The Sun Just Went Down

The sun just went down, the pumpkins turned into Jack'o'Lanterns, and the wandering  spirits will soon arrive.

Halloween, Demons, and Political Kool Aid

It's October 31, and here in the U.S., that means it's Halloween. For most of us who live in a post-superstition world governed by rational thought, Halloween is a festive time, when young (and not so young) kids can get into costume, go trick or treating for candy from the neighbors, and generally have a lot of fun. For those who live in a less scientific, less logical place in their minds, Halloween is a dark and truly scary time; so much so that a surprisingly vocal part of our society has called for the abolition of this national custom. I've written about that previously, in a post entitled Angels, Demons, and Charter Schools.

There's an article in today's edition of the UK newspaper Independent that highlights a recent survey conducted in Florida by Public Policy Polling. Among other interesting points, the poll finds that "40 per cent of Donald Trump's supporters believe his White House rival Hillary Clinton is an "actual demon". "  Not a figurative demon, but an "actual" one. So, let that sink in, and while you're at it, try to remember that we're living in the 21st century. It seems that a whole lot of people have been drinking from the vat of toxic political Kool Aid.

On one level, it's amusing to think that there are so many people in our country that continue to have lives that are controlled by superstition and dread. I mean, most of us pay good money to go to a theater so we can spend a couple hours being immersed in, and being thrilled by, a filmmaker's imaginary world full of dark and sinister forces. These people, on the other hand, live in those dark spaces 24 hours a day, and they don't even have to pay for that experience.

Another entertaining question in that same poll finds that 75% of Republican voters believed that their nominee "respected women, with only nine per cent disagreeing with the idea".

But getting back to reality, if that's possible here, it's more than a little disheartening that so much of our national discourse, not to mention the important decisions affecting the future of our country and the rest of the world, is being influenced and sometimes controlled by a not inconsiderable portion of the population who believe in the existence of demons, whether or not they think those creatures are running for public office.

Remember, the election is only eight days away. Happy Halloween, and may all your nightmares be good ones!

Happy Pumpkin Day

While loading stuff into the car before going to rehearsal yesterday, I walked out to see one ray of sun, filtered between the branches of the big fir across the street, spotlighting onto the front porch. Whoa. Grabbed the camera quick, and took this shot; almost immediately, the sun was gone.

Maybe it's just a coincidence that I'd spent much of the afternoon making pumpkin pies:

Okay, maybe my pies aren't going to win any prizes for being pretty. Kind of like caveman pies. But they sure do taste pretty good. Especially with freshly whipped heavy cream, lightly sweetened, with a touch of vanilla.

It's definitely autumn here in western Oregon. I just now got in from a couple hours of raking leaves from the oaks, maples, and sweet gums around the house. Time to have a piece of pie with a cup of tea - warm food for a cool day.

Happy Pumpkin Day!

Portland Japanese Garden with a $30 Pocket Camera

At the Portland Japanese Garden yesterday, one of the docents called it "a peak day for the Garden", and she was right. After a couple weeks of rain, the sun came out for most of the day, the light was almost other-worldly for this time of year, and the maples were in full color. A great day for taking photos.

There were a lot of professionals and semi-pros wandering around with their portable studio kits: multiple giant SLR bodies and lenses and tripods jammed into huge armored back packs. Ordinary civilians held humongous handheld entertainment devices ("phones"), often stuck onto hard to avoid bumping into selfie-sticks. A few younger photography enthusiasts sported compact SLRs hanging, Japanese tourist style, from their necks. But hardly any pocket cameras, a category of digital device that seems to be going the way of the dinosaur. Yes, most newer phones are capable of taking stunning and detailed monitor-friendly images, so it's no wonder that small digital cameras are redundant for most people.

My Canon PowerShot 790 IS Digital Elph, which is an oversized name for such a little device, was probably the only older silver bodied camera in all of Portland yesterday. Bought in almost new condition for $30, this old Canon still takes decent images, even after much abuse at my hands. Essentially a disposable camera, if it dropped onto a stone, or fell into a koi pond, I would shed no tears for its passing. Small, lightweight, and able to take good enough photos for an easy to please guy like me, I'm always happy to have it stuck in a pocket when the day calls for a lot of hiking around.

All photos of the Portland Japanese Garden taken with a Canon Elph 790IS, no photoshopping. Click or tap on any picture for a larger, higher def image. 

My Arsenal

These are my guitars, and besides an old Danelectro Silvertone bass, they're the only guitars I own. They each have a purpose in life, and in the upcoming weeks I'll get into details about each one. For now, a quick run down:

• Yamaha csf-60 parlor size acoustic. It's all solid wood, made in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in the early 2000s. Barely bigger than an electric, and has an incredibly large sound for its size. Spruce top, mahogany-like sides and back, soft V profile neck; all edges, including the neck, have a tortoise color binding that you can't see unless you get close. John Pearse nickel wound light gauge acoustic strings, .012 to .053. Tip: nickel wound strings tend to make a parlor size acoustic louder and warmer.

• Gibson Les Paul, model 55-77 TV Special. Made in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1977, bought new in 1978. One piece mahogany body with a limed blonde finish, flat top, no cap. 3-piece mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard and cream binding. Original single coil pickups; replacement pickup covers and knobs, I still have the originals. Gotoh tuners; the original Schallers died in combat. Rewired to suit the owner and player, me. Mixed brand strings, mostly GHS: .010, .012, .017, .028, .038, .048.

• Strat-O-Parts-O-Caster. Mid 90s Japan Fender 3-piece alder body, two color sunburst. '91 Fender MIM maple and rosewood neck, Fender gold anodized aluminum pickguard, Squier Classic Vibe DuoSonic pickups; tuners and most hardware are Gotoh. Read more about this guitar in another series of posts written during the build. GHS Gilmour strings: .010, .012, .016, .028, .038 .048.

• 1959 Danelectro. A gift from my brother Jonsan, I have no idea what its model name is. Made in Neptune, New Jersey. The body has a pine frame with black painted Masonite pressboard top and back, and sides covered in textured white vinyl tape. Poplar neck with double non-adjustable steel flat-bar truss rods, Brazilian rosewood fingerboard, and aluminum nut and side markers. Kluson tuners. All original. GHS Gilmour strings: .0105, .013, .017, .030, .040, .050.

The amp is a Peavey Classic 50 4x10, a loaner from my friend John.

More details on each guitar, including arcane lore, mods, and set up tricks, in the days ahead.

Click on the picture for a larger, higher def image.

Defining A Movement: Conservative Paper Endorses Clinton, Receives Death Threats

The Arizona Republic Editorial Board

"Que no hayan novedades". May no new thing arise. In the Spanish speaking world, this old benediction is a blessing for safety and happiness, conferred upon pilgrims on their journeys, as well as those who stay at home. It's a simple wish, and in today's novelty seeking culture, it may seem quaint or even unrealistic; but deep down, most of us know that any new unknown could turn out to be the antithesis of stability and security.

Arizona's oldest and highest circulation daily newspaper The Arizona Republic was founded in Phoenix in 1890, during a Wild West era when there were still gunfights in the streets between renegade cowboys and ruthless lawmen. Throughout its 126 year publishing history, straddling three centuries and into the modern age, it has never backed a Democratic candidate for president. That editorial stance was unsurprising, and expected, given the traditionally deeply conservative views held by a majority of Arizona's population, and the newspaper itself.

Last month, when The Arizona Republic's editorial board broke with long standing custom and made an unprecedented endorsement of Hillary Clinton, it was expected that there would be subscription cancellations and many irate letters to the editor. Unfortunately, that has been accompanied over the past weeks by more than a few threats of violence, including very specific death threats, against the newspaper's editors and staff. For a quick review, CNN Money has a run down on this story, and there's an article on The Republic's website detailing how the paper is responding to the threatening behavior directed at them.

The Arizona Republic isn't the only major conservative leaning daily newspaper to endorse Clinton; so have The Columbus Dispatch, The Dallas Morning News, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and The Cincinnati Enquirer, among others. What makes the Republic's position unique is the volume of criticism and the number of threats of violence they have received. It's probably no coincidence that Phoenix is also the seat of Maricopa county, whose voters have kept Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made a career out of racially divisive law enforcement policies, in office for over 26 years.

Getting back to "Que no hayan novedades", we seem to be living in a time when new and previously unheard of things have arisen: Conservative news organizations are endorsing a Democrat for president. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, regularly engages in rhetoric and behavior that smashes any sense of civility in politics. His supporters have threatened the press, attacking journalists and menacing their children. There have been threats by his fans to blow up the Civil Rights Museum.

This all may be entertaining to those of you who enjoy staring at grisly car wrecks, or see in it a setup for your revelational religious rapture, but most everybody I know are kind of dismayed by the whole scene. After this election is over, can we all just go back to stealing yard signs and yelling at each other?

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This also appeared at Blue Mountain Winter

Defining A Movement, Part 2

trump supporters, racist, whie nationalist, white, nationalism, alt right, alt-right

Not too much needs to be said here. Okay, we get it.

The sunglasses are a nice fashion touch, and add a certain anonymous mystique.

Carol Kaye Pick

Looking through my old pick stash jar, and came across this Carol Kaye pick. I've had it for so long I can't recall where it came from, or when. But - how cool is that?

Carol Kaye is, and always has been, just about the greatest studio bassist, for forever, playing on so many hugely popular recordings that she came to define the sound of a recorded electric bass. Her tone was instantly recognizable, and she was my favorite bassist when I was growing up, although I didn't know her name until much later. In the mid '90s she was featured in a magazine article on studio bassists, and then we all had a name to put to all those great bass lines from the '60s and '70s. Read more about Carol Kaye here and here, and also at her personal web page.

Here's a classic example of how Kaye's bass lines could set up a song in the beginning movements, and then propel it into another dimension, changing up into a driving walking bass, heavy on the backbeat:


Really genius playing; Carol Kaye proved that true electric bass virtuosity lies in economy, taste, and coming up with just the right bass line to perfectly complement the song. And I may not have mentioned this earlier, but one of the prime components of her tone was her use of a pick.

Defining A Movement

These first two pictures were taken of the crowd at Donald Trump's campaign rally held in Cincinnati, Ohio last night. If they look angry, it's because they were - at the press covering the event. Something to do with media coverage of the candidate's rather unusual style of introducing himself to women.

Here are some more from recent events:

What struck me, looking at these photos, is the remarkably homogeneous nature of these crowds. Try to find just one African American face. One Asian face. One Latino face, Native American, any people of color at all. To be fair, if you look at enough photos on the google, you'll eventually find a couple here and there. But it's not easy.

It's been said, not only by his supporters, but by the candidate himself, that Trump is America's salvation. Just what he's going to be saving us from, maybe we don't really want to know.

Bob Dylan Writes Some Poems, Wins Prize 50 Years Later

Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo, NYC, 1963

Bob Dylan just won the Nobel Prize for literature, and predictably, a bunch of clueless artsy intellectual types had a meltdown. For the benefit of those who find it hard to understand, Prof Sara Danius of the Nobel prize committee had to spell it out, slowly, for the hard of comprehension:

“We’re really giving it to Bob Dylan as a great poet – that’s the reason we awarded him the prize. He’s a great poet in the great English tradition, stretching from Milton and Blake onwards. And he’s a very interesting traditionalist, in a highly original way. Not just the written tradition, but also the oral one; not just high literature, but also low literature.” Prof Danius also added, “I came to realise that we still read Homer and Sappho from ancient Greece, and they were writing 2,500 years ago. [Their works] were meant to be performed, often together with instruments, but they have survived, and survived incredibly well, on the book page. We enjoy their poetry, and I think Bob Dylan deserves to be read as a poet."

What's kind of hilarious about anyone having a hissy about a great songwriter getting a Nobel Prize (and I'm not even gonna link to any of them, since they're all wankers, doing wankery), is that this year, the Nobel was also given to a couple guys who came up with a new way to write business contracts. Seriously.

So what I want to know is: hey, Nobels - why did it take you so long?

Here's some poetry, with musical accompaniment:

It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Bob Dylan

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be one more
Person crying

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed
Graveyards, false gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough, what else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only

Kool Aid, Pt 2

In a post a couple days ago, I'd mentioned some crazy unhinged stuff floating around the right wing conspiracy-o-sphere. Who knew that anyone, except the spiritual zombies who eat that stuff for lunch, even paid attention to any of it?

Obviously, our President knows good joke material when he sees it. Oh, and also turn it around and totally marginalize his critics while he's at it. Well done.

Wednesday Bach Blogging: Coffee Cantata, BWV 211

Apollo's Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, in a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's comedy opera, the Coffee Cantata. Part 1 above; parts 2 and 3 below.


Apollo's Fire
- A Multi-Generational Concert (Young Artist Apprentices in collaboration with guest artists & principal players)

* Madeline Apple Healey, soprano
* Jeffrey Strauss, baritone
* Corey Shotwell, tenor

* Sarah Lynn, traverso
* Karina Schmitz, violin
* Augusta McKay Lodge, violin
* Cynthia Black, viola
* René Schiffer, cello

* Young Artist Apprentices of Apollo's Fire

Jeannette Sorrell, Musical & Stage Direction

A live performance:
January 22, 2015 • Mixon Hall • Cleveland Institute of Music

Performed in English, translation by Jeannette Sorrell

The only secular, non-church related vocal ensemble composition written by Bach to have survived, and possibly the only comic narrative piece he ever wrote, the short comedy opera Coffee Cantata is a delight from beginning to end, just like a good cup of coffee. Besides the concertos and orchestral suites (which were basically dance music) that he composed earlier in his life before settling in Leipzig and a career as musical director at St Thomas Church, this is a rare look into J.S. Bach's inner man, and we find that he was actually a pretty fun guy!

A quick review at Open Culture:

"J.S. Bach's Comic Opera, The Coffee Cantata  Sings the Praises of the Stimulating Drink

From the time that a nameless genius in either Ethiopia or Yemen decided to dry, crush and strain water through a berry known for making goats nervous and jumpy, coffee has been loved and worshiped like few other beverages. Early Arab doctors proclaimed the stuff to be a miracle drug. Thoroughly caffeinated thinkers from Voltaire to Jonathan Swift to Jack Kerouac debated literature, philosophy and everything in between at coffee houses. Author Honoré Balzac even reportedly died because of excessive coffee drinking (it was either that or the syphilis.)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was also apparently a coffee enthusiast. So much so that he wrote a composition about the beverage. Although known mostly for his liturgical music, his Coffee Cantata (AKA Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, BWV 211) is a rare example of a secular work by the composer. The short comic opera was written (circa 1735) for a musical ensemble called The Collegium Musicum based in a storied Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, Germany. The whole cantata seems very much to have been written with the local audience in mind.

Coffee Cantata is about a young vivacious woman named Aria who loves coffee. Her killjoy father is, of course, dead set against his daughter having any kind of caffeinated fun. So he tries to ban her from the drink. Aria bitterly complains:
Father sir, but do not be so harsh!
If I couldn’t, three times a day,
be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee,
in my anguish I will turn into
a shriveled-up roast goat.
          Ah! How sweet coffee tastes,
          more delicious than a thousand kisses,
          milder than muscatel wine.
          Coffee, I have to have coffee,
          and, if someone wants to pamper me,
          ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

The copywriters at Starbucks marketing department couldn’t have written it any better. Eventually, daughter and father reconcile when he agrees to have a guaranteed three cups of coffee a day written into her marriage contract. The lyrics in German and English can be read here."

PlayBuzz has an article with 10 fun facts about the Coffee Cantata, and a somewhat more scholarly short essay about the opera can be found on the Bach Choir of Bethlehem's website.

"Literally Face Down In The Kool Aid"

This morning, longtime Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich told NPR that supporters of Donald Trump "have absolutely lost touch with reality, they're literally face down in the Kool Aid". That's an interesting metaphor, but what does it allude to, what does that mean?

Jim Jones was a "charismatic" religious leader and self-styled prophet from Indiana who started his own church in the 1950s. Moving with his followers to South America to escape what he considered to be religious persecution, Jones and his flock found, in 1978, the ultimate escape. A summary at About Education has a quick historical take on the cult's end: "On November 18, 1978, Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones instructed all members living in the Jonestown, Guyana compound to commit an act of "revolutionary suicide," by drinking poisoned punch [cyanide mixed with Kool Aid]. In all, 918 people died that day, nearly a third of whom were children." Oddly, when the bodies of the almost 1,000 dead were found, they were all laying face down.

Unfortunately, sales of the classic powdered drink never fully recovered after the incident and its associated bad publicity.

In the decades since Jonestown, "Drinking the Kool Aid" has come to mean someone or a group losing the capacity for independent thought or self volition, and diving headlong into a new belief system, often at odds to their own best interests. Mac Stipanovich may be the first to use the term "face down in the Kool Aid", and by that he may be suggesting that a large proportion, maybe even a majority, of his own party might be committing political suicide.

How has the Republican party come to this particular spot on the road? Stipanovich refers to Trump's followers having lost touch with reality, but in fact they have merely substituted the world that the rest of us sees, with an alternate reality, a new thought bubble more or less free of objective fact. Nourished on a steady toxic diet of Fox News, multiple right wing hate radio networks, and fringey conspiracy theory laden web sites such as Drudge, Breitbart, and Infowars, somewhere between 30 and 35 percent of the American public have come to inhabit a newly created social fabrication so real to them that no matter how outrageous, crazy, or demonstrably false the statements made by their candidate or his surrogates may be, they will always believe them.

As an example of the sort of crazy social cyanide available for self administration, here's Trump ally and campaign advisor Alex Jones on his webcast and AM radio show, in a transcript dated Oct 10, 2016:
"ALEX JONES (HOST): I'm never a lesser of two evils person, but with Hillary, there's not even the same universe. She is an abject, psychopathic, demon from Hell that as soon as she gets into power is going to try to destroy the planet. I'm sure of that, and people around her say she's so dark now, and so evil, and so possessed that they are having nightmares, they're freaking out. Folks let me just tell you something, and if media wants to go with this, that's fine. There are dozens of videos and photos of Obama having flies land on him, indoors, at all times of year, and he'll be next to a hundred people and no one has flies on them. Hillary, reportedly, I mean, I was told by people around her that they think she's demon-possessed, okay? I'm just going to go ahead and say it, okay?
They said that they're scared. That's why when I see her when kids are by her, I actually get scared myself, with a child -- with that big rubber face and that -- I mean this woman is dangerous, ladies and gentleman. I'm telling you, she is a demon. This is Biblical. She's going to launch a nuclear war. The Russians are scared of her.
Imagine how bad she smells, man? I'm told her and Obama, just stink, stink, stink, stink. You can't wash that evil off, man. Told there's a rotten smell around Hillary. I'm not kidding, people say, they say -- folks, I've been told this by high up folks. They say listen, Obama and Hillary both smell like sulfur. I never said this because the media will go crazy with it, but I've talked to people that are in protective details, they're scared of her. And they say listen, she's a frickin' demon and she stinks and so does Obama. I go, like what? Sulfur. They smell like Hell."
Voices like Jones are the drivers behind the alternate reality bubble that many of our neighbors, co-workers, and family members currently live in. Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who plays the role of a devout Christian on TV, has been for some years an outspoken supporter and advocate of the unscientific and psychologically damaging procedure known as "Gay Conversion Therapy". I wonder if there's a "Right Wing Conversion Therapy"?

Don't mean to be selfish, but I want my old good, decent and non-crazy America back.

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For an update to this post, see Kool Aid Pt 2.

This was previously posted at Blue Mountain Winter.

Kirk Douglas on The Road Ahead

Today, Sunday, October 9, 2016, a lot of us are obsessing on some of the more titillating political gossip, and to a lesser extent, tonight's second presidential debate. There isn't going to be a lot of movement in public perception until tomorrow morning; in the meantime, here are a few words of wisdom from someone who has been a witness to history, and been a part of it as well:

The Road Ahead

I have always been deeply proud to be an American. In the time I have left, I pray that will never change. I am in my 100th year. When I was born in 1916 in Amsterdam, New York, Woodrow Wilson was our president.

My parents, who could not speak or write English, were emigrants from Russia. They were part of a wave of more than two million Jews that fled the Czar’s murderous pogroms at the beginning of the 20th Century. They sought a better life for their family in a magical country where, they believed, the streets were literally paved with gold.

What they did not realize until after they arrived was that those beautiful words carved into the Statute of Liberty in New York Harbor: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,” did not apply equally to all new Americans. Russians, Poles, Italians, Irish and, particularly Catholics and Jews, felt the stigma of being treated as aliens, as foreigners who would never become “real Americans.”

They say there is nothing new under the sun. Since I was born, our planet has traveled around it one hundred times. With each orbit, I’ve watched our country and our world evolve in ways that would have been unimaginable to my parents – and continue to amaze me with each passing year.

In my lifetime, American women won the right to vote, and one is finally the candidate of a major political party.An Irish-American Catholic became president. Perhaps, most incredibly, an African-American is our president today.

The longer I’ve lived, the less I’ve been surprised by the inevitability of change, and how I’ve rejoiced that so many of the changes I’ve seen have been good.

Yet, I’ve also lived through the horrors of a Great Depression and two World Wars, the second of which was started by a man who promised that he would restore his country it to its former greatness. I was 16 when that man came to power in 1933. For almost a decade before his rise he was laughed at ― not taken seriously. He was seen as a buffoon who couldn’t possibly deceive an educated, civilized population with his nationalistic, hateful rhetoric.

The “experts” dismissed him as a joke. They were wrong.

A few weeks ago we heard words spoken in Arizona that my wife, Anne, who grew up in Germany, said chilled her to the bone. They could also have been spoken in 1933:

“We also have to be honest about the fact that not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate. It is our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish here…[including] new screening tests for all applicants that include an ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values…”

These are not the American values that we fought in World War II to protect. Until now, I believed I had finally seen everything under the sun. But this was the kind of fear-mongering I have never before witnessed from a major U.S. presidential candidate in my lifetime.

I have lived a long, good life. I will not be here to see the consequences if this evil takes root in our country.  But your children and mine will be. And their children. And their children’s children.

All of us still yearn to remain free. It is what we stand for as a country. I have always been deeply proud to be an American. In the time I have left, I pray that will never change. In our democracy, the decision to remain free is ours to make.

My 100th birthday is exactly one month and one day after the next presidential election. I’d like to celebrate it by blowing out the candles on my cake, then whistling “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

As my beloved friend Lauren Bacall once said, “You know how to whistle don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.”

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Kirk Douglas is a contributor to The Huffington Post, where this article was originally published.

Trumpists Threaten Civil Rights Museum After Photo Op Denied

We'd like to think that something like this would be unthinkable, except for the fact that it involves Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

The Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina is built on the site of the Feb 1, 1960 sit in protest of racial segregation by four young college students that became a seminal moment in the history of the civil rights movement. On that day, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr. and David Richmond sat in the "Whites Only" section of the lunch counter at the Woolworth's department store in Greensboro; the media attention from that event resulted in widespread awareness throughout the country of the segregationist racial policies then existent in the southern states.

Representatives of the Trump campaign requested that the museum close its doors to the public for five hours on September 20th in order for the candidate to stage a publicity photo op. Possibly, the word requested is a bit mild; according to museum staff, Trump's reps were "aggressive, rude and bullying". After the museum declined participation, reaction among Trump's fans was immediate, and fairly extreme, although sadly almost predictable.

Museum CEO John Swaine told The Greenboro News and Observer on this past Tuesday that since then, museum staff members have received numerous threats via phone calls and social media. Using foul language and racial epithets, “The callers were threatening to come over and burn down the building and to shoot up the building,” he said. “They’ve lessened in frequency this week, but they’re still coming in.”

When contacted, the Trump campaign declined to comment.

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This was previously posted at my commentary blog, Blue Mountain Winter.

Sometimes, Not Recycling Feels Better

Sometimes, doing the right thing doesn't feel like the right thing, at all.

We've had an old iBook laying around unused for some years. It was on the shelf next to the stereo for awhile, as an on-line and mp3 music server, but one day it couldn't do YouTubes anymore, so it's been sitting out in the garage ever since. A couple weeks ago I had the idea to remove the hard drive, and donate the rest of the iBook to the local tech recycling place.

Got on iFixit, went to the iBook disassembly procedure and got started. But. Someone had been in there before me, and a few of the screws had stripped heads. What to do? If they were bigger, I could use "easy-outs", but these were so tiny that not even Donald Trump's odd tiny T-Rex sized arms and hands could have gotten a grip on them, assuming he had ever learned to use a screwdriver ("Believe me, nobody knows more about screwdrivers than me!!", holds the wrong end...). A quick bright idea: really carefully drilling out the heads with a new, hard bit. That worked, but heck, the shanks were still down in their holes, nixing any thought of reassembly; so, not so bright.

What happened next I didn't even think about: grabbing a small pry bar and a big screwdriver, I proceeded to dismantle the old laptop gorilla style, prising into and under panels and boards, and grabbing, yanking, and tossing the pieces out the open garage door, onto the driveway. Then I screwed the disc drive onto a pine board, got out the Bosch 1/2" hammer drill and tore its guts out, and did a long arcing 2-pointer right smack dab into the middle of the hoop trash can. Swept the dead tech bits into a pile and took a picture. Went and grabbed a beer, and sat at the workbench again, admiring my handiwork - a job well done!

All the other iBook bits went into the trash, too. Oh sure, the "right" thing would have been to take it all in a bag to the recycling place and paid their, what, $20.00 (?) haz waste recycling fee, but a) 20 bucks buys a lot more beer, and b) what few heavy metals and toxic materials there may be in this little obso-Mac is going to the land fill to join the 93 million metric tons of baby-poop filled disposable diapers and kitty litter that's already there.

No, I ain't no hero, but I didn't ask to be born into this particular point in the Earth's story arc. At least I don't have a bunch of old junk cars with MAGA bumper stickers, sitting around my trailer out in the country. Just six or seven cool old bikes hanging from the garage ceiling, and I recycle all of my micro brew bottles.

Exhibit "A"

No words can better describe the sort of get down, get rowdy and let it all hang out level of enthusiasm that occurs at a Donald Trump rally, than the above video from the New York Times. Fired up by their idol's borderline incoherent, but very effective, rhetoric, his fans happily and loudly revel in the stew of their collective hatred and bigotry.

Anyone who might suppose, possibly in a spirit of finding balance, that anything even remotely similar has ever happened at one of Hillary Clinton's speeches, would be disappointed. Part political demagoguery, part tent show revivalism, and part wrestlemania, this sort of behavior is, in our country, unique to Trump's events.

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This was previously posted at Blue Mountain Winter.

I Met A Color Changing Spider

    A couple of weeks ago, we brought some past their prime hydrangea blooms inside, and put one bunch of them in an old colored pickling jar, and placed that on a shelf in the downstairs restroom, as a decoration. This room is known facetiously in the realty trade as a "1/2 Bathroom", although of course, no bathtub. I guess you could take a sort of a bath in the sink, but that seems tedious.

A few days later, I noticed that a spider had built a web between a hydrangea flower and the shelf; looking closer I saw that it was one of those spiders you see in the garden that have an adaptive color changing capability. We've seen these same critters in the back yard almost totally white, inside a Star Gazer lily, and mostly dark-brown, hanging around the seed cluster of a sunflower. Friends say they're called Orb Weaver spiders, but maybe the ones we have aren't. Got the camera, took a couple shots, and then let the spider be - maybe it would pick off a couple mosquitoes.

Pretty cool colors, huh? Anyway, to get on with this story (and if you have a fear of spiders or bugs in general, please stop reading this post, right now):

Maybe a week later I went into the restroom to straighten up a bit and do some light cleaning. Bent down to pick up the waste bin near the toilet, and as I was walking out it felt like a leaf had fallen onto the top of my head, which was impossible, so I ignored it. Maybe an hour after that, I sat down at the office desk with a hot cup, turned on the iMac, and checked emails and made a quick run through of my usual morning go-to web sites, while sipping what Captain Picard would call "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot." Once, I felt a tickling on my neck, next to the shirt collar; scratched it a bit, then hit another bookmark and kept reading. Later it felt like something was moving on the left side of my head - I instinctively did a brushing away motion, and then heard something small go "plop", right into the now empty tea cup. Looked down into it, and sure enough - there was that little color changing spider.

I should have grabbed a phone or camera and taken a picture, but I didn't; it would have made this story complete. My first impulse was to quickly pick up the cup, walk out into the back yard, and hold it next to another hydrangea bloom. The spider rather calmly (or so it seemed) walked right onto the rim of the cup and settled on a petal, staying motionless for a bit. I imagine it's out there still, or, since it's been getting chillier at night lately, done whatever these creatures do to prepare for the coming winter. I hope it's been getting plenty to eat. Especially if it's mosquitoes.