Look out, Cleveland, the storm is comin' through/And it's runnin' right up on you
Look out, Houston, there'll be thunder on the hill, Bye bye, baby, don't you lie so still
Kukla Fran and Ollie
This is the year for a lot of Republicans to have a lot of bad ideas...Having the convention in Cleveland will probably not turn out so well, since the Governor will be a fringe candidate unless the powers in the party decide to do a Mark Hanna routine -- calling Karl Rove, calling the Turdblossom express!" -- and force him down the throats of a stadium and downtown district full of Trump and Cruz and Ron Paul supporters who haven't changed their watches for four years...
Chain lightnin', frightnin' as it may seem Must not be mistaken for just another dream Justice of the peace don't know his own fate But you'll go down in the shelter late
Hidin' your money won't do no good, no good Build a big wall, you know you would if you could, yeah When clouds of warnin' come into view It'll get the ol' woman right outta of her shoe ...Look Out Cleveland, Robbie Robinson,1969
And then, in Texas, the Republican district conventions leading up to Republapalooza, the state convention! are splitting so far 60-40 in terms of secession. Didn't we go through this in 2010? Hell, didn't we go through this is in 1865? As Larry Wilmore put it about Mississippi's Confederate Heritage Month celebration, "The South Lost. Why are we still dealing with this Bullshit!"
I thought every month was Confederate Heritage Month in Mississippi! -- L. Wilmore
Prince and End
There have been a lot of articles about this one. Prince was pretty well known for not abusing recreational pharmaceuticals; he was a generally devout and practicing Jehovah's witness, which when contrasted with his music made a lot of people wonder what the hell he was talking about -- Jesus and Little Red Corvettes? The Holy Spirit and the Bossman Mr. McGee and the half naked gal on the back of his motorcycle riding around in the fields? Who is this guy? Toure is a well known African American cultural and social writer and critic, Toure wrote the book about Prince. On an appearance the evening of the day that Prince's body was discovered in Paisley Park, Toure was on a couple of shows on MSNBC. He said that Prince claimed never to have taken drugs and never to drink. Ok, that's possible for a lot of reasons...one that strikes me, is that Prince was Jerry Lee Lewis with transcendence and grace and balance, and found a way through his belief in a forgiving God to reconcile religious with sexual and musical ecstasy. Another is that a helluva lot of performers who have been around are militantly clean and sober. Try to get people like Kris Kristofferson or Eric Clapton to chug out a bottle of Cuervo or do a line of cocaine...it might be a good way to get a souvenir guitar, except that it will have been smashed over your head. They were wild and crazy, almost died, and have been strong enough to stay straight and help others. Jerry Lee, Elvis and Johnny Cash all felt that tension between head, heart and groin, struggling with it with greater and lesser success. One died on the toilet, one stayed mainly straight and as Kristofferson said about him as a member of the Highway Men, "is the father of our country." The other has survived, but is strange and outside and while not ignored, avoided. Prince skipped all that. Toure wrote a lovely and intelligent column about it in the New York Times, and if you're trying to see what success is as a rock and roll musician, his description of Prince as a man, an artist and a pilgrim is very interesting indeed. Possibly because his early years were pretty amazingly awful -- Like Merle Haggard only Mama was crazy and Daddy was an evil SOB -- he had to skip the middle years, but his story is what Bob Dylan tried to convince people his was in 1961. As he said in an interview quoted in Premier Guitar this weekend
Sure, he could be controversial; he even wrote a song about it. But that’s only because he was a true natural. “I’m not being deliberately provocative,” he told Rolling Stone in early 1981. “I’m being deliberately me. I ran away from home when I was 12. I’ve changed my address in Minneapolis 32 times, and there was a great deal of loneliness. But when I think about it, I know I’m here for a purpose, and I don’t worry about it so much.” Let’s be thankful he didn’t.
I have to say that Prince didn't click for me completely. I could admire the genius, but I thought a lot of his posturing and general shtick was over the top. I liked Little Red Corvette and 1999; I could easily take or leave Purple Rain; I loved Raspberry Beret, especially after hearing the Derailers do an amazing cover of it, and I found When Doves Cry silly. Prince was without a doubt an amazing guitarist, as well as bassist, drummer, and keyboard player. He built a team at Paisley Park that ranks up there in a lot of respects with people like Stax and the Punch Brothers. He was a good neighbor and people seemed to like him a lot in Minneapolis, even though they didn't really know him. But I saw a brief tribute to him from Eric Clapton today who calls Prince "inspirational." I think I'll close by letting Mr. Clapton, the man who basically created modern lead guitar, have the last words.
"I'm so sad about the death of Prince, he was a true genius, and a huge inspiration for me, in a very real way.... In the the eighties, I was out on the road in a massive downward spiral with drink and drugs, I saw Purple Rain in a cinema in Canada, I had no idea who he was, it was like a bolt of lightning!... In the middle of my depression, and the dreadful state of the music culture at that time it gave me hope, he was like a light in the darkness... I went back to my hotel, and surrounded by empty beer cans, wrote Holy Mother.... I can't believe he's gone...." Eric Clapton, Facebook, April 23, 2016
“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” — Marcus Aurelius
Better to die 'neath an Irish Sky than at Souk or Sulieman
Maura Harrington of the Shell to Sea group talks about “people not having the same awareness of colonisation by the multinationals now as they had 100 years ago of colonisation by the British empire. Different imperium.” (Historian Tim Pat) Coogan wonders what 1916’s founding fathers would have thought about “the way the banks have looted this country with the consent and connivance of the political establishment. More people have committed suicide during this period of austerity than were killed during the Troubles. Thousands lose their homes every week, or else remain courtesy of vulture-capital mortgages.” Another is the promise of “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”, after the church paedophilia scandal and discovery of mass graves of orphans at Tuam. With that in mind, part of this centennial week’s celebrations has been the sound and sight of hundreds coming through the Ark children’s art centre for its “Put Yourself In the Picture” project – to paint themselves and be drawn by Ireland’s leading artists, including Brian Maguire, better known for his work in prisons. There Maguire sits, now etching not lifers in Portlaoise prison, but cheeky faces and wonky glasses in charcoal “because that’s the crucial line in the Proclamation as far as I’m concerned, about children, and it certainly isn’t happening. All that – Tuam, the church abuse of children – was the legacy of how de Valera hijacked the Rising, and forged the world in which I grew up in: Catholic, living in the dark.” -- The Guardian, April 26, 2016
Killing Ground 1916 - Kilmainham Prison, Co. Dublin[/caption]
April 26 is the anniversary of a couple of explosions that challenge our understanding of the world. One ultimately had an incredible impact given its absolute failure and the dismay it provoked and its results continue to unfold quietly. The other was Chernobyl and it remains. If we wonder what the Japanese really face with Fukushima, we should look to Chernobyl for...comfort? Mutant animals? Reality? Some combination of the three?
The one that we have had time to gain if not success in gaining perspective on is the Easter Rebellion of 1916. The government of Ireland and the people of Ireland are dealing with the centennial in an interesting and perhaps effective way. The Guardian has been covering it in some depth, including coverage of the celebrations on the Eve and thus far. As Ireland and the "Irish in Exile" think about what it means, the Celtic Tiger struggles with the impact of austerity, economic meltdown, continuing conflict in Ulster with echoes in the South and the horrors of the various revelations of the iniquities of the Catholic Church in Ireland and seen against the mythical promise of 1916, it's causing a bit of confusion. Most revolutions begin with some explosion of violence in the midst of relative quiet caused by some group with a sense of usually disparate grievance. The Rising in 1916 was led by some Irish Language Mystics, Communists, Romantics, Disappointed Home Rule Advocates, an Irish American and the literary figures of Yeats and Lady Gregory.
The General Post Office and Ground Zero of the Rebellion. Admiral Nelson's Pillar to the right survived another 47 years.
The British mishandled the entire debacle -- they won the battle, "Britannia's Huns with their long range guns sailing into the foggy dew" as the ballad proclaims. They then bungled the entire aftermath using some bizarre early manifestation of tough love.
Padraig Pearse surrenders the GPO unconditionally
The captured ringleaders Pearse, McDairmand, Connolly, and the rest executed, except for Eamon de Valera, the American who started the Irish Civil War and then haunted the country for much of the past 100 years. The General Post Office was where the gauntlet was thrown and the unconditional surrender of the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Republican Brotherhood accepted by the British. The Brits followed the surrender by forcing the captured to do a sort of rogues march through the capital. The intent was to insure that the Dubliners realized who was at fault here -- and by the time the prisoners reached their various sad destinations, what had began as a march of sadness and defeat morphed into something else: not exactly a victory march, but rather a preview of things to come.
Kilmainham Prison was the killing ground. James Connolly who had been badly wounded early in the rebellion was tied to a chair in the courtyard and then shot. Padraig Pearse supposedly whistled as he faced the firing squad; since a British Sergeant Major described that in his diary, it's got a good chance of being true; be nice to know what tune it was. Tipperary? Rising of the Moon? It's the kind of grace note that belongs in a movie, perhaps with Bono playing Pearse. There is a marvelous show on The Sundance Channel this week, Rebellion, which looks at this not from a geopolitical point of view, but from a human level.
One of the reasons the British reacted so violently was that they were in one war and saw this as a stab in the back; the Home Rule people in Ireland saw that war as a an excuse used by the English bastards to renege on granting Ireland Home Rule, and treating it as a whole and part of the commonwealth as opposed to a province of Great Britain.
The Church saw the whole thing as a horrible attack on life and property, and blamed the rebels. And, people had things happen to them -- families shattered, weddings disrupted, tenements targeted for naval gunfire along with the city center where the General Post Office and the area surrounding it were the center of the battle, women and children shot for any and new reason...we've seen the movie replayed on the news since on so many occasions it would be funny if it weren't that the blood was real.
The Irish National Media, RTE or Radio-Television Eire, along with various grants have funded an interesting program called "The Bloody Irish" which focuses on the rebellion, the time and the world of Dublin in 1916. Through traditional music, dance, narration by some of the principle characters, and some semi-Shakespearean exposition by key players it tells the story of the period leading up to the and through the rebellion. It's a stage show, and you may be able to catch it on PBS where I first got or on demand at PBS or possibly Amazon or Netflix. It's probably more a traditional Irish exposition -- if by traditional I can mean Abbey Theater, Yeats and Shaw and Synge. One of the voices is the retired British general officer commanding, known to the Irish as Butcher Maxwell, who remains bemused by the whole thing. What the hell were they trying to accomplish and how could they do some of it so well and some so horribly wrong?
He pardoned most of the captured, executing only the ringleaders, except the American, de Valera...and he was condemned as a butcher. Why? History? What else could he do? He was a bloody general in the bloody English Army and these bloody Irish were engaged in rebellion during war or what... What indeed? Perhaps it takes more than 100 years to figure out the meaning of a single event in a 900 or so long pageant of invasion, rebellion, oppression and religious war.
Chernobyl Dome Over Dome to Add 300 Years to "Safe" Decay--CNN Photo
Human beings are good at not learning from things they should study deeply. Chernobyl represents the same sort of situation. The flaws with Dialectical Materialism as applied to nuclear engineering and design truly came together here in April 1986.
I worked for an exceptional officer in Germany in the mid-90s. Colonel Gary Luttrell was my Group Commander and an exceptional leader and an extraordinarily good man and nice guy. We were chatting one day when his secretary was gone but he knew that First Sergeant Farrell would still have coffee, and came down to bum a cup. Turned out that Colonel Luttrell had been one of a group of nuclear engineers sent to observe and advise the Soviets after the disaster. He told me the story, and sort of lost the thread at one point, and said something like this:
"I think this was inevitable. The design was flawed, the materials were crap, the engineers were told what to do by party bureaucrats, and they were all clueless. There were some amazing acts of applied science when the bureaucrats got out of the way; there were almost continuous acts of bravery and extreme courage and it all accomplished nothing. They encased it in concrete and hope nothing else happens. God help them all..."
We then turned to something we could talk about without shuddering, in this case why I liked Emmylou Harris more than Alison Krauss.
Ukraine which has to deal with this theme park to man's hubris tried to keep people out at first but now control entry as there's a continual stream in disaster tourism there. A two hour bus ride north from Kiev, and you can see Terminator-esque city of Pripyat, a nice, relatively new Soviet city that lies abandoned and will slowly but surely decay along with the radiation. Just far faster... The initial attempt to limit the problems at the reactor basically amounted to encasing it in concrete, the famous sarcophagus. Except, of course, for the bottom of the structures. So, the core continues to do its inevitable thing, the dust and debris and irradiated dreck continue to light up the radiological night, and things like water table and downwind hazard from forest fires and blizzards remain in place.
The concrete and efforts to contain the disaster was the best that the Soviet union could provide, in a time of economic debacle, continuous shortages, the continual drain of Afghanistan while also trying to keep up with the west in the Arms Race while pretending that everything was fine.
Disinformation was a Soviet specialty, and one reason they were so good at it was that it was primarily against themselves. Who else would have kept people in Pripyat to give the impression that everything was OK for a couple of extra days, including doing the grand opening of the Ferris Wheel at the town's amusement part, only to then rush people out as fast, as panicked and as poorly organized as possible? The effects of the disaster on mental health in Ukraine and beyond are also coming to light. Stigmatization of local people and relocation of communities is blamed for widespread depression and social problems.But visitors who expect to find a charred, uninhabited wasteland are surprised when they enter the Exclusion Zone. Far from being empty, power plant workers still commute into the zone.A place of worship, the turquoise and white St. Elijah Church continues to welcome devotees. Approximately 200 people still live inside the Exclusion Zone, despite government orders to leave. --Anita Isalska, CNN, April 26, 2016
One of the things that I have found fascinating about Chernobyl is that the Soviets were so well experienced with nuclear disasters. In September 1957, there was a major disaster at Kyshtym in the eastern Urals. Dissident scientist and writer Zhores Medvedev had been stripped of his Soviet citizenship and was writing in London when the discussion turned to problems with nuclear energy, and he was amazed to learn that the west wasn't aware of any difficulties that the Soviets were having. Well, I suspect that we had some idea that something had happened, but in no detail.
This one was an example of really bad engineering and planning, where the waste of several plants was allowed to flow into a lake where the water was filtered as it would leave the lake and the contamination held in underground storage tanks cooled by pumping the lake water around them.
What could go wrong? One of the pumps failed, and the 80 ton concrete dome blown off the containment facility. Hilarity ensued. I suspect that there's a lot we can learn from this, as well as the rest, and probably won't. Human beings are good at not learning from things they should study deeply. But, if hope is not a plan both Easter 1916 and Chernobyl in their own ways show that ignorance and hubris are really terrible planning matrices.