How the Seeds of Our Freedom of Speech Were Sown in the Hard Ground of the First World War

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Frohwerk was convicted and sentenced to ten years of hard labor for his news articles and opinions. He was one of about 2,000 seditionists rounded up and eventually imprisoned by zealous federal prosecutors in the years of the Great War. His was one of four separate appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1918, including that of Eugene V. Debs, famous labor leader, socialist and four time presidential candidate. All their various prison terms were affirmed by the Court, despite serious arguments that the freedom of speech protected their opinions on the War, the draft and other topics, as long as they had not directly incited imminent lawless action to disrupt the War effort.

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Manakamana: A Film Unseen

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The year 2014 brings yet another twelve months of hyperbolic, and over stimulated cinematic spectacle. Following a year of Superhero re-hashes (Man of Steel), comic book adaptations (Kick-Ass 2, The Wolverine), darker themed sequels (Thor: The Dark World, Star Trek: Into Darkness) and over indulgent science fiction (After Earth, Pacific Rim), it seems Hollywood has lined up another round of expensive eye-candy. I recently had the pleasure of watching The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug at the cinema, although I firmly place this film in the same category of over produced films listed above, its fantastical charm was difficult to ignore.

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Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Live From KCRW

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Not long after the release of the hauntingly ethereal album, Push the Sky Away, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds recently took us by surprise with the release of Live from KCRW – recorded in April, 2013, before a small studio audience at KCRW’s studios in Santa Monica. The album departs from the heavy guitar sounds and hammering pace of earlier works like Murder Ballads, stripping down atmospheric sound in some of the band’s lesser known songs and seducing us with its soulfulness, emotion and haunting melodies, purveyed through the pure sound of instruments such as the piano, violin, vibraphone and organ.

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Frozen: The Snow Queen Touched by the Hand of a Disney Princess

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In Disney’s Frozen, the audience is introduced to a world that wields both the darkness of Hans Christian Andersen and the almost ‘unbearable lightness’ of the Disney Princess world, where characters spontaneously burst into song, though thankfully, they possess voices such as that of the inimitable Idina Menzel, the voice of the Snow Queen. The film is at once a feminist manifesto (i.e. sisterly love comes before romantic love) and a deeply romantic story, espousing the value of slow-growing sentiment based on truly knowing, understanding and complementing one’s other half, rather than on the typical Disney princess ‘love at first sight’ scenario. READ MORE.

An Odd Look for Kiss Land

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If you are familiar with The Weeknd’s music you are aware of the “feel” most of his songs portray; spacious R&B riffs surrounded by mysterious and at times distant vocals work in tandem with narratives of Tesfaye’s character, The Weeknd. Kiss Land takes a similar albeit more shadowy approach. The openings to most tracks are airy, dark and majestic. Tesfaye spends a lot of time harmonizing when he could be using vocals to drive each piece. “Professional” leads off the album by setting a grand stage for Tesfaye to deliver. However, we get more “airy and wider” with each following track to no overwhelming climax.

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John Carpenter’s Prophetic Visions of the American Police State

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John Carpenter’s films, known primarily for their horror themes, inevitably feature pulse-pounding soundtracks, slow-moving camera work and hair-raising jolts to the nervous system as evil pops into the foreground with unexpected intensity. However, while Carpenter’s films are also infused with a strong anti-authoritarian, laconic bent, those seeking a good scare tend to overlook the deeper, overarching themes that speak to the filmmaker’s concerns about the unraveling of our society, particularly our government. READ MORE.

Can War Be Ended? Talking Points for the Present Generation

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Each generation has to come to its own understanding about war and the tragic loss of life which accompanies it. David Swanson’s book—’War No More: The Case for Abolition’—ardently addresses wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and elsewhere in the headlines. Previously, the Great War (World War I) left 21 million men wounded and more than 8.5 million soldiers dead on all fronts, together with at least 12 million civilian deaths. Conscientious objectors to this madness were brutalized and imprisoned in Britain and the United States. Fast forwarding to the Vietnam War, now a generation ago, it was the last war in America with a forced draft. Then the road to a conscientious objection to Vietnam was somewhat less hazardous with many being able to flee to the safe haven of Canada. But Muhammad Ali did not flee and he was ordered imprisoned for his objection to Vietnam until the Supreme Court freed him. READ MORE.

Let It Be: A Review

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Make no mistake about it. Let It Be: A Celebration of the Music of the Beatles, which just ended its run at the St. James Theater and is about to embark on a North American tour,is no mere Broadway musical. It is much more. It is a play that not only requires good musicians but fine actors as well.

From the first note struck on the guitars to the last note hitting a piano key, Let It Be is a tour de force of the musical lives of four guys from Liverpool—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here—The American Prison System

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Imitating Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s famous work on the gulag prison system in Soviet Russia, The First Circle, Jens Soering portrays himself in this book as prisoner 179212, serving a life term with no possibility of parole through anything but death. In this short and easy to read narrative he supplies an hour-by-hour survey of daily life in a medium-security prison in Virginia, while also identifying and commenting upon numerous public policy issues relating to the state of the typical prison system in the United States. His chronology of a typical day is enlightening and instructive for any interested citizen but it is only the structure for the greater policy issues which this book raises about the operation of America’s prison-industrial complex. READ MORE.