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Woodstock 1969 on PBS

American Experience: Woodstock – Three Days That Defined a Generation on PBS

This is an excellent documentary

Last night I watched this documentary on the Apple TV PBS app, which has a lot of free things to watch, as well as many more things to watch if you are a PBS Passport member.

It is being aired on Sunday, August 17 at 3PM on my local PBS station in New York City. Check your own local listings!

This is particularly good for people who do not know that much about the Woodstock music festival, but it is also good for people who think they know a lot about the event.

It makes a wonderful 90 minute primer for anyone who wants to go on to watch thing Oscar-winning documentary from 1970 that focused on the musical performances. This American Experience episode focuses more on how the festival came to be, the many obstacles facing the organizers, the many issues faced by all concerned throughout the event, and many first hand accounts with much previously unseen footage of the people who met as a temporary city, “half a million strong,” and left part of a world that would never be the same.

Given the horrifying trends of selfishness, bigotry, and greed plaguing America today, from the highest office in the land down to its smallest communities, it is refreshing to be reminded that the enlightened spirit love and peace that burst upon our collective society fifty years ago this weekend still lives in many hearts across the land, even if they are currently being shouted down and drowned out by the forces of hatred and violence.

I had tears in my eye at the end of the program, for what once was, and what may yet be, and so much that has been wasted on the way.

Check it out on PBS.

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/woodstock/

PBS Woodstock American Experience

Moonwalker

Moonwalker Moonwalk

A Thriller of a Moonwalk

And yet how soon we forgot the significance of the Moonwalker

In the late 1990s I was directing a play in New York City with a cast of some six or eight actors, all in their twenties. The action was set across the 1960s and beyond. And part of the plot included a young co-ed having an affair with one of her professors.

I had remarked to the cast that there had come a time when I vowed to myself that I would never date a girl who was born after the Moonwalk.

One of the cast members immediately responded, “Oh I remember that! My mom got me out of bed to watch it.” And a general murmur went around in agreement of the shared experience.

She was referring to Michael Jackson’s backwards stroll in 1983, on some Motown anniversary TV show. And it turned out every actor in the room was thinking of the same performance.

It did not occur to one person that I was referring to what is arguably the most significant achievement in the history of human endeavor since the invention of writing or arithmetic.

And not one of them was aware that Michael Jackson didn’t invent the shuffling dance steps with which he is now and forever associated. Similar versions of it had been captured on film or video from Cab Calloway in the 1930s to James Brown in the 1980s. Names they had heard of but really had no idea who they might refer to.

Even the name “moonwalk” for such a dance move appears to have originated in a 1969 episode of Sid and Marty Kroffts’ Saturday morning children’s TV show H. R. Pufnstuf.

I am glad the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 has brought attention to the magnificent achievement of all involved, and reminded or enlightened people today of the astounding limitations of science and engineering at the time it all took place. But I perceive how it matters much more to those who were alive when it happened than those who were not.

But that is just the way it goes, in this nation at least.

I also remember directing a different play with a different cast, and having to explain significant historical events relating to the Civil Rights Movement to a group of African-American actors who had no idea who Medgar Evers was or even Malcolm X, although these college-educated young adults had heard the name. Dr. King of course they knew, but not with much intimacy.

But then, I had always been saddened and appalled by how ignorant many American actors are about history, even the immediate history of their own era. And they tend to need to know about history for professional reasons more than most other Americans.

It has since become obvious that many Americans are just as appallingly ignorant of history, geography, and so on, and probably more so. Even worse, the complete lack of critical thinking that once upon a time had to be mastered to get anywhere near a Master’s degree, seems to have been purposely removed from university requirements.

How can we expect our citizens to make informed decisions if they are so uninformed, or do not understand the important differences between decisions based upon knowledge acquired through verifiable and empirical evidence, and believing whatever sounds good to one’s prejudiced desires?

How can we expect our citizens to recognize the warning signs of Fascism if they do not even remember what it was, or even understand what the word actually means?

(Fascism has no inherent connection to things like White Supremacy, Racism, or Antisemitism, even if it appeals to many of their practitioners.

According to Giovanni Gentile, the philosophical father of modern Fascism, it is defined as the marriage of corporate and government power, where the industrial corporations have the power to regulate themselves and the rights and wages of their workers, with the government enforcing and protecting corporate power, and profiting from placing the needs of the corporations above all other things.

In practice, this was achieved by replacing the power of democratic majority rule with a political ruling class who do not have to obey laws in the same way as the basic citizen. Sound familiar?)

Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day

Your word for Sunday 21st July is: moonwalker, n.

moonwalker, n.

[‘A sleepwalker. rare—0.’]

Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈmuːnˌwɔːkə/,  U.S. /ˈmunˌwɔkər/, /ˈmunˌwɑkər/

Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: moon n.1, walker n.1

Etymology: <  moon n.1 + walker n.1 In sense 1 after moonwalking n. In senses 2 and 3 after moonwalk n.

  1. A sleepwalker. rare—0.

1950 Webster’s New Internat. Dict.  Add. Moonwalking, sleepwalking outdoors in bright moonlight.—Moonwalker.

  1. A person who walks on the moon; an astronaut.

1969 Times  3 June (Suppl.) p. iii/1 The two moon-walkers will be in the lunar module’s upper, or ascent stage.

1994 Guardian  1 July ii. 28/1 If..lunar voyages had become commonplace, the moonwalkers themselves would seem no more exotic now to the rest of us than Concorde pilots.

2007  G. Heiken  & E. Jones On Moon  456 All of the moonwalkers adapted to lunar gravity quickly and easily.

  1. A person who performs the moonwalk (see moonwalk n. 2).

1986 Chicago Tribune(Nexis) 23 Feb. vii. 6/1 Singer Michael Jackson and his brothers backed into a neighborhood moonwalker in the 1984 Pepsi commercials.

1988  M. Jackson(title of film) Moonwalker.

1993 Sports Illustr.(Electronic ed.) 27 Sept. Then he tosses an 18-yarder to Michael Jackson—the wideout, not the moonwalker.

1999 Herald (Glasgow)(Electronic ed.) 25 Nov. It will not be the first time the dancing moonwalker has appeared in front of the cameras. Jackson gave film a go in 1978 when he appeared as a scarecrow in The Wiz.

Michael Jackson moonwalk

 

 

 

Remember this day!

Pancho Villa and others at the very first Fiesta de la tarro vacía

Rare photo recently discovered

Sinko de Mayo

A contemplative Villa (left) and a glum Zapata (2nd from right) face an uncertain future

In Mexico during the time of the Revolution, mayonnaise was a national obsession. More of the condiment was consumed there than any other one place on earth, with Hong Kong a distant second.

In fact, leaders on both sides of the conflict were crazy for the stuff. But it was Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata circa 1910, who spread the spread among the common people, as it were, so that its popularity soared.

In those days, England was the mayonnaise capital of the world, with Cross & Blackwell’s, and Hellmann’s as the most popular brands, and the largest shipment of all time, some tens of thousands of jars, set out from Southampton by steamship on April 10, 1912, bound for Vera Cruz, by way of Cherbourg, New York, Charleston, and Havana.

But as history showed, the vessel was none other than the ill-fated H.M.S. Titanic, which struck an iceberg and sank on April 15th.

When news arrived in Mexico twenty days later, the war-torn people were devastated. Their anguish was so great that a truce was declared between the Federales and the rebel factions, for one day of mourning. And thus was held the very first Fiesta de la tarro vacía (Feast of the Empty Jar.)

(photo: Museos de México)

feast2

It has been observed ever since, on this very day, now known colloquially as Sinko de Mayo.

Thank you, I’m here all week …

 

Rome From Start to Finish – Monday Map

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

I’ll Say!

Monday Map – The History of Rome

A special birthday edition features an animated map that explores the entire history of Rome, from its earliest days as a kingdom, through the massive expansion during the Roman Republic, and on through Roman Empire, which split in two for its final tumultuous years.

Please expect to want to hit Pause and stop to look at certain moments of the timeline in detail!

I never grow tired of history or maps, and love it when they come together so very well.

Presidents Day – Monday Map

Presidents Day Map of all the birthplaces

Our Presidents of the United States

The entire bunch were born in but 21 of our 50 States

Fun Facts from the Washington Post

* Ohio is the birthplace of seven presidents, second only to Virginia’s eight. But, Ohio hasn’t elected a president since Warren Harding in 1920. And Harding didn’t even last a full term, dying in 1923. (Random Warren Harding factoid: His size 14 shoes were the largest of any president.)

* Texas’ two native-born presidents may not be who you think they are. Neither George H.W. Bush (Massachusetts) nor George W. Bush (Connecticut) were born in the Lone Star State. The two? Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower. (Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas.)

* Vermont is the smallest state with the biggest presidential punch as the birthplace of both Chester Arthur and Calvin Coolidge.

* California has produced only a single president — and it was Republican Richard Nixon.

The map is sadly out of date.

Merlin Fragments Discovered – predate known English versions

Very early depiction of Merlin and King Arthur found by accident

Seven leaves of parchment from the 1200s discovered in 15th-century book at Bristol Central Library

Despite England’s obsession with the mythic King Arthur, the original legends surrounding that mysterious figure come from France. The newly uncovered fragments refer to the preparations for a battle near Trebes, by the South Riviera, where the king’s wizard Merlin and various legendary knights faced off against the forces of King Claudas. They contain details and variations different from all known versions of the Vulgate Continuation of Merlin (Suite Vulgate de Merlin,) from the larger Story of Merlin (Estoire de Merlin,) and predate any known English language telling of these tales.

Merlin fragments found

Photo: University of Bristol

Press release issued: 30 January 2019

Centuries lost ‘Bristol Merlin’ uncovered at city’s Central Library

A chance discovery, hidden away in a series of 16th-century books deep in the archive of Bristol Central Library, has revealed original manuscript fragments from the Middle Ages which tell part of the story of Merlin the magician, one of the most famous characters from Arthurian legend.

Academics from the Universities of Bristol and Durham are now analysing the seven parchment fragments which are thought to come from the Old French sequence of texts known as the Vulgate Cycle or Lancelot-Grail Cycle, dating back to the 13th century.

Parts of the Vulgate Cycle were probably used by Sir Thomas Malory (1415-1471) as a source for his Le Morte D’Arthur (published in 1485 by William Caxton) which is itself the main source text for many modern retellings of the Arthurian legend in English, but no one version known so far has proven to be exactly alike with what he appears to have used.

In addition, one of the most exciting elements of this particular find is that the Bristol fragments contain evidence of subtle, but significant, differences from the traditional narrative of the stories.  

The seven hand-written parchment fragments were discovered by Michael Richardson from the University of Bristol’s Special Collections Library who was looking for materials for students studying the history of the book for the new MA in Medieval Studies.

They were found bound inside a four-volume edition of the works of the French scholar and reformer Jean Gerson (1363-1429) and, recognising a number of familiar Arthurian names, Michael contacted Dr Leah Tether, President of the International Arthurian Society (British Branch), from Bristol’s Department of English to see if the finds were in any way significant.

Read the full Merlin fragments discovery article at the University of Bristol website

Robert Burns, why Burns Nights still matter, and should

Today is the 260th anniversary of the birth of poet Robert Burns.

While I have not attended a formal Burns Night Supper in years, I still celebrate in my own way, each and every year.

This evening, I am taken

back several years to the Immortal Memory given by my scholarly university mate, Thomas Keith, at a public Burns Supper given at the First Presbyterian Church on 5th Avenue, in Greenwich Village.

Today is the 206th anniversary of the birth of poet Robert Burns.
 
While I have not attended a formal Burns Night Supper in years, I still celebrate in my own way, each and every year.
 
This evening, I am taken back to the Immortal Memory given by my scholarly university mate, Thomas Keith, at a public Burns Supper given at the First Presbyterian Church on 5th Avenue, in Greenwich Village.
 
Therein, Thomas dispelled the stereotypical image of Burns as a hard drinking libertine (by those who associate him with the old Scots comic songs he collected and sometimes rewrote) by presenting detailed analysis of the poet’s working life and family life, and the sheer volume of his literary life.
 
Robert_Burns-Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia

Burns can be a difficult read for many Americans these days, given how much of it is written in dialect. What is easy to grasp and relate to is the poet’s theme of romantic love. But what make Burns immortal are his liberal themes of universal equality and social justice.

 
That is what people like Lincoln and Emerson found so inspiring. And that is why he remains revered wherever there have been popular revolts against oppressive rulers, from the former Soviet satellites to Latin America. And why there are more statues and memorials to Burns in the USA than anywhere else outside of Scotland; even then if only lesser by one.
 
He grew up when slavery was still legal in Scotland. And like Lincoln, he was mainly home-educated and worked at extremely hard agrarian labor from an early age. And both men could relate to the plight of those in bondage who were paid nothing, and those of the lowest freemen whose backbreaking life profited only their landlords, with little hope of improving the tenant farmer’s lot.
 
And at this troubling period in our own time, his observations on those on high whose character and true worth are in no way on par with their status can really hit home.
 
He is appreciated to this day for being ahead of his time when supporting both the American and French Revolutions, when that was a most unpopular position in the UK and the rest of Europe.
 
And here in this article, a Scotsman argues that Burns’ impact on American culture goes beyond the songs of Bob Dylan to having a direct hand in ending slavery here and in a deep influence on American poetry itself.
 
But that is not why we have Burns Night Suppers, really.
 
We do it because how how we relate so clearly to his love and celebration of life’s simple yet profound pleasures, often residing and reflected in “objects in nature around me that are in unison or harmony with the cogitations of my fancy and workings of my bosom.”
 
That is what brings a tear to the eye, when one is surrounded by their boon companions, reflecting on the joy of the moment and the sheer profundity of our fleeting lives.
 
His sincere belief in the brotherhood of mankind is why we gather around the globe, in small cottages and extravagant halls, in every hemisphere and on every continent, on this night or whenever we can find the time go meet, and lament that “Young Rabbie” only lived to be 37 years of age, and why we celebrate the eighteenth-century Scotsman whom we like to believe would have liked us as much as we are sure we would have liked him, and who would have accepted our invitation to join us at our table, to raise a glass and sing a song, or seven.
 
To the immortal memory…

“Sláinte!”

Monday Map – 1965 Selma March

The Selma March Historic Byway

Martin Luther King Day

On March 7th, 1965, the historic Selma to Montgomery March took place. Hundreds of marched in support of civil rights for all Americans, and expressly for the rights of African-Americans subjected to institutionalized segregation and bigotry.
The march was blocked by Alabama state troopers and aborted. A second march on March 18th was cancelled due to a court order.
Over 25,000 gathered on March 21st, and with the help of federal troops and law enforcement, they completed the 54 mile trek to the state capital in Montgomery.
While the reality of who Doctor King was and what is actual legacy has been. There is no question that assassinated leader stands today as a martyr to social justice in America. And the Selma March remains one of the most tangible symbols of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was introduced in Congress during the Selma March, and once passed became among the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.
Selma http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways/2050/maps

The route of the Selma March is now one of the Federal Highway Administration’s America’s Byways and also a National Park Service Historic Trail that is currently closed due to the ongoing attempted Right Wing coups that has shut down the Federal Government.

Selma http://www.nps.gov/common/commonspot/customcf/apps/maps/showmap.cfm?alphacode=semo&parkname=Selma%20To%20Montgomery
A period map from the time: HERE
More Monday Maps: HERE

The times that try men’s souls

“These are the times that try men’s souls…

…the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Thus Englishman Thomas Paine.

Painting on view at Ft. Lee, New Jersey Visitors Center

“On this date in 1776, General Cornwallis crossed the Hudson River from Manhattan with 5,000 British and Hessian troops to attack the Continental Army at Fort Lee, New Jersey. General Washington ordered a general retreat of 2,000 colonial troops stationed there.

Washington’s army then retreated in a southwest direction through New Jersey, passing through Englewood, Teaneck, Morristown, Princeton, and Trenton. With Cornwallis on his heels, it took Washington 12 days to reach the Delaware River and cross over to the Pennsylvania side.

During the retreat, Thomas Paine wrote those immortal words, rendered above.

“Paine’s pamphlet was read aloud to Continental Army troops on the evening of December 23rd. In the early morning of December 26th, Washington crossed the Delaware to the New Jersey side and attacked Hessian troops stationed at Trenton.”

The rest is history of the United States of America.