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One of the very few surviving drawings from the Warsaw Ghetto


“Zog Nit Keynmol (Song of the Warsaw Ghetto)”

Never say that you have reached the very end,
When leaden skies a bitter future may portend;
For sure the hour for which we yearn will yet arrive,
And our marching step will thunder: we survive!

From green palm trees to the land of distant snow,
We are here with our sorrow, our woe,
And wherever our blood was shed in pain,
Our fighting spirits now will resurrect again.

The golden rays of morning sun will dry our tears,
Dispelling bitter agony of yesteryears,
But if the sun and dawn with us will be delayed,
Then let this song ring out to you the call, instead.

Not lead, but blood inscribed this bitter song we sing,
It’s not a caroling of birds upon the wing,
But ’twas a people midst the crashing fires of hell
That sang this song and fought courageous till it fell.

So never say that you have reached the very end
Though leaden skies a bitter future may portend
Because the hour which we yearn for will arrive
And our marching step will thunder: We survive!


I like history and am a fan of World War II movies. Now when I say that, I don’t mean the combat films, though there are many fine examples. My favorites are those that focus on the people who fought as Partisans against the fascist forces of that time. Movies like Hangmen Also Die!, The Seventh Cross and Watch on the Rhine are such examples and favorites of mine. Casablanca, at its core, is also such a film.

There is something in these films that goes beyond the horror and stupidity of war and brings a very human element into the conversation. For me, it is the portrayal of common people fighting for their freedom and dignity in any way they can against brutal and overwhelmingly oppressive forces that I find so appealing. They often band together in covert underground organizations to form a network that attempts to stymie their oppressors expansive desires.

Many of these groups of partisans had rallying songs that they used to unite themselves and to shore up their strength and courage. In Watch on the Rhine, one of my favorite characters in all filmdom, a Resistance leader played to perfection by Paul Lukas, sings a song that he sang as a German soldier returning from WW I that had been adapted as a song of resistance to the Nazis. Very powerful stuff.

The song below (with lyrics above) is such a song. It is Zog Nit Keynmol which is sometimes called The Song of the Partisans or The Song of the Warsaw Ghetto. It was sung during the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto and is still sung today as an anthem of defiance and perseverance.

And survival.

Most versions of this song are in Yiddish or Hebrew but I am sharing the version of this song from the great Paul Robeson that integrates both an English translation along with the original Yiddish lyrics.

If you need to shore up your own courage and strength in the iffy days ahead, give a listen. Powerful stuff, indeed. Have a good day and stay aware.


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The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?

‘No, thank you,’ he will think. ‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.’

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning


Thought I’d kick off the first day of autumn by sharing a painting, And the Glimmer Comes, which I look at from my chair now, a few words from the always inspiring Viktor Frankl on finding meaning in one’s life and a piece of music that brings it all together for me, as someone just in the autumn of his life. Well, I say just but I guess that would be based on a lifespan of 120 years.

High hopes, I suppose.

The music is an atmospheric piece, Good Night, Day, from the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018) who was best known for his scores for films such as Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and The Theory of Everything.

I am going to leave it at that. Have a good first day of fall.

 


 

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Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.

Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina


 


GC Myers- Tower of Lies
How long can you stand on a tower of lies?
How long can you endure on a tower built with  lies for posts and boasts for beams ?
How long before you see the folly in reinforcing one lie with another?
How long before the foundations come apart and fail?
How long before truth comes as gravity to pull this tower down?
How long can we tolerate you standing brazenly atop your tower of lies?
How long until the inevitable collapse comes?
How long until we begin to tally the casualties from the fall?
How long before we begin to build a straighter and stronger tower?
How long can you stand on this tower of lies?

The post above ran back in February of 2017. That seems like an eternity ago now. It asks how long you can stand on a tower of lies.

We may be coming to an answer, at last. The past 3 1/2 years has seen the most remarkable amount of lying and deceit ever to spew from an administration. It is without equal in our history.

Not even close.

The whole administration is a tower built from lies, deflections, spittle, tape and hairspray. It is as weak as the fool atop it.

And now the “Good Germans” who continue to shore up the foundations of this rickety horror show now make no pretense of honesty, openly and shamelessly lying for all the world to see. Their words, their ethics, their moral compasses are worthless trinkets now.

It is obvious they will and plan to do absolutely anything needed to maintain power. There are a number of scenarios floating out there that outline sheer power plays right out of the fascist/authoritarian playbook that might be in play soon. As hard as it is to imagine these things ever coming to be in this land, we have to at least look at them, be aware of them.

I know that four years ago, in September of 2016, I worried that the scenario we’re experiencing might be a possibility with the election of the orange creature. But I felt that my imagination was just running wild and that the institutions, our Constitution, the balance of power would surely  be strong enough to hold back the onslaught.

So now, I hope for the best outcome but pledge to be prepared for the worst.

Be aware and prepare.

Here’s another song from people who were in such a situation. It’s Bella Ciao, a resistance song from the Italian partisans, the anti-fascists who fought the underground battle against Mussolini and Hitler during World War II.

Bella Ciao was originally a rallying song for the women who labored in the rice paddies of northern Italy in the 19th century. Their jobs were backbreaking and they were treated poorly which resulted in strikes and riots and the violence that accompanies such things. This was their rallying song. Bellla Ciao translates as Goodbye Beautiful.

This version is from Marc Ribot‘s 2018 album Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 and features the unmistakable vocals of the great Tom Waits. It is a powerful version of a powerful song that still stands as symbol of resistance to authoritarianism to this day.

Let’s hope we don’t have to adopt this song as our own. Be aware and prepare.

 

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As I walk this land of sudden beauty
I hear the voices of such angry men
But my eye’s been on the prize for so long now
Ain’t gonna let them turn
Ain’t gonna let them turn me ’round again

— Ain’t Gonna Let Them Turn Me Around, Marc Ribot/ Steve Earle


I don’t want to write anything this morning. I don’t want to disrupt the quiet of a slow Sunday morning with bitter anger and long spews of profanity. You don’t need to hear it from me this morning.

It’s a time to gather one’s strength and get ready for the difficult days ahead.

So, I am simply going to share a couple of songs, as I do on every Sunday morning. One is a song that came from a late 19th century folk spiritual that was sung in the civil rights marches of the early 60’s, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around. It is powerfully performed here by Sweet Honey in the Rock. The second, Ain’t Gonna Let Them Turn Us Around, is loosely derived from the first song and is from guitarist Marc Ribot‘s 2018 album, Songs of Resistance 1942-2018. and features the vocals of Steve Earle.

Give a listen.

Don’t lose heart. Look at it this way– there is no longer any veil covering their willingness to grab and maintain power at any cost. You now fully know what you’re facing and can prepare.

Use your day wisely and proceed without fear. And vote early.



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Bill Evans a


Busy this morning and this week with some much needed projects around the studio and the home. But I thought that this morning I would feature the piano of the great Bill Evans (1929-1980) and the song My Foolish Heart. It’s a song that I featured here about four years back

As I said then, I chose this song because it’s a fairly good live recording and I like watching the hands of musicians, especially guitarists and pianists, when they play. I don’t know much about music in technical terms but the differences in the way musicians play is striking to me, adding a whole new dimension to the work. For example, when I watch legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson play I am struck by the fluidity and nimbleness of his hands. They have an extremely delicate and graceful bounce, especially for a large man.

But watching Evans perform this song is, to me, more about those unplayed parts of the music– the pauses and silences that fill the air of the piece. Couple this with his body movements and positions and it makes for a mesmerizing performance.

So take a look and give listen.  Hope you have a great day…


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View of California Wildfires From Above the Clouds


“In all your years and all your travels,” I asked, “what do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned about life?”

He paused a moment, then with the twinkle sparkling under those brambly eyebrows he replied: “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. In all the confusions of today, with all our troubles . . . with politicians and people slinging the word fear around, all of us become discouraged . . . tempted to say this is the end, the finish. But life — it goes on. It always has. It always will. Don’t forget that.”

–Robert Frost , on his 80th birthday, speaking to journalist Ray Josephs, 1954


What a time it is.

Much of the imagery you see these days is downright terrifying and disheartening, from the apocalyptic fire scenes from the west coast to the images of clashes in the streets between protesters and police to the scenes of armed white supremacists being given virtual carte blanche treatment as they move about the country to the ugly, hateful stupidity displayed so publicly now by the president’s red hatted followers as they gather to piss and moan about “their country” being taken from them.

Oh, what a time it is.

I wish I could quote Dickens and say that it was the best of times, it was worst of times but quite honestly, where is the best of times to be found these days?

I saw the photo at the top of the California wildfires as seen from above the clouds and at first glimpse thought it was a closeup of the coronavirus. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had somehow sprang from the same Pandora’s Box and ultimately resembled one another. The destructive effect of the two on the lives of those involved is much the same, that’s for sure.

I guess I can only look to the words of Robert Frost and many others who have told us that life will go on. Even though they seem wise enough that I want to trust that they somehow know this to be true, these days I find myself doubting them. But for today, I am going to trust their judgement.

Life goes on.

Here’s the Beatles with their Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da which uses that phrase as a refrain. Keep it in mind as you hopefully have a good Sunday.


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Kurt Weill. Who Wrote “September Song” with Maxwell Anderson


 

The summer ended. Day by day, and taking its time, the summer ended. The noises in the street began to change, diminish, voices became fewer, the music sparse. Daily, blocks and blocks of children were spirited away. Grownups retreated from the streets, into the houses. Adolescents moved from the sidewalk to the stoop to the hallway to the stairs, and rooftops were abandoned. Such trees as there were allowed their leaves to fall – they fell unnoticed – seeming to promise, not without bitterness, to endure another year. At night, from a distance, the parks and playgrounds seemed inhabited by fireflies, and the night came sooner, inched in closer, fell with a greater weight. The sound of the alarm clock conquered the sound of the tambourine, the houses put on their winter faces. The houses stared down a bitter landscape, seeming, not without bitterness, to have resolved to endure another year.”

― James Baldwin, Just Above My Head


In this strangest of years, September has crept in without barely any notice for me. Much in the way August departed. I barely noticed the comings and goings, even though time seems to drag in these days of waiting for what might come next.

In doing so, I have neglected playing what might be my favorite song as I do every year at this time. The son is September Song, written by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson for the 1938 Broadway show Knickerbocker Holiday. It was written in just a few hours after the show’s star, Walter Huston, requested that he have a solo  song in the show.

Of course, in doing so, the composers had to account for Huston’s limited vocal range. The result though is a song that has become one of the great standards, covered by an incredibly wide range of artists. I have played versions from Willie Nelson, Bryan Ferry and Lou Reed along with the more well known jazz vocalists.

The song is just lovely in a most wistful way and these days we can all use something lovely and even wistful. Here’s such a version from the great Sarah Vaughan.

Have a good day.

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The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.

H.L. Mencken


I have been trying to stay away from current events but seeing this morning that the Department of Justice is looking to take over the defense of the president in a defamation lawsuit brought against the president*** by a private citizen over an alleged rape that took place twenty years ago just raises my blood. The fact that we, the people, are now paying for his legal defense and any subsequent settlement for is beyond the pale.

It is just another mile marker on the road to authoritarianism.

Factor in what is happening under the rulers this thing in our white house so much admires and refuses to criticize, often even as they imperil our citizen soldiers. You have the kidnappings of opposition leaders in Belarus. The poisoning of opposition leader and Putin critic Alexei Navalny in Russia, which was, by the way, not the first such occasion under the Putin regime. And then there is the crazy number of Putin critics and journalists who “accidentally” fall from high rise windows or mysteriously get shot with sight of the Kremlin.

Not to mention the brutal killing and dismemberment of a US based journalist by the Saudi regime that he often coos about, an atrocity that is now barely a blip in a radar screen filled with atrocities.

That’s the world to which our creature in charge aspires. And 40% or so of our population thinks, or in the absence of thought, believes that this is just fine and dandy.

I can’t accept that.

I will not succumb to the dark world being forced upon us. Will not keep my mouth shut. Will not close my eyes to the wrongs being perpetrated. Will not turn my head away from the rampant corruption or the many injustices of this regime.

I won’t do it.

And the 40% of us that are his true believers view this as being unpatriotic.

Well, we obviously have different views on patriotism.

I am going to defer to Aristotle on this: “It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.

If being a good citizen requires me to be less than a good man, then I will cease being a good citizen.

Sorry for the spew this morning. Here’s a song that says this much better than my angry words. It’s from way back in 1984 from Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul and his album Voice of America. You might know him better as Miami Steve Van Zandt from Springsteen’s E Street Band or as Silvio, Tony’s lieutenant and the owner of the Bada Bing Club on The Sopranos. Or from his Sirius radio channel Little Steven’s Underground Garage or from his Netflix series, Lilyhammer. He’s a busy, multifaceted guy.

And a patriot by my and Mencken’s definitions. Here’s his I Am a Patriot.

The painting at the top, The Way of the Brave,  is from quite a few years back. It’s a longtime favorite of mine and one that I used when I last played this song here back in 2009. It still fits the song.

Have a good day.

 

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I usually go on and on about the real meaning of Labor Day but I am tired today. Here’s a post from a couple of years ago about a favorite song concerning work, fittingly titled Work Song, of all things. Great tune. Have a good Labor Day and just try to at least give a little thought to what the holiday represents.


I call this painting Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a title I used for a few paintings from my early Exiles series, in which this piece is included. I seldom show this piece and am not sure if it has ever appeared here. While I like this piece for a variety of reasons– for instance, I love the sky and hill colors– I never felt it was up to the same level as the other work in the Exiles series. I felt that it was more flawed than the others and too forced, not as organically formed as much of the other Exiles.

But every time I pull this piece out I feel a small sense of satisfaction in it and maybe that it needed to be aired out. I want to play a song today and thought this would be a good opportunity to let this little guy get out a bit. We’ll see.

The song is Work Song. It was written by the brother of jazz great Cannonball Adderley, who originally performed the song as an upbeat  jazz piece. But it has been interpreted by a number of artists over the years, some to great effect. Others, not so much to my taste. But one of my favorites is from one of my  guilty pleasures, Tennessee Ernie Ford.

He certainly doesn’t seem like a “cool” choice if you remember his public persona in the 50’s and 60’s as the goofily naive but affable hick from Bristol, Tennessee. I enjoyed that caricature as kid but it was his music that hooked me. He had a deep and mellow voice and a knack for choosing songs and arrangements that fit him perfectly. His series of country boogies were great and his 16 Tons is a classic. His version of this song is a great interpretation, spare and deep felt.

I couldn’t find a decent video of this song so here is the track alone:

Here’s another version that is a different interpretation from a band called The Big Beats with vocalist Arlin Harmon. I don’t have a lot of info on either though from what I can glean Harmon was a highly esteemed singer out in the Northwest. It’s a solid rocking performance with a different flavor than Tennessee Ernie’s. Give a listen.

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I don’t need to be forgiven
For something I haven’t done
Nor for wanting my family
To find their place in the sun
If you keep this pressure on
Just don’t be surprised
If I can’t summon up my dignity
While you’re roughing up my pride

There will be a reckoning
For the peddlers of hate
Who spread their poison all across this estate
And a reckoning, too, for the politicians who
Left us to this fate
There will be a reckoning

Billy Bragg, There Will Be a Reckoning


Since we’re in the midst of another Labor Day weekend, albeit one certainly not in normal times, I was listening to some Billy Bragg, the British singer who has picked up the mantle of Woody Guthrie to become the voice for workers and the downtrodden. In fact, his Guthrie connection includes the fact that he provided most of the vocals for one of my favorites albums, Mermaid Avenue. It was a collaboration between Bragg and the group Wilco to set to music and record a group of unreleased Woody Guthrie songs that were just lyrics on paper.

The result was what I consider a brilliant album. But that’s one guy’s opinion.

I came across this song from Bragg that has been bouncing around for a while but seems to have relevance for these times. It’s called There Will Be a Reckoning. In different performances Bragg has talked about how since WWII and the defeat of the fascist forces that were threatening to overtake the planet, generations of politicians have neglected to honestly address the big issues that affect the majority of the population on this planet– financial inequality, social injustice and racism, food insecurity and adequate healthcare.

They usually just kick these concerns down the road in acts of expediency.

Expediency is often just another name for cowardice.

As a result, it has created a vacuum in which those with fascist tendencies and objectives can once again begin the rise to power through the division of the population through campaigns of fear and hatred. They see the neglected problems and, though they have no plan on ever correcting the deficits, use it as a prybar to separate the masses and set one group against the other.

And quite often they succeed. And fascism gains a strong toehold and takes power. And this leaves another generation to have someday fight to stop its spread.

Yeah, if it’s not stopped, there will definitely be a reckoning.

Here’s a live version of the song from several years ago. I am playing it to let you hear Bragg’s cockney accent and a few words on the song as he introduces it. The painting at the top is my A Time For Reckoning which is still at the West End Gallery and was part of my recent show there. I think it pairs well with this song and these times.

Have a good day.


 

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