Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Music for the Hard of Hearing

I spend enough time in front of a computer to enjoy the easy access to alternative music available on the internet.  Since first logging in to Whole Wheat Radio 10 years ago,  my daily computer chores and amusements have usually been accompanied by music less likely to be heard.  These days my appreciation for that music focuses on the sound and feel more than the lyrics.  Even with good speakers and adequate volume my degraded ears cannot make out the words.  Headphones work well enough but I don't like being tethered so mostly I just enjoy what I can hear.  I can always look up the lyrics if something strikes me.

Paying minimal attention to what the songwriter is saying has led me to understand more what I value in music.  I like lively rhythm, female vocals, the interplay of instruments, violins, pianos and banjos.  More than anything I experience the sounds coming out of my speakers as a rich texture and interplay of instruments and voices.  As I write, Folk Alley--my source of choice--is playing "Man in the Moon by The Full English.  It's English traditional with a lilting female vocal backed with a complementary harmony, a viola (I think) and other stringed instruments.  It's livelier than a minuet but has some of the same precision.  Twenty minutes later Roseanne Cash is singing "A Feather's Not A Bird", a haunting ballad with a with hard-edged vocal and sharp electric guitar.  I can't make out the lyrics on either song but what I can hear sounds fine.

Having difficulty making out lyrics is not entirely new.  Even in my youth I often relied on lyric sheets that accompanied most albums.  If no lyrics were available, repeated attentive listens let me figure them out.  That's one reason I was drawn to singer songwriters like Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle--their words and stories were usually clearly stated.  But these days I must listen closely if I want to understand the meaning behind the music.  I don't pay that much attention, especially if I'm working so some of the music zips by without notice.

That occurs less on Folk Alley where much of he music will command my attention (like Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell singing "That's All It Took").  I tried Radio Paradise as a pop-rock alternative but while the playlist is far more diverse than Folk Alley much of the music zips by without notice. It's a little too popular at times and much of it doesn't register until I see it on the playlist.  I am even less likely to pick up lyrics if I'm not even noticing the music.  It's an occasional flirtation but Folk Alley is my radio home these days.

Not hearing lyrics means I miss an important part of the song.  Definitely a loss but one than I can accept for accompaniment to working on a computer.  CD's and records--I've purchased CD's of artists introduced via internet--give me plenty of opportunity to enjoy both melody and lyrics.

Call it the inevitable consequences of aging. I'm just happy to be alive and enjoying music


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oh Wow. Look at the Moon.

Stepping on to my balcony to scan the pre-dawn sky I catch the fleeting image of a waning crescent moon as it disappears behind some fast-moving clouds.  What I saw was pretty--early morning crescent moons always are--so I wait to see if I get another look.  The clouds look pretty dense against the dark sky but after a couple of minutes patch of light appears in the dark and soon the crescent was visible again. 

This morning's crescent is a delicate sliver of light on the edge of the moon's disc which is darkly illuminated by earthshine.  A very light haze gives the sky a soft focus so the crescent's image is gentle stark.  The look is suitable for a morning crescent.  It holds my interest.  I scan the separation between light and dark on the disc.  I follow the deep curve of of light and linger on its points, happy just to see this moon and morning sky. 

The clouds return.  Slowly at first, hiding then revealing some or all of the crescent.  A brief final tease before dropping the curtain on this performance. 

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

That Happened Fast

As of today gay and lesbian couples can legally marry in every state that I have ever called home:  Arizona, New Mexico (however briefly) , Virginia, and Washington.  Of the four, only my current home state, Washington, enacted same sex marriage on its own without a court order.  We even defeated a referendum to repeal the legislation. 

update:  The Navajo Nation, where I lived for five of my Arizona years, does not recognize same-sex marriage.  As a bilaga'ana I can't really call my years there home but they remain a part of me still.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Good for Them

South Pacific climate activists blockade Australian coal port.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

No Thank You for My Service

Our local military base held a Welcome Home ceremony for Vietnam veterans the other day.  I did not attend.  No doubt the ceremony was meaningful for those who went but for not for me.  When I came home from Vietnam I wanted done with the military.  I did not want a parade or a ceremony.  I still don't.

That's why I am uncomfortable being honored as a veteran.  I didn't do much of anything except survive and not commit war crimes or otherwise fuck up.   No great service to my country there (well, not committing war crimes seems like some level of service).  I did risk my life at my country's order but I did so unwillingly, grudgingly, and with great anger.  The experience certainly opened my eyes but in the end, it did my country no good.

When people say, "Thank you for your service" I want to say what service?  Participating in an illegal war?  Lacking the courage to resist?  Carrying arms in a foreign country against an adversary who was no threat to mine?  Not something I care to be reminded of by others.  I don't forget.

As I scroll through memories of Vietnam I end up with the realization that the only real service I have given to my country has been to speak out against war as a veteran.  So maybe the best response  is to accept thanks as long as the offeror knows that my service is continuing one in support of peace after serving for a lie. 

One of the disturbing aspects of the "thank you for your service" and "welcome home" for Vietnam vets is that these gestures somehow make the lies, deceptions, and mis-judgments of that (or our current) war go away.  That by recognizing and honoring veterans' service Vietnam becomes a noble cause instead of the clusterfuck that it was.  I don't begrudge my fellow veterans recognition for their courage and sacrifices in Vietnam nor would I deny them a welcome home but all the parades and thanks don't change the fundamental fact that the war was a colossal blunder. 

For that same reason I am skeptical of the official 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam war. I suspect that it will be more in the nature of the noble cause commemoration and will ignore the lessons of the war.  Americans would do well to look beyond the official narrative to get the rest of the story.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

A Woman of Many Talents

Came across a nice article about Leslie Barton, one of the artists I knew in Phoenix.  Leslie was part of my Long Story About a Grand Adventure in Phoenix, Arizona.   As a  performance artist she was always noticeable, active and daring. 

Twenty years later Leslie is still out there. And getting some well-deserved attention. 

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Still Paying the Pottery Barn

 According to the Washington Post, ISIL fighters are about to overrun Anbar Province in Iraq, putting themselves within artillery range of Baghdad.  This would give them effective control of western Iraq to the Syrian Border and provide an uninterrupted  supply line from bases in Syria.  It would also bring two key Iraqi military bases and supplies under ISIL control.

Prospects for thwarting ISIL's advance look poor.  US airstrikes have not stopped ISIL's momentum.  Sunnis will object to Shi'ite militias fighting alongside a Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi Army in the Sunni homeland of Anbar.  For their part Iraqi soldiers have no love for the countrymen or the government they are supposedly defending.
For days we begged for airstrikes and they never came,” said a 38-year-old soldier who survived the onslaught at Saqlawiyah....  The leadership doesn’t care about us, the people there [in Anbar] don’t care about us. They called us Shia dogs, How can I fight for any of them after this?”
The Sunnis have cast their lot with ISIL, just as they did with al-Qaeda during the American Occupation until they became fed up with al-Qaeda fundamentalism and lured by American case and promises to switch sides.  Maybe they think they can pull off another pivot after the Iraqi army is defeated but ISIL may not be easily ditched.

As I noted earlier, about the only thing likely to stop ISIL is a well-trained military force that is motivated to fight back, well supplied and supported with air assets.  The US and the "coalition" can certainly provided supplies and air support but it seems that no member of that coalition has the wholly unalloyed goal of defeating ISIL.  Sure they all want ISIL gone but each has their own separate agenda that limits their support.  The one thing all agree on so far is that no one wants to commit ground forces against ISIL.   That leaves the out gunned Kurds and some Iraqi army units.

With Baghdad in range of ISIL artillery I can already hear the neo-con war mongers accusing Obama of "losing Iraq" since they believe that somehow our success in buying off the Sunni tribes after 2007 was some sort of vindication of their decision to invade Iraq and to destabilize the Middle East.  If Baghdad falls to ISIL, it will be the unintended consequence of Dick Cheney's decision to invest American lives and treasure in Iraq.  Maybe the Obama Administration can and the American military can somehow come up with something to stave off disaster.    

If not...

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