Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Christine McVie, 1943–2022

I’m definitely not a pessimist.
I’m basically a love-song writer.

– Christine McVie

Sad news today from the United Kingdom: Christine McVie, the singer/songwriter described by Rolling Stone magazine as “the beating heart of [the band] Fleetwood Mac,” died in a London hospital this morning. She was 79. A statement by McVie’s family said she “died after a short illess . . . in the company of her family.”

The statement goes on to say: “We kindly ask that you respect the family’s privacy at this extremely painful time and we would like everyone to keep Christine in their hearts and remember the life of an incredible human being, and revered musician who was loved universally.”

McVie composed some of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest and most recognizable hits – “Don’t Stop,” “Hold Me,” “Little Lies,” “Everywhere,” and “You Make Loving Fun.” In remembering the life and music of McVie, Rolling Stone notes that Fleetwood Mac was a band that “came undone more times than most, but through it all, [McVie] was a steady, brilliant presence that kept the group rooted in their purpose.”

I grew up in Australia during the height of Fleetwood Mac’s international popularity – 1975-1987. The band’s music was very much part of the soundtrack of my life as an adolescent and young adult, with their song “Seven Wonders” being especally important to me in 1987.

At that time I was especially drawn to Stevie Nicks (pictured at left with McVie) and the contributions she made to the band (“Dreams,” “Sara,” “Angel,” “Gypsy,” “Seven Wonders,” “Affairs of the Heart”). Yet as I’ve gotten older, it’s been the contributions to Fleetwood Mac by Christine McVie that I’ve found myself drawn to.

Whereas Nicks’ songs were dark, mysterious, and often emphasized lost love and missed opportunities (things that very much resonated with me as a closeted young gay man), McVie’s songs, perceptively described by one writer as “peaceful and stormy at the same time,” consistently exude positivity and an empowering level of self-awareness on everything from the joys of love to the need to move on from a deceiving partner.

Little wonder then that, as a mature gay man, I appreciate and resonate with the following observation by music critic Jonathan Bernstein.

One of McVie’s gifts was her ability to write and sing about romantic yearning without ever sounding desperate or pitiful; even when she was grappling with love, she retained her dignity.

An example of this is “Save Me,” from the 1990 Fleetwood Mac album, Behind the Mask. It also happens to be one of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs penned by McVie and featuring her on lead vocals.

Following is a brief Rolling Stone-penned bio of Christine McVie.

Born Christine Perfect, the English singer-songwriter began building a long and varied career in the mid-Sixties, when she began performing around Britain’s blues scene. She would join the band Chicken Shack but inevitably leave after marrying Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie and joining his band. The rest was much more than history: What McVie created with several incarnations of the group’s line-up would go on to change rock and pop history.

Though her start was in the blues, McVie became most notable for her rich grasp of pop melodies and hooks. She would help translate the band’s Seventies rock sound into slick Eighties synths, keeping the best-sellers at the top for longer than anyone may have anticipated.

Though she retired in 1998, McVie couldn’t stay away from music long. In her final years, she toured again with the band’s classic line-up [Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks]. Her last album, released in 2017, was made as a duo with Lindsey Buckingham (along with contributions from Mick Fleetwood and John McVie). It turned out to be a true testament to her enduring, unwavering talent on all fronts.

– Jonathan Bernstein, et al
Rolling Stone
November 30, 2022

Rob Sheffield Pays Tribute to the
“Peaceful and Stormy at the Same Time” Songs
of Christine McVie

Related Off-site Links:
Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie Dies at Age 79 – Benjamin Lee (The Guardian, November 30, 2022).
16 Essential Christine McVie SongsRolling Stone (November 30, 2022).
Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie: A Career In Photos – Robert Lang (Deadline, November 30, 2022).

UPDATES: Mother Earth, Musical Prodigy Or Steely Powerhouse? The Enigma of Christine McVie – Alexis Petridis (The Guardian, December 1, 2022).
Farewell, Christine McVie, the Songbird Who Knew the Score – Rob Sheffield (Rolling Stone, December 1, 2022).
Christine McVie Brought Romantic Optimism to Fleetwood Mac – Annie Zaleski (NPR News, December 5, 2022).
Christine McVie’s Cause of Death Revealed – Rania Aniftos (Billboard, April 6, 2023).

Previously featured musicians at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Seal | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels | Stromae | Damiyr Shuford | Vaudou Game | Yotha Yindi and The Treaty Project | Lil Nas X | Daby Touré | Sheku Kanneh-Mason | Susan Boyle | D’Angelo | Little Richard | Black Pumas | Mbemba Diebaté | Judie Tzuke | Seckou Keita | Rahsaan Patterson | Black | Ash Dargan | ABBA | The KLF and Tammy Wynette | Luke James and Samoht | Julee Cruise | Olivia Newton-John | Dyllón Burnside

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Quote of the Day

We could have seen [President] Biden actually opt for telling Congress to pass legislation that mediates an end to the conflict under more favorable terms to the workers, which is to say [giving them] a handful of sick days.

And that’s what this has come down to. Railroad workers traditionally have had no sick time. And now with the very, very harsh attendance policies that we’re faced with, railroad workers get very, very little time off work. And it has come to a crunch point. We’re seeing workers leaving the industry in droves, in numbers never, ever believed possible. . . . There’s a crisis out there. And I don’t believe the Biden administration quite understands the depth of this crisis.

I don’t think they understand that they could have actually taken an approach that would have benefited rail labor, and potentially benefited the rail industry itself. Instead, the president is urging Congress to basically legislate an agreement based upon what he brokered two months ago. But the rank and file had made it very clear that they are not content with this contract that simply does not address the quality-of-work-life issues.

And now we come down to the wire in contract negotiations, where literally what separates the parties is a handful of sick time, sick time that most workers actually have achieved decades and decades ago, but railroad workers have traditionally gone without. And we finally have said enough is enough. We want a handful of sick days. And yet the rail carriers see fit to dig in their heels, these Fortune 500 companies who have made record profits these last 25 years, and refuse to give us anything. And unfortunately, the Biden administration is incapable of siding unequivocally with us. [As a “proud pro-labor President,” in Biden’s own words], we would have expected that from him.

Ron Kaminkow
Locomotive engineer and organizer for Railroad Workers United
Excerpted from “Biden Sides with Big Business and
Urges Congress to Block Major Freight Rail Strike

Democracy Now!
November 29, 2022

Related Off-site Links:
Rail Workers Are Demanding Better Work Conditions and a Strike Could Be Imminent – Kai McNamee, Ashley Brown, and Mary Louise Kelly (NPR News, November 29, 2022).
“Every Worker Deserves Paid Sick Leave”: Progressives Rally Behind Rail Workers – Sharon Zhang (TruthOut, November 29, 2022).
Sen. Bernie Sanders Vows to “Stand With Rail Workers” as Republican Says Congress Will Prevent Strike – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, November 28, 2022).
“All of Rail Labor Is Going to Suffer”: Workers Furious Over Biden Move to Preempt Strike – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, November 29, 2022).
Progressives in Congress Begin to Push Back Against Biden Betrayal of Rail Workers – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, November 29, 2022).

UPDATES: “Enough Is Enough”: Rail Workers Decry Biden’s Push to Impose Strike-Breaking Labor DealDemocracy Now! (November 30, 2022).
As Corporations Enjoy Record-High Profits, Experts Urge Congress to “Rein Them In” – Brett Wilkins (Common Dreams, November 30, 2022).
“Put Up or Shut Up,” Says Sanders as Progressives Move to Add 7 Sick Days to Railway Deal – Jon Queally (Common Dreams, November 30, 2022).
House Passes Paid Sick Leave for Railway Workers Despite Opposition of 207 Republicans – Kenny Stancil (Common Dreams, November 30, 2022).
Why Is “Pro-Union” President Biden Pushing a Labor Deal That Rail Workers Rejected? – Jeff Schuhrke (In These Times, December 1, 2022).
Putting “Profits Over People,” Senate Rejects Paid Sick Leave for Rail Workers – Brett Wilkins (Common Dreams, December 1, 2022).
Senate Blocks Sick Leave Plan, Imposes Rail Contract in Plainly Anti-Union Move – Sharon Zhang (TruthOut, December 1, 2022).
Biden Signs Legislation to Avert Crisis of Treating Rail Workers Like HumansThe Onion (Satire) (December 2, 2022).
U.S. Railroad Investor Resolutions Urge Paid Sick Leave For Workers – Ross Kerber (Reuters, December 5, 2022).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Show of Solidarity for Workers’ Rights in Wisconsin and Beyond
Across America, “the Giant is Awake”
A Labor Day Prayer
Where Did All the Money Go?
Jonah Walters: Quote of the Day – September 5, 2016
Rocking the Cradle of Power
Something to Think About – September 3, 2013
Just Wondering

Image: Supporters of rail workers demonstrate outside the United States Congress in Washington, D.C. on November 29, 2022. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Remembering Chadwick

It’s the birthday today of the late actor and playwright Chadwick Boseman, the third since his untimely passing from colon cancer on August 28, 2020. He would have been 46.

Also, since 2020, today, November 29, has been known as Chadwick Boseman Day. I’m not sure who gets to proclaim such things but, regardless, I’m not complaining. After all, as both an actor and a human being, Chadwick Boseman should be celebrated, for reasons that I highlight here and here.

So it’s a special day today; it’s both Chadwick’s birthday and Chadwick Boseman Day. To celebrate, I highlight below all the previous Wild Reed posts that celebrate and honor Chadwick. May you find them as meaningful and inspiring as the life of the man himself.


For previous Wild Reed posts about Chadwick and his work, written when he was still with us, see:
The Important Cultural Moment That Is Black Panther
Celebrating Black Panther – Then and Now
“Avengers Assemble!”
Jason Johnson on Stan Lee’s Revolutionary Legacy
Another First for Black Panther
“Something Special,” Indeed!
Queer Black Panther

For The Wild Reed’s special series that remembers and celebrates Chadwick since his passing, see:
Remembering Chadwick Boseman
Honoring An Icon
Chadwick Boseman’s Timeless Message to Young Voters: “You Can Turn Our Nation Around”
Chadwick Boseman’s Final Film Role: “A Reed Instrument for Every Painful Emotion”
Celebrating a Special Day
Boseman on Wilson
Chadwick Boseman and That “Heavenly Light”
In This Time Marked By Grief
A Bittersweet Accolade
Chadwick Boseman Receives Posthumous NAACP Image Award
“He Was Just Interested In the Work”
Remembering Chadwick Boseman’s Life of Purpose
The Political Legacy of Chadwick Boseman
Remembering an Actor Who “Changed Everything”
“The Perfect Send-Off”
Heroes Are Never Really Gone

Related Off-site Links:
Wells of Life Launches Well Campaign for Giving Tuesday, Honoring Chadwick Boseman – Dominique Fluker (Essence, November 29, 2022).
Black Panther 2 Writer Reveals If CGI’ing Chadwick Boseman Was an Option – Aeron Mer Eclarinal (The Direct, November 27, 2021).
Wakanda Forever Bids Farewell to T’Challa and Chadwick BosemanAbabeel TV (November 12, 2022).
Review: Wakanda Forever Is a Beautiful Expression of Mourning and a Fantasy Epic – Princess Weekes (The Mary Sue, November 8, 2022).
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Is a Thunderous Ode to Love Conquering Death – Toussaint Egan (Polygon, November 8, 2022).
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Does the Near Impossible – David Sims (The Atlantic, November 8, 2022).

Sunday, November 27, 2022

A New Beginning

Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season in the Christian tradition that’s all about waiting. In the words of writer Gayle Boss, the season of Advent is a time of preparation and waiting for “the mystery of a new beginning out of what looks like death.” Such a time involves going inwards so as to seek and embody – individually and communally – this mystery of a new beginning.

If you’re looking for a book full of beauty and insight to help guide you on this year’s Advent journey, you really can’t go wrong with Gayle’s All Creation Waits, featuring twenty-five illustrations of animals of the northern hemisphere by artist David G. Klein. Each of these original woodcuts are paired with a beautifully written meditation by Gayle, exploring how “wild animals adapt when darkness and cold descend.”

Commenting on All Creation Waits, Richard Rohr writes:

Each of the beautiful creatures in this little book is a unique word of God, its own metaphor, all of them together drawing us to the One we all belong to. Adapting to the dark and cold they announce in twenty-four different ways the Good News of Advent: that through every dark door the creating Love of the universe waits.

And as the book’s publishers note: “Anyone who does not want to be caught, again, in the consumer hype of ‘the holiday season’ but rather to be taken up into the eternal truth the natural world reveals will welcome this book.”

Following is an excerpt from the introduction of All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings by Gayle Boss.


The roots of Advent run deep beneath the Christian church – in the earth and its seasons. Late autumn, in the northern hemisphere, brings the end of the growing season. When early agricultural peoples had harvested their crops and stacked food in their larders, they gave a collective sigh of relief. Their long days in the fields were over. For their labor they had heaps of fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat. The group body called out, Feast!

At the same time, no matter how glad the party, they couldn’t keep from glancing at the sky. Their growing season was over because the sun had retreated too far south to keep the crops alive. Each day throughout the fall they watched the light dwindle, felt the warmth weaken. It made them anxious, edgy. Their fires were no substitute for the sun. When they had eaten up the crop they were feasting on, how would another crop grow? Throughout December, as the sun sank and sank to its lowest point on their horizon, they felt the shadow of primal fear – fear for survival – crouching over them. They were fearing, and they were fearful, both. Despite their collective memory, people wedded, bodily, to the earth couldn’t help asking the question. Their bodies, in the present tense, asked the question.

Our bodies still ask that question. In December the dark and cold deepen, and our rational minds dismiss it as nothing. We know that on December 21, the winter solstice, the sun will begin its return to our sky. But our animal bodies react with dis-ease. We feel, The light – life – is going. Those particularly afflicted know themselves as SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – sufferers. Some of us cope by seizing distractions the marketplace gleefully offers: shopping, parties, more shopping.

To be sure, some part of “the holiday season” is celebration of the harvest, for us, as it was for our ancestors, even if our personal harvest doesn’t involve crops and barns. We throw a party to mark the end of another year and all it’s brought. We do this in a big, bright, loud way. But for us also, as for our ancestors, the dark end of the year brings unrest. It is an end. It comes without our asking and makes plain how little of life’s course we control. This uncertainty, we don’t know how to mark. And so it marks us. We feel weighted, gloomy even, and we feel guilty because voices everywhere in myriad ways sing out, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

[My Christian tradition] told me that my own annual December sadness was no reason for guilt. It was a sign of being wide awake in the world, awake enough to sense loss. And furthermore, there was a way to engage that sadness. That way was Advent.

The early Fathers of the Christian church read the ebbing of light and heat and vegetable life each year as a foreshadowing of the time when life as we know it will end completely. That it will end is the rock-bottom truth we sense deep in our primal bones every December, and it rightly terrifies us. To their and our abiding fear of a dark ending, the church spoke of an adventus: a coming. Faith proclaimed, When life as we know it goes, this year and at the end of all years, One comes, and comes bringing a new beginning.

Advent, to the Church Fathers, was the right naming of the season when light and life are fading. They urged the faithful to set aside four weeks to fast, give, and pray – all ways to strip down, to let the bared soul recall what it knows beneath its fear of the dark, to know what Jesus called “the one thing necessary”: that there is One who is the source of all life, One who comes to be with us and in us, even, especially, in darkness and death. One who brings a new beginning.

This is Christian tradition at its best, moving in step with creation. When the sun’s light and heat wane, the natural world lets lushness fall away. It strips down. All energy is directed to the essentials that ensure survival. Engaging in Advent’s stripping practices – fasting, giving away, praying – we tune into the rhythms humming in the cells of all creatures living in the northern hemisphere. We tune into our own essential rhythms.

. . . The practice of Advent has always been about helping us to grasp the mystery of a new beginning out of what looks like death. Other-than-human creatures – sprung, like us, from the Source of Life – manifest this mystery without question or doubt. The more I’m with animals and the more I learn about them, the more I know they can be more than our companions on this planet. They can be our guides. They can be to us “a book about God . . . a word of God,” the God who comes, even in the darkest season, to bring us a new beginning.

Gayle Boss
Excerpted from All Creation Waits:
The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings

Paraclete Press, 2016

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Advent: A “ChristoPagan” Perspective
Something Extraordinary . . . Again
Advent: The Season of Blessed Paradox
Active Waiting: A Radical Attitude Toward Life
No Other Time, No Other Place
Advent: Renewing Our Connection with the Sacred
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism: An Introduction
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism (Part 1)
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism (Part 2)
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism (Part 3)
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism (Part 4)
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism (Part 5)
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism (Part 6)
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism (Part 7)
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism (Part 8)
An Advent Prayer
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Christmastide Approaches

Opening image: Michael J. Bayly.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Andor: The Star Wars Franchise’s “First Piece of Universally Excellent Television”

The season one finale of the Star Wars series Andor dropped today and my friend Deandre and I just finished watching it. As with the entire series, this episode is a masterfully compelling work of television.

Here’s Dan Casey’s overview and breakdown of today’s finale episode (and, yes, there are spoilers).

As I’ve noted previously, Andor is a prequel to the 2016 film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which in turn serves as an immediate prequel to Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).

Andor stars Diego Luna, reprising his role as Cassian Andor in Rogue One. Like Rogue One, Andor has a much more grittier look and feel – and far more complex characters – than any other movie or series in the Star Wars franchise. This definitely goes a long way in accounting for my interest in, and appreciation of, both Rogue One and Andor.

I also appreciate the show’s contemporary political resonance. In an interview from earlier this year, Andor actress Fiona Shaw (right) highlights this resonance when she notes that the show’s writer Tony Gilroy has written “a great, scurrilous [take] on the Trumpian world.”

Shaw goes on to say: “Our world is exploding in different places right now, people’s rights are disappearing, and Andor reflects that. [In the show] the Empire is taking over, and it feels like the same thing is happening in reality, too. . . . I was impressed by Tony’s social-realist intentions. He’s created a whole new morality. It’s very deep and humane – there is grief, mourning, hope, fear. It’s not just primary colours here.”

Following are excerpts from one of the best reviews of Andor that I’ve come across: Walter Marsh’s “Andor: How a Star Wars Deep Cut Became One of the Best TV Shows of the Year.”


After a slow but very watchable start, [writer-director] Tony Gilroy has upped the ante week after week with a clarity of vision that makes Andor not only the best of Star Wars’s television slate, but one of the most compelling shows of 2022. Somehow, after 45 years of films about an intergenerational civil war between space fascists and resistance fighters, Andor offers an inventive and entirely refreshing take on what life is like under an authoritarian regime.

We see how a population is subjugated through economic exploitation, a creeping surveillance state and draconian policing that feeds a giant prison industrial complex. We see the Imperial regime reimagined as a series of workplace power struggles and meet the workers and collaborators who drive it: from an ambitious supervisor in the Imperial Security Bureau (Denise Gough) to a rank-and-file corporate security grunt (Kyle Soller), whose on-the-job zealotry is rooted in the small tyrannies of his home life.

No longer background extras waiting to be choked out by Darth Vader, these mid- and lower-level Imperials are motivated by ambition, self-preservation and bone-deep resentments. The threat they pose becomes more complex, insidious and recognisably human than any big, planet-killing laser or cackling Sith Lord – and even more terrifying for it.

We also see different kinds of rebellion from what we’ve seen in Star Wars previously, from disillusioned Imperial deserters to spontaneous acts of community solidarity. Then there are characters like Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) and Senator Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), who keep up appearances as members of the galaxy’s wealthy elite while secretly funding and organising the underground resistance. “I’ve given up all chance at inner peace; I made my mind a sunless space,” Luthen says in one show-stopping monologue evoking Rutger Hauer’s final scene in Blade Runner.

But some of the strongest stuff comes from the ground up, such as the episodes Andor spends with a small rebel cell laying low in the mountains on the planet Aldhani. Filmed in the Scottish Highlands, they could almost be mistaken for 16th century Jacobites if it weren’t for the occasional Tie fighter zipping overhead.

Among them is Nemik (Alex Lawther), a technical whiz with a sideline in political consciousness-raising. “It’s so confusing isn’t it, so much going wrong, so much to say, and all of it happening so quickly,” he tells Andor while explaining the Rebel manifesto he’s been drafting. “The pace of oppression outstrips our ability to understand it – that is the real trick of the Imperial thought machine. It’s easier to hide behind forty atrocities than a single incident.”

Such moments of praxis add meat to the bones of Star Wars’s good versus evil struggle and speak to any number of Earth-side fascist regimes. They also run rings around the leaden dialogue of its small-screen contemporaries (The Rings of Power) and big-screen cousins (The Rise of Skywalker).

. . . For better or worse, Disney’s previous experiments with live-action Star Wars TV, from The Mandalorian to Obi-Wan Kenobi, have often felt like watching lifelong fans play with their action figures in a sandpit. From a de-aged Mark Hamill to a long-awaited rematch between Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen, some of their biggest moments have come from weaving in beloved characters and Easter eggs while tiptoeing around the established canon of a galaxy far, far away.

Gilroy, on the other hand, seems to care little about what came before him. Instead, he has focused on human drama, visually stunning set pieces and watertight writing. The result adds a weight of history to Cassian’s final destination — and gives Star Wars its first piece of universally excellent television.

Walter Marsh
Excerpted from “Andor: How a Star Wars Deep Cut
Became One of the Best TV Shows of the Year

The Guardian
November 21, 2022


Following is one of the most powerful scenes of Andor’s season one finale. In this scene, a pre-recorded holographic message from Cassian Andor’s adoptive mother Maarva (Fiona Shaw) is played at her funeral on the Empire-occupied planet of Ferrix.

My name is Maarva Carassi Andor. I’m honored to stand before you. I’m honored to be a Daughter of Ferrix, and honored to be worthy of the stone. Strange, I feel as if I can see you. I was six, I think, first time I touched a funerary stone; heard our music, felt our history. Holding my sister’s hand as we walked all the way from Fountain Square. Where you stand now, I've been more times than I can remember. I always wanted to be lifted. I was always eager, always waiting to be inspired. I remember every time it happened, every time the dead lifted me with their truth. And now I’m dead. And I yearn to lift you. Not because I want to shine or even be remembered. It’s because I want you to go on. I want Ferrix to continue. In my waning hours, that’s what comforts me most.

But I fear for you. We’ve been sleeping. We’ve had each other, and Ferrix, our work, our days. We had each other, and they left us alone. We kept the trade lanes open, and they left us alone. We took their money and ignored them, we kept their engines churning, and the moment they pulled away, we forgot them. Because we had each other. We had Ferrix.

But we were sleeping. I’ve been sleeping. And I’ve been turning away from the truth I wanted not to face. There is a wound that won’t heal at the center of the galaxy. There is a darkness reaching like rust into everything around us. We let it grow, and now it’s here. It’s here, and it’s not visiting anymore. It wants to stay. The Empire is a disease that thrives in darkness. It is never more alive than when we sleep. It’s easy for the dead to tell you to fight, and maybe it’s true, maybe fighting is useless; perhaps it’s too late. But I’ll tell you this: if I could do it again, I’d wake up early and be fighting these bastards from the start. Fight the Empire!

Another insightful and well-written review of Andor was published today by NPR. It’s written by Glen Weldon, and following is an excerpt.

The Star Wars films showed us an Empire that was Evil because it destroyed planets and chased down our doughty heroes. Sure, there were always gray-uniformed Space Nazis milling around in the background, and the few who got speaking roles – Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, for example – were possessed of the cold cunning of a Saturday serial villain, to contrast with the implacable menace of Vader and the over-the-top mustache-twirling of the Emperor. They were all of a piece, larger than life.

But the fascistic functionaries of AndorSyril Karn, Dedra Meero, Major Partagaz, Lieutenant Supervisor Blevins, and others – are cogs. Willing, dedicated cogs who relish the machine they’re a part of, even if they each believe they could be of more use somewhere else in it.

There is The Force, and there is force – blunt, brutal and dehumanizing. In Andor, again and again, we watched the latter variety exert its dispassionate influence, not on entire planets, but on individual lives. The public display of Andor’s father’s corpse. Andor’s arrest, and six-year-no-but-really-forever sentence for loitering. The exploitive, endless labor of Narkina 5. The appallingly chipper, matter-of-fact torture of Bix. The cumulative result was wrenching and personal and inevitably, eerily, relevant.

As was the season’s portrait of resistance.

The Star Wars films argue that a galaxy can be saved from tyranny by a handful of heroes – and, yes, a succession of easily exploited design flaws in space stations.

Andor showed the growing discontent and anger that gives rise to heroes. In many different ways, for their own individual reasons, the characters of Andor decide to rise up and fight, because totalitarianism is an unnatural state; it breeds resistance.

“The more you tighten your grip,” Princess Leia told Tarkin in Star Wars: A New Hope, “the more star systems are going to slip through your fingers.”

On Andor, we watch as that grip tightens around places like Ferrix and Aldhani and Narkina 5 and Coruscant. We watch people we care about get crushed. But we also watch others slip through. Yes, lives get lost, and compromises get made – that’s what Luthen’s monologue in episode 10 is all about, the harrowing loneliness of the freedom fighter.

But Andor shows us that the Empire’s downfall is and always was inevitable, Skywalker or no Skywalker. It’s baked in, the inescapable result of the system’s utter disregard for the humanity of the people it seeks to exploit and control.

Glen Weldon
Excerpted from “Andor Soared
NPR News
November 23, 2022

And finally . . .

Related Off-site Links:
Andor Episode 12 Review: An Explosive Finale to End It All . . . and Post Credits Explained – Abheet Gupta (High On Cinema, November 23, 2022).
Andor’s Season Finale Is a Rage-Filled Triumph – Tom Philip (AV Club, November 23, 2022).
Andor Creator Tony Gilroy Talks Luthen’s Good Day, That Post-Credit Scene and Season Two – Brian Davids (The Hollywood Reporter, November 23, 2022).
Why Andor Is One of the Best Shows of 2022 – Mark Serrels (CNET, November 22, 2022).
Stellan Skarsgård’s Luthen Is Instantly One of the Best Star Wars Characters Ever – Austen Goslin (Polygon, November 23, 2022).
Hell Yeah, Andor’s Cool, Casually Queer Women – James Whitbrook (Gizmodo, October 6, 2022).
Andor: The Best Star Wars Show Since The Mandalorian – Jack Seale (The Guardian, September 21, 2022).
How Andor Became the First Star Wars TV Series for Grown-Ups: “I Wanted to Do It About Real People” – Adam B. Vary (Variety, September 8, 2022).
Andor Is Star Wars’ “Scurrilous Take On The Trumpian World,” Says Fiona Shaw – Ben Travis (Empire, August 2, 2022).

UPDATES: The 25 Greatest Moments From Andor’s Incredible First Season – James Whitbrook (Gizmodo, November 24, 2022).
Andor’s Season Finale Solidifies It As One of Star Wars’ Greatest Stories – Charles Pulliam-Moore (The Verge, November 24, 2022).
Why Andor Boldly Goes the Distance While Most High Profile Star Wars Adaptations Fell Short – Melanie McFarland (Salon, November 25, 2022).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Revolution Will Be Televised
Resisting the Hand of the Empire
Musings on the Possibility of “FinnPoe”
Finn and Poe Revisited

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Quote of the Day

Nancy Pelosi was a great performer.

She convinced millions of Americans that she was leading “the resistance” through her token gestures.

In reality, the policies she fought for and against, were universally on behalf of corporate special interests.

She is the reason universal healthcare never saw a floor vote. Same with insider trading, of which she benefitted tremendously.

She oversaw the transformation of a party of labor to a party of Wall Street and Silicon Valley.

As she steps down from leadership today, it is now time to bring the Democratic Party back to its roots.

No, I will not celebrate Speaker Pelosi and neither should you.

Jen Perelman
via Facebook
November 17, 2022

Related Off-site Links:
Nancy Pelosi Announces She Will Not Run for House Leadership PostCommon Dreams (November 17, 2022).
Five Takeaways As the Pelosi Era Ends – Mike Lillis and Mychael Schnell (The Hill, November 17, 2022).
Hakeem Jeffries, Favored to Succeed Pelosi, Has History of Hostility Toward the Left – Sharon Zhang (TruthOut, November 17, 2022).
The Real Story of the Making of Nancy Pelosi – Ryan Grim (The Intercept, November 17, 2022).
Nancy Pelosi Stalls on Congressional Stock Trading Reform – Greg Valliere (AGF, October 4, 2022).
Trading Like Nancy PelosiSeeking Alpha (August 16, 2022).
Marianne Williamson Slams AOC’s Dodging of Pelosi Leadership Question – Amanda Prestigiacomo (Daily Wire, February 17, 2022).

UPDATES: Pelosi to Step Down from House Leadership, Stay in Congress – Lisa Mascaro (Associated Press News, November 18, 2022).
Nancy Pelosi, a Hate Figure to Right and Left, Is a Political Virtuoso Who Defined Her Era – Moira Donegan (The Guardian, November 18, 2022).
How Nancy Pelosi's Political Instincts Failed Her on Impeachment – Hayes Brown (MSNBC, November 18, 2022).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Deeper Perspective on What’s Really Attacking American Democracy
Progressive Perspectives on Corruption in U.S. Politics
Catholic Democrats

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Petula Clark: Luminescent at 90

It’s the 90th birthday today of Petula Clark, the English singer, actress and composer whose career has spanned eight decades.

I’ve been an admirer of Petula since I was in 5th grade, when I well remember imploring my parents to buy for me the K-Tel album of her “20 Fantastic Hits” being advertised on TV at the time. This was in Australia in the mid-1970s. . . . And, yes, they bought it for me, although I remember my mum remarking that the picture on the album’s cover didn’t (to her eyes at least) look like Petula.

Petula, of course, had been around long before the time I obtained her “fantastic hits” album in the mid-1970s. She actually began her singing career during the Second World War as a child entertainer on BBC Radio. While she was performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1944, Petula (or “Pet” as she was often called) was discovered by film director Maurice Elvey, who cast her as the precocious orphaned waif Irma in his war drama Medal for the General. She was 12-years-old at the time. Other films followed, some of which saw her working with the greats of British cinema, including Anthony Newley, Peter Ustinov and Alec Guinness. Her television career began in 1946 with an appearance on a BBC variety show, Cabaret Cartoons, which led to her being signed to host her own afternoon series, Petula Clark. Her second series, Pet’s Parlour, followed in 1950.

Petula’s music career began in earnest in the late 1940s, and she had her first UK hit in 1954 with “The Little Shoemaker.” Within two years she began recording in French, the start of a long and successful French-language recording career. It was while visiting Paris in the late 1950s that Petula met her future longtime publicist, collaborator, and husband Claude Wolff.

In 1964 Petula’s English-language success expanded from England to the United States with a four-year run of career-defining, often upbeat singles, many written or co-written by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent. These songs included her signature recording “Downtown,” “I Know a Place,” “My Love,” “A Sign of the Times,” “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love,” “Who Am I,” “Colour My World,” “This Is My Song” (written by Charlie Chaplin), “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” “The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener,” and “Kiss Me Goodbye.” In the U.S., Petula was sometimes referred to as the “First Lady of the British Invasion,” that cultural phenomenon of the mid-1960s which saw rock and pop music acts from the United Kingdom, along with other aspects of British culture, become popular in the United States.

Petula’s recording successes led to frequent appearances on American variety TV shows hosted by Ed Sullivan and Dean Martin, guest spots on Hullabaloo, Shindig!, The Kraft Music Hall, and The Hollywood Palace, and inclusion in musical specials such as The Best on Record and Rodgers and Hart Today.

In 1968 NBC-TV invited Petula to host her own special in the U.S. In accepting, Petula inadvertently advanced the cause of racial justice. Here’s what happened: While singing a duet of “On the Path of Glory,” an anti-war song that she had composed, with guest Harry Belafonte, Petula took hold of his arm. Watching the footage, a representative from the Chrysler Corporation (the show's sponsor) expressed dismay, fearing that the moment would incur racial backlash from Southern viewers. When he insisted that they substitute a different take, with Clark and Belafonte standing well away from each other, Clark and the executive producer of the show — her husband, Claude Wolff — refused, destroyed all other takes of the song, and delivered the finished program to NBC with the touch intact. The Chrysler representative was fired, and the program aired on April 8, 1968, four days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., with high ratings, critical acclaim, and a Primetime Emmy nomination.

Throughout the late 1960s Petula toured in concerts across the U.S., often appearing in supper clubs such as the Copacabana in New York City, the Ambassador Hotel’s Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, and the Empire Room at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Also in the late ’60s, Petula revived her film career, starring in two big movie musicals. In Finian’s Rainbow (1968), she starred opposite Fred Astaire (right), and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The following year saw her star with Peter O’Toole in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, a musical adaptation of the classic James Hilton novella.

By the early 1980s, Petula had moved away from film and television. At the urging of her three children she took to the stage, starring as Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music in the West End of London. Opening to positive reviews and what was then the largest advance sale in British theatre history, Petula – proclaimed by Maria Von Trapp herself as “the best Maria ever” – extended her initial six-month run to thirteen to accommodate the huge demand for tickets. Her performance garnered an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. In 1983, Petula took on the title role in George Bernard Shaw's Candida.

Petula’s later stage work includes Someone Like You in 1989 and 1990 (for which she composed the score); Blood Brothers, in which she made her Broadway debut in 1993 at the Music Box Theatre, followed by an American tour; and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, appearing in both the West End and American touring productions from 1995 to 2000. With more than 2,500 Sunset Boulevard performances, she has played the role of Norma Desmond, a faded star of the silent screen era, living in the past in her decaying mansion on the fabled Los Angeles street, more often than any other actress.

Throughout her time working in the theatre during the 1980s and ’90s, Petula continued to record new material. A 1981 single, “Natural Love,” reached number 66 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and number 20 on the U.S. Country Singles chart in early 1982. A decade later in 1992, she released “Oxygen,” a techo-pop track produced by Andy Richards and written by Nik Kershaw.

In 2013, after a long absence from the recording studio, Petula released a new album titled Lost in You, containing both new music and covers.

I love this album, and anyone who hears it playing in my home is always drawn to it, asking, Who’s that? Standout tracks include a slowed-down remake of her ’60s hit “Downtown,” a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” and a chilled-out and sublime original song, “Every Word You Say.” The album’s opening track, “Cut Copy Me,” was a hit in Belgium, of all places, while the album itself entered the UK national album chart at number 24 in March of 2013.

Even in her eighties, Petula continued to record and perform, as evidenced by her two most recent albums (2017’s Living for Today and 2018’s French-Canadian album Vu d’ici) and by the fact that since 2019 she’s appeared in London’s West End as The Bird Woman (below) in the popular revival of the musical Mary Poppins.

As you may recall, I had the honor and pleasure of seeing Petula in concert when I was in Australia in May of 2019 (right). I even briefly met and talked with her after the show. How lucky was I?

In celebration of Petula’s 90th birthday, I share her most recent recording, “Luminescent,” a beautiful song she recorded earlier this year with The John Williams Syndicate.

Enjoy! . . . and Happy Birthday, Petula!

For another track by The John Williams Syndicate featuring Petula Clark on vocals, click here.

For more of Petula Clark at The Wild Reed, see:
Meeting a Living Legend
Happy Birthday, Petula (2019)
Petula Clark: Singing for Us, Not at Us
“Pure Class”: Petula Clark’s Latest Offering Captivates
Happy Birthday, Petula! (2015)
Pet Sounds
Well, Look Who’s Coming to Port Macquarie
Petula Clark: Still Colouring Our World (which includes my mum’s review of Petula’s 2014 concert in Port Macquarie)

Related Off-site Links:
Petula Clark: I’m Still on Stage at 90 – Will Hodgkinson (The Times, November 16, 2022).
How Petula Clark Found Herself in the Center of the Biggest TV ScandalAge of Vintage (December 8, 2021).
Petula Clark: From “Downtown” to Mary Poppins: The MusicalThis Morning (November 3, 2020).
Petula Clark Interview: “I Felt As Though I Belonged to Other People – Not Myself” – Dominic Cavendish (The Telegraph, November 1, 2019).
Petula Clark and Harry BelafonteMontreal Gazette (2018).
Petula Clark, Still On the RoadGood Morning (December 24, 2017).
Petula Clark On Her Marriage, New Partner and TouringLoose Women (September 30, 2016).
Petula Clark InterviewBBC Breakfast (September 2016).
Petula Clark Interview – Alex Belfield (The Voice of Reason, 2016).
The Petula Clark StoryBBC Four (2015).
Petula Clark InterviewAfternoon Plus (February 21, 1980). – The Official Website of Petula Clark.