World Wide Work - July 2009
|This edition of the free bulletin, World Wide Work, is published by the American Labor Education Center, an independent nonprofit founded in 1979.|
WORLD WIDE WORK
Ask Not. More than 12,000 men and women have lost their jobs in the military under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, including many who speak Arabic or have other vital skills that are in short supply. This 73-minute film tells some of their stories. It also recounts how President Clinton considered segregating gay soldiers in separate units, similar to the blacks-only units that existed until President Truman issued an executive order ending the practice.
The Philosopher Kings. This 70-minute film profiles eight janitors at various U.S. colleges who have persevered despite serious obstacles in their lives. Service workers like these are often invisible, even to those they serve. The film shows that they are people with pride in their work, wisdom learned from hard experience, and determination to get the most out of life. It leaves to other films questions about why they receive only poverty wages and how people like them have joined together to improve their situation.
On Paper Wings. During World War II, Japanese girls were assigned to fold paper for huge balloon bombs that were floated to America. One of the bombs killed a young woman and four children near the rural town of Bly, Oregon. A half century later, some of those Japanese women traveled to Bly to meet relatives and friends of those who were killed. Some of the hosts talk about the concentration camp for Americans of Japanese descent that was operated during the war a short distance from Bly. The film also includes file footage of the destruction caused by U.S. firebombing and the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan, although it doesn't show Americans traveling to Hiroshima or Nagasaki to express their sorrow.
Prom Night in Mississippi. Even after the high school in Charleston, Mississippi, was integrated, white families continued to hold a separate senior prom. Actor Morgan Freeman, who comes from Charleston, offered to pay for a prom in 2008 if it was integrated. The school accepted, but problems remained. The story provides an opportunity to explore racial attitudes today.
Upstream Battle. The death of nearly 70,000 adult salmon in the Klamath River in 2002 focused attention on a conflict over water rights involving native Americans, Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp, ranchers, farmers, and commercial fishermen. While the film tells the story from the tribes' point of view, other participants have their say in candid interviews as well.
Everlasting Moments. A beautifully made Swedish film about a working class married woman in the early 1900s who finds her own identity with the help of an old camera and a photography store owner.
Automorphosis. A delightful and humorous 77-minute documentary about a huge range of mostly eccentric people who have turned their cars into works of art.
Short Term 12. This dramatic, powerfully acted short takes us inside a residential facility for abused children and brings both staff and residents to life.
The Looting of America by Les Leopold (Chelsea Green). For those who want more than a vague sense that we are in an economic crisis because of manipulation by Wall Street, Leopold goes into the details about the financial industry's complex schemes that came crashing down on the rest of us.
Between Barack and a Hard Place by Tim Wise (City Lights). In150 pages, one of the best white voices talking to other whites about racism comments on what Obama's election does and does not mean.
Healing Together by Kochan, Eaton, McKersie, and Adler (Cornell). Intense labor-management conflict at Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest HMO, led to a partnership agreement covering more than 90,000 employees that has lasted more than a decade. Four academics were given access to document and analyze the experience. Both those who support and those who oppose such partnerships on ideological grounds will find fodder for their view in this detailed account.
The State of Working America 2008/2009 by Lawrence MIshel, Jared Bernstein, and Heidi Shierholz (Cornell University Press, 2009). The most valuable reference for facts and analysis about the economy.
This Could Be the Start of Something Big by Manuel Pastor, Jr., Chris Benner, and Martha Matsuoka (Cornell University Press, 2009). Coalitions of union, religious, and community organizations have emerged in a number of major urban centers to work for improved public services and infrastructure, housing, transportation, and workforce development. In some cases, these coalitions have found common ground with some elements of business.
Bricks Without Straw by Albion W. Tourgee (Duke University). This reprint of a novel published in 1880 is accompanied by a useful historical essay about the author and the Reconstruction period the book depicts. The book shows the human impact of the often violent campaign by the white power structure in the South to undo emancipation.
Remembering Scottsboro by James A. Miller (Princeton). Death sentences given to eight young black men in 1931 became a major historical event impacting American arts and culture as well as politics and helping to set the stage for the civil rights movement.
Tours of Vietnam by Scott Laderman (Duke University). What first appears to be a narrow academic study -- how U.S. guide books and other tourist materials over the past half century have described Vietnam -- becomes an interesting window into Americans' often inaccurate perceptions about our own country and the rest of the world. The last chapter examines written comments left by American visitors at a war museum in Ho Chi Minh City.
Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway (Chelsea Green). An updated guide to home-scale permaculture designed to help make all gardens, whether urban, suburban, or rural, use less water, produce more edible plants, and require less maintenance.
Gold Dust on His Shirt by Irene Howard (Between the Lines). This warm account of Scandinavian immigrant mining families in western Canada in the first half of the twentieth century draws on the author's own family memories as well as archives and interviews in North America, Norway, and Sweden.
The Quality of Home Runs by Thomas P. Carter (Duke University). Politics, culture, and history are mixed in this academic study of baseball in Cuba.
Sundays in America by Suzanne Strempek Shea (Beacon). The writer visited a different American place of worship each Sunday for a year, traveling to more than thirty states. Her short vignettes about each experience provide an interesting overview of what today's religious practices do and do not have in common.
The Excitement Plan by Todd Snider (YepRoc). A good variety of new, often sardonic and humorous songs. One that is particularly fun describes the experience of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Doc Ellis who in 1970 pitched a no-hitter while on acid.
Murdering Oscar by Patterson Hood (Ruth St. Records). A solo set of songs by a Drive By Truckers member shows off his originality and varied themes.
Dream City by Greg Brown (Red House). Sixteen songs from past CDs on Red House and Trailer labels, plus several fine previously unreleased songs.
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