Dissident artist Danilo Maldonado Machado on art and liberty in Cuba

Cuban dissident artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto,” was in Los Angeles recently for a show and a screening. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

At the tail end of 2014, Danilo Maldonado Machado, the graffiti artist known as “El Sexto,” was detained by the authorities as he made his way to a public park in Havana to stage a work of protest art. In his vehicle, he was carrying a pair of pigs that he had painted with the names of the Castro brothers — one “Raul,” the other “Fidel.” His plan was to release them and let members of the public catch them and take them home.

But the piece, titled “Rebelión en la granja” (after George Orwell’s “Animal Farm) never happened. Instead, Maldonado spent 10 months in jail. His case drew international headlines. As did a subsequent detention in which he publicly celebrated the death of Fidel Castro on a Havana street.

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What did being in prison teach you about Cuba?

It’s that the majority of people who are in jail, even though they wouldn’t consider themselves political prisoners, they are political prisoners. They are prisoners because they don’t work for the state — and that’s dangerous to the state. If you sell peanuts because you don’t want to work for the state’s miserable wage, you can end up in prison.

But [the Castros], they’ve never been held responsible for the crimes they have committed. On the contrary a lot of people think [Fidel] is cool. There are a lot of people in Latin America who think he is cool. But that’s not cool. Cool is Ghandi. Cool is Martin Luther King Jr.

To read entire interview, click HERE

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Jim Marshall, maker of rock-and-roll guitar amplifiers, dies at 88

To the parents of teenage wannabe bedroom rockers, Mr. Marshall’s amps were not welcome household company. But to those young players, Mr. Marshall was the Lord of Loud, the man who gave rock its gritty, beautifully distorted, cacophonous sound.

The big, black boxes resembled refrigerators, and when arranged in formation, they emitted a wall of sound.

Many of the most popular guitarists in history used Marshall amps, including Pete Townshend of The Who, Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Slash of Guns N’ Roses and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.

Marshall amps became such staples of the rock world that they became fodder for comedians, memorably in Rob Reiner’s 1984 satirical documentary “This is Spinal Tap.” In one scene, the fictional band’s clueless lead guitarist, Nigel Tufnel (played by Christopher Guest), explains that he uses special Marshall amps that “go to 11” as opposed to ordinary amps that only have a top volume setting of 10.

“Does that mean it’s louder?” asks the fake documentary director Marty DiBergi (played by Reiner).

“Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it?” Tufnel replies.

To read the entire story about Jim Marshall, click HERE

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Bob Dylan on the launch of rock and roll

Rock and roll was indeed an extension of what was going on – the big swinging bands – Ray Noble, Will Bradley, Glenn Miller, I listened to that music before I heard Elvis Presley. But rock and roll was high energy, explosive and cut down. It was skeleton music, came out of the darkness and rode in on the atom bomb and the artists were star headed like mystical Gods. Rhythm and blues, country and western, bluegrass and gospel were always there – but it was compartmentalized – it was great but it wasn’t dangerous. Rock and roll was a dangerous weapon, chrome plated, it exploded like the speed of light, it reflected the times, especially the presence of the atomic bomb which had preceded it by several years. Back then people feared the end of time. The big showdown between capitalism and communism was on the horizon. Rock and roll made you oblivious to the fear, busted down the barriers that race and religion, ideologies put up. We lived under a death cloud; the air was radioactive. There was no tomorrow, any day it could all be over, life was cheap. That was the feeling at the time and I’m not exaggerating. Doo-wop was the counterpart to rock and roll. Songs like “In the Still of the Night,” “Earth Angel,” “Thousand Miles Away,” those songs balanced things out, they were heartfelt and melancholy for a world that didn’t seem to have a heart. The doo-wop groups might have been an extension, too, of the Ink Spots and gospel music, but it didn’t matter; that was brand new too. Groups like the Five Satins and the Meadowlarks seemed to be singing from some imaginary street corner down the block. Jerry Lee Lewis came in like a streaking comet from some far away galaxy. Rock and roll was atomic powered, all zoom and doom. It didn’t seem like an extension of anything but it probably was.

To read entire interview, click HERE

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Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on St. Patrick’s Day

The ties that bind our two countries are deep and historic. And Ireland and the United States have a unique relationship that goes back to the earliest days of the original 14 colonies.  Irish foreign military officers assisted George Washington to win that war of independence.  Indeed, they’ve fought in every war for America since then.  And this very house was designed by James Hoban from Kilkenny, modeled in part after the Leinster House in Dublin, where the Irish parliament has met on our own independence since 1922.

It’s fitting that we gather here each year to celebrate St. Patrick and his legacy.  He, too, of course, was an immigrant.  And though he is, of course, the patron saint of Ireland, for many people around the globe, he is also a symbol of, indeed, the patron of immigrants.

Here in America, your great country, 35 million people claim Irish heritage, and the Irish have contributed to the economic, social, political and cultural life of this great country over the last 200 years.  Ireland came to America because, deprived of liberty, deprived of opportunity, of safety, of even food itself, the Irish believed, four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp, we were the “wretched refuse on the teeming shore.”  We believed in the shelter of America, and the compassion of America, and the opportunity of America.  We came, and we became Americans.

We lived the words of John F. Kennedy long before we heard them:  We asked not what America could do for us, but what we could do for America.  And we still do.  We want to give, and not to take.  We know the Irish have built the bridges and the roads, protected the public as firefighters and police officers.  We’ve cared for the sick in hospitals, entertained as poets, as singers and writers, as politicians, as judges and legislators.  And as entrepreneurs, they provided hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans, including most recently, in exciting technology companies.

 

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To Irish-Americans coast to coast, I say, these days especially, we hold you in our hearts.  And tonight, I thank you again for your warm hospitality.

Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, may I wish you and your lovely families every good wish and blessing on this very special day.  Indeed, I’m reminded in many ways of the dream of another American President — which Ireland will work with you for — when he spoke the words and said, “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last, best hope of Earth.”  Spoken by Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. President, Ireland will help you build on that foundation to achieve the ultimate dream.  Thank you, sir.  And God bless you.

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Chicago Ice Cream Maker Found Her Destiny in Paris

The Wall Street Journal published a beautifully memorable eulogy of Jolyn Robichaux this week. At the age of 88, she died a month ago of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Lewisville, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. (Link is unavailable.)

Robichaux grew up in the Depression, took over her family’s ice cream business upon the death of her husband in 1971, and then – upon selling the successful enterprise in 1992 – finally realized her dream by living in Paris and managing gospel concerts.

She grew up in Cairo, Illinois, as the daughter of a dentist. Her father’s customers, “both black and white, often paid him with hams, other food or homemade root beer rather than cash. He also owned a hamburger stand and a movie theater,” writes James Hagerty. “Her mother, the former Margaret Love, ran a beauty shop called the Vanity Box.” Continue reading

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Jack White’s Infinite Imagination

By Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker

Anything that captures Jack White’s imagination can occupy him. He reads scripts in the hope of directing a movie—he said he was disappointed at losing the opportunity to direct one about a Detroit drug dealer and F.B.I. informant called White Boy Rick. He contributes designs for baseball bats to a company in Texas called Warstic, in which he owns a share. At least eight players in the major leagues use Warstics. White also collects esoterica. He owns Leadbelly’s New York City arrest record, James Brown’s Georgia driver’s license from the nineteen-eighties, and Elvis Presley’s first record, a demo that he made in 1953, when he was eighteen. White bought it for three hundred thousand dollars at an auction, and loaned it to the Country Music Hall of Fame, where for a while it was on display. He had it transferred to acetate beforehand and Third Man Records released it in a limited edition. He collects old photo booths and recording booths, and he has a number of pieces of taxidermy, including two hyenas, two gazelles, a kudu, an elk, an elephant head, and a zebra head, as well as a young giraffe that he keeps in his office in Nashville.

The rarest and most valuable thing White owns is an issue of Action Comics No. 1, from June, 1938, which includes the first appearance of Superman, an occasion that White regards as “an important moment in literary history.” On the cover, Superman holds a car above his head and is smashing it into a rock. A copy sold on eBay in 2014 for $3,207,852, the highest price ever paid for a comic book. White bought his copy a few years ago, for less than half that. He keeps it in a filing cabinet in a temperature-controlled vault in Nashville. He took it out to show me. “If I’m going to invest in something, it has to have meaning to me, something that has historical value and can be passed on,” he said. “If I buy Elvis’s first record, and we are able to digitize it and release it, and people can own it, or I can preserve this comic book, it is cooler than buying some Ferrari or investing in British Petroleum.”

To read entire article click HERE

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How C.S. Lewis Helped Encourage Tolkien’s ‘LORD OF THE RINGS’

By Alicia Kort, Newsweek

In the 20th century, two British authors, J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, dominated the world’s imagination with their original works, which have been translated into more than 39 languages, printed in more than 300 million copies and were optioned into films earning more than $6.4 billion combined at the global box office. While the individual talent of these authors is undeniable to readers today, many may have no inkling that Tolkien and Lewis enjoyed an unshakable friendship—a relationship directly responsible for the creation of The Lord of the Rings and Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

A year after Tolkien began teaching at Merton College at Oxford University, he met fellow professor Lewis at a faculty meeting in 1926. But it wasn’t necessarily friendship-at-first-sight. In his diary, Lewis describes Tolkien as “a smooth, pale fluent little chap—no harm in him: only needs a smack or so.” But the pair soon bonded over a shared interest in Norse mythology, from which Tolkien would draw heavily for The Lord of the Rings.

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About four years into their friendship, Tolkien and Lewis explored their love for ancient tales of gods and heroes through a literary society at Oxford called the Inklings, which met informally in a private back room, then called the Rabbit Room, of the Eagle and Child pub on the Oxford campus’s St. Giles Street. The Inklings would meet to discuss and workshop each other’s endeavors, and it was here that Tolkien and Lewis found inspiration. The pair agreed the fantasy and science-fiction genres, while enticing in their promise, lacked entries they actually wanted to read. So they decided to write their own.

“They were convinced that they were two oddball weirdos who cared about stories that nobody else cared about, who were interested in periods of literary history that no one else was interested in,” Dr. Alan Jacobs from Baylor University told NPR. “They were very convinced of their own isolation from the mainstream of intellectual culture, but through that mutual encouragement, they produced these works that ended up changing the mainstream of intellectual culture, which I am sure they would not have believed possible.”

To read entire article, click HERE

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Banksy Puts Mark on Bethlehem Hotel With ‘Worst View in the World’

Artwork by Banksy in one of the rooms. Credit Dusan Vranic/Associated Press

By Russell Goldman, The New York Times

Welcome to the “hotel with the worst view in the world.” Please be mindful of the million-dollar art on the walls.

The elusive British street artist Banksy has decorated the interiors of the Walled Off Hotel, a nine-room guesthouse in the West Bank city of Bethlehem whose windows overlook the barrier that separates the territory from Israel.

Among the rooms decorated by the artist, who has earned a following for tagging walls around the world with witty illustrations and dark political commentaries, is the “Banksy Room.”

In the room, a mural on the wall above a king-size bed depicts a Palestinianand an Israeli locked in combat — only they are having a pillow fight.

To read complete article, click HERE

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Punk rock lifers Social Distortion move forward by looking backward

 

There has to be a heaven, because Mike Ness has already been through hell.

This is how the Social Distortion frontman describes his life.

You hear it in his voice, a lived-in baritone that’s burlap-rough around the edges but which has been softened at its core by the hard times of decades gone by.

The past is present in pretty much everything Ness does, from the vintage threads he wears, to the customized hot rods he drives to the way he narrates his life story in song.

Ness is a rock ’n’ roll originalist, favoring a throwback approach to the music he makes, right down to plugging his guitar in with a cord as opposed to going wireless at his band’s gigs.

When Social D recently put out a box set that included some of their earliest recordings, Ness was adamant that everything remained as it was initially tracked with no studio enhancements.

“I just made it a point to put a label on there, ‘Absolutely not digitally remastered,’ ” he says. “I don’t want to change something so it sounds good in somebody’s Bose headphones. It’s like listening to an old John Lee Hooker record. Don’t touch it, you know?”

This preservationist vibe is palpable on Social D’s last studio record, 2011’s “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes,” an album that burrowed deeper beneath the band’s punk rock surface to get more directly in touch with Ness’ Americana and blues roots.

Ness has always been way more Woody Guthrie than Johnny Rotten, and while “Hard Times” isn’t as hard-driving as a formative Social D record like 1992’s “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell,” a combustible blend of heartache and hellfire, it sees the band moving forward by looking backward.

“What’s good about evolving is that sometimes that doesn’t mean necessarily that you’re going all technical,” Ness says. “Actually, sometimes that means going more primitive.”

Read entire article HERE

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Happy Fat Tuesday

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