Saturday, December 30, 2023

Censorship of Santa's Pipe from "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" Continues on Its 200th Anniversary

Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, 1/1/1881
"'Twas the Night Before Christmas," the beloved Clement Moore poem that was first published as "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" on December 23, 1823, celebrated its 200 anniversary this year.

Describing first seeing Santa Claus, Moore wrote: 

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, 
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; 
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, 
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. 
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry! 
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! 
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, 
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow; 
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, 
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath

Those last two lines were edited out of a version of the poem published in 2012 by Canadian author Pamela McColl, an anti-smoking advocate who "believes that her non-smoking Santa will prevent new smokers." McColl spent $200,000 of her own money printing 55,500 copies in English, Spanish and French and hired an illustrator to redraw Santa without his pipe. 

“It’s denying access to the original voice of the author, and that’s censorship,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Association told the New York Post. She likened McColl’s alteration to an Alabama publisher’s controversial purging of “indecent” language in “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The National Coalition Against Censorship said, "Readers of the new version will note Santa is still overweight, at least for now."

This year, McColl is back with a new book “'Twas The Night: The Art and History of the Classic Christmas Poem,” and is appearing at events to celebrate the bicentennial of the poem she altered.  (That book does contain the original, uncensored version of the poem, along with art work depicting Santa with his pipe. But when my nephew's public library offered a reading of the poem last month, it was the censored version.)

Friday, December 15, 2023

Chelsea Handler Named Tokin' Woman of the Year: Tokey Awards 2023

Winners: Write Here to claim your prize: A Tokin' Women book.

TOKIN' WOMAN OF THE YEAR - Chelsea Handler

I've wanted to make Chelsea Handler the Tokin' Woman of the Year for the past several years, but current events (Sha'Carri Richardson losing her Olympics slot for testing positive for marijuana, Britney Griner bring imprisoned in Russia for carrying it across the border, Kamala Harris being nominated for Vice President and talking about weed....) intervened. 

In Handler's 2019 book Life Will Be the Death of Me, she relates how after the Trump election she found that her rage at the political situation was exacerbated by alcohol, and so she began learning more about marijuana as a substitute, starting as an aid to meditation. 

"I think the world needs cannabis more than it's ever needed anything," she announced at an appearance that year at the Hall of Flowers trade show in Sonoma, CA. "Alcohol is not doing it.....if we want a kinder, softer and gentler place, then we have the answer."

"So many users aren't out because of shame," she lamented, adding, "But I have time to be here and be a New York Times #1 bestselling author...We need to highlight that cannabis can be used to function, to create, to contribute." 

Handler won a Tokey award in 2016 for her episode "Chelsea Does Drugs" in which she took ayahuasca on camera; in 2018 she took a Tokey for a Top Tweet. In 2021 she curated her favorite cannabis products into an "America is Back" kit for Inauguration Day, with the proceeds going to support Cage Free Repair, a cannabis reform nonprofit. This year she appeared in a 4/20 "Pardons to Progress" video urging action to free cannabis prisoners. 

She's continued to speak out across the country about her love for marijuana, so that, for example, an interview from Alabama where she appeared on her recent comedy tour begins, "Chelsea Handler is sitting on her sofa, smoking a joint and reading a book." She recently told Kind Magazine, "I just want to be a high vibe passing through this world so every time I leave an area, it's better." 

In this clip from The Tonight Show, Handler makes a case for women dominating the world, or at least late night talk shows, while wearing a necklace with an Amanita mushroom shape and an emerald green gemstone. She'll be touring Canada and the US starting in January 2024. 

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in 2023

Sadly, this page will be updated throughout 2023.

Ana Ofelia Murguía (12/31)
Known for voicing Grandmother Coco in the 2017 Pixar/Disney film Coco, Murguía was an acclaimed Mexican actress. In 2010 she appeared in Las Buenas Hierbas (The Good Herbs), where she plays an herb dealer with Alzheimer's. 

Tommy Smothers (12/26) 
The Smothers Brothers' groundbreaking television hour ushered in the topical comedy of Laugh In and Saturday Night Live, and so much more. David Bionculli's book Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour reveals that some of the comedy on the show was fueled by weed. Tommy said in the 2002 documentary Smothered that he and headwriter/"Classical Gas" composer Mason Williams would "sometimes torch a joint" while working on scripts. Singer Jennifer Warnes recalled one road trip on which she and Tom dropped acid, and Williams remembered mistakenly eating a batch of cast member Leigh French's "specially enhanced" brownies. During the trial that resulted in a settlement for breach of contract after the show was cancelled by CBS, French's skit where she played country singer "Kentucky Rose" who said, "I used to play bluegrass, but a couple of weeks ago I started smoking it" was entered into the court record.  Tommy testified at the 1968 trial of impresario and restauranteur Frank Werber who was accused of possession and cultivation of marijuana, saying he'd known Werber for years and "before he started smoking pot, he was a real a-hole." Smothers played the second guitar on John Lennon's song "Give Peace a Chance," performed at Lennon's honeymoon/war protest and mentioning Tommy in the lyric.

Alice Parker (12/24) 
Parker was a composer, arranger, conductor and teacher who authored over 500 pieces of music (operas, cantatas, choral suites, hymns) along with a wealth of arrangements based on folk songs and hymns. Her 1984 composition "Songs for Eve" is from an Archibald MacLeish poem; her "Echoes from the Hills" and "Heavenly Hurt," among others, are inspired by Emily Dickinson. In the 2020 documentary Alice: At Home With Alice Parker she tells how, when she was born in 1925 she was held up to the window for the neighbors to see on Christmas Eve. She died on that day at the age of 98. 

Ruth Seymour (12/22)
A broadcasting executive known for her innovative work in public radio, Seymour's first venture into radio came at KPFK in Los Angeles from 1961 to 1964. From 1971 to 1976, she worked as program director there. She was fired in 1976, after the FBI raided the station in search of a tape KPFK had aired from Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army, which the station manager refused to turn over. Seymour broadcast the raid live, as it occurred. She joined the staff of KCRW at Santa Monica College in 1977 as a consultant and was named manager a few months later, in 1978. She retired from there in February 2010 after having helped the station "transcend its basement location to shape the culture in Los Angeles," bringing programs to the station such as "Le Show" (hosted by Harry Shearer); "Left, Right & Center"; "Morning Becomes Eclectic"; and "Which Way L.A.?" In 1996, KCRW became the first station other than Chicago's WBEZ to air "This American Life." She also supported programs that brought literature to the radio, including airing radio dramas adaptations of Babbitt and Ulysses. Known in Washington, D.C. as a fierce defender of public broadcasting funding and issues such as licensing and royalties for streaming, in 1997 she received Amnesty International's Media Spotlight Award.  

Rose Ann Fuhrman (December 2023)
When few were covering the topic, Sonoma CA-based author Fuhrman wrote lively and accurate articles like “Cliffhanger in California” about Prop. 215, the 1996 initiative that made California the first state to legalize medical marijuana. When Prop. 215's spear-Head Dennis Peron died in 2018, she wrote on her Facebook page: "The passing of Dennis Peron feels like the closing of one chapter as another one struggles to write itself....A little less than 30 years ago I learned that marijuana prohibition was based on racist and other lies and had nothing to do with public safety. I hadn't given it much thought prior to that and had never tried it, automatically defaulting to the common view. Being a passionate advocate for justice, my new knowledge made activism for decriminalization or legalization inevitable.... I don't remember what led to my writing for Cannabis Canada (now Cannabis Culture) but a friend and neighbor took me to the original Cannabis Buyers' Club in San Francisco for a meeting, which was my access point. Intelligent, peaceful people who did (and many still do) great work."

Cari Beauchamp (12/14)
I had just written to Beauchamp after re-reading the Vanity Fair article she co-wrote with Judy Balaban about Hollywood's experimentation with LSD. I also picked up her book, Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Power of Women in Hollywood and found a couple of marijuana references there. Beauchamp was an award-winning author and historian who was a resident scholar at the Mary Pickford Foundation. She also wrote books about screenwriter Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and Joseph P. Kennedy's influence on Hollywood, as well as editing and annotating Hollywood Secretary: Her Private Letters from Inside the Studios of the 1920s by Valeria Belletti. She wrote and co-produced a documentary film in 2000 based on Without Lying Down, also wrote the documentary film The Day My God Died about young girls of Nepal sold into sexual slavery, which played on PBS and was nominated for an Emmy in 2003. Before becoming a full-time writer in 1990, she worked as a private investigator and a campaign manager, and served as Press Secretary to California Governor Jerry Brown

Ryan O'Neal (12/8)
The cocaine/meth/alcohol monster got him, leading to accusations of abuse from his kids and spouses, but in the end his daughter Tatum, who remains the youngest actor to win an Oscar for "Paper Moon" in which she starred with her Dad, had nice things to say about him, as did co-stars Ali McGraw, Barbra Streisand and others. Born on 4/20/1941, O'Neal was married to Leigh Taylor-Young, who baked pot brownies in "I Love You Alice B. Toklas," and was with Farrah Fawcett when she died of cancer, an even sadder Love Story. 

Norman Lear (12/5)
Prolific screenwriter and producer Lear was most known for the breakthrough sitcom All In the Family. Its spinoff, Maude, was about a liberated woman (Bea Arthur) who, in one episode, protested a young man's marijuana arrest by scheming to get herself arrested too. Lear also produced One Day at a Time about a divorced woman living on her own with her two daughters, and its recent reboot with a Latina cast starring Rita Moreno (shown), which aired a thoughtful episode about cannabis. Lear filed a First Amendment lawsuit against TV's "family hour" censorship, and founded People for the American Way (PFAW), a progressive advocacy organization formed in reaction to the politics of the Christian right.

Sandra Day O’Connor (12/1)

The first woman to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, O'Connor was born Sandra Day in El Paso, Texas, the daughter of a cattle rancher. In her youth, she participated in cattle roundups as the group's only female rider, latter calling it, "my first initiation into joining an all-men's club, something I did more than once in my life." Day enrolled at Stanford University  at the age of 16 and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in economics in 1950. At Stanford Law School she served on the Stanford Law Review with future Supreme Court chief justice William Rehnquist, who proposed marriage to her (she declined). After graduating from law school, because of her gender, she could only find employment as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California after she offered to work for no salary and without an office. She eventually became a judge and an elected official in Arizona, serving as the first female majority leader of a state senate as the Republican leader in the Arizona Senate. While serving on the Supreme Court from 1981-2006, she was one of three co-authors of the lead opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the Court upheld the right to have an abortion as established in Roe v. Wade, and argued in favor of President Obama naming a replacement for conservative justice Antonin Scalia (before the Senate scandalously held up Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland, until Trump could be elected and name Neil Gorsuch, assuring the Court's conservative majority).  She also joined the dissenting opinion in Gonzalez v Raich, in defense of state marijuana laws. After retiring, O'Connor succeeded Henry Kissinger (who died two days before her) as the Chancellor of the College of William & Mary. In 2003, she wrote a book titled The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice and in 2005,  a children's book, Chico: A True Story from the Childhood of the First Woman Supreme Court Justice, was named for her favorite horse. In 2009, Justice O'Connor was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.       

Shane MacGowan (12/30)

Born on Christmas Day in 1957, the "peerless and fearless" MacGowan was the co-founder, frontman and chief songwriter of the Pogues, which brilliantly and energetically combined punk rock with traditional Irish music and politics. In 1972, MacGowan was expelled from the school he was attending on a literary scholarship after being caught smoking pot in public, and at age 17, he spent six months in a psychiatric hospital due to drug addiction, where he was also diagnosed with acute situational anxiety. He struggled with drugs and alcohol throughout his life, and was dismissed from the Pogues for unprofessional behavior after missing concert dates, including opening for Bob Dylan. "Fairytale of New York," which MacGowan co-wrote and performed with Kirsty MacColl, remains a perennial Christmas favorite. Sadly, he died of complications from pneumonia at age 65 just as the Christmas season started this year. At the end of his life, “We used to go to Shane’s house and roll joints for him. We would watch Netflix with him,” said Andrew Hendy of Dundalk balladeers. "Shane will be remembered as one of music’s greatest lyricists. So many of his songs would be perfectly crafted poems, if that would not have deprived us of the opportunity to hear him sing them," said Ireland's President Michael Higgins in a statement. 

Clay Jones

Henry Kissinger (11/29)

Paul Sorvino brilliantly plays Kissinger in the Oliver Stone movie "Nixon," nailing indelibly the scene in which he prays on his knees with Nixon on the eve of impeachment. In the opera "Nixon In China" Kissinger is shown whipping Chinese workers into submission to the semiconductor. “People are a little shocked when he appears as the sadistic overlord,” director Peter Sellars told the New York Times. “But obviously he’s the man who’s responsible for Chile and for the secret bombing of Cambodia — the list of atrocities and acts of unspeakable violence is long. And that lurid stuff is behind the jolly and well-spoken diplomat. The surprise is, as always, no one is just one thing. That is one reason you make operatic characters.” My first political act, at the age of 14, was to campaign for George McGovern against Richard Nixon in 1971. After Tricky Dicky with Kissinger at his side won by a landslide, and bombed Cambodia by Christmas, I was disillusioned for decades. That Kissinger lived to be 100 while chewing on the cud of human misery just adds to the sickeningness of it all. 

Dale Spender (11/21)
Australian feminist scholar Spender was co-founder of Pandora Press, the first of the feminist imprints devoted solely to non-fiction, committed, according to the New York Times, to showing that "women were the mothers of the novel and that any other version of its origin is but a myth of male creation." Her book Man Made Language (1980), based on her PhD research, argues that in patriarchal societies men control language and it works in their favor, drawing parallels with how derogatory terms are used to maintain racism. She was a co-originator of the database WIKED (Women's International Knowledge Encyclopedia and Data) and associate editor of the Great Women Series (United Kingdom). Particularly concerned with intellectual property and the effects of new technologies, for nine years she was a director of Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) in Australia and for two years (2002–2004) she was the chair. Spender consistently dressed in purple clothes, a choice she initially made for its symbolic reference to the suffragettes.

Rosalynn Carter (11/19)
Asked by Katie Couric what was the most exciting moment in his life, winning the Nobel Peace Prize or being elected President, Jimmy Carter replied that it was when Rosalynn said she would marry him. The couple were married for 77 years, and the former president called her “my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished.” The eldest of four children born to a bus driver/farmer father and teacher/dressmaker mother, Rosalynn helped raise her younger brothers after her father died when she was 13. After helping Jimmy win the governorship of Georgia in 1970, she was appointed to the Governor's Commission to Improve Services for the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped, and mental health became a lifelong cause. As the first of all First Ladies to have her own office in the White House, she attended Cabinet meetings and major briefings, served as the President’s personal emissary to Latin American countries, and led a delegation to Thailand in 1979 to address the problems of Cambodian and Laotian refugees. She was honored by the National Organization for Women with an Award of Merit for her vigorous support for the Equal Rights Amendment, and joined other First Ladies at the Houston conference celebrating the International Women's Year in 1977. In 1982, she co-founded The Carter Center in Atlanta to promote peace and human rights worldwide. Her autobiography, First Lady From Plains, was published in 1984. She and her husband contributed to the expansion of the nonprofit housing organization Habitat for Humanity, and they received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999.