A Challenge to Democrats to be more Democratic


gavel and the US Flag

One of the more unfortunate accusations that I’ve been hearing lately is that Bernie Sanders supporters are tearing apart the Democratic Party. That Sanders needs to “back down” so we can unite. But Sanders supporters are fighting for the Democratic party to be more democratic. The media and others, however, have done a bang-up job framing real political challenges from the people (which Sanders represents) as “selfish” and “hurtful.” And a good number of Democrats are taking up those pitchforks and torches and joining the chorus without truly understanding what it is they are attempting to self-righteously snuff out.

John Nichols’ article in The Nation, A Contested Convention Is Exactly What the Democratic Party Needs, (an article widely forwarded by Bill Moyers) speaks directly to why it is so very crucial to continue to challenge not just Hillary Clinton, but the entire Democratic Party. THIS is what Democracy is all about! This is our job description! But so many people have lost sight of that – or never really knew what they could or should do beyond just casting a vote – or what the Democratic Party used to be, its history, and so they don’t recognize what it has the potential to do right now. Hillary might be the nominee in the end (though that’s STILL not a guarantee), but there’s more to be done and more to be gained by continuing to challenge her and those she surrounds herself with. At the very least to the Convention. Hopefully, a lot farther.

John Nichols:

“Prospective nominees tend to favor weaker platforms; Harry Truman would have preferred milder civil-rights commitments than were made in his party’s 1948 platform, and it took steady pressure from unions, liberals and Ted Kennedy to get Jimmy Carter to finally embrace spending on jobs programs. It will take similar pressure to get Clinton and her inner circle to accept a Democratic platform that Sanders says must include “a $15-an-hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health-care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.” Clinton stalwarts may want to keep things vague, but look for the Sanders team to demand specifics, such as an explicit endorsement of a national $15 minimum wage instead of the $12 proposal that Clinton initially offered, and an unequivocal rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that President Obama supports and that Clinton once championed but now criticizes.”

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A Challenge to Democrats to be more Democratic

Understanding “Bernie Or Bust” and the Theory of Critical Realignment


 

Bernie or Hillary

I understand why the “Bernie Or Bust” movement has left a lot of people bewildered and resentful. But like so much out there in our political orbit, an ability to momentarily alter perspective is required, in earnest and without caveats, in order to even begin to understand the thinking of others. It’s a difficult thing to do and something we are, as a culture and society, not often propelled to do. Achieving this requires a degree of separating immediate emotional responses and impulses from the “bigger” picture. That’s a hard thing to accomplish under normal circumstances. It’s a seemingly near-impossible one when there are institutions and organizations whose very existence is not only dependent on, but who are wholly dedicated to keeping you in a reactive state of near-constant emotive retaliation.

However, empathy is fostered in many areas of our culture, and it thrives in pockets despite many attempts to deride or discredit it as a form of “weakness.” Artists, art, and artistic communities, for example, are dependent on a measure of empathy for art to exist. By definition. But even within those communities and those cultures, there is the notion that one must become “hardened,” that success is dependent on learning to be cut-throat, a shark. Walk into any art class with an industry bent and you have a 50/50 chance of being taught that those who “make it” are the ones willing to walk over the bodies of their classmates. Ask any actor who has made the rounds of acting classes in Los Angeles.

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Understanding “Bernie Or Bust” and the Theory of Critical Realignment

Does “SELMA” Shine A Light On More Than Just Its Story?


selmaI liked SELMA. And I thought it suffered a bit from the usual standard biopic pitfalls of not digging more deeply into the complex areas inherent in its story and characters, as well as not trusting actual events to be powerful enough of a story to not have to alter history to create extra drama or to paint a more “desirable” picture. That said, I still found the film effecting and it stayed with me longer than either THE IMITATION GAME or THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, the other 2 biopics from last year made in a similar mold.

For me, these kinds of linear tellings of stories with historical beats that need to be hit always feel too manufactured. Which isn’t to say they don’t have impact or are not good films. Many are, and this one is. But there’s a deeper level of human experience, the human condition, that these types of films never quite manage to reveal for me. More often than not, this begins at the script stage. These films often feel like the events themselves were strung out in a line with index cards and the characters’ personal struggles inserted to up the drama instead of revealing and exploring the many layers and complexities of the human beings and their struggles being portrayed. For me, the film MR. TURNER was the only biopic I saw from last year that transcended this issue. Perhaps because the filmmaker/writer, Mike Leigh, knows that it’s the characters’ inner journeys that dictate the “events” that unfold and not the other way around.

Continue reading “Does “SELMA” Shine A Light On More Than Just Its Story?”

Does “SELMA” Shine A Light On More Than Just Its Story?

Spielberg Makes Sure Fans Know He Is NOT George Lucas


Say what you want about Steven Speilberg, but he is fast becoming a firm and vocal voice against the re-writing of film history. So much so that he has not shied away from some very vocal jabs against old pal George Lucas who has recently come under fire once again for his incessant altering of his Star Wars franchise to the point that there is a fan campaign to boycott the upcoming Blu-ray release of these films.

At a recent screening of a new digital restoration of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK at Los Angeles’ Hero Complex, Spielberg commented on filmmakers who alter their films, thus erasing their historical context:

“Speaking for myself, I tried this once and I learned to regret it. Not because of fan outrage, but simply because I was a little disappointed in myself. I got very kind of overly sensitive to some of the criticism E.T. had gotten from parent groups when it was first released in ’82. Having to do with Elliot saying penis breath or the guns with the CIA. And also there were some rough around the edges close-ups of E.T. that I had always thought if technology ever evolves to the point where I can do some facial enhancements with E.T. I would like to. So I did an E.T. pass for the third release of the movie and it was okay for a while then I realized that what I had done was I had robbed people who loved E.T. of their memories of E.T. My only contrition that I could possibly do because I feel bad about that, the only contrition that I really performed was when E.T. came out on DVD for the first time. I told Universal, we’re going to do this or we’re not going to put E.T. on DVD. You have to put two movies in the box and one movie will be the 1982 version and the other will be the digitally enhanced version. What I’d like to ask is this. We’ll do a little poll here. I know we’re coming out with the Blu-ray of E.T. If I came out with just one E.T. on Blu-ray, the 1982 one, would anybody object to that? [Audience shouts ‘No!’] Ok, so be it.”

But friends and colleagues must be careful of just how “critical” they are of their pals. Spielberg also added:

“Let me put it this way, George does what he does because there’s only one George Lucas, and thank god for that. He’s the greatest person I’ve ever worked with as a filmmaker collaborator and he’s a conceptual genius. He puts together these amazing stories and he’s great at what he does. My feeling is that he can do anything he wants with his movies because they’re his movies and we wouldn’t have been raised with Star Wars or Indiana Jones had it not been for George.”

But luckily, Spielberg’s point has been made and it is a most welcome response to Lucas’ continued alterations and his open disdain for the people who are fighting for the very things he himself once stood before Congress and campaigned so vigorously for (see my post HERE). Let’s hope more filmmakers take the same stand Spielberg has. Which, in supporting the importance of film and its history, automatically sheds a light on just how selfish and misguided George Lucas has become. Perhaps one day, Lucas himself will come to understand and respect the wishes of those of us who care about preserving film and cultural history and remember that there was a time when he was one of us. Let’s hope that Mr. Spielberg is, in perfect Dickens fashion, the first of many ghosts to haunt Mr. Lucas.

Spielberg Makes Sure Fans Know He Is NOT George Lucas

Spielberg Comes To His Digital Senses


Anyone who knows me knows I find digital alterations of older films sacrilege. While I fully support director’s cuts of films and the opportunity for a filmmaker to finally show the world the work he or she intended, I am equally adamant that once a film is out there, once it has been consumed by the public, become a part of our collective psyches, that it has a right to exist in its original form, as well as its director’s cut.

Thankfully, filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and William Friedkin, to name a few, have honored that very concept by releasing both original and altered versions side by side (E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, BLADE RUNNER, THE EXORCIST respectively). However, filmmakers like George Lucas have gone out of their way to actually destroy original cuts of their films (the original STAR WARS TRILOGY) in the hope that those original versions would disappear from history altogether. Ironic since Lucas himself once argued to the Supreme Court when fighting colorization that once a film is out there it belongs to the public and should not be altered or manipulated. Since those coherent days, Lucas has become the poster-child for film alteration and history re-writing. Much to the dismay and anger of many of his once loyal fans (this writer included–for me the original STAR WARS TRILOGY films are dead, never to be watched again).

Luckily for us, director Steven Spielberg stated recently his desire to allow his films, warts and all, to remain as they were presented to the world in their original forms out of respect for the films themselves and the history they represent.

“There’s going to be no more digital enhancements or digital additions to anything based on any film I direct. I’m not going to do any corrections digitally to even wires that show… If 1941 comes on Blu-ray I’m not going to go back and take the wires out because the Blu-ray will bring the wires out that are guiding the airplane down Hollywood Blvd. At this point right now I think letting movies exist in the era, with all the flaws and all of the flourishes, is a wonderful way to mark time and mark history.” 

Now if only he could talk some sense into his long-time pal Lucas and convince him to follow suit and respect the films, the history they represent, and their loyal fans.

Spielberg Comes To His Digital Senses

The “New” Dead on Letterman Tonight


picture-10While it’s no secret that I’m a bit underwhelmed with the post-Jerry Garcia Dead’s sound, I think many folks who weren’t big fans of the band before might actually, ironically, prefer this current incarnation. Guitarist Warren Haynes’ sound is certainly more “familiar” sounding to the masses as his playing is a tad more “straight-forward” than Jerry’s was. Jerry spoke from his soul and the music took you there. It was different from anything else out there. And that’s what made it so damn one-of-a-kind. But it was an acquired taste and often took folks a bit of time to hear what was going on there (to the untrained ear it can sometimes sound a bit harsh, or so I’ve been told), but once tapped in, it was the centerpiece of joy and inspiration. It was NOT, however, great background music (unless you were singing along) as it demanded your attention. It’s possible that I just need more time to tap into Warren. Though something tells me that’s not the case. But I’ll be listening nonetheless.

When the Grateful Dead introduced TOUCH OF GREY to the world, it signaled the beginning of the end of an era. Legions of new “fans” stormed the scene expecting a band that played amusing little ditties like GREY (a fun song, absolutely, but not really the kind of thing the Grateful Dead were known for). Suddenly, the tight little community was inundated with concert-goers more concerned with the drug-scene than with the music. People were getting too high, too drunk, and oftentimes violent. Before we knew it, the Grateful Dead was banned from playing many of its long-standing favorite venues! The scene never fully recovered, IMHO.

I’m curious to see what this newfangled Dead will choose to play for the masses on the David Letterman show tonight. Will they pick some great, weird oldie that will shock and amaze? Or will they decide to play something a bit more… “mainstream”? We’ll see. No doubt, either way, a few more folks will climb on board the bus as a result.

Dead.net posted a History of the Grateful Dead on David Letterman. It’s a fun journey back in time. I saw all of these shows when they originally aired. Enjoy!

History of the Grateful Dead on David Letterman

cThe members of the Grateful Dead, mostly Jerry and Bobby, have a long relationship with David Letterman going back to 1982. The two guitarists first appeared on Letterman on 4/13/82, during the Grateful Dead’s Spring tour, on a night off between shows at Nassau Coliseum and the Glens Falls Civic Center. On this episode, they played two acoustic songs, Deep Elem Blues and Monkey & The Engineer, with Jerry and Bobby revealing terrific senses of humour in describing the origins of the moniker Dead Heads. Classic stuff. Bobby had a bit of a cold, and his voice was a bit off, but they played these acoustic tunes very well.

The next visit to Letterman was on 9/17/87 on the night off during a five night stand at Madison Square Garden, at which they played Bob Dylan’s When I Paint My Masterpiecewith the Letterman house band backing them. While talking with Dave, they discussed their new video So Far, the shows at MSG, and the success of In The Dark. Bobby then did one of the oddest things these guys have ever done on TV, he attempted to lift Jerry via a parlour trick, with Dave and Biff helping out. The sight of an unwitting Jerry, in a nice coat, sitting as the crew tries to lift Jerry with two fingers is one of the most hilarious images of the band I’ve ever seen. Just the way Dave looked at the camera and said “we’re going to lift Jerry” had us all cracking up. I’d been at the two previous shows at the Garden, and they were playing very well and, obviously, having loads of fun.

In 1989, during a five night run at the Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, Bobby and Jerry once again visit Dave, on 10/13/89, this time playing Second That Emotion with Paul’s band once again backing them up. Also very cool during this appearance was during the commercial breaks, they played along with the band on the music the leads in and out of the commercial breaks, including Good Lovin’, Mighty Quinn and Hideaway, amongst a few other things.

In 2003, The Dead appeared on Letterman with that version of the band, featuring Bobby, Phil, Mickey and Bill, as well as Jeff Chimenti and Rob Barraco on keyboards, Jimmy Herring on lead guitar, and Joan Osborne on vocals. They played a rocking version of Casey Jones.

Bobby and Jerry also appeared separately on Letterman, the former playing The Winners with Rob Wasserman in 1991, and the latter playing Friend of the Devil with David Grisman in 1993.

The “New” Dead on Letterman Tonight