Category Archives: Current Events

RIP Adam Yauch: Some Personal Memories

I am sure I can’t add anything to all the professional obituaries of Adam Yauch, so I thought I’d add something a little more personal. Back in the early to mid-1980s, there were two musical movements happening in New York City that were important and influential to me and my friends (among many many others, of course). One, the Two Tone ska revival was destined to remain a subculture, albeit one that we embraced heartily. The second was Hip Hop.

As soon as we heard Rapper’s Delight, we were hooked and in those relatively early days of the genre, as some clubs slowly morphed from the discotheque model to a more hip hop-centered experience, it wasn’t unusual to see blacks, whites and Latinos all in the same club.

Not to digress too much into the economic and cultural makeup of New York in the early to mid-1980s, but it was certainly a different time and I found myself in a complicated social world that somehow merged my left-wing, hippy/socialist summer camp (Thoreau-in-Vermont) with the private school I attended (The United Nations International School, aka UNIS) and the NYC ska and hip hop communities. NYC was (and is) a large place, but if you were in certain high schools and of a certain mindset, your orbits were large, inclusive and on the surface or to an outsider, contradictory. Didn’t seem that way to us, though. Continue reading RIP Adam Yauch: Some Personal Memories

“The Invisible War” and the Ongoing Subjugation of Women in America

Congratulations to director Kirby Dick and producer Any Ziering for the pickup of their powerful new doc The Invisible War by Cinedigm Entertainment Group and New Video. I saw the film at Sundance and in addition to being a great film, it’s extraordinarily important in these times of increasing violence against and institutionalized subjugation of women. [Trailer and other videos at the bottom.]

In my wrap of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival I wrote of the film: “A heart-breaking and shocking look at rape in the military, Dick’s film details the pain, shame, horror and lasting damage caused by the attacks as well as the shocking hypocrisy and cover-ups endorsed by the military establishment.”

Some stats from the US Department of Defense:
20% of ALL servicewomen have been sexually assaulted while serving.
Women who have been raped in the military have a PTSD rate higher than men in combat.
An estimated 500,000 women have been sexually assaulted in the US military.
In 2010, according to the Department of Defense, there were 3,158 case of sexual assault within the U.S. military. It is estimated that more than 80% of those who are sexually assaulted don’t report it.

The film presents many more statistics, equally as disturbing.

While the subject matter is grim and at times the film is emotionally tough to watch, I will categorically say that this is a film everyone must see, especially educators. It’s a film that could potentially cause a sea change not only in the halls of Congress but in the high schools of America.

At the Q&A following the Sundance world premiere, a 17 year-old young woman in the audience stood up and said that while she had never been physically assaulted, verbal abuse was the norm in her school and she felt that every high school student needed to see the film because boys were not being raised to respect women. It was another poignant moment in the most emotional Q&A I have ever witnessed.

Continue reading “The Invisible War” and the Ongoing Subjugation of Women in America

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory – An Amazing Screening

On Monday night I was among a relatively privileged few that were invited to a special screening of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory that was held at CAA, with Berlinger and one of the West Memphis 3, Jason Baldwin, in attendance for a Q&A, following the screening.

After seeing the Paradise Lost films and knowing the story, just seeing Jason out of prison and as a grown man, hearing him speak about life before, during and after his incarceration…I can’t really describe the feelings. Relief at their release, anger at the State of Arkansas and a profound sadness that things like this, the railroading of three young men in such a brazen and disgusting manner can and do happen in the United States.

The film airs tonight at 9pm on HBO. Watch it, you’ll thank me!

Here are a couple of short videos from the Q&A. IN the first, Jason talks a little bit about life after prison and in the second he touches on just a couple of things that he’s noticed in his day-to-day life after prison.

Kodak Preparing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

According to the Wall Street Journal, Kodak, that giant of all things film, is preparing for a potential Chapter 11 filing, should some plans to sell digital patents not pan out.

Wow. For a company that was once synonymous with photography, this is a sad day. Not that it’s entirely unexpected. According to the piece, Kodak shares have been trading at under $1 for 30 straight days and it is in anger of being delisted by the New York Stock Exchange.

Budd Schulberg and HUAC: Not To Be Forgotten

With the passing of writer Budd Schulberg there is the usual outpouring of hosannas and allelujahs to a great screenwriter and novelist and he was indeed a talented man who penned some excellent, enduring and quote-worthy works of art and therefore I feel neither the need nor the desire to add to said heapings of praise. Instead, I’d like to put on record one of the aspects of Mr. Schulberg’s life that is largely missing from these paeans.
Even the “Gray Lady” herself, the New York Times, glossed over the shameful fact that in the 1950’s Budd Schulberg and his occasional collaborator Elia Kazan both testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and thus destroyed the lives of many of their former colleagues including Ring Lardner Jr., Dalton Trumbo and Herbert Biberman. He named at least 15 of his close friends, helping to send many if not all of them to jail. As I have written before this is a shocking and despicable act and it must not be forgotten.
So far, only Carolyn Kellogg in the L.A. Times has run a piece about Schulberg and his betrayals and the testimony quoted in the article gives a pretty good idea of the kind of a man Schulberg was at the time. He claimed that he became disillusioned with the the Communist Party when Stalin signed a non-aggression pact and that the CP interfered with his work.
Both are valid criticisms (assuming the latter was true) and Schulberg was perfectly within his rights to leave the party, which he did. However, going on to name names and cooperate in one of the most horrific instances of government abuse in our nation’s history was going too far.

“Dalton [Trumbo] wrote one good novel and that’s it.” [Schulberg told Victor Navasky for the latter’s book Naming Names.] Most of these people never tried to write any social realism. I think maybe [they had some] guilt about making two thousand dollars a week and doing nothing. You could make it up by paying ten percent dues [to the Party], and maybe that made you feel better about being a hack. Most of them settled for being hacks.

These people, if they had it in them, could have written books and plays. There was not a blacklist in publishing. There was not a blacklist in the theater. They could have written about the forces that drove them into the Communist Party. There was practically nothing written.”

So according to Schulberg, even though his testimony led to the loss of his former friends’ ability to earn a living, it was their own damn fault because they either weren’t as prolific as he was or weren’t able to shift to stage plays and books, thus avoiding the Hollywood blacklist? That’s a level of ego bordering on narcissism. Of course Schulberg was also wrong about Trumbo’s output.
Please, save your “but he was a fantastic writer and deserves the accolades” responses. Of course he was a great writer and yes, deserves to be lauded as such. That said, when one does bad deeds, when one betrays long-standing friendships, when one does irreparable damage to the lives of that many people and their families, it must be included in any wrap up of your life. You don’t get to skate in death, just because you were a great artist in life.