The Golden Globes and Ned Young.

The great skill of Oprah Winfrey is her ability to communicate with an audience and tell a good story.

She did that last night at the usually silly Golden Globe awards of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The truth is that I am an awards show watcher. I justify it by claiming there is some sociological knowledge that can be gained from watching them. But, I have always been a sucker for movies and Hollywood.

Less so now that I have to frequently Google to know who the celebrity is.

It is easy to be snarky about wealthy celebrities wearing thousand dollar black evening gowns and black ties with their tuxedoes as a way to make their political point. I did notice that when it came to the winners, it was a rare male who said anything about gender issues in the film industry.

It was left to the women to do the heavy lifting. Again.

I was also moved by the appearance of the 101-year old, Kirk Douglas.

Aside from being a favorite actor of mine when I was growing up, he is a political hero for being one of those who ended the Hollywood Blacklist of progressives and communists in the film industry.

As was mentioned on the broadcast, Douglas broke the hiring conspiracy when he hired the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo to be the screenwriter, using his own name, of the Howard Fast novel, Spartacus.

Howard Fast was a Red.

So was Trumbo.

During the period of the blacklist many writers and others could only work if they worked under a phony name and for less money than they would have earned otherwise.

Others couldn’t work in Hollywood at all.

I had friends in high school whose parents worked in Hollywood before the blacklist and never were hired again.

For them the blacklist never ended.

Ned Young was a family friend when I was growing up in Los Angeles. I was a curious kid about all things Hollywood and Ned always took the time to talk to me when he came over to the house, including showing me an actual script he might be working on.

Holding a real movie script in my hands as a teenager was something.

Ned Young was blacklisted. He won an Academy Award for writing The Defiant Ones starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier. But he won it under the name, Nathan E. Douglas and he couldn’t appear at the ceremony to receive it.

He wrote Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock under that name.

Ned Young also wrote the screenplays for Inherit the Wind about the famous Scopes Monkey Trial starring Spencer Tracy and Shadow on the Land.

Shadow on the Land was a 1968 made-for-television movie adapted from the Sinclair Lewis novel It Can’t Happen Here. The plot involved a President creating a fascist, totalitarian regime in the United States, and a resistance movement forming against it.

Trump’s State Department is handed the wrong Oscar envelope.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and their accountants – handing Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty the wrong Best Picture envelope – denied Moonlight the honor it had earned.

No matter that they caught the error. The screw up soaked up all the attention that Moonlight deserved.

I was taken to task by someone yesterday for spending too much time commenting on the Oscars.

But I disagree.

What happens in popular culture is important.

The fight for the equal  representation of all of us in the images we see is important. My critic called it “all bullshit.”

No it’s not.

And then there is this.

A State Department Twitter account posted then deleted Monday a message congratulating the prominent Iranian director who condemned President Trump’s “inhumane” travel ban on his Oscar win.

The official State Department Persian-language Twitter account, @USAdarFarsi, congratulated Asghar Farhadi for winning best foreign-language film for “The Salesman,” as Reuters first reported.

The tweet was first posted on the account at 1 a.m. ET but later deleted.

“A congratulatory tweet was posted,” a State Department spokeswoman told Reuters. “We later removed the post to avoid any misperception that the USG (U.S. government) endorsed the comments made in the acceptance speech.”

A second department official confirmed that the decision to delete the tweet was made within the State Department.

Farhadi, who boycotted the awards ceremony in protest of Trump’s immigration executive order, prepared a statement that was delivered by Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian in space, and former NASA director for solar system exploration Firouz Naderi, who accepted the Oscar on the director’s behalf.

“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S,” Farhadi said in the statement.

“Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fears. A deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries, which have themselves been victims of aggression.”

The 2/24 episode of Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers is available online.

Drive-by truckers. What it means.

He was running down the street
When they shot him in his tracks
About the only thing agreed upon
Is he ain’t coming back
There won’t be any trial
So the air it won’t be cleared
There’s just two sides calling names
Out of anger out of fear
If you say it wasn’t racial
When they shot him in his tracks
Well I guess that means that you ain’t black
It means that you ain’t black
I mean Barack Obama won
And you can choose where to eat
But you don’t see too many white kids
Lying bleeding on the street

In some town in Missouri
But it could be anywhere
It could be right here on Ruth Street
In fact it’s happened here
And it happened where you’re sitting
Wherever that might be
And it happened last weekend
And it will happen again next week
And when they turned him over
They were surprised there was no gun
I mean he must have done something
Or else why would he have run
And they’ll spin it for the anchors
On the television screen
So we can shrug and let it happen
Without asking what it means

What it means?
What it means?

Then I guess there was protesting
And some looting in some stores
And someone was reminded that
They ain’t called colored folks no more
I mean we try to be politically
Correct when we call names
But what’s the point of post-racial
When old prejudice remains?
And that guy who killed that kid
Down in Florida standing ground
Is free to beat up on his girlfriend
And wave his brand new gun around
While some kid is dead and buried
And laying in the ground
With a pocket full of skittles

What it means?
What it means?

Astrophysics at our fingertips
And we’re standing at the summit
And some man with a joystick
Lands a rocket on a comet
We’re living in an age
Where limitations are forgotten
The outer edges move and dazzle us
But the core is something rotten
And we’re standing on the precipice
Of prejudice and fear
We trust science just as long
As it tells us what we want to hear
We want our truths all fair and balanced
As long as our notions lie within it
There’s no sunlight in our ass’
And our heads are stuck up in it
And our heroes may be rapists
Who watch us while we dream
But don’t look to me for answers
Cuz I don’t know what it means

What it means?
What it means?

Beauty in black and white.

Mississippi, 1963. Martha Prescod, Mike Miller, and Robert Parris Moses do voter registration work in the countryside. Photo: Danny Lyon.

On the last day of our July 4th visit with family in New York, my daughter and I are going to the Whitney Museum to see the show of photographs by Danny Lyon.

Lyon calls his website Bleak Beauty.

But I think his photographs are beauty in black and white.

From his site:

In the summer of 1962, Danny Lyon packed a Nikon Reflex and an old Leica in an army bag and hitchhiked south. Within a week he was in jail in Albany, Georgia, looking through the bars at another prisoner, Martin Luther King Jr. Lyon soon became the first staff photographer for the Atlanta-based Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which already had a reputation as one of the most committed and confrontational groups fighting for civil rights.

Lyon’s gift to us are his photographs of the Southern Civil Rights Movement and the heroes of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee for which he was their first staff photographer.

The Whitney show is called Message to the Future.

Following his time with SNCC, Lyon went on to record outsider motorcyclists, prisoners and mostly not the rich and famous.

May Day in Brooklyn.

Union Square, New York. May Day. 1938.
I Am the People, the Mob.
-Carl Sandburg
I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world’s food and clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history to remember. Then—I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year, who played me for a fool—then there will be no speaker in all the world say the name: “The People,” with any fleck of a sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob—the crowd—the mass—will arrive then.

Love and hate at the Guggenheim.


On May Day 2015, members of the Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F.) unveiled a large parachute in the Guggenheim Museum rotunda with the words “Meet Workers Demands Now” (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

As a retired art teacher and current – can I claim this? – artist, I have always had a love/hate relationship with art museums.


I remember the moment I saw a painting by Vermeer and the surprising physical reaction. I think I nearly buckled at the knees.

I try to visit at least once a year the huge Matisse painting of Bathers by a River at the Art Institute of Chicago.

It was my teaching mentor Leon Bellin’s favorite and now it is mine.


On the other hand, when I am in New York a visit to the Met is almost too overwhelming. No matter how crowded, I never feel welcome. It is like I have been allowed inside some rich person’s house.

Look. But don’t touch.

Once, on a visit to the Prado in Madrid, Anne and I grabbed the three-fold map and guide at the front door and made a game of trying to find all fifty masterworks illustrated with thumbnails and locations, crossing a line through each one as we went.

In under 45 minutes.

I am sure this did not improve the image of Americans in Spain.

On the other hand, one of our favorite moments was when a security guard at the Brooklyn Museum took time to point out the details of a piece in a exhibit of American women’s quilts. She got to look at it every day and knew every inch of it. She loved it and took ownership of it and shared her observations with no less a sense of knowledge than a university degreed curator.

Today I read that the boys who run the Guggenheim Museum have broken off talks with a group they have been negotiating with for nine years.

When most think of the Guggenheim they think of the beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright spiral on New York’s upper east side.

Or the Frank Gehry franchise in Bilbao, Spain.

Few are aware that Guggenheim is opening another branch in Abu Dhabi.

Artists, labor and human rights activists from around the world have joined together to demand that the billionaire patrons of the Guggenheim pay attention to the labor conditions of the workers who will be building the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim.

It is easy to forget that workers built the Art Institute, The Met, The Louvre and the Guggenheim.

We may not know their names like we know the names Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry.

The failure of the talks comes after a roughly yearlong process that began after the 2015 May Day occupation of the New York Guggenheim and the May 8 occupation of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice during the Venice Biennale.

I will be spending some days in New York next week.

I won’t be visiting the Guggenheim.

Trump’s America. The Blue State Cowboys.

Dear Chicago Protesters,

Sorry I couldn’t be with you yesterday at the University of Illinois at Chicago to “greet” Donald Trump, but I was stuck taking a deposition that had been scheduled weeks ago. In any event, congratulations to all of you for letting Mr. Trump know that his race-baiting and bullying won’t fly in Chicago.

After I got home last night, I caught the tail-end of the UIC event on CNN. An hour later, I began recording this song, which I had started writing earlier in the week. My good buddy and longtime music compadre Steve Doyle took time out of his busy Saturday morning to lay down his electric guitar track. (Thank you, brother.)

The spark for this song comes from Mr. Trump’s tired slogan — recycled from a Reagan campaign — “Make America Great Again.”

Whenever I hear that line, I ask myself what period of greatness Mr. Trump wants us to revisit? The Ozzie & Harriet years? The Reagan era? The Dred Scott days?

Depending on one’s skin color, gender, ethnicity and/or sexual orientation, those were not likely wonderful times for everyone. But what the hell, every candidate needs a slogan.

Again, thanks for filling the streets last night, Chicago. I hope you enjoy my song.

In solidarity,

Matt Farmer

Trump’s America
(M. Farmer)

In a Trump t-shirt and a bright red hat
He stopped me outside of the laundromat
And said, “Howdy, brother, would you like to join our fight?”

He said, “We need to take this country back
From those godless gays and the brown and the black,
Can you help Mr. Trump as he tries to make things right?

“He’s gonna build our nation a great big wall
And get Mexico to pay for it all
‘Cause he’s a businessman who knows how to get things done

“He’ll keep out the drugs and Mexican rapists
ISIS thugs and no-‘count papists
And make America safe for everyone”

And then that man in the red hat looked me straight in the eye and said, “Are you with us, brother? Will you help Mr. Trump make America great again?”

Well, I could barely contain myself, but I paused, took a deep breath, gathered my thoughts . . . and then I asked him a couple of questions . . .

Before you make America great again
Can you take a moment and remind me when
That greatness stretched from sea to shining sea?

‘Cause I know all about the Jim Crow years,
The Stonewall raid, and the Trail of Tears
And the strange fruit hanging from a poplar tree

Was our country really at its best
When internment camps filled the Great Northwest
Or when old man Daley busted heads back in ’68?

This nation’s always worked well for some
But it’ll never be great for everyone
If it’s run by a man who encourages fear and hate

Well, that threw him for a loop
But truth be told, I was just getting started . . .

I said your man’s a bully and a carnival barker
Peddlin’ fear of folks whose skin’s a bit darker
Than that crazy shade of orange that he likes to wear

Sellin’ Trump University class online
Along with steak, water, and vanity wine
And Lord don’t even get me started on that yellow hair

And I won’t even bother tryin’ to hide my scorn
About his crazy claim that there’s a Kenyan-born
Man in the office the he’s now tryin’ to win

So if two Corinthians ever walk in a bar
And ask how our nation has fallen so far
Tell ‘em President Trump was the guy who did us in

Before you make America great again
Can you take a moment and remind me when
That greatness stretched from sea to shining sea?

‘Cause I know all about Hoover’s FBI
COINTELPRO and the need to spy
On folks who fought and died just to be free

Was our country really at its best
When you paid a poll tax and had to pass a test
If you were black and wanted to vote in a Southern state?

This nation’s always worked well for some
But it’ll never be great for everyone
If it’s run by a man who encourages fear and hate

So go vote for someone else before it’s too late