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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What is, What was, What will be America?

To borrow from Frank Zappa, America is not a time or place,it's a state of mind. (OK, OK I know,Zappa said it about High School, not America). But he did sing, "Mr America,Try to hide the emptiness that's you inside". That was from Freak Out!, recorded in 1966. You can hear it on Wikipedia. If that's what Zappa saw in 1966, I am glad he was spared seeing what the zeitgeist in America is today.

For the last year or so, my mind has often wondered to some of my experiences living near London in 1991 and 1992. I spent a lot of time hanging out with locals, at work, at the pub, and every Sunday with The Downs And Wealds Rambling Club, hiking all over the region and talking about whatever was on our minds each quiet Sunday.

As I got to know my erstwhile British neighbors, I was at first confused, then alarmed at the fatalistic outlook toward life, the universe, and everything that put a negative bias into almost every one's thinking. Fatalism was like the fog, always there in the background, undeniably British, but not very pleasant.

I feel like a similar mass fatalism has settled into the minds of Americans over the last few years. My feelings are similar to this article in The Spectator, a British magazine. In the article, Patric Allitt, a British expatriate who is a History professor at Emory University, comes to a similar conclusion. His short article coincides with what I've been thinking, with the exception that he is a lot more erudite.

I hope we're both wrong. Or else America's troubles are just beginning.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bible Study Moment: Putting The Fun,The Duh,and The Mental Back in Fundamentalism

At Yesterday's AROW rehearsal, a plaguing question entered my mind and it just wouldn't leave.

The question was, "What exactly was Rachel's role in the Bible?"

Why would anyone care about that, you ask?

The question arose because we are playing a Renaissance piece Called "
Auf Dem Gebirge" by Heinrich schutz. The text, from the Prophet Jeremiah, is about Rachel mourning for her children. Since I had remembered Rachel only as Jacob's beloved wife, and shoplifter of idols, I just had to get to the bottom of this. What was she doing lamenting along with Jeremiah, shouldn't she have been already hundreds of years dead?

So what do a long dead woman's lamentations sound like when they echo
auf dem gebirge, you may ask? They sound like this, I guess.



I did a little homework, resulting in the following email thread:


On Feb 20, 2010, at 8:21 PM, Steve wrote:

About Rachel.

A little research has cleared this up for me.

The reason the Rachel reference confused me was that, as a figure in the Bible, Rachel shows up in more than one time and place.

In The Book of Genesis;

Rachel was Jacob's wife. This story holds some significance in 20th Century Feminist thought. When Jacob and Rachel and Leah (Leah was Rachel's sister and Jacob's other wife, thems was different times, y'know) fled from Leben, the wives' father, Rachel snatched two idols from Leben's house. I recall the Hebrew text describes the idols as "Kitchen Pillars". This theft caused a lot of trouble for everybody, and eventually Rachel had to rid herself of the idols. Some sources of Feminist Orthodoxy claim that moment to be the final battle whence Wonderful Gynocentric Goddess worship was subjugated by Phallocentric and otherwise yucky Patriarchy. Discuss amongst yourselves.

In the OT Prophets - Jeremiah (This is where Auf Dem Gebirge comes in);

Jeremiah brings up an image of Rachel weeping at the pains her children (i.e., the Children of Israel) are suffering upon exile from Jerusalem, many centuries after Rachel's death. In Jeremiah's reckoning, Gd hears Rachel's laments and promises that her children will someday return to Jerusalem. Note how well Rachel has learned to play the Patriarchy since her Goddess - loving, idol swiping days. I always forget that people were already telling Bible stories in Biblical times.

Jeremiah's story comes up again in Matthew's Gospel. In this retelling, Jeremiah's story becomes a prophesy of Herod's very nasty Massacre of the Innocents (Remember the Coventry Carol?).

I probably read too much.

On Sat, 20 February, 2010 20:48:35, X Replied:

Thanks for the illuminating research, Steve. Your scholarship is immaculate.

I believe that the debate between the adherents of Phallocentric and Gynocentric ritual mythos should never die, but remain central to the tenet that such debates are one of the most important, if not the sole purpose of funding seminaries and seminarians. In addition, the whole idea of idol swapping simply reeks of biblical transgenderism, and as such needs to be explained in very simple terms to the Westboro Baptist Church.

(Notice the clever swapping of swapping for swiping)

On Sat, February 20, 2010 9:32:29 PM, Y replied:

Ok, now that I've pulled myself off the floor from laughing so hard, I have to thank you both for all your fastidious research and expressions of opinion. No wonder I love you guys so much!

On Feb 21, 2010, at 10:58 AM, Steve replied:

I was careful in trying to express the existence of the gender-centric debate while withholding judgment. Guess I blew it on the withholding part ( I imagine the word "yucky" only rarely appears in Western Civilization's greatest intellectual discourse).

Many learned Medievalists apply Goddess - related principals about gender to their studies. There is overlap between these folks and our community of recorder players, so I need to be politic. I do not at all dismiss the Goddess Hypothesis in my mind, rather I find it, as well as other arcane scholarly hypotheses, to be a vehicle for combining cheap laughs with a somewhat forced semblance of erudition. This works better than jokes about Math.

Perhaps the occasional periodicity (i. e., cycles of 28) observed in Gothic Architecture is about more than just the Lunar Calendar and Euclidean Geometry. Perhaps not. Who knows?

On Sun, February 21, 2010 11:33:42 AM, X replied:

Of course I agree, especially with the implication that any and all erudition can serve as a vehicle for cheap laughs. Why else would I have substituted "swapping" for "swiping?" I certainly believe that a substitute definition for arcane is "fodder for bullshit."

What can I say after that, beyond...

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

News For Busy and Important People

Hangininsac is proud to announce ExpressNews, a cyber-clipping service for Very Important and Busy People.

For today's installment, Hangininsac presents a summary of Tiger Wood's announcement earlier this morning. This clipping service will give you everything relevant without the need to listen to any long and whining public statements or read reams of fact- free commentary.

If you listen to the first 10 seconds of this video, you'll have the complete story.




Putter! Hole! Putter! Hole!
Sorry, I just had to say it. Glad I finally got that off my chest.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oh, Those Fighting Flyweight Economists

In the latest editions of two of the Chattering Classes' favorite weekly readers:

OMG, OMG, China's sky is falling.. .

Forbes magazine tells us that China's economy is in bubble status. The article is full of examples of truly f#&*ed up mega deals between local governments and state owned industries. Certainly this kind of shenanigans, on top of whack-a-doodle crazy rising real estate prices does smell foul. Boys and Girls, can you say "Peoples Glorious Fanny Mae"? "Tibet your life" I can.

Can a productive real economy survive a royally messed up financial economy? That is the question. Looking at Japan's collapse in the 1980s, the answer appears to be a resounding "noooooooh!".

OMG, OMG, China is at the start of an economic 1,000 year Reich. . .

The Economist Magazine (BTW,who can resist a magazine with such a spicy title?) tells us not to worry. They follow the rather long winded argument that since China is not exactly identical to japan in the 1980's, everything should be just fine. Have some warm milk and go to bed. These Economist writers go on about China like a teenage boy in the throws of his first crush.

My prediction. . .

No matter what happens in China over the next few years, it will be a pain in the ass for us Americans. At least until we figure out that hegemony is not our shared birthright.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Spring Preview

We've been having beautiful spring-like weather for the President's Day & Chinese New year holiday, and we expect the same for a few more days.

We took a couple of walks by the American River, and ran into a couple of Walt Whitman's old friends.




To all my readers in the northern Midwest, I say,"In your face!"

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Thoughtful Immigrant's Perspective

Sometime the perspective of a thoughtful American who himself immigrated from Post-War Europe can really "blow my mind".

This afternoon I listened to an exchange between an older retired physician and Tom, a friend who is a recently retired State University Professor. Tom grew up in post-war Holland, and he has lived and worked in California long enough to have a clear view of what America and Americans are all about.

As soon as he found out Tom was a professor from the State University, the retired doctor and his wife repeatedly asked Tom questions like, "So, what's REALLY behind this anti-university trend we see in the Legislature and the budget."

It seemed to me the older couple was pimping Tom for some kind of anti-intellectual conspiracy theory, or maybe a short lamentation about American anti-intellectualism.

The first few times the question was mildly paraphrased and completed, Tom's answers were rather bland and politic, since, after all, who wants to get into a debate when there's no winner's prize.

After several exchanges of conversation Tom said something like this,"Well, you see, there are a lot of Government programs we'd like to pay for. We were once a rich country and we paid for all these programs, prisons, university, and other programs. Now, we are not so rich, and we can't pay for all these programs."

Tom's blog, The European-American Blog, is full of pretty thoughtful stuff. It's a good blog.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Recorder Players Go Everywhere. . .

. . . And get to meet the most interesting people. . .



That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

NewsFlash: Google Finds Resistance Worldwide

I am sensing a spontaneous world-wide uprising against the Self Appointed Rulers of Cyberspace.

Dateline Iran:

In its ever increasing actions to transform itself into an isolated island of irrelevance, Iran recently announced its intention to permanently block Google services. What's even better, is that the infinitely wise experts on regional medieval religious writings (more commonly known Ayatollahs and Mullahs) who run Iran have promised to deliver a State run national email system.

This raises a nagging question; could bad tech support lead to revolution?

Dateline Australia:

Proving once again that even a stopped click is right twice a day,Google announced it will not cooperate with Australia's demands that Google censor videos according to Australia's very strange recently proposed rules.

Unlike China, Australia has been debating its proposed censorship rules.

WARNING - The next link contains NSFW language, but no images.

My favorite proposed rule, technically known (only by me) as the Full-Cup Clause, would ban any "adult" images of any woman who cannot demonstrate that she requires a B-Cup or larger bra.

With this kind of Government, maybe it's time to demote the Land Down Under from Continent to Island status. Australians be warned! It happened to Pluto, it could happen to you! Keep it up, and you'll find yourself living on a Dwarf Continent before you can say "g'day maite".

Dateline Norway: Unknown semi-amphibious anti-Google terrorists in Norway have taken to the street, attacking Google Map photo vans.

Will the Soulless Minions of Orthodoxy in Cyberspace prevail? Only time will tell.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

What is The Superbowl Beyond a Man Crunch?

The chattering classes are at this very moment going on about the latest banned Superbowl add: a thirty-second spot for ManCrunch, a (ahem) social website for gay men.

Well, although the Soulless Minions of Orthodoxy at CBS won't let you see this, Hangininsac will.

This is definitely worth watching.



This made me laugh twice.

First, I chuckled at the would-be Romeos in their opposing Packer and Viking style jerseys,

Second, I laughed out loud at the third guy trying to pretend like nothing's happening.

No need to worry about ManCrunch. The NPR story claims the website's traffic has doubled since the commercial's rejection was announced.

Except in China, I imagine.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Bunch Of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger

Too True To Not Be Funny

Thanks to The Onion

That's my story and anyone who says otherwise is a phony.

The Packers' Future

What's in the future for Packers' fans?

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.


Packers Fan Announces He Will Return To Drinking For Another Season

That's (way too close to) my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

San Rafael - Another Day, Another Mission

Last Friday was Furlough time, so time for a road trip.

We decided to work toward our goal of visiting all the California missions by visiting Mission San Rafael, in San Rafael., a city in Marin County, and the former home of Jerry Garcia.

The mission was nestled into a hillside on the edge of the San Rafael's current downtown. Non of the original mission buildings survived and the only surviving relics are a few roof tiles and pottery shards you can see in the combination museum-gift shop.

A large Church Parish has been built on the old mission grounds. They built their church in the early 20th century to reflect memories of the old mission's look.


The Church's front features a statue of the Arcangel Rafael, the church's namesake. I thought the wings were pretty cool. However, I would have ordered a flaming sword if it was up to me.

Look at the abs on that guy!

Once I realized that Mission San Rafael was named after the Arcangel Rafael, I got pretty confused. How can an other-than-human entity become a Saint? If they can, then why isn't there a "Saint God"?

The volunteer Church Ladies in the in the gift shop - museum heard me discussing this deep theological dilemma with K and looked at me like I was a lunatic. I'm sure Luther got the same treatment about 500 years ago.

As long as we're on the Catholic imagery subject, the church had an awesome illuminated Guadeloupe shrine.


A Vietnamese virgin stood in the narthex. Seemed pretty subdued after the Guadeloupe.

Having exhausted the mission's sights, we made a small side trip to the Marin Civic Center. The Civic center, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (although his firm finished the work after his death) caused a ruckus during its construction. Some more conservative folks had envisioned a more traditional County Courthouse building and were shocked by a giant network of flying saucers and tubes.

The entry lobby was as grimy as any Government office, but it had a very cool grill to look at while we waited for the elevator.

SciFi movie fans might recognize the Civic Center as the set for George Lucas's THX1138. Lots of chase scenes in the strange - looking hallways.


Imagine the Soulless Minions of Orthodoxy chasing you down this hallway.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Fantasy Trophies

Finally, a Heisman Trophy for the Armchair Quaterback!



That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.

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