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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Zeitgeist Movement
Posted: July 5, 2020 at 10:37 am
The Open Mind explores the world of ideas across politics, media, science, technology, and the arts. The American Prospect is republishing this edited excerpt.
Heffner: We seem to be living through a dystopia for realists now with the Iran-U.S. confrontation, the global pandemic, and now worldwide protests. Is that a fair way to look at it, or are we going to come out of the dystopia into a utopia?
Bregman: You know its very understandable if people are pessimistic right now. I always like to make a distinction between optimism and hope. I mean, you certainly dont have to be an optimist right now. But I think there are some reasons to have hope because hope is about the possibility of change, right? I think that this moment gives us a lot of reasons for hope as well. I mean weve seen that ideas that just a couple of years ago were dismissed as quite unreasonable and radical and crazy have been moving into the mainstream. Now they still have a long way to go yet, Im talking about ideas like universal basic income or higher taxes on the rich or you name it. But that gives me some hope.
Heffner: Is there a reason to be more cynical about the condition of humankind in the United States right now?
Bregman: Institutional racism and racism and discrimination, these are not uniquely American phenomena. It exists everywhere in the world and in Europe, sadly as well. There are some things though that we can learn from other countries. In the book, Ive got one example of how prisons in Norway are organized. The U.S. could learn quite a bit from that. So what you have in the United States are sort of taxpayer-funded institutions that are called prisons, where you have citizens who go in there for small crimes I dont know, small drug offenses and they come out as criminals. They create this kind of bad behavior.
Now in Norway, they have the opposite. They have an institution where people go in as criminals and they come out as citizens. If you look at these prisons, theyre very strange. Actually theres one prison called Bastoy, a little bit to the South of Oslo. It basically looks like a holiday resort. Inmates have the freedom to relax with the guards, socialize with them to make music. Theyve got their own music studio and their own music label called Criminal Records.
So sort of your first intuition is like these small regions have gone nuts.
Like this is very crazy, but then you look at the statistics, you look at the numbers, it turns out this is the most effective prison in the world because it has the lowest recidivism rate in the world, the lowest chance that someone will commit another crime once he or she gets out of prison. So investing in these kinds of institutions, you will actually get a return on investments. These things save money in the long term because the chance that someone will find a job actually increases with 40 percent.
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Now, its just unimaginable that this will ever happen in the United States. But, I try to show that actually it wasnt just the U.S. that was the first country that experiments it with these kind of prisons in the sixtiesjust as the U.S. was almost about to implement a universal, basic income to completely eradicate poverty at the beginning of the seventies. Thats where historians may be useful. They just can show that, you know, things can be different, you know, they can be much better.
Heffner: Those solutions that you describe are innovative and imaginative at a time when this country couldnt even honor the commitment of frontline essential workers.
Bregman: The country is capable of the compassion because we see so much compassion. We see millions of very courageous protesters in the streets. Its just that we need a political revolution here. The short summary of my book would be something like most people are pretty decent, but power corrupts.
For the vast majority of our history, when we were still nomadic hunter gatherers, there was a process going on that scientists call survival of the friendliest, which means that actually for millennia, it was the friendliest among us who had the most kids and so had the biggest chance of passing on their genes to the next generation.
Then you look at current policies and it seems like, well, thats not survival of the friendliest, this is survival of the shamelessand its not only the case in the U.S. its also the case in the UK with pretty shameless politicians like Boris Johnson or in Brazil with [Jair] Bolsenaro. Its a real indictment of the so-called democracy we have created that [its] somehow not the most humble leader [who] rise to the top, but the most shameless leaders.
Heffner: Does your book advocate for a specific tactic that can be used by protestors to try to in this new tech age to actualize their movement for reform when the political means to achieve it really dont seem apparent.
The country is capable of the compassion because we see so much compassion. We see millions of very courageous protesters in the streets. Its just that we need a political revolution here.
Bregman: Its not up to me as a white European to say, I know this tactic is better or that that, that tactic is better. Or if they say that people shouldnt try it or whateverlike Martin Luther King said a riot is the language of the unheard. But it is interesting though, that if you look at the scientific evidence that the approach that the vast majority of protesters are taking right now, very courageously so, the peaceful approach is also the most effective one.
Weve got the work of sociologist called Erica Chenoweth whos built this huge database of protest movements since the 1900s. She discovered that actually peaceful protest movements are twice as successful as violent ones. The reason is that they bring in a lot more people on average 11 times more, right. You bring in children and women and the elderly and older men, and you name it, so everyone can participate in these more peaceful protest movements.
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Im not saying that a certain amount of rioting or violence [should not occur]. Im very hesitant to sort of condemn that when we see sort of the horrific brutal savage police violence, thats the real story. Thats what we should really be talking about. Im hopeful and Im so impressed just to see this for ordinary uprising of so many peaceful protestors who are against all odds keeping their self control and doing whats right. Its, its very, very impressive.
Heffner: Do you think that in the wake of the pandemic our economy can recover in a more equitable fashion?
Bregman: Every historian knows that throughout history, crises have been abused by those in power. Think about the burning of the Reichstag and then you get Adolph Hitler, think about 9/11, and then you get two illegal wars and massive surveillance of citizens by the government. This is an old playbook.
But weve got other examples as well. The New Deal, they came up with it in the midst of the Great Depression. Think about the Beveridge Report, the primal text of the welfare state in Great Britain was not written after the war, but in 1942, when the bombs were falling on London. So now is the time to do something like that.
Heres my hope: If you, again, zoom out and you look at the past 40 years, I think you could describe it as the era that was governed by the values of selfishness and competitionthe greed is good mantra. My hope is, and I do sense a shift in zeitgeist here, is that we can now move into a different era thats more about solidarity.
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Posted: at 10:37 am
In the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, a remarkable number of white people have joined the #BlackLivesMatter movement even some evangelical Christian celebrities not known for making overt political statements. Joel Osteen, for example, participated in a #BLM march in his hometown of Houston to support the Floyd family. But Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear has demonstrated a more tepid support, saying that while he believes that Black lives matter in a theoretical and apologetic way, he adamantly opposes #BlackLivesMatter as an organization due to its liberal causes.
Perhaps an article published by the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty best demonstrates this white evangelical opposition to #BlackLivesMatter. The conservative thinktank out of Liberty University argues that #BLMis ostensibly built upon the pursuit of justice, but a different kind of justice altogether than that laid out for us in Scripture. Not only is the organization deeply rooted in a false, cultural Marxist narrative, their secondary and tertiary goals are far more sinister than simply eradicating racism.
Those goals, the article asserts, include the destruction of the nuclear family, supporting Planned Parenthood, and the destruction of Western civilization as we know it by rejecting every godly value upon which our nation was founded.
Although more politically conservative and evangelical voices are joining in the #BLM chants of No Justice, No Peace, there are undoubtedly shaky voices and (perhaps hostile) minds who hold that while Black lives do matter in theory, radical institutional change is far too dangerous and subversive, if not completely un-American. Other Christians, like Washington Times columnist Everett Piper, assert that saving souls and having more revivals, altercalls, and personal repentance experiences are the correct Christian responses to the current racial protests notsupporting a movement that Piper finds contradictory to the faith because of its divisive rhetoric and encouragement of harboring racialresentment.
These key points of opposition ring strikingly similar to Christian opposition of another movement for racial justice: the civil rights movement. Many of the evangelical Christians who point to the civil rights movement, under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as the standard of dignified protesting, are the same Christians who oppose #BLM today.
The Black church was a pillar of the civil rights movement. It served as a resource hub for political mobilization, a meetinghouse for activists, and an incubator for developing the movements key leaders (including King, John Lewis, and Ralph Abernathy). Leaders across faith traditions, from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of Conservative Judaism to Archbishop Iakovos, the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States, walked hand-in-hand with King and supported the movement during a time when it was considered too radical for white faith leaders to do so.
White Mainline Protestant denominations and their faith leaders were generally readied theologically and politically to support King and the movement toward attaining civil rights for Black people because of their conviction that ushering the Kingdom of God included societal reform as a prerequisite.
Many other white faith leaders, however, were either silent or opposed to King and the civil rights movement, particularly white evangelical and fundamentalistleaders. At best, they saw the civil rights movement as a precursor to protests that could result in societal chaos and disorder. To them, the civil rights movement, and King specifically, were attempting to mend in society what faith alone could heal within an individual. At worst, however, they saw the movement as a ploy of communist opportunists and Soviet-Union sympathizers who sought to add discord to racial relations in tearing the fabric of godly, American society. One Southern, independent-Baptist preacher remarked in his sermon, after questioning the sincerity and nonviolent intentions of King and other civil rights leaders for their left-wing associations:
It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed.
And he continued:
Preachers are not called to be politicians, but soul-winners.
This soul-winning preacher, hailing from a white, blue-collar family in the city of Lynchburg, Va., was a 31-year old minister named Jerry Falwell.
Falwell, like many other Southern fundamentalist preachers, was opposed not only to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, but to outright desegregation initiatives as well. Falwell was highly critical of the Supreme Court case that integrated public schools, Brown v. Board of Education, asserting that Chief Justice Earl Warren and the Supreme Court Justices were ignorant in knowing the Lords will. And according to Max Blumenthal of The Nation, Falwell wasenlisted by J.Edgar Hoover of the FBI to spread FBI-compiled propaganda against King and the movement.
Prior to the Cold War, American fundamentalism arose as a reaction to modernism and the liberal theology rampant in mainline Protestantism that seemed to challenge long-held church teachings. The Platonic philosophical dualism found in the Pauline Epistles of the Bible body vs. spirit, church vs. the world reinforced their separatist beliefs. And their literal reading of the Bible, particularly passages in the Mosaic law that forbade the Israelites to intermarry with the different tribes, were utilized to paint racism as God-ordained and natural, and segregation as a political reflection of the Word of God.
The Communist Party USAs support of the civil rights movement further alienated evangelicals from racial justice. The Cold War had made Communism the boogeyman of conservatives and mainstream culture, and certainly influenced how conservative Christian faith leaders would view a movement like the civil rights movement. (Bayard Rustin, a close advisor of King, was a former member of the Communist Party and openly homosexual, both reasons that forced civil rights leaders to keep him hidden and behind-the-scenes within the movement). This association with communism led many to see civil-rights activism as simultaneously subversive, un-American, and ultimately rooted in an infinite, ideological enmity.
The 1950s saw the United States equating Judeo-Christian values with the sight and sound of The Star Spangled Banner, adding under God in a Pledge of Allegiance that was originally written by a socialist minister, and adding In God We Trust on the dollar to implicitly affirm Gods approval on the laissez-faire market system by which America stands.
At that time, Falwell and his fellow fundamentalists believed religion and politics must be kept completely separate. It is unbecoming of a Christian to engage in worldly affairs, they rationaled, and heaven forbid one should engage in civil disobedience a direct affront to the oft-quoted Romans 13 passage on "obeying the authorities of the land. However, once Falwell saw the effectiveness of protests from the political Left in the70s on Black Power, feminism, and gay rights, he changed his tune on political engagement and activism.
He apologized for his 1965 Ministers and Marches sermon that criticized the civil rights movement, and accepted the wave of Americas cultural tide toward racial-integration. It is noteworthy to point out that Falwell, along with Paul Weyrich and others who founded the Religious Right in 1979, were motivated to organize, in part, due to the federal government retracting tax exemptions on Christian schools that refused to admit Blackpeopleinto their student bodies, which was to them a classic case of state infringement on religious liberties. Several years later, Falwell Sr. would invoke Kings legacy swaying and singing We Shall Overcome with Alveda King (Martin Luther King Jr.s niece and evangelical anti-abortion activist) at a Black church in Philadelphia where he decried the decisions and unrighteousness of liberal judges in the court system.
A young, Hollywood-looking, charismatic preacher named Billy Graham also had some thoughts on King and the rising tide in support for Black civil rights this time from the evangelical perspective. A few days following Kings I Have a Dream speech, Graham said:
Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little Black children.
With those words, Graham dismissed the I Have a Dream speech. He rejected Kings aspirations for concrete civil-rights legislation in favor of a born-again, eschatological yearning for a racially brighter day across the metaphorical Jordan River upon ones death.
In terms of theology, Graham and Falwell had much in common. Both believed in the divine inspiration and factual inerrancy of the Christian canon, both believed that eternal salvation from the fiery flames of hell was only possible in consciously accepting the idea of Jesus of Nazareth as ones personal lord and savior, and both stressed that societal change could only occur through an inward, individual transformation. The difference, however, and a notable difference that generally and historically marks an evangelical from a fundamentalist, is the formers willingness to engage with the world outside ones own.
Evangelicals (or neo-evangelicals) tended to be first or second generation fundamentalists who were educated in Bible schools and institutes, yet wanted their faith and culture to engage and not shun society. They took the Bible seriously, yet they also read the newspapers. They held a firm, unshakable faith in their convictions, yet carried a sense of dignity and decency in their interactions with non-believers. They came from the lower ring of the socio-economic spectrum, and their beliefs were dismissed as archaic by the religious and cultural elites, yet they desired public respectability. This was the Christian zeitgeist where Grahams persona, convictions, and publicityinstincts developed to help him become the darling and ideal of American evangelicalism even to today. This is also why American evangelicalism failed the civil rights movement.
Initially, a few mainline Protestant figures had high hopes for Grahams ability to convince evangelicals and fundamentalists to push for civil rights. One theologian at Union Theological Seminary at the time, John C. Bennett, wrote thatGraham was possibly the only person who could show Bible-believing Christians the implications of their faith on social matters, particularly on race relations. And to some extent, Graham did push the boundaries vis-a-vis the color line. He integrated his crusades, even personally cutting a cord dividing white and Black audiences at one of his events after one of his ushers refused to do so. And he reportedly bailed King out of jail after one of the civilrights marches. Though he agreed that desegregation was necessary, he also believed that a Christian shouldnt break the law and engage in civil disobedience, much like similar voices today who eschew the tactics, protests, and rhetoric of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
He then encouraged members of his denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, to not participate in the civil rights marches. The last thing that America needed was more expansion of federal government power in combating what Graham believed was merely a personal moral failing of the individual(s). If racism was going to be combated, it had to be fought through the born-again experience, and the inner transformation that comes along with a Just-As-I-Amconversion.
Graham regretted deciding not to go to Selma and participate in the civil rights movement. When he received word that King had been killed, Graham was reported to have said, I wish I had protested.
Kings death created a paradigmatic-shift on white tolerance for racism. His assassination marked the moment where support for segregation was no longer culturally acceptable, and that overt racism was no longer welcomed in the public square. Grahams regret perhaps is also the collective regret of many whites, including white evangelicals, today. The evangelicals were silent when King was alive, and they witnessed racism kill King at a bullets speed.
Perhaps this is why we see some whites performing awkward acts like washing the feet of Black clergy at a #BLM protest, or Chick-fil-As CEO Dan Cathy shining the shoes of Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae, or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic congressional leadership kneeling in silence while wearing Ghanaian kente fabric around their shoulders. To be seen in a humble stance in a public setting, especially in relation to a Black person, is an attempt at optical repentance an attempt to perform a certain symbolic action, infused with rich meaning, to give the performer(s) some feeling of absolution. But symbols are only as good as the realities of which they represent.
Today, the media landscape often blurs the terms fundamentalist and evangelical. An individual who was once seen as a fundamentalist is now described as an evangelical, because the Religious Right has given fundamentalists a medium to not only engage with the world, but a golden opportunity to shape the very world it once isolated itself from in their own image.
Lately, many of these evangelical voices have stumbled in their conversations vis--vis race. Jerry Falwell Jr. is currently facing public scrutiny for the drain of Black members of Liberty Universitys campus following hisblackface-on-mask tweet. Evangelical megachurch pastor Louie Giglios white blessings framing on white privilege was an attempted hot-take that turned into a hot-mess. And Pentecostal megachurch pastor Rod Parsley implicitly made the founding fathers look like they might have also founded racial reconciliation.
But upon George Floyds death, Rod Parsley released a video statement about the state of racism in America, invoking Martin Luther King Jr.:
I remember standing on that balcony when we lost one of the greatest men that ever lived, taken by a racists bullet. I would to God that his anointing will be picked up.That someone will be mantled with that great anointing.That nonviolent heart of God reconciling, restoring, reaching out
Quite a few evangelicals hold King as the standard bearer of civilrights activism, selectively uplifting pious quotes on love, nonviolence, and peace as a way to denounce #BlackLivesMatter. The irony of the prophet is that the prophet is usually only seen as a prophet in hindsight.
The Christians who oppose #BlackLivesMatter today are no different from the Christians who opposed King and the civil rights movement. Their blindness is an inherited racism that comes from the same theological streams from the same nationalistic political mobilizing of the civil-rights era fundamentalists and evangelicals. Likely, several decades from now, these Christianswill wish that they had marched with the #BlackLivesMatter activists those who will one day be considered the civil rights leaders of our generation.
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Posted: at 10:37 am
I am not the first to remark on the strange nature of time these days the way months seem to compress into the span of weeks, while hours stretch into fortnights and years into lifetimes. Still, I don't think that fully explains why revisiting the Hamilton soundtrack this week felt a little like discovering the ruins of ancient Pompeii: something monumental had clearly existed here once, but a seismic catastrophe has left it pale beneath a layer of dust.
Hamilton feels, anyway, like a relic from a different era. In a sense, it is: Lin-Manuel Miranda's Pulitzer Prize-winning musical emerged during the sunny optimism of the late Obama era, when empowering applause-lines like "immigrants, we get the job done!" were as much a part of the cultural zeitgeist as "I'm With Her" stickers and the push to get Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Half a decade on, we now live in a world where Hamilton has failed to age along with it, having idealistically put its full-throated faith into pre-packaged American values and ideals without acknowledging the underlying forces like the fear-mongering, xenophobia, mean-spiritedness exploited by President Trump that lay siege to them being realized.
When I bought my ticket to see Hamilton in 2015 a stroke of dumb luck, I nabbed a pair for face-value just as a new batch were released the show was already on Broadway but had not yet won its boatload of Tony Awards. Barack Obama was still president, and the Supreme Court had just upheld Obamacare and federally legalized same-sex marriage. When the day of my show finally arrived 11 months later, in September 2016, the nation seemed on the cusp of electing our first woman president. A New York Times reporter had just written an article with the headline: "I Paid $2,500 for a Hamilton Ticket. I'm Happy About It." A month earlier, Hillary Clinton had made not one but two references to the musical during her nomination-acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. As I waited to enter the Richard Rodgers Theatre, I had no way of knowing we were only a few weeks away from Vice President-elect Mike Pence getting booed by the audience and called out by the cast at a mid-November show; instead, I was swept up by the fans who'd brought a guitar to lead the queue outside the theater in singing "My Shot."
The filmed version of Hamilton, which arrives on Disney+ on Friday, is not radically different than the version I saw. Now short a few F-bombs and restored to the original Broadway cast (I saw the show four months after it was filmed, and some key actors had been swapped out by then), it is otherwise unchanged, allowing Hamilton superfans to relive the experience of the show now that Broadway has closed and the national tour is paused, and bringing the musical for the first time to those who've never had the opportunity to experience it live themselves. (Full disclosure, I have not seen the version that is appearing on Disney+). But how, I wonder, will it land?
Take, for example, the values espoused by the lyrics: the celebration of diversity and immigrants, freedom being "something they can never take away," the Schuyler Sisters rhapsodizing about "how lucky we are to be alive right now," even Jefferson singing that "we shouldn't settle for less" than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. None of these ideals are wrong, but they do feel now about as blissfully nave as hoping Michelle Obama will be magically nominated at the 2020 Democratic Convention. As the Broadway cast was singing away on stage in 2015 and 2016, after all, Donald Trump was rising to power on the currency of open racism, xenophobia, and sexism, which ended up not being a deal-breaker for the 46 percent of voting Americans that ultimately backed him. Freedom, we've learned in the years since, can be taken away, whether that means separating families at the border and locking children in cages, or teargassing peaceful protesters who are exercising their First Amendment rights. Pence might have been berated by the cast of Hamilton, but at the end of the day, he was the one who went home to Number One Observatory Circle.
Consider also the way that Hamilton was once considered to be a radical and groundbreaking "hip-hop musical," lauded for casting diverse actors in the roles of the country's white Founding Fathers. But the Founding Fathers were, make no mistake, largely slave owners and in many cases, slave rapists. The real Alexander Hamilton, for his part, "mistrusted the political capacities of the common people and insisted on deference to elites," and his opposition to slavery was not quite the defining creed that Miranda makes it out to be. The musical, then, is a project of rehabilitation, not a reckoning. "Hamilton's superficial diversity lets its almost entirely white audience feel good about watching it: no guilt for seeing dead white men in a positive light required," wrote Current Affairs in a 2016 pan. Or, as Brokelyn put it around the same time: "I counted three Black people in the entire sold-out Friday night audience There were 10 times more people of color on the stage than the entire audience combined in a theater filled to the brim This isn't Oklahoma. It's New York, New York! The melting pot of the American dream! It immediately became the most hypocritical piece of art I'd ever seen."
If today's Black Lives Matter movement has proven anything, it's that America and the modern liberal movement have coasted for too long on these kinds of empty gestures. The past four years have illustrated the devastating limits of representation without accompanying fundamental change; as Dr. Cornel West recently put it, "The system cannot reform itself. We've tried Black faces in high places." Hillary Clinton's campaign, which has been criticized by some progressives for relying too heavily on the presumed virtue of electing a woman president, might be seen as in the same pursuit of mere "representation," a failing we can more readily identify these five years later.
Even the musical-theaterized rap in Hamilton functions as a sort of coddling, making palatable a genre that otherwise might alienate the "old, rich white people" who could afford a Broadway ticket before it went to streaming. Yet rap music is historically a genre that compels listeners to reckon with the suffering, violence, and poverty within the Black community; on a Broadway stage, it is effectively re-engineered for a diametrically opposed purpose. Case in point: Hamilton's "Ten Duel Commandments," an exciting little bop describing the honor code for a gentleman's shoot-out, is an obvious play on Biggie Smalls' "Ten Crack Commandments," which would probably horrify and offend many of the same Broadway audience.
Yet even despite my struggles to buy into Hamilton today, I can understand the appeal. Listening to the soundtrack this week, I felt myself escape back to those days of easy, innocent optimism in 2015 and early 2016. I don't fault anyone for being nostalgic for a time when things seemed so simple and within reach, and Hamilton unchanged as it is these years later captures that moment of sunny idealism perfectly.
But as Hamilton also warns us, history has its eyes on you. And surprisingly fast, the musical has already become just that: history.
Posted: at 10:37 am
Teams tweaking their standard uniforms is commonplace in todays NFL. Apart from special alternate jerseys, throwback unis, and Color Rush combos, some teams tend to reinvent their uniforms as often as theyre allowed. A bigger helmet logo here, a flashy new number font there, a trendy matte finish to top things off. All-white. All-black. Maybe a sublimated pattern in the background or some extra swirls and stripes around the edges. It all makes for hype-worthy reveal videos on Twitter and certainly provides teams a boost when it comes to merchandising revenue.
But can you imagine a franchise just adding an entirely new out-of-left-field color that has nothing to do with their official on-the-field uniform, one of the most recognizable in all of sports, for an entire season simply because ownership wants to get in on a pop culture movement? This is the story of the year the Dallas Cowboys wore blue, white and red.
The United States celebrated the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1976. Plans for how the country might formally commemorate the Bicentennial had actually begun a full 10 years prior. Originally planned as a large exposition to be staged in either Boston or Philadelphia, the significance of the nations birthday seemed to grow exponentially in the hearts and minds of mainstream America as the date drew closer.
By the time New Years Day arrived that year, patriotism had reached a near-fever pitch from coast to coast. Watergate and Vietnam were in the past and a new American spirit was at hand. A red, white, and blue train was making a whistle-stop tour across the lower 48 states. Fireworks shows and parades were being planned in major cities. Historic tall ships from around the world docked in American harbors. Collectible coins were minted. Mailboxes and fire hydrants across the country got patriotic paint jobs from local citizens. The 1976 movie Rocky featured nods to the Bicentennial, dressing Apollo Creeds character as George Washington and then Uncle Sam on fight night. Commercial products in stores were rewrapped in star-spangled packaging.
As one of the first major cultural events to take place in the Bicentennial year, Super Bowl X played in Miami on January 18 included its own special acknowledgement. That day, both the Cowboys and Steelers wore an honorary uniform patch featuring the official Bicentennial logo: a stylized red, white, and blue star designed by the man who also came up with NASAs logo.
Super Bowl X proved to be the only time the patch was worn during an NFL game. The league decided against including it on teams uniforms for the 1976 season. With Bicentennial celebrations having culminated on July 4, enthusiasm had waned considerably by the time the regular season kicked off in September.
But not everyone was ready to snuff out the countrys birthday candles and declare the party over so quickly. The Dallas Cowboys had something subtle but special planned for 1976. It remains one of the quirkiest footnotes in the teams illustrious history.
A tiny blurb in the July 30, 1976 edition of the Los Angeles Times is perhaps the first public mention of what was to come. Under a heading reading Fashion note printed in bold type, the Times reported, citing a league memo:
In honor of Americas Bicentennial, the Cowboys will change one the blue stripes running down the center of their helmets to red for one season only.
Yes, for the duration of the 1976 season, the Cowboys official uniform was red, white, and blue.
According the book Glory Days: Life with the Dallas Cowboys, 1973-1998 by the teams longtime equipment manager William T. Buck Buchanan, the idea was pure Tex Schramm. The visionary team president and general manager was never one to miss an opportunity to promote the Dallas Cowboys brand by tapping into whatever was new and popular. If the country was crazy for the stars and stripes, the Cowboys would be a part of it. After all, they already had the stars.
The teams first two preseason games in 1976 were in Oakland and Los Angeles, explaining why an L.A. paper may have broken the news of the uniform modification. Californians were perhaps the first to see the unusual color combo on the Cowboys trademark helmets, but the striping scheme quickly made an impression on everyone else, too.
Buchanan tells the following story:
During a preseason game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cowboy tackle Ralph Neely was asked by the opposing Pittsburgh lineman, How long have you been wearing that red stripe on your helmets?
The ball was snapped, and Ralph knocked his man on his butt.
Ralph turned to walk back to the huddle and fired over his shoulder, First year, but we may keep wearing em.'
Dallas did keep wearing them, and the distinct red stripe makes any photo from the 1976 season instantly identifiable as such.
The Eagles seem to be the only other team in the league to commemorate the Bicentennial with any sort of wardrobe alteration. Their uniforms from that season featured a small sleeve patch picturing the Liberty Bell with the number 76 cleverly woven into the design.
Of course, in todays NFL, there are jersey patches and helmet decals worn for a wide variety of reasons. Often, theyre league-wide efforts worn by every team, such as the patches that commemorated the NFLs 100th season or the pink ribbons (and accessories) worn during October to salute breast cancer research and survivorship, to name just two.
Similarly, individual teams frequently honor former players, coaches, or front office personnel with a special uniform feature to mark the occasion of their passing. Other notable events can get the one-time patch treatment, too. The Cowboys, for example, sported single-game uniform tweaks for their 2014 game played in London, the first game played in Cowboys Stadium in 2009, and the final game played at Texas Stadium in 2008.
But what the Cowboys did for the entirety of the 1976 season to mark the nations 200th birthday stands nearly alone in the annals of football history.
Bill Schaefer of the wonderfully exhaustive website The Gridiron Uniform Database was able to think of just two other occurrences where a lone team went rogue for a whole season and used a wardrobe change to call attention to a non-football movement.
Schaefer pointed out that the 1945 Cleveland Rams, in their final season before relocating to Los Angeles, wore a sleeve patch depicting an eagle perched inside a red, white, and blue capital C. The patch was said to have been worn in support of the war effort, Schaefer noted in an email exchange with Cowboys Wire.
The Rams were also the sole club to don a special drug abuse awareness patch for a portion of the 1988 season, according to Schaefer, in conjunction with President Reagans War on Drugs' initiative.
But much has changed in the years since then, and the NFL has taken monumental steps toward streamlining their behemoth of a brand. It is nearly impossible to imagine a solo team in todays league altering their uniform to the point of adding a new color to their trademarked palette just to take part in the zeitgeist moment of the day. In the present-day NFL, such a uniform modification would be either an official mandate across all 32 teams with stringently enforced rules on its appearance, placement, and usage, or it wouldnt be allowed at all.
[Note: Just this week, the NFL has entered into discussions with players regarding the possibility of helmet decals or jersey patches recognizing those impacted by systemic racism and police brutality for the 2020 season, according to a report. The decision to wear a decal or patch could be left up to individual players, or teams could choose to act as a whole.]
The Cowboys, though, have always had a reputation around the league as a maverick organization. Even in those days, they did things their own way.
Of the Bicentennial patches worn by Dallas and Pittsburgh in Miami in January of 76, Buchanan recalls in his book:
Before Super Bowl X, the league issued written instructions dictating where to sew the Bicentennial patch on our jerseys.
What do you think, Buck? Mr. Schramm asked.
Could be distracting to the quarterback, I replied.
Damned right, he said. Put the patch on the jersey sleeve.
The NFL letter says to put the patch on the upper left breast, I said.
No sir, he said. Put it on the sleeve.
But the letter was signed by Pete Rozelle, I insisted.
Buck, listen to me, Tex insisted, put the patch where I told you to put it.'
The Steelers wore the patch on their upper left breast, as ordered. The Cowboys wore it on their left sleeve. Not a word of reprimand came down from the league office.
Tex and NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle were friends, Buchanan astutely notes.
During the regular season that followed, the Cowboys decision to independently add a red stripe to one of the most recognized pieces of gear in sports somehow wasnt as big a deal as it seems now. Maybe thats simply because we live in an age where it almost certainly would never be authorized to begin with.
Paul Lukas runs the exceptional website Uni Watch, dedicated to the aesthetics and history of sports uniforms. He has singled out the 76 red stripe as one of the top ten quirks of the one of the most iconic uniforms in all of sports, right up there with the Cowboys famously mismatched blues, silvers that arent quite silver, and retro Dymo Tape nameplates.
Of the Bicentennial stripe, Lukas told Cowboys Wire:
Its the type of thing that would get a huge amount of attention if a team did it now, but it kind of flew under the radar in 1976 and for some reason, never became a high-profile part of the teams timeline or story. Definitely fits in with the whole Americas Team thing, though.
Ah, yes. The Patriots and their Boston-based fans appropriately wear red, white, and blue every season, of course. But if any team was going to play up the stars and stripes factor as a one-off for the countrys 200th birthday celebration, of course it would be Americas Team.
Except heres the thing about that. In 1976, no one had yet called the Cowboys Americas Team. That nickname didnt happen until 1979, well after the year-long celebration and Dallass red-striped headgear. NFL Films invented that particular moniker, making it the title of the Cowboys team highlight video recapping their 1978 season.
So the Old Glory-inspired uniform tweak might have- at least subconsciously- helped give birth to the Americas Team nickname in the minds of those NFL Films editors two years later. But despite the conspiracy theory many opposing teams fans cling to as absolute (and ever-nauseating) truth, the red stripe flat-out couldnt have been the Cowboys attempt to rub their better-than-thou handle in the faces of the rest of the league.
Although the 76 Cowboys finished that Bicentennial season with a record of 11-3 and the NFC East title, they lost in the playoffs to the Rams, keeping the unique red, white, and blue-striped helmets from ever making a Super Bowl appearance.
When the team next took the field, it was 1977. The Bicentennial was history, and the red stripe was gone. Today, the Cowboys contribution to the Spirit of 76 exists only in those old photographs, a scant few collectibles still floating around, and the memories of long-time fans.
The Bicentennial helmets do claim a small bit of the spotlight at The Star in Frisco today, though. Largely forgotten by the modern era, the 76 uniforms are enough of an item of historical interest that they feature in an exhibit showcasing the teams uniforms throughout the years. Theres a mannequin front and center wearing Roger Staubachs No. 12 jersey and his signature double-bar facemask, with a bright red stripe running down the center of the helmet. Its a popular photo stop on the facilitys fan tours, and the red stripes make a good trivia question that the guides like to use to stump their groups.
In a 2018 poll, the Dallas Morning News offered up six uniforms from Cowboys history and asked readers to choose the best of all time. The 1976 red-stripe version came in dead last, with just 4% of the total vote.
For those that do remember the Bicentennial helmets fondly, though, it remains a beloved footnote in Cowboys history. Maybe because it was so subtle and quirky, maybe because they were the only ones to do it, maybe because they did it on their own, maybe because they never did it again, maybe because it would never happen now. It lives on as one of those little-known factoids that can win a bar bet or score points in a trivia contest, and it certainly helps true old-school fans size each other up with a knowing smile and a sly head nod.
But should the team decide to break out the red stripes one more time for the nations Semiquincentennial in 2026, it will be just about the coolest thing to ever happen to a whole bunch of nostalgic 50-something Cowboys fanatics.
You can follow Todd on Twitter @ToddBrock24f7.
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Posted: at 10:37 am
The National Football Leagues Washington Redskins are reviewing their racist team name, signaling that the derogatory slur could be on its way out for good.
In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins will undergo a thorough review of the teams name, the team said in a statement Friday.
The team said it has been having internal discussions about a possible name change for weeks. The new review comes after a national anti-racist movement that has seen thousands of protests across the country following the police killing of Minneapolis Black man George Floyd.
Redskins team owner Daniel Snyder has stuck by the slur for Native Americans for years, which has been used by the team since 1933.
Snyders sudden change of heart was likely due to increased pressure from major corporate sponsors including FedEx, which demanded the team change its name earlier this week. FedEx also owns the naming rights to the Redskins home stadium in the Washington, D.C., area. Other companies including PepsiCo and Nike also demanded the team change its name, and Nike appeared to remove all Redskins apparel from its website.
Native American activists have pointed out, however, that indigenous groups have been calling for the Redskins to change its name for decades long before this current zeitgeist and corporate intervention.
As writer and scholar Adrienne Keene, a citizen of the Cherokee nation, noted, nearly 7,000 Native Americans signed a 2014 petition urging the Redskins to change its offensive name.
The team has also faced multiple lawsuits from Native Americans over the disparaging moniker.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), whose district is home to several Native American tribes, applauded the decision by corporate sponsors to take action against the name.
I have been working on this for a decade because I believe all people, including Native Americans, should be treated with dignity and respect and not dehumanized as mascots, McCollum said in a statement. Now that the corporate community is joining the movement and putting the dignity of people over profits, it is a true example of transformative change and signals that we are at a tipping point. I commend Nike, FedEx, and others for taking action. Now it is up to the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell, and team owner Dan Snyder to do the same. Change the mascot. Change the name.
Studies have shown that Native American sports mascots produce negative stereotypes and exacerbate racial inequalities.
Dominique Mosbergen contributed reporting.
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Posted: July 2, 2020 at 4:47 pm
Black Lives Matter was created in 2013 by three Black women Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martins killer, George Zimmerman. Over the last seven years, it has evolved into something much bigger: a broad multiethnic liberation movement focused on criminal justice reform, racist policing, and adjacent causes.
During the course of this shift, the movement has not only expanded but become more radical in its demands for equality across the board. And yet, surprisingly, this has increased, rather than diminished, its appeal.
BLM had little support across the country as recently as 2017. But it has become steadily more popular, and in the aftermath of George Floyds murder, its popularity has surged to the point that its now supported by a majority of Americans. By any measure, that suggests BLM is succeeding culturally and politically.
But how should we think of Black Lives Matter as a historical phenomenon? Is it the sort of radical social movement weve seen before in this country? Or is it something new, something different, without any precursors?
To get some answers, I reached out to Michael Kazin, a professor of history and American social movements at Georgetown University and also the co-editor of Dissent magazine. We discussed how BLM fits into the long tradition of American radicalism, what its proponents can learn from previous eras, and why he thinks BLM is both a political and a cultural struggle.
A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.
As someone who studies the history of social movements in America, how do you view this moment?
Its a remarkable moment in some ways, because we have a very unpopular right-wing president and a set of popular social movements on the left. Which is surprising, because usually social movements on the left get more popular when you have a liberal or progressive president in office. This is what happened in the 30s and 60s, for example. I think we might be witnessing the end of a conservative era.
What does the end of a conservative era mean?
Well, weve had Democratic presidents in this era, Clinton and Obama, but the guiding ideas of the time have been conservative ideas about government and labor and race. And now that could be changing in a very radical way.
If Democrats are able to win the presidency and tip both houses of Congress, then you could see another major vault to the left in American history, the kind of vault we saw during Reconstruction and during the progressive eras in the 30s and 60s and early 70s. But all of this energy doesnt always translate to big legislative revolutions. For laws to pass, itll take a combination of left-wing social movements and politicians who are willing to accommodate those movements in important ways.
The Black Lives Matter movement is at the forefront of this leftward push. Do you consider BLM a radical social movement, or does it just seem that way to those who are more invested in the current order?
Like all large social movements, it has its radical aspects and its more reformist aspects. That was true of the labor movement in the 30s, which had a lot of communists and socialists in it. It was true of Reconstruction too, in which you had more radical Republicans like Thaddeus Stevens, who wanted to confiscate the land of anybody who had fought for the Confederacy and give it to African Americans, to freed slaves. We saw it in the 60s as well, when the Black Freedom Movement had its reformist side pushing for integration of institutions and the Voter Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, and you had the Black Panthers and other Black Power groups who wanted one big revolution.
So you see this dynamic in every mass social movement. Its hard to say what will become of BLM. Youve got the different aspects to it. People can unite around some moderate demands like passing laws that will handcuff the police in terms of their capacity to use violence. The more radical aspects, like abolishing the police altogether, go much further. And there are conversations about reparations and restructuring the economy to ensure not just equal opportunities but equal outcomes.
As the movement gets larger, youll see more differences within it. But no single one of those manifestations will define the movement as a whole.
What makes a radical movement radical? Is it more about the nature of the demands? Or how those demands are perceived by the power structure?
Thats a very good question. The power structure, of course, often perceives any movement that wants to change the fundamentals of how the country operates as radical. Martin Luther King Jr. was perceived to be a radical and I think he was. But the demands he was making publicly, until the end of his life, really werent that radical. He simply wanted the 14th and 15th Amendments to be applied to Black people.
Any movement that goes to the root of things is radical. An anti-capitalism movement is radical. A movement which calls for reparations for African Americans is radical. Theres a radical ethics that diagnoses something wrong about the basic organization of society and seeks to undo that wrong, and conservative figures in power have always viewed these efforts as existential threats.
The New Deal was perceived as radically socialist by a lot of people in business and in the power structure, but in retrospect it was really just reformist.
The shifting perception of these movements is fascinating to me, especially in this moment. In the case of Black Lives Matter, its remarkable to see just how popular it has become. In the last two weeks alone, I believe, support for BLM has increased as much as it has in the last two years.
What does that signal to you?
It signals that racial attitudes in America, which began to change after World War II and then took a big step forward in the 1960s with the success of the Black Freedom Movement and the Civil Rights Act, have really evolved. This has been a very long and hard road, with moments of backlash along the way, but this is what youd expect because racism is so deeply woven into that fabric of American history and culture. Obviously, the horrific killing of George Floyd was a catalyst, but I think were seeing the results of young people coming of age and being much more open to racial equality than previous generations.
And BLM, whatever one thinks of it, strikes me as the continuation of some of the most successful social movements in American history.
I think thats right, and two of those movements, the Abolitionist movement and the Black Freedom Movement, were also organized around the demands of equality for African-Americans. Of course, you could say this is all part of one long movement, but it had various phases to it. I think what were seeing now is very much part of the Black Freedom Movement, which has had its ups and downs throughout its history. But the thread tying all of it together has always been the push for fundamental equality at every level of society and in every major institution.
Whats interesting about BLM is that it could be a catalyst to a reform movement in the same way the labor movement in the 30s was essential to moving the Democratic Party to the left. A lot of people dont know this, but it was really in the 30s that the Democrats began to move away from Jim Crow. It took a long time, obviously, but thats when it started, and it was because labor was interracial and labor was crucial to the success of the Democrats in the 30s and 40s.
How were these previous movements greeted when they emerged? I ask because the goals seem, in retrospect, so sensible and obvious, but I imagine at the time they were seen as extremist and threatening.
Definitely. The great Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci talked about how social movements can change the common sense of society. What we all take to be normal or moral in society can change pretty quickly, and it changes because of the force and success of social movements. Black Lives Matter has been enormously successful in this respect. Any movement pushing for this level of change will be opposed by people who dont support those changes thats just an axiom of politics. Whats astonishing about this movement is that its not provoking more backlash at least not yet.
Well, I wonder about the not yet part. I worry about movements like Black Lives Matter or abolish the police becoming so sprawling and disjointed that they lose their focus, or get overwhelmed by revolutionary spasms that may undercut the key goals.
Are there important lessons from the past on this front?
I was a New Leftist in the late 60s. I was one of those people who went too far. I think I undermined some of my goals, even though in the end we were successful in winning our main demands, which were to fight for racial equality and an end to the Vietnam War. But along the way I did some stupid things.
I think one big lesson is that mass lawbreaking undermines a movement. As MLK used to say, you want the other side to be seen as the violent side, you want the other side reacting to your civil disobedience, to your respect for order. You dont want to be seen as running amok without leadership, without discipline, because youre trying to bring about change and people are scared of change. You dont want people to be scared of you at the same time theyre scared of change. Thats one lesson.
Another lesson is the importance of building alliances. One of the reasons why I keep saying that leftists should support Biden and ally with Pelosi and Chuck Schumer this year is that we have to get as many Democrats as possible elected because only then will there be the political space to go further than they would like to go. There are limits to what a movement can create on its own. Eventually, youve got to get laws passed, and a movement cant pass laws by itself.
Is it better to view BLM or abolish the police less as political projects and more as cultural movements that shift the zeitgeist and therefore pave the way for political changes in the future?
Its a great question, and I think its both for me. As I said before, its obviously helped to change the attitudes of a lot of white Americans and thats a cultural change in consciousness. Without that change in consciousness, we cant get real political changes because there would be too much resistance to them, and politicians are averse to doing things which are unpopular.
So its important to demand immediate change but also wise to not expect it to happen that fast. These things take a long time. If activists dont have a longterm strategy, theyre going to fail. This isnt easy, of course. On the one hand, you want movements to build on a sense of urgency when outrage happens, the way it did with George Floyd and with other Black Americans killed by the police. But at the same time, you cant let that sense of urgency impede you from organizing for the long-term.
My sense is that were still very much in the beginning of whatever this is, and so theres a lot of symbolic activism and a lot of enthusiasm but not necessarily a clear strategy for seizing power. What do you think a movement like this can do to channel all this energy and goodwill into enduring, concrete changes?
I think it has to find ways to work with other movements on the left. The change these activists seek is one of economic equity as well as an end to racist treatment by the cops. That was true for the Black movement in Fredrick Douglasss day as well as the freedom movement led, in part, by MLK in the 1960s. The fight to have the power over how the police treat you is necessarily a fight to gain more power and resources on the job, in ones neighborhood, and in education. But Black people cant win that fight by themselves. It will take allies from other races and a demand for universal programs in health care, the environment, housing, etc. and interracial institutions like labor and, yes, the Democratic Party.
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Detroit jazz fest goes virtual for 2020; Labor Day weekend event to air on web, TV, radio – Detroit Free Press
Posted: at 4:47 pm
For the first time in four decades, there won't be a jazz festival to attend in downtown Detroit this September.
But there will still be free, live jazz music: The Detroit Jazz Festival will becomea virtual event this Labor Day weekend a four-day show that will air digitally, on television and on radio.
Yielding to the realities of the coronavirus pandemic, festival officials and Mayor Mike Duggan announced the move Wednesday. Rocket Mortgage is aboard as presenting sponsor.
The 2020 jazz fest will run Sept. 4-7featuring mostly local talentperforming live on three soundstages in the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. The performance spaces will be fashioned after the festival's traditional stages, but without audiences.
It was a Cool night at the 40th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival on Sept 1, 2019.(Photo: Christopher M. Bjornberg, Special to the Free Press)
More: Watch 'Suzi Q,' documentary about legendary Detroit rocker Suzi Quatro
The fest will streamonline on the city of Detroit's Channel 22 digital station and the festival's own digital platforms, withperformances also broadcast on Detroit Public Television, WDET-FM (101.9) and WRCJ-FM (90.9).
The Detroit Jazz Festival's original 2020 lineup, announced in March, included artist-in-residence Dee Dee Bridgewater, along with Herbie Hancock, PharoahSanders, Gregory Porter and others who would have traveled to perform. While they won't be heading to Detroit for the virtual event, fest director Chris Collins hinted they'll have some kind of role.
"I have a hunch you'll be seeing them in some form during the four-day programming," Collins said.
Performances at the RenCen will be staged under a set of intensive protocols, including onstage social distancing and regular disinfecting of gear and green rooms.
The move to a "health-conscious" virtual fest followed consultation with local, state and federal authorities, Collins said, and officials evaluated several contingency plans for an in-person event before opting for the streamed edition.
Jazz fest officials were part of a 100-plus-personentertainment subcommittee that submitted a package ofevent reopening and safety recommendationsto the state of Michigan in June. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hasn't yet adopted the proposals.
The Detroit Jazz Festival is holding open submissions for Detroit musical talent. Artists can apply through July 15 at detroitjazzfest.org.
The festival has also put out an open call for visual artists, one of whom will be selected to design the event's officialposter ideally capturing the spirit of the music and the 2020 zeitgeist, including the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement.
Proceeds from poster sales will go to the Detroit Arts Fund, established earlier this year.
There's no word yet on the status of two other prominent September festivals, including Soaring Eagle Arts, Beats & Eats in Royal Oak and the Movement techno fest, scheduled Sept. 11-13 in downtown Detroit after postponing its traditional Memorial Day spot.
Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Posted: at 4:47 pm
The City of Stamford has received numerous requests calling for the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue, photograph on June. 19, 2020 at Columbus park in Stamford, Connecticut.
The City of Stamford has received numerous requests calling for the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue, photograph on June. 19, 2020 at Columbus park in Stamford, Connecticut.
Photo: Matthew Brown / Hearst Connecticut Media
The City of Stamford has received numerous requests calling for the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue, photograph on June. 19, 2020 at Columbus park in Stamford, Connecticut.
Opinion: Decisions on Stamfords Columbus statue, park decisions need to be informed
Having read a multitude of social media posts and comment threads regarding the status of the Columbus Park statue which in Stamford has become a lightning rod in the larger zeitgeist of national statue removal, I thought I would offer a few comments.
Just recently, Columbus statues in Hartford, New Haven, Norwalk and Middletown have been removed. A few statues have succumbed to beheading and defacement, certainly not a way to resolve these contentious issues. The removal movement is now brewing in Bridgeport and Stamford with the Italian-American communitys most vocal in opposition. Bear in mind that Stamford has a sizable Italian community, and the Italian-American organization Unico commissioned the sculpture in the 1970s.
Donning my art critics hat for a moment, I will say that public sculpture in its best form should have a guiding principle namely that it is edifying and uplifting. I am not sure this particular Columbus statue speaks to those qualities. The stone carving depicts Columbus attired in full explorer dress and regalia, with sword in hand, his face tilted upwards. The figure stands on a globe supported by a pedestal that bears the Unico dedication inscription. The carving itself is stiff and rather crude; and essentially of mediocre sculptural quality. It lacks that evocative, emotional connection to pull the viewer in to an uplifting historical story.
Arguments on each side of the issue of this statue have their merits. The Italian-American community argues that taking down this statue cannot solve the pervasive problem of racism; while African-American, native American and minority residents have expressed feeling deeply offended by this statue given Columbus participation and profiting from the slave trade, and forced labor of indigenous people.
Bearing this in mind, the polemics behind what it takes for diverse constituents to actually agree on replacements will be interesting. Selecting a replacement such as Fiorello La Guardia if that is what the city intends on at a future point that would be universally agreed upon by groups involved in this controversy, may be an even more arduous task.
In Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the birthplace of W.E.B. Dubois, widely considered a great civil right leader, activist and writer there was a growing movement by a number of citizens to erect a sculpture of him at the Great Barrington public library. What seemed like a groundswell of support for a statue of this native son to have an eternal placement on library grounds turned quickly into a firestorm of opposition from veterans groups due to Dubois embrace of communism late in life. Town meetings featured opposing presentations from history professors dissecting Dubois notable contributions, and his embrace of communist ideology; as well as from veteran groups opposed to the erection of a statue to a man who espoused communism in his writing and speeches. After a number of meetings and hotly contested debate, the Dubois statue was approved by the town board, and will be installed at a location yet to be determined. But this democratic process even in its best of intentions, left a lot of bad will in the town among various constituencies.
You can take the Columbus statue down following in the footsteps of other Connecticut municipalities, but agreeing on what will replace it may be as bitter a fight as what is going on now. At the very least, lets call upon the Stamford Board of Representatives to commit to a thorough and fair democratic process that will amplify the diverse voices of our residents; and resist caving in to pressure from any one group, before making an informed decision on the statue and the parks future.
Lynn Villency Cohen is a Stamford resident.
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Posted: at 4:47 pm
Jambiani, Zanzibar. Around 700 children from two local schools cleaned up the village and collected 57 garbage bags.
widnica, Poland. Waldemar Woniak, a retired postman, cleaned up the local river and collected 2000 garbage bags.
There is also Zsuzsanna Ferraos family from India (100 bags), Daniel Toben from the US with friends (50 bags), volunteers from the Greek Island Kos ( 114 bags), and hundreds of people around the world who collected thousands of garbage bags. They all have two things in common. The first one: they actively work for a cleaner Earth. The second: thanks to a tiny Polish start-up Planet Heroes anyone can financially reward them for their social engagement.
Planet Heroes describe itself as the first-ever eco-crowdfunding platform for people who want to clean up the Earth. Unlike other crowdfunding platforms, where the money is raised for something that is yet to eventuate, Planet Heroes makes it possible to reward cleaning efforts that have already taken place. If someone wants to arrange donations for their actions, they first have to clean up an area, then send photo documentation and go through a double check. The first check is required by law for international money transfers. The second one, based on data from photos, is to establish whether the area has actually been cleaned up and the garbage disposed of in the right place.
Despite its young age, the start-up has achievements that plenty of more developed companies can only dream of. The company won the UN competition for an ecological start-up at the United Nations Forum in Nairobi. It became a partner of the UN Habitat Waste Wise Cities Campaign which aims to solve problems of the 40 biggest cities in the world. As the first start-up in history, it had its official launch at the UN Science Policy Business Forum in Canberra, Australia. Also, it received a grant from Amazon to develop an Artificial Intelligence module. This will allow them to use Amazons cloud capabilities to analyze photos of dirty areas with a lot of rubbish.
Planet Heroes business model is based on commissions on bank transfers from donors to the various clean-up causes (standard practice for crowdfunding platforms), as well as various contributions to those causes from the revenues of their business partners. But when you talk to Przemysaw Pyziel, the companys co-founder, you get the impression that money comes second. Although they have built up the company from their own savings and they still keep pouring money into it, they have kept their commissions on bank transfers very low. They also dont encourage users to make the highest possible transfers. And they reject business partnership proposals if the applicant company does not comply with their ethics. We want our platform to be seen as a community that is focused on environmental activities. And not as a business project that sells cheaply to, for example, a cigarette manufacturer, Przemysaw Pyziel states.
Worldwide more and more companies think like the Planet Heroes founders: Money is a factor yes, but it is more important to use technology to find a solution to important problems. Like fighting climate change, reducing waste, addressing exclusion. These global trends, although a little late, are also reaching Poland. For several years now these new types of companies can be seen on the start-up stage. Professor Bolesaw Rok from Kozminski University, who for 20 years has been researching responsible business practices in Poland, calls such companies positive impact start-ups.
This is a new global wave of positive business. There are several reasons why they are emerging in Poland right now. It has certainly been influenced by the social zeitgeist associated with such initiatives as school climate strikes, the social justice movement. Plus, also by EU regulations. For example, a ban on single-use plastics, and by peoples disillusionment with big business. For 10 years I have been running post-graduate studies on Corporate Social Responsibility. Until now, graduates have always wanted to work in corporations. This year, for the first time, most of the group wants to start their own company. Because they know that in a large corporation, they will not be able to realize their passion to change the world, Bolesaw Rok explains.
In a report published in June, he found over 400 such firms. The list is very diverse. There are both simple companies such as Caf PoWoli, a caf run by people with disabilities, and very technologically advanced companies. Such as Bio2Materials that has developed technology to produce textiles from apple pomace (dry pulp).
Some trends are easy to spot. The first is healthy food and plant-based food. The second is ethical fashion, while the third is natural cosmetics and cleaning products. There is a lot happening here. When we look for start-ups focusing on local and circular economies, these trends are less visible. These types of companies are just starting to appear.
One of the companies that are part of this general trend is BACTrem. The company deviates from the image of a typical start-up. It was not founded by an angry young man who is mad at big business. But instead by a group of scientists led by Prof. Magdalena Popowska, a specialist in microbiology.
It all started with the patented bioremediation vaccine. It contains a dozen or so bacterial strains that purify areas polluted with oil-derived substances. In simple terms, the bacteria selected by Prof. Popowskas team eat oil and decompose it into uncomplicated and harmless compounds. Today, the product portfolio also includes a vaccine for bioremediation of areas contaminated with creosote. Which is a highly toxic and carcinogenic substance that is used impregnate railway sleepers (the wooden beams on rail tracks) or wooden telephone poles. Another application is in soil preparations for farmers that reduce the effect of glyphosate and restore the natural biodiversity of soil microflora.
The market tells us what products to make. We take on projects that will solve specific problems related to environmental protection for certain people. In the case of bioremediation of creosote, it all started from media reports that people are burning old railway sleepers. This is extremely stupid! That is why we wanted to create a technology that would be cheap so that everyone could use it. We developed soil preparations because the state of the soil in Europe is getting worse. Thats why we created preparations that restore the soil, and then less traditional fertilizers are needed, says Andrzej Berezowski, COO at BACTrem.
There is one more thing that differentiates Polish positive impact start-ups from their Western counterparts. They cannot count on institutional support, either from the government or investors. In Poland, this sector is still unprofessional because there are no qualified incubators or accelerators dedicated to sustainable start-ups. There are only a few individual initiatives. The impact investment market is still in its infancy. I am trying to get various investors involved in the impact investment trend. Everyone I tell about it says: great, but we still have to make money. Capital is international. I am convinced that impact funds will start to look more closely at Poland because there is a very interesting market here. When this happens, support for sustainable start-ups will finally be seen as normal, Bolesaw Rok adds.
Meanwhile, children from Jambiani village in Zanzibar are not aware of the problems that start-ups in Poland have. By the end of June, they have managed to collect 673. The first computers for local schools will be bought with this money. The collection for them lasts until the end of July.
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Posted: at 4:47 pm
When it comes to taboo subjects on screen, period sex serves up a double whammy. Intercourse and menstruation who wants to see that, right? Certainly not Hollywood. In the history of cinema, the vanishingly rare instances of sexual flow-down are portrayed with more focus on the horror of women surfing the crimson wave, as Cher from Clueless puts it, rather than reducing the stigma.
Who can forget the moment, in both the original 1976 Carrie and 2013 remake, when the titular heroine is terrified when she discovers blood coming out of her vagina in the school showers? A similar scene of fright occurs when Brooke Shieldss young castaway Emmeline gets her period for the first time in The Blue Lagoon (1980), while Ginger Snaps (2000) wraps a teens transformation into womanhood with becoming a werewolf. Its even implied that Ginger gets attacked because the wolf, to quote Brick Tamland from Anchorman, can smell the menstruation!
In recent years, however, movies like 20th Century Women and American Honey, both released in 2016, have tried to combat the culture of period-shaming. The latter movie, written and directed by Andrea Arnold, sees Sasha Lanes character remove her tampon before having sex; a quiet gesture that speaks volumes for the reality of the feminine sexual experience as well as positioning intercourse from the female perspective.
We need to grow up about periods being a normal and very regular part of our lives including in the bedroom, says Emma Barnett, broadcaster and author of Period. Its About Bloody Time in which a chapter is dedicated to the subject of period sex. Anything which depicts period sex as part of life and debunks myths and doesnt use the scene as another chance to show menstruating women as dirty or weird but just a woman having what is a very humdrum regular biological occurrence can only be progress and a good thing.
New indie comedy Saint Frances fits this definition perfectly. In an early scene, our lead Bridget (played by the films writer Kelly OSullivan) wakes up after a night of passion to find blood on hers and her male sexual partners face. Bridget initially feels awkward, but soon the pair laugh it off as they change her bloody bedsheets. It becomes a sweet statement of intent for the rest of the story that will deal further with menstruation as well as motherhood and abortion.
It was important for me to say from the very beginning, This is the movie that youre in for and were not going to shy away from womens bodies, OSullivan says. If people are going to have sex with each other this is going to come up every fourth week and I wanted to portray it in a way that was an exploration of intimacy.
The writer-actor laments the lack of films dealing with this subject, though recalls an episode of Sex and the City in which the character Samantha, fearing she was going through menopause, is relieved for her period to come on during sex, though her male partner is horrified by the discovery. If somebody is an asshole about you having a period during sex, theyre gonna be an asshole in general, she says. But there is a discussion thats emerging into the zeitgeist about period sex and about how different people react to it: the shame that some people are made to feel about it but also the acceptance that other people have.
Most of our pushback was from men, but we were unapologetic
Many women report this being one of the times theyre most interested in having sex outside of ovulation, and orgasms have been shown to help ease period pains, says Frances Rayner, founder of the Clit Test a campaign to change the way sex is portrayed on screen. I think well quickly start to see this change as women slowly gain power in all aspects of content production.
Television has done a better job at dealing with the subject and that might be due to the increasing number of female showrunners. Lena Dunhams Girls, Marja-Lewis Ryanss The L Word: Generation Q, Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKennas Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and, more recently, Michaela Coels I May Destroy You, offer open depictions of period sex that have each earned praise from viewers.
Periods are something so normal its weird to see how its been stigmatised to be something strange when it happens, says I May Destroy You star Weruche Opia. It was shocking to see the things that you would talk about with your friends, but not actually see on television, in the script.
Its a brilliant show of Michaelas work to be able to be very frank and bold about it.
The great thing about being an independent film, its not filmed by committee, OSullivan says. You dont have to get the OK from 100 people in a way that you do if youre a studio film or network show.
So we had some lovely investors who asked if there had to be so much blood and we were like yes, because, thematically, the core of this film is about acceptance and its something that women have been told for the longest time is dirty or shameful, she adds. Most of our pushback was from men but we were unapologetic.
OSullivan hopes that her film will inspire both men and women to become active participants in the normalisation of period sex both on-screen and in real life too.
Its really important that if there is going to be a progressive movement it cant be one-sided, she says. Its too much work for just women. We need the other half of the population to hurry up and come along with it.
Saint Frances is released on 10 July.