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Category Archives: Zeitgeist Movement
5 Recent Comic Book Movies That Were Better Than The MCU’s Offerings (& 5 That Were Worse) – Screen Rant
Posted: May 6, 2020 at 6:43 am
Throughout the 2010s, the rate of Hollywood comic book movie releases drastically escalated. The backbone of that movement was theMarvel Cinematic Universe, a 23-part mega-franchise encompassing 11 sub-franchises, most of which stand among the highest-grossing film series of all time. Although its business-oriented structuring has some creative drawbacks, the MCU has never produced a truly bad movie.
RELATED:10 Previous Failed Attempts To Adapt MCU Characters For The Screen
At worst, the MCUs offerings are cookie-cutter blockbusters, like Thor: The Dark World or Doctor Strange; most of the time, theyre fun, entertaining, pretty great movies, like Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok; and at best, they really connect to the zeitgeist, like Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
There are still plenty of great comic book movies being made outside the MCU, as well as plenty of not-so-great ones that provoke more fan backlash than a Mandarin fake-out. So, here are five recent comic book movies that were better than the MCUs offerings, and five that were worse.
Patty Jenkins was lined up to direct Thor: The Dark World with a more interesting love story and astronger characterization for Jane Foster, but quit after Marvel made some script changes she wasnt happy with. (As it turned out, neither was the Marvel fanbase.)
Jenkinswas instead snapped up by DC to helm Wonder Woman. Jenkins brought a real sincerity to the project, refusing to acknowledge the word cheesy, that made it a more engaging counterpoint to the MCUs bathos.
Warner Bros. gave David Ayer just six weeks to write the script for Suicide Squad before rushing it into production. Somewhere in the movieis the groundwork for an entertaining piece aboutantiheroes, but that potential is buried under generic characterization, on-the-nose exposition (like Rick Flags introduction of Katana), and mind-numbing plot logic.
RELATED:Suicide Squad: 5 Things James Gunn Should Change From The Original (And 5 He Should Keep The Same)
Following Sylvester Stallones abysmal PG-13 attempt at bringing Judge Dredd to the screen in the 90s with Rob Schneider, the 2000 AD icon finally got his due in 2012.
Karl Urban stars in the title role in this ultraviolent hard-R take on the character as he takes a rookie (played wonderfully by Olivia Thirlby) into a high-rise controlled by a drug lord to bring down their operation with brute force.
In 2019, Simon Kinberg, who is somehow the highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood, tried his hand at directing an X-Men movie after years of writing and producing them. As with every $200 million directorial debut, Dark Phoenix was a complete disaster. Days of Future Past may have a couple of plot holes, but it was a cinematic ride, and Apocalypse had its moments, few and far between.
RELATED:5 Things Fox's X-Men Movies Did Wrong (And 5 They Did Right)
Thanks to the Disney merger, Dark Phoenix was always going to be the final nail in Foxs X-Men franchises coffin a crew somberly going down with their ship but Kinbergs script and direction (not to mention the casts bored performances) didnt do it any favors.
Last year, for whatever reason, Academy voters got it in their heads that Todd Phillips Joker was something more profound and artistic than a derivative, confused, thematically vapid Scorsese knock-off being carried on the shoulders of Joaquin Phoenix and Lawrence Sher. James Mangolds Logan is a much better example of a comic book movie taking influence from the classics of cinema to transcend the trappings of the superhero genre.
Its a bleak neo-western taking cues from Paper Moon in its father-daughter story and Shane in itstale of an aging hero reluctantly called upon for one last act of heroism. In both cases, it doesnt feel like a rip-off of those movies but simply a story exploring the same themes in a different, more modern context.
Hugh Jackmans final performance as Wolverine is a grizzled tear-jerking delight, while Patrick Stewarts bittersweet portrayal of a dementia-ridden Charles Xavier and Dafne Keens subdued, emotionally deep performance as X-23 are quite poignant.
Midway through production on Josh Tranks unusually dark reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise, 20th Century Fox executives got cold feet about the directors weird body horror aesthetic and stepped into reshoot most of it.
RELATED:Fantastic Four: 5 Things The Other Movies Got Wrong (& 5 Ways The MCU Can Get It Right)
The reshoots are painfully obvious, from Kate Maras intermittent use of a blonde wigto the inconsistent, anticlimactic plot. Plus, for reasons unknown, the strangely titled Fant4stic carried over the terrible apropos-of-nothing Reed/Sue/Victor love triangle storyline from the previous movies.
After the first Deadpool movie provided an entertaining enough origin story with an agreeable gag rate, the second one really pushed the boat out as a meta commentary on superhero blockbusters.
At every turn, Deadpool 2 masterfully subverts the audiences expectations, such as thegrim early fate of the X-Force. Plus, the subplot involving Wades dream of reuniting with Vanessa in the great beyond gave the sequel a real emotional connection.
Why did they not just let Guillermo del Toro make Hellboy III with Ron Perlman? Instead, wegot Neil Marshall and David Harbour being given a $50 million check by a Hollywood studio to unsuccessfully mimic what del Toro and Perlman already did perfectly in 2004 and 2008, with needless bloodshed added in post to strain for a gratuitous R rating.
In some parallel universe, theres a Hellboy III directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Ron Perlman, and it would probably be included in the best column of this list.
With emotionally resonant voice performances (particularly from Shameik Moore in the lead role), a complex plot that uses lofty sci-fi concepts like interdimensional travel to convey human ideas, and a beautiful animation style that recalls flicking through the pages of a comic book, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse emerged in 2018 as the perfect Spidey movie.
RELATED:Spider-Man: 10 Things We Hope To See In The Spider-Verse Sequel
Into the Spider-Verse reassured fans that Sony wouldnt screw up all of its attempts to tell Spider-Man stories on the big screen even if it screwed up a lot of them.
This is the movie that forced Sony to relinquish some of Spider-Mans film rights to Marvel Studios, allowing his introduction in the MCU. Andrew Garfields bloated second outing as Spidey proves that Sony didnt learn anything from the shortcomings of Spider-Man 3, as they rammed it with terrible villains, and on top of that, it has a bunch of setups for a cinematic universe that never happened.
NEXT:The 10 Darkest Superhero Movies Ever Made, Ranked
NextThe Simpsons: 10 Hidden Details About The School You Never Noticed
Ben Sherlock is a writer, filmmaker, and comedian. In addition to writing for Screen Rant and CBR, covering a wide range of topics from Spider-Man to Scorsese, Ben directs independent films and takes to the stage with his standup material. He's currently in pre-production on his feature directorial debut (and has been for a while, because filmmaking is expensive). Previously, he wrote for Taste of Cinema and BabbleTop.
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Posted: at 6:43 am
Isekaiis easily the most ubiquitous genre in today's anime and manga. While this means the genre has a huge audience of avid fans, it also means that it has plenty of detractors, as well. Often seen as incredibly cliche, if not boring, the faraway fantasy worlds that isekai transports its heroes and viewers to all seem to blend together at this point. Add in a host of social faux pas, and you have the recipe for a potentially terrible anime.
That recipe was cooked to perfection with The Rising of the Shield Hero. With an overpowered protagonist who's seemingly never wrong, topped with sociallycontentious undertones, the series has gotten its fair share of well deserved flak. Despite this, it continues to find a fanbase, as evidenced by its consistently high ranking on sites like Crunchyroll. Here's a look at how one of today's worst anime has become one of its most popular.
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Like nearly every isekai series, The Rising of the Shield Hero began life as a light novel series before becoming a manga and finally, in 2019, an anime. The plot follows Naofumi Iwatani, a college student who is suddenly transported to a magical fantasy world. After discovering the Book of Four Heroes in this world, he is greeted by three other men and is designated as the titular Shield Hero.
Unfortunately for him, everything goes downhill from there. He's not exactly charismatic among the chosen heroes, having been something of an outcast in his original world. This leads to only one female - a cardinal sin in the harem filled worlds of isekai anime - to join his party and, once she does, she falsely accuses him of raping her. From there, he has to learn how to thrive as a hero in a world where his reputation is lower than dirt.
RELATED: Shield Hero or Reincarnated as a Slime: Which is the Better Isekai?
Fittingly, the show's own reputation and critical reception are lower than dirt, and for good reason. Thestory kicking off with the hero being falsely accused of rape was especially controversial, with many seeing it as being at odds with the zeitgeist of the #MeToo movement, if not wholly opposing it. This led to many Western fans in particular criticizing the series for its casual misogyny, though the sentiment was significantly less felt in Japan. Regardless, though this plot point is played for laughs, many felt that the confines of a fantasy isekai might not be the best place to handle such a serious topic.
The show has also been accused of supporting slavery. Early on, the protagonist actually buys a slave girl and, instead of immediately freeing her or even feeling conflicted over the fact that she's a slave, Naofumikeeps her enslaved to him. Some have excused the plot element through the show's medieval setting, as well as the fact that the hero doesn't treat his slave in a degrading or dehumanizing way. Within the show, Naofumi justifies his needing a slave by saying that no one else would willingly work with him due to his fractured reputation. This hasn't helped the character's real life reputation as an "incel self-insert" who feels put upon by the world.
Even without these unsavory elements, the show itself is just another generic isekai show, and a poorly done one at that. This is exacerbated further by Naofumi constantly winning in some form or fashion, despite him supposedly being the world's victim. He wins fights with relative ease- despite his inexperience with the fantasy game world. Far more experienced gamers and fighters pale in comparison to the awesomeness of Naofumi...for some reason. Other characters also constantly come off as incredibly dumb, either blindly worshiping Naofumiorsimply acting stupid for the sake of the plot.
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Despite all of these legitimate issues, the show continues to develop an audience. Crunchyroll revealed that it was in their Top 20 list of the currently most popular series, in the same ranking as much more acclaimed shows like My Hero Academia, Narutoand One Piece.One justification for the questionable series' popularity is the current wave of other generic, poorly constructed isekai shows that seem to somehow find a loyal audience. The genre is currently plaguing anime as a whole, much as the harem genre had in years before.
The controversial elements might actually be a boon for the show's popularity. Some viewers may seek out Shield Herobecause of its taboo, almost risque reputation, while others might even sympathize with the protagonist. This would justify the show's label as an "incel fantasy," but it would also explain why rampant criticism has failed to break the show's viewership. Another interesting explanation for why the show is so widely watched may be its cult status in the West. The source material was one of the first web light novels to be translated into English, opening a new world of potential readers, and eventually viewers, to an underdog, no-name web novel author. This Western cult status is ironic, given that the West is where the series has seen the majority of its criticism. Nevertheless, the show's popularity, much like its eponymous hero, continues to rise, and it certainly won't be the last generic isekai to get more notoriety than it deserves.
KEEP READING: Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045's Sustainable War & Post-Humans, Explained
Wolverine: How Logan's Long-Lost Brother Finally Brought the X-Man Down
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Posted: at 6:43 am
In 1912 thousands of supporters of the suffrage movement marched past the New York salon of Elizabeth Arden. The cosmetics brand founder, who had just opened her business two years earlier, was a supporter of womens rights, and she aligned herself with the cause by handing out tubes of bright red lipstick to the marching women.
Suffrage leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman loved red lipstick for its ability to shock men, and protesters donned the bold colour en masse, adopting it as a sign of rebellion and liberation.
There could not be a more perfect symbol of suffragettes than red lipstick, because its not just powerful, its female, said Rachel Felder, author of last years Red Lipstick: An Ode to a Beauty Icon, in a phone interview. Suffragettes were about female strength, not just strength.
Throughout the centuries red lipstick has signalled many things, from its early use by the elite in ancient Egypt and by prostitutes in ancient Greece, to its status in early Hollywood as a symbol of glamor. In its many hues, this colour on lips has been a mighty cultural weapon, charged with thousands of centuries of meaning. Red lipstick is truly a way to trace cultural history and societal zeitgeist, Felder said.
Until lipstick was popularised in the early 20th century, red lips were often associated with morally dubious women: impolite, sexually amoral, even heretical. In the Dark Ages, red lips were seen as a sign of commingling with the devil. The makeup was associated with this mysterious, frightening femininity, Felder said.
Then, Felders book explains, as the American suffrage movement adopted red lips, their international counterparts did, too.
As womens rights movements spread across Europe, New Zealand and Australia, with British and American organisers often sharing tactics, from organising marches, to hunger strikes, to more aggressive militant strategies. And this solidarity extended to their makeup. Inspired by her American counterparts, British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst favoured a red lip, which helped spread the symbolic gesture among her fellow activists.
Though suffragettes popularised the red-lip look in their day, Felder notes that there was already momentum to normalise lipstick among women more generally, as they dropped restrictive corsets for brassieres, and started to adopt more streamlined silhouettes, designed by the likes of Coco Chanel.
After the suffragettes wore red lipstick, the exuberant flappers of the Roaring Twenties followed suit. And while suffragettes may not have been solely responsible for popularising a painted lip, they embodied the idea of the modern woman in Europe and America, Felder pointed out.
During World War II, red lips had their bold second act of defiance. Adolf Hitler famously hated red lipstick, Felder said. In Allied countries, wearing it became a sign of patriotism and a statement against fascism. When taxes made lipstick prohibitively expensive in the UK, women stained their lips with beet juice instead.
As men went off to war and women filled their professional roles back home, they donned red lips to enter the workforce. It showed their resilience in the face of conflict, Felder explained, and offered a sense of normalcy in difficult times. It allowed women to retain a sense of their own self-identity from before the war. J. Howard Millers illustration of Rosie the Riveter, the cultural icon who was used to recruit and empower American female factory workers, notably had cherry-daubed lips.
In 1941 and for the duration of the war, red lipstick became mandatory for women who joined the US Army. Beauty brands had capitalised on the wartime trend, with Elizabeth Arden releasing Victory Red and Helena Rubenstein introducing Regimental Red, among others. But it was Arden who the American government asked to create a regulation lip and nail colour for serving women. Her Montezuma Red matched and accentuated their uniforms red piping.
Wearing red lipstick for a woman in that era was so linked to a sense of feminine self-esteem, particularly, resilient and strong female self-esteem, said Felder, who has herself worn the beauty staple nearly every day since high school. After the war, classic Hollywood actresses like Elizabeth Taylor added a layer of glamour to the confident look.
Today, other protest symbols for womens empowerment have become widespread, notably the pink pussy hat that dominated the 2017 Womens March; and the habit from The Handmaids Tale which has been worn internationally for womens causes, including pro-choice demonstrations.
Yet red lips still pack a punch. In a viral image from 2015, a Macedonian woman kissed an officers riot shield during an anti-government protest, leaving a red kiss mark in a poignant moment of rebellion.
In 2018 in Nicaragua, women and men wore red lipstick and uploaded photos of themselves to social media to show their support for the release of anti-government protesters. They were reacting to activist Marln Chow, who defied her interrogators by applying red lipstick.
Last December, nearly 10,000 women in Chile took to the streets wearing black blindfolds, red scarves, and red lips to denounce sexual violence in the country.
By wearing red lips, protesters all over the world have tapped into the same power the suffrage movement once plumbed a century earlier. In this bold, defiant beauty statement, their legacy lives on.
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‘Crip Camp’: two disability rights activists and their summer of love – The Jewish News of Northern California
Posted: April 26, 2020 at 12:45 am
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution is a new documentary on Netflix about a summer camp for disabled kids in upstate New York. Founded in 1951, by the early 70s it was run largely by hippies. Some of those counterculture-era campers went on to become high-caliber activists who teamed up to bring about big changes in civil rights laws, notably the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
The 108-minute film is worth viewing on its own merits it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it won the audience favorite award but it also features a number of local ties.
It was co-directed by Bay Area filmmakers Jim LeBrecht (a former camper) and Nicole Newnham, and produced by them along with Sara Bolder of Oakland. LeBrecht and Newnham will take part in a live discussion of the film sponsored by the Jewish Film Institute on May 7 at noon.
Among those prominently featured in the film are Neil Jacobson and Denise Sherer Jacobson, an Oakland Jewish couple who met at Camp Jened as teens in 1968. Denise, now 70, served as a consultant on Crip Camp and was the person who came up with the provocative title (crip being the disability communitys reclaiming of the historically derogatory term cripple).
The documentary profiles a summer of love at Camp Jened in the Catskills. But the campers connections and thirst for their civil rights extended beyond their summer idyll, as many went on to become architects of the disability rights movement.
The film follows them staging the 1977 national protests known as the 504 Sit-in, demanding enactment of Section 504 to put teeth in federal legislation that had been passed in 1973 to end discrimination against disabled people. In San Francisco, the Black Panthers fed the protesters and the Salvation Army provided them with mattresses. By 1990, theyd achieved passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The documentary includes interviews with LeBrecht (who attended the camp at age 15), disability rights pioneer Judy Heumann (a counselor at the camp), and Neil and Denise (native New Yorkers, each with cerebral palsy).
Years later, Neil and Denise came to the East Bay as graduate students, got married and adopted a son (chronicled in Denises book The Question of David). They became successful professionals and career activists; theyre also members of Temple Sinai in Oakland, where Neil serves on the board of trustees.
The son of Holocaust survivors, Jacobson, 67, said in an interview for this story that having a boy with a severe disability was devastating to [my parents]. In the Holocaust, disability equated to death. They were determined that I be independent in order to survive.
Denise, an oral historian in addition to having a career as an educator, recounted how the film and its title came about. Part of the story has to do with her recently completed but yet-to-be-published book, My Camp Jened Summer: A Teenage Misfits Tale of Love, Heartache, and Belonging.
In 2011, Jim [LeBrecht] and I bumped into each other in Berkeley, she said. I was working on my memoirs of camp, and Jim had always dreamed of making a film about camp. Wed get together from time to time to discuss it. One day we were bantering [about] titles and I threw out Crip Camp. It was an off-the-cuff thing, but it stuck. I had second thoughts later because I wasnt sure how the disability community or the public would receive it.
For starters, her now-husband was taken aback that is, he said, until I realized what a great eye-opener it is. It shows that theres a disability community with its own culture, that enjoys life.
The camp closed in 1977, but reopened at another New York location in 1980, before succumbing to financial difficulties once again in 2009 and shutting its doors for good.
Jened was transformative, Denise recalled. Outside camp, we lived in a world all too ready to label, stereotype and exclude us because of our disabilities. At Jened, we could escape the restrictions and stereotypes society had ascribed to us as people with disabilities since the time we were children.
In addition, she continued, Jened fostered my sense that I could be of help to others. As a camper, I was expected to assist my bunkmates. Before I went to Jened at age 16, I always got the message that I would always be the one needing help.
No less important than the camps emphasis on individual potential was the exposure it afforded campers via its mostly college-age staff of ex-campers, hippies and anti-war activists to the revolutionary zeitgeist of the civil rights movement and Vietnam War protests. Campers and staff were there to have fun together, as equals, Neil said.
The film includes a tour of the camp, captured some 50 years ago by a teenage LeBrecht, that shows the secluded places where campers would go with their girlfriends or boyfriends at night.
If you have any doubts about what we did, Neil said as a bit of teaser, watch the film. One of the women counselors taught me how to kiss. One of the best physical therapies ever!
That was part of the magic of Camp Jened. Rather than treating its disabled campers with kid gloves, it recognized them as the boisterous, hormonal teenagers they were.
Denise and I have spoken at a few Crip Camp Q&A sessions, Neil said. Im surprised that the focus [of the questions] has been mainly on [the films] advocacy aspects and little on the camaraderie and social aspects. Disability isnt always heavy. Having fun, fully living life, enjoying family and friends are just as important.
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The Labour Left Didn’t Start With Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership, And It Won’t End There Either – Jacobin magazine
Posted: at 12:45 am
Review of Leo Panitch and Colin Leys, Searching for Socialism: The Project of the Labour New Left from Benn to Corbyn (Verso Books, 2020)
With Jeremy Corbyn having now departed from the leadership of Britains Labour Party, the postmortems have begun in earnest. For bien-pensant liberal and conservative pundits a ubiquitous presence in the British media Corbynism could only ever have ended in a historic election defeat. Such accounts usually erase the memory of the 2017 general election, when, under Corbyns leadership, Labour came close to unseating the Conservatives on an ambitious left-of-center manifesto.
But with Labour having now lost four consecutive general elections in a decade, under party leaders from its right, center, and left wings respectively, its clear that more fundamental factors underlie the partys current crisis.
Searching for Socialism, a fresh study of Labours New Left by Leo Panitch and Colin Leys, thankfully provides the kind of historical context so commonly absent from mainstream discussion. A follow-up to their earlier volume, The End of Parliamentary Socialism, the book condenses and reprises the thesis of its predecessor, while taking stock of the turbulent Corbyn era and Labours heavy loss in Decembers general election.
Panitch and Leys explore the contentious relationship of Labours New Left to social democracy, working to defend its gains while aiming to go beyond them. They trace the story of this current from its initial origins in the second half of the 1960s through its efforts to transform Labour beyond recognition in the 1970s and 80s, and the myriad controversies flowing from those struggles.
They then conclude by assessing Corbynism which marked the first time that the Labour New Left had won the party leadership and the furious, scorched-earth counteroffensive with which it was met by Labours entrenched old guard.
Labours New Left first started to take shape under the leadership of Harold Wilson. Having led Labour into government in 1964, Wilson initially inspired considerable enthusiasm among British socialists. He had a seemingly radical past: a former confrere of Aneurin Bevan, Wilson had resigned from Clement Attlees government along with his mentor in 1951, in protest at the introduction of charges for some NHS services.
Wilson also had a notable talent for double-talk, as Panitch and Leys note, and came to office promising to unleash the white heat of a technological revolution, shaking up Britains decrepit class structure and marching boldly into a new era of change. But Wilson had the misfortune to govern just as the long postwar capitalist boom was showing signs of faltering. A generation of trade unionists had grown up in an acquisitive, affluent society, and many realized that the reality of their own lives didnt measure up to the images with which they were bombarded by television and advertising.
Simultaneously, a new intellectual ferment was taking hold in the universities, as movements oriented toward anti-imperialist, feminist, and anti-racist causes similarly tested the boundaries of the social-democratic consensus. Forging unity between the two strands of this New Left would prove onerous, but they shared a disdain for the traditional parties of social democracy.
In spite of this tension, there was a drift of New Left activists into the Labour Party after Wilsons government fell in 1970. The limitations of fragmented and often localized activity had become apparent to these activists through experience, and they turned to Labour in the hope of scaling up their campaigns.
Their goal was to turn Labour into a pole of attraction around which social movements could coalesce, and to make it a vehicle for raising socialist consciousness as well as an electoral machine. The consequences for the party over the following decade both at the national level and in local government would be profound.
Tony Benn provided the burgeoning Labour New Left with the leadership it had hitherto lacked. By the mid-1970s, it had proven itself as a force to be reckoned with, both in the party and in the trade unions. Previously a modernizing and broadly centrist Labour technocrat who seemed to be in tune with the Wilson zeitgeist, Benn had been radicalized by the frustration of his experience in government, and he saw more clearly than most the threat posed by the emerging New Right. To preserve the gains made by social democracy in the postwar period, Benn argued, it was essential to go beyond them.
Panitch and Leys are quick to debunk common stereotypes that claim the Bennites failed to come to terms with the inexorable rise of globalization. In fact, it was precisely because they recognized the threat a more mobile regime of capital movement would pose to the postwar social compact that they felt it necessary to respond by subordinating capital movements to popular needs. Labours 1974 manifesto, which famously contained Benns ringing call for a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of wealth and power in favour of working people and their families, bore the unmistakable stamp of the New Left.
Though Labour returned to government in 1974, the Bennite left had imposed a left-wing program on a party leadership that essentially didnt believe in it. Benn himself sought to use his new position as industry secretary to pursue experimental new models of worker ownership and economic democracy. In doing so, he faced opposition from an uncomprehending Labour leadership, the mainstream press, and his own civil servants, all at once. After the 1975 referendum on membership of Europes common market, in which Benn had campaigned unsuccessfully for Britains withdrawal, Harold Wilson took the opportunity to demote the troublesome minister.
After Wilson stood down as prime minister in 1976, his successor, James Callaghan, took to the rostrum at the Labour Party conference to signal a final abandonment of Keynesianism, in a speech that would be warmly received by none other than Milton Friedman. We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending, Callaghan informed delegates and media onlookers. I tell you in all candor that that option no longer exists.
The focus of the Bennites thus turned to democratizing the Labour Partys constitution so that, in future, party leaders could not disregard rank-and-file opinion so casually. The reforms they sought included mandatory reselection of sitting Labour MPs (in effect, forcing them to seek a renewed endorsement from their local party before each general election), and granting ordinary party and union members the right to vote in Labour leadership elections.
Democratizing the Labour Party was, in the eyes of the Bennites, a necessary precursor to the future democratization of the British state. Favorable political changes in the trade unions greatly assisted their campaign: many unions were moving leftward at this time, depriving party leaders of the iron control they had previously exerted over Labour conferences.
Tony Benns concern with party democracy was neither an opportunistic way of boosting his own leadership prospects nor a fetish. For him, democracy was a prerequisite for building mass popular support for and involvement in radical social change. Benn saw himself primarily as a tribune and a teacher, raising the sights of the exploited and oppressed. A future socialist Labour government was to serve, in Benns words, as the liberator unlocking the cells in which people live.
He recognized that neither the Labour Party nor the trade unions had offered any serious program of political education, satisfying themselves instead with a reformed capitalism. As the 1970s wore on and the crisis deepened, the diminishing value of this approach, and the impossibility of continuing in the same vein, became ever clearer.
However, this campaign for party democracy met with aggressive pushback from Labours main power holders. As a result, the Bennite New Left was forced to devote huge amounts of energy to overcoming the internal resistance it encountered inside the party. As Panitch and Leys observe, it became preoccupied with that intraparty struggle and was left with little energy for doing anything else outside it.
By comparison, the Thatcherite takeover of the Conservative Party only faced half-hearted opposition. While the Bennites were bogged down in internecine warfare, the Thatcherites were able to quickly get on with addressing their doctrine to the wider public.
Some Labour MPs compounded this problem by peddling lurid tales of hard-left sectarianism and intolerance to a media that was only too eager to consume them. Attempts by constituency parties to replace right-wing Labour MPs saw the targets swiftly elevated to martyr status in newspaper and broadcast coverage.
Although the Bennites succeeded in extending the franchise for Labour leadership elections and securing mandatory reselection of sitting MPs, it proved to be a step too far for some and split the party. Twenty-eight Labour MPs decamped to the breakaway Social Democratic Party after it was formed in 1981.
This fissure in the anti-Tory vote proved to be devastating, and the Thatcher government having come through a fraught early period, including a sharp recession was well placed to take advantage.
Before the new system for leadership elections could be introduced, however, Labours parliamentary party installed Michael Foot as leader under the old arrangements. Foot was another acolyte of Bevan, about whom he had written a poignant two-volume biography. But Foot was no longer the radical hero of the Labour left, having served as one of the key mainstays of the unpopular WilsonCallaghan governments of 197479.
While Foot did pursue some left-wing policies as Labour leader, including unilateral nuclear disarmament, he sought above all to play the role of unifier, ensuring that his leadership would be defined by its bumbling incoherence, trying to placate all sides and satisfying none. In any case, the first beneficiary of the electoral-college system for electing Labour leaders was Neil Kinnock, who greatly accelerated the counterrevolution against the Bennite New Left.
Elected leader after Labours colossal defeat in the 1983 general election, Kinnock was confronted by a divided, demoralized Left that was unsure of how to approach him. As a protg of Foot, Kinnock had his own left-wing credentials. Previously supportive trade unions, now suffering badly under the Thatcherite assault, had abandoned the Bennites. The all-consuming priority in Labour was ending Thatcherism, without any clear idea of what to replace it with.
The Labour New Left split in two: some regrouped around Marxism Today, house journal of the Eurocommunist wing of Britains Communist Party, while others formed the Socialist Campaign Group, a parliamentary faction of Bennite die-hards. As Marxism Today gravitated toward a new radicalism of the centre and (in some cases, inadvertently) laid the foundations for New Labour, the Campaign Group retreated to a more workerist position, devoid of much of its old creativity, and hunkered down for hard times ahead.
With the Bennite left all but vanquished, the advent of New Labour saw the party reconcile itself (seemingly for good) with neoliberal capitalism. Tony Blairs giddy embrace of light-touch financial regulation, privatization, and imperialist wars of aggression made him a hated figure on what remained of the Labour left.
That left faction was, however, ill-equipped to resist as Blair did away with timeworn Labour shibboleths, most notably Sidney Webbs 1918 Clause IV, with its commitment to state ownership. In any case, few seriously believed by the mid-1990s that Labour was committed to reversing the privatizations of the Thatcher years, let alone doing anything more radical.
Blair led Labour to three election wins, but the music finally stopped for New Labour when the global financial system went into meltdown in 2008, and Gordon Brown led the party to a bad defeat two years later. The financial crisis and the austerity that followed under David Cameron largely erased the modest gains of thirteen years of social reform under Blair and Brown, as Panitch and Leys point out. A reluctant rebellion against Labours long rightward drift finally began to crystallize, first in the trade unions and then in the party itself.
Ed Miliband became Labour leader in 2010, promising to move on from New Labour, but he was elected on the back of the votes of trade unionists, not those of party members. His brother, die-hard Blairite David Miliband, won 44 percent of the Labour membership vote, compared to just under 30 percent for Ed. The constituency Labour parties, for so long strongholds of the Left, had been hollowed out.
Lacking organized support, either within the Parliamentary Labour Party or in the constituencies, Miliband was browbeaten into adopting an uninspiring austerity-lite platform as the ToryLiberal Democrat coalition government tore chunks out of Britains welfare state. The result was another Labour defeat in 2015, including a near-total collapse in Scotland a canary in the mine for the partys near future.
Miliband immediately resigned, and the Labour leadership election that summer started in bleak fashion, as candidates from the partys right and center competed to disown Milibands allegedly excessive radicalism. With the Labour right flagellating itself about New Labours public-spending record, it fell to the depleted forces of the Bennite left to defend the more progressive aspects of the Blairite settlement.
Grassroots members pushed for an alternative. The end result was the impromptu candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn, a follower and close friend of Tony Benn, who squeezed onto the ballot at the very last minute, yet was elected on the first round with nearly 60 percent of the vote under a new one member, one vote system.
Corbyn was widely respected as a dogged campaigner who had used his parliamentary platform to promote a range of often marginal causes, and who had been active in the anti-cuts movement after 2010. He brought hundreds of thousands of new recruits with him, many of whom had been formed by that movement.
However, once Corbyn assumed his position as Labour leader in September 2015, he found himself isolated. The Campaign Group had withered to barely a dozen MPs, forcing the new leader to assemble a shadow cabinet with a center of political gravity well to his right.
That shadow cabinet fell apart when most of its members resigned en masse in coordinated fashion after the European referendum of 2016, forcing another leadership election. Corbyn was reelected as Labour leader by an increased margin, but his opponents never accepted his legitimacy, and the Tory leader Theresa May called the 2017 general election in a bid to capitalize on Labours palpable discomfort.
Scores of Corbyns MPs openly despised him, barely concealing their willingness to throw the election if it forced him out. In similar fashion, senior Labour Party bureaucrats engaged in an unprecedented wrecking campaign, the details of which are only now coming to light. The malicious mindset at work will be familiar to supporters of Bernie Sanders.
Even so, Labour deprived the Tories of their parliamentary majority, with the campaigning group Momentum formed to support Corbyns leadership in 2015 playing an instrumental role.
However, the 2017 election had contradictory consequences. As Panitch and Leys detail, a rousing grassroots campaign reenergized Labour, but the partys focus then shifted back toward Westminster precisely where Corbyn was at his weakest as Brexit came to the crunch. The mass repudiation of neoliberalism that Corbyn had spearheaded in 2017 soon dissipated, as his party returned to the grind of parliamentary maneuvering.
The prospects of meaningful party reform likewise died at this point: with a socialist-led Labour government seemingly an imminent possibility, Corbyn prioritized holding the parliamentary party together over democratizing Labour. His concessions, however, earned him no goodwill from the Labour right.
Meanwhile, the issue of Brexit tore Corbyns fragile base apart. The Labour left could neither make a convincing case for a left-wing Brexit it was evident, as Corbyn acknowledged, that the nationalist right was in the ideological saddle nor could it offer a plausible strategy for democratizing European institutions from within. Corbyns supporters in the party were badly split on the matter, and they argued rancorously among themselves.
Belatedly, Corbyn ended up calling for a second referendum on Brexit, a stance that not only failed to fire up most of his supporters, but also alienated many voters in those Labour-held rust belt constituencies that had voted Leave in 2016.
Much of the Labour right, sensing an opportunity, had latched on to the anti-Brexit cause with a view to maximizing Corbyns embarrassment and splintering his support base. They succeeded in that aim, at least, but some of them paid for it with their jobs in Decembers election: fifty-two of the sixty seats Labour lost had voted Leave three and a half years earlier. In the process, they helped hand a mandate for a hard Brexit to Boris Johnsons Conservatives, before the COVID-19 pandemic intervened.
Corbyns attempt to renew and reimagine social democracy for a new era was successfully undone by his inner-party opponents, who made such a fuss of claiming the social-democratic label for themselves, without making any effort to explain what they took it to mean.
Leo Panitch has remarked elsewhere that the responsibility for maintaining Labour Party unity bears down heaviest on its left wing: it is more easily guilted, always. Keir Starmers appeal for unity has resonated with a tired party membership guilt-stricken by Decembers defeat, winning over many erstwhile Corbynites.
Starmer has implied that he will keep party policy well to the left of where it was before Jeremy Corbyns leadership. If he is serious in this aim, he will have to face down opposition from the Labour right in a way that both Miliband and Corbyn were unable to do, which seems most unlikely.
To understand the bitterness of Labours internal rivalries under Corbyn, we need to appreciate the fundamental nature of the divisions within the party. Labour has always been a fractious and borderline incoherent coalition of divergent perspectives. Simply holding the party together as a serious electoral force and a prospective party of government, then, necessitates certain ideological elisions.
The result has been, as Raymond Williams once noted, an evident poverty in theory in Labour, as any attempt to go beyond quite general definitions leads at once to strains on this complicated alliance. Corbyns unlikely rise to the party leadership instantly brought these latent tensions to the boil.
In the Labour Party, mutually antagonistic political projects primarily those of reformist socialism and centrist liberalism are squeezed together, cheek by jowl, in the same unwieldy political vehicle. The intense antipathy between its warring camps suggests that this is not because of any shared commitment to pluralism.
In truth, Labours much-mythologized broad church remains welded together primarily by the need to adapt to a first-past-the-post electoral system that punishes splits severely as underlined by the fact that Change UK, a centrist breakaway from Labour formed in February 2019, had dissolved completely by the end of the year.
And what of Momentum? With a membership that peaked somewhere north of forty thousand, the organization quickly established itself as a highly effective campaigning machine, mobilizing many thousands of Labour activists in the general elections of 2017 and 2019.
It had plenty of practice: the 2016 challenge to Corbyns leadership, which saw sizable pro-Corbyn rallies take place in towns and cities across Britain, turned out to be a useful dress rehearsal for the general-election campaign of the following year. Its social-media presence, at least at its very best, has been witty, sharp, and provocative.
But Momentum has had far less success in reorienting Labour toward social movements, or with socialist political education, notwithstanding its original intentions. It has been overwhelmed by its responsibilities, forced to serve simultaneously as get-out-the-vote operation, propaganda outfit, factional organizing vehicle, and Praetorian Guard for an embattled party leader.
Its progress in reforming the party has thus been very limited, and Labours structures remain essentially unchanged since 2015. It would be fairly easy for Starmer to roll back the modest reforms made under Corbyn; an undeniably poor return for four and a half years of acrid civil war.
As Jeremy Corbyn departs the political limelight to see out the remainder of his career on the Westminster backbenches, he does so to a chorus of derisive hooting from his many adversaries. He has done well just to survive the extraordinary campaign of vilification directed at him.
Corbyns supporters were similarly demonized. In fact, so splenetic was the screaming vitriol circulating in the press and right-wing social media circles that two elderly Labour canvassers came away from the campaign trail last December with broken bones. The British media, normally so scrupulous about upholding standards of civility in politics, took minimal interest in such attacks.
Undoubtedly, Corbyn had his failings as Labour leader, some of them major. Yet he also generated heartfelt enthusiasm, renewed interest in socialism after decades on the margins, and inspired a movement several-hundred-thousand strong: achievements that none of his detractors are ever likely to match.
Crestfallen and badly disoriented though that movement is now, the grievances that fueled it rampant inequalities of wealth and power, deep-seated social alienation, the injustices of a decade of cuts, and the impending threat of climate breakdown remain. The history supplied by Panitch and Leys provides us with a valuable and timely reminder that, for all the defeats it has suffered over the years, Labours New Left current has been stubbornly resilient.
Its worth noting the apparent change in what Panitch and Leys have to say about the prospects for socialist advance through the Labour Party. The authors had previously concluded in The End of Parliamentary Socialism that the failure of Bennism and the rise of New Labour settled the question of whether Labour could be a vehicle for socialist politics: the answer was no. In Searching for Socialism, by contrast, they acknowledge that the revived Labour left is unlikely to see any other way forward than continuing the struggle inside the Labour Party.
The failure of Europes new left parties to make the hoped-for breakthrough hangs heavy here: the eclipse of Syriza after showing such early promise was particularly shattering. Other left parties, such as Podemos, have, as Panitch and Leys note, at best served as minor partners in coalitions with mainstream social-democratic parties and even that is likely to be more than any British equivalent could hope for, so long as the first-past-the-post system remains in place.
But the authors do see 2019 as a kind of watershed, and an indication that the generation of Labour leftists that came to maturity in the 1970s can no longer take that project any further. Instead, those drawn into Labour by the Corbynite insurgency must find their own way forward, discovering and developing new political forms in the process.
It might take a while, but Corbynisms scattered forces will regroup, rebuild, and resume their struggle. There remains a world to win, though we may be short of time in which to do it.
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Posted: at 12:44 am
For many decades, the Horological Holy Trinity has consisted of Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. These three pillars of traditional Swiss watchmaking produce exquisite, historically important, valuable timepieces. Theyre unimpeachable. (And, yes, watch aficionados actually speak of this trio as The Holy Trinity.) For many watch collectors, owning at least one of each is mandatory for gaining entrance into horological heaven.
Among us mortals, however, there is a New Holy Trinity emerging: Grand Seiko, Nomos, and Tudor. I hadnt seen the light of this new Holy Trinity until my friend the author Gary Shteyngart a man well known for succinct and brilliant insights casually rattled it off one day. I owe my conversion experience entirely to Gary, and it is with his permission and my gratitude that I share his reformist vision of the new horological religion.
The original Holy Trinity (Vacheron, Patek, & AP) is out of reach for many of us because their watches are so expensive. And that Holy Trinity may be a bit too old-school. It might even be out of style. But the quest to commune with a three-headed horological god still compels us devoted watch worshipers.
Three is a powerful number. It is significant across religions, where three-headed gods occupy the highest of holy echelons. Three is the first odd prime number, and the second of all primes divisible only by itself and the great unifier, One. We mortals can perceive just three dimensions, and we can do so much with those three dimensions. And our eyes are trichromatic, seeing just three colors and blending them infinitely into our gorgeous experiences of reality. You can do a lot with three of something, and that even extends to a small watch collection able to cover just about every situation we might find ourselves in. And with Grand Seiko, Nomos, and Tudor, you can have it all. These three brands share a number of attributes that elevate their timepieces to holiness:
The Sacred In-House Movement All three brands offer in-house movements, a most sacred attribute among devoted watch aficionados. Grand Seikos movements are highly evolved mechanisms with roots going back to the 1940s and 50s. Nomos, a German company, produces beautiful and rather original movements in Glashtte. (Their balance bridge and free-sprung balance wheel are especially worthy of worship.) Tudor has been introducing in-house movements in many of their watches lately, elevating the brand up Mount Horology to sit alongside its Titan Father, Rolex.
Worship-Worthy Value Attitudes toward luxury have shifted to include a new emphasis on value. Its no longer necessarily in vogue to spend wildly and ostentatiously display ones expensive watch. Good value is worshiped now along with great quality and excellent style, and Grand Seiko, Nomos and Tudor offer some of the best value, quality, and style in timepieces today.
Alignment with the Mysteries of the Zeitgeist If only the marketeers could predict or better, create trends. They just cant do it, and the ability of a watch to capture the spirit of its moment remains a mystery to even the most astute analysis of culture. The dark forces at play here, shrouded in the vagaries of the lightning-fast global economy, have somehow not eluded Grand Seiko, Nomos, and Tudor. These brands seem to have dipped their timepieces in stardust that casts a spell on those who behold them.
Deep Roots Though Grand Seiko, Nomos, and Tudor form a new Holy Trinity, these companies have deep roots in horological traditions. Grand Seiko was formed in the middle of the 20th Century as a high-end expression of Japanese craftsmanship, and the brand employs thousand-year-old techniques in small workshops across Japan to produce some of the most transcendent dials, markers, and hands made today.
Nomos formed in 1990 after the Berlin Wall fell, setting up shop in Glashtte with a spirit of democracy and modernity that rings throughout the companys ethos today, a bright light of hope and free-market ingenuity shining where a dark cloud of dictatorial fascism once loomed. Tudor has roots reaching back to the minister of sport-oriented watch worship himself, Hans Wilsdorf, founder of Rolex. Tudor was, and still is, the more affordable little brother of the Rolex brand, but is no longer bound to house 3rd-party movements as Rolex once mandated in order to meet standards of affordability. Tudor worship today is a religion in its own right.
The Good Works of the New Holy Trinity As a Holy Trinity, Grand Seiko, Nomos, and Tudor offer an incredible variety of timepieces that, taken collectively, inhabit just about every niche an horological devotee could want to explore. Here, we examine three examples from each of the three new horological gods, each a manifestation of their good works.
Nicknamed the Snowflake, this watch has captivated people around the world with its textured white dial that glistens like freshly fallen snow on Mt. Fuji. The genre-defying Spring Drive movement uses a self-powered mechanism combined with an integrated circuit to power a perfectly smooth seconds hand. Considered by many to be the most significant movement development since Seiko brought quartz to the market in the late 1960s, the SBGA211 watch may just reconcile the differences between art, science, and religion.Diameter: 41mmPrice: $5,800
With a dial intended to replicate autumn leaves reflecting off a black lacquered floor in a traditional Japanese home, and a flecked titanium rotor in bright green meant to represent summer leaves prior to their seasonal turning, this watch reads like verses from the scriptures of horology. An in-house Hi-Beat movement ticks 36,000 times per hour, offering unparalleled accuracy and a smooth sweeping seconds hand. Grand Seiko refuses to reveal the mysteries of how this dial is crafted.Diameter: 39.5mmPrice: $6,400
To celebrate Grand Seikos 60th Anniversary, this watch recreates the very first watch from the revered Japanese manufacture. With no date, a hand-wound in-house movement, a titanium case, and a deep blue dial that transcends earthly hues, this watch carries the weight of its elegant history in its ultra-light body.Diameter: 38mmPrice: $8,000
Orion dominates our night sky with its familiar rows of three stars each, but in Nomoss world, the Orion is more like the North Star, having consistently guided the brand from its earliest days. This is spiritual minimalism, providing a quiet mechanical refuge to souls grown weary of the hecticness of the digital age. Though the Orion is available in many sizes and with either a handwound or an automatic in-house movement, the 35mm Rose stands out for its dreamy, pink champagne dial and gold markers and hands.Diameter: 35mmPrice: $2,360
Nomos is known for the use of bold, Bauhaus-inpsired color schemes, and the Club range of watches offers sporty looks in a wide selection of bold and funky hues. The Siren White houses an in-house Minimatik auto-winding movement, and the white dial gleams in contrast against the blued-steel hands and bright red luminescent markers.Diameter: 37mmPrice: $3,160
Earthly in orientation, heavenly in execution, this watch is the most complicated from Nomos to date. With a uniquely skeletonized dial that shows two time zones as well as cities from around the world, the watch features an in-house movement that achieves maximum efficiency of operation through just one pusher to advance local time.Diameter: 40mmPrice: $6,100
An in-house GMT movement in an incredible-looking watch for $4,050? Thats exactly the kind of value that New Holy Trinity represents. The familiar Pepsi bezel speaks of the Rolex GMT Master of the 20th Century, but the matte ceramic bezel insert and signature snowflake hands of the Tudor Black Bay GMT assure no one is going to confuse the two.Diameter: 41mmPrice: $4,050
Housing an in-house movement that meets the stringent COSC accuracy standards, the Black Bay Bronzes gray-to-black faded dial and bronze case cast a steampunky shadow-spell on all who behold it. Even if youre descending to the depths of hell, this incredibly rugged and accurate dive watch will see you through to the light.Diameter: 43mmPrice: $4,150
In-house COSC-rated movement. Light titanium case. Durable enough to go anywhere and withstand anything. The Pelagos may just be Tudors most badass dive watch. And for those who are tired of the vintage-inspired trends (though it certainly features some throwback influences), the Pelagos will show you The Power of Now.Diameter: 42mmPrice: $4,575
Originally posted here:
Posted: at 12:44 am
MY OLDEST SON was 5, in his second month of kindergarten, when his teacher asked why his dad hadn't been seen in the pickup line for a couple of weeks. "He's living with Dennis Rodman," my son answered, dripping nonchalance, as if this were a task every Catholic-school dad would eventually get around to completing.
The living arrangement was brief, roughly two weeks in the fall of 1995, and more of a necessity than a choice. I was working under an extreme deadline to write Rodman's autobiography, "Bad As I Wanna Be," and having prescribed interview times -- "From 9 to noon, we'll cover the prairie years" -- was not something that meshed with the Rodman lifestyle. So I headed to Southern California to camp out with him and his then-agent, Dwight Manley, a world-renowned coin expert who represented exactly zero other athletes at the time. Two weeks with Dennis Rodman in the mid-'90s might sound like a thrilling setup, but in reality, most of my time was spent in a panicked attempt to get Rodman to focus on telling the stories that needed to become a book in less than three months. The enduring image of that time in my life is Dennis, wearing Zubaz, lounging on a couch with a remote in his hand while I sit in a pool of my own sweat, trying to hear whatever he's mumbling over the roar of the television.
From Detroit to San Antonio to Chicago, from his appearance and his antics to his brilliance and his exuberance, Dennis Rodman crafted a Hall of Fame career on his way to winning five NBA titles in all. Watch on ESPN+
There were also moments that nestled perfectly into the mid-'90s zeitgeist: a Saturday morning at a nail salon in Beverly Hills, a block off Rodeo Drive, me sitting at the juice bar wearing scraggly basketball shorts -- I was told it was a casual outing -- while I waited for Dennis to get his nails painted a nice rosy pink. He didn't have an appointment -- fame doesn't call ahead -- but he was allowed in anyway. Afterward, he tossed me the keys to his Ferrari convertible and said he'd resume his spot behind the wheel when his nails were sufficiently dry. My car at the time, a '78 Honda Civic, was not adequate preparation for the power of the Ferrari, and my failure to master the clutch caused us to bounce our way down Rodeo Drive, top down, Dennis obscenely obvious with his fuchsia hair easy for all to see. As I remember it, the nails dried quickly.
For a brief time, I found myself uniquely positioned (in the passenger seat, mostly) to witness the basketball/pop culture spectacle of Rodman and the Chicago Bulls. Surreal is a word that has been ground into a fine mist, but trust me -- it fits here. And my experience illustrates the very real challenge that comes with "The Last Dance." Even in our saturated mediascape, it's difficult to describe the mania surrounding those Bulls teams to someone who didn't experience it at the time.
Michael Jordan was perhaps the biggest celebrity in the world, responsible for spreading the gospel of basketball across the globe. He was the brand ambassador, the headliner, the frontman, and every Bulls season of their second three-year run of championships was like an 82-stop tour of everyone's favorite band. Rodman, with his earrings and nose rings and tattoos and ever-changing hair color, was the group's pop culture phenomenon, the first sports hero of the disaffected and marginalized. His embrace of gay culture, symbolized by his highly controversial decision to dye the AIDS ribbon in his hair, was radical for the time. His open discussions about vulnerability, about how it was OK for young people to not know precisely who or what they were, struck chords never heard from a famous athlete. People who never cared about basketball cared about Dennis Rodman.
"Bad As I Wanna Be" was published before the NBA playoffs in the spring of '96, as the Bulls were finishing their 72-win season. And if there's one tidbit that might begin to touch on what swirled around that team at the time, maybe it's this: Prior to the book's release, in a move that was equal parts marketing magic and legitimate precaution, copies were locked in warehouses in the Chicago area -- and protected by armed guards.
THE FIRST TIME Rodman suited up for the Bulls, an exhibition game in late October of 1995 in Peoria, Illinois, he went on a tirade against a replacement referee that ended when he threw the ball against the shot clock and was assessed a technical. Based on years of experience playing for various martinets who failed to appreciate the innate beauty of the well-timed tantrum, Rodman's first inclination after such a transgression was to look at the bench to see how his coach reacted to what he'd just seen. Was he defending him? Was he frantically pulling off a reserve's warm-up top and flinging him toward the scorer's table? Was he covering his mouth with his hand and talking to the nearest assistant about what fresh hell this is?
The second Rodman joined the Bulls, Phil Jackson understood his fate. And even though he was probably shocked to confront it so soon, he reacted to this outburst in the best possible way: He leaned back in his chair and laughed. You remember the look: fingers steepled across his right knee, head tilted back, foot raised slightly off the floor. It was the Jackson Special: laid-back, trusting, his benevolent aura beaming its way into Rodman's fragile psyche.
"I found out from the start, he's going to let me go," Rodman told me for the book. "He's not as worried about distractions, because look who he's been coaching all these years. The Bulls know about distractions, and they know how to play through them."
Rodman played every possession like it was a referendum on his worth as a human. He went to outrageous lengths to convince the world that basketball was not his identity, and then he played like nothing else mattered. He reveled in the dirty work, the game's menial and unquantifiable tasks, and then demanded adulation for it. There was, of course, something manic about the way he played, like it was something embedded deep in his core, something unrelated to the game. Insecurities, questions of self-worth, fear of losing everything -- it was all swirling inside him. I'm sure it signifies something important that our most indelible images of Jordan are of him launching his body vertically, and our most indelible images of Rodman are of him launching his body horizontally. John Edgar Wideman, writing in The New Yorker in 1996, described Rodman's on-court style as "compelling, outrageous, amoral," and his persistence as "percussive behavior so edgy it threatens to wreck the game that's supposed to contain it."
Anyone who spent any time around Rodman during his career would come away with a profound appreciation of the resilience of the human body -- or at least his. Even in his mid-30s, Rodman could stay out all night and still play 40 minutes and grab 15 rebounds the next night. During the season chronicled in "The Last Dance," he led the league in rebounding for the seventh straight season, played 80 games and averaged almost 36 minutes a game -- nearly all of them at a pace only he could keep. He was 36 years old. For comparison, the last time Steph Curry averaged 36 minutes a game he was 25. The last time he played 80 games he was 26.
Any consideration of Rodman the basketball player -- not the actor or reality-show celebrity or amateur diplomat -- has to start by separating his self-destructive tendencies from his work ethic. He might have wanted people to believe that he didn't work hard, that his body was somehow genetically inclined to withstand whatever punishment he chose to inflict upon it, but that isn't entirely true. One of his more endearing quirks was a compulsion to randomly stop at health clubs for an impromptu workout. These stops were never prefaced by an announcement or a conversation. He never expressed a need or a desire for a workout; he just pulled into a parking lot and walked through the door. (Wearing Zubaz every time, sometimes right side out, other times inside out. I never discerned a logic to the pattern.) The first time, I injected my own limited (rule-bound) worldview into the mix by asking (stupidly) whether he was a member of whatever gym he'd just discovered. He gave me a look that made it clear he hadn't ever considered that health clubs existed for any purpose other than his convenience. Every stop played out the same way: He walked in, told the gobsmacked kid behind the counter he was going to be working out, grabbed a towel and headed to the nearest unoccupied StairMaster. Nobody had the time or the inclination for paperwork.
RODMAN AND JORDAN weren't friends, as I'm sure "The Last Dance" will make clear. Their lives converged only on the court. But Rodman didn't have unqualified respect for many players -- his favorite epithet was "phony," a weapon he wielded, at times recklessly, as a means of protecting his self-proclaimed authenticity -- but he had unqualified respect for Jordan. And for good reason: Rodman would undoubtedly dispute this, but his alliance with Jordan might have saved his career.
The 10-part Michael Jordan documentary "The Last Dance" is here.
Latest updates, full schedule NBA experts on MJ's greatness Big moments from the premiere How to get ready for the doc
In October 1995, I happened to be with Rodman when he received a call announcing the finalization of the trade that sent him from the Spurs to the Bulls. It's easy to forget, amid the glare of those three straight NBA titles, how risky this move was at the time. Rodman was borderline radioactive in San Antonio, a combustible brew of grievance and insolence. His talent was undeniable, and the fit in Chicago held tantalizing potential, but why would the Bulls take this chance? At a news conference, Spurs general manager Gregg Popovich said, "Big surprise, huh?" and made a point to tell everyone how difficult it was to find a team willing to take Rodman, who had played just 49 games the season before because of suspensions and injuries. Asked if he considered it a big relief to be rid of Rodman, Popovich said, "A big relief? We were without him for quite a bit last season, so it's not any different in many respects."
The 1995-96 Bulls entered the season a mysterious bunch. The roster was strong, but roles would have to be altered. Jordan was coming off a 17-game season after ending his fling with baseball. Power forward was manned by a collective shrug. Rodman the basketball player was uniquely engineered for the job -- how many Hall of Famers get there through an outright refusal to shoot? -- but his potential to blow the whole thing up was no small consideration. Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, loved for assembling the NBA's greatest team and loathed for dismantling it, harbored just enough non-mainstream views to make him the ideal candidate to welcome Rodman. (For instance: Krause once told me players should be measured only to the top of the shoulder; he believed the neck and the head were not functional inches and were thereby irrelevant -- hence his affection for Elton Brand, a man unencumbered by a superfluous neck and Krause's choice as the No. 1 pick overall in 1999.)
What would have happened had Rodman stayed in San Antonio or been relegated to another basketball outpost? Despite his talent, he was inching closer and closer to becoming a permanent sideshow. It's not inconceivable that without Jackson's calm and Jordan's obsessive competitiveness, Rodman's career could have devolved into a series of signings and releases by teams willing to take a chance but not make a commitment.
The Bulls refocused Rodman, brought him closer to the guy he was early in his career in Detroit, when he famously responded to a question about his background by saying, "I'm nobody from nowhere." Jackson macheted his way through the thicket of Rodman's insecurities. Jordan was strong enough on the court to channel Rodman's energies. He might have been the only one, at that moment in time, strong enough to do this.
The Bulls brought out Rodman's genius and allowed him to hold it up for the world to see. They made him. Somewhere else, maybe anywhere else, might have unmade him.
ONE OF THE last times I interacted with Rodman was during training camp in Deerfield, Illinois, mere days after the trade was completed. He was living in a Residence Inn adjacent to the Bulls' complex, sharing a "loft suite" with teammate Jack Haley. I would like to say Dennis and I were tidying up some of the book's ragged edges -- or fine-tuning, maybe -- but that book was intended to be ragged and loosely tuned, as a reflection of Rodman's uniquely random path to fame.
We were talking in a hallway of the Berto Center training facility when Rodman said he needed to go lift. The day's obligations were over, and the place felt empty except for a few muffled conversations down the hall. I stopped when we got to the weight room -- I'm sure I was already at least 100 yards beyond the boundaries specified by my credential -- but Rodman waved me through with a look that said his imprimatur was an all-access passport.
The groundbreaking sports analysis program returns with a historical edition airing in conjunction with "The Last Dance" on ESPN. The 5-episode series explores the 1998 Chicago Bulls team and features episodes hosted by Phil Jackson, Dennis Rodman and Steve Kerr. Watch on ESPN+
There was no one else around, so why not? I wasn't there as a journalist, really, and the place seemed empty. Why couldn't I be the preferred non-member for a change? Still, when your professional life is defined in many ways by the places you can and cannot go, an infraction like this one feels egregious.
And weirdly liberating.
The room was L-shaped, as I remember, the flooring bloodred, and my attention was drawn to human movement coming from my left, the long leg of the L: a person on a bench. Great -- I'm busted. A head turned toward me. Our eyes met.
Be cool. Be calm. Me, Dennis, Michael. Nothing big, really. Just us three. Just us three dudes. Just us three dudes hanging out at the gym.
I mumbled something to Dennis about how I should probably be going. Michael's eyes remained fixed on me, and I could feel the heat of a thousand suns bloom in my face. Dennis waved off my common-man concerns -- Michael's cool, the wave suggested -- and asked me to spot him. When Dennis finished his set, I sensed a presence behind me. I turned.
My mind registered his arrival with the brain-stem buzz reserved for the moment high school kids at a kegger see the cops. How did he know? Did my new friend Michael rat me out?
Phil wasn't there to lift. He was there to expel. The look he gave me was mostly pity -- Who do you think you're kidding? -- and maybe a little amusement. I responded with a look I thought he might appreciate, one that said this was all Dennis' idea. I might have even pointed a finger at Dennis, shielded by my body, like a hostage indicating his kidnapper.
"Time to go" was all Phil said, and it was. It definitely was. I said goodbye to Dennis, who was laughing by this point. I had to walk past Phil on my way out, and he stood his ground, looking through me to Dennis with a bemused look on his face. I knew that look, had actually employed it myself, and I knew there was more of that -- more of Dennis' quirkiness and volatility and, yes, charm -- awaiting Phil, and Michael, and the Bulls, and Chicago, and pretty much everyone else in the world. I muttered an ineffective, and probably unnecessary, apology, and as Phil turned toward me I swear I detected something approaching kinship in his eyes.
Posted: at 12:44 am
Our lifestyle will never return to the way it was but with innovations taking place across the board, will it matter?
AS the notion of a new normal percolates further into public consciousness, changes which a few weeks ago would have been unthinkable are being anticipated and embraced. I am not referring to the widely circulated list of alleged political appointments to government-linked companies and statutory bodies: though is that really a change, a reversion to type or a perpetuation of what has always been?
Instead, I am referring to the innovations taking place across business sectors and personal lives, some of which will have deep and lasting implications long after the movement control order is eventually lifted.
Across many businesses already tackling the digitalisation of their businesses, one imaginary survey captured the mood succinctly, asking Who led the digital transformation of your company?, with the options being the chief executive officer, chief technology officer or Covid-19.
Social media is awash with photographs of virtual meetings, town halls and webinars, and several people have admitted quite frankly that such assemblies are more efficient online than in real life.
And thats before factoring in travel time, costs of petrol and parking, the likelihood of over-indulging on curry puffs and (for some) the social pressure of having to attempt amusing small talk with colleagues before agendas can begin.
Reports from friends and relatives with children, and those professionally in the education sector (encompassing private and public institutions, from primary to university levels) say that many adaptations have already been made in the delivery of education.
In a paper released this week, the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) has identified four main challenges pertaining to education during Covid-19: the digital gap among students, the education systems lack of digital preparedness, food access among poor families and the mental well-being of children. Addressing these must accompany the shorter-term decisions of cancelling PT3 and UPSR and postponing SPM and STPM examinations.
The zeitgeist is captured by two popular social media posts. One bemoans that if schools remain shut for too long, mothers will find a cure to Covid-19 before scientists do.
The other lists things that different family members have long hoped for for example, kids wishing they had no school and no exams, adults wishing they could work from home before declaring Be careful what you wish for!
The last wish is from planet Earth, for a break from pollution: and the results are seen in amazing before and after images of usually polluted cities.
An increase in social media traffic generally is certainly part of the new normal. Phones need to be charged by midday as WhatsApp groups are flooded by appeals for donations and equipment (matched by offers of the same), quizzes and riddles (usually about movies and maths) and videos of collaborative performances or conspiracy theories.
One consequence of the latter is realising that unexpected individuals are capable of believing ridiculous hypotheses or worse, willing to abet the views of bigots and hate-mongers, which I touched upon last week.
On a personal level, I have cooked more meals in the last three weeks than I have in the previous three years, practised more piano than at any time prior, and have followed so many YouTube workout videos that my usual music, politics and Star Trek-related recommendations are being shunted down by its algorithm.
Friends weddings have been postponed, the idea of flying anywhere has become a distant dream, and the Tunku Zain tennis trophy organised by the Royal Sungei Ujong Club is in Covid-19s court (though like most fans, I am far more concerned by disruptions to Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Olympic tennis).
Sadly, some things cannot simply be rescheduled.
Last week saw the passing of a great-aunt, Raja Nor Annuar Raja Ahmad, the widow of the late Tunku Adnan Tunku Besar Burhanuddin. Whereas dozens of relatives would normally have accompanied the hearse from Kuala Lumpur to Seri Menanti, only a few family members were present, observing social distancing at a scaled-down funeral in accordance with guidelines issued by the Negri Sembilan Islamic Religious Affairs Department. The usual three days of tahlil following the funeral could not be observed either.
Friends of other faiths have shared how they celebrated Easter and Vaisakhi, and next week Muslims will be embarking on the holy month of Ramadan. Already, many states have clarified that mosques and suraus will remain closed, Ramadan bazaars will be shut, while congregational terawih prayers and mass buka puasa events a favourite annual activity of all Malaysians will also not happen.
With imams recommending ways to best observe fasting and prayer while confined at home, adaptation to a new normal looks set to continue.
Tunku Zain Al-Abidin is the founding president of Ideas. The views expressed are the writers own.
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#blackAF Struggles, Mrs. America Shines, and Netflix, Hulu Weigh the Future Streaming Wars – IndieWire
Posted: at 12:44 am
Withstreaming dominating the industry, IndieWire is breaking down what really matters in the ongoing new cycle to provide a clear picture of what companies are winning the streaming wars and how theyre pulling ahead. By looking at trends and curating developments, the Streaming Wars Report will offer a clear picture of whats happening overall and day-to-day in streaming. This column will cover the major players, from Netflixto Disney+ to HBO Max, and be sure to check out ourIndie Editionfor thorough coverage of the boutique services.
#blackAF: Another Critically Reviled Netflix Hit?
What a week-long whirlwind for Kenya Barris and #blackAF. On Wednesday, the black-ish creators first original series for Netflix (under his $100 million overall deal) was met with a mixed-ish reception from critics, with the -ish skewing negative, especially from black writers. Reviews from IndieWire, Salon, RoberEbert.com, and The Undefeated ranged from frequent complaints about the shows familiarity to Barris other sitcoms to across-the-board pans.
This isnt new territory for Netflix originals. Plenty of series with bad reviews have gone on to snag renewals, from Insatiable dating all the way back to Flaked, and #blackAF has its defenders in the critical community as well as a social-media backlash to the backlash. But unlike those shows, now theres a tool that allows us to track how popular #blackAF is, at least on Netflix. Per the streamers Top 10 lists, #blackAF debuted as the No. 6 most-watched program on Saturday before climbing to No. 5 on Sunday. That puts it ahead of Ozark, which was knocked out of the Top 5 for the first time in 22 days, but behind more recent releases like the reality show Too Hot to Handle (No. 2) and the teen soap Outer Banks (No. 4).
Whether #blackAF can hold its spot or gain ground in the Top 10 will give us a bit of insight into its true value to the streamer. Was Barris massive deal based on his history of commercially friendly, four-quadrant hits, or does Netflix need him to make programs popular with black subscribers (and potential subscribers)? The TV-MA rating on #blackAF along with the many critics who questioned its intended audience means this show wasnt designed to be fun for the whole family. Still, its negative reaction from black critics and fans indicates the show isnt connecting with its other presumed target demographic.
Speaking more broadly, Netflix has seen varied returns from its high-profile investments in creatives. Adam Sandlers movies are performing extremely well for the streamer (per its own data), while Ryan Murphys little-talked-about Netflix debut The Politician never accrued the status of his past FX hits (though it was technically part of Murphys past tenure at Fox). In the coming months, well see more key projects from Murphy (Hollywood hits May 1), Shonda Rhimes (Bridgerton is still expected this year), and more high-profile signees, and with more eyeballs than ever watching Netflix, the pressure is on to produce.
Mrs. America Makes Its Voice Heard in Week 1
Hulu doesnt release viewership numbers, but if theres one show that took the zeitgeist by storm last week, it was Mrs. America. Once an FX original before being asked to frontline the FX on Hulu rollout, Dahvi Wallers limited series tells the true story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and features a procession of bonafide stars, including Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth Banks, Rose Byrne, Sarah Paulson, Tracey Ullman, Margo Martindale, and Uzo Aduba. Reviews are through the roof, thinkpieces are pouring out of every outlet, and the savvy FX reps still working on the series are lining up talent for key publicity appearances every week. This should only build more buzz as episodes continue to be released, driving chatter through the end of May when Emmy campaigning should keep discussion alive for the next three months (or more). Not to jinx the presumed Emmy favorite at HBO, but this is the kind of launch that ends in gold, and even if it comes up short, this is exactly what Disney was hoping for when it brought FX and Hulu together: Mrs. America gets a larger audience than FX could offer on its own, and lends more awards credibility to Hulu than it wouldve had without it. Win, win.
HBO Max Lines Up More Series, but Still No Launch Date
HBO Max made waves this week when it finally announced a long-in-the-works first for the streaming company: a three-series order from Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams production studio.
What? You were expecting some other announcement?
The new shows Duster, Overlook (inspired by The Shining), and a Justice League Dark series are the first to come out of Bad Robots overall deal with WarnerMedia, signed in September 2019, and should generate plenty of buzz. Anything to do with Stephen King remains potentially monstrous (after the It movie franchise and HBOs successful first season of The Outsider), comic book properties are still insanely popular, and Duster, an original script, will be penned by Abrams himself (alongside LaToya Morgan).
And yet, the main question looming over HBO Max is: When can we see it? Back in October 2019, WarnerMedia narrowed the original Spring 2020 launch date to May, but with less than two weeks left in April, its unknown whether HBO Max will hit May 1 or 31. Further unknowns include what original series will be available at launch, if any, and whether or not the ongoing pandemic has altered plans for the programming rollout or even the launch itself. The Friends reunion was supposed to be the bait that lured everyone to the pricey new service, but its cancellation has yet to trigger any talk of a replacement.
By now, mid-to-late May seems the most likely; perhaps WarnerMedia can pool its network resources and peg the launch of its streaming service for HBO, TNT, TBS, and more to the debut of the oft-moved, much-buzzed-about TNT title Snowpiercer and the finale of HBOs most-watched drama, Westworld. The formers premiere and the latters finale are both fortuitously set for May 17.
Quibi Quietly Pivots
The last word the Quibi team should want to hear right now is quiet, but when it comes to describing the streamers prevailing status, the only way to avoid it is with a thesaurus. No one can agree on whether their launch numbers 300,000 app downloads on launch day, 1.7 million over the first week are good, bad, or somewhere in between. Meanwhile, the anecdotal support given by Quibi representatives have been similarly ho-hum; CEO Meg Whitman said 80 percent of viewers who started watching a series completed at least one episode, which, when considering the 5-10 minute episode length, isnt exactly a ringing endorsement from subscribers.
But comparing Quibi to other recent launches, especially the 4 million sign-ups Disney+ snagged on day one, isnt fair; one is an upstart streamer whose name is based on a made-up word, and the other is a century-old media titan that just added a plus sign to the end of its very famous corporate title.
Whats more frustrating about Quibi is its content and response to customer complaints during its first week. On the one hand, none of the Quibi shows have people talking. Few can even agree on which are the best, with most people shoving them all into a big pile of meh. Thats not a death knell, but it does indicate the early show creators didnt know how to fully take advantage of Quibis unique viewing model or theres simply nothing unique about it.
One of the biggest slights thrown at Quibi from a technical standpoint is its lack of support on televisions, computers, or screens other than your phone. That choice, however, was on purpose; Quibi was billed as a mobile-only service, meant to be consumed in quick bites while between things or on the go. Now that everyone is stuck at home, it makes sense that there would be increased demand for easier viewing options than propping up a seven-inch screen, but Whitmans response to complaints was that casting to televisions was always part of Quibis plan; they just didnt have time to implement the option before launch.
The time constraint is fair enough, but planning to make your mobile-only app less mobile points to a lack of faith in your own product, or at least a misunderstanding of its competitors. If Quibi isnt meant to be going toe-to-toe with Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV+, why does it cost the same, offer similar content (at least in theory), and can be viewed on the same devices? These are the questions Im now wondering, one week into launch, even if Im just whispering them into an empty room.
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Posted: at 12:44 am
Every year, on 22 April, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. Songs about the natural world, including those by Woody Guthrie, have been around since the 40s, and many of the greatest songwriters have penned compositions about the planet on which we all exist. The best Earth Day songs, then, reflect not only the ways in which our planet has changed over the years, but also the ways in which we have expressed concern over its survival.
To mark Earth Day, we have selected our 20 best environmental songs. Though we werent able to squeeze in all our favourites and had to leave out wonderful songs by Ken Boothe (The Earth Dies Screaming), The Byrds (Hungry Planet), Miley Cyrus (Wake Up America), Bo Diddley (Pollution), Peter Gabriel (Here Comes The Flood) and Country Joe McDonald (Save The Whales) we scoured reggae, jazz, country, folk, soul, rock and pop for songs both disturbing and inspiring.
Heres to this amazing endangered world of ours. Think weve missed any of your best Earth Day songs? Let us know in the comments section, below.
Listen to the best Earth Day songs on Apple Music and Spotify.
The song One World was recorded in a Berkshire barn. John Martyn remembered it as a time when the adjoining farmhouse was filled with Jamaican friends and their children who were in England to visit Island Records boss Chris Blackwell. The title track of his masterpiece album features one of Martyns greatest vocal performances, against his echo-saturated guitar. The song has a beautiful simplicity, as he sings, Its one world, like it or not/Its one world, believe it or not/Its one world. Nearly three decades later, when Martyn was reflecting on the song, he believed he had captured a zeitgeist moment. One World has now become a phrase used all over the television, Martyn said. Took em a long time to f__king realise. I dont think many people knew the expression before then. The tune is superb a perfect expression of how we are all individual and universal at the same time.
Bonos longing for spiritual renewal was reflected in his song Indian Summer Sky, which is about the desire to return to a more organic world (the seasons change, and so do I). Bono wrote the song in New York and said he was trying to convey a sense of spirit trapped in a concrete jungle. Sixteen years earlier, U2 had allowed a live version of their song Until The End Of The World to appear on the album Alternative NRG, which raised funds for Greenpeace. U2 were joined by other bands, such as Sonic Youth and UB40, on an album recorded live with a solar-powered mobile facility. Guitarist Brian May of Queen contributed the song New Damage.
Since the dawn of industrialisation, poets and songwriters have been extolling the spiritual and mental health benefits of getting out into nature. Dar Williams wrote the powerful song Go To The Woods in 2012, a composition that expressed her fears that the green spaces of the world are disappearing. Touring musician Williams devotes her spare time to environmental causes, not least her Give Bees A Camp project, which combines concerts and planting bee-friendly gardens for schoolchildren. Williams has also covered Joe Strummers rousing song Johnny Appleseed (If youre after getting the honey, hey/Then you dont go killing all the bees).
On his 1974 album Ragged Old Flag, country singer Johnny Cash addressed the political issue of the environment, through the device of a nostalgic song in which a father warns his son that they cannot eat the fish they are trying to catch. Though the acoustic mood of the song is upbeat Cash was joined on guitar by Carl Perkins the lyrics are bleak: There was a time the air was clean/And you could see forever cross the plains/The wind was sweet as honey/And no one had ever heard of acid rain.
Mike Love, who co-wrote with Al Jardine a different song also called Dont Go Near The Water, said he hated the ignorance that made people violate the laws of nature. Love and Jardine were encouraged by The Beach Boys then manager, Jack Rieley, to write an environmental song for the band, and the result was the anti-pollution plea that became the opening track for their 1971 album, Surfs Up. The prescient lyrics about man poisoning the sea were sung by Brian Wilson and the band. The downbeat mood of the song was heightened by the eerie Moog synthesiser playing of Daryl Dragon.
Photographs of the dust storms that wrecked southern America in the 30s are still shocking, and the devastation and migration they caused prompted Woody Guthrie to write his brilliant album Dust Bowl Ballads. I met millions of good folks trying to hang on and to stay alive with the dust cutting down every hope, said Guthrie, who made poetry out of despair.
In Pollution, the brilliant satirical singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer warned visitors to America about the environmental problems of his home country, and the way his nations air and water was being blighted. A short film of Pollution, featuring a cartoon of a bird playing the piano at a rubbish dump, combined with scenes of industrial contamination across the States, was made for the US Communicable Disease Centre. The bitingly funny lyrics included the verse Just go out for a breath of air/And youll be ready for Medicare/The city streets are really quite a thrill/If the hoods dont get you, the monoxide will.
Randy Newman was poleaxed by back pain and lying on the floor in 1969 when a television news item came on about the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, literally catching fire once again, because it was filled with oil waste. His disturbing song, sung at a maudlin pace with slow piano, is full of potent imagery: The Cuyahoga River goes smokin through my dreams/Burn on, big river/Burn on.
Rush lyricist Neil Peart once commissioned some drum makers to build him an entire kit from a 1,500-year old piece of Romanian wood. Peart recalled that he wrote his song The Trees in about five minutes, after seeing a cartoon picture of trees carrying on like fools. He said: I thought, What if trees acted like people? So I saw the song as a cartoon, really, and wrote it that way.
Queen singer Freddie Mercury said that he sometimes felt helpless about the state of the planet and that was the reason he and Brian May penned Is This the World We Created?. Mercury went on to explain that he and May were thinking about poverty going on all around the world and thats why the track came about it was a way of showing that I can do my bit. The song, which reflected the suffering of children, came at the time of natural disasters in Africa which had resulted in terrible famine. Queen performed the song, which was on their 1984 album, The Works, as the encore to their famous Live Aid showin 1985.
In 1971, singer-songwriter John Prine wrote his marvellous song Paradise about the environmental damages of strip mining and the destruction it wreaked on small communities. Paradise, which was also known as Mr Peabodys Coal Train, was about was about Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, the town his parents had grown up in and how it was ruined by a coal company. Among the poetic, moving verses is: Then the coal company came with the worlds largest shovel/And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land/Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken/Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.
On his 1974 environmental song, Before The Deluge, Jackson Browne told the story of his generations ideals and illusion, and their fall from grace. The song was eerily prophetic, with its stark warning: Some of them were angry/At the way the earth was abused/By the men who learned how to forge her beauty into power/And they struggled to protect her from them/Only to be confused/By the magnitude of her fury in the final hour. The song was from the album Late For The Sky, which featured Jai Winding, the son of Verve Recordsjazz trombonist Kai Winding, on keyboards. Versions have been recorded by musicians as diverse as Joan Baez and Christy Moore.
Cat Stevens wrote his song Where Do The Children Play? for the 1970 album Tea For The Tillerman. The song reflects many of his concerns about poverty, war, ecological disaster, pollution and the future of the human race. Stevens became a Muslim later in the decade and is now known as Yusuf Islam. He remains committed to what he called the harmony and balance of the universe, and in May 2019 gave his support to Europes first green mosque, in Cambridge, which was clad in solar panels and surrounded by apple trees.
Earth Song, which appeared on the album HIStory: Past, Present And Future, Book I, was the best of Michael Jacksons socially conscious songs. This sweeping track about the environment and welfare was a No.1 hit in the UK and went on to receive a Grammy nomination. It was notable for its powerful video, too.
Bob Marley died in 1981, but his music continues to inspire people who love protest songs and care about the environment. In 2019, for example, Chicagos The Rock And Roll Playhouse held an Earth Day celebration concert featuring tunes by the great master of reggae. Marleys gorgeous song Sun Is Shining was first recorded in the 60s and re-recorded for the album Kayain 1978. Island Records boss Chris Blackwell later recalled, The original version of Sun Is Shining was produced by Lee Perry. I loved his production, which was very sparse. But the version we re-recorded for Kaya has a great atmosphere, too. We tried to reflect the essence of the song, which is saying the sun is shining but dont forget that people are suffering too.
I wrote Big Yellow Taxi on my first trip to Hawaii, Mitchell explained in 1996. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart this blight on paradise. Thats when I sat down and wrote the song. Mitchells mesmerising song has been covered by Bob Dylan, Counting Crows and Janet Jackson.
Bob Dylan was only 21 when he wrote the beautiful lyrics, such as Ive stumbled on the side of 12 misty mountains, in A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall, the iconic protest songin which he warned of impending apocalypse. In 2009, before a United Nations climate change conference began in Denmark, the UN Environment Programme released a rare live recording of Dylan performing his song-poem set to dramatic photographs of shrunken ice caps, barren landscapes and devastated lives.
The mysterious, multi-layered After The Gold Rush is full of different themes and meanings, but there is one thing at the heart of the song: After The Gold Rush is an environmental song, said Neil Young. Dolly Parton has recorded several versions it. The line Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s is memorably chilling, and has been updated by Young, who now sings in the 21st Century in concert. Young also wrote Be The Rain, a song that calls on the big oil companies to stop ruining the planet. In 1985, Willie Nelson, Young and John Mellencamp set up Farm Aid to increase awareness about the importance of family farms. Young has remained a committed environmental activist and in 2018 he criticised President Trump for his denial of climate-change science.
The beautiful voice of Marvin Gaye rings out in despair as he sings Where did all the blue skies go? on his Motownclassic Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), which was written for his 1971 album, Whats Going On. At the time, Motown boss Berry Gordyhad not heard the word ecology, and Gayes masterful song may have been one of the first ever to deal with the mercury poisoning of fish. This is a sorrowful masterpiece and, given what we now know has happened to the environment in the past half-century, seems a moment of musical genius and foresight.
What A Wonderful World is one of the most uplifting, life-affirming songs of all time and all because of the heartfelt warmth in the singing of the jazz legend Louis Armstrong, a man who was already in failing health when he recorded the two-minute gem, written by Bob Thiele and George Weiss. Lush instrumentation introduces a magnificent song that opens with such memorable lines: I see trees of green, red roses, too/I see them bloom for me and you/And I think to myself: What a wonderful world.
Its good to end on a note of positivity so treat yourself on Earth Day and savour again the beauty of Satchmos hit.
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