Category Archives: Rag Bloggers

Ed Felien :
Santa Claus is an Islamic communist plot

Dutch sailors saw men in beards and long coats giving gifts and candy to children and food and shelter to the poor.

Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas by Bram van der Vlugt / Wikimedia Commons. The Dutch sailors probably thought they saw the spirit of St. Nicolas.

By Ed Felien | The Rag Blog | December 10, 2015

The person we know as Saint Nicolas was born around 280 in Patara, Turkey, and died about 50 miles away in Myra in 343. He was a rich noble in a prosperous seaport, and he was known for helping the poor. He was made bishop in the new Roman Catholic Church. The Emperor Constantine established the Holy Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Nicea in 325 and there were opportunities for advancement for friends of the Emperor. Nearby Antioch was one of the five centers of the early Christian faith at that time.

Muslim Turks seized the town in 1084. The Crusaders’ Siege of Antioch conquered the city in 1098. But it finally fell to the Muslims in 1268.
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | ‘The High Life’ is a zany Scottish airline comedy featuring a young Alan Cumming

Cumming co-wrote and co-starred in this clever sitcom full of bitchy quips, elements of surrealism, and some theatrical song-and-dance numbers.

the high life 2

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | December 9, 2015

[In his Rag Blog column, Alan Waldman reviews some of his favorite films and TV series that readers may have missed, including TV dramas, mysteries, and comedies from Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. Most are available on DVD, Netflix and/or Netflix Instant Streaming, and some episodes are on YouTube.]

All seven episodes of Scottish airline comedy The High Life aired in the UK in Winter 1994-95, but it did not have a second season, because of co-star/co-screenwriter Alan Cumming’s burgeoning film career (Circle of Friends, GoldenEye, Emma, Romy, and Michele’s High School Reunion). Too obscure for Netflix, the complete daffy series is available on YouTube, including this episode.
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Ken Wachsberger :
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ’60s underground press. Part II: The Fifth Estate

The paper, which quickly became Detroit’s cutting-edge news source, is the longest-running underground newspaper from the Vietnam era.

Fifth Estate Staff 1

Former Fifth Estate staffers, supporters, and reunion organizers. In the back with raised fist is Peter Werbe; to his left is Leni Sinclair and to his right, Laura Grimshaw; and seated, in blue sweater, is the paper’s founder, Harvey Ovshinsky.

By Ken Wachsberger | The Rag Blog | December 8, 2015

[This is the second of a three-part series written for The Rag Blog by underground press historian Ken Wachsberger. Part I was about the 50th reunion of the Berkeley Barb.]

The Fifth Estate was founded by Detroit-area high school graduate and now award-winning filmmaker Harvey Ovshinsky after an inspirational summer work adventure with the Los Angeles Free Press.

It didn’t take long for the paper to become Detroit’s cutting-edge news source on issues surrounding the local antiwar and Civil Rights movements, feminist and LGBT issues, the emerging youth counterculture, and dissident GIs, all issues that the mainstream press was ignoring or relegating to insignificant locations of back pages.
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Thorne Dreyer :
RAG RADIO PODCASTS | María Martin, Michael Hoinski & Ben Sargent, Carl Davidson, James K. Galbraith

We visit with a pioneer of public radio; discuss the fine printing of O. Henry’s lost manuscript; get some help understanding all the political madness; and visit with one of the world’s leading economists.

Ben Sargent - Ciotti

Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Ben Sargent on Rag Radio, November 20, 2015 . Photo by Greg Ciotti / KOOP Radio.

Interviews by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | November 24, 2015

The following podcasts are from recent Rag Radio shows. The syndicated Rag Radio program, produced in the studios of Austin’s cooperatively-run KOOP-FM, has an international audience and has become an influential platform for interviews with leading figures in politics, current events, literature, and cutting-edge culture.


Public Radio Legend María Martin, Founder of Latino USA

SAMSUNG CSCRead the show description and download the podcast of our November 27, 2015 Rag Radio interview with María Martin, joined by Mercedes de Uriarte, here — or listen to it here:


 Michael Hoinski & Ben Sargent on the Publishing of O. Henry’s Lost Manuscript

Hoinski and SargentRead the show description and download the podcast of our November 20, 2015 Rag Radio interview with Michael Hoinski and Ben Sargent here — or listen to it here:


 Leading Leftist Thinker Carl Davidson Helps Us Make Some Sense of the Political Madness

carl davidson rag radio crop4Read the show description and download the podcast of our November 6, 2015 Rag Radio show with Carl Davidson here — or listen to it here:


 World-Renowned Economist James K. Galbraith on Greece, the Austerity Movement, and ‘The End of Normal’

James Galbraith crp xRead the show description and download the podcast of our October 30, 2015 Rag Radio interview with Margaret Randall here — or listen to it here:


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Lamar W. Hankins :
Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s unpatriotic view of Syrian refugees

The governor wants to bar the ‘golden door’ to freedom, rather than light the pathway for those who most need to find it.

statue of liberty sky

“The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World.” Photo by Brian Auer / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | Nov. 19, 2015

I have always considered the stirring words of Emma Lazarus to be the most patriotic ideal for which America stands:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

If ever there were people who are tired, poor, homeless, wretched, and tempest-tost, it is the Syrian refugees who have made their tortuous way into Europe trying to escape the barbaric Muslim-extremist violence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The religious nihilism of ISIS followers has made civilians powerless against the capacity for violence ISIS has demonstrated countless times, as deadly in Paris as in Iraq and Syria.
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Alan Waldman :
TELEVISION | ‘Lilyhammer’ is a quirky gangster-out-of-water dramedy set in
small-town Norway

Springsteen sideman Steven Van Zandt produces and stars as a tough Mafioso hiding out with weird locals among the snowy fjords.

lilyhammer 3

Steven Van Zandt is Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | November 17, 2015

[In his Rag Blog column, Alan Waldman reviews some of his favorite films and TV series that readers may have missed, including TV dramas, mysteries, and comedies from Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. Most are available on DVD, Netflix and/or Netflix Instant Streaming, and some episodes are on YouTube.]

In several dozen columns over the past two years I have always reviewed excellent TV series and films from English-speaking lands (except for the exciting French cop series Spiral). Today is another wonderful exception to that rule: Lilyhammer, a Norwegian/American comedy/gangster series that’s 60% in English and 40% in subtitled Norwegian.
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Bob Simmons :
Elevators Reunion: (I Done Got) Levitation
at Psych Fest 2015

Like Icarus, the 13th Floor Elevators, a band that should have a special alcove in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, flew too close to the sun.

tommy-hall-leviathan

Tommy Hall of the 13th Floor Elevators at Levitation 2015. Photo by Bob Simmons / The Rag Blog.

Text and photos by Bob Simmons | The Rag Blog | May 22, 2015

Sitting in the shiny Airstream trailer looking at Tommy Hall and seeing him for the first time since 1968, in what, like 46 years? We are at the 2015 Reverberation “Psych Fest” in Austin, with its nearly 70 bands, 20,000 people, and one or two old hippies for use to compare and contrast. And who would do that better than Tommy, a walking talking true cultural artifact if there ever was one.

I am awash in remembrance of what it was like all those years ago when the 13th Floor Elevators were encouraging their fans to “let it happen to you.” As a student at UT in the 60s I admit gladly that I was one of those who decided to indeed let it happen, in fact, to work actively to make it happen to me and anyone else who would listen. “Proselytizing ‘R Us,” some cynics might have said. But hey, if it worked for the Beatles, Jimi, and everyone in Golden Gate Park, why not for us? Pass the sacrament Jack. Just put the little Janis blotter stamp on your tongue and let nature take its course.
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Jim Simons :
The 50-year lawyer: Defying the systems of power

I knew that what I would write would never be published by the ‘Bar Journal.’ So I happily write it for ‘The Rag Blog.’ Here I stand, though the road was not exactly what I expected.

jim simons leaves office

Lawyer Jim Simons at his Austin law office. Image from the Feb. 25, 1977 Texas Observer special issue on Texas lawyers. Jim wrote an article entitled, “Memoirs of a Movement Lawyer.”

By Jim Simons | The Rag Blog | July 30, 2014

AUSTIN — In 1964 I was sworn in to practice law in the old Supreme Court Building just northwest of the Capitol. I had many notions of what I was in for. Some were just the stuff of bad dreams, some absurdly romantic or idealistic.

There was a still small voice that told me I did not want to do this. Lawyers were said to be stuffy and conservative. I knew I was not the latter and hoped I was not the former. I had deep-seated doubts about how I might fit in. I knew I was very much an outsider in law school. I had rebelled against the phony solemnity of the institution.
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Michael James :
Heartland takes root with new workers & friends, arson on my birthday, and a rising, 1976-’79

My partners and I began to learn the ins and outs and challenges of running our business as we pioneered our community-oriented, left-leaning business model.

heartland 4 small

Chef Earl and Chef Celeste Kelly, Heartland dining room, Chicago, Illinois, 1977. Photos by Michael James from his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James’ Pictures from the Long Haul.

By Michael James | The Rag Blog | July 30, 2014

[In this series, Michael James is sharing images from his rich past, accompanied by reflections about — and inspired by — those images. These photos will be included in his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James’ Pictures from the Long Haul.]

After the Heartland Café opened Wednesday night, August 11, 1976, “Heartland life” took root and I began the part of my life I term “activist entrepreneur.” Katy, Stormy, and I entered a new world, one in which we were the bosses. We were now responsible for dealing with the government and its agencies, no longer as outside critics but as small business owners required to comply with what seemed at times to us unnecessary, ever-changing rules and regulations. We essentially took a crash course on “doing business” in Chicago.
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Kate Braun :
Rejoice in Mother Earth’s bounty during Lammas

Give thanks for the harvest, symbolized by the bread you serve your guests.

indian corn n'lace

Indian corn necklace. Image from 365 do-overs.

By Kate Braun | The Rag Blog | July 28, 2014

“’Harvest moon’ / a change in the weather / I love this time of year”

Thursday, July 31, Friday, August 1, and Saturday, August 2, are all days you may choose to use to celebrate Lammas, a fire festival also known as First Harvest, Harvest Home, and Lughnasadh. This is a time to rejoice in the bounty of Mother Earth and celebrate her fruitfulness with good food and good friends.

Choose among the colors red, gold, orange, yellow, bronze, citrine, gray, and green for your decorations and dress. Decorate your table and/or altar with depictions of sickles, scythes, fresh veggies & fruits, corn dollies, bread, and/or sun-wheels. Honor Freya, Demeter, Ceres, other goddesses of fruitfulness, and the formation of the seasons.
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Mariann G. Wizard :
BOOKS | Trudy Stern’s lovely poetry reveals a finely-honed precision of expression

Trudy, who helped us start ‘The Rag’ in ’60s Austin, was a warm and generous friend. Somewhere along the way, she became a wonderful poet.

taurus in lake erie

Trudy’s two collections reveal much of the same sensitivity friends saw in her years ago.

By Mariann G. Wizard | The Rag Blog |July 28, 2014

[Taurus in Lake Erie by Trudy Stern (2013: Saddle Road Press, Hilo, Hawai’i, Forty-Three North Chapbook Series); Ghost Dreams by Trudy Stern (2013, Local Color Editions, Buffalo, New York.]

If you are lucky, as I have been, sooner or later you will have the pleasure of seeing a dear friend from years past and feeling that, whatever profound intervening experiences you then may share, you’re picking up right where you left off. Love and loss, creation and destruction, youth and age; change is ceaseless but in some people there is an essential core that you feel you would know even in another life.

In another life, in a town that was nothing like the Austin of today, I knew Trudy Stern by her then-married name, Trudy Minkoff. She and her grad student husband, Bobby, and my husband George Vizard and I, came to know each other as peace and free speech activists around the University of Texas campus.
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Lamar W. Hankins : ‘Masters of War’ Target Syria

“Masters of War.” Art from Society of Wood Engravers.

U.S. foreign policy:
The ‘Masters of War’
are firmly in control

Diplomacy and fairly negotiated economic agreements have taken a back seat to violent military action as the primary way to deal with the world.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | September 5, 2013

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
— Bob Dylan, from “Masters of War”

The news this past week seems to confirm that “Masters of War,” the phrase from Bob Dylan’s 1963 song of that title, are firmly in control of U.S. foreign policy. Diplomacy and fairly negotiated economic agreements have taken a back seat to violent military action as the primary way to deal with the world.
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