Kate Braun :
Candelmas celebrates Lord Sun’s renewal

Candlemas falls on the day before the Full Moon, which could add the energy of “making things happen” to your event.

candlemas art

Candlemas image from Winchelsea Church.

By Kate Braun | The Rag Blog | January 31, 2015

“Spring Fever, spring is here at last/Spring Fever, my heart’s beating fast/Get up, get out, spring is everywhere.”

Monday, February 2, 2015, is Candlemas, also called Imbolc, Candalaria, and Brigit’s Day; a fire festival celebrating Lord Sun’s renewal and vigor. In 2015, Candlemas falls on the day before the Full Moon, which could add the energy of “making things happen” to your event.

The same date as Groundhog Day, Candlemas celebrates spring in all its forms. Notice the sprouting bulbs. In my garden, it’s narcissus; in other parts of the country it could be crocus or other spring-bloomers. You may use representations of these flowers in your decoration, but you should not include cut flowers as it is taboo to pick or cut any plants on Candlemas Day. You may also include Corn Dollies, Candle Wheels, and Brigit’s Crosses in your decorating scheme.
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James McEnteer :
Dog days in Quito

Terrified by the noise of the fireworks, Suki had panicked and bolted over the fence and down the street.

suki at home crop

Suki before her road trip.

By James McEnteer | The Rag Blog | January 21, 2015

QUITO, Equador — Our dog ran away on New Year’s Eve. We didn’t notice. We were watching the dozens of firework displays in the sprawling urban areas visible from our house overlooking the valley. Bright, colorful explosions, large and small, burst high up in the chilly mountain dark before, during, and after the midnight hour. Our dog, Suki, a large, long-haired brown-and-white Akita with the face of a panda, often roamed around at night. We didn’t think to look for her.

The next morning we were still not alarmed when she didn’t come immediately to breakfast. But by noon with her still a no-show, we got concerned. We called her. That was usually enough to bring her bounding back home. But not this time. By nightfall we were genuinely alarmed. What could have happened? Where could she be? Was she hurt? We prowled in the dark with flashlights, calling her name.
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Jonah Raskin :
INTERVIEW | Author and teacher Peter Richardson dissects California themes, memes

In his last two books, Richardson offers potent narratives about California in the era of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, Bob Scheer and Warren Hinckle.

Peter Richardson

Peter Richardson today

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | January 20, 2015

Jonah Raskin is Thorne Dreyer’s guest on Rag Radio, Friday, February 6, 2-3 p.m. (CST), on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and streamed live. Jonah also joins us for a Rag Blog Happy Hour that Friday, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at Maria’s Taco Xpress in Austin.

“The Grateful Dead’s status as counterculture heroes masks an even more important source of their popularity. Although they offered a fully formed alternative to America’s sober, God-fearing, and profit-maximizing ways, a large part of their appeal arose not from their resistance to American culture, but rather from an uncanny ability to tap into its inexhaustible utopian energies.”
             — Peter Richardson

Blame Berkeley in the 1960s. The era and the city worked their powerful brand of magic on Peter Richardson who grew up there, then, and who now teaches popular culture at San Francisco State University to students without memories of the Beatles or even of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
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Johnny Hazard :
The turbulence in Mexico continues

Omama blames drug dealers for what happened to the students at Ayotzinapa, but Mexican protesters still say, ‘Fue el estado: it was the government.’

ayotzi vive

Protester paints grafitti on wall during protest by members of the State Coordinator of Education Workers in Chilpancingo, Guerrero, January 7, 2015. The grafitti says: “No to elections. Organize and fight. Ayotzinapa Lives.” Photo by Luis de la Cruz / EFE.

By Johnny Hazard | The Rag Blog | January 20, 2015

  • Parents confront the army before Christmas and demand that their sons be freed
  • Evidence of federal involvement in every facet of the attack on the students
  • Disturbing accusations of the existence and possible use of military crematoria
  • Urban activists kidnapped by federal police
  • Activists will actively boycott elections
  • Economic crisis deepens
  • Family members and students crash the gates at army fort on January 12
  • Obama refuses to recognize the real causes

MEXICO CITY — Mexican activists look to rekindle the movement to find the 43 missing education students of the normal school (teacher training school) at Ayotzinapa, Guerrero after the very long holiday period (which still hasn’t ended for many schools) and in light of very shocking information and allegations.
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Robert Jensen :
MEDIA | Journalist launches online archive to document diversity of rural India

P. Saimath’s People’s Archive of Rural India aims to make the ‘invisible India’ both visible and audible, not only to urban Indians but to the whole world.

worshipping steel rath

Worshipping a steel rath in the state of Orissa, India. Image from People’s Archive of Rural India.

By Robert Jensen | The Rag Blog | January 19, 2015

P. Sainath started building the People’s Archive of Rural India only a couple of years ago. But the passion behind the innovative online project that mixes journalism and oral history, which was launched last month to overwhelming acclaim, goes back more than two decades.

As a young journalist in the early 1990s, Sainath helped focus India’s attention on rural poverty by traveling 100,000 kilometers to report stories for The Times of India. Born into an urban political and intellectual culture, Sainath found his professional calling in a countryside that many in the country’s rising middle class wanted to ignore in the era of the government’s “India Shining” public relations campaign.
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Steve Weissman :
We are all Charlie, even as political hacks steal Charlie’s soul

Within days, the French political elite and their international allies were using the tragedy to sell new policing measures.

luz holds charlie cover

A tearful cartoonist Luz (Renald Luzier) shows Charlie Hebdo cover at press conference in Paris, January 13, 2015. Photo from Getty Images / CBS News.

By Steve Weissman | Reader Supported News | January 19, 2015

 French-based journalist Steve Weissman joined legendary satirist Paul Krassner and The Rag Blog‘s David Hamilton as Thorne Dreyer’s guests on Rag Radio, Friday, January 16. The topic: “Blasphemy, Satire, and Charlie Hebdo.” Listen to the podcast here:

DORDOGNE, France — The Islamist terrorists who killed 12 cartoonists and journalists of Charlie Hebdo took only their lives, which was more than horrific enough. But within days of the massacre, the French political elite and their international allies added to the crime, setting out to steal the soul of an incomparable group of free thinkers in an effort to sell new policing measures.

Proudly left-wing, anti-racist, and against all forms of authoritarianism, the mischievous French anarchoids at Charlie Hebdo have long embodied the real meaning of free speech — and not some abstract notion that loses all meaning when mouthed by people who hate what the satirical weekly represents.
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Rabbi Arthur Waskow :
Is murder a ‘sacred practice’ in ALL religions?

Why are there streaks of both blood and love in the histories of religious communities?

crusaders and muslims

“Saracens and Crusaders.” Illuminated manuscript from Les Grandes Chroniques de France.

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow | The Rag Blog | January 18, 2015

The murderous attacks in France last week have called forth a mixture of horror, outrage, disgust, and fear — all legitimate responses.

One response has been to claim that Islam is — uniquely — a religion of violence, terror, and war. Another has been to claim that the perpetrators of these murders, though they claimed they were acting for the honor of God and of Islam, were acting falsely, betraying the Islam that is entirely a religion of peace.

Both these responses evade the truth.
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Lamar W. Hankins :
Assault weapons regulation and the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ killings

I have yet to hear or read a persuasive rationale for anyone in civilian life needing an assault weapon.

assault rifle

Come and get it! Assault rifle for sale at Illinois sporting goods store. Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | January 14, 2015

The recent mass killings at the offices of the French publication Charlie Hebdo brought to mind what I learned on a trip last summer while traveling around rural upstate New York with my wife. We noticed a good many yard signs demanding the repeal of the SAFE Act. As soon as we could get internet access, we checked out what these signs were about.

We learned that in December 2013, the New York State Legislature decided that some new gun regulations would make the state safer for its citizens and visitors. It passed the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, referred to as the NY SAFE Act.
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David P. Hamilton :
Muslims in France: A little context

You can’t generalize with much accuracy about Muslims in France, no more so than about
Christians or secularists.

david - african ladies place blum

African lades in Place Blum. Photo by Sally Hamilton / The Rag Blog.

By David P. Hamilton | The Rag Blog | January 12, 2015

It is impossible to generalize about Muslims in France. Anyone who speaks of some unitary “Muslim community” in France is spouting nonsense. This is most commonly heard as, “Why doesn’t the Muslim community condemn these terrorists?”

It is often stated that Muslims make up about 8% of the population of France, a total of 5-6 million people, comprising “the largest Muslim population in Europe.” This is usually spoken in slightly shocked tones by Americans. But who are these Muslims? Actually, the statistics concerning them are somewhat obscure and slippery.
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Paul Krassner :
‘Charlie Hebdo’ : Killing cartoonists

It’s an awesome outrage. Of course, some dinosaur Republicans might try to blame Obama.

je suis charlie

“I am Charlie.” Screen grab from Charlie Hebdo‘s website,
January 7, 2015. Image from BBC News Europe.

By Paul Krassner | The Rag Blog | January 7, 2015

This massacre is an awesome outrage, even to liberals and conservatives alike, although some dinosaur Republicans might try to blame Obama. It’s a horrendous violation of semantic principles, such as “The menu is not the meal” and “The map is not the territory.” As an atheist, I perceive the irony of those assassins shouting “God is great” to justify their insane act in the name of a deity that I believe doesn’t exist.

And what could happen in America? Security guards protecting the Onion offices? Treat Funny or Die as Islamic marching orders? Invade the cyberspace of NBC for broadcasting Saturday Night Live until it morphs into Saturday Night Dead, if it’s not already deceased?
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Harry Hurt III :
Let us now praise famous men: Remembering Mickey Leland, and opening the door to Cuba

My dear friend, the late Houston congressman Mickey Leland, once declared: ‘I am as much a citizen of the world as I am of this country.’

harry and fidel sm

Harry Hurt III and Fidel Castro display each other’s books in Fidel’s Havana office in March 1983. Screen grab from television footage.

By Harry Hurt III | The Rag Blog | January 7, 2015

“Hello, Harry. This is your nigger congressman Mickey Leland. You want to go to Cuba?”

It’s a Monday morning in mid-March 1983. I’m at my writing desk in a rental house in Houston, trying to think up story ideas for Texas Monthly magazine. Mickey’s proposition almost sounds too good to be true. I immediately commit without bothering to get approval from my editor in Austin. Four days later, we’re on a private jet to Havana with a Houston television crew and three of his congressional staffers.

The official purpose of our Cuba trip is to negotiate the release of two American prisoners, a young white couple who hail from a Republican congressional district in north Houston. The Cubans suspect they’re marijuana smugglers, but there’s no hard evidence against them. Their plane crashed on the island, and the husband had the presence of mind to torch it before they were captured.
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Alan Waldman :
The 27 best films I saw in 2014

My favorite 2014 movies include ‘The Imitation Game,’ ‘Boyhood,’ and ‘A Place at the Table.’


Benedict Cumberbatch is magnificent in The Imitation Game.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | December 31, 2014

I saw 27 excellent films in theaters, on cable/dish TV, and via Netflix and Netflix Instant streaming — which is 59% more good movies than the 17 I saw last year. I have been compiling a best films list for more than 20 years, and usually more than half of my selections are foreign, but this time the Yanks predominated.

Once again, the most enjoyable shows I saw were TV series (mentioned below the films list), probably because writers are unfettered there and allowed to do good work. If you click on my name, you will find 23 terrific mysteries and comedies from U.K, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand that I reviewed this year on The Rag Blog.
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