Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Other September 11 - Chile 1973

Elaine Morgan : 1920 - 2013

Elaine Morgan, feminist, socialist, TV playwright and evolutionary theorist died this month at the age of 92.

Despite her success in writing such early popular TV series as Dr Finlay's Casebook, Maigret, The Life And Times Of David Lloyd George and an adaptation of How Green Was My Valley, she lived most of her life in the south Wales valleys.

Born in 1920 in Telelkebir Road, Hopkinstown, at the Rhondda end of Pontypridd she grew up in the Hungry Thirties. She was an only child with parents and grandparents living under the same roof - two doles and one child was not as bad as some, she recalled.

She had a resourceful mother and her father was a colliery worker who in the hard times was in demand for his DIY skills.

After working in adult education in Norfolk she married Morien Morgan, the "commie" French master at Pontypridd Boys' Grammar School and ex-International Brigader who had spent time in Franco's prisons.

Early years of married life with two sons were spent in a remote cottage with no mod cons in the hills of Gwent. Morien taught French at Abertillery Grammar School while Elaine wrote stories for women's magazines, articles for the New Statesman and plays for the emerging medium of television. Kitchen-sink drama began with live TV drama made in Wales and Elaine flourished, showing a remarkable facility to churn out single plays, adaptations and the occasional series.

Her international reputation was established with books popularising a theory suggested by Sir Alister Hardy that a key moment in the evolution of mankind happened when the sea level rose and we spent a period splashing in the shallows. The idea, in spite of popular interest, was ignored or rubbished by the scientific fraternity.

What right had a housewife from the south Wales Valleys with an Oxford degree in English to write about such matters? Nevertheless, The Descent of Woman (1972) was followed by The Aquatic Ape. The theory has been gaining acceptance only in the last decade or so.

In 2002 she was incensed by The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature by Steven Pinker.

She responded with Pinker's List, putting a left-wing spin to Pinker's data. Natural selection by aggression, she argued, had been discredited. Successful selection comes from the ability to learn by experience.

No publisher would take it, so in 2005 she published it herself. Nobody reviewed it either except the Morning Star, which Elaine would always refer to as the Daily Worker.

But on her travels around the world, lecturing and participating in conferences - she was still doing that in her late eighties - she found that everyone was aware of the book.

More at Morning Star

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Toshi Seeger dies at 91

Toshi-Aline Ohta Seeger, wife of folk music icon Pete Seeger, passed away overnight on Tuesday, July 9th. She was a mother, an organizer, an activist and filmmaker … and an essential part of all of her husband’s work. She was 91.

As much as Pete is a consummate dreamer and optimist, Toshi had a strength and brilliance that was at least his equal. There’s was a true partnership. Without Toshi’s counsel and support, and always outspoken and direct opinions, it’s clear to anyone who ever met these two remarkable people that, without Toshi, Pete would never have had the foundation and freedom to do the work that made him so legendary.

But Toshi, despite her profound wisdom, strength, morality and courage, was also extremely modest and self-effacing. Often rebuffing attention paid to her, and always doing a loving job at making sure that Pete was always grounded and clear about how his work, his missions, were always bigger than a single man or woman.

Toshi was born in Munich, Germany, to an American mother and a Japanese father. Her parents brought her to the U.S. when she was 6 months old, as soon as it became legal for the two to be married here. They found an apartment in New York City, where her father found work as the building’s caretaker.

Toshi grew up in a family of progressives. She went to the High School of Music and Art, and . After a few years of friendship, meeting Pete at square dances around NYC, Pete and Toshi were married in 1943, just before Pete was about to ship out overseas. She was age 21 at the time. Pete wrote in his autobiography that they “found we had much in common. Her parents were extraordinary people. We were all very close. Her mother, descended from Old Virginny (slave owners), had declared her independence from that racist part of her tradition, moved to Greenwich Village, married a Japanese who was in political exile, as mililarists were taking over his homeland. He did important and dangerous work for the U.S. Army in WWII.

While he was overseas during the war, Pete and Toshi corresponded via letters incessantly.

In 1949, following the war, the two moved to Beacon, NY, where they raised their children Danny, Mika and Tinya. They built a cabin for shelter, and lived in that beautiful woodland mountain ever since.

Over the last decades, Toshi became a key leader and artistic programmer for the Great Hudson River Revival, the annual fundraiser for the Clearwater organization, and a true mecca for those of us who adopted Pete, and Toshi’s, view that music could be a tool to help focus activism. She also played a pivotal role in Clearwater sloop voyages. Pete often sang her praises as an organizer: “after having to organize me for 66 years, no wonder.”

Toshi’s credits also included filmmaking, recording Texas inmates performing hard labor. The film, “Afro-American Work Songs in a Texas Prison,” is part of the Library of Congress archives.

Pete’s career became a consuming part of her life, and he spent many days away from the home. After being acquitted after the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Toshi had said “Never again. Next time no appeal. Let him go to jail.”

But the two remained strong throughout the years. She took care of the home, always gardening and was a terrific cook, raising their children and making a wonderful home as Pete traveled the world making his music.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Burwell Railway Station - 50 years ago

Burwell Railway Station - 1963

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

NAIDOC Perth 2013

Shane Howard writes:

Looking forward to playing at the NAIDOC Perth opening ceremony next Sunday with Amy Saunders, Emma Donovan, Ruben Shannon, Bruce Haymes, Rory McDougall, William Barton and John Hudson.

Gary Shearston: 9 January 1939 - 2 July 2013

Gary on songs of struggle:

JIM LOW:   Many of the songs you wrote and sang in the 1960's were labelled 'songs of protest'. They covered a range of issues including attitudes to Aboriginal people, war and capital punishment. How important do you consider songs are in being able to inform people and influence their attitudes and behaviour?

GARY:   The Anglo-French historian, essayist and novelist, Hilaire Belloc, once wrote, "It is the best of all trades, to make songs, and the second best to sing them." I've always appreciated that observation. If I were to expand on it, I would probably say, "lt is the best of all trades, to make songs that inspire hearts, minds and souls to make the world a better place for every single human being inhabiting it, and the second best to sing them and hear others singing them." That's probably a bit long-winded, but you may get my general drift. Songs born of struggle invariably inspire ways of resolving the struggle that gave them birth. 'Songs of protest' can reveal hidden agendas, stamp them clearly in the consciousness of people from all walks of life, and lead them to consider, or re-consider, all sorts of ideological positions adopted by one crew or another. The truth will always out and, more often than not, the truth rings truest when carried on the wings of song.