Janis Joplin: The Meaning of “Freedom”

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The quotation is from the Janis Joplin’s song “Me and Bobby McGee.” You can hear it right here, in this video I embedded from YouTube:

 

For John Lennon’s Birthday, the True Story of How I Observed This Holiday in 1983

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I’ve been a fan of John Lennon for as long as I can remember, and October 9, his birthday, has always been a special day for me. In 1983, when I was a high school junior, celebrating his birthday changed from something I simply did, by choice, into what, at the time, I considered a moral imperative.

In October of ’83, I was a student — a junior — at McClellan High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, and October 9th happened to be the day that all juniors were, according to that school’s administration, required to take the ASVAB: the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. While this is a standardized test, it isn’t like other standardized tests — it is actually a recruitment tool for the United States military.

At the time, Ronald Reagan was president, and we were in one of the many scary parts of the Cold War, with the threat of global thermonuclear war looming over us at all times. If you are too young to remember the Reagan era well, it may be hard to understand just how real, and how scary, it was to grow up with a president who did such things as making “jokes,” like this, in front of a microphone:

Reagan made this extremely unfunny “joke” the next year, in 1984, but the climate of fear in which he thought such a thing would be funny was already firmly in place in 1983, and I was already openly questioning the sanity of our president. My own anti-war attitudes, very much influenced by Lennon and his music, were already firmly in place. For the few unfamiliar with it, here is a sample of Lennon’s music.

So here I was, a high school junior, being told I had to take a test, for the military, on John Lennon’s birthday. I reacted to this in pretty much the same way a devout Jew or Muslim would react to being told to eat pork chops: I absolutely refused to cooperate. “Blasphemy” is not a word I use often now, and it wasn’t then, either, but to cooperate with this would have been the closest thing to blasphemy which I was capable of understanding at that age (I was 15 years old when this happened).

The other juniors got up and shuffled off, like good, obedient soldiers, when the intercom told them to go take the ASVAB. I simply remained seated.

The teacher told me it was time to go take the ASVAB. I replied, calmly, that no force on earth could compel me to take a test for the military on John Lennon’s birthday. At that point, I was sent to the office. Going to the office posed no ethical nor moral dilemmas for me, for I wanted the people there to know, also, that it was wrong for them to give a test for the military on October 9, of all days.

The principal, a man already quite used to dealing with me and my eccentricities, knew it would be pointless to argue with me about the ASVAB. He simply showed me a chair in the main office, and told me I could sit there that day, all day, and I did. To the school, this might have been seen as a single day of in-school suspension, but I saw it for what it really was: a one-person, sit-down protest for peace, in honor of the greatest activist for peace the world has ever known. It was an act of civil disobedience, and I regret nothing about it.

I will be sharing this story with Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, a woman I very much admire, and the greatest living activist for peace in the world today. Yoko, I do hope you enjoy this story. You and John have done great things, and they will not be forgotten, as long as people remain alive to tell about them.

Peace to all.

[Credits: photo from rollingstone.com; videos from YouTube.]

My Mental Jukebox

NOTES

My mental jukebox’s default setting is “on,” which is nice. Usually, I can even consciously choose what to listen to, and it doesn’t cost me a cent.

Stellating the Great Dodecahedron, by Twentieths, to Beethoven’s Ninth

In this video, the great dodecahedron is stellated, by twentieths, into the great stellated dodecahedron, while a selection from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony plays. The images for this video were created using Stella 4d, a program you can try for yourself (free trial download available), right here: http://www.software3d.com/Stella.php

Public Education in Arkansas Is Under Attack — By Our Own State Legislature!

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For details on the efforts of the majority of the Arkansas State Legislature to ruin public schools in Arkansas, please watch this music video:

The AEA (Arkansas Education Association) is doing everything they can to resist this flood of anti-education legislation. If you are eligible for membership in the AEA, and join, that will help with these efforts — for the strength of the AEA grows as our number of members increases. If you work in an Arkansas public school, you can join. Students can join also, and so can those who have retired from work in the field. For information on how to join, please click here.

Meet the NEA President, Lily Eskelsen Garcia

In my last post (click here to see it), I made a case for Arkansans who work in public schools to join the Arkansas Education Association, a state affiliate of the NEA, or National Education Association. I’d now like to introduce you to NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. This video was recorded while she was still the NEA Vice-President, but it remains a great introduction to the kind of person she is.

I don’t often simply yield my blog-space to others . . . but I’m one of Lily’s fans, and have been since I first saw her perform this song, so she gets “airtime” here — without even having to ask for it.

Teachers’ unions are under attack by corporate-backed politicians — all across the country. It’s important that we fight back. The more members we have, the more effectively we can resist the current efforts to reduce the legal rights of those who work in schools (both teachers and support staff). If you are eligible for membership in the NEA (see this page to check on that, and join, please, if you can), I hope you will not only join, but recruit others to join, as well. The more members we have, the stronger we are. The stronger we are, the more likely we are to prevail — over those who trying to destroy public education in this country.

The NEA, and its affiliates, protect the working environment of America’s teachers — and that is also the learning environment of America’s children. Helping the NEA save American public education is, therefore. in the best interests of everyone.

If you teach, or work in some other capacity in an American public school, this is your fight. Please join us.

Music Recommendations, Using the “What I Like” Criterion

Ranking musicians in order of preference is too hard, so I’m going with alphabetical order with this. Apart from studio work by Bob Dylan, this should all be pretty easy to find on YouTube.

  • Lily Allen
  • Syd Barrett
  • The Beatles (especially the late period)
  • Beethoven
  • David Bowie
  • Johnny Cash
  • Ray Charles
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Albert Collins
  • Sheryl Crow
  • The Dresden Dolls
  • Bob Dylan
  • The Doors
  • The Eurythmics
  • The Flaming Lips
  • The Fugs (so bad they’re good)
  • The Grateful Dead
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • John Lee Hooker
  • The Indigo Girls
  • Jefferson Airplane (but later incarnations, such as Starship, are anti-recommended)
  • Janis Joplin
  • John Lennon
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Modest Mouse
  • Mozart
  • Murder By Death (now on tour; website here)
  • Muse
  • Amanda Palmer, in or out of the Dresden Dolls
  • Tom Petty, with or without the Heartbreakers
  • Pink Floyd
  • The Police
  • Pomplamoose
  • Queen
  • Radiohead
  • The Ramones
  • Lou Reed
  • REM
  • The Rolling Stones (especially early and middle periods)
  • Paul Simon / Simon & Garfunkel
  • Skin
  • The Strokes
  • The Travelin’ Wilburys
  • The Velvet Underground
  • The Violent Femmes
  • Weezer
  • The White Stripes
  • Wilco
  • Yes
  • Yoko Ono
  • Thom Yorke

New Murder By Death Song Just Released, and Album Coming Soon

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Murder By Death, one of my favorite bands, has a new album, Big Dark Love, coming out in February. It can be pre-ordered at https://www.bloodshotrecords.com/album/big-dark-love, and, of course, I already have my pre-order in. The band is also touring, and you can find out when they’ll be playing near you at their website, http://www.murderbydeath.com/tour-dates/.

So far, one song, “Strange Eyes,” has been released from Big Dark Love, and you can hear it right here: http://consequenceofsound.net/2014/12/murder-by-death-share-new-song-strange-eyes-listen/.

I’ve seen this band, live, six times. Their music is amazing, and can’t recommend it highly enough. I look forward to seeing them in concert again, soon.