Friday, October 22, 2010

When the Music's Over...

Whole Wheat Radio and its mission of providing a grassroots, all-volunteer, donation supported website and webcast that competently and without mainstream advertising supports independent musicians and their craft is offline.

With these words founder Jim Kloss ended a musical adventure that made my, and many others' I am sure, days more pleasant. At any hour I could instantly tap into a stream of fine music by a wide, wide array of musicians, songwriters and poets. Some better than others but all interesting. I can barely begin to name the many musicians I heard first and only on WWR: Danny Schmidt, The Clumsy Lovers, Girlyman, John Flynn, Small Potatoes, Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie, Emily Kurn, Kristina Olsen, Trish Murphy,... You get the idea.

House concerts at WWR were a wonderful opportunity to hear live music. Even without video, a house concert was an intimate expereince; I could hear the audience and participate in a live chat. A house concert during the 2005 Winter Solstice was a holilday recital by Talkeetna piano students,a small town community experience shared round the world.

From the listening end, it was great. Probably less great on the operating side, as is evident from Jim's letter of resignation. A work of love turned into a job and as, everybody knows, jobs suck. Work can be energizing, a job rarely so. He made the right call. Jim is now free to open some new doors.

WWR's demise is certainly a loss. Not only for my enjoyment but also for the many artists who found listeners there. I'm sure they have other outlets but few are likely to be as open and independent as WWR. All that said, WWR demonstrated and used the possibilities of the internet to create a lively and dynamic model. One lesson from all that is that grassroots, independent efforts are possible. Maybe other visionaries will build on the experience to create yet another model. Who knows? What I do know is that for over five years I have had access to a LOT of fine music.

My connection to WWR goes beyond my listening experience. My friend Cile (whose blog has lots of links to musicians often heard on WWR)introduced me to WWR in 2003 when she planned her 50th birthday in Talkeetna. Maggie and I were in Alaska then and met her there. Jim and Esther were part of that celebration and I had the opportunity to meet them in their 12 x 12 plywood shack, WWR's original home. By September 2003, they had added a small studio wing but the computer and cables still took about a quarter of their sleeping loft. It was a tight fit. Knowing the people and place behind the webcast made it all that more personal.

Thanks, Jim. I hope you find much joy and wonder when you open those future doors.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Life Worth Noting

David H. McNerney, Medal of Honor recipient.
While trekking through thick vegetation, the company's front column was hit with heavy fire and the rear platoon was surprised from behind. Before the company's 108 soldiers could organize into defensive positions, they were surrounded and outnumbered at least three to one. In the first minutes of battle, 22 Americans were dead and about 40 were wounded. The company's commanding officer and the forward artillery observer were both killed in the ambush. As the senior enlisted man, Sgt. McNerney took control of the remaining soldiers and coordinated their counterattack.

...Sgt. McNerney began to sprint toward the front lines as bullets kicked up dust around his boots. He hit the ground and returned fire, killing a group of Viet Cong soldiers in front of him.... When the grenade exploded just a few feet away, Sgt. McNerney was blown in the air and suffered a laceration on his chest. Ignoring his wounds and sensing the approaching enemy soldiers, Sgt. McNerney recovered the artillery observer's radio and called in heavy rounds to within 65 feet of his position - dangerously close to the artillery's margin of error.

In order to mark the area that his troops occupied, Sgt. McNerney searched for colored smoke canisters but realized they had all been used. Improvising, Sgt. McNerney grabbed his unit's brightly colored insignia panel and headed through substantialenemy fire to a tall tree in a clearing. He climbed up and tied the panel to the highest branch in the canopy, so it could be seen by friendly aircraft.

There's more.

Godspeed, Sergeant McNerny.


Editorial Comment

The wording needs some context.
A study earlier this year in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that among 123,000 adults followed over 14 years, those who sat more than six hours a day were at least 18 percent more likely to die than those who sat less than three hours a day. (emphasis added)

We are all equally likely to die. The difference is in how or when but the certainty death comes with our franchise on this life.


A Lesson in Reality

Two likely outcomes:
Next month's midterm elections will leave the president with fewer friends in Congress, and possibly a Republican majority in one or both chambers emboldened to thwart his plans.
Democrats will probably return for the new Congress in January more cautious.

I would like to think that the prediction is wrong. I want it to be wrong but I don't see anything that gives me reason to believe that the next Congress will be anything but hostile to progressive ideas. Especially so, in many cases. As for the congressional Democrats, I cannot imagine how they could be any more cautious but I am sure they will find a way.

This year's elections will likely end what has been the longest string of electoral victories of my life. I've not been disappointed by national election results since 2004. In 2008 I actually looked forward to the election just because it felt good to see a preferred presidential candidate not only win but win but also win big.

But none of this made a difference. American economic and social policy remains firmly based on mass consumption, corporate interest, economic polarization and militarism. "Change" has been minimal and superficial, if at all. Health care reform, the signature accomplishment of the 111th Congress and Obama Administration, serves the health care and insurance industries as much or more than the general public. The US government is still planning on fighting wars well into the next decade. Economic insecurity in America is reaching levels not seen since the Great Depression even as great personal and corporate fortunes accumulate ever more wealth.

So now I've learned that winning elections in America doesn't change policy. Democrat or Republican, we don't get much choice, just two sides of the same coin. Something more is needed. In the meantime, though, I'll cast my ballot this year. In a choice between "less bad" and "more bad" candidates, less bad is better.

My Thurston County ballot arrived in the mail Friday. We have some interesting races and decent candidates for state and local offices. That part of democracy still gives me some hope.