Category Archives: Other arts

My guest spot on The Thinkingest

When fellow writer Bill Lascher invited me to appear on his podcast, The Thinkingest, I took one look at the title and knew I’d found a home.  Our conversation, largely about overthinking food, just came out. What is my (over)thinking regarding the White House Kitchen Garden, who advocates for food access, and bringing lunch to the office? How about Bill’s take on the proliferation of bacon? Find out in the blog post and podcast. Also follow Bill’s progress on a book about Melville Jacoby, the first Time Magazine reporter to die in the line of duty.

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A great week for Freex

Videofreex in the garden at Maple Tree Farm

Videofreex stand in the garden at Maple Tree Farm, with the author’s father standing second from left. Special thanks to Jon Nealon for providing this photo.

The Jew and the Carrot recently published a piece I wrote about my father and food, “The Unlikely Beginnings of a Jewish Cook“. Overall, this has been a great week for the Videofreex. In addition to my piece, in the past seven days news and conversations have appeared in the Woodstock Times and Muff’s Modules and More. Not bad for a small group that made their last tape more than 30 years ago. Perhaps best of all, yesterday the upcoming documentary Here Come the Videofreex hit full funding.

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Fifteen grand for the Videofreex

Imagine what you could buy for $15,000 back in 1971. Would it cover a new car? Some high-end electronic equipment? Definitely the rent for the Lanesville, NY house where my father moved in that year with a group of video-making colleagues who called themselves The Videofreex.

Today, 15 grand is what filmmakers Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin need to raise to finish their documentary film Here Come the Videofreex and restore Freex tape. The history it will cover has fascinated me lately. I’m not the only one. Check out the Kickstarter page to learn more and support this far-reaching work.

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Discerning the Videofreex

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A woman with an automatic rifle was one of the images in a Videofreex screening held in Washington, D.C. in January 2011. Photo by Rhea.

The package came a couple of months ago. It contained a free copy of Nancy Cain’s Video Days: And what we saw though the viewfinder. The author had signed the title page, “To Rhea with love. (Videofreex: the next generation)”

I tucked into the book eager to learn more about my father’s life before I existed, hoping to understand more now that he’s gone. I found something unexpected.

Video Days chronicles Nancy’s adventures beginning in the era of 30-pound cameras that democratized the art. It continues until 1996, a few years short of the one-handed Flip Cam era. During the social revolution that straddled the late ’60s and early ’70s, the young Nancy runs off to join the New York video-making collective known as the Videofreex. There, she works alongside my dad, Chuck Kennedy. They all live in a rambling former boarding house in Lanesville, N.Y.

Somewhere in this Freex section, I hit a passage that struck me as familiar:

Chuck was born in the Bronx and spent a large part of his youth in a Catholic orphanage. At a certain point, he was given the choice between reform school or the Army, so he joined up. In the Army, Chuck learned electronics and saw the world. Continue reading

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Half-baked at the White House

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The conveyor belt and metal detector were temporary, but the guard stood immovable. “You can either take it back to your car, or leave it with us,” he said. “And if you leave it with us, you don’t get it back.” He pointed to the sign that noted no insulated cups were allowed—even empty ones. So I turned in my potential weapon. Then I gripped my pink ticket for the White House Garden Tour and resisted the desire to tell the guy that no one in their right mind would try to park here.

I joined the crowd. I imagine us all imagining sun glancing off pink, purple, and yellow blooms, the diva perfume of lilac and the tender sweetness of daffodils.

But as I followed the masses down the path, I started to suspect mugs weren’t the only items banned from the grounds. Clouds layered themselves between me and the sun as I passed by a Rose Garden without roses and expanses of closed green buds. No perfume or sea of color here; just a half-baked project in a vacuum of chilly air.

As if to accentuate the theme, off to one side stood an area that looked like a patio trying to become a half basketball court. The green-tinted ground was fringed by rusting park benches and perhaps a bag or two of cement and paint to mark fresh foul lines. Continue reading

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You’ve read the essay, now see the videos!

As some writing colleagues know, I wrote an essay about my father’s involvement with TV pirates. I’m helping to organize a screening of some of the video that he and his mates, the Videofreex, produced. The D.C. Arts Collective in Adams Morgan will host the event on January 19. Read the announcement and RSVP on Facebook (essay has yet to find a home, but rest assured that when it does, you can read about it here):

Step into the social, cultural, and political tumult of the 1960s and ‘70s through the videos of the pirate TV force called the Videofreex. This screening will include interviews with cultural icons, experiments in early special effects, and bits of a pirate TV show broadcast from tiny Lanesville, NY.

Videofreex Skip Blumberg and Rhea Kennedy, along with fellow traveler Eddie Becker, will share background in person.

Wednesday, January 19

7:00 p.m.

DC Arts Center
2438 18th Street NW
Washington, DC

Total video running time: about 40 minutes
Cost: $5

Contact: Skip Blumberg IMPIncNYC@verizon.net

RSVP on Facebook

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