I wrote my first original post here three years ago this month after talking with a comrade at a prison strike support event. In part, that event commemorated the killing of George Jackson and the Attica uprising. During the event my memory went back to composers Steve Reich and Frederic Rzewski and their musical statements of solidarity with the Attica inmates and the defendants from the earlier Harlem “fruit stand” riot of 1964. In the course of conversation I realized I’d outlined the post. See Attica: Coming Together.
This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of Jackson’s murder and the Attica revolt that followed.
Pardon merci, je suis le grand zombie
I’m just not human tonight
— Mekons, “Big Zombie”
I haven’t thought about anthropologist Wade Davis much since his 1985 nonfiction book The Serpent and the Rainbow was turned into what I thought was an icky film by Wes Craven in 1988.1 In L.A. I had a habit of picking up review copies and other first editions at Cosmopolitan Book Shop, where I got Davis’s book. I always had good luck there. Continue reading “Le plus grand zombie is US”
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”
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.2Continue reading “Reopening the Rosenbergs”
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”
This past summer in Cheyenne my uncle Richard Hughes told me of his hallucinations. That a man going blind might also view visions seems an insult to injury. Yet his condition has a name—Charles Bonnet syndrome—after an eighteenth-century Swiss naturalist and philosopher. As profiled in ACNR (Vol. 8, No. 5, 19) Bonnet first listed his grandfather’s
silent visions of men, women, birds, carriages, and buildings, which he fully realised were ‘fictions’ of his brain. Bonnet himself later underwent visual deterioration and experienced hallucinations typical of the syndrome named after him […].
(Compare with “Blinky” Watts, the sound effects technician character from David Lynch’s short-lived TV series On the Air, who suffers from Bozeman’s Simplex, which causes him to see “25.62 times as much as we do.”)
Six months prior I came across a song by Richard Dawson, which I wanted to write about tonight only to find that he too sees things (due to a genetic defect), but through a glass darkly, as Dawson toldThe Guardian‘s Michael Hann, who remarked, “There’s an almost hallucinatory clarity to his writing.” Continue reading “Seeing Things”
What follows is the recollection and reflection of a remarkable musical work, and my work experience around it.
The prison strike of late summer 2018 was in part a commemoration of the killing of prison organizer and author George Jackson on August 21, 1971 as well as the uprising his death sparked (in part) at Attica nineteen days later on September 9. Having just turned 16 at the time, although I was involved in antiwar activity in Boulder, Jackson and Attica were two coastlines away and easy enough for me to ignore. Two years later I was reacquainted with those struggles—through music. Continue reading “Attica: Coming Together”