By Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press, Budapest
Sandor Racz (above), a labor activist and leading figure during Hungary’s anti-Soviet Revolution of 1956, died Tuesday at age 80.
The World Federation of Hungarians, of which Racz was honorary president, confirmed that he died while receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness at the National Institute of Oncology in Budapest.
The 1956 uprising broke out on Oct. 23 and was crushed by the Soviet army in early November. But as president of the Budapest central workers’ council, Racz and other labor leaders pressed ahead with the objectives of the movement for several more weeks, negotiating with pro-Soviet Prime Minister Janos Kadar and top Soviet military officers.
“For me, the revolution was so unambiguous, that I could not even imagine a Hungarian who does not feel that the Hungarian people are 1,000 percent right when they want to free themselves from an unacceptable foreign, murderous and pillaging system,” Racz wrote in memoirs published in 2005.
Even as the crackdown on those who took part in the revolution was under way — at least 225 people would be executed by 1958— the workers’ councils held two nationwide strikes in November and December.
Racz, then a 23-year-old a tool maker at an electronics factory, was arrested on Dec. 11, 1956, after being lured to Parliament with the excuse of holding talks with Kadar, who ruled Hungary until a few years before the end of the communist regime in 1990. Racz was sentenced to life in prison in 1958 but released under a 1963 general amnesty.
After his release, he returned to work as a tool maker and participated in secret meetings with students, telling them about the events of 1956. He retired due to poor health in 1987 and spent the rest of his life keeping alive the memory of the 1956 events.
“The workers’ councils were very important but they tend to be forgotten because most of the attention is given to the armed aspects of the revolution,” said British writer Bob Dent, author of a book about the revolution. “The councils were unofficial trade unions representing workers during and after the uprising.”
Racz was born on March 17, 1933 near the city of Hodmezovasarhely in southeast Hungary. He is survived by his wife, Aniko Damasdi, and two children.
Christiane Taubira, the French Minister for Justice on 29th January this year (click on “subtitles” icon for English translation):
…and, a few days ago in the New Zealand House of Representatives, the witty Maurice Williamson:
H/t (for Williamson): Serge Paul
An unsung hero of British music has died:
Derek Watkins, the British trumpet player who played on every James Bond film soundtrack from Dr No to Skyfall, has died aged 68.
He died at home in Esher, Surrey, on Friday after a lengthy illness – Philip Biggs, editor of the Brass Herald said.
Watkins was “widely considered to be the foremost British Big Band trumpet player” of all time, said Mr Biggs.
The trumpeter, who turned professional aged 17, is survived by his wife Wendy and their three children.
He was born into a brass band family and was taught to play the cornet at the age of four by his father.
Watkins then played in the band his father conducted – the Spring Gardens Brass Band in Reading – of which his grandfather was also conductor and a founder member.
He honed his skills as a both a “reader” and an “improviser” with his father’s dance band before turning professional.
Watkins was described as “Mr Lead” by Dizzy Gillespie; as well as the Bond films he played with the Beatles, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Frank Sinatra, the London Symphony Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra during his lengthy career.
He also played with the BBC Big Band and worked for band leaders Johnny Dankworth, Maynard Ferguson and Benny Goodman, all of whom who recognised his underrated jazz ability.
Mr Biggs described his friend as “a people’s person – no side, no ego, a fun loving musician who couldn’t get enough of life, who loved his family”.
[Adapted from the BBC Entertainment & Arts website]
Recommended listening: ‘Warren Vaché meets Derek Watkins with the Brian Lemon Quartet, Stardust’, Zephyr CD ZECD9 (1996) – ignore the unenthusiastic review, here.
Details here of Derek’s Sarcoma charity – buy the t-shirt!
From Abdul M via Avaaz.com
Dear friends across the UK,
The Taliban called me, saying I’m “an infidel spy”, they know where I live and will “punish” me. My crime? To work as a translator for British troops and journalists here in Afghanistan. But together we can get Britain to save me and a few hundred others who have risked everything!
Right now, Foreign Secretary William Hague is wondering whether to give me and other Afghan translators asylum, as the UK did for Iraqi translators — and we’re worried he’ll say no. We’ve worked with the British to help set our country free, and we’ve saved many British lives. But now my family and many others have had to go into hiding: every day we stay here it gets more dangerous.
Hague could decide whether to save or snub us any day now. If enough people call on him, he may grant us asylum. In days it’s the 10 year anniversary of the war in Iraq, and former British servicemen are ready to go to the media then to grab Hague’s attention on this. Let’s demand he does the right thing — sign and share our petition with everyone:
There are roughly 600 translators doing this dangerous work in Afghanistan – not just helping the army, but also helping journalists and aid workers. Many of us have already been killed or injured just for doing our jobs – a few years ago my brother was blown up on a patrol, and was left with horrific scars and 163 stitches. Many more of us have received death threats from the Taliban — and we all desperately fear what will happen when British troops leave soon.
When I went to the British authorities in Afghanistan about the death threats, they told me to go to my local police — the same police force that has a fearsome reputation for corruption, kidnapping and worse! Now, the UK government has said it is reviewing its policy and will assess asylum applications on a case by case basis, but this is a lengthy and difficult process with no guarantee of success – and in that time, I could be dead.
Our situation is desperate. I am the sole provider for my family — my parents are old and I have three young children. They have no way of supporting themselves if something were to happen to me. We’ve already had to go into hiding, and it’s harder and harder for us each day.
Our fate lies in the British government’s hands. Please join our call to William Hague now to free us from the terror that plagues us every day:
For years, my colleagues and I have stood shoulder to shoulder with British soldiers, journalists and aid workers. We’ve risked everything for them, and for our country’s freedom. Please don’t abandon us now, in our hour of need.
In peace and hope,
Is the UK abandoning its Afghan interpreters?
Afghans who served Britain ‘should be allowed to settle like Iraqi interpreters’
On St Patrick’s Day, we bring you perhaps the most bizarre lyric ever sung by Louis Armstrong: “I was born in Ireland (Ha, Ha)”…
Louis Armstrong And His Hot Five, November 1926: Irish Black Bottom
Louis’s tireless biographer Ricky Riccardi writes:
Admittedly, this is not songwriting as its finest but as a novelty, it’s good fun. The “black bottom” was a popular dance of the 1920s so this tune humorously pretends that it’s also taken Ireland by storm. If Louis had to record something so silly in the 1950s, critics would scream at the producers for forcing it on him. But “Irish Black Bottom” was written by the aforementioned Percy Venable so more than likely, it was a staple of Louis’s act at the Sunset. And can’t you imagine Louis bringing down the house with that vocal? That “ha, ha” he gives after singing “And I was born in Ireland,” breaks me up every time. I can only imagine what it did to the audiences who heard him do it live.
The song begins with the funny sound of Louis and his Hot Five swinging through a sample of the Irish classic “Where the River Shannon Flows” before Louis swings out with the main melody, which is predominantly in a minor mode until the end. Louis’s lead sounds great and Dodds is bouncing around as usual but trombonist Hy Clark, a substitute for Kid Ory, sounds hesitant and doesn’t add much. After a chorus and an interlude by pianist Lil Armstrong, Louis takes the vocal. If you can’t make it out, here’s what he says:
All you heard for years in Ireland,
was the “Wearin’ Of The Green”,
but the biggest change that’s come in Ireland
I have ever seen.
All the laddies and the cooies
laid aside their Irish reels,
and I was born in Ireland
(Ha, Ha), so imagine how I feels.
Now Ireland’s gone Black Bottom crazy,
see them dance,
you ought to see them dance.
Folks supposed to be related, even dance,
I mean they dance.
They play that strain,
works right on their brain.
Now it goes Black Bottom,
a new rhythm’s drivin’ the folks insane.
I hand you no Blarney, when I say
that song really goes,
and they put it over with a wow,
I mean now.
All over Ireland
you can see the people dancin’ it,
’cause Ireland’s gone Black Bottom crazy now
I don’t know how you can’t get swept up in that offering. Armstrong doesn’t so much sing it as shout it, or talk it, but his spirit sure gets the message across (though sometimes, he’s so far from the written melody, it sounds like he’s singing a different song on top of Lil’s chording on the piano). After the vocal, Clark and Dodds take forgettable short solos and breaks before Louis carries the troops home with brio. Louis’s lip trill towards the end is particularly violent and right before his closing breaks, he dips into his bag for a favorite phrases, one that ended both “You’re Next” and “Big Fat Ma and Skinny Pa.” The concluding break is so perfect in its phrasing and choice of notes that I believe it might have already been set in stone by Pops during his live performances of the tune at the Sunset. Either way, that’s no reason to criticize him; it’s a perfect ending and puts an emphatic stamp on a very entertaining record.
That’s all for now. Have a happy St. Patrick’s day and don’t forget to mix in a little Louis with your Guiness. I hand you no blarney, it’s a great combination…
It’s almost a pity that he will forever be remembered for one particular role:
No question, of course, of which party the well-meaning, but deluded and self-righteous middle class prat Tom Good would have been founder-member.
Former Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson is preparing for a short farewell tour in March. This really will be ‘farewell’: he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer and, having turned down chemo, has less than a year to live. He’s just given this interview to Radio 4′s ‘Front Row’ and if you didn’t hear it when it went out yesterday I must INSIST that you listen, NOW.
It reminds me of Dennis Potter’s incredible 1994 interview conducted by Melvyn Bragg, but might just be even more powerful and moving, with its humour, philosophy and complete lack of self-pity:
“When the doctor told me, I walked out of there and felt an elation…I looked at the trees and sky and thought, ‘wow!’…
“…I’m a feather for each wind that blows. Why didn’t I work that out before? It’s just the moment that matters. Imminent death…makes you feel alive. Every cold breeze against your face, every brick in the road, makes you think ‘I’m alive’…
“…I’m a miserable person but that has all lifted…I’ve had a fantastic life. Anybody that asked for anything more would just be being greedy.”
He also talks a whole lot of sense about music and recording.
Below; Wilko on guitar, with vocalist Lee Brilleaux:
Norman Field at Whitley Bay, October 2012:
Here are a number of jazz heroes and a heroine (Emma Fisk on violin). Hark well, because this could be the last time reedman (on clarinet here) Norman Field will be seen blowing a horn. Norman says he’s decided to stop playing, so this appearance at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party in October may well be his swansong.
Norman is a very profound guy: a witty, sophisticated working-class autodidact who also happens to be a master clarinet and sax player specialising in the “hot” styles of players from the late twenties and early-to-mid-thirties. I’ve heard him “do” Jimmie Noone, Johnny Dodds, Omar Simeon, Frank Teschmacher, Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman – and on one memorable occasion, all of the above, and more, in the course of a single gig (with Keith Nichols, entitled something like “history of jazz clarinet”). But Norman is most emphatically not some sort of musical impressionist, merely copying earlier pioneers: he’s an original, whose playing always bears the mark of his own individualism, even when he’s referencing someone else. In the clip above, for instance, Norman’s brilliant obligatos (to Duke Heitger’s trumpet) and solo spots contain more than a hint of Pee Wee Russell, but it’s a number Pee Wee himself never recorded (as far as I know), and Norman’s playing is 100 per cent original.
When I last met up with Norman we spoke of many things: the Princess Eugenie, Napoleon III and the Franco-Prussian war, the scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla and the ‘mad scientist’ in literature and film, and the possible uses that British intelligence may have made of 78rpm records during WW2. I did not ask him about his decision to stop playing.
A little later I met Tom ‘Spats’ Langham (the guitarist and singer in the clip) and we found we’d both had the same reaction to Norman’s announcement: it was a tragedy and an incalculable loss to classic jazz, but we had no right and no authority to challenge Norman or to try to persuade him to change his mind. Norman has had quite a difficult time of it, one way and the other, over the years and all we can do now is respect his decision and wish him well.
Still, I can’t help thinking of the (alleged) words of Wild Bill Davison, on hearing of the death of Frank Teschmacher back in 1932: “Now what the hell am I going to do for a sax man?”
NB: the Whitley Bay clip was filmed and made available by Michael Steinman, whose great blog Jazz Lives is a brilliant diary of classic and mainstream jazz activity in the US and (occasionally, when he visits) Britain.
There can be no doubt who wins Person Of The Year as far as I’m concerned: Malala Yousafza , anti-fascist heroine whose courageous stand for human rights against the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) nearly cost her her life.
A Pakistani writer, Saroop Ijaz, put the feelings of all civilised people into words:
There are those who are trying to inject complexity into the debate and some of them unwittingly are becoming apologists for this mindset of murder and blowing up girls’ schools. Yet, there remains very little room for complexity. It can either be Malala’s Pakistan or TTP’s Pakistan, it cannot be both. This should not be a choice. A Pakistan without Malala and her other fellow girls fighting for education will not be worth living in. I know binaries are supposed to be lazy and not nuanced enough, however, a 14-year-old child is shot in the head for “promoting secularism”. There is no provision for nuance. One has to set one’s face against this and summon all resources to fight. The debate on drone attacks can and should continue. However it has no bearing on our responsibility to fight these medievalists. They should be fought and eliminated — not negotiated with or mollycoddled. Firstly, negotiation is not possible. Secondly, and more importantly, negotiation with them is immoral. An attack on our children is as direct and frontal as an assault can be. This is not a question of politics; it has become a question of survival. The fight should begin by naming the enemy loud and clear, i.e., the TTP and their ideology of hate.
It is of some consolation to see the army chief condemning the assassination attempt on Malala. However, mere condemnation is not enough. The Pakistan Army has to stop the policy of considering the terrorist, any faction or network as “strategic assets”. The mindset has to be fought and fought as a whole and conclusively. It is now a choice between our children and these “strategic assets”. The Pakistan Army has, the over the past three decades, contributed to this ideology of jihad. For this reason, it also has the additional responsibility of erasing this misdeed and fighting these monsters.
George Orwell, writing about a young soldier of the Spanish War, wrote: “But the thing I saw in your face, No Power can disinherit; No Bomb that ever burst; Shatters the Crystal Spirit.” To understand Orwell’s words, have a look at the face of that child and the sparkle and resolve in her eyes. We are not Malala, but we should be, we can try. Let us hope Malala lives long enough to see her Pakistan.
Read the full article here