Monday, June 24, 2013

Video flyover of Kings Mtn trail

No postings for quite a while, thanks mainly to spending a lot of time emailing and on Facebook.  But that forum has its obvious limitations, so maybe it's time to do some occasional blogging.  

NOTE:  The following is not spam.  My Droid has an app called MapMyWalk which now (thanks to a new version of Google Earth) offers a impressive video flyover for exercise and hiking routes.  Here's an example from a hike on Sunday up Kings Mtn, in the Oregon Coast Range about a half hour from where I live.  The heavy forest seems to interfere with the GPS output, making it look like I was lost even though the trail is out-and-back via a single route.  It's an evergreen forest, mostly second-growth Douglas fir, but the trees are rounded, making it look like they're hardwoods.  Otherwise, it's an impressive visualization of the route.


Saturday, September 01, 2012

A Runes exclusive: The playbook for the GOP's fall campaign

As the fall campaign lurches to a start, the Republican playbook for the 2012 election has been leaked exclusively to us here at Runes by special courier.  The author, identified only as "Nick," is reportedly in seclusion and was unavailable for comment. 

Here are some excerpts from Nick's playbook, which is now available at select bookstores and online:
“Occasionally words must serve to veil the facts. But let this happen in such a way that no one becomes aware of it; or, if it should be noticed, excuses must be at hand to be produced immediately.”  [Note: The Romney/Ryan campaign has replaced the author's  "occasionally" with "invariably," but otherwise the original text remains intact.  Here's a recent example, courtesy of Paul Ryan.]
The Republican road map for success continues with detailed observations and suggestions like the following:
“If you only notice human proceedings, you may observe that all who attain great power and riches, make use of either force or fraud; and what they have acquired either by deceit or violence, in order to conceal the disgraceful methods of attainment, they endeavor to sanctify with the false title of honest gains...[N]or do any ever escape from servitude but the bold and faithless, or from poverty, but the rapacious and fraudulent. God and nature have thrown all human fortunes into the midst of mankind; and they are thus attainable rather by rapine than by industry, by wicked actions rather than by good. Hence it is that men feed upon each other, and those who cannot defend themselves must be worried.” 
"For this reason a [leader] ought to take care that he never lets anything slip from his lips that is not replete with the above-named five qualities, that he may appear to him who sees and hears him altogether merciful, faithful, humane, upright, and religious. There is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this last quality, inasmuch as men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of [leaders], which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.” 

“Therefore it is unnecessary for a [leader] to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.” 
"For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances as though they were realities. and are often more influenced by things that seem than by those that are."
"The [leader] never lacks legitimate reason to break his promise."

UPDATE (9/3/12): Author identified

And the author?  Further investigation by Runes reveals that these passages are from The Prince and other works by Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527).  Machiavelli's wise counsel is neatly summarized in his most infamous expression: "The end justifies the means."

In the interest of being evenhanded, Macchiavelli offers some slightly less cynical counsel, also from The Prince, for Barack Obama in the event that he's re-elected:
“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”
It's easy to predict that Nick's influence on this election cycle has only begun to blossom.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Forest Grove Bloomsday Festival 2012: the 90th anniversary of the publication of "Ulysses"

[Marilyn Monroe reading Molly Bloom's great feminist soliloquy
in Ulysses.]

The program for the Forest Grove Bloomsday Festival 2012 appears below.  We are especially honored that this year's invocation will be offered by a special last-minute guest: the formidable Molly Bloom herself. Late this afternoon Ms Bloom replied via email to our invitation, sent in March, with an unequivocal: "...yes I said yes I will Yes."


12:00-2:00:  Honored guest Ms. Molly Bloom, with selected readings on Moorish walls and mountain flowers (from "Ulysses").

1:00-5:00 p.m.:  Keynote address by Nationalgymnasiummuseumsanatoriumandsuspensoriumsordinaryprivatdocentgeneralhistoryspecialprofessordoctor Kriegfried Ueberallgemein

6:30-9:30 p.m.:  International panel discussion on "The Nameless Barbarity which we have been called upon to witness"  Panelists include:
Hiram Y. Bomboost
Countess Marha Virdga Kisászony Putrápesthi
Commendatore Bacibaci Beninobenone
Monsieur Pierrepaul Petitépatant
Grandjoker Vladinmire Pokethankertscheff
Archjoker Leopold Rudolph von Schwanzenbad-Hodenthaler
 10:00-11:00 p.m.: Readings from "Ulysses" by:
Count Athanatos Karamelopulos
Goosepond Prhklstr Kratchinabritchisitch,
Herr Hurhausdirektorprasident Hans Chuechli-Steuerli
11:00 p.m.-3:00 a.m.:  Dramatic reenactments by:
Olaf Kobberkeddelsen
Goosepond Prhklstr Kratchinabritchisitch
Señor Hidalgo Caballero Don Pecadillo y Palabras y Paternoster de la Malora de la Malaria
Mynheer Trik van Trumps
Pan Poleaxe Paddyrisky 
3:00 a.m.-4:00 a.m.:  Dissertion by Stephen Dedalus entitled "I fear those big words that make us so unhappy."

4:00 a.m.-5:00 a.m.:  Concluding remarks by Leopold Bloom on the following theme: "I was blue mouldy for the want of that pint."

5:00 a.m.-noon:  Traditional Irish breakfast (by special request of Leopold Bloom), including the inner organs of beasts and fowls with thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods' roes and grilled mutton kidneys which give to the palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.

Security provided by Constable MacFadden of Booterstown.

Location:  Uncertain as of this writing due to the arbitrary denial of the required permits.


This slideshow, first posted in 2009, is Runes' tribute to James Joyce, with kora accompaniment by the great Toumani Diabaté of Mali. (You may need to pause the show to read some of the longer text entries.)

Happy Bloomsday 2012!

[Note:  All persons named above are either major or minor characters in Ulysses.]

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A response to Leonard Pitts, Jr. on "The justice system's revolving door"
 Leonard Pitts, Jr., writes in the Miami Herald:
"America is now the greatest jailer on Earth. Prison overcrowding is a growing problem; we literally cannot build facilities fast enough. As CBS News recently reported, the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but about 25 percent of its prisoners. As CNN recently reported, at 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, the United States jails its people at a rate seven to 10 times higher than most any other developed nation."
As of 2006, there were 7.6 million people in prison or on probation or parole in the U.S.  About 2.3 million were in prison, far more than the estimated 1.6 million in Chinese prisons. The actual rate of incarceration is far higher in the U.S. than in China, whose population is four times greater (see chart below, on which China doesn't appear).
Racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing have received considerable, and well-deserved, attention in recent years.  According to the Sentencing Project, 60% of prisoners in U.S. jails are members of racial or ethnic minorities.  SP also notes that, "of black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day" and "two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color."

According to the 2010 census, the U.S. population is currently 63.3% white, so the minority/majority ratio is reversed in the prison population.  Only 44.7% of prisoners on death row are white.

The stock response to this data goes something like this: "If minorities commit more crimes, they'll be overrepresented in the prisons." This facile argument neglects the many variables that affect the practices of police departments and courts -- from enforcement priorities (especially concerning drug offenses) to sentencing (as seen in the false distinction between powder and crack cocaine).  [Example: A recent study showed that 89% of those stopped, questioned and frisked on the streets of New York were nonwhites.]

In an excellent special report on "Mass Incarceration in America" in The American Prospect, Michelle Alexander describes the obstacles facing members of racial and ethnic minorities upon their release from prison (which for 70% of offenders is followed by arrest and reincarceration within three years).  These obstacles include such civil disabilities as inability to vote, enter public housing, apply for food stamps and obtain certain types of employment.  Alexander notes: "We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it."

It's sadly predictable that the most effective media coverage of the prison-industrial complex and the solidifying U.S. caste system is provided by journalists of color like Leonard Pitts, Jr., and Michelle Alexander.

[Charts from Wikipedia
*A tangential NOTE:  Racial and ethnic disparities in prison populations seem destined to increase even further over time, as suggested by recent demographic changes in the U.S.: "Overall, racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 91.7% of the nation’s population growth over the past 10 years. The non-Hispanic white population has accounted for only the remaining 8.3% of the nation’s growth. Hispanics were responsible for 56% of the nation’s population growth over the past decade.

"There are now 50.5 million Latinos living in the U.S. according to the 2010 Census, up from 35.3 million in 2000, making Latinos the nation’s largest minority group and 16.3% of the total population. There are 196.8 million whites in the U.S. (accounting for 63.7% of the total population), 37.7 million blacks (12.2%) and 14.5 million Asians (4.7%). Six million non-Hispanics, or 1.9% of the U.S. population, checked more than one race."
[More on minorities driving U.S. population growth.]

Read more here:

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Ed Sanders and the Fugs: "Nothing"

In honor of the recent publication of Ed Sanders' latest book, "Fug You," it seems appropriate to resuscitate this classic song from "The Fugs' First Album" (1966). If nihilists could ever have an anthem, this would be it.  The claims go a little too far for my taste here and there ("Allen Ginsberg / nothing nothing nothing"?)  But the overall point is relentlessly hammered home. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any concert footage of the Fugs performing this song.

Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010) founded the Fugs in 1964. Kupferberg almost lost his life much earlier, in a 1944 suicide attempt. He jumped off the Manhattan bridge but, entirely by chance, a tugboat was passing nearby and pulled him out of the water. He suffered serious injuries but recovered and lived on for another 66 productive years.

The name of the band came from the variant of "fuck" that Norman Mailer used to escape the censors in The Naked and the Dead (1948). 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

José Gonzales: "Teardrop"

José Gonzales, my favorite Swedish musician, does a cover of Massive Attack's Teardrop. Gonzales (born in Gothenburg in 1978) is the son of refugees who fled Argentina after a brutal junta seized the country in 1976 and launched the "dirty war." (Many thanks to Katy for the link!)

Friday, April 27, 2012

David Byrne and Morcheeba: "Dance on Vaseline"

Ever since Stop Making Sense came out in 1984, David Byrne has been making some of the most interesting music around. Here's another fine performance of Dance on Vaseline, with Morcheeba, from the BBC's Later, with Jools Holland. 
I'm taking back the knowledge
I'm taking back the gentleness
I'm taking back the ritual
I'm giving in to sweetness  [more lyrics]
Thanks for sharing this on Facebook, Nico!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rhiannon Giddens and the Carolina Chocolate Drops join The Chieftains in "Pretty Little Girl"

A rousing selection from two of my favorite groups of folk musicians. The Carolina Chocolate Drops, featuring the charismatic (and classically trained soprano) Rhiannon Giddens, are from Durham, N.C.  Their current tour includes dates in New Orleans and Chicago, but, alas, no stops on the west coast.

The Chieftains, Irish to the very marrow, celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.

Did you listen to these folks without tapping your feet? If so, I imagine it took a major effort.

This performance is from Later, with Jools Holland, on the BBC.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Téju Cole: An excerpt from Open City and the author talks about his background

Open City (2011),by Téju Cole, is one of the finest novels published in the U.S. in recent memory. Highly recommended, along with the video (from The New Yorker) embedded above.  A sample from the novel, which is set in New York, Lagos and Brussels:
We experience life as a continuity, and only after it falls away, after it becomes the past, do we see its discontinuities.  The past, if there is such a thing, is mostly empty space, great expanses of nothing, in which significant persons and events float.  Nigeria was like that for me: mostly forgotten, except for those few things that I remembered with an outsize intensity.  These were the things that had been solidified in my mind by reiteration, that recurred in dreams and daily thoughts:  certain faces, certain conversations, which, taken as a group, represented a secure version of the past that I had been constructing since 1992.  But there was another, irruptive, sense of things past.  The sudden reencounter, in the present, of something or someone long forgotten, some part of myself I had relegated to childhood and to Africa.  An old friend came to me out of this latter past, a friend, or rather than acquaintance whom memory now made convenient to think of as a friend, so that what seemed to have vanished entirely existed once again.
These musings invite comparisons, without a stretch, to Proust. Consider, from Remembrance of Things Past:
Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.

For although we know that the years pass, that youth gives way to old age, that fortunes and thrones crumble (even the most solid among them) and that fame is transitory, the manner in which—by means of a sort of snapshot—we take cognizance of this moving universe whirled along by Time, has the contrary effect of immobilizing it.  

And so it is with our own past. It is a labor in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) of which we have no inkling. And it depends on chance whether or not we come upon this object before we ourselves must die.

In the broad daylight of our habitual memory the images of the past turn gradually pale and fade out of sight, nothing remains of them, we shall never recapture it. Or rather we should never recapture it had not a few words been carefully locked away in oblivion, just as an author deposits in the National Library a copy of a book which might otherwise become unobtainable. 
Open City reads so much like a memoir that I had to keep reminding myself that it's fiction. Stylistically, it bears a striking similarity (especially in the opening chapter) to the work of W.G. Sebald, the great German novelist. Both authors refrain from using quotes, though Cole's characters have frequent conversations in Open City. They both share an interest in photography, though only Sebald generously sprinkles grainy and mysterious black-and-white photos through his texts.

Cole lives in Brooklyn and is the writer-in-residence at Bard College.  He is also a photographer and art historian. His nonfiction work in progress is set in Lagos.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mt. St. Helens from space: 1979-2011

An interesting time-lapse sequence, and not only for the recovery of the area devastated by the 1980 eruption. Take a look at the clearcutting in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest -- especially off to the west -- for another form of devastation that's all too familiar to Northwesterners.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Guest poet: Carol Ellis - "Demjanjuk at 81"

In today's news (from NPR): "Convicted Nazi Camp Guard John Demjanjuk Dies"

"John Demjanjuk, the retired U.S. autoworker convicted of being a guard at in an infamous Nazi death camp, died Saturday at the age of 91. Demjanjuk died a free man in a nursing home in southern Germany, where he had been released pending his appeal." [A German judge had sentenced him to five years in prison.]

"Convicted in May on 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder [at the Treblinka concentration camp], Demjanjuk was the central figure in one of the longest running legal cases against an alleged Nazi war criminal. ..." 

Carol wrote the following poem about ten years ago:
Demjanjuk at 81

He is old now, and steeped in
deception so many years
he may not recall the children
who walked in quietly
or the mother who cried out.
Perhaps he was good with
the machine itself, the gas chamber
and its need for repair –
he learned to build cars
at the auto plant in Cleveland,
he lived a buried life.
Maybe he walked the streets
near my house that year of deep snow,
or caught summer fireflies in a jar.
Years of ordinary pleasure
and despair, hot tea with milk
and the touch of a cigarette on dry lips,
smoke drawn in deep on a break
from work, the relief of silence
when the plant is closed,
the child grown, the stories told.
No-one believed it could be him,
the good father who went along.
He worked beside us, he lived
close by, he remembered, or did he,
the struggle to push in one more child
and shut the door.

[Photo: The Treblinka II memorial in northeastern Poland. The 17,000 symbolic tombstones represent shtetls (villages), towns and countries from which victims were deported to Treblinka. Treblinka was the deadliest concentration camp in the Nazi system, with 850,000 victims.]

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Blues break: Toumani Diabate and Ali Farka Touré - "Debe"

A joyful collaboration by two of Mali's, and the planet's, finest musicians.

And another, "Kala Djula," from Ali and Toumani (2010):

Ali Farka Touré was no 1%er.  He was elected mayor of Niafunké, his impoverished Malian village, in 2004 and paid the costs of a generator, sewage canals and paving projects out of his own pocket. He died in 2006.

The great Toumani Diabaté, now 47 years old, has a family heritage of kora musicians that has been traced back 71 generations. Repeat: 71. His performances have appeared regularly on these pages.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Vatican gets it right, with a lot of help from Philadelphia's Villanova University

Take this virtual tour of the SISTINE CHAPEL and be prepared to spend a long time examining Michelangelo's work in a whole new way.  [Navigate with the mouse and zoom with the buttons on the lower left or the mouse wheel.]  Students and faculty from Villanova were granted access to the chapel for two years and took thousands of photos that were blended into this seamless virtual masterpiece.

[The detail above, showing Ezekiel, is not linked to the tour. Click here
or on the link above to visit the Chapel.]

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A blind hog finds an acorn

Years ago I learned an old Nebraska saying from a friend: Even a blind hog finds an acorn.  And so it is with Rick Perry, who euthanized his campaign right before the South Carolina campaign.  As much as it pains me to admit it, Perry's website promotes a reasonable idea whose provenance is described in a New Yorker "Talk of the Town" column by Hendrik Herzberg (January 30th).  While the idea is hardly original, Perry advocates  
...a Constitutional Amendment creating 18-year terms staggered every 2 years, so that each of the nine justices would be replaced in order of seniority every other year. This would be a prospective proposal, and would be applied to future judges only. Doing this would move the court closer to the people by ensuring that every President would have the opportunity to replace two justices per term, and that no court could stretch its ideology over multiple generations. Further, this reform would maintain judicial independence, but instill regularity to the nominations process, discourage Justices from choosing a retirement date based on politics, and will stop the ever-increasing tenure of Justices. A similar model could also be applied to appellate and district courts.  
Perry's website offers two charts that make the following claims:
  1. The average tenure of Supreme Court justices from 1789 to 1970 was about 15 years, compared to 26 years from 1970 to the present.
  2. From 1789 to 1970, there was vacancy on the Supreme Court about every 2 years.  Since 1970, vacancies have occurred every 3 years.
Perry (or more likely his ghostwriters) notes that longer life expectancy over that period likely affected the data, but it also seems clear to me that the increased polarization of the Court has encouraged some superannuated judges to linger in office in the hope that they could be replaced by a politically sympatico administration. 

A footnote on Perry's site attributes the original concept to Steven G. Calabresi and James Lindgren, Northwestern University School of Law Public Law and Legal Theory Series, "Term Limits for the Supreme Court: Life Tenure Reconsidered," page 771.

Herzberg adds that the idea "tiptoed into wider view in 2002, via a Washington Post op-ed piece by two prominent law professors of opposite ideological and political leanings: Yale’s Akhil Reed Amar, a Democrat, a former clerk for Stephen Breyer, and a stalwart of the liberal American Constitution Society; and Northwestern’s Steven G. Calabresi, a Republican, a former clerk for Antonin Scalia, and a co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society. In 2006, Calabresi and his colleague James Lindgren fleshed the idea out in a long article in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy."

Under the Amar/Calabresi proposal, each president would make an appointment once every two years for a maximum of four over a two-term administration.

Newt Gingrich, predictably, goes much farther in his proposals to alter the way the Court functions.  As stated in the London Guardian:

The Republican contender told a forum of anti-abortion activists ahead of South Carolina's primary election that as president he would ignore supreme court rulings he regards as legally flawed. He implied that would also extend to the 1973 decision, Roe vs Wade, legalising abortion.

"If the court makes a fundamentally wrong decision, the president can in fact ignore it," said Gingrich to cheers.
The Republican contender, who has made no secret of his disdain for the judiciary, said that as president he would expect to have repeated showdowns with the supreme court. He said the court would lose because it is the least powerful and least accountable arm of government.
While it's true that the Supreme Court has no ability to enforce its judgments if the other branches of government refuse to comply, its primacy on legal questions has been recognized since Marbury v. Madison was decided in 1803. The Constitution is silent on this power of judicial review, which the Court proclaimed on its own initiative when Justice John Marshall wrote:  "It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department [the judicial branch] to say what the law is." 

For every progressive decision the Court has made, from Brown v. Board of Education (1954) to Lawrence v. Texas (2003), I'd estimate that there are ten in the outcome-based tradition of Plessy v. Ferguson (1894), Bush v. Gore (2000) and Citizens United v. FEC (2010). 

The doctrine of judicial review may deserve close (and long overdue) scrutiny, along with fixed terms for the Supremes, but not for the purposes that motivate Perry and Gingrich.