Sunday, March 16, 2014

Friedrich Neitzsche

Back in the late 1800's Fred as I like to call him spoke of the Death of God. He was not talking about the diety as mortal. He was rather talking about the shift in values taking place in Europe. Some of this stuff is directly from Fred, some from Robert Pirsig. Pirsig wrote "Lila: An Inquiry into Morals."

Fred was talking about the fact that the God of Abraham was no longer the central figure in Europe. People had been using him to justify all manner of bad behaviour since Constantine. The grip of the clergy was beginning to loosen. He did not mean the literal meaning of the words. He was talking about the fear of an after life as a mitigating factor in human behaviour.

It might be stated "Oh Shit! God is Dead! Now what?!!" He acknowledged that most of the ethical and moral code of The West was bound up in the Judeo Christian view of the world. Europeans  were "People of the Book" at least in giving lip service to morality and ethics.  This also included the world of Islam. If the state and society were to believe that human beings made up morality as they went along and life had only the meaning that the individual brought to it there could easily be a total breakdown of ethics.

On of the primary values in the Victorian world was society. Not the church although that was important. It was Society. This was, much more than any clergy, the regulating force in day to day life.  

Think of it this way. If all meaning comes only from human agreement on what that should be, the highwayman and the pirate, the confidence man and the swindler had only to disagree or choose to opt out of the societal agreement and the ethical code did not apply to them. The murderer could kill and if he was not caught, there would be no consequences: he never opted in to the agreement.   If he were no more than an electro-chemical carbon based reaction, there would be no morality involved.

Fred thought that the restraints on human behaviour were off. There was no anchor. Where was the beginning assumption for what was acceptable? This leads us to Robert Pirsig.

Pirsig says that civilisations function around  values. It is a set of  organising principles. The Victorians saw polite society as the most important value. One can determine this by reading novels from that era. There was manure everywhere in Victorian England. In the summer if there were a dry spell it turned into a powder in the air. No where is the muck and smell of the street mentioned in a book like "The Golden Bowl"  by Henry James. The theme may be adultery but the problem is solved without divorce. No mention is made of manure in the streets, the soot that blackened everything, the caste system that existed in British society in 1904, none of the problems that beset most of society.

Turkey legs were called "Drum Sticks" because the word "Thigh" had a sexual connotation to it.  Think about it for a minute. Society was everything to these people. But there was another force on the horizon. It was the Beagle carrying Darwin.

Darwin shook the foundations of belief for a lot of folks. His trip around the globe was stunning. He was part of the changing values that were sweeping the European world. He was post Enlightenment and a scientist. Slowly the world changed. Science became the supreme value. Darwin is important because he represents the modern world. Science is important because there are no intrinsic moral values to science.

Fred saw this coming. He predicted there would be blood in the 20th century. Lots of it. Morality is what men say it is. Honesty, truth, reality are what men say they are. There is no God to judge. Morality and acceptable behaviour are what one can accomplish over the objections of others. It is as if he saw the rise of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, Pol Pot, Mao T'se Tung, Saddam Hussein, and a host of others. He died in 1900. He resigned in 1879. He predicted most of the blood bath that was the twentieth century.

Pirsig says Science has no morality. Think of it Mathematics has no moral implications. Trigonometry is without  an ethical code. Factoring an equation does not have any behavioural guide lines. None. Science became the central focus of the West during the Twentieth Century. Everything from 3D movies to Voyager, trips to the Moon and back, satellites, cell phones, the web. Think of the technology the century developed. The West is left with no moral code. Science cannot give life meaning but it can distract modern man. It can fill time and provide amusement. Amusement is not character.

Nietzsche was mourning the loss of God. He was mourning the loss of even a pretence of morality by governments or what Machiavelli would have called "The Princes" meaning the ruling elite.

I will be back with more. Don't you just hate it when I read Tom Wolfe and then research some of his ideas? More later.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Sister and getting even.

It was nineteen fifty-eight A D when it all started. Assigning blame is easy enough: My sister had no malice in her heart when she did it. She even asked me what I thought about the idea. I agreed to it. The question was wonderful for all it promised. I can remember it even today.

If I bought you a guitar would you learn to play it? “

It was a Christmas present. It was beyond my wildest expectations. There is no way to explain what this meant to me. It changed my life I fell in love with the life at that particular point was chaotic. I had a severe case of excitement addiction along with typical adolescent lack of control. I had all the judgment of a typical sixteen year old: that of a mature hamster. Too much is not enough was my motto. My grades were terrible, I combed my hair into a D A, wore my pants “falling off my ass” (my father’s phrase), couldn’t dance, had trouble talking to girls, was convinced that I was a loser, had criminals for friends and had only escaped being arrested and incarcerated due to the grace of an incredibly loving Heavenly Father who had seen fit to protect me.

Still, the prospect of an actual musical instrument was enough to wake me up. When I was eleven or so I heard Carl Perkins play “ Blue Suede Shoes “ When I heard the hook during the intro, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was way cool. Carl Perkins. He was the man. Growing up my family listened to lots of country music except that back then it was called “ Hillbilly Music” not “ Country and Western”. This was in the days before political correctness. Lefty Frizzel, Hank Snow Hank Locklin, Gene Autry, Vernon Dalhart, Hank Williams, Pie Plant Pete, The Missouri Fox Hunters, we knew ‘em all. Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives, Ernest Tubb, Bob Wills, I mean ALL of them. Green back dollar, I’m a Bum, The prisoner’s song, Lovesick Blues, Red Wing, Letter Edged in Black, plus assorted Irish ditties learned at my grampa’s knee and other low joints. I mean music.

I loved music even as a child but this was something different. When I was in kindergarten I heard something similar when a duo of bell ringers came in to entertain us. The tinkling of the bells was wonderful! I had the same feeling listening to a guy play the guitar. It was a new level of experience.

I also listened to James Burton who played with Rick, (don’t call me Ricky I’m grown) Nelson. I read somewhere he lived on the Nelson ranch. My sister bought me a guitar. I didn’t know where to start. I was in ecstasy. I wanted to be a rockabilly juvenile delinquent but my parents weren’t having a bit of it. Well, they tried. There is just something about listening to Gene Vincent that makes me want to steal hubcaps even today. That’s not to mention the Burnett brothers who used to write for Rick Nelson. Peggy Sue, Buddy Holly, and a whole list of one hit wonders. My dad sang all the time. Mostly hillbilly music from the thirties along with wonderful hymns. There was lots of music in that house.

America was still in the death grip of the bread man back in those days and we had one. He worked for Wonder Bread and once told my mother he was going to make ten thousand dollars a year delivering bread. This at a time when a tool and die maker made about half that. Crazy or not he helped me tune that gem. The first thing I learned was to play a boogie-woogie riff in the key of F. The rest of it came slowly. Very slowly.

I soon found that learning to play the guitar was as good an escape as reading. I was not good at much with the exception of causing lots of trouble. I felt like I lacked social skills with girls. I had a first class case of testosterone poisoning. I was obsessed with girls but could not talk to them without making an ass of myself. At least that’s how it felt.

I didn’t bother with books or any niceties like that. I just went into my bedroom and proceeded to whack away at the poor guitar. I eventually sold it for money. The neck had come loose and there was no one to fix it for me. I then bought a genuine Silvertone with money I earned working one summer. I got it in the catalogue department. I took lesions at the local fine arts center and learned that some guys play with picks and some guys play with their fingers and fingers are better at least for me. I needed a capo and didn’t know where to get one so I made one out of a muffler clamp and some plywood. It was slow to change but very effective. I needed a 5/16 wrench to change the position of it. This is all my sister’s fault, mind you.

Music was all such a mystery back then. How could the Everly Brothers get that sound out of the instrument? I went into Simon’s music store and played his expensive Gibsons and he didn’t even throw me out. Thirty five years later his family asked me to play at his funeral. I cannot tell you all that that man did for me over the years. I used to listen to his records and then learn the songs on his guitars. I remember taking an album by Joan Baez into a listening room and almost crying when I heard her voice. I listened to Leadbelly and Eddie Cochrane. I listened to Duane Eddy and well all those guys. I listened to the folk groups and the banjo players. I listened to Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe. It was great. This was all my sister’s fault.

A terrible thing happened about 1959, I heard and saw a 12-string guitar. A guy came on a local TV show and played “ Nobody knows you when You’re Down and Out”. It knocked my socks off. I loved the roar of that instrument. My slide to the bottom was now in overdrive or freewheeling. I had to have one. It took a while and some more stuff but it finally happened.

I discovered the blues and ragtime and Mexican music and Tejano and Norteno and western swing and I was off and running.

I found all kinds of guitar players but the ones who affected me the most were the ragtimers who played finger style. The style was called grand standing. It was something, let me tell you. This was all my sister’s fault. Without her I never would have discovered Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White, Robert Johnson, Mance Lipscomb, Jesse “ Lone Cat “ Fuller, Dick Rossmini, Dave “ Snaker “ Ray, or my personal hero, Blind Willie McTell. The list could go on forever. I played a Gibson 12 string in Edsel Pfabe’s music store one day. My brother and I had dragged my mother to Cleveland to look through pawnshops and she went! Willingly! I still remember how it smelled and felt and most of all sounded. The smell of a new guitar case is something I can never forget. It had that Gibson pink interior. It had power and finish and was strung all wrong. Today it would not meet my standards but my synapses were fresh and unjaded. I loved it. As I write this I am overwhelmed. There is a joy in music which we cannot put into words. It is what the religious folks call pietism. This internal experience. This is why music is called the highest of the arts. It is sound but stands mute when we try to describe the internal feeling that it stirs. This is also my sister’s fault, this beautiful memory.

I’ve spent lots of money on musical instruments and never gotten any of it back. Vega, Gibson, Goya, Banzer, Harmony, Kay, Washburn, Stella, Silvertone, Nameless imported junk, Epiphone, Yairi and a few more names I cannot currently recall. Heck, I even owned a Martin or two.

Mandolins, banjos, fiddles, mandola, penny whistles, assorted harmonica, a couple of drums and various sound reinforcement systems, finger picks and capos along with lots of strings. I even owned a lap steel Supro at one time. I paid a whole ten dollars for it. Never could play a lick on it. Sometimes my family would ask, “ Why did he spend all that money on that guitar? He could have bought a nice suit or something.” My sister’s reply was, “ Because he has his priorities in order." I loved them all but I only have a few of them now. You get the point. They come and go but I like them all.

I have had several guitars made for me and now no longer feel the need to have that done. I just want a good instrument to play. If I could find a model with built in talent I would buy it.

Don Banzer was a guy from Wichita, Kansas who moved to Ashtabula because the National Guard unit here didn’t have new equipment and therefore was unlikely to be called up to go to Vietnam. His unit in Kansas had lots of new shinny stuff. He had the feeling they were going and he liked life in the States. He had fallen in love with the guitar a few years before this and eventually turned to making them. He started with classical guitars and then talked me into letting him build one for him. What does this have to do with my sister, you might ask? I’ll tell you what.

When Don was building this guitar I learned a good bit about Hungarian cooking. You see, he had married a girl from Hungary and I spent so much time at their house that Agi started feeding me like I was the family cat or something. They fed me so much, he could have claimed me on his income tax. It was “ nem yo “ as the Hunkeys say. Not good. This is also my sister’s fault as he fed me so much that he couldn’t have made any money on the deal.

He got the wood from a local guy who had some black walnut from a tree on the family property. He bought an axe handle that was hickory and used it to reinforce the mahogany neck. He got the wood for the top by going through an entire load of redwood boards at a local lumberyard. It had lots wrong with it cosmetically but it had soul. Lots and lots of soul. I wrote my first song on that guitar. It was full of angst. I am embarrassed at the sentimentality in it when I think of it today. He built me three more but today I only have the one. It is enough, I think. I love that instrument as much for the man who built it as for the instrument itself. I took it with me to Nova Scotia. I was a hero up there. A hero, I tell you! But not for long. I came back from vacation and all was normal.

I’ve met lots of interesting people due to music. I lived in Frisco back in the sixties and didn’t have the brains to go meet Jesse Lone Cat Fuller. Nuff said. I missed the one guy who was my hero. Well, Blind Willie McTell is really but most musicians won’t go to a séance and I would have to because he’s dead.

I finally found a way to get even with the help of my friend Don. He had access to lots of instruments and got me a tremendous deal on an auto harp. It was an Oscar Schmidt as I recall. I got it for my sister. It worked, too. Like a wino is attracted to port or Thunderbird (an aperitif wine if there ever was one) my sister has been drawn into the world of wooden containers with strings on them into which you pour money which you will only get back if you live to be Methuselah and it becomes an antique. She has also started hanging out with dulcimer players. She now has three instruments. She has traveled great distances to spend money on these instruments. She goes to festivals. She knows what it is like to struggle with technique and tuning and an instrument that needs to be exorcised or decontaminated. I am certain she has looked at an instrument and considered throwing as one would a discus, being careful not to step outside the ring and hoping the trash container would not tip over when the beast landed in it. But then the ultimate happened.

Her most recent instrument was built for her. I don’t know what you call guys who make autoharps (and don’t say Oscar Schmidt, either) but she had discussions about chords and where they should be and major and minor and all kinds of Autoharp stuff.

I just know they sound like a cross between bells and harps and grand pianos. I reckon she is having about as much fun as a person can without breaking the law but we are still not even.

There is no way I could begin to approximate what she did for me. Music will get you through tough times and loneliness and fear and joy and what ever might ail you at any given time. I got to play at George Simon’s funeral at his family’s request. I got to play at Don’s going away party too. When we were leaving the cemetery one of the other pallbearers said to me “ Well, there goes my lifetime guarantee on that guitar he built me.”
How could there be more than that? I’ve played at weddings and the results were mixed. Sometimes there is a divorce, sometimes not. But it is all thanks to my sister with whom I shall never be even when it comes to the joy she inadvertently brought me.

Sitting in my mother’s kitchen about two years before she died, I was playing “ The Fields Behind the Plow”, a song about planting crops. My mother said to me, “ I’m glad you have had music in your life because it is such a source of comfort to you.” I didn’t think to tell her all this but I am certain she knows.

Thanks, Kay. Thanks, Mom.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Human Decency

It comes to me that the media, all of them do not care about the Martin family. They are invasive, shallow, self-serving and interested in ratings only. they are like vultures. Any of them who have lost a family member to homicide understand the pain involved. They are without empathy. Or compassion which come from the Latin compassionem meaning to feel with.

As for the political ghouls who are feeding on the situation, in the words of Red from the Shawshank Redemption, "You gotta be human first."

I know a bit about this as I have lost a family member to homicide. It was beyond belief. I did not know how cruel the world could be. The lights of childhood went out for me and have never been rekindled. It was as if God left my life. I could not understand how it happened. Still can't. We cannot make sense of the taking of a human life.  He was the first person I knew who died and a central figure in my life. There is more to the story as to how it happened but this is not about my family member. It is about the effect on a family.

I think the lights went out in the lives of my sisters and my brother in some fashion too. There is no grief like that of someone who assumes all is well with the world only to have the horrendous news broken to them. It is like being sucker punched. I had trouble breathing and the sorrow washed over me like a tidal wave, covering my existence and that of my siblings.

All of this is to say I have a pretty good idea how the Martin family feels. No court can give them back their son. No amount of money will bring him back. The idea of wrongful death suits is disgusting: a jury decides the value of a human life? The next question becomes "How Much For Your Family Member?"  And what would one do with any settlement money.

 As I was a child at the time I was shielded by a loving family. The gory details came to me later. It wounded my family in a fashion that I cannot describe.

Nobody can get even. Nobody. You cannot punish anyone enough. Getting even is venom which, if indulged in, expands exponentially. It never makes homicide go away: whom ever you love is still beyond your reach. 

The Zimmerman family has a full plate. George has to live with the fact that he killed a teenager. If he has any humanity it will eat his lunch. He has the rest of his life to work this out. He cannot escape the consequences of his actions. I am not talking about death threats: I can assure you we will all die at some point. I am speaking here about that jerk that runs through his body as he is just about to slide into sleep. I am talking about thinking about this when he doesn't want to. The shudder when he is walking to the garage that ambushes him and his wife asks what's wrong and he says "Nothing".

I had an awakening when talking to my father near the end of his life. Here is the direct quote from my father.

"There were lots of things that I didn't get caught for but I never got away with anything."

This also applies to George Zimmerman. And to me.  And maybe to you.

The Rev.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Crime Think

For those of you who have not read 1984 by George Orwell, there is a type of offense called Crimethink. This is a type of crime where you do not have to do anything wrong, you just have to think it. You will be disciplined. There is also Crime Speak where you use the wrong word or phrase. This is a punishable offence. There is Newspeak where old words are reworked to take the meaning out of them. "Differentlyabled" rather than crippled developmentally delayed rather than retarded, in other words sanitary engineer not garbage man, sex worker and not whore.

In this novel, homes have a television in them with a camera in them and Big Brother is watching them. The home is under surveillance. The public is never alone and even thinking can be a form of crime. I won't tell you how it ends. You gotta get the book.

He also wrote " The Animal Farm" in which the animals get rid of the farmer and his family and take over. They have an egalitarian agreement which assures the animals that they are all equal. Soon the pigs move into the house and begin living like humans. They observe "All animals are created equal but some are more equal than others".

A cursory review of Orwell's life reveals that he was exposed to Fascism (large corporations and the gummint collude) and Communism (Classically the workers own and manage the means of production and there is no gummint.) He saw them both up close and personal in the Spanish Civil War when he lived in Catalonia. He was in the Indian Imperial Police so he had no use for colonialism. This resulted in his novel "Burmese Days."

I think you know where this is going. We are there. Our cell phones tell our location, our calls are logged, our emails are regularly read, our correspondence is logged.  We are urged to trust the gummint. This from the people who assured us that Saddam had WMD, that the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred and that The Maine was sunk by the Spanish and not a provocateur.

I have reached age 70, Dear Reader and I find I have many more brain cells left than I would have expected given my life style. I know what I know. It is SSDD. (Same Shit Different Day.)  The folks who believe in political parties are chumps. Fools or as H.L. Menken, the Sage of Baltimore called them The Boobery instead of The Citizenry meaning a group of folks who are not very bright. They are Marks.  Mae West and W.C. Fields were in a movie called "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break." They were prescient. Such an apt description of our public life. Guess who plays the sucker. Hmmm...

 "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."  H. D. Thoreau.

NSA lies and lies and lies. Brazenly. Both parties are in favour of extensive surveillance. Government is inherently about the reduction of freedom.

Orwell will soon be banned as a wacko right wing socialist fascist commie nudist along with Thoreau. The good thing about the digital age is that it is hard to erase every pdf file that exists.
God Bless You, George Orwell!

If we become illiterate we have no defense.
Rev. Leviticus Jackson

More to come

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

State of The Union

It is a mess in terms of government and politics. The land and the people are OK as they have nothing to do with government. They get up and go to work every day. I am about convinced that we do not need them to run our lives.

Television tells us to be afraid on a daily basis. We have a certain portion of the country that is convinced that disaster is around the corner. It is. So what?

I did not watch the address by the President: I knew what he was going to say. It is nonsense. Someone should tell him the level of contempt that a  large portion of the country has for him. Based on reason. Congress is worse and the Supreme Court thinks that corporations can be persons despite the fact that they do not meet the criteria for being a sentient being. When a corporation belches or farts, it can be a person. Until then, no.

The really important thing is that I found a number of beaver lodges on the river that I did not know were there. The San Juan and the Animas will be here long after we are gone. Long after the idiots on TV. Long after Senator Windbag and President Electable. In the words of Carlin:

" The Earth ain't going anywhere, folks, WE ARE. Pack yer shit!!"

Bed Time.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I started to post some observations on current nonsense when Epictetus came to mined. He was a stoic philosopher in 55 to 135 A.D. He was born a slave and became a freedman. He was crippled. His take was that we cannot control others or the weather or sickness or death or lots of other stuff. He said the only thing that we have influence upon was our own internal processes. Our perspective or as one friend said "It's all in how you look at it and study it." But in a southern drawl which mad it sound profound. Anyway he said it was the impressions that we got from the external world which we then interpreted which determine the emotional content of our lives. ( OK, this is going somewhere, just stick with me for a little while longer.)

So he said that happiness and sadness and fear and all that Dr. Phil kind of crap that the shrinks talk about were generated from how we react to the world. Said it was pointless to get all honked off about stuff that you could not fix. It is upsetting and stops us from doing something about the things we can do. 

Now isn't that just the opposite of what all these political morons want us to do? 
The political message in America right now is this : If those guys would just do what I want them to do, I would be happy and shut up. What a crock of ...well you know what is in that crock. That is a lie we often tell ourselves. It means I am not responsible for my reactions to stuff.  

I have news for one and all. They are not gonna do it. I do not care what it is, they ain't gonna do it. At least not to your satisfaction. Anyone who thinks the world is just waiting for instructions is delusional or on those magic mushrooms again like we had back in the 60's.

Back to Epictetus or as I call him "Epi".  Domitian the emperor of Rome said that all the philosophers had to shave their beards. They were busy teaching people to think and that made trouble. Anyway he got the order to shave and he didn't. He was told that it had been decreed that he had to shave. He said no. The guy from the department of shave the philosophers said "Don't you know you could be executed?" Epi replied "When did I tell you I expected to live forever?" The guy says "It seems dumb to die over a beard." to which Epi said "But if I let you order me around like that, isn't the real Epictetus dead anyway?" 

He got deported from Rome back to Nicopolis in Greece. It was not like living in Screaming Eagle Shit, Wyoming but it wasn't Rome either. He died in AD 135 or so. He had a guy named Arrian who was a student who wrote down most of his teachings in a book and don't ask me the title. I don't know. Here's a quote which says pretty much how this old bearded cripple viewed the world.

To accuse others for one's own misfortunes is a sign of want of education.
To accuse oneself shows that one's education has begun. 
To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one's education is complete.

That's where I want to get to. When I can sit back and deal with the stuff that is on my plate instead of telling you how you ought to deal with yours.  Same goes for The Sphincters who are certain that they know what everyone else should be doing and when and where. 

I realize this is only for me. But if anyone reading this thinks that politicians have any personal answers or that they can stop death or a tornado or a hurricane then they are what is called a "Good Citizen". Which is synonymous with "Dorper Sheep".  (That's a particular breed.)

That's all for now. Hope I didn't wreck your day. 
The Rev.   

Saturday, February 9, 2013


This is not the worst blizzard in the history of NYC. Check 1888. Lots of folks died. A blizzard swept the country. 200 people died in the city. The day time temp averaged nine degrees. Fires caused $25 million in 1888 dollars. The city was paralyzed. So think about that.