Country Joe McDonald knows how yesteryears portend equally bad tomorrows. He who laid the "I-Feel-Like-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" on us has recorded close to three dozen albums since first fronting Country Joe and the Fish back in the '60s. McDonald has long been politically active, evidenced not just in his opposition to the Vietnam War, but to all wars and injustices, no matter how they're gussied-upped and shrink-wrapped. He's also worked the other side of the fence on issues addressing unjust treatment of returning war vets.
Back in 1971, McDonald set anti–World War I poems by English poet Robert W. Service to music. Since then, he's written and performed songs about feminism, saving the environment and the demise of hippiedom.
Forty years ago McDonald produced a solo record titled Thinking of Woody Guthrie. In keeping with how disasters tend to recycle themselves, Country Joe performs Guthrie's Dust Bowl–era classics on this eve of the newest Great Depression, singing songs about poor folks staring down hard times while hopin' for better tomorrows. McDonald performs his heartfelt "A Tribute to Woody Guthrie" on Friday, Jan. 9, at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre. 8pm. $20–$30, 142 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. 415.383.9600
While we're on the justice beat, the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights is looking for, well, commissioners. The CHR's stated goal "is to promote better human relations among all people in Sonoma County through education, advocacy, and by initiating action that fosters the recognition of and an appreciation for the diversity of our community." If that resonates with you, visit their website and drop them a line at www.sonomacountyhumanrightscommission.org.
Plants and animals have rights too, no? The Carolyn Parr Nature Center in Napa certainly thinks so. This nonprofit invites kids of every age to "learn about Napa County habitats and birds of prey through tours, dioramas, games, hands-no activities and books." Groups are asked to call to arrange their visit. Others are invited to drop in any weekend between 1pm and 4pm. Carolyn Parr Nature Center Museum, Westwood Hills Park, 3197 Browns Valley Road, Napa. 707.255.6465
And for those who prefer to kick off '09 with wit, words and wine, Rosso & Bianco (formerly Chateau Souverain) hosts a "several actor" performance of "Two Step," a short story by Maile Meloy, chosen from the latest issue of Frances Coppola's literary pub, Zeotrope: All-Story. The winter issue release party runs from 4pm to 6pm on Sunday, Jan. 10. Two new wines will be uncorked, no doubt enhancing the experience. But that's not all. The latest All-Story features both a classic reprint of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the design and photography of NYC rock legend Lou Reed. An ageless crowd of arty hipsters promises to be present, along with ink-stained wretches lured in by this upscale freebie. 300 Via Archimedes (Independence Lane exit) Geyserville. 707.857.1434