Saturday, May 31, 2008

More Tom Lehrer

Video Find of the Day

I've found more Tom Lehrer! I don't know how I missed these the first time I looked. These are three of my favorite songs by the mathematician turned satirist.

Tom Lehrer - The Vatican rag [Genuflect! Genuflect! Genuflect!]

Tom Lehrer - Oedipus Rex [Maybe I should have posted this one Mother's Day?]

And, by way of either contrast or comparison, something cheery:

Tom Lehrer - We will all go together when we go

Friday, May 30, 2008

Tea Kettle About to Explode

Video Find of the Day

Complete with Mike Wallace pitching for Sealy Posturepedic Matresses, we get an interview with Thurgood Marshall sometime around '57 to '59, the period when Wallace's Night Beat aired only on WABD New York. Marshall is great. After his interview is over at about five minutes, we get 3 and a half minutes of typical Fifties TV ads. Watching them 50 years later feels like an antropologist's field trip.

A version with some of the ads at the end cut out is available on Google Video here.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

La Peña Flamenca de Seattle

Video Find of the Day

When I stupidly deleted the videos I made of Flamenco dances last Sunday at Folklife one of the performances I lost was very similar to this one, provided by PenaFlamencaSeattle themselves. I put it here to console myself.

La Peña Flamenca de Seattle: Bulerías

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Video Find of the Day

Recommended by Rachael M., outgoing Real Change Associative Director. How dare she go out? We wants her forever!

Children of the Revolution - Eleftheria [Greek for freedom]

Nalini at Folklife

I just discovered that I accidentally deleted all the videos I made of the Flamenco performances at Folklife Sunday. Rats. Well, there's always next year.

The good news: I still have 24 minutes of Bhangra and Bollywood dance to upload. Here's Nalini again, on the International Dance Stage, Folklife, May 25, 2008.

Nalini at Folklife

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Proud Mary

Video Find of the Day

Tina Turner's intro to Proud Mary on this video is a tad ironic isn't it? Well, dysfunctional families are made up of people just like you and me, only rougher, or weepier. Check out the back up dancers doing frenzied versions of the Swim and offering up various universal gestures for the idea of "rolling."

Tina & Ike Turner - Proud Mary

Bath Time

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened during the summer of 1958. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

I've slowed down on these memoirs lately because I'm entering territory that's less comfortable.

After my Mother and I moved back into the garage my Grandmother's house on Beacon Hill, there was an immediate escalation in the rapes and other forms of sexual abuse. I don't want to describe it all. But one incident might stand for several.

My Grandmother was in poor health. I didn't know it at the time, but she had already had a number of minor strokes. Actually, someone might have told me that, but it wouldn't have meant anything to me, because I didn't know what a stroke was. If I thought about it, I probably envisioned a fainting spell that would be over in a minute and have no lasting effect, so long as you didn't concuss yourself when you fell.

Sometime that summer she went to the hospital. The impression I was given was it was nothing special and she'd be back in a week or so, but meanwhile my Mother and I could house-sit.

So I slept on the couch in the living room while my Mother slept in a room that served as a guest bedroom.

My Mother was still forcing herself on me during baths. Most of the times the rapes were done under the cover of cleaning me. I had to be cleaned inside, too, she said.

But having the house to ourselves seemed to make my Mother want to be more overt. Maybe it was knowing that the noises I made would be less likely heard outside.

She walked in on me during a bath wearing only a bathrobe and threw it open and ordered me to fondle her genitals. That was impossible for me. I just froze. So she lost her temper and raped me anally for a long time. It was clearly not cleaning this time; it was punishment for disobeying her.

The rape continued so long that I disassociated. I had a kind of out of body experience. I returned to awareness to discover that I was losing control of my bodily functions.

When I did, my Mother became angrier than ever and started spanking me hard and that only made it worse.

I screamed so hard I lost my breath and choked for air, and then screamed more.

Then she said, "You clean it up."

Bhangra in Seattle

Yesterday I got to see Bhangra live for the first time, courtesy of Rhythms of India and others performing at the Northwest Folklife Festival here in Seattle. I have to say, I really enjoy the challenge of filming this sort of thing. Trying to decide where to point the camera and how much to take in at every moment is a weird, geeky, rush. My favorite moments in this occur when the dancers at one side of the stage cross over to the dancers at the other side and I succeed in following one set through the cross-over. That is so cool.

Rhythms of India

Monday, May 26, 2008

Local Bollywood

Video Find of the Day

I still haven't edited yesterday's videos of Flamenco dancing. I'm not too hopeful about them because I didn't get a good seat for them. Today I got a crop of Bhangra Bollywood and such videos to edit. I'm much more hopeful about them. I got a good seat up front. If the sound isn't too bad we're in business.

Meanwhile, here's a pre-existing video by and of Nalini, a dancer from the Ukraine who is now living in Seattle.

Bollywood Dance

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Local Flamenco

Video Find of the Day

If you live in Seattle and spend a lot of time downtown, you probably spend it all on one or two avenues. That's been my observation down the years. When I was a teenager living on Beacon Hill, the bus from there to downtown ran up 4th then, and you caught it on 2nd to go home. So downtown was 4th and 2nd to me.

Now, I live in Pioneer Square and Real Change is in Belltown on 2nd, so my city is 2nd and 3rd Avenues. People for whom Seattle is 4th seem alien to me. Why would anyone go to 4th, I wonder. To me anything further east than 4th is beyond alien; it's the abode of the obscenely rich, or it's Capitol Hill.

Ana Montes teaches Flamenco dancing at her studio at 4th and Bell St, just a bit more than three blocks from Real Change, but I wouldn't know that because that's off the edge of my map. "There be dragons here."

Anyway, I went to the Northwest Folklife Festival tonight and tried to video the Flamenco shows. Montes and her students came out last, so naturally I had used up most of my recording time, because the preceding performances were great, too. I did manage to get a solo by her; we'll see if that's any good in a day or two, when I've had a chance to edit it.

Until then, here's someone else's video from Youtube that features not only her but some other performers I saw tonight. She dances right after the 4:30 mark.

Bulerias: Carmona Flamenco

King Jr., St. John, Nietzsches, and Me

Doing It, Religiously

[Above: Russian nesting dolls originated in the 19th Century. They were inspired by earlier Japanese dolls that depicted nested series of Japanese gods -- a polytheistic image.]

Anitra and I spoke Friday at Tim Harris' University of Washington class on poverty and homelessness. After the class, Tim drove me back to the Real Change office while Anitra ran off to spend all her money on tomato plants. In the car Tim played the recording (see A True Revolution of Values) he made of himself backing up Martin Luther King Jr.'s Riverside Speech on the guitar.

The speech contains this passage:

"This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us."

The call for love is great, but at the risk of once again prompting the question "So, Wes, when did you first decide to worship Satan?" (answer: The first time some idiot asked me that question) I am going to heap disrespect upon the monotheological underpinnings of King's call to fellowship and offer a polytheistic perspective.

Consider this a continuation of my rant, begun with Extremes of Worship, in which I complained about the notion that all religions are fundamentally the same, that we all worship the same God, blah, blah, blah. Notions that invariably disregard whole swaths of hard-core polytheists.

Oh sure, King is fine with Hindus and Buddhists, as long as they agree with him in the existence of an ultimate reality. But he would compare to "Nietzsches of the world" anyone who doesn't buy into that ultimate reality, and guess who those people include? Me. And I'm not a Nietzsche of the world.

King supports his view with a quote from St. John, the same guy (?) who put the words "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" into Christ's mouth. Way to kiss up to the non-Christians. Not.

My own polytheistic view, (not to be confused with all of them, which is an undelimitable generality of no significant application) is at odds with all the great religions of human-kind but nevertheless still ends up agreeing with the call to love, is that there is no ultimate reality.

In fact, a large class of the gods can be identified with the individual realities "on the shelf."

Realities are narratives about what is, and decide what is. The decisions as to what is are mindful. Without mind there is no what is. There is no reality.

There is no singular ultimate mind. There are minds and states of minds and realities, plural. There are realities within realities, gods within gods. There are realities that are unstable, that transform into other realities, which transform into others.

The gods (of this class) are metaphors for these realities, or they are these realities. The distinction doesn't matter, since the word "god" is totally up for grabs since nobody else ever gives it a legitimate definition anyway. (A legitimate definition being one which allows you to identify whether an entity is a god or not, as opposed to naming an entity that is presumed to exist, declaring it to be unique, and listing attributes.)

So where does that put us? No ultimate reality, so Martin Luther King Jr.s call for love, in so far as it's based on a presumed ultimate reality that doesn't exist, is BS.

John's assertion that Love is God, becomes, to the polytheist, Love is A god.

So how can I still agree with King?

The answer is that even though polytheists do not believe in any ultimate reality, we are not thereby forced to be naive relativists, granting equal value to all that calls itself value in any reality that comes down the road.

I am NOT Nietzschean! In spite of sharing some superficial similarities. I use exclamation points and short one and two sentence paragraphs, yes, but there are such things as Wes realities distinct from Nietzsche realities. I am someone else.

[Right: Not me.]

My realities have grown out of my life, and I have been my realities, and I, or rather my realities, have chosen how we were to grow, and we (the realities that I consist of) have histories and dynamics and we grow into each other and we have identities within identities, and we can own ourselves and what we are.

The outcome is, I can agree with King not because God is within me, but because THAT god is one of me, and I have chosen to embrace it.

The difference between the polytheist decision to embrace a god and the monotheistic decision to embrace that aspect of The God, is the difference between a free choice (modulo the understanding that we are our choices) among alternatives and a decision to surrender to an irresistible power.

The god of love is NOT an all-powerful god. It IS weak, as the "Nietzsches of the world" would have it. But I differ from the Nietzsches of the world in that I consciously take the side of this weak god over stronger ones, to add my strength to it. Weak, yes, cowardly, no.

[Below: Cat-gods within cat-gods.]

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chaplin PSA

Video Find of the Day

iraRona is one of the video providers at YouTube I subscribe to, but I have mixed feelings about him. On one hand, you've got hundreds of old videos from his extensive archives, and what's there is often in fantastic condition. But it's presented with almost no information, and usually stripped of opening and closing credits so the viewer can't figure out the missing data.

This is a case in point. The description is "ii", who knows what that's supposed to convey. No credits. To find out when this film was made and who was in it besides Chaplin I had to go to another version that was previously uploaded by someone with the YouTube handle SirCharlesChaplain of all things (not THE Sir Charles, we're sure) which has all this info:

"Charlie Chaplin's 64th Film Released Sept. 29 1918.

The Bond was a film created by Charlie Chaplin at his own expense for the Liberty Load Committee for theatrical release to help sell U.S. Liberty Bonds during World War I.

Made in 1918 with Edna Purviance, Albert Austin and Sydney Chaplin, the film has a distinctive visual motif set in a simple plain black set with starkly lit simple props and arrangements. The story is a series of sketches humorously illustrating various bonds like the bond of friendship and of marriage and, most important, the Liberty Bond, to K.O. the Kaiser which Charlie does literally.

There was also a British version with Uncle Sam replaced by John Bull and promotes War Bonds."

This time I'm going with the iraRona version because it's just that much cleaner, and I like the background music more.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Fancy Teamwork

Video Find of the Day

Romanian violinists showing off at a birthday celebration for one of them, by taking turns bowing each other's instruments. I am going to be very good and not explicitly draw any hidden meaning out of this behavior.

The English translation of the title of the tune is "When I Was In My Time", if the Google translation from Romanian can be trusted that far.

Nicolae Botgros - Ovidiu Bartes - Cand eram in vremea mea

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oud Recital

Video Find of the Day

A late famous Iraqi musician performs on the oud. Wikipedia has a long detailed article on Munir Bashir.

Munir Bachir - Recital (rare)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cordillera Dancers

Video Find of the Day

Here's the St. Louis Cordillera Dancers doing a Gangsa Medley. That's "gangsa" as in hand carried gongs, not "ganster", and also not to be confused with Indonesian gangsas, which are percussion instruments that rest on the floor. Also, that is the St. Louis University of Baguio City, in Benguet Province, in the Philippines, about 150 miles north of Manila just beyond the Cordillera Mountain Range, not the one in Missouri. The songs are songs of the Cordillerano, indigenous peoples of that region, also sometimes known as the Igorot, a collective term for their many tribes.

Gangsa Medley

Rage And Counter-Rage

Yesterday we had a community meeting at the Union Hotel, the subsidized apartment building where I live. The meeting was facilitated by the building manager and the social director. Anitra and I and one other tenant brought up an ongoing complaint, and about half the meeting consisted of the five of us discussing the complaint while others present just listened in. The complaint was this: when any one tenant in the building repeatedly disturbs the peace of his neighbors (we couldn't name names, and we were talking about more than one loud disruptive tenant) the management doesn't do anything to relieve the disturbed.

To clarify that, lets say Jack lives in 101 and Jill lives in 102 (there are actually no apartments 101 or 102 in my building.) Say Jack screams and rages and stomps his floor, 24-7. Say Jill is a child abuse survivor (like me) who has PTSD and not only can't sleep through Jack's rages but also has flashbacks because of them. Say Jill complains every single day about Jack's behavior.

The result of all those complaints will be no relief for JIll. None whatsoever.

After enough complaints, under some circumstances, the management will approach Jack and try to help HIM with the difficulties HE is having managing his behavior.

But no relief for Jill.

Jack has to be accommodated, of course, because his disruptive behavior is due to mental illness. That's why any intervention with Jack is presented as "helping" Jack deal with HIS problems. I understand that.

What I don't understand is how the needs of Jill get tossed aside and she never, ever, gets relief, even though her needs are also the needs of a person presenting mental health problems.

One of the things I said during the meeting was that it really galls me that, all the time that the building manager and social director talked about what they could try to do in these situations, each and every time the word "help" was used it was in the context of helping the Jacks. Never would they speak of "what can we do to help the Jills?"

A point I didn't raise at the meeting, but a sore point for me, and one they're going to hear about sooner than later, is that these people aren't even mental health professionals.

Ironically, we were told earlier in the meeting about nurses who have begun visiting the building that could provide some medical assistance to tenants. It occurs to me that the building management wouldn't dream of trying to act as medical nurses to anyone in the building presenting a significant physical complaint. But upon their own assessment of a serious mental health problem of a tenant they will presume to act as if they were psychiatric nurses.

So, we have a situation in the building where one of the Jacks is a paranoid schizophrenic who has delusions concerning other tenants persecuting him, and who therefore harangues other tenants in the halls and in the community room and in the lobby. And the management steps in when people complain of being harangued, and they try to "help" this Jack.

But instead of getting better, he gets worse. Could it be that the "help" he's getting is just feeding his disease?

I think so. I think the man's acting-out from paranoid delusions serves the purpose of calling attention to himself. The "help" is the attention he gets. They're just encouraging him by demonstrating over and over again that if he acts out he'll get rewarded with exactly what he wants, to be the center of attention at all times. They also reinforce his belief in his delusions, because he knows that the management is intervening with him in response to the other tenants complaints.

The Jacks need a place to live too, and I wouldn't propose evicting them. But the methods now being used to address these kind of problems are totally unacceptable. DESC has to find a way to address the needs of people who have PTSD who have been placed next door to disruptive people.

They're the ones who are suffering the most. For all we know the paranoid schizophrenic is as happy and blissful as he's ever been in his life with all the attention he's getting, but the people who live next door to him are undoubtedly not happy from having their lives destroyed by constantly being subjected to screaming harangues, and they are grievously unhappy to realize that the DESC management can't even bring themselves to talk about helping them.

Which makes them (us, I'm one of them) feel like were just part of the fixtures around here. We aren't even shown the compassion that animals would be given under the same circumstances.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hawaiian Weird

Video Find of the Day

The sort of thing my friend Lani despised, this also comes close to depicting my parents' fantasy of Hawaiian Native music and culture. To me it looks and sounds a little creepy, but anyone who knows me knows creepy by itself doesn't repel me.

Hawaiian Hula Song w/Steel Guitar - Ana Lani & Ray Kinney

Monday, May 19, 2008

Feeling Good

Video Find(s) of the Day

Not the videos I was looking for. There's one particular I'm trying to find of a group that appeared on television in the early 80s and blew me away. It may not have been captured to video yet, but I'm sure it's out there. In the meantime, a couple of 70s faves to celebrate the fact that I'm feeling good, in the sense that I'm ready to break an arm all over again.

Do It ('Til You're Satisfied) - B.T. Express - 1974

Wild Cherry - Play That Funky Music

Reverse Graffiti

I subscribe to Google News Alerts of news containing the words homeless or homelessness, so every week I get 80 to 100 emails alerting me to an average of 3 such news items each. I usually ignore them until a few hours before the weekly column is due. I then race through the 200 to 250 summaries of stories looking for one or two that I might riff on. There's usually nothing in it but the same repetitive old dreary crap: So many families homeless because of a building fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or whatever. Homeless man/woman arrested and charged for something. Teenagers who set fire to sleeping homeless man arraigned. Bush Homeless Czar congratulates city for its homeless plan. So there's not much to work from.

This week I again found nothing to use for the column, but I found this item on AWEARNESS, a blog about social issues by fashion designer Kenneth Cole. The story tells about a London campaign to raise awareness of the "hidden" homeless, those not sleeping outdoors.

A feature of the campaign are these reverse graffiti created by power-washing already dirty city walls. The symbolism is strong and apropos, but what I really love about it is the way it abuses the anti-graffiti laws. Can you vandalize a wall by cleaning it?

The message says, "Most homeless people have moved on but their problems haven't gone away."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Woo Hoo

Video Find of the Day

I'm almost sorry I saw this. Now I can't get woo hoo-ing out of my head. Maybe you shouldn't look.

The Rock-A-Teens - Woo Hoo (1959)

Extremes of Worship

Doing It, Religiously

Every now and then I'll run into a Unitarian or a Southern Baptist or somewhoever, and after it's established that I'm not Christian but I claim to being "religious" in some ill-defined sense, I get told this: "Well, we all worship the same God really, don't we?"

I have to stifle my laughter sometimes. There are two ways in which that statement is comical to a polytheist such as myself. The obvious way, and the not so obvious way.

The obvious way is that, clearly, if I don't believe in the singularity of gods, then I am not going to go along with the notion that "your god" is "my god". "Which of 'my' gods, pray tell, are you saying is the same as yours, Bwana?"

[Above left: Not all directions are up. I made these to "worship" possibilities.]

The not so obvious way that the statement is laughable to me, arises from the fact that, for polytheists such as myself, we find monotheistic worship to be absurdly extreme.

Think about it. If you believe there is only one all-powerful and omniscient and all-loving god, you've only got one shot at worship. All your devotion has to be focused on your one and only worship-able object. I see this as dysfunctional. It results in the same kind of over-the-top devotion we've come to expect from stalkers.

Whereas if you can see the impersonal god-hood's multiplicity of personal faces and identities, you can spread that devotion out, and probably will.

"We're all basically the same."

Some polytheists are what are called henotheists (or monolaters). They believe in many gods but pick one out for exclusive devotion. Monotheists might see such people as being "practically" monotheists. But to see how far off that could be, consider that one of my gods is the one I call The God Of Highest Worship.

The name of The God Of Highest Worship is The God Of Highest Worship. The chief attribute and only significant source of power of The God Of Highest Worship is that the God Of Highest Worship is the god of highest worship.

The God Of Highest Worship has never created or destroyed a world or a single creature. The God Of Highest Worship is probably the weakest god I can imagine in terms of his/her/its effect on the rest of the world.

However, by meditating on how I feel today about The God Of Highest Worship, I can discover how my own values are changing. This is extremely valuable to me. It helps me figure out what I am becoming.

It's a far cry from bowing down to the God who could draw out Leviathan with a hook. Like that would matter to me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Odalisca and Derbake

Video Find of the Day

Performance in Argentina at a Syrian Orthodox Association (?) of an odalisca, which is what you might also call a harem dance. The dancer has the representation of the fire element down.

Sinahid Dajhmar, Pablo Jasale y Matías Almirón Al Henain

Another new word: derbake. It means the drum (tabla or tabla-like drum) you hear as well as the dance that goes with it. I think this one is also from Argentina, though it's hard to tell. The dancer is Cintia Ibarra.

Derbake solista

Friday, May 16, 2008

Speaking of Black Death

Video Find of the Day

Richard Pryor rips metal! Why have I never seen this before?

Oh, I know why. It's because I never before thought of doing a YouTube search on Black Death.

Black Death featuring Richard Pryor


Tomorrow I speak at a conference of Students for Equal Health on the UW campus. The talk is titled "Black Death vs Homelessness. Which Is Worse?"

I told them my talk would be about: A summary of the debilitating effects of various aspects of homelessness. Sleeplessness, stress, vulnerability to the elements, to crime, malnutrition, and long term homelessness, including a comparison between being a Londoner during the Black Death and Hundred Years War to being homeless in Seattle in 2008. The need to treat stable housing as a prerequisite for basic health and a precondition for other treatments.

I'm expecting to have the use of a laptop while speaking, hopefully with a projector. Now, I've never, never, in my entire life used audio-visual aids. When I was a math professor I didn't even like to use blackboards. You'd be surprised how much you can illustrate with just your hands, if you put some thought into it. One time, to illustrate how a change of reference frame could alter the equations of a motion, I laid down on the floor to look up at the ceiling. From here, I said, the equations are very different.

I am not about to write a speech out and try to read from it. Instead, what follows is a pictorial and graphic outline that I hope to use during my presentation to remind me of remarks I plan to make. Later I may fill in the details for the benefit of readers of this blog. Until then, you could try to guess what that filler would look like.

I'll start with an introduction.

My childhood -- a contemplative moment.

My addiction and escape.

Some ways that homelessness impacts health:



Exposure to the elements.

Overcrowded, unhealthy shelters.


Self-destructive behavior (see also Stress).


Untreated & or poorly treated pre-existing conditions that may have even caused the homelessness.

My wakeup:

King County Medical Examiner's 2004 Report On Homeless Deaths.

St. Mungos, 2005 report on London homelessness:

Further statistics about the health of homeless people show that: Their average life expectancy is now 42, down from 47 less than a decade ago Rough sleepers between 45 and 62 have a death rate 25 times that of people aged between 45 and 62 from the general population.

Odious comparisons. Human Lifespans down the ages.

Obligatory Black Death image.

But -- child deaths skew the results. H O Lancaster.

After homelessness -- then what?

Long-term consequences & telomeres. Stress again.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Video Find of the Day

A (somewhat trippy) featured video on YouTube today. The description calls it an ambiguous animation. Looks pretty straightforward to me.

Next: Feature length cinematic graffiti? Trilogies in six parts?

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dude Look Like A Lady

Video Find of the Day

This afternoon when I came in to the Real Change office to feed the cat I found one of our vendors complaining to the desk volunteer about a cross-dresser. The complaint escalated, bifurcated, then trifurcated, and I found myself hearing him argue with the head of our vendor staff for the next half hour, who did a fantastic job, I must say, of real time critical analysis. On my way out I returned to the vendor desk volunteer where the argument started and said, "So name another one of those people." She said, "Another one of what people? What are you talking about?"

"You know, rock stars that dress like women." I said our vendor just doesn't get it, the cross-dresser isn't a transsexual, he's a rock star wannabe. You've got Rod Stewart, he wore fake eyelashes, you've got Gene Simmons who wore the fishnet (or did I just dream that?), you've got Alice Cooper. Name another.

Loretta (that's the volunteer's name) said, "How should I know, I went to high school in the Fifties. I never listened to that stuff.

I persisted in asking, and suddenly she said, "Oh no!" Turns out I "made" her erase a name from our database.

I said, "Gee, I guess one of me talking with you for two minutes can rattle you more than ten vendors crowded around demanding papers simultaneously." I was genuinely flattered. Thank you, Loretta!

Anyway, I got home and looked up Glam Rock, and instantly remembered what I was talking about.

David Bowie's "Space Oddity"

Meanwhile, the definitive commentary:

Aerosmith - Dude (looks like a lady)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Slippin' Into Darkness

Video Find of the Day

This song came out at the end of my first year in graduate school. It burned up the jukebox in the student union cafeteria, where I lived at the time. I still have no clue what it's about. It has a reggae beat so I guess weed or Ethiopians are involved. Anyway, this is a recent video featuring that remnant of War that is legally acknowledged to be War.

WAR live at BB King's


[The subsidized apartment building I live in is called The Union Hotel. It's run by DESC, Seattle's Downtown Emergency Service Center. All the residents have been homeless. I write a column for the monthly building newsletter. The column is called Out of My Mind. I'm posting them here, because I can. Usually I wait until the newsletter is out, but I had too much fun with this one to hold it back. Thanks to Tim Harris for directing my attention to my paradigmatic subversiveness.-- wes]

When I agreed to write these little columns, essays, rants, or whatever you want to call them, I had to agree to one rule. It was not, "Keep it clean"; it was not, "Don't write too much." It was, "You can make fun of the staff and management all you want, but don't make fun of the tenants."

I have respected that rule. But I admit it pains me. I SO love to make fun. All these people off limits, so sad.

Then I realized that I was wrong. The rule doesn't say I can't make fun of ANY tenant. It says I can't make fun of ANY OTHER tenants. I can make fun of me all I want. It then occurred to me, additionally, that many of the other tenants would greatly enjoy that. So here goes.

Wes Browning is a sinful self-deprecator: he deprecates himself a minimum of 3 times a day. His record: 16 self-deprecations in one afternoon, in one public toilet.

When he's not self-deprecating, Wes is an idolater, sloth, drunk, left wingnut, and hack writer. Those aren't insults, those are his bragging points.

Wes Browning is a cynical bastard, and so was his Momma: his Momma was SO cynical she thought Diogenes the Cynic was a fraud. Ha!

Wes Browning is a pseudo-intellectual geek who wouldn't know Diogenes the Cynic from Britney Spears if he saw them both side-by-side in uniform. If he can't figure it out by googling it he can't know it.

Speaking of his Momma, when she was pregnant with Wes she thought she just had a bad case of gas. After he was born the doctors asked who the father was. She put down "Nalley's, Extra Hot, Thick and Chunky."

Wes Browning is a maladjusted, senile delinquent, with delusions of genius. He's a 58 year-old self-identified Goth who laughs too much and wears Hawaiian shirts all the time. Someone needs to tell him you cannot be Goth and wear Hawaiian shirts all the time. Or be 58. Or laugh.

Wes Browning is a subversive. He subverts paradigms, because he has callous disregard for all that is decent and paradigmatic. He just looked up paradigmatic on the internet and couldn't find it, so he doesn't know what it means, but he has a callous disregard for it anyway.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Djembe Master

Video Find of the Day

YouTube is doing site maintenance so I'm grabbing something off my subscriptions. These are the same people who have brought us videos of child djembe player Isaiah Chevrier that I've posted.

I especially like the first sequence (immediately following the overly-long Star Wars-ish receding opening crawl) with the dancer. I'm thinking I may have glimpsed the African roots of the Funky Chicken!

Master Djembefola Daouda Doumbia

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mothers Day Post

Video Find of the Day

Readers of my childhood memoirs will not be surprised that I would resist the idea of celebrating my birth Mother on Mothers Day. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate and celebrate Motherhood, or Mothers, or the glorious symbolisms wrapped in Mothers and Mothering and Motherosity, in general.

Like all good liberals I profess love of Mother Nature. Being the polytheist I am Mother Nature isn't as much a hold-over from pagan times for me as a living Goddess. Being the heathen I am, I see no disrespect in imagining that the world I know is reborn anew with each thrust as Father Sky humps Mother Earth. That sacred copulation is as central to my religious thought as the crucifixion and resurrection is to Christians.

I'm moved by the image of the Madonna. It appeals to me in two ways. I like that my gods are born of women. It makes them more important and more interesting, from the start, than those gods who just pop out of the void, or existed for all eternity. Also, creatures born of human females start out relatively helpless, as it happens, which is how I like my gods.

Fathers create with hammers and soldering irons. Mothers create with the full force of freaking nature.

One of my favorite sayings is my own personal perversion of "Necessity is the Mother of Invention." I say, "Necessity is a Mother."

My favorite Mothers are on video:

My guitar wants to kill your mama

Dirty love

Mothers of Invention on Hoepla 1967

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Knot Complements

Video Find of the Day

My math research came dangerously close to this sort of thing, but I veered away. This is part 2 of a two-parter. The 1st part explains the whole fundamental domain idea well enough to someone who already understands it. This part, however, has all the cool images that are the real reason mathematicians get off on this stuff. Forget the explanation, get high by your trance-inducing method of choice, and watch space bend.

Not Knot (Part 2/2)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Reminders of Zino

Video Find of the Day

In 1990 I started receiving Social Security Disability Benefits for the first time. As usually happens, I was found to have been retroactively eligible dating to the time of application, so I was sent an 8 month back-check. It came to about $4,000. So I was flush for a few days. I bought caviar on food stamps. My love of habañeros dates to that time, as I experimented with gourmet jars of the pickled variety. And I spent an afternoon at the U-District's Fin & Feather Store shopping for a canary.

I was remembering the I'iwi that I had seen and heard when I was 6 months old. I couldn't get an I'iwi as a pet, but a red canary was an option.

As a matter of fact, Fin & Feather had a brilliant red canary. I listened to his song for two hours as I loitered in the store. The price was $100. I had it, but I wasn't in love. Everything was right. Red is my color. The song was gorgeous. But I just didn't feel it.

Around the corner there was one large cage with ten green singing finches in it, each for $20. All but one of them looked sleepy and bored. But there was one son-of-a-bitchin' crazy ass bird in their midst who wouldn't stop with the acrobatics and the smart-ass bird calls. I kept coming back to him. That was where the love was.

Part of my thinking was, I would only be getting one bird. I should look for a loner. This guy was interacting with none of the other birds in the group. All he cared about was his flips and somersaults and the sound of his own voice. Perfect.

That was February 2, 1990, which became Zino's A-Day (for adoption). I named him after violinist Zino Francescatti, whose music set Zino off big time.

Eventually I came to understand that when Zino sang his heart out it was his birdish way of saying to the world, "I am royally pissed. I just heard some noise. Was that the sound of a rival for bird babes? Because if there's a rival for bird babes out there, hear me roar. I will sing your face off asshole."

I've been looking for videos of green singing finches that would remind me of what prompted our director Tim Harris to say, after regretting letting me keep Zino in the office during a bout of homelessness, "Tweet, tweet, fucking tweet." I have found two.

The song on this one is almost identical to Zino's. Most of it must be genetic. But this one warbles more.

Finch Green Singer Song (Serinus mozambicus )

The next one is the only one I could find that shows the flipping behavior that Zino engaged in. You have to look closely or you'll miss it. The very first time I saw Zino leap to the roof of the cage and hang there for a split second before dropping backward to the perch, I shouted, "WOW!" He almost fell off the perch, and then did it again immediately. So I said "wow" again. So he did it again. So I said "wow" again. And I learned that day that you can NOT out-last birds at repetitive behavior. They are the Gods of OCD.

Note the title. It's the macho canario de mozambique who does this sort of stuff, i.e. the males. Also the term canario is more appropriate than finch, they are not true finches, but Green Singing Finches are generally believed to have been ancestors of the canary.

macho canario de mozambique cebando pollos

Oops! I lied! That wasn't the one with the flip in it! It's this one! Are you sick of Green Singing Finches yet? Feel Tim Harris' many YEARS of pain!

canario de mozambique de charla

Return of OoMM

[The subsidized apartment building I live in is called The Union Hotel. It's run by DESC, Seattle's Downtown Emergency Service Center. All the residents have been homeless. I write a column for the monthly building newsletter. The column is called Out of My Mind. I'm posting them here, because I can. This one is a month old; I was too sick to think of posting it here at the time. The hiatus was due to the 9 month hiatus of the Union Hotel Newsletter. -- wes]

It's been nine months since we've done one of these newsletters. I'll have to get nine months worth of complaints out before I can get back to normal.

First, I have the flu. I'm convinced that one of the reasons I get the flu twice a year instead of the normal once is I ride buses.

Have you ever thought about why it is so dangerous for you to ride in a car, sitting down, unbuckled, that the government is justified in ticketing your driver for it, but when it comes to bus riding it's OK to have people not only not buckled in, but standing? How does this situation come about? Could it be that when it comes to buses in King County, it's the government that's really driving?

So follow the connections, please. The government operates the bus system. Your excuse that "I didn't use my seat belt because it was inconvenient" translates nicely to the governments excuse, "We didn't put more buses on the road because we needed to spend that money on more cops to give people tickets for not buckling up."

So if you ride the buses every day, and you're not so obviously handicapped that the driver makes some other victim give you their seat, you are going to be standing in the aisles along with all the other human cattle, and someone behind you is going to sneeze on your neck, and there's your flu.

OK, that was one complaint. The next one is like unto the first.

When the city announced that there was going to be a Fire Department facility at 4th and Washington, was it just my imagination or did they not say anything at all to lead us to expect big bay doors and an emergency response team? I heard "offices, a communication hub, conference rooms."

The same city that tries to shut down night clubs in this area on the grounds that they're too loud for us poor residents, goes and plants an emergency response facility one block to our Northeast, when we already have Fire Station #1 a block to our Southwest? What next, at all compass directions?

Why don't they just install 52 separate fire engine sirens in our 52 individual rooms, set to go off randomly 52 times a day? Obviously they think this is all for our own good.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ray Charles

Video Find of the Day

Too tired to find the definitive Israeli Independence Day video, I found out that Ray Charles once did a concert in Tel Aviv. This is not that concert. I believe it's a show he did in Brazil in the 60s. But it's the one I picked just 'cause I love the song.

Hit the road Jack!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Angry Grandpa Look

Video Find of the Day

Tuesday, a bunch of us from the Real Change Organizing project (RCOP) and friends went to a meeting of the Public Safety, Human Services, and Education committee of the Seattle City Council, and spoke during the public comment period. Committee chair Tim Burgess was very generous with the time, letting us speak nearly 20 minutes, twice the time we were supposed to have.

[Above: Anitra tells 'em what for.]

When we planned it, we planned two designated speakers who would use time reserved by others in the group. Apparently that's how its done for other council meetings, but we found out they don't do it like that at the old PSHS&E so we adapted on the fly, and instead of two speak long, eleven of us took turns at it, trying to cover all the points we had previously discussed.

I can't or don't know how to embed the video, but I will have a link to it below. It's at the Seattle Channel website for now and will probably be there for at least a few months.

The whole video runs over 2 hours and 40 minutes. I've only seen the first 23 minutes of it that has the public comment period. I'll be wanting to look at some of the rest of it, because it should have some comments by Bill Block on the Ten Year Plan to Plan Planfulness, and I'm sure I would benefit from seeing that.

Some notes regarding the public comment portion:

The public comments start at about 2:30 (2 minutes 30 seconds) on the video.

The first guy who speaks about his proposal, to put to death 4 time drug crime convicts, is not one of our group. We never saw him before in our lives. All the other speakers came in with us.

The first RCOP speaker is vendor Michael Garcia, at around the 4:50 mark. He was one of the two original speakers we had intended to take all our time. Burgess let him run longer than the two minutes alloted. I was next on the list but deferred as planned to my woman, Anitra Freeman, who was our other designated speaker, and that was when Tim Burgess said they don't do things that way. So Anitra adjusted by giving a shorter speech than anticipated, although it still went over two minutes. She starts about 7:20. You should definitely see that part, because you don't always get to see Anitra so angry in public.

After that they ran through the list of the others of us who had signed up. Each person spoke around a minute or two. When the list was used up Burgess let others who hadn't signed up also speak. That included Real Change Director Tim Harris who appears at about 18:30.

Doug McKeehan follows Tim, and I rounded up the lot of us, speaking last at around the 21:00 mark for a mere one minute 15 seconds. For Cindy Holly is my Muse, and she is the Muse of Few Words. It may look like I'm reading a script but the paper in my hand is just a crossword puzzle I was working on. My eyes are lowered because I'm channeling a scolding grumpy grandpa.

[Above: Grandpa is very, very, disappointed with the behavior of you children.]

For the record, and to make up for not bringing the mic up closer, here's a transcript of my off-the-cuff remarks with the "uhs" and "ahs" deleted, and with some attempts at added clarity:

"I would like to agree with Tim -- I think that the protocols are illegitimate.There's [been] no input from the community that is affected by the rules. The rules of [a] government should reflect the participation of the people that are ruled over."

"Also, there's a lot of secrecy involved in this. We didn't even know about the protocols that were originally established until months after they were established, and we found out because of a FOIA -- by using the Freedom of Information Act -- and that's outrageous. That we're talking about it now at all is because we raised hell about that [forcing the administration to revisit the protocols in a more public way.]"

"And there's still secrecy involved. We don't know how many people have been swept in all of this [or how many camps.] We haven't been able to get that information. I think the City Council has an obligation to make sure that the secrecy ends."

The video is here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Video Find of the Day

A güiro is a notched gourd you scrape with a stick. It's also the name of a style of religious music played with a güiro accompanied by other traditional instruments. I don't know what pa' means but this appears to be a Cuban Santeria güiro toward an altar of Changó, for Changó's benefit, Changó being the sky god.

If you don't like it, it doesn't matter. It's not for you. It's for Changó. No, seriously, you'll like it. It builds.

Güiro pa' Changó

Monday, May 5, 2008

María Landó

Video Find of the Day

Another Afro-Peruvian song. Lyrics: Cesar Calvo Music: Chabuca Granda. Performed: Silvana Rodríguez. Translation below from the album, Afro-Peruvian Classics:

The dawn breaks like a statue
Like a winged statue spreading across the city
And the noon rings, a bell made of water
A golden singing bell that keeps us from feeling alone
And the night lifts its large chalice
Its large chalice, an early moon rising over the ocean

But for Maria, there is no dawn
But for Maria, there is no noon
But for Maria, there is no moon
She lifts her red goblet over the seas

Maria has no time, (Maria Lando) to even lift her eyes
To lift her eyes, (Maria Lando) broken from lack of sleep
Maria, broken from lack of sleep, (Maria Lando) and from suffering
Maria, suffering, (Maria Lando) only works
Maria works, and her work is for others

Maria Lando, Maria Lando always working
And her work is another’s

María Landó

Sunday, May 4, 2008

That's Some Fusion

Video Find of the Day

Californians from India sing in French to Gypsy-inspired music, in a YouTube featured video that relates the cultural tossed salad graphically.

Rupa & the April Fishes "Une americaine a Paris" video

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Bull Kills

Video Find of the Day

Toro Mata is an Afro-Peruvian song written by Carlos "Caitro" Soto. If I'm reading the description right, here he is performing it himself. I found the song on the compilation album Afro-Peruvian Classics: the Soul of Black Peru.

The website for the album has English translations of all the songs. Here's the one for Toro Mata, which is sung by Lucila Campos on the album. See especially the final note on "la ponde."

Toro Mata, the bull kills
The bull kills, dancing bull, the bull kills

The old bull is dead
Tomorrow we’ll eat meat, the bull is dead
The old bull has died
Tomorrow we’ll feast, the bull is dead

His color doesn’t let him move out of the way quickly enough
and the bull might kill him
That man’s color doesn’t permit him to hide
and the bull might kill him

Don’t cut him with the rope
It’ll get too bloody
Don’t cut him with the rope
It’ll get too bloody

Here’s Pitité the drummer, the music’s kicking!
Ay, la ponde, la ponde, ponde, ponde
This black man is not from here
This black man is from Acari
Who brought this black man here?
We must kill this black man
Ay, la ponde, la ponde, ponde, ponde

La ponde translated from the KiKôngo language means: I twist, I twist/I kill, I kill."

Fetid Dog Love

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened around May, 1958. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

My last two months in Taipei were tinted with fear, as I heard more and more rumors of Mainland China's plan to either invade or bomb Taiwan. I've written about this already, out of sequence, in A Cacophonous Nudge. It was right about the same time as the solar eclipse in mid-April that my father told my Mother and I that we wouldn't be staying with him for much longer. The Army was shipping out large numbers of dependents to get them out of harm's way.

Our departure was set for the middle of May. I would miss the last couple of weeks of school. Ordinarily I wouldn't have minded, but the next thing I knew our class was having a spelling bee as part of a school-wide contest, and I won, and the teacher said I did so well I might easily win the whole contest. The 1st prize would be a pair of binoculars. Oh, man, I wanted those binoculars. Stupid Army Brat life, I thought. Every time something good comes along, you have to move away, I thought.

My Mother and I were booked on a great-circle flight to Seattle by way of Anchorage.

Up to this time in my life I was lukewarm toward the dog, Koko. He didn't particularly care one way or another about me either. But a funny thing happened when they said we couldn't afford to take him back to the States with us. All of the sudden I couldn't take it. It wasn't like they were going to put him down or sell him for meat. They arranged for the the magician and his wife to keep him. But I broke down into tears in front of them and hugged the dog and told my parents they were horrible, and I couldn't stand to lose him.

I didn't know at the time what came over me. Now I get it. Enough other over-reactions of that sort have happened since. I had experienced too much neglect and emotional abandonment from my parents. Their plan to abandon Koko recalled it all.

My Father made it up to me by buying me a pair of binoculars. He figured, better buy them in Taiwan at the low prices there, than pay two or three times as much back home.

The flight seemed to take days. The stop at the Anchorage airport was notable only in the fact that it was snowing in May.

My Mother and I wound up back in Seattle living in the garage behind my Grandmother's house again. We were there maybe one week at most when we got word that Koko would be arriving by freight plane at Boeing field in a couple of days. Having seen my emotional outburst over losing Koko, the magician and his wife decided to spend their own money to reunite us.

We were driven to the airport by one of my cousins. Koko was delivered in a box with holes for breathing. One whiff, and I began to regret I'd made such a scene back in Taipei. He reeked of his own feces and urine, not having been let out of the box for the whole trip. We took him home and did all the things people will recommend, baths with shampoo, baths of milk, baths of tomato juice. We shaved him completely, and tried it all over again. Nothing worked. That was one stinky dog. He lived more than 8 years after that and we never got rid of the smell.

Still, I thought of him more as a brother from then on. My parents hadn't succeeded in getting rid of him either.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Another Ciocarlia

Video Find of the Day

A breezy atmospheric Ciocarlia on cymbalom. Too bad about the one missing note at the end, but we all know what it is.

Victor Copacinschi - Ciocarlia

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dueling Shamisen

Video Find of the Day

The Wikipedia article on shamisen says these 3-stringed instruments traditionally had skins made from dog or cat, and that on some of the best shamisen, "the position of the cat's nipples can still be seen." Though I am a cat lover, I still can appreciate details such as this.

The shamisen, as you can see, is played with a plectrum (pick) akin to an ice-scraper, which is used to both pick the strings and strike the skin.

Shamisen Vs. Shamisen