About Me

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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Instead of bailing out AIG with $85 billion....let's do the math

I received this wonderful email that got a surprising and rapid circulation.
Of course, the math is wrong. By three zero places. It's $425 for each citizen.
But notice that Bush and Paulson are now proposing a $700 billion bail out. Hmmm, the added zero...and the right principle, so it could work....?

Hi Pals,

I'm against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG.

Instead, I'm in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a We Deserve
It Dividend.

To make the math simple, lets assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S.
Citiz ens 18+.

Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and
child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up..

So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billon that equals $425,000.00.

My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a We De serve It

Of course, it would NOT be tax free. So let's assume a tax rate of 30%.

Every individual 18+ has to pay $127,500.00 in taxes.
That sends $25,500,000,000 right back to Uncle Sam.

But it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500.00 in their pocket.
A husband and wife has $595,000.00.

What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?

Pay off your mortgage - housing crisis solved.

R epay college loans - what a great boost to new grads Put away money for
college - it'll be there Save in a bank - create money to loan to Entrepreneurs.

Buy a new car - create jobs

Invest in the market - capital drives growth Pay for your parent's
medical insurance - health care improves - Enable Deadbeat Dads to
come clean - or else

Remember this is for every adult U S Citizen 18+ including the folks
who lost their jobs at Lehman Brothers and every other company that is
cutting back. And of course, for those serving in our Armed Forces.
If we're going to re-distribute wealth let's really do it...instead of
trickling out a puny $1000.00 ( "vote buy" ) economic incentive that
is being proposed by one of our candidates for President.

If we're going to do an $85 billion bailout, let's bail out every adult
U S Citizen 18+!

As for AIG - liquidate it.

Sell off its parts.

Let American General go back to being American General.

Sell off the real estate.

Let the private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up.

Here's my rationale. We deserve it and AIG doesn't.

Sure it's a crazy idea that can "never work."

But can you imagine the Coast-To-Coast Block Party!

How do you spell Economic Boom?

I trust my fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 Billion We
Deserve It Dividend more than I do the geniuses at AIG or in Washington

And remember, The Birk plan only really costs $59.5 Billion because
$25.5 Billion is returned instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam.

Ahhh...I feel so much better getting that off my chest.

Kindest personal regards,


T. J. Birkenmeier, A Creative Guy & Citizen of the Republic

PS: Feel free to pass this along to your pals as it's either good for a
Laugh or a tear or a very sobering thought on how to best use $85 Billion!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bringing up the subject of Politics - do it, and do it nicely


* Fight with humor. Daniel says. "If you can make them laugh, they'll be much more likely to listen to the next thing you have to say." Jon Stewart is a good example of someone who uses humor in an argument.

* Ask a rhetorical question. Asked gently, this can put them on the spot while giving them an invitation to join the conversation. "When you can put someone on the defensive like that", Daniel says, "that's how you can begin to seize control of the debate and get the upper hand."

* Keep it simple. "This is one area where I feel the Obama campaign has been pretty effective," Daniel says. "Their core message, at this point, is: 'John McCain is more of the same.' It's easy to latch onto; it's not a 10-point plan." A long winded, nuanced, complex argument is a guaranteed ticket to disaster, Daniel says. No one is certain What the McCain core message is -- successfully converted prisoner of war into "war hero"? Maverick?

* Don't become overly emotional. Daniel says if your goal is to try to be persuasive, set aside some of the emotion to move toward the argument. You also need to "release" it--don't stay upset or aroused, people will want to flee.

* Don't become conspiratorial. Avoid the common tendency to discuss conspiracies about the candidates. "There are so many good arguments to seize on, why go toward those kinds of crazy arguments that will discredit you?" Daniel asks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Remembering...how everything is familiar but little is left.

Journal of Forgetting. September 23, 2008

1. I never forget anything. At the least, I certainly don't remember forgetting anything. What I learned was so small, so skeletal, so spacial. A patch of steam already cooled. The wisp of smoke rising imperceptibly, caught in the lungs with a small cough.

2. I have no regrets. At the least, I have no regrets that I regret. I owe this redemption to the fact that there is so little I remember to regret.

3. The inhabitant within this body is not claiming it; it has not tilled the soil, or soiled its till; it has not homesteaded itself; it has lightly lived, as if free; not formidable, not a threat, and not very familiar. It was new every day, and in every day dream. Within the bounds of its dreams at night, it was a surprise.

4. Most people are a danger to themselves. They raise up a Golden Horde of ghosts against themselves. They fret over each passerby, not realizing, they ARE the passerby.

5. I have forgotten more than I ever knew. There was music – I heard it played, and then it was gone.

6. Why is everything “strangely familiar” and infinitely wonderful? A “foreign exchange student” is always a member of the family living in the house.

7. Why is there curiosity?

8. I vaguely remember everything. Deja vu is a bell which rings across the symphony of my life. As I hear it, I remember what it was and anticipate what it will be, now.

9. I remember, and I succumb. I forget and folly is victorious. I find myself constantly in a victory parade looking neither left nor right, leading to isolation.

10. Between fight and flight, between amygdala and cortex, between perpetual question and instantaneous answer, I remember not knowing.

11. There is a place to sit in every situation, especially when you are mentally on your feet. There is a dance, you can feel it, especially when at rest inside it. You can gather the zone of “interest” around you, breathing into the spell of presence, the attention of attention, appointing the inctus in the morphological space created by the rhythm of conversations and glances. The facial geography opening and closing curtains and continents of discovery and reassurance.

12. What other people think they are thinking is a gong. It waits to be struck. They wheel it out and you can either ignore it and hurt their feelings, make them feel unimportant or irrelevant. Or you can strike it hard and shatter or offend them. Or you can give it an appreciative bong of attention, and they will resonate gently, and lives will go on in this vibration, this “ing-ing” of the gong.

13. There is no such thing as “conversation”. Communication is an abstract and theoretical concept. The worm – the world’s great conqueror – is always stretching, ready to contract or extend, sometimes immediately in response to a stimulus, and sometimes simply as a result of being able to.

14. The key to understanding communication is to not get locked into the ideological trap of dyadism. Understand that the act of speaking and listening is almost never stimulus/response, A interacting with B. It is almost always a tribe encountering another tribe, everything interacting with everything, and nothing being nothing, and the passage of time drawn across the many strings of the bowed universe.

15. Suddenly someone is talking about something. Extraordinary.

16. All understanding has a hard shell and a soft underbelly.

17. Once you define your terms you have defeated any hope for communication. You have begun to spin a web. You are casting a concrete net and you will only catch the lies and flies whose interest is carrion. Misunderstandings will be laid and maggots born. The nibblers will have their way.

18. I remember I have work to do. I am here for some purpose. This is clear to me, and I have surrounded myself with obligations freely undertaken with an informed understanding of the foreseeable consequences. But this gets ugly. Now I am surrounded by the obligations of my purposed commitments, and they imprison me. I am no longer free. And the rut of commitments cut me off from the surrounding possibilities, of which I am no longer aware. I am walled off. My purpose has blinded me to what I can do.

19. I do not know what I am doing, how I can do it, or why I am doing it.

20. A Singularity is always the result of time working on a plurality.

21. I tell anyone who will listen that communication is impossible.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Christians? If only.


Christianity has been taken over by their tithe-masters. Jesus Christ would not recognize the monster parading as "christian religion" today. The teachings of Jesus Christ come down to us through "copies" and hearsay, but regardless of the provenance -- which is moot on this point -- the heuristic body of teachings are closer to Manichean Buddhism and the Dalai Lama, than to the "Trinitarian" polydeism taught today in Churches. Most Churches today are not "fundamentalist" at all.

The revenant Gospels of Jesus Christ repeat and repeat and repeat a message of love. The fresh and vital core of the Christian gospel is inclusion, empathy, unity, and grace. There is no suggestion that greed is good. No parable of salvic vengence. Above all, from swaddled babe in a manger to crucified savior, Jesus is completely silent on the subjects of Homosexuality and Abortion. Both were as widely practiced then as today.

In fact, in the descriptions of Jesus and his disciple John "the beloved", it is clear that Christ was a practicing homosexual. He never married and never had children. He never mentions tithing. He does not urge his followers to give money to rich evangelists; he repeatedly suggests giving money to poor people, NOT to rich people. Wealth is an express disqualification to the Kingdom of Heaven.


With St. Paul, we do not even have an issue with provenance. We have authentic letters written by a documented historical figure. In his letters, he does not pretend to have ever been attracted to people of the female persuasion, he repeatedly introduces his male traveling companion as "my beloved". He never married and never had children.

St. Paul preached a redemptive message of love and inclusion. He risked his life to take this message to people who were hostile -- walking and talking among them without weapons or threats.


In his Confessions, the Berber St. Augustine writes of "The Mysterious Force of Memory", and its tie to Guilt, which keeps us from Grace. Augustine speaks of PRIDE as the most sinful of all temptations. None worse.

Augustine wrote a lot, and we have his entire library -- it was preserved from barbarian depredations "as if by miracle" -- according to his surviving lover. Augustine develops the Creation story and the Trinity as forms of analogy; not "literal" but logical. Foremost in his analysis is the use of Reason--which he can only conclude is "God-given". He elevates the role of Mary in the salvation of human kind, recognizes the pastoral authority of women, and rejects millenarianism.

As important as Augustine is to Christian orthodoxy, curiously, he is of no help in explaining the current obsession with (1) homosexuality, and (2) abortion.

(1) HOMOSEXUALITY. Augustine was gay. When his mother pressured him to marry, the only honorable solution available to him was to become a monk. His active homosexuality (there is really no question he was plagued his entire life with carnal desires) was succored and forgiven behind the cloistered walls with the privity of his friends. The outside world was as hostile to homosexuality then (in Africa) as it is today.

(2) ABORTION. Augustine did not believe abortion was murder, or that human life begins with conception. The fetus was not "en-souled", and therefore was not human. He preached the salvic importance of baptism, and yet he did not advocate baptism for fetuses.


Today's professed Christians have been taken over by tyrants. These tyrants live on tithe-taking, that is, by filling the sheep with fears and then extorting them for money.

The present Church preaches almost NOTHING about the terrible terrible damning SIN, which is PRIDE. Worse, the Church actively preaches two divisive heretical errors about Life. The BIBLICAL TRUTH as construed by Jesus Christ, St. Paul, and St. Augustine is:

Homosexuality is sexuality, it is not sin;
Abortion is death, it is not murder.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Popular Music - the 1960's was the Golden Age

A Word about the Music of the 60's - to flag up some good memories....

Like all of us getting ready for ReUnions, we are looking at life from “both sides now” – thank you Joni Mitchell.

A “high school” ReUnion is going to be a chance to re-live (at least in memory) that period of time. A ReUnion of re-living people could HIT our self-image and consciousness-blazing saddles the hardest. Perhaps only second to Getting Married, a ReUnion is life-changing.

I am stewing over the Chronology of our Class:
What was happening when we came in?
What was “there” while we were there?
And what foam came down the moving wave of its afterwards?

1968 was in many ways a turning point for many things. Certainly the race riots, four political assassinations, the Apollo manned missions to the moon, Dutch Elm Disease, and the USSR invasion of Czechoslovakia, caused life as we loved it to change. http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1968.html

There were many things “happening”. And until the late 60's nobody ever said “have a nice day”, or “what’s happening?”. Food was fast (McDonalds), and Cars were faster (e.g. Corvette). Politics and photography was polarized and Polaroid. Summers were still endless and people had vacations, and could remember when “The Mom” did not have to work. But of all the things “happening”, you have to really appreciate the fact that music just EXPLODED.


Our generation put unprecedented emphasis on Music. Not to sing, or play, but to listen to. Within a generation, we went from people who knew hundreds of songs “by heart” (hootenanny, caroling, canziones), to paying money to listen to Rock Stars playing in Coliseums. Why was the music so important? In this way?

We were born into the realm of mothers sending us for piano lessons, and dreaming of the glamorous life lived by the “Rat-Pack” – a nice metaphoric description of the entertainers’ actual (not-so-glam) life at the time. You could hear the “stars” in small clubs – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and some wonderful female participants, including Shirley MacLaine, Lauren Bacall, Angie Dickinson, Marilyn Monroe, and Judy Garland. All of them could remember lines and tunes, write, sing, dance, talk, mime and mimic and act – and as part of a group with a mission bigger than their egos. We have not seen their likes since.

I remember coming into the musicality of the age with revenant “Hootenannies” and Sing-a-Longs. Folk music brought us together. We were led by talent, not by Tyrants. People like Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, Odetta, Marion Anderson, and Pete Seeger were our guides.

Pete Seeger
still lives, perhaps the greatest American of his generation – although Black-Listed from TV, in 1963 his amusing protest single, “Little Boxes” (written by Malvina Reynolds), was number one in the nation's Top 40's radio hits. His compositions remained the anthems of our age for a decade – Kumbaya, Turn Turn Turn, We Shall Overcome, If I had a Hammer, Long Time Passing. In the 1960s, Seeger toured college campuses extensively. He usually accompanied himself on a custom-made acoustic 12-string guitar, modifying an instrument of Mexican origin associated with black bayou blues balladeer, Lead Belly.

Other widely-beloved folk performers included three very independent women:

Joan Baez (daughter of Mexican/ Scot immigrants, 3-octave vocal range) "Blowin' in the Wind" - when she married David Harris in late 1967, it was reported as “the wedding of the century”. (Baez, performing while visibly pregnant - “Diamonds and Rust”, “The Night they drove Old Dixie Down”). Remember the way she sustained long notes--almost breathing into the tone, and sometimes lightly yodeling between registers. She never "oversung", never showed off her voice, but the emotion was "strong"--she had no mercy when singing about cruelty or war. We often wept.

Judy Collins (father was blind, she started as a child prodigy at classical piano, son suicide) “Send in the Clowns”, “Wildflowers” - stunning purity and sweetness of her soprano, accompanied by her acoustic guitar playing. Her 1968 album: Who Knows Where the Time Goes, with Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills &Nash). She was the major interpretive folksinger of the '60s.

Joni Mitchell (Canadian immigrant) - singer-songwriter folk-rock scene in Southern California, divorced and launched her solo career in 1967. One of the best female guitarists, famous for her open tuning and innovative harmonic technique – including polymodality, chromaticism, polytonality, and strict pedal points.

At the same time, Rock and Roll was sizzling. We actually saw Elvis Presley perform and become the King. But in Orange County we had a special variation of R&R, that sort of started in Southern California – the Surf Bands were everywhere. “Pipeline” was an irresistable, and frankly obnoxious, “wipe-Ooooouuuut !” Almost anytime, anyplace.

In the 60's, Rock & Roll matured into a full-bodied all-year everywhere throbbing river of infinite immersion. It was no longer bass blues arpeggios, with candy cane lyrics and swivelling hips. By the late sixties it was a wall of sound rolling out of stratocaster canons into the drug-haze of Woodstock. Let’s look at the details:

By the 60's we entered the first of many flowerings. Bob Dylan, started acoustic and ended electric. People would karaoke him before there was karaoke, memorize long poem-songs. In 1965 he rolled out “Like a Rolling Stone”.

The acoustic folk-rock musical traditions of successful bands like The Lovin' Spoonful were re-interpreted by new groups “going electric" and looking for a dirtier sound. For example, the Grateful Dead pulled terrain from everywhere–folk, jazz, country, gospel-- to make an incredibly eclectic synthesis featuring electric instrumentation for outbursts of passion, apocalyptic apotheosis, and dirt. The “Wall of Sound” was developed for the Dead (75-tons of amplification-- eighty-nine 300-watt solid-state and three 350-watt vacuum-tube amplifiers, generating a total of 26,400 watts RMS of audio power – the largest portable sound system ever built).

By the late 60's, historians like “Patrick the Lama” tell us we were at the Golden Age of psychedelic music. Bands were migrating down from San Francisco. http://members.tripod.com/lysergia_2/LamaReviews/lamaMain.htm

Electric music is the vernacular of the second half of the twentieth century, to use Pete Seeger’s old term. And this amplified language ran "psychedelic" for a few beautiful years in the late 60's. It was still rock, but the riffs included “far out” explorations of the mind, and the senses, and feelings no one had really interpreted before.

In 1968, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix played together. Separately, they led the way for later bands, combining guitar feedback powered by overdriven amplifiers with brilliantly original expansions of traditional blues (B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Elmore James) and rhythm and blues guitar skills ( Curtis Mayfield, Steve Cropper). Hendrix would mondegreen entire songs - deliberately misinterpreting and creating distortion in every part of the track – e.g. “Purple Sky” [kiss the sky, kiss this guy]. Hendrix's rendition of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" is a complete departure from the original, and includes one of the most highly praised guitar arrangements in modern music.

In 1968, the Doors album, Waiting for the Sun " Hello I Love You " was so simple and complex that it created a kind of religion of its own. The Doors, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane became moving cathedrals of Rock & Roll, spewing a catholic catharsis.

The Cream (Eric Clapton), and Pink Floyd (with original founder Syd Barrett), embraced psychedelic music fully, becoming two of the first truly specialized psychedelic bands. Sometimes a band would switch from one “sound” to another. The Beatles did this with each album. Country Joe and the Fish suddenly dropped their tempo and came out with really psychedelic masterpieces, like "Bass Strings".

I remember Country Joe in 1966 performed an upbeat but shocking protest song in a raw jug band style. Just one year later, the piece changed dramatically – put into lower tempo, delayed vocals, added reverb, studio reversed cymbals, electric organ, traveler lyrics, and a continuous blues guitar solo which together turned the piece into a mind-blowin’-in-the-wind "psychedelic" track.

Curiously, almost all the popular bands were almost all male. The perfect pitch drummer, Karen Carpenter, was sort of the exception that proves this tune. At the same time, so many solo female vocalists of our generation were exceptionally strong.

1. Aretha Franklin - 1967 single, "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)", a blues ballad in gospel style. "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" in classic R&B. Her feminist version of Otis Redding’s "Respect" brought her superstardom. Then the album, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, reached million-seller status, followed by top ten singles hits including "Baby I Love You", "Chain of Fools" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman".

2. Tina Turner - “What's Love Got To Do With It?” R&B/Rock/Pop-fused “Private Dancer”

3. Janis Joplin (d. 1970) - April 10, 1968, invaded Anaheim Convention Center, with a relatively obscure group called "Big Brother and the Holding Company."

4. Bonnie Raitt - her eponymous debut album came out in 1971, singer and bottleneck guitarist at a time when there were very few. Her second album, Give It Up, was released in 1972 to universal acclaim. "Nick of Time" , "Something to Talk About", "I Can't Make You Love Me".

5. Joni Mitchell - "Both Sides Now", "Clouds", and "The Circle Game."

6. Billie Holiday (d. 1959) - “Bless the child” - her melisma may still be heard in R&B singer Mariah Carey, or any “American Idol” today.

7. Linda Ronstadt - “You’re no good” and 3 multi-platinum albums: “What's New”, “Canciones de Mi Padre” and “Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind”.

8. Diana Ross/ The Supremes/ The Temptations - "Where Did Our Love Go" · "Baby Love" · "Stop! In the Name of Love" · "I Hear a Symphony" · "You Can't Hurry Love" · "You Keep Me Hangin' On" · "Love Is Here and Now You're Gone" · "The Happening" · "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me".

Powerful women kept the heart and intimacy in popular music.

In 1965-1967, The Beatles were recording psychedelic rock with tunes like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" , and the Summer of Love anthem “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band”. They proceeded to lead the entire popular genre, each album anticipated for “familiar novelty” – so aligned with our lives that each cut seemed tailored to our counter-cultural creation myth. " Hey Jude ", “Norwegian Wood”.

Simon & Garfunkle
- The 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, refined their folk rock-ballad sound in 1967, "The Sounds of Silence," "Mrs. Robinson," "Bridge over Troubled Water," and "Homeward Bound". The Bridge over Troubled Water album was released in January 1970, with Garfunkel's soaring vocals on its title track . The album includes other top-twenty hits: "El Cóndor Pasa", "Cecilia", and “The Boxer”.

Other R&R voices kept us dancing – Jackson Browne, Tom Paxton, Ani DiFranco, Billy Bragg, Eliza Carthy, Bruce Springsteen, Roger McGuinn, Indigo Girls, Dick Gaughan, Martin Simpson, Odetta. Blood Sweat & Tears re-introduced an entire brass section.

1964-1967 - “The British Invasion” - Arrival of The Hollies [still playing!], Dusty Springfield (with her late 1963 hit single "I Only Want To Be With You"), The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Animals [whose signature song is arguably the best version–beginning with A-minor chord arpeggio – of “House of the Rising Sun”, which is arguably the first US blues-rock tune], Cilla Black, The Dave Clark Five, Petula Clark, Donovan, The Who, etc.

Note also the films in 1964 “A Hard Day’s Night”, and the Sean Connery “James Bond”, and Julie Andrews “Mary Poppins” films.

Not to be confused with the “Second British Invasion” in the 1970's – David Bowie’s ballad – "Space Oddity" – the story of Major Tom, who becomes lost in space, and the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Police, Dire Straits, etc. The Rolling Stones big US tour was 1972. Bob Marley - mid 70s. By 1983, well over 50% of the Billboard Hot 100 in America were by overseas artists.

1964-1971 - Big Sur Folk Festival. When I was there, everybody had a bedroll, and some kind of instrument – a guitar, or a conga. (I was the only “folk trumpeter”). Beautiful batiks spread out under the trees of the Esalen Institute. Everyone danced like children, and many of us were.

In 1969, Karen Carpenter, a drummer with perfect pitch, signed with A&M Records, with her piano prodigy brother Richard, as "The Carpenters". She sang most of the songs on their first album, Ticket to Ride. Their next album, 1970's Close to You, contained "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and "We've Only Just Begun" which was broadly construed. They peaked at #1 and #2, respectively (the latter was written by Paul Williams).

1967 - “The Summer of Love”
- 130,000 young people migrated to San Francisco. “Hippies” also gathered in cities across the world at the same time – millions came out dressed in the “uniform” of bell-bottom jeans and long hair. A defining moment, whose failure was not then apparent, in an attempt to redefine cultural reality and the underlying unity of all humanity .

1969 - Woodstock - three days on a Bethel dairy farm in upstate New York, the biggest party in history on 600 acres with 500,000 mostly young people left remarkably to their own devices and virtually no disturbances in spite of rainy and uncomfortable conditions.

Many of the "descriptions" and books published laterly miss the point that a lot of effort was put into this -- the message of it as well as its execution.
The effort was to change the things that the young people thought needed changing. All unjust things were addressed by this generation. But the beauty of Woodstock was that these "changings" were not directed or even expressed: The event itself was a political statement, deliberately skipping the attempt to control or tell people things unnecessarily. This is a generation that showed what can be done when cultural social justice free-speech and emergent moon-landing stratocaster technology mix.

The Life-changing line-up included:

Folksingers (Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie [talking blues], Hardin, Sommer, John Sebastian);

International multi-genre (Incredible String Band, Sly and the Family Stone, Canned Heat, Crosby, Stills & Nash &Young, Santana, Joe Cocker, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sweetwater, Keef Hartley Band, Blood, Sweat and Tears);

Indian ragas and talas (Ravi Shankar);

Gospel doo-wop (Richie Havens),

Blues (Johnny Winter, Paul Butterfield Blues Band);

Happening head bands (Quill - which has since disappeared in obscurity);

Psychedelic jam bands (Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe and the Fish ); and

Classic Rock and Roll [now considered "retro rock"](Sha-Na-Na).

The late 60's also saw the rise of intense new performers like Stevie Wonder - who now holds the record for a solo artist, 26 Grammies. Mid-60's – "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", "With a Child's Heart", and "Blowin' in the Wind", a Bob Dylan cover, "A Place in the Sun", "I Was Made to Love Her", “For Once in My Life", and our 1968 anthem, "Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day". But he had not yet even gotten into his “classic” production period.


And then, somehow, we lost it. The Golden Age. Self-inflicted wounds, and then angry “performers” and mega-wealthy labels taking over the manufacture of “popular”. Music became industry, driven by greed and the mysterious attraction of manufactured "stars" to the herd of convention. The lip-synching ship was launched and “stars” would fill huge venues up with egos, illusion, and literally, “noise”. Nobody knows the words. And the words are no longer poetry. Consciousness-raising is not a thing to do.

Concerts are no longer about talent. Huge venues are sold-out to suckers and weak-minded dead-heads with too much time and money. The ticket prices alone tell you it is about greed. The Industry executives boast about their victims, their conquests, the market share they seized. Performers orchestrate victims -- mosh pits, denigration rap, grunge, the rape and fire nightmare of Woodstock ‘99, all-night boners “hittin’ it, and workin’ it, and doin’ other stuff to it". Digitization re-tooled the acoustic vulcanized rubber voice-overs with a “texture” of trance banging hypno-minimalia jumble-bum metal acid gear. Bobble heads famous for being famous. The musicians are somewhere in glassed-off rooms taping for shows they will never see, performed by "front" groups assembled by the Labels. Hard to believe this is a description of the Music World.

And yet, Pete Seeger still lives! And in the last decade, the industry has been collapsing to the raw origins of the Internet. The collapse is temporary. It is just a matter of a little time for the greedy predators to take over the Internet.

Popular Music: The Fender Guitar and the Air Guitar

The Fender Stratocaster has 21 frets crossed by six strings. It delivers 126 individual notes and tens of thousands of chord combinations. And it was the preeminent instrument, the great axe, which hued inside almost all of the Golden Age of 1960's music.

By the simple fact that the inventor had his work-shop in Fullerton, Orange County is where this instrument first appeared. The invention was more than mere amplification of the acoustic guitar. The following paragraphs may help explain the significance of Fender Guitar:

The two great Guitars: Acoustic, and Electric.

1. ACOUSTIC. "Classical Gas" is an instrumental piece written by Mason Williams. In 1968 he played the track on an acoustic guitar accompanied by an orchestra. It reached Number 2 on the American charts and went on to sell over a million copies. Williams asked an experimental filmmaker named Dan McLaughlin to create a video montage of classical art works edited in time to the music, using a visual effect now known as kinestasis. The pioneering work, "3000 Years of Art", premiered in the summer of 1968, widely broadcast on film and Television.

I mention this to emphasize that there was no market NEED for a “better” guitar. Many fine musicians were playing, and continued to play, acoustic instruments -- Denver, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, etc. The classic Spanish guitar, produced inexpensively in Mexico, was accessible, was performing very well in the hands of popular musicians, and is a fully-developed expressive instrument. It could shape the Melody, punch the Rhythm, and fill the Harmony -- an all-in-one instrument you could play while still singing the words or playing harmonica simultaneously! Bob Dylan was one of the first “folk” singers who moved from acoustic to electric, but many other brilliant musicians did not.

2. ELECTRIC. Enter, the Fender - the earlier “Telecaster” and then the more contemporary “Stratocaster” models. In the 1940s, Leo Fender, the owner operator of an electronics repair shop in Fullerton, California, developed a solid-body electric guitar. The solid body improved the amplified tone, basically by eliminating the “feedback” from the hollow-body of an acoustic instrument. The sound is bright and cutting. And of course, louder!

Leo Fender also introduced precision mass production techniques to the manufacture of his simple modular design. By eliminating the expense of individual luthiery, he dramatically reduced the cost. Even the components were produced inexpensively in quantity on an assembly line. The bodies were band-sawed and routed from unitized blocks of wood or other materials. In addition, Fender did not use the traditional glued-in neck. He bolted it on, making it removable and replaceable.

The Telecaster neck was cut from a single piece of maple and the fingerboard frets were set directly into the wood surface. On traditional acoustic guitars, a rosewood or ebony fingerboard would be glued onto mahogany necks. Fenders typically have 22 frets (the baritones have 24-fret necks). The characteristic Telecaster 'twang' can be produced by picking near the saddles, and players can mute strings at the bridge with the side of the palm.

Now add the electronics – humbucking pickups powered by active circuitry featuring a TBX expander and an MDX midrange booster with 12dB of gain. Other lineaments included a Freeflyte hardtail bridge and die-cast tuning machines with pearloid buttons. Eventually, the Fenders also featured a BiFlex truss-rod system, low-friction EasyGlider string trees and pro-active electronics. You could coordinate with foot pedals, wah-wah effects, and even simultaneous play-back harmonics.

Finally, and you’ll love this: The Fender body contours are curved for comfort - especially appreciated across the thighs in long rehearsals and marathon bungie-chord concerts. The design LOOKS sexy. You never see thousands of people wiggling around playing acoustic “air guitars”! It took the Fender to lift arms and bodies into the working space of integrated human senses so that virtual players could EXPRESS themselves with music they cannot actually play!

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Surge, The Army, & the Sons of Iraq

"The influx of 21,500 surge troops, combined with the cooperation of 90,000 Sons of Iraq, reduced the violence [sectarian war]significantly. But the tactics that have been employed have contributed little toward building a stable, unified Iraqi nation, according to Simon [author of "The Price of the Surge", published in Foreign Affairs May 2008]. Instead, the surge has inadvertently strengthened the three modern horsemen of Middle Eastern apocalypse: tribalism, warlordism, and sectarianism." Wilson Quarterly, "Unmasking the Surge" (Summer 2008].

The fourth horse, is galloping corruption. The bent refusal to accept facts and the thinking that every dollar is an open invitation to deception, distorts the media, the text of the Quoran, and the effort to implement any solution short of genocide. Killing everyone is now possible, and it is "final", but it has NEVER been a "solution", and is not now.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dance - a collection of quotes and dancers

The quite surprising prefatory Quote: "We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. We should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh." -- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Carlos Aceituno (d. 2006) - Guatamalan/American founder of Fogo Na Roupa Grupo Carnaval, master and teacher of capoeira, the Brazilian blend of percussion, dance and martial arts, often called "physical chess".

Fred Astaire - an American film and Broadway dancer, choreographer, singer and actor.

George Balanchine - a choreographer credited for bridging classical and modern ballet. Put together numerous ballet companies, including Ballet Society, which became the New York City Ballet, with dancer R P Beard as a founding member.

Mikhail Baryshnikov - Russian ballet dancer.

Richard Park Beard (1925-2009) - trained by Balachine, Vladiminoff, Anatole Oboukoff, and Muriel Stewart. After joining Cuevas' Ballet International, worked with Bronislava Nijinska, Leonide Massine, Vera Fokina, and Boris Romanoff in ballet, often paired with Tatiana Riabouchinska. When the Company appeared in the Park Theater (in Manhattan), he was taken into the The Ballet Theater by the English choreographer, Antony Tudor, often partnering with Alicia Markova. Became a founding member with Balanchine's New York City Ballet, dancing with ballerinas Marie-Jeanne, Tanaquil Le Clercq, Yvonne Mounsey and Elise Reiman. Did choreography for Television and musicals (with stars Dinah Shore, Danny Kaye and Julie Andrews, as well as Cher, Mitzi Gaynor, Shirley Maclaine, and Doris Day).

"Burn the Floor" - contemporary Broadway production from the Gilkison Studio in Perth. Q.v.

Jean Butler -(born March 14, 1971 in Mineola, Long Island), American Irish dancer and choreographer. Began performing Irish dance at the age of four, trained by the widely respected teacher Donny Golden. Famous for mastery of a cheery step dance. QV. "Riverdance".

Jack Cole - American choreographer/coach and respected dance scholar with a large library. Died 1974 age 62. Product of fatherless home, born in New Jersey, schooled in modern dance ensemble run by Ted Shawn and Ruth St Denis Denishawn. Went on his own to study India's bharata natyam.

Revelations about the influence of Cole in the iconic images of his clients continue to surface. Genre-busting, fusion jazz-based supper club beatnik forms with signature floor work and slides. Moved from New York to Hollywood where he ran a resident dance group, and coached "bombshells": Rita Hayworth ("Mame" 1946), Betty Grable ("Meet Me After the Show" 1951), Mitzi Gaynor ("I Don't Care Girl" 1953), and Bacall, Russell, Ann Miller, Lana Turner, and Dolores Gray. He worked extensively with Marilyn Monroe who was a keen student -- six movies (including 1963 "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes".) Her vocal coach Hal Schaefer recalls them working together:

"He [Cole] wanted her to make a move, and she put her arm out. It just kind of drifted. Jack said, 'No, wait. Sharp, I want it sharp!'/ 'But Jack, I'm supposed to be a sex queen,' she said./ And he answered, 'That's not sexy. That's like a limp fish. Put that arm out there, strong! That's sexy! That's life, that's alive, that's energy!" This ancecdote speaks volumes.

Dick Crum - American, prominent folk dance teacher. (Not to be confused with infamous cartoonist.)

Merce Cunningham - (American) - 2010 died in his sleep age 90. Dancer/choreographer, soloist in Martha Graham's company, then his own, with life partner John Cage (music composer). Established "modernism" -- its abstraction, decentralization, I-Ching quality of chance in dance. Cage said they were aiming at "the imitation of nature in the manner of her operation": a bird flies, a rabbit runs, their directions, different. Joan Acocella described his work: "You seemed to be seeing dance for the first time." [Critic, New Yorker 2009]

David Dassa (Israeli/US) - teacher of the ebullient and genial life-loving forms of community dances, including traditional and modern choreography. Israel remains one of the few places on earth with freshly commissioned folk dance masters.

Doris Day - singer and dancer.

Edward Denby - New York dance critic. Good reviews during Dick Beard's dominance in Balanchine's NYCB Company.

Isadora Duncan - Born 1877, San Francisco, school drop out, musician, teacher, now aka the Mother of Modern Dance. Devoted educator, started three schools across Europe (the "Isadorables"). Flouted tradition, became a red (Soviet citizen) with hostility to the "commercialism" of the arts, and declined into drunken-ness as she aged. As she stepped into a wasp-tailed Amilcar designed by a handsome mechanic she had nick-named "Bugatti", she declared "Je vais à l'amour" ("I am off to love".) She hoped to bed the mechanic. Unfortunately, her scarf caught in the rear wheel of the open car, and she was strangled. She had previously lost her two children to automobile accidents. Composer Percy Grainger called Isadora's autobiography a "life-enriching masterpiece". I think she was a delicious poet as well. Writing to one of her lovers, the poet Mercedes de Acosta (in 1927):
A slender body, hands soft and white,
for the service of my delight,
two sprouting breasts round and sweet,
invite my hungry mouth to eat,
from whence two nipples firm and pink,
persuade my thirsty soul to drink,
and lower still a secret place
where I'd fain hide my loving face....
Gosh. Questions anyone?

Agnes De Mille - Great Broadway and ballet choreographer. "To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth, and it is yours for the taking."

Jean Erdman - Born in Hawaii 1916, dancer/choreographer, taught at Sarah Lawrence with her husband, Joseph Campbell.  Martha Graham influences.

Vladimir Estrin - "If ballroom tango can be compared to a 'seasoned relationship' that has withstood the test of time--sharp, clean, and precise--then Argentine tango is a 'sizzling love affair', passionate, unpredictable and insatiable." Instructor at 3rd Street Dance, Los Angeles.

Michael Flately - (Born 1958, Chicago) Irish-American dance prodigy, boxer, promoter, and flautist. Began dancing lessons at 11. Flatley was taught by Dennis Dennehy in Chicago, then went on to producing his own shows with his own school, on Chicago's Southwest Side. Began world tours with Green Fields of America, whose members included Liz Carroll, Father Charlie Coen, Jack Coen, Sean McGlynn, Mick Moloney and Bill Ochs, with a slightly less flamboyant Donny Golden dancing alongside Michael. Later he toured with The Chieftains in the 1980s. Co-designed / choreographed the "Riverdance" (qv) phenomenon with Jean Butler (qv). Quote: "I will be a dancer until the day I die."

Loie Fuller - Born in Chicago, 1891 - actress and burlesque skirt dancer, embodied theatrical Art Nouveau movement. Experimented with gas lighting effects on her silk costumes. Fuller developed a form of natural movement and improvisation techniques that were used in conjunction with her revolutionary lighting equipment and translucent silk costumes. She patented her apparatus and methods of stage lighting that included the use of colored gels and burning chemicals for glow and shadow effects. Toured with Duncan and St. Denis in "free dance" expression. Died of breast cancer, age 65, in Paris.

Mata Hari (Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod) - Dutch Parisienne, built up her own stage-spa-fashion house. Introduced oriental influences and a "natural" shape -- undistorted by corsets, bustles, etc. -- but revealed with diaphanous shadows and veils. Wrongfully accused by disappointed suitor of being a German spy, executed by a French firing squad, October 15, 1917. In the year 2017, the French army will release its court-documents about Mata Hari's trial and execution, to the Frisian Museum which has already investigated the charges and the life of this influential woman. There is evidence of injustice, but no evidence of spying.

Garity sisters, Caroline and Kimberly - "The beats and rhythms become stuck in your head, almost in your heart, when you are dancing". [CG] Performers with Kelly School of Traditional Irish Dance, often playing with live pipe and drum.

Mitzi Gaynor - American Motion Picture Actress and Dancer

Jason Gilkison - Australian director dancer choreographer, maternal grandmother having founded the famous family Dance studio in 1931 in Perth, known for raw, personal "edge" and grit. International ballroom champion. Now playing the Longacre theatre in New York, with "Burn the Floor", which aims to reinvent ballroom dancing on Broadway. When associate producer Peta Roby was asked what is the dance, she replied: "It's a cha-cha. It's traditionally an afternoon dance, not like the rumba or tango, which are more sensual evening dances. It's the kind that a young man could dance with his mother or auntie." (!)

Ailes Gilmour - Early Martha Graham dancer, socialist activitst, and sister of Isamu Noguchi

Alexander Godunov - Russian dancer who defected to the West

Jeffrey Golladay - American ballet dancer

Ginger and Fred -- Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire

Betty Grable - American Motion Picture Actress and Dancer

Martha Graham - American dancer and choreographer

Yury Grigorovich - Russian dancer and choreographer

Audrey Hepburn - ballerina, stage dancer and movie star

Catherine Hepburn - stage dancer and movie star

Tame Iti - Maori dancer, male lead in 2011 Ponifasio (qv) production, "Tempest".

Joel Jacinto - (Philippine American) founder/teacher of Kayamanan Ng Lahi studio. "Our dancing is a means of cultural empowerment."

Michael Jackson (1958-2009) - singer, song-writer, choreographer and dancer. A prodigy at four, beginning with the Jackson Five, leading to multiple world tours and 40 years of intense performance, crossing generational, artistic, cultural and racial lines. Many technical innovations in hip-hop, pop, and R&B -- "moon walk", costume, and unique speed and hand gestures. "Thriller", "Off the Wall", "Bad", "Dangerous", "HIStory", "Beat it" and "Invincible" are all part of the transformation of multiple cross-over art forms around the core of dance. Died after the last rehearsal of a pre-sold 50-show "This is It" Tour.

Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival - In Massachussetts US, one of the world's legendary arts organizations, home to America's longest running dance festival, a US National Historic Landmark. Annually, visitors, dancers, choreographers, composers, teachers, experts, and novices converge to explore the art of dance, and themselves. In 2010, more than 50 dance companies performed on three Festival stages. Many photo and program exhibits, galleries, and more. 

Ted Shawn and Ruth St Denis bought 163 Acres in 1931 for the Arts.

Rocio Jiménez - (Mexico/American) dance leader of Jaliscience (1990), and De Colores Mexican Folk Dance Company. Cf qv. Sandoval.

Danny Kaye - forced to leave Russia, a great quintuple threat artist - singing, dancing, choreography, magic and puppetry acts, lyrics and acting.

Gene Kelly - American film and stage dancer, choreographer, singer, actor and film director

Theodore Kosloff - acting as if they personally invented the full-figured fouetté, in 1909 Ballets Russes debuted in France and redefined dance, with such superstars as Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova. Only one of these stars made his way to Los Angeles to achieve fame, and this was Fedor Michailovich Koslov, known as "Theodore" in California. He was also a character actor, fencing master, painter, pantomimist and violinist. (In Russia, dance masters accompanied on fiddle.) He abandoned the hierarchic world of Russian ballet to pioneer in LA. He franchised schools, performed in vaudeville and was a key producer in the Hollywood Bowl. He was the first coach for Agnes DeMille (qv) with whom he had an enduring association, and was able to teach the traditions of movement while introducing (and pilfering) new ideas. Married ballet dancers, three, sequentially, each bearing the brunt of his vodka tempers. The last, Natascha Rambova, left him for Rudolph Valentino after Theodore shot her in the leg. Died in 1956 age 74 with no heirs to his dream dascha deep in the San Fernando Valley. In 1957, his attorney sold the house filled with objets d'art for $175,000.

Rudolf Laban - choreographer, inventor of Labanotation

Louise Lecavalier - Icon of Canadian contemporary dance

Judson Lipply - Dancer "Evolution of Dance" in six minutes, viral video: .

Jung Im Lee - Korean American, teaches in one of the largest Korean dance academies, often combining traditional Korean dance, with hip-hop, ballet, and jazz.

Tracy Li - Chinese ballet dancer who is a senior principail in the Cape Town City Ballet, South Africa

Maude Lloyd - South African ballerina and dance critic

Lydia Lopokova - Russian ballet dancer

Shirley Maclaine - triple threat singing, dancing and acting. Also authored a number of books exploring "consciousness", spirituality, and self-awareness.

Sabrina Matthews - Canadian ballet choreographer and former ballet dancer

Donald McKayle - born in New York, a dancer in Martha Graham and in the original West Side Story, American choreographer. Founder of troupes, Contemporary Dance Group ("Games" 1951), Angelitos Negros. Director, California Institute of the Arts. "Donnie" to his UCI dancers.

Sulamith Messerer - founder of Japanese ballet

Barbara Mettler - founder of Tucson Creative Dance Center, theorist of language of movement and kinesthetic sense, dance as primary art. "Art is not an escape from daily life but a dimension of experience without which human life is incomplete."
[I took some of her classes, did some editing, and helped with the grounds/garden.]

Ann Miller - Great American Tap Dancer, Singer & Actress

Lin Hwai Min, the choreographer and artistic director of the Cloud Gate Dance company from Taiwan

Arthur Mitchell - American artistic director, educator, choreographer and dancer

Arthur Murray - a famous dance instructor and businessman, known for Arthur Murray Dance Studios franchise.

Music Visualization - this modern dance concept calls for movement equivalents to the timbres, dynamics and acoustic shaping in music, including the rhythmic bones. In 1916 Ted Shawn choreographed the first, as "Inventions and Fugues to Bach" as a heuristic exercise.

Natonal Museum of Dance - Saratoga Springs, New York, perhaps the only museum dedicated to professional dance. Associated with Jacob's Pillow (qv).

Vaslav Nijinsky - Russian ballet dancer and choreographer

Ivan Novikoff, Ballet master, founder of Novikoff School of Russian-American Ballet

Rudolf Nureyev - Russian ballet dancer

Leon Neshanian - Armenian ballet dancer; performed for Queen of England (1958); at Opera La Scala (1961); live on KCET - 10/67

Friedrich Nietzsche - (German author, faced with the struggle of the Gods to replace themselves): "I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance." After seeing Lou Salome dance and falling in love with her.

Anna Pavlova - legendary Russian prima ballerina, who brought ballet to the world

Shida Pegahi - traditional Persian dance, now outlawed in Iran under the heretical "fundamentalist" construction of the Quoran. Teaches an emphasis on The Dancing Face -- expressions -- integrated with the choreography and hip/leg/upper body movements.

Plato - (or Socrates, his mentor) In The Laws, Plato writes that dance should be taught to both boys and girls as an integral part of their education. Interestingly, he taught that the children should not only be instructed in the noble and aspirational forms, but also the comic and ridiculous; to show contrast.

Lemi Ponifasio - Samoan choreographer, founder of MAU, collaborator with Helen Todd (lighting). Produced "Paradise", "Requiem", "Bone Flute", and 2011 "Tempest: Without a Body" - he calls it a meditation on life after 9/11.  Features Maori chants, magical creatures, and "ordinary warriors":  He says "We are living in dangerous times. I don't propose solutions, but if we ever stop talking about the terrible things occurring, we are finished."  And "We are so paralyzed and frightened by the political disasters in the world that we are impotent and simply watch. I don't want our lives to be defined by the repetition of the horrors in our history. We have to do something about them. And we can."  He says, "I create to open people's eyes."  The Tempest is Inspired by Paul Klee's painting "Angel of History" (anguished angel unable to prevent evils' repetition), the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, and Shakespeare -- The Tempest' themes of institutional injustice.  Punctuated slow oceanic mythology.  Works with MAU, and the dancer Tame Iti (qv). 

Pearl Primus -

"Riverdance" - world tour of traditional Irish clog and step-dancing, notable for rapid line-syncronized leg movements under stationary arms and erect body. First performed in 1994, with Jean Butler and Michael Flately (to Celtic choral score written by Bill Whelan).

Wade Robson - contemporary Australian/US dancer choreographer, becoming a star at age 5, teacher at 12, choreographer at age 14. At 16 he was invited by Britney Spears to choreograph, write, direct, remix and co-design the world tour, "A Dream withina Dream", and with NSYNC, the PopOdyssey World Tour. EMMY in 1007 for "So You Think You Can Dance" entry, "Ramalama". Working with Cirque du Soleil. Signature dances are story-telling cross-overs.

Ginger Rogers - American film and stage dancer, singer and actress, most remembered as partner of Fred Astaire.

Gema Sandoval - (Mexican/American) Teacher/director of Danza Floricanto in Los Angeles. The passionate and coquettish Mexican folk dance.

Jerry Savin / Asteria Greek Dance - Teaches dance as a celebration of life's peaks and valleys, love and tragedy, the Greek troupe forms intricate lines that re-create Aegean village life.

Ted Shawn - Born Kansas City 1841, died age 80 in 1972, co-founder of Jacob's Ladder (qv), early notable male performer/choreographer of natural style free form modern dance. Partnered with St Denis (qv) to develop the principle of Music Visualization (qv), and Norma Gould, with whom he toured as "Interpretive Dancers". Taught M.Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman. QUOTE: "Dance communicates man's deepest, highest and most truly spiritual thoughts and emotions far better than words, spoken or written".

Dinah Shore - triple threat singing, dancing and acting.

Ruth St. Denis - born 1879. A famous pupil was Martha Graham (qv). Co-founded the school, Denishawn, with her husband Ted Shawn. They helped created the festival, Jacob's Pillow. Showcased modern dance solos in the program, "The Art of the Solo". Influenced by the actor Sarah Bernhardt and Japanese dancer Sada Yacco, developed her translations of Indian culture and mythology. Brought first full-length (8 hour) Balinese Shadow Puppet play to US. She became popular and toured extensively whilst researching Oriental culture and arts, often coupling spirituality.

Muriel Stewart - trained Pavlova.

Twyla Tharp - American dancer and choreographer

Agrippina Vaganova, founder of Vaganova method

Gwen Verdon - Broadway dancer and actress

Ben Vereen - Tony Award winning,Emmy Award nominated actor,dancer & singer

Dame Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet of London

Lula Washington - (Los Angeles / African) dancer, studio instructor - ballet, hip-hop, Senegalese, Caribbean. In 2004, she said "Dance is life. You came into this world moving. Dance can change your whole life."

"Indian" beads and cholita skirts - Trade

The "concept" of culture is rooted in misconception. There is almost nothing authentic in the word "traditional culture". For example, the "clovis point" can be seen gradually spreading across the planet, the augured shell necklace appearing in gravesites far from the sea, the seed-beads decorating the classic American Indian decorated buckskin imported from Hungary, the Aymara cholitas wearing felt hats from Italy and skirts from Korea. The tribal Arab claiming adherence to "traditions" while firing a rifle into the air at a wedding celebration. The physical "culture" of a people is often the very first manifestation of borrowing, change, inter-action and novelty.

Any claim for "tradition" should be measured solidly against the evidence left for us by our ancestors. The Caves -- Chauvet and Lescaux, etc. -- the kitchen middens, the hearthlands and burial sites. 15,000 to 30,000 years ago we suffered no kings or priests, although our hunting skills and pictorial arts were as well-developed as they are today. We find no evidence that our communities had Kingship or God. Thus, any "tradition" claimed for royalty or religion should be suspect.

Bush Legacy - it's time to Account

The key to responsibility is accountability: Tell us what you did. Any Public Authority which refuses to disclose the actions it took in the name of the public, should be prosecuted; the act of withholding evidence or failing to disclose is a breach of the Public Office.

Will the Bush-Cheney-Rove cadre give a full account?

According to the economic reports coming in from the "Executive Departments" of the US government, ALL of which are headed by Bush Appointees, here is a partial report:

DEBT. From the record-breaking income and retention surpluses at the end of the Clinton Administration, we now have an unprecedented National Debt; it is so large, the Government economists have not been able to project it even within 100 billion dollars. Once the actual expenditures and contracts are included, the debt will be in the Trillions.

JOBS. At the end of the Clinton era, over 22 million jobs had been created. At the end of this Bush era, we find fewer than 5 million.

INCOMES. At the end of the Clinton era, family incomes increased by more than $7,500. At this point, the family incomes of families with an employed spouse (not including the newly-de-jobbed) have declined by more than $2500.

POVERTY. At the end of the Clinton era, almost 8 million Americans moved out of subsistence poverty. Today, more than 5.6 million Americans have moved INTO poverty. In an apparent effort to disguise this wholesale drop, the "poverty" standard was lowered and re-defined by the ideological appointees.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS. At the end of the Clinton era, Americans were personally admired and America was revered as an example. At the end of the Bush era, we find Americans are derided, and the Nation is not even feared as a world power.

I have taken the statistics cited above from this administration's numbers. The "account" remains incomplete, and unreliable, but is already DAMNING. Fellow citizens and Believers, this picture will only get worse as more numbers and more efforts to distort the numbers, are revealed.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Actually, there IS proof gods do not exist (or even care)

The Proof that God is not a Jew/Christian/Moslem. For all People of The Book, it is the book which is worshiped. Holy Writ and Scripture is memorized, it is revered. Its decrees are applied in adjudications. And above all, its recitations are taken as Truths, and its “history” as History. Therefore, if the Scripture falls upon the sword of fact, it takes its revenant “religion” with it.

We are now in a position to examine the phenomenology of Scripture. The archeological, linguistic, and physical/chemical evidence is “in”. We are no longer in the realm of speculation or blind faith.

The Pentateuch-Torah/Bible/Quran can be traced back. Each of them is a compilation, and we find earlier traces in earlier languages and in civilizations which were strangers to Jehovah / Jahweh / God or Allah.

Judaic Texts. Entire passages of the Pentateuch are lifted from worshippers of Egyptian and Sumerian gods. The “Bible” as commandments, the Tribes as “chosen”, a jealous God punishing sins with Flood, Famine and Plague, the exact order of Creation, a forefather and mother created with mud and rib in a garden, fratricide, long begattings, a heroic figure found as a babe in a reed basket by a princess – all of these are traceable back to hieroglyphic and cuneiform stories only recently translated, but flourishing in Egypt and Sumer, and written well before there were Jews in Israel. Abraham, by the language of the text, was no monotheist, but worshipped a plurality–as everyone did in the absence of any better explanation for the phenomenon of existence–of gods, goddesses, angels, demons, ancestors, and “evil spirits”.

Jews developed a writing system and a devotional literature which has no equal for longevity. However, it is not continuous, was not in the same language, and it is not Mosaic. Priests began compiling tribal lore, canons, and inspirational speeches and songs. They did not invent the concept of “history” – they used stories to encourage and enfranchise the community and its leaders in a contested and mysterious world. There is no corroborative physical evidence of “twelve tribes”, an Ark of the Covenant, an Egyptian enslavement, a 40 year trek in the Sinai, commandments written by God on stone, or even a single “significant” King with a palace – like David or Solomon. No 800 concubines. No great Temple of gold altars. These were traders and shepherds telling shepherd stories shared with people from India to Africa.

Christian Gospels. We do not have a single “original” Gospel. The explanation for how the words of Jesus were stenographically recorded by a group of fishermen is not provided. Paul of Tarsus is a literature historical figure who never met Jesus and lived some 200 years after the period of time he believed the Christic Messiah was born. He clearly believed Jesus was the Messiah longed for since time immemorial. He clearly believed that Jesus’ return was imminent. That anticipation was the wheel and impetus of his teaching, and its falsity is the worm in the apple of his faith.

The Council of Nicea, not one of whose members is named, consolidated the compilation of “saint” stories circulating throughout the region into what is for Christians a New Testament. The Council omits as “Apocrypha” the plethora of teachings, often under discipled traditions (such as Thomas and Judas, and even Mary Magdalene) which were deemed heretical, and attempts to eradicate them. Not only did they fail to eradicate certain works, we find more “heresies” preserved than “Gospels”. Curiously, they failed to delete Arianism and Unitarianism from the Bible itself – apparently the anonymous scholars were more concerned about Constantine’s pleasure than religious consistency.

The Quoran. The modern “versions” are embarassingly abundant in spite of efforts to destroy “errant” work. The Quoran is remarkably short and is in two parts. The first part is basically a re-telling of the Judaic Pentateuch with the Torah clearly outlined, and updated with Christian stories directly taken from the pre-Nicinean Gospels. All of this material is drawn from Chaldean Christian teaching texts used for children. It is not in “Arabic” – the Arabs did not have a written language during Mohammad’s day. Children like Mohammad’s youngest wife, could not have taken dictation in Arabic.

The second part of the Quoran is the lore associated with the Prophet Mohammed, PBUH, a historical figure. He is jealously messianic, and tries to bring peace to warring people, essentially fulfilling Paul’s hopes from a few centuries earlier. For each battle described, each event in the life of this warrior, there are many versions.

The provenance of the Quoran is remarkably similar to the other Scriptures; it was compiled centuries after the facts purported to be narrated, and first appears in another language. The earliest Quoranic stories were not first written in Arabic because (1) Arabic was not a written language, and (2) Mohammad and all of his followers and wives were illiterate.

The Quoran makes much of its claims for a divine origin: The arc-angel Gabriel apparently “dictated” the book to Mohammad. All of Mohammad’s companions were warriors with no training or tradition of memorization or accurate recitation. None were scholars or educators or students, although their sincerity and devotion is without question. The fact that the battle lore portion of the Quoran does not appear until centuries after the death of all of the members of this peerage, is a sufficient proof of its secular provenance.

The anomaly of an apparently minor god, an arc-angel, dictating stories of Mohammad’s victories to Mohammad, is not compatible with monotheism. Nor is the requirement of an annual Pilgrimage to the Black Stone of Kaaba / Al-hajar Al-aswad. The structure was for centuries a place of worship by pagans with many dieties and pagan mysteries. The name is Jewish -- Qabbalah - the Tree of Life - Creation.

The shape of the famous cornerstone and the black cube of the building is identified throughout the region with female worship, symbolized with the crescent moon of the Female Diety. The Hajj traditions –purification, circling the stone, proclamation, kissing– are female rites which pre-date monotheism.

The Meccan guards of the “cornerstone” will not permit it to be examined scientifically, which is curious since such examination no longer requires removal.

The Cave Paintings and Archeology in Israel / Iraq. Other than the biographical lore about Mohammad, the Quoranic themes are drawn from the Bible, and the Bible themes are drawn from Egyptian and Sumerian/Gilgamesh literary traditions preserved in papyrus, stone and clay. But the rise of Religion precedes the appearance of Jehovah. Theologians have yet to explain why it is important to “worship god”, or proclaim “There is only One”, when in fact, most human history has been lived without this form of Religion widely practiced today.

In the floors, walls, and ceilings of the caves of Lascaux (20,000 - 12,000 bc) and Chauvet (30,000 - 15,000 bc), there is plenty of evidence of worship, of sanctification, of prayer. But there is no indication of an Old Testament, Mosaic, or Islamic God. In fact there is no “god” figure at all – there are few “human” figures, none appear dominating. Most of the figures and figurines are gravid females.


Personal Note.

Some say that the existence of God cannot be proved or disproved. Historically, the question had practical importance – in matters of risk, it seems practical to take out “insurance” – consult the entrails or listen to an oracle.

Today, however, the existence of God is pure speculation. “Pure” in the sense of complete. We believe in stone and paint. There are tables of Elements. The “it” is chemistry and the wonders of physiology.

Of course, Religion remains. We are believers. Not for Jehovah/God/ Allah/ Spirit, but as a result of a thought-feeling that wants to listen and proclaim. I am grateful for existence and I pray every minute of the day. My genes perform a daily Hajj. I bow humbly to wonderful mysteries, links, images.

However, the images, graven or otherwise, never answer. Never. Ever. The message of most of our better angels and prophets seems to be that we are ourselves invested with a spark of divinity. THAT can be invoked.

As for a belief in a hereafter, I have none. There is earth, water, fire and air. There is Life struggling to reproduce itself. There is a visible interest in my inevitable and imminent death taken by condors, buzzards, meat flies, coyotes, and worms. There is no God – I do not feel the Love from above. Well, I did mention condors.

Unfortunately, the situation is even worse. Not content with merely NOT HAVING GOD/ALLAH, I have had to deal with Anger issues. Anger with God – as in, I really despise the son-of-a-#@%$$$. The colossal waste of time, the unforgivable disappearing act. To get over the anger, I finally had to just insist that I look forward to an Eternity in Hell. Ah, so much better...!

I join gently with C.S. Lewis, and with millions of Jack-Mormons, Apostate Catholics, and Loving Moslems to profess my aversion to any Heaven filled with hypocrites who lived only for selfish reasons. Let me never be trapped in any Heaven surrounded by those who were lured to paradise by tugs at their greed and after-life lusts! And that tugger? That “thing” which is most jealous, most vengeful, most damned of all! Give me the real Grace which will come from being as far away from such mind-sucking as is possible!