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Mittermeier-Das-BlackoutAchtung! Gesundheit! Uber Alles!

If these words come to mind when you think of how funny German can be, then wait till you see Bavarian comedian Michael Mittermeier culturally reflective new show, Das Blackout at the Culture Project. Michael, an erudite fellow, lived in New York after 9/ll and has a deep affection for the simpleness of the American education. When he relates a story about a mythical ‘Tiffany’ asking him questions about world history, primarily because he is an educated German, you really get the shock and awe that the rest of the world experienced when the US, as in Bush, not us, decided to invade Iraq.

Michael has a way of mixing politics and cultural observations that is both wry and perceptive. Like Germany’s devotion to the environment, while at the same time being the world leader in car manufacturing.
But lest you think he is all head, think again. His “Fritz’, the everyman German who appears in WW2 movies as the lug who guards the gate, is hilarious. For a handsome man, he has a very mobile face, and superb comic body gestures. His frightened “chicken Japanese walk” is beautifully accomplished and a visual scream.
Comedian Eddie Izzard has spoken highly of Michael and it’s easy to see why. They both come from a highly intellectual platform. Sure, Michael makes jokes about German lovemaking sounds, but he is never grubby for the sake of a cheap joke. He is always saying something deeper, and much about the perceived view of Germans since the wars and the legacy left behind of German traits from shows like Hogans Heroes.
When he tells us how German parents in the fifties never mentioned the Nazis and in fact, said that they didn’t know anything ‘because they were all on vacation in another country at that time’, you get the point. Michael’s generation has accepted the generational guilt which has given him much fodder.
The only thing that I missed in this very timely, German correctness being an hour and 29 minute show, is his non-jokes about Jews. He starts out asking how many Jews are in the house, and later jokes about Greeks and French, but never really goes back to the big Questions: Why did Martin Heidegger date a Jewess and what do Germans and Jews say when they make love?
See Michael at the Culture Project Oct 24, 28 and 29. He is Vundabar!

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Written by nancykoan

October 24, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Posted in war and morality

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Music To Soothe the Lonesome Traveler

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There is nothing about feeling lonely in Lonesome Traveler, a musical playing at 59E59  Theaters that spans the history of American folk music from the dust bowl days to the present. It’s the kind of music that represented a country able to recognize its own suffering and injustice and express that recognition through song. Of course, folk music couldn’t by itself resolve the problems of unfair wages, unjust wars, and racism, but it went a long way in helping to reduce the pain. Folk music helped bolster the creation of communities, including the unions, and in rallying support against war.

The U.S. was a less populated country when singers like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Odetta brought the news to the people through song.  And people were spread out… riding box cars, moving west to look for work…always hoping to better their lives. Songs helped tell their stories and help relieve the pressures of life’s challenges.

In this wonderful production, a group called the Lonesome Traveler folds and unfolds on itself, portraying the different periods of folk music and the bards who led the songs. The narrator, a brilliant Justin Flagg playing guitar, banjo and stand-up bass, portrays the music of Pete Seeger, Dave Guard, Peter Yarrow and others. This is the style of the show. Whether singing as Woody Guthrie or Joan Baez, they are all extremely accomplished performers who bring the different periods of musical history alive.

We learn a little bit about the lives of each of these singers and writers, and what inspired them to write what they did, some literally lifting old songs that were long part of musical history and updating them for the time. The audience is encouraged to join in, and This Land is Your Land started the ball rolling.

The video projections help convey the different periods, from dust bowls to mountain shacks to the March on Selma.  We see how the tunes corresponded to our lives,  from union busting, Talkin’ Union, to Hitler and Pete Seeger’s, Last Night I had the Strangest Dream.

Two of my favorites were represented, Judy Collins and Joan Baez, but I missed hearing “Joanie Mitchell” sing Big Yellow Taxi’s folk rock anthem to gentrification.

By the second half, tears stared to flow. Ian and Sylvia’s beautiful tune Someday Soon was like stepping into a time machine. “The Kingston Trio” sang Where Have All the Flowers Gone, so poignant after all these years of lost lives in the Middle East and other wars.

Lonesome Traveler is the kind of show that should play college campuses and music schools and certainly PBS. It is an oral history of our country…with music. As the performers are all so great, I will mention them by name: Matty Charles, Sylvie Davidson, Jamie Drake, Justin Flagg, Sam Gelfer, Anthony Manough, Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper, Jennifer Leigh Warren and Trevor Wheetman. The show is directed by its writer, James O’Neil, with Trevor Wheetman as musical director. Mr. Wheetman’s bio sweetly gives thanks for the job which also led to meeting his now fiancé, musician Syvlie Davidson. Ah, the power of music.

 

Lonesome Traveler runs till April 19th @ 59E59 Theatres.

Written by nancykoan

April 2, 2015 at 9:52 pm

Bullies Beware: The Rebirth of the Feminine is Almost Here

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There has been no shortage of shocking news during March’s Month of Madness. Despite the UN calling for a Happy Day this past Friday, it has not been happy for many. After two weeks of vigorous seminars and panels on the plight of violence against women across the globe at the Conference on the Status of Women, where all sorts of inspiring efforts are being put into action to lessen the physical and psychic damage on the feminine, Friday’s news brings yet another story of unspeakable cruelty towards an innocent.

Some of Kabul’s male citizens decided to play morality police and beat and burned alive a 27 year old woman who was accused of burning the Koran. Apparently, the victim may have had learning issues, not that that matters. It is the men who committed such barbarism who have issues…they are all completely mad.

That these men have cell phones and are leading supposed modern lives committed this atrocity in the diplomatic zone of Kabul, where so much international monies have gone to aid Afghanistan is shocking. That a religious leader defends this murder…beyond words.

As my cosmologist friends tell me, a solar eclipse is a force majeure, and if this act, on the last official day of the CSW and the eclipse, doesn’t bode for a rapid shift into another type of consciousness, then when will it ever come?

Nigerians girls abducted, women raped daily, elders tortured as witches, gay and transgender people persecuted…and our Mother Earth, trying to hold it together as she too has been decimated by the greed of capitalism and so- called progress.

We have plenty of statistics…one out of three women have experienced sexual violence and so forth.. IAWRT, The International Association of Women in Radio and Television’s brilliant reporting at the CSW on the percentages of women working in media…who’s delivering the stories that really pertain to women’s needs? The facts are presented…now let’s get on with changing the story.

The Lacanian therapist from France started her talk by describing her own burgeoning sense of herself as a youngster when her mother constantly told her early ‘she wasn’t good enough, she was a girl.’ The power of language to perpetuate myths in societies where patriarchy has gone amok.

As we come to the great Spring religious holidays, Easter, Passover, … let’s think back on traditions that predated Judaism and Christianity, taking place in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Women’s birth was revered and honored, symbolized by eggs and blood.  According to the archaeomythology (https://lefthandofeminism.wordpress.com/tag/easter/), decorated goose eggs were found in graves dating back to the 4th century and Persians celebrate No-rooz with red colored eggs 3000 years ago. The pagans celebrate Ostara, the uterus, life-giving, estrus, Easter, eggs… you do the math.

So can we make this a time of re-birth, celebrate a re-awakening of the feminine in all of us, where the masculine allies itself with the feminine instead of in competition and destruction. It takes real courage to wake up from a sleep like the one our consciousness has been in for so long. It is enough suffering. Dayenu.

Written by nancykoan

March 22, 2015 at 3:10 am

Viva la liberte de expression you bastards!!

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Union Square Wednesday January 7

In support of the writers and artists who met their end at the hands of fear manipulating brigands, I offer up my own humorous slant, playing with religious  images as a demonstration of the freedom we still enjoy in this country and one which all people should have. In this case, it’s Jesus and Mary, tomorrow Jeremiah and Moses, maybe even the Buddah.

jedsus20150107_213303“Jesus IS a Feminist”

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jesustit20150107_213350“The dingo did not get my baby.”

Written by nancykoan

January 8, 2015 at 3:12 am

Nothing Rhymes With Heidegger

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blacknotebookI know as much about philosopher Martin Heidegger’s writings as I know about how to stuff a turkey on Thanksgiving.  Mostly because others have always stuffed the bird, all I have to do is stuff myself. But I want to understand philosophy. At one time I thought that Linus and Snoopy counted?  But soon, when I have the time to delve, reflect and come up for air, I will return to the great books.. My father was philosophic and quoted the ancients a great deal. The Greeks got in there, of course, but often Hillel took top billing. Still, when I read that CUNY was showing a film on the anti-Semitic nature of the esteemed German philosopher and rock star of Western thought, I jumped. I have a strange penchant for exploring Nazi stories and I suppose I keep my self-esteem in check with a weekly update of anti-Semitic news. It also didn’t hurt that my Tanzanian friend, Ven Kwannin, a physicist, and my Greek pal, a beautiful jeweler, also think that Heidegger was the bees’ knees.

As I didn’t attend the entire conference at CUNY, I still can’t really speak to Heidegger’s contributions. Though I gather it has something to do with beingness and time. But that’s not primarily what the conference was about. His Black Notebooks, heretofore unpublished writings are now being revealed. So I made a promise to get to his more popular work later on.  But after having seeing the documentary  Only God Can Save Us , I am less and less inclined to do so. This guy was really anti-Semitic… So good at it that the Nazis gave him a job. How is it possible to speak of him without mentioning this glaring fact? One might say that all peoples were racist then, (as if not now) and that he was merely a product of his times. But he was a product with a big megaphone. His whole Volks idea didn’t leave room for the rootless people, the Jews, who couldn’t be tied to the same land for generations like his people, the people of Germany.  Any farmer knows that you can tie a goat to a tree in a field   but when the pogroms and Cossacks and Inquisition come stomping in, the goat has no choice but to break out and run for another field. That is if he’s lucky.

The film’s director, Jeffrey van Davis, is also a philosopher and teacher and was exceedingly modest about his film, excusing its technical qualities. He needn’t have bothered. It was well thought out, provided a variety of voices and gave a solid history of the times.  At the Q&A, a Professor Karsten Harries from Yale was rather dismissive, saying that we all know these thing and to move on. Well, many people in the audience were not pure Heidergerrians and the film was informative and excellent.

I hope that we are now learning that the smartest people in the world may not always be right.  (hello Henry Kissinger). Recently, a book has been published that refutes Hannah Arendt’s take on Adolf Eichmann as a lowly, banal bureaucrat.  Bettina Stangneth, the author of “Eichmann before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer researched extensively and reveals that Eichmann was much more a creator and perpetrator of terror than Arendt suggests.  Does that overturn all of Arendt’s critical thinking? When I discovered that she was not only Heidegger’s lover before the war, but even after, after his spell at playing Nazi, I must reinterpret what smart means. Talk about your self- hating Jews! According to the film, three of Heidegger’s lovers were Jewish. Who was his therapist? Certainly not Freud!

I think it’s very important to study history and history of war, especially as we are in the midst of so many global conflicts. And as we are hopefully on a big push towards at least consciousness about the idea of peace, every example of hatred as well as love is worthy of inquiry.  But as irony is the only truth, the mini war that took place on the panel of experts seemed psychedelically fitting as a way of understanding the larger picture. Emmanuel Faye, a French expert on Heidegger’s anti-Semitism spoke about his new book which points out consistent clues in H’s thinking, living and writing. When the lady sitting to my right asked me if I could understand him, I said, “pas une mot”, not a word, as his accent was so heavy. But Thomas Sheehan from Stanford had no problem and after telling us about his close friendship and admiration of Monsieur Faye, launched into a laceration of Faye’s work which, may or may not have been correct, but was certainly not very polite. Debates are fine though this conference wasn’t called a debate but what I surely was left with was a clearer understanding of academic egos. Unlike Sheehan, Professor Richard Wolin of CUNY had no problem calling a rose a rose and is clearly on the side of the Heidegger as Nazi camp. But then, he is Jewish.

Will I pick up a copy of The Black Notebooks for winter reading this December? Doubtful. I’m sold on the idea that Mr. H was an anti-Semitic who didn’t blink an eye when so many from the non-Volk of his hometown Freiburg were sent off to die. But do I still need to read Heidegger to understand or at least appreciate why those who also accept his anti-Semitic stance can accept the good part of his philosophy as gospel?

When I told a friend about the conference, he mentioned that Thomas Jefferson had slaves. Yes, great men of history make stupid mistakes. But the story goes that Heideggernever like Eichmann never repented. This from a great thinker. I think not.

Written by nancykoan

September 20, 2014 at 8:01 pm