Friday, January 31, 2014

My Old Boot Camp Buddy

In October 1964 I joined the United States Navy. Upon taking the Oath of Enlistment in Nashville, Tennessee:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
I was flown to San Diego, California, to begin three months of Boot Camp at the Naval Training Center there.

Unfortunately, the person with whom I developed the closest bond during that intense experience I lost contact with once we left Boot Camp. Off and on over the last 49 years I have tried unsuccessfully to locate him.

As some of you know I have been researching and writing my memoir, a chapter at a time. After my sister died I have had more time to spend on the project. Recently, I was rummaging through a box of old letters that I found stored in my sister’s basement and came upon a couple of letters written to me back in 1964-65 from a girlfriend of his.

So, I Googled her. To make a long story short, I found her. As it turns out, she is his x-wife. Several days ago, she contacted him for me. My plan is to talk with him by phone this weekend.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Remembering Pete Seeger (Part 2)

Pete Seeger died at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital on Monday. He was 94. The singer-songwriter and folk-song collector was not just a championing of folk music, he fervently believed that it could be a powerful catalyst for social change, that if used right, music could help save the planet. He saw himself as a member of an enduring folk tradition, continuing to play and sing songs that had been honed by others for generations.

His long career extended over 70 years. He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 50s, for civil rights marches and anti-War rallies in the 1960s, and for the environment and his beloved Hudson River to the day he died.

He first met Woody Guthrie in 1940, when they were performing at a benefit concert for migrant workers in California. The two of them traveled across the United States, hitchhiking and hopping freight trains, learning and trading songs with one another.

When Pete returned to New York, he helped formed the Almanac Singers with Millard Lampell and Lee Hays, performing labor union and antiwar songs until Germany invaded the Soviet Union. It wasn’t long before Guthrie joined the group.

In 1942 Pete was drafted and assigned to a unit of performers. While he was on furlough in 1943 he married Toshi-Aline Ohta. They remained married one day short of 70 years until Toshi death last July. During an interview shortly after her death, Pete called her “the brains of the family”, saying that it was she who figured out how to turn his artistic concepts into commercial successes.

When he returned from the war he and Toshi bought 17 acres of land for $1,700, overlooking the Hudson River in Beacon, New York. There, in the late 1940s, he began building a log cabin. The two of them lived in Beacon for the rest of their lives.

He also started his nightclub career, performing at the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village. In 1948, along with Paul Robeson, Pete campaign and toured with Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party presidential candidate.

During the 1950s and 60s, he was a leader in the folk revival that transformed popular music. In 1959, he was one of the founders of the Newport Folk Festival.

The list of musical artists and groups who were influenced by his life and career is vast and varied – from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen, from Phil Ochs to Holly Near, from Peter, Paul and Mary to the Byrds, from Don McLean to Joan Baez, from Joni Mitchell to Gordon Lightfoot. The list goes on and on.

In 1962 the Kingston Trio’s version of Pete’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” reached the Top 40. Shortly thereafter, Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of Pete’s “If I Had a Hammer,” climbed to the Top 10.

I first heard his voice back in 1950 on a jukebox at the Norris Community Building when he was a member of the Greenwich Village-based folk quartet, the Weavers – made up of Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Pete. The group was singing an old folk standard – Goodnight Irene.

By the early 1950s the group had become a commercial success, selling millions of records under the Decca label, with hit singles that included “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” and Woody Guthrie’s “So Long – It’s Been Good to Know Yuh.” The Weavers version of “Goodnight Irene” was on the Billboard Best Seller chart for 25 weeks, peaking at number 1 for 13 of those weeks.

The American blues musician Huddie Ledbetter ("Lead Belly") had been singing a version of the song as far back as 1908. By the 1930s he had made the song his own, rewriting most of the lyrics. Despite the song’s popularity within the New York City blues community, it never was a commercial success until 1950 when the Weavers recorded their version of the song, six months after "Lead Belly" had died.

Unfortunately, during the McCarthy era and the Red Scare, an FBI informant (who later recanted his testimony) denounced Pete Seeger and Lee Hays as Communist Party members. Eventually, both Seeger and Hays were called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Hays took the Fifth Amendment while Seeger refused to answer on grounds of the First Amendment.

Seeger was found guilty of contempt by the Committee and placed under restrictions by the court pending an appeal. Finally, in 1961 his conviction was overturned. Nevertheless, Seeger was blacklisted by the entertainment industry and prevented from performing on television and radio throughout the 1950s and much of the 1960s. All of the Weavers were placed under FBI surveillance.

Late in 1953 Decca Records terminated The Weavers' recording contract and deleted their songs from its catalog. The group’s records were also denied airplay, which greatly limited their income from royalties. With their economic viability on the wane they disbanded.

However, in December 1955 the group reunited to play a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall. A recording of the concert was produced and distributed by Vanguard Records. Despite a surge in popularity of folk music and a backlash against McCarthyism, the group never really recovered from the witch-hunt. It was not until September 1967 that Pete Seeger was finally able to appear on a nationally syndicated television show – The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

During a taping of the show Pete performed an antiwar protest song he had written, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” with the refrain “The big fool says to push on.” But, the song was cut before the show was aired. After the Smothers Brothers publicized the censorship, the network relented and Pete returned in February 1968 to perform the song on the show.

During the late 1960s Pete began a crusade for cleaning up the Hudson River. Between other benefit concerts he began to raise funds to build a 106-foot sloop, the Clearwater. It was launched in June of 1969 with a crew of musicians. The ship became a symbol and a rallying cry for environmental education.

Over the years he has received numerous awards and recognition for his life and work. He was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. In 1993 he was given a lifetime achievement Grammy Award. He received a Kennedy Center Honor from President Clinton in 1994 and the National Medal of Arts, awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1999 he traveled to Cuba to receive the Order of FĂ©lix Varela, Cuba’s highest cultural award, for his humanitarian and artistic defense of the environment and his leadership against racial discrimination.

In the 1980s and 90s Pete began touring off and on with Ronnie Gilbert, Holly Near and Arlo Guthrie, performing benefit concerts and leading sing-alongs.  I first met Mr. Seeger in the late 1980s. He had come to Nashville with Ronnie Gilbert and Holly Near to perform at the old War Memorial Building near the Capitol. At the time I was still working at Cumberland House School. Don Creech (a teacher-counselor with the Keystyones, the only girls group on campus) and I decided to take the group to see the folk trio perform.

When we arrived, there was no one in the auditorium. We immediately went to the front row, center. When the three of them walked out on stage, the large auditorium was completely empty except for us – eight girls (ranging in age from 7 to 13) and three adults. Within moments Holly, Ronnie and Pete decided to come down and introduce themselves to the group. For the next hour they sat there with us, telling stories, talking with the group and leading us in song. It was truly an unforgettable and magical evening.

Several years later (in 1990) while visiting a singer-songwriter friend of mine, Lydia Adams Davis, in Cornwall-on-Hudson, I met Pete again. He, Lydia and several other performers were singing in Donahue Memorial Park.

The last time I met him was at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee. All three times I was impressed with his modesty, his unassuming attitude and behavior. As Peter Yarbrough said of him, “Pete lived his ethic.” Although he recorded dozens of albums, he never seemed comfortable with the idea of stardom or commercialism. He consistently used his celebrity to generate funds and draw attention to the causes that inspired him.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Remembering Pete Seeger

I met Pete Seeger on three separate occasions. He was modest and unassuming in attitude and behavior. He was a living example of his beliefs. Below is the PBS News Hour tribute to his life. My tribute will be posted in the next few days.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

News from Tribe of Heart

News from Tribe of Heart, Producers of PEACEABLE KINGDOM: THE JOURNEY HOME and THE WITNESS
Tribe of Heart
The Tribe of Heart community is touching more lives, in more cultures around the world, than ever before. The 12 stories below show what is possible when caring, committed people use their time, talents and resources to foster compassion and advocate for justice. Let's take a moment to celebrate the good work we've done, and to commit ourselves to raising the bar even higher in the coming year.
12 reasons for hope as we move into 2014
Working together, we're empowering people in cultures across the world
to become agents of peaceful transformation
Screening Room
Groundbreaking "Global Tribal" Initiative
Offering innovative tools for change, now in TWELVE languages!
Check it out
New Polish version of The Witness screens in Warsaw... Full Story
Global Tribal
Success Story
Slovenian activists includeThe Witness in their successful campaign to ban fur... Full Story
Animal Advocacy Breakthrough
in Vietnam
Pioneering activists team up with Tribe of Heart to open minds and change lives... Full Story
Tribe of Heart Films Help Empower Brazilian Artists and Activists
Animal justice issues resonate with a culture forging a new social vision... Full Story
Working together, we're putting the spotlight on moral visionaries past and present
who challenge and expand our cultural ideas of social justice
Father Frank Mann - Video
A Breakthrough in the Catholic Community
With two new videos and a film premiere in NYC, Tribe of Heart helps Father Frank Mann express his inclusive vision of compassion for "all of God's creation"... Learn more
Artist as Activist
The Artist as Activist
Social justice artist Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin and changed the course of history. Learn how her storytelling approach informed the making of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. Now online in four langauges... Watch Video
All the Difference
All the Difference
in the World

In this inspiring rescue story, which is based on an extended scene from Peaceable Kingdom, a group of young people band together to save the lives of thousands of animals despite overwhelming challenges. Now online in four langauges... Watch Video
Change of Heart
Peaceable Kingdom Down Under
Patty Mark and Philip Wollen, two of the world's most visionary animal advocates, hosted the Australian premiere of Peaceable Kingdom, followed by two large-scale events in other cities. Enjoy this heartwarming video from Melbourne, this beautiful scrapbook from Perth, and this thought-provoking review from Adelaide.
Working together, we're creating life-changing events
that inspire and inform the general public
Broadcast Premieres Exponentially Expand Viewership of our Films
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home had its broadcast debut on WTVS-Detroit PBS, which also reached satellite and cable viewers across Canada.
WEDU-Tampa PBS aired a double feature of both our films, plus an encore of Peaceable Kingdom.
TV interview
In-Depth PBS Interview with Tribe of Heart Founders & Filmmakers
Animal justice issues and activist filmmaking were the subjects of this half-hour interview on "Up Close with Cathy Unruh."
Cathy also blogged about the film in a related article, titled " Peace in the Pasture."
Community Screening
Over 100 Community Screenings in 2013
From libraries to movie theaters, from rural towns to big cities, from North and South America to Australia, Europe and Asia. Check out the many ways and places grassroots educators have been sharing our films, as well as this story about a theatrical screening held in Vancouver, BC.
Tucson Screening
in Tucson
A handful of motivated activists hit a home run, filling 500 seats, and changing countless lives, opening a new dialog in a Western city... Full Story
Also, check out this Arizona Daily Star article that came out a few days before the screening that highlights the philosophy behind the film.
Thank you for your support, which makes everything possible. Let's keep the momentum going in 2014!
Here's how you can help us continue to foster individual paradigm shifts,
make bridges into new communities and cultures,
and greatly expand the audience for the message of our films.
Make a donation
in support of our work
Our films and programs have a life-changing message, and funding is the key to bringing them to as many people as possible. Your financial support directly translates into the awakening of hearts and minds around the world.
Donations are fully tax-deductible in the U.S. and can be made online or mailed to:
Tribe of Heart
PO Box 149
Ithaca, NY 14851
Thank you for your support!
Share our films
with others
Tribe of Heart films
- Send invitations to your friends to watch The Witness online (invitations are available in 12 languages).
- Share Tribe of Heart's Online Screening Room through social media.
- Lend DVDs to friends, family & co-workers, or purchase gift viewings on iTunes.
Help our films reach a wider audience
- Donate DVDs of both Tribe of Heart films to your local library.
- Organize a community screening. It's an empowering experience! Learn how
- Ask your local PBS station to air Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. Contact Kevin Smith for details.
- Help us get our films translated into new languages either by donating your skills as a professional translator, or by making a donation toward hiring professional translators for new multilingual versions.
Tribe of Heart logo Jenny & JamesTribe of Heart is a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization that produces award-winning, life-changing films about the journey of awakening conscience and the ethics of the human-animal relationship. As a small organization with a big vision, we depend on the power of our community to make our programs come to life. Thank you for the many ways you help Tribe of Heart encourage positive, peaceful transformation.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Oldest Living Pianist, Holocaust Survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer - 109 years old

Published on Sep 11, 2013

The Lady in Number 6 is one of the most inspirational stories ever told. 109 year old, Alice Herz Sommer, the world's oldest pianist and oldest holocaust survivor, shares her views on how to live a long happy life. She discusses the vital importance of music, laughter and having an optimistic outlook on life. This powerfully inspirational video tells her amazing story of survival and how she managed to use her time in a Nazi concentration camp to empower herself and others with music.

See the entire documentary at:

Leaf Seligman's Star Island Conference

My dear friend Leaf Seligman recently announced her upcoming Star Island Conference, Water From the Rock: Writing Toward Freedom, Meaning and Connection. It will be held from Sept. 8-12, 2014. For those of you who are not familiar with Star Island, it is a gorgeous island off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I first met Leaf when she was 13 years old in the mid-1970s when she was a student at the University School in Nashville and was immediately impressed with her intellect. She has been a writer since childhood. Her letters to the editor as a young teenager earned her several seats as an honoree at The Tennessean annual banquet to honor exceptional letters to the editor.

Leaf studied fiction writing and poetry at the University of New Hampshire where she earned an MA in writing; she studied playwriting at Brandeis and earned an M.Div. from Harvard. She started teaching writing in 1985, as a graduate assistant at the University of New Hampshire, and a volunteer at the Rockingham County jail. She has taught writing ever since at two universities, a college, two prisons, two jails, and a variety of community settings. After ten years as a Unitarian Universalist minister, she has happily returned to a writing-centered life.

     Leaf with her beloved dog Zuki

 To learn more about Leaf and the Star Island Conference please click on her website – Opening the Window Writing that Matters – and the Star Island website – Star Island.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"DIG" From Sundance

Published on Jan 19, 2014
An official selection of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and available only on YouTube.

A young girl watches her father dig a hole in their backyard. Mystified about his purpose, the neighborhood comes to watch.

Written and Directed by Toby Halbrooks

Starring Mallory Mahoney, Jonny Mars, Augustine Frizzell, Myles Brooks, Kaitlyn Neill, Kelsey Walton

Produced by Shaun Gish, James Johnston, Richard Krause, David Lowery.

Watch more from Sundance at

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Morning Sunrise at the Narrows

Corey Knowlton Says He Cares Deeply About All Animals

Corey Knowlton is the hunter who paid $350,000 at a Dallas auction on Saturday to hunt and kill one of the most endangered species on the planet, a black rhino. He is an experienced hunter who has taken clients on hunting trips all over the world.

The so-called “license to kill” was sold by the Dallas Safari Club in an alliance with the Namibian government. It has been reported that the Namibian government is delighted with the results of the auction because the funds will help to improve conservation efforts in their country.

As for Knowlton, he swears that he cares “deeply” about all animals.

    Corey's caption: Bear of a Lifetime

After receiving death threats he went on his Facebook page on Monday to respond to the mounting criticism:
Thank you all for your comments about conservation and the current situation regarding the black rhino. I am considering all sides and concerns involved in this unique situation. Please don't rush to judgment with emotionally driven criticism towards individuals on either sides of this issue. I deeply care about all of the inhabitants of this planet and I am looking forward to more educated discussion regarding the ongoing conservation effort for the black rhino.
    Corey's caption: Caracal

I believe that Benjamin Franklin said it best (and I paraphrase):
Man’s moral and rational mind can rationalize anything . . . even immorality.

*All photos are from Mr. Knowlton's Facebook page

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Recent Quick Pencil Sketch

Does anyone know who this is? She was born September 28, 1934. This drawing was done from a compilation of several photographs taken when she was seventeen. She was classically trained as a ballerina by the Russian choreographer Boris Knyazev at the Conservatoire de Paris. One of her classmates was Leslie Caron. Her fellow students nicknamed her "Bichette" (little doe). She retired from show business in 1973 when she was only 39 years old.