27 December 2005

Derek Bailey (1930-2005)

Kellie and I saw Bailey play an incredible 2 hour set at the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam) in 1984. It was one of the highlights for me from the Cartoon "theft-tour" that (obviously) had some horrific low-lights.
Though he played music that is usually tagged and interpretted as "challenging", Bailey had one of the most beatiful acoustic guitar tones I have ever heard, then and ever since.

How could I possibly imagine 21 years prior that both Kellie and Mr. Bailey would pass the same day, one year apart. Life is so unpredictable and so precious.

25 December 2005

One Year ago today

My sister Lisa called me on Christmas Eve,
and the news about Kellie wasn’t good.

Kellie @ Lost Lake, Oregon - July 2004

As a preface here, Kellie was my first love. I met her in 1979 - I was 18, she was 17. Kellie was one of those who could light-up a room the instant she walked in. The night we first crossed-paths, she did exactly that, and I suddenly found myself in this confounded, emotionally-unprotected state of bliss. I kept calling her to go out some night with me, (something I NEVER did back then) and finally, she relented. In no time, we were spending a lot of time together and fell crazy in love. We briefly parted in 1980 when I left Phoenix to attend a Music Conservatory in San Francisco. After a couple of months apart--and a few horrific long-distance phone-bills--came the mutual realization that we missed each other terribly and before really considering any consequences or the magnanimity of what we were doing, Kellie and I were living in a Victorian-flat on the panhandle of Golden Gate Park. We spent a wonderful, exciting (and sometimes tumultuous) seven years together before amicably parting ways in 1986 - off on our separate life directions: Kellie towards motherhood & maturity, and me to a life of music & wayward instability.
We always attempted to stay in touch as best we could which, because of my past lifestyle, was difficult to say the least. I’m happy to write today that over these past few years, we successfully rekindled our unpredictable life-connection primarily as a result of two unrelated occurances of sickness: my own ability to finally address and combat a 15-year drug-addiction and the cancer which Kellie battled with admirable perseverance. Life can be weird that way, I guess.

Lisa went to visit Kellie early Friday morning and called me afterwards to say that she believed Kellie was failing fast. She reported that Kellie was severely distended and semi-conscious, though at one point, she did manage to recognize her when she tightly gripped my sister's wrist and said “Lisa”. Kellie’s friend and caretaker, Paul, sent me an email essentially saying the same thing.
I knew this was coming; we all knew this was coming. I'd made a point of taking a week off over the Thanksgiving stretch to fly down to Oakland to spend some time with her. Before heading back home, Kel and I spent an intense, emotional 45-minutes just saying good-bye to one another: we both knew that this was probably it. And over the following weeks, I absolutely knew it was coming, faster and faster, when she was unable to talk to me whenever I called.
Most of Christmas Eve afternoon, I internally fretted about all-things-death. I was subtly preoccupied in hope of Kellie being relaxed and free from pain at her life's end. Kay went on one of her tender-care-watches, worrying about me as well as Kellie. Kay and Kellie grew quite close with each other when Kel came to stay with us for a week in July. Aside from having the common experience of having to put up with me, they were also born on the same day, August 6th, nine-years apart. In some ways, they are eerily similar.
As the day wore on, I became slowly distracted by the Christmas Eve service I was going to play at a Lutheran church here in Portland. Briefly: as a musician, it is one of the tougher "gigs" to play, basically because of the (seemingly) never-ending list of Christmas songs and hymns that everyone knows intimately. It’s a bit intimidating to perform, because even one or two clinks & clunks can seem horribly noticeable, especially to me while in such a perfectionist state-of-mind. And really, no one in church cares about my sporadic slip-ups anyway, (and I already knew this fact going in; they are a forgiving bunch) but such was my mindset this evening - unsettled and emotionally scattered. It was a beautiful night at church regardless.
When I returned home, Kay, Bridget and I commenced to opening gifts we had expertly culled for each other from the myriad of American-consumer-oriented possibilities. We were all happy, grateful and loved, and listened to some fantastic new CD's reaped from this particular harvest. Thinking about Kellie, who was simultaneously fading from life within these exact moments of time in which I was gratefully experiencing life, was way-too harsh for me to hold onto in thought. I ran from such thoughts and drifted off in an "Animal-Collective" musical-trance on the couch and eventually stumbled into the bedroom and literally collapsed into bed.

12.25.04 (Morning/Afternoon)
With no blood-family here in Portland, Christmas can be one of those rare days of rest and hibernation that Kay & I can share - something we don’t get to do very often and thus, look forward to taking advantage of. I woke up very late that morning, 9:30, (I'm usually up by 6:30) feeling tired and spent, primarily from playing the aforementioned Christmas Eve service.
So, when Paul called and gave me the news that Kellie had finally passed at 8:01-Christmas morning, I wasn’t all that surprised. But I still felt this sudden pang of emotional-shock. I had expected upon hearing news of Kellie’s death that I would somehow feel some kind of relief, but in fact, I came face-to-face with the reality that I had only been fooling myself. And I got a little irritated at myself for this. That’s the trouble with expectations: they can sometimes morph into premeditated resentments. I felt numb and sad. I thought about Kellie’s kids, Bethaney, Claudia and Doo-dah having to survive Christmas every year with their Mom's death in the recesses of their minds.
It came to be this year that everyone in my family was gathered together for the day at Jacque's place in Forestville. This was in large part due to a surprise visit from Mom. It was kind of a relief that I only had to make one phone call to tell everyone Merry Christmas, that I loved them, and that Kellie had passed.
Kay spent some time hard-crying - emotionally busting down the Prozac-brickwall she so vehemently resents, which according to her, usually isn't possible. Kay and I worried aloud about Kellie's youngest ones (Claudia and Doo-dah) being raised by Kellie’s ex, who is not very popular in most of Kellie’s friends’ houses. As the day waned, I wanted to turn off the TV-show of hurt & suffering that was endlessly broadcasting in my head. It seemed that it got dark outside much too early and it also started raining very hard.

12.25.04 (Evening)

Kay and I drove 40 miles in a hard-rain to St Helens for Christmas dinner with Randy & Marcie, who are the closest thing I have to “blood” family here in Oregon. Randy had also taken the news hard. We reminisced about the crazy life that Randy, Judy, Kellie and I had made while living together at 1445 Oak St #5, across from the Golden Gate Park panhandle.
It was a laid-back and somewhat somber dinner. We continued to worry about Kellie’s kids and Christmas being such a horrible day for her to die. We cursed cancer. We tried to make some sort of sense out of these recent life-lessons of love, death, relationship, the past, time, fear, and all the rest. Merry Christmas.
As Kay and I drove home, it started raining even harder. The windshield-wipers were on max-speed and it was still difficult to see. I can’t remember a darker night.
A quarter of the way home, in Scappoose, we heard the thud-thud-thud of our flat tire. Fortunately, it happened right in front of the only open gas-station in town. We were very lucky that it didn't happen a couple of miles further down the road, which would have been in the middle of nowhere, in torrential rain and pitch-black darkness.
I was too tired and emotionally-drained to be upset. After jacking up the car to change tires, I discovered that the tire-iron required for loosening the lug-nuts was missing. Kay went inside the station’s mini-mart to see if the two cops drinking coffee and doing nothing (because after all, it was 10:30 on a dark, rainy Christmas night) would loan us a tire-iron from the police-car.
The cops couldn’t loan us their tire-iron because, “we might possibly turn around and use it to hit them over their heads.” And still, neither Kay nor I became upset: it had already been a long day of riding an emotional roller-coaster. And as stupid and lame as their excuse was, it had that tinge of the current American cultural, fear-based logic to it: I might be a terrorist. All right...I get it. So instead, one of the officers gave us the phone number to Grumpy’s Towing who inturn, after some discussion over the phone, agreed to dispatch a tow-truck to come rescue us.

So there I was: the late Christmas-night of Kellie’s death, inexplicably standing beneath a two-foot wide awning, watching this onslaught of rain pouring from a menacing, black sky while waiting for some unknown tow-truck driver to make it possible for us to make it back to Portland.
Because of the relatively safe, opportunistic (and dry) sanctuary of our flat-tire locale, Kay was making correlations to Kellie and angels watching over us. Frankly, it was hard for me and my battered mind to get there, but indeed, there he was pulling up: a tow-truck driving angel who came from out of a warm house on a nasty Christmas night just to help Kay and I get home.
When he hopped out of his truck, I instantly judged him to be some sort of giant, rural-hayseed who was probably out to get some city-folks money. (Maybe I really was upset and cynical after all.) My opinion faded quickly though: tow-truck savoir-man had a real authenticity in his voice and actions. He absolutely would “fix our tire for us in a couple of minutes.”
Our angel was 6-foot-something and built, and he had a very kind face, with a gentle smile that I’d never quite seen on someone clad in black-smeared, oily-overalls. He removed the flat-tire and had it swapped with the smaller, emergency spare within five minutes. The whole time he was wrenching and turning and wiping, we were making small talk around our holidays. His was "pretty nice and kinda low-key", spent with his wife and kids and a tasty honey-glazed ham. I started feeling guilty for dragging him out of his house. In return, I told him about Kellie passing and how her kids now had Christmas as a constant-reminder of their Mom’s death.
"You know,” he said to me while lying on wet, dirty pavement and fumbling with something I couldn’t even fathom that was lurking within the wheel-well, “that's one-a-them glass half-full or half-empty deals." I stood by silently listening. "Sure, it’ll be hard on her kids these first few Christmases…(he stopped and winced for a second as he finished tightening one of the lug-nuts) …but I think it's kind of neat that every Christmas they'll have an opportunity to remember their Mom until the day they die themselves."
I was stunned. I was speechless. I thought I was going to start crying right there, in front of this giant, oily tow-truck angel whose glass was clearly, half-full. He finished up while tightening the remaining nuts: "Now, a religious person might say that God took your friend on a very special day because she was a very special person." (I'm pretty sure our tow-truck angel must have been a religious person.)
I was just flabbergasted. “You’re right,” I replied somewhat sheepishly. He smiled his tow-truck angel-smile back at me. I thought about my Dad, and thought I was going to start crying again.
And he wasn’t quite done: our little emergency-spare was low on air as well, so he filled that up too via his tow-truck-angel-air-compressor. “It’s a lucky thing you weren’t out there halfway to Sauvie Island,” he said, easily winning my daily ‘understatement of the day’ contest.
I attempted to regain some of my composure by discussing our financial business that was now at hand. “I don't know how to thank you, my friend,” I told him. “Although there is American currency," I joked, "so, how much do I owe you?” He rubbed the side of his chin in a gesture of contemplation and said with a slight smile and sigh, "Hey…Merry Christmas...no charge."
I probably don’t need to tell you here that my tears officially could no longer be contained. They had begun their slow-leak. I insisted on giving him twenty bucks, off the meter. Breakfast or something for his family, I dunno.
"That's mighty kind of you sir," he smiled. And off we went on our separate ways. As he left, I noticed that our angel's tow-truck was adorned with Elmo, Grover, Big-Bird and other well-known Seasame-Street characters. I imagined his children laughing and playing in his truck, (as it sat idle at home during the day) crawling around the big drivers-seat and pretending to drive and rescue their own stranded travelers. Kay and I cried most of the way back to Portland. I couldn’t hold back my well-constructed dam of tears any longer.
I’d be lying to you if I said I knew exactly what this particular December 25th, 2004 meant. I don’t know today. I'm guessing that I won’t know tomorrow. I don't know what to make of the kind of events that can transpire in places like Scappoose, Oregon at the end of a long, grieving Christmas day.
I don't know if it was some kind of final good-bye from Kellie, or a sign of God’s benevolence, or tow-truck driving angels, or just empathetic human deeds, courtesy of the last few stragglers leaving Christ’s annual birthday party. I’m not sure how a stranger's random act of kindness on a rainy Christmas night can transform one's tears of sorrow and uncertainty, into tears of love and hope.
Maybe the poet Rainer Maria Rilke knew this when he wrote:

"For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation."

12 December 2005

Happy 97th Birthday

Elliot Carter

via Avant Music News
Elliott Carter (b. 1908, New York), though a late bloomer in both individual style and in renown, has established himself as one of the most influential figures in American new music. His early music, including the ballet Pocahontas (1939) and his Symphony no. 1 (1942), reflects the neo-classical influences of studies with Walter Piston and Gustav Holst at Harvard (1926-32) and with Stravinskian disciple and master pedagogue Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

The late 40’s, through the independent polyphony of the Piano Sonata (1946) and Cello Sonata (1948), saw the beginning stages of what would become Carter’s distinctive style. His individual voice came to the fore with the composition of the First String Quartet (1951). Composed in the Arizona desert (with the aid of a Guggenheim Fellowship), this piece is characterized by four overlapping movements in a deeply complex rhythmic style, with sharply atonal writing, and a feeling of constant motion and change. This feeling of continuous mutation is most often attributed to Carter’s frequent use of "metric modulation" in which two distinct tempi are related by an often small or complex division of the beat. (e.g., one sixteenth note quintuplet of one measure equals one eighth note triplet of the next.) Though this term was not coined by Carter himself, he is most often the composer associated with this rhythmic technique.

The Second String Quartet (1959) follows this style even further so that each of the four instrumental parts are distinctly independent from one another, each carrying its own "persona" made up of specific intervalic structures, textures, tempi, or articulations. The Third String Quartet (1971) is instead made up of two contrasting duos sharing ten unequally divided movements (the violin I/’cello group plays four movements, the violin II/viola group plays the remaining six) in a way that the duos constantly overlap. Silences between movements are employed only in order to bring the opposing duo to the fore. Again, Carter strictly assigns certain musical attributes to each duo, delighting in setting the two in clear contrast.

Also composed in this period are the Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano (1961) and the Concerto for Orchestra (1969). The Double Concerto assigns a separate chamber orchestra to each soloist, while the Concerto for Orchestra consists of four separate ensembles using four distinct styles of music. Both works exploit the small scale tactics of the string quartets in a much larger and timbrally and texturally diverse ensemble, adding an even more complex and intense aspect to Carter's stylistic traits.

Three important vocal works between the years of 1975 and 1981 bring a level of "humanism" and a touch of lyricism back to Carter’s writing, though the overall techniques of composition remain very much in tact. This triptych of chamber cantatas—A Mirror on Which to Dwell for soprano (1975), Syringa for mezzo (1978), and In Sleep, In Thunder for tenor (1981)—is often thought of as contrasting compositional period, although this analysis ignores several significant instrumental works such as A Symphony of Three Orchestras (1976) and the Duo for Violin and Piano (1974).

The last 10 years have found Elliott Carter still at the height of his career, with no signs of a slowing output. A Fourth String Quartet (1986), a Violin Concerto (1990), and Partita (1993), and a wide range of new, virtuosic pieces for small ensembles or unaccompanied solo instruments have solidified Carter’s monumental place in music history. ~Aaron M. Cassidy

25 November 2005

dancing the Autumn death dance (rupp-remix)

with constant chorus of birds
the leaves plummet down
from thin, bare trees,
they twirl to the ground
dancing the Autumn death dance
beneath the great blue sky

the leaves seem glad at the going
(is there something I don’t know?)
sparkling in the November sunshine
they fill the air with gentle rustling

one, then another and another,
on they skim down from above
bedding the forest table before me
with comforting crunches and crackles

this gigantic death scene of leaves
does not smell of sorrow and sadness
rather, the earth is colored in beauty
and the leaves make music in the wind

why is this dance of death so lovely?
why do leaves seem so willing to go?
are they whispering to each other,
urging one another to be freed?

maybe, “you first and then I’ll follow”
or: “you can do it, go on”
supporting one another
in a call to final surrender

I have not yet discovered the secret
of the serenity of sailing leaves
every autumn I walk among them
with a longing that stretches forever
waiting to face that death-dance
and the truth of my own mortality

17 November 2005

Rev. Spong on Pat Robertson

Christina, a television producer at Fox News writes:
"How do you respond to the Rev. Pat Robertson when he warns the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania, that God might strike them with a disaster since they voted out the School Board members who favored "Intelligent Design?" "

Dear Christina,

Pat Robertson has said so many silly and ridiculous things that I wonder why anyone would pay much attention to him on any subject. He warned Orlando, Florida, that God would send a hurricane to destroy them when Orlando's decision makers added "sexual orientation" to that city's civil rights ordinance making it illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person because of race, ethnicity, gender, creed or "sexual orientation." He suggested that Hollywood would be the victim of an earthquake because that is where Ellen Degeneres works. With Jerry Falwell he agreed that the 9/11 disaster was brought upon this nation as God's judgment for harboring "feminists, abortionists, homosexuals and the American Civil Liberties Union." He suggested that the CIA should assassinate the duly elected President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. He has said that the feminist movement is about those women who want to "leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft and become lesbians." The tirade of absurdities goes on and on.

This country treasures the precious gift of free speech and Pat Robertson can obviously say any foolish and ignorant thing he wishes. When he pretends to speak in the name of God, however, I think his fellow believers have a right, indeed a necessity, to speak a word of judgment on his behavior since his words slander the Christian definition of God as Love given to us first by the author of the First Epistle of John and even more important, lived out by Jesus, who called us even to love our enemies.

I want to make only two points about this issue. First, I wonder who, other than Pat himself, designated Pat Robertson to be God's spokesperson? How dare Pat assume that the God revealed in the Jesus I serve is filled with all of Pat's peculiar prejudices. Why does he not understand that God is God and Pat Robertson is not? Why does he not see that when he tells the world with an unashamed certainty what God thinks and what God will do, he is only revealing what he thinks and what he would do if he had God's power? Pat needs to understand that he is acting out the very meaning of idolatry. He has confused God with himself.

Second, some one needs to inform Pat Robertson that the idea of God sitting on a throne above the clouds manipulating the weather in order to punish sinners is so primitive and so naïve that it is staggering to the educated imagination. It is bad enough that his mind cannot embrace the thought of Charles Darwin from the 19th century, but Pat has yet to embrace the thought of Copernicus from the 16th century or Galileo from the 17th century. No educated person today believes that the earth is the center of the universe and that God lives above the sky, playing with low-pressure systems and planning revenge on those who are not believers in Intelligent Design. Indeed why would anyone be drawn to the demonic deity who emerges in Pat's thinking and teaching? It is surely not a God of Love who punishes New Orleans' poorest citizens with a hurricane that New Orleans' wealthiest citizens could and did manage to escape at least with their lives, because they had cars. Did God kill the poor in New Orleans in order to send a message to New Orleans's prostitutes and those who create its raucous nightlife? Is that a rational concept? Did God cause two tectonic plates to collide under the Indian Ocean because there were some 350,000 evil people, with fully one-third of them children, whom God desired to kill in a tsunami wave? Is that how God communicates divine displeasure? Is that a God worthy of worship? Were the 3000 who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 or the 2100 members of our Armed Forces who have thus far died in Iraq during this war somehow worthy of this ultimate punishment either because of their own evil or because God sacrificed them to send a message to someone else? Those ideas are so ludicrous as to be laughable, except for the fact that for anyone to suggest such incredible things is still painfully hurtful to those who are the victims of both natural and human disasters to say nothing of their surviving loved ones. I, as a Christian, am embarrassed by the public face that Pat Robertson puts on the religious tradition to which my life is dedicated.

I have known the Robertson family for a long time. His father was the Democratic Senator in my state of Virginia from 1946, when he was first appointed to succeed Senator Carter Glass who had died in office. He was re-elected by the people of Virginia in 1948, 1954, and 1960. In the Democratic Primary in 1966 he was defeated in a very close vote by my first cousin William Belser Spong, Jr., who went on to fill that seat in the United States Senate. Pat is a 1955 graduate of the Law School at Yale University and received a Master in Divinity degree from New York Theological Seminary in1959. He cannot possibly be as dumb as he sounds in his wild and thoughtless utterances. If ignorance is not his excuse, then one has to wonder what motivates him. In academic theological circles he is treated as a buffoon. No one takes his thought seriously. It is a pity that some people do actually believe the things he says, but they are far fewer than he imagines. It is an even greater pity that the news media think that his continued utterances are worthy of any public attention at all.

-- John Shelby Spong

15 November 2005

E.L. Doctorow on Bush

I fault this president (George W. Bush) for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our twenty-one year olds who wanted to be what they could be.

On the eve of D-day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.

But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the WMDs he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man. He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the thousand dead young men and women who wanted be what they could be.

They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of aborted life... They come to his desk as a political liability which is why the press is not permitted to photograph the arrival of their coffins from Iraq.

How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express regret and he regrets nothing.
He does not regret that his reason for going to war was, as he knew, unsubstantiated by the facts. He does not regret that his bungled plan for the war's aftermath has made of his mission-accomplished a disaster. He does not regret that rather than controlling terrorism his war in Iraq has licensed it.

So he never mourns for the dead and crippled youngsters who have fought this war of his choice. He wanted to go to war and he did. He had not the mind to perceive the costs of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options, but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you have to.

This president knew it would be difficult for Americans not to cheer the overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much. This president and his supporters would seem to have a mind for only one thing --- to take power, to remain in power, and to use that power for the sake of themselves and their friends. A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader. The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children.

He is the President who does not feel. He does not feel for the families of he dead; he does not feel for the thirty five million of us who live in poverty; he does not feel for the forty percent who cannot afford health insurance; he does not feel for the miners whose lungs are turning black or for the working people he has deprived of the chance to work overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their bills --- it is amazing for how many people in this country this President does not feel.

But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he is relieving the wealthiest one percent of the population of their tax burden for the sake of the rest of us, and that he is polluting the air we breathe for the sake of our economy, and that he is decreasing the safety regulations for coal mines to save the coal miners' jobs, and that he is depriving workers of their time-and-a- half benefits for overtime because this is actually a way to honor them by raising them into the professional class.

And this litany of lies he will versify with reverences for God and the flag and democracy, when just what he and his party are doing to our democracy is choking the life out of it.

But there is one more terribly sad thing about all of this. I remember the millions of people here and around the world who marched against the war. It was extraordinary, that spontaneously aroused oversoul of alarm and protest that transcended national borders. Why did it happen? After all, this was not the only war anyone had ever seen coming. There are little wars all over the world most of the time.

But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history was turning its back on the future, using its extraordinary power and standing not to advance the ideal of a concordance of civilizations but to endorse the kind of tribal combat that originated with the Neanderthals, a people, now extinct, who could imagine ensuring their survival by no other means than pre-emptive war.

The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.

Finally the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail: How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves.

E.L. Doctorow

11 November 2005

Reason #4 for Separation of Church and State

Here we have a crazy religious leader clearly trying to influence civil elections to force his religion on everyone around him.
Pat Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God's wrath!
Eight 'intelligent design'
school board members lost election

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck.

Robertson, a former Republican presidential candidate and founder of the influential Christian Broadcasting Network and Christian Coalition, has made similar apocalyptic warnings and provocative statements before.

Last summer, he hit the headlines by calling for the assassination of leftist Venezuelan Present Hugo Chavez, one of President George W. Bush's most vocal international critics.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.

The 700 Club claims a daily audience of around one million. It is also broadcast around the world translated into more than 70 languages.

In voting on Tuesday, eight Dover, Pennsylvania, school board members up for re-election lost their seats after trying to introduce a statement on "intelligent design" to high school biology students.

Adherents of intelligent design argue that certain forms in nature are too complex to have evolved through natural selection and must have been created by a "designer." Opponents say it is the latest attempt by conservatives to introduce religion into the school science curriculum.

The Dover case sparked a trial in federal court that gained nationwide attention after the school board was sued by parents backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The board ordered schools to read students a short statement in biology classes informing them that the theory of evolution is not established fact and that gaps exist in it.

The statement mentioned intelligent design as an alternate theory and recommended students read a book that explained the theory further. A decision in the case is expected before the end of the year.

In 1998, Robertson warned the city of Orlando, Florida that it risked hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorist bombs after it allowed homosexual organizations to put up rainbow flags in support of sexual diversity.

20 October 2005

World-Leaders in College v.1

Whatcha Got in the Bag George?

via College Humor

17 October 2005

Road Rage, Cell Phones, etc

Are Americans Ruder Than They Used To Be?

from WCVB Channel 5 TV in Boston: October 14, 2005
Americans' fast-paced, high-tech existence has taken a toll on the civil in society.
-----No news here; it has pretty much been this way my 45 years of life. Man bites dog, now THAT'S news.
From road rage in the morning commute to high decibel cell-phone conversations that ruin dinner out, men and women behaving badly has become the hallmark of a hurry-up world. An increasing informality -- flip-flops at the White House, even -- combined with self-absorbed communication gadgets and a demand for instant gratification have strained common courtesies to the breaking point.
-----Wonder if the TV anchors at WCVB are guilty of this?
"All of these things lead to a world with more stress, more chances for people to be rude to each other," said Peter Post, a descendent of etiquette expert Emily Post and an instructor on business manners through the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt.
-----kinda like the way Mr. Post dismisses homeless people on his way to work.
In some cases, the harried single parent has replaced the traditional nuclear family and there's little time to teach the basics of polite living, let alone how to hold a knife and fork, according to Post.
-----Yeah, gotta make money to help pay off the tab for "rudely" killing innocent Iraqi civilians.
A slippage in manners is obvious to many Americans. Nearly 70 percent questioned in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll said people are ruder than they were 20 or 30 years ago. The trend is noticed in large and small places alike, although more urban people report bad manners, 74 percent, then do people in rural areas, 67 percent.
-----This shit is rich...just too fucking rich.
Peggy Newfield, founder and president of Personal Best, said the generation that came of age in the times-a-changin' 1960s and 1970s are now parents who don't stress the importance of manners, such as opening a door for a female.
So it was no surprise to Newfield that those children wouldn't understand how impolite it was to wear flip-flops to a White House meeting with the president -- as some members of the Northwestern women's lacrosse team did in the summer.
-----not to mention bush admin. flip-flops and flops
A whopping 93 percent in the AP-Ipsos poll faulted parents for failing to teach their children well.
-----gotta blame someone
"Parents are very much to blame," said Newfield, whose Atlanta-based company started teaching etiquette to young people and now focuses on corporate employees. "And the media."

Sulking athletes and boorish celebrities grab the headlines while television and Hollywood often glorify crude behavior.
-----Yeah, but have you SEEN Labron or Reggie Bush... I mean, have you SEEN them?!!
"It's not like the old shows 'Father Knows Best,"' said Norm Demers, 47, of Sutton, Mass. "People just copy it. How do you change it?" Demers would like to see more family friendly television but isn't holding his breath.
-----There are those WB shows dude like Seventh Heaven or whatever
Nearly everyone has a story of the rude or the crude, but fewer are willing to fess up to boorish behavior themselves.
Only 13 percent in the poll would admit to making an obscene gesture while driving; only 8 percent said they had used their cell phones in a loud or annoying manner around others. But 37 percent in the survey of 1,001 adults questioned Aug. 22-23 said they had used a swear word in public.
-----Please read the David Wallace Foster post below.
Yvette Sienkiewicz, 41, a claims adjustor from Wilmington, Del., recalled in frustration how a bigger boy cut in front of her 8-year-old son as he waited in line to play a game at the local Chuck E. Cheese.
"It wasn't my thing to say something to the little boy," said Sienkiewicz, who remembered that the adult accompanying the child never acknowledged what he had done. In the AP-Ipsos poll, 38 percent said they have asked someone to stop behaving rudely.
-----What the hell is water?
More and more, manners are taught less and less.

Carole Krohn, 71, a retired school bus driver in Deer Park, Wash., said she has seen children's behavior deteriorate over the years, including one time when a boy tossed a snowball at the back of another driver's head. In this litigious society, she argued, a grown-up risks trouble correcting someone else's kid.

One solution for bad behavior "is to put a kid off in the middle of the road. Nowadays all people want to do is sue, to say you're to blame, get you fired," Krohn said.
-----gotta blame someone
Krohn, who often greeted students by name and with a hearty "good morning," once was asked by a child if she got tired of offering pleasantries.
-----a great question actually!
Sienkiewicz, whose job requires hours in a car, said she tries to avoid rush-hour traffic because of drivers with a me-first attitude. The most common complaint about rudeness in the poll was aggressive or reckless driving, with 91 percent citing it as the most frequent discourtesy.
-----What the hell is water?
Margaret Hahn-Dupont, a 39-year-old law professor from Oradell, N.J., noticed that some of her students showed little respect for authority and felt free to express their discontent and demand better grades.
-----Ms. Hahn-Dupont should head over the gym and cop some steroids to keep up
Close on the heels of the baby boomers are the affluent teens and young adults who have known nothing but the conveniences of computers and cell phones, devices that take them away from face-to-face encounters and can be downright annoying in a crowd.
"They got a lot of things and feel entitled to get a lot of things," said Hahn-Dupont.
-----consume, consume, consume...
Bernard F. Scanlon, 79, of Sayville, N.Y., would like to see one railroad car set aside for cell phone users to ensure peace and quiet for the rest. Amtrak has taken a stab at that by banning cell phones and other loud devices in one car of some trains, especially on chatty Northeast and West Coast routes. But if those trains are sold out, the Quiet Car service is suspended and anything goes.
-----What the hell is water?
How rude.
-----yeah, but ya see...we get the society, culture and "leaders" we deserve. Deal with it.

23 September 2005

Fantastic Grad Speeches v.1

David Wallace Foster
2005 Kenyon Commencement Address

Greetings parents and congratulations to Kenyon's graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"
This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story ["thing"] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don't be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.
Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I'm supposed to talk about your liberal arts education's meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let's talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about quote teaching you how to think. If you're like me as a student, you've never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I'm going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we're supposed to get in a place like this isn't really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I'd ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your skepticism about the value of the totally obvious.
Here's another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: "Look, it's not like I don't have actual reasons for not believing in God. It's not like I haven't ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn't see a thing, and it was fifty below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out 'Oh, God, if there is a God, I'm lost in this blizzard, and I'm gonna die if you don't help me.'" And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. "Well then you must believe now," he says, "After all, here you are, alive." The atheist just rolls his eyes. "No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp."
It's easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people's two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy's interpretation is true and the other guy's is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person's most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there's the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They're probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists' problem is exactly the same as the story's unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn't even know he's locked up.
The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.
Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.
Please don't worry that I'm getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being "well-adjusted", which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.
Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education -- least in my own case -- is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.
As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.
This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.
And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let's get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what "day in day out" really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I'm talking about.
By way of example, let's say it's an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there's no food at home. You haven't had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It's the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it's the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it's pretty much the last place you want to be but you can't just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store's confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren't enough check-out lanes open even though it's the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can't take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.
But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line's front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to "Have a nice day" in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.
Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn't yet been part of you graduates' actual life routine, day after week after month after year.
But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it's going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.
Or, of course, if I'm in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV's and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children's children will despise us for wasting all the future's fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.
You get the idea.
If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn't have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It's the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I'm operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world's priorities.
The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it's not impossible that some of these people in SUV's have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he's trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he's in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.
Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket's checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.
Again, please don't think that I'm giving you moral advice, or that I'm saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it's hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won't be able to do it, or you just flat out won't want to.
But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it.
This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship.
Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.
Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.
They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.
And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible -- sounds like "displayal"]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
I know that this stuff probably doesn't sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don't just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.
The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.
It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:
"This is water."
"This is water."
It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.
I wish you way more than luck.

12 September 2005

The Real Costs of a Culture of Greed

ROBERT SCHEER Los Angeles Times September 6, 2005

What the world has witnessed this past week is an image of poverty and social disarray that tears away the affluent mask of the United States.

Instead of the much-celebrated American can-do machine that promises to bring freedom and prosperity to less fortunate people abroad, we have seen a callous official incompetence that puts even Third World rulers to shame. The well-reported litany of mistakes by the Bush administration in failing to prevent and respond to Katrina's destruction grew longer with each hour's grim revelation from the streets of an apocalyptic New Orleans.

Yet the problem is much deeper. For half a century, free-market purists have to great effect denigrated the essential role that modern government performs as some terrible liberal plot. Thus, the symbolism of New Orleans' flooding is tragically apt: Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and Louisiana Gov. Huey Long's ambitious populist reforms in the 1930s eased Louisiana out of feudalism and toward modernity; the Reagan Revolution and the callousness of both Bush administrations have sent them back toward the abyss.

Now we have a president who wastes tax revenues in Iraq instead of protecting us at home. Levee improvements were deferred in recent years even after congressional approval, reportedly prompting EPA staffers to dub flooded New Orleans "Lake George."

None of this is an oversight, or simple incompetence. It is the result of a campaign by most Republicans and too many Democrats to systematically vilify the role of government in American life. Manipulative politicians have convinced lower- and middle-class whites that their own economic pains were caused by "quasi-socialist" government policies that aid only poor brown and black people --- even as corporate profits and CEO salaries soared.

For decades we have seen social services that benefit everyone — education, community policing, public health, environmental protections and infrastructure repair, emergency services --- in steady, steep decline in the face of tax cuts and rising military spending. But it is a false savings; it will certainly cost exponentially more to save New Orleans than it would have to protect it in the first place.

And, although the wealthy can soften the blow of this national decline by sending their kids to private school, building walls around their communities and checking into distant hotels in the face of approaching calamities, others, like the 150,000 people living below the poverty line in the Katrina damage area --- one-third of whom are elderly --- are left exposed.

Watching on television the stark vulnerability of a permanent underclass of African Americans living in New Orleans ghettos is terrifying. It should be remembered, however, that even when hurricanes are not threatening their lives and sanity, they live in rotting housing complexes, attend embarrassingly ill-equipped public schools and, lacking adequate police protection, are frequently terrorized by unemployed, uneducated young men.

In fact, rather than an anomaly, the public suffering of these desperate Americans is a symbol for a nation that is becoming progressively poorer under the leadership of the party of Big Business. As Katrina was making its devastating landfall, the U.S.

Census Bureau released new figures that show that since 1999, the income of the poorest fifth of Americans has dropped 8.7% in inflation-adjusted dollars. Last year alone, 1.1 million were added to the 36 million already on the poverty rolls.
For those who have trouble with statistics, here's the shorthand: The rich have been getting richer and the poor have been getting, in the ripe populist language of Louisiana's legendary Long, the shaft.

These are people who have long since been abandoned to their fate. Despite the deep religiosity of the Gulf States and the United States in general, it is the gods of greed that seem to rule. Case in point: The crucial New Orleans marshland that absorbs excess water during storms has been greatly denuded by rampant commercial development allowed by a deregulation-crazy culture that favors a quick buck over long-term community benefits.

Given all this, it is no surprise that leaders, from the White House on down, haven't done right by the people of New Orleans and the rest of the region, before and after what insurance companies insultingly call an "act of God."

Fact is, most of them, and especially our president, just don't care about the people who can't afford to attend political fundraisers or pay for high-priced lobbyists. No, these folks are supposed to be cruising on the rising tide of a booming, unregulated economy that "floats all boats."

They were left floating all right.

02 September 2005

he he

Steve Bell Guardian (UK) 2/Sep/5

24 August 2005

Those who support the war:

Remember these kinds of
fuckheads back in high school?

Now they're all grown up and telling us how to be "patriotic".

Ann Coulter & Sean Hannity

23 August 2005

Dr. Robert Moog (1934-2005)

Bob Moog, inventor of his namesake range of synthesizers and one of the most significant figures in the evolution of electronic music, died yesterday (Aug. 21) at his home in Asheville, N.C. He was 71. A native of N.Y., Moog was diagnosed with brain cancer in late April and had since undergone radiation treatment and chemotherapy.
After a decade of building Theremins with his father, Moog created his prototype, the Moog Modular Synthesizer, in 1963 and unveiled it the following year before the Audio Engineering Society Convention.
Bob was warm and outgoing. He enjoyed meeting people from all over the world. He especially appreciated what Ileana referred to as "the magical connection" between music-makers and their instruments.
Many of the most innovative and groundbreaking efforts in rock history wouldn't have been possible without the instruments built by Robert Moog. The best way to remember the pioneering musical figure, then, is to listen to the craftsmen who have made creative use of Moog's instruments. Such as:

  • Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon"
  • ELP - "Trilogy"
  • Stevie Wonder's "Innervisions"
  • Brian Eno's "Another Green World"
  • The Who's "Who's Next"
  • Kraftwerk's "Autobahn"
  • Nine Inch Nails' "The Downward Spiral"

A public Memorial Celebration is planned for The Orange Peel for noon, Wednesday, August 24th. Fans and friends can also direct their sympathies or remembrances to www.caringbridge.com/visit/bobmoog.
Bob's family has established The Bob Moog Foundation dedicated to the Advancement of Electronic Music in his memory. Many of his longtime collaborators including musicians, engineers and educators have agreed to sit on its executive board including David Borden, Wendy Carlos, Joel Chadabpe, John Eaton, David Mash, and Rick Wakeman. For more information about the foundation, contact Matthew Moog at mattmoog@yahoo.com.

14 July 2005

Thursday Q and A (7.14)

J. Krishnamurti
"Jiddu, can a person ever be free of their own self-image?

"Human beings from the very beginning of time have been hurt inwardly; by a casual remark, by a look, by a word, by being sarcastic, by denying what you hold dear...and somebody comes and treads on it, you feel terribly wounded. The consequence of that wound is to resist, to build a wall round yourself, which is to isolate yourself. You resist, fear enters into it, not to be hurt more. So gradually that hurt has helped you to isolate yourself even more. Right? The consequences of that isolation is more fear, more anxiety and so on and so on, and so on—the consequences. So the fact is that you are hurt. And what is hurt? Is it your psyche? The image that you have built about yourself? The image one has built about oneself; I might build an image about myself, saying, I am a great man, I have an audience, you know, blah, blah, I travel all over the world, how important it is, and so on. I have reached some state. You follow? I have built an image about myself, as you have built an image about yourself. I haven't got it, but it doesn't matter. Because from childhood I never wanted an image, it is too stupid. So having created an image about oneself: noble, ignoble, or inferior or superior--whatever it is---ugly, beautiful, with fanciful decoration, and romantic, sentimental...that gets hurt. Right?
So can one be free of the image? And who is the creator of the image?"
J Krishnamurti - Ojai, CA (May 1980)

30 June 2005

Thursday Q and A (6.30)

Hannah Arendt
"Ms. Arendt, is there anything one can decipher from behind the curtain of our current mis-leaders in America?"

"The trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide."

29 June 2005

Enough is Enough

6/29: Bush on Iraq
"Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it."

Well then George, send your own daughters. And by the way, how many have died in this war since your "mission accomplished" photo-op bullshit on that aircraft carrier? How many...1500 or so? Nevertheless, you really did look fantastic that day in your GI Joe suit.

Just a few of the more shocking LIES from last night's speech:

"We fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand."
More links of 9/11 to Iraq (Please, STOP IT!)

"Sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself."
They can't send more Americans because nobody wants to go. And, in FACT, here are just two reasons why they really don't give a damn about Iraqi civilians: "Shock and Awe" and Fallujah.

"We live in freedom because every generation has produced patriots willing to serve a cause greater than themselves."
Remember this when you hear these liars go on TV to tell the country how great patriotism is: Bush used his family privilege to get out of serving and went AWOL. Dick Cheney never served, nor did Karl Rove, or Donald Rumsfeld, or Paul Wolfowitz, John Ashcroft, Richard Pearle, or Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, or Condi Rice, John Bolton, Bill Bennett, Tom DeLay, Jeb Bush, Trent Lott, nor any others of this ilk who seem to have no compunction in ordering other's kids to go and die in a war built on LIES about WMD's, 9/11, Nigerian yellow-cake uranium, and all the rest of it.

How long will we the people continue to take this?

27 June 2005

O, Hindsight!

Bridget's open letter
to the guy who stole her car stereo

23 June 2005

Thursday Q and A (6.23)

Cornel West
"Dr. West, what are your impressions of fundamentalist Christian cultural and political influence - both here in America and now, the entire world?"

"The religious threats to democratic practices abroad are much easier to talk about than those at home. Just as demagogic and anti-democratic fundamentalisms have gained too much prominence in both Israel and the Islamic world, so too has a fundamentalist strain of Christianity gained far too much power in our political system, and in the hearts and minds of citizens. This Christian fundamentalism is exercising an undue influence over our government policies, both in the Middle East crisis and in the domestic sphere, and is violating fundamental principles enshrined in the Constitution: it is also providing support and "cover" for the imperialist aims of empire. The three dogmas that are leading to the imperial devouring of democracy in America--free market fundamentalism, aggressive militarism, and escalating authoritarianism--are often justified by the religious rhetoric of this Christian fundamentalism. And perhaps most ironically, and sadly, this fundamentalism is subverting the most profound, seminal teachings of Christianity."
Cornel West, Democracy Matters, p. 146