Reagan up the river instead?

In this wide-ranging half-hour conversation, the two lapsed Catholics do not discuss the pardon or their mutual interest in the governorship, but Brown does bring up the subject of toad-licking when a caller observes that many psychedelic compounds appear in nature. Even if you have no interest in any of the above, you will certainly enjoy hearing California’s current governor exclaim: “You can SUCK THOSE FROGS that give you the good high! Did you read about them?”

H/T Psychedelic Salon

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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