Sunday, November 11, 2018

From Valley Forge to Vietnam and Very Near


In 1969, I graduated from high school and went to University. In college, there was no threat to life and limb for me. It was a safe place to be.

Many of my high school buddies didn’t take that route; they joined, or were drafted into, the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard to defend our nation. At that time, defense of our nation—defense of our security and our ideals—was considered by most of our leaders to be directly related to the defeat of the Viet Minh and Viet Cong in  Vietnam.

While I went to college, many men and some women of my same age shipped out to the other side of the world to run the Viet Minh insurgents back into North Vietnam, and to the shut the Viet Cong  down.

The difficult mission that our national leaders had laid upon our soldiers over there was no easy task: dangerous, deadly and damn near impossible. About 54, 000 of our guys and gals who served and fought in Vietnam never came back, or they if they did return it was in a casket.

My college experience here, Stateside, was a walk in the park compared to what our armed forces were called to do in Vietnam and other theaters of war. What they did, however, was nothing new. Although in Vietnam we were strapped with a whole new set of warfare rules that few understood, and that was a major part of our problem.

But I am here today to say that: Our soldiers have been defending the USA—our freedoms and values—for two centuries.



From Valley Forge to Vietnam and Very Near, millions of our men and women have lived and died to defend us. We owe them—whether they served willingly, or were drafted—we owe them respect and gratitude for their willingness to be threatened and humiliated by the pains and dangers of war and the perilous requirements of maintaining government of the people, by the people and for the people.

From Valley Forge to  Vietnam to now. . . their brave service continues to this day: defending our shores, our borders, and helping other liberty-holding nations to maintain freedom from oppression.

While thousands of guys and gals of my generation were on duty in Vietnam, many of us back here at home were protesting and working to bring our people home, because . . . the longer that war dragged on, the more and more controversial it became. Finally, by 1975, we had shut the whole project down.

So our Vietnam veterans came home and got back into the routine of living in the good ole USA. For many, many of them, this was no walk in the park, no easy transition. PTSD was, and still is, rampant among them. And while we who did not go will never understand what they endured, we can still show our appreciation.

A few years ago, I reached a time of life in which I felt a need to somehow reconcile the controversy of Vietnam that our generation had endured. My literary working-out of this angst took the form of a novel, King of Soul, which I published in 2017.

On this Veterans’ Day, I share a brief excerpt that describes one little experience in the Vietnam War. I post it here today, so that those who were there and endured such tribulation—they will know that their bravery and sacrifice does not go unnoticed by us who did not serve.

For the sharpening of our collective memory of what the hell happened over there, I post the excerpt, which begins with a quote from a popular song that many of us singing here at home. from Chapter 19 of King of Soul:

. . .where have all the young men gone, gone to flowers everyone, when will they ever learn when will they ever learn? But on the other side of the world something very different was going down . . .

~~~

. . . the gunner for their platoon, and that day he was packing an M-60 machine gun. And now there was no doubt about the threat of those nearby

NVA. Sure as hell, there was no doubt any more about anything except: they were in a firefight. Time to fight, or die. Rob got the order to haul that M-60 down the hill to a certain position and open up on ‘em. He said all he could remember about that was that he put one foot in front of the other while scuffling down that hill dragging all that weight with him, and the infernal noise that was blasting out all around him. The adrenaline was pumping and he was stumbling through it, trying to keep himself and the gun upright until he could get to where he was going, or where he was supposed to be going, which he wasn’t yet sure of. It wasn’t just the machine gun he was packing, but also three ammo belts. I mean, it was a good damn thing that he had ‘em, because he was gonna need every last one of them rounds before it was all over with. Finally he got to where he was s’posed to be, rid himself of the ammo belts and heated up the M-60, aiming up at the ridge where the AK-47 flashes were poppin’ like deadly firecrackers, but a helluva lot louder. He said he felt like he was going crazy, but somehow the craziness itself was what drove him on to do what he needed to do. I mean, what else could a man do? He was just shootin’ the hell out of them NVA, or at least he hoped he was, because it was gonna be either us or them if he had anything to say about it.

For you guys who went over there and endured such as this, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Ypres, San Juan Hill, Gettysburg, Valley Forge, or  wherever you performed your duty for us . . .

Although we'll never understand what the hell you did over there, still . . .Thank you.

King of Soul

Friday, November 9, 2018

The two between-war Rhapsodies


The greater rhapsody is the American one.

Composed by George Gershwin and performed in 1924, Rhapsody in Blue embodies the merging of our native black-born jazz with highbrow classical European instrumentation.


The other great rhapsodic composition of that time, Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, created by the immigrant Sergei Rachmaninoff, represents a Russian music-master’s exploration of an Italian violin virtuoso’s experiments. It is also a great piece of music.

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c33q87s03h4

Both rhapsodies are experimental, ground-breaking. Both are bouncy in their beginnings, disruptive in some transitional phrases. But both works resolve, rather suddenly, 2/3 of the way through development, to an exquisitely lush romantic theme.  The listener’s endurance in earlier discordant excursions through frantic forte poundings is unexpectedly rewarded with a sudden soothing melody. In both pieces, the earlier tensions disappear as they resolve,  melting into an absolutely beautiful melody.

And yet, both works return again to a frantic piano part before resolving again at the end.

Gershwin’s 1924 opus was intentionally concocted as a music experiment; it was commissioned by pioneering bandleader Paul Whiteman, and subsequently orchestrated by his jazzy arranger, Ferdie GrofĂ©.

It turned out to be an extraordinary work of profound importance in the history of music.

By the 20th century, the hundreds-of-years old tradition of European classical music had reached an impasse. Composers were running out of ideas; they needed to break new ground. A morose preoccupation with dissonance and atonality threatened to turn orchestral music into academic drudgery.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Sergei Rachmaninoff fled Bolshevik Russia in 1917; in so doing, he also began a long process of escaping the heavy gravitational pull of a Continental musical death wish.

Europe’s rapid descent into World War I and wide-scale mechanized destruction was tragic.

America, on the other hand, was wide open with possibilities. Sergei traveled here and performed more and more frequently, accompanied by popular acclaim; ultimately he acquired US citizenship shortly before his death in 1943.

Before finally establishing residency Stateside, he had spent significant time in Dresden, Germany, and in Switzerland. While in Switzerland during the summer of 1934, he composed Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.

It’s a marvelous piece of work.

Taking his inspiration from the great Italian violin virtuoso of a hundred years before, Sergei spun Niccolo’s multiple variations into an energetic iteration of thoroughly European rhapsody.

It was quite well done. . . profound, a notable accomplishment.

But Sergei did not have the benefit of one powerful influence that George Gershwin had been born into: a wide-open America with an entirely new beat, and worldview:

Black America.

America had given birth to Louis Armstrong, and  Louie— along with his ground-breaking black compadres— gave birth to jazz.

American jazz is what the Old World had been waiting for—though nobody knew—to get a new lease on creative life:

all that Jazz!

Atlantic City NJ honky bandleader Paul Whiteman was the pioneering musician who crossed the jazz bridge  that changed the world; later, he commissioned George Gershwin to compose Rhapsody in Blue, because Paul knew that something symphonically jazzy was needed.

And so Gershwin came up with Rhapsody in Blue.  The rest is history.

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cH2PH0auTUU  

And that’s why I say the greatest rhapsody was the American one, the Blue one, written by an American, in America. It changed the world of  music forever.

 

King of Soul

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Shifting Sands Sublime


Beneath the appearance of things
behind the wonder that contemplation brings
there lies a universe of joy and pain
entrained upon whatever relics still remain
of a world colored by some eternal stain;
and wherever that stain remains
things are not and will never be the same
provoking some to surmise it’s just a game
that they can play and then refrain
from any effort to name
or explain.
And yet,
so many live for what they can get;
they allow no time to pause and let
life just happen along the way
so they can soon look back and say
what a joy it is to pause and stay
in the lingering light of a well-lived day
while the world just turns on come what may.
Oh, history breaks on sands far away
while here we enter into the fray;
we laugh or cry along the way
tomorrow and today,
I say, I say:
If I could comprehend this troubled world
so creative, yet destructively unfurled
I’d grasp the mystery, so sublime
that slaps between the sands of time
on this ever-shifting, long shoreline—
this consciousness of mine,
maybe it’s in or out of line
and maybe with a little sip of wine,
yes, I’d dream up some silly little rhyme,
and whether it be sublime and fine
or not worth a dime,
it nevertheless is mine,
and yet it can be thine
if you take the time.

King of Soul

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Never Again


From chapter 8 of Glass half-Full, we find Hilda, a restaurant-owner, telling some friends about an experience she had in Germany.

"Hitler and his thugs tried to take advantage of the situation; they launched a coup d'etat, called a putsch in German. But it failed, and they ended up getting arrested. The event has been named the beer hall putsch of 1923. Well, I was reading about these police officers who were killed by the Nazis that night. And I was reading in my guide book some information about the incident. I kept hearing this beautiful music, really spirited music. We walked in the direction of the music. We turned a corner...and there they were, five musicians playing five instruments: clarinet, violin, accordion, cello, a drummer. I could tell they were Jewish right away. I considered their courage: to stand there at the Odeonsplatz where the Nazis had made their first move to try and take over the world, and declare, with their music, that Jewish people, along with their music, were alive and well in the 21st century. They inspired me. We must have listened to them for an hour...the Bridge Ensemble."

This excerpt from my 2007 novel describes an event in the life of a fictional character named Hilda. While writing the book, I chose the occurrence to make a point about what happens in the history of our human race when hate-based groups take up arms against other people.

However, the event described here, although presented as a fictional event in a story, is in reality something that actually happened.

It happened to me. I was "Hilda." My son and I were in Munich in 2002 when the music reached my ears while I was reading a plaque about the four German policemen who had been killed during the first Nazi uprising in 1923.

It was a meaningful event in my life, so I made the experience part of a long story story that I later published in 2007. Glass half-Full is a novel about some characters in the Washington DC area; they're pretty good people, but some bad things happen to them.

Bad things happen. 

When bad things happen on a large scale, nations go to war against each other and all hell breaks loose for a while. When all hell breaks loose on a major scale--a continental level of magnitude and intensity--that is called "World War."

We of mankind have had two of them. We hope that we never have another. Don't we?

In both world wars, our nation, the United States of America, intervened on behalf of our Allies. In both wars, our presence and strength in the fray made a big difference, and we were victorious in both holocausts.

Holocausts is a word I use in the context of that last sentence, meaning  life sacrifices, by fire: lives being snuffed out by fire, or by other destructive means. In our post-World War II experience, the Holocaust generally refers to the mass-murder of six million Jewish Europeans under the murderous regime of the Nazis, led by the demonic Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler.

Never again should there be a holocaust of such immensity. Our nation and our armed forces were a large part of extinguishing the fire of persecution that snuffed out the lives of millions of defenseless, innocent persons before and during the Second World War.


Now, when people refer to the proposition of making America "great again," this is--or should be--the meaning of the phrase, Make America Great Again.

That we have been, in times past, the defender of innocent people who are being slaughtered on a massive scale by hate-filled groups,--this is what made America great during World War II. And this is what, generally, does make America great in any present or future time. 

Great, yes, because we have--on a massive scale-- the resources and the collective will to serve as defenders of defenseless or innocent people anywhere in the world. 

Not because we appoint ourselves aggressors to impose our so-called American way of life on any other nation or people-group in this world. This is where we crossed the line, in my opinion, in Vietnam. What began as a war to defend the free people of South Vietnam against aggressive Viet Minh insurgents, degenerated instead, to become a war of aggression in which we raised a lot more hell and bloodletting than we could legitimately justify; in a quasi-primitive nation that had not yet progressed to a phase of development in which they could truly understand the difference between these two words: communism and capitalism.

And may that never happen again.

A year or two ago, I also wrote a sociological novel pertaining to our Vietnam ordeal, King of Soul.

Let us Americans never be the aggressors. We are defenders. What makes our nation great, if anything, is simply the massive scale of defense we are able to muster on behalf of free and innocent people, whether it's in Europe, Rwanda, the Middle East, or anywhere, including at home. May our great strength never corrupt us.

We are defenders not only in the military applications. We are-and should always be--defenders of the defenseless in matters of law. We are, according to our original founding codes, advocates for justice in all of our institutions: courts of law, legislative bodies, government agencies, immigration agencies, overseas aid, and administrative law from welfare to wall street. That is what makes America great. 

May we never stray from the preservation and extension of truth, justice, and yes, the American way.

And may we always be defenders of same.

Glass half-Full

Friday, October 26, 2018

From Digging to Digitizing


The history of mankind has consisted of humans pulling stuff out of the ground and reworking it to suit our own survival purposes.

As people became more and civilized, and organized, the underlying survival instinct took a back seat to other motivations—gathering surplus, tribal organizing, development of skills and trades, cooperation and competition. . . eventually industry,  government, education, business, recreation, sports, entertainment.

The progressive developments of all these human activities required something that was necessary and common to all of them:

Resources.

Stuff from the earth itself. Raw material. Basic stuff:

Water, dirt, plants, rocks, ores, animals, hides.

As civilization moved forward, these basics were refined by us— reconstructed, manufactured to fulfill the requirements of human development.


The list of basic stuff (above) was revised to include:

Drinks, processed foods, fertilizer, livestock, leather, pets, tools, machines, lumber, metals, trains, cars, planes, appliances, telephones, radios, televisions, computers.

Computers--aha! With these, human development embarked upon a new phase.

Information itself becomes as useful (or at least we think it is as useful. . .) as all the other stuff that we’re using to make the world a more convenient place since the beginnings. Knowledge itself has became a resource. Yeah, though I dare say it—a commodity.

So we notice that over the course of human progress we did move steadily from pulling stuff out of the ground, and reworking it so that we could improve our life, to—

Pulling information out of our data machines.

Like it or not, this is the outcome of human history. We have come to this. Now development is largely about retrieving and using data files to improve life or capitalize upon its developments.

In the same manner as we traditionally removed natural resources from the ground and turned it into our good stuff.

And bad stuff. Let’s not forget that part. Our progressive high-tech life now generates bad stuff. Pollutants, toxins, noxious substances and, of course, shit itself, which still happens every day on a very large scale. 

A consequence of our globally massive improvement project is that more and more persons are being driven into knowledge jobs.

Instead of all that plowing, digging, mining, constructing that we did all through history—more and more of us are typing, cataloging, programming, sitting at desks and watching computers do our so-called  work for us. Such activity (relatively, it is inactivity) becomes the order of the day for us as far into the future as many of us can see.

This digitized transformation of human development will bring us to some huge changes. I read an article about it this morning:

https://www.ips-journal.eu/regions/global/article/show/the-false-hero-called-digitalisation-3050/n

Seeing as how we now have entered the age of information retrieval slowly overtaking natural resources recovery. . . seeing as how we gaze collectively at what seems to be the setting sun of human physical toil, I offer a tribute to the noble enterprise of Human Labor.


This tribute I offer in the form of a song. Gordon Lightfoot wrote it years ago.

It is one of the best songs ever written about the glory of human labor. You may listen to the songwriter’s rendition here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXzauTuRG78 

I also offer my own rendition of Gordon’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”, a song that I dearly love to sing.

Gordon's Railroad Trilogy

As you listen to both versions, imagine you are watching a sunset—the disappearing brightness of human labor accomplishment, being supplanted by a foggy dawn of. . . whatever is ahead for our collective endeavor.

King of Soul

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Et tu, Brussels?


Of course everybody who goes to Rome brings home mucho pictures. People travel there from all over the world to tour the originating sites of the ancient Empire; then they take a little chunk of early European history home, in the form of photographs.

When we were there, yes, we certainly did do the obligatory tourist ritual of snapping photos of the so-called Imperial City. You’ve probably seen classic images of the Roman ruins, which commemorate the Empire period of two thousand years ago.

But I was most fascinated with a relatively new structure there, Il Vittoriano.

Designed in 1885, inaugurated in 1911, and completed in 1925, this incredible monument makes an absolutely grandiose visual impression when you first catch sight of it.


You can see from this grand edifice that the Italians have never forsaken their proudly imperial self-image.

This morning, however, a Roman venue of a grittier sort—the Circus Maximus— was brought to my attention. In his Seeking Alpha post,

    https://seekingalpha.com/article/4213358-now-circus-maximus?isDirectRoadblock=false

Mark J. Grant used that  ancient racetrack as a metaphor for the  fiscal contest that is now heating up over in Europe.

Here’s what Mark wrote about the presently escalating Continental showdown:

“The new "Circus Maximus" will include all of the European Union and their population of 512 million people. Sit back and enjoy the grand spectacle as Italy has now presented its budget and the European Commission has sent it back. Rome then reacted to Brussels and stood steadfast on the banks of the Tiber and now the overmasters in Brussels and Berlin will hand down judgment, and likely some form of bureaucratic justice, that was not fashioned in Italy, but which Italy is expected to obey.”

The original Circus Maximus, however,  is just a dirt racetrack.

If you’re a boomer geezer like me, you may remember, from a classic race scene in the 1959 MGM movie, Ben Hur, Charlton Heston heroically outmaneuvering a less-than-honorable competing charioteer, to win the great chariot race.

 

That scene may or may not have taken place in the Circus Maximus of olden times.

The real Circus Maximus, where those famous chariot races usually took place, wasn’t conducted in the Colosseum. The actual site was really a huge dirt track, located near the Tiber River, beneath Palatine Hill, where Roman emperors and their hobnobbing hoodoo entourages could view the spectacle from an elevated, privileged position. Here’s what the real Circus Maximus looks like now:


Seeking Alpha blogger Mark J. Grant speculates figuratively on how the present European budgetary shootout at the Circus corral may turn out:

“The European Commission will likely wield the big stick. This is initiating its so-called 'Excessive Deficit Procedure.' This process has never been used before and will likely be tortuous for both Italy and the European Union. Fines have never been applied to any country, with previous breaches by France and Germany overlooked, and yet, there is always a first time.”

If Mark J Grant’s racetrack metaphor is indeed indicative of the present European Contest, we’ll see in the days ahead whether Italy’s impudent leaders can prevail in their fiscal rebellion, or whether they will go down with classic mutterings of “. . . et tu, Brussels?

Smoke

Friday, October 19, 2018

Change Is Gonna Come


Some wise person said a fish wouldn’t know (s)he was out of water until it actually happened. When the angler yanked the critter up the into air, the fish would immediately know that something had gone terribly wrong.

I think our situation in modern life is a little bit like that. In our present media-engulfed life, we humans are so totally immersed in electronic media that we would feel disoriented and panicky if we were suddenly jerked out of it—like a fish out of water.

Some might even suffer withdrawals.

Nowadays some social critics among us complain about the dumming-down effects of twitter and facebook, and all that other blahblah googlifief also-ran flimflam that’s floating around in the datafied air of 2018.

Back in the day, during the adolescent phases of my baby boomer generation, people romanticized about the fact that we were the first generation to get raised up with a tv in the living room and therefore a boob-tube mindset. Whoopdee doo that we had pop-culture and instant gratification on the brain instead of the traditional 1-2-3 and a-b-c worldview of previous generations. No wonder we fantasized that we could change the world. We were walking around in the first-ever TV-generated dream world.

Actually, some of us did change the world. Those guys who were mastering their calculus and fortran instead of doping up—they managed to hatch out a totally electronic data tsunami that has since commandeered our attention and maximized our compulsive fascination with constant entertainment distractions and rampant twitt-faced narcissism.

Along with some real information, of course. There's always both bad and good in any changes that are gonna come.

A  generation before us in the timeline, it was another set of emergent media wonders that were transforming the world of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Our parents’ generation also grew up with a revolutionary media box in the living room and the dashboard—radio. They had Roosevelt’s fireside chats, Glenn Miller, Amos n’ Andy,  and Orson Wells’ terribly realistic radio depiction of us being invaded by extraterrestrial aliens.

But radio was no TV. Radio was about hearing. TV was like a whole new, artificial world of hearing AND seeing.

The rate of change, accelerating in the TV age, has exponentially accelerated and intensified with the coming of the electr(on)ic internet, 21st-century version.

A few years ago, I undertook a writing project to express some of the angst of the boomer generation that I grew up in.

Because I had graduated from high school and then entered college in 1969, my novel, King of Soul,  turned out to be mainly about the elephant-in-the-room issue of my g -generation's historical  era—the Vietnam war.

But that war was far from being the only issue that we Americans had to deal with.


In struggling to depict—and even to somehow reconcile—the great divide between them that went and us who did not go to Vietnam, I embarked on a research project to learn how the Vietnam war had started and how it escalated to become such an overarching generational crisis. My g-generation was torn apart because of what all took place over there as a result of our tragic illusion.  We thought we could, with our high-tech way of doing things, show a country of undeveloped farmers how to expel the communists.

We learned a very hard lesson. It was tragic, what happened. 

While the world had worked a certain way during the Big War, when we ran the Nazis back into their holes, something had sure as hell changed by the 1960’s.

The old tactics of massive military push against jungle guerrillas did not work.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the kids didn’t wanna have to go over there and do Lyndon’s dirty work.

The anti-war movement’s seemingly sudden organizational strength in 1967 was no mere happenstance. Those activists who devised a widespread effective resistance against the war had learned the hard facts of life from a previous protest movement—the Civil Rights movement.

It took a while for the anti-war movement to get its act together. But when they finally did, it was because of a hard lesson that had been learned by black folks down in dixie.

In the Freedom Summer of 1964, a widespread collection of honky activist youth suddenly showed up down in the Segregated South to help the black folk get organized for voting and organizing real societal change. There in the historical shadow of the old defeated, slave-slappin’ South, wide-eyed yankee students got a fierce reality check. Their rose-colored glasses were left broken on the blood-stained grounds of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, when they saw what violence and oppression the racist Establishment was inflicting on people of color.

Right here in Amerika, it was. Land of the free? and home of the brave!

A wake-up call it was. Based on what them wide-eyed college kids from up Nawth encountered when they got down here, they got a severe reality check. Stopping the war in Vietnam  would be no walk in the park. There was bad shit going down right here in the good ole USA, just like in the rice paddies of Vietnam.

If the peaceniks wanted to get us out of Vietnam, they would have to get organized, and maybe even pick up some heavier-duty tactics . . . civil disobedience.

Meanwhile, there were a few blacks who were doing alright. Sam Cooke was one of them.

During the early 1960’s, Sam was a very successful singer-songwriter. Most of his tunes were soulishly romantic and swingy. He had a knack of finding the best in everything he wrote about. With an admirable optimism that shone forth in all his song-work, Sam managed somehow to spread good will and positive attitude everywhere he went, in spite of all the tough changes that were going down.

Some may have thought Sam to be an uncle tom, because he didn’t get angry.

But Sam Cooke—even though he celebrated optimism and good attitude—was no uncle tom.

He was not a “house nigga.”

Here’s a song that expresses Sam’s feeling about the societal changes that he felt needed to happen in the USA in the mid-1960’s.  After his death in 1964, this composition was released posthumously on the B-side of a single record called Shake, and also on an album by the same name.

Here’s the tune, A Change Is Gonna Come:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEBlaMOmKV4

And here’s my version:

Sam's Change Is Gonna Come

As we geezers have seen in our lifetime, change did indeed come.

But some things will remain the same.

Here’s a truth that always remains: Change is gonna come, like it or not.

When it does, may the change be with you, and . . . may you be with the change, if it is good.

If it’s not good, go listen to some of Sam’s old hit songs and get an attitude adjustment. Maybe you can learn to deal with it as he did—with a good attitude.

King of Soul

Sunday, October 14, 2018

We Wanderers


For a very long time, people have been wandering through our world.

Many choose the rootless lifestyle because wandering makes them feel free. Others crave adventure, or exotic experience. Some launch out in search of new opportunities, greener pastures, richer soil, more money and less trouble, or better jobs. Or maybe just wide open spaces instead of crowded hovels.

Pilgrims wander in search of the sacred; saints strive for holiness; sinners search for sin,  seekers seeking yang or yin.

Immigrants flee political oppression; maybe they’re escaping persecution, evading execution,  or fleeing war-torn areas.

Refugees are all over the globe, frequently concentrated at certain infamous borders. We see pictures of them with trouble in their faces and children on their backs.

In earlier ages of our world development, populations were concentrated in old world cities and settlements. By ’n by, through exploration new world continents were discovered. Immigrants began streaming to the open lands. They spilled across borders, through forests, across streams, over mountains. We congregate along coasts.

Only two centuries ago, the North and South American continents were wide open spaces, as compared to the Old World. While our undeveloped wide open spaces were  being populated, millions of immigrating travelers streamed in through the ports; they trundled through the coastlands, trudged across vast prairies, navigated the swift rivers, slogged over steep mountains.

But eventually those wide open spaces filled up with settlers. From virgin countryside, the New World sprouted millions of farms, foundries, factories, and modernizing facilities fulfilling functions about which our forebears held absolutely no understanding. All along those rising watchtowers and MainStreet thoroughfares  towns sprung up;  cities burgeoned into metropoli, and before you knew it America was as crowded as the old country.

When the Irish and the Italians, and all them other Europeans, Africans, Germans, Asians and Aegeans crowded in, New York and Boston and Philly and all them other cities became crowded, almost like the Old Country had been.

Americans worked hard and prospered. We got rich. Agriculture was flowing; industries were growing, stores and businesses were showing so many services and goods. Everybody’s fat n’ happy, pleasing mom ’n pappy; wages high; expenses low, keepin’ up with them Joneses just for show. And we built ourselves quite a nice little nation which later became, after a couple of world wars, a beacon of liberty in the eyes of the world.

  

Well that was then and this is now.

After 9/11, seems like everything changed, and not for the better. Instead of grace and generosity, we seem to have slid into a descent toward selfishness and paranoia.

And I can understand that.There are, after all, bad people in the world, and terrorists and self-righteous fanatics who are willing to destroy the world in order to save it. And yes, we do have to form a humane strategy for protecting our citizens from war and destruction. Let's not forget, however, that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. We need not slip further into xenophobia than we already have.

As our British brothers and sisters had earlier discovered, running an empire is no walk in the park.

Now what used to be the great American experiment seems to be slipping into a world gone mad.

Sad.

As I was pickin’ around with some tunes recently, I remembered an old song from back in the day that pertains to these matters, as conditions had existed in the earlier times, when everything was different and the continent we absconded from the natives was still wide open with what we thought was freedom and possibility.

I stumbled across a tune from rhymin’ Simon. The song moved me deeply, so I thought I’d toss it out there for you to hear and ponder. I hope Paul doesn’t mind, especially since he himself borrowed part of the tune from an old Christian hymn.

  Paul’s American Tune

And here’s another old tune from back in the day, which I think Woody or Pete had something to do with.

  Wayfarin’ Stranger

As you listen, I wish you to be warm and well-fed, which is what most folks in this world are searching for, at least until they manage to become fat ’n happy.

King of Soul

Monday, October 8, 2018

Beethoven


Before he raised the baton to conduct Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Christopher Warren-Green told us Beethoven was a revolutionary.


He matter-of-factually referred to the most disruptive orchestral composer ever as a revolutionary. And just before cranking up the Charlotte Symphony, Chris speculated that those infamous first-four-notes, da-da-da-Dahhhh, were probably lifted from a French Revolutionary song of that era.

It was the worst of times; it was the best of times, as Charles Dickens later wrote.

Forsooth, ’twas a very revolutionary time—1776-1820.

And Ludwig van Beethoven was right in the middle of it.

Right in the middle of a time when the 18th-century European order of things was being torn apart by radical new  ideas about the People running the show instead of the old fuddy-duddy royals who had been doing it for hundreds of years.

The young composer from northwestern Germany was indeed a musical revolutionary; he revolutionized music.

He turned the purpose of music upside down. Whereas the old order of things, financed by the royals, was all about making beautiful, harmonic, perfectly constructed sonatas and concertos to celebrate order and perfection—-

Ludwig, unable to ignore the terrible angst of that tumultuous age in which he found himself living, reflected—yeah, he even embraced—that disruptive spirit of the times.

And when they heard it sounded forth in the 5th Symphony, the royals hardly know what to make of it.

Beethoven was like the Elvis of his times, except he had an entire orchestra behind him. Multiply Elvis’ chutzpah by the number of musicians in an orchestra. That was the effect of Beethoven on the world of music.

And on the world itself, as thousands of performances since then have revealed.

Or, If not Elvis-- think of  Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Rich Mullins or whoever expresses your disruptive angst and propels it into an awareness that the world is forever changing. 

Like it or not, the world changes; sometimes that transforming is not pretty. Sometimes it is even disruptive, destructive, revolutionary. Music--and art generally--needs, in order to be valuable, to reflect the times we live in, and the changes that need to happen--not portraying a rose-colored-glasses dream that masks the profundity and excitement of living on this dangerous planet.

It would have been very hard, you see, for the young German prodigy to adopt the comfortable precision and beauty of his courtly predecessors—Mozart and Haydn. Au contraire, Ludwig caught hold of the gritty thrust of those revolutionary times. He deeply felt that terrible, violent wind blowing out of France; and he did, as any self-respecting genius would do, transform that terrible zeitgeist into revolutionary Music.

A truly new music, never heard before.

Unlike like any orchestra ever heard before.

Better to make disruptive music, than impose bloody revolution.


Be like Beethoven, not like Robespierre.

Work together like a revolutionary Symphony.

Teach the world to ring out Liberty!

King of Soul

Monday, October 1, 2018

the Brett v Blasey Blowup


This is a bad situation.


It is probably true that many many men have been getting away with rape in days gone by. And it is certainly true that politics and trouble have polarized and spun out of social control as many many victimized women who are mad as hell about the arrogance with which men flaunt their libido and leverage their blahblah white male privilege and so it is indeed possible that all hell is breaking loose in America.

And it is true that a couple of those rad feminists caught Jeff Flake while he was trying to get on or off an elevator, and those two feisty women delivered a tongue-lashing that would intimidate any uppity male member into limp impotence and politically correct compliance.

And it is true that Jeff Flake threw a curve at his fellow Republicans by trying to do the right thing and provide a forum for all this raw rage to be aired out. Maybe he did all of us Americans a favor by in effect slowing down the runaway train of GOP nomination fever, for the sake of casting our eyes for a week or so on the extreme danger that is inflicted on Americans by so many men walking around in hyped-up sexual frustration. 

But the possibility that any of these issues will be resolved in the next week, as the FBI investigates Blasey Ford’s accusations—is about as probable as the New Ladies’ Temperance Union imposing mandatory burka coverage upon the live skin of all those millions of young women of America who so delight in flaunting their provocative features, even as they revel in denying lecherous men access to the partaking thereof.

And so, while this started out as a bad situation last Friday, what we know for sure is that by next Friday it will be a worse situation.

But my strategy concerning such bad situations as this is: Write a song about it.

So I did.

I wrote a song about what happened in the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting last Friday, around 1:30 Congressional time. I borrowed the melody from Mamas and Papas old tune, Creeque Alley.

You can find the tune sung at http://www.careyrowland.com, at pretty much the top of the page:

The Ballad of Brett v. Blasey

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How BabyRow be Made


Up there in the maternity ward is where the babies come out. After they’re born, the Ob staff lays them in little cradles all in a row, where fathers, friends and relatives of mama can gawk at the newborn and ooh and ah.

There they are all in a row, behind the glass, experiencing life in this world for the first time, not that they’ll remember this moment or anything. But there they are all in a row.

In another ward nearby, expectant mothers wait to have ultrasound pics taken of their developing unborn babies. There they all are in a row—the expectant mamas, waiting to get baby’s first pic.

Back In the ultrasound room, the tech person dawbs some gooey stuff on an expectant mama’s bulging belly; then she presses the ultrasound device  to bare skin and moves it around.

Suddenly BabyRow appears on the screen.


Lo and behold, it appears that BabyRow is already making some progress in physical and cognitive development.

Squinting, the tech wonders: what is that child doing? BabyRow appears to be counting his fingers!

Ultrasound Tech Barbie exclaims unexpectedly, “What in the world are you doing in there, BabyRow?”

Meanwhile, up in the stratosphere, something unusual is happening. From 93 million miles away, a Sonspot has just arrived at planet Earth. The wave of rogue  energy penetrates stratospheric earth.  Suddenly, without explanation, a phase change/spectrum reversal interchange  warps our planet's delicately balanced spectrum of electromagnetic razzmatazz . . .

And sound morphs into light

while light moves into sound,

exposing presence of a planetary fight.

Perpetually in world it goes round by round.

While BabyRow counts on fingers

suddenly his musing ultrasound  lingers;

As Ultra forms image now of BabyRow

inexplicably his musing’s heard, roe by row.

Tech Barbie and Mama hear him, half-amazed

as BabyRow’s recitation changes phase:

“Eeenie meenie mynie moe,

  catch a fetus by the toe.

  Believe Brett and maybe I’ll come out alive.

  But believing Blasey I’ll surely take a dive.

  Don’t believe everything you hear on internet.

  I’d surely appreciate a chance at life to get.

  If judges abort the roe v wade,

  maybe then will BabyRow be made.”

  

Glass Chimera

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The European Project


The Beginning of the End of the Royals running Europe started with an upstart French officer named Napolean and a musician from the German outback named Beethoven.

The End of the Beginning of the End came when Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914, the event that ignited the First Big War.


The End of the Royals running Europe came when the appointed Generals, elected Presidents and Prime Ministers of a war-crippled Europe assembled in Versailles, France, in 1919.  The secular Leaders began trying to pull the pieces of Europe back together again, to reset Euro Civilization on a new Democratic/Republican game-plan.


Since that time, the Europeans have had a rough time of pulling themselves together as a political entity. To begin with, the rubble-heaps of post-WWII Europe ended up  in a new polarity of two distant controlling hegemonies—the US and the USSR. These two emergent political empires  were centered  far outside of the fanciful entity we know as Old Europe, which existed in previous history as a continental area governed mostly from these ancient Capitols:  Athens, Rome, Madrid, Paris, London, Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and—a most honorable mention—Geneva.

I call Geneva  honorable  because it is the City  on that grand network most associated with a very important concept: Peace.

The Peace of Europe had been, for 1900 years, an elusive State of Affairs, which somehow managed to survive as a glimmer of hope in the Heart and Soul of a quasi-mythical Europa.

Europe is very old, but contemporary Europeans have taken on a venerable Project to form a European Union. Exactly what that is, is a matter of political evolution, politics, compromise, and of course, Money.

This EU is a logical step forward, because the formerly long-hoped-for Peace of Europe has been flourishing since Allied victory was won at great cost of blood sweat and tears, in 1945. By the grace of God and Man, Europe has been at peace with itself since that time, 73 years.

But the next step beyond the Peace of Europe-- European Union-- is a prospect as elusive as finding the Holy Grail, or Valhalla, or Arcadia, or Elysian Fields of Camelot or Heaven itself.

But its political success is nowhere as easy as the Prospect for Unity that we Americans had back in the day. We had a vast, undeveloped continent as a frontier, which was populated originally by primitive tribes who were unorganized and unprepared to deal with our transplanted European development Mindset.

Most of us Americans had ancestors who wandered via Ships across the Atlantic to—as it turned out— find and construct a New World. Our forebears were confronted only by those undeveloped tribes who were already here, and a bunch of competing, mostly-poor immigrants like ourselves from different mostly-Euro traditions.

We certainly had some problems along the way, getting it all together as the United States of America. We even had a goddam Civil War trying to get it all worked out but we managed to get through that and keep the Union going, and expanding all the way to the Pacific shore.

Yes, we certainly had some problems getting it together, but our USA has been, relatively speaking, a light-duty Project compared to what the Europeans have been dealing with since the Collapse of the Old Roman Empire.

We New Worlders had advantages. We did not have, you see, all that  2000-year-old institutionalized sociological, economic and ethnic baggage that the Europeans have had and still have that keeps them caught up in differing National Purposes and Visions.

Presently, between the Teutonic bean-counters and the Mediterranean lay-backs, Europe just cannot get it together to decide how all the Expenses of governance and economic maintenance can be Paid-off.

Now we Americans don’t necessarily pay our Public Deficits either, but at least we are United in our rhetorical affirmation of equality and justice and Credit for All.  So we just keep running up the Tab and nobody gives a dam, because we have been, for a awhile, the, you know, new kid on the block and king of the hill and all that and we can get away with it.

Whereas the Euros are presently arguing about Who is going to pay the bills—the Teutonic bean-counters or the Mediterranean lay-backs.

We Americans cast a trans-Atlantic glance at them and express our deepest concern and well-wishes for a continuing Progress toward the elusive European Union and we say wholeheartedly:

Good Luck with that!

Now here’s the good news.There is a bright lining that envelopes this present Cloud of Complex Cooperation in Europa.

French President Emmanuel Macron has now proposed a new plan whereby the burdens of EU Debt, Expense, Governance and Administration of the EU are Dealt-With according to (as my American online ignoramus self-satisfied cyber-awareness would understand it) gradations of Participation, Responsibility and WhothehellCares-Responsibility in the EntitiesUnited of Europa.

These levels of Participation will be most heavily taken Seriously and Attended-To by those State/entities that are closest to the Center of Power and Influence. The peripheral Nations/States will be garnished according to their relative positions in the  outgoing Concentric Circles of Europe.

These Circles are most likely actually Parabolas. Because the actual Working Center of Europe consists not of one Point, but rather, Two Points, where the real Movers and Shakers (Bankers) of Europe run their Industrial/Financial Empires.

The Two Points are Berlin and Paris. There is a Third Centric point between them: Brussels, which is the errand by for Paris and London.

So we see that, with  Monsieur Macron’s proposed plan for the widening Circles of Influence, Europe has great Hope for the Future.

It may be a plan worthy of implementation. The Europeans have achieved Success in the Development of an essential condition: Peace.

Now it’s just the Money that’s hanging them up.

This American believes that the pesky Arguing about Who pays the Bills is actually Progress, because it is qualitatively better than Bombing each other! So they must have gotten something right, beginning back in '45.  They have indeed  come a long way since Sarajevo in 1914.


One more thing, very important. This American notices that, in spite of all the different member nations with different languages and politics and values, their system of Trains and Metros puts ours to shame. With just a mention given to their impressive High-Speed, Efficiency and Clockwork Precision, the most endearing characteristic of the Euro rail is Ease and Comfort. Taking a Euro train trip from one city to another is a much easier and far more comfortable Prospect than doing the yankee airport runaround, with sardine-contortion seating and  limited passage in the aisles when you may have to pee. Most important of all--the train seats are comfortable, roomy, easy to get in- and out-of, and less pricey than planes.

Maybe we can teach them something about Debts Pretension, while they teach us something about Running the Trains.


Smoke 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Patchmaker


Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match.

That’s the opening line in a song that Barbra Streisand sang in the musical movie, Funny Girl, back in the day, 1968.

She was addressing her request to  a matriarchal lady who used to perform a certain cultural role—pairing up a young woman with a young man for marriage— in the subculture of Jewish immigrants in New York City, sometime back in the early 20th-century.

I thought about that line while we were strolling through Valencia, Spain, yesterday. But my remembrance of the phrase was a little off the mark. I was singing it in my mind this way:

Patchmaker, patchmaker, make me a patch.

The reason is: everywhere I go in the world—and in life, generally— I see gaps, where there is space because something is missing, something that should be there, or that used to be there.

Here’s an example of a gap I saw yesterday:

Apparently this problem of missing stuff is nothing new. The dearth has been going on for a long time. There are gaps everywhere, and going way back in time. A few days earlier, we came across this church structure in Madrid that had, indeed, been patched.

This phenomenon of filling spaces goes much farther, I have noticed, than just plugging physical gaps in buildings.

There are many, many gaps of all kinds in this world—many pieces missing from the puzzle.

Something is missing everywhere you go!

Everywhere we go, we find blank spaces that need to be filled with something—something appropriate, something—or some message—that is thought-provoking, or profound, or at least cutesy.

Consider this profound message that was filled in by some anonymous enterprising patchmaker.  I noticed it this morning on a wall in Valencia while we here having brunch at the Brunch Corner:


Pretty heavy stuff, don’t ya think? What a message!

Also notice, above the painted message, the broken-off walls in the background which certainly do need some patching or repair. I bet the owner of this broken-off building sings Funny Girl’s song:

Patchmaker, patchmaker, make me a patch!

But back to the painted message below the broken wall, next to the stacked chairs—take a look at it. Doesn’t the style of the lettering ring a bell somewhere in your mind?

Haven’t you noticed that, anywhere you go in the world, as you notice the messages posted in out-of-the-way places—places that need some kind of patch or profundity—there is always a graffiti written there, apparently written by the same person who has a very consistent, blocky style that he(she) displays on walls everywhere in the world?

You see this guy’s work everywhere! Check this out. I snapped the pic while rolling along in a Spanish train somewhere between Valencia and Barcelona. Don't be distracted by the reflection of interior train space at the top of the photo. Concentrate on the message!

Whoever this artiste is that’s doing this work, I don’t know, but I think we oughta give him(her) an award, because he(she) really gets around, and does an incredible amount of work wherever he(she) goes, because (s)he always seems to get the message posted in the most unlikely places. (S)he must be the same person that Paul Simon was singing about in his song, the Boxer, when he patched into his Boxer song this phrase:

“When I left my home and my family, I was no more than a boy, seeking out the poorer places where the ragged people go, looking only for the places only they would know.”

I have noticed, you see, that this patchmaker person—whoever (s)he is— really gets around. Everywhere in the world, everywhere you go—her(his) work is displayed in out-of-the-way places.

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen Paco’s work. (I’m pretty sure his name is Paco.) I saw a bunch of his stuff today, painted onto concrete walls that line the railway, a place where no  regular people would go to, a place where only “the ragged people” would go to.

Looks like this:


Wherever this guy Paco hangs out, I think the Academy oughta do a search on (s)him and give him an artiste award for patching in all the blank space between everything else that exists in the developed world.

Gracias, Paco! for all the work you do, and have done.

And as they say on Laugh-In, Salut!



King of Soul

Friday, September 14, 2018

Two Towers


Two Spanish towers stand as symbolic descriptors of that country's  monarchy.

It only takes a glance to catch a glimpse of the difference between the two historical ages in which these two were constructed.

One ancient tower, pictured below, was built  on the Mediterranean coast, at Valencia, between 1441-1460 AD.

The new one, to be seen further below, was constructed in Madrid in 1992.

They are very different. A comparison between the two indicates, I think, a major difference between Spain's early monarchy five centuries ago, and the constitutional monarchy that functions today.

When I look at the older tower, which I snapped on photo this morning,  the picture summons in my mind mythical images of a medieval kingdom ruled by kings and protected by an order of loyal knights. In this case, the kingdom was Aragon, in was in eastern Spain, 15th century. The nominal ruler at the time was King Alfonso V.

Because medieval royals moved around Europe like  corporate CEO’s who jet around the world today, Alfonso wasn’t very involved in the Spanish parts of his domains; he was  preoccupied with Italia and papist politics.

So Alfonso’s brother, prince John, held down the fort (literally) over in the outback Spanish hinterlands.

The task  then fell to John, or some of his people, to govern and protect the good people of Aragon. In the main cuidad, the port of Valencia, they built walls around the city, and towers for monitoring the distant horizons.  Here’s the tower, obviously still standing, that I snapped this morning.


Doesn’t it absolutely look like the elevated station of a classic medieval fortification wall? Could it be jutting up into the blue sky of at Aragorn instead of Aragon?  We see here that Prince John literally “held down the fort” while his big brother was schmoozing with the Italian movers and shakers of their day and their papist pals.

Prince John did  acquire, however, a significant role in history. He was the the father of a Ferdinand. That’s the Ferdinand of Ferdinand and Isabella, who commissioned Christopher Columbus to sail for India. Chris never did make it India; but he did bump into  another place. . . America.

And the rest is history.

When King Ferdinand of Aragon married Queen Isabella of Castile--that was the beginning of the nation we know to be Spain.

Fast-forward 532 years from  Prince John’s constructed wall/Tower to defend Valencia in 1460 AD. By 1992, when my second example of a tower is built, the people of Spain have done significant rearrangement of this governmental arrangement  called monarchy. They have democratically kicked out one 20th-century king, Alphonso XIII, in 1931. They replaced his monarchy with a leftist Republic that lasted only until 1939. Then the military Generalissimo Franco summoned a bunch of old-fashioned Catolico, conservative, reactionary and fascist soldiers; he drove them up from Morocco, took hold of Espanya by winning the civil war of 1936-39; he chased away most of the republicans, socialists, communists and any other liberal-minded upstarts who thought they could rearrange Spain according to egalitarian ideals and modern ideas. 

Franco ruled, king-like, as a Falangist dictator, from 1939 onward, and managed to hang onto power in spite of all his nazi and Italiano fascisti allies going down in death and disgrace in 1945 after the Big War. 

He ruled until he croaked in 1975. But before he died, Franco twisted arms in the corridors of Spanish power to prevent his people from voting in another experiment with democracy.

They must restore the monarchy, insisted the Generalissimo.  But  they should not crown the royal son who would have been  presumptive heir—no, not Don Juan, 3rd son of the late and last King  Alphonso who they turned away in '31  Rather, Franco insisted Spain should crown Don Juan's son, Juan Carlos, whose inclinations appeared to be more authoritarian than Don Juan’s.

Nevertheless, after Franco had passed into the great beyond in ’75, the new king Juan Carlos responded with approval for the democratic reforms necessary to bring Spain into modern governance. He instituted reforms that would relegate the monarchy toward  more ceremonial duties, a la Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and several other nations. Today Alfonso’s great-grandson, Juan Carlos’ son Felipe VI, is the king of Spain.

In Madrid, 1992, Spain built a museum to display the modern art of their country. King Felipe’s mother, Sofia—herself of royal Spanish blood as well as being Juan Carlos’ wife and queen—gave her name to the completed project of the new art museum.

A sleek, transparent glass elevator shaft on the Museum’s exterior stands out as a bold work of architectural art, in and of itself. It’s name is prominently etched along the entire vertical length of the structure.


This shiny Tower, which conducts elevators, expresses the innovative thrust by which Spain has ascended into the modern world.

So we notice two incredibly different towers in Spain: one made of stone, appearing very heavy, very old, and fortress-like  impenetrable. The other is constructed of glass, gleaming brightly in 2018 sunshine, appearing light and fragile.  This second one also has a symbolic name--Reina Sofia, which was not only the Spanish queen's means; it also means Queen Wisdom.

What remains to be seen is the future of Spain’s monarchy-retaining democracy. Is it fortified and impenetrable, or light and fragile, like a smart phone you don't want to drop.

That question is really a manner of consideration for all democratic governments. We shall see what the world does to all our democracies during the next half-millenium. Let's hope they are still functional 500 years from now, whether kings and queens are still part of the structure, or not.

My thought is it would be wise to keep democracy intact and functional, whether or not  kings and queens are still part of the arrangements.

Smoke

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Spain


Espana.

es Passionata.


For five hundred Moor years

than the Iberian Catolica peninsula

could ever have estanded

to be Islamically commanded,

they endured Ummayed demands

until Aragon King Ferdinand

came conquestering and demanding

with Castile Queen Isabella, remanding,

to fortify their  Catolica position

with a a goddam Inquisition,

stringing up dissidents in their Inquisition power

thereby crushing the bloom of heretical flower.

But with Isabella’s demise mad king Ferd devised

that child Queen Juana should be misused:

She therefore became abused and confused,

being married off to a Hapsburg prince

so that Empire hegemony could commence,

thrusting power over in-between freakin’ France

so Spain would achieve victory in their great Power prance.

Thereby Poor Juana had not a chance

her youthful passion to enhance,

being named an infernal loco heretic.

Therefore history defined her role as lunatic.

While Jews were being unlisted,

dissidents still resisted

although many heretics persisted

while being so unjustly inquisited.

 

That was then but this is now.

Spain still bleeds; that was how

it happened long ago  

when Ferd took on the  holy Roman Catolico

Hapsburg Empire show.

Down through history from page to page

As monarchs wage their contests age to age

Spanish blood flows through impetuous action;

it then bleeds out as Spanish soul passion,

moving los manos y voces to music and song

to celebrate what's right and lament what is wrong.


Through the ages, ask the sages

what is right, what is wrong?

Who knows? The priest, the pope?

The poet? the socialist?—who offers hope?

Remember only: life is grand

despite our ruins beneath the sand.

So offer up a sacrifice of song

in notes so potent and passion strong,

while over in the sacrificial ring

a different living sacrifice they bring.

Matador leads. Bull bleeds.


Newfound blood in ongoing sacrifice

echoes ancient cross of crucified Christ.

Priest leads. Jesus bleeds.

The Faithful chant Apostles’ creed..

Sister Maria prays with beads.

But Falanga franco used catolico creeds

while dispatching policia on steeds.

Still saints were interceding

Flamenco singers pleading

Spain is forever bleeding

suffering behavor

even as the Savior.


In ’36 Las Artistas pled while Spain bled red.

Still the flamencos emoted, saints devoted,

peasants toted. poets wroted.

democrats noted. republicans voted.

Socialistas revolutionary

v. Royalistass  reactionary.

What else is new, not from the past?

So you might have asked .

Here’s what: Thermite bombs in 1937:

Hitler’s luftwaffe over Spanish village  heaven.

Spain bleeds through Guernica saints.

Pablo reads; Picasso paints.

Dali droops. El toro drips

The crowd whoops; the leather rips.

El Guitarist heals. Flamenco dancer reels.


As the eternal note of sadness peals,

La musica heals when dancer reels.

Spain handles the pain.

It falls mainly on the plain

people in Spain.

 

Smoke

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Barcelona v. Berlin in 1936


When it comes to European civilization, Greece is where the  legacy originated about 2500 years ago.

Among the many enduring contributions  by which the early Greeks set Europe into cultural motion, I find two, in particular, that have demonstrated incredible longevity:

Democracy, and Olympics.

Those early Greeks were incredibly active in their sporting competitions, and also in their zeal to launch the world’s most notable experiment in governance by “the people.”

Their idea of Democracy was later amended by the Romans as a form of governance known as Republic, which was perhaps a more practical working out of the egalitarian concept, because groups of citizens could, by vote, select representatives to do the actual decision-making.

Many centuries later, the notion of democracy ascended on a fresh new wind of modern life. Most notably in the 1700’s, certain forward-thinking individuals in America and central Europe used the ancient democratic ideal as a basis for updating and improving human governance. The working out of it has been, over the last two or three centuries, somewhat messy and unsure, but the idea of government by the people for the people is still widely considered to be the best and fairest framework for doing collectively whatever it is that we humans are trying to do to improve our situation here on earth.

A lot could be said here but I’ll just toss up an example of how the idea of democracy continues to capture Euro imagination. Here’s a photo I snapped a few days ago while walking through a public square in Barcelona.


As we can see here, democracy seems to be a readily attractive notion, worthy of public mention. However, the prospect of promoting democracy has not always been easy here in Espanya. Spain has had a rough history in which Democracy and Authoritarian governments have bloodily contested each other.

Following their rejection of a King in 1931, the Spanish people fought a civil war, 1936-39; it began in a political competition between zealous advocates of these two opposing models of governance.

But during those tumultuous years, the people of Spain were not the only nation who were grappling with such controversies. A few European borders away, the people of Germany were in a similar contest.

After the Germans suffered the defeat of World War I, they had a massive reconstruction project going on, as they were striving to re-assemble not only their physical nation and its infrastructure, but also their way of governing themselves.

During the 1920’s and ’30’s, both the Germans and the Spanish  wrestled with themselves to establish a democratic Republic. Both attempts ended in failure.

When the Nazis took over Germany in 1933, they ditched the Weimar Republic and degenerated into Third Reich bellicosity. Also in the 1930’s, the people of Spain ousted their King and declared a new Republic. But in 1936, the Franco-led Falangists attacked their own people. By 1939, they had driven the Republicans out of office.

Meanwhile, back at the crunch, there was an athletic contention going on between these two violence-torn countries--Germany and Spain. This  competition gets back to the other great contribution that I mentioned earlier from ancient Greece:

the Olympics.

At the meeting of the International Olympic Committee in 1931, Spain had proposed that the 1936 Olympics take place in Barcelona. But, by a process of democratic voting among the member nations, the IOC awarded the hosting to Berlin.

That was an ill-fated turn of events. Germany was at that time being taken over by the Nazi Third Reich. Hitler and his Nazi thugs were striving to use the Olympics as a showcase of their supposed bullshit Aryan supremacy.

Down in Republican Spain, the leftist government caught wind of what the Nazis were up to. They smelled a rat in Europe. So they launched an attempt to conduct an alternate Olympics, which they thought would express more appropriately the sporting competition of  classic  events.


But the so-called Olimpiada Popular in Barcelona never happened. As it turned out, the Spanish people were having a war among themselves in 1936 instead of inviting the world in for some friendly sports.

Later, during and after the Second World War,  the civilized world  awakened to the disastrous truth of what Nazi Germany had been doing behind the scenes while they had been hosting their facade of pseudo-Olympic propaganda back in '36.

Spanish Catalunya Barcelona did, however, ultimately have its day in the Olympic sun. That came 56 years later, in 1992.

A few days ago, here and now 2018, we visited that Olympic site in Barcelona where the competitive events were conducted in '92;  quite an impressive sight it still is:


My hope is that both ancient institutions—Democracy and Olympics will survive and thrive in this century we live in now—the 21st.

 Smoke

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Christian yankee in Pope Catolica's Court


How likely is it that  a Catholic-born, born-again Christian good ole boy from Carolina would ever wander into such a grotto of overgrown Catholicism as this?


It did happen, today, in Barcelona. September 5, 2018.

Who’d’ve thunk it?

The Audioguide at Sagrada Familia Basilica requested that the listening visitor enter with respect.

Respect for what?

The incredibly modern-artistic classic-fantastic ecclesiastic  structure devoted to Christ and the Holy Family—Joseph and Mary—from which Jesus Yeshua HaMeschiah immaculate-conceptionally came?

Yes. As a Christian I entered respectfully, along with, presumably, all the other thousands of gawking, phone-clicking touristas and believers who darkened the door of Sagrada Familia Basilica today in Barcelona.

Respect for the Christ child who had been born to Mary back in the day of the Incarnation of the Word-made-Flesh person of Jesus Christ?

Yes, I entered respectfully.

Respect for the traditions of the the Catholic Church?

Not so much, having rejected that tradition in my born-again youth. Nevertheless, who am I, as a born-again child of God, to judge the spiritual legitimacy of this high-church, pope-revering institutional “etched in stone” architectural representation— possibly even faith-enhancing experience— of deep religious faith that I encounter and enter into here?

Gosh, guys, thanks for letting us in here. What a cool building! 

Meanwhile, back at the Cross. . .


Yep. I know that part. He died for my sins. Let’s not forget.

And of course, ascended into heaven and sits at the right  hand of the Father.

Yep, we can agree on that part. You gotta  believe it.

That’s the real clincher anyway, don’t ya think? The real tie-breaker.

I mean, who else in the history of the human race has made that claim and gotten away with it?

Like I said, you gotta believe.

And I, like, think I’m finding some common ground here.

Belief in the Resurrected Son of God.

Pretty amazing idea, really, if you think about it. You’d have to be crazy or Catholic or Christian to believe it.

And here you have it—“etched in stone” as the Audioguide lady voice says it . . .the story of how it happened that the Son of God Son of Man was crucified and then raised from the dead.


King of Soul 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

What People Dotoeachother


Seems like folks these days are gettin all wound up about politics and stupid stuff like that. Democrats v. Republicans. Progressives v. Conservatives. Extremists v. Moderates, blah blah blah.
And to make it worse, with the intensifying effects of cellphones and pads and pods and whatnot and so-called social media blather, what we are barreling toward is a vast dumbing-down, barbarizing of all public discourse.
What was called debate in earlier times now has degenerated to knee-jerk bluster hubris yada yada blahblah hatred the-loudest-loudmouth-wins trouble. 
People take sides on every little controversy that rears its ugly little head in the public domain. Seems to me more like, as William Faulkner or William Shakespeare might have called it, sound and fury signifying nothing.
My studies of human history indicate some recurring characteristics of the tactics employed by extremist diehard yahoos: Such people want to push public discourse farther and farther toward extremist tactics so they can impose their great radical-fringe remedies on the rest of us who want only to live in peace and security with a little justice, mercy and neighborly good will toward our fellow-man thrown in.
I was born in the middle of the 20th-century, 1951. Looking back on all that happened during that century, I’ve noticed a few alarming things, such as:
The two worst 20th-century assholes who ever came along the pike and pretended to be great leaders—Hitler and Stalin—both of them manipulated evolving political institutions, and the idiot people within them— to make a grand bloody mess of their two nations and the whole damn world at large.
Both dictators, Hitler and Stalin, were idealogues. Historians call Hitler a Nazi, which is a type of Fascist. They call Stalin a Communist.
What’s more important, however, in the historical classification game is this:
Both Hitler and Stalin were mass-murderers. They did not do justice to the people they claimed to govern.

This factual identification is more important than the ideological label by which each of these two demagogues manipulated their bloody way into absolute power.
And they weren’t the only ones. In the 20th-century, there were others: Pol Pot, Idi Amin. Some would say Mao. And onn a small scale. . . Jim Jones, Charles Manson?
This scenario to which I make reference— this human behavior attribute of folks being swept up into murderous behavior by a maniacal leader driven by ideological or religious frenzy that results in mass murder—it could be right around a historical corner now.
If people do not allow the practice of mercy, decency, compassion, reason— and most of all forgiveness— to overpower imminent institutionalized manipulations of bloody power-mongers, then we’ll have another terrible round of mass murder on this planet.
Religion (old-school) and Ideology (new school) are both, when carried to extremes, cut from the same extremist cloth, and can drive people to endorse mass murder.
Don’t go there.
Ideology is a big circle. On one half of the circle is the arc of conservatism, which in its extremism leads to fascism; on the other half is the arc progressivism, which in its extremism leads to communism. They both start their movements at the top of the circle going in opposite directions. But at the bottom where they collide, we find extremism so lethal that it requires mass-murder as a so-called final solution.
You know what I’m talking about: “Somebody needs to kill them bastards!”
Religion, same thing. “Somebody needs to kill them _____” (fill in the blank)
Which is why we must harken to the greatest clarion call of all, the one spoken by the man from Galilee who stood on a mountainside and taught us:
“Whatever you would want done to you—do that for everybody else.”
This is the most important principle of all. Far greater  than communism or fascism, far more effectual than Democratic or Republican power-mongering, far more spiritually effective that the Church or the Caliphate.
Peace on this planet ultimately comes down to what people are willing to do--or refuse to do-- to each other in the name of _______.
You fill in the blank.
 
King of Soul