Friday Vibes Video: “Sugar Magnolia,” Live, 4/26/77

Spring’s almost upon us and I’m already pumping the Grateful Dead, getting in the airy, ethereal, earthy mood that comes with warmer weather.

I know “Sugar Magnolia” is a bit of a cliche, but it’s still great, so here’s a live performance from April 26, 1977, in Passaic, New Jersey, which then blends into “Sunshine Daydream.”

Have great weekends!

Freedom of Information Day, Now and Forever

Today marks the 267th birthday of James Madison, the Founding Father who wrote the Bill of Rights, including provisions for free speech, assembly and press. And Madison included these democratic essentials because he knew the free flow of information was integral to the nascent nation’s success. “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty,” said Madison. And it’s for that reason that Madison’s birthday’s celebrated coast-to-coast as Freedom of Information Day.

Not incidentally, yesterday was the 105th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson holding the first press conference at the White House, on March 15, 1913. It wasn’t meant to be a press conference: Wilson invited the press over so he could meet them individually, but more reporters showed up than he anticipated, so the president ended up giving general remarks.

“I want an opportunity  to open part of my mind to you,” Wilson said that day. But this and future meetings were about more than Wilson sharing his perspective. He wanted the nation’s input, too: as he said a few days later, “Please do not tell the country what Washington’s thinking, for that does not make any difference. Tell Washington what the country’s thinking.”

Though the relationship between Wilson and journalists wasn’t always so chummy, especially after the Great War began, the president knew then what Madison knew so many years before: the flow of information between people and leaders, and vice versa, was the bedrock for a more perfect union. The exchange of ideas and experiences is what keeps a nation, and its leadership, fresh and responsive.

Now, in these Trumpian times, with a chief executive who smears the press as enemies of the people, who slams “fake news” and whose communications team obfuscates, obscures and outright lies to the media, all to keep information flowing one way, if at all, let’s hold Wilson and Madison close to our collective hearts, reminding ourselves both of what makes a great leader, one who respects our national institutions and people in general, and of the need to edit out any pernicious elements that hinder such exchanges.

Only 962 days until we get our chance.

Found in the LOC: 29 Pics of Female Machinists, ’41-43

Earlier this month, I posted an incredible image of a woman working on B-25 bomber during World War II. That was just one of hundreds such images taken by Office of War Information photographer Alfred T. Palmer, though only a few dozen are color.

Here are 29 of those colorized images, some taken in Long Beach, others in Akron and others in Nashville, all between 1941 and 1943, and all showing how integral women were to the war effort: A quarter of the female population was working either on the home front or as part of the armed services during those years, only to be sent back to the kitchen when the men folk returned. It was an injustice, to be sure, but helped set the stage for the women’s rights movement in the decades ahead.

[That said, had men of that era really respected and appreciated women’s efforts in the war years and kept them on, perhaps the women’s rights movement wouldn’t have been necessary….]

Anyway, check out 28other great images after the jump. I’ve kept commentary to a minimum, but I must say some of the outfits here deserved a shout out. To some, commenting on women’s clothing may seem sexist, but what can I say? I’m a fan of fashion.

Above, a woman working on “Vengeance” dive bomber in Tennessee, 1943.

[And for more Found in the LOC, click here.]

Continue reading

“Impeachment,” a Brief History

Today’s the 150th anniversary of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial getting underway in the Senate. What better time, then, to take an Etymological Adventure into “impeachment,” a word we’ve been hearing a lot of lately and will no doubt continue hearing until Donald Trump is out of office?

The term “impeach” as we know it is traced to the late 1300s, meaning “to impede” or “to hinder,” but evolved from the Old French empeechier, which came from the Latin “impedicare,” which sounds like a luxurious pedicure but which actually means “to fetter, catch, or entangle” from “in,” in, and “pedica,” “shackle/fetter.”

Impeach was first applied to public officials in the 1560s, perhaps because of its similarity to “impetere,” which means to attack, according to Etymology Dictionary, and “impeachment” became officially ingrained in political lexicons in the 1640s, when Charles I impeached Canterbury Archbishop William Laud for “running a state within a state.” That was a trumped-up charge, of course — unlike claims that Trump’s in Russia’s pocket. And considering Trump fired Rex Tillerson the day after Tillerson blamed Russia for the UK spy poisoning, that’s looking more and more like fact.

Oh, and spoiler alert: the Senate failed to impeach Johnson.

Friday Vibes Video: Nirvana Covering Bowie, Unplugged

In honor of “National Day of Unplugging,” the apparently annual 24-hour period in which we’re all encouraged to disconnect and detox from our devices and internets [advice many of us don’t take], here is perhaps the greatest MTV Unplugged performances of all time: Nirvana covering David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World.”

Have great weekends y’all! And tune in next week for pieces on the Girl Scouts, White House press briefings and a very timely, perhaps prescient “Etymological Adventure.”