Tuesday, January 28, 2014

R.I.P. Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

 It’s always deceptively easy to dismiss an icon, especially when the iconic subject of dismissal held many unpopular, or even historically incorrect, viewpoints on things. But to dismiss Pete Seeger with a shrug and think “he was just some old Commie” seems to be too trite and far too little as respect such a one of elder age might deserve.

Pete Seeger’s music was in my life from an early age, one might say, it was there at the start. Some of my earliest memories of music in my parent’s home involved listening to a vinyl lp, “The Weavers At Carnegie Hall”, which I remember  most for “Follow the Drinking Gourd”, “Wimoweh”,  "Darling Corey", and “Goodnight Irene.” My parents, early involved in what might later have been called the “Reagan Revolution” or the “Goldwater Party” saw no contradiction in offering this to me, nearly day and night, up until the age of twelve, anyway, when I rediscovered this album while learning guitar.

And then Mr. Seeger was there again, in my 12th summer, on the television. His program Rainbow Quest in one episode featured a Scottish singer named Donovan. This was marvelous, because for me, Donovan was one of the true role models I took for my own point of view, maybe from a performer’s aspect, but also, synergetically, from the “lifestyle” another tv program, a documentary called “A Boy Named Donovan” had  purported to represent. That I and my best friend would later end up living in just such conditions as those meant to be represented in Donovan’s pre-fame, pre-roxtar era, and actually, a bit more poverty-stricken and desperate than his own (which did not last long) never occurred to us- at the time it was quite romantic and appealing. Donovan and Gypsy Dave... well, that is all another story. 

Back to Mr. Seeger.  He was in my life again when I took up the five-string banjo, and found his “Little Red” (later published in editions of Blue and Green) “How To Play The Five-String Banjo” instructional book to be inestimable in value as to its giving method, technique, and more importantly, a bit of repertoire. Equally important in value, as I felt it was, to the Earl Scruggs method book for five-string banjo. As I recall, they used different tunings, too- Seeger focused on a “C” tuning, while Scruggs used an open “G”. And I gravitated toward the G-tuning, since I felt there were many more songs in the key of G (or which might lend themselves easier in related keys) than Seeger’s tuning. But it was a small matter, since many of the tablature charts were helpful, as was the description of the different forms of strumming- “frailing”, “clawhammer”, and “three finger picking”. All of it went into my head, although as I now later admit, I’ve forgotten more than I’ll ever remember about playing banjo, having focused on guitar and bass (and even pedal steel guitar) in later years, and no longer owning one.

Nevertheless. If Pete Seeger had not been around, so many of us would never have been as absorbed by acoustic music, or as it was known then, “folk” music. The Weavers along with John Cohen and Allen Lomax and their ilk kept an American version of the folksong collection tradition (in the UK, represented by Martin Sharp, Cecil Field, and Francis Child) alive, and did so by keeping the songs themselves alive. So many of these songs, and styles, could have easily withered and died on the vine, Balkanized in their isolation, were it not for Pete Seeger and others of his kind. That was the real value of these people to culture.

That Mr. Seeger was at one time a member of the Communist Party could perhaps be forgiven as well as some of his later dispensations of “political correctness,” although like so many, recently, having been used as a “useful idiot” for our current President Spybot and his administration looks to be the final insult and embarrassment for a man who spent so much of his time struggling for what he felt to be justice and truth and a more decent world. There were an awful lot of these “useful idiots” in the Obamanation juggernaut who perhaps now see little contradiction, although it’s as apparent as the Emperor’s New Clothing. The surviving members of the Grateful Dead, for example, who rushed gushingly to endorse him. Jerry Garcia would never have done so, in fact, Jerry Garcia probably would never have even assented to making a “group statement” in the manner of his fellows, had he been alive, back in 2008. Rah-rah-rah, the secret police state is here!  Garcia was as apolitical as a sea bass. And in that respect, Pete’s old-line Soviet state boosterism is equalized, the old KGB grant money to the Popular Front movement balances with Obama’s new illegal and unconstitutional US-Style edition of the repressive KGB-Stasi mind police. Well, we are only but one leap removed from having that at the moment.

I could think of a better legacy for Pete Seeger than to have been no more than just another useful vote in helping our current capitalist warmonger (the D beside his name is a small matter. There’s hardly any difference in any of the authoritarians in power now, “D” or “R”, in their bipartisan enthusiasm to crush Constitutional rights and freedom in the name of “homeland security”)  to grasp for, attain, and keep, his Princely powers.  He is and will remain a great voice in American music. You wonder how some of these other old-school lefty folkies, like Joan Baez, must now feel, about the absolutely hypocritical turnarounds their darling “civil rights legacy” president has unleashed upon all of us. But little matter. He’s spoken tonight- the usual “trot out some martyred soldier act”- of Americans making sacrifices and how all the world looks to us because of our ideals, and more, all of that hackneyed & cliched  “patriotic” bullshit. Equality under the law, Mr Obama, means that you are as responsible as anyone else is to the law. America cannot long survive when equality under the law means, “your equal right to be completely monitored.” But Mr. Seeger, bullshitted though he often may have been, himself descended from someone who fought in battles at the very founding of the Republic,  will probably be looking down from above & blanching. You did not build that America which elected you, Mr. Obama. People like Pete Seeger did. And speaking of building the America he knew it could be, I would say that the super-spy police-state framework which you have overseen the creation of, the new totalitarian "Oceania" megastate of transnationally-shared individuals' personal data- is not, never was, never can be, the America which Pete Seeger “thought we could be.” And I for one will continue to speak up about what I see as wrong in your own policies, and where you have been, or are, attempting to take us.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. -John Donne

Saturday, January 18, 2014

AVAILABLE NOW! If I Should Live So Long by Mark Lind-Hanson

A new novel of historical fantasy set in 15th C. England...

     Julian Plectrum of Chester is a minstrel who has grown up in Cheshire and lived there all his life. At the age of fourteen he made a lifelong friend of Stephen, son of a wool and textile merchant, whom he saves from drowning. He meets Porcull, an older hermit who lives on Stephen’s estate, and who sparks in him the need to travel afar, to London. Which he does, but only to end up in a lawsuit with an olde-tyme song-stealing music industry shark. His adventures of three years time between Chester and Penzance bring him renown and connections. These connections are a good thing to have, once he’s met his true love, Mary, the daughter of a Chester carpenter, and a budding puppet-mistress.
     On his last return from Penzance he happens right into the battle of Shrewsbury, between King Henry IV of England and his once aide-de-camp, now turned rebel, Henry Percy, and his allies among the Cheshire gentry, the Scots, and the Welsh. Julian happens upon his long-left brother Simon among the wounded and dying at day’s end. Returning to Chester with Simon, the rebellion for the moment crushed, he marries Mary and they begin their new life with a trip to the new home in Penzance. They’d be all too happy to settle right down, but Stephen has asked them to come along with him on a trip to France.
    IF I SHOULD LIVE SO LONG is the first in a planned series of three works of historical fantasy. Julian and his friends are common folk, but the breezes of war, and the complications of seeming peace, are never far from them, all too often, closer for comfort than they’d like.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Greens, Obama, and Keystone XL

     In the greatly underrated movie Idiocracy, the protagonist Joe is tasked by the President with “fixing ever’thing!” A vastly underestimated manner of passing the buck, but then again, Joe comes from the past, and is dealing with a future world where stupid is the new normal. These are, of course, people who have forgotten that it is water which makes plants grow, not Gatorade.
     The Green movement sometimes lurches along like the civilization of Idiocracy. They carp about private sector interests and entrepreneurship as nothing but “greedy 1%ers”, even if a great number of those who they would represent as such, in the alternative energy field, are barely scraping along looking for all the help they can get. This sort of mass-meme thinking is in for a serious reality check.
      Because one of the features of Green philosophy is that the government ought to be the ones who “fix ever’thing!” not the people themselves, they have played right into the hands of those they despise the most- the players in the energy field who really ARE the 1%. They have placed their faith in Barack Obama- a man who himself has little credibility as for personal veracity any longer, as the “environmentalist president.” Do they know where Barack Obama actually was on the day last year when thousands of them protested on Capitol Hill against the Keystone XL Pipeline?
     Barack Obama was playing golf in Florida with some of the major investors of that widely scorned and unpopular project. Perhaps Barack Obama gets his best thinking done on a golf course, I do not know. But it’s telling and signal that he should spend more time turning an ear toward those 1%er earth-rapers than he would the population he supposedly represents. Especially at the very critical moment when they seek petition of grievances.
     Then again Greens should not be surprised at Barack Obama’s cynical use of their support to get elected. He used the civil liberties lobby in the very same fashion. He paraded himself about as a “Constitutional scholar” all the while, while once he took office, he embarked on the greatest program of totalitarian secret police spying in history. He wrote into law provisions to arrest or detain Americans without due process and for possibly “infinite” indefinite periods. He performs, as Rev. Cornel West so trenchantly put it, like nothing less than “a Rockefeller Republican in blackface.”
     Mr. Obama would like to kick the can down the road a far as possible rather than face up to his constituency who elected him in order to hopefully watch him “fix ever’thing!” He has put off making a “decision” about Keystone XL until “sometime this next year.” But there can really be little doubt over which way he is leaning on this. I hope I am wrong, but as I have been watching this man’s behavior over the last five years, I would be remiss if I did not say “I warned ya!” Already, the PM of Canada has spoken out that he is “confident” that the US president will approve this billion dollar slap in the face to Greens.  The Vice President of the US, who himself is on record as opposing it, has mentioned he himself feels he is “in the minority around here” i.e., the White House, on the issue. If Greens cannot see the writing on the wall for themselves, then perhaps they need a Cassandra like me to flash the cue cards in their faces.
     I have no such confidence in Barack Obama, that he would not sign the legislation needed to approve Keystone XL. Why? Well, in his own last State of the Union address, he made some small mention- probably overlooked by many- that he was working to create “new pipelines.” President Obama’s idea of alternate energy is fracking, no doubt, and helping out large players (I should add “’helping” in quotes as a caveat, since we saw how much his “help” did to get the Solyndra company off the ground)  rather than helping small scale entrepreneurs who have great ideas to launch but little venture capital to support them- the very small businesses which if they actually received more respect and support from the overblown beast which is the US government, might be able to put even more people to work, doing work which is environmentally friendly and not, as evidenced so far by the number of large scale pipeline accidents in the US and Canada the past two years, just more of the same earth-rapist mentality.
   But then again this is a president who represents a small minority of 1%ers  and grovels at their feet at every opportunity. His “financial advisors” themselves are key players in the drama which led up to the recession his “economic recovery” has still to find solutions for. His approach is to wait until the noise quiets down about something, and then to ram it right down people’s throats, all the while seemingly protesting that he “had to” do it. Usually “because national security.” This was the manner in which he approved indefinite detention, and this will be the manner in which he approves Keystone XL.

     I for one would be shocked if he does not, but Greens are nothing but naive dreamers if they fool themselves into believing that he absolutely won’t. The odds and past evidence are very, very strongly against it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Everything Is Beautiful In Its Own Way

Jeana Montague is “in treatment.” She’s been caught “acting out” and being “a problem to her neighbors.” At Shadow Acres, rehabilitation is measured by one’s willingness to “get with the program.”

But Shadow Acres is staffed by an incongruous group of men (and women) out to prove to others that they have nothing but society’s best interest at heart. Who was it, somone- once said that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions?” But the have obviously never heard this, or if they have, they’ve surrendered to the least common denominator- the ability to show power by making others miserable.

Jeana makes some friends while at Shadow Acres, and tries to have a life of her own outside the supervised community as well (if she can). Ursula Bowers comes from a similar background, and both are about the same age, and they become fast friends. Harris, however, is an older man, who’s seen better times and has nearly given up on their ever returning to him. Between the two of them, they attempt to help Jeana recover her own sense of self and identity in a surrounding which is inimical in every way to its gratification.

The ultimate price Jeana must pay for her resistance to “the program” eventually comes to pass. Jeana Montague is definitely not alone in her plight- but getting to the end of things just isn’t, really, the end of things.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fukushima is a Crime Against Humanity

     It is becoming apparent, although you have not noticed much beyond a yawn in the mainstream media, that the Fukushima crisis in Japan has and is become a disaster of epic magnitude. Imagine an entire ocean, an entire ecosystem, choking on the leaked radiation from the reactor crippled by 2011's tsunami- imagine the impact along the entire west coast of North America to plant, animal, and human life as a result of the inability to contain and stop the further release of radioactive contaminants.
     It is also apparent that a coverup of epic magnitude began when Mrs. Hilary Clinton, a perpetual "potential nominee" for the Presidency of the United States, signed an agreement with the government of Japan that Japanese food imports could continue into the United States with a minimum of food quality testing. Fukushima irradiated imported food has been coming into the country ever since. It's being caught offshore, right now, and people are being advised- although not yet on a national scale- to avoid any Pacific ocean products. There is evidence that the radiation levels all along the Pacific coast have risen to extremes- 128, 136 rads taken in a reading off Pacifica, California, in the last week, and comparable readings being found in Washington state.
     The persons responsible for the disaster are indeed in my opinion, criminals against humanity. How can we measure the loss of the greatest ocean on earth and all the life within it? How can we measure the loss of human life, here and in Japan? Homeless men and women are being recruited in what has to be one of the most cynical evidences of Hitlerian "useless eater solutions" to provide help in the reactor cleanup. No additional health insurance guarantees are offered to these poor wretched and incredibly brave souls, by the way. Radiation is seen as a prime factor in the "starfish wasting syndrome" which is right now occurring across the North American, and apparently, other oceanic shores around the world. Cesium-137 is being noted in groundwater and surface berries on the west coast. It really appears as though something truly horrific - on a scale with a mass nuclear bomb fiesta- has been happening, and will continue to happen, as the effort to "plug the dykes" has taken on what appears to be a never-ending state of affairs.
     Politicians who bray loudly claiming responsibility for the "safety" of their populations should not be allowed to "fiddle while Rome burns" and continue on with business as usual, turning blind eyes to what is happening, and refusing to inform the public about things which the public, themselves with eyes to see and ears to hear and brains to figure things out, are only now waking up to what is happening all around them. Mrs. Hilary does not deserve the presidency of the United States for many reasons, but at this time, in my opinion, this is the biggest one to hit the wall as yet.
     This truly is a crime against humanity, if ever we saw one, on so many levels, that I am humbled by how little I can say more than I can at this moment.

Here's what appears to be the first evidence of "mainstream media attention" to this drama: from the San Francisco Examiner. I only drew up the tip of the iceberg in terms of the effects on species that this event is having. Make your own decisions about where you go and what you eat. Some of us have no choice for the moment but "sheltering in place". And an additional note about the culpability of Mrs. Hilary Clinton.