Death be not proud: We’ve Been Here Before

Oriental Mourning

There were varied responses to an earlier pandemic, and I first read the following poem in a 1989 collection, Poets for Life: 76 Poets Respond to AIDS. David Kalstone was James Merrill’s friend whose study of Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, and Robert Lowell was cut short by his death in 1986. Caro is an Italian endearment.

There were varied responses. What are our varied ways today? How to be in solidarity in a time of distancing? Continue reading “Death be not proud: We’ve Been Here Before”

Symonds, Whitman, Rossetti and Rake

Outrage cover image

Before Christmas I checked out a book from my little public library branch: Naomi Wolf’s Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love. I had a lot of other things to read and left it for last, not knowing what it contained, vaguely recognizing the author’s name. Turning to it, I recognized Wolf’s photo. If nothing else, readers might remember her defense of Julian Assange when he was accused of sex crimes in Sweden. I thought the book would be a history of censorship, but it’s more comprehensive. By introducing and then returning often to her cast of characters, Wolf creates an intimate narrative against the mise en scène of her historical sweep and sociopolitical stance. Continue reading “Symonds, Whitman, Rossetti and Rake”

And He Never Left!

Andrea Carney and David Hughes

In a comment to my post The Stranger Alongside Me in September our friend Milania remarked on my being a rescuer. In reply my husband David Hughes said, “I guess you could say she rescued me forty-four years ago this month! We’ll have to have Andrea tell that tale some day.” Milania urged me to do so “sooner rather than later.” Okay, but I should say that “rescue” sounds more dramatic that it really was, although David and I agreed that this story could get a little bit personal. Continue reading “And He Never Left!”

“Eat the book”: Electric Evangelists 2

Saint Francis @ Walmart

This second and likely last installment of Electric Evangelists (see Part 1) looks at longer works by two composers, both choosing to present religious texts simply spoken atop electronic scores. The third and fourth pieces are artifacts of pop culture, coupling SoCal evangelical eccentricity with European élan. The last composition contains no text at all. Continue reading ““Eat the book”: Electric Evangelists 2″

Falling Awake: Joseph Shuldiner (1957–2019)

Joseph Shuldiner

Yesterday my friend and collaborator Rob Berg messaged me that my old, dear friend Joseph Shuldiner died. Of a brain tumor. It’s a cruel joke: I’m the one bingeing on cheddar cheese, and last week I was told to go on statins.

My heart goes out to his spouse Bruce Schwartz, his sister Judy, and to all he’s touched.

Joseph and I go a long way back, but hadn’t corresponded for several years. Looking for a photograph last night I came upon a half-dozen file folders containing the following mementos. Continue reading “Falling Awake: Joseph Shuldiner (1957–2019)”

Rosenberg Resistance

Léger - Mockup for a scarf

The year 2003 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Their killing had a great impact on my wife Andrea Carney (see Part 1 and Part 2 of our trilogy). Somehow I learned that a major commemoration would be held in New York City on June 19, the same day they were killed. It was produced by the Rosenberg Fund for Children, founded in 1990 by the Rosenbergs’ son Robert, who was grateful for the support he and his brother Michael had been shown during the jailing of, and after the killing of, their parents. The fund’s purpose is “to find and help children today who are enduring the same kind of nightmare he endured as a child.”1 Continue reading “Rosenberg Resistance”

Reopening the Rosenbergs

Helen Sobell FBI Document image

Note: This is the second in a series of my recollections about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were executed in 1953. See Part 1 and Part 3. My husband David Hughes contributed much research and text to what follows.

On February 2, 1975 my then-husband and I were given tickets to an event titled The Julius & Ethel Rosenberg Case: Reopening the Past in Light of the Present at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.1 One month before, Congress had passed—over Gerald Ford’s veto—the Privacy Act of 1974, which amended the original Freedom of Information Act of 1966. “This [new] law,” the Christian Science Monitor reported, “provides, among other things, for judicial review of classified national security data to decide if it should be held from public view.” The hope was that—via judicial intervention if need be—previously withheld exculpatory information about the Rosenbergs would be forthcoming from the FBI, CIA, and AEC.2 Continue reading “Reopening the Rosenbergs”

Observing the Sabbath: Killing the Rosenbergs

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg photo image

Note: See also Part 2 and Part 3 of this trilogy.

As early as I can remember I was placed in front of the radio (we had no television). I was exposed to music, advertisements, dramas, and news. At age three I tried to read newspapers. I simply wanted to read about what I’d heard.  By the age of five I was reading the “briefs” in the back pages because they were easier for me, but they also could lead me to bigger stories. In particular I remember reading briefs about spies.

I was eight years old in 1950 when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were arrested on an eventual charge of—not espionage—but rather conspiracy to commit espionage. Their co-conspirator Morton Sobell also was arrested (while in Mexico during which time Julius was arrested).1 Julius had been implicated by Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, who said at trial that in September 1945 he’d given Julius a nuclear bomb diagram as well as verbal scientific secrets, typed up by Ethel,2 which presumably were transferred to the Soviet Union. Continue reading “Observing the Sabbath: Killing the Rosenbergs”

Acts of Faith: Electric Evangelists 1

Behind The Scenes With Kathryn Kuhlman cover image

Exactly a year ago my discussion with a comrade about music-compelled-by-struggle led to my first original post here, Attica: Coming Together. Last Friday, talking with this same friend caused me to create a list of musics that employ the spoken word—faith-based speech specifically. After jotting down a few titles I came across an extensive list posted for Easter 2013 by one Mr. Fab, a Los Angeles-based deejay and musician. He helpfully includes the name of each orator, which indicates the popularity of two in particular, R. W. Schambach and Gene Scott. My list nearly ended with Praga Khan’s setting of the former in 1991, but Fab provides twenty more years of titles.

My Friday conversation involved Brian Eno and David Byrne’s album My Life In the Bush of Ghosts for which they used the voice of Kathryn “I Believe In Miracles” Kuhlman. While her estate wouldn’t approve licensing, a 1980 UK bootleg of the intended track and others circulated apparently before the official album was released in early 1981.1 Bush of Ghosts was completed in October of 1980 and Eno and Byrne must have scrambled to replace Kuhlman’s vocal: the substitute was an “unidentified exorcist” recorded the previous month in New York. Both these speakers are acts in their own right, with the exorcist commanding (below), healer Kuhlman exploring (at least initially).
Continue reading “Acts of Faith: Electric Evangelists 1”