Flag Day16 comments
picture14 Jun 2008 @ 12:53
You see what power is -- holding someone else's fear in your hand and showing it to them!

---Amy Tan

Over the old wooden bridge
no traveler

---Henry David Thoreau

In studying the Way, realizing it is hard;
once you have realized it, preserving it is hard.
When you can preserve it, putting it into practice is hard.

---Zen saying

Photo: truckers burn their vehicles in fuel strike in Europe.

On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and in 1916 Woodrow Wilson proclaimed we should do it every year...and so that's the story of that. Today it follows Friday the 13th...and have you read the news today, oh boy! Where to begin?

I think I'd like to mention my concern for my sister-in-law Kirsten, who has lived for many years with her family near Iowa City. I did not hear yesterday whether or not there had been phone contact with them, but if not it wouldn't be the first time they've hefted a sandbag or 2---or perhaps they were among the university folk carrying the library's special book collection to higher ground upstairs. [link] While the Cedar River is beginning to recede, the Iowa River won't crest until Tuesday. They're calling this a Five Hundred Year Flood in Iowa City, but I heard an Iowan on the radio yesterday say, "We're getting a new Hundred Year Flood every year here now." People are dead in Cedar Rapids, and thousands have fled their homes, many of which have washed away. A railroad bridge across the Cedar River collapsed from the flood, and bridges throughout the state are closed. This is not the first bridge in this country's infrastructure to go down because there's no money for upgrades. Iowa's governor declared 83 of their 99 counties disaster areas. Governor Culver said yesterday the estimate of damage to Iowa's agriculture economy so far this summer is over a billion dollars. Combine this with the flood damage in Illinois and Indiana, and how is your garden coming along?  More >

 What To Do In The Belly Of The Beast5 comments
picture5 Jun 2008 @ 10:00
We're not a democracy. It's a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we're a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy.

---Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

---Thomas Jefferson

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

---Abraham Lincoln

The photo, taken by Allison Zarcaro Walker last Saturday, is of the marriage of 2 families, the Carlsons and the Thomases.

Today happens to be the birthday of both Adam Smith, born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland (1723), and John Maynard Keynes, born in Cambridge, England (1883). These 2 pillars of the form of economics called Capitalism are for many in the United States the real Founding Fathers of our country. Smith said that market forces serve the public good, and that government regulation, for the most part, does not. Keynes wrote a book during the Great Depression that argued governments can put people back to work by spending lots of money, even if it means running a deficit. FDR tried it. Since Reagan, certainly continuing with the Bushes, and promised renewal by McCain, our country has received its direction from corporate boardrooms more than the Congress.

Somehow this seems the perfect day to reply to a very important email I received last month. It has been high in my priorities on this machine to do so, but the passion with which it was written needs to be matched by me...and that has taken some time to fuel up. The letter is from a friend and colleague at the school where we both work. I would love to identify him specifically, and maybe I will later if he gives me the high sign to do so. But I want to write this now and so I shall be vague. Besides his academic duties, this man coaches sports. Athletics is extremely important to him, almost as important as his family, living a healthy life and being as self-sufficient as possible. I've known him for 10 years, and I have to say that when it comes to my work with multi-handicapped kids I often turn to him, rather than psychologists and medical people, for an opinion on what challenges the student has to deal with. He can have a kid stand on one foot and tell me what processing is going on. So I trust him and we agree on a lot of stuff---though maybe not on whether theater or sports should get more funding.
Anyway, he replied to something I sent out about the environment and climate change. He said that increasingly his work, the chores at home, the plans for the future, all pale when he looks around at what humans have done, and continue to do, to this planet. He says a change in lifestyle is what's necessary, and few people I know are more serious about it. It's amazing to see someone make that change when they set about to do it. It's a huge commitment, and it might even mean moving somewhere else. People are starting to do that. But he knows he can't do it alone, and he looks to friends and family for support and cooperation. It's not always there. Other people we both see are not doing anything apparently. Many become hostile at the mere mention of the problems we see. They don't want to hear about it. It's not a topic for social discussion in a school.  More >

 Apocalypse Anonymous27 comments
picture13 May 2008 @ 09:52
Winter solitude---
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.


Loneliness, my everyday life.
The sweeping winds pass on the night-bell sound.

---Ching An

Science...means unresting endeavor and continually progressing development toward an end which the poetic intuition may apprehend, but which the intellect can never fully grasp.

---Max Planck

The fresco is titled The End of the World, Apocalypse, created by Luca Signorelli from 1499 through 1502, in Orvieto Cathedral, San Brizio Chapel, Orvieto, Italy.

Bill McKibben's latest essay, Civilization’s Last Chance: The Planet Is Nearing a Tipping Point on Climate Change, and It Gets Much Worse, Fast, may have appeared first in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, but it's making the rounds fast. Common Dreams put it up yesterday and it has 146 comments so far. [link] When I read it my first thought was to send it out too, but then I realized I was too depressed to do it. What's the use, I thought. People who will read it already know and either are changing their own personal habits or sending money somewhere. Those who won't read it are the problem.

Psychotherapist and professor of history Carolyn Baker linked it in her newsletter and made this comment: "I have great respect for Bill McKibben, but unlike me, he is still waiting for some miracle of mass consciousness to save civilization. In this article he says we are 'nearing' a tipping point which in my opinion, we have already crossed. I believe that climate change now has a life of its own and that our best human efforts cannot stop it. In contrast to McKibben, I believe that it is only the END of civilization that can save what is left of the earth and its inhabitants, and for me, that cannot happen soon enough."

A friend of mine said a couple years ago, "The sooner we run out of oil the better. Aren't a hundred years of war about the stuff enough?" NASA climatologist James Hansen, quoted in McKibben's article, thinks burning coal to make our electricity is what's done it. President Bush said the U.S. is "addicted" to oil...and then advises us to go shopping. The guy sounds like a pusher. I remember his father being interviewed on television, sitting on the family cabin cruiser in Kennebunkport, in the midst of the gasoline shortage during his administration. At the end of it he was asked if he didn't want to urge Americans to conserve gas. He chuckled audibly...and then said, "Sure, conserve."

Is this the problem? Are we addicts now? I mean real addiction to stuff. Do we think we can't live without gasoline engines and the shopping mall? Or is it I don't want to live if I can't have it? I remember a guy in AA telling me once, "Before I gave it up I used to feel all I wanted to do was drink and smoke until I die." Maybe AA is the answer for consumerism too. Carolyn Baker thinks it is...and so last week she offered her 12 Step Plan to kick the habit. Maybe she's got something here.  More >

 The Snowville Story2 comments
picture10 May 2008 @ 11:58
Great Buddha,
lap filling with these
flowers of snow.


It would imply the regeneration of mankind, if they were to become elevated enough to truly worship sticks and stones.

---Henry David Thoreau

A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.

---Paul Dudley White, M.D.

The Snowville logo [link]

It's been a pretty interesting couple of days, as local Krogers patrons registered concern about a single product lots of people seem to like. Snowville Creamery's milk can cost twice as much as other brands, depending on sale situations, but people are devoted. For an old dude like me it's reminiscent of childhood days, not so much of glass bottles the milkman brought to our doorstep---and which we washed out and returned for refill each day. It's because of the cream on top, something I never thought I'd experience again! Mom preferred we shake up the bottles before the first pour, but sometimes I couldn't resist stealing all the cream onto a bowl of Wheaties. Yum! It really was Breakfast of Champions then!

So Thursday and Friday there was a flurry of activity as word got out that for some reason Kroger's had reduced Snowville's shelf area and hiked the price by a buck. As people all over Southeast Ohio called, emailed, and went into the Athens store to contact management, various stories began to emerge. What we learned, if we didn't know already, farm and pharm are hotly competitive...and what the grocer's got and the doctor prescribes are similarly fought over. Lots of people are involved and it's complicated.

For instance, it's not unusual in the aisles of Krogers or in the doctor's waiting room to observe a salesperson pitching away to a department supervisor or the receptionist through the little window. I'll never forget sitting in Dr. Rothstein's one afternoon, and watching this woman push the latest mood-altering capsule. She was inviting the whole crew out to dinner---"someplace special this time"---and then pointed to her clothes which, she said, were specially designed to match the gay colors of the pill. Can you imagine the money involved to deck out the Merck sales force in this wardrobe, plus dinners at the resort? Wonder who pays for all that.  More >

 The Foothill Fanfairs2 comments
picture30 Apr 2008 @ 09:54
Knowledge comes but wisdom lingers.

---Alfred, Lord Tennyson

What is beyond, is that which is also here.

---Ancient Indian aphorism

The Emperor's chief carpenter, Ch'ing, once made a music stand so perfect that all who saw it marveled. When Lu asked him to reveal the mystery of his art, Ch'ing demurred, saying: "No mystery, your Highness, though there is something. When I am about to make such a stand, I first reduce my mind to absolute quiet. Three days in this condition and I am oblivious to any reward to be gained. Five days, and I am oblivious to any fame to be acquired. Seven days, and I become unconscious of my four limbs and body. Then, with no thought of the Court in mind, all my skill concentrated and all disturbing elements gone, I go into the forest to search for a suitable tree. It contains the stand in my mind's eye, and then I set to work."


If you've ever been in a choir, particularly the church variety, you may appreciate Dave Walker's cartoon, from the UK's Church Times. [link]

On Saturday, in San Rafael, California, there will be a national competition you may not be aware of. It's the 24th Annual Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival. Actually this is the final contest, as there already have been 8 elimination contests held in cities all over the country. Now the winning groups there are being flown to Marin Veterans' Auditorium for this big deal over the weekend. It's interesting there are hundreds of these groups involved, and probably not too many are of the barbershop variety anymore. As you can see from these photos and group descriptions, the music is all over the place [link] , but you can be sure of one thing: most of these participants have heard of Phil Mattson and The Foothill Fanfairs.

A couple years ago I stumbled into the best argument I know for writing personal stuff on the Internet. I merely related the coincidental sighting of a name of a musician on a CD set a friend generously gave me, with an LP I had bought years earlier. The name Michele Weir connected me to somebody name Phil Mattson, then I began to find out things about him, and finally I thought somebody somewhere might be interested in this so I wrote about it. [link] What followed here, elsewhere I post, and in emails has been a continuous flow of messages from people who studied and performed with this great teacher. Most recently I heard from someone named Roy Turpin, who happens to be a therapist now out in California (isn't everybody?) and he has provided me a rare opportunity.

A month ago Gene Puerling died. His passing went largely unnoticed in the media, but those of us who love acapella singing know he formed The Hi-Lo's in the early 1950s, and then Singers Unlimited a decade later, and we mourned appropriately. Phil Mattson appreciated the Puerling genius, which was a style and technique completely original, and had the brilliance himself to begin teaching it to young people. Well, I suppose some folks must have thought he was crazy to attempt it...because certainly those of us who also loved Puerling thought such singing clearly was impossible---even where there it was on records. It really was impossible, because Gene began to experiment with multi-tracking and eventually had 4 singers sound like 8, then 12, or a whole choir. Phil's challenge may have been tougher, because he used real people...and they were kids.  More >

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