Archive for December, 2012

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tracks changes in the environment and has released the Arctic Report Card: Update for 2012. Based on multiple observations, the report finds “strong evidence of widespread, sustained change driving Arctic environmental system into new state,” and highlights the following:

“Record low snow extent and low sea ice extent occurred in June and September, respectively.”

“Growing season length is increasing along with tundra greenness and above-ground biomass. Below the tundra, record high permafrost temperatures occurred in northernmost Alaska. Duration of melting was the longest observed yet on the Greenland ice sheet, and a rare, nearly ice sheet-wide melt event occurred in July.”

“Massive phytoplankton blooms below summer sea ice suggest previous estimates of ocean primary productivity might be ten times too low. Arctic fox is close to extinction in Fennoscandia and vulnerable to further changes in the lemming cycle and the encroaching Red fox.”

“Severe weather events included extreme cold and snowfall in Eurasia, and two major storms with deep central pressure and strong winds offshore of western and northern Alaska.”

This year also marks the first time that there has been less than 4 million square kilometers (1.54 million square miles) of sea ice since satellite observations began in 1979. Visualization here.

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This article is cross-posted at Firedoglake under the MyFDL reader diaries section.

Although Paul McCartney wrote Hey Jude, the song is credited to Lennon-McCartney. It was recorded and released in 1968. That recorded version, performed by The Beatles and showing the lyrics, is here.

The ballad evolved from “Hey Jules”, a song widely accepted as being written to comfort John Lennon’s son, Julian, during his parents’ divorce. “Hey Jude” begins with a verse-bridge structure based around McCartney’s vocal performance and piano accompaniment; further instrumentation is added as the song progresses to distinguish sections. After the fourth verse, the song shifts to a fade-out coda that lasts for more than four minutes.

The song took on additional and varied meaning. Hey Jude was released at a time when racial tension was raging in the US. Earlier that year, American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, and there was much turmoil in American music among black and white musicians in the immediate aftermath of the tragic loss. There were efforts to bridge the gaps in the new genre of music at that time known as Southern Rock.

There is a BBC Documentary on the development of Southern Rock, called Sweet Home Alabama – The Southern Rock Saga. While watching this, I learned about the history and recording of another version of Hey Jude, performed by Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman in 1969, just months after its release. It is an example of musicians as activists, in a peaceful demonstration that music, as well as tragedy, are colorblind. Please give it a listen, because it is difficult to find a song that is so deeply moving:

In addition to Wilson Pickett singing with beauty and passion, and Duane on electric slide guitar, this song also has ” “arguably the greatest soul horn section ever,” the Memphis Horns. Wilson Pickett balked when Duane suggested they attempt this version of Hey Jude. Pickett finally agreed, and other musicians were stunned when they listened.

Wilson Pickett (March 18, 1941 – January 19, 2006), who sings this version of Hey Jude, grew up in Alabama singing in Baptist choirs. From Wiki:

A major figure in the development of American soul music, Pickett recorded over 50 songs which made the US R&B charts, and frequently crossed over to the US Billboard Hot 100. Among his best known hits are “In the Midnight Hour” (which he co-wrote), “Land of 1,000 Dances”, “Mustang Sally”, and “Funky Broadway”.[1]
The impact of Pickett’s songwriting and recording led to his 1991 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[2]

This recording was a turning point for Duane Allman, who is immortalized as one of the greatest rock guitarists in American history. As you know, Duane passed away following a motorcycle accident in Georgia, in 1971. The loss was particularly difficult for younger brother Gregg. Gregg was scholastically studious and had plans to go to medical school. Duane was artistically motivated, and dropped out of high school to spend all of his time studying music. Gregg agreed to give the music a couple of years and then return to his studies. When Duane died, everyone looked to Gregg. He reports saying (interview linked above), “Don’t look at me, I just happen to have the same last name.”

I cannot imagine a world without music and the arts, and sometimes taking a second look at a classic makes it possible to return home in a world where one can generally never go home again. The song Hey Jude, with its iconic lyric, “Take a sad song and make it better,” is a source of great comfort during and time of loss or discomfort.

In 1997, as a benefit to the victims of a volcano on the Caribbean Island of Montserrat, notable musicians Paul McCartney, Elton John, Sting, Mark Knoffler, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and others gathered and performed Hey Jude live during the concert. That performance is here:

hat tip Xena at frederickleatherman.com for turning my attention to this.

This is the best documentary I have ever seen, that I never want to see again. For those who are not familiar with this film or with this case, it is heartbreaking, and yet it brings to light important issues in a flawed legal system. The film is also about love, survival and activism.

In 2001, Dr. Andrew Bagby was found murdered in his scrubs, in a park in Latrobe, PA. He was an only son of very loving parents. He had an astonishing extended family of friends and relatives, spanning the continent from California where he lived as a boy to Newfoundland, Canada, where he attended medical school. He had been shot five times, in the face, head and buttocks. Andrew Bagby was 28 years old.

Dr. Bagby had just ended a relationship with another doctor, Shirley Turner, who he had met in Newfoundland. Her possessiveness and inappropriate behavior had become burdensome. He put her on a plane back to her home in Iowa, but she immediately returned to Pennsylvania by car. Evidence quickly indicated Shirley Turner as the suspect in Andrew Bagby’s murder. Shirley Turner was 40 years old.

Shirley Turner fled to Canada, where she had initially met Andrew Bagby. In Canada, she was arrested on suspicion of pre-meditated first degree murder. She was also pregnant with Andrew Bagby’s child. She was released on bail immediately.

She had the child and named him Zachary. Zachary looked like Andrew had looked, when he was a baby. Andrew’s distraught parents began a heartbreaking fight for visitation and custody of Zachary. The grandparents loved the boy and endured the likes of strip searches for each cherished hour that they spent with him. They were forced to stomach a relationship with their son’s likely murderer, to have what few hours they did get with the boy.

Shirley Turner was arrested a second time and held pending extradition to the US to face the murder charge. She appealed the extradition and during the pendency of the appeal, she was awarded custody of the child and allowed to go free. The Canadian court found her to be neither a risk for flight nor a risk to the safety of her community.

What happened next was unimaginable.

Andrew Bagby’s close friend Kurt Kuenne, who was a filmmaker, made a documentary of this story. The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures named the film one of the five top documentaries of the year. Among those who named it one of the best films of 2008 were Time Out Chicago, The Oregonian, the Times Herald-Record, Slant Magazine, and WGN Radio Chicago.[7] The website Film School Rejects place the film in third place in their 30 Best Films of the Decade list.[8] The Film Vault included the film on their top 5 good movies you never want to see again.[9] Source.

The film’s trailer is here:

The full-length documentary film by Kurt Kuenne is here: