Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Brother Pacifist Pete Seeger Dies at 94

For 60 years Pete Seeger’s music has beautified the world with dozens of songs on labour, civil rights and hope for a better world. The banjo-picking troubadour died January 27th of natural causes at the New York Presbyterian Hospital at the age of 94.

Here's an excerpt from yesterday's long obituary in The New York Times, 'Pete Seeger, Champion of Folk Music and Social Change, Dies at 94, by Jon Pareles, January 28, 2014:

Mr. Seeger was a mentor to younger folk and topical singers in the ’50s and ’60s, among them Bob Dylan, Don McLean and Bernice Johnson Reagon, who founded Sweet Honey in the Rock. Decades later, Bruce Springsteen drew from Mr. Seeger’s repertory of traditional music about a turbulent America in recording his 2006 album, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” and in 2009 he performed Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” with Mr. Seeger at the Obama inaugural. At a Madison Square Garden concert celebrating Mr. Seeger’s 90th birthday, Mr. Springsteen introduced him as “a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along.”

Although he recorded dozens of albums, Mr. Seeger distrusted commercialism and was never comfortable with the idea of stardom. He invariably tried to use his celebrity to bring attention and contributions to the causes that moved him, or to the traditional songs he wanted to preserve.

Mr. Seeger saw himself as part of a continuing folk tradition, constantly recycling and revising music that had been honed by time.

During the McCarthy era Mr. Seeger’s political affiliations, including membership in the Communist Party in the 1940s, led to his being blacklisted and later indicted for contempt of Congress. The pressure broke up the Weavers, and Mr. Seeger disappeared from commercial television until the late 1960s. But he never stopped recording, performing and listening to songs from ordinary people. Through the decades, his songs have become part of America’s folklore.

“My job,” he said in 2009, “is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.”

To this long obituary I add:

He wrote or co-wrote ‘Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream’, ‘If I Had a Hammer’, ‘Tomorrow is a Highway’, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone’, ‘We Shall Overcome’, ‘Study War No More’, and many more.

Pete Seeger lived his ideals. He saw himself as a citizen of the world and worked in and out of season to make it safer, cleaner, beautiful, and better. With his love and hope for humanity, he inspired and galvanized generations of young and old to pay attention to the important issues of society and become part of the social change.

There is much work yet to be done in our world. ‘The highway is broad and fair...and we are the workers who’ll build it there’, he wrote in one of his songs. ‘But only they who’ve learned the peaceful way of brotherhood, to greet the coming day. We hail the coming day.’

We are Pete’s brothers and sisters in spirit. Let’s remember his love of humanity, especially his ceaseless efforts to get rid of militarism and wars. Let’s write more songs about stopping wars, about keeping our environment clean, about treating each other as members of one human race. Let’s hope that everyone learns from this remarkable human being.

See my previous articles about our brother Pete:
Also see Larry's Desk, by Larry Ewashen: On February 16, 2014, at Tarrys Hall, the Canadian Doukhobor Society annual Day of Love featured remembrances of Pete Seeger throughout the program.

The Beauty of the Blacklist: In Memory of Pete Seeger, blog by Cory Robin, 29 January 2014.
— "Cited for contempt of Congress, he was indicted, convicted to a year in prison. Eventually the sentence got overturned."

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Let the Games Begin in Sochi !

The Winter Olympic Games are scheduled to open in Sochi, Russia on February 7th, and President Vladimir Putin is determined to make this the safest and most expensive Olympic games ever.

I am disappointed that the original intention of international Olympism — 'to organise Physical Education', 'sportmanship', 'healthy mind in a healthy body' — is too often sabotaged by politics. (Olympic Charter 1933)

The Fundamental Principles of Olympism remind me of my view of the Doukhobor Movement: 'a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind... to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles…harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity... a human right...without discrimination of any kind…mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.... Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the... Movement.'

The UK Guardian lists 17 political abuses of the the games since Berlin in 1936, despite their principles.

In 1980, I was a Canadian photojournalist at the 22nd Summer World Olympics in Moscow when several western countries boycotted the games that year because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan a few months earlier. I was disappointed then, and now by the boycott.

Again this year several western countries are considering a political boycott of the Russian Olympic hosts over too little freedom for 'gays' (LBGT), and too much freedom for whistle-blower Snowden, though they attended the 2008 Olympics in China (another Eastern nation seeking legitimacy). (Harper, Obama to both skip Sochi Olympics, CTV News, December 19, 2013.)

How can Canada and the U.S. accuse Russia of violating human rights when we have so much inequality here? We are not a perfect example.

International friendship and tolerance is the basis for the Olympics. All countries have to work together in order to minimise harmful inequalities and maximise sustainability, to ensure that peace, clean environment, friendly infrastructure including affordable housing for all, free health care and education, and good governance are guaranteed to all people. The Olympics is a great opportunity to reinforce this unity of purpose.

I say: “Let the Sochi Games begin!”

All world leaders, including Obama and Harper, must be brave enough to go to Sochi and show their respect for Olympism. Let the Olympic dream of a peaceful and just world community evolve through time, effort and respect.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Year-end Newsletter 2013

From Kristina Kristova and Koozma J. Tarasoff

Dear Friends,

2013 was for us an interesting and busy year of organizing events, doing photography, much writing, travelling, and unforgettable celebrations and meetings with friends.

In mid-March, with great enthusiasm, Koozma enrolled in a documentary film-making course under the masterwork of Peter Biesterfeld. Following the workshops, the Doc Team of Ken, Diane, Patricia and Koozma created their projects. Koozma's project featured the life of Kristina and the Bulgarian cuisine -- making delicious Banitsa.

In June the Canadian War Museum invited Koozma to be part of its 2nd Human Library Project of 25 'Books'. The 25 participants, with significant life experiences, were invited to be 'books' which the 'readers' can order for 20-minute interviews. The conversation revealed the wisdom and the interesting personal stories of each book-author. As a long term peace activist, Koozma talked about the challenges of creating a peace culture in our society. He was also part of a short promotional video clip at the Peace Exhibition. This novel public educational format was first used in Denmark in 2000 to focus attention on anti-violence, to encourage dialogue and build relations. It has grown in popularity with over 30 countries participating. The Museum exhibition on peace opened in May and continued on for the rest of the year.

Throughout the year, Koozma has been busy as volunteer photographer and writer in the peace movement in Ottawa. His major effort has been the 7th Annual 12-day Ottawa Peace Festival in September, which his colleague Bill Bhaneja has described as 'the longest peace festival in the world'. With hundreds of images and interesting summaries of the events, he gave participants and readers of his website colorful pictures and interpretations of the growing peace festival in Ottawa.

'The Evolution of the Doukhobor Movement' was the title of Koozma's lecture presented with great success at the University of Ottawa in November. The 'thank you' letters received as a response showed that students and professors were impressed and intrigued by his illustrated lecture with slides and film.

Sincere appreciation to Andrei Conovaloff, Koozma's friend and webmaster in Arizona. Their creative collaboration is not only a pleasure, but has great results. Koozma and Andrei continue to discover new insights into developing humanity. With Andrei's help, Koozma's Spirit-Wrestlers Website and Blog has had another successful year as an independent media source. Its themes have included the Doukhobors, the peace movement, the nonkilling paradigm, the health care system, First Nations, video production, Hippies, the myth of Biblical Christianity, and more.

Kristina has had another successful year as Site Administrator of the Saturday morning International Languages Program. In July and August she worked with the big Summer School International Languages Program in Ottawa.

On February 16th, family and friends celebrated Kristina's 70th Birthday at the Bulgarian Embassy. It was an emotional evening celebrating her life and contribution as a TV anchor person for 28 years with the Bulgarian National Television and her contribution of 22 years as a volunteer for the Bulgarian community in Ottawa. More than 80 people participated in the memorable evening with speeches, pictures, songs and tasty Bulgarian food. Kristina's daughter Milena was Master of Ceremonies. DJ was Martin Staykov. Koozma selected and digitized 200 images for an interesting Power Point presentation. On this occasion the Bulgarian Government and the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad awarded Kristina with a life-time Paisii Hilendarski Memorable Medal and Certificate of Honour for her long term activity in preserving and popularizing the Bulgarian culture in Canada. Our friend Anton Peltesky created a beautiful video documentary about the event. Sincere appreciation to all our friends who contributed their positive energy and well wishes to the success of this celebration.

As part of her 22 years of voluntary work for her compatriots, Kristina has successfully completed her second term (2011-2013) as President of the Bulgarian Community and Bulgarian Foundation in Ottawa. At the Annual General Meeting on December 2nd she officially resigned. Her Annual Report recalled many social and cultural events during this time such as the visit in Ottawa of the Bulgarian Minister of Culture with delegation, official guests from the Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, many Bulgarian pop stars, actors, childrens' choir, movie evenings, etc.

The Bulgarian community recognized Koozma as an 'Honourary Member' not only for documenting with pictures every event, but also for his participation in organizing activities.

Kristina's daughter Milena continues to teach music in Ottawa as well as working as office manager for a medical doctor. Orlin, Kristina's son in Sofia, Bulgaria, continues his work as musician/composer.

In the early morning of December 22nd, Kristina and Milena left for a vacation to Halguin, Cuba. They gladly missed one week of severe weather in Ottawa. On the way home from Cuba in five hours, they experienced a change of temperature from plus 28 degrees to minus 30. Their stay in Cuba was a breath of fresh sunny air with much deserved relaxation.

Koozma's son Lev (Associate Professor in the Dept. of Physics and Physical Oceanography, Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland), his wife Dorothee (a full Professor at the University of Quelph) and daughter Katya from Guelph, Ontario, are on a six-month sabbatical in Auckland, New Zealand. After completing his Grade 12, son Jaspar joined them for Christmas. New Zealand has been an oasis for them. Katya has been to France and the USA as part of her soccer career, and her training schedule has kept her and her family busy.

Koozma's daughter Tamara and husband John have continued to work for Parks Canada. In summer, they and their children Nicholas and Elena took a three-week historic excursion to Western Canada including a trip to the Yukon and a five-day Chilkoot Gold Rush Trail hike. They visited Japanese, Doukhobor and Canadian historic sites including visits with relatives and friends. This was a grand way to learn Canadian history and connect with our past.

Kristina and Koozma spent several days at the resort Calabogie Peaks. As well, we visited friends Boris and Annie Michov in their beautiful house near Kingston, Ontario. We had a day-long excursion to the Jones Falls Locks on the Rideau River where we watched large and small boats go through the four locks. It is amazing that this 1830s technology is still useful and works properly after so many years. It is a unique engineering achievement.

Several times, Koozma travelled to Perth, Ontario to visit his friends Jim and Ruth Deacove of Family Pastimes Cooperative Games. For the 7th year, Jim has led monthly film screenings in town showing wonderful short and long films.

On several occasions we had the pleasure of having dinner and meeting with Alex Atamanenko, Member of Parliament for BC Southern Interior, and his wife Ann. Alex has been instrumental in tabling a Private Member's Bill for creating a Canadian Dept. of Peace.

For over one year, Mohsen Akhavannia of Iran has lived in our house during his study at Carleton University. We enjoyed his kind manner, intelligence, nice sense of humour, computer knowledge and cooking talent.

Konstantin Romanov, Professor of Canadian Studies from Moscow University, who was completing his Post Doc Studies at Carleton University, was another pleasurable and creative contact for Koozma and Kristina during his stay in Ottawa. It resulted in several interviews, a few videos of lectures, sharing contacts with friends, visits, etc.

Direct visits, emails, telephone and Skype communications have given us an opportunity to maintain contact with family and friends across the country and the world. We are grateful to be healthy and to renew our friendships as well as meet new ones. It was another great year!

We join together and wish all of you our dear friends, the best of health, love, creativity, joy and happiness in 2014!