Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ten reasons why California is the greatest state in the Union

That Caifornia is the greatest state in the union is not my opinion. It’s just a fact, Jack…
Ten Reasons why California is the greatest state in the union….

1) We’ve got the coolest flag.

2) We’ve got the coolest governor by far. In fact, Jerry Brown is the coolest governor in the history of the United States.

3) Our state fish is the Golden Trout, the finest species of trout, or any other kind of fish in the world. And stream fishing in the Golden Trout Wilderness is the best there is.

4) Excepting Alaska, California has the most designated Wilderness of any state. More than Idaho, Colorado and Montana combined.

5) California has two of the most dependable liberal senators in the nation. Barbara Boxer gets the highest grade of any US Senator from the League of Conservation Voters and Diane Feinstein is the author of the assault weapons ban.

6) California is ground zero for the spirit of rebellion in the United States. The old Californios rebelled against Mexico about a dozen times and against the United State once. The IWW fought some of it’s greatest free speech battles here and the United Farmworkers Union was born here. Both Joe Hill and Woody Guthrie wrote some of their greatest protest songs here. Berkely. The Black Panthers. La Raza. Occupy Oakland and Occupy Los Angeles.

7) The last Native American to live most of his life with no contact with Western Civilization, Ishi, was born here. And we’re the only state where any Native American tribes made it into the 20th century without being conquered or put on reservations.

8) We’ve got the tallest mountain in the lower 48, the biggest trees, the oldest trees and the lowest valley in America all within 100 miles of each other.

9) The Grateful Dead, brother. All native Californians. Longest touring rock band with all their original members. With a sound system designed by Owsley…

10) First State to pass a Legal Medical Marijuana Initiative. 

11) Sasquatch. Yeah, he’s been seen in other states, but like all true originals, Sasquatch is from the great golden state of California.
“The earth is not dying. She is being murdered. And we know who is killing her and we have their names and addresses.”
Utah Phillips

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Busking on Venice Beach Boardwalk

Seems like every time I go down to the Boardwalk, the rules for Buskers have changed.....

This time they have changed for the better, I think. This video is from last year, but I went down today on a truly beautiful February morning, to check out the fallout from the latest attempt to reign in the anarchy of the masses. Now normally I'm all for anarchy, but the Venice Boardwalk scene was getting a little crazy, and I think the new rules are better than the old new rules, or the old old new rules.....

The once a week lottery sucked, for instance. And there was too many rugged capitalists clogging up the people's space selling Chinese crap. The zones were too complicated, too. Now they have banned the sale of manufactured junk, and that opens up more space for artists. That is a good thing, brothers. It's good for all.

Some folks are disgruntled because they're not allowed to camp out all night and hog the good spaces all day. Now it's first come, first served from 9 AM until Sunset. That's fair. I guess they can still hog their spaces all day, but there's more spaces available since the junk merchants have been banned.

For entertainers, no permit is required now. You can choose any of the 250 designated spaces on a first come, first served basis, and reasonable amplification is allowed in all sections. I can live with that. When Summer comes, it might be a good idea to put a time limit on the space hoarders. They're still hogging spaces while sitting there not doing Jack Shit, but the scene is much improved over the chaos that existed there a year ago. It has never ceased to amaze me how people will fight over spaces, and the sit around looking surly and complaining about how little money they're making when they're not even playing. But, oh well, that's America for ya....

On the flip side, the policia have been waging a vicious and uncalled for war against the homeless in this town. That's what the song Easy's Gone is about. Yeah there's a lot of homeless folks on the Boardwalk. They're not criminals. They're us, man. No banker, cop or politician cares if you hit a streak of bad luck and wind up on the street, brother. If you don't think it can happen to you, you haven't been reading the paper, or the sometimes beautiful graffiti on the rest room walls of Venice, California. Police harrassment of homeless citizens is a disgrace and it has to stop.

Don't expect to make a shitload of money busking down here, friends, but expect to learn something about life, meet some good folks, cop a contact high and come away with a new song and maybe even a new chord. It's the Venice Chord, and you have to earn it.....

Monday, October 10, 2011

Notes from the revolution........

I went down to Los Angeles City Hall, with Erin, Saturday and Sunday, to see what the OWS movement was all about. Days eight and nine of the Los Angeles occupation. Took my guitar, of course, wandered around the encampment, talked to people and played some Woody, Pete and Joe Hill songs for folks.

It's a lot bigger and better organized than the media would have you believe. Lots of tents, man, and more people than tents because lots of people come down to support the occupiers, and then go home for the night. You can be part of this thing and lend your support even if you can't afford to camp out for the long haul. It's not like being in jail. You can go down for the day, camp out for the weekend or camp out for the long haul but still leave to go to work or to class, water the flowers or whatever you have to do. But make no mistake, there are a committed core of individuals who are there foe "as long as it takes." It took a lot of guts and requires a huge sacrifice for them to make this commitment, and do you know what they're doing it for? For you, and me, for our country, and for democracy.

It's for the ninety-nine percenters. The ordinary folks who do all the work and create all the wealth of this country while the one percent at the top of the food chain reaps all the profits and uses their wealth to pervert our political process. It's not about left or right, democrat vs. republican, liberals versus conservatives. It's about income equality, economic justice and democracy. It's happening in every state of our nation and at least twenty other countries. The number of US cities to be "occupied" is growing so fast that you can't get a clear count, but it's over 200 so far.

At the LA encampment I saw ordinary Americans governing themselves better than our elected leaders are governing our country. Everything is "working" there and working well. There's a library, a free thrift store, a kitchen serving healthy donated food, a medical tent, a meditation tent, a media center, recycling center, silk screeners, artists, musicians creating a community that is based on cooperation rather than profit taking. They are not "protesting." they are leading by example. What's their demands? What do they want? Go down to City Hall and see for yourself. They'll show you. They're creating a vision right there in that park that can serve as an example of how our whole country could be run. Our country and every country. "Of the people, by the people and FOR the people. It's not a tea party, motherfucker, it's a revolution....

Friday, May 21, 2010

Places we Used To Know

Performed at Fiddlers Crossing, Tehachapi, California

I wrote this song for my son, a couple years ago, when he was coming to visit me for Christmas, and he was about to graduate from college. I woke up one morning and heard coyotes calling, which is unusual, because I live in town, although it's a small town in the California hills... I looked out the window and saw that it had begun to snow, and the mountains were held in a thick coat of clouds. I realized that the coyotes had come down to hunt in the valley and escape the cold mountain storm, as they had probably done for centuries before some folks came along and built a town on their hunting ground.....

Thomas Wolfe famously said, "You can never go home." True enough. You can never really go back to any place. You can go back to the geographical location, but the place you remember will be gone. Except for a certain place that I remember...... I know where it is. But I ain't tellin'.........

Sunday, September 06, 2009

YouTube - Which Side Are You On

Written by Florence Reese and her daughters on the back of a calendar after being roughed up by thugs looking for her husband, who was a union organizer. People were beaten and murdered in this country for working for workplace equality, and some folks have forgotten that, and how important that battle was.

Labor Day, 2009, more Americans are unemployed than any time since the Great Depression. Fewer people are unionized, fewer people have pensions and fewer people have health insurance than any time in our lifetimes. Our government unloads trillions of dollars to the bankers and their wars, and has nothing to spare for honest workers who are losing their homes. It's time to ask the question, "Which side are you on."

Without unions, you have corporate dictatorship. The current health care crisis is a direct result of declining union membership due to exporting of American jobs overseas, sanctioned and orchestrated by both of our major political parties.

Written to the tune of the old Baptist Hymn, Lay The Lillies Low, which, in turn, was written to the tune of an old english ballad.

Which Side Are You On?

Come all of you good workers
Good news to you I'll tell
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner
And I'm a miner's son
And I'll stick with the union
Till every battle's won

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You'll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair

Oh, workers can you stand it?
Oh, tell me how you can
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

Don't scab for the bosses
Don't listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven't got a chance
Unless we organize

-- "The Earth is not dying. She is being murdered, and we know who is killing her and we have their names and addresses."

Utah Phillips

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A trip to Weedpatch Camp

On the trail of Woody Guthrie, Erin and I visited Weedpatch Camp, in Lamont, the other day. I believe it's the last existing migrant camp that was set up under the New Deal, in the 1930s, to house the dust bowl refugees. I had heard that Woody Guthrie played there for the migrants, and I've been wanting to check it out for some time. Displaced farmers, fleeing the dust bowl, came to California by the thousands in the 1930s seeking employment. There was always more workers than there was work, and wages were abysmally low, and they wound up living in ramshackle camps on the edges of the fields enduring hunger, disease, discrimination and abuse, until the government set up "clean" camps to house them safely and humanely. This is the story told by John Steinbeck's, The Grapes Of Wrath, and Woody Guthrie's great Dust Bowl Ballads. The Weedpatch Camp was the first of the government camps and it's still here, still in use by migrant farmworkers, and some of the original buildings have been preserved.

You can drive out there any time and see the old buildings. A couple of them can also be seen in the 1939 film version of The Grapes Of Wrath, with Henry Fonda. They're adjacent to the Arvin Migrant Housing Center on Sunset Road, between Weedpatch Highway and Comanche Road. If you make an appointment with the folks who take care of it they'll have a docent open it up for you and give you a guided tour. We were given a very authoritative presentation by researcher, Doris Weddell, and treated to the personal reminiscences of Earl Shelton, who actually lived in the camp in the 1940s and worked in the fields for much of his life. I highly recommend taking the tour. All you have to do is call them, or send them an email, and they're happy to do it. There's a public celebration called Dust Bowl Days that is held there every year in October. I've been meaning to go to Dust Bowl Days for a couple years now, but it seems that I'm always busy on that weekend, so I was glad for the opportunity to check it out in this way. I've been a Woody Guthrie scholar for years, and I'm working on a Woody Guthrie show, so it was inspiring and illuminating to walk around the grounds and stand on the fine old stage, there. I had an idea of recording a music video there, and I had my guitar with me, but it was just too doggone hot at this time of year. Maybe in the Fall... Erin did get some video of Mr. Shelton telling his great old stories, though, and maybe she'll share some of that with us. It represents an important page from our local history and is well worth a visit. Check out a copy of The Grapes Of Wrath before you go to put your visit in the proper context.
For more information about Dust Bowl Days, and to book a private tour, check out the Dust Bowl Days Website.

Here's a link to a slideshow of our trip: