Posts Tagged ‘RIP’

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For those of us of a certain age, especially those of us raised in Catholic households, Father Daniel Berrigan—through his activism and poetry, against war and militarism, racism, poverty and inequality—was one of the true consciences of a church and a nation.

Merle Haggard RIP

Posted: 6 April 2016 in Uncategorized
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Merle Haggard was, for me, the undisputed king of the Bakersfield sound.

Merle Haggard, one of the most successful singers in the history of country music, a contrarian populist whose songs about his scuffling early life and his time in prison made him the closest thing that the genre had to a real-life outlaw hero, died at his home in California, on Wednesday, his 79th birthday. . .

Mr. Haggard had an immense influence on other performers — not just other country singers but also ’60s rock bands like the Byrds and the Grateful Dead, as well as acts like Elvis Costello and the Mekons, all of whom recorded Mr. Haggard’s songs. Some 400 artists have released versions of his 1968 hit “Today I Started Loving You Again.”

He was always the outsider. His band was aptly named the Strangers.

Gato Barbieri RIP

Posted: 2 April 2016 in Uncategorized
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Born in Argentina (in the same city to which part of my family emigrated), Gato Barbieri was one of the best jazz musicians to emerge from South America. He managed to combine, with virtuosity on the alto and tenor saxophones, the heights of the free-jazz revolution with traditional latin rhythms, harmonies, and melodic themes.

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I spent a lot of time over the years browsing and purchasing items from the inventory of music, especially jazz and blues, at Chicago’s Jazz Record Mart. I also enjoyed taking friends from out of town there.

Now, due to rising rent, the shop that billed itself as “The World’s Largest Jazz and Blues Record Store” has closed its doors.

Paul Kantner RIP

Posted: 29 January 2016 in Uncategorized
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Some songs and singers define (and, then, transcend) an age and an ethos. This is one, written by Paul Kantner (with Stephen Stills and David Crosby), who was a central figure in Jefferson Airplane and later Jefferson Starship.

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I just learned that, while I was traveling, Benedict Anderson passed away.

Anderson was, of course, the author of Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism—first published in 1983, reissued with additional chapters in 1991, and further revised in 2006.

The basic idea is that nations are not original or primordial but, rather, historically and socially constructed.

In an anthropological spirit, then, I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.

It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. . .

The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them, encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic, boundaries, beyond which lie other nations; No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members of the human race will join their nation in the way that it was possible, in certain epochs, for, say, Christians to dream of a wholly Christian planet.

It is imagined as sovereign because the concept was born in an age in which Enlightenment and Revolution were destroying the legitimacy of the divinely-ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm. Coming to maturity at a stage of human history when even the most devout adherents of any universal religion were inescapably confronted with the living pluralism of such religions, and the allomorphism between each faith’s ontological claims and territorial stretch, nations dream of being free, and, if under God, directly so. The gage and emblem of this freedom is the sovereign state.

Finally, it is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.

These deaths bring us abruptly face to face with the central problem posed by nationalism: what makes the shrunken imaginings of recent history (scarcely more than two centuries) generate such colossal sacrifices?

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Sidney W. Mintz, a renowned cultural anthropologist who focused on the Caribbean rural proletariat and linked Britain’s insatiable sweet tooth with slavery, capitalism, and imperialism, died on Sunday at the age of 93.

The son of a restaurateur and an amateur chef himself, Professor Mintz was best known beyond the academy and his own kitchen for his Marxian perspective on the growing demand for sugar in Britain, beginning in the 17th century.

In his view, that hunger shaped empires, spawned industrial-like plantations in the Caribbean and South America that presaged capitalism and globalization, enslaved and decimated indigenous populations, and engendered navies to protect trade while providing a sweetener to the wealthy and a cheap source of energy to industrial workers.

“There was no conspiracy at work to wreck the nutrition of the British working class, to turn them into addicts or ruin their teeth,” Professor Mintz wrote in “Sweetness and Power.” “But the ever-rising consumption of sugar was an artifact of interclass struggles for profit — struggles that eventuated in a world market solution for drug food, as industrial capitalism cut its protectionist losses and expanded a mass market to satisfy proletarian consumers once regarded as sinful or indolent.”

He added, “No wonder the rich and powerful liked it so much, and no wonder the poor learned to love it.”

For me, Mintz’s work was important for many different reasons: the importance of history in making sense of food, economic and social relations, and commodity exchange; a conception of capitalism as a global system; and a focus on capitalist and noncapitalist class structures and class struggles in both the North and the South. Perhaps most important, he turned traditional economic determinism on its head by arguing that the consumption of sugar, tea, and other commodities and their social importance in eighteenth-century Great Britain shaped British colonial policy and the production of those commodities throughout the empire.

Mintz’s work was also an important inspiration for one of my recent courses, Commodities: The Making of Market Society.