Archive for September, 2011

Telemarketing Kills Charity

Do not call.  This means you.Unless I am expecting a call, I try to avoid answering the home phone.  9 times out of 10, it’s a solicitor — telemarketer seeking funds for a charitable organization usually, but sometimes a company conducting a poll.  If I have the energy, I ask to be taken off the organization’s call list (a strategy that does not always work).  If I don’t, then I hang up in the 2-second silence preceding the telemarketer’s voice.

I wish charitable organizations would not punish their supporters with these phone calls.  As a “thank you,” I’d much prefer to be contacted via mail or email.  Wouldn’t you?  In response to such rudeness, I’ve stopped giving to organizations that phone me at home. (I maintain a list by the phone.)  This isn’t an entirely effective strategy.  First, some organizations refuse to stop calling you even after repeated requests. The most egregious is the Sioux Nation Relief Fund / Council of Indian Nations (according to the American Institute of Philanthropy, these two groups are affiliated). While I support the rights of First Nations peoples, I will never give to these charities ever again.  We’ve been asking them to take us off their list for years.

The second reason that this approach isn’t entirely effective is that I end up withholding support for truly outstanding organizations.  It truly pains me that Doctors Without Borders phoned me last September.  To provide medical care to those in need, this group goes into countries that the Red Cross deems too dangerous. For their work, Doctors Without Borders won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.  I’d been a regular donor for years, and then after this call… I stopped.  To their credit, the group has honored my request not to be phoned at home — I’ve received no further calls.

So.  What to do?  Before you suggest the national “Do Not Call List,” I’m already on the list.  Read the fine print: Charitable organizations to which you have given are exempt.

I think I need to institute some sort of review period.  Egregious offenders will remain off my giving list indefinitely, but those organizations who honor my request not to be contacted at home should have a second chance.  If, say, a couple years pass without a call from the offending organization, then I could put it on probation — that is, I resume giving, but let them know that further phone calls will result in the termination of my support.

Finally, I realize that it may strike readers as a bit churlish (or just downright mean!) to withhold support in order to discourage unwanted phone calls.  I’m sure that some — indeed, probably most — of you have more patience and charity than I do.  Beyond the rudeness, the issue for me is time.  I get at least one of these calls (and usually more) every single day.  And I’m very, very busy.  I don’t have time for all of the important things in my life, much less the unimportant ones.

Final note: I wrote this post about six weeks ago, but debated whether or not I should post it.  (I do not upload every blog post I write.)  I didn’t want to discourage charitable giving.  Nor, for that matter, did I want to encourage selfishness.  But, just now, I received two telemarketing calls at the same time — I had to put one on hold to answer the other.  And, so, I thought… you know, perhaps this method of solicitation has gone too far.  Thus, I’ve posted.

Image source: Switched.com.

Comments (9)

I’m Gonna D.J. at the End of the World: R.E.M., the Cover Band

some covers by REMAs R.E.M. has called it a day this week, I’m paying tribute by highlighting a facet of their career that is not being talked about that much — or, at least, not in the articles I’ve seen.  And that is… R.E.M., the cover band!  One of their hits was a cover of the Clique’s “Superman.”  Rather than focus on that, I thought I’d highlight a few covers that were not hits.  To quote the (lesser-known) R.E.M. song from which this blog post takes its title, “Music will provide the light / You cannot resist.”

1. Tom’s ? (recorded as Bingo Hand Job, 1991)

This one is part cover, part improvisation, and (at its conclusion) part mash-up.  R.E.M. — performing under the name Bingo Hand Job — plays a version of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner,” which was then gaining notice because of DNA’s remix of the song.  Billy Bragg joins on backing vocals, chiming in near the end with “Unbelievable” (from EMF’s song, very popular at the time).  Recorded at the Borderline Club in London.

2. The Lion Sleeps Tonight (1993)

In which R.E.M. cover a song with a complicated history — “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” a song written by Solomon Linda, who recorded it first (as “Mbube”) with his group the Evening Birds in 1939.  Retitling it “Wimoweh” and adding some lyrics, the Weavers had a hit with it in 1951.  Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore created a new arrangement for the song, added revised lyrics by David Weiss, retitled the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” — and gave themselves songwriting credit for their alterations to this allegedly traditional folk melody.  I read about this in Rian Malan’s excellent piece in an issue of Rolling Stone in 2000.  The Wikipedia page devoted to the song sums up many of its points, including the legal history which (ultimately) resulted in Linda’s heirs receiving some royalties for the song.  Anyway, the Tokens recorded a hit version of the Peretti-Creatore-Weiss version in 1961, and the song has long been a staple for a capella singers.  This recording appears as a b-side to R.E.M.’s “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite”

3. Wall of Death (1994)

R.E.M.’s contribution to the album of Richard Thompson covers, Beat the Retreat.  The song appeared originally on Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights (1982).

4. I Will Survive (1996)

A laid-back and probably improvised cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” (1979) appears on a single sent to members of R.E.M.’s fan club in 1996 — the year before drummer Bill Berry’s departure.  And, perhaps, one day, it’ll gain wider release on a big R.E.M. box set.  Now that the band has decided to part ways, perhaps they’ll assume a curatorial role over their back catalogue & release such rarities?  Well, one can hope….

5. Pale Blue Eyes (1984)

It’s been said that, though the Velvet Underground had few fans, everyone who listened to them started their own band.  In the interest of full disclosure, I heard R.E.M.’s cover of “Pale Blue Eyes” (on Dead Letter Office, 1987) before I heard the Velvet Underground’s original recording.  The R.E.M. version first appeared as a b-side to “So. Central Rain” (1984).

6. Dream (All I Have To Do) (1987)

A lovely version of the Everly Brothers’ song.

7. The Arms of Love (1993)

As a b-side to “Man on the Moon,” R.E.M. records a version of a gentle Robyn Hitchcock song.  Fun trivia: Peter Buck (R.E.M. guitarist) plays on Hitchcock’s Globe of Frogs, and has toured with him.

8. Moon River (1984)

The boys from Athens, GA cover … Audrey Hepburn… or possibly Andy Williams or, well, any of the people who recorded this song prior to them.  Irrespective of which version inspired Michael Stipe to take it on, the first version of “Moon River” (music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Johnny Mercer) appeared in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), sung by Audrey Hepburn.  “We’re after that same rainbow’s end, waiting round the bend.”  Thanks for the tunes, Messrs Berry, Buck, Mills, & Stipe –

Comments (4)

Ferdinand at 75

Munro Leaf, The Story of Ferdinand, illus. by Robert Lawson (1936)Soon after its publication in the fall of 1936, the title character of Munro Leaf’s Ferdinand began to take on a life of his own.  Since the story is set in Spain and the book appeared just months after the start of the Spanish Civil War, people began to speculate on Ferdinand’s political allegiance, labeling him variously as pacifist, Communist, anti-Communist, Fascist, and anti-Fascist.  Leaf insisted that he was just a bull who preferred smelling flowers, and nothing more.  But Ferdinand had entered the public imagination, and began to accrue a range of meanings unimagined by Leaf or Robert Lawson, the book’s illustrator. He became a balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. In 1938, Slim and Slam (of “Flat Foot Floogie” fame) sang of “Ferdinand, the Bull with the delicate ego.”

Slim & Slam, “Ferdinand the Bull”

That same year, Walt Disney released a hit animated adaptation of the book. During World War II, Australians spotting Japanese ships named themselves “Ferdinands” (because they sat up in the hills watching).  Hitler banned the book; Franco prohibited its publication; Gandhi admired it. Stalin named an artillery piece the Elliott Smith, Either / Or (click to enlarge)Ferdinand (because the gun was a peacemaker). Ernest Hemingway wrote “The Faithful Bull” (1951) in response to Ferdinand. The late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith (Oscar-nominated for “Miss Misery”) had a tattoo of Ferdinand on his arm — you can see it on the cover of his album, either/or (1997). On 20 September 2007, 258,000 children around the U.S. read Ferdinand as part of “Read for the Record,” a literacy campaign sponsored by JumpStart.  And this is only some of what Ferdinand has inspired in its first 75 years.

Munro Leaf, The Story of Ferdinand, illus. by Robert Lawson (1936), page 1The story’s opening sentence inspired readers to draw comparisons between Ferdinand and its contemporary political context — the Spanish Civil War.  In July of 1936, Franco’s fascist troops invaded Spain, intent on overthrowing the democratic Spanish Republic.  In September of 1936, the Viking Press published The Story of Ferdinand.  In 1937, readers accused Ferdinand of being, alternately, Communist, Fascist, Pacifist, anti-Communist, and anti-Fascist. Why?

In Spain, after Franco’s invasion, the working classes organized, collectivized the land, formed workers militias, dismantled the church (which was pro-fascist), and took its land. They became known as the Loyalists because they were loyal to the Spanish Republic. Stalin sent military and political advisers to help the Loyalists.  Mussolini and Hitler pledged assistance to Franco.  In the U.S., left-leaning people of diverse political allegiances — liberals, Socialists, Communists — sent aid to the Loyalists.  The North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, chaired by Bishop Francis J. McConnell, raised over $1 million.  Americans sent 175 ambulances, and maintained eight hospitals with 125 American doctors and nurses.  They also sent food and clothing.  The Abraham Lincoln Brigade — 2,800 American volunteers, some 60% of whom were members of the Communist Party or Young Communist League — went to Spain to fight against Franco and his fascist allies.  Ernest Hemingway, Lilian Hellman, and others wrote sympathetic articles about the brigade.  Those U.S citizens who fought for a democratic Spain were the first Americans to join the fight against fascism — doing so in 1937 and 1938, three to four years before the U.S. got involved in what became the Second World War.

Reading Ferdinand as being specifically about Spain, a reader of 1936-1937 might see the book as Communist or anti-Fascist: Ferdinand takes control of his own destiny by opposing the wishes of the “Fascist” bullfighting community.  The self-determined bull then stands in for the Loyalists and their supporters (Communists, Socialists, liberals).  An alternate reading could figure Ferdinand as Pacifist because his defining characteristic is refusing to fight.  No matter how much the bullfighters try to entice him, Ferdinand just sits and smells the flowers.  According to this logic, Ferdinand is a Pacifist.  A third approach would be to argue that Ferdinand’s decision not to battle his opponents is analogous to caving to Fascist demands.  Though Ferdinand ends happily, in the Spain of 1936 and 1937, a failure to fight would mean certain victory by the Fascists.

The debate over whose “side” Ferdinand supports reflects the ways in which context creates meaning. Scholar Constance B. Hieatt suggests that people interpreted Ferdinand as pacifist because “he still liked to sit just quietly under the cork tree and smell the flowers” offered a Biblical allusion to Micah 4: “And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar and off; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree.”  In Ferdinand, she writes, “the fig tree is replaced by a cork tree.”  Switch the context from the Bible to gender, and we might arrive at the conclusion that the book supports the choices of those who depart from gendered norms. Our narrator remarks, “All the other little bulls he lived with would run and jump and butt their heads together, but not Ferdinand.” Male bulls, like male humans, are expected to be aggressive. Ferdinand isn’t. When his mother asks why he doesn’t join them, Ferdinand explains, “I like it better here where I can sit just quietly and smell the flowers.” An “understanding mother,” she “let him just sit there and be happy.”  In this sense, Ferdinand suggests that parents ought to support their children, irrespective of whether those children conform to social expectations about gender.

Munro Leaf, The Story of Ferdinand, illus. by Robert Lawson (1936): "As the years went by Ferdinand grew and grew until he was very big and strong."

Focus on those vultures, and The Story of Ferdinand becomes a tale about mortality. Robert Lawson’s pictures introduce the vultures, recurring characters never mentioned in Leaf’s text.  This productive tension between Leaf’s text and Lawson’s illustrations creates a rich reading experience, as the contributions of author and artist interact.  Against the claim (aided by Lawson’s portrait of Ferdinand) that the bull “grew and grew until he was very big and strong,” the vulture portends death.  Inasmuch as the marks ascending the tree trunk record the passage of time (“1 week” “3 months,” “1 year,” “2 years”), the vulture at the top suggests Ferdinand’s inevitable death.  That the vulture is the next “marker” after only “2 years,” however, suggests that Ferdinand may die soon — as he would, if he were to participate in a bull fight.  On the next two-page spread, the other bulls look at a “BULL FIGHT” poster as they aspire to be selected for the fight, not noticing the two vultures atop the roof.  The bulls’ failure to see the vultures suggests a youthful unawareness of the fate in store for the chosen bull.  Eighteen pages later, when Ferdinand, in a cart, heads to “the bull fight day,” a vulture stands atop the “Madrid” sign.  Given that the cart is headed to the ring in Madrid, Lawson implies that Ferdinand is also heading to face his mortality.  On the following two-page spread, when “Flags were flying, bands were playing…” two vultures sit atop a roof, providing a dark contrast to the celebratory mood.  As silent but persistent witnesses to the book’s narrative, the vultures offer an ominous subtext and suggest the life of Ferdinand may end with his story.  When we read, we interpret, and the context through which we interpret shapes what we see.

Munro Leaf always maintained that Ferdinand was not political.  He said that the book was “the story of a Spanish bull that refused to go into the arena to fight — so they had to send him back home, where he settled down again to smelling the flowers.”  In response to the controversy, he said, “I have been accused of defending or attacking practically every ‘ism’ that has popped up in the last few years. As far as I am concerned, there is one story there — the words are simple and quite short. They try to make sense and if there is a message in them, as many people seem to want, it is Ferdinand’s message, not mine — get it from him according to your need.”

Leaf’s wife and son have both suggested that Ferdinand’s message is the author’s — that it’s autobiographical.  Gil Leaf once said of his father, “He’d do his own thing.  He told his mother when he was 12 years old that when he grew up he was not going to work for anybody else.”  On the occasion of Ferdinand’s fiftieth birthday, Margaret Leaf wrote of her late husband, “Munro always maintained that he meant no message, that he meant only to entertain.  But I have a photo of him as a small boy lying down in front of a family group, and he is smelling a flower.”

Special Thanks to Gil Leaf for taking the time to talk with me about his father, and for supporting my Annotated Ferdinand project — which never found a publisher, and from which the preceding essay derives.

There have been several other tributes to Ferdinand in his 75th year.  I neglected to consult them while assembling this… largely because the above was adapted from the (failed) book proposal I wrote four years ago! Here are the two best ones:

Works Consulted

“About Ferdinand.”  Publishers Weekly 22 Aug. 1966: 54-55.

A.T.E.  Review of The Story of FerdinandNew York Times Book Review 15 Nov. 1936: 41.

Buhle, Mari Jo, Paul Buhle, and Dan Georgakas, editors.  Encyclopedia of the American Left.  Second Edition.  New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.

Denning, Michael.  The Cultural Front.   London and New York: Verso, 1996.

“Ferdinand.”  New York Times 20 Nov. 1937: 16.

Hearn, Michael Patrick.  “Ferdinand the Bull’s 50th Anniversary.” Washington Post Book World 9 Nov. 1986: 13, 22.

Hieatt, Constance B.  “Analyzing Enchantment: Fantasy After Bettelheim.”  Canadian Children’s Literature 15-16 (1980): 6-14.

Leaf, [James] Gil.  Telephone interview with Philip Nel.  29 Sept. 2003.

—.  Telephone interview with Philip Nel.  1 June 2006.

Leaf, Margaret.  “Happy Birthday, Ferdinand!”  Publishers Weekly 31 Oct. 1986: 33.

Leaf, Munro.  Being an American Can Be Fun.  Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1964.

—.  How to Behave and Why.  Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1946.

—.  The Story of Ferdinand.  Illus. Robert Lawson.  1936.  New York: Puffin Books, 1977.

—.  A War-Time Handbook for Young Americans.  Philadelphia and New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1942.

Steig, Michael.  “Ferdinand and Wee Gillis at Half-Century.”  Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 14.3 (Fall 1989): 118-123.

“(Wilbur) Munro Leaf.” Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2000.  Literature Resource Center.

“Writer for Young Tells of New Woes.”  New York Times 18 Nov. 1937: 21.

Comments (2)

Complete Barnaby: flyer

The first promotional flyer for The Complete Barnaby is here.  And no, the strips you see on it are not of the resolution that you’ll experience in the book itself.  Fantagraphics is still working on cleaning up the scans.  But, at least, a hazy glimpse of what’s to come… in June 2012!

Here’s a pdf:

And, below, jpegs of each side of the page.

Complete Barnaby flyer, page 1, Sept. 2011

Complete Barnaby flyer, page 2, Sept. 2011

Comments (1)

Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss Biography. Appendix D: End Your Silence

The final appendix omitted from my forthcoming biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (2012) also chronicles their early opposition to the war in Vietnam and — unusually — has Ruth’s name on it as well.  Why did she sign this one?  I think because she particularly abhorred violence.  One of her friends told me that even cartoon violence upset her.  As the previously posted Vietnam petition did, this one includes friends of Johnson and Krauss: Ad Reinhardt, Kay Boyle, Remy Charlip, Herman and Nina Schneider.

Appendix D

End Your Silence

[April 1965]

We are grieved by American policies in Vietnam.  We are opposed to American policies in Vietnam.  We will not remain silent before the world.  We call on those who wish to speak in a crucial and tragic moment in our history, to demand an immediate turning of the American policy in Vietnam to the methods of peace.

A Protest of Artists and Writers

Lionel Abel

Samuel M Adler

George Abbe

William Alfred

Theodore Amussen

Jack Anderson

Howard Ant

Emil Antonucci

Elise Asher

George Anthony

Rudolf Arnheim

David Antin

Hannah Arendt

Dore Ashton

Eliot Asinof

Edward Auert

Rudolf Baranik

Leonard Baskin

Ed Baynard

Jerome Beatty Jr

Harold Becker

Sylvia Berkman

William Berkson

Carol Berge

Wendell Berry

Elizabeth C Beston

Morris Bishop

Paul Blackburn

Sam Blum

Louise Bogan

Philip Bonosky

Philip Booth

David Boroff

Kay Boyle

Sam Bradley

George Brecht

Harvey Breit

Germaine Bree

Bessie Breuer

James Brooks

Michael E Brown

Robert Brustein

Stanley Buetens

J R de la Torre Bueno

Kenneth Burke

Margaret F Cabell

John Cage

Hortense Calisher

Victor Candell

Hayden Carruth

Emile Capouya

Giorgio Cavallon

Remy Charlip

Alan Churchill

Robert M Chute

Marvin Cherney

Robert Clairborne

Elizabeth Coatsworth

Robert M Coates

Arthur A Cohen

William Cole

J L Collier

Grandin Conover

Jane Cooper

Evan Connell

Philip Corner

M Jean Craig

Robert Creeley

Robert M Cronbach

Robert Dash

Wesley Day

June Oppen Degnan

Dorothy Denner

Elaine de Kooning

Guy Daniels

Babette Deutsch

Alexander Dobkin

Nola L Dolberg

Douglas F Dowd

David Dempsey

Robert Duncan

Barrows Dunham

Joe Early

Galen Eberl

George Economou

Richard Ellman

George P Elliott

Kenward Elmslie

Robert Engler

Sylvette Engel

Barbara Epstein

Jason Epstein

Seymour Epstein

Clayton Eshleman

Eleanor Estes

Gertrude Ezorsky

Howard Fast

Morton Feldman

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Leslie Fiedler

Edward Field

Donald Finkel

Joseph Fiore

Richard B Fisher

Dudley Fits

Adrienne Foulke

Kathleen Fraser

Ronald Freelander

Ann Freilich

Lloyd Frankenberg

Anne Fremantle

Jean Forest

Sideo Fromboluti

Howard Fussiner

Jean Garrigue

Maxwell Geismar

Jack Gelber

Hugo Gellert

Hans H Gerth

William Gibson

Rochelle Gierson

Jean Gleason

Ralph J Gleason

Herbert Gold

Mimi Goldberg

Mitchell Goodman

Jonathan Greene

Jean Gould

Harold Greenfield

Seymour Gresser

Antonini Gronowicz

Chaim Gross

Rene Gross

Barbara Guest

Albert J Guerard

Robert Gwathmey

Yvonne Hagen

Donald Hall

James Baker Hall

Margaret Halsey

Sid Hammer

David Hare

James Harrison

Burt Hansen

Curtis Harnack

Robert Hatch

H R Hays

Robert C Hawley

Robert Hazel

Shirley Hazzard

MacDonald Harris

Al Held

Lillian Hellman

Joseph Heller

Nat Hentoff

John Hersey

Thomas B Hess

John H Hicks

Dick Higgins

Joseph Hirsch

George Hitchcock

Daniel Hoffman

Sandra Hochman

Paula Hocks

Margo Hoff

Henry Beetle Hough

Florence Howe

Irving Howe

Helen Howe

Leo Hurwitz

David Ignatow

Robert Indiana

Emmett Jarett

Paul Jacobs Jess

Eddre Johnson

Crockett Johnson

Matthew Josephson

Don Judd

Mervin Jules

H Peter Kahn

Joseph Kaplan

Allen Katzman

Leandro Katz

Stanley Kauffman

Alfred Kazin

William Melvin Kelley

Calvin Kentfield

Basil King

William D King

Katherine T Kinkead

Galway Kinnell

Freda Kirchway

George Kirstein

Erik Kiviat

Neil Kleinmann

Hans Konigsberger

Karl Knaths

Joseph Konzal

Albert Kresch

Seymour Kirm

Ruth Krauss

Louise Kruger

Katharine Kuh

Lee Krasner

Stanley Kunitz

Tuli Kupferberg

Vera R Lachman

Kenneth Lamott

John Lange

Jeremy Larner

Alexander Lattimore

Richmond Lattimore

Joe Lasker

Sidney Laufman

James Laughlin

Don La Viere Turner

Jacob Leed

Denise Levertov

Harry Levin

Jack Levine

Leonard C Lewen

Si Lewen

Oscar Lewis

Roy Lichtenstein

Betty Jean Lifton

Linda Lindberg

Ron Loewinsohn

Ephraim London

Robert Lowell

Walter Lowenfels

Lois Lowenstein

Robert M MacGregor

Iris Lezak MacLow

Jackson MacLow

Bernard Malamud

Leo Manso

Jack Marshall

David Mandell

Leonore G Marshall

Agnes Martin

David McReynolds

Carey McWilliams

Amy Mendelson

Eve Merriam

W S Merwin

Sidney Meyers

Robert Mezey

Arthur Miller

Edwin H Miller

Warren Miller

Jessica Mitford

Harry T Moore

Frederick Morgan

Ira Morris

Frederick Morton

Martin S Moskof

Stanley Moss

Robert Motherwell

Howard H Myer

Daniel Nagrin

Howard Nemerov

Alice Neel

Mary Perot Nichols

Robert Nichols

Iris Noble

Isamu Noguchi

James L Nusser

Ned O’Gorman

Georgia O’Keefe

Tilly [sic] Olsen

George Oppen

Mary Oppen

Joel Oppenheimer

Peter Orlovsky

Robert Osborn

Barbara Overmyer

Rochelle Owens

Alfredo De Palchi

Raymond Parker

Betty Parsons

Felix Pasilis

David Pascal

Merle Peek

Geri Pine

Paul Prensky

James Purdy

Simon Perchik

Henri Percikow

Prudencio De Pereda

Virgilia Peterson

George Plimpton

James Tenney

Anthony Toney

Edna Amadon Toney

Tony Towle

Paul Ellsworth Triem

Eve Triem

Niccolo Tucci

Marvin Tucker

John R Tunis

Jules Rabin

Philip Rahv

Henry Rago

Robert E Rambusch

Margaret Randal

F D Reeve

Anton Refregier

Ad Reinhardt

Philip Reisman

Kenneth Rexroth

Dan Rice

Adrienne Rich

Carol Ritter

Henry Robbins

Ralph Robin

M G Rogers

Meyers Rohowsky

Ned Rorem

W K Rose

Barney Rosset

Henry Roth

Philip Roth

Jerome Rothenberg

Mark Rothko

Rose Rosberg

Muriel Rukeyser

Arthur Sainer

Joop Sanders

Donald Schenker

Herman Schneider

Steven J Schneider

Nina Schneider

Carolee Schneeman

Armand Schwerner

Richard Seaver

Thalia Selz

Peter Selz

Anne Sexton

Bernard Seeman

Ben Shahn

Wilfred Sheed

Herman Shumlin

Maurice Sievan

Ernest J Simmons

Joel Sloman

Michael Smith

Joseph Solman

Jay Socin

Theodore Solotaroff

Susan Sontag

Virginia Sorenson

Gilbert Sorrentino

Terry Southern

Moses Soyer

Raphael Soyer

A B Spellman

Nora Speyer

Jean Stafford

George Starbuck

Francis Steegmuller

Frances Steloff

Stan Steiner

Emma G Sterne

Brita Stendahl

Ruth Stephan

Daniel Stern

May Stevens

Donald Stewart

Harold Strauss

George Sugarman

William Styron

Elizabeth Sutherland

Harvey Swados

Wylie Sypher

Greta Sultan

Mark Di Suvero

Louis Untermeyer

Constance Urdang

Stan Vanderbeek

Robert Vas Dias

Tony Vevers

Mariusa Ver Brugghe

Esteban Vicente

Elizabeth Gray Vining

Amos Vogel

Ivan Von Auw

Ira Wallach

Theodore Weiss

Nat Werner

Mildred Weston

Allen B Wheelis

Morton White

Dan Wickenden

Theodore Wilentz

Mrs Wm Carlos Williams

Edmund Wilson

Mitchell Wilson

Sol Wilson

Clara Winston

Richard Winston

Israel G Young

Marguerite Young

Jack Youngerman

Adja Yunkers

Louis Zukofsky

Many other signatures were received too late to be included

This statement was formulated three weeks before the President annoucned that he was willing to begin “unconditional discussions” with “the foe.”  Will his speech be followed by action? — peaceful, responsible action, NOT the further use of force?  The American people have begun, in letters to Washington and in the statements published by other concerned groups, to voice their horror at a policy of violence.  The President has replied to this expression of public opinion.  Let us not now relax our insistence on the immediate cessation of bombings in North Vietnam.  Let us support that part of Mr Johnson’s speech which seems to offer hope of negotiations, and at the same time let us persist energetically in expressing our opposition to any but peaceful policies.  WRITE TO THE PRESIDENT.

Co-secretaries: Denise Levertov : Mitchell Goodman : WRITERS AND ARTISTS PROTEST Post Office Box 1356 Church St. Station New York NY 10008.

Source: “END YOUR SILENCE,” advertisment, New York Times, 18 Apr. 1965, p. E5.

"End Your Silence," advertisement, New York Times, 18 April 1965

Posts tagged Crockett Johnson or Ruth Krauss or Biography will all likely lead you to something connected to the biography.  Trust me.  If you don’t trust me (and why would you?), here’s an incomplete list of other posts:

Leave a Comment

Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss Biography. Appendix C: Assembly of Men and Women in the Arts Concerned with Vietnam

A month or so back, I posted the first and second omitted appendices from my forthcoming biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (2012).  At the risk of trying your patience, here is the third.

Its importance is Johnson and Krauss’s early opposition to the war in Vietnam.  Krauss’s name is not on this petition, but she’s on another one from 1965.  (This fact is especially notable because she was less likely to sign petitions than he was.)  Below, you’ll see other like-minded people, some of whom — Kay Boyle, Ad Reinhardt, Antonio Frasconi — were friends of Johnson and Krauss.

Appendix C

Assembly of Men and Women in the Arts, Concerned with Vietnam

723 ½ North La Cienega Boulevard – Room 203   657-2854

National Initiating Sponsors (Incomplete List)

[c. December 1964/January 1965]

Harold Altman, painter, Pa.

Oliver Andrews, sculptor, So. Calif.

Saul Bass, graphic artist, designer, So. Calif.

Maurice Becker, painter, cartoonist, NY

Heschel Bernardi, actor, NYC

Neil Blaine, painter, NYC

Kay Boyle, author, NYC

Ray Bradbury, author, So. Calif.

Joan Brown, painter, So. Calif.

Coleen Browning, painter, NYC

Benny Carter, composer, concert artist, So. Calif.

John Collier, author, NYC

Lucille Corcos, painter, NYC

Robert Dash, painter, NYC

Richard Diebenkorn, painter, So. Calif.

Leonard Edmondson, painter, So. Calif.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, writer, poet, No. Calif.

Mrs. Lion Feuchtwanger, So. Calif

Tully Filmus, painter, NY

Antonio Frasconi, graphic artist, Conn.

Gerald Fried, composer, So. Calif.

Sonia Gechtoff, painter, NYC

Allen Ginsberg, poet, NYC

Ernest Gold, composer, conductor, So. Calif.

Herbert Gold, author, No. Calif.

Les Goldman, producer, So. Calif.

Norm Gollin, graphic artist, So. Calif.

Sy Gomberg, film writer, So. Calif.

Balcomb Greene, painter, NYC

Stephen Greene, painter, NY

Robert Gwathmey, painter, NYC

E. Y. Harburg, writer, lyricist, NYC

Nat Hentoff, author, NYC

Crockett Johnson, artist, writer, Conn.

Millard Kaufman, writer, So. Calif.

Robert Kennard, A.I.A., architect, So. Calif.

Rockwell Kent, painter, graphic artist, NY

Gyorgy Kepes, painter, professor of visual deisgn, Mass.

Adolph Konrad, painter, NYC

Chaim Koppelman, graphic artist, NYC

Max Kozloff, critic, art editor, The Nation, NYC

Phil Leider, editor, ArtForum magazine, So. Calif.

Jack Levine, painter, NYC

Dwight MacDonald, journalist, NYC

Charles Mattox, sculptor, So. Calif.

Arnold Mesches, painter, So. Calif.

Robert P. Meyerhof, A.I.A., architect, So. Calif.

Jessica Mitford, author, No. Calif.

Lewis Mumford, writer, critic, Mass.

Tillie Olsen, author, No. Calif.

Gifford Phillips, associate publisher, The Nation, So. Calif.

Richard M. Powell, tv and film writer, So. Calif.

David Raskin, composer, conductor, So. Calif.

Anton Refregier, painter, NY

Carl Reiner, writer, director, So. Calif.

Ad Reinhardt, painter, NYC

Harold Rome, composer, NYC

Ed Ruscha, painter, So. Calif.

Robert Ryan, actor, NYC

Arthur Secunda, painter, sculptor, So. Calif.

Herman Shulmin, producer, NYC

Frank Silvera, actor, director, So. Calif.

Arthur H. Silvers, A.I.A., architect, So. Calif.

Louis Simpson, poet, winner Pulitzer Prize in American Poetry, 1964, No. Calif.

Whitney R. Smith, F.A.I.A., architect, So. Calif.

Raphael Soyer, painter, NYC

Stewart Stern, film writer, So. Calif.

David Stuart, art dealer, gallery owner, So. Calif.

Maurice Tuchman, curator, So. Calif.

Frederick J. Usher, graphic designer, So. Calif.

Robert Vaughn, actor, producer, So. Calif.

Geoffrey Wagner, novelist, NYC

Irving Wallace, author, So. Calif.

Lynd Ward, lithographer, writer, NJ

Charles White, painter, graphic-artist, So. Calif.

James Whitmore, actor, So. Calif.

Robert Wise, producer, director, So. Calif.

Tom Woodward, graphic designer, So. Calif.

Joseph Young, muralist, So. Calif.

Ned Young, film writer, So. Calif.

 

Source: reel N/69-101, Frame 82, Ad Reinhardt Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian.

My goodness.  Look at all these other posts concerning what is currently called The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss!  Or don’t look.  That’s up to you, really.

Leave a Comment

Labor Poem

Philip Levine, What Work Is (1991)Yesterday, songs.  Today, a poem.  There are many poets to whom we might turn (Whitman and Sandburg rush to mind) for Labor Day, but I’ve opted for the title poem from What Work Is (1991) by America’s new Poet Laureate Philip Levine (b. 1928).  When you hear him read, he often shares a story about the poem — indeed, these succinct autobiographical narratives would make for a great collection of prose (were he so inclined).  So, here’s a recording of him reading “What Work Is,” including one of those introductions (he starts speaking at around 12 seconds in):

He’s a wonderful reader of his own work.  And here is the poem itself:

We stand in the rain in a long line

waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.

You know what work is—if you’re

old enough to read this you know what

work is, although you may not do it.

Forget you. This is about waiting,

shifting from one foot to another.

Feeling the light rain falling like mist

into your hair, blurring your vision

until you think you see your own brother

ahead of you, maybe ten places.

You rub your glasses with your fingers,

and of course it’s someone else’s brother,

narrower across the shoulders than

yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin

that does not hide the stubbornness,

the sad refusal to give in to

rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,

to the knowledge that somewhere ahead

a man is waiting who will say, “No,

we’re not hiring today,” for any

reason he wants. You love your brother,

now suddenly you can hardly stand

the love flooding you for your brother,

who’s not beside you or behind or

ahead because he’s home trying to

sleep off a miserable night shift

at Cadillac so he can get up

before noon to study his German.

Works eight hours a night so he can sing

Wagner, the opera you hate most,

the worst music ever invented.

How long has it been since you told him

you loved him, held his wide shoulders,

opened your eyes wide and said those words,

and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never

done something so simple, so obvious,

not because you’re too young or too dumb,

not because you’re jealous or even mean

or incapable of crying in

the presence of another man, no,

just because you don’t know what work is.

Levine’s third line says “You know what work is,” and his final line says “you don’t know what work is.”  Between those two statements, the poem proves that we don’t know what work is… by giving us a deeper knowledge of what work is.  It educates us in order to expose the depths of our ignorance.

Offering a nuanced examination of “work,” labor of the type celebrated by Labor Day oscillates between background and foreground.  The speaker is at “Ford Highland Park,” his brother “Works eight hours a night,” and “somewhere ahead” a man can deny them work “for any / reason he wants.”  This sort of physical labor creates the setting for and underwrites the intensity of feeling behind the emotional labor the poem’s speaker works through — the necessary, vulnerable act of expressing love for another person.  “How long has it been since you told him / you loved him,” the speaker asks, before admitting to himself “You’ve never / done something so simple, so obvious” because he doesn’t know “what work is.”  The work of loving a brother, he suggests, is not just the harder work, but the far more important work, and a work that we do not, cannot, fully understand.

I like, too, how the tonal shifts create not distance from the brother, but intimacy — both by conveying the speaker’s feelings, and by offering specific details about the brother’s life.  In the first shift, the speaker changes the reference of the pronoun “you,” moving from his audience to himself: “Forget you. This is about waiting,” he says, returning to a different “you” a few lines later.  The deliberate affront of “Forget you” evokes an emotion from the reader, setting the stage for another tonal shift later on.  After describing his brother in sympathetic terms, our speaker reports that he “Works eight hours a night so he can sing / Wagner, the opera you hate most, / the worst music ever invented.” The frank rejection of his brother’s taste in music suggests both that perhaps the two have argued about it, and that the speaker dislikes Wagner with a comparable passion to his brother’s love for Wagner. This abrupt criticism’s context — expressing admiration and love for the brother — drains the remark of any animosity, suggesting instead that the speaker’s love is that much deeper because he dislikes his brother’s favorite composer, and admires the brother for singing it anyway.

Though the referent of the pronoun “you” shifts from audience to speaker, it also does not shift.  With each invocation of that pronoun “you,” the speaker interpellates the reader into his second-person subjecthood.  When he says, “suddenly you can hardly stand / the love flooding you for your brother,” he asks us to experience that intense love for our brother (or sister or mother or cousin or best friend).  When he says “you don’t know what work is,” he is not just accusing himself; he is accusing us, too.  And he makes a convincing case.  The work for which we are paid robs us of the time to be with, and sometimes to be loving towards, the people who are most important to us.  How much of our daily life do we spend away from the people we love the most?  When will we next see that sibling, parent, old friend, niece, uncle again?  (Indeed, will we see them again?)

It’s a powerful poem.  And Levine is one of our great poets.  I recommend What Work Is, The Simple Truth (1994), and — if you’d like a larger collection of earlier work — New Selected Poems (1991).  I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve not read his most recent collection, News of the World (2009).  But I’ve just ordered myself a copy.

Sources: “What Work Is” © 1992 by Philip Levine; appears in What Work Is (Alfred A. Knopf, 1991).  Copied here from the Poetry Foundation, which also has a nice biographical piece on Levine.  I’m honestly not sure where I got this recording (the mp3 has been in my iTunes for a little while); a different recording is on the Poetry Foundation‘s page. 

Leave a Comment

Labor Songs

This One's for the Workers: Labor Songs, 1929-2010Today, the first of three Labor-Day-themed posts.  Here’s a mix of songs about work.  And, yes, I’m aware that many other songs that could be included here — I came up with enough additional songs to fill a second CD, and then some.  Since much of this blog is devoted to children’s literature, I should also note here that a couple of the songs later in this mix have lyrics that include obscenity (mostly f-bombs): I’m thinking specifically of Cake’s “Nugget” and Cam’ron’s “My Job.”  To begin the mix, here’s a song from the start of the Great Depression….

This One’s for the Workers: Labor Songs, 1929-2010

1)     How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?  Blind Alfred Reed (1929)      3:12

Probably the best-known song by West Virginia singer, songwriter and fiddler Blind Alfred Reed (1880-1956).  Ry Cooder recorded it on his self-titled debut album (1970), and Bruce Spingsteen recorded a revised version of it for the reissue of his We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (subtitled American Land Edition in this version).  Springsteen retained only the first verse from Reed’s original; new verses address the failed government response to Hurricane Katrina.

2)     Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?  Bing Crosby (1932)      3:15

To give you a sense of how popular this song was, two versions were hit singles in 1932 — one recorded by Crosby and the other by Rudy Vallee.  With music by Jay Gorney, E. Y. “Yip” Harburg’s lyrics tell of working people abandoned by the country they helped to build, and for which they fought.  During the third year of the Great Depression, the message resonated with the public. Harburg may be better-remembered today for “Over the Rainbow” (and other songs from the 1939 MGM Wizard of Oz), “Old Devil Moon” (and other songs from the musical Finian’s Rainbow), or for “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” but this is one of his most powerful lyrics.

3)     Talking Union  The Almanac Singers (1941)      3:06

Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Millard Lampell — the Almanac Singers — recorded this song for their second record, Talking Union (1941; re-released with additional songs, 1955).  Written by Seeger, Hays, and Lampell, the song uses a “talking blues” style later adopted by Bob Dylan.

4)     Farmer-Labor Train  Woody Guthrie (1948)      2:51

An idol of Bob Dylan and sometime member of the Almanac Singers, Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) here sings in support of Henry Wallace, Progressive Party candidate for President in 1948.  As the liner notes to Hard Travelin’: The Asch Recordings Vol. 3 (on which this song appears) tell us, Guthrie “was certain that if farmers and laborers joined together they could elect Wallace; they didn’t.”  Guthrie is best-remembered today for his “This Land Is Your Land.”  Of songwriting, he once said:

I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling. I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built. I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.

5)     Get a Job  The Silhouettes (1958)      2:27

A #1 hit in 1958, the Silhouettes‘ “Get a Job” has an upbeat sound that masks the more serious subject matter — unemployment.  As the song’s protagonist says, his girl is “tellin’ me that I’m lyin’ about a job that I never could find.”  The band Sha Na Na took its name from the backing vocal.

6)     Chain Gang  Sam Cooke (1960)      2:34

Another pop hit (#2 on the U.S. pop charts), this one about prison labor.  Written by Cooke (1931-1964), the song is said to be inspired by his encounter with a chain gang.  Cooke’s biggest hits — “Wonderful World,” “Cupid,” “Twistin’ the Night Away,” “You Send Me” — tend to address more conventional pop-music subjects.  But “Chain Gang” and the posthumously released “A Change Is Gonna Come” display Cooke’s social conscience.

7)     Them That Got  Ray Charles (1960)      2:50

Co-written by Ray Charles and Ricci Harper, “Them That Got” features a tenor sax solo by David “Fathead” Newman.  The song reached #10 on the R&B charts and #58 on the pop charts.

8)     Maggie’s Farm  Bob Dylan (1965)      3:54

“He hands you a nickel, he hands you a dime. / He asks you with a grin if you’re having a good time. / And he fines you every time you slam the door.”  From Dylan‘s album Bringing It All Back Home.

9)     Working in the Coal Mine  Lee Dorsey (1966)      2:51

Co-written by Dorsey and Alvin Toussaint, “Working in a Coal Mine” was Dorsey’s second top-10 hit and remains his best-known song.

10)  When Will We Be Paid  The Staple Singers (1970)      2:39

The Staple Singers ask when African-Americans will be paid for their contributions to the United States.  From the group’s We’ll Get Over.

11)  Gonna Be an Engineer  Peggy Seeger (1970)      4:31

The half-sister of Pete Seeger and an accomplished folksinger and songwriter herself, Peggy Seeger sings of how gender discrimination prevents women from getting the jobs (and salaries) they seek.  Compelling narrative, strong message.

12)  Career Opportunities  The Clash (1977)      1:55

Joe Strummer sings about jobs he doesn’t want to do.  “Career opportunities are the ones that never knock. / Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock.”  Co-written by Strummer and Mick Jones (who actually had worked a government job opening letters to make sure they didn’t contain bombs), the song appears on the Clash’s self-titled debut album.

13)  9 to 5  Dolly Parton (1980)      3:01

One of Dolly Parton’s three #1 country hits in 1980, this was also a #1 pop hit that year.  It inspired the successful film of the same name — which starred Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin.

14)  The World Turned Upside Down  Billy Bragg (1985)      2:34

Bragg covers Leon Rosselson’s song about the Diggers, English agrarians (1649-1650) who sought to establish a more egalitarian society whose members could farm the common land for their mutual benefit.

15)  Heigh-Ho (The Dwarfs’ Marching Song)  Tom Waits (1988)      3:36

In his cover version, Waits recasts the song as a minor-key lament, reminding us that those dwarves in Snow White were in fact miners. And mining is a tough job.  From Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films.

16)  More Than a Paycheck  Sweet Honey in the Rock (1988)      3:57

The African-American a cappella group delivers a beautiful, incisive song about jobs that endanger the worker’s health.  From Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Breaths.

17)  I Love My Boss  Moxy Früvous (1990)      3:04

One of the greatest bands of the 1990s perform a song from their The B Album (1996), a collection of b-sides & rarities.  These guys were truly fantastic live.

18)  Job Application  Meryn Cadell (1992)      1:25

From Cadell’s Angel Food for Thought, which featured “The Sweater” — a top-40 hit in Canada, and a college radio hit in the U.S.

19)  The Ghost of Tom Joad  Bruce Springsteen (1995)      4:27

Inspired by John Ford’s film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath (novel, 1939; film, 1940), Springsteen‘s song paraphrases Tom Joad’s speech near the end of the film.  Joad, played by Henry Fonda, says:  “I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look, wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build, I’ll be there, too.”

20)  Nugget  Cake (1996)      3:58

“They cut you from their bloated budgets like sharpened knives through Chicken McNuggets.”  From Cake‘s Fashion Nugget.

21)  We Do the Work  Jon Fromer (2000)      2:46

According to Classic Labor Songs (Smithsonian Folkways, on which this song appears), “Californian Jon Fromer has spent a career working in television and radio.  He is an active officer of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Communications Workers of America…. He is a member of the Freedom Song Network, an organization of San-Francisco-area musicians dedicated to social change.”

22)  Worker’s Song  Dropkick Murphys (2003)      3:32

The song from which this mix takes its title.  Appears on the Dropkick Murphys’ Blackout.

23)  My Job  Cam’ron (2009)      3:47

From Cam’ron’s Crime Pays.

24)  Low Light Low Life  P.O.S. feat. Dessa (2009)      3:15

“It’s the flight of the salesman, death of the bumblebee, nothing left for the attorneys and the tumbleweeds.” A song about the Great Recession, featuring a rap from one of the best lyricists working today: Dessa.

25)  Money  Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (2010)      3:22

“Money. Where have you gone?”  On I Learned the Hard Way, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings contribute another song to the music of the Great Recession.

Comments (11)