Steve Rossignol :
A way station for the Underground Railroad in Blanco County?

Some may be surprised that there was an Underground Railroad network in Texas.

A Ride for Liberty by Eastman Johnson. Brooklyn Museum / Wikimedia Commons.

By Steve Rossignol | The Rag Blog | February 13, 2020

We are all familiar with the tales of the Underground Railroad, how enslaved people in the South risked life and limb to escape to the Northern States before and during the Civil War.

Some of us may be surprised to learn that there was an Underground Railroad network in Texas.  Maria Hammack, whose research on this subject is coming to light in a doctoral thesis at the University of Texas in Austin, estimates that before the Civil War between 5,000 to 10,000 slaves escaped to Mexico to obtain their freedom.[i]

And I am fairly sure that most of us would be astounded to learn that there may have been a way station for this Underground Railroad in Blanco County.

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Alice Embree :
‘Space City!’ project: Calling all hoarders

Help us preserve Houston’s historic underground newspaper.

Staff box from Volume 1, Number 1 of Houston’s Space City News
Space City!), June 5, 1969.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | February 12, 2019

Did you work on Space City!, Houston’s historic underground newspaper?

Did you sell it? Did you read it?

You may be able to help us.

As part of a Space City! project, the New Journalism Project is assembling a collection to be digitized. And we need five issues from the final year of the paper, the year when the paper went weekly. If you have kept a stash of papers, as some of us have, please look through those seeds and stems now. If you are a junior archivist — a.k.a. hoarder — you may be able to find the following:

  • Volume III / Number 23 / November 11, 1971
  • Volume III / Number 26 / December 2, 1971
  • Volume III / Number 32 / January 20, 1972
  • Volume IV / 6/8/1972
  • Volume IV / 7/6/1972

If you want to take a tour down memory lane, you can view the Space City! covers that we have assembled on
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Joshua Brown :

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Elaine J. Cohen :
The Pied Piper of Facebook

A cautionary tale in 2020, the Year of the Rat.

Pied Piper of Hamelin. From illustration by Kate Greenaway /
Wikimedia Commons.

By Elaine J. Cohen | The Rag Blog | February 4, 2020

I can’t remember when I first heard of The Pied Piper of Hamelin; possibly after I began to read in earnest, around the age of 8. I may have found the story in a child’s version of The Brothers Grimm or seen the adaptation on T.V. in the 1950’s with Van Johnson.

My memory of the story faded over the subsequent years until I found myself confiding in a few trusted ears, “You know, I’ve begun to see Facebook as the Pied Piper of this epoch.” The look of surprise, incredulity and amusement that was evoked rarely elicited any questions from friends. The question of why this has become an annoying itch is what brings me to ask for the reader’s patience and curiosity while I sort through the threads of plague fear, greed, separation, and loss that are part of this story.
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Bruce Melton :
Microsoft on climate: The game changer

Historic climate pollution emissions almost everyone missed.

Dune erosion from sea level rise on South Padre Island wilderness beach, 13 miles beyond the end of pavement. The similarly sloped surf facing dune angles reveal sandbergs calving into the surf. For the last decade or two, sea level rise has been eroding our beaches. Now the beaches have been eroded away and the surf is in the dunes. Next, the surf moves into the coastal plains and resource abandonment becomes critical. Photo by Bruce Melton / The Rag Blog.

By Bruce Melton | The Rag Blog | February 3, 2020

Microsoft going net zero by 2030 is a tremendously insightful action, but what’s truly groundbreaking and ever so much more important today, 30 years after we began trying to solve the climate pollution problem through the extinction of the fossil fuel industry, is that Microsoft is now addressing the most important part of the climate reform equation — historic emissions: the climate pollution that remains in our sky.

This is a first-ever declaration to take responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions in the past and the vast majority of the press totally missed it, except for NPR. The headline with Microsoft should not have been “Microsoft to go Net Zero by 2030,” but the much more profound, “Microsoft to remove all their historic climate pollution from the sky by 2050.”
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Jonah Raskin :
Hail! Hail! John Sinclair

And Rock ‘n’ Roll…

John Sinclair, October 20, 2008. Photo by Wayne Dabney /
Wikimedia Commons.

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | December 17, 2019

Forty-eight years ago, John Lennon, with Yoko at his side, sang the words, “They gave him ten for two, what else could Judge Colombo do?”

He sang those words before 15,000 people on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “Him” was John Sinclair. “Ten” was the number of years that Judge Robert Colombo sentenced Sinclair to Jackson State Prison, and “two” was the number of joints Sinclair had in his possession when an undercover cop busted him.

On December 1, 2019, Sinclair stood at the head of the line at Arbors Wellness, a brand new licensed cannabis dispensary in Ann Arbor and made a legal purchase of a handful of joints for which he paid in cash $160.35. It was a happy ending for cannabis activists in Michigan, and for the founder of the White Panther Party, who was a poet, a bohemian, and a beatnik before he became a Sixties rebel. 

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Alice Embree :
BOOKS | ‘Odd Birds’

The book is a fictional coming of age story set in San Antonio.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | December 17, 2019

Listen to Thorne Dreyer’s November 25, 2019 Rag Radio interview with Severo Perez about his new book, Odd Birds.

Judge this book by its cover. It is stunning. And Severo Perez’ Odd Birds is a captivating read.

Odd Birds [TCU Press, Fort Worth, 2019] is a fictional coming of age story, the tale of three young library interns, an older displaced artist, and the city of San Antonio.  Set in 1961, in the town where the author was raised, we experience a small town on the cusp of change.

Cosimo Infante Cano, a Cuban artist, has arrived with only a courier bag, his luggage stolen before he boarded the train out of Chicago’s Union Station.  The 70-year-old artist has come to Texas to join the longtime lover he has shared a life with in Paris.  But, he can’t make contact with her.  He can’t access the trunks he shipped to her address.  He has only the clothes he intended to wear on the train — a peasant shirt, beachcomber pants, red sandals, and his weathered courier bag.  He also wears a mysterious watch that was given to him by the woman he is trying to find.
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The Rag Blog :
METRO EVENT | TeXchromosome benefit features live performance by women artists

Event: Fundraiser for TeXchromosome
What: Live music, Funky Fleamarket, Silent Auction
When: Saturday, December 14,1-7 p.m.
Where: Peace House Farm
Address: 709 Emerald Wood Dr., Austin, TX 78745
Music: (In order) Pauline Reese, Emily Grace Clark, Shelley King, Noelle Hampton, Elizabeth Lee, Christina Christian
Admission: Donation at the door supports TeXchromosome

There will be a benefit for TeXchromosome — an organization that empowers women artists by showcasing their talents — at the Peace House Farm, 709 Emerald Wood Dr. in Austin on Saturday, December 14, from 1-7 p.m.
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Alice Embree :
Houston’s historic ‘Space City!’ to get
new life

’60s-’70s underground paper to be digitized, featured in NJP book.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | December 5, 2019

In 1969, Space City News, a newly minted underground newspaper, hit the streets and newsstands of Houston, Texas. The cover featured Pancho Villa who shared the same birthday with the paper, June 5.

On January 17, 1970, the paper’s name changed to Space City!, after a UFO newsletter with the same name threatened to sue. Space City! was published biweekly until April of 1971 when it began as a weekly publication. The final issue was August 3, 1972.
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Jonah Raskin :
Street fighting man

The night New York City cops beat me bloody.

The author after being assaulted by NYPD cops, 1969. Photo: Pacific Street Films / CounterPunch

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | December 2, 2019

I know your eyes are glued to the circus in D.C. and the slaughter that’s taking place in Afghanistan and half-a-dozen other places in a world that’s on fire. I’m paying close attention, too. I’m also paying attention to my strangely electrifying memories of the night I was arrested and beaten by a dozen or so New York City cops until I was black and black, my skull cracked open and bones broken.

There have been worse beating since then, but at the time the ACLU said it was the worst beating in NYC history. Fifty years later, some of my bones haven’t healed; several fingers are crooked and a near-constant reminder of the occasion when my pal, Robert Reilly, and I were detained for hours in two precincts in Manhattan and worked over, so to speak, at the behest of John Finnegan, known informally as “Captain Jack,” the head of the infamous Red Squad, which was the subject, decades ago, of a documentary by Joel Sucher (of Pacific Street Films).
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James Retherford :

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Maxine Phillips :
BOOKS | Love in the twilight of capitalism

The story may be set in Finland, but the
plot is universal.

Cover of Me, Mikko, and Annikki.

By Maxine Phillips | The Rag Blog | September 3, 2019

[Me, Mikko, and Annikki, A Community Love Story in a Finnish City, by Tiitu Takalo, translated by Michael Demson and Helena Halmari, afterword by Paul Buhle, North Atlantic Books, 2019]

A young woman and man lift hammer and paintbrush in (perhaps) unconscious homage to Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” or some propaganda poster of socialist realism as they stand in front of their recently renovated home. Behind those triumphant gestures lies the long, intricate love story of the title.

This nonfiction comic from Finland promises two love stories: one personal, one political, and both entwined. The first is between the “Me” and Mikko of the title. The author, a well-known feminist artist, falls for Mikko, an engineering student (horrors!!) who pursues her with a wry doggedness. The second is between the two of them and Annikki, a housing co-op whose history Takalo traces through the Middle Ages, industrialization, and up to the present day.
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