Thursday, February 26, 2015

Leonard Cohen Live in London

The weather was on the way last night when I got home. I was waiting for Libby to get in. She'd gone up to Greensboro to check on her dad in the rest home and pick up some last minute supplies. She even picked up some better clamp on lights so we can put a 100 watt bulb under the house at the water pipe. Assuming the power stays on. There have been flickers this morning, which take out the modem immediately. Maybe this'll get up right now, maybe not.

So I put in the DVD of Leonard Cohen, Live in London (2008), because I'd read good reviews of it and put it in my Netflix list, and it had actually arrived just today, and I thought it would be a lot better to watch a video than to watch the weather and worry about Libby driving into the snow on the way home. I did keep peeking out the slider--after a while it started to snow. Then Libby called from just above Liberty, and I talked her into getting straight here and not picking up anything else no matter how much we needed it, and about the time this particular cut started she tapped on the slider, she'd made it in, and the snow was sticking on the pump house roof and on the ground too, and coming down pretty good, but the fire was laid in the stove and we were warm and dry and safe.

I watched most of the DVD. Libby was busy in the kitchen, putting stuff away, feeding the Houdahenians, who crowded around her as soon as she came in. I finally got her to come in and re-watch Everybody Knows, and by then I'd seen a few more stellar cuts, including the remarkable first set closer, which repeats the paradoxical phrase about how a crack in "everything" is how the light gets in. Cohen is approaching the middle of his eighties as we speak. The show was put together with great intelligence. It features outstanding musicians and singers, and frames his aging difficult voice and diffident personality with a loving power that makes his great songwriting shine through, perhaps better than it ever has live or on records. Cohen does a few of the very old wonders: I was delighted to hear Bird on a Wire again. I'd "found" it in the '60s and still very much appreciate it's subtlety. Everybody Knows, for that matter, is not "new," but was written in the 1980s, in the darkness of Reagan and Oliver North and the first flowering of what we have now as a replacement for what was once just the "other" party. There is no mainstream of agreement about anything. Just the decreasing surprise of responsible Democratic governance when the Republicans do the next insane thing. Coming up, the President of Israel addresses Congress but refuses to even meet with Democrats. Cohen has been staring clearly at the future for a long time. He's already writing songs about how to survive what's on the way.

Cohen (and Sharon Robinson) got it right and it's still right. "Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton for your ribbons and your bows." And the great state of Oklahoma has outlawed Advance History Placement because the course might mention the Tulsa Riots of 1921, or the final destination of the Trail of Tears. (And on the other hand, just southeast of OK a righteous museum dedicated to some of the historical truths of slavery in the United States has been dedicated in Louisiana: it's not really so easy to suppress history:

Just sayin'.)

How much snow will break a winter beech tree, which keeps all its last years' leaves until the new ones bud out. They sprinkle my woods, the gold a pale contrast to the white lattice of branches, and the dark oak and hickory trunks. This morning my old friend Rick Doble sent me an email revealing that he's writing a blog about the mysteries of time, as it pertains to our human memories and machinations. Here's a link:

Check it out. Stay warm.


Saturday Update. There's still a lot of snow on the ground here, though some has melted. Tonight they're calling for freezing rain turning to rain. So far our power's stayed on. Freezing rain might do it. All the Houdahenians are stacked together in front of the slider right now, watching the birds scratching for food in the snow. It's their TV.

I hunted up some lyric sheets for some of the songs Leonard Cohen did at that London show. Here's a site. Go read some of them yourself. He's been writing amazing things forever, a good portion with his collaborator Sharon Robinson, who sings in the London show. This one goes back decades:

Friday, February 20, 2015

So Little Time

Racing from one hole in the dike to the next is hard work. Right now we're still in the deep freeze here in NC, which makes for some real hard work, as well as the typing sort. This morning I got up to discover that the power was out. Up until this point we had not lost our water. Two light bulbs at critical locations, and allowing the faucets to drip slightly. Without power, the bulbs were out and the pressure tank in the well house would soon empty and not refill. It was also very cold outside, which I discovered when I went out for more wood. The stove back here in the part of the house we mostly live in had burned down in the night, with only the tiniest of embers remaining. I split up some of the dwindling supply of very dry oak, cut and covered two seasons back now, then laid the small pieces on top of some split red cedar. Pretty soon the fire was going again. Meanwhile Libby was calling the power company, where she discovered that the outage had been reported at 6:14. They were hunting the problem and hoped for restoration by 9 AM. Not bad news. Better was the few minutes later when the lights came back on. The water had not frozen in the lines either!

Yesterday I went out to the road to check on the vehicles. I had hopes of actually driving somewhere. What we've had here is sleet with a dusting of snow, and temps below freezing (and indeed near zero) for three days running. It's not the usual NC weather, and the usual NC winter ways do not account well for it. I had thought, prior to this arctic visit, that we were well into next season's firewood. I will now at least subtract the "well" from that description, and be prepared to continue to erase the modifiers as the weather does what it will in the coming days. Allegedly we are going to be getting mid-50s and rain this weekend. In the meantime, here's what I wrote yesterday, about my trip to the road:

The Siberian Zephyr

The week of Daytona, 2015, a huge mass of cold air came rushing over the north pole and down at North Carolina. The weather event began with a sleet storm, which was expected to be freezing rain as warm air was over-rising cold (I think I have that right), but luckily for us the vertical extent of the cold air was more than expected, so the rain turned to sleet, which was hard and slippery but did not cause limbs to break and allowed our power to stay on. After a day of slick hard sleeted ground, the roads so slippery driving anywhere was inconceivable, the real cold arrived, the first morning being 5 degrees above zero, with a high of 20 not counting wind chill, and tonight expected to be some lower even, before the cold mass was exhausted, or pushed north again to where it “belonged,” or whatever happens to it. By Saturday (this being Thursday afternoon) we're expecting rain, which should make it finally possible to drive again. This will be about time, as the cat food is going to run out Saturday it looks like. We've got enough lardered up—Libby even brought home a big rack of ribs she's yet to cook, because she pulled her back carrying things in from a late-night trip to the Walmart just before it all commenced, Monday night. She's been laid up mainly since. When I got up today I started up both stoves, which is just about a full days work, adding one piece of wood here, one there, back and forth and keep a cat from escaping into the frozen wild with your hands full of firewood if you can. We're also as it happens hoarding the propane that keeps the kitchen warm and also runs the cook stove. I go in there and turn on the heater every few hours for a while, just to make the fridge turn on. Strangely, in a very cold kitchen the modern refrigerator will act the opposite of what you might think, keeping the cold out and not running enough to maintain cold enough temps inside. The best place for the milk might be the north-facing porch just off the kitchen, till things get back to NC normal on Saturday.

From inside, in the sunny early afternoon, it looked pretty normal as it was, and the stoves had done their work. I thought maybe the roads would be good enough to drive to town and get a few things. One thing was a better clamp-on work light, that would take a 100 watt bulb. Libby had gotten two packs of the old incandescent 100 watters because with the temperatures falling like they were predicting, I figured it'd be some insurance against the worst eventuality, which would be frozen pipes. But it turned out, when I went out after the sleet storm to put in fresh bulbs, that the light at where the water pipe is briefly exposed, as it enters the house, that the clamp-on at that place would not allow more than the old 60 watt that it already was running—some sort of sensor could tell if it was drawing more, and shut down. So we found (and still) ourselves all in readiness for even zero degrees tonight, but with only an old 60 watt bulb, no more 60s even in the house, everything's been switched to the florescent curlies which certainly do save money and energy, but do not put out any heat, dammit. The world of course is not designed much for the random elderly hippies who thought it was “nice” to try to live in the kinda old way, picking and choosing what to accept from the new junk that comes down from on high or Walmart at six month intervals.

So as it looked normal and possibly the road by now would be driveable, I walked out to the truck where I'd parked it in the power-line cut beside the driveway, on the far side of the hill between us and the macadam. It was not a bad walk as far as the cold, but the sleet surface was slick and hard and I walked mostly in the rougher brush. There wasn't enough on the ground to make that slick too. When I got out to the truck I could see it was still icy on the road, and as I walked back onto the driveway I hit a particularly slick spot and fell, legs shot straight out as they'll do on an ice fall, landing on my left hand and shoulder, hoping that all the bones were still ok as I lay on my back on the ice for a few seconds, looking at the blue sky and a few bare branches and the power line stringing past overhead, and wondering if the folks in the trailer across the road might have been watching, or might come out to check on me if I was hurt. But I wasn't hurt, and no one came. It occurred to me that I'd not brought along the cell-phone, which was a little dumb of me, because it worked on this side of the hill and I could have called back to our home phone if, say, my arm had been broken. But I got up and brushed myself off, and waked back over the hill and down to our house through the woods, skipping all the slip possibilities of the driveway. In fact, if I'd decided to try driving the paved road, I might never have been able to drive back into the driveway, it was so slick.

So here I am, back inside, nice and warm. Another wood round is about due. It is very bright and sparkly in the afternoon sun. We'd got up quite a bit of wood in the couple of good working days before the weather came, some big dead stuff the power company cut down while they were clearing brush along the right of way, which I split up and Libby got down to the stacking area in the truck that's now out at the road. The end of February is only a week away. We might even be pretty close to the end of serious fires for this year, just a couple of pieces of the evening to take the chill off. It's been 90 in March. This is a good example of what the old folks called "wishful thinking," by the way.


In the meantime, Juan Cole wrote this:

A brief quote:

And it seems pretty clear that by referring to how Obama was brought up, Giuliani has just spit on the graves of the Dunham family.

In contrast, Rudy Giuliani never served in the US military and nor did his father (his grandparents immigrated from Italy). As for how he was brought up (and this isn’t his fault), his father Harold served time in Sing Sing for robbery and then was a soldier in an organized crime operation in Brooklyn that ran a gambling racket and did loan sharking.

I don’t know, maybe Harold raised Mr. Giuliani to love the country that offered him the opportunity to break people’s legs for not paying their vig.

And here you have to wonder if Giuliani’s bizarre trashing of Obama is a form of projection, if it is Rudy Giuliani who wasn’t raised to love his grandparents’ adopted country.

Obama and Giuliani are both from relatively recent immigrant backgrounds, but no one asked to see Giuliani’s birth certificate.

Cole offers some brief history of Mr. Obama's family, including their records in World War II, prior to the quote. While Giuliani has a long history of popping off inappropriately, this latest is pretty depressing. It's also the standard fare in Republican circles. Mitt Romney said a number of similar things during the past Presidential campaign, including his quip that "no one needs to ask where I was born." The Republicans just can't help it. They view themselves as the privileged, and even the latecomers, including the Romney family, who came back from exile in Mexico for polygamist issues, and the Giuliani's, recently of Italy and Sing Sing, ache to punch down as quickly as they can.

This is the Republican gift to their membership, psychologically. It's tempting fair, even as it rots the heart with its empty calories, and brings little warmth. Don't fret, little ones. You can always look down at someone from here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What Words?

The senseless tragedy this past week in Chapel Hill leaves me pretty much speechless. The three victims, all from my home town of Raleigh, all obviously on shining paths to great lives sparkling with gifts to all of us, with joy and happiness, all three cut down by a muddled, soulless moron obsessed with the parking spaces in his apartment complex and surely obsessed as well with the "different" people living across the way, wearing their "different" clothing, parking at times in spaces that weren't theirs (since only one space apparently was allotted to each apartment in a neat, cost-saving design that probably allowed several more units to go up in the allotted space in which the complex was built back when everyone was earning a living banging nails as fast as they could). It's so tragic, so terrible, so utterly pointless. I was proud of our area producing huge turnouts of mourners both at NC State and UNC. The dental fund for Syrian children which one of the victims had started, with a goal of $20,000, has with this horror grown to $340,000 and counting. At least it's a memorial. It's too bitter for words.

I can't fault the parents of these children for demanding that the murders be termed a hate crime. Surely there was hate aplenty involved. Perhaps there was nothing but hate. The Fox News efforts to resist this conclusion are just another example of why Fox News is an advanced brain cancer on the body politic. It's not even news: dog has fleas. The guy should be charged with first degree murder, which carries the death penalty in North Carolina. He apparently not only knocked on these folks doors, shot them all several times as they screamed, but then administered a head-shot to be damn sure. That must be first degree murder, with premeditation, if the charge has any meaning.* And the other conclusion is true too. Mr. Hicks was crazy, been crazy for years, will probably always be crazy, should never be out amongst ordinary, peaceable folks again, never!

My boss's wife said the guy who issued Mr. Hicks a pistol permit should go to jail. That's a damn good idea. Mr. Hicks personifies the world the NRA gun lobby has built for us. He was suffering from George Zimmerman syndrome. Because the NRA has managed to stop our elected representatives from acknowledging the plain fact that a person with a pistol is, by virtue of that fact alone, changed. Carry a pistol on your belt or in your hand and your relationship to the world is altered, and altered profoundly. Who teaches that fact in the permitting process. Who puts each pistol permit applicant up against the wall and screams in their face, "listen, you might not want to touch this fire, it can change you, it can rot away your sense of empathy and any notion that you are just like everyone else, it can make you a murderer, this little piece of machinery, and you have to to see that coming or possibly be destroyed."

A pistol is like Sauron's ring. Even trained people are often damaged by its possession. This guy, this pathetic shooter, hiding in his apartment and keeping a close eye on all the parking spaces just in case someone violates some condo rule? He's one or two steps away from Golum, swimming in the blackness, eating raw fish. And this is the world the NRA works day and night to bring us. As I've said, here in my little rural county at the western edge of the Research Triangle, we now have three gun emporiums dedicated to selling the nasty things to women. The vendors are "NRA certified." Reckon there's any talk of how deep the soul rot can go, as each new pistol owner exits the premises, special purse/holster hanging on their arm and matching their pumps. We already proved how bad it's got with the political reaction to Sandy Hook. A couple of states took strong action, including Connecticut, where the massacre happened. Otherwise, gun laws were on the whole weakened in response. Then we elected more Republicans.


*Hicks was indicted on three counts of first degree murder on Monday, a day after I wrote this.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Wood's Stacked

I was just surfing around and I ran into this, from David Seaton:

Before we get started, it would be useful to remember that the founding "parents" of the "conservative revolution" or "neo-liberalism" as it is known in Europe, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, both died of Alzheimer´s disease... This might not be the cause of the ongoing disaster, but it sure is a nifty metaphor for the situation we are in.

Regular readers of this blog know that one of my favorite hobby horses is criticizing the blockheadedness of post Cold War politicians who seem to have totally lost their fear of popular wrath.

Those who are cheerfully going about the work of dismantling the welfare state seem blissfully unaware that the welfare state was created by men as, or even more conservative than themselves, (Bismark, for example) in order to avoid revolutionary social movements which would destabilize and jeopardize the entire economic system and society itself. This was a strategy that was so eminently successful that it practically has destroyed revolutionary praxis.


I was also thinking this week of Seamus Innis's wonderful extemporaneous remarks on the playing of the Ulllean pipes, made many years ago when recordings had two sides and came in what seem now to be gigantic packages, sometimes even boxes, with whole booklets inside, explaining all the music or whatever. See e.g., the Library of Congress's amazing "The Hammons Family of West Virginia," something I've been conversing about with a nice feller from Staunton, VA. And it being the birthday recently of James Joyce, and as well the anniversary of the publication of Ulysses, the Innis remarks seem even more appropriate.

There is always an awful lot to be said about this Irish traditional
folk music and folklore, because first of all you have to learn it, and
first you must learn the talk, and then you must learn the grip, and
after that you must learn the trucklyhowl, and then you have the
whole lot only just to keep on practicing it. Because Seamus Innis
knows far more about this than even the old folk lord-di-lordies thems-
elves, because Seamus Innis once met a little Lepprechaunie trucklyhowl
at the bottom of the garden gluth, and up and up the garden path, which came
up from that in the Limoreti-Limoreti hillhockers, before the Earthian
Throll, before the Lepprechaun era, and long before the Argy-Fargy.
And that was in the Depondoom, before the Emerald Isle was ever
dropped . . . plop plop . . . in the water.

You can hear this spoken on this site:

I take "truckley howl" to be the perfect description of what the Ulllean pipes sound like, by the way.


Here's a photo of Major Franklin, who in the mid-1960s played the perfect version of Tom and Jerry.

I've been working on learning his version for a while. It's not easy, for all it seems so. It might be that I'm getting too old to learn a damn tune any more, for all the ones I know already seem to continue to improve in the playing, if only slightly. I agree with Franklin's way of doing things:

Sunday, February 1, 2015


Digby put up a good piece yesterday on Social Security and its "alternative."

It is breathtaking how the right wing manages to gin up any grass roots support at all for a program which, in fact, nearly every citizen depends on and expects to remain solid. The power of propaganda is immense. Put Limbaugh and his cohort on the air daily for 25 years and at the end of the experiment you find a huge body of voters clamoring to cut their own throats. The oligarchs of course have no need for social security. Nor do they need the people who work for them and produce much of their wealth to end their days in any comfort or security. The great battle has always been about whether people who work are more than a component of production, just part of the list, along with raw materials.


I have been trying to get a grip on why "American Sniper" is such a jarring title. Then it came to me:

This is our other mental image of an American sniper, at the moment of his assassination actually. This is why sniping has not been an entirely positive concept--something Chris Kyle toiled to change after he left the armed forces and began to build a "brand" for himself. The problem with Kyle's efforts to improve the public's image of "sniping" is that in the process he seems to have made a lot of stuff up, including a proven liable of former Governor Jesse Ventura, himself a Navy Seal. There are some facts in this case. Perhaps Kyle and Oswald can exchange technical expertise from their adjoining apartments in Lucifer's dominion. Everyone else can at least agree that the job of sniper is one of many depressing necessities in the business of war. As General Lee said, "it is good that war is so terrible, else we would love it too much."