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Thursday, September 29, 2005

NORTH COUNTRY REKINDLES HARASSMENT DEBATE

While most of the chit-chat on the IMDB boards for Niki Caro's NORTH COUNTRY, shot on Minnesota's Iron Range and scheduled to be released nation-wide on October 21st, center on whether or not the Ranger accents are going to be "like Fargo" or worse DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, Warner Bros, Participant Productions and Oprah foresee a bigger debate.

As billing leading up to the show promises, tomorrow Charlize Theron will appear on Oprah's show to talk about the film and sexual harassment, With an obvious reference to her facial modifications her Oscar-winning MONSTER role, "Charlize Theron is putting on a brave face, for her new movie, North Country. Then, a story that will leave you stunned. What made these women targets of sexual harassment?"

Many are expecting that NORTH COUNTRY will revive a debate about sexual harassment in the workplace that hasn't been heard since Anita Hill appeared before the Senate Judiciary committee in the hearings of Clarence Thomas for Supreme Court Justice.

In Caro's film, based on the true life story of Eveleth miner Lois Jenson, Theron's character Josie sees Anita Hill giving testimony before the committee on television and is moved to actions she feels in response to her treatment. While Hill was successfully rebuffed by Senate Republicans and her witness diminished, Hill propelled women nation-wide and the class action suit in northern Minnesota that changed history to move forward.

In an attempt to counter the obvious hard hitting emotional edge the sexual harassment story presents, Oprah also interviews Theron about her new boyfriend, leading the star-hearthrob to comment on how much they enjoy "making out." Oprah then provides a graphic illustration via rear-view projection.

Caro's company Participate has set up a web site as a part of a campaign to stop sexual harassment and domestic violence:

http://www.participate.net/standup/

Saturday, September 03, 2005

AN APPEAL FOR NOLA ARTISTS

There are a lot of appeals being made for relief for the NOLA victims of Hurricane Katrina but I would like to suggest one that might touch us in a way that we've been touched by New Orleans. It is called the Tipitina Foundation:

http://www.tipitinasfoundation.org

Tipitina's is a club, performing arts organization, recording studio and landing spot for jazz, blues, cajun and zydeco musicians in New Orleans inspired by the legendary Professor Longhair. The last visit I made to their site, they had not changed a word or their schedule of fall classes and performances. You can see a frozen moment in time for yourself, however, I suspect the pages might change very soon:

http://www.tipitinas.com/default.asp

Tipitina's was as a neighborhood juke joint in the mid 1970s run by a group of young music fans (The Fabulous Fo'teen) to provide a place for Professor Longhair to perform in his final years after he was discovered working as a janitor in the deep south. The venue, named for one of Longhair's most enigmatic recordings "Tipitina," has survived in an ever-changing and ups-and-downs of the musical climate to become adept at weathering cultural storms. Professor Longhair wrote the song "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" that has become the anthem to the great music based fest that attracts millions from around the world each year.

In the past 25 years, Tipitina's has grown from a small, neighborhood bar into an international music icon. Since 1984, the venue expanded into a two-story, 1,000 capacity music center located at the famed corner of Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas. Tipitina's now has resources such as a web site, recording studio, record label, and a dynamic special events department. More than a venue, Tipintas reaches deep into the New Orleans community providing support for msucians, classes to students and events.

I think it is telling that Tipitinas was raising money to put instruments in New Orlean's schools prior to last Sunday when Katrina ascended. The last I heard, the club survived the ravaging onslaught of Katrina. A tree fell on their buidling but did minor damage. They are located higher up on the levee so flooding didn't reach them. The manager Bill Taylor fled to Florida and some of the staff and musicians holed up in the club to weather the storm. The story of their survival during Katrina is amazing, including the water rescue of a some 30+ elderly people at the nearby Fountaine Blu apartments and the birth of a baby on Tipitina's Walk of Fame (the sidewalk outside Tipitinas honoring Nola's Jazz Greats) by a woman who could not get to a hospital during the hurricane and flood ravaged week.

Now, Tipitina's Foundation has launched a relief drive to support Nola's great aging Jazz, Blues, Cajun and Zydeco artists by getting them life essentials, replacing lost instruments, putting them back on tour and keeping New Orleans music alive. I'm sure many of you sat, as I did, on the edge of your chair when you heard that Fats Domino was missing and then rescued in his home in New Orleans. Well, there were many more artists with as powerful an influence as Fats who suffered and lost everything. Tipitinas is making an effort, in the tradition they began with support Professor Longhair back in the 1970s to support New Orleans Jazz artists. One goal of Tipitinas drive is to provide foster homes to musicians and has been met with success but the effort needs to be sustained.

If you can support Tipitina's Foundations relief drive with a few dollars or many go to:

http://www.theleaf.com/hurricanesupport

The Leaf, a performing arts center in Black Mountain, North Carolina has offered logistical and web site support for Tipitinas after their staff was forced to flee New Orleans. This is a good fit since Tipitina's and The Leaf work together on jazz and blues festivals throughout the year. A musical performance concernt and benefit is being organized at Black Mountain in October.

If you are able to provide other material support for NOLA musicians such as housing, instruments, and life essentials, you may write to:

tipitinashelp@theleaf.com

These musicians have enriched our past lives and culture and will continue to do so in the future but they need our help now to keep going. Thanks for your consideration.