The Battle of Algiers – Gillo Pontecorvo (1966)

The Battle of Algiers (Italian: La battaglia di Algeri; Arabic: معركة الجزائر‎‎; French: La Bataille d’Alger) is a 1966 ItalianAlgerian historical war film co-written and directed by Gillo Pontecorvo and starring Jean Martin and Saadi Yacef. It is based on events during the Algerian War (1954–62) against the French government in North Africa; the most prominent being the titular Battle of Algiers, the capital of Algeria. It was shot on location and the film score was composed by Ennio Morricone. The film, which was shot in a Rossellini-inspired newsreel style—in black and white with documentary-type editing—is often associated with Italian neorealism cinema. The film has been critically celebrated and often taken, by insurgent groups and states alike, as an important commentary on urban guerrilla warfare. It occupies the 48th place on the Critics’ Top 250 Films of the 2012 Sight & Sound poll as well as 120th place on Empire magazine’s list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. Algeria gained independence from the French, a matter which Pontecorvo portrays in the film’s epilogue. The film concentrates on the years between 1954 and 1957 when the guerrilla fighters regrouped and expanded into the Casbah, the citadel of Algiers, which was met by French paratroopers attempting to regain territory. The highly dramatic film is about the organization of a guerrilla movement and the illegal methods used by the colonial power to contain it. A subject of socio-political controversy, the film was not screened for five years in France, where it was later released in 1971. …”
Slate: The Pentagon’s Film Festival
LA Review of Books – “The Battle of Algiers” at 50: From 1960s Radicalism to the Classrooms of West Point
Battle of Algiers
NY Metro: Prescient Tense
Roger Ebert: The Battle of Algiers (1967)
YouTube: Battle of Algiers trailer, Best Scene from “The Battle of Algiers”, Battle of Algiers Parade
YouTube: The Battle of Algiers 2:01:33

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Baby boomers

Baby boomers are the demographic cohort following the Silent Generation. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use starting birth years ranging from the early-to-mid 1940s and ending birth years ranging from 1960 to 1964. The term ‘baby boomer’ is also used in a cultural context, so it is difficult to achieve broad consensus of a precise date definition. Different people, organizations, and scholars have varying opinions on who is a baby boomer, both technically and culturally. Ascribing universal attributes to such a generation is difficult, and some believe it is inherently impossible, but many have attempted to determine their cultural similarities and historical impact, and the term has thus gained widespread popular usage. Baby boomers are associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values. … The baby boomers found that their music, most notably rock and roll, was another expression of their generational identity. Transistor radios were personal devices that allowed teenagers to listen to The Beatles, the Motown Sound, and other new musical directions and artists. In the west, baby boomers comprised the first generation to grow up with the television; some popular Boomer-era shows included Howdy Doody, The Mickey Mouse Club, Captain Video, The Soupy Sales Show, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, The Twilight Zone, Batman, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Star Trek, The Ed Sullivan Show, All in the Family and Happy Days. … Baby Boomer cohort number one (born 1946–55), the cohort who epitomized the cultural change of the sixties, memorable events: the Cold War (and associated Red Scare), the Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., political unrest, walk on the moon, risk of the draft into the Vietnam War or actual military service during the Vietnam War, anti-war protests, social experimentation, sexual freedom, drug experimentation, the Civil Rights Movement, environmental movement, women’s movement, protests and riots, and Woodstock. …”

Posted in Civil Rights Movement, Counterculture, Draft board, Environmental, Feminist, Happenings, John Kennedy, LSD, Lyndon Johnson, Marijuana, Martin Luther King Jr., Music, Poetry, Robert Kennedy, Rolling Stones, Street theater, The Beatles, Vietnam War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ken Burns Effect

Gen. William Westmoreland, left, and President Lyndon Johnson in 1968.
“With any luck, the television documentary ‘The Vietnam War’ by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick may open the way for a new period of public and academic interest in the conflict. That may sound strange: How many movies, books, poems and documentaries have been made about the war, after all? A lot, of course. But with few exceptions, the “conversation” around the war has been stuck in neutral, focused on a few important but far from all-encompassing questions. But the Burns-Novick documentary could change that. History, especially the history of controversial conflicts, tends to get stuck in ruts. Take, for example, the historical arguments around Britain’s role in World War I. There are many similarities between Britain’s Great War and America’s Vietnam. Britain’s generals were perhaps dimwitted, its policies and politicians arguably misguided and its veterans mostly overlooked. Despite a ‘victory’ for the Allies, much of the British role in the war seemed futile. It didn’t feel like victory. And the war created tectonic cultural and political changes in Britain and its colonies. Almost as soon as the war ended, historians swarmed around it, engaging in a debate with great immediate consequences for a country that still considered itself the heart of a global empire. The resulting torrent of books and films focused on the metanarrative — the big questions that mattered most. Was the war good or bad? Had there been a meaningful victory? Was the sacrifice of a generation worthy of the war’s outcome? …”
NY Times

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“Louie Louie” – The Kingsmen (1962)

“‘Louie Louie’ is an American rhythm and blues song written by Richard Berry in 1955 and best known for the 1963 hit version by The Kingsmen. It has become a standard in pop and rock, with hundreds of versions recorded by different artists. The song was originally written and performed in the style of a Jamaican ballad. It tells, in simple verse–chorus form, the first-person story of a Jamaican sailor returning to the island to see his lady love. The Kingsmen’s edition was the subject of an FBI investigation about the supposed but nonexistent obscenity of the lyrics, an investigation that ended without prosecution. Ironically, the song notably includes the drummer yelling ‘Fuck!’ after dropping his drumstick at the 0:54 mark. … Another factor in the success of the record may have been the rumor that the lyrics were intentionally slurred by the Kingsmen—to cover up the alleged fact that the lyrics were laced with profanity, graphically depicting sex between the sailor and his lady. Crumpled pieces of paper professing to be ‘the real lyrics’ to ‘Louie Louie’ circulated among teens. The song was banned on many radio stations and in many places in the United States, including Indiana, where it was personally prohibited by Governor Matthew Welsh. These actions were taken despite the small matter that practically no one could distinguish the actual lyrics. Denials of chicanery by Kingsmen and Ely did not stop the controversy. The FBI started a 31-month investigation into the matter and concluded they were ‘unable to interpret any of the wording in the record.’ …”
New Yorker: Is This the Dirtiest Song of the Sixties?
BBC – Smashed Hits: Louie Louie
NPR: ‘Louie Louie’: Indecipherable, Or Indecent? An FBI Investigation (Audio)
[PDF] FBI – Louie Louie (The Song)
YouTube: “Louie, Louie” (Live), Louie, Louie (obscene lyrics) … (actual lyrics)

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Poor People’s Campaign

“The Poor People’s Campaign, or Poor People’s March on Washington, was a 1968 effort to gain economic justice for poor people in the United States. It was organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and carried out under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy in the wake of King’s assassination. The campaign demanded economic and human rights for poor Americans of diverse backgrounds. After presenting an organized set of demands to Congress and executive agencies, participants set up a 3,000-person protest camp on the Washington Mall, where they stayed for six weeks in the spring of 1968. The Poor People’s Campaign was motivated by a desire for economic justice: the idea that all people should have what they need to live. King and the SCLC shifted their focus to these issues after observing that gains in civil rights had not improved the material conditions of life for many African Americans. The Poor People’s Campaign was a multiracial effort—including African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans—aimed at alleviating poverty regardless of race.  According to political historians such as Barbara Cruikshank, ‘the poor’ did not particularly conceive of themselves as a unified group until President Lyndon Johnson‘s War on Poverty (declared in 1964) identified them as such.  … Poor African-Americans, particularly women, suffered from racism and sexism that amplified the impact of poverty, especially after ‘welfare mothers’ became a nationally recognized concept. By 1968, the War on Poverty seemed like a failure, neglected by a Johnson administration (and Congress) that wanted to focus on the Vietnam War and increasingly saw anti-poverty programs as primarily helping African-Americans. The Poor People’s Campaign sought to address poverty through income and housing. The campaign would help the poor by dramatizing their needs, uniting all races under the commonality of hardship and presenting a plan to start to a solution. …”
Poor People’s Campaign
Bill Moyers – A Revolution of Values: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Poor People’s Campaign
NPR: Poor People’s Campaign: A Dream Unfulfilled (Video)
Dissent: Martin Luther King’s Radical Legacy, From the Poor People’s Campaign to Black Lives Matter
YouTube: MLK on the Poor’s People Campaign, Martin Luther King 1968 Poor People’s Campaign

Posted in Bill Moyers, Dick Gregory, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., Poverty, SCLC, Vietnam War | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Society of the Spectacle – Guy Debord (1967)

The Society of the Spectacle (French: La société du spectacle) is a 1967 work of philosophy and Marxist critical theory by Guy Debord, in which the author develops and presents the concept of the Spectacle. The book is considered an important text for the Situationist movement. Debord published a follow-up book Comments on the Society of the Spectacle in 1988. The work is a series of 221 short theses. They contain approximately a paragraph each. Debord traces the development of a modern society in which authentic social life has been replaced with its representation: ‘All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.’ Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as ‘the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.’ This condition, according to Debord, is the ‘historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonization of social life.’ … In his analysis of the spectacular society, Debord notes that quality of life is impoverished, with such lack of authenticity, human perceptions are affected, and there’s also a degradation of knowledge, with the hindering of critical thought. Debord analyzes the use of knowledge to assuage reality: the spectacle obfuscates the past, imploding it with the future into an undifferentiated mass, a type of never-ending present; in this way the spectacle prevents individuals from realizing that the society of spectacle is only a moment in history, one that can be overturned through revolution. Debord’s aim and proposal is ‘to wake up the spectator who has been drugged by spectacular images,’ ‘through radical action in the form of the construction of situations’ ‘situations that bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics, and art’. In the situationist view, situations are actively created moments, characterized by ‘a sense of self-consciousness of existence within a particular environment or ambience’. Debord encouraged the use of détournement, ‘which involves using spectacular images and language to disrupt the flow of the spectacle.’ The Society of the Spectacle is a critique of contemporary consumer culture and commodity fetishism, dealing with issues such as class alienation, cultural homogenization, and mass media. …”
An Illustrated Guide to Guy Debord’s ‘The Society of the Spectacle’
NY Times: Trump and the ‘Society of the Spectacle’
Guardian: Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle
amazon, [PDF] The Society of the Spectacle
YouTube: Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord 1:27:06

Guy Debord

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How the Draft Reshaped America

Women burning the draft cards of their husbands and sons during an anti-war protest in 1968.
“‘Greeting: You are hereby ordered for induction in the Armed Forces of the United States.’ In 1967, more than 300,000 American men opened envelopes with this statement inside. Few pieces of mail ever incited the same combination of panic, anticipation and resignation as a draft notice. The words struck terror in the hearts of many recipients. Others found them comforting after years of waiting for the Selective Service System to come calling. The Vietnam generation came of age with the threat of military service hovering in the background. Although the Selective Service called relatively few men between the end of the Korean War in 1953 and American escalation in Southeast Asia in 1965, the draft had been in almost continuous operation since before the United States joined World War II. During that time Selective Service, under the leadership of Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, faced little public criticism. In fact, Hershey had shaped it into a venerated institution. Although most men may not have wanted to dedicate two years of their life to active military service, draftees generally acquiesced to Uncle Sam’s wishes. After President Lyndon Johnson mobilized ground troops in 1965, draft calls tripled. With each passing year, more men faced conscription to fight a war with whose goals and methods a significant number disagreed. …”
NY Times

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