Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were victims of a pipe bomb placed in their car on this date in 1990 in Oakland, California. The two were accused by the FBI of carrying the bomb for terrorism; Bari was arrested while still in critical condition in the hospital. The case was never prosecuted, however, and never solved; one leading theory is that Bari’s pro-choice activism had provoked “pro-life” fanatics to try to kill her. Bari, the daughter of a Jewish mathematician mother and an Italian father, was a key organizer of Earth First!’s Redwood Summer, a campaign to prevent the destruction of old-growth Redwood forests by Charles Hurwitz’s Pacific Lumber Company. She played the violin and sang inflammatory political songs by Cherney, including “Spike a Tree for Jesus.” Although Bari disavowed dangerous tactics such as tree spiking, and sought to bring environmentalists and timber workers together in common cause, the media portrayed her as a saboteur. She died of cancer in 1997, but posthumously won (with Cherney) a $4 million judgment in a civil suit against police officers and FBI agents involved in her case. Cherney, a Jewish-born pagan, now heads a band called the Chernobles. He was the lead media provocateur for Earth First! For an interesting magazine profile of him, click here. To see the Redwood Summer recruitment video, see below.
“We did it with the intention of pushing their buttons, to counter their . . . shocking tactics, by giving them a taste of their own medicine.” —Judi Bari
JEWDAYO ROCKS! Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman on this date in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. To see him as a folkie in 1963, look below. To see him in more recent years in a nicely shot amateur video, look below that.
Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer, one of the first electronic instruments widely embraced in the musical world, was born in New York City on this date in 1934. His synthesizer was made possible by the invention of the transistor, which replaced bulky vacuum-tube electronic systems in the 1950s. The Moog synthesizer was demonstrated at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, and was featured on Wendy Carlos’ 1968 hit record album, Switched-On Bach, the success of which made synthetic music very popular — especially after Moog released his mini-moog in 1970, a synthesizer small enough for rock bands to take on tour. (The success of Switched-On Bach also enabled Wendy Carlos to undergo male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.) Robert Moog also constructed theremins (the synthesizer featured for high-shrill background music in horror and sci-fi movies), and eventually manufactured thousands of them, as well as publishing a do-it-yourself theremin guide. Moog preferred the pronunciation of his name that rhymes with “vogue.” He died in Asheville, NC in 2005, age 71. To hear three Bach inventions by Wendy Carlos on the Moog synthesizer, look below.
“I see myself as a toolmaker and the musicians are my customers.” —Robert Moog
Daniel Nagrin, a choreographer and dancer best known for his powerful, gestural solo dances, was born in New York City on this date in 1917. Nagrin debuted with Anna Sokolow, then partnered with Helen Tamiris, fifteen years his elder, a very political modern dancer who had been the main choreographer of the Dance Project, a wing of the Federal Theater Project, during the Depression. Nagrin married Tamaris in 1946, and together they created eighteen Broadway musicals and a modern dance company before her death in 1966. He presented his first full solo program in 1957, at age 40, and in 1970 formed the Workgroup, an influential improvisational ensemble. Nagrin added mixed-media elements to modern dance well before this became an avant-garde standard, and “privileged content rather than form” in a time when McCarthyism and Cold War fears had led to abstraction and formalism in the arts, according to Diane Wawrejko in her doctoral thesis on Nagrin. Anna Kisselgoff wrote in the New York Times that “no specific technique springs to mind, no school or tradition provides a ready context” when viewing Nagrin’s work, and Dance magazine called him “the great loner of American dance.” Among his four books were How to Dance Forever: Surviving Against the Odds. To see a brief excerpt from one of his best-known solos, “Strange Hero,” look below.
“Critics demeaned, marginalised, and dismissed ethnic dance artists from Jewish, African-American, and Hispanic/Latino backgrounds as less pure or important than the white, formalist American modern dancers. Thus, the marginalisations of Nagrin and Tamiris are plausible and complex due to their treatment of minority and popular cultural themes, jazz, and work on Broadway. By the late 1940s, second and third generation modern dance artists were marginalized as the American Dance Festival and Juilliard focused on Graham and José Limón.” —Diane Wawrejko
Eugene Ehrlich, a self-taught lexicographer who wrote an estimated three to five million words about words spread across forty books, according to the New York Times, was born in New York on this date in 1922. Ehrlich taught himself Yiddish in order to understand his parents’ secrets, and also studied Latin and French at Townsend Harris High. As a City College student, he took many language courses while majoring in education. During World War II, he took a crash-course in Japanese and became an interrogator of prisoners. He taught for many years at Columbia University and also consulted with defense contractors. His many books included The Highly Selective Thesaurus for the Extraordinarily Literate (1994), Les Bons Mots, or How to Amaze Tout le Monde With Everyday French (1997), You’ve Got Ketchup on Your Muumuu: An A-to-Z Guide to English Words From Around the World (2000), andthe Dictionary of Golden Adjectives (2002). At his death in 2008, he was working on a book about the Yiddish he heard growing up in New York.
“[H]e offered obscure words as a road to seeming erudite. ‘Piacular’ means sinful or wicked, ‘sapid’ means having a pleasing taste, and ‘obnubilate’ means to make unclear.” —Douglas Martin
Painter Hedda Sterne was the lone woman among 18 abstract expressionist painters who wrote a letter to Roland L. Redmond, president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on this date in 1950, protesting the museum’s conservative selection of jurors for its exhibition, “American Painting Today — 1950.” “The undersigned painters,” said the letter, “reject the [...]
The Federal Bureau of Investigation paid a visit to Wand Records at 1650 Broadway in New York on this date in 1965 to ascertain whether the basically unintelligible lyrics to “Louie Louie,” a hit by the Kingsmen, were as obscene as rumored. The company was owned by Florence Greenberg, a housewife who had discovered the [...]
The oldest victim of the Spanish Inquisition, Maria Barbara Carillo, was burned at the stake for heresy in Madrid on this date in 1721. She was 95 years old. Carillo belonged to a large family of descendants of forcibly baptized Jews and was sentenced to death for heresy, for allegedly practicing Judaism in secret. Burned [...]
The Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring the “separate but equal” segregationist policy in American schools to be unconstitutional and ordering their desegregation, was handed down on this date in 1954. It resulted from a suit brought by Esther Brown, a 30-year-old Jewish housewife in Merriam, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas [...]
Angela Warnick Buchdahl, born in South Korea in 1972, became the first Asian-American in the world to be ordained as a cantor on this date in 1999. Two years later, she became the first Asian-American in the North America to be ordained as a rabbi. Her mother was a Korean Buddhist, her father an American [...]
A community of up to 1,000 Jewish slaves on the archipelago of Malta, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, established over the course of two centuries by the Knights of St. John, a Catholic order of pirates left over from the Crusades, was officially abolished on this date in 1800. The Knights would raid [...]