Toshi Seeger Gone

What a great woman and companion Toshi Seeger was!  A good life lived.

Toshi Seeger, whose husband the folk singer Pete Seeger has credited for at least half his success — from helping to organize the first Newport Folk Festival to campaigning to clean the Hudson River — died on Tuesday at their home in Beacon, N.Y. She was 91.

…In 1961, he was cited for contempt of Congress and sentenced to a year in jail. “I accepted every booking that came in, figuring that most of them would be canceled,” Mrs. Seeger said, “but the appeals court acquitted him and nothing was canceled. It was a horrendously busy year.”

“Never again,” she said. “Next time let him go to jail.”

Her gentle chiding curbed any chance that Mr. Seeger’s ego would balloon. “I hate it when people romanticize him,” she said. “He’s like anybody good at his craft, like a good bulldozer operator.”

NY Times and Rolling Stone


Writing Women In — to Equality

An obituary of Beate Gordon, who died last week at the age of 89, shone a bright light on people who have made enormous differences in the lives of millions, and remained unknown to most of us. Gordon, as a 22 interpreter on General MacArthur’s post war staff in Japan, was assigned to work on women’s rights for the new, US drafted constitution.  Since she had lived in Japan prior to the war, she had seen how women were treated.

“Japanese women were historically treated like chattel; they were property to be bought and sold on a whim,” Ms. Gordon told The Dallas Morning News in 1999. “Women had no rights whatsoever.”

She drafted two articles that became part of Japanese women’s lives.

One, Article 14, said in part, “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”

The other, Article 24, gave women protections in areas including “choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters.”

She went on to make further wide reaching contributions to Japanese and American lives with the Japan Society as director of performing arts.

Amazing woman.   NY Times  The Asia Society  Japan Times  and her memoir of those years is The Only Woman in the Room

Carlos Fuentes: Passing On

Many obituaries for Mexico’s famed novelist and social critic, Carlos Fuentes. Here is what the Washington Post writes.

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Adrienne Rich: Gone

Adrienne Rich, in her poetry, her books and her speaking has been with many of us since we first discovered politics or poetry. Older than the baby-boomer generation and close to the Beats she won the Yale Younger Poets prize in 1951 with “A Change of World.”  Yet she was a constant presence in anti-war rallies from the mid 1960s to the end of the US war in Vietnam.  Her anger, which she was proud of, manifested itself in many of her poems.

In 1968, she signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam-America War.[13] Her collections from this period include Necessities of Life (1966), Leaflets (1969), and The Will to Change (1971), which reflect increasingly radical political content and interest in poetic form.[12] [from WikiPedia]

Others poems were sweet and tender without a drop of the maudlin.  Here are two.

She died in Santa Cruz, CA at the age of 82. The LA Times has a long, informative obituary.

Vaclav Havel — A Remembrance

Very good remembrance of Vaclav Havel by Paul Wilson, in NYRB, who was in Prague during his death and subsequent mourning:


All his life, Havel lived by the belief that if you wanted something to happen, you had to do something to make it happen, and damn the consequences, including arrest and prison, and possibly even death. Speaking about the early days of the post-Stalin thaw, he once said: “The more we did, the more we were able to do, and the more we were able to do, the more we did.” It is a fine summary of his attitude, and, in a sense, his legacy. Havel was continually pushing the boundaries of the possible, and in doing so, he was able to create space for others to follow.

This quality is what, quite properly, put him in the same league as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. But what put him in a league of his own is the corollary: you act not to achieve a certain outcome; you act because it is the right thing to do. That is what he meant by “living in truth,” a notion he explores in some depth in his most radical and enduring work: The Power of the Powerless.