Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Re Utah Phillips; I copy this from the message boards where it was posted by "katlaughing". I didn't realise Utah's own songs had been recorded by mainstream artists like Emmy Lou Harris, Waylon Jennings and Tom Waits. Mostly I know his recordings of Wobbly songs and union songs written by other people; and his stories of course. I looked through my stuff last night but none of my records by those artists featured a Utah song. So now it's off to foxytunes.

Here's the official obituary from the family:

The offical Obituary as provided by the family. May 24, 2008

"Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp Utah Phillips Dead at 73"
Nevada City, California:

Utah Phillips, a seminal figure in American folk music who performed extensively and tirelessly for audiences on two continents for 38 years, died Friday of congestive heart failure in Nevada City, California a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains where he lived for the last 21 years with his wife, Joanna Robinson, a freelance editor.

Born Bruce Duncan Phillips on May 15, 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio, he was the son of labor organizers. Whether through this early influence or an early life that was not always tranquil or easy, by his twenties Phillips demonstrated a lifelong concern with the living conditions of working people. He was a proud member of the Industrial Workers of the World, popularly known as "the Wobblies," an organizational artifact of early twentieth-century labor struggles that has seen renewed interest and growth in membership in the last decade, not in small part due to his efforts to popularize it.

Phillips served as an Army private during the Korean War, an experience he would later refer to as the turning point of his life. Deeply affected by the devastation and human misery he had witnessed, upon his return to the United States he began drifting, riding freight trains around the country. His struggle would be familiar today, when the difficulties of returning combat veterans are more widely understood, but in the late fifties Phillips was left to work them out for himself. Destitute and drinking, Phillips got off a freight train in Salt Lake City and wound up at the Joe Hill House, a homeless shelter operated by the anarchist Ammon Hennacy, a member of the Catholic Worker movement and associate of Dorothy Day.

Phillips credited Hennacy and other social reformers he referred to as his "elders" with having provided a philosophical framework around which he later constructed songs and stories he intended as a template his audiences could employ to understand their own political and working lives. They were often hilarious, sometimes sad, but never shallow.

"He made me understand that music must be more than cotton candy for the ears," said John McCutcheon, a nationally-known folksinger and close friend. In the creation of his performing persona and work, Phillips drew from influences as diverse as Borscht Belt comedian Myron Cohen, folksingers Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and Country stars Hank Williams and T. Texas Tyler.

A stint as an archivist for the State of Utah in the 1960s taught Phillips the discipline of historical research; beneath the simplest and most folksy of his songs was a rigorous attention to detail and a strong and carefully-crafted narrative structure. He was a voracious reader in a surprising variety of fields. Meanwhile, Phillips was working at Hennacy's Joe Hill house. In 1968 he ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. The race was won by a Republican candidate, and Phillips was seen by some Democrats as having split the vote. He subsequently lost his job with the State of Utah, a process he described as "blacklisting."

Phillips left Utah for Saratoga Springs, New York, where he was welcomed into a lively community of folk performers centered at the Caffé Lena, operated by Lena Spencer. "It was the coffeehouse, the place to perform. Everybody went there. She fed everybody," said John "Che" Greenwood, a fellow performer and friend. Over the span of the nearly four decades that followed, Phillips worked in what he referred to as "the Trade," developing an audience of hundreds of thousands and performing in large and small cities throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. His performing partners included Rosalie Sorrels, Kate Wolf, John McCutcheon and Ani DiFranco.

"He was like an alchemist," said Sorrels, "He took the stories of working people and railroad bums and he built them into work that was influenced by writers like Thomas Wolfe, but then he gave it back, he put it in language so the people whom the songs and stories were about still had them, still owned them. He didn't believe in stealing culture from the people it was about."

A single from Phillips's first record, "Moose Turd Pie," a rollicking story about working on a railroad track gang, saw extensive airplay in 1973. From then on, Phillips had work on the road. His extensive writing and recording career included two albums with Ani DiFranco which earned a Grammy nomination. Phillips's songs were performed and recorded by Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez, Tom Waits, Joe Ely and others. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Folk Alliance in 1997.

Phillips, something of a perfectionist, claimed that he never lost his stage fright before performances. He didn't want to lose it, he said; it kept him improving. Phillips began suffering from the effects of chronic heart disease in 2004, and as his illness kept him off the road at times, he started a nationally syndicated folk-music radio show, "Loafer's Glory," produced at KVMR-FM and started a homeless shelter in his rural home county, where down-on-their-luck men and women were sleeping under the manzanita brush at the edge of town. Hospitality House opened in 2005 and continues to house 25 to 30 guests a night. In this way, Phillips returned to the work of his mentor Hennacy in the last four years of his life.

Phillips died at home, in bed, in his sleep, next to his wife. He is survived by his son Duncan and daughter-in-law Bobette of Salt Lake City, son Brendan of Olympia, Washington; daughter Morrigan Belle of Washington, D.C.; stepson Nicholas Tomb of Monterrey, California; stepson and daughter-in-law Ian Durfee and Mary Creasey of Davis, California; brothers David Phillips of Fairfield, California, Ed Phillips of Cleveland, Ohio and Stuart Cohen of Los Angeles; sister Deborah Cohen of Lisbon, Portugal; and a grandchild, Brendan. He was preceded in death by his father Edwin Phillips and mother Kathleen, and his stepfather, Syd Cohen.
A Hollywood based female best known for flashing her minge on the silver screen has issued a Buddhist fatwa. The deaths of thousands of innocent people, many of them children, is divine revenge for the overthrow of an unelected autocrat and his replacement by an unelected oligarchy. And people believe in this shit.
When the communists moved into Tibet they were welcomed by the peasantry who had suffered centuries of abuse at the hands of the theocracy. The peasantry soon learned that the communists were no better. Now they are resisting the Chinese imperialists and the monks are moving in and preparing to restore the old régime. In the west they talk about freedom and democracy for Tibet, at the same time presenting the Dalai Lama and his saffron garbed bloodsuckers as the only alternative to the Chinese. The Hollywood Buddhist is more honest; she wants to see dead Chinese, and the autocrat back in power. Leave the freedom and democracy moonshine to the Neo-con bombers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dewsbury, where they elect neo-nazis to the council, is experiencing racial gang war. Let's hope they are not going to start whining about it, that's what they voted for. When you vote BNP you vote for the whole package, and that includes the "strategy of tension".

Talking of nasty people I read that Fabio "Il Duce" Capello has named John "Snotty" Terry as England captain. So much for a new broom getting rid of the old crap. Altogether now, "Atishoo, atishoo, ALL FALL DOWN!"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I learn that Utah Phillips passed away two days ago aged 73. Singer, songwriter, storyteller, fellow worker of the IWW, a link with the past. He will be missed, but his wit and wisdom remain as his legacy.
Now it can be told - Hull City 1, Bristol City 0. Hull City now join the Premier League. Congratulations and good luck to all.
Pishrogues have prevented me from commenting on City's progress.I feared I might put the mockers on their efforts. It's a strange superstition, I believe it's my only one, but it's one I can't shake off. "Don't speak too soon", was the cry when I was young, and I still live by that rule even though I know it makes no sense.
Noone likes a braggart and we all rejoice when one comes unstuck, which may be what lies behind this taboo; a form of socialisation which, nolens volens, becomes a factor in the individual's thought process.
Anyway the lads have done it. Praise is due to Phil Brown whose behaviour and statements throughout recommend him as a model for all football managers. And a mention in dispatches for Dean Windass who played an important role in this achievement.
Where's that tiger? Soon to be seen at Old Trafford, Anfield, Stanford Bridge, that place I won't mention because it's an advert ...

Correction: Stamford Bridge. What was I thinking?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

'... when Raytheon won a contract to develop a new missile system for the Israelis in 2006, a spokesman boasted they would "Provide all-weather hit-to-kill performance at a tactical missile price." Next they might have adverts, that go "Hurry hurry hurry to the Raytheon springtime sale for lasers, tasers and civilian-erasers that will make flesh sizzle through snow, sleet or drizzle WITHOUT making a casualty of your wallet."Despite this, the government in Northern Ireland welcomed the new plant, claiming they'd been assured it wouldn't be making weapons.'

The Mark Steel column the Independent dare not publish is at White Rabbit's blog, here -

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

When is a cult not a cult?
When the thought police tell you it's a church.
Can a scientologist join the Masons?
"Remember the way the TGWU betrayed the Liverpool dockers? I bet you thought no union could ever sink so low again. I did too. We were wrong. The way Unite has treated the Belfast Airport workers is a disgrace. Unite's leaders should hang their heads in shame." (Jimmy McGovern)

Unite hunger striker Gordon McNeill in bad shape.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gore Vidal on the South Bank Show, Sunday evening; the old fellow's looking very frail, but still managed to entertain with his comments. I can't think what Melvyn Bragg was up to, defending christianity and showing resentment at Vidal's remarks about all the evil christians have perpetrated throughout history.Was he playing devil's advocate or has he found God, the christian version of course?
Something Vidal said surprised me - only three American writers came out in opposition to the Iraq war; Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut and himself, "the three old men". Of the three only Vidal is left standing. What a sorry state of affairs. Has the whole of the USA's community of letters moved to the far right? Or have the neo-cons created such a climate of fear that only those with nothing to lose dare express dissent?

I watched "Fergie and ITV do Hull" last night. That was an hour wasted. One hour (minus ads) of self-promotion trying, and failing, to pass itself off as altruism. "I live to give" says she. Well it's full marks for chutzpah, but fail in every other category.
It seems that local people are already up in arms about this representation of the town and its denizens. I'm all for it if it puts off the chancers, carpet-baggers, developers, and all those looking for a business opportunity.

A quote from "Technology Guardian" of Thusday May 8 (I will catch up), "... a senior policeman said that only 3% of street robberies are solved using CCTV". Still the cops have a nice little earner flogging the footage to the makers of crappy television programmes, so the cameras are here to stay.
Then there are the more sinister purposes, but most people are not too concerned. Today Big Brother is just another piece of piss-poor television which could just as well be entitled "Voyeurism for All". The name no longer connotes the menace of such surveillance methods when they were presented to us as the monopoly of the Soviet "Evil Empire". Strange how totalitarian surveillance became respectable after the Soviet system collapsed. Just as we found we could no longer afford a welfare system as soon as the self-styled "socialist" state disappeared; the same welfare system that began to come into existence following the Russian Revolution with it's Marxist and collectivist rhetoric.
Another quote from the same article (I love this):
"If you keep within the law, and the government keeps within the law, and its employees keep within the law, and the computer holding the database doesn't screw up, and the system is carefully designed according to well-understood software engineering principles and maintained properly, and the government doesn't scrimp on the outlay and all the data are entered carefully and the police are adequately trained to use the system and the system isn't hacked into, and your identity isn't stolen, and the local hardware functions, well, you have nothing to fear."
That's from Nigel Shadbolt, author, with Kieron O'Hara, of "The Spy in the Coffee Machine: the End of Privacy As We Know It".
So bring on the ID cards and the National Database.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"In a certain sense the movement towards globalization where capitalists are trying to leap over nation state barriers, creates a kind of opportunity for movement to ignore national barriers, and to bring people together globally, across national lines in opposition to globalization of capital, to create globalization of people, opposed to traditional notion of globalization. In other words to use globalization – it is nothing wrong with idea of globalization – in a way that bypasses national boundaries and of course that there is not involved corporate control of the economic decisions that are made about people all over the world." (Howard Zinn)

Whenever I start thinking that all Americans are as thick as the cretin they elected president, I have to remind myself that most Americans didn't vote for anybody, that more voted for the other bloke than for the cretin, and that there are people like Professors Zinn and Chomsky in the USA. Unfortunately it's the moral bankrupts and pimps for Wall Street whose voices are heard over the airwaves.
Soldier on, Counterpunch.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Funny thing -
Whenever there's an earthquake anywhere in the world the TV news shows film of food, tents and other essentials being loaded onto aircraft destined for the disaster area. We see trained rescue workers with sniffer dogs and sonar equipment ready to fly out. Later we see these same workers in operation and learn how important their contribution is.
There has been a major earthquake in China. The news is full of it. The reporters are out in force bringing us harrowing stories. Meanwhile at the airports, no story worth covering it seems.
The BBC and the charity racket. Now there's a story I must get round to, but first a little research.
An article in the latest edition of the Radio Times gives us the lowdown on a programme in which the Duchess of York teaches poor people how to live healthily and frugally.
First a quote from Her Grace, "I could live in a council house and below the benefit line, of course."
Next a personal detail from the article; the duchess, while living well above the benefit line (albeit from the public purse), managed to get into debt to the tune of £4million.
How can anyone take this woman seriously?
Two things I want to know -
i) How much the notorious freeloader was paid for this exploitation of the disadvantaged for amusement of the middle class?
ii) The identity of the shit-for-brains hooray henry who spawned this joke in bad taste.

It seems that the programme is an attempt by the duchess to improve her image in Britain as she wants to return from the United States. So the Eurotrash circuit has done with her and the freebies have dried up. Now she's a proud Brit.

It would be hypocritical of me to propose a boycott of the insult when I intend to try and watch it, if only because it is my concitoyens, the people of Hull, who are once more the target southern middle class baiting.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

'Obsolete' on the New Labour for Cameron cabal.
Of course Andrew Marr is never able to hide his Tory credentials. He'll be doing his
damndest to widen the divisions.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

All these blaireated has-beens queuing up to have a pop at Brown - what's going on? Who is orchestrating the rough music? Cherie (Mouth of de Mersey) Blair, Lord (Mouth of the Humber)Prescott, Lord (Poor Mouth) Levy; all bad-mouthing. But why? The man is committed to continuing the Thatcher-Blair asset strip; he scuttles off to Washington for orders; He's bent on doing away with all our rights and freedoms. So why does Murdoch want him out?
I'm assuming that it's Blair himself who let the dogs out, but Blair was Murdoch's handrag for so long I'm sure he wouldn't do this without the nod from the great man.
Or is it Bush who wants Brown out? Maybe Brown has not yet perfected the arse-kissing skills that came so easily to his predecessor.
As for Frank Field, his mission is to keep the flame of Thatcherism alive. Even Brown is too left wing for the scourge of the "underclass".

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Listening to my local radio station this morning I learned that the Yorkshire Water Authority is "investing heavily" in water pumping stations in the Hull area. This is to ensure that future heavy rainfall will not result in flooding of the kind Hull suffered last summer.
I got to wondering how much journalistic research and investigation had revealed this heavy investment. Sceptical me! I concluded that the newsreader was quoting from a Yorkshire Water press release, and the statement need not be taken too seriously.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A few days illness that have done me the world of no good.
Here's a bit of conversation that does little to bolster my faith in the medical profession.
Doctor: "Have you had any operations lately?"
Self: "Well, I had a heart bypass about 18 months ago."
(A little later)
Doctor: "Have you ever had any heart trouble?"
(Later doctor lifts gown, revealing bypass scar)
Doctor: "What's this scar?"

In the course of answering the same questions over from various doctors and nurses I came to the conclusion that there is a "Diagnosis for Dummies" handbook to which they all refer. This contains a series of questions for all occasions which includes "On a scale of one to ten how would you rate your pain?" The honest answer is "I don't know, I can't measure pain" but you have to think of a number and blurt it out.
I'm now approaching the conclusion that the diagnostician looks at the patient, decides what's wrong, then asks the questions that elicit answers that confirm the premature diagnosis. I lost count of the times I was asked about my diarrhoea - is it better? is it worse? At first I answered honestly "Well I don't actually have diarrhoea", but to no avail, the diarrhoea question was repeated until I gave an acceptable answer, "It's much better, no problem". Still I had to revisit that question and assure them of my complete recovery from a condition that I hadn't experienced. I believe they were treating me for dehydration, but I wasn't dehydrated.
Never mind, it did no harm.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

O, Labor Day, O, First of May,
Welcomed and honored on land and on sea.
Winter so drear must disappear,
Fair days are coming for you and for me.
We, of the old world, building the New,
Ours is the will and the power to do;
Then let us sing, hail to the Spring–
Hail to the Day we can strike to be free!

Banner so red, high overhead,
Hated and feared by the powers that be!
In every land firmly we stand;
Men of all nations who labor are we.
Under one banner, standing as one,
Claiming the earth and our place in the sun.
Then let us sing, hail to the Spring–
Hail to the Day we can strike to be free!

O, Labor Day, O, First of May,
Warm with the gleam of the bright days to be!
Join in the throng, fearless and strong–
One mighty Union of world industry.
Shoulder to shoulder, each in his place,
Ours is the hope of the whole human race.
Then let us sing, hail to the Spring–
Hail to the Day we can strike to be free!

by Ralph Chaplin, from the Little Red Song Book of the IWW ("The Singing Union")