Tag Archives: animal rights

Happy Birthday, Olivia Newton John

26 Sep
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Today is Olivia Newton John’s 67th birthday!  I want to say Happy Birthday and I would like to celebrate a woman whose music has brought me endless joy and whose dedication to social justice inspires me. Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England in 1948. Her father was a Welsh-born professor and her mother a German Jew whose family fled Germany as the Nazis came to power. (Her mother’s father was Nobel-winning physicist Max Born.) The family moved to Melbourne, Australia when Olivia was six, and it is that country that she considers her home.

A talented singer, she began performing in her teens and took part in a number of Australian TV programs. She met future collaborator and producer John Farrar, who encouraged her to take part in a contest on Sing Sing Sing. She won a trip to England, initially planning to stay for a year to explore the country and her career. She built up slow, steady momentum and released her first album in 1971.

That launched real international success, including an invitation to perform the U.K. entry in the 1974 Eurovision contest. (She came in 4th; the winner that year was Sweden, with ABBA’s Waterloo.) She was still struggling to get a foothold in the U.S., but won a Grammy for best Country Female Performance. That award raised anger in Country purist circles, in part because she was still based in England. (The ever-wonderful Dolly Parton, however, supported her.) Taking advice from fellow Aussie Helen Reddy, Olivia moved to the U.S. In short order she launched a massively successful career.

I remember getting beaten up in the bathroom when I was a little kid at summer camp.  I was singing You’re the One That I Want from Grease, when a couple of bullies came in and beat the tar out of me.  How I hated those kids and how I loved Olivia and how did I not know I was gay back in the 7th grade?  Of course, even today I sing to Xanadu and all of the classic Olivia songs.  There is another song that holds a very special place in my heart, Tutta La Vita.  This song came out when my friend Kent was sick in the hospital and I loved this song for both the lyrics and for the music.  Sadly, my friend Kent passed away from HIV, but I think about him when I hear this song.  How wonderful that our Olivia stands in solidarity with the LGBT community.

Besides her beautiful music, Olivia has been a tireless advocate for many causes. She is an outspoken environmentalist and animal rights advocate. (She has cancelled Japanese tours over the slaughter of dolphins in tuna nets.) A breast cancer survivor, she also devotes a great deal of energy to cancer education, diagnosis, research, and treatment. She has also worked closely with UNICEF and been an advocate for LGBT rights.

A great singer, actress, activist, and all-around decent human being, I love our Olivia! (And who can forget her amazing performance in Sordid Lives?) Thank you for bringing your joy and passion into so many lives.

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Happy Birthday, Beatrice Arthur

13 May

BeaArthur2-smBea Arthur, born Bernice Frankel in New York City on this date in 1922, would become an American icon from the 1960’s through the 21st Century.  She would have been 91 today.

My first introduction to Arthur was in the early 1970’s when she was starring as Maude, the loud mouthed, opinionated, liberal taking on topics like race, gender, power, sexual orientation, and even abortion.  I loved this show.  Who knew I would grow up to become Maude.  Maude was a true pioneer in addressing equity and the disparities in how we treat other people.  I loved her voice of social justice, even when she would get it wrong.

When we first moved to Oregon, I was horribly depressed and hated living in Salem.  My first job here, I was accosted by a Mormon woman who came into my office and said with great sincerity: “Michael, I just want you to know I pray for your sin.”  I would like to say I handled this with grace and dignity, but I didn’t.  My reply was: “Tammy, I pray that you will stop wearing brown double knit polyester everyday.” Not a shining moment for as a social worker.

The only highlight in moving to Salem was that my husband bought us tickets to see Bea Arthur live at the Elsinore in Salem.  She made me forget my miseries, my woes, and my temporary misanthropy.  She was authentic, kind, generous, and had a mouth like a sailor — I know I had to clutch my pearls many a time during her show.

Arthur had the power to transform us all and make us laugh at our selves, laugh at the world, but yet charged us each with the obligation to make the world a better place for all marginalized and targeted people after we left the theatre. As a true feminist/social worker should, she acknowledged that everything is political: “”I’ve been a Democrat my whole life. That’s what makes Maude and Dorothy so believable, we have the same viewpoints on how our country should be handled.”  Seeing her live is one of my top 10 memories, for which I will be forever grateful.

She channelled her phenomenol energy into so many worthy causes. She was an animal rights activist and an active advocate for civil rights for the elderly and the LGBT community. Three days after her death, all the marquees on Broadway were dimmed at 8pm. What a fitting tribute to a woman whose passing left the world a little less bright.

Women’s History Month 2013: Olivia Newton-John

8 Mar

5923_31Today I would like to celebrate a woman whose music has brought me endless joy and whose dedication to social justice inspires me. Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England in 1948. Her father was a Welsh-born professor and her mother a German Jew whose family fled Germany as the Nazis came to power. (Her mother’s father was Nobel-winning physicist Max Born.) The family moved to Melbourne, Australia when Olivia was six, and it is that country that she considers her home.

A talented singer, she began performing in her teens and took part in a number of Australian TV programs. She met future collaborator and producer John Farrar, who encouraged her to take part in a contest on Sing Sing Sing. She won a trip to England, initially planning to stay for a year to explore the country and her career. She built up slow, steady momentum and released her first album in 1971.

That launched real international success, including an invitation to perform the U.K. entry in the 1974 Eurovision contest. (She came in 4th; the winner that year was Sweden, with ABBA’s Waterloo.) She was still struggling to get a foothold in the U.S., but won a Grammy for best Country Female Performance. That award raised anger in Country purist circles, in part because she was still based in England. (The ever-wonderful Dolly Parton, however, supported her.) Taking advice from fellow Aussie Helen Reddy, Olivia moved to the U.S. In short order she launched a massively successful career.

I remember getting beaten up in the bathroom when I was a little kid at summer camp.  I was singing You’re the One That I Want from Grease, when a couple of bullies came in and beat the tar out of me.  How I hated those kids and how I loved Olivia and how did I not know I was gay back in the 7th grade?  Of course, even today I sing to Xanadu and all of the classic Olivia songs.  There is another song that holds a very special place in my heart, Tutta La Vita.  This song came out when my friend Kent was sick in the hospital and I loved this song for both the lyrics and for the music.  Sadly, my friend Kent passed away from HIV, but I think about him when I hear this song.  How wonderful that our Olivia stands in solidarity with the LGBT community.

Besides her beautiful music, Olivia has been a tireless advocate for many causes. She is an outspoken environmentalist and animal rights advocate. (She has cancelled Japanese tours over the slaughter of dolphins in tuna nets.) A breast cancer survivor, she also devotes a great deal of energy to cancer education, diagnosis, research, and treatment. She has also worked closely with UNICEF and been an advocate for LGBT rights.

A great singer, actress, activist, and all-around decent human being, I love our Olivia! (And who can forget her amazing performance in Sordid Lives?) Thank you for bringing your joy and passion into so many lives.

Bigot of the Week Award: August 10, Rep. Steve King

10 Aug

Bigot of the Week

Thanks to my friend and regular TSM commenter Tom McCollin for this week’s bigot. It’s a testament to the variety and toxicity of America’s bigots that Rep. Steve King (R – IA) has never been named Bigot of the Week. This odious man is well-known for a number of despicable positions. King is so far out there that even in the current Congress progressive website DailyKos has labelled him “perhaps the worst human being Congress has to offer.”

A pioneer of animal cruelty, he vociferously opposed California’s law requiring bare minimum treatment for egg-laying chickens, using the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to argue that it should be invalid. Ironically, he also argued that the same clause could not apply to human health care infamously arguing that many Americans “never use a dollar of health care.” Rejecting human decency, he has supported a bill to ban all animal cruelty laws, effectively campaigning for dog fights and torture.

King topped himself this week, bringing back his English-only bill. Blatantly racist on its face, the bill would prohibit the use of any other language in most Federal activities. Appealing to the Tea Party principles of crushing the most vulnerable, this would isolate immigrant populations and ironically make it harder for people to become citizens. Scoffing at charges of racism, King responds

One of the great things about America is we’ve been unified by a common language. That common language, of course, is English. Our language is getting subdivided by some forces of the federal government. It is time to speak with a common voice. […] The argument that diversity is our strength has really never been backed up by logic. It’s unity is where our strength is.

REALLY? Does that sound chillingly like the first dawn of fascism? Not only is he boldly ignorant of over 200 years of American history, he is proud to trumpet his ignorance and bigotry. King is a perfect example of why we need to regain Democratic control of the House and keep people like him out of leadership positions.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 21, k.d. lang

21 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate an award-winning musician and activist, the talented k.d. lang. Born in November 1961 in Edmonton, Alberta, Kathryn Dawn Lang grew up in Consort on the Canadian prairie. She attended Red Deer College where she got her first exposure to the music of the late Patsy Cline. Fascinated, lang started her first band in 1983, a Cline tribute group wittily called the Reclines.

The band quickly outgrew the direct tribute and became a strong musical unit in its own right although still drawing clear influence from Patsy’s work). Their first album, 1984’s A Truly Western Experience, got strong reviews and led to a Juno for Most Promising Female Vocalist. Angel With A Lariat followed quickly, recorded in Nashville for major label Sire. After a strongly received duet with Roy Orbison on a new recording of his classic hit Crying, lang scored another coup landing famed Nashville producer Owen Bradley — the architect of Patsy Cline’s sound — for her third album. Over the course of a dozen albums ranging from country twang to meditative pop, lang has demonstrated an amazing musical breadth and won eight Juno awards and four Grammys.

k.d. lang was also one of the first singers to come out relatively early in their careers. Announcing she was lesbian in 1992, she has been a stalwart supporter of LGBT issues for the past two decades. She has campaigned for AIDS awareness and research and donated recordings to a number of albums to raise funds. She is also an animal rights activist and an activist for improved human rights in Tibet. Although she had already begun the transition from country to pop when she came out, she has retained her ties to Nashville and worked hard to improve the country music environment for LGBT performers and fans.

Despite living in the U.S. for many years, lang is also very proud of her Canadian heritage. She recorded an album, 2004’s Hymns of the 49th Parallel, featuring her take on songs by her favorite Canadian writers. Her powerful version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah led to her being part of the opening ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver where she performed the song. The singer recently moved a bit closer to her roots, leaving Los Angeles for a new home in Portland, Oregon, TSM’s home town. Welcome to the Rose City, k.d.!

Happy Birthday, Cloris Leachman!

30 Apr

86 and still going strong!

Today an award-winning actress and activist turns 86 years young. Still going strong and looking great, let’s celebrate Cloris Leachman. Born in Des Moines, IA, she majored in drama at Illinois State University and Northwestern (where she was classmates with Paul Lynde). She launched into early success in pageants, winning Miss Chicago and competing in Miss America 1946. From there she moved into her acting career.

Leachman attended Elia Kazan’s Actors Studio, where she met life-long friend Marlon Brando. She began a Broadway career, including being asked by Katharine Hepburn to co-star in As You Like It. She also started what would become a highly celebrated television career at this time with many cameos and guest appearances on 1950s series. Her film career began with a bit part, but she soon took on starring roles, working opposite Paul Newman in her third movie, Kiss Me Deadly. In 1971 she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her stunning performance in The Last Picture Show. A very different role than the comedic performances for which she is best known, it is one of the finest supporting actress performances of all time and shows the true depth of her talent and quite honestly her performance left me in awe. Just to prove her versatility, perhaps her other best-known movie role is as the scene-stealing Frau Blücher in Mel Brooks’ finest comedy, Young Frankenstein. (“He vas my…BOYFRIEND!”)

Cloris Leachman became best known for her role in the Mary Tyler Moore Show in the early 70s. Appearing in several episodes in the first five seasons as Phyllis Lindstrom, Mary’s nosy and opinionated neighbor and landlady, she was nominated three times for best supporting actress (winning once) and rewarded with her own spin-off series, Phyllis. My very favorite episode features the introduction of Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens, who has an affair with Phyllis’ invisible husband, Lars. (Enjoy this clip of the Lars Affair, featuring my favorite Phyllis speech about The Life of the Bee at 4:15.) In the forty years since, Leachman has had numerous guest and starring roles on TV, including a fantastic run as Ellen’s mother on the short-lived but delightful The Ellen Show. She has amassed a record-setting eight prime-time Emmy awards and one daytime Emmy.

Not content to have a successful career, she is also an outspoken activist. She is best known for her work for animal rights, working closely with PETA and mounting campaigns to retire elderly animals from their public careers (in circuses and the like). She is an outspoken vegetarian, appearing in this all-lettuce dress. An honest woman who is proud of her body and her age, she also advocates for respect for the elderly and fights ageism by proving you can look great and be happy and still look your age. She interviewed with InTouch magazine in 2009 about living healthy and naturally, including admitting to one brief, unhappy flirtation with Botox. Asked if she’d ever do it again, she replied

No! It was ridiculous. You can’t just have part of your face not moving and the rest moving everywhere. That doesn’t work.

Leachman’s honesty, energy, and wit make her an effective champion for many causes. She advocates for women’s rights and LGBT equality as well, including serving as Grand Marshall of the 2010 San Diego Pride Parade. Here’s to Cloris Leachman! Who can guess what the next decade will bring?

Women’s History: April 3

3 Apr

Happy Birthday, Jane Goodall

Happy Birthday, Jane Goodall. Goodall is best known for her work as an anthropologist and primatologist, specifically for her work with chimpanzees. Having conducted a 45 year study on familial and social connections with chimpanzees earned her the title as the World’s Foremost Expert on chimpanzees. Goodall is a UN Messenger of Peace–an example of her dedication to conservation and animal welfare.

Goodall originally went to Africa to work with Louis Leakey, who was responsible for initiating  Goodall’s decades-long field study of chimpanzees in the wild. Goodall came under great fire from her colleagues for her methodology.  For example, rather than numbering the chimpanzees, she names them. She has been accused of anthropomorphism.  Today, Goodall continues to work for the conservation of chimpanzees in the wild and for better conditions for chimps in zoos and research institutions.  For more on Women’s History, check out the National Women’s History Project.

Quote of the day:

    I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.–Mary Wollstonecraft  Click here to read more about Mary Wollstonecraft.

     

     

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