Category Archives: Essays

When Shall We Be Done Changing?

By Cypress Marrs

Music has a way of accenting time and — at its best — of moving it forward. Time would pass anyway, of course, but the beat propels it, allows it to be experienced more fully. At least, this is what happens when Felix Walworth is behind a drum set. Standing with long hair loose, Walworth flails, hitting at things with a reckless restraint. To watch is to see the world in microcosm — body and song — come into being one moment at a time. Continue reading

This is San Francisco

By Sarah Ladipo Manyika

It was Monday morning, at the library on Page Street, and I was in search of Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs. As I looked for it on the shelves, my eye kept being drawn from the books to the men sharing the library with me. Worn out, weighted down by layers of clothing and heavy duffel bags, most of them looked like they were barely stumbling through life. One disheveled young man was engrossed in a book that he held only millimeters from his nose. Another was busy knitting, filthy-looking bags all around him. A third sat at a worktable with his head slumped into a plumage of frayed cloth. Continue reading

Putin Has the Best Words to Make America Great!

By Ani Kokobobo and Emma Lieber

Putin has all the best words! You might want to learn Russian, or you can listen to Donald Trump, who sounds like Putin lite, with all the bluster, but none of the polysyllabic words, or actual power (not yet, anyway). Although he has thankfully spared the American public the shirtless parading of masculine bravado, whenever not chained to a teleprompter by his handlers, Mr. Trump seems to be aping authoritarian language, crafting an image of himself as a strong authoritarian leader, a doer who will build walls and destroy ISIS, someone who should be in charge simply because he says so. In this sense Trump’s dismissal of his own vulgarity, the testimonies of the women accusing him of sexual assault, or Hillary Clinton’s entire political career as “just words” is (like most of his claims) perfectly disingenuous, since Trump knows the power of words better than anyone.  And though Trump may be running for president of the United States, he hardly ever sounds like someone seeking to be the leader of a constitutional democracy with checks and balances. Of all the authoritarian figures that he has praised in the course of his campaign (including, yes, Saddam Hussein), the smooth talking Mr. Putin is the favorite. Continue reading

Vanitas: Notes On 9/11 Art

By Zack Hatfield

To see the first-ever art exhibit at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, you must first descend the escalator, walk past the spotlit wreckage displayed as part of the museum’s permanent collection, past armed guards, past fire trucks warped beyond recognition, and, finally, past the buckled I-beams and other debris that haunt Ground Zero. These artifacts serve as totems of perseverance and frangibility, souvenirs of past atrocity. Yet this preceding layout is such that, once you enter the gallery, the art feels unnecessary, perhaps even insensitive. What can creativity achieve amid so much pain and loss? In light of this duality, both the helpfulness and helplessness of art are on display in Rendering the Unthinkable: 13 Artists Respond to 9/11, an exhibit that embodies the comforting generalities that annex America’s remembrance of 9/11 today. Continue reading

Under the Shadow Flag: A Week in the Vasilika Refugee Camp

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In Memory of Tom Hayden

By Darryl Holter

I was saddened to learn of the death of Tom Hayden yesterday morning.  I read a lot of his writings in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and was especially affected by The Port Huron Statement, a manifesto for the New Left and one of the most important political documents of the times, which was largely written by Tom.  I talked to Tom once at an airport when he was working on Jerry Brown’s campaign for President.   A few years later I wrote him to ask some organizational questions about his LA-based group, Campaign for Economic Democracy, and he wrote back and answered them. Continue reading

Remembering Tom Hayden

By Mike Davis

Fifty-two years ago this December, an obscure group of young activists, Students for a Democratic Society, held a national council meeting in New York to discuss the next year’s work.  As I recall there were about forty people present, some of them recent veterans of Freedom Summer, others peace and civil rights activists at campuses such as Swarthmore, Michigan, Chicago, Harvard and Tufts.     Continue reading