Farewell Pete Seeger: Folk singer, union organizer, political activist, all-around badass

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And when these fingers can strum no longer/Hand your guitar to young ones stronger…

Called before the fearsome House Un-American Activities Committee to defend himself against charges of being a Communist in 1955, Pete Seeger refused to name names. He wouldn’t answer any questions about his political, philosophical and personal beliefs. And while Sen. Joe McCarthy’s anti-Communist storm troopers were at the height of their punishing powers, ruining careers and imprisoning suspected troublemakers at will, Seeger didn’t use his Fifth Amendment protections to protect himself, either.

In other words: Bring it on, bitches.

Check the transcript (abridged for brevity, context remains pure)

MR. TAVENNER: The Committee has information obtained in part from the Daily Worker indicating that, over a period of time, especially since December of 1945, you took part in numerous entertainment features. I have before me a photostatic copy of the June 20, 1947, issue of the Daily Worker. In a column entitled “What’s On” appears this advertisement: “Tonight-Bronx, hear Peter Seeger and his guitar, at Allerton Section housewarming.” May I ask you whether or not the Allerton Section was a section of the Communist Party?

MR. SEEGER: Sir, I refuse to answer that question whether it was a quote from the New York Times or the Vegetarian Journal.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer.

MR. SEEGER: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.

(…)

MR. SCHERER: He was directed to answer the question.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: What is your answer?

MR. SEEGER: I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer that question.

MR. SEEGER: I have already given you my answer, sir.

MR. SCHERER: Let me understand. You are not relying on the Fifth Amendment, are you?

MR. SEEGER: No, sir, although I do not want to in any way discredit or depreciate or depredate the witnesses that have used the Fifth Amendment, and I simply feel it is improper for this committee to ask such questions.

MR. SCHERER: And then in answering the rest of the questions, or in refusing to answer the rest of the questions, I understand that you are not relying on the Fifth Amendment as a basis for your refusal to answer?

MR. SEEGER: No, I am not, sir.

That’s guts. And so is this tune, recorded live with Arlo Guthrie in 1975:

And a scarecrow shall lead them

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Last September the Chipotle burrito chain released this haunting little cartoon about a scarecrow’s moral crisis in the midst of the corporate/chemical farming industry. Poignant, sad, a little bit silly, “Scarecrow” made no mention of the restaurants or its products until the last few seconds of a 3:23-minute film. It’s fantastic and if you haven’t you should watch it right here, right now:

Given the dual motivations of moral indignation and commercial opportunity — and the divesting of temporary controlling owners McDonald’s, Inc. the Chipotle owners just kicked their campaign against the agricultural behemoths up a notch or six with an even bigger film-and-sorta-advertising project called “Farmed and Dangerous,” a satirical, multi-part adventure series set inside the management of Animoil, a large-scale agribiz whose petroleum-based cow feed pellets can have, um, explosive effects on their diners.

Ray Wise (“Twin Peaks,” “Reaper,” et. al) stars, hilariously. Here’s the trailer for the series.

The four-part, two-hour series premieres on Hulu on February 17.
And here’s today’s NYT story on “Farmed and Dangerous.”

Tom Junod’s Bob Dylan

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Just when you think you’ve read every word you can stomach about the mysteries and weirdities of Mr. Bob Dylan, here comes Esquire’s Tom Junod (and Jeff Tweedy, with a big assist) to lay it down in a whole new way.

And yet he has not given in; he has preserved his mystery as assiduously as he has curated his myth, and even after a lifetime of compulsive disclosure he stands apart not just from his audience but also from those who know and love him. He is his own inner circle, a spotlit Salinger who has remained singular and inviolate while at the same time remaining in plain sight.

Stream Springsteen’s “High Hopes” right here, then later in a primetime TV drama, what in the what?

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Well, not here, but HERE on Slate.com.

The stream is also available via Stereogum and CBS, the latter of which will build an episode of “The Good Wife” around the songs on the album. Which is how you promote albums these days, assuming you’re not playing halftime at the Super Bowl or the center of some luxury car advertising campaign or professional sport advertising campaign, or getting back together with the old band, or Opening Up about your Heartbreak or your Brave Recovery from Whatever, and so on and on and on.

In earlier times you’d think such artistic compromises would be cardinal sins; hard evidence of a broken spirit and/or moral chaos. But these days….when it comes to getting your work across to the people you do what you gotta do.

Bottom line: The album sounds good in my ears. Not quite the tectonic plate-rumbler of Wrecking Ball, but well above the confused mishmash of Workin’ On a Dream. What we have here is a decade-plus of studio leftovers, stage-enhanced versions of acoustic tunes and a handful of well-chosen cover songs.

Video du jour: The Wolf of Bedford Falls trailer

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Have you seen the trailer for Martin Scorsese’s”The Wolf of Wall Street” yet? I bet you have. I know I’ve seen it like half a dozen times at least. And so we both know how zip-bang/snap-flash it is. Kinda distinctive in that way, it seems to me.

And also to Owen Weber, who created a trailer for “It’s a Wonderful Life” in precisely the same style. The thing is almost a month old but this is the first time I saw it and it’s something to behold so, y’know, Merry Christmas.