Publication of a research paper on creating sperm cells from embryonic stem cells has created the usual media furore, complete with mostly uncritical hype about what this technology can actually achieve and a failure to ask scientists the really hard questions. Not being a pro-lifer I have no problem with the use of embryonic stem cells in basic research. However, the idea that sperm cells produced from embryonic stem cells in a laboratory could be used in fertility treatment is a dangerous and unethical technological fantasy. Like the idea of “therapeutic cloning”, what seems simple in theory will in practice prove practically impossible, precisely because it is so unnatural.
Much of the media discussion has focused on the idea that this might lead to 'men becoming redundant'. As with cloning, and the fears of armies of cloned soldiers, the point is not to take such scenarios literally, but to look beneath the surface at what the fears are really about. The scientific drive to abstract the whole of the human reproductive life cycle from its context of actual human bodies is just an example of the deep dynamic of science in our society. Since the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, the function of science has been to control nature and to impose order upon its random messiness, eventually to improve upon it, and ultimately to replace the need for it. What reproductive and biotechnology are now bringing home to us is that nature includes us. Thus, for the last 25 years we have seen the emergence of transhumanist/posthumanist movements, which look forward to the evolution through technology (including bio-, nano- and information technology) of posthuman beings (entities?). Feminists have been arguing since the 1970s that reproductive technology is an attempt to control and appropriate women's fertility, which aims ultimately to end the reliance on the female body for production of children, through artificial wombs. Now, it seems it is men's turn to feel this anxiety.
Of course, the capitalist-scientific drive to dominate nature is very male, (nature is gendered as female in nearly all cultures), and is one of the key features of patriarchy in our societies. What is interesting is that, by its own logic, it must also move to dispense with men's bodies, testes, penises.
There are feminist theories that argue that a major part of men's tendency to try to dominate women comes from a psychological insecurity which arises from the fact that men do not carry and give birth to children, which is, after all, a central part of human life. In that process, men feel like lightweights, and I think this latest research presses exactly on that nerve. That may be why, although the idea that men will become redundant is very unlikely, there has been so much interest in this bit of research.
David King A fuller version of this blog can be found at www.hgalert.org/artiifcial_sperm_blog.htm
The expanding intellectual interest in "masculinities" is welcome but needs greater involvement by gender-justice and women's-rights specialists if it is to be the vehicle of progress, says Emily Esplen.
28 - 02 - 2008
The nature of men's involvement in the struggle for gender justice has long fiercely divided gender-equality advocates. After nearly three decades of disagreement this seam of tension doggedly persists, little engaged with and largely unresolved.
Even as the women's movement remains hesitant, often bordering on hostile, to the idea of men's involvement, the "masculinities agenda" is striding forwards with innovative work on men and masculinities - even though it is at times often flawed in its understanding of power and in the way it merely counterposes to the idea of women's empowerment a focus on working with men "for their sake".
The most promising work in this field is happening at the level of the personal: it concentrates on transforming men's sexual behaviour, challenging violence against women and relations of fatherhood. The pioneering work of organisations like the Instituto Promundo in Brazil, which supports young men to question traditional gender norms and promote gender-equitable behaviours and attitudes, has shown that, yes, men can change. Other organisations, like the Sonke Gender Justice Network in South Africa are taking work with men in exciting new directions, reorienting existing projects aimed at individual men and politicising it in order to promote men's broader mobilisation around structural inequities and injustices. Futhermore, organisations working with men are themselves coming together to facilitate sharing and learning, enabling a stronger, more coherent struggle, as with the recently established "Men Engage" global alliance which seeks to involve men and boys in reducing gender inequalities.
A unique opportunity
This current momentum offers a unique opportunity to advance the common goal of realising gender equality. But while the proliferation of organisations working with men for gender justice is welcome, it is notable that very few of them have close and direct relationships with the women's movement. True, some do have looser connections or networks that include people active in the women's movement in individual countries, but even these are rare. This creates a discernible danger that "masculinities" will become - or has become already - a discrete field of thinking and practice, somehow disconnected from the women's movement and from gender and development more broadly.
Indeed, a depressing reality is coming into view whereby "gender" seems - even among those most committed to the gender agenda - repeatedly to be conflated with women. As long as connections between the women's movement and those working with men remain fragile (at best) to non-existent (at worst), femininities are likely to be rendered invisible in evolving masculinities discourses. The result is that - once again - the fundamental interconnectedness of men and women and the relational nature of gendered power will be lost.
Indeed, I've been repeatedly struck at recent seminars and conferences on "engaging men in gender equality" by the meagre representation from the gender and development field: a couple of us at most, in an audience comprised overwhelmingly of specialists in sexual and reproductive health and rights. In part, this points to one of the weaknesses of the current masculinities field: the overwhelming focus on sexual health and violence, and the corresponding failure to engage sufficiently with equity issues: among them equal pay and leave entitlements, representation in politics, parental rights and benefits, and domestic work/housework. The lack of attention to such issues results in the waste of opportunities to advance shared concerns.
A false equivalence
There are other dangers in refusing to engage constructively with the evolving men and masculinities discourse. While many organisations working with men are deeply informed by feminist thinking and practice, others are less grounded in a pro-feminist framework. As the masculinities bandwagon gathers momentum, there is a temptation to slip into modes of thinking and language that (for example) regard women and men as equivalently vulnerable (i.e. women are harmed by femininity and men are harmed by masculinity), or even describe men as "worse off" than women.
This is reflected in the way that much of the discourse of men and masculinities has been expressed in terms of a "crisis in masculinity". It's certainly the case that many men share with the women in their lives similar experiences of indignity as a result of social and economic oppression. Yet it is important to recognise the real differences in power and privilege experienced by women and men on the basis of gender, and to avoid glossing over men's accountability for the ways in which they choose to act out their privilege. While it's important to engage with poor men's realities, this should be done without positing men as the "new victims".
At a symposium in October 2007 on "Politicising Masculinities", organised by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), it was noted that this issue of false equivalence surfaces frequently in discussions of men's own experience of violence. It is not uncommon to hear the statement that "men are also victims of violence at the hands of women". Such comments can be profoundly unhelpful, not least because this violence is nothing like on the same scale as the many forms of violence experienced by women from men. Alan Greig made clear at the IDS symposium that the mere counterposing of women's and men's experience and perpetration of violence is a trap; the challenge is rather to help illuminate the workings and functions of violence within the systems of oppression that organise our different societies, while holding accountable the individuals and institutions (mostly men and male-dominated) that are responsible for enacting this violence.
But to have some influence over the evolving masculinities discourse and practice in a way that avoids positing men as the "new victims" requires working in solidarity with those in the masculinities field who do understand power and the core issues of gender equality and justice. Now is an opportune time to open up the debate and advance thinking on what it would take to build bridges between the feminist/women's movement and those working with men. The eleventh Association for Women's Rights in Development (Awid) forum in November 2008 is on the horizon, with a timely focus on the power of movements; Men Engage are hosting their first global conference in early 2009 on engaging men and boys in gender equality; and the fifty-third United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will focus on engaging men in caring for people living with HIV.
These spaces offer a much-overdue opportunity for open, constructive dialogue between the feminist/women's movement and organisations working with men for gender justice. It's high time we started to have these conversations - to ask some of the questions people don't like to talk about. It's striking how little we really know or understand about women's hostility towards working with men, or indeed about men's experiences of trying to work with feminist and women's organisations. What will it take to build bridges? How can we promote dialogue and foster greater solidarity? How can we reframe our engagement with questions of masculinities and power so that new alliances can be created, bringing work on masculinities into the heart of movements for social and gender justice?
I don't have the answers - in fact, I doubt that straightforward or singular answers exist. But I do believe these are questions that badly need to be asked if we are to progress beyond the current polarisation of issues that ought to be everyone's concern. The inadequacies of focusing on women in isolation have long been recognised; if we are really serious about achieving a gender-just world, it's time for a more open debate to begin.
The creative and imaginative interests are harboured and focussing power too gets improved. So make sure that enough attention is given to theatre, music, dance, robotics, debates and science leagues as well. There are many day boarding schools in Delhi that promise brilliant exposure in the same so that your child exhibits the best behaviour.
Abacus is an instrument (counting device) that was invented in the ancient times for calculating numbers through a basic arithmetic system. Anciently, the abacus and counting boards were the only aids which were used to simplify the calculations. And now it is used as a popular tool to help in brain development.
Note: Sadly, the best resource, Solo Nexus, has been removed from solo players.
The Yahoo Groups appear to still be out there somewhere. I'm still getting e-mails from them. However, it looks like Yahoo's changed their links and I haven't gotten them updated, yet. Here's the updated list of links, with several new ones-
U.S. stocks rallied on Wednesday, fueled by a surge in financial and tech shares, which helped Wall Street to partially shake off Tuesday's sharp fall. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index enjoyed a run deep into positive territory, helping it cut into Tuesday's 100-point drop, and marking its best daily rise since Nov. 7, when it surged 2.4%, according to FactSet data. On Wednesday, the Nasdaq rose 1.4% to 6,234. The S&P 500 index climbed 0.9% at 2,440, representing the benchmark's best daily rise since April 24. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.7% at 21,454. Those moves come a day after equities saw their worst selloff in more than a month on the back of doubts about President Donald Trump's pro-growth agenda. The small-cap Russell 2000 nearly closed at a record, finishing up about 1.5% on the day, and highlighting the broad-based nature of the rally. Helping to support a bid for bank shares was a rise in government bond yields, with the 10-year Treasury note yield at 2.22%. Those gains were aided by European Central Bank officials attempting to tamp down the market's bearish reaction to ECB President Mario Draghi's comments on Tuesday, which were interpreted as hawkish, pushing the euro and yields globally markedly higher.
Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.
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Interesting article, i'd like to see how deep the rabbit hole goes since the sources cited aren't exactly legit and at the moment it all seems speculatory.
I'm gonna do some digging around too. Not that I care much about Paraffin in food, since its in many, MANY things. It's more to do with labelling, clearly some people have a reaction to paraffin and those people should be warned, like everyone in-fact.
So if the above claims are true, i'd like to find some more concrete evidence and citations.
Our modern lifestyle has a major downside, including extreme anxiety; treatment ofwhich can be just as stressful! Exhausting activities like deadlines, exams, interviews, performance targets, layoffs, salary cuts, unfair competition, peer pressure, time away from family and loved ones – the list goes on forever - and – and – and - it doesn’t get any easier, does it?
Oftentimes the demands may be so overwhelming that it seems almost impossible to slow down and take a deep breath. The result - we worry and lose sleep about pretty much anything and everything. This can spiral down into symptoms of anxiety and panic.
A lot can be done to relaxand just slow down. One way is to help our brain produce its own natural feel-good chemicals by eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grain foods; getting plenty of fresh air and sunshine, and exercising regularly.
Practicing relaxation techniques, meditation or taking time for a walk can all help to reduce stress levels and facilitate a feeling of calm – helping us to wind down and relax.
Many artificial remedies can produce side effects that create more problems than they resolve. The reason often is that they treat the symptoms but do not help to alleviate the cause. They can fix the pain, but hurt our stomach, or whatever.
However, natural remedies are made 100% from natural ingredients that can help to refresh our nervous system and keep our nerves settled and soothed – to enable us to cope more easily with the everyday stresses of rush.
Natural remedies can help relieve anxiety; depressioncan be conquered – naturally.
In fact, natural remedies have been used routinely in medicine for thousands of years to support the healthy functioning of the brain and nervous system. Our grandparents knew a lot more about plants and remedies than we do! If you travel overseas you will see many countries and cultures which use daily all sorts of teas and potions made from natural substances. Are these remedies some hocus pocus? No way!
They work to relieveanxiety, stress, and all their symptoms!
There are many published clinical studies demonstrating the ability of a wide range of herbs to support the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system and maintain a healthy balance - which will always assist with staying calm under pressure.
One of them is the curiously named, “Passion Flower" which is used in the treatment of generalized anxiety. In Brazil, the fruit from this beautiful flower is ground and taken as a delicious soothing juice. They don't take is as a remedy - it's a common refreshing drink at any time of day. Ask Brazilians if they are anxious! You guessed right - they are happy people!
This is the natural way to calm down. We don't have to be bound to anxiety. Treatment of anxiety can be much easier than we think. This may involve professional intervention, and of course, if in any doubt, always consult your physician. Treatment may be as simple as a natural boost of naturally occurring elements which a healthy body needs for optimum performance.
Everyone loves gifts. It allows one to express gratitude, appreciation or sincerity. Giving gifts doesn't necessitate an occasion. Sometimes, a gift that is deeply appreciated is one that is done spontaneously-done at the spur of the moment-without any particular reason. Gifts also help to sustain relationships, even in the corporate world.
George W. Bush's last victory party, which took place four years ago in Austin, Texas, never quite got underway. There was some annoying business about a withdrawn concession phone call and a steady downpour of rain. This year's party, held inside the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., was in one respect an improvement. There was no rain.
The evening began in the Reagan Building's giant, sloping atrium. The GOP herded its youngish volunteers into a mosh pit, jammed between the stage and the TV cameras. Vodka tonics were consumed, and the twentysomethings seemed poised for giddy celebration. Just after 12:30 a.m., Fox News awarded Ohio to Bush, bringing the president's electoral tally, by the network's count, to 266. Four more years! Alaska followed 20 minutes later, nudging Bush to 269. Four more years! At that point, a portly man wearing a blue suit and pin-striped shirt removed his "W Is Still President" lapel pin, held it aloft like a cigarette lighter, and began to lurch toward the stage.
But as soon as the crowd began to rock, Bush's glorious night ground to a halt. More than three hours passed without Fox awarding Bush a single electoral vote. Some of the other networks refused to give him Ohio. It wasn't that the remaining states were breaking for Kerry; they simply weren't breaking at all. The country band playing at the victory celebration exhausted its playlist and began glancing up nervously at the TV monitors. A producer with a ponytail and "W" hat waddled onstage and told them to keep playing. Reporters in the press row reached for their cell phones: The news from Boston was that John Edwards would take the stage and extend the election.
Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, dashed to the podium and, in a speech that lasted for the exact duration of Edwards', declared that Kerry couldn't possibly unearth 100,000 more votes in Ohio. The crowd whooped, but malaise was setting in. Wouldn't the president just get over here and declare victory already? Better yet, wouldn't Kerry just give up?
The heavy eyes were a marked shift from the evening's start, which was brimming with cautious optimism. As Bush swept the early states, Jeremy Bouma, a member of something called the Center for Christian Statesmanship, told me the expected surge in Democratic turnout would be offset by new evangelical voters. "My prayer going into this was that the evangelical vote was the X Factor," he said. Rosario Marin, a former U.S. treasurer, thought that Bush had succeeded in increasing his support among Hispanic voters. She was telling me why Latinos did not, in fact, oppose to the Iraq war when Gillespie announced that ABC had called Florida for Bush.
Aaaaaaaaah! she screamed, into my right ear."Oh, sorry." Then: Aaaaaaaaaah! "Oh, sorry." Aaaaaaaaaaaah! I told her she should go ahead and scream. After she caught her breath, Marin said: "I'm so happy. I'm so excited. My heart is pumping. I've got to call my husband." And then she was gone.
Bush never appeared at his 2000 victory party. Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, a question arose as to whether, in fact, he would appear at this one. CNN's John King reported that Bush had stormed into Karl Rove's office and asked the guru to let him declare victory. The reporters in the press room that weren't asleep let out a whoop. King later reported that Rove told the networks that if they would just call New Mexico for Bush, the president would make his way to the Reagan Building. The message was clear: I know you're tired. So give me the damn state.
At 5:05 a.m., an end—sort of. CNN reported that Bush wouldn't appear in person Wednesday morning; Andy Card, his chief of staff, would speak in his place. Card arrived in a room with a few dozen listless Republicans and said nothing memorable. Mario H. Lopez, one of the listless, declared, "I don't know how I cannot describe this night as historic." Then he glanced at someone's watch and said, "I think we're gonna get some breakfast and then get ready to go to work." ... 3:17 a.m.
Party Monster: Welcome to George W. Bush's "victory" party in Washington, D.C. Sorta. Us news reporters have been herded into a giant white tent, yards away from the actual party, and contact with revelers looks unlikely. This is what the mob outside Studio 54 must have looked like, if only you upped the dweeb factor.
As the Washington Post's "Reliable Source" column notedthis morning: "Reporters wishing to cover the president's election night party will have to pay $300 for the privilege of a 3-by-2-foot work space and a padded seat in a tent nearby to watch the proceedings on television. … Small groups of media will be escorted into the atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building to look around—but they won't be allowed to talk to participants." For a White House that hates the press, handcuffing reporters on Victory Night seems appropriate.
Last-minute indicators of victory: The handful of people I saw shuffling out of the White House grounds looked grim. Someone who identified himself as a Homeland Security apparatchik looked ebullient. On Fox News, Bill Kristol and Mort Kondracke are wearing prepared smiles. ... 4:05 p.m.
Recriminations Watch—Hispanic-Vote Edition: In the category of what my friend Noam Scheiber calls "possibly meaningless anecdotal evidence," my relatives in Northern New Mexico report an inordinate number of Bush signs in the poor Hispanic colonias—communities that figured to go overwhelmingly to Kerry. The same relatives report that Hispanic men profess to have a cultural affinity with Bush, who they see as a tough, macho sort of guy. Again, meaningless, but it underscores a point: That's about the only thing Bush has going for him with the Hispanic community. The Bushies, who heralded their leader's minority-outreach miracles as Texas governor, have done a shoddy job of courting Hispanics since entering the White House.
A few months back, Antonio Gonzalez of the William C. Velasquez Institute told me that Kerry staffers had whiffed at the Democratic Convention. They featured too few Hispanic speakers; and the preoccupation with Iraq drew attention away from domestic issues affecting the poor. All Karl Rove had to do, Gonzalez said, was goad his keynote speakers into mumbling a few "qué pasas" and the Hispanic vote might tilt slightly to Bush. Well, it didn't happen and it hasn't happened. Most surveys show Bush polling around 30 percent to 35 percent of the Hispanic vote, about what he did in 2000. Even GOP apparatchiks, wishing for miracles, don't put Bush much above 40 percent.
If Bush loses tight races in Florida and New Mexico (and, God forbid, Nevada and Colorado), an early recrimination theory might be that Bush spent too little time chasing Hispanic voters. Then again, perhaps he didn't have a chance. The sour economy disproportionately affects Hispanic and black communities; so does the Iraq War, which draws foot soldiers from the poorest segments of the population. Though both candidates ran Spanish-language ads in the Southwest, the campaigns seemed, at times, to forget about Hispanic voters entirely. Remember the fixation on the gringo Spanish spoken (haltingly) by Al Gore and Bush in 2000? Did Bush and Kerry ignore Hispanic voters, or has the media processed them as stable members of the electorate?
Even if Bush should lose, the GOP would be wise to thank him for ratcheting up their Hispanic numbers to Ronald Reagan levels—and up from depths plumbed by the Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush campaigns. But for a man who wonEl Paso County in his 1998 gubernatorial race, 35 percent doesn't seem like much of a miracle. ... 1:11 p.m.
Tom DeLay's Poetic Justice: Tom DeLay's push to rejigger Texas' congressional districts, an effort that caused such a kerfuffle last year, has faded under the onslaught of Swift Boat Veterans, the Osama tape, and Al Qaqaa. But DeLay's gambit has been no less effective. Five Texas Democrats face re-election Tuesday in GOP-friendly districts, and even the most optimistic Dems predict that only one or two of them (probably Martin Frost or Chet Edwards) can survive. There's a better-than-even shot that allfive Democrats will lose, giving the House GOP majority an enormous boost.
But it's not all sad news. With an influx of new Republicans comes an infusion of unwitting comic genius. Most of this can be seen in the personage of Ted Poe. Poe, a former Houston felony court judge, kicked off his national political career in August by boldly proclaiming, "Now is not the time to be a French Republican."
On the bench in Houston, Poe styled himself as a remorseless, Wild West, hangin' judge in the tradition of Roy Bean. His brainchild was something he called "Poetic Justice." With "Poetic Justice," Poe sentenced criminals to public humiliations to teach them a lesson. Shoplifters who found themselves in front of Poe, for instance, had to stand outside the stores they pinched from carrying signs identifying themselves as criminals.
When a man robbed legendary Lone Ranger star Clayton Moore, Poe made the perp shovel manure 20 hours a month at the Houston police department's horse pens. The sentence was to last for 10 years.
The Club for Growth's Stephen Moore reports that Poe made convicted car thieves hand over their own cars to their victims. Convicted murderers were forced to visit their victims' grave sites; others felons had to hang their victims' pictures in their cells and, upon release, carry them in their wallets. According to the Houston Press, Poe slapped one homicidal drunken driver with the following the rap:
… boot camp; erecting and maintaining a cross and Star of David at the accident site; carrying pictures of the victims in his wallet for ten years; observing the autopsy of a drunk-driving victim; placing flowers on the graves of the two victims on their birthdays for the next ten years; and carrying a sign outside a bar that reads, "I killed two people while driving drunk."
This article describes the ambiance of Poe's Houston office: "a poster of Alcatraz, a painting of a scene from the battle of Gettysburg and a sign proclaiming, 'I really don't care how you did it up north.' "
As the Houston Chronicle reports, victims' relatives have charged that Poe would often fail to follow through on the harsh sentences—a revelation which comes as something of a relief. Slate eagerly awaits the punishments Poe metes out on congressional Democrats. ... 11:12 a.m.
A Snowball's Chance: If the election drifts into Mountain Time Tuesday, will John Kerry regret stiffing New Mexico? That's one theory being floated on Joe Monahan's superb New Mexico political blog tonight. George W. Bush visited the state Monday, Dick Cheney over the weekend. So, New Mexicans will wake up Tuesday to read triumphant Bush headlines like this and this, while they'll see news pictures of Kerry overnighting in Wisconsin.
Bill Richardson pulls all the puppet-strings in New Mexico, but there's mounting evidence that Kerry may be in trouble. The polls have looked limp. And there's a theory that Al Gore's slim margin in 2000—366 votes, all found days after the election—may be attributable to one thing: snow.
On Election Day 2000, a freak snowstorm blanketed "Little Texas," the swath of southeastern New Mexico known for its cultural and political kinship with its neighbor. Conservative voters in three counties stayed home in droves. With Gore running strong in northern New Mexico and narrowly winning Albuquerque, the snowed-in voters may have cost Bush the state.
Tuesday's weather report: This site says "rain and snow showers will linger" near the region. Kerry may need every flake and drop. … 12:01 a.m.
Monday, Nov. 1 2004
The ESPN Primary: "Mr. President, I am wondering how you feel about taxpayers having to have a financial burden placed on them for building new stadiums and new facilities for existing teams?" So went The Candidates: Election 2004,ESPN's special last night that valiantly tried to make Tuesday's contest into a referendum on professional sports. Jim Gray, the thinking man's Ahmad Rashad, the guy who hones his interview technique on coaches trying to sneak off the court before halftime ("So, uh, how do you prepare for the second half?"), landed interviews with both candidates. With its modus operandi inching ever closer to that of Sabado Gigante, it's groovy to see ESPN put on its serious face once in a while—for the shtick to give way to grave pronouncements about THE WORLD BEYOND SPORTS. Except that Gray never acknowledged that such a thing existed.
In response to a question about ticket prices, Bush replied, "I was always concerned when I was with the Rangers that our ticket prices would become so high that the family would be priced out of baseball." Perhaps this is why Bush helped build the Ballpark at Arlington, one of the most expensive venues in baseball and one of its most soulless. For his part, Kerry repeated his I-stand-with-the-working-man pabulum, suggesting that fathers were looting their children's college funds to sit at club level.
Asked to name his favorite athlete, Kerry, of course, straddled, ticking off a fair slice of the Boston Bruins' first line and, for swing-state mojo, a handful of Detroit Red Wings. Bush got another chance to coo about his clutch performance during the 2001 World Series. And that's about as deep as our man Gray got. There are some reasonably interesting questions to ask about sports, such as why it remains one of the viciously anti-gay segments of public life, a black mark that is ignored when it isn't celebrated.
But why get huffy when you can ask both candidates, as Gray did, what should be done about Pete Rose, who after his selfless act of contrition last winter finds himself no closer to baseball's Hall of Fame? This is the kind of spitball that will get you hooted off most respectable sports radio shows, but the candidates tried their level best. Bush said Rose had never really apologized to baseball. Kerry straddled, then agreed. You could see the nervous flicker in both men's eyes—Bush: Christian values!; Kerry: Cincinnati values!—as they tried outflank one another on Charlie Hustle's quagmire. ... 10:02 p.m.
WATERLOO, Iowa—Since the final presidential debate, John Kerry has traveled around the country delivering a series of speeches that his campaign calls his "closing argument." The topics vary, but the theme is always the same, the "Fresh Start for America": Friday in Milwaukee, a "fresh start" for jobs; Monday in Tampa, a "fresh start" for health care; Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., a "fresh start" for fiscal responsibility and Social Security. The speeches are supposed to convince Americans of Kerry's fitness for the presidency, but a side effect has been to demonstrate how inept he is at delivering prepared remarks.
The campaign gives reporters the text of each of Kerry's speeches "as prepared for delivery," apparently to show how much Kerry diverges from them. During his stump speeches and town halls, Kerry makes the occasional Bush-style error, such as the time I saw him tell a blind man in St. Louis that he would "look you in the eye." Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, Kerry tried to thank teachers for spending money out of their own pockets on students, but instead it came out as a thank-you to Mary Kay Letourneau as he said, "And they're putting out for our kids." His pronunciation of "idear" grates on my ears far more than Bush's "nucular." But the authentic Kerryism emerges only when he gives a formal address.
Kerry proves incapable of reading simple declarative sentences. He inserts dependent clauses and prepositional phrases until every sentence is a watery mess. Kerry couldn't read a Dick and Jane book to schoolchildren without transforming its sentences into complex run-ons worthy of David Foster Wallace. Kerry's speechwriters routinely insert the line "We can bring back that mighty dream," near the conclusion of his speeches, presumably as an echo of Ted Kennedy's Shrum-penned "the dream will never die" speech from the 1980 Democratic convention. Kerry saps the line of its power. Here's his version from Monday's speech in Tampa: "We can bring back the mighty dream of this country, that's what's at stake in these next two weeks."
Kerry flubs his punch lines, sprinkles in irrelevant anecdotes, and talks himself into holes that he has trouble improvising his way out of. He steps on his applause lines by uttering them prematurely, and then when they roll up on his TelePrompTer later, he's forced to pirouette and throat-clear until he figures out how not to repeat himself. He piles adjective upon adjective until it's like listening to a speech delivered by Roget.
Kerry's health-care speech Monday in Tampa was a classic of the form. The written text contained a little more than 2,500 words. By the time he was finished, Kerry had spoken nearly 5,300 words—not including his introductory remarks and thank-yous to local politicians—more than doubling the verbiage. Pity his speechwriters when you read the highlights below. It's not their fault.
Kerry's Script: Most of all, I will always level with the American people.
Actual Kerry: Most of all, my fellow Americans, I pledge to you that I will always level with the American people, because it's only by leveling and telling the truth that you build the legitimacy and gain the consent of the people who ultimately we are accountable to. I will level with the American people.
Kerry's Script: I will work with Republicans and Democrats on this health care plan, and we will pass it.
Actual Kerry: I will work with Republicans and Democrats across the aisle, openly, not with an ideological, driven, fixed, rigid concept, but much like Franklin Roosevelt said, I don't care whether a good idea is a Republican idea or a Democrat idea. I just care whether or not it's gonna work for Americans and help make our country stronger. And we will pass this bill. I'll tell you a little bit about it in a minute, and I'll tell you why we'll pass it, because it's different from anything we've ever done before, despite what the Republicans want to try to tell you.
Kerry's Script: These worries are real, and they're happening all across America.
Actual Kerry: These worries are real. They're not made up. These stories aren't something that's part of a Democrat plan or a Republican plan. These are American stories. These are the stories of American citizens. And it's not just individual citizens who are feeling the pressure of health care costs. It's businesses across America. It's CEOs all across America. This is an American problem.
Kerry's Script: That's wrong, and we have to change it.
Actual Kerry: Well, that's wrong, my friends. We shouldn't be just hoping and praying. We need leadership that acts and responds and leads and makes things happen.
Kerry's Script: That's wrong, and we have to change it.
Actual Kerry: Well, that's wrong. We had a chance to change it in the Congress of the United States. They chose otherwise. And I'll talk about that in a minute.
Kerry's Script: It's wrong to make it illegal for Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies for lower prices.
Actual Kerry: But not satisfied to hold onto the drug company's profit there, they went further. Medicare belongs to you. Medicare is paid by the taxpayer. Medicare is a taxpayer-funded program to keep seniors out of poverty. And we want to lower the cost to seniors, right? It's common sense. But when given the opportunity to do that, this president made it illegal for Medicare to do what the VA does, which is go out and bulk purchase drugs so we could lower the taxpayers' bill and lower the cost to seniors. It is wrong to make it illegal to lower the cost of tax and lower the cost to seniors.
Kerry's Script: And if there was any doubt before, his response to the shortage of flu vaccines put it to rest.
Actual Kerry: Now, if you had any doubts at all about anything that I've just said to you, anybody who's listening can go to johnkerry.com or you can go to other independent sources and you can track down the truth of what I've just said. But if you had any doubts about it at all, his response to the shortage of the flu vaccine ought to put them all to rest.
Kerry's Script: I believe we need a fresh start on health care in America. I believe we need a President who will fight for the great middle class and those struggling to join it. And with your help, I will be that kind of President.
Actual Kerry: I believe so deeply—and as I go around, Bob and Bill and I were talking about this coming over here from other places—that the hope that we're seeing in the eyes of our fellow Americans, folks like you who have come here today who know what's at stake in this race. This isn't about Democrat and Republican or ideology. This is about solving problems, real problems that make our country strong and help build community and take care of other human beings. I believe we need a fresh start on health care in America. I believe we need a President who's going to fight for the great middle class and those who really are struggling, even below minimum wage now. And they won't even raise it. With your help, ladies and gentlemen, I intend to be that kind of President who stands up and fights for the people who need the help.
Kerry's Script: Families will be able to choose from dozens of different private insurance plans.
Actual Kerry: Now George Bush is trying to scare America. And he's running around telling everybody—I saw this ad the other night. I said, "What is that about? That's not my plan. That may be some 20 years ago they pulled out of the old thing." But here's what they do, they are trying to tell you that there is some big government deal. Ladies and gentlemen, we choose. I happen to choose Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I could choose Kaiser. I could choose Pilgrim. I could choose Phelan. I could choose any number of different choices. That's what we get. And we look through all the different choices and make our choice. You ought to have that same choice. The government doesn't tell what you to do. The government doesn't run it. It gives you the choice.
Kerry's Script: Ladies and Gentlemen, here's the Bush Health Care Plan: Don't get a flu shot, don't import less-expensive drugs, don't negotiate for lower prices, and most of all, don't get sick.
Actual Kerry: So, Ladies and Gentlemen, if you had doubts about it at all, here's the Bush Health Care Plan: Don't get a flu shot, don't import less-expensive drugs from Canada, don't negotiate for lower prices on prescription drugs. And don't get sick. Just pray, stand up and hope, wait—whatever. We are all left wondering and hoping. That's it.
DENVER—An exchange Monday morning between two reporters on the Bush press bus: Q: "What do you think about the lump on his back?" A: "Probably benign."
Da-dum-crash. The reporter's response was meant as a joke, but it's a fair assessment of the attitude of the White House press corps toward the run of stories on the strange rectangular shape seen beneath Bush's suit jacket during the first presidential debate. Some reporters argue that the rectangle is an optical illusion, while others think there just isn't enough evidence of anything for a story. My take: Lefty bloggers are undermining their case by making the huge, completely unsupported leap that Bush was wearing an earpiece wired into an audio box on his back. If Bush is Karl Rove's Rupert Jee, why was his debate performance so miserable? White House communications director Dan Bartlett insinuated as much in Spin Alley after the second debate. A reporter said to him, Bush didn't repeat himself as much as he did last week. What changed? Bartlett's tongue-in-cheek reply: "The guy who was speaking into the audio box—did you hear? He had an audio box in the first one—kept repeating the things to tell him to say, so he kept repeating them."
But just because some conspiracy theorists—some of whom were peddling the same theory four years ago—are making assertions that aren't supported by the evidence doesn't mean that the weird rectangular shape under Bush's coat doesn't exist. If you suspect the still images from the debate have been doctored, watching the video will erase your doubts. Let's go to the tape: Click here to open the video of the debate posted on the Web site of the Washington Post. Right-click on the video to open it in a separate RealPlayer window. Fast-forward to the 14:55 mark, and you'll see the mysterious rectangle.
What is it? I haven't the faintest clue. But I do think it's a legitimate topic of discussion. Umbrella Man didn't shoot John F. Kennedy, but that doesn't mean there wasn't an Umbrella Man. And just because conspiracy theorists are wrong about JFK doesn't mean his assassination isn't worthy of inquiry.
How many electoral votes does the AFC West get? Denver Broncos football coach Mike Shanahan appeared with Bush and Gen. Tommy Franks at a rally Monday at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Morrison, Colo. Earlier this year, Bush visited the Wisconsin training camp of the Kansas City Chiefs, a divisional rival of the Broncos. Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil was asked whether he would welcome Kerry to visit his training camp, too. Vermeil's answer: "Not necessarily." The two other coaches in the division, Marty Schottenheimer and Norv Turner, coach in the safe Democratic state of California, so maybe Bush doesn't care about their votes.
Which Terrorist Is Kerry? Part 2: Mike Pesca of Day to Day dug up a "run but can't hide" quote by President Bush that I missed during my weekend search of White House transcripts. Here's the president on Feb. 5, 2002, in Pittsburgh, on the subject of Osama Bin Laden: "There's no cave deep enough for him to hide. He can run and he thinks he can hide, but we're not going to give up."
A few things to post about. Firstly, I made a card for Andrew's dad for Father's Day. I started with a plain pearlescent gold card then added a base layer. This was coloured by using a whole range of inks swirled about on the card then I added sprays of Glitz Spritz, which dry to a wonderful coloured metallic sheen. Then on top I layered another image, a stamp which i bought up in London of an old doorway, surrounded by ancient script - this was stamped in a Distress Ink and then covered in Sepia Accents and allowed to dry before trimming and mounting. Finally, I added some organza ribbon, which I coloured using an ink pad, then tied the knot while incorporating a beautiful chipboard key, in keeping with the medieval theme.
For Basil's birthday, next week (Basil is married to Claire, Andrew's sister), I started with a deep brown square card. I layered a smaller piece of K & Co patterned brown paper, then got to work on a smaller square piece of white card. Basil is a keen bird watcher, so I used a bird/branch mask (again,bought in London recently) and then worked various soft green and amber inks in random swooshy patterns. I sprayed with Glitz Spritz then removed the masks before applying the heat gun to dry the card. Once dry, I stamped various botanical stamps across the base using assorted Distress inks - I wanted to give the effect of viewing the bird on the branch through fronds of vegetation. Finally I added a birthday greeting.
Basil and Claire's wedding anniversary is just before Basil's birthday so I made a card for them. I took an A5 card (landscape format) and applied some beautiful glittered paper from the last Docrafts goody bag, featuring roses and butterflies. Then I used my diecutter to cut some squares of co-ordinating papers and layered these on the card. Then I stamped an image of roses (the stamp courtesy of the goody bag) twice using Brushed Corduroy Distress Ink. On the base image, I cut round the stamped card and coloured in the leaves using metallic pencils, then cut the roses from the second stamped image and coloured these, before layering them up on the first image. Then I applied Sepia Accents to the roses, this strengthening the colour and transparent Glossy Accents to the leaves. Once dry, I added a small message on the left of the image - I am really pleased with this and thinks it looks lovely and hope the recipients like it.
Finally, one of Claire and Basil's sons was born on their wedding anniversary! So it's always a busy week for them with three celebrations going on. I made a card for Alex, starting with a sunny yellow square base card with an attractive zig zag edging. This was layered with an orange paper, then on a piece of white card I added a gorgeous stamped image of four adorable little hedgehogs. I coloured these using a combination of gel pens, pencils and some Stickles and edged the card with some Distress Inks. Finally I added a bow at the bottom and a birthday message. All in all, I was very pleased with the way all the cards turned out.
PHILADELPHIA—On the Kerry plane Thursday, reporters asked Mike McCurry why the campaign agreed to make the foreign-policy debate first, as the Bush campaign wanted, instead of third, as the Commission on Presidential Debates had scheduled it. "You know, we have to take anything like that and turn it into an opportunity," McCurry said. So, you see it as an opportunity? Not quite: "I'm supposed to lower expectations, not raise them."
Maybe McCurry should tell the candidate. I counted six times this week that Kerry raised his debate expectations by disparaging President Bush's intelligence or knowledge, seven if you count a comment made by Sen. Joe Biden during a Friday rally here. During his Monday night appearance on David Letterman, Kerry said that during the debates, "George Bush is gonna sit on Dick Cheney's lap," an apparent reference to the widespread Democratic belief that the vice president is the ventriloquist/puppeteer and Bush is the dummy. (At least, I hope that was the reference.) On Tuesday's Live With Regis & Kelly, Kerry said of the just-concluded debate negotiations, "The big hang-up was George Bush wanted a lifeline where he could call," an allusion to Regis Philbin's Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? game show. That night in Orlando, Kerry said that President Bush says he would have gone to war "even if he knew there was no connection of al-Qaida and Sept. 11 and Iraq—which we knew, but even if he knew that." In Columbus on Thursday, Kerry mocked Bush's claim that the CIA was "just guessing" about Iraq in its National Intelligence Estimate by implying that the president didn't understand the nature of the report and hadn't looked at it: "It's called an analysis. And the president ought to read it, and he ought to study it, and he ought to respond to it." On Friday on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania *, Biden compared the two candidates for president by saying, "John Kerry understands and has actually read history." Earlier that morning, during Kerry's war-on-terror speech at Temple University, Kerry noted that the president agreed to testify before the 9/11 commission "only with Vice President Cheney at his side," and he ridiculed Republican claims that a new president wouldn't be able to get more allies involved in Iraq and the war on terror by saying, "I have news for President Bush: Just because you can't do something doesn't mean it can't be done."
Good lines all—well, except the sitting-in-Cheney's lap one. But was this the week to trot out the Bush-is-an-idiot-controlled-by-Cheney meme? I thought the campaigns were supposed to talk up their opponents before the debates, not deride them. Kerry is Cicero and Bush is Rocky Marciano, the man who has never lost.
Other than this minor misstep in the expectations game, however, Kerry set himself up well this week for Thursday's debate, which will be the most decisive event in the presidential campaign so far. The foreign-policy debate deserves to go first, because this is a foreign-policy election. At Kerry's town halls, even the ones that are supposed to be about health care or Social Security or the economy, the majority of voters ask him questions about Iraq. Here's one way to think about next week's face-off: Bush and Kerry are running for leader of the free world, not just president of the United States, and both candidates want to cast themselves as a global Abraham Lincoln while defining their opponent as an international version of John C. Calhoun.
Bush lays claim to the mantle of Lincoln the Emancipator: Like the 16th president, Bush believes that individual liberty trumps state sovereignty (the international version of states' rights). Sure, Saddam Hussein was sovereign, but he was a tyrant and a menace to his people, Bush says, so America's invasion was a just one. Kofi Annan says Bush's invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law, but Bush appeals to a higher law that says that some laws and some rulers are illegitimate. Bush laid out his Lincolnesque doctrine of liberty over sovereignty in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention: "Our nation's founding commitment is still our deepest commitment: In our world, and here at home, we will extend the frontiers of freedom." Bush wants to paint Kerry as a global Calhoun, a man who prefers French sovereignty to Iraqi freedom.
Kerry, on the other hand, casts himself as Lincoln the preserver of the Union (while at the same time questioning Bush's competence and highlighting the disparity between the president's "fantasy world" ideals and the "world of reality" on the ground). I don't want to overstate this, because the Republican caricature of Kerry as a one-worlder who would let France exert a veto over American security is inaccurate. But Kerry clearly believes in the international structures and institutions that have been created since World War II, and he sees Bush, shall we say, nullifying them. In this version of the story, it's Bush who is Calhoun, the man who would elevate the shortsighted rights of his state over the compact that every state has entered to promote the greater good.
This analogy, like all historical analogies, is flawed in many ways. It may be particularly unfair to Kerry, who on the stump talks about relying on allies out of pragmatism rather than idealism. But it gets at the factor that I think will determine the winner of next week's debate: Which candidate will be able to present himself as the internationalist and his opponent as the isolationist? Bush says Kerry would turn his back on the people of the world who suffer under tyranny. Kerry says Bush has already turned his back on the world and has replaced dictatorship in Iraq with chaos, not the freedom he claims.
It will be an uphill battle for Kerry. So far, he's been successful at pointing out the flaws in Bush's policies, but he hasn't convinced enough people that President Kerry's policies would be any better. And Bush's bounce out of the Republican convention showed how attractive the president's principles, if not his policies, are.
In July, voters seemed to have decided that they'd like to get rid of Bush. But when they turned their attention to his potential replacement, they were disappointed by what they discovered. The Republican convention exploited that disappointment, and now there are more undecided voters than ever—because voters found out they don't like either guy.
Bush lost the incumbent's referendum, then Kerry lost the one on the challenger. Now we don't know what we want. That's why Thursday will be so critical. For Kerry to win, he needs to argue successfully that liberty and the international order, like strength and wisdom, are not opposing values.
Correction, Sept. 27, 2004: This article originally said that Biden spoke at the University of Philadelphia. He spoke at the University of Pennsylvania. (Return to corrected sentence.)
A Deep Run-area man was arrested Sunday after allegedly assaulting a state trooper.
Robert Ronald Brandt, 47, of the 4500 block of Old Hanover Road, was charged with two counts of disturbing the peace and one count each of second-degree assault and disorderly conduct. He was released on his own...
A combination of things to write about today. A little while ago, I ordered some papercrafting goodies from Cardcraft Plus, in particular some cardmaking supplies for the GRW shop. In their most recent catalogue there were two very pretty sets, one of a Oriental theme (lots of cherry blossom, pretty turquoise and delicate pinks, all with gold foiling) and the other was a very versatile set of butterfly themed papers and cards with a palette of chocolate browns, russets and caramels. Both included lots of die-cut, foiled toppers and labels - so plenty to make quick cards for the shop, but also enough to use as a base for a more creative afternoon.
Anyway, this week I passed my ECDL and I'll be popping back in next week to say Thank you to my lovely tutor and to return the workbooks I was using. I'll probably also get her either a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates. So, I decided to make her a card using the new sets. After a bit of dithering over which set to use, I plumped for the chocolate butterflies and spread the cardstock over the bed to look at it and choose, before working here in the spare bedroom. Big mistake. While I was working away happily, Andy the greyhound decided to enter the bedroom at high speed, take a flying leap onto the bed and start chewing at the cardstock with great interest and curiosity. I quickly realised what he was doing, dashed in there and we had words. Much chastised, he skulked off in disgrace and I have been considering the damage. I won't now be able to make any A4 cards from the cardstock (unless teethmarks suddenly become an accessory) but with some trimming I'll be able to salvage most of the cards from the wreckage. After that excitement, here's the card pictured above.
I started with a cream landscape A5 card, and covered it with a piece of the printed background paper in a a lovely chocolate brown. I affixed a Thank you message with foam pads and then pressed out and layered up a pretty decoupage series that came with the kit in a lovely russet brown. Next to this, I attached some more die cut butterflies and finished off with some adhesive gems on the butterflies and a pretty chocolate organza ribbon around the side of the card. And of course the moral of this story is that greyhounds and craft do not mix!
On the fabric front, I have still not photographed my little bag, but will do so during the week. In the living room, we have a quilt over one of the sofas that I use for snuggling while watching TV or reading or stitching. You may remember I made it from a lovely Moda charm pack from the "At Water's Edge" range. Just after Christmas, Andrew announced (much to my surprise) that he wished to commission a similar quilt for his sofa and that I should proceed with its manufacture. So, at a recent visit to Busy Bees, I purchased a charm pack from Moda, this time in the Mill House Inn range - really pretty florals, in soft dusty pinks, spring greens, tan and some berry colours. My thinking was to make a similar quilt to the one I made for my friend Penny for Christmas, based on a nine patch square with sashing between. Anyway, yesterday afternoon I made up my nine patch blocks and summoned dear husband for an inspection. After looking at them for a bit, he has decided that the square is not going to be big enough and the quilt should be larger. So, I am going to get another charm pack of the same fabric and have an eight block quilt rather than a four block. Deep down I suspec this is so he can wrap up not only himself but any passing greyhound who happens to be sharing the sofa with him..
I attach some pics of the made-up nine patch blocks completed so far - the colours are really pretty. What I haven't yet decided is whether to leave the blocks as they are or do what I did at Christmas and do the cutting and turning into quarters, making a more complex looking block. Decisions, decisions......
It is the time of the year when we express our deep love and high appreciation for all the things our fathers have done for us. What best way to express such recognition than to give a classic gift? Read on and see how neckties have been more than just a piece of clothing.
CINCINNATI—John Kerry is so concerned about the plight of American manufacturers that he's taken to doing short advertisements during his campaign events. "Go to a Web site," Kerry exhorted his audience Tuesday in Greensboro, N.C. "It could be johnkerry.com, or go some other place. Go to truth.com, if there is one. And find out what's really happening." So I went to truth.com, and I found out what was happening: "Truth Hardware designs and manufactures a complete line of hinges, locks, operators, and even remote controlled power window systems used on wood, vinyl, metal and fiberglass windows, skylights, and patio doors."
I'm hesitant to criticize Kerry for his extemporizing, because his Kerrymeandering (a word invented by my colleague Will Saletan) makes the repetition of campaigning more endurable. More important, overdisciplined Robopols who never say anything interesting are one of the many reasons to hate politics. And this Kerrymeander was merely amusing, not harmful, though a good rule of 21st-century campaigning should be, don't refer to Web sites that you haven't visited. Kerry even had the good fortune to refer to the Web site of a company that manufactures its products in Owatonna, Minn.—a swing state!
But Monday's impromptu comments were more damaging. In addition to making a joke in West Virginia about taking a shotgun with him to the presidential debates, Kerry decided it would be a good idea in Pennsylvania to talk about how he has difficulty deciding what to eat at restaurants. "You know when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling, what do you want?" he said. A cook at a local restaurant, though, solves Kerry's dilemma by serving "whatever he's cooked up that day. I think that's the way it ought to work for confused people like me who can't make up our minds what we're going to eat." Kerry has yet to mourn the fact that fewer and fewer gynecologists are able to "practice their love" with American women, but his handlers have so much confidence in him that on Tuesday they banned the national press pool from observing his satellite interviews with local TV stations.
Still, even Kerry wasn't as off-message as one of the local politicians who introduced him at the Greensboro town hall. Sure, Republicans say Kerry is a flip-flopper, the politician said, but so-called "flip-flopping" is a sign of skepticism, of being open to learning new things. "We call it thinking," he said to huge applause from the crowd. The guy must not have gotten the memo: Kerry no longer wants to be the thoughtful candidate of nuance. Like President Bush, he's discovered the virtues of moral clarity.
Bush describes the world in terms of black and white, good vs. evil. Kerry now describes the world in terms of right vs. wrong. "As the president likes to say, there's nothing complicated about this," Kerry says every time he begins his new "W. stands for wrong" speech. Kerry no longer brags about being complicated, as he did in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention. He's now as simple as Bush. As Kerry said in Greensboro, "John Edwards and I believe, deep to the core of our being, that there's an easy distinction between what's right and what's wrong."
You won't be shocked to learn which side of the line Kerry thinks Bush falls on. Bush on the war: wrong. Bush on government spending: wrong. Bush on Medicare: wrong. Bush on Social Security: wrong. Bush on outsourcing: wrong. Bush on the environment: wrong. (Kerry also referred to mankind's "spiritual, God-given responsibilities" to be stewards of the Earth.) And in Greensboro, Kerry added a new element to his "That's W., wrong choice, wrong direction," refrain. Each time, he concluded with, "And we want to make it right." Kerry did get a little overzealous about his new theme when he referred to the treasury secretary as "John W. Snow—John Snow, excuse me." After some laughter from the audience, Kerry added, "Well, he's wrong, too."
Kerry has also begun to criticize Bush for breaking promises, for not being as unwavering as he pretends to be. In West Virginia on Monday, Kerry said Bush promised in 2000 to spend more money on clean coal technology, but the money never came. In North Carolina on Tuesday, Kerry mentioned the administration's overconfident estimates of war on the cheap: "He promised that this war would cost $1 billion, and that oil from Iraq would pay for it."
The audience liked the new black-and-white, with-us-or-against-us Kerry. He was doing so well that during the question-and-answer session he felt liberated to engage in some more improvisation. A woman stood up and announced, "I'm so excited to see you. I think you're hot." Referring to his 27-year-old daughter, Vanessa, who was in the audience, Kerry said, "My daughter just buried her head. That is not the way she thinks about her father. But at my age, that sounds good." While he was talking, Vanessa Kerry looked down and stuck her fingers in her ears.
BOSTON—I admit it. I don't get it. John Edwards is a perfectly fine public speaker, and compared to the likes of Bob Graham, he's Cicero, but I've never understood the press corps' crush on him. Of all the Democratic presidential candidates with whom I shared a small one-on-one encounter—even a handshake and a quick question—I found Edwards the least personally charming. Wesley Clark was a stiff shouter in speeches, but he had a likable way of engaging in locker-room razzing with the media. Howard Dean, the candidate whose stump persona (at least until he began messianic chanting) most closely resembled the one he put forth to the press, had a regular-guy air. Even John Kerry was hands-on, a guy who would put his arm around you to bring you into his circle. The awkward forcedness of the moment was part of its A-for-effort appeal.
Edwards, on the other hand, was guarded, bland, and impenetrable when I sat down for a 30-minute interview with him last September in a supporter's home in Sioux City, Iowa. He had nothing to say beyond the confines of his scripted talking points, even on the subject of his home state of North Carolina's recent pilfering of Roy Williams from my beloved Kansas Jayhawks (beyond conceding, "I wanted Roy baaaaad"). He showed no interest in small talk or idle conversation, just question, response, stop. Question, response, stop. The candidate Edwards most resembled was Dick Gephardt, who was similarly suspicious during my 10-minute encounter with him, but at least Gephardt displayed a deep knowledge of policy. And I didn't mind because, hey, you don't expect to be charmed by Dick Gephardt.
But Edwards' great strength as a candidate is supposed to be his ability to melt people with his winning smile. I was initially impressed by his public charm, particularly the first time I saw him deliver his revamped "Two Americas" stump speech in January. But that quickly wore thin, too. His delivery appears artful at first, but with repetition I saw it as rote and mechanical, so practiced that it's a little bit creepy. I find him as inscrutable as I did in that Iowa living room 10 months ago. As the campaign continued and Edwards kept drawing rave reviews, even from Republicans, I started asking myself: What's wrong with me?
With those doubts in mind, like everyone else I waited for Edwards' moment to arrive Wednesday night with anticipation. I wanted to see him deliver a new speech, a piece of oratory worthy of a presidential nominating convention. Edwards delivered that speech, a captivating declaration of the ways a Kerry-Edwards administration would wage the war on terror. Edwards was sure and forceful, and he outlined a powerful alternative to the Bush administration's war. Unfortunately, he took until the fifth page of the transcript of his seven-page speech to get to that play-within-the-play, and the minispeech was finished by the middle of the sixth page. The speech I wanted to see was bookended by disappointment.
The opening wasn't awful, but it wasn't particularly good, either. I was touched to hear Edwards mention his son Wade, who died in a car accident eight years ago and whom he writes about with grace in his book Four Trials. I don't recall hearing Edwards ever say the word "Wade" in public before. I once saw him tell a voter that he had four children, and then he named only three: Cate, Emma Claire, and Jack.
After that moving—perhaps only to me—moment, Edwards transitioned into the John-Kerry-served-in-Vietnam portion of his address. Maybe it's nitpicky, but some of the assertions he made, and has made before, aren't exactly accurate. He said that Kerry's decision to beach his Swift boat while under fire was made "in a split-second," which isn't right. It was a decision Kerry had talked about and hashed out with his crew in advance. That doesn't make it less brave or less brilliant, but the story ought to be told the right way.
Likewise, Edwards implied that Kerry knew that captaining a Swift boat was a dangerous duty when he volunteered for it, which isn't true. When Kerry asked for Swift duty, he wasn't asking for a combat job. It was only later that the Swifts' role in the war changed. Again, that fact doesn't detract from John Kerry's valor. In fact, it makes Kerry more understandable, more human. It shows how Kerry, an opponent of the Vietnam War before he enlisted, ended up unhappily—but with distinction—participating in it. Without that element of his story, Kerry becomes a thoughtful and serious young man, skeptical about Vietnam, who enthusiastically asks to be allowed to ship out and kill people he thinks of as innocents. I prefer the story of a man who got put in a situation he didn't ask for but did his duty anyway.
After Kerry-in-Vietnam, Edwards shifted into son-of-a-mill-worker mode, followed by Two Americas. He was, however, more substantive than usual, listing off specific policies a Kerry administration would seek to enact: tax credits for health care, child care, and college tuition, paid for by an increase in taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. I think rolling back the high end of the tax cuts is a good idea, but if a lot of Americans thought they were in the top 1 percent four years ago, how many think they are in the top 2 percent? He should have given us a salary figure.
But whatever flaws marred the portions of the speech about domestic policy, they were erased by the masterful section on foreign policy and the war on terrorism. About 20 minutes into his speech, Edwards painted the images of Sept. 11—"the towers falling, the Pentagon in flames, and the smoldering field in Pennsylvania"—and he mourned the nearly 3,000 who died. Unlike many of the speakers during the convention's first three days, Edwards didn't refer to 9/11 as a lost opportunity or a nostalgic period of national unity. He noted it as a tragedy that plunged the nation into war.
Edwards criticized the Bush administration for dragging its feet on intelligence reform, and he promised better homeland security, safer ports, and more money for first responders—firefighters, cops, and emergency medical technicians. He also promised more dead terrorists. "And we will have one clear unmistakable message for al-Qaida and the rest of these terrorists," he said. "You cannot run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you." And on the subject of Iraq, Edwards declared that America would win. He promised more special forces, a modernized military, stronger alliances, and he even said the magic words I didn't expect to hear: "a democratic Iraq."
Not long after that, he went back to heart-tugging and platitudes, and I was again wondering why I don't get it. But one moment moved me, though you had to have watched Edwards closely for the last year to catch it: He adapted the conclusion of Four Trials, the book in which he talks most freely about Wade, for the speech. The last lines of the book are nearly the same as the ones Edwards said, near the very end of the speech, when he talked about the lessons he has learned during his sometimes tragic life. One lesson, Edwards said, is that "there will always be heartache and struggle—you can't make it go away. But the other is that people of good and strong will can make a difference. One is a sad lesson and the other's inspiring. We are Americans and we choose to be inspired."
I saw it as a second mention of his son, this one a more private one, to pay tribute to the one member of the family who couldn't share this night with his dad.
BOSTON—John Kerry's victory jog through the Democratic primaries wasn't electrifying political drama, but it was fascinating to watch because Kerry's leisurely lapping of the field couldn't be explained by the conventional axioms of presidential politics. In the general election, Kerry has continued his rule-breaking ways. He's the same John Kerry—boring, craggy, and cringe-inducing—such as when, during his Sunday night, live-from-Fenway-Park interview on ESPN, he ducked the question of whether to induct Pete Rose into the Baseball Hall of Fame ("That's up to the writers. I think, probably, that's pretty difficult.") and tried to have it both ways on whether Roger Clemens should be inducted as a member of the Boston Red Sox ("Well, obviously, we think [Red Sox] but there are evenly divided opinions here."). But despite his limitations as a candidate, he's still engaged in a campaign that's suspending the normal laws of politics.
Even a casual viewer of Hardball knows that the first rule of an election that involves a sitting president is that it's a referendum on the incumbent. This election, however, has turned out to be the opposite. It's a referendum on the challenger. Kerry probably isn't responsible for this turn of events, but he's benefiting from it: The referendum on the incumbent is over. President Bush already lost it. This presidential campaign isn't about whether the current president deserves a second term. It's about whether the challenger is a worthy replacement.
So, even though there are supposed to be only five persuadable voters left in America, I'm inclined to think that the next four nights will be worth watching. Can the Democrats re-enact the successful 2000 Republican convention, a parade of moderation and diversity that convinced the nation that George W. Bush was a decent fellow who could be trusted with the levers of power? Four years ago, partisan Republicans were so consumed by Clinton hatred that they would shriek ecstatically every time Bush said he would "uphold the honor and dignity of the office." They channeled their rage into pragmatism: After eight years of Clinton, GOP primary voters wanted to beat Al Gore so badly that they rallied around Bush months before the primaries began, based on nothing more than the fact that he seemed electable. They made a calculated bet that Bush was a guy who would sell well, and they were right.
Now it's the Democrats' turn to see if their similar gamble will have a similar payoff. But I wonder if this convention will be as restrained as the one Republicans held four years ago. There's a big-name loose cannon on the bill on each of the first three nights: On Monday it's Al Gore; on Tuesday it's Howard Dean; and on Wednesday it's Wesley Clark. Each one is smart, beloved by a portion of the party, and capable of rhetorical sobriety. They're also all capable of going off the deep end.
Four years ago in Philadelphia, it took nearly two full days for a Republican speaker to even use the phrase "Clinton-Gore administration." On the eve of this convention, the Democrats were still sating their appetite for vitriol. A labor delegate caucus I attended Sunday was either an indication that the party isn't quite ready to tone down its rhetoric, or it was a Bush-bashing bachelor party, a final sowing of oats before the inevitable settling down. "This is where the first American revolution started, and the humiliating defeat of a king named George began," AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said. "And, brothers and sisters, it's where we're starting a new American revolution." Rep. John Lewis called George Bush the worst president of his lifetime. Dick Cheney was booed as a "calloused backroom operator."
Then John Edwards was introduced to speak via satellite. He gave his standard speech, about leading the world rather than bullying it, about not going to war needlessly, and about John Kerry's heroism and service in Vietnam. He also delivered a line that is consistently his biggest applause-getter at the Kerry-Edwards events I've attended. It's Edwards' answer to "honor and dignity," Bush's subliminal catchphrase from the 2000 campaign.
Every day, Edwards likes to say, every day John Kerry sits in that Oval Office, "he will always tell the American people the truth." The crowd erupted, as they always do. And during the entire speech, Edwards never said the president's name.
MADISON, WIS.—If the "Wisconsin or bust" primary began as the bargaining stage of the Dean campaign's death, as one staffer told me, then by Election Day, everyone had settled comfortably into acceptance. It's not quite right to say that those in attendance at Howard Dean's primary-night rally at the Madison Concourse hotel appeared resigned in the face of their candidate's defeat. It's fairer to say that Dean's impending withdrawal from the presidential campaign felt irrelevant to the entire affair, as if it had already happened. Staffers openly discussed future plans—What are you doing tomorrow? Wanna party with me in New York this weekend?—in the press filing center. Hardly anyone watched the returns come in on CNN. In contrast to the sober yet chaotic feel of Wesley Clark's campaign in its death throes, what was almost certainly Dean's final presidential campaign event (other than his withdrawal speech) had a celebratory, even self-congratulatory air. They came to praise Caesar, not to bury him.
Dean knows how to give only one kind of speech, a victory speech, and that's what he delivered. You have "really worked hard to change this country and change this party," he told his assembled supporters. "And guess what? You have succeeded." It was a victory for a movement, not a campaign. "You have already written the platform of the Democratic Party for this election," Dean said. "A year ago, the Democrats were falling all over each other to vote for the war in Iraq. They sure don't talk like that now." Dean also claimed credit for getting the Democrats to stand up to "reckless budget deficits," "huge tax cuts," and "the president's education policies, which leave every child behind."
But the change in the Democratic Party, Dean declared, would be illusory if he and his supporters did not continue to challenge the Democratic establishment. "We together have only begun our work," he said. In what sounded like a shot at John Kerry, he continued: "The transformation that we have wrought is a transformation of convenience, not of conviction, and we have to fight, and fight, and fight until it becomes a transformation of conviction."
What does this mean, exactly? No one's certain. Other than Dean himself, "I don't think anyone but Roy Neel knows" what's going to happen next, an aide told me. But it's wrong to think that it means that Dean will continue campaigning. Instead, the smart money is that when Dean drops out of the presidential race, he will likely announce that he and his supporters will remain active in the campaign by transforming Dean for America into a political action committee or a 527 group, something that would allow him to try to become a power broker in Democratic politics.
If Dean dislikes Kerry as much as he is reported to, and if he really thinks John Edwards would be a superior nominee, then he's right to get out of the race quickly. I'm not convinced that Edwards is more electable than Kerry—with apologies to my colleague Will Saletan, so far the evidence for Edwards' electability is that he keeps losing elections—but a two-man race is Edwards' only chance. CNN and the Los Angeles Times will do voters a disservice if they invite Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton to their Feb. 26 debate. Kerry cited the fact that Kucinich and Sharpton were still in the race to dodge a question from Anderson Cooper about the prospect of a head-to-head debate with Edwards. But CNN shouldn't be asking Kerry whether he's going to debate Edwards one-on-one. They should be telling him.
One final thought about Tuesday's results: Isn't it possible that Matt Drudge, and not NAFTA, was the factor that led all those undecided voters to break for Edwards at the last minute? If a Wisconsin voter knew one thing about Kerry, a Dean staffer told me, it was that there was a rumor that the senator had an affair with a younger woman. It was all over local radio, not to mention the fact that Rush Limbaugh was flogging it for three hours each afternoon. Yes, the woman has denied it. Yes, there's no evidence for it. And yes, there is evidence that Drudge got the facts wrong in his report. But just because a rumor is unsubstantiated doesn't mean that voters aren't affected by it. Live by electability, die by electability. If the entire rationale of your campaign is that you can win in November, voters would be completely justified in rejecting you because of a rumor, even one that they believe is untrue, if they think that other voters might not vote for you because of it.
I can't quantify Drudge's impact on the campaign, but his rumor-mongering is the simplest explanation for the closeness of the race. I find it hard to believe that the independents and Republicans casting ballots for Edwards harbor deep anti-NAFTA feelings, while the Democrats voting for Kerry are ardent free traders.
The Internet couldn't win the presidency for Dean. But it's possible that the Internet almost lost Wisconsin for Kerry.
NASHUA, N.H.—The metaphor of choice for Howard Dean's Internet-fueled campaign is "open-source politics": a two-way campaign in which the supporters openly collaborate with the campaign to improve it, and in which the contributions of the "group mind" prove smarter than that of any lone individual.
Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi has admitted on numerous occasions (including this Slashdot post) that his time in Silicon Valley affected his thinking about politics. "I used to work for a little while for Progeny Linux Systems," Trippi told cyber-guru Lawrence Lessig in an August interview. "I always wondered how could you take that same collaboration that occurs in Linux and open source and apply it here. What would happen if there were a way to do that and engage everybody in a presidential campaign?"
But tonight, at the end of a town hall meeting at Daniel Webster College, is the first time I've seen the metaphor in action. Even if it had nothing to do with the Internet.
At the end of tonight's event, Paul Johnson, an independent voter from Nashua who supported John McCain in 2000 and has supported Dean since May, tells Dean that he's "deeply troubled" by the idea that his candidate is going to turn down federal matching funds and bust the caps on campaign spending. Politics is awash in too much money, Johnson says. Why not take the moral high ground and abide by the current system? That sounds like a great idea until Bush spends $200 million, Dean says. Well, then "challenge him to spend less," Johnson replies. Tell him you'll stay under the spending limits if he does, too. Dean's face lights up. "I'll do that at the press conference on Saturday," he says. "That's a great idea." (Saturday at noon is when Dean is scheduled to announce the results of the campaign vote on whether to abandon public financing.)
I walk over to Dean's New Hampshire press secretary, Matthew Gardner, and tell him his candidate just agreed, in an instant, to announce on Saturday that he'll stay under the federal spending caps for publicly financed candidates, if President Bush agrees to do the same (which, admittedly, is more than a little unlikely.) Gardner looks puzzled, then laughs. "That'll be interesting," he says. "We'll see if it happens."
The first Wednesday of every month is Meetup day for Howard Dean supporters, so they're gathered in a cramped restaurant called Merrimack, waiting for the candidate to arrive. It's close to a Holiday Inn where Dean and the other candidates will participate in a "women's issues" debate sponsored by Planned Parenthood. Merrimack is packed with media, including Joe Klein ("Hi, Joe," Dean says when he gets there) and George Stephanopoulos, who appears to be dressed in the same black turtleneck Wesley Clark and Dennis Kucinich wore Tuesday night.
Once Dean arrives, he stands atop a chair to address the crowd. "It's not true that I'm the shortest candidate in the campaign," he says. "In fact, I may be in the top half." This isn't as preposterous as it sounds. There are nine candidates, and only John Kerry, John Edwards, and Dick Gephardt are indisputably taller than Dean. Dennis Kucinich and Carol Moseley Braun are shorter. That leaves a fierce battle for the vital center among Dean, Wesley Clark, Al Sharpton, and Joe Lieberman. Maybe at the next debate they should all line up in their stocking feet.
During his speech, Dean clearly urges his supporters (who are voting this week on whether the campaign should turn down federal matching funds) to let him bust the federal spending caps: "It's a gamble, and there's good things to be said for both sides. But I fundamentally do not believe we can compete with George Bush if we limit our spending to $45 million."
Earlier in the day, Dean delivered a speech in New York (which I watch from the comfort of my Manchester hotel room, on www.howarddean.tv) to announce the vote. What catches my eye: While criticizing President Bush's "powerful money-bundlers," Dean said, "They are people like Walden O'Dell, a 2004 Pioneer, who is also manufacturing electronic voting machines to count our votes, and has said that he is, quote, 'committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.' " Does Dean believe that the Republican Party is going to manipulate electronic voting machines to steal the 2004 election? At Merrimack, I ask him. He admits that he doesn't know much about the subject, but he sounds open to the possibility. "I think it's a serious issue," he says.
A line Dean says to a supporter that he might want to consider dropping: "The only difference between me and McGovern is we're going to be in the White House."
Things of interest during the Planned Parenthood debate:
The candidates are asked to grade themselves on their parenting, and Dean and Clark give the most interesting answers. "I will not pretend for a moment that I did 50 percent of the work, but I did a lot," Dean says. Clark is even more honest. "I don't give myself a very good grade, but I had an A-plus wife," he says. "Sometimes you get better than you deserve in life, and I've been lucky."
They are also asked, "Do you practice a faith, and would you invoke the name of God when discussing a policy?" Nearly every one of them gives the safe answer, that their faith is important to them, but that they respect the separation of church and state. "I pray every night, but don't go to church very often," says Dean. "My religion does not inform my public policy, but it does inform my values," is Edwards's answer, and he adds, "The president of the United States should not be setting policy for the country based on his or her faith."
Only Kucinich dissents. (Along with Clark, Kerry, and Braun, he's one of four Catholics at the debate. Although Braun and Clark self-identify as Catholics, Braun attends an Episcopal church and Clark attends a Presbyterian one.) He says that within the context of a pluralistic society, religious values can and should influence public policy. "We must live our spiritual values in our public policy," such as full employment, health care, and education, he says. "A government that stands for peace reflects spiritual values." After the debate, I try to ask Kucinich about the relationship between his faith and his public policy, but I get off on the wrong foot by saying that he changed his abortion position to pro-choice "right before" he started running for president. "Wrong," Kucinich says, it was spring 2002. The discussion goes nowhere from there.
Since the topic came up, after the debate I also ask Clark why he converted to Catholicism as a young man, and why he no longer practices.
"When I was in England during the Vietnam War, the Nonconformist churches over there were just extraordinarily political. And I just couldn't go to service and have them condemn the armed forces that I was serving in. I mean, they were my West Point classmates there, and they were being accused of terrible crimes, and it wasn't so," he says.
"I believed in the structure, and the balance, and the long-term durability of the Catholic Church, and that's why I converted to Catholicism. But over the years as we went from location to location and saw the church, we found that our spiritual needs were better met by attendance at Protestant services. The services were richer in their spiritual meaning. And of course I still consider myself a Catholic. But I enjoy the singing, I enjoy the sermon, I enjoy the fellowship in the Protestant services. It's just a much deeper spiritual experience. That's for me."
Back to the debate. Three of the candidates say 18-year-old women should be required to register for Selective Service, just like 18-year-old men. "If you have different standards, that begins the path toward discrimination," Dean says. Clark and Kerry say yes, too. Edwards says no, and Braun says it would be OK if it weren't for the fact that one in four women at the Air Force Academy are victims of sexual assault or rape. Kucinich gives my favorite answer, an attempt to have it both ways: "No, not that they can't, if they want to."
What role would a "first lady, first man, or first friend" play in their administrations? There are three interesting answers. Dean confirms that "I'd very much like to be the first president who has a working wife in the White House" who does not participate in his career. Braun, who is divorced, says, "This is an impossible question. There has never been a First Man or First Gentleman." Like Dean, but with more flair, she concludes, "You'll get me, but you'll get no one for free."
But it's Kucinich, who also is divorced, who steals the show. "As a bachelor, I get a chance to fantasize about my first lady. Maybe Fox wants to sponsor a national contest or something," he says. He adds that he wants "someone who would not want to just be by my side," but would be a "dynamic outspoken women who was fearless" in her support for peace in the world and universal, single-payer health care. So, "If you're out there, call me."
SIOUX CITY, Iowa—Dean season! Gephardt season! Dean season! Gephardt season! If any lingering debate remained over which presidential candidate is currently enjoying his media moment, my two days with Dick Gephardt settled it. The 20 national reporters who follow Gephardt for all or part of his campaign swing from Des Moines to Sioux City are the latest sign that not only have the leaves turned in late October, but so have the media.
I came along to witness firsthand the evidence for something I wrote earlier this month after the Phoenix debate, that Gephardt's hard-nosed and well-organized Iowa campaign presents, at the moment, the biggest obstacle to President Dean (or, to be fairer, Democratic Nominee Dean). But I missed the media conspiracy memo that told everyone else to show up, too. During Gephardt's weekend swing in Iowa two days before, only three national reporters trailed the candidate. But now, David Brooks is here. So are Mara Liasson of NPR and Carl Cameron of Fox News. Throw in reporters from ABC, MSNBC, Knight Ridder, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, and the New York Times. (Counting Brooks, on Wednesday there are two New York Times writers following Gephardt.) Just for the sake of overkill, there are reporters from the British press and from Japanese television along for the ride. At one event in Pocahontas, Iowa—a town with an absolutely gigantic statue of the Indian princess outside her teepee welcoming visitors from the highway—the number of journalists nearly matches the number of prospective caucus-goers.
The Gephardt campaign pushes its slow-and-steady-wins-the-race angle (or is it a plea for votes from Maryland Terrapins alums?) by emblazoning "Fear the Turtle!" on the front of the press itinerary, complete with a little clip-art turtle on every page. The packet includes the latest Iowa poll results, which show Gephardt and Dean in a statistical tie for the lead, with Kerry and Edwards lagging behind. For good measure, the campaign throws in last week's favorable press clippings, including Des Moines Register wise man David Yepsen's assertion that Gephardt is the Iowa front-runner and that Dean has "plateaued" in the state. Also enclosed is a much-discussed Washington Postreport—distributed, in truncated form, to voters at campaign events—that Gephardt is the candidate "many prominent Republicans fear the most." Not included is a delicious metaphor for Gephardt supporters to latch onto: While hurtling from campaign stop to campaign stop in Iowa over the past few months, the Dean van has been pulled over multiple times for speeding.
At his first stop, a senior center in Des Moines (the first of three consecutive senior centers visited by the campaign), Gephardt is supposed to deliver a "health policy address," but it turns out to be a rehash of old Howard Dean quotes about Medicare. (Later, while being ribbed by reporters about the false advertising, Gephardt's Iowa press secretary, Bill Burton, protests that he never called it a "major" policy address.) The newest wrinkle: Gephardt wants to paint the 1997 balanced budget accord—generally thought to be one of President Clinton's major accomplishments, and one supported by Dean—as a "deep, devastating cut" in Medicare.
While Gephardt speaks in front of a sign that reads "Protect Social Security" and "Protect Medicare" over and over, like computer-desktop wallpaper, I wonder: Does he really want to play this game? Dredging up old quotes and votes about Gephardt's onetime conservatism is what helped to derail his '88 campaign. He voted against the establishment of the Department of Education. He voted for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. He voted to means-test Social Security and to eliminate cost-of-living adjustments from the program. He voted for Reagan's 1981 tax cuts. He opposed an increase in the minimum wage. Does a man with a legislative record this long and varied really want to ostentatiously declare, "There are life-and-death consequences to every position taken and every vote cast"? If that's so, how many times was Dick Gephardt on the side of death?
For now, however, it's a more recent House vote that's preventing Gephardt from running away with the Iowa race. At nearly every campaign event I attend, Gephardt is forced to deliver, in effect, two separate stump speeches. The first is the one he would like the campaign to be about: universal health care, jobs, and the immorality of rapacious multinational corporations. Gephardt's not anticapitalist: "Capitalism is the best system," he says in Pocahontas. "But capitalism has to have rules, so the capitalists don't destroy the very system" they benefit from.
He describes his visits to Mexico, China, and India, where workers live in the cardboard boxes used to ship the products they make. "I smelled where they live," he says. They live without electricity, without running water, with raw sewage running down the streets and next to "drainage ditches filled with human waste." "They live in worse conditions than farm animals in Iowa," he continues. "This is nothing short of human exploitation, that's what it is, for the profit of some special interests in the world." I'm not sure I agree with Gephardt's proposed solutions—though I'm intrigued by his notion of a variable international minimum wage—but there's no denying that he's a powerful critic of global capitalism's excesses.
Then, once Gephardt has finished and the applause has subsided, almost invariably a voter raises his hand to ask: What about Iraq? Was this war about oil? How can we recover the world's respect? How can we pay for all your programs with a war on?
At this point, Gephardt is forced to unveil stump speech No. 2. Sept. 11 changed everything, he says. Government's highest obligation is to protect American lives. In a Gephardt administration, the highest priority would be to prevent a nuclear device—"dirty or clean"—from going off in New York, Los Angeles, or Des Moines. That's why he decided Saddam Hussein needed to be removed. He supported the war because he believed the estimates of the CIA and the warnings of former Clinton administration officials, not because he listened to President Bush ("I would never do that").
Slowly, Gephardt's defense of his vote for the congressional war resolution transitions into a critique of the president. Though in an interview he insisted that the president was smart, on the stump he's not shy about insinuating that the president (whom he often refers to as "Dubya") is stupid. "He's incompetent," "He frightens me," "He's hard to help," I told him America founded the United Nations because "I wasn't sure he knew the history," and "If you'd been meeting with him every week since 9/11, you'd be running for president," too. Because Bush refused to negotiate with Kim Jong Il, North Korea is now "weeks away" from producing nuclear bombs. Bush abandoned the peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, saying, "It's not our problem." He's arrogant. He doesn't play well with others. By the end, people are satisfied enough with Gephardt's explanation, and maybe even a little terrified, but you get the sense that they're not enthused by it.
But Gephardt isn't counting on enthusiasm. He has a couple edges on Dean, in addition to his obvious union support. For one, a surprising number of Iowa Democrats just don't like the former Vermont governor. The opposition to Gephardt tends to be substantive, based on his support for the war or his failure as Democratic leader to enact a more Democratic agenda. But the opposition to Dean is stylistic, or maybe even cultural. In socially conservative Iowa, sometimes you hear it whispered: Where's Dean's wife? Before Gephardt arrives at an event in the town of Ida Grove, I overhear a woman grumble about Judith Steinberg's refusal to campaign for her husband. "I can't get used to that," she tells her companion. "It's supposed to be a family thing."
By the same token, Gephardt never fails to mention the "church loans" and "church scholarships" that allowed him to attend Northwestern and then Michigan law school. He also refers to his son, Matt, who survived prostate cancer as an infant, as a "gift of God." I don't think I've ever heard Howard Dean say the word "God" in reference to anything.
Just before the last stop in Sioux City, I'm granted a 10-minute ride-along interview with Gephardt. I've got a number of questions, but the one I really want an answer to is this: If balanced budgets and free trade—two things that don't get a lot of emphasis in the Gephardt platform—weren't the secrets of the Clinton economy, what were? Higher taxes for the rich? Gephardt explains that the '97 budget accord wasn't needed to balance the budget, and then he tries to explain why Bush's steel tariffs—which Gephardt supported, and which made the United States lose manufacturing jobs—aren't analogous to the retaliatory tariffs Gephardt wants to be able to impose on foreign products or factories that don't comply with minimal labor and environmental standards. Soon enough, we're so sidetracked that I've forgotten entirely what we were talking about.
But afterward, when I'm once again following Gephardt in my rental car, I'm left with my question: Clinton balanced the budget and promoted free trade, and the economy boomed. President Bush ran up enormous deficits and put new restrictions on trade, and the economy sputtered. Isn't Dick Gephardt's plan closer to President Bush's?
Did you know you can find out some interesting facts about your personality, based on the traits of the various animal signs in the Chinese Zodiac?
You can determine your Chinese Zodiac animal according to your year of birth; however, do note that the Chinese Zodiac is based on the beginning of the year in the Chinese calendar, not the regular calendar year. The beginning of the year in the Chinese calendar varies from year-to-year and often falls in late January if not early February.
If you are born sometime in the early January or in the new year just before the start of the Chinese New Year in February, you might want to read about the personality traits associated with the previous year’s Zodiac to see if it more likely fits you.
Below are the 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs and their personality traits and/or meanings:
Individuals born in the Year of the Rat are charming and generally companionably and at ease in social situations. As a matter of fact, they are notably popular individuals and exude prowess in business; though, they are also known to be critical and quick-tempered. Rats have an exceptional grasp of information and ideas and additionally have vivid imaginations and unique intellectual abilities. Thus, they often see a lot of opportunities that others may miss. They are opportunists but may take on way too many commitments to fault. Nonetheless, they highly value relationships, and they are very generous and passionate in love as they are in businesses.
Ox people are very much a representation of the expression ‘strong as an ox’ because of their uncanny ability to face and manage most types of circumstances. They deal with their responsibilities methodically and earn much respect for their confidence and great capabilities. On the negative side, they are sometimes prone to being chauvinists and are very demanding people, determined to defend their own interests to the extremes. Their admirable sense of duty to sometimes result to a less passionate or exciting personal life although very much stable. Nonetheless, ox people are classified as consistently faithful to their families and partners.
People born in the Year of the Tiger are deep sensitive and in-tune with their emotions, thus making them awesome lovers or partners. They seek balance between their domineering and strongly competitive nature and their immense need for love, which both drive them towards seeking independence from love; hence, they both bring passion and open candour into any relationship while also expecting the same in return. They have amazing confidence, though they can be quite shaken or depressed by criticisms at times. They can also be inherently restless. Tigers are best known for their ability to bounce back from negative occurrences, and they are dignified and courageous in facing any challenges, making them great leaders.
Rabbit people are generally well-liked because they are affectionate, pleasant, and polite-mannered. They feel more comfortable staying out of disputes, controversies, or mini-quarrels. They very much love enjoyable pursuits that, although unintentional, they tend to forget about their loved ones’ needs without them realizing it. They become so distracted with fun. Despite their inclination toward good times, they are also quiet and conservative as well as intellectual. Some people may regard their overly sentimental traits as shallow but they can be very loving. They often seek security in all their relationships.
People born in the Year of the Dragon possess an almost charismatic aura and they are always brimming with energy. They are very talented in their pursuits because they are highly intelligent. Occasionally, they may seem loud and boisterous and they often follow their own course, not believing that rules should hold them. Their perfectionism makes them appear very demanding of others, just as they are to themselves. Nonetheless, dragons are generally inclined towards success and they enjoy challenging situations that give them the opportunity to use their innate talents and energies. Although committed relationships are not very important to them, kindred spirits sharing their life’s adventures are most valuable to them.
Snake people are profound thinkers. They possess great wisdom and are often willing to work imperceptibly to achieve their goals discreetly without anyone realizing it. They also have a very charming and romantic side to them and they seek elegance in their relationships as well. They are prone to jealousy though. They also tend to be secretive and are most of the time seen as loners. Thus, they are less popular compared to their peers socially-speaking. Nonetheless, this may be ideal to the Snake as snakes often appreciate and prefer solitude.
The popular expression ‘works like a horse’ hold true to Horse people because they exert great efforts in their line of work. They will readily commit to success and hard work unless they perceive the job as beneath them. Horses may be challenged by their own emotions because they are prone to explode in their tempers and become impulsive especially in love. They are also not regarded as good team players since they prefer independent work. Their independence may lend themselves characteristic of Egotism but their strong intellect and excellent verbal skills aid them in social situations. They can be quite popular.
Ram people are often likable and charming, and socially gracious although quite reserved. They are also kind, sensitive, and sympathetic individuals. Ram persons especially love art, nature, and culture, and they are also often having an artistic or creative nature. On the negative side, they are inclined feel discomfort physically and will often complain about it, plus, they are also prone to pessimism. The Ram often find themselves on the opposite ends of being assertively self-confident and being prone to timidity, but in relationships, as long as there is security, they feel most fulfilled.
People who are born in the Year of the Monkey have intelligent and energetic natures, and they possess magnetic personalities that draw in crowds. Monkeys generally appear to have very appealing personalities and somewhat an eccentric side to them while also possessing the likely gift of chatter. They are quick-witted and have an easy talent for turning every situation into a humorous one. On the down side, some people see this as suspect, hence the Monkey personality is seen as untrustworthy because of their typical brunt practical jokes. Monkeys also are high-energy and tend to be restless, and may find it difficult to choose careers. Nonetheless, they tend to succeed in environments that thrive on change including dynamic relationships.
The Rooster sign is known for having a great sense of industry and diligence when it comes to work, and they also have a natural ease in expressing their opinions. They see their opinions, and their right to share it, as strongly important even to the extent that they have difficulties sharing their spotlight. They often display an attention-grabbing garb and style, and are generally successful at gaining attention they so eagerly love. Despite their sometimes-frustrating meticulous standards, they have many friends and they can be very loyal and genuine in their relationships. They also tend to achieve great success in their chosen careers because of their high standards.
Dog people are noteworthy for their loyalty and honesty in any relationship. They also focus their interest in a specialty subject, giving their whole heart and soul into it, be it a hobby or a career. They stick strongly to their principles of fairness and justice, and they also have great creative problem-solving skills. Dog individuals are challenged most by their need to criticize and their innate nature of having “sharp tongues.” As friends and lovers, they can be very trustworthy, but with special someone’s, they can be quite unforgiving because they tend to hold grudges till they feel they have been appeased. They have a profound need for a good, long-lasting relationship, making them loyal for life especially when feel they have found their perfect mate.
People born in the Year of the Pig make wonderful companions for they are tolerant, kind, sincere, and intellectually strong, which helps them perform well in rich conversations. They also use their intellect to go after challenging goals and ultimately achieve them. They strongly hold social harmony as highly important to, lending them well in overlooking people’s faults and seeing only the best in people. Pigs are noted, too, for their sense of humour and wit, but their greatest vulnerability lies in their seeming naiveté in expecting the same good traits in others. Their inclination to feel rage when people do not afford them the same kindness they are giving is one of their greatness weaknesses. Pigs are also inclined to physical/material indulgences, but they deeply cherish family or home life.
We're half way through 2017 but just how accurate has your 2017 Horoscope been so far?
It had been forecast that 2017 would be a year full of love, passion and ambition. If you felt stressed or overburdened last year, this is your year to start relaxing and live life at your own pace. You will control your own destiny and make things happen.
2017 is the year to focus on those few things that touch your heart. Trust your feelings as well as your instincts - They serve you well. You can really make things happen this year.
What has your star sign said about you in 2017? Has it identified your good points and those things you need to work on?
Read on, look up your star sign, compare what it says about you and how the year has gone so far and see for yourself.
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CAPRICORN – The Passionate Lover (December 22 to January 19)
MOST AMAZING KISSER. Very high appeal. A Capricorn’s love is one of a kind… Very romantic. Most caring person you will ever meet in your life. Entirely creative person, most are artists and insane, respectfully speaking. They perfected sex and do it often. Extremely random. An ultimate freak. Extremely funny and is usually the life of the party. Most Capricorns will take you under their wing and into their hearts where you will remain forever. They make love with a passion beyond compare. Spontaneous. Not a fighter, but will stand up and fight if it comes down to it. Someone you should hold on to!
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
AQUARIUS – Does It in the Water (January 20 to February 18)
Great talker. Attractive and passionate. Laid back. Usually happy but when unhappy tend to be grouchy and childish. An Aquarius’s problem becomes everyone’s problem. Most Aquarius are very predictable and tend to be monotonous. Knows how to have fun. Is really good at almost anything. Great kisser. Very predictable. Outgoing. Down to earth. Addictive. Attractive. Loud. Loves being in long relationships. Talkative. Not one to mess with. Rare to find and oh so good when found.
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
PISCES – The Partner for Life (February 19 to March 20)
Dominant in relationships. Someone loves them right now. Always wants the last word. Caring. Smart. Loud. Loyal. Easy to talk to. Everything you ever wanted. Easy to please. A pushover. Loves to gamble and take chances. Needs to have the last say in everything. They think they know everything and usually do. Respectful to others but you will quickly lose their respect if you do something untrustworthy towards them.
They forgive but never forget.
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
ARIES – The Aggressive (March 21 to April 19)
Nice to everyone they meet. Their love is one of a kind. Silly, funny and sweet. Have own unique appeal. Most caring person you will ever meet! However, not the kind of person you want to mess with… you might end up crying. Aries can cause as much havoc as they can prevent. Faithful friends to the end. Can hold a grudge for years. Aries are someone you want on your side. Usually great at sports and are extreme sports fanatics. A very creative person.
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
TAURUS – The Tramp (April 20 to May 20)
EXTREMELY adorable. Loves to joke. Very good sense of humour. Will try almost anything once. Loves to be pampered. Energetic. Predictable. GREAT kisser. Always get what they want. Attractive. Loves being in long relationships. Talkative. Loves to party but at times to the extreme. Loves the smell and feel of money and is good at making it but just as good at spending it! Very protective over loved ones. HARD workers. Can be a good friend but if is disrespected by a friend, the friendship will end. Romantic. Caring. Put's up with NO BULL!
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
GEMINI – The Twin (May 21 to June 20)
Spontaneous. High appeal. Rare to find. Great when found. Loves being in long relationships. So much love to give. A loner most of the time. Loses patience easily and will not take crap. If in a bad mood stay FAR away. Gets offended easily and remembers the offense forever. Loves deeply but at times will not show it, feels it is a sign of weakness. Has many fears but will not show it. VERY private person. Defends loved ones with all their abilities. Can be childish often. Not one to mess with. Very pretty. Very romantic. Nice to everyone they meet. Their Love is one of a kind. Silly, fun and sweet. Have own unique appeal. Most caring person you will ever meet! Amazing in bed!!! Not the kind of person you want to mess with- you might end up crying.
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
CANCER – The Beauty (June 21 to July 22)
Love to bust. Nice. Sassy. Intelligent. Sexy. Grouchy at times and annoying to some. Lazy and love to take it easy, but when they find a job or something they like to do they put their all into it. Proud, understanding and sweet. Irresistible. Loves being in long relationships. Great talker. Always gets what he or she wants. Cool. Loves to win against other signs in sports, especially. Cancer likes to cook but would rather go out and eat at good restaurants. Extremely fun. Loves to joke. Smart.
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
LEO – The Lion (July 23 to August 22)
Trustworthy. Attractive. Great kisser. One of a kind. Loves being in long-term relationships. Tries hard. Will take on any project. Proud of themselves in whatever they do. Messy and unorganized. Procrastinators. Great lovers, when they’re not sleeping. Extreme thinkers. Loves their pets usually more than their family. Can be VERY irritating to others when they try to explain or tell a story. Unpredictable. Will exceed your expectations. Not a natural fighter, but will stand up and fight for what they believe in and those they love. Heart of a LION
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
VIRGO – The One that Waits (August 23 to September 22)
Caring and kind. Smart. Likes to be the centre of attention. Very organized. High appeal to opposite sex. Likes to have the last word. Good to find, but hard to keep. Passionate, wonderful lovers. Fun to be around. Too trusting at times and gets hurt easily. VERY caring. They always try to do the right thing and sometimes get the short end of the stick. They sometimes get used by others and get hurt because of their trusting. Extremely weird but in a good way. Good sense of humour!! Thoughtful. Loves to joke. Very popular. Silly, fun and sweet. Good friend to others but needs to be choosy on who they allow their friends to be.
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
LIBRA – The Lame One (September 23 to October 22)
Outgoing. Lovable. Spontaneous. Not one to mess with. Funny… Excellent kisser. EXTREMELY adorable. Loves relationships, and family is very important to a Libra. Libra are known for being generous and giving. Addictive. Loud. Always has the need to be ‘Right’. Aries will argue to prove their point for hours and hours. Libra are some of the most wonderful people in the world.
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
SCORPIO – The Addict (October 23 to November 21)
Aggressive. Loves being in long relationships. Likes to give a good fight. Fight for what they want. Can be annoying at times, but for the love of attention. Extremely outgoing. Loves to help people in times of need. Good kisser. Good personality. Stubborn. A caring person. They can be self-centred and if they want something they will do anything to get it. They love to sleep and can be lazy. One of a kind. Not one to mess with. Are the most attractive people on earth!
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
SAGITTARIUS – The Promiscuous One (November 22 to December 21)
Nice. Love is one of a kind. Great listeners. Very good at confusing people. Lover not a fighter, but will still knock you out. They will not take any crap from anyone. They like to tell people what they should do and get offended easily. They are great at losing things and are forgetful. They can be very sarcastic and childish at times and are very nosy. Trustworthy. Always happy. VERY Loud. Talkative. Outgoing. VERY FORGIVING. Loves to make out. Has a beautiful smile. Generous. Strong. THE MOST IRRESISTIBLE.
What does your Star Sign say about your love life? CLICK HERE to find out.
On March 7th Craig Calhoun, Director of LSE, presented the 25 Faith & Leadership 2016 participants with their graduation certificates. Faith & Leadership is an extracurricular programme that aims to deepen student’s understanding of different religions, develop their leadership skills … Continue reading →
A small sinkhole opened up overnight in the bedroom of a home in Guatemala City. Measuring 32 inches wide and 40 feet deep, neighbors heard a sound reminiscent of a gas explosion or a car crash when the hole opened up under 65 year-old Inocenta Hernandez’ bed. Fortunately no one was injured.
This Mutton Snapper made for excellent table fare.
(Our camera is on the fritz at the moment so today’s blog post comes from the archives of my mind, reminiscing about a wonderful family outdoor adventure from not so long ago…………….)
It was late March of 2008 and my son-in-law, Jeff Bartz and I were treading water while catching our breath between dives. An Associate Pastor at GraceBaptistChurchin Batavia, Jeff and I had earlier been discussing the numerous barracudas we’d been seeing while spearfishing and we agreed that it was probably not a good idea to target one of the toothy critters – there’s no telling how they might react.
We were on a week-long family vacation on the Bahamian Island of Abaco and Jeff and I intended to spend as much time as possible hunting for our dinner. By Bahamian law, spearfishing may only be done with a Hawaiian sling and wearing mask, fins & snorkel – no mechanized devices and no scuba gear. Spearfishing with a Hawaiian Sling is tricky business. Attempting to spear a barracuda with a sling can be a risky proposition.
With disposable camera in tow, Sammy Bartz displays a sea biscuit.
Everyone in the family donned mask, fins & snorkel for this adventure.
Our routine was to rent a boat and motor through the Sea of Abaco and then beyond the barrier island of Man ‘O War Cay. A half to three quarters of a mile out, the sea floor is a vast maze of coral reefs, each of them an adventure in itself. This was the home of colorful fish, sting rays, sea turtles, sharks and much more. But each day we hunted for dinner and our intended quarry was grouper, snapper and lobsters. Here, within the confines of the deepest and largest reefs, those farthest away from shore, the sea is the color of several shades of turquoise. Beyond the outer reefs the water becomes cobalt blue and drops off into abysmal depths.
Anyway, back to Jeff and the barracuda. I had just surfaced after a dive and was catching my breath when I saw this big, toothy critter just below the surface facing the open water to my left. He didn’t appear to be watching me, but with a barracuda’s eye placement being what it is, one never can tell. One moment it was perfectly still, only its pectoral and ventral fins moving ever so slightly, then, in the next instant a silver flash passed by my head – it was the 5 ft. long shaft of Jeff’s sling and I watched as it hit its intended mark.
Pastor Jeff, displaying his Hawaiian Sling prowess!
Was I surprised? Yes sir! Was the adrenaline flowing? You could say that! The Barracuda immediately went ballistic, heading to the surface, then downward, bouncing off coral heads. This went on for perhaps a full minute and all the while I tried to keep the wounded fish in sight. It finally expired on the bottom in 40 ft. of water, the spear still intact. Filleted and grilled with lemon pepper and almonds, it was delicious and enjoyed by the entire family.
The Bartz family in front of the cemetery at Man 'O War Cay.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Jeff is the Associate Pastor at Grace Baptist Church in my hometown of Batavia, NY. He and Senior Pastor, Donald Shirk are two amazing men of God, following Christ's beckoning from Matthew 4.19; And He said unto then, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Worship Service is every Sunday at 9:45 am and they would love to have you come hear the Good News. Until Next Time, Jim & Claudia
The Horned Grebe is a rather unique creature. For the most part, they breed on freshwater lakes and marshes from Canada’s Prairie Provinces northwest to Alaska and, come fall, nearly the entire population moves to the coast. They migrate nocturnally and after reaching their wintering grounds, they seldom fly. So it was more than a bit of a surprise and a real treat to find a Horned Grebe cavorting and diving for small fish in our flooded backyard after the Tonawanda Creek spilled its banks a couple of winters ago
There are numerous species of grebes but the Horned Grebe is thought to be tamer than the rest, allowing a closer approach by humans. This fellow didn’t seem to mind our presence one bit, allowing Claudia to take a number of photos while he swam about non-stop, diving at random and, after having stayed submerged for several seconds, would pop up like a cork. More often than not it was successful in finding small fish in the murky floodwater.
"I'm watching you, watching me,"
As seen in this photo, the Horned Grebe’s deep-red eyes are connected to its bill by a thin line and may play a role in locating prey in dark and dingy water. They are excellent swimmers and the young are able to swim immediately after hatching but mostly they hitch a ride on their mother’s back.
Down the hatch!
By tilting its head slightly, the Horned Grebe allows its finned prey to easily slide down its gullet. More at home on the water, they feed mainly on fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects. Unlike ducks which are content to sit motionless if undisturbed, the Horned Grebe is perpetual motion, constantly on the move when on the water.
Still sporting its winter plumage, the “horns” for which this species derives its name are actually tufts of feathers located behind and slightly above its eyes. The russet-colored “horns” will become much more prominent during breeding season at which time the Horned Grebe’s neck will become rufous (reddish-brown) and the plumage along its back will darken considerably.
The solitary bird spent the better part of that weekend with us. We first spotted him around noon on a Saturday and for the entire time – during daylight hours anyway - he was constantly on the move, alternately swimming and diving for food. He must have been fueling up for the next leg of his journey as he was gone by first light on Monday morning.
Oh praise be to God for the wonderful massages and deeper knowledge about God this is making me know God in detail and for me to search my self. This is encouraging me to read the Bible all the time without anybody telling me. Thanks so much. Keep on spreading the word of God I believe its touching many people. God bless you
Family, friends and fans are still coping with the loss of hip hop icon Prodigy. The one half of Mobb Deep passed away on June 20, just days after being hospitalized for complications related to sickle cell anemia. Now, folks will have the opportunity to pay their respects to the “Shook Ones” rapper. His funeral […]
One of the more distressing experiences you can have in academia is for someone to criticize you for making the erroneous argument X when you should have been arguing Y, when in fact you have been arguing for Y and against X. This Alice-in-Wonderland scenario confronted me when reading Diana Lobb’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes or Who’s Afraid of N. Katherine Hayles?” The allusion to Albee’s play is more appropriate than Lobb realizes, for the crisis comes when the characters can no longer escape the realization that a supposed reality is only a fantasmatic object of desire. Lobb’s desire is expressed in her wish to find an analysis that “breaks its back genuflecting to the Truth as revealed by the `master’ scientific discourse.” The object becomes fantasmatic when she decides that my book Chaos Bound exemplifies this position. Lobb finds Chaos Bound typical of “a deliberate refusal in areas of the humanities to recognize that the discourse of the sciences and the discourse of the humanities are equally valuable, mutually interactive parts of a bigger picture - be that bigger picture called discursive field, episteme or world view.” The idea that the sciences and humanities are part of a “larger picture” is precisely the argument I have been making for twenty years, insisting the convergences that emerge between literature and science should be understood not primarily as science influencing literature but rather as an indication that both are rooted in an underlying cultural matrix. Here is a typical sentence from Chaos Bound, taken from the Preface: “Especially notable is the increased emphasis in Chaos Bound on locating science and literature within contemporary culture,” (xiii), which is only one of many places in the book where I develop and expand this central claim.
The ironies multiply when Lobb claims that I “suggest that an act of translation across disciplinary knowledge bases is not necessary when considering the relationship of complexity sciences to the humanities.” Here is a passage, again taken from the Preface and elaborated more fully in the chapters that follow, that states exactly the opposite to what Lobb claims I say: “These similarities notwithstanding, different disciplinary traditions can impute strikingly different values to isomorphic paradigms. In the physical sciences, for example, nonlinear dynamics is seen as a way to bring complex behavior within the scope of rational analysis. Analogous theories in literary studies, by contrast, are often embraced because they are seen as resisting totalizing theories” (xiv). She further claims that I argue “the convergence of interests must be evidence of a singular event which shifts the singular epistemic structure from which both disciplines are produced.” Although she then goes go to use two phrases central to my argument - “cultural context” and “feedback loop” - she apparently does not know what these terms imply. The very idea of a feedback loop, which I use to show that developments in different fields cycle through the cultural matrix to affect change across time and between different sites, implies that no event should be understood as singular and no episteme as homogeneous. Indeed, my book that follows Chaos Bound, How We Became Posthuman, devotes several chapters to tracing in detail the microstructures that necessarily always come between epistemes that are erroneously seen as sharply differentiated from one another and homogeneous within themselves.
The following paragraphs of her review take us deeper into Wonderland. Somehow she thinks that I “conceive of the advent of the complexity sciences as an opportunity to revel in the progressive dissolution of any humane, or even human, text.” I am simply at a loss to understand how this reading could come from anything I wrote in Chaos Bound. The representative literary figures about whom I wrote - Stanislaw Lem, Henry Adams, and Doris Lessing - are deeply concerned precisely with recovering a sense of the human from what they perceive as crises in which their contemporary cultures are descending into chaos. Here is a sample sentence from the conclusion of the Lessing chapter: “In being able to distinguish her authentic voice from a parody, Anna retains a sense of the reality of subjectivity and consequently of its potential as a source of her art. Thus the ending can be read as a resincription of the values that underlie the realistic novel, and more generally of the assumptions that make modernist representation possible” (264). I go on to point out that Lessing’s novel “can also be read as signaling the transformation of the text into a postmodern collage of information, in which parody does not exist because the center did not hold. This ambiguity points toward a profound duality within the new paradigms - whether they imply the renewal of human subjectivity as it has traditionally been constituted or its demise” (264). Perhaps Lobb, without making the move explicit, has drifted from Chaos Bound to How We Became Posthuman. If so, she has entirely missed the major point of that book - namely that there are different varieties of posthumanism. The more “humane” version for which I argue passionately is a kind of posthumanism that can move past the erroneous assumptions of liberal humanism while still recognizing the centrality and importance of the embodied human subject.
Finally, in several places Lobb alleges that I propose the sciences convey directly to us an “ontology.” This is a serious error that no one who has read my work carefully could possibly think I advocate. In “Constrained Constructivism: Locating Scientific Inquiry in the Theater of Representation” (New Orleans Review, 18 (1991); 76-85), an essay that was seminal to my thinking and whose ideas deeply informed Chaos Bound, I make explicit that science is always embedded in linguistic, cultural, and historical contexts. One of my most emphatic conclusions is that the sciences cannot speak the Truth, because that would presume an objective viewpoint unattainable for anyone - what Donna Haraway calls the God’s-eye view and which I identify as a theoretical position that can in actuality never be occupied.
In conclusion, with apologies in advance to Lobb, I offer the following playful Wonderland interpretation of her review: she bemoans the fact that the humanities are hubristic enough to think they can contribute on an equal basis to the sciences and she thinks we should all recognize that only the sciences can speak the Truth. Now there is a position with which I could have a serious argument!
We haven't done one of these profiles for a while..
Something a little different today, but a feature that's something that (hopefully), older AdGrads readers will remember. We've got a fairly recent grad, Di Caplinska, who is a planner at Euro RSCG, to write for us about how she got into the business.
So, without further ado...here's Di's account:
"On a number of occasions recently I have found myself on the receiving end of questions from soon-to-be graduates about how to get into this tricky industry. A number of paths can be proffered, but how people get into their first advertising job are always interesting - and never straightforward. So with some encouragement from Will and AdGrads, whose contribution to my journey has been invaluable, I have decided to write up mine, as long-winded and frustrating at times as it was.
Coming from Latvia, a small country loved by British stag dos, feared by Scandinavian ice hockey teams, and hated by the IMF, advertising was never really on my radar. Being born in a family of Soviet engineers and spending summer holidays in Maths camps didn’t exactly further my exposure to the industry that is, frankly, still in its infancy anyway (as you’d expect from a country dealing with a communist hangover). My love affair with advertising kicked off when I moved to the UK for University and studied Business, later switching to Marketing - focusing on Brand Management in my final year. At the same time, suddenly finding myself in a new country provoked a deep interest in all things ‘culture, people, and the way they think’, so I started observing the world from an outsider’s perspective to an almost scientific degree. One would have said that is a pretty clear path into Planning, but not before I spent a year in the corporate world of B2B Marketing; something which helped to confirm that it’s not for me.
My first exposure to advertising in practice (as opposed to through books, blogs, and newsletters – all in this deck) was with JWT London as part of their 2 week Account Management placement just before the start of my final year. Apart from meeting great people, having to squeeze a gigantic papier-mache cow into an elevator, and running 5k in holey Converse, it confirmed my intuitive leaning towards Planning, as well as teaching me very valuable lesson. Namely, that getting in was going to be painful, especially if you don’t have any relevant family contacts, and even more so if your alma mater is outside the Russell Group. And…let’s just say I felt like I was doomed as I wasn't born speaking English and wasn't able to master some eloquent assessment centre banter. With this positive outlook, I decided to harass the finest of JWT’s Planners for advice. Some shared interview wisdom, others bought me encouraging cups of coffee, and one pointed me towards Miami Ad School’s Planning Bootcamp in case graduate schemes didn’t quite work out.
And they didn’t. In the interests of putting my dissertation first, I limited my applications to Planning positions only and managed to secure two final rounds – at Dare and Leo Burnett, but sadly, I didn’t land the coveted gig. In parallel to this, in the climate when redundancies were far more popular than graduate schemes, I pulled out at all stops. I ran a cheeky recruitment Facebook ad that got blogging exposure and some LinkedIn introductions, I milked what advice my lecturers had to give, crashed semi-relevant industry events with a handful of (pretty embarrassing, frankly) business cards, and watched agency twitter feeds for internship opportunities. And when my university wasn’t part of the advertising recruitment milkround, I blagged my way into the one that was - Oxford, which was conveniently next door.
Unemployment panic aside, my graduation week culminated in shooting a cringeworthy video about how geeks are the new mainstream as part of my Miami Ad School application. Less than a month later I was in their Hamburg office trying to shake off that ‘Business School student’ look and soak in all the ideas flying around. Probably the most tangible thing I came out with a few months later was this ‘Junior Planner for Hire’ presentation that has been viewed over 1,000 times since. And then I came across The Planner Survey, an annual report on the state of Planning in the world lovingly crafted by Heather LeFevre, which provided a handy list of relevant recruiters in the UK. In the end I got a break with the help of wise, genuinely interested, and very well-connected people at Copper who helped me land an internship at EuroRSCG London which eventually led to a permanent position.
There it is, a very happy ending! And now, in the interests of keeping karma on my side, I’ve put together this presentation of ultimate tips on getting into the industry. Enjoy it, pass it on, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions."
India is arriving on the world stage as the first large, economically powerful, culturally vibrant, multiethnic, multireligious democracy outside of the geographic West. As it rises, India has the potential to become a leading member of the "political West" and to play a key role in the great political struggles of the next decades. Whether it will, and how soon, depends above all on the readiness of the Western powers to engage India on its own terms.
THREE STRATEGIC CIRCLES
India's grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighborhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers. In the second, which encompasses the so-called extended neighborhood stretching across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance the influence of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great powers, a key player in international peace and security.
Three things have historically prevented India from realizing these grand strategic goals. First, the partition of the South Asian subcontinent along religious lines (first into India and Pakistan, in 1947, then into India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, in 1971) left India with a persistent conflict with Pakistan and an internal Hindu-Muslim divide. It also physically separated India from historically linked states such as Afghanistan, Iran, and the nations of Southeast Asia. The creation of an avowedly Islamic state in Pakistan caused especially profound problems for India's engagement with the Middle East. Such tensions intertwined with regional and global great-power rivalries to severely constrict India's room for maneuver in all three concentric circles.
The second obstacle was the Indian socialist system, which caused a steady relative economic decline and a consequent loss of influence in the years after independence. The state-socialist model led India to shun commercial engagement with the outside world. As a result, India was disconnected from its natural markets and culturally akin areas in the extended neighborhood.
Finally, the Cold War, the onset of which quickly followed India's independence, pushed India into the arms of the Soviet Union in response to Washington's support for Pakistan and China -- and thus put the country on the losing side of the great political contest of the second half of the twentieth century. Despite being the largest democracy in the world, India ended up siding with the opposite camp on most global issues.
The last decade of the twentieth century liberated India from at least two of these constraints; state socialism gave way to economic liberalization and openness to globalization, and the Cold War ended. Suddenly, New Delhi was free to reinvent its foreign policy -- positioning itself to face the rise of China, shifting its strategic approach to its other neighbors, and beginning to work closely with the world's existing great powers.
VARIETIES OF INFLUENCE
India's recent embrace of openness and globalization has had an especially dramatic effect on the country's role in the region. As the nations of the subcontinent jettison their old socialist agendas, India is well positioned to promote economic integration. Although the pace has been relatively slow, the process has begun to gain traction. The planned implementation of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement this summer signals the coming reintegration of the subcontinent's markets, which constituted a single economic space until 1947.
At the same time, optimism on the economic front must be tempered by an awareness of the problematic political developments in India's smaller neighbors. The struggle for democracy and social justice in Nepal, interminable political violence and the rise of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh, and the simmering civil war in Sri Lanka underscore the potential dangers of failing states on the subcontinent. There are also the uncertain futures of Pakistan and Afghanistan: defeating religious extremism and creating modern and moderate states in both countries is of paramount importance to India. A successful Indian strategy for promoting peace and prosperity within the region would require preventing internal conflicts from undermining regional security, as well as resolving India's own conflicts with its neighbors.
In the past, great-power rivalries, as well as India's own tensions with Pakistan and China, have complicated New Delhi's effort to maintain order in the region. Today, all of the great powers, including the United States and China, support the Indian objective of promoting regional economic integration. The Bush administration has also started to defer to Indian leadership on regional security issues. Given the new convergence of U.S. and Indian interests in promoting democracy and countering extremism and terrorism, New Delhi no longer suspects Washington of trying to undercut its influence in the region. As a result, it is more prepared than ever to work with the United States and other Western powers to pursue regional goals.
Meanwhile, the external environment has never been as conducive as it is today to the resolution of the Indo-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir. The conflict has become less and less relevant to India's relations with the great powers, which has meant a corresponding willingness on New Delhi's part to work toward a solution. Of particular importance has been the steady evolution of the U.S. position on Kashmir since the late 1990s. The support extended by President Bill Clinton to India in its limited war with Pakistan in 1999 removed the perception that Washington would inevitably align with Islamabad in regional conflicts. But India remained distrustful of the Clinton administration's hyperactive, prescriptive approach to Kashmir. It has been more comfortable with the low-key methods of the Bush administration, which has avoided injecting itself directly into the conflict. The Bush administration has also publicly held Pakistan responsible for cross-border terrorism and has extracted the first-ever assurances from Pakistan to put an end to the attacks. New Delhi does not entirely believe these promises, but it has nonetheless come to trust Washington as a source of positive of influence on Islamabad.
These developments have opened the way for a peace process between the two governments. With the growing awareness that the normalization of relations with Pakistan would end a debilitating conflict and help India's regional and global standing, New Delhi has begun to negotiate seriously for the first time in decades. Although the pace of talks has not satisfied Pakistan, the two sides have agreed on a range of confidence-building measures. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has rejected the idea of giving up territory, but he has often called for innovative solutions that would improve living conditions and for common institutions that would connect Kashmiris across the Line of Control. Singh has made clear that the Indian leadership is ready to risk political capital on finding a diplomatic solution to Kashmir.
India's recent effort to resolve its long-standing border dispute with China has been just as bold. New Delhi decided in 2003 to seek a settlement with Beijing on a political basis, rather than on the basis of legal or historical claims. As a result, during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi in April 2005, India and China agreed on a set of principles to guide the final settlement. The two governments are now exploring the contours of mutually satisfactory territorial compromises.
India's search for practical solutions to the disputes over Kashmir and its border with China suggests that the country has finally begun to overcome the obsession with territoriality that has consumed it since its formation. Ironically, the nuclearization of India and Pakistan in 1998 may have helped in this regard: although nuclearization initially sharpened New Delhi's conflicts with both Islamabad and Beijing, it also allowed India to approach its territorial problems with greater self-assurance and pragmatism.
Progress on the resolution of either of these conflicts, especially the one over Kashmir, would liberate India's political and diplomatic energies so that the country could play a larger role in the world. It would also finally release India's armed forces from the constraining mission of territorial defense, allowing them to get more involved in peace and stability operations around the Indian Ocean. Even with all the tensions on the subcontinent, the armies of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have been among the biggest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations. The normalization of Indo-Pakistani relations would further free up some of the best armed forces in the world for the promotion of the collective good in the greater Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
Even as the Kashmir and China questions have remained unsettled, India's profile in its extended neighborhood has grown considerably since the early 1990s. India's outward economic orientation has allowed it to reestablish trade and investment linkages with much of its near abroad. New Delhi is negotiating a slew of free- and preferential-trade agreements with individual countries as well as multilateral bodies including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Southern African Development Community. Just as China has become the motor of economic growth in East Asia, a rising India could become the engine of economic integration in the Indian Ocean region.
After decades of being marginalized from regional institutions in different parts of Asia, India is also now a preferred political partner for ASEAN, the East Asian Summit, the GCC, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the African Union. Moreover, it has emerged as a major aid donor; having been an aid recipient for so long, India is now actively leveraging its own external assistance to promote trade as well as political objectives. For example, India has given $650 million in aid to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Meanwhile, the search for oil has encouraged Indian energy companies to tail their Western and Chinese counterparts throughout the world, from Central Asia and Siberia and to western Africa and Venezuela.
On the security side, India has been actively engaged in defense diplomacy. Thanks to the strength of its armed forces, India is well positioned to assist in stabilizing the Indian Ocean region. It helps that there has been a convergence of U.S. and Indian political interests: countering terrorism, pacifying Islamic radicalism, promoting democracy, and ensuring the security of sea-lanes, to name a few. The Indian navy in particular has been at the cutting edge of India's engagement with the region -- as was evident from its ability to deploy quickly to areas hit by the tsunami at the end of 2004. The Indian navy today is also ready to participate in multinational military operations.
AXES AND ALLIES
The end of the Cold War freed India to pursue engagement with all the great powers -- but especially the United States. At the start of the 1990s, finding that its relations with the United States, China, Japan, and Europe were all underdeveloped, India moved quickly to repair the situation. Discarding old socialist shibboleths, it began to search for markets for its products and capital to fuel its long-constrained domestic growth. Economic partnerships were easy to construct, and increasing trade flows provided a new basis for stability in India's relations with other major powers. India's emergence as an outsourcing destination and its new prowess in information technology also give it a niche in the world economy -- along with the confidence that it can benefit from economic globalization.
Barely 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, India's omnidirectional engagement with the great powers has paid off handsomely. Never before has India had such expansive relations with all the major powers at the same time -- a result not only of India's increasing weight in the global economy and its growing power potential, but also of New Delhi's savvy and persistent diplomacy.
The evolution of Sino-Indian ties since the 1990s has been especially important and intriguing. Many see violent conflict between the two rising Asian powers as inevitable. But thanks to New Delhi's policy of actively engaging China since the late 1980s, the tensions that characterized relations between them from the late 1950s through the 1970s have become receding memories. Bilateral trade has boomed, growing from less than $200 million in the early 1990s to nearly $20 billion in 2005. In fact, China is set to overtake the European Union and the United States as India's largest trading partner within a few years. The 3,500-kilometer Sino-Indian border, over which the two countries fought a war in 1962, is now tranquil. And during Wen's visit to India in April 2005, India and China announced a "strategic partnership" -- even though just seven years earlier New Delhi had cited concerns over China as a reason for performing nuclear tests, prompting a vicious reaction from Beijing.
India has also cooperated with China in order to neutralize it in conflicts with Pakistan and other smaller neighbors. In the past, China tended to be a free rider on regional security issues, proclaiming noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations while opportunistically befriending regimes in pursuit of its long-term strategic interests. This allowed India's subcontinental neighbors to play the China card against New Delhi when they wanted to resist India's attempts to nudge them toward conflict resolution. But now, Beijing has increasingly avoided taking sides in India's disputes, even as its economic and security profile in the region has grown.
China is not the only Asian power that India is aiming to engage and befriend. Japan has also emerged as an important partner for India, especially since Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has transformed Japanese politics in the last few years. During a visit to New Delhi just a couple of weeks after Wen's in April 2005, Koizumi announced Japan's own "strategic partnership" with India. (This came despite Japan's harsh reaction to India's nuclear test in 1998, which prompted Japanese sanctions and an effort by Tokyo to censure India in the United Nations and other multilateral forums.) Amid growing fears of a rising China and the incipient U.S.-Indian alliance, Japan has elevated India to a key player in its long-term plans for Asian security.
Recognizing the need to diversify its Asian economic portfolio, Tokyo has also, for political reasons, begun to direct some of its foreign investment to India (which has overtaken China as the largest recipient of Japanese development assistance). Since the start of the Bush administration, Japan has also shown increasing interest in expanding military cooperation with India, especially in the maritime domain. India, too, has recognized that it shares with Japan an interest in energy security and in maintaining a stable balance of power in Asia. Japan actively supported India's participation in the inaugural East Asian Summit, in December 2005, despite China's reluctance to include New Delhi. Neither India nor Japan wants to base their political relationship exclusively on a potential threat from China, but both know that deepening their own security cooperation will open up new strategic options and that greater coordination between Asian democracies could limit China's impact.
India's relations with Europe have been limited by the fact that New Delhi is fairly unimpressed with Europe's role in global politics. It senses that Europe and India have traded places in terms of their attitudes toward the United States: while Europe seethes with resentment of U.S. policies, India is giving up on habitually being the first, and most trenchant, critic of Washington. As pessimism overtakes Europe, growing Indian optimism allows New Delhi to support unpopular U.S. policies. Indians consistently give both the United States and the Bush administration very favorable marks; according to a recent Pew Global Attitudes poll, for example, the percentage of Indians with a positive view of the United States rose from 54 percent in 2002 to 71 percent in 2005. And whereas a declining Europe has tended to be skeptical of India's rise, the Bush administration has been fully sympathetic to India's great-power aspirations.
Still, India does have growing economic and political ties with some European powers. Although many smaller European countries have been critical of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal, the continent's two nuclear powers, France and the United Kingdom, have been supportive. Paris, in particular, bet long ago (well before Washington did, in fact) that a rising India would provide a good market for high-tech goods; with this in mind, it shielded New Delhi from the ire of the G-8 (the group of eight highly industrialized nations) after India tested nuclear weapons in May 1998. In the last several years, the United Kingdom has also started to seize economic opportunities in India and has been generally accommodating of New Delhi's regional and global aspirations.
In the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, India also worked to maintain a relationship with Russia. The two states resolved residual issues relating to their old semi-barter rupee-ruble trading arrangements, recast their 1971 peace and friendship treaty, and maintained military cooperation. When President Vladimir Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin, in 2000, India's waiting game paid off. A newly assertive Moscow was determined to revive and expand its strategic cooperation with India. New Delhi's only problems with Moscow today are the weakening bilateral trade relationship and the risk of Russia's doing too much to strengthen China's military capabilities.
At the end of the Cold War, the prospect of India's building a new political relationship with the United States seemed remote. Washington had long favored Pakistan and China in the region, India had in turn aligned itself with the Soviet Union, and a number of global issues seemed to pit the two countries against each other. Yet after the Cold War, India set about wooing the United States. For most of the Clinton administration, this sweet-talking fell on deaf ears, in part because Clinton officials were so focused on the Kashmir dispute and nonproliferation. Clinton, driven by the unshakable assumption that Kashmir was one of the world's most dangerous "nuclear flashpoints" and so needed to be defused, emphasized "preventive diplomacy" and was determined to "cap, roll back, and eventually eliminate" India's nuclear capabilities. Of course, Clinton's approach ran headlong into India's core national security concerns -- territorial integrity and preserving its nuclear option. Pressed by Washington to circumscribe its strategic capabilities, New Delhi reacted by testing nuclear weapons.
But even as it faced U.S. sanctions, New Delhi also began to proclaim that India was a natural ally of the United States. Although the Clinton administration was not interested in an alliance, the nuclear tests forced the United States to engage India seriously for the first time in five decades. That engagement did not resolve the nuclear differences, but it did bring Clinton to India in March 2000 -- the first American presidential visit to India in 22 years. Clinton's personal charm, his genuine empathy for India, and his unexpected support of India in the 1999 war with Pakistan succeeded in improving the atmospherics of the relations and in putting New Delhi on Washington's radar screen in a new way.
It took Bush, however, to transform the strategic context of U.S.-Indian relations. Convinced that India's influence will stretch far beyond its immediate neighborhood, Bush has reconceived the framework of U.S. engagement with New Delhi. He has removed many of the sanctions, opened the door for high-tech cooperation, lent political support to India's own war on terrorism, ended the historical U.S. tilt toward Pakistan on Kashmir, and repositioned the United States in the Sino-Indian equation by drawing closer to New Delhi.
India has responded to these sweeping changes by backing the Bush administration on missile defense, the International Criminal Court, and finding alternative approaches to confronting global warming. It lent active support to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan by protecting U.S. assets in transit through the Strait of Malacca in 2002, agreed to work with the United States on multinational military operations outside of the UN framework, and, in 2005 and 2006, voted twice with Washington against Iran -- an erstwhile Indian ally -- at the International Atomic Energy Agency. India also came close to sending a division of troops to Iraq in the summer of 2003 before pulling back at the last moment. Every one of these actions marked a big departure in Indian foreign policy. And although disappointed by India's decision to stay out of Iraq, the Bush administration recognized that India was in the midst of a historic transformation of its foreign policy -- and kept faith that India's own strategic interests would continue to lead it toward deeper political cooperation with Washington. New Delhi's persistence in reaching out to Washington since 1991 has been driven by the belief that only by fundamentally changing its relationship with the world's sole superpower could it achieve its larger strategic objectives: improving its global position and gaining leverage in its relations with other great powers.
But India's ability to engage everyone at the same time might soon come to an end. As U.S.-Chinese tensions grow and Washington looks for ways to manage China's influence, questions about India's attitude toward the new power politics will arise: Can India choose to remain "nonaligned" between the United States and China, or does India's current grand strategy show a clear bias toward the United States?
The nuclear pact unveiled by Bush and Singh in July 2005 -- and consolidated when Bush went to New Delhi in March 2006 -- was an effort by Washington to influence the ultimate answer to that question. Bush offered to modify U.S. nonproliferation laws (subject to approval by Congress, of course) and revise the global nuclear order to facilitate full cooperation with India on civilian nuclear energy. New Delhi, in return, has promised to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs, place its civilian nuclear plants under international safeguards, and abide by a range of nonproliferation obligations. India's interest in such a deal has been apparent for a long time. Having failed to test weapons before the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was drafted, in 1968, India was trapped in an uncomfortable position vis-à-vis the nuclear order: it was not willing to give up the nuclear option, but it could not be formally accommodated by the nonproliferation regime as a nuclear weapons state.
India's motives for wanting a change in the nuclear regime are thus obvious. But for the Bush administration, the deal is less about nuclear issues than it is about creating the basis for a true alliance between the United States and India -- about encouraging India to work in the United States' favor as the global balance of power shifts. Ironically, it was the lack of a history of mutual trust and cooperation -- stemming in part from past nuclear disputes -- that convinced the Bush administration that a nuclear deal was necessary.
AN IMPOSSIBLE ALLY?
Many critics argue that the Bush administration's hopes for an alliance are misplaced. They insist that the traditionally nonaligned India will never be a true ally of the United States. But such critics misunderstand India's nonalignment, as well as the nature of its realpolitik over the past 60 years. Contrary to a belief that is especially pervasive in India itself, New Delhi has not had difficulty entering into alliances when its interests so demanded. Its relationship with the Soviet Union, built around a 1971 peace and friendship treaty, had many features of an alliance (notwithstanding India's claim that such ties were consistent with nonalignment); the compact was in many ways a classic response to the alignment of Washington, Beijing, and Islamabad. India has also had treaty-based security relationships with two of its smaller neighbors, Bhutan and Nepal, that date back to 1949-50 -- protectorate arrangements that were a reaction to China's entry into Tibet.
In fact, there is no contradiction between India's alleged preference for "moralpolitik" (in opposition to pure power politics, or Machtpolitik) and the Bush administration's expectation of an alliance with India. New Delhi is increasingly replacing the idea of "autonomy," so dear to Indian traditionalists, with the notion of India's becoming a "responsible power." (Autonomy is thought appropriate for weak states trying to protect themselves from great-power competition but not for a rising force such as India.) As India starts to recognize that its political choices have global consequences, it will become less averse to choosing sides on specific issues. Alliance formation and balancing are tools in the kits of all great powers -- and so they are likely to be in India's as well.
That India is capable of forming alliances does not, however, mean that it will necessarily form a long-term one with the United States. Whether it does will depend on the extent of the countries' shared interests and their political capacity to act on them together. The Bush administration expects that such shared interests -- for example, in balancing China and countering radical Islam in the Middle East -- will provide the basis for long-term strategic cooperation. This outcome is broadly credible, but it is by no means inevitable, especially given the United States' seeming inability to build partnerships based on equality.
When it comes to facing a rising China, India's tendency to engage in regional balancing with Beijing has not come to an end with the proclamation of a strategic partnership between the two nations. Indeed, preventing China from gaining excessive influence in India's immediate neighborhood and competing with Beijing in Southeast Asia are still among the more enduring elements of India's foreign policy. Despite Western concerns about the military regime in Myanmar, New Delhi has vigorously worked to prevent Yangon from falling completely under Beijing's influence, and India's military ties with the Southeast Asian nations are expanding rapidly. In 2005, when Pakistan pushed for giving China observer status in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, India acted quickly to bring Japan, South Korea, and the United States in as well. Given India's deep-seated reluctance to play second fiddle to China in Asia and the Indian Ocean region -- and the relative comfort of working with a distant superpower -- there is a structural reason for New Delhi to favor greater security cooperation with Washington.
In the Middle East, too, India has a common interest with the United States in preventing the rise of radical Islam, which poses an existential threat to India. Given its large Muslim population -- at nearly 150 million, the third largest in the world -- and the ongoing tensions stemming from the subcontinent's partition, India has in the past acted on its own to avert the spread of radical Islam. When Washington aligned with conservative Islamic forces in the Middle East during the Cold War, India's preference was for secular nationalist forces in the region. When the United States acted ambivalently toward the Taliban in the mid-1990s, India worked with Russia, Iran, and the Central Asian states to counter the Taliban by supporting the Northern Alliance. Now, although some in India are concerned that alignment with the United States might make India a prime target for Islamist extremists, there is no way India can compromise with radical Islam, which threatens its very unity.
But shared interests do not automatically produce alliances. The inequality of power between the two countries, the absence of a habit of political cooperation between them, and the remaining bureaucratic resistance to deeper engagement in both capitals will continue to limit the pace and the scope of strategic cooperation between India and the United States. Still, there is no denying that India will have more in common with the United States than with the other great powers for the foreseeable future.
While New Delhi has acknowledged that U.S. support is necessary for India's rise to be successful, Washington has recognized India's potentially critical role in managing emerging challenges to global order and security. As a major beneficiary of accelerating globalization, India could play a crucial role in ensuring that other developing countries manage their transitions as successfully as it has, that is, by taking advantage of opportunities while working to reduce the pain of disruption. Given the pace of its expansion and the scale of its economy, India will also become an important force in ensuring that the unfolding global redistribution of economic power occurs in an orderly fashion. Meanwhile, India could become a key player in the effort to modernize the politics of the Middle East. If nothing else, India's success in ensuring the rights and the integration of its own Muslim minority and in reaching peace with Pakistan would have a powerful demonstration effect.
To secure a long-term partnership with India, Washington must build on the argument of "Indian exceptionalism" that it has advanced in defense of the recent nuclear pact, devising a range of India-specific policies to deepen cooperation. India is unlikely, however, to become a mere subsidiary partner of the United States, ready to sign on to every U.S. adventure and misadventure around the world. It will never become another U.S. ally in the mold of the United Kingdom or Japan. But nor will it be an Asian France, seeking tactical independence within the framework of a formal alliance.
Given the magnitude of the global security challenges today, the United States needs more than meek allies. It should instead be looking to win capable and compatible partners. A rising India may be difficult at times, but it will act broadly to defend and promote the many interests it shares with Washington. Assisting India's rise, then, is in the United States' own long-term interest.
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It has been a long time. Your words are reaching me after 3 years of deep life challenge. Your story is surely as transforming. I welcome you to share your evolution.
Shame. I hang my head in SHAME, people! I've not had a hot minute to sit down and say hello since....
Oh hell, last year.
it's been 5 months since I wrote last. Here's some bacon.
here's some smoky chipotle to cover the blogger's shame halo.
this one's just cute.
So so so much to report, Turtle Faithful! First, let's go back to LAST YEAR's last post, which talked about our new location in Salem MA. 318 Derby St, people! It's the prettiest shop we've had in Salem to date. Just lovely. The neighborhood has been so warm and supportive, and Amy, Brandy and Kathleen have been loving the new space. A complete lemons-to-lemonade story, as far as I'm concerned. Huzzah!
We had a great holiday season in both shops, then a great Valentine's Day, as well. One of the reasons Valentine's Day was so fab (despite its being on a Tuesday) was that the Phantom Gourmet filmed an excellent piece on us. Couldn't have been nicer to work with, and the timing of the release was beyond perfect. Watch it here:
In that same week (more great timing, and lovely people to work with), our caramel apples got the spotlight on InsiderFood, here:
SO: we had a crazy amount of really wonderful publicity, and have gotten to see a ton of new faces as a result, not to mention all of our loyal customers who have made us what we are today. We are lucky dogs!
In chocolate news, we've stretched our truffle wings a little this winter, and added a couple of new flavors:
Sharing is optional, and not necessarily recommended.
One of our turtle worker bees, Natalia, (and her husband) love to travel. She often brings me back treats. Last summer she brought me back a most divine pink grapefruit truffle, which haunted me for months. I had to figure it out, as I didn't expect to be heading that way with the holidays approaching, and I wanted more. I couldn't be more pleased with the final product (if I do say myself): a true balancing act of tart, sweet, deep, dark, delicious. Feeling pretty proud of that baby.
We also made a beautiful milk chocolate wild fruit ganache truffle. I'm not always a milk chocolate-with-fruit type of gal, but I have to say, it's damn good.
Of course, March is here, so the Stout Truffle is here too. Grab them while the grabbin's good, people.
See? I've been a busy bee. Too busy to write until just this moment. And actually, it was great to get back to the ole keyboard. It's really something to put it all down and see how much has actually gone on in the past few months!
Next up? Easter! Stay tuned for bunny updates! xxx
The light is changing. The sun feels kinda warm sometimes in the afternoon. There's an unspecified optimism emanating from our customers, despite the chill.
Spring. So close!
It's crazy how much these little things mean by the time March rolls around. This year, Easter is early, so March has a little more oomph to it here at the ole chocolate factory. But Easter isn't just it: St. Patrick's Day, too, is right around the corner -- this means only one thing to our fans:
No really, folks --
They ARE all that. And more. So much more. Super silky, deep and dark, the stout is right in front, nothing subtle about these babies.
Just how we like it. We make them for the month, and then we make then a little longer, if folks ask.
We've been making these for about a decade or so. One of my first forays into breaking out of the tried and true truffle combos. It took just a couple of batches before they were perfect. I'm really proud of these -- and tooting my own horn is a rare thing. These guys are close to my heart, and that's saying something (my Scottish grandmother is positively rolling in her grave reading this).
And that's just some of the things we offer. So many options.
Happy Spring, Happy St. Patrick's Day, Happy Easter, and everything in between!
Me? I'm celebrating the light. The crocuses emerging from the ground. The fact that I get to be surrounded by this sweetness every day. I'll take unspecified optimism, any day, from any source. Winter? Can't say I'm sorry to see you leave. Onward ho!
Most of us have about five dreams each night, though we're not likely to remember any of them. But a team of researchers has found a pattern of brain activity that seems to reveal not only when the brain is generating a dream but something about the content of that dream. "When subjects were having [dream] experiences during sleep, there was a region in the back of the brain that tended to be very active, as if this region was a little bit more awake," says Francesca Siclari , a researcher at the Center for Research and Investigation in Sleep at Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland. Patterns of brain activity in this region also suggested whether the dream included a face or movement, Siclari and a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison report in Nature Neuroscience . The team found that dreams occurred during both rapid eye movement — REM — and non-REM sleep. But there were also periods of deep sleep in which dreaming did not occur. The team studied dreams
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Hallie Baker here, from Turtle Alley Chocolates, my own personal haven, and your own personal pit-stop for all things sweet. This is the place where I get to write about the things I'm elbow deep in, whether it's a new recipe, a flavor I can't get enough of, the latest song I'm butchering on my uke, chocolate tips, recipes, just whatever the hell I'm excited about -- on the sweet side. Such freedom! Such overwhelming freedom!
Yikes. About half my life I've been messing around with chocolate. In 1999, I opened up my first shop in Gloucester, MA. A few years later, a second shop in Salem, MA. We've had a lot of luck with great reviews, and extremely loyal and devoted fans. In the past year, everything culminated in the chance to write and publish Turtle, Truffle, Bark! -- which was way more fun than I could have anticipated.
It's a lucky life I lead.
It's true. All those words came out of MY HEAD.
As the business has grown, our Turtle Crew has expanded (in a most excellent way, I might add), leaving me more time to play with flavors and test out new recipes, which is my favorite thing. Because I really am a lucky so-and-so. So welcome to the blog, welcome to my world, hold on to your hats, and enjoy the ride!
Papaya coconut caramel. Genius!
PS. favorite chocolate right now: dark chocolate papaya coconut caramel. PPS. currently butchering "Girl Talk" on uke. PPPS. favorite smell on a scooter ride is beach roses on the back shore. Over and out, good buddies!
…like a good Indiana Jones movie, the real story of this lost treasure began with a flash of archaeological insight in a remote Asian jungle half a world away….
Koh Ker, Cambodia – Protests from the Kingdom of Cambodia recently halted the multi-million dollar Sotheby’s sale of an ancient stone statue with the support of the United States government. When the Cambodians sought help bringing the thousand-year-old Khmer statue back to their country the New York Times ran a detailed article entitled “Mythic Warrior Is Captive in Global Art Conflict.”
10th century Cambodian sculpture previously scheduled for a multi-million dollar Sotheby’s sale.
Their investigation reveals that the legal and moral issues surrounding the ownership and sale of ancient art are quite complex. In this case, one generous art collector may actually provide a positive solution. But like a good Indiana Jones movie, the real story of this lost treasure began with a flash of archaeological insight in a remote Asian jungle half a world away.
Mystery of the Missing Men of Koh Ker
One thousand years ago, the Khmer Empire ruled most of what is now Southeast Asia from its capital in Angkor. During their heyday, the architecturally and artistically sophisticated Khmer people created some of humanity’s most extraordinary stone temples and statues. Apart from a few stone inscriptions, however, no written records of the civilization survived. Out of necessity, archaeologists have had no alternative but to piece the story of the Khmer people together, clue by clue and stone by stone.
Rising above 30 meters in height, Koh Ker’s central temple-mountain of Prasat Thom was built 100 years before Angkor Wat. Photo: Khmersearch, Panoramio.
Early in the 10th century (for reasons that are still unclear), King Jayavarman IV and his son Harsavarman II relocated the empire’s capital from Angkor to an isolated plateau 100 km to the northeast. There they built the city of Koh Ker, a huge new complex of temples and shrines, where they established their throne for a brief 16 year period (928-944 AD). Like all great Khmer cities, Koh Ker was ultimately abandoned and swallowed up by the jungle. The rediscovery of the Khmer civilization by Westerners didn’t begin until French explorers arrived in the second half of the 19th century.
In 2007, stone conservator Simon Warrack was working with the German Apsara Conservation Project (GACP), a scientific organization that had been doing critical restoration on Angkor Wat temple for more than a decade. In May, Warrack took a side trip to the Koh Ker site (Google Map link) to consider future conservation needs there.
At Koh Ker, Warrack noticed two distinctive pedestal platforms in the first enclosure of Prasat Chen. There, by the west gopura (an entry structure), he saw the feet where two statues had clearly been broken off. But the gods that once stood there were nowhere to be found. The mystery sparked his imagination.
The two Koh Ker pedestals as Warrack found them at Prasat Chen in May 2007. The pedestal circled in red shows a fabric section still attached in the center.
Virtually Connecting Ancient Dots…and Stones
From my own research cataloging the devata of Angkor I can attest that field work is generally hot, uncomfortable and distracting. Almost all of my discoveries happen at my desk in Florida examining photos taken weeks or years before at remote locations. Warrack continued his search in similar fashion.
The Norton Simon dvarapala featured in “Adoration and Glory”, p. 149
He pondered the distinctive bases and began searching for photos in books and research archives. Finally, he found a possible solution. In “Adoration and Glory – The Golden Age of Khmer Art” by Emma Bunker and Douglas Latchford one image stood out. It showed a figure identified as a dvarapala (guardian) at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena California. That statue was missing its feet, but many are. The key to solving this puzzle was the unique tail at the bottom of its clothing element. After scanning images and digitally combining them Warrack confirmed the close match between the two fragments.
Warrack’s 2007 digital superimposition of the base and body of the Koh Ker statue.
Warrack immediately wrote a short paper to seek opinions from others in the field of Khmer studies. He forwarded copies to friends and associates as well as to key authorities including the APSARA Authority, which manages the Angkor region’s heritage assets; the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in Phnom Penh; and the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), a French organization dedicated to Asian studies that has been active in conservation efforts at Angkor since 1907. I met Simon in 2007 shortly after his find and the photos above come from the original article he shared with me.
Everyone who saw his image realized the importance of this observation. Determining the original location of displaced objects can be a huge help in interpreting their meaning and significance within the context of an ancient civilization. The record shows that the Norton Simon piece was acquired legitimately and is on public display for educational, artistic and cultural appreciation. But not all art ends up this way. Much of it disappears into private collections, out of view.
Such was the case of the complimentary statue that stood face to face with this one more than a thousand years ago at the Khmer capital of Koh Ker.
Sotheby's twin Khmer warrior. Note the unbroken base of the fabric tail.
The Long Lost Twin Reappears
In the summer of 2010, a “noble European lady” contacted Sotheby’s to discuss the sale of a “spectacular tenth-century Cambodian sculpture, 160 centimeters in height and exceptionally well carved.” Word got out quickly to the worlds of art and archaeology. When pictures began to circulate it was instantaneously clear that this was the long-lost companion to the statue Warrack had connected to the Norton Simon Museum three years earlier.
Meanwhile, in New York, the matching sculpture was estimated to sell for millions of dollars. According to the owner’s records, she legally acquired the piece in 1975 from the now-defunct London art dealer Spink & Son. The Norton Simon Museum also acquired their piece that year. Some evidence suggests that both statues left Cambodia in the late 1960s, but exactly when and how that happened, and who arranged it, is unknown.
Paraphrasing Sotheby’s Senior Vice President Jane A. Levine, the New York Times article stated “Ms. Levine countered that the statue could have been removed any time in its thousand-year history, and said the word ‘stolen’ was often ‘used loosely.’ ” Meanwhile, Christie’s auction house acquired Spinks in 1993 and claims that the 1975 records of the statue’s origin are “no longer available.”
Regardless of the lack of facts, the ownership of both statues seems quite legal under international laws. Which brings us to a question at the heart of this matter.
Who Should Own Historical Art?
An idealistic answer is “humanity” but even this dream can have unexpected consequences as we’ll discover below. My personal goal would be for historical assets to be accessible to everyone who wants to respect them, preserve them, appreciate them and learn from them. But this philosophy wouldn’t get me through the front door at most of the world’s public institutions holding these assets (let alone to private collections).
Most of us are fortunate enough to live in a free society. We can buy, sell and own personal property within the law. The laws protecting heritage assets have evolved considerably over the past few decades, and they continue to do so. But the fact remains that countless artifacts were legally acquired by collectors (“noble ladies” included) as well as public museums since the beginning of time. Isn’t it their right to display, use and sell their property as they see fit?
Let’s consider some difficult questions raised by recent news:
The taller Buddha of Bamiyan before and after destruction. Photo: Wikipedia.
1. Can a government or private entity decide to demolish old structures? This happens every day in every city around the world. Sometimes historical societies rally to save a site. Sometimes they can’t, as seen in the shocking annihilation of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Was that government right? Were those people right? And who are you to judge? Do you live there?
In Sarasota Florida some local groups rallied to have this mural erased from a shop.
2. Can a government or private entity destroy something offensive or blasphemous to their values or religion? How far does freedom of expression go? This Yale article discusses the destruction of Buddha images in the Maldives. But it also mentions things like Henry VIII’s systematic destruction of all the monasteries in England, Wales and Ireland. Near my home in Sarasota Florida a debate has run for months about erasing a mural that may promote gangs. Acts of artistic control and destruction happen all the time.
Sunken treasure found by Odyssey Marine 1700 feet deep in the Atlantic Ociean.
3. Can a private group use its own funds to recover or preserve historical objects that were clearly abandoned by the original owners hundreds or even thousands of years earlier? In other words, does everything actually belong to some hypothetical “rightful owner”? And who owned these things before them? Odyssey Marine Exploration in Tampa Florida just got a harsh lesson in how arbitrarily this question can be answered. Odyssey spent years working to locate and salvage a ship in international waters off the coast of Portugal. It lay, unknown and untouched for two centuries in 1700 feet of water. US courts just ruled against Odyssey and returned all the artifacts to Spain.
Ironically, that silver and gold was mined in Peru by peasants working under slave-like conditions. Peru, of course, came under Spanish control in the 16th century when conquistadors brutally subjugated the Inca civilization in their quest for territory, power and treasure. But to the US courts, 200 years of ownership was enough to confiscate assets for an “original” owner…but not 400 years. Peru’s claim to the artifacts was ignored.
On the other side of the gold coin, salvage operations generally destroy much of the archaeological evidence that exists on a wreck site. I took an archaeological research diver workshop at a Florida galleon site, and I’ve also had the privilege of discussing this topic with the father of underwater archaeology, George Bass. I am quite opposed to the wholesale destruction of history to recover precious metals on land or at sea.
But in this case, Odyssey Marine consistently gathers a lot of archaeological data from their sites. And is it reasonable to ask when and how carefully archaeologists would be excavating this particular site more than half a kilometer deep? It seems we can all learn much from Odyssey’s digital photos, detailed site maps and the thousands of objects recovered. More than we would have known if the site was never found. Now the responsibility falls to Spain to educate and inspire us with their recovered objects. The world watches.
The “Angel of Beng Mealea” - March 5, 2006 and February 12, 2007.
4. Do poor people have the right to take abandoned objects from public places just to survive? I wrote about my own painful experience with this at Beng Mealea in this article “Death of an Angel.”
There are countless examples. There will be countless more. Each situation is different. Right and wrong are not always clear. And certainly never appear the same to opposing parties in a disagreement.
Back in 2008 I bought a used car legally. But what if the original owner (or the factory, or the country where it was built) tried to reclaim it because “I parked it too long” or “I wasn’t taking care of it” or “they want to study it” or “it belongs in the original place”? I can’t say I’d be too happy.
But there are solutions to these issues…as there are to most human conflicts: communication, empathy and diplomacy. Fortunately, a combination of these factors may lead to a resolution to the quandary of the Sotheby’s statue sale.
Collectors Who Share
Cultural sensitivity about who historical objects should belong to is a fairly new concept. As noted above people have the right to own private property. This has been going on for a long time. Humans are an acquisitive species by nature.
It’s worth noting that some of the most successful “acquirers” (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates come to mind) have also proven themselves as some of our most generous givers. And some art collectors have proven themselves in this way, too. After a lifetime of actively hunting, obsessively gathering and painstakingly preserving the rare objects they crave…many end up donating their collections to public institutions.
In the world of Khmer art, Douglas Latchford, co-author of “Adoration and Glory” with art historian Emmy Bunker, is one example. He began collecting Khmer artifacts 56 years ago (1956). Over the years he and his friends have shared financial gifts with the National Museum of Cambodia. More significantly, he is the museum’s biggest contributor of artifacts (read more about Douglas Latchford on KI-Media).
Now another collector may assist with a solution to the thorny situation of the Koh Ker statue at Sotheby’s.
Dr. István Zelnik, founder of the Gold Museum in Budapest, Hungary.
During the 1970s, Dr. István Zelnik served as a Hungarian diplomat in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Like many passionate collectors he invested his money in rare books, antiques and works of art. Motivated by a love of art and curiosity about the objects he found, he became an increasingly sought after consulting expert for museums and archaeologists around the world. In 2011 his dreams culminated with his greatest achievement: founding the Zelnik István Southeast Asian Gold Museum in Budapest Hungary.
In a statement to the New York Times Dr. Zelnik expressed the possibility that he may purchase the statue for donation to the people of Cambodia. A generous, diplomatic and expedient solution in our complex world. The owner would be compensated for her private property, huge amounts of time and money would not be wasted on legal litigation, and the people who respect and admire the art of the Khmer people could once again see this expression of creativity in the land where it was born.
I wish him success and encourage him along with Mr. Latchford and other collectors to continue sharing the objects of their passion with the world.
The two mythic Cambodian warriors as they one faced each other at Koh Ker. Below, Simon Warrack asks if they can one day be reunited?
Could Two Ancient Brothers Meet Again?
To conclude this article I contacted Simon Warrack to ask his current ideas about the ownership of historic art. Here’s what he had to say:
“The concept of “ownership” may be the wrong place to start when considering important objects. It is the value and significance of an object that should be thought of first, rather than who it belongs to.
”The questions should really be about the object itself, not who it belongs to. Where is the object best valued? Where is it best appreciated? Where is it best understood? Where is it best conserved?
“Who an object belongs to should be secondary. As one of my colleagues observed ‘Objects are not important because they are in museums. They are in museums because they are important.’ The object itself is the important factor, not the museum that possesses it.
“After finding the empty pedestals seven years ago actually seeing both Koh Ker statues is remarkable. The possibility now exists that, one day, they may be reunited.
“Today, I called HE Hab Touch to ask his opinion on this matter. He is optimistic but noted that at this early stage no decisions or agreements are in place. However, Cambodia is ready and there are at least two suitable, secure locations where the pieces could be located for public appreciation. In the National Museum, of course, but plans are also being made for a museum at Preah Vihear, the same province where Koh Ker is located. There, the museum will become a gateway to the World Heritage Site and these figures could, once again, provide a wonderful center piece to welcome visitors from around the world.”
Simon closed by mentioning a concept from the book, Who Owns Antiquity by James Cuno. Cuno observes that national museums in wealthy nations host “encyclopedic” collections of objects from around the world, while national museums in less wealthy countries host indigenous local art relating to their own history.
He suggests that the global exchange of art would be a good direction to head in. Just as it is good for a child in Pasadena to experience the art of Cambodia, wouldn’t it also be wonderful for a child of Cambodia to see pieces of American history? Or the creations of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Mexico, etc.?
With communication, empathy and diplomacy we can all grow and learn.
Xayaburi work goes on (photo credit: Suthep Kritsanavarin)
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 Written by Our Correspondent Asian Sentinel
Despite reservations from Mekong Basin countries, construction continues
Over the opposition of environmental groups and the governments of other countries in the Mekong Basin, the Thai government is pushing ahead with the construction of the controversial Xayaburi Dam, environmentalists say.
Although the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments have expressed concerns about the dam and work was supposed to stop until further study has been completed, preliminary construction on the giant dam deep inside Laos, is continuing, according to International Rivers, which opposes the structure.
Large numbers of workers have been on the job for two years to build access roads and facilities for the project, said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers. Ch. Karnchang, Thailand’s largest construction company, has the contract to build the dam for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, better known as EGAT, which has contracted to 95 percent of the energy from the dam.
“It doesn’t mean the dam can’t be stopped,” Deets told Asia Sentinel in a telephone interview. “We believe there are many channels that we can try to cancel the PPA (power purchase agreement).”
Thailand appears to be defying an agreement in early December by the Mekong River Commission Council, comprising water and environment ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, to seek international support to produce a more complete study of the dam, which is intended to produce 1,280 megawatts of power for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.
The Mekong supports the largest freshwater fishery in the world. The downstream governments are concerned that the Xayaburi and 10 other dams planned for the Mekong, which feeds a river basin populated by 60 million people, will do irreparable damage to the river’s habitat.
Environmentalists say anywhere between 23 and 100 fish species could be adversely affected.
The dam, 810 meters wide and 32 meters high, is opposed by 263 NGOs from 51 countries. Thousands of people in the region have urged that it be cancelled. Its primary objective is to generate, along with electricity, foreign exchange earnings for financing socio-economic development in Laos, a landlocked and obscure country of 6.8 million mostly poverty-stricken people. Laos is seeking to develop its way into prosperity through extensive investment in dams, mines and plantations, hoping for jobs, rising incomes and revenues to end poverty.
Wracked by incessant bombing and the dropping of tens of millions of antipersonnel mines by the Americans during the Vietnam War, Laos remains one of the world's poorest countries, ranking 135th in the world. Nearly 41 percent of the population are under the age of 14. It is one of the few remaining one-party Communist countries left on the planet. Subsistence agriculture accounts for as much as 30 percent of gross domestic product, according to the CIA Factbook, and provides 80 percent of total employment.
Ten dams are already in operation across the country, generating 669 megawatts of power. Another eight are expected to be operational by this year, generating an additional 2,531 megawatts. Nineteen more are planned and 42 more are the subject of feasibility studies, almost all of them financed and developed by foreign interests expecting to turn a profit from electricity generation. Thailand is to import up to 7,000 megawatts by 2015. Vietnam will take another 3,000 megawatts by 2015 possibly rising to 5,000 megawatts by 2020 in accordance with an understanding reached in December 2006, according to a 2010 study titled Development in LAO PDR: the Food Security Paradox, produced for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and written by researcher David Fullbrook.
In 2010, the Mekong River Commission commissioned a strategic environmental assessment that recommended all decisions on Mekong mainstream dams be deferred for a period of at least 10 years while further studies can be conducted.
“We are afraid the fish migration could be destroyed,” Deets said. “There are 60 million people in the basin who depend for their livelihood on the river.”
The Thai government, she said in a prepared statement, “has ignored the agreements made last year among the four regional governments and the concerns expressed by Cambodia and Vietnam. With more than eight provinces in Thailand at risk from the Xayaburi Dam’s transboundary impacts, the state has also disregarded its duty to protect its own people from harm. It’s irresponsible to push forward with this dam, when the project’s impacts on Thailand have yet to be adequately studied.”
“The Mekong River Commission governments have not yet reached agreement on the Xayaburi Dam nor have they closed the prior consultation process,” the press release quoted Lam Thi Thu Suu, Director of the Centre for Social Research and Development in Vietnam, as saying. “By committing to purchase power from the dam and moving forward with the project’s implementation, EGAT and Ch. Karnchang are violating the trust and goodwill of Thailand’s neighbors. No construction on the Xayaburi Dam should proceed while further study is underway.”
Four Thai banks have already provided financial support for the dam including the state-owned Krung Thai Bank. When the Commission asked about the steps they took to examine the project’s environmental and social impacts, however, the banks were not able to provide detailed information.
“It’s astonishing to think that the financiers of this project have not taken the dam’s significant environmental and social impacts more seriously. Even a five minute search on the internet would reveal numerous media reports that highlight the concerns of the Thai people,” Deets said. “The recklessness of EGAT’s and the Thai companies’ pursuit of the project is likely to become a catastrophe for our country’s reputation. We call on the Thai government to immediately cancel the power purchase agreement and for Thai banks to withdraw financing from the Xayaburi Dam.”
An independent study has already concluded that the Xayaburi Dam’s electricity is not needed to meet Thailand’s demand for energy in the coming decades.
Friday, 20 January 2012 Written by Pavin Chachavalpongpun Asia Sentinel
Taking over where Thaksin left off
It has been six months since the July election that brought the first woman into Thailand's top political position—Yingluck Shinawatra.
During this period, Prime Minister Yingluck has encountered several difficult issues, ranging from the devastating floods, the attempt to provide amnesty for her fugitive brother Thaksin, and the increasing cases of lèse-majesté.
But there is one area in which Yingluck has appeared to be doing well so far—foreign affairs. It is fair to say that since Thaksin’s downfall in 2006, Thailand has had no tangible foreign policy. The Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat governments were short-lived. And the Abhisit Vejjajiva period was marked by conflicts with neighbouring countries, especially Cambodia.
It is therefore a real test for Yingluck to reinvent Thai diplomacy, the one that departs from antagonism toward neighbouring countries. In terms of Thai-Cambodian relations, Yingluck paid a high-profile visit to Cambodia, as the first country in her introductory tour. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was gleeful to roll out a red carpet to receive the Thai female premier. For now, relationship between the two countries has returned to normalcy. And the secret to this success is that issues in this bilateral relationship have simply become less politicised, particularly on the Thai part.
Yingluck then went on to visit a number of countries which are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar and recently the Philippines. Symbolic as they were, these visits signalled Thailand’s recovery from political illness at home and its eagerness to take a role in ASEAN. But a question must be asked: How realistic is the Thai eagerness?
During her visit to Naypyidaw in December 2011, Yingluck demonstrated that her government wanted to diversify Thailand’s policy options towards Myanmar, by reaching out to both the government as well as the opposition. Yingluck held a discussion with President Thein Sein and also paid a visit to Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy. At the end of her tour, Yingluck offered her support for national reconciliation in Myanmar, wishing to see further political reforms in the country long governed by the military.
Can Thailand, despite these bold moves initiated by Yingluck, expect a shift in its foreign policy which was traditionally seeking to achieve national interests at the expense of promoting universal values, such as democracy and human rights protection? My answer is rather pessimistic.
Ultimately, both Yingluck and her foreign minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, have no experience in diplomacy. And one must not forget that Yingluck is indeed Thaksin in disguise. Accordingly, it is likely that she will restore the Thaksinized foreign policy which was essentially commerce-driven without any respect for principles.
From 2001-2006, Thailand under Thaksin was so ambitious that it thought it could conquer the world. Thaksin, a successful businessman himself, was confident that he could transform Thailand into a hegemon dominating smaller and weaker states in the region.
Thaksin then bypassed Asean, once a cornerstone of Thai foreign policy. He perceived Asean as a representation of an “old politics”—the kind of politics sullied by rigid bureaucratic processes. Instead, Thaksin invented a myriad of business-centric cooperative frameworks, including the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) and the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS). He also strengthened Thai economic cooperation with major trading partners through the conclusion of many free trade agreements. Undoubtedly, the Thaksin period witnessed the most colourful and innovative foreign policy Thailand ever had had in decades.
The remapping of Thailand in the age of globalisation put Thaksin’s foreign policy on the spotlight—he was tipped to become Asia’s next leader. Thaksin endorsed diplomatic activism; and in this, he wanted to place Thailand at the core of the regional order through which the Thai influence was wholly felt. In the latest reinvention of Thailand as a regional leader, Thaksin also turned the kingdom into a company, run by a CEO prime minister whose task was to evaluate economic costs and benefits in the conduct of diplomacy.
Not only did the content of foreign policy change. The operational mode within the foreign ministry also underwent an extreme makeover. Representatives of the nation and the monarch were now becoming CEO ambassadors who would visit their customer for products demonstrations. While CEO ambassadors were dressed with more power, the role of the Foreign Ministry in the formulation of foreign policy diminished.
The prime minister, his advisory team, and his chosen foreign ministers all sidelined the Foreign Ministry’s officials. And the House of Government became enormously influential in the making of foreign policy.
The radical transformation of the Foreign Ministry has left a deep scar of conflict between those who agreed and disagreed with Thaksin’s approach. And the immense polarization in politics in this post-coup period has further intensified such conflict within this state agency. Yingluck and Surapong must not attempt to politicise foreign policy issues, as seen in the previous administration.
If Thaksin is indeed behind the formulation of Thailand’s foreign policy in this Yingluck era, then he has to learn the mistakes he made while he served as prime minister. Thaksin’s past foreign policy initiatives might have provided his government with a channel to secure Thailand’s supposed national interests. But along the way, he and his family members were accused of stoking their wealth by using state mechanisms.
Yingluck needs to open up the foreign policy decision-making process, making it transparent to the public to avoid any controversy. More importantly, her foreign policy for the next few years, if she will ever serve the full four-year term, will have to be based proportionally on economic interests and good governance. This is because her government has received a popular mandate through democratic means and also because Thailand cannot run away from a new international environment that has become more democratic.
(Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Pavin is the author of “Reinventing Thailand: Thaksin and His Foreign Policy” (2005). Follow him at www.facebook.com/pavinchachavalpongpun.)
Maranda is originally from Glenwood, Arkansas (Google it, it’s real) and moved to Texas after graduating from Henderson State University in 2005. She earned her BA in Communications and began working at AccuConference as a writer and customer contact. Maranda has a deep passion for baseball, novel writing, and music. At home, she’s usually doing something that relates to one of those things. Go Rangers! Read all of Maranda’s posts. AccuConference on Google+
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Marketable “Your ignorance is marketable, sir?” “Oh, yes! The less I know, the more I sell! Customer arrogance I proudly stir!” “Your ignorance is marketable, sir— And fans regard you as a minister Of deeper truths. Oh, what a tale to tell! Your ignorance is marketable, sir!” Oh, yes: the less I know, the […]
Genre: Deep Techno
Duration: 68 mins
Date: January 2009
(Mastered by Mauxuam)
New episode of the Abyss saga :)
This time is like having a party in a pressurized Submarine cruising underneath Arctic pack ice, searching for the right spot to re-emerge in the surface.
The frame-shell of the mix is a sequence of several bits from the tracks listed below, sometimes simply mixed one after the other, but often assembled from different synchronic loops and samples, weaving inside and out during the mix, sometimes carrying on as atmospheric patterns in the background to create drammatic ''dense'' surroundings.
Download button below
01. Brando Lupi - Mutant Phase \\\ Detune 2007
02. Plastikman - Okx \\\ NovaMute 1993
03. Ø - Atomit \\\ Sahko Recordings 1997
04. Cio D'or - Kimono(Mavi's Traum Mix) \\\ Motoguzzi Records 2008
05. Minilogue - 33000 Honeybees \\\ Cocoon 2008
06. Staffan Linzatti - Slightly Increased \\\ Synewave 2008
07. Oliver Dodd - Tokens \\\ Konstructure 2008
08. Heron - The Way Home \\\ Three60 Recordings 2008
09. JPLS - Combination03 \\\ Minus 2008
10. Ø - Medusa \\\ Sahko Recordings 1997
11. Truss,Donor - Abbott \\\ Synewave 2008
12. Speedy J - Red Shift \\\ Electric Deluxe 2008
13. Sex Trothler - Face(tribute to head) \\\ Wagon Repair 2008
14. Niederflur - Sprinkler \\\ Minus 2005
15. Styro2000 - Linguini Al Dente \\\ Bruchstecke Records 2004
16. Ricardo Villalobos - Skinfummel \\\ Perlon 2008
17. Cio D'or,Paul Brtschitsch - Safran \\\ Broque 2008
18. Obtane - Tribute To Mandragora(Damon Wild Remix) \\\ Synewave 2008
19. Octave - Past Flash \\\ Minus 2008
20. Ellen Allien - Ondu(Paul Ritch Remix) \\\ BPitch 2008
21. Eon,Baby Ford - Dead Eye \\\ Ifach01 1994
22. Gurtz - Frogs \\\ Einmaleins Musik 2007
23. Pascal FEOS - Deep Conga \\\ Subconce Records 2008
24. MRI - Take Kare Not Acid \\\ Resopall Schallware 2008
25. Planetary Assault Systems - MOD \\\ Figure 2008
26. Stewart Walker - Last Week's Disappearance \\\ Persona 2007
27. Sleeparchive - Hospital08 \\\ Sleeparchive 2007
28. Surgeon - Floorshow1.2 \\\ Curle Recordings 2008
29. MRI - Le Bateau \\\ Resopall Schallware 2008
30. Philipp Wolgast - Unrasiert Und Fern(Dilo Mix) \\\ Kompass 2008
31. Johnny D - Scope Of Mind \\\ Amused 2006
32. Function - Pressure \\\ Thema 2008
Play it loud!
1. DJ Hush Intro
2. The Pharcyde- Passin' Me By
3. Das Efx- No Diggedy
4. Junior M.A.F.I.A. - Players Anthem
5. Black Moon- How Many MC's
6. O.C. - Time's Up
7. Big L- Put It On
8. Brand Nubian- The Return
9. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth- I Got A Love
10. Wu-Tang Clan- C.R.E.A.M.
11. Group Home- Supa Star
12. NaS - It Ain't Hard To Tell
13. Artifacts- Brick City Kids
14. Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs- I Got to Have It
15. Eric B And Rakim- Microphone Fiend
16. Geto Boys- Mind Playing Tricks On Me
17. Gang Starr- The Militia featuring Big Shug & Freddie Foxxx
18. Mad Skillz- The Nod Factor
19. Mobb Deep - Shook Ones II
20. A Tribe Called Quest- Oh My God
21. Grand Puba- I Like It ( I Wanna Be Where You Are)
22. Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth- Funky Technician
23. Lords of the Underground- Funky Child
24. Gang Starr- DWYCK featuring Nice & Smooth
25. Black Sheep- The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)
26. EPMD- Crossover
27. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth- They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)
28. Souls of Mischief- '93 'Til Infinity
29. Beastie Boys- Shake Your Rump
For all the dopest hip hop gear and all the latest manifest news updates check out http://www.manifestworldwide.com/site/
Quality Irish knitwear and crafts shops grace Nassau Street in Dublin city centre. The Porterhouse, Kilkenny Design Shop and Celtic Note (and check the Irish mythology wall between the two!) are some of my favourites on the street. Well, on one side of the street. The high railings of Trinity College border the other side.
Notice how much higher the street is compared to the college? Most of the streets are several feet higher than they were 500 years ago. Nassau street, however has another cause besides medieval refuse. In 1685 the Thingmote was levelled and the earth brought to fill the street and make it 'grande', as the Wide Streets Commission saw it. Ah sure, for Dubliners, sure it was grand already.
And it wasn't just the havoc of roadworks that should annoy denizens. Something was covered. A sacred shrine.
An old St. Patrick's Day tradition in Dublin was to visit the holy well of St. Patrick and immerse you shamrocks and maybe even yourself in the holy waters once blessed by our patron saint.
The junction of Nassau & Dawson streets
At the side entrance of Trinity College
Glimpse down through the railings
The entrance to the well
In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote 'Verses Occasioned by the Sudden Drying Up of St Patrick's Well near Trinity College, Dublin'. Being the wonderful satirist that he was, the title does not betray its contents, remininscent of 'A Modest Proposal'. It was, I assume, the intentional filling in of the well that forced Swift enraged pen. Besides his usual impressive writing, Swift substantially demonstrates his historical knowledge.
Good. (I hope you read it.) It's a narrative of the author and St. Patrick basically cursing at the British. So, yes, that's why it was only published after Swift's death.
I wonder if Swift wasn't also lamenting, as a portent, not so much the changing of the street name from 'St. Patrick's Well Lane' with 'Nassau St.' but the fact that since Irish Independence we have neglected to revert the name. Most Dubliners have no idea, it seems, that 'Nassau St.' was named after King William III, a member of the House of Orange-Nassau.
So if you want to want to visit the well, you'll have to ask Trinity authorities to gain access.
Underlying ancient stones*
St. Patrick's Well - thought to be once up to 20ft deep now roughly a mere 4ft*
At least it's much more accessible than Dublin's OTHER St. Patrick's Well, buried under the park beside St. Patrick's Cathedral.
The orange part of the flag, that is. I thought it was something like ‘green for the 40 shades’, ‘white for the sky’ and ‘gold for the all gold’ (or Golden Age of Irish monasticism, would be more fitting). And when I found out it was ‘orange’, I was in denial. I refused to give up the lustre of gold for the rust of orange. Of course, I really had no idea what the Irish tricolour actually meant.
For those still favouring gold, you should know that ‘green is for those who regard themselves as Irish on the island of Ireland’, ‘orange (after William of Orange) is for those who regard themselves as British on the island of Ireland’, and ‘white is for the peace between them’. Some would say that it’s more so a religious divide than a cultural one, but some would also say that the white is not peace they share but ….
The story of the flag is that it was inspired by that of France, which similarly has disputed symbolism. White represents the clergy, red for the nobility, and blue for the bourgeoisie. That just gave me an idea to add to our list of symbols for the Irish flag: white is the church that has separated the two groups. Ah, tis all a bit political for me. Personally, I would prefer a different flag:
This flag does have gold. Hurray! But it’s more than just that. The golden harp has been a symbol of Ireland for around a millennium (see here). The harp is our national emblem and I interpret its place on this flag as representing not only the importance of the harp in Irish history, but the importance of music in general, and, with that, all the arts. All the arts of Ireland: Irish music, poetry, song, story - our heritage. These are what have made our country unique. The gold symbolising our culture’s richness. That, not political boundaries, was what united our country.
The green is a deeper, solemn shade. A shade for wisdom. For centuries’ learning of our monks, our brehon’s (judges) 20 years of aural memorisation of every detail, poets’ and story-tellers’ ability for something new nearly every day of the year, for education for Catholics after O’Connell abolished the Penal Laws.
All that speaks to me more.
So why isn’t the flag of Ireland? Well, because it’s already the flag of Leinster.
You see, during the Eleven Years’ War, a self-governing body was established in Kilkenny which remained loyal to the British monarch throughout its duration. From 1642 to 1649, the Irish Catholic Confederation governed most of Ireland and basically wanted freedom for Catholics in Ireland under the crown of England, as opposed to free from it. Their flag was a gold harp on a green background, supposedly incited by Owen Roe O’Neill (one of the descendents of the ancient Irish ruling dynasty of Uí Néill) who flew it from his ship’s mast and who would become the Commander of the Confederate Army. Thenceforth, it became associated with Kilkenny and its province, Leinster.
Our tricolour was first flown in public on the Mall in Waterford City on March 7th 1848. And we commemorate its anniversary today. So it’s a more suitable day than most to buy a wee Irish flag.
In Ireland we have important anniversaries every week of the year. Things like the birth or death of Irish martyrs or battles or the first time an abortion will be legally rendered in this country. But, generally, it seems, Irish people don’t like anniversaries. We have far too many – a result of having too much history.
Furthermore, as a whole, the Irish nation does not celebrate its history or identity. (St. Patrick’s Day is the exception, of course, but even on that one day of the year when we openly celebrate our Irishness, I’m sure many Irish people celebrate our thirst instead.)
So, why is this?
The Irish have an inferiority complex: having been told by the English for so long that our language, customs, dress, law, society, manners were second to theirs, we believed them. And though it seems like the oppression of the English has been gone 81 years, we still have that sense of inferiority, that lack of pride in our nation. It had been inculcated for so long that it still remains for the next generation. Albeit, this sense of inferiority is subconscious, hidden, but, to an outsider, puzzlingly evident in an apathetic form – Irish people don’t know why, but they don’t seem to want to celebrate their Irishness as much as they should.
The Irish language is the best example. Terrible primary school teachers aside, the Irish language should be thriving in Ireland. People don’t want to speak it, not because they can’t or are afraid of making mistakes, but because, deep inside, they’re ashamed of it.
Like the generations before us, speaking Irish was a symptom of your poverty. Those who held onto the language could not represent themselves at court, could not be employed by the landlord, and would die in destitution and starvation. And, in order for the Irish to survive in this English-engineered world, they had to regard their language and culture negatively. It was necessary. We were able to survive, to raise ourselves up by pulling the Irish language down, under us.
Then there’s the whole ‘if you celebrate the Easter Rising with anything more than a nod, I’ll consider you a radical and a Sinn Féiner’ – another consequence of The Troubles. But hopefully this will dissolve when the 100-year anniversary of the 1916 Rising in celebrated.
As for the other anniversaries that should be celebrated, time will tell.
Primordial have released a new album. Actually, it’s been out for quite a while now. Upon initial listen, it doesn’t sound like their best work. But then I recall how it took me no less than a year of occasionally listening to Primordial before I realised how brilliant the band is.
This new album is called ‘Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand’. Now, for those of you who are familiar with Irish history you will at once be reminded, upon reading ‘puritan’, of that darkest of figures in Irish history, Oliver Cromwell. Obviously, the title imbues the notions of redemption from someone closer to God and His will, and of death at someone’s hand. As is Primordial’s style, they have never mentioned the English outright and, rather, prefer to simply allude to them. Hence, their songs are metaphorical, sometimes ironical, and often include very rich imagery and intense emotive expressions, which all make their songs, for all intents and purposes, poems (you rarely say that about any genre of music, let along metal).
The first song ‘No Grave is Deep Enough’ has the chorus ‘O death! Where are you teeth? That gnaw the bones of fabled men. O Death! Where are you claws? That haul me from the grave.’ and ends with a great lyric: ‘Rise, my brothers, rise from your graves. No grave is deep enough to keep us enchained.’ I just had the thought that this could so easily refer to the Croppies’ Acre.
Croppies’ Acre is an enclosure situated in front of Collins Barracks in Dublin city centre. It was in this small patch of ground where hundreds, some say over one thousand, of Irish men were buried in one mass grave after the 1798 rebellion. They were mercilessly tortured, marched out to their soon-to-be graves in heavy chains, before being executed for ‘being’ rebels. Then, their corpses were thrown into a mass grave. Made an example of by the British authorities, buried in unconsecrated ground, their memory erased, forgotten about by not only the British but also the Irish themselves, the souls buried underneath that patch of grass are still very angry. I’ve been told by psychics that many of those souls have not yet passed on into the next world. Such was the injustice served to them that they can only but wait for those wrongs to be righted, or avenged.
I, as well as many others, remember them. We have not forgotten. I believe they know this. And I hope they also know that no grave is deep enough to keep them enchained.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta is on the maiden voyage of the Madaraka Express. China officially handed over the Standard Gauge Railway to Kenya at a special ceremony. High-level Kenyan and Chinese dignitaries have praised the project as a sign of deepening relations between the two countries. The SGR is the biggest infrastructure project in Kenya since independence. It runs over 4-hundred and 72-kilometres between the port of Mombasa and the capital, Nairobi. The railway will reduce the travel time from 10 hours to less than five. The name - Madaraka Express -translates as independence, freedom or liberty. Chinese and Kenyan leaders have lauded the project, which is one of the first outcomes of the ambitious Belt and Road Intitiative.
One of the stops along the route is Mtito Andei. It's the nearest station to the Tsavo National Park. President Kenyatta is expected to stop here on the inaugural journey later on Wednesday. Kathryn Omwandho reports.
Kenya's standard gauge rail line is an ambitious project, that has taken five years to build. The SGR is Built and funded by China, and the rail line is part of China's bridge and road initiative CTGN's Robert Nagila went to the streets of Nairobi to find out what Kenyans think of this mega project
Kenya is about to witness its first modern railway. The Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, or SGR, will massively boost the country's economic growth, and possibly the whole of East Africa. The railway, which is built according to Chinese standards, is another great example of China-Africa cooperation. Here is more on that story
The train is not just a milestone for Kenyan construction, but for gender equality too. Eight women were selected to go to China to learn how to drive the SGR. Four of them will be driving the inaugural train. CGTN's Maria Galang met one of these extraordinary ladies.
There's a lot of excitement in Nairobi since in a matter of hours, the new SGR train will be arriving in the Kenyan capital. CGTN's Kane Kiyo is at the Nairobi Terminal to share the excitement.
As the Kenyan President officially launches the first phase of the new Standard Gauge Railway, Kenyans say the new raiway will not only improve lives but make it easier to do business.
On the vast African savannah, a steel dragon crawls through the terrain. It is part of the East African Master Plan - the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway. By introducing Chinese standards, technology, equipment and management to this fast-growing continent, Chinese builders are also bringing hope and love to the people. Today we will visit Maasai Primary School near the Nairobi South station, and listen to their story
Local manufacturers in Kenya have been major beneficiaries of the just launched Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway. Already, 40% sourcing of materials was dedicated to the local market, generating inflows of about 95 million dollars. Now that Kenya's first modern railway is complete, local players are still set to win big. Earlier on, I had a chat with the CEO of Kenya's manufacturers association, Phyllis Wakiaga, about the benefits of this project to the country's manufacturing sector
It is clear that East Africa is a natural extension of the Maritime Silk Road. During the Ming Dynasty, four of the famous admiral Zheng He's seven expeditions reached the east coast of Africa, where they promoted friendship between China and the continent. The Chinese-built Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway had to pass through Tsavo, an important wildlife reserve in Kenya. In this episode, we will see how the Kenyans and the Chinese worked together to guarantee that the project was completed successfully without affecting the local wildlife.
And ordinary kenyans who were lucky to experience the maiden trip have been speaking out as well
First weekend in the city. Glorious day; bright, warm, sunny. Will go and check out the various summer sales going on in the city. Only hitch - short on cash before the first stipend payment. But hey, window shopping doesn't cost a penny! And since I've got the monthly travel card made, travel is also free. So, wait there London city, me cometh.
First day in office, day filled with form-filling and other stuff. The highlight of the day was the walking tour we had around the office with an official walking tour guide. As the gentleman said - "Every stone has some history in London." Starting with the Roman era, to the great fire of 1666, to the Victorian times - the city is filled with relics and monuments. Of course, we Indians do have lot deeper historical roots, but one has to appreciate the way the Western World preserves its past. Makes me sad to think about all the history spread all over India, ruining & dying slow death.
By the way, death does have some part to play in the history of London. All big monuments are either churches, with big grave yards (tombstones are still there, though all the bodies were exhumed and taken out of the city sometime in 1800's) or have someone important murdered there, after elaborate torture, of course. We saw a square where William Wallace, aka Braveheart, was executed.
[..]On 22 August 1305, following the trial, Wallace was taken from the hall, stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to Smithfield Market. He was hanged, drawn and quartered — strangled by hanging but released while still alive, emasculated, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, then cut into four parts — at the Elms in Smithfield. His preserved head was placed on a pike atop London Bridge. It was later joined by the heads of his brother, John, and Simon Fraser. His limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling, and Aberdeen.
Who the hell used to come up with all that. Yikes! And yeah, the guide told us the executions there were still carried out even after London got the tube in 1860s. So you could actually come using the tube to see an execution. Beat that!
First day at the desk - mostly easy. Some stuff to be read and understood. Met almost the entire team. Had lunch at Subway with the two analysts from IIT Delhi. Left early. My manager was not in. London accounts for almost 50% of credit derivatives volume in the world and the volume runs in billion $; sitting on the floor where millions are made and lost was some thrill. Still don't understand many things, but surely this stuff ain't no rocket science!
Eventually got to meet my manager on the next day. Pretty busy and pretty aggressive guy. Heard he joined here after working in Chicago for quite some time. No wonder he is all full of the typical american aggression. Check out the meeting we had recently (all in good humor, mind you. Not really menacing)
Manager: We seriously are f**king around here. What happened to the slide I asked you to do? Subordinate: Oh yeah. I know I was supposed to do it, but I guess it got lost in the process. Manager: Yeah. In your world its "lost in process", in my world its called "f**king around!" See basically you f**k around because I am basically a nice guy.
Only if I could get a penny everytime he says f**k, my cash crunch will be solved for a very long time. Almost the entire desk works pretty hard and leaving before 7-8 is kind of stuff hallucinations are made of. Around me, I keep hearing lots of different languages, seeing lots of different colored people. The office is quite cosmopolitan and location wise its in the downtown London, sitting pretty just opposite the London Stock Exchange.
The place we (six of us: 3 from IIMC, 2 from A and 1 from B) are staying in is pretty cool too! Full of interesting restaurants (Indian, Chinese, Lebanese, Malaysian, blah blah) and shops, its considered among the better residential areas in London. We of course are staying in the company provided service apartments. The room, although a bit on the smaller side, is sufficient and quite comfortable. Usually I take a 15 minute ride in the tube to reach the office. The morning rush is nothing compared to the rush in Mumbai locals or even Kolkata metro.
So there, the routine is almost set and life is good.
The recent World Cup performance by the talented Indian team has stirred the hornet's nest. Heads are rolling in Pakistan and the blame game is just about to start in India. However, I doubt if anything meaningful would come out of it. Ramachandra Guha describes cricket as a "special game" in India in his outstanding book on Indian Cricket - A corner of a foreign field, and one has to agree. More than just another sport, it's now another icon of national pride. When tension mounted between India & Pakistan, Indian government was quick to snap all cricketing ties, however, the Pakistani hockey & TT teams were touring India, that too without a whimper from Thakre and likes. Every year the broadcasting rights for cricket in India are fought over intensely with the amounts going up astronomically. Every cricket match in any corner of India, featuring the Indian team, sometimes even without them, meets full-house with thousands turned down!
If such is the love for the game, how come no one cares a damn about the domestic cricket in India? Before delving deeper, let's see if it is really the "love" of the game or just fanatic following of the home team. The Indian crowd has given diametrically opposing impressions over time. Compare the standing ovation received by the Paki team in the Chennai test and the unruly crowd of Calcutta in the '96 WC Semifinal. So, do people want to see good cricket or they just care for their team's win? The truth lies somewhere between these two extremes. I think, people have some idea (almost fair) about the team's calibre and when they perform below there capability, they face the fan's ire. Indian team's ouster in the first round was definitely below their capabilities. It's not that the fans expected them to win the cup; they were hailed as heroes in the last WC when they played out of their skins to reach the finals, only to get hammered!
Coming back to domestic cricket, one most common argument is that the Ranji Trophy has too many teams, thus diluting the quality of cricket. I quote from the wikipedia page -
Up until the 2002-03 season, the teams were grouped into five zones - North, West, East, Central and South - and initial matches were played within the zones on a league basis. The top teams (two until 1991-92, three after that) from each zone played in a national knock-out competition, leading to a final which decided the winner of the tournament.
Kids playing cricket near Payakara Falls, Ooty
Starting with the 2002-03 season, the zonal system was abandoned and a two-division structure was adopted: the Elite Group and the Plate Group. For the 2006-07 season, the divisions were re-labelled the Super League and Plate League respectively.
The Super League is divided into two groups of eight and seven teams, while the Plate League is divided into two groups of six teams each. In both divisions, the top two teams from each group advance to the knock-out phase. The finalists from the Plate League are promoted to the Super League the next year while the two teams at the bottom of the Super League are relegated.
If this seems too many, we've got Duleep Trophy, with just 5 zonal teams. I quote -
Five Indian zonal teams regularly take part in the Duleep Trophy - North Zone, South Zone, East Zone, West Zone and Central Zone.
The original format was that the five teams played each other on a knock-out basis. From the 1993-94 season, the competition converted to a league format.
From the 2003-04 season onwards, the five original zonal teams competed along with a sixth guest team which was a touring foreign team. The first guest team was England A in 2003-04.
If you say the slow test cricket is the deterring factor, we've got Deodhar Trophy, 50-over one-day competition played on a league basis among the 5 zonal teams since 1973!
So there, we've got all flavors of cricket in the domestic competitions, yet it's not able to pull the apparently cricket crazy crowd of India. It has to do something with the quality of cricket played. The difference of quality between international fixtures & these domestic ones has to be huge, thus not attracting the attention of people. This again is a mind-boggler! Cricket is played almost everywhere in India and yet we can't produce ample number of quality competitors for the domestic cricket? This points towards the callous attitude of cricket governing body in India. We should do more to train & prepare cricketers from their younger days. There is another anamoly here, our under-19 team was among the strongest & in the final of last two U-19 World Cups! How do you explain this decline of form of the same players when they graduate to the big league? It's as if they stop adding value to their cricket while their peers from other countries move on.
There is another deterrent, parents skepticism towards career in professional sports. I don't know if we can tackle this problem in the short run in a third-world developing country like India. May be BCCI can announce some comprehensive scholarships, may be they have these even now. But the fact remains that the parents are scared to let their kids chase their cricketing dreams at the cost of sound academic background, thus increased probability of a decent career.
Another face of the problem is the media coverage of these games. I do get to read about them in the newspaper, however no channel is ready to air these games. We do get to see the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy, but not other games. This again depends on the fact that there aren't many buyers for these games, because these are low quality matches. Some vicious cycle we've got here! We can't relate with these matches, because we can't see them. They can't broadcast the matches, because no one sees them!
These definitely aren't the only problems with the Indian cricket. Still, I feel if we can address these one fast, the Indian cricket will be benefitted a lot and fast. Depleted bench strength & mediocre domestic cricket are holding back Indian cricket big time.
Ever tried getting down a running bus? Yup, the inertia funda. Physics, class XI, CBSE.
My prolonged stay at home, after the months spent at IIMC, has put me in that kind of situation. When I was always chasing deadlines at IIMC, I would have laughed at someone had he suggested that nothingness can bore you. And yet here I am, toppled into the abyss of deep boredom. Despite the long sleeping hours, longer hours spent in front of the TV, the days just don't get over.
And the mercury is rising too! Its tough to imagine that the day I arrived here I slept in a rajayi. Now its almost imbearable to be out in the sun. The ceiling fan is no longer adequate to beat the heat. Glad that I won't be here to face the worst.
All's not lost tho', all the cricket happening about half the globe away keeps me company. The idleness compels me to listen to the pre-match chat show too, not that it makes me any wiser or happier. Tut-tut, India's out; but still the arena is wide open! My predictions: Semifinalists - Aus, SA, SL and NZ & Dream Final - Aus vs SA with SA claiming the cup. Long way to that though.
And I'm reading again. A lot, by my own standards. Some recommendations -
A Corner of a Foreign Field - Amazing work about mostly pre-independence history of cricket in India. Even if the WC debacle left a bitter taste in mouth, don't miss this masterpiece, for the love of the game. Hat's off to Guha for doing all the hard work in researching the anecdotes and stories to present in such lucid form! (and if cricket still fancies you, pick Pundits from Pakistan also!)
Above Average - Doesn't dwell too much on the IIT connection. Very interesting, very piquant. Very nostalgic for any IITian, more so for IITD junta (I guess). Its characters reminded me of many lost faces from my IIT days.
Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan - The story is definitely very thrilling & impressive, though the narration lacks punch. It's told just like a chronological record of facts. Bit drab in parts, still quite enjoyable as a whole.
Being John Mcenroe - Rather than being just descriptive, this book tries to analyze the reasons behind & effects of John Mcenroe on Tennis. Great insights about the genius and his times.
A Short History of Nearly Everything - Masterpiece! Absolute masterpiece! Would appeal to anyone with slightest bend of mind towards Science & tiniest tinge of curiosity towards Nature. Simply unputdownable.
The IITians - Just started this one. Starts on perhaps a bit too laudatory note, but is building up nicely. Should be a good read.
Apart from all this, I've also started reading blogs again. But my BSNL dial-up doesn't allow me to surf much. By the way, till very recent I wasn't aware that you can just put the BSNL phone cable in your laptop, do simple registration once and can start surfing @ ~40 kbps on totally on-use-basis rates! Check out Account free Internet dial up access based on CLI.
All my bags are not yet packed and I'm not yet ready to go, still another week left. But most of my shopping is done, barring some last minute items. Not yet thinking much about the upcoming internship, but I hope it would be interesting time. Reminds me of an ancient Chinese curse - "May you live in interesting times." Hmm, we'll see that.
Couple of things I have to do in London -
Watch a cricket match, county-shounty, anything!
Watch a soccer match. Some decent clubs whose names I know, hopefully.
Visit some typical Irish pubs (just to check out the atmo, Mom!)
Buy long-pending lenses for my camera and click loads of pictures.
Travel a bit. Bath, Oxford, some coastal towns, perhaps.
It has been awhile, but I'm back with one of my old reliable meals. This recipe is actually from an episode of Thirty Minute Meals I saw years ago, when I could stand Rachel Ray. Since seeing it I have made it several times to happy diners. It is basically a one pot meal, with the pasta cooked to al dente and added at the end. I add the basil last and after really the cooking has been completed so it does not over cook. You could also save some and sprinkle it on directly into the bowl or plate to keep the freshness of the basil. This is one of those quick, but satisfying meals that uses simple ingredients and all the flavors marry well.
4 cans of tuna in oil (I prefer Genova) 2 anchovy fillet in oil 8-10 cloves of minced garlic 2 pounds grape tomatoes 1 pound penne (or any tubular pasta, so the ingredients get in there) 1 bunch basil, chopped Salt and pepper to taste Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Serves 8-10 portions
Our assembled ingredients
Place the four containers of tuna in olive oil over medium heat, adding the anchovies for saltiness and depth of flavor.
Add the chopped garlic (I love tons of garlic, so use what you're comfortable using.
Mix the ingredients together for about five minutes.
While that's happening slice your grape tomatoes in half.
Once they are all sliced, add to the pan.
Before slicing the tomatoes, add your pasta to the boiling water (see background).
When pasta is al dente add it directly to the deep pan.
So @txstrawberry and I have been working on something special- a demigod roleplay story of our two characters, Ashton and Evangeline. Nothing is finalized and it's still ongoing, but I thought I'd post a full first chapter on here before... I hope you guys like it! :) comment down below what you think:) **** Evangeline Stratou just walked through the gates of her first ever demigod camp. It was a whole new experience for her, seeing as she rarely ever left home. She looked around, seeing kids with all different types of abilities practicing their talents. Sword fighting, archery, gymnastics, horseback riding, you name it. It looked like an ordinary camp, but she knew it wasn't. She noticed that her messenger bag was wiggling around, so she held it closer to her body. She may have snuck in her feline companion. What? She needed something to remind her of home. As she continued walking and looking around at the camp, she collided with someone and catapulted backwards onto the soil. "Ouch," she groaned, turning invisible on impact with the ground. She couldn't help it, it was an instinct. "Watch where you're-" she paused, looking up to see whom she collided with. Her soft green eyes widened slightly, the guy was drop dead gorgeous. "Wow," she breathed softly. She slowly reappeared, and pushed herself up, after taking a quick peek into her bag to make sure the animal was alright. "Sorry about that," she looked up at the boy again, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. **** Ashton had been walking through the camp, preparing himself for his next training session. As a child of Ares, fighting and war skills were some things he just had to master. He had been pushing his way through camp, analyzing every camper as they gave him either startled, mesmerized, and terrified looks. He couldn't quite figure out what happened when he felt something small, yet curvy collide into him. He looked around for whatever he bumped into, but he didn't see anything. He shook his head a little, and came to contact with the most stunning pair of green eyes he had ever seen. They glistened with anticipation. The girl had a petite yet curvy figure, as he imagined, with the most luscious brown hair. "Watch where you're- oh I'm sorry, I..u-uh... new..." the girl hesitated while speaking in a soft voice. Ashton rolled his eyes. "Fine. Don't talk to me," he snapped, a darkness clouding his once bright grey eyes. He pushed around her, and headed to the arena to train. That was strange, he thought. **** Evangeline Raised her eyebrows when the boy pushed past her, and headed straight toward the area. "Rude.." she muttered out. She dusted off her jeans and continued walking, trying to find her way around the camp. She was completely lost, but some friendly faces helped her out. Eventually, she ended up in her cabin. It was weird, she thought, how they suited it to her every need. It was a nice room, with black walks and black hardwood floors, decorated with soft, gray furnishings. It even had a cat stand in the corner, which made her even more suspicious of the camp. Evangeline shrugged it off, and set her things down on one of the bunks, letting her cat crawl out of the bag. It meowed up at her, rubbing against her hand, before it jumped down and began to explore. She smiled and went back out onto the porch, looking around with a soft sigh. So this is where I'm going to spend the summer, huh? She thought to herself. She gazed around, and spotted that boy she'd bumped into before. He was leaving the area, glistening with sweat. She wanted to go say hi, but judging by the gloomy look on his face, she figured that he didn't want to be bothered much. **** Ashton had a rough night in the arena. Chiron decided to put him up to a huge challenge, one even the great Percy Jackson could only defeat after his teenage years. Ash had finished the monster at age sixteen. He walked out of the arena, sweat glistening his tanned complexion, causing his t-shirt to stick to his body. One could easily see his defined six-pack with the now see-through white shirt he had been wearing. The rich smell of Old Spice deodorant radiated off of him as his walked back to his cabin in the setting of the sun. He noticed the Aphrodite girls giving him a lustful look, and the girls from all the other cabins giving him either a 'damn,' look, or a 'go away,' look. Everyone was the same though. They all wanted to use him for something. Sighing, he heading down to the dining hall for his dinner, ready to start a new day. As he sat at the end of his table, alone, expecting himself to be alone for the next few hours, but his hopes were crushed when he looked up to see a familiar pair of sparkling green eyes. **** Evangeline watched as the boy walked to the dining hall and sat down at the table all by himself. She felt bad for the boy, and couldn't help but wonder why nobody wanted to sit beside him. Well, after their previous interaction, she had an idea. She hopped down the steps of her cabin and walked over to the dining hall. She cleared her throat when she stood in front of him, holding her hands behind her back. "Uh, hi.." she began, her eyes sparkling as she looked down into the boys clear gray ones. "Do you mind, um, if I sit here?" She asked. She didn't really wait for an answer before she sat down. She noticed that the boy glared at her, but she didn't take it to heart. "You could have just said no, you know." She shrugged her shoulders. Ashton rolled his eyes. "I was trying to say no," he grumbled angrily. Evangeline just shrugged. "Well, you didn't say anything, so..." she bit the inside of her lip, the boy rolling his eyes in utter annoyance. **** Ashton was completely and utterly confused. Why is this girl trying to be his friend? No one ever tried to talk to him. So why start now? He rolled her eyes at her persistence, and soon after, became annoyed at her ability to keep talking and talking and talking. Ashton didn't pay any attention to the green eyed girl, as he continued poking and prodding at his dinner. "Are you even listening?" She had asked. "No." He snapped. She smiled to herself, "You just listened to me! Yes! My name is Evangeline." Ashton couldn't care less. "Ashton. Don't call me Ash. What do you even want anyways?" He nonchalantly spoke, as if he rehearsed this many times. His grey eyes pierced through her gaze, as he leaned in closer to her, heat radiating of his skin, and a alluring smell of him filling the air. He smirked. Ashton liked how her cheeks flushed and she looked down at their proximity. Playing with people was absolutely the most entertaining thing to do. **** Evangeline smiled and talked about her trip to the camp, and how she had managed to snuck a cat in. Halfway through her story, though, she noticed that the boy really didn't seem to be listening. She frowned, looking over at him as he poked at his food. "Are you even listening?" She asked him, a pout still on her lips. "No." He snapped, clearly annoyed with her. But, that made Evangeline smile. "You just listened to me! Yes! My name is Evangeline." She giggled, holding out her hand across the table. Ashton just ignored, it of course, and with a roll of her eyes she pulled her hand back. "Okay then," she sighed. "Ashton. Don't call me Ash. What do you even want anyways?" He nonchalantly spoke, as if he rehearsed this many times. His grey eyes pierced through her gaze, as he leaned in closer to her, heat radiating of his skin, and a alluring smell of him filling the air. He smirked. Ashton, she thought to herself with a smile. It was a really nice name, she liked it. It suited him. "Well, Ash," she began "I just wanted too.." she trailed off, her cheeks flushing when he leaned in closer to her. What in the world.. it seemed as if though his eyes just pierced right into her sole, and he could see all of her deepest and darkest secrets. "U-Um.." she stuttered shyly, quickly dropping her gaze to her pale fingers. It made her feel slightly uncomfortable, being that close to Ashton, but at the same time it was nice. He smelt good, and he was gorgeous, and they were so, so close.. she could just lean in and... she shook her head a little, clearing her thoughts. No. All he would do is break her heart, and that was the last thing she wanted. Evangeline swallowed and slowly looked back up at Ashton, continuing her sentence from before. "I just wanted to try and make a friend, that's all." She murmured, her cheeks still tinged red. **** Ashton thought the girl's blush was cute- which was weird for him, because he never thought anyone was cute, or had the ability to be cute. He shook himself out of his thoughts, and slowly inched away, back to a normal distance. "Well, I'll see you later, Ash," she called out, walking to throw away her trash, and back to her cabin. Hadn't he told her not to call him that? He rolled his eyes, once again. He hadn't been more confused in his entire life. Little did he know that he would be seeing her later. After taking off his shirt, and putting on a pair of basketball shorts, he had bundled himself up, ready for sleep. He crashed after a few seconds, before letting his demigod dreams take place. The dream was a memory. The first time he had ever stood up to his bullies. Ashton flinched at the thought. He saw himself cursing and punching the kids in the corner. He watched himself tie them up and scream what he felt. He watched himself beat each and every one of them to a pulp- the skin of his knuckles tearing and the blood streaming down his arms. He watched the sirens of the police fill the air, and the panic fill his void. He wanted to kill them. To kill.... Ashton bolted out of his sheets. He ripped them off, and snuck it of the cabin. He didn't know where he was going, but he soon found himself in front of the Selene cabin. He barged open the door, only to see the green eyed girl he had seen before. He made contact with her startled eyes first. Then, he saw the blush form on her cheeks. At first, he thought it was because she was surprised. He then he looked at what she was wearing. A tight little tank top with nothing underneath, easily showing off her cleavage in a alluring matter. Her shorts that were too short- they shouldn't even be called shorts. They curved around her rear in a perfect manner, outlining her body in a form he hadn't seen before. Her hair was messy and let down, framing her face in another way he hadn't noticed before. Ashton wanted to hold her. He wanted her. ****
Summer Vacation // Round 01 The Set (x) 2+ pictures of your OC (x) Your OC’s house crest- wampus (x) Your OC’s name somewhere in the set- Alaska Ryde (x) A landscape theme regarding what your OC did during their vacation- yacht/ocean (x) a magazine/newspaper filler (x) One thing that is your OC’s most prized possession - Arctic Monkeys CD she used to listen to with her mom 30//30 The Description (x) Your OC’s name Alaska Ryde (x) Your OC’s house Wampus (x) What year is your OC in? Seventh (x) What did you do in your summer vacation? This must be over two paragraphs Alaska has had enough of her father, so she decides to leave her flat in LA, and spend her summer with her best friend, Dylan, on a yacht to Italy and back. Over the week she had on the yacht, she discovered that she had feelings for Dylan, but she knew she couldn't have him the way she wanted. She was going to turn into her father eventually, she thought. She was going to become a monster. They both explored the realms and secrets of Italy, having the best time of their lives, especially listening to the Arctic Monkey's, as they drove around in Dylan's jeep. Everything changes when Dylan tells her how he feels about her. So she denies everything, and they finally come to the agreement of friends with benefits. But slowly, this escalates to more. She can't hide her feelings any longer, and neither can Dylan. They both keep getting hurt, and they can't stand it. When Aly, otherwise known as Alaska, goes missing on a hike in one of the Italian mountains in Pompeii, Dylan realizes how much he needs her. Day after Day, Dylan's feelings slowly start to turn to stone as the search for Alaska has no change. But when she comes back with another man, he looses it all. He continues the vacation in Italy using his player ways, distracting himself and ignoring Alaska the whole time. Exploring on his own, learning on his own. Alaska and Dylan may never be that inseparable duo again. (x) Tag the mod: @natasha-maree13 (x) Use the hashtag: #ilvermorny2016 (x) Write a scene between 100 – 1000 words about an activity your OC did during your vacation. This could be a day at work or something your OC did whilst travelling. Use dialog Alaska went straight back home right after sixth year ended. She didn't say a word to her teachers or friends. Not even Dylan Hathaway, her best friend. She headed back to her flat in LA, only to see her father, her murderer of a father, making love to another woman. A blonde woman who wore too much make up and looked half his age. She could not stand the sight of her poor excuse of a dad. He was terrible to her. So she did the first thing that came to mind. She trashed the living room, took his credit cards and her bags, and bolted out of the house without even saying goodbye. Again. She did the first thing that came to mind. She called Dylan. "D-Dly... Dlyan..." She whispered, tears surfacing her eyes. However, she did not allow them to fall. Crying is for the weak. "Alaska! Aly! Where the hell were you? You just left without even saying anything! I was so worried! Thank god you called-" He frantically spoke. But then he cut himself off, knowing that something was wrong. "Alaska... what's wrong?" Dylan asked, concern lacing his deep voice. "H-He... was with another woman! He doesn't have feelings! He's probably going to break that poor woman too! He didn't even bother to acknowledge me!" She wept. "Oh, Alaska... I didn't know. Damnit, come over here, I'll help you. We're traveling on the yacht to Italy- yes, the no-maj form of transportation- for dad's business trip. I'm sure he wouldn't mind, because I definitely wouldn't mind. But when I get my hands on that poor excuse of a man who makes you feel like this, who hurts you, who killed his wife, he will pay. I'll make sure of it. He won't hurt you anymore, darling. I promise." Dylan spoke, spitting out the last few sentences. He was shaking with anger- his eyes darkening, as he thought of someone hurting his Alaska. "Okay, Dylan. There will be none of that, but I'll be over in a few. Thank you. You're the bestest best friend ever." She thanked, finally allowing herself to calm down. But, Alaska wanted to be more than just friends. She just new she didn't deserve someone as great as Dylan. 50//50 @natasha-maree13 Bonus (x) Include something with text that is not the magazine/newspaper filler (x) Include another OC that belongs to someone else in your story- Dylan Hathaway 10//10
1. The Original Showrunner Thought It Wouldn't Last Past Season One
The Simpsons is one of the longest running shows of all time, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that it's the greatest television show ever made period. (If you disagree, I hate you...) Ironically, this might be due to the fact that the show's original showrunner, Sam Simon, didn't think that the show would make it past season one. When in the writer's room, Simon was said to tell his employees that their fledgling show would be "13 and out," meaning that the show probably wouldn't return after its initial order. Though this way of thinking annoyed series creator Matt Groening, who view Simon as being a defeatist, Simon claims that he was actually just trying to make the best show he could. By making the writers believe the show had no future, it allowed them to focus on the sole goal of making 13 great episodes of television that they would be truly proud of. This arguably contributed to the show's quality which, in turn, contributed to the show's unfathomable popularity. Apparently, focusing on quality is a good way to make something that's actually good. Who woulda thunk it?
2. Marge's Hair Used To Hide Secrets...Incredibly Stupid Secrets...
Matt Groening is responsible for some of the greatest television ever created. It's weird therefore that his instincts about his own properties are often....odd. Take for example the story behind Marge's iconic hairdo. It's pretty well known at this point, but it's worth noting because MATT GROENING ORIGINALLY WANTED TO REVEAL THAT MARGE WAS A FUCKING BUNNY RABBIT!Matt Groening came to prominence with the comic strip Life In Hell and it seems to have taken him a while to realize that once The Simpsons came along, nobody could give less of a shit about his stupid comic. As such, Groening wanted to reference the strip (which prominently featured rabbits) by having Marge take down her beehive and reveal a pair of bunny ears underneath. Sam Simon quickly shot down the idea because, well, he wasn't a psychopath, but there's an alternate universe where the greatest show in history was ruined by the stupidest reveal conceivable.
3. There's A VERY Dirty Easter Egg In Apu's Alma Mater
The Simpsons writers can cram so many jokes into a single frame that it would be impossible for a mere mortal to catch them all. This was the case with the episode Much Apu About Nothing. In it, Apu gives the story about how he came to be an illegal alien living in America. One of the thing he mentions is the fact that he studied at Springfield Heights Institute of Technology. It's a small moment, and one that you're probably not likely to take a second glance at...at least that was the case with censors who didn't notice that the initials for Apu's university spell out "SHIT." Is this the most clever thing The Simpsons has ever done? Not by a long shot. But it's always fun to see just how deep the show's humor can get.
4. Manjula Appeared In A Flashback TWO SEASONS Before Her Actual Debut
Speaking of Much Apu About Nothing, there's another fun easter egg in there. The episode predicted more than just America's rise towards jingoistic nationalism: It actually gave us our first glimpse at Majula two seasons before her proper debut. When Apu is telling his story about leaving India, he includes a part where he bids goodbye to a young girl and apologizes for not being able to marry her. To people watching the show at the time, it seems like a small, mildly racist joke, but two seasons later the little girl returns as Apu's now adult, arranged wife, Manjula. Majula then goes on to be a fairly major character on the show, with several episodes revolving around her and Apu's relationship....none of those episodes are particularly good and she's arguably the most banal character in the entire series, but it's still a fun easter egg nonetheless.
5. Milhouse Is Named After History's Greatest Monsters
6. The Couch Gags Serve More Purpose Than You Realize
One of the most iconic parts of The Simpsons is their couch gags which are different every episode...You know, except when they aren't. Fans of the earlier episodes might notice that there's one couch gag that's reused more than all others. It features the family in a circus setting and is noticeably longer than most other openers. Why is this the one that gets recycled, you ask? Well, let's just say that when you're creating something as jam packed and ingenious as The Simpsons it can be hard to reach the minimum required runtime. As such, they would often use the nebulous nature of the couch gag to pad out an episode, piping in elongated ones like the one at the circus as they needed. Basically, even the filler on The Simpsons is better than most other things on TV.
7. Dustin Hoffman Is Credited With A Very Funny Pseudonym
Moe is one of the greatest characters in a show full of great characters. He's popular enough that most of you would probably know the answer if I asked you to say his last name. What you may not know is that he didn't get that last name until season 6 for the sole purpose of throwing off the audience. In the epic two parter, "Who Shot Mr. Burns?", the major clue as to the identity of the shooter revolved around the fact, after being shot, Mr. Burns passed out with his arms pointing to the W and the S of the town sundial.
9. Two Members Of The Main Family Have Been The Subject Of TV Movies
One of the fun parts about The Simpsons is that the family's exploits can grow so large that they actually make national news within the world of the show. This can be seen in the fact that both Homer AND Bart have been the subjects of two unrelated, made for TV movies. The first of these focused on Bart after he was accused of murdering Principal Skinner. The film was aptly called Blood on the Blackboard and it starred a young child actor named Neil Patrick Harris as Bart.
The season 11 episode, Behind The Laughter, was an off the wall,meta-masterpiece that also probably should have served as the show's series finale.Unfortunately, it did not and the show returned season after season to diminishing returns. In a humorous nod to the show's apparent decline in quality, one of the last scenes episode, we see Homer in an editing room watching a cut of an episode in which Lisa excitedly declares, "The Simpsons are going to Delaware!" It's funny because no show would actually base an episode on the family winning a trip to the most boring state in the union...except, they totally do!
Exactly one season later, The Simpsons do, in fact, win a trip to Delaware!The show reuses the audio that was presented as an example of the show's lack of ideas and work it into an actual episode. Granted, it's clearly done ironically and the majority the episode is an anthology about tall tales, but the instance is still fun to think about. Not only is it a fun callback to an earlier episode, but it also seems to serve as infuriating evidence that even the writers knew that the show was beginning to lose its luster.
11. You Can Apparently Find Waldo Hiding In Springfield
The Simpsons is so jam packed with references that watching it can you're reading a Where's Waldo book....Sometimes, literally!The classic children's character has shown up as a sight gag on at least two unrelated occasions.
The first of these occurs in the episode "Bart's Comet" when the entire town of Springfield is crammed into a tiny bomb shelter. See if you can spot him:
The bestriped traveler appears again a few seasons later in the episode "Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder." Homer plays looks at a Where's Waldo? book and fails to find him, only to have the actual character walk around behind him outside the kitchen window:
So, is the show trying to tell us that Waldo exists in the world of The Simpsons and is, in fact, a resident of Springfield? No of course not. These are clearly just two unrelated sight gags...A guy can dream, though.
Arizona was blessed with a deeper farm system than major league roster. At the ML level, the Geckos have a respectable lineup, led by veterans Chip Herrera and Stew Dunston. However, the ML pitching cupboard was left bare for the Geckos, with the team having to plug pitching holes with three, count 'em, THREE rule five draft picks. The team's success this year will hinge on getting strong performances out of some uncertain pitching at the ML level.
Although not boasting any blockbuster stars-in-waiting there are several solid pitching prospects three or four years away from ML, led by Ubaldo DaSilva, Butch Pierce and Chad Murphy. There are also a stable of positional prospects, led by 3B Carmen Mitchell.
The latest act on the Las Vegas Strip is the new baseball franchise the Daredevils. They have their eyes set for the season 1 championship with future all-stars: Lou Dunn, a top notch 2B in his prime: Yeico Hernandez, a young power hitter that might take both the gold glove and Silver slugger at 3B; and Bernie Federowicz, a CF who will have fun in Vegas with 100 patience and no temper. In preliminary scouting they will surely take the NL West even with holes in pitching and the lack of a cleanup hitter. The pitching will get a lot better as soon as future ace Herb Stone is ML ready.
The Kingfishers has decided to go young. Really young. Waived most ML postion players and promote from within. They did not sign a single free agent or make a trade. Only future star in the field is 21 year-old 2B Aubrey Stottlemyre he will be an allstar in a year or two. The franchise was given the gift of pitching, and they have promoted all of that ptiching up to the ML level producing one of the best young rotations in the NL. 31 year-old Ace Alfredo Vargas will be the leader of this team, 26 year-old Jimmie Whitaker is decent but won’t get any better, 23 year-old Jimmie McGowan is ML-league ready and will get better; 25 year-old Seth Zimmermancould get really good, and 21 year-old Gus Ni will be a stud when he develops. The Kingfishers will win alot of low scoring games, and are looking forward to the 6th pick in the draft.
The initial prognosis for this team was "Cellar Dweller" so I immediately started trading off assets to cut payroll and build for the future. At some point, I started to feel like I could compete so I took on a contract and signed 2 free agents. The big problem the franchise faced was in the low minors. No talent was in the pipeline, so I've been working to trade AAA players and above for LowA and HighA players to ensure that a few years from now I'll have a few players to promote to the bigs.
Key Loss: Chien-Ming Meng - Trading him to CIN may turn out to be a huge mistake.
The additions of Lopez, Melhuse, and Puffer will allow the Miners to keep a few prospects in the minors for another season, giving the franchise control over the players for another year. These defensive additions hopefully will help shore up our pitching staff until our minor league talent gets promoted to the Bigs.
Outlook - If the cards fall right, we could be a few games over .500 and could possibly contend for a wild-card. But that's going to take some luck. Our goal is to play .500 baseball this year.
An exhibition of the Aalto University course: Crystal Flowers in Halls of Mirrors: Mathematics meets Art and Architecture
The final exhibition of the transdisciplinary course at Aalto University is a concrete opening to enhance the interaction between scientific and artistic practices. It aims to break clichés related to mathematics by bringing deep phenomena of the field to the level of human experience.
Open-minded collaboration across the conventional barriers between disciplines enables the pursuit of diverse goals and aims. The exhibition also presents inspiring examples and ideas of new directions for education, from early childhood to research level. Students on the course come from different Schools of Aalto from freshmen to PhD students.
“Sensual Mathematics” is an expression of an intimate, inseparable relation between the sensual and the rational approaches of each team of students towards low dimensional geometry and topology.
The vertical artworks of the exhibition create a natural space inviting the visitor to wander into its forest-like growth.
The focus of the dissertation is on achieving change in the existing architectural outdoor lighting design paradigm by introducing the use of heuristic metaphors, modern - and also forgotten lighting design tools in practical architectural lighting design projects.
M.Sc. (arch) Julle Oksanen will defend his dissertation Design Concepts in Architectural Outdoor Lighting Design Based on Metaphors as a Heuristical Tool on Wenesday 18 August 2017.
Opponent: PhD, prof. Ihab Elzeyadi, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Custos: prof. Anssi Joutsiniemi, Aalto University Department of Architecture
Discussion will be in English
Architectural outdoor lighting design is currently based on strictly rule and system oriented technical lighting design. This method is totally impervious to external feedback and creative aesthetic development. The focus of the dissertation is on achieving change in the existing architectural outdoor lighting design paradigm by introducing the use of heuristic metaphors, modern - and also forgotten lighting design tools in practical architectural lighting design projects.
The key tool to a successful design solution is “The Law of The Pragmatic Truth”. Pragmatism is a rejection of the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality. Instead, pragmatists develop their philosophy around the idea that the function of thought is that of an instrument or tool for prediction, action, and problem solving. We design buildings today according to these laws, although we now know that they are not theoretically perfect, they are however, precise enough for practical calculations and work in real life. “The Law of Pragmatic Truth” can be used as a tool to define pragmatic and collectively accepted “tolerances” between scientific research results and practical values in architectural outdoor lighting projects. Wise use of this tool also saves huge amounts of energy in public lighting.
The dissertation presents important and partly new design elements and their development. The dissertation delves deeper into the principle structures of the design core and its elements than the basic practical architectural lighting design tools. It opens the doors for creative aesthetic architectural outdoor lighting design world and can change its paradigm.
This dissertation is a work of interdisciplinary lighting design research, adding art and science in a harmonious and useful combination, focusing on the new paradigm for architectural outdoor lighting. However, it also provides tools and examples for future research on a change of approach to architectural indoor lighting and also for architectural design generally.
The dissertation notice and the published dissertation are placed for public display at theLearning Hub Arabia (Hämeentie 135 C, 5th floor, room 570), at latest 10 days before the defence date.
26 January 2012, Brussels
In recent years, in a rapidly increasing number of both "old" and "new" member states, workers and trade unions have been faced with deeply worrying trends in labour law reform introduced subject to the claim that to make labour markets and regulation more flexible is one of the most appropriate responses to the crisis currently affecting Europe.
On 12 December 2011 in Brussels, the ETUI is organising an expert conference which should deepen our knowledge about the wages paid at the ‘bottom’ of the labour market in European countries. Invited experts will discuss the empirics and also more theoretical questions relating to wage and employment outcomes.
The current policy debate on the debt crisis in Greece has so far focused mostly on macroeconomic aspects and on whether the Greek government has sufficient political capital to deliver the reforms agreed with the European Commission and the IMF for receipt of financial aid. The ETUI, at the September gathering of its Monthly Forum, will provide an alternative perspective on this issue by looking into some of the distributional implications of the fiscal austerity and deep recession currently experienced by the Greek economy.
➡🖒⛧Well worth a listen!⛧🖒⬅. Robots moving deeper into the American workplace—how much decision-making will we turn over to machines? For all the change that has come with the digital revolution – in the ways we work and communicate and do business – the real impact still lies ahead. Computers – machines themselves – are become […]
Please tell me you're watching the new season of Twin Peaks.
Like nearly everyone else my jaw is still on the floor after last night's episode. All the more so since it seems to very closely align with a topic I explored in great detail last year and that's the explosion of the atom bomb seeming to open some kind of doorway that allowed something dangerous to enter into our reality.
And whatever it is that crossed over seems to possess us and use us to its own ends, as we seem to be seeing in recent posts.
Lynch paints this picture in a way that simultaneously feels like a fever dream, Stanley Kubrick's lost masterpiece and some kind of bizarre MK Ultra conditioning session. As we'll see, this episode drew heavily on the work of Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano's Outer Limits, so much so that it played like a tribute.
It's going to take time to sort through but this series seems like a oracle. It feels less like television and more like revelation. Lynch is tapped into something very deep, very dark and very important.
And it's only because of the conjunction of Chris Cornell's death and the return of Twin Peaks that I got thrown back down the Siren's well. I really thought I was done and good with the story but it so happened that the story wasn't done with me.
It wasn't until I started putting some of the pieces together that I began to see how Twin Peaks, Chris Cornell and the Siren's song have been locked in a spiderweb of synchronicity since the very beginning.
Pay attention here- someone may be trying to tell us a story in the same nonlinear manner David Lynch is telling the new Twin Peaks.
Chris Cornell 's only acting credit is the Cameron Crowe film Singles. He appears onscreen with Bridget Fonda.
Bridget Fonda also appears onscreen with Bill Pullman in Singles.
Bill Pullman appears in the David Lynch film, Lost Highway, which features Elizabeth Fraser's version of 'Song to the Siren' UPDATE: Still don't believe in the dark power of the Siren's Song? In Lost Highway,Bill Pullman plays a musician falsely accused of murdering his wife, played by Patricia Arquette (who was cast as Jeff Buckley's mother in an unproduced biopic). Though never really explained it's implied that the Mystery Man, played by Robert Blake, is responsible for the murder. In May 2002- same month the Jeff Buckley biography Everyone Here Wants You aired on British television- Robert Blake was accused of murdering his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakely, in back of a restaurant in Los Angeles.
Just months after David Lynch's Mulholland Dr - a film about an actress (Naomi Watts†) who has her lover killed - had depicted a memorable scene about a looming horror in back of a Los Angeles restaurant. Mulholland Dr was originally produced as a TV movie after Lynch made Lost Highway. Blake was acquitted on account of there was no evidence to tie him to the crime, and the only testimony came from two stuntmen associated with Bakely's former lover, the convicted murderer Christian Brando. Brando shot and killed his sister's lover at Marlon Brando's residence on- wait for it- Mulholland Dr. And "Bakely?"
The name Bakley belongs to the early history of Britain, its origins lie with the Anglo-Saxons. It is a product of their having lived in any of the places named Buckley, or Buckleigh, in England.
Bakely's daughters later successfully sued Blake for wrongful death. Lost Highway was Jack Nance's last role. He died under mysterious circumstances before the film was released. David Lynch produced a documentary in his honor, released 2002.
A special thanks to longtime Shemsu Sunner Devin. I knew there was something I was overlooking.
Patricia Arquette is featured in the Lost Highway's'Song to the Siren' scene.
Arquette also stars in True Romance, which she plays the lover of a young man who is channeling Elvis Presley, who died in Memphis and whose statue overlooks the site of Jeff Buckley's death. Arquette was cast to play Jeff Buckley's mother in the unproduced docudrama Mystery White Boy. True Romance also features Brad Pitt and this memorable use of Chris Cornell's MDD anthem, 'Outshined'.
Brad Pitt appears in Jeff Buckley documentary Everybody Here Wants You, which also features Elizabeth Fraser.
David Duchovny played a cross-dressing FBI agent on Twin Peaks. He'd later play another FBI agent onThe X-Files.
Duchovny would later be replaced on The X-Files by Robert Patrick, brother of original Nine Inch Nails guitarist Richard Patrick (whose band Filter recorded the rock theme for the first X-Files movie). Robert Patrick first appears on X-Files same episode 'Scully's Theme' first heard, which was based on Elizabeth Fraser's 'Song of the Siren'.
Don Davis, who portrayed Major Garland Briggs on Twin Peaks, appeared as Scully's father on The X-Files. Davis's first appearance on The X-Files was in 'Beyond the Sea', which also guest-starred Brad Dourif.
Brad Dourif appeared in Blue Velvet, the film where Lynch tried and failed to secure rights to Elizabeth Fraser's version of 'Song to the Siren'. That film starred Laura Dern, who also appears on the new Twin Peaks.
Laura Dern first appears in Episode 6, which also features this very Blue Velvet-like performance by Balthazar Getty, Patricia Arquette's lover during Lost Highway's playing of 'Song to the Siren'.
David Bowie appears in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Nine Inch Nails appear on Twin Peaks episode that centers around a locust chimera that possesses a girl through the mouth. The Nine Inch Nails' album The Downward Spiral was released the same day as Soundgarden's Superunknown. Trent Reznor appears in 2014 documentary Beautiful Noise, about Cocteau Twins and the movement they inspired. Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden toured together in 2014. They opened in Las Vegas. Downward Spiral, which was recorded at Manson-massacre house 10050 Cielo Drive, features a sample from the originalTexas Chainsaw Massacre on the song 'Reptile'.*
Texas Chainsaw Massacre's 2003 remake features cover of Fraser's cover of "Song to the Siren." David Bowie and Trent Reznor sang "Reptile" as a duet on their 1995 tour.
Three days before Downward Spiral released Jeff Buckley and Elizabeth Fraser began their love affair in Atlanta, sparked by Fraser's version of 'Song to the Siren'.
Fraser is from the Falkirk council area of Scotland, which boasts two enormous statues of the Kelpie, the Scottish water-demon version of the Siren, that shapeshifts from horse to human. Falkirk is a half-hour's drive from Rosewell, the town that borders the Rosslyn Chapel.
In the final scene of Episode 8, the possessed young girl is mesmerized by the incantation of a demon who chants an incantation that wouldn't sound out of place on Garlands:
"This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within."
Like the Sirens and the mermaids, the entity is a chimera of a frog and a locust, both plagues that Moses brought down on Egypt in Exodus. Elizabeth Fraser's only solo releases are the singles 'Underwater' and 'Moses'.
The girl in Twin Peaks is played by Tikaeni Faircrest. Tikeani is an Inuit word meaning "Wolf."
After the girl is possessed you hear horses in the desert. Or perhaps it's the Kelpie.
• Blue Velvet released. Includes'Mysteries of Love', song written when Lynch was unable to license 'Song of the Siren'. September 1986 • Ccoteau Twins release Love's Easy Tears EP September 1986.
• Elizabeth Fraser's first child born September 1989
• Soundgarden release first major label album Louder than Love,September 5, 1989 • Julee Cruise releases her first album Floating into the Night, featuring debut of Twin Peaks theme 'Falling'. Also features 'Mysteries of Love'. Released September 12, 1989 • Nine Inch Nails releases first single, 'Down in It',September 15, 1989
• Jeff Buckley moves to New York February 1990 • Andrew Wood dies of overdose March 1990 • Twin Peaks premieres April 1990 • Lynch's Wild at Heart is shown at Cannes. Laura Dern stars. May 1990
• Elizabeth Fraser and Jeff Buckley first meet in New York's Roseland Ballroom, April 1991
• Jeff Buckley makes his public debut at a tribute to late father Tim Buckley in April 1991
• Chris Cornell releases Temple of the Dog, tribute to late friend Andrew Wood, in April 1991
• Twin Peaks put on hiatus April 1991 (canceled June)
• Elizabeth Fraser and Jeff Buckley begin relationship March 5, 1994 in Atlanta.
• Superunknown by Soundgarden and The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails released March 8, 1994
• Kurt Cobain is murdered April 5, 1994. Body is discovered morning of April 8, 1994. Cocteau Twins tape appearance on Tonight Show that same afternoon. • Soundgarden play in Paris that night, where Cocteau Twins' death-omen "Road, River and Rail" is set.
• Holy Matrimony opens same day, starring Lost Highway's Patricia Arquette and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Levitt would later star in UFO-themed Mysterious Skin which features Cocteau Twins' 'Crushed' and score by Cocteau Twin (and Fraser's ex-husband) Robin Guthrie
• Trent Reznor clashes in media with Courtney Love over liaison, Spring 1995
• Courtney Love and Jeff Buckley date, Spring- Summer 1995
• David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails tour begins featuring duet on 'Reptile'
early September 1995
• Cocteau Twins release Elizabeth Fraser's love letters to Jeff Buckley, Twinlights and Rilkean Dreams, September 1995
• Lost Highway, featuring 'Song of Siren' released February 1997
• The X-Files airs UFO-capture two-parter in March 1997, guest-starring Tom O'Brien, who later stars on The Dead Zone, whose theme song is Jeff Buckley's 'New Years Prayer', from album co-produced by Chris Cornell.
• Chris Cornell quits Soundgarden in April 1997
• Elizabeth Fraser records 'Teardrop', a love letter to Jeff Buckley, same day he drowns in May 1997
• Twin Peaks revival announced 2014 • Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails tour together 2014 • Cocteau Twins documentary Beautiful Noise released 2014.
• X-Files Season 11 schedule announced May 15, 2017
• Chris Cornell dies near site of Siren-like legend May 18, 2017 • Twin Peaks, the Return Premieres May 21, 2017, featuring Cocteau Twins wannabe's Chromatics • 70th anniversary of Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting, June 24, 2017 • Nine Inch Nails appear on interdimensional-themed episode of Twin Peaks, June 25, 2017 • Elizabeth Fraser to make first public appearance in 5 years, July 23, 2017, the day of the rising of Sirius, to talk about Blue Bell Knoll, whose title comes from fairy lore. * The published lyrics for the song NIN played on Twin Peaks reuses a lyric from 'Reptile': "she leaves a trail of honey to show me where she's been." That line is not on the final recording. Spirit possession, honey, mouth, locusts. Oh, plus gold that isn't really gold. Why does that all sound so familiar?
† Naomi Watts is married to my wife's second cousin, Liev Schreiber. Bonnie Lee Bakely is from my old stomping grounds Morristown, which is also Richard Hoagland's birthplace.
"The lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither speaks nor conceals,
but gives signs."- Heraclitus, on Apollo
From the very beginning I saw this story as one somehow centered on some kind of possession or channeling.And now that seems to be the only explanation for this endless parade of omen and ancient symbolism of the love goddess and her shepherd-boy consort. And it only gets stranger and more impossible. In truth, I suspected Elizabeth Fraser was channeling something entirely different as soon as I heard "Sugar Hiccup" back in 1983. I grew up around professional musicians- my mother was a trained soprano- and I heard a hell of a lot of music. But somehow I knew something seemed to have come here from somewhere else. It wasn't just me- you hear the phrase "otherworldly" used quite a lot to describe her singing. Even then it felt like something was revealing itself, something very big and strange, through this shy, vulnerable, troubled girl (she was only 19 when she sang "Hiccup") with the mile-wide howl and her art-damaged bandmates. I just had no idea how big and strange it truly was. UNDER APHRODITE'S SPELL
Nope, doesn't look possessed at all. No, sir.
Now, Elizabeth Fraser loved Jeff Buckley. I mean she really loved him. I mean she really, really, really loved him. This isn't conjecture on my part. She talked about it in interviews, saying her love for him was an "addiction" and that she was "maniacal." She sang that she was a "junkie" for him. Twice. Five years after his death she appeared in the "widow role" on a BBC documentary on Buckley and it was painfully clear that that love still burned inside her.
This is the kind of love that poets used to write epics about. The kind of love that Innana had for Dumuzi, that Selene had for Endymion, that Isis had for Osiris. The kind of love city-states used to go to war over. She sang about this love. A lot. She wrote an entire EP about it, made a heart-wrenching (and startlingly-prophetic) longform music video about it, dedicated an entire album to it, and eventually wrote the best-known song of her career about it, a song which tens of millions of people have heard. And again, she recorded that song the day Buckley died.
So bear all this in mind as we take a deeper look into the prophetic foreshadowing in the Cocteau Twins' music and this increasingly impossible avalanche of omen and symbol, all leading to what very much looks like a real-time god-LARP of the one of the oldest stories known to history- one that's been retold many different times in many different places- the love of the Love Goddess for a doomed shepherd-boy. It's a story upon which the world's first great empire rose and fell.
And of course Apollo is both the god of song and music and the god of prophecy.
He was also known as Apollo Lyceus, or "Apollo the Wolf God." One of the grand old theaters in Memphis was named in honor of Apollo Lyceus, The Lyceum.
Apollo's powers of prophecy came from a very interesting source, one that will play an important role in the story about to unfold here.
The Homeric Hymn to Apollo acknowledges that Apollo's gift of prophecy first came to him from three bee maidens, usually but doubtfully identified with the Thriae, a trinity of pre-Hellenic Aegean bee goddesses.
Apollo imparted his prophecies to the rest of us through channeling and his oracles were variously known as the Sibyls or the Pythia ("Pythoness"). The latter of whom, before some asshole had to get all rapey, were originally teenaged girls (like Fraser was when she first recorded Garlands):
The Pythia (or Oracle of Delphi) was the priestess who held court at Pytho, the sanctuary of the Delphinians, a sanctuary dedicated to the Greek god Apollo. Pythia were highly-regarded, for it was believed that she channeled prophecies from Apollo himself, while steeped in a dreamlike trance.
A Roman historian described how this channeling came about:
At last Apollo mastered the breast of the Delphian priestess ; as fully as ever in the past, he forced his way into her body, driving out her former thoughts, and bidding her human nature to come forth and leave her heart at his disposal.
(F)irst the wild frenzy overflowed through her foaming lips ; she groaned and uttered loud inarticulate cries with panting breath ; next, a dismal wailing filled the vast cave ; and at last, when she was mastered, came the sound of articulate speech... ” - Lukan- The Civil Wars
"Elizabeth, we'd like to speak with Apollo now..."
Now, again- see if all of that there- "loud, inarticulate cries with panting breath" and all the rest of it- doesn't sound a bit like this.
Perhaps more than anyone else, Elvis is nearly synonymous with Las Vegas. He first played there in 1956 (a month before appearing at the Carnival Memphis) and later began a long residency in the Dog Days of 1969 at the Las Vegas International which would eventually see him give over 700 performances there. There was even an Elvis Presley Museum in Vegas. There are still Elvis Wedding Chapels there.
And just as there is one overlooking the exact spot where Jeff Buckley ascended to Heaven, there is also an Elvis statue in Las Vegas.
It was quite noticeable that he was borne along by a divine inspiration when he spoke, when from this so wise a mouth flowed in waves the words, which flew like flakes of snow. Then it seemed that his eyes filled with a shining splendor, and all over his face spread rays of a divine illumination. - Marsinus on Proclus, author of On the Signs of Divine Possession
And then there is the question of glossolalia, for which Fraser was world-famous:
Fraser's distinctive singing has earned her much critical praise; she was once described as "the voice of God." Her lyrics range from straightforward English to semi-comprehensible sentences (glossolalia) and abstract mouth music. For some recordings, Fraser has said that she used foreign words without knowing what they meant – the words acquired meaning for her only as she sang them.
So by assembling lyrics out of words in foreign languages she didn't understand, Fraser was literally "speaking in tongues." And it's in this and her use of glossolalia that Fraser was once again acting in the exact same manner as the ancient oracles:
Neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus linked glossolalia to prophecy, writing that prophecy was divine spirit possession that "emits words which are not understood by those that utter them; for they pronounce them, as it is said, with an insane mouth and are wholly subservient, and entirely yield themselves to the energy of the predominating God."
And again, Fraser herself told the New Musical Express in 1984 that she felt as if she were channeling some other entity and that her songs seemed to write themselves. Mind you, this is not a woman who was given to hyperbole or self-aggrandizement.
The Sibyl with raving mouth utters solemn, unadorned, unlovely words, but she reaches out over a thousand years with her voice by force of the god within her. - Heraclitus
The breath of God in my mouth
A love you can taste, God, get some paste
He and I, breath to breath -"Seekers who are Lovers"
This is really a work-in-progress here so forgive me as I go over a lot of the material.
But please be aware we're getting grade-A hits here. This isn't some kind of "well, if A=B, then 5=ham sandwich" kind of leaping and stretching. There's no tortured Gematria wrangling or King Kill horseshoe tossing.
It's all so right on the nose- past the point of overkill- that it's actually terrifying to me.
UPDATE: Like this- the flower on the cover of Lullabies is the Calla Lily,a poisonous flower also called "The Green Goddess." (H/T Persephone J)
Calla lilies have become a common favorite in wedding ceremonies, but in contrast, lilies are also associated with death. They were often used on the graves of youths who suffered an untimely death.
When Venus, goddess of love, beauty, and desire, saw the lilies she was jealous of their beauty. She cursed their beauty by placing a large yellow pistil in the middle of the flowers. Because of this story, some associate the calla lily with Venus and thus with lust and sexuality.
Lullabies is the EP the Cocteau Twins put out in 1982 after Garlands (again, Jeff Buckley died on Garlands Day, when sacrifices used to made to ocean gods). We looked at it before but we really need to look at it again.
And guess what? That's exactly what Apollo imparted onto his oracles. Exactly like someone or something seems to imparted onto the young Elizabeth Fraser.
And as some have noted- including Federico Garcia Lorca- lullabies have often been associated with death.
Now we get to the truly frightening part of the program.
"The Pythia resembles a shamaness at least to the extent that she communicates with her [deity] while in a state of trance, and conveys as much to those present by uttering unintelligible words." Martin Litchfield West, The Orphic Poems
And that's the incredibly-witchy 'Alas Dies Laughing'. What I wrote previously:
After two attempts at conventional choruses, the song breaks down into a bridge that has (a pre-transformation) Fraser moaning like the Pythia as the fumes rise. After the breakdown, she dispenses with the niceties and lapses into a repetitive chant about exactly how Alas died laughing:
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one (Note: I've listened to this song many times now and am convinced she's singing "Wake takes a lonely one" only she's Liz'ing the hell out of the syllables. It makes more sense with the rest of the lyrics- bone, stone, on)
I really should have taken a closer look at the verses though, because they are absolutely mind-boggling.I had to listen to this song about a hundred times to get the lyrics right but it was worth it. And note that like the Pythia, Fraser sounds like she's a trancelike state for the entire EP, even though she belted these songs out live like a trouper. It's actually unnerving. Especially on these lyrics:
The first thing I'd like to do here is reframe this narrative. The prism we should see this through is that of the story of the theme song to what was at one time the most watched television show in the world, namely House MD. And subsequently we're also looking at the backstory of a music video that's gotten over 48 million views on YouTube. Those are Beyonce numbers. So rather than try to figure out why this incredibly strange and impossible chain of events has focused on a couple singers most people have never heard of, let's approach it all under that context. This is a story tens of millions of people have been exposed to without realizing what it is they're hearing. I'd also like to let it be known that this isn't a story that ended twenty years ago. As we've seen Chris Cornell- whose death continues to make headlines- somehow found himself wound up in all this, both through his close relationship with Jeff Buckley but also through his unlikely connection to the mythos we're unfolding here. And into the midst of it all comes the announcement that Elizabeth Fraser is appearing at Royal Albert Hall in July:
John Grant will chat to Cocteau Twins vocalist Elizabeth Fraser about her iconic indie group’s 1988 album, Blue Bell Knoll, with all proceeds from the show going to gay rights charity Stonewall.
The event on Sunday 23 July is a rare chance to see Fraser talk about her distinctive, indelible music, which influenced an entire generation of performers, including Grant, with his exquisite electro-balladeering.
I really don't know where to start. I couldn't possibly make up an event more symbolically loaded. Is someone actually fucking with me here?
(Robert Anton) Wilson is primarily responsible for bringing the 23 enigma to public attention. Wilson in turn partly became obsessed with the number 23 after supposedly receiving telepathic messages from an alien race based upon Sirius after performing a Crowley-inspired ritual on July 22, 1973. The next morning he found a peculiar message in his 'magickal diary' stating "Sirius is very important." This led Wilson to doing some research.
"The Skeptic went to town and browsed in the public library. Imagine my state of mind when I discovered that this very day, July 23, when I had received the message 'Sirius is very important,' is the day when, according to Egyptian tradition, the occult link (through hyperspace?) is most powerful between Earth and Sirius.
"Celebrations of the Dog Star, Sirius, beginning on July 23, are the origin of the expression 'dog days,' meaning the days from July 23 to September 8, when the last rituals to Sirius were performed."- The Cosmic Trigger Volume I, pg. 87
Ancient Egyptian culture was closely tied to the Nile River, and it appears their New Year corresponded with its annual flood. According the Roman writer Censorinus, the Egyptian New Year was predicted when Sirius—the brightest star in the night sky—first became visible after a 70-day absence.
Blue Bell Knoll is a luscious album, the musical equivalent of having warm honey dripped on your head while you're taking a milk bath on really good drugs, but its title has a darker meaning:
In folklore, the flowers assist mortals in seeing fairies or seeing into their reality, but were regarded by some as unlucky because they could also reveal or even attract malign spirits, including the Devil himself... They are also called Dead Men's or Dead Man's Bells, because hearing the bells ringing is an omen of death.
Remembering the line from Song to the Siren, "Did I dream you dreamed about me? Were you hare when I was fox?", note that bluebells are also known as harebells:
Campanula rotundifolia is associated with the fairies and with witches...The name Harebells may also allude to a folk belief that witches used juices squeezed from this flower to transform themselves into hares.
And hey- milk again.
These juices lent the flower another Scottish folk name, "Milk-ort" (milk herb).
More importantly, the bluebell also connects to the central conceit of our story- the seemingly inexplicable symbolic overkill connected to the ancient myth of the goddess (variously associated with sex, war, music and the Moon) and her shepherd-boy consort. Shepherd-boy being the literal translation of Buckley. As it happens milk plays a very major role in that ur-myth as well. From the first known telling of the story, The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi:
Make your milk sweet and thick, my bridegroom / My shepherd, I will drink your fresh milk / Wild bull Dumuzi, make your milk sweet and thick/ I will drink your fresh milk.
Elizabeth Fraser's dedication on Milk and Kisses plows the same metaphorical furrow.
"Milk and kisses for the first man / my old man / love and a thousandfold rose for Buckley /my Rilkean-Hearted friend."
(We're going to return to The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi again, in a big, bad way).
The bluebell has also been named for Endymion, the young shepherd consort of the goddess Selene, who fell in love with and put under a spell of eternal sleep so that she alone might enjoy his beauty. Selene was also known as Phoebe and one of the key tracks on Blue Bell Knoll is "For Phoebe, Still a Baby."
So I suppose it's only appropriate that this is being held at Royal Albert Hall, named in honor of Prince Albert, formally known as Albert, Prince Consort. And here were have another goddess-consort sad story. Albert was husband of Queen Victoria, herself named after the Roman goddess of victory. And for those of you who don't know the rest:
Albert died at the relatively young age of 42, plunging the Queen into a period of deep mourning in which she rarely appeared before her subjects.
CARNIVAL OF LIFE AND DEATH We saw that that Jeff Buckley drowned on the evening of the Carnival Memphis. As it happens it seems that he and Fraser began their courtship on the eve of the original Carnival... This would be the night of March 4th, when both Buckley and the Cocteau Twins were playing in Atlanta. Significantly, the Twins performed "Road, River, and Rail" that night.
Simon Raymonde of The Cocteau Twins remembers Jeff being introduced to them as Tim Buckley's son while they were touring America in 1991.
Road, River and Rail is 3:17 3/17 is the day of Osiris' drowning
OK, I thought I heard that Buckley met them before 1994 but I couldn't find any corroboration online for that so I thought I had imagined it. If that is indeed true it makes the prophecies on 1990's Heaven or Las Vegas even creepier because that was the album they were touring then (and the only significant omen after that is the insanely-disturbing post-breakup Rilkean Dreams). Continuing:
Having recorded an ineffably beautiful version of Tim's ‘Song For The Siren’ (as This Mortal Coil) they were pleased to meet the young man, who was in turn awestruck by their music, especially the spectral voice of Elizabeth Fraser. Three years later it was their turn to see him perform. Simon and Liz went together to a small bar in Atlanta. "It was just Jeff and his little Fender guitar and amp. He sang for two hours and he knocked me sideways. Liz and I spent some time with him over the next few days."
It's likely that Fraser connected (or reconnected) with Buckley on what is technically March 5th, since the Twins had their own concert to do the night of the 4th. But what is the significance of March 5th?
Ididis Navigium, or alternatively Navigium Isidis, means Vessel of Isis. The festival gets its name from the main offering to Isis. In Apuleius’ Metamorphosis he describes the grand procession of worshippers from the temple of Isis to the harbor.
Harbor. And the connection to Carnival?
Modern carnival resembles the festival of the Navigium Isidis, and some scholars argue that they share the same origin (via carrus navalis, meaning naval wagon, i.e. float – later becoming car-nival).
Reminding us again the Carnival Memphis is centered around Ancient Egyptian symbolism:
The twelve Grand Krewes that Carnival Memphis recognizes are the Mystic Society of the Memphi, Osiris, Sphinx, RaMet, Ennead, Phoenix, Aani, Ptolemy, Kemet Jubilee, Ptah, Luxor, Queen Bee...The Grand Krewes of Memphi, Osiris, RaMet and Sphinx are "old-line" Grand Krewes and were all started in the 1930s as the original secret societies of the Memphis Cotton Carnival.
And let's remember this Carnival centers of the appointment of the new Queen Isis and King Osiris:
Our Queen Isis has always been known for her beauty and membership in a prominent family. She wears the Ring of Isis, engraved with her hieroglyphic symbol.
The identity of King Osiris is revealed at the Banquet of Past Kings. He and all Past Osiris Kings wear the King’s Medallion on a scarlet and white ribbon at all Osiris and Carnival events.
Many elements of Carnival were in turn appropriated in the Corpus Christi festival, most prominently in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal).
Thus Plutarch tells us that Osiris was murdered on the seventeenth of the month Athyr, and that the Egyptians accordingly observed mournful rites for four days from the seventeenth of Athyr. Now in the Alexandrian calendar, which Plutarch used, these four days corresponded to the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth of November, and this date answers exactly to the other indications given by Plutarch, who says that at the time of the festival the Nile was sinking, the north winds dying away, the nights lengthening, and the leaves falling from the trees.
Which would mean, according to this reckoning, that the "Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys" took place either on or right before November 17. Why is this significant?
Jeffrey Scott Buckley (November 17, 1966 – May 29, 1997), raised as Scott Moorhead, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.
Next we'll take a closer look at the prophecies involved and why they might have gotten some unwanted attention.
TO BE CONTINUED
UPDATE: Darren reminds of that famous Beatles song that namedrops Albert Hall and also tells us of another doomed young prince, Tara Browne, dead exactly a month after Jeff Buckley was born. More 17s:
On 17 December 1966, Browne was driving with his girlfriend, model Suki Potier, in his Lotus Elan through South Kensington at high speed (some reports suggesting in excess of 106 mph/170 km/h). He was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time. Browne failed to see a traffic light and proceeded through the junction of Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens, colliding with a parked lorry. He died of his injuries the following day. Potier claimed that Browne swerved the car to absorb the impact of the crash to save her life.
"A Day in the Life" On 17 January 1967 John Lennon, a friend of Browne's, was composing music at his piano whilst idly reading London's Daily Mail and happened upon the news of the coroner's verdict into Browne's death. He worked the story into the song "A Day in the Life", which was later released on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
John Lennon's "Good Morning Good Morning" was the first song you heard on the last episode of The Monkees. "Song of the Siren" was its swansong.
A weird little coincidence struck me yesterday. As we've seen, the last songs Jeff Buckley and Chris Cornell sang were songs most commonly associated with Led Zeppelin.
Cornell’s “sudden and unexpected” death right in the middle of Soundgarden’s U.S. tour that kicked off only last month is compounded only by the fact that his death was ruled a suicide, and while the 52-year-old musician outwardly showed no signs of depression or suicidal tendencies, the final song from last night’s sold out show at Detroit’s Fox Theatre: a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying”.
When Buckley entered the water from the trash-strewn bank, he was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and boots. He turned, grinning back at Foti, as he drifted in backward. When he was about knee deep, Foti remembers cautioning him: "You can't swim in that water." As Buckley continued, Foti repeated his caution: "What are you doing, man?" But Buckley smilingly reclined into the slate-gray water, singing the chorus of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" as he backstroked into the channel.
In 1974, Led Zeppelin started their own record label called Swan Song. The term swan song comes from an ancient belief that swans will sing a beautiful song just before they are about to die. Now we're treading into dangerous waters here, no pun intended. There's a temptation to cast too wide a net in search of symbolic connections, which, as they pile up, can tend to have a numbing effect. Plus, ancient mythology is so enormous that you could probably dig out a connection for whatever you like if you're not rigorous about it. And there's still the open question as to why we would see so much symbolism and prophecy - practically to the point of overkill - attached to what most people might see as an historical footnote. So let's then establish that we're specifically looking here at the "swan songs," the very last performances by the people in question.
So with that in mind let's look at the very last line of the last verse of the last song on the last Cocteau Twins album- or if you prefer, their swan song. The song is "Seekers Who Are Lovers" and the line goes like this:
"So send Lucifer into Hell."
The song is- you guessed it- yet another of Elizabeth Fraser's love letters to Jeff Buckley*, in this case a little note explicitly reminding him how amazing she thought the sex was. Which is probably why nearly all of her performances of the song were extremely passionate, in her very strange way. Then there's this :
Love, on the tip of it/ The old river's lack of other sweet sex†/ So sweet/You are a woman just as you are a man
The last line there corresponds to Buckley's self-identification of a "chanteuse with a penis," a reference to his interpretations of torch songs by singers like Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf. Which, of course, it's also entirely compatible with his role as a postmodern incarnation of Attis. And then there's that "river" reference again. This in turn then corresponds to the more recent death of one of Buckley's closest friends (and posthumous spoeksman) just a few minutes away from Belle Isle on the Detroit River, which is itself closely associated with a Native American variant of the Siren myth. Note also the connection of these fertility gods we've been looking at to rivers:
Adonis sprang from a tree; the body of Osiris was concealed in a tree which grew round the sea-drifted chest in which he was concealed. Diarmid concealed himself in a tree when pursued by Finn. The blood of Tammuz, Osiris, and Adonis reddened the swollen rivers which fertilized the soil.
But there's another connection between these ancient fertility gods and Lucifer; all of them were sent into the Underworld. And the way to the Underworld was traditionally the River Styx. CHILDREN OF THE CORN(ELL)
Bearing in mind that Buckley died on the eve of an explicit Osiris ritual in Memphis, remember that the consort of Osris (who drowned in the Nile River) is Isis, whom "The Greeks conceived of (her) as a corn-goddess, for they identified her with Demeter. In a Greek epigram she is described as 'she who has given birth to the fruits of the earth,” and “the mother of the ears of corn.'” Similarly, Attis was identified closely with corn:
Like tree-spirits in general, Attis was apparently thought to wield power over the fruits of the earth or even to be identical with the corn. One of his epithets was “very fruitful”: he was addressed as the “reaped green (or yellow) ear of corn”; and the story of his sufferings, death, and resurrection was interpreted as the ripe grain wounded by the reaper, buried in the granary, and coming to life again when it is sown in the ground
Corn-- and subsequently Cornell-- both derive from the Latin cornu, meaning "horn." The closest Egyptian analog to goddesses like Isthar and Aphrodite is actually Hathor, whom Isis would eventually syncretize with, and who was commonly depicted as wearing horns. She has an interesting origin story:
In the Story of Re, she was created by her father Re as "Sekhmet" as a destroyer of men, who were disobedient to him. Later Re changed his mind, but even he could not stop her from killing men. He then disguised beer as blood and when Sekhmet became drunk, she could no longer kill and was known thereafter as Hathor, a goddess of love.
Jeff Buckley's eventual swan song- which Chris Cornell was closely involved in producing- was the collection Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk. It included the song "Morning Theft", commonly assumed to be a documentation of Buckley's reunion with Fraser sometime around the recording of 'All Flowers in Time Bend Toward the Sun'.
There's been an ongoing controversy over the Swan Song label, which depicts an angel or winged man in the throes of death. One side of the debate claims it's a depiction of Icarus and others claim it's actually paying homage to Lucifer, and that the image is a depiction of his fall from Heaven. The painting is in fact an adaptation of a sketch by 19th century painter William Rimmer entitied "Evening, the Fall of Day." Some have argued that the image is a depiction of Apollo, but we don't see the chariot here which was associated with him when he absorbed the aspects of the Titan Helios.
So I think the Lucifer interpretation is probably closest to the mark. "The Fall of Day" is most probably a reference to Phosphoros the daystar, whose name is the Greek equivalent of Lucifer. Note that Jimmy Page had recently recorded the Lucifer Rising and later used a similar image for the release of the soundtrack. Plus, Jimmy Page. What we also need to remember here is that Led Zeppelin's first use of the Swan Song logo was on the first side of the first disk of Physical Graffiti. And the last song on that side is Chris Cornell's swan song, 'In My Time of Dying'. The album also has a strong link to Jeff Buckley:
"When I was 12, I decided to become a musician," Buckley says. "Physical Graffiti was the first album I ever owned. My stepfather [who lived with Buckley's mother from 1971 to 1973] bought that for me."
But wait! There's more: Swans were closely associated with the love goddeses of the ancient world, particularly Aphrodite. As we saw, Elizabeth Fraser- in what seems to be her only foray into cosplay ever- explicitly portrayed herself as a rising Aphrodite (0r Atargatis) in the video for 'Bluebeard'. That single was released in February 1994. Fraser and Buckley met in March. At the time Fraser was in the midst of an ongoing personal crisis and seemed to experience a meltdown when the band performed 'Bluebeard' on The Tonight Show, going into full-WTF alien mode. That meltdown was taped the same day Chris Cornell's friend Kurt Cobain died, which was called a suicide at the time. And just to throw out another creepy death omen, Jeff Buckley would have a fling with Cobain's widow shortly before he died. ALL FLOWERS
Like Icarus, the archangel Lucifer is said to have fallen because of his pride and vanity over his own beauty and power, much like the myth of Narcissus. This supreme spirit of evil who was once radiant, but who because of his sin of pride fell from heaven into darkness and became Satan, saying: “Non serviam: I will not serve,” and thus brought upon himself the everlasting wrath of God.
NOTE: It's also important to remember that Icarus- whose sin was disobedience- actually died by drowning. * The lyric "His poor essence" may in fact be "His Pur Essence," a reference to the fact the Fraser may have realized that she seemed to call Buckley by his given name - Scott Moorhead- in "Summerhead" (read:"S.Moorhead") in between the songs "Essence" and "Pur" on Four Calendar Cafe. That album was recorded while Buckley was still doing club gigs in tiny dive bars in Manhattan. They wouldn't begin their relationship for at least another year. † Erroneously listed as "sweet scents" on some lyric sites.
The rabbit keeps digging. And digging. How far are you ready to go down?
I first began to follow this story when I heard about the drowning death of Jeff Buckley. I'm not sure why but the first thought that came into my head was that it had something to do with Elizabeth Fraser.
I had no idea that all of this had been prophesied for years and years before, in ways that actually give me chills.
I had no idea that this was all closely following a very ancient script, for reasons I can't begin to wrap my head around. The symbolism is almost shockingly unambiguous, as we'll soon see.
I had no idea that a tragedy involving Chris Cornell, Jeff Buckley's close friend and posthumous spokesman, would take place on the banks of another river almost exactly 20 years later, a tragedy that seemed to follow a remarkably similar mythic script. And a tragedy that would seize the attention of millions all around the world.
And I most certainly had no idea twenty years ago that at the very same time police divers were scouring the muddy waters of the Wolf River Lagoon for Jeff Buckley's corpse a well-publicized reenactment of a mystery religion based on the drowning death of a revered ancient Egyptian god was being undertaken by an elite "secret society" just a few blocks away.
Yeah. That happened.
I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around that one too.
WHY AND WHAT FOR?
A reader asked a highly pertinent and perceptive question in the comments section of the previous post. It cuts to the heart of this extraordinarily unlikely mystery we're trying to crack here.
The thing that I keep asking is "why?" Why would spirits reenact this little passion play at all? Why with this small handful of singers and songwriters? It seems like a lot of effort, a lot of autistic attention to trivial details few would even notice - so where's the actual payoff for the Good Folk's effort? The only thing I can think up is that all the world's a play to them, but the dramatis personnae onstage never see more than a few glimpses of their lines before it's time for them to be spoken.
Why indeed? We're not talking about show biz superstars here, we're not talking about Benifer or Brangelina, we're talking about two cult performers who never broke into the mainstream.
We're talking about two very vulnerable souls whose supernatural gifts were balanced out by their struggles with their troubled upbringings and mental illness. But at the same time we're talking about two performers who could count the highest echelon of the music biz elite in their circle of apostles.
And we're talking about a love story whose tragic end was prophesied in a song that has garnered a staggering 48 million views on YouTube. Those people may not realize it but they've soaked all this in.
Which only makes sense because what we're actually seeing is a ritualistic reenactment of one of history's oldest love stories.
It's becoming increasingly well-known on the Internet that this song is about Jeff Buckley, though I think most people tend to underestimate how deep Fraser's obsession with the man really was. I don't think she ever got over it.
Buckley idolized Fraser, studied her, imitated her (the first time I heard Jeff Buckley- knowing nothing about him- I said to myself, "this guy sure sounds like he listens to a lot of Cocteau Twins records"). But when they met Fraser was in the middle of a serious- and painfully public- mental health crisis that would find her hospitalized twice within a year.
Buckley brought color and excitement back into her life but he had far too many groupies chasing him to stay with an older woman who brought a lot of emotional baggage in tow. Plus, his star was rising and her band was in the process of winding down their long run.
The Wikipedia entry recites the almost-unimaginably eerie fact that Fraser was recording this song while the man about whom she was singing was dying on the other side of the world, but omits the fact that they were lovers:
Fraser wrote the song's lyrics. While recording the song on 29 May 1997, she found out that her once-close friend, Jeff Buckley, had drowned. "That was so weird ... I'd got letters out and I was thinking about him. That song's kind of about him – that's how it feels to me anyway."
And what most people tend to overlook is that not only is she singing about Buckley- yet again- she is also unconsciously prophesying his death. Yet again:
Night, night of matter (?)
Black flowers blossom
Fearless on my breath
Black flowers blossom
Fearless on my breath
Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath
I have a problem with this interpretation of the lyrics. As far as I can tell what Fraser is actually singing is "Night, night of murder" not "matter." Which makes a lot more sense when followed by "black flowers blossom." Why?
Because black flowers have traditionally been associated with death and mourning:
The color black has always been synonymous with death and mourning. It is thus the color of sadness and farewell. So, many people consider black roses to symbolize bereavement, loss and mortality. They are often used at funerals.
And then there's this couplet, which connects us to a constellation of ancient goddesses whose dramas all center on lost loves ( and one of whose incarnations is known as "the first mermaid").
Water is my eye
Most faithful mirror
OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN
Some of Fraser's most extraordinary vocal performances come when she is channeling the dramas of ancient mythologies. This of course includes the Siren but also Lorelei, Echo, Pandora (not just once but twice), Persephone and Coatlicue.
But there's one particular story that she seemed to embody and that's the story of the goddess who fell in love with the young shepherd boy. It seemed to start in an oblique and incidental way:
The Cocteaux released Moon and the Melodies in late 1986, which featured 'Sea, Swallow Me' and 'She Will Destroy You', among others. Then they released Blue Bell Knoll, which again is a reference to an old folk belief about a death omen. The bluebell is also known as Endymion non-scriptus.
Endymion is yet another doomed mortal whom a goddess fell in love with:
Wandering farther afield from the British Isles, the bluebell is associated with the shepherd boy Endymion. The moon goddess, variously called Seline or Diana, fell in love with him and cast an eternal sleep on him so that she could enjoy his beauty alone, forever.
In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar.
Inanna and Dumuzi also seem to be the stars of one of the earliest known tellings of the Descent into the Underworld, where Inanna traveled to retrieve the soul of her lost shepherd-boy consort. This story would be told over and over again. This story was retold in Phrygia as the myth of Cybele and Attis (note see Tracy Twyman's dissertation of this myth at her blog):
Cybele loved the beautiful shepherd, and made him her own priest on condition that he should preserve his chastity inviolate. Atys broke the covenant with a nymph, the daughter of the river-god Sangarius, and was thrown by the goddess into a state of madness, in which he unmanned himself.
This story was told in the pages of Sir James Frazer's Golden Bough, a book Elizabeth Fraser certainly seemed to have read. A variant on the story has the hermaphroditic Agdistis in place of Cybele. Strangely enough this version also correlates to the Fraser-Buckley drama, given the Cocteau Twins' singer's own innate androgyny. As the singer explained in 1995:
"I was very worried about being unattractive because I think I look quite masculine. Sometimes I feel more masculine than feminine and I don't like it. I mean, you've got a person who is in recovery from incest surrounded by men. I've never had a highly developed sense of being female."
Fraser would refer obliquely to Cybele in one of her many songs focused around moths and butterflies, 'Great Spangled Fritilary', a butterfly whose scientific name is S Cybele.
(Both) Aphrodite and Persephone, goddess of fertility and death, love Adonis, a beautiful young man. Adonis is killed by a wild boar while he is on the hunt: Aphrodite begs Zeus to restore him to life, but Persephone also demands that he be brought back to life for her sake. Zeus settles the dispute by resurrecting Adonis, but commands him to live six months in the upper world with Aphrodite and six months in the lower world with Persephone.
And sure enough, just before she would meet Jeff Buckley, Elizabeth Fraser would be depicted rising from a scallop shell like Aphrodite in the music video for 'Bluebeard'.
The Syrian version of this archetype, widely believed to be the original incarnation of Aphrodite herself, who takes us right back to the world of sirens and mermaids. The very first mermaid, or so the story goes:
Atargatis was in love with a human shepherd but accidentally killed him. Out of guilt, the goddess flung herself into the ocean hoping to become a fish. But her beauty was so great, that she never could fully become a fish. Instead she became half goddess, half fish, with a tail below the waist and human body above the waist.
BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER... ...let's play the Name Game. You see this little mythology primer here isn't just for the giggles and grins, it cuts right to the core of the very strange daisy-chain of synchronicity we are trying to untangle. Because Jeff Buckley's very surname means "shepherd boy."
Ó Buachalla, taken from the Irish word 'buachaill' originally meaning 'herdsman' (in modern Irish it has come to mean 'boy'), was anglcised early as Ó Boughelly, Boughla, Buhilly and later as Buckley.
So you see I'm not exaggerating when I claim that what we're seeing here is a very ancient psychodrama that chose to play itself out in real time. I mean it literally. Do you understand me now?
And what about Liz Fraser? Well, given the Egyptian origin of the Biblical name (the first Elizabeth was connected to Moses and Aaron, both of which are native Egyptian names) I will go to my grave believing that in fact it comes from Eloah-Esi-Beth, or "Temple of the Goddess Isis." We'll get to Isis shortly. But first the Fraser name, which ties into Knights Templar history, of all things:
The Frasers are believed to have come from Anjou in France. The name Fraser may be derived from Fredarius, Fresel or Freseau. Another suggestion is that the Frasers were a tribe in Roman Gaul, whose badge was a strawberry plant (fraisier in French).
Might come from "fraisier." Gee, you think?
But what's the significance of strawberries in this tale here? Well, it ties right back into the lineage of the same goddesses we're looking at. In this case the Syro-Roman variant:
The strawberry was a symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love, because of its heart shapes and red color.
In a connection that will take on greater significance when we get to the next chapter of this drama, it so happens that Venus had a very Roswell kind of origin story:
In another story, told by Hyginus, an egg fell from the sky into the Euphrates, was rolled onto land by fish, doves settled on it and hatched it, and Venus, known as the Syrian goddess, came forth
Yeah, we're going there. But don't worry- it's baked right into the cake.
Yeah, those eyes. I know.
But of course the big kahuna of love-goddess and doomed shepherd myths is that of Isis and Osiris. In the best-known telling of the tale, Osiris' first death comes when he is drowned in the Nile inside his sarcophagus:
In some cases the texts suggest that Set takes the form of a wild animal, such as a crocodile or bull, to slay Osiris; in others they imply that Osiris's corpse is thrown in the water or that he is drowned. This latter tradition is the origin of the Egyptian belief that people who had drowned in the Nile were sacred.
And just to establish his shepherd cred:
He also carries the crook and flail. The crook is thought to represent Osiris as a shepherd god. The symbolism of the flail is more uncertain with shepherds whip, fly-whisk, or association with the god Andjety of the ninth nome of Lower Egypt proposed.
And as the fathomless enigmas of fate would have it, one of the foundation texts for the Isis-Osiris myth takes us back to- you guessed it- Memphis:
Another important source is the Memphite Theology, a religious narrative that includes an account of Osiris's death as well as the resolution of the dispute between Horus and Set. This narrative associates the kingship that Osiris and Horus represent with Ptah, the creator deity of Memphis.
Quoting directly from the Memphite Theology, we have this:
Isis and Nepthys without delay, for Osiris had drowned in his water. Isis [and Nephthys] looked out, [beheld him and attended to him].
OK, we have a river, a drowning and a Memphis. Can I shoehorn a wolf into this little catty-corner? Oh, yes I can:
In the beginning, Osiris was associated mostly with agriculture. This cult spread rapidly into Upper Egypt, and soon Osiris became identified with the funeral god, Abydos, Khenti-Amentiu, who was symbolized by the wolf.
But then we get thrown right down the crazy-stairs...
Oh, the eyes. Interesting.
While police divers were still dragging the Wolf River Harbor for Jeff Buckley's body, just a few blocks east the Grand Krewe of Osiris was enjoying the Carnival Memphis, kicking off at the Crosstown Concourse:
The Carnival Memphis Association organizes, plans, budgets, and promotes the King, Queen, and Royal Court, as well as many of the events staged during Carnival week. However, the Grand Krewes (once known as secret societies) also stage their own festivities throughout the year, elect their own royalty, manage their own budget, and have their own membership requirements.
Most of these organizations bear Egyptian names in accordance to tradition originally set out by the Mystic Memphi, and in conjunction with Memphis being the sister city of ancient Memphis, Egypt. The twelve Grand Krewes that Carnival Memphis recognizes are the Mystic Society of the Memphi, Osiris, Sphinx, RaMet, Ennead, Phoenix, Aani, Ptolemy, Kemet Jubilee, Ptah, Luxor, Queen Bees.
The Carnival kicks off the first weekend following Memorial Day. But what exactly is the Grand Krewe of Osiris? Well, besides the hosts of osirismemphis.com, that is?
Osiris was founded in 1934 as a Mystic Secret Society. Osiris membership has always consisted of top professional and business leaders.
The Great Eye, the hieroglyphic symbol of Osiris for thousands of years, continues looking intently forward to the future of great city of Memphis, on the American Nile.
The Great Eye? You mean the one glowing in the middle of that giant pyramid you got there? The one on the shore of the Wolf River Lagoon? OK. Thanks.
Good, clean Masonic fun
And what exactly do their ceremonies entail?
The ceremonies were mysterious and symbolic, but the most common feature was the procession of Queen Isis in her carriage, far beyond the precincts of her temple on occasions to other towns.
These occasions were passed amid great rejoicing, music, dancing, and feasting which formed important parts of the festival rites.
The feast was held within lofty walls, with an entrance between immense pylons inscribed with hieroglyphs.
Those called to join celebrated the regeneration of the land, the renewal of friendships, and the hopes for a productive and joyful year!
Our Queen Isis has always been known for her beauty and membership in a prominent family. She wears the Ring of Isis, engraved with her hieroglyphic symbol.
The identity of King Osiris is revealed at the Banquet of Past Kings. He and all Past Osiris Kings wear the King’s Medallion on a scarlet and white ribbon at all Osiris and Carnival events.
OK, now I'm sure this is all fun and harmless and zany (totally Masonic) fun for the Memphite upper crust. But that doesn't matter in the context of ritual, especially the kind of ritual that goes beyond ritual. Because all this was going on while Jeff Buckley's body was floating a few blocks away in the Wolf River in the same exact way Osiris' body floated in the Nile.
But again, the point is that happened. That actually happened. A bunch of drunk lawyers, doctors and their wives were playacting the mysteries of Isis and Osiris while an aspiring rock superstar was actually playing the part of Osiris in a ritual who I can't begin to imagine who -or more accurately, what -- was staging.
I mean, I never heard of this Carnival until a few hours ago. Have you?
What are the odds Elizabeth Fraser knew about any of this while she was writing songs that prophesy how a man she wouldn't meet for another 12 years would die? Somewhere between slim, zip and fuckall I'd wager. But stay tuned because this story is about to take a very dark and sinister turn, taking us into the world of elite UFO cultists, the Tower of Babel, demons of the air, World War Three, and a prophecy of the most momentous event of our times. I wish I were kidding.
Led Zeppelin. John Lennon. Prince. George Michael. The Monkees. Lord Byron. Sinead O'Connor. Chris Cornell. What do all these people have in common? They're all connected in one way or another to an unfolding drama orbiting a seminal song written by a doomed folk singer and debuted to the world wrapped in a salad of black magic, alien technology and mind control.
And from then on, things got really weird.
I really didn't mean to get sucked back into all of this. I meant to do an overview post to observe the 20th anniversary and be done with it all. But then Chris Cornell died and the same archetypes rose again. Which means this story is still telling itself. That kicked in the OCD and got me looking again for prophecies.
And boy howdy, I found some real brain-blowers. "NOW WE ARE ANGELS"
Now I know a lot of you out there don't care about the Cocteau Twins or Jeff Buckley's music. And for a lot of you this might all be old news. I get that, it's totally fine by me. But the music isn't really the point of all this.
The point is the story, this ancient archetypal myth playing out in real time, for whatever possible reason it may have other than the spirit world seems to have a dark sense of irony. And it may have well taken more trophies.
So, esoterically speaking, this is the equivalent of a Darwinist being able to watch a dog evolving into a turtle.
You see, what we have here is a drama that seems to weave in elements of the occult, witchcraft, precognition, prophecy, synchronicity, and maybe even some spirit possession. We have the story of a strange young woman from a dysfunctional working class family who grew up in a place saturated with the power of the old stories. A woman who seems to have dabbled in witchcraft before undergoing a startling transformation in which she suddenly came into possession of an electrifying musical gift that led one British newspaper to declare she had "the Voice of God."
In an entirely matter of fact, self-effacing manner she would claim that in fact she was possessed by or channeling some kind of entity, something I don't find very hard to believe at all. I mean, think about it; what sounds more like genuine entity possession to you, this or this? This or this?
And from the very first moment Elizabeth Fraser came into the public eye she seemed to prophesy a terrible event that revolved around an old 60s folk song that seems to have taken on a life of its own in the years since it first debuted. And if you take all the apparent prophecies-- prophecies that fly around this story like wasps at your birthday barbecue--together, you come up with the name, place, time and manner that this story would reach its inevitable climax. And it all seemed to unfold over a span of four decades.
Mind you, all of this is something we can objectively document. Interpret the facts any way you like but the beauty of it is that you don't need to rely on hearsay or anecdote here. We're looking at accepted and recorded events of history not testimony or speculation.
But there's also that song, which itself seems to be some kind of supernatural totem.
ENTER THE SIREN
In true Secret Sun style, the 'Song to the Siren' made its worldwide debut in a very strange and unlikely venue. It was first heard on the final episode of The Monkees TV show in 1968.
And as readers would probably expect by now, the episode dealt with aliens, mind control and black magic. Plus, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band:
The episode begins with a sunrise scene as the boys awaken to the sounds of the Beatles’ “Good Morning Good Morning,” which was the first time the Beatles had allowed their music to be used in a non-Beatles arena.
The episode is, in short, about the evil Wizard Glick (played by Rip Taylor) who is on a mission to control people’s minds via their television sets. The airwaves beam out a hypnotic eye that is, well, hypnotizing its viewers, a not-so-subtle comment on the brain deadening effects of television.
Eventually, the boys discover that a creature called the Frodis plant had been captured when its spaceship landed on Earth, and was being used for evil by Wizard Glick. They realize they must rescue the Frodis and return it to its spaceship. Upon rescue, the plant emits this cloud of smoke, and in the process, seems to mellow out Glick and his cohorts, “I’ll let you work out that reference, folks,” adds Dolenz. The anti-war song “Zor and Zam” is featured during the “typical Monkees romp.”
As the story part of the episode ends, on walks the late singer-songwriter Tim Buckley to perform a solo acoustic version of his classic “Song to the Siren.” Buckley was a friend of Dolenz, who thought he should be introduced to the world.
The beautiful song had, at the time, not been released.
Note John Lennon wrote 'Good Morning Good Morning'.
I mentioned this episode several years ago but hadn't seen it until recently. And my god, is it terrible. But as it happens, it also had an alternate title; 'The Frodis Caper.' I hadn't known that until just this past week. What's the significance of that title?
Here, let me write it like this: FRodiScapER
No luck? Try this:FRodiScapER
There's even an A in there, if you want to get anagrammatic. And an 'Odic' too. If you really want to get obsessive you can make the p silent (as in Pfeiffer).
Tim Buckley, who never actually knew his son, died of an OD in 1975 at the age of 27. But already the prophecy machine seemed to have hummed to life.
It'll End in Tears including
'Song to the Siren'
And just so we're clear on all this, I'm by no means the only person who gets how eerie this whole situation is, even if I was probably one of the first outside of the inner circle of people involved to do so. Even The Guardian has caught on:
(Tim) Buckley's eerie original is backed by stark waves of guitar and occasional high-pitched "siren" wails (is it his voice? An extremely flanged guitar?), and his five-octave-spanning tenor – "the closest thing to flying without taking acid or getting on a plane," Watts-Russell reckons.
But Fraser's version suggested she was the siren of Homer's Odyssey personified, luring lovers to a premature grave
Sinead O'Connor, who was heavily influenced by Elizabeth Fraser, frames the story quite well here:
"I didn't know Buckley hadn't written the words," O'Connor says, "but I always felt there was a prophecy of death in that song." It's apparently the reason Fraser won't discuss the song (an interview request was ignored). Tim Buckley's son Jeff wrote to her when he heard the This Mortal Coil cover and, a couple of years before he drowned, aged 30, in 1997, they had a relationship.
The Financial Times also suggestively dropped that tragedy onto the last paragraph of their piece on 'Song to the Siren', but also noted the TMC/Cocteau Twins' version was so influential, that subsequent versions have mostly been covers of them:
Their reading set the template for those that were to follow — drifty, druggy, drenched in reverb, a perfect setting for lyrics such as “Did I dream you dreamed about me?"
And it so transpires that there are lot of well-known fans of Fraser's interpretation (including superstar directors Peter Jackson and David Lynch):
In 2002, Robert Plant covered it on his Dreamland album, garnished with his characteristic “oh-ohs”. In 2007, George Michael opened his gig at the new Wembley stadium by singing “Siren” from offstage (he later released it as a single)…Sinéad O’Connor’s 2010 version is heavily indebted to This Mortal Coil’s mystic-Celticism.
Indeed, George Michael - Greek by origin- did his level best to reproduce- note for note- Elizabeth Fraser's version of the song. At what was one of the biggest gigs of his career.
Of course, Michael himself recently died under circumstances that don't seem entirely transparent. There was a lot of mystery surrounding his passing, even if it was subsequently declared to be from natural causes. But Michael wasn't the only pop superstar to worship the Twins:
Madonna loved them, Prince wanted to sign them and Scritti Politti's Green Gartside said the vocally gymnastic Fraser was his third favourite melodicist of all time (behind Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson).
You can throw in Peter Gabriel and Boy George as well (George once said Fraser was his favorite singer). And yes, Prince was indeed a major Cocteau Twins fan.
Tictactoe is the tenth track on Prince's 36th album Plectrumelectrum (the first by Prince and 3rdEyeGirl). It is likely the track was recorded in February 2014.
The magazine quotes Prince describing the recording of the track: “We recorded it in Bryan Ferry’s studio Studio One in London, after a night of partying for which the Cocteau Twins was the soundtrack. You can’t understand the words of Cocteau Twins songs but their harmonies put you in a dreamlike state.”
Prince also died recently, at too young an age. Under circumstances that have inspired terrabytes of Internet speculation.
And just to add more fuel to the occult fire we have the Led Zeppelin connection to all of this. As you know, both Jeff Buckley and his best friend Chris Cornell sang Led Zeppelin tunes (or more accurately, blues standards commonly associated with Led Zep) shortly before they died. And Zeppelin's personal connections to Buckley are well-recorded:
One man who loved Grace was Jimmy Page. There was arguably no-one whose opinion Buckley valued more. He’d sung Zeppelin songs at Sin-é…One might even say there was a transference of Zeppelin energy taking place, a blessing or endorsement from afar, from the older men to the young. When Page and Buckley met, it was clear they understood each other on a profound level.
“Jeff told me they cried,” says Chris Dowd. “They actually cried when they met each other. Jimmy heard himself in Jeff, and Jeff was meeting his idol. Jimmy Page was the godfather of Jeff’s music. A lot of people thought Tim was the influence on Jeff, but it was really Zeppelin.
Less known is Led Zeppelin's connection to the Cocteau Twins- Robert Plant was/is a major devotee, saying in one interview "I wanted to be the Cocteau Twins". Then there's this, from a Twins interview:
Robert Plant went through a phase of raving about them in every interview he did. Liz doesn't tell me about the time she introduced herself to him, but Robin does. They had gone to see Echo & the Bunnymen. Liz, who was a little tipsy, spotted Robert Plant at the bar and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Excuse me," she said. "I read that you really like the Cocteau Twins.""Yeah," the mousy-maned ex-sex god grunted. "I like them. Do you like them?"Mortified, she muttered her assent and slunk away.
According to another telling what she actually said is, "they're OK, I guess." Which is absolutely adorable.
EXHIBIT ONE: GARLANDS LYRICS SLEEVE The lyrical swatches printed on the inner sleeve of the Cocteaux' 1982 debut album Garlands are tantalizing, and the band's official bio lists them in an interesting order. See this post for more information on Garlands. And again, Jeff Buckley died on Garland Day.
First we have a quarrel with a lover, peppered with threats of violence. "My mouthing at you; My tongue the stake; I should welt should I hold you; I should gash should I kiss you..." (Blind Dumb Deaf) Things get a bit darker next- a song about blood sacrifice. "Things from the forest die here, but I don't; Dead forest things are offered here, but I'm not...." (But I'm Not) Then death on a river. Bear in mind the person who wrote these remarkable lyrics was only 18 years old: "The then shallow she Earth as we know it; The then hallow she a sky for the sacred; Stars in my eyes; stars at my feet; womb in the belly; capital place..." (Shallow Then Halo) As mentioned before, Memphis was the capital of Egypt's lower kingdom. And Jeff Buckley was swimming in shallow waters when he drowned (the deepest point of the Wolf River Harbor is only nine feet deep). Next we have drugs, religion and death. "Garlands evergreen; forget-me-not wreaths; chaplets see me drugged; I could die in the rosary...." (Garlands) Then this: "Grail overfloweth, there is rain; and there's saliva and there's you...." (Grail Overfloweth) As detailed before, we have two Buckley connections here, both to the rain during the search the night he disappeared and to the Grail-inspired "Corpus Christi Song" on Grace.
Now, returning to 'Shallow then Halo' we see wings and feathers connected to the river. We also see the mention of fertile soil.
Dirty rich soil
Strong and fertile
What's the significance of wings and feathers to a river? Well, considering this is the Mississippi, perhaps we need to look at the Mississippi state seal for a clue.
Ahh. Dream-logic at work.
Then the soil:
At Cairo, Illinois, the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi, doubling its volume and creating the point that divides the Upper Mississippi from the Lower Mississippi. The Lower Mississippi Valley is a wide and fertile region… As it flows in this southern region, the Mississippi deposits rich silt along its banks.
Now this odd use of she:
"The then shallow she Earth as we know it;
The then hallow she a sky for the sacred"
Wouldn't you just know it, the word sidhe is pronounced "she." In the context of the lyrics here it just happens that sidhe makes a lot more sense than she. Try this: "the then-shallow sidhe" (a spirit in shallow waters) and the "the then-hallow sidhe" (a spirit honored as sacred, re:"a sky for the sacred").
If you didn't catch the update on the Chris Cornell post, here's the lowdown on one of the Siren's Celtic cousins:
In Celtic folklore, the leannán sí "Fairy-Lover" ...is a beautiful woman of the Aos Sí …who takes a human lover.
Lovers of the leannán sídhe are said to live brief, though highly inspired, lives.
The leannán sídhe is generally depicted as a beautiful muse who offers inspiration to an artist in exchange for their love and devotion; however, this frequently results in madness for the artist, as well as premature death.
But only certain families of historic lineage, or persons gifted with music and song, are attended by this spirit; for music and poetry are fairy gifts, and the possessors of them show kinship to the spirit race—therefore they are watched over by the spirit of life, which is prophecy and inspiration; and by the spirit of doom, which is the revealer of the secrets of death.
Sometimes the Banshee assumes the form of some sweet singing virgin of the family who died young, and has been given the mission by the invisible powers to become the harbinger of coming doom to her mortal kindred. Or she may be seen at night as a shrouded woman, crouched beneath the trees, lamenting with veiled face; or flying past in the moonlight, crying bitterly...
And Jesus, here's a five-star money-quote if ever I heard one. It basically synopsizes this entire story:
The Banshee even follows the old race across the ocean and to distant lands; for space and time offer no hindrance to the mystic power which is selected and appointed to bear the prophecy of death to a family.
Which would probably be a good time to drop this old bit of snarkery on you:
All you need to know about the Cocteau Twins is that they make Siouxsie and the Banshees records, OK? -- Melody Maker 10/16/82
Of course, the wild howling of early Cocteaux is more akin to the Banshee myth than Siouxsie's rather modest vocal range. But the influence is plainly there (the Scots seemed to be particularly found of the Banshees). Especially in early songs like "Speak No Evil", which offer more hints of that unexpected connection to witchcraft and the occult (bonus factoid: Fraser used to go around in outfits decorated with chicken bones):
My soul I sold
I can't forget to ask
There's nothing movin' it again
Wolf thirst said me
This song is included on the Garlands CD, alongside 'Shallow than Halo'. Note that- again- we have references to both a river in a song about drowning in shallow water and to a wolf in a song about a daemonic pact. In that latter line, we also have a suggestion of death and a connection to water ("wolf thirst"). And just to remind anyone new to this conversation here:
Making a stop at the Wolf River channel of the Mississippi River, a fully clothed Buckley waded into the water and began swimming.
EXHIBIT TWO: Alas Dies Laughing On their next release after Garlands (the ironically titled Lullabies EP), we see two more songs whose titles also make semiotic connections between birds and water travel, namely the songs 'Feathers Oar Blades' and 'It's All But an Ark Lark'. Sandwiched between them is one of the Cocteau Twins' most unsettling songs, 'Alas Dies Laughing', a song the early PiL would have been proud to call their own.
After two attempts at conventional choruses, the song breaks down into a bridge that has (a pre-transformation) Fraser moaning like the Pythia as the fumes rise. After the breakdown, she dispenses with the niceties and lapses into a repetitive chant about exactly how Alas died laughing:
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a
Wake takes a
Wake takes a
Wake takes a
Wake takes a
Wake takes a
Jesus. And just to remind everyone again:
The wake of a passing boat sucked Buckley under, and he drowned. His body was recovered six days later, after it was seen by a riverboat passenger.
So sandwiched between two songs that refer to boats (and symbolically connect to the Mississippi via the bird imagery) we have a song about drowning. In a wake. Fifteen years before the singer's lost love died that very same way. .
Now is it just me or is this like something out of one of Philip K Dick's most unhinged fever dreams? This is really just the tip of the iceberg though.
EXHIBIT THREE: It's All But an Ark Lark Those aren't all the clues to be found on Lullabies. 'Ark Lark' also has some as well. It's all for my, all for my, all for my Charisma Charisma Charisma Charisma- divine gift- originally referred to extraordinary characteristics of the gods. In Christianity, charisma manifests itself in glossolalia and prophetic gifts. Barking and Biting, on my starsails Barking and Biting, on my starsails Barking and Biting, on my starsails Barking and Biting, on my starsails We have references to a wolf (yes, wolves do bark) and water travel again.
And oh yeah- 'Song to the Siren' was first recorded for the Tim Buckley album Starsailor. Wolf. Water. Buckley. Siren. Then this: He's mocking both my lullabies Is Mockingbird my lullabies? Is mocking both my lullabies Is Mockingbird my lullabies?
Mockingbirds are the state bird of Tennessee.
These lyrics from 'Feathers Oar Blades' are tantalizing as well. Here comes the oppressors Oppress, fallen, weaken Feathers-oar blades Spitting their feathers Spitting out oar blades Spitting out oar blades Crestfallen Weaken There are the feathers and water connected again. That notion of spitting feathers (Mississippi) and oar blades (Wolf River Harbor) is gnawing at my skull as well.
EXHIBIT FOUR: THAT, UH, BAND NAME
The band's next album would be released on Halloween 1983. With original bassist Will Heggie having quit, the duo needed to find a replacement.
As I write this it's twenty years ago to the day that Jeff Buckley's body was fished out of the Mississippi River, where he drowned after being caught in the wake of a passing tug while swimming off Mud Island on May 29th. I had a feeling that something might happen in conjunction with this anniversary.
I just had no idea how momentous it would be.
Chris Cornell, who died around midnight May 18th, was very close to Buckley. So much so that he became a de facto curator of Buckley's legacy, acting as his spokesman as well as overseeing and promoting some of Buckley's various posthumous reissues.
It's entirely possible that the upcoming anniversary was weighing heavily on Cornell's mind and could very well have contributed to the depression that led to his death. Cornell had a combination of drugs (including lorezepam, barbiturates and naloxone) in his system leading some to believe his death was accidental. But it's just as likely he was anesthetizing himself in anticipation of his final act.
Of course, Buckley wasn't the first singer to die with whom Cornell shared a close bond. Late in 2016 Cornell toured with Temple of the Dog, the supergroup he formed to pay tribute to Andrew Wood, with whom Cornell had a formed a close and intense bond. That Wood's death still haunted Cornell was made clear in an interview given while touring with TOTD:
“With all that’s been written about Temple of the Dog recently, it’s reminded me of the original meanings of those songs. Say Hello 2 Heaven, for example, was one of the songs I wrote directly for Andy Wood and the amount of times someone has requested I play that song for someone else who’s died have been numerous.
That’s great that it’s become this anthem that makes somebody feel some comfort when they’ve lost someone, but recently I’ve become a little more possessive of the idea that this song was actually written for a specific guy and I haven’t forgotten that person. So I’ve been reminding myself and those in the audience where that song came from.”
“I don’t know if you can ever take him out of [my heart and soul].”
Seven years later he'd lose Buckley, who became his confidant while the two wrestled with the pressures of fame. Buckley idolized Cornell and the two spent a lot of time talking on the phone while on tour. These talks were so important to Cornell that he'd take Buckley's old telephone onstage with him during his solo tours.
In 2011 Cornell started turning up on stage to do solo shows with his red phone on a stool next to him. People would shout out what’s the phone for, one day he came clear and said Jeff’s mum gave it to him, Jeff owned that phone and he put it on stage hoping Jeff might call one night.”
Buckley had a lot in common with Andrew Wood- more than a bit androgynous, prolific, eclectic, magnetic. Buckley would heavily influence Cornell's solo career, and the former Soundgarden singer even adopted a weird adaptation of Buckley's hairstyle while promoting his first album Euphoria Morning, which featured a tribute to Buckley that saw Cornell channeling his late friend.
SEA, SWALLOW ME Some have speculated if Buckley's own death was suicide but he often liked to swim in the Wolf River on hot days. He was swimming there with a friend while waiting for his band members to arrive at the Memphis airport. Apparently this kind of behavior was typical for Buckley. A friend said:
“The guy just made a big mistake — put some Led Zep on I’m going to go for a swim, I’ve got my Doc Martens on, what a great idea. He’d actually gone swimming on the Gold Coast with his girlfriend Joan (Wasser) the year before he died. His tour manager John Pope said to me everyone talks about him dying in the river in Memphis but we had to go and pluck him out of the surf. It’s not suicidal, it’s recklessness. That’s how he lived his live from what I could tell. He might have slowed down in his 30s if he made it.”
All too often, those tranquil waters proved dangerous, however. More than one child drowned in the swiftly flowing stream, and in the 1950s, when yet another child — a young boy named Ronnie Jones — died there, city leaders decided enough was enough. Funds were raised to build a public swimming pool in Gaisman Park, so the children in North Memphis could have a safer place to play.
There's something else at play, some poetic -or mythic- ending, beneath the exoteric narrative. Something floating around the Symbolic Realm. I can just see it in Euripides and Aeschylus.
It goes like this: A beautiful and talented young troubadour gets drunk on his own charisma and thoughtlessly toys with a delicate soul who is playing host to something that crossed over from the Other Side. Two thousand years ago, the omens and portents would have been recognized by everyone, from old women to schoolchildren.
They would have warned him- don't break the Siren's heart.
SHE WILL DESTROY YOU
Indeed, Buckley's fatal error was to toy with the tender heart of Elizabeth Fraser, who had a hit with a cover of Buckley's father's "Song to the Siren." Buckley idolized Fraser and pursued her while she was on tour for the Cocteau Twins' album Four Calendar Cafe. The two enjoyed a brief but powerful affair, which also came when Fraser was at her most emotionally fragile and least able to manage the strange force possessing her. But Buckley, young rock god, wasn't interested in anything serious:
Buckley had a reputation as a lover man, DNA from his body was kept in case of future paternity cases.
“He liked the ladies, the ladies liked him. When people’s stars begin to rise there’s a lot of people attracted to them, like moths to a flame, Jeff was like that. At one of his memorial services all these crying women going ‘Oh, you too?’ He had relationships with a lot of ladies over a short period of time. Not just sexual, but close personal friendships. Some didn’t know each other. He squeezed a lot into 30 years and specifically into the last five or six years of his life. Once he got to New York for the tribute to his father, which is where his career started, it was non stop until the time of his death.”
Buckley might have been racking up conquests but Fraser had other ideas. She wrote a number of raw-wound songs about him and even produced a painfully-imploring shortform video addressed to him called Rilkean Dreams shortly after their split. It would carry a chilling foreshadowing:
A short film called Rilkean Dreams (Fraser compared Buckley to the poet Rilke) was made in 1994 as a promo for the EP, named after the heart-rending "Rilkean Heart." It's hardly a promo as much as it is a nakedly confessional video love-letter to Buckley, with Fraser explicitly apologizing in song for being too needy and clingy here and then accusing Buckley of being selfish and immature there. But it's the symbolism that gets you.
If ever there was an argument for teaching the art of divining omens and portents in school, that's pretty much it.
Fraser would receive news of Buckley's death at a pivotal time:
The news that Buckley had disappeared – he drowned, swimming in the Wolf river in Memphis – came while Fraser was recording Teardrop with Massive Attack. "That was so weird," she says. "I'd got letters out and I was thinking about him. That song's kind of about him – that's how it feels to me anyway."
The death devastated Fraser and the Cocteau Twins split not long after, seemingly exorcising Fraser and sending her into a semi-retirement ever since. In a bizarre twist, her first solo record would be called 'Underwater.' And then there's this:
It seems she (Fraser) is haunted by guilt: for not being there for Buckley, for everything. As she puts it: "I need to forgive myself."
The lyrics to Garlands speak to a more-than-casual familiarity with witchcraft on someone's part, presumably Fraser's. In that context, it should be noted that the singer underwent a rather stunning metamorphosis from 1982 to 1983.
Her appearance, her wardrobe, her voice, her lyrical style, and her comportment all underwent a radical change. Gone were the punk togs; the provocative leather minis, fishnet stockings and high-heeled boots and in their place were billowy, neo-Victorian frocks (Fraser always wore long sleeves to hide her tattoos). Her lyrics began evolving towards the near-total glossolalia of Treasure, though the lyrics on Head Over Heels still retain the violence and menace of Garlands.
Even allowing for the effect of makeup, her face (most noticably, her irises) seemed to change- she looked like an entirely new person. You can see it in the live videos as well, where lighting and makeup have less power to disguise (or did back then).
The Indian demi-god, Sleeping Bear, had a daughter so beautiful that he kept her out of the sight of men in a covered boat that swung on Detroit River, tied to a tree on shore; but the Winds, having seen her when her father had visited her with food, contended so fiercely to possess her that the little cable was snapped and the boat danced on to the keeper of the water-gates, who lived at the outlet of Lake Huron.
The keeper, filled with admiration for the girl's beauty, claimed the boat and its charming freight, but he had barely received her into his lodge when the angry Winds fell upon him, buffeting him so sorely that he died, and was buried on Peach Island (properly Isle au Peche), where his spirit remained for generations—an oracle sought by Indians before emprise in war.
His voice had the sound of wind among the reeds, and its meanings could not be told except by those who had prepared themselves by fasting and meditation to receive them. Before planning his campaign against the English, Pontiac fasted here for seven days to "clear his ear" and hear the wisdom of the sighing voice.
But the Winds were not satisfied with the slaying of the keeper. They tore away his meadows and swept them out as islands. They smashed the damsel's boat and the little bark became Belle Isle. Here Manitou placed the girl, and set a girdle of vicious snakes around the shore to guard her and to put a stop to further contests. These islands in the straits seem to have been favorite places of exile and theatres of transformation.
Myths and Legends of our Own Land, by Charles M. Skinner (1896)
So we have a variation on the Siren/Lorelei myth here, right near the Fox Theater. Jesus. What are the odds? • We have a victim known for his powerful voice. Right near the Fox Theater. • We have glossolalia as we have with Elizabeth Fraser. • We also have a "girdle of vicious snakes." On the last Cocteau Twins album Fraser sings of a "Serpentskirt." Fraser posed naked for the cover of that album, which featured a number of songs written about Jeff Buckley (Fraser was clearly still smitten, as this performance indicates) , dedicating "Love and a Thousandfold Rose" to him. Buckley answered her with the song "Thousandfold", written in Memphis. It included the line "Long time ago I'd died and gone." • Like Mud Island, Belle Isle is located in a river off a major city. • 'Road, River and Rail' not only mentions the bayous but also namedrops the Isle de la Cite in Paris. Both Memphis and Detroit trace their establishment to French colonists.
• And Jesus, I don't even know how to say it- OK, try this: CHRIS CORNELL RECORDED A SONG CALLED 'THE KEEPER'. In it he sings, "I am the keeper." Are you getting all this now?
Strangely, Chris Cornell is credited as the author on several different lyric sites of 'Siren Song', written by Cocteau superfan Robert Smith. The lyrics are clearly inspired by Tim Buckley's 'Song to the Siren' and reference "crystal eyes." It also includes the couplet "She sang "Give me your life or I must fly away/And you will never hear this song again." What's likely is that Cornell covered the song during a concert (Temple of the Dog covered the Cure's 'Fascination Street') and it was mistakenly credited to him by fans. The synchronicity of it all (not to mention "Let Me Drown") and how it seemed to ensnare him is par for the course in the apparently still-unfolding drama of the Siren. UPDATE:Now this is going from insane to downright arcane. We saw the juxtaposition of 'Wolf in the Breast' and 'Road, River and Rail' acting as a prophecy of Jeff Buckley's death on the Wolf River. A body of water which- again- terminates at a place called Frayser. We saw the deeply disturbing premonitions- the river and underwater footage running throughout Fraser's heartbroken petitions to Buckley- in Rilkean Dreams. And of course the title itself could be interpreted as a reference to the water of the Wolf River in the lungs. But there's a little detail I overlooked- the lyrics to 'Wolf in the Breast', at least some of which are in English. Now you have to be careful with the lyrics posted on the Internet- they're nearly all guesswork by fans and don't bear any relation to what Fraser actually wrote. That being said, a phrase recognizably repeated throughout is "I'll revenge all I need that day." Mind you, this is a song that seems mostly concerned with taking care of a baby. Now of course, Fraser herself was never consciously aware of this. She hadn't even met Jeff Buckley at this time. But by her own admission she wasn't always in control of the songwriting process, that the songs often wrote themselves. Who may have assisted in this process then? I guess we'll never know. But given the Celtic extraction of the main players in the drama it's worth looking into the myth of the Leanán Sidhe:
In Celtic folklore, the leannán sí "Fairy-Lover" (Scottish Gaelic: leannan sìth, Manx: lhiannan shee; [lʲan̴̪-an ˈʃiː]) is a beautiful woman of the Aos Sí ("people of the barrows") who takes a human lover. Lovers of the leannán sídhe are said to live brief, though highly inspired, lives.
The leannán sídhe is generally depicted as a beautiful muse who offers inspiration to an artist in exchange for their love and devotion; however, this frequently results in madness for the artist, as well as premature death.
Like the Siren, the Leanán Sidhe is said to live at the bottom of the ocean. UPDATE: It should also be kept in mind that Fraser was recording "Teardrop" with Massive Attack when Buckley died, a song she wrote about their breakup. The lyrics include lines about "black flowers blossom," a common symbol for death.
UPDATE: A Jesus Christ Pose in Detroit? Soundboard recording of Wolf in the Breastfrom 1990. Uploaded in 2015. UPDATE: Our Gordon reminds us that Memphis- Egypt- literally had a Temple of the Dog, ie., Anubis. *Fraser was studying Theosophy and Anthrosophy in 2012 at Emerson College, Sussex. Again, David Lynch tried to license Elizabeth Fraser's version of 'Song to the Siren' for Blue Velvet but was unable to. He later used it in Lost Highway.
Let's get this out of the way first - SPOILERS! Then this: Alien: Covenant is not a very good movie. It's not offensively terrible, in fact it goes out of its way to be as inoffensive as possible. Even the gore seems polite. I'd give you a synopsis but you can just as easily take all your favorite scenes from the Alien franchise, arrange them however you please, add in a cartoon villain whose motivations are entirely incomprehensible and then go fix yourself up some Jiffy Pop. Alien: Covenant goes to great lengths to piss away the entire ontology proposed in the film it's meant to act as a sequel to, ostensibly annihilating the god-like Engineer race in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it CGI eruption that has all the heft and drama of a 80s video game. But at the same time it seems to tell a story beneath the surface narrative. And a lot of its riffs will be well familiar to anyone versed in Ancient Astronaut Theory. Which, let's face it, was arguably extraneous to the running plot of Prometheus (space mission finds remains of alien race mixed up with the xenomorph progenitors). As Gordon and I discussed, it also feels like it meant to originally serve as the advance guard for a new AAT media blitz*, a plan that appears to have been scuttled in the wake of Hurricane Trump and the resultant cold (for the time being) civil war the country has been plunged into. I've never seen divide-and-rule politics as divisive as what we're seeing today, with the ostensible goal being to atomize the population into impotent, squabbling subsects in order to preempt any potential challenge to oligarchal rule, even if the oligarchy itself is itself carved up into mutually antagonistic camps. (I should mention here that this whole program seems to have fired up in the wake of the Occupy movements). Of course there's also the fact that the easiest social grouping (tribe, country, empire, etc) to conquer is one that's divided against itself. Just saying.
But even this miserable turn of events seems to resonate with the AAT perspective as well, specifically the "gods at war" subplot running through Zecharia Sitchin's bibliography, as well as some of the theorizing emerging on the fringe science circuit. Now, there's a strand of thinking among those who wrestle with the Fermi Paradox, essentially arguing that high technology is inherently anti-adaptive and inevitably leads to self-destruction. What this theory essentially proposes is that we've not had any (acknowledged) contact with extraterrestrial races because they've all been wiped out by their own advanced technology (read: 'weaponry'). This of course is a wildly egocentric assumption ("extraterrestrial races are all as savage and murderous as we are") and automatically presumes that our own high technology is not in fact some kind of alien intrusion, even if it behaves every bit like one. I bring this up because there are two running themes in Alien: Covenant I do want to unpack, because they do (obliquely) reference some of the basic tenets of AAT (the film seems to keep a lot of its AAT on the DL). First off is David's genocide of the Engineer planet. This was a fairly ridiculous subplot, essentially chucking everything we were told about these beings in the first film. This is a billions year-old race that seeded all life on Earth and yet they're all defeated by a lone android who had hijacked one of their spacecraft? Huh? Wouldn't they naturally have some kind of defense infrastructure that would have intercepted this ship before it ever reached orbit? There's no attempt at following the story's own internal logic. Now there are all kinds of ways you could have made sense of this. The Engineers had degenerated over the millennia and lost their high technology, that they'd become so drunk on their own power that they never expected any exterior challenge, etc etc etc. But the film makes absolutely no attempt to sell any of that. But by the same token there's a fascinating allegory at work here, even if it's unintentional, and that ties back to the war of the gods theme running through a lot of AAT theorizing. Note that the Engineers aren't decked up in their Gigeresque finery in the apocalypse scene but look more like the kind of quasi-Medievals familiar to space fantasy fans. They also look pretty stupid gazing up at the approaching ship like the hapless New Agers in Mars Attacks.
But were they in fact the Engineers? Some fans don't seem to think so. A closer look at the (humanoid) aliens in the film may suggest that this in fact was another descendant race, the clue being the skintone (matte and pinkish as opposed to chalky white and moderately reflective). They also don't seem quite as black-eyed. Another clue is their reaction to the ship, arguably suggesting these people were expecting their gods to return. MARS, ATTACKED
Is this a fakeout or a reference to another covert subplot altogether? It's possible there was a revelation that this was just a descendant race in the original script but that all got lost in the rewriting process. Perhaps David's apparent plan to kill off the human colonists- who are both his progenitors and another descendant race- are the clue here. Either way, the story (mankind's cousins wiped out by a space invader) ties in pretty neatly with the theories put forth by plasma physicist Dr. John Brandenburg:
"Dr. Brandenburg has previously theorized that the red color of Mars and the radioactive substances in its soil are the result of a thermonuclear explosion from natural causes. He now says that the “high concentration” of Xenon-129 in the Martian atmosphere and uranium and thorium on the surface are remnants of two unnatural nuclear explosions, most likely triggered by alien invaders.
"Who were these aliens invading and eventually wiping out? Brandenburg believes Mars once had a climate like Earth and was inhabited by two civilizations – one in a region called Cydonia Mensa and another at Galaxias Chaos. Why these two regions?
'Analysis of new images from Odyssey, MRO and Mars Express orbiters now show strong evidence of eroded archeological objects at these sites.'
According to Brandenburg, the Martians maintained a high civilization, albeit a non-technological one:
He says Mars once had an Earth-like climate home to animal and plant life, and any intelligent life would have been about as advanced as the ancient Egyptians on Earth.
There's also David's genetic tinkering with the xenomorph genome. As a self-styled god, David here is playing the part suggested by AATheorists, who postulate that the Anunaki went through a series of experiments in creating the modern human genome and eradicated unwanted models while they did so. Strangely enough, this also correlates to the AAT-friendly origin myth put forth by the ancient Greek writer Hesiod in his landmark Works and Days. Hesiod, significantly, was apparently deeply influenced by Babylonian literature, the Enuma Elish in particular. And the war of the gods certainly correlates to the Titanomachy, or the wars between the Olympians and their progenitors, the Titans. So is there an unspoken inference that David is the titular Prometheus, defying the "gods" and shepherding the engineered development of the xenomorph race? In the context of the film itself it's really hard to care one way or the other but it does suggest that there was in fact a lot more meat on the bone in previous drafts of the script.
THEY'RE EVERYWHERE But it's worth noting that the Alien franchise is not only another example of a major SF property that revolves around AAT it's also an example of a SF franchise onto which AAT was grafted midstream (at the same time it was grafted onto the Predator franchise). Some franchises have AAT baked into their genome at conception (Star Trek (more or less), the Space Odyssey series, Battlestar Galactica) but many more seem to have it implanted sometime into their runs (Quatermass, Doctor Who, X-Files, Indiana Jones, Transformers, Jonny Quest, Godzilla, Doom, Halo, Assassin's Creed).
The report has become noted for one short section entitled "The implications of a discovery of extraterrestrial life", which examines the potential implications of such a discovery on public attitudes and values. The section briefly considers possible public reactions to some possible scenarios for the discovery of extraterrestrial life, stressing a need for further research in this area. It recommends continuing studies to determine the likely social impact of such a discovery and its effects on public attitudes…"
One detail that caught the eye of researchers like Richard Hoagland is the mention of possible artifacts discovered on our neighbors, artifacts that might call our entire view of our planet and our very existence into question.
"While face-to-face meetings with it will not occur within the next twenty years (unless its technology is more advanced than ours, qualifying it to visit Earth), artifacts left at some point in time by these life forms might possibly be discovered through our space activities on the Moon, Mars, or Venus."
And then there's this passage, which basically explains why so many STEM types are so deeply wounded by AAT:
"It has been speculated that, of all groups, scientists and engineers might be the most devastated by the discovery of relatively superior creatures, since these professions are most clearly associated with the mastery of nature, rather than with the understanding and expression of man. Advanced understanding of nature might vitiate all our theories at the very least, if not also require a culture and perhaps a brain inaccessible to Earth scientists."
Huh. And the money quote: suggestions for how that eventuality- or some kind of alien contact- might be managed by the Managers.
Continuing studies to determine emotional and intellectual understanding and attitudes -- and successive alterations of them if any -- regarding the possibility and consequences of discovering intelligent extraterrestrial life.
Historical and empirical studies of the behavior of peoples and their leaders when confronted with dramatic and unfamiliar events or social pressures. Such studies might help to provide programs for meeting and adjusting to the implications of such a discovery. Questions one might wish to answer by such studies would include: How might such information, under what circumstances, be presented to or withheld from the public for what ends?
And lo and behold, 57 years after the Brookings Report we get this:
The solar system that humanity calls home may have once been inhabited by an extinct species of spacefaring aliens, a top scientist has suggested.
A space scientist has suggested ancient extraterrestrials could have lived on Mars, Venus or even Earth before disappearing without a trace.
In a fascinating academic paper about “prior indigenous technological species,” Jason T. Wright from Pennsylvania State University raised the fascinating possibility that evidence of these extinct aliens could exist somewhere in the solar system.
Wright is an astronomer who received global attention after suggesting an “alien megastructure” had been spotted in orbit around a distant star.Now the stargazer has said advanced aliens may have left behind “technosignatures” for us to find — if only we knew where to look for them.
Of course, this is exactly what Richard Hoagland has been talking about- and has been roundly attacked for doing so- for at least the past 40 years. But I suppose it's different when the very same theorizing comes from within the priesthood.
It's funny; last night I was cutting the grass and thinking about stuff. You know, like you do when you're cutting the grass. Then I started mulling over how simplistic and repetitive the Ancient Aliens show is and how quickly Giorgio Tsoukalos transformed himself into a cartoon character. But then I realized that's how educational indoctrination works in our culture. All kinds of teaching and training materials in public schools use cartoon characters, right? Walt Disney probably made a fortune licensing his characters for educational films. And it's through repetition that people really learn anything. So Ancient Aliens might chew over the same gristle year after year but that helps keep its messaging consistent as its audience ebbs and flows (read: enters/graduates high school). Love it or loathe it, you have to acknowledge that there's a cogent methodology at work there. Government-conditioning program or cult indoctrination, they all work out of the same toolbox. Is it all leading up to some major revelation, the way 'Disclosure' advocates expect? Or is all leading up to some massive Project Blue Beam type of hoax? Well, why would anyone expect it to? Why would anyone expect the skies to open- or not- as the climax of all this conditioning? The answer, of course, is Hollywood. Because that's the way it works in the movies. Real life doesn't usually work that way. However, no matter who or what is behind all this the fact remains that, like it or don't, AAT (and the UFO topic in general) have already dramatically changed our culture, our technology and our society. Certainly our popular culture. Being a bit long in the tooth it still boggles my mind how many younger people take the basic assumptions of AAT for granted, even if they haven't read a page of Sitchin or Von Daniken or even watched a single Ancient Aliens. They don't have to. So much of their favorite pop culture is neck deep in it.
*You can toss in the Sekret Machines project here, spearheaded by former Blink 182 guitarist Tom Delonge and Peter Levenda of Necronomicon and Sinister Forces fame, and involving all kinds of Deep State heavies such as John Podesta.
On the latest Rune Soup podcast, Gordon and I discuss the disappointment that is Alien: Covenant. Then we speculate about its place in the cargo cult worldview and the conditioning agenda prescribed in 1960 by the Brookings Institution. I've been working on a companion post for this discussion, which I hope to have up by tomorrow night at the latest. I do my best to keep up with Gordon but effort only takes you so far. I'm out of practice with these kinds of things ( I barely say a word to anyone most of the day) and I was experiencing some major fibro fog because of the miserable weather we've been having here but Gordon goes above and beyond to pick up any slack. Gordon is a bonafide genius (I don't use that term lightly) and gets my vote as the Mozart of Podcasters. Alien: Covenant has been cited as one of the major under-performers of the summer season and has been (rightly) trashed by YouTube critics but seems to be an important part of this 57 year-old acclimation program we've all been subjected to (slow and steady wins the race, apparently). It's probably more interesting for the things it doesn't say (but implies) than anything you're actually seeing on the screen itself. Gordon and I also speculate as to whether the current Deep State civil war had some kind of suppressive effect on a planned-but-aborted multimedia rollout that may include the Tom DeLonge Sekret Machines program and the drip-out of news stories like the mind-boggling Jason Wright/Penn State paper on ancient aliens. I usually don't much go for the whole "disclosure" meme but if you're looking for evidence that such a thing is actually underway that's a pretty good place to start. There's a lot we didn't get to and I'll try to address some of the points I had laid out in my notes for this show but didn't get around to raising in my next post. Looking forward to hearing your feedback about the film.
Well, after 27 years of waiting and a good 18 months of hype it's finally here. Showtime aired the two-hour Twin Peaks reboot premiere and posted the first four episodes (the premiere was broken in two) online. I binged the first three as soon as they went up and the last episode the following morning. My first impression? Ye gods, it's weird. I mean, even on the David Lynch sliding scale, it's weird. How weird? Well, it makes the weird bits of Mulholland Dr and Inland Empire play like Days of Our Lives.Some door in Lynch's unconscious seems to have gone well off its hinges. It's also maddeningly inconsistent, veering from long, flabby scenes where nothing seems to happen to random bursts of truly disturbing horror and violence. There are a number of high profile cameos that range from the numinous (the more-radiant-than-ever Madeline Zima) to the far less-so (Michael Sera comes across as the pretentious kid in your ninth grade drama club) and an extremely confusing subplot with a Dale Cooper-alike in Las Vegas, not to mention the actual Dale Cooper and his demonic doppelganger. But you know me, this shit's right up alley. I was at turns bored, riveted, horrified and embarrassed but I'm counting the hours to the next episode (which will go live on June 4th). But the rest of the country? Maybe not so much. Since we live in a culture that measures the quality of art in dollars and demos the big story on Twin Peaks was the tepid ratings it got. From Vulture:
The owls are not what they seem, and neither was viewer interest in a Twin Peaks revival — at least if Nielsen ratings are your metric for success. Per the ratings giant, Sunday’s quarter-century-in-the-making Twin Peaks: The Return attracted just 506,000 same-day viewers to Showtime via the network’s main linear channel.
But same-day is an archaic metric, isnt it? I'm sure the overwhelming majority of the audience will be consuming Twin Peaks online. We cut the cord a while back and haven't missed it. No one was actually watching the cable feed anyways. Vulture again:
First, it’s worth remembering the 506,000 viewer number reported by Nielsen Tuesday represents only a fraction of the audience that will ultimately consume Peaks across various Showtime linear and digital platforms. When measured over the course of weeks, rather than a single night, it’s quite common for premium cable series to end up with three, four, or even five times as many unique viewers as the same-day Nielsen ratings suggest. The actual audience for Sunday’s Twin Peaks resurrection will likely end up in the 2–3 million viewer range — no doubt less than what Showtime execs hoped for when they green-lit the project, but not quite as minuscule as these early numbers suggest.
But do note that the Twin Peaks premiere was watched by a mind-staggering 34 million Americans. But the blush came off that rose fairly quickly, especially during the second season when the series was relegated to the death slot. Even so, it has to be said that David Lynch has never been box office. Instead his audience is "more selective," as Ian Faith might have it. From Forbes.
Although David Lynch has always been something of a critical darling and a cult hero, the quality of his work hasn't necessarily translated into box office dollars. Yes, Mulholland Drive got rave reviews and was even voted best film of its decade by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (full disclosure: I'm a member and did not vote for it, feeling that as a rejiggered TV pilot it wasn't as deep as people were giving it credit for). But in terms of box office, it only generated $20 million international. His follow-up,Inland Empire, was way down from even that, at merely $4 million international, less than $1 million of which was domestic.
Just how selective it can be is evidenced by this frankly arrogant passage in the Variety review, written by Sonia Saraiya:
The bankable popularity of “Twin Peaks” also makes for an inexplicably stupid scene at the Bang Bang where the indie-electronic band Chromatics performs to a room of middle-aged townies taking tequila shots. Nothing says rural, small-town, faded glory like an impossibly cool synthpop band.
What time period is Saraiya living in? First of all The Chromatics are an 80s revival band so it goes without saying that they would appeal to the "middle-aged townies" who grew up on synthpop. Second, Twin Peaks is set in the Pacific Northwest, which last time I checked was pretty hep to pop culture. Third, Lynch has been using synthpop in his projects since Blue Velvet. The Forbes review seems to get it:
(The)Chromatics, as well as whatever industrial band it is that plays underneath footage of a car journey at night, fit effortlessly into the Lynchian soundscape.
But overall I think the more savvy viewers will adjust themselves to the jumbled narrative Lynch is putting on the table. As agog as I felt during long stretches of my binge I came out of it with a strong sense of theme. Lynch sets up a number of different arcs in different settings. The story ranges from Twin Peaks to Manhattan to South Dakota to Las Vegas. Plus, what looks like outer space but may be some other dimension entirely. And oh yeah, the Black Lodge. In Twin Peaks a phone call from the Log Lady to Deputy Sheriff Hawk reopens the Laura Palmer case. It's here where we get the strongest hit of that old time Peaks religion and a serving of familiar faces (maybe a little too generous a serving in some instances). We also get some rather stunning photography that would fit proudly on anyone's demo reel. Plus, an owl.
The story in Manhattan centers on a young man whose job it is to sit in a secure room and stare at a glass box on behalf of some shadowy billionaire. He's being courted by a gorgeous young woman (Zima, turning on her native charm like a flamethrower) who is inexplicably curious about his job. Unlike some other reviewers I won't spoil this arc. But I will say you could cut out those sequences and have yourself a very fine Stevens-Stefano Outer Limits tribute on Lynch's part. I'm thinking "The Galaxy Being", "OBIT" and "Don't Open 'Til Doomsday" were spinning in very heavy rotation somewhere in Lynch's head, unconsciously or otherwise. The South Dakota storyline updates us on the Dale Cooper doppelganger introduced in the final moments of the original series. There's another murder mystery on the menu and a very Twin Peaks undercurrent of small town sexual intrigue when a high school principal is accused of murdering his mistress. The Cooperganger comes across like Frank Booth on Xanax but no less lethal. To show us just how lethal he's featured in a murder scene that is frankly pretty hard to watch. We encounter the original Cooper, still trapped in the Black Lodge. Which seems only to have gotten more insane in the intervening 27 years. Michael Anderson has been replaced by the One-Armed Man so you don't really miss a beat (Anderson disqualified himself after hurling some pretty wild insinuations against Lynch on his Facebook).
And plus there's a talking brain-tree thing which refers to itself as "the evolution of the arm" (Michael Anderson's character referred to himself as the Arm). Which is probably the least bizarre thing in the Cooper arc. I mean, strap yourself in because the Cooper-Black Lodge arc goes absolutely bugshit, even more so than anything Lynch has ever filmed. If you thought the lodge stuff was crackers, you literally have seen nothing yet. Although all these arcs might seem unrelated-- and most probably completely bewildering to anyone not acclimated to Lynch's surrealist vision-- I am sensing a very strong thruline here. I may be projecting all over it but it feels to me that Lynch is presenting a new metaphysics for evil. There's been a debate as old as humanity about the origin of evil, whether it's an innate reality or an invader from without. With the Bob arc from the first series and now with the juxtaposition of the Black Lodge and the Glass Box Lynch appears to arguing that evil is in fact a foreign presence, a metaphysical force that intrudes into our reality to look for hosts. As if to concretize this we see that the evil Cooper is not of our Earth and once the real Cooper escapes from his imprisonment (a spoiler, but come on) he is weakened and himself imprisoned. I would argue then that Twin Peaks is a narrative about the flowering of evil. It presents evil as an outside force that invades and sets up shop into our environment then goes about finding suitable hosts to express itself through. It destroys lives, ruins families and communities for no apparent reason then moves on. This theme was explored in the thorny and divisive Fire Walk With Me, with Laura Palmer's descent prefigured by her dream of the Black Lodge and with her father's possession by the evil spirit Bob (what a great name for a demon). Of course, Lynch may well move onto other themes before the series is finished so this is a provisional analysis. But Lynch seems to be fairly consistent in his fixations if you get past the whimsy. A lot of people accused Mulholland Dr and Inland Empire of incoherence but they both make perfect sense when you figure out their secrets. They're also essentially the same film told from two different perspectives. Anyhow, I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts on the series so far and any speculations you might have where all this is headed. I just hope the media doesn't just see it all as a numbers game.
Ah, those Years of Seven. We looked at the significant anniversaries in the World of Weird this Year of Seven is marking, from Heaven's Gate and the Phoenix Lights to the Harmonic Convergence to the releases of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the First Kind. As it happens, there's another major anniversary on the docket this year and that's the birth of the modern "NeoPagan" movement.
Fifty years ago, in 1967, three organizations were formed which would have a profound impact on the shape of contemporary Paganism: Frederick Adams founded Feraferia, a wilderness mystery religion; Aidan Kelly and others formed the New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn, an eclectic witchcraft tradition; and Tim (Oberon) Zell filed for incorporation of the Church of All Worlds, which was based on the fictional religion described in Robert Heinlein’s novel, Stranger in a Strange Land.
As the Church of All Worlds shows, the NeoPagan movement was born out of the rising Geek insurgency, out of a fermenting sub-subculture in which Dune, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings had well and colonized the imaginations of the young and dateless. The crossover would become so successful that the strict atheism and naturalism that had once been de rigeur in sci-fi (and fandom in general) would soon be put on its back foot by this new Mysticism, a current that would revolutionize pop culture with the runaway success of Star Wars. NeoPaganism occupied a fair bit of real estate in the collective mind of Fandom but has never been the upstart mass movement its adherents might have you believe. It probably peaked as a movement in the 1990s (with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) and, if the current alarm bells being rung in the NeoPaganism blogosphere are any indication, has been receding ever since. So much so that many NeoPagans believe the jig is finally up.
Contemporary Paganism isn’t an institution, but we do have institutions, and many of them are struggling to survive. Cherry Hill Seminary announced last year that it might not be able to continue its programming. CUUPS is hardly thriving. The Pagan Community Statement on the Environment, which is quite possibly the single largest expression of Pagan voices ever, has not yet collected a mere 10,000 signatures in the two years since it was published. And, as far as I can tell, none of the organizers of Pagan festivals and conferences have reported significant growth in recent years. These are just a few examples of Pagan institutions that I have been involved with to one degree or another over the years.
In Britain, where so much of the Wicca and NeoPaganism we recognize today was born, the situation seems pretty much the same. NeoPaganism is struggling there too, ironically as the current Chaos Magick revival is picking up steam.
I’ve been told that the number of registered members of the Pagan Federation has gone down for the first time. At the Harvest Moon Conference in 2016, Melissa Harrington confessed that she felt that this decline in active participation was indicative of Paganism “going underground” again. Most of the Pagan Federation events I’ve been to recently have shown a similar demographic spread to OBOD ones.
My concern is that the declining number of young participants in the Pagan community in Britain, and the general diminution of those taking an active role in the community as a whole, indicates that that growth has stalled. British Paganism—as a subculture and as a movement—is in trouble.
I'm not at all surprised by this. I'd wager that most NeoPagans had some kind of traditional religious upbringing, which made them at least casually familiar with the basics of ritual and theology. With traditional religion a fading memory among NeoPaganism's mission field, it becomes harder than ever to attract people to the surrogate community that NeoPaganism promises. But there's also the problem of the movement failing to deliver what it promises:
What is in decline, then, is something quite specific—the Pagan Movement; a collection of organisations, publications, ceremonial genres, training courses. That collection is no longer feeding the appetite of the general public for the magical.
Then there's the prickly issue of sectarianism. NeoPaganism bears only a glancing resemblance to the ancient variety, but it's chock full of the kind of perpetual fragmentation that a Pagan in ancient Alexandria might have been sick of. One blogger is even pushing an atheist strand of NeoPaganism:
Atheopaganism is post-Belief religion. It is evidence-based spirituality rooted in real-world, positive, life-affirming values. It gives us what religion is good at giving us, and avoids trying to do what science can clearly do better.
I believe it is in broad strokes what succeeding generations will practice in growing numbers. It is what will give meaning and build community for people who have left behind the ideas of gods and magic.
Yeah, good luck with that. After all, discarding your traditional core tenets has worked out so well for the so-called Mainline denominations. Like the churches that so many NeoPagans grew out of, the movement is looking to political activism to "stay relevant." But people interested in activism now have a endless buffet of NGOs and pressure groups to choose from, and most activists today tend to see any flavor of spirituality as regressive and impolite. Which may be why most Mainline Christian denominations are now fading into history. But a strong argument could be made that NeoPaganism is fading because the overall culture has been so effectively paganized. If that's true, then where do you go from there?
Scarlet Imprint publisher Peter Gray was a bit ahead of the curve when he announced the impending death of NeoPaganism three years back. And he sees the same trends at work- Neopaganism is fading because it's no longer needed:
There is no halting the decline of the initiatic witchcraft traditions of Gardner or Sanders, nor the collapse of neo-paganism. The reason? To use the correct mimetic formula: Because Internet. People are having their needs met by the online simulacra of witchcraft. Those who are seeking witchcraft simply do not have to hunt out lineages, everything is before them in the digital form that has socialised them while their parents paid more attention to their smartphones.
Gray calls for the "rewilding"of Witchcraft, for the art to return to its outlaw roots. He wants to recapture the danger of Witchcraft, which he believes- rightly- has been traded away by Wiccans and their fellow travelers. But the question then becomes how wild are you willing to be? Witches are killed on on a fairly regular basis in developing countries because they're seen as dangerous and taboo. In our anything-goes culture what exactly do you have to do to recapture that outlaw sheen? It's no small question. Why?
Well, because the Gardnerian Book of Shadows tells us exactly how dark ancient witchcraft and Paganism could get:
Priests know this well; and by their auto-da-fé, with the victims' pain and terror (the fires acting much the same as circles), obtained much power. Of old the Flagellants certainly evoked power, but through not being confined in a circle much was lost. The amount of power raised was so great and continuous that anyone with knowledge could direct and use it; and it is most probable that the classical and heathen sacrifices were used in the same way. There are whispers that when the human victim was a willing sacrifice, with his mind directed on the Great Work and with highly skilled assistants, wonders ensued but of this I would not speak.”
The event, first organised in the mid-1980s, marks the ending of winter and is a revival of the ancient Celtic and Pagan festival of Beltane, the Gaelic name for the month of May.
Thousands of spectators gathered on Calton Hill in the Scottish capital to watch drummers, fire dancers, physical theatre and a large bonfire.
During the event, the Green Man is killed as god of winter and reborn as spring to consort with the May Queen.
This is a big deal in Scotland. And other types of ancient festival revivals have been popping up in Britain over the past several years as well, particularly in provincial towns looking to drum up tourism. But do note that in the ancient Beltane festivals the Green Man was actually killed as a sacrifice to the gods of the crops. The Edinburgh festival obviously stops short of this, but this is like trading out wine for grape juice at communion. The real McCoy is baked into the rite itself and soaks through to the surface. It can't help but.
So what does this all have to do with the so-called Folk Horror revival? Well, the folk component of the genre doesn't refer to old Joan Baez records. It draws upon the idea of ancient folkways- often those centering on human sacrifice- bubbling back up to the surface and violently intruding on the lives of unwitting cosmopolitans.
Unlike other sub-genres, folk horror’s very form is difficult to convey. Despite what its simplistic description implies – from the emphasis on the horrific side of folklore to a very literal horror of people – the term’s fluctuating emphasis makes it difficult to pin down outside of a handful of popular examples.
The term first came to prominence in 2010 when Mark Gatiss used it as an umbrella theme to describe a number of films in his A History of Horror documentary for BBC4. Yet the term was used in the programme in reference to an earlier interview with the director Piers Haggard for Fangoria magazine in 2004, in which Haggard suggests of his own film The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) that he “was trying to make a folk horror film”.
The revival encompasses a number of films and novels but regards three British films as the sacred texts of the genre:
The trilogy, now often known under the banner of the ‘Unholy Trinity’, consist of Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968), Piers Haggard’s The Blood on Satan’s Claw and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973). Though their imagery has since defined all things “olde” and “wyrd” about Britain (see the cover of Sight & Sound, August 2010), it is in their narratives where folk horror becomes defined.
All three films work through an emphasis on landscape which subsequently isolates its communities and individuals, skewing the dominant moral and theological systems enough to cause violence, human sacrifices, torture and even demonic and supernatural summonings.
The Witchfinder General traumatized me when I watched it on Creature Double Feature way back in the day. Unlike most of the other Folk Horror landmarks it's based on real-life events.
HP Lovecraft's shadow looms over the genre, whether he likes it or not. There are obviously significant differences but a lot of his stories seem to center on city-slickers dealing with hideous eruptions of the primeval in decaying rural outposts. Lovecraft is often criticized for his racism but the truth is he didn't seem to like much of anybody outside his perceived social set. From "The Call of Cthulhu" to "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" to "The Festival" it's pretty obvious exactly where Lovecraft was coming from. Lovecraft was terrified that modern civilization was nothing more than a fragile veneer, ready to flake away under the slightest existential pressure. And cults and cultic practices were like the monster under Lovecraft's bed, always ready to pounce once the lights went out. (In this context, Stuart Gordon's fever-dream film version of Dagon could be seen as an outlier within the Folk Horror genre).
Lovecraft enjoyed his own revival in the 1960s and one can't help but wonder what kind of effect he had on the emerging Folk Horror genre.The Wicker Man is often seen today as a kind of one-off but in fact it was following very closely in the footsteps of earlier films.
The Witches, partly written by Nigel Kneale, is an early example of the type as is Eye of the Devil, which made a star of Sharon Tate. In the kind of hideous synchronicity that follows all potent art like a lost puppy, Tate would become a sacrifice to the kind of cult that probably haunted Lovecraft's nightmares. Both films, released in 1966 and 1967 respectively, worked the theme of an outsider to a rural community discovering grisly ancient practices lurking beneath a placid rustic surface. Eye of the Devil, like The Wicker Man, centers on crop failure and the need of the community to kill its ritual king to appease the gods of the fields. So the fields were already well-furrowed by the time Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy had their brainstorm.
Thomas Tryon's 1973 novel Harvest Home was adapted into a TV miniseries in the late 70s and taps in the same vein: in this case a New York family moves to a small town and discovers that their new neighbors still practice the ancient Celtic folkways. Since it's based on an American novel it's usually overlooked by Folk Horror revivalists, but it's a solid example of the type. Maybe one of the more potent examples, actually. Shame it's not better known.
There are variations on the theme to be found during this same Golden Age (the late 60s to the early 70s). The Shuttered Room, based on a story HP Lovecraft cowrote with August Derleth is a variation on the type, as is Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, which starred Dustin Hoffman as an American married to a British woman played by Susan George. They move to the rural English village where the George character grew up and are menaced by a gang of local thugs. Straw Dogs was remade in 2011 and moved to the rural South. Of course.
A more recent example of the type is Kill List, an absolutely extraordinary film that has you believing you're watching one kind of British drama before pulling the rug out from under your feet and landing you in quite another altogether. I'm not going to say too much more about it since you really should see it for yourself.
But The Wicker Man (also remade, badly, in 2006) remains the King of the Folk Horror Crop. The film hardly seems like a horror movie for most of its running time, more like a quirky musical comedy, kind of a warped Brigadoon. And it's based in ancient Celtic rituals, or at least legends of ancient Celtic rituals.
The idea of a “wickerman” is reminiscent of references in both Irish legend and the second branch of the WelshMabinogi to men being inveigled into a specially built house, which is then set fire, immolating them. There is also a reference by Lucan, and the comments by later scholars as part of the Lucan scholia, in the Pharsalia,to three Celtic deities; Taranis said to have been propitiated by burning, Teutates by drowning, and Esus by hanging. Esus is mythologically similar to the Nordic deity Odin, also associated with hanging from a tree.
But it wasn't only the Celts who practiced human sacrifice. The Normans, who conquered England in the 11th Century, were huge fans of human sacrifice before giving in to Christian convention. Warlord Rollo was a exemplar of the Norman split-personality when it came honoring the ancient Viking folkways.
Adémar of Chabannes, however, writing about 100 years after Rollo’s death, described his last days as a time of religious madness, in which the Heathen ‘Rollo’ rose up against the Christian ‘Robert’ and in a desperate attempt to atone for the betrayal of Odin and Thor ordered the beheading of 100 Christians as sacrifices to them. This was followed by a frenzied attempt to balance the books yet again when he distributed ‘one hundred pounds of gold round the churches in honour of the true god in whose name he had accepted baptism’.
Is Rollo the spiritual founding father of Folk Horror? Sounds like it to me. There's an inherent schizophrenia at work in the genre, building on the paranoid truism that things are never what they seem, that ancient horrors are always lurking beneath respectable surfaces, looking for a way out. So what is the driving impulse behind Folk Horror? It's an inherently Pagan form, an immersion into the dark mysteries of the countryside. It feels deeply atavistic, like a twisted celebration of the premodern. The genre often seems to address a very human desire to belong to a tribe that's both nurturing and absolutely fearless, even if that tribe are presented as villains. But there's also that repressed impulse to bask in somebody else's sacrifice, to exercise that kind of complete control over life and death. Post-Enlightenment culture has worked around the clock to erase all this from our firmware but only seems to have moved the pieces around the board. By contrast, NeoPaganism was always going to be a nonstarter because it pretended it could recapture the positive aspects of the old folkways and discard all those it found problematic. It also believed it could recreate the bonds of blood and soil in a urban- or more accurately, suburban- setting. That it could soak up all the richness and drama of ancient Paganism without getting its hands dirty. Or more accurately again, bloody. Sorry, but that's not the way it works. Folk Horror dispenses with all that and reminds everyone that life and death were barely a whisper apart in the old times. That bloodshed was a daily fact of life back then. It's just the way things worked. After all, it wasn't so long ago that housewives killed their own chickens. No one blinked at the sacrifice of a lamb or a piglet at even the swankiest Mystery cults. Bacchanalias often ended up with Maenads ripping wild animals limb from limb (Maenad actually means "raving one"). Sacrifice was absolutely inseparable from belief.By contrast NeoPaganism feels more like a slightly more exotic form of Unitarianism. Sort on spectacle and sacrifice and long on sanctimony. So my guess is that the Edinburgh Beltane Festival is so popular not only for the nudity and the LARPing but also for serving up a vicarious echo from those olden days, when these dramas were all played for keeps. Not all Folk Horror is based in Pagan human sacrifice but the death and horror that people once took for granted are tightly wound into its weave. So it will be worth watching to see where this genre goes in response to the hyper-acceleration of Globalism and technocracy. For now it serves as a way to soak up the olde dramas without making much of a mess. It could go eventually go in another direction entirely, kind of like how The Wicker Man led to the Burning Man Festival. It could even lead to a neo-NeoPaganism. Stranger things have happened, right?
There are two divergent streams at work in the Idea-o-Sphere, currents that are not only divergent in size, strength and assumption, but are in fact antithetical. The most dominant, of course, is the imminent AI-Robot Revolution, which threatens to bring a very real apocalypse into our world if in fact it flowers as predicted (and isn't just a big scare to keep the peons from asking for raises). So we're hearing that not only truck drivers, widget drillers and burger flippers are at risk of imminent penury, so too are lawyers, doctors, accountants and all manner of other professionals whose livelihood is based in their capacity to process huge chunks of complicated data and subsequently make decisions and judgments that are useful to others who can't. Programmers- and AIs themselves- are currently working around the clock to fill the shoes of these well-paid professionals with cheap, off-the-shelf software programs that will reliably get that same cognitive work done at a tiny fraction of the cost. Elon Musk is (ostensibly) so terrified of the AI Revolution he is planning to colonize Mars as a life-raft for the human race, who presumably will have to flee a Skynet/Terminator type scenario. That Mars is utterly incapable of supporting human life- at least at present- seems to be besides the point. Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire behind social media giant Alibaba, has suddenly turned Cassandra as well. Long a reliable source for corporate technohappytalk, Ma is suddenly warning of dark days ahead.
"In the next three decades, the world will experience far more pain than happiness," the billionaire said, adding that education systems must raise children to be more creative and curious or they will be ill-prepared for the future.
Robots are quicker and more rational than humans, Ma said, and they don't get bogged down in emotions -- like getting angry at competitors.
Terrific. I was just thinking what the world needs now is more pain than happiness. But given his position as a Techno-Celestial, Ma couldn't serve up the medicine without at least a tiny spoonful of sugar:
But he expressed optimism that robots will make life better for humans in the long run.
"Machines will do what human beings are incapable of doing," Ma said. "Machines will partner and cooperate with humans, rather than become mankind's biggest enemy."
"Make life better for humans in the long run," he says. Well, what exactly is "the long run?" Three decades is a long time- maybe even a lifetime- for that 99.99999999999% of the human race who aren't tech billionaires. Halfway through that painful three decades most of us aren't going to be thinking much about "the long run." And what exactly does "far more pain" imply? I'm not sure I want to know what Jack Ma's definition of pain actually means, given our disparate cultural contexts. It's here I begin to think back on last year's Lucifer's Technologies series (more accurately, Satan's Technologies) and wonder about where our modern electronic superstructure actually came from. Because that goes a long way in gleaning where it's actually going.
Many have claimed that our present technology arose from contact with alien intelligences. Whether you believe that or not, one thing is certain; the rate of technological progress shot up like a rocket shortly after the end of World War II.
Now techno-utopians like Jaron Lanier and Douglas Rushkoff are techno-cassandaras, preaching a message of dislocation and social collapse.
Look at it this way; steam engines had been known for almost 2000 years by the time the Industrial Revolution took hold, longer still if you consider prototypes. The Ancient Greeks knew them, they just didn't have any use for them.
But the evolution from a computer that was was essentially the size of a suburban house and boasted the power of a pocket calculator to the working prototypes of the desktop, the Internet, computer animation, teleconferencing and nearly everything else we take for granted today took just a little more than two decades.
An eyeblink of history.
For at least 5000 years-- five-hundred decades-- horse-drawn carriages and wooden ships with cloth or leather sails were the state of art in transportation technology. By contrast, we go from aeroplanes made of wood and canvas to the SR-71 Blackbird, a machine so advanced our best engineers today seem unable to match it*, in the space of four decades.
In historical terms, this is as if your three year-old were in nursery school one day and then graduated from Harvard at the top of her class as soon as she turned four. There's simply no precedent for the high-tech explosion that began in the late 1940s...
Yet no one stops to question how such a technology would arise so instantly, in historical terms. Go look at a book from the late 19th Century- hell, look at a children's book from that period- and tell me people weren't a hell of a lot smarter than they are today. Maybe even smarter than they were in the 1940s...
Yet even the best and the very brightest were stymied by problems for decades, problems that seemed to solve themselves, literally overnight, shortly after World War II.
We take it all for granted now, especially if you were born at a time when a Commodore 64 and an Atari console were part of your natural landscape. But in fact all of this technology is so anomalous, so disruptive, so improbable in the entirety of human history (never mind natural history) that it is in a very real sense alien, even if (on the offhand chance) it's not actually "alien." Well, we've been over all of that before, haven't we? What about that other current?
In Our Gods Wear Spandex I argued that Spiritualism, Theosophy and the Occult Revival were reactions to the massive dislocations- physical, spiritual, psychic- incurred by the Industrial Revolution. It wasn't unusual for the sensitives of the time- see Blake, William, to see the rise of large-scale factories as an invasion of Hell onto Earth. There was very good reason to do so; these were black, belching, smogpits filled with hazardous machinery and/or chemicals that ripped the folk up from communion with the Earth and into virtual (sometimes actual) prisons, in which their humanity was stripped away in service of industrial manufacturing. In response to the dehumanizing effect of these hells, the sensitives of the time reached back into humanity's childhood (in the case of Spiritualism) or its adolescence (as with the Classically-oriented secret societies). And it could be argued that it worked- that we didn't entirely surrender to the regimented reality of the factory writ large, that Industrial political systems like Nazism and Communism were held at bay (at least in their original incarnation) and that individuality was held up as a social good. Well, at least until it was subverted as a tool for political atomization. The counter-Industrial spiritual movements of the 19th Century weren't shy about co-opting the means of mass-production (in this case, industrial-scale publishing) to pursue their aims. And so it is with the new breed of Chaos magicians and their fellow travelers (I'm not sure if meme magic counts here), some of whom are themselves well-paid Skynet employees, many of whom are tech-savvy and nearly all of whom are plugged deep into the Grid. Becoming the ghost in the machine is the basic idea. Magic, in this context, acts kind of like Jacques Vallee's "Control System." Things get too hot (or cold, depending on your own worldview) with technology and regimentation and Magic comes in and turns on the AC (or cranks up the woodstove, again according to your POV). Magic and its cousin Psi are erratic and unreliable for most people at most times but when the pressure comes down they become attractive alternatives to the crushing predictability of the Black Iron Prison. It may also, in the form of collective ritual, grow in popularity as a tonic against the the paradoxical effect of social media to grow loneliness in Meatspace.
While it offers an easy way to keep in contact with friends — and meet new people through dating and friendship apps — technology's omnipresence encourages shallow conversations that can distract us from meaningful, real-life, interactions.
Researchers at the University of Essex found that having a phone nearby, even if we don't check it, can be detrimental to our attempts at connecting with others. Smartphones have transformed post office lines from a chance for some small-talk with the neighbors to an exercise in email-checking, and sealed the fate of coffee shops as nothing more than places of mutual isolation. And technology will only become more ingrained in our lives.
The isolating, dehumanizing effect of technology may once again find its match in the ancient power of ritual, everything from lighting candles at a Catholic shrine to meth-fueled fuck-a-thons while drenched in pig's blood. The collapse of conventional social mores and the now-standard presumption that anything you do that isn't harming anyone else is your lifestyle choice will certainly push all this forward. Remember too that this same impulse popped up as a reaction to the hyper-rationalism of Classical Greece with the rise of the Mystery Cults. Magic almost seems like Nature asserting herself in the face of an outside intervention. Its like the doggedly-persistent vines rising out of toxic soil and strangling the rusted girders of an abandoned factory. Or a stubborn strain of virus slashing its way through some futuristic megalopolis somewhere in the Pacific Rim. Or a solar flare frying all of our electronics for good in the blink of an eye.
Now I know it's extremely unfashionable these days to discuss such things, especially with most Chaos magicians, but you have to ask yourself, if computer technology is not an alien virus why does it behave exactly like one? I don't know about you but it sure as hell sounds to me like Elon Musk believes it is, though he'd never say so publicly. Computer technology has already destroyed entire industries, disrupted entire societies, and changed every aspect of our lives in 70 short years? And now we're being told that it threatens to create an entire infrastructure that will make most of us obsolete? I don't know about you but it sure as Hell sounds an awful lot like Borg-assimilation, only on a frog-boiling schedule. The question becomes if the host can fight off the infection, or at least learn to manage it and coexist with it. I can't begin to pretend I know the answer but it seems to me that reasserting our messy, chaotic humanity is probably a good place to start.
When I was a kid I really tuned into the whole Holy Week thing. Aside from Christmas it seemed to be the only time of the year when there was an actual story being told, a compelling focus for all the ritual and sermonizing we had to put up with all year. Sunday School met in the chapel for much of Lent into Easter, and the chapel was like a secret, hidden little mini-church in which kids ruled.
But there was something else that struck me about Holy Week. There were these little vent windows in the stained glass displays and they were usually left open, since the chapel tended to get awfully warm. And I would sit by the window and take in the intoxicating-- and irreducibly pagan-- wholeness of Spring.
When I was a kid I spent most of my playtime outdoors, often exploring the woods behind our neighborhood. I walked to school until I got to 9th grade. I tuned into the sights, sounds, and perhaps most importantly, the smells of the natural world in a way adults are incapable of. I was able to process all of this sensory input in a way I would never be able to again, because everything was rich, new, unknown and alive.
Spring also meant baseball, which we residents of Red Sox Country took as religion. We'd play until the cold hurt your hands when the bat connected, then mess around with a football for a little while until the ponds froze and it was time for hockey. Baseball meant little league, when Watson Park turned into a city of kids every evening. It was there that I was initiated into the deeper mysteries of Spring.
But Easter was also a story of resurrection, a story that long predates Christianity. It's probably one of the oldest stories we have. But it's also a story of the Dead.
I understood the resurrection story, its power and its emotional appeal. When I was eight years old I lost someone very close to me, someone who died far too young. And died violently. It happened three days after Christmas, just because Fate is at heart a fucking sadist. (I still remember playing with my new GI Joe training center in the basement when my mother called me upstairs to break the news). In many ways, my childhood died then and I spent far too much time trying to claw it back later.
This boy was touched by the gods, everyone thought so. Even adults recognized the power of his charisma, his natural charm. He was a natural born leader, other kids just naturally fell in behind him. But most of all, he was a genuinely good person who understood his power over others but never tried to exploit it.
His death tore a hole through my family. Things I took for granted were going to slowly change, and something important was going to be taken away from me. So his death wasn't just a single tragedy, a focal point in time. It was to have repercussions for my human ecosystem.
The dead boy haunted my dreams for years. You know how it is- you lose someone and they return to you in your dreams, explaining that it was a big misunderstanding, they were still alive and well. In one dream he came back dressed like an astronaut. I met him by the grape orchard in my neighbor's yard. He told me didn't die, that he just had been in outer space. How's that for symbolism? I can still picture that dream, better than yesterday.
So, yeah, the story of a charismatic young man rising from the dead and returning to his friends and family had tremendous resonance for me. Add in the magic of Springtime, which promised a banquet of baseball and Cheap Trick records (and hopefully, girls) and you're looking at an admixture that Medieval alchemists would have sold their souls to replicate.
There are lots of theories about the Easter story. It's just a rewriting of the passions of Pagan fertility gods. A double died on the cross or the death was faked. It was a mass hallucination. Jesus's ghost appeared to the Apostles. Plus, the old standby- aliens.
I'm not going to litigate the debate here. It's besides the point. Because the Easter story spoke- and speaks- to generations of people who experienced loss and more than anything, wished that loss could be undone.
Death has insinuated itself back into my human ecosystem. A while back, I told our Gordon that I sensed its presence, that it felt like it had entered into a holding pattern overhead. This was when a family member was diagnosed with cancer, which he beat into remission like the tough little bastard he is. But that was a false dawn since Death has taken a number of trophies since then, nearly all at far too young an age.
So I know a bit about Death. More than I would like to. But I also know that Death is a functionary, a delivery man. I know that something of the human essence keeps on trucking along.
I also know about the not-quite departed. Those whose passage to the other side is blocked for one reason or other. I spent a lot of time in a house where the not-quite departed had taken up residence and had to be encouraged to leave by a professional medium. There was a time in my life when everyone I knew either knew someone else who had a ghost story, or if not, had a ghost story of their own.
The not-quite departed sometimes come to us and try to make themselves known. I think this is more common than generally understood simply because many of us don't recognize their language. For reasons we will probably never explain, they can sometimes influence our physical environment, particularly through electricity, and now, electronics. But that's just the stage show, like Jesus and his magic. The not-quite departed don't want to haunt our houses so much as our thoughts.
Spectrology is as reliable as UFOlogy but there are some parameters that have been generally accepted for millennia. The not-quite departed are spirits with unfinished business on this plane. They were unloved or misunderstood, or they died unjustly or too young. Of course, that just described half of the people who've ever died but there seems to be other factors at work when the not-quite departed make themselves known to the living. Some think it's environmental, that geology plays a major role in these events. That very could be, but we may also never know that for sure either. Truth be told, haunting is a pretty compelling explanation for the Easter story. If you're so inclined, of course. You have the prerequisite geology angle with the stone tomb, the fear and guilt Jesus' followers felt making them more receptive to spectral influence, the conflicting stories, the violations of the laws of physics. Throw in some dreams, visions and fantasies and you can wrap that thing up with a bow. But again, that's not the selling point here. Because the pitch was that if you believed this story, your dead sons would one day return to you too. And for most of human history pretty much every family in Christendom - the world- were pining for a dead son.
I grew up in a heavily Irish Catholic neighborhood, with many first-generation immigrants*. The departed hold a special place in traditional Irish culture, as did the Easter story, certainly. The not-quite departed did as well. Given Ireland's history this certainly makes a lot of sense. It was common to see shrines to the departed in people's homes, more common in fact than shrines to the saints. I think this came out of a belief- perhaps never consciously acknowledged- that the departed were preparing the way in Heaven for the rest of us. A kind of variation on ancestor worship, if you will.
Which makes me think that the dominance secularism is currently enjoying will be short-lived. Secularism seems to be feeding into anxiety and despair among a lot of people, which in turn is leading to an epidemic of early death, from drugs, suicide or misadventure. I think this is a self-correcting dilemma. Trauma will inevitably lead people away from secularism- to religion, to magic, the New Age, whatever. This in turn will have a knock-on effect for the rest of the culture.
All of which is to say is that as much as we think we can sanitize death and ignore the calls of the not-quite departed, I think the inexorable laws of nature have other plans in mind.
*Martin Scorcese filmed parts of The Departed in my birth city, and cast Mark Wahlberg, whose family lives a block away from my old house
Back in 1990, the Boston Phoenix ran a review of the first few episodes of Twin Peaks along with the plot of the sitcom Wings. It was an odd juxtaposition, intentionally so, contrasting David Lynch's highly-anticipated boutique series against a paint-by-numbers half-hour comedy. But the reviewer was a cynical bastard, and cast a jaundiced eye on the potential of a quirky auteur like Lynch to appeal to a mainstream television audience. The verdict was that Wings would stick around but Twin Peaks would not, its tone and style too idiosyncratic for a medium that, at the time, counted its audience in the tens of millions.
I tuned into the first season of Twin Peaks-- a miniseries, really-- but found it to be a bit too much of a compromise between Lynch's surrealist vision and the narrative demands of mainstream television. There was also a creeping absurdism that sometimes threatened to undermine the grim procedural drama that framed it.
I had high hopes for the project, having been brain-seared four years earlier by Blue Velvet. The first time I saw it I almost had an out of body experience- and not the pleasant kind- since it seemed so disturbingly familiar to me. Frank Booth was like any number of dangerous men that floated through the edges of my world, strange presences in bars in Weymouth Landing or Quincy Center. Frank Booth also reminded me all too much of a recently-released ex-convict my friend's mother had taken in as a boarder; a volatile alcoholic who drove a big old Cadillac and who, presciently, believed that cable TV was being used to spy on people.
A few years after seeing Blue Velvet I'd work for a woman who was close friends with Dennis Hopper's daughter Marin, who I'd later meet. I was told that Hopper wasn't actually acting in Blue Velvet, that that was basically his behavior on any given night before he rehabbed. Hopper told Lynch as much while auditioning for the part, insisting that he was Frank Booth.
Frank Booth was the black hole of Blue Velvet, the irrestible center of gravity around which the rest of the film revolved. I saw Blue Velvet twice at the Waverly Theater on Sixth Ave in Greenwich Village, and once Hopper blasted off you could feel the physical pressure descend upon the room. People walked out, not just a few, that's how intense it was. I brought two friends the second viewing and their knuckles were white the whole time. They were from Braintree, so they knew.
Twin Peaks didn't have nearly as compelling a focus, not Leland Palmer, not Bob, not anyone. Given the strictures of early 90s broadcast television it couldn't have. Instead the show went for mood and atmosphere and slowly-building tension. That, the lush scenery, appealing cast and seductive Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack were enough to sustain the series at first. But it failed to answer the central question ("Who killed Laura Palmer?") in its initial miniseries run and subsequently lost a lot of the curious and more besides. (AMC's remake of The Killing would make the same mistake more recently).
Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost distanced themselves from the series in the second season, for a number of varying reasons, including Lynch's work on Wild at Heart, which would star Nicholas Cage and Lynch muse Laura Dern. Even so, Lynch would direct episodes at the beginning and end of the season. But the spell the series had cast had been broken. The new production team didn't quite get a handle on Lynch's mix of darkness and whimsy (as if anyone else really could) and the new episodes seemed to lapse into self-parody without the author's oblique ability to square the contradictions.
But there were glimpses of a deeper magic, including cryptic subplots dealing with an alien satellite, demonic possession, doubles of dead characters and scenes inside the mysterious extradimensional portal, the Black Lodge. In short, the second series had a ton of potential on the conceptual end but a lot less so execution-wise. Plus, it was all a bit too challenging for network drama then. It would probably be just as much so today, which is why it's being revived on Showtime.
By the time it was cancelled Twin Peaks had been moved to the Saturday night death-slot and had slumped badly in the ratings. Lynch wanted another crack at it, however, so a spinoff film was planned. But Kyle MacLachlan felt betrayed that Lynch and Frost had bailed out on the show's second season (and by its resultant quality slippage), so after initially turning the picture down he agreed to a limited role. Chris Isaak, then a hot property, stepped in to play a ringer. Lara Flynn Boyle opted out for the same reasons as MacLachlan, forcing Lynch to recast the role with a non-lookalike replacement.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is one of those special kinds of films that has garnered a type of cult audience that tends to overlook what a total catastrophe it was in its initial release. Fire was outright butchered by the critics and didn't even earn back half its production budget in the US. Twin Peaks Fever had long since, uh, peaked, and the movie doesn't even try to meet a mainstream audience halfway. There's no wondering why: it's an incredibly dark and polarizing film and can be as hard to watch as Blue Velvet, if not for different reasons.
But it certainly follows a vision; it's not a cash-in on any level. It may not be light entertainment but in the long run it didn't hurt Twin Peaks' rep, in fact it undid most of the damage inflicted on the franchise by the frivolity of the second season. Even so, it would five years before Lynch would release another feature, 1997's Lost Highway. That too would be a deeply polarizing commercial disappointment.
It's been 11 years since Lynch released a feature film, 2006's masterpiece, Inland Empire. That in turn came five years after another masterpiece, 2001's Mulholland Dr. Both films are deeply informed by the vision Lynch cultivated on Twin Peaks, even if they bear little resemblance thematically, or even stylistically. It's more a feeling. Mulholland Dr -- which Inland Empire models itself on in many important ways-- also began life as a TV pilot for ABC and was only morphed into a feature after the network passed.
For my money, Mulholland Dr and Inland Empire remain Lynch's best, most fully-realized works. Like all of his creations they mine dream reality to a level of numinosity that most film-makers are incapable of reaching. It's both telling and damning that he's either been unable to secure financing or unwilling to jump through the requisite hoops needed to have followed up on them. I really don't know if Lynch felt a burning desire to return to Twin Peaks but I do know he's a better artist now than he was when he worked on the series. However, the power of a brand name trumps artistic vision in this environment. In that Mulholland and Inland are just as much elegies as films.
Judging from the press releases for the revival it seems Lynch's absence from longform film-making hasn't been for lack of energy. He directed all 18 episodes, wrote a 400 page screenplay (whether this was for the first episode or the series itself is unclear) and cast 217 actors. So both the spirit and the flesh seem to be willing in this case. But is his mind in that space? This is the danger of the revival syndrome. It's been 27 very long years since the series first aired and we're living in an entirely different world now. The 1950s world that informed Lynch's vision isn't even a memory anymore. And the actors are no longer young, hot unknowns; many are more than twice as old as they were back then and some have come out the wrong end of Hollywood's merciless grinder.
The inherent promise of the revival (or the reunion) is that the intervening years will melt away and we can vicariously return to the Garden, back to our innocence. It's not only the promise but the danger; woe betide you if you don't fire up that time machine for your audience. With an artist as quirky and unpredictable as David Lynch that danger only multiplies. Exponentially.
Lynch has already proven himself unwilling to pander with the Twin Peaks franchise, having unleashed a film as caustic and uncompromising as Fire Walk with Me. You get the sense he bores very easily, and might well use this opportunity to unleash all kinds of ideas he's been warehousing for other projects. That's both exciting and worrying. Exciting creatively and artistically, worrying critically and audience-wise.
Last year we saw Chris Carter use the X-Files revival as a soapbox for some truly confrontational storytelling, and the similar hype parade we're seeing now for Twin Peaks is giving me a bit of deja vu. But The X-Files was a bonafide cultural phenomenon, a game-changer. It's part of the common lexicon, worldwide. Twin Peaks is more a cult thing, an artifact of the Curator Era. Lynch could bring his absolute A-game and still confuse the hell out most of his new audience. And in the Internet Age that could go south very quickly.
Twin Peaks may have been a high point for Lynch as far as visibility but it also presaged a difficult stretch for him creatively, commercially and critically, with Wild at Heart and Lost Highway-- as well as Fire Walk with Me-- damaging his rep as an auteur. He restored his glimmer starting with The Straight Story but, frankly, he's a weird guy and you never know where his muses will carry him. The story of Twin Peaks, the franchise, is one about a boatload of potential that was never fully realized. Here's hoping Lynch closes the deal this time around. That will make it a story for the ages. People.com has a documentary on the revival here.
Funhouses are only fun when you can leave them. When the distorting mirror images become your new, day-to-day reality construct, then it's not so much fun anymore. I dreaded the 2016 Election because I had a very strong feeling that no matter who won we'd be plunged into a dystopian paradigm in which major power blocs would erupt into all-out warfare. And I sensed that neither Trump nor Clinton possessed the political skills or the communicative powers to keep the carnage fully out of our view. Or our path. And I was right. Trump's only been in office for a little over two months and I'm exhausted already. I'm certainly not alone in this. It all feels like a TV sitcom in its seventh season, well after the writers ran out of story ideas. The shark has been good and jumped. And the ratings (the approval ratings, in this case) are plunging too. What is truly demoralizing though is the utter transparency of the secret war playing out, the seemingly endless spy vs spy thrust and counter-thrust, and the obvious deceptions. Even more so is the Animal Farm-like metamorphosis of the Democratic Party into a full-blown, funhouse mirror of McCarthy-era Republicans, but with Glenn Beck-worthy conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure. I don't know about you but all of a sudden the world seems especially cold, hard, gray, harsh. Masks are coming off, velvet gloves tossed into wastebins. It doesn't seem to matter who wins the scorpion fight, you're still stuck with a scorpion. We can't call out the play-by-play because it's largely being acted out behind closed doors. But we can look at the collateral damage and make certain speculations.There's no doubt that it would all be just as bad-- probably worse-- if Hillary won. Even so, this all feels especially grating. You've probably seen this story:
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Friday apologized to the owner of a Washington pizzeria that became the subject of a conspiracy theory about human trafficking last year.
Pizza shop Comet Ping Pong was thrust into the spotlight last year after a gunman allegedly fired a shot inside the restaurant. The suspect said he was investigating the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, were operating a child sex trafficking ring out of the restaurant.
The theory, which became known as Pizzagate, had circulated among far-right conspiracy theory websites and social media accounts.
“In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones, who runs Infowars, said in a video. James Alefantis is the owner of Comet Ping Pong.
Jones said his website relied on reporters who are no longer employed by Infowars and that video reports about Pizzagate were removed from the website. He also invited Alefantis onto the show to discuss the incident.
FBI’S RUSSIA PROBE EXPANDS TO INCLUDE ‘PIZZAGATE’ THREATS
According to McClatchy News, the FBI’s Russian-influence probe agents are exploring whether far-right news operations, including the pro-Donald Trump sites Breitbart News and Infowars, “took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives.” Trump’s ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and his son, a member of the Trump transition team, were among those who boosted the so-called “PizzaGate” pedophile conspiracy theory.
I doubt this will quell the fervor among the Pizzagaters on sites like 4chan and Voat. Given the suspicion many on the fringes regard Jones with it may in fact give the flagging movement a fresh jolt. Jones' apology may also have to do with the drive to purge YouTube of "extremist" content and the controversy over the use of advertising on videos corporate clients find objectionable. A World without Sin, as our Gordon might put it.
Washington Post headline, pre-election.
So much for theories that the FBI was ready to make mass arrests of prominent Washington figures related to Pizzagate. Has any "mass arrest" Internet story ever panned out? Maybe it has:
Donald Trump became president on Jan. 20. And in one short month, there were more than 1,500 arrests for sex crimes ranging from trafficking to pedophilia.
Big deal? You bet. In all of 2014, there were fewer than 400 sex trafficking-related arrests, according to FBI crime statistics. Liz Crokin at TownHall.com has put together a great piece on the push by the Trump administration to crack down on sex crimes. And she notes that while "this should be one of the biggest stories in the national news... the mainstream media has barely, if at all, covered any of these mass pedophile arrests. This begs the question – why?
This may have nothing to do with Trump-- in fact, it's likely it doesn't-- since these kinds of actions are planned out months in advance. The arrests continue, in case you were wondering, with major busts going down on a near-weekly basis. Someone's cleaning house. For what it's worth, I always reckoned that Pizzagate was in fact cover/distraction for a more hidden struggle, one that would take place under the radar*. As I noted back in November:
No one is saying as much but this very much feels connected to a deeper, more covert war.
Why would I say such a thing? Because at the same time the Pizzagate story went dark we've seen major strikes taken against international pedophilia, which actually is a global conspiracy, with its own networks, secret codes and moles within established centers of power such as schools, police departments and governments.
With such combustible accusations-- and such potential for a scandal that could quickly spread out of control (ie., involve political figures you're not trying to destroy)-- you'd naturally expect the action to go dark and the fall guys to be placed pretty far down the foodchain. (Remember that a prior investigation bagged one of the most powerful people in Washington at one time, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert).†
"EVER WONDER WHAT IT'D BE LIKE TO DIE IN A PLANE CRASH?"
Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us
Democrats know they need someone to lead them out of the wilderness. But, they say, that someone is not David Brock. ￼ As David Brock attempts to position himself as a leader in rebuilding ademoralized Democratic Party in the age of Trump, many leading Democratic organizers and operatives are wishing the man would simply disappear.
Many in the party—Clinton loyalists, Obama veterans, and Bernie supporters alike—talk about the man not as a sought-after ally in the fight against Trumpism, but as a nuisance and a hanger-on, overseeing a colossal waste of cash. And former employees say that he has hurt the cause.
It's worth remembering that Breitbart.com Andrew Breitbart died of a heart attack at the age of 43. A year before he'd posted a cryptic tweet that some have since linked to the Pizzagate imbroglio. Just before his death he hyped some revelation about Barack Obama's past. A coroner in the office handling Breitbart's body subsequently died of arsenic poisoning. The day Breitbart's autopsy results were revealed, in fact. COME BACK ROY COHN, ALL IS FORGIVEN We also saw James Comey revive Russiagate, which had been flatlining after Vault 7. Any illusions among Trump fans that the FBI was secretly on their side were ground into powder, between this revelation and the Pizzagate conspiracy investigations. One can't help but wonder if the New Praetorians (I've noticed that the Praetorian meme has been picked up by more prominent commentators, but you heard it here first) are losing their last shred of patience with Donald Trump's shenanigans and are planning imminent regime change:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is investigating whether Donald Trump’s associates coordinated with Russian officials in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election, Director James Comey said Monday in an extraordinary public confirmation of a probe the president has refused to acknowledge, dismissed as fake news and blamed on Democrats.
In a bruising five-hour session, the FBI director also knocked down Trump’s claim that his predecessor had wiretapped his New York skyscraper, an assertion that has distracted White House officials and frustrated fellow Republicans who acknowledge they’ve seen no evidence to support it.
How surreal is the world in which you know live in? So much so that mainstream political site The Hill is comparing the action in Washington to a Stanley Kubrick film, one which has become notorious for the conspiracy theories that have been projected onto it (and is well familiar to Synchronauts):
On the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Shining, Stephen King must be wondering if Washington is working on its own sequel. For the last couple months, Washington has been on edge, like we are all trapped in Overlook Hotel with every day bringing a new “jump scare,” often preceded by a telltale tweet. Indeed, a Twitter whistle has replaced suspenseful music to put the entire city on the edge of their seats.
In this Shining sequel, however, people are sharply divided on who is the deranged ax-wielding villain in this lodge, the president or the press. Ironically, with the recent disclosure that some of the Trump campaign may indeed have been subject to surveillance, the president is looking more like Danny Torrence, a character dismissed for constantly muttering “redrum, redrum” until someone finally looked in a mirror at the reverse image to see the true message.
Yeah, I'm not really feeling that metaphor there, but whatever. It's been that kind of year. Now the Internet is burning up with theories that disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has "turned" and is going to testify against the Trump Administration, or at least figures attached to it. It's hard to imagine a three-star general can be stupid enough to be guilty of things Flynn's been accused of but that may speak to a culture of impunity in Washington, in which your misdeeds are only punished if you get on the wrong side of the wrong people. LIKE A BAD CYBERPUNK NOVEL One wonders if the secret war has spread outside Washington. Car service giant Uber seems to be having a major run of rotten luck lately:
Uber Technologies Inc. is suspending its self-driving car program after one of its autonomous vehicles was involved in a high-impact crash in Tempe, Arizona, the latest incident for a company reeling from multiple crises.
In a photo posted on Twitter, one of Uber’s Volvo self-driving SUVs is pictured on its side next to another car with dents and smashed windows. An Uber spokeswoman confirmed the incident, and the veracity of the photo, and added that the ride-hailing company is suspending its autonomous tests in Arizona until it completes its investigation and pausing its Pittsburgh operations.
The incident also comes as Uber, and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, are currently under scrutiny because of a series of scandals. The ride-hailing company has been accused of operating a sexist workplace. This month, the New York Times reported that Uber used a tool called Greyball to help drivers evade government regulators and enforcement officials. Kalanick said he needed "leadership help" after Bloomberg published a video showing him arguing with an Uber driver.
So who did Kalanick piss off? Coincidentally- there's that word again- the crash comes soon after Wikileaks revealed that CIA hackers had the ability to override the computer systems in automobiles. From Mashable:
WikiLeaks has published a trove of files it says are linked to the CIA's hacking operations — which apparently includes efforts to hack into cars.
The first in a series called "Vault 7," "Year Zero" supposedly comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.
"Year Zero" details the CIA's malware arsenal and "zero day" exploits against Apple iPhones, Google's Android operating system, Microsoft Windows and even Samsung TVs.
According to a document from 2014, the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks.
It turns out this 20-something woman was being pimped out by her boyfriend, forced to sell herself for sex and hand him the money.
“It was a small glass capsule with a little almost like a circuit board inside of it,” he said. “It's an RFID chip. It's used to tag cats and dogs. And someone had tagged her like an animal, like she was somebody's pet that they owned.”
This is human trafficking. It’s a marginal issue here in the U.S. for most of us. Part of that is because the average person isn’t sure what human trafficking – or modern day slavery – actually means.
Technology is our friend, right? And now this:
Turkish Hackers Threaten To Wipe Millions Of iPhones; Demand Ransom From Apple
Today, courtesy of CIO, we learn that a group of hackers referring to themselves as the "Turkish Crime Family", has been in direct contact with Apple and is demanding a $150,000 ransom by April 7th or they will proceed to wipe as many as 600 million apple devices for which they allegedly have passwords.
The group said via email that it has had a database of about 519 million iCloud credentials for some time, but did not attempt to sell it until now. The interest for such accounts on the black market has been low due to security measures Apple has put in place in recent years, it said.
Since announcing its plan to wipe devices associated with iCloud accounts, the group claimed that other hackers have stepped forward and shared additional account credentials with them, putting the current number it holds at over 627 million.
According to the hackers, over 220 million of these credentials have been verified to work and provide access to iCloud accounts that don't have security measures like two-factor authentication turned on.
Of course, if credible, with an ask of just $150k, this is the most modest group of hackers we've ever come across.
Given the war that's erupted between the increasingly aggressive Turkish government and the EU, money may clearly not be the object here. Turkish PM Erdogan is clearly set on reconstructing the old Ottoman Empire and shivving Apple might just be part of the march. Besides, Turkey is taking that recent coup attempt-- which is almost universally blamed on the CIA-- very personally.
Speaking of the EU, we've seen stories that Trump advisor Steve Bannon wants to dissolve the union. Which may be why Trump-adversary John McCain announced his unalloyed support for it- and the "New World Order" (his words, not mine):
The world "cries out for American and European leadership" through the EU and Nato, US senator John McCain said on Friday (24 March).
In a "new world order under enormous strain" and in "the titanic struggle with forces of radicalism … we can't stand by and lament, we've got to be involved," said McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate who is now chairman of the armed services committee in the US Senate.
Speaking at the Brussels Forum, a conference organised by the German Marshall Fund, a transatlantic think tank, he said that the EU and the US needed to develop "more cooperation, more connectivity".
"I trust the EU," he said, defending an opposite view from that of US president Donald Trump, who said in January that the UK "was so smart in getting out" of the EU and that Nato was "obsolete".
He said that the EU was "one of the most important alliances" for the US and that the EU and Nato were "the best two sums in history", which have maintained peace for the last 70 years. "We need to rely on Nato and have a Nato that adjusts to new challenges," he said.
Would McCain speak this way to a domestic audience? Of course not. Or maybe he would- I can't tell which way is up anymore. But either way it's good to know where he really stands.
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli told a gathering of Asian leaders that the world must commit to multilateral free trade under the World Trade Organization and needs to reform global economic governance.
“The river of globalization and free trade will always move forward with unstoppable momentum to the vast ocean of the global economy,” Zhang said. China will remain a strong force in the world economy and for peace and stability, he said, adding that countries must respect one another’s core interests and refrain from undermining regional stability.
I suppose this is why China is off the target list for our new Cold (?) Warriors. I've resisted posting on all this because it's all so depressing. I've actually written a few pieces on this chicanery that I ended up roundfiling. But I suppose I just wanted to go on the record about all this skullduggery, for posterity's sake.
UPDATE: Sex trafficking arrests and trials continue to proliferate. Most recent bust, an international ring in Minnesota. There is way too much activity going down in too short a time for this to be spontaneous. * Which is exactly why I refrained from commenting on it here for the most part, instead noting that it had become a kind of memetic virus in much the same way that the Franklin/Boy's Town scandal had in the 90s. (Note that prior to the election-- and Pizzagate-- Trump nemesis the Washington Post was all over the issue of sex trafficking in the nation's capital). † The ongoing legal and police actions coinciding with the moves to shut down the Pizzagate fringes on the Web seem like the exact kind of action one would expect if there were a serious operation at work. Shutting down the Internet chatter makes perfect sense in this context because it can only complicate cases made by prosecutors.
2017 might seem like the hangover after a particularly-nasty meth, glue and Thunderbird bender, but it's actually a year of major anniversaries. We're coming up on the 70th Anniversary of Kenneth Arnold and Roswell (as well as the National Security Act), the 50th Anniversary of Sgt. Pepper and the Summer of Love and the centennial of the Russian Revolution. But there are a lot more observances, all kinds of 'ennials to observe. I thought I'd dig into a few anniversaries germane to The Secret Sun and the topics we look at here. Readers are encouraged to weigh in with their own (observations that can be counted in multiples of five and ten, that is) in the comments.
December will see the fifth anniversary of the 2012 apocalypse/ascension/ absurdity (depending on your point of view). Needless to say, most of us are still here and the skies didn't open and Nibiru didn't come crashing into the moon. So there goes another apocalypse.
I can't help but wonder about the 2012 meme, though. As I wrote a couple years back, it certainly seems like something changed that year, that the bottom fell out somewhere but no one seemed to notice it at the time. I mean, Donald Trump is sitting in the White House, isn't he? If even you're a Trump supporter you have to admit this would have seemed impossible five years ago.
Maybe the Apocalypse works on a different timeline than it does in the movies. Maybe we're living in one only we can't see the forest fire for the burning trees. History can only be written from a distance.
This week also marks the 20th anniversary of the last of the Order of the Solar Temple "suicides" ( rendered in quotes since many investigators suspect foul play by outside parties with the OST mass deaths). I wrote in some detail about the OST and their influence on pop culture here (the X-Files writers seemed especially fascinated with the OST and their unique status and history and the lingering questions over their deaths).
Postmortem reports claimed that the OST committed ritual suicide in order to spiritually ascend to Sirius, where they believe their souls originated from. If this is true this is another troubling link to the "Walk-Ins from Sirius" theme from Ruth Montgomery's seminal Aliens Among Us, which has also been linked to the Heaven's Gate suicides.
Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the Phoenix Lights flap, a controversial UFO sighting that caused a major media meltdown and has been the focus of a growing mythology ever since. What is particularly interesting about the Phoenix episode- however you view it-- is that it took place right down the highway from the Heaven's Gate compound in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. It may have been seen as the final sign that their ride was here, seeing as how the web-savvy cult was monitoring all kinds of infostreams for omens and portents.
Speaking of double helixes, 1997 saw the announcement that the first major cloning had been done, of "Dolly" the sheep. The news was broken in Roslin, Scotland, of all places (Dan Brown fans take note). More ominously it was also the year IBM's Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in chess. Coincidentally or not, Steve Jobs returned to Apple a few months later and changed the world as we knew it. One of his last projects was designing the Apple HQ, which looks like a friggin' flying saucer.
Why do all those events feel so closely entwined? We can't say we weren't warned.
1987 is the 30th anniversary of the publication of Whitley Strieber's seminal autobiography Communion, which brought the concept of alien abduction out of the fringes and into book store in America and other parts of the world. It's hard to explain to younger people what a phenomenon this book was, the controversy it engendered, and the effect it had on the culture. Strieber was a well-known author of best-selling horror novels, a couple of which had been adapted into movies (Wolfen and The Hunger) but never enjoyed a success like Communion, which stayed on the New York Times best-sellers list for months and sold millions worldwide.
Daytime talkshows were suddenly fora for abductees, whether real or imagined, as were popular tabloid TV shows like Unsolved Mysteries. The craze made celebrities out of Strieber, abduction researchers like Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs and later, Harvard psychologist John Mack. Oldline UFO researchers stewed on the sidelines, having traditionally regarded abduction reports with suspicion, if not contempt. Communion would lead to other projects, the Travis Walton biopic Fire in the Sky, The X-Files (which became an even greater phenomenon than Strieber's book), and the Steven Spielberg maxi-series Taken (which would be the SciFi Channel's most-watched series at the time of its airing).
1987 was also the year New Age seeped into the mainstream and has been insidiously rewriting its host body like a computer virus ever since. Pop culture was the medium yet again- a miniseries based on Shirley MacLaine's "spiritual authobiography" Out On a Limb was aired on ABC and planted the seeds for the Me Generation's catch-as-catch-can Theosophy 2.0.
1987 saw "Ramtha" go wide with the publication of JZ Knight's autobiography, A State of Mind. Channeling soon became a multimiilion dollar industry, with hundreds of mini-Ramtha's popping out of the woodwork dispensing greeting card homilies for a spiritually-indiscriminate polity. All you needed to do was squint, loll your head around meaningfully, adopt a weird quasi-British accent and learn to spout pseudo-profoundities and you were in clover.
Again, the New Age craze is hard to explain today, though in large part because the New Age is so ubiquitous today it's woven into the cultural fabric of most Western- and many non-Western- cultures. Yoga studios can be found in every sizable American town. Acupuncture and other "alternative" modalities are often covered by health insurance programs. Health food stores are slowly displacing conventional supermarkets and many more traditional houses of worship offer New Age programs (meditation, yoga, self-actualization) to their congregants.
1987 also saw the Harmonic Convergence (aka the "New Age Woodstock"), meant to act as the movement's big hop over the cultural fence. But its organizers (which included the original 2012 guru, Jose Arguelles) deeply misjudged the true nature of the movement and how it actually existed in the ideational biosphere. This wasn't a revolution, it was a slow-moving insurrection, one that subverted culture from within, all the while denying its very existence (the hallmark of a true New Ager is that they deny actually being a New Ager). Big, showy events weren't going to do the work. Tenacious, relentless but quieter actions were going to insinuate New Age into the mainstream.
1987 saw the Iran-Contra Affair- in which arms were sold to Iran in exchange for American hostages held by Iran-controlled radicals and the profits then diverted to anti-Sandinista militants in Nicaragua- become the major news story, dominating the headlines and Sunday talk shows for the entire year and into the next. Iran-Contra is also arguably the impetus for the true mainstreaming of conspiracy theory (just in time for the dawning of the Internet Era). Conspiracy research wasn't a fringe hobby then, it was front page news all across the world. It's just that the virus escaped from the lab and filtered down into places the mainstream media would have rather it hadn't.
But the real groundwork for the rise of conspiracy culture would be laid ten years earlier when the first fully-functional home computer, the Commodore PET was debuted at a trade show. Conspiracy theory may have thrived on talk radio (and short wave and ham radio, not to mention mail order) but it would explode on the Internet, even in the crudest venues of the BBS dial-in days. At the same time the Commodore was unveiled, a new President from Plains, Georgia took office who swore to tear the lid off government corruption (and significantly, UFO secrecy) in Washington. Things, predictably, wouldn't work out so well for him.
1977 saw the commoditization of the modern Hollywood blockbuster-- already having birthed itself in 1975 with Steven Spielberg's Jaws. George Lucas' spiritual SF epic Star Wars and Spielberg's UFO fantasia Close Encounters of the Third Kind changed the rules forever (you can throw in Saturday Night Fever if you like, as it spawned the rise of the blockbuster soundtrack as well) and, as many would argue, planted the seeds for the eventual creation empoverishment of the Hollywood they created. In today's market, doubles and triples are no longer be enough, you need to either write a movie off as a tax loss or score a grand slam blockbuster, complete with merchandising and ancillary rights.
But Star Wars and Close Encounters were such monsters because they filled a genuine void in the culture, a need for miracle and transcendence in a rapidly-secularlizing culture. In their wake the movies would become the dream theater of the masses, in the same way the great cathedrals were to the peasants of the Middle Ages.
Both films struck at the right time- NASA tested its first space shuttle at the beginning of the year, promising a new era in space exploration. One that has yet to come to pass, 40 years later. Even so the mood was right at the time.
On the other end of the ritual spectrum 1977 also saw the arrest of David Berkowitz, whom the media named as the sole "Son of Sam" killer despite the fact that witnesses had cogently and explicitly described other shooters not matching his description. Berkowitz himself would later claim he was a member of a sect of the Process Church of the Final Judgement, he was not the only shooter and that the killings were human sacrifices. And as fate would have it two of the men he claimed as his accomplices would die under mysterious circumstances not long after Berkowitz was arrested. And their father was named Sam.
Also in the summer of 1977, Elvis Presley died after a long struggle with obesity and prescription drug abuse. It was poetic in a Greek tragedy kind of fashion since '77 not only saw the precipitous rise of Disco as an all-consuming craze (Donna Summer had the first hit with a totally-synthesized record, "I Feel Love," that year) but also the breakthrough of punk rock and first-wave New Wave (the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Elvis Costello and Talking Heads all released their debuts), which took the basic, four to the floor rock 'n' roll Presley cut his teeth on and wed it to postmodernism, Dada and other weird, Continental theories that old-timers like the King would never have anything to do with.
Not that most of America even noticed. The Eagles' Hotel California, Pink Floyd's Animals and Fleetwood Mac's Rumors were albums most of the public were actually buying. Punk bombed bad in its first assault on American record stores and most of the first wave bands would soon break up or radically water down their styles in a bid to make it to the US Top 40. New Wave, which began as a marketing ploy to ease punk into the American market, would become the musical equivalent of New Age, a contagion that would insinuate itself into the host and rewrite the matrix from within. 40 years later New Wave concepts are so dominant (irony and sarcasm not the least among them) in pop they're no longer recognized as distinct or unique. But that process began in earnest over 35 years ago, when MTV began beaming art school weirdos from England into a growing number of American living rooms. In short order even Jethro Tull and Bob Dylan- the onetime crunchiest of the crunchy- were recording with drum machines and sequencers. There's more to come.
...all before the mind wakes, behind shades and closed doors in a darkened house
where the inhabitants roam unsatisfied in the night,
nude ghosts seeking each other out in the silence.
— Love Poem on a Theme by Whitman, Allen Ginsberg
Never heckle a nonconformist.
A drunk started to heckle Allen Ginsberg during a reading of his poem Howlin Los Angeles in 1956.
“Allen politely asked him to hear out the reading and said he would be pleased to hear his opinions afterward,” biographer Barry Miles noted. “That stopped the heckler for a bit, but when Gregory (Corso) got up to read, the drunk interrupted. ‘What are you guys trying to prove?’ he demanded.
“Allen immediately yelled out, ‘Nakedness!’
“ ‘What do you mean, nakedness?” asked the drunk.
“ ‘I meant spiritual nakedness,’ Ginsberg explained later. ‘Poetic nakedness — candor. Then I suddenly realized what I had said. Inspired, I started taking off my clothes.’
“‘All right,’ Allen challenged the drunk. ‘You want to do something brave, don’t you? Something brave? Well, go on, do something really brave. Take off your clothes!’
“ The man was speechless. Allen advanced on him, tearing off his shirt. ‘Come on and stand here, stand naked before the people. I dare you! The poet always stands naked before the world.’ Allen threw his shirt and undershirt at the man’s feet, and he began to back away. ‘You’re scared, aren’t you?’ asked Allen. ‘You’re afraid.’ Allen kicked off his shoes and socks and pulled down his pants. Doing a little hopping dance, he kicked them off... He was now completely naked. The drunk had by now retreated to the back of the room. The audience sat in stunned silence.
“Suddenly the room exploded in cheers, jeers, applause and angry argument. The drunk was booed and hissed until he left. Anaïs Nin was impressed and wrote in her journal; ‘The way he did it was so violent and direct, it had so much meaning in terms of all our fears of unveiling ourselves.’”
Miles’ bio of the poet and his fellow Beat musketeers documents their intellectual insights and/or pretensions, drugs and more drugs, petty crime, sex of all sorts, doomed love affairs, cross-country wanderings, abandoned wives, automobile and mental breakdowns, jails, colleges, psychiatric hospitals, poetry, novels, a murder and various other accidental, if predictable, deaths: one when a drunk happily leaned out a train window, and another when a guy decided to “William Tell” a water glass off his wife’s head with a Star .380 automatic.
All the panoramic stupidity of young midcentury Americans, as fascinating as the rhythmic sway of a cobra.
Over all, I found Ginsberg and his self-absorbed comrades to be at least as exasperating as they were intriguing. People who’ve had experience with mental illness, as I have, may fail to see the charm in drug-induced psychosis.
And yet Ginsberg shares my birthday, June 3, and the insights it took him decades to discover — an appreciation of the deep psychological well of Buddhism, a suspicion of the tyranny of self — were the same ones I found, after a long search. My feelings about him are almost as complex as my feelings about myself.
On the plus side of the ledger, Ginsberg became a courageous voice against the deep-rooted hypocrisies of his time, a gay pioneer and a reflexively honest man who did much to popularize Buddhist thought in America.
The 17-year-old Allen Ginsberg had fallen for an 18-year-old cerebral charmer, his fellow Columbia University student Lucien Carr, at once.
Ginsberg’s infatuation with 21-year-old Jack Kerouac, a sensitive and articulate merchant seaman, was equally instant.
All three were also in the giddy early stages of a love affair with intellectual enlightenment. Carr later called it the rebellious students’ search for valid values.
“Their walk had taken them to the Union Theological Seminary; they stood on the corner of West 122ndStreet and Broadway and looked down the hill to the gray spread of Harlem,” wrote Miles. “Allen was moving out of the seminary and still had a few things to collect. He and Jack had discussed their admiration of Lucien, so there was a mutual understanding when Allen pointed out the door where he had first heard the Brahms Quintet (that had introduced him to Carr) six months earlier.”
“Allen collected the few books and belongings he had come for, and as he turned from the dormitory suite he bowed to it, made a gesture of farewell, and said, ‘Goodbye, door.’ He continued down the stairs, saying goodbye to each step as he went. He bade farewell to the seventh-floor landing, the sixth-floor landing and all the rest, like a poem, all the way down.
“Kerouac was struck by this: ‘Ah, I do that when I say goodbye to a place.’ They had a long, excited conversation about the recognition of each of the stairs as the final stair and about Allen’s realization of the changes in himself since he first climbed them six months before.
“‘That struck him as an awareness of a soul in space and time, which was his nature,’ Ginsberg said later. Jack asked him if he knew any other people with the same awareness. Was it awareness? Was it poetry? They decided that everyone had it who was in any way conscious or sensitive.