Wednesday, October 16, 2019

LOGGING IN TONGASS


IF A TREE FALLS.....


   From the chopping down of an old standing dead tree for firewood, to clearing a lot for a house, to the loss of another piece of Mohawk territory in Canada or the opening up of an Alaskan National forest to the lumber industry, logging is a part of living in the country. It can take hundreds of a years to grow a tree. It only takes a couple of minutes to chainsaw one down. So far nobody has figured out a way to put one back up.
   Recently two pieces of forest are in the news; one is the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, “North America’s Amazon,” and the other, a little stand of pines in Mohawk territory outside of Montreal. A member of the Mohawk Nation, Ellen Gabriel put it this way, “The pines are their own micro-climate, you can be standing in the forest and feel a chill and then you walk outside of it and feel a gust of warm air. It is part of the biodiversity that keeps us cool and when you cut that down, you contribute to the global warming that’s killing our planet.” And yesterday the Trump administration proposed opening up over half of the 16.7 million acre Tongass National Forest on Alaska’s panhandle, “the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America,” to logging and the lumber industry. The “roadless rule,” put in place by President Clinton, would be waved, green lighting the skidders, bulldozers and picker trucks. The tiny Mohawk patch of pines is a microcosm of what could happen to the old growth arboreal forests of Alaska. Who will stop it?

   Alaska is a blood red Republican state. They love Trump. Mining, logging, fisheries and indigenous murder have been a part of the Alaskan landscape since the Russian’s started trapping beaver in the 1500’s. In Canada it was the French, then England’s Hudson Bay Company and the international whaling industry making the millions. White people have been making fortunes in the wilderness since they “discovered” it. The Mohawk diaspora populated Quebec post Revolutionary War. They were forced to move from guarding the far eastern door of the metaphorical longhouse of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in New York State to north of Niagara in the 1780’s. British land was part of the deal. As far as Alaska goes, cousin Henry Seward brokered the deal with Russians, closing on October 18, 1867. From that day forward the U.S. government has been responsible (and to blame) for what happens in Alaska.
    This is the great danger of the Trump administration, and to a lesser degree the Trudeau administration in Canada. Issues like climate change and indigenous rights are either outright ignored or prioritized so far down the news feed as to be invisible. These deals are happening in the shadows. The courts will have their say, but once the roads are cut and the chainsaws start up it will be impossible to “regrow” an ancient forest or even a cool stand of pines. A lone Mohawk man has embarked on a hunger strike in protest in a tent west of Montreal. His non-violent protest may or may not stop this most recent incursion into Indian territory. We may not hear those trees falling, but future generations will be the lesser for it when they are milled into 2x4s. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

THE CHURCH OF FAKE NEWS


THE CHURCH OF.......


     It seems that this is the way it will go with this blog. I have to take breaks. I’ve tried to keep up the pace of daily posts, but it’s too much. Nobody has that much to say….even me. So once in a while I’ll just stop until the pump can be primed again. But, it doesn’t take long before I’m forced to say something. The one thing you can count on in the Trump era (be you living in the country or sweating it out in city) is that this administration is fucking action packed. Climate change, pastoral (or antipastoral) wars only a week old, looming impeachment, incitements, and congressional oversight be damned. Today it’s all about one stupid video.
    If you haven’t seen it just google “church of fake news.” As a fellow “Church of….” this or that, I feel a kinship to this discussion. There’s a lot of Church “ofs.” There’s Church “of” Jesus Christ “of“ Latter Day Saints, Church “of” Satan, Church “of” the Sub Genius and of course The Church “of” the Little Green Man. If fact if you google “Church of” today the only church that will show up is The Church of Fake News. This church is dominating the news cycle.

   I watched the vid. in question. It’s funny to me. I would like to see a cell phone video of all the Trump supporters in the room cracklng up as it played. That would be funnier. The outrage of the left that accompanies the discovery of said video at a Trump campaign “meet and greet” at Trump Doral seems misplaced and rather pathetic. Trump is the master of distraction. Why do you communists always play into his hand? This stupid video is of no consequence whatsoever. South Park could grab the entire thing, never do an edit, air it in it’s entirety and the left would think it was hilarious. The context is what is important. But, then again why should we (communists) be surprised or care?
     It’s the church thing. I understand. OK. I see how this can push some buttons—Dylann Roof and all. Yet, I can also see this as the more redneck, secular Trump hillbillies, shooting themselves in the foot with the evangelical, hypocrite Trump supporters. Win win. Let them hang themselves. There again, in a week that has Turkey invading Syria, Guilianni’s associates arrested, expert witnesses testifying before Congress, impeachment on the horizon, why does this stupid video get so much press?
   It is because it speaks to our core as a consumer capitalism  Judeo/Christian society. Those almost “subliminal cuts” of the exterior of a country church, the sign CHURCH OF FAKE NEWS and the sound of crickets, anchors us in an idyl, a pastoral, that is ripped apart by the anti-hero Trump. It’s orgasmic. He excises the cancerous critics, adversaries and infidels; while outside all is calm. The money changers are expelled from the Temple in another Orwellian twist of Trump’s regime. Two plus Two equals Five. I see where they are going.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love the video. It’s genius. It exemplifies the spirit of the moment way better than CNN, NBC or even Al Jazeera ever could accomplish. And now that the internet has captured it—carved it in stone so to speak—the monuments of marble cannot compete. History has taken over. John Heartfield would be proud. I don’t know who authored this video, but the Yesmen, South Park and Anonymous all have to be green with envy. Who’s laughing at whom? Beware the Church of anything. Maybe this is a touchstone, something that will resonate historically. Or it’s just another forgotten news cycle in a narrativ that is more and more frightening by the day. We’ll see what happens.       
    

Friday, October 11, 2019

KURT COBAIN


SMELLS LIKE MOLD


     All you rock memorabilia geeks take note! Tragically brilliant grunge rocker Kurt Cobain’s ratty powder grey sweater that he wore on MTV’s Unplugged will soon go up for auction. “Cobain appeared in his now-famous cardigan, which he paired with a white tee and baggy jeans….It could fetch up to $300,000 when it goes under the hammer this month.”
   The writer of the article, Marianna Cerini, goes on to explain Cobain’s sartorial aesthetic: “Having grown up in a blue-collar family in Aberdeen, Washington, Cobain had learned to layer up to keep warm and to wear things for as long as possible before replacing them—something that stayed with him through his brief adulthood.” Cobain’s influence on rock music and “grunge style” is undeniable. But, he did not invent power cords or shopping at thrift stores. What’s my interest in such silly crap? The “white tee.”

   In the late 1980’s I was invited to teach a class at the San Francisco Art Institute. It was a month long gig that came with an apartment (the bunker) on campus and basically the run of the place. Since I had attended S.F.A.I. in the ’70’s it was like coming home for me. My life was back in New York, where I had started my own rock band Purple Geezus and the CLGM in quick succession, but my heart was still in SF. Why not have a church on campus?
    I always find that it’s preferable to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. So, I rented a red striped tent, set it up on a piece of lawn outside the bunker and enlisted my students in putting on a CLGM service. Everybody was down, burning dollars and performing for the ad hoc congregation of students, faculty and curious neighbors. The core of any CLGM service is the band. To fill in for the NYC church band, The Workdogs, I invited local rock stars, the all women band Frightwig to be the church band. The Marshall amps were plugged in and cranked to 11, Cecilia straddled the drums, Deanna strapped on her bass and the quietly sedate North Beach neighborhood came alive. Windows rattled and the SFAI switchboard lit up with complaints. I was in heaven.

  If you go to Frightwig’s Wikipedia page (yeah they got one) you’ll read: “The band gained momentary fame after Kurt Cobain was seen at Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged concert wearing a Frightwig T-shirt.”— the white Tee under his fuzzy sweater. These women were feminist, punk rock pioneers, on the front lines of art, music, fun and absurdity. They were musician’s musicians, having influenced much more famous Riot G-rrrrrl groups like L-7, Bikini Kill and Hole. Kurt Cobain was hip enough to know of Frightwig and proud enough of the band’s cred. to rock their tee shirt on MTV.
   My tenure at the Art Institute ended in chaos and infamy as I was kicked out of the bunker after letting my students paint a mural on the walls (without permission). The administration also wrongly accused me of “storing guns and knives in the apartment.” I would never. Between the tent church, mural and inflammatory gun gossip I was forced to leave the school in disgrace. Luckily administrations at SFAI change regularly. I’ve been invited back many times over the years, but never ”officially” to the bunker.  
     The last time I ran into Deanna she was pushing her kid on a swing in a SF park. We hadn’t seen each other in years and neither recognized the other at first. I was also pushing my Goddaughter Ramona Labat on the swing set. After we caught up, she confided that she thought I was some tattooed “creep” with a lost little girl in tow and had considered calling the cops. Times had changed. I don’t know where Kurt’s Frightwig  T-shirt is, but I bet it would bring a pretty penny at auction. I think I have the first pair of Frye boots I ever bought in 1969 and a nice mohair sweater….if anyone is interested.  

Thursday, October 10, 2019

JONESTOWN


REPEAT



   "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it."-George Satayana 


Everybody knows this quote. Nobody ever seems to pay any attention to it. Yesterday’s events in Northeastern Syria are a perfect example. Due to a late Sunday night call between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Donald Trump, assuring the Turks that the U.S. would pull back it’s troops and not oppose a Turkish incursion into Syrian territory, NATO member Turkey invaded the previously controlled Kurdish land mass on Turkey’s southern border. The Kurds are (were) U.S. allies in the global fight against Daesh (ISIS). Tens of thousands of Daesh women and children are held in refugee camps like al-Hol, controlled by the Kurds. Makeshift prisons also hold captured Daesh foreign fighters. These fighters and their wives and kids present a giant problem. They are all in the line of battle. Maybe that’s the idea.
    The Turks have a horrible human rights record going back to the Ottoman Empire. The term genocide was coined in response to the forced expulsion and killing of over a million and a half Armenians by the Turkish government in 1915. After giving Erdogan the green light on Sunday, yesterday Trump said he thought it was a “bad idea” for Turkey to invade. Huh? This slight back step is in no doubt due to the scathing criticism he has received from his “faithful” evangelical rightwing and even a few loyalists in his own Republican Party. This massive voting block of evangelical Christians are concerned about Trump throwing the Christian minority in Syria under the bus in his rush to accommodate Erdogan. Too late. Funny how the evangelicals have no such concerns when Trump suggests shooting Central American Christian immigrants in the legs. Central America is too far from “the holy land.”
   
    Remembering the past has become a hobby of mine. It’s fun to try to get a handle on it. The Twentieth Century seems like yesterday. It’s nothing to go back 300 years. Just to bring the narrative  into my Catskill neighborhood, lets go all the way back to August of 1777. The Revolutionary War was raging on two fronts. The rebel insurgency was fighting both the British (in New York City, Philadelphia and New England) and the British allies, the Six Nations of the Iroquois, in Central New York and the Catskills. George Clinton was the governor of New York sending out orders from the de facto rebel capitol in Poughkeepsie. Anna Osterhout Moyers was home with her kids in Stone Arabia as her husband Henry nursed a sore foot, marching along the Mohawk River with Nicolas Herkimer, towards Oriskany.
     Henry Moyer’s sore foot would save his life, as he pulled up lame before the battle, limping back home to Anna. After being ambushed and sliced apart by Mohawk and tory forces, 450 rebel men would not return to their families from the bloody creek bed at Oriskany. The battle lasted only a few hours.
     Because of the extreme bloodshed at Oriskany, another ancestor, Johannes Osterhout, Jr., and his sidekick “Nicolas the Indian,” were tasked by Gov. Clinton with going from Wawarsing (birthplace of my great grandparents) to Oquaga (east of Binghamton) to parlay with the Tuscarora. The Tuscarora assured the two “go-betweens” that yes, many of their young men had gone north to fight with the Mohawks and British at Oriskany, but the community at Oquaga was not hostile to the rebels and would stay out of the fight. Osterhout and Nicolas reported back to the governor and were paid 15 pounds for their service. Actually the cash went to Johannes, while Nicolas got a pint of rum. Due to Osterhout’s and Nicolas’ intelligence the village would be spared for the time being. It’s all there in George Clinton’s official papers.

     What’s this got to do with events in Syria? The parallels are obvious. The only reason the Tuscarora had survived that long was because of British guns, powder and horses. The Kurds are in the same precarious position. Eventually the British withdrew their support for the Six Nations, leaving them at the mercy of the battle hardened, Indian hating, American Patriots……… among them the Osterhouts. The Brits pulled back and let the Americans invade the Iroquois heartland. George Clinton’s brother General John Clinton would team up with Maj. General John Sullivan and weave a path of death and destruction from Osterhout, Pennsylvania to the Finger Lakes of New York. On Gov. Clinton’s and Gen. George Washington’s orders, nothing was left standing. Men, women and children were killed, crops burned and apple orchards girdled. The core of the great Haudenosaunee Confederacy was obliterated; while the British sat by and made peace with their unruly colonists and continued making boatloads of money. The Indians would never return. 
    
     When Trump’s clueless depravity unleashed the might of the second most powerful army in the NATO alliance on the Kurds, he may very well have put another genocide in motion. In a matter of weeks the Kurdish homeland may be gone forever. Only a narcissistic, megalomaniac like Trump, who knows nothing of history, can, in politically induced retrospect, opine that Turkey’s invasion now looks like “a bad idea”— warning he’ll ruin Turkey’s economy if they step out of bounds. Everything is transactional with Trump. Lives mean nothing to him.Yesterday he blamed his pulling back troops from protecting the Kurds on the Kurds not helping us in the Second World War, “they didn’t help us with Normandy, for example.” Or the Revolution, for another example. They deserve whatever they get. There’s some history for you. ‘member?  

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

CLICKBAIT JESUS


JESUS FUCKING CHRIST


     I was sitting at my brother’s kitchen table with my great niece and somehow mentioned—by name—Jesus Christ.  My great niece looked at me in shock and admonished me for cursing at the dinner table. I asked her what I had said. With furrowed brow she told me, “You said a bad word.” Now, there are plenty of times I take the Lord’s name in vain and cuss, “Jesus Christ.”  But this wasn’t one of them. I was literally talking about the New Testament Jesus of Nazareth. Context is important.
    Upon further inquiry I realized that this little girl had no other point of reference towards J.C. other than his name’s usefulness when one stubs a toe or can’t get a jar open. (I didn’t get into my own nickname of Osti being a curse. Some conversations can wait.) It fascinated me that many kids these days only know Jesus Christ as a common swear word; not the son of God. I think in many ways that’s a good thing. Children aren’t unnecessarily burdened by theological dogma in secular education. If they don’t go to church how would they know? And here again the word “church” can be confusing; especially in this neighborhood.

   One of my favorite stories about children of the congregation is of two neighborhood kids attending their grandmother’s funeral. They had spent hours among adults and other children crying and mourning the passing of a loved one; not an easy experience for anyone. As the day dragged on they were tired, confused and basically worn out. Then their father told them to get ready, they were going to church. Both kids perked up, big smiles plastered across their cherubic faces. “CHURCH! Yea!” Their poor father, ripped apart at the passing of his mom, had to patiently explain that it wasn’t that kind of church. Their only experience of church going, until then, had been attending The Church of the Little Green Man. Where’s the piƱata? What kind of lousy church is this? Bummer.

   These days the kids in question are overloaded with theology. They attend after school Hebrew sessions during the week and go to “real” Christian church on Sunday. I think this is great. You can’t have too much information. The problem arises when the grandparents (of opposing theologies) want the kids to pick a team. This is a microcosm of an issue that faces major belief systems in general; the idea that a person is required to choose one “God” over another. Learning often contradictory theopathies can lead to confusion, but also curiosity.  I feel this is positive and ultimately helpful to any child’s development. Why not learn about, or even adhere to, as many beliefs as possible? Comparative religious studies among the very young seems like a good idea.
   Go to shul. Go to church. Go to mosque, temple, the ashram or shrine, or just go sit in the woods. The illusion of the Godhead can be found everywhere. The funny thing is, even after attending Christian church, the neighborhood kids felt the same way as my great niece. When they got back from services they couldn’t wait to tell their parents how much fun they had with all the religious people cussing in church. “They say Jesus Christ all the time.” they giggled. Ha! Jesus loves you, this I know……cause the Koran, Torah, and Bhagavad Gita (not in so many words) tells me so.

P.S.

Minutes after writing this blog post an image of a blond, hippie looking, clickbait Jesus magically appeared on my CNN newsfeed. Under his groovy image it stated: “Historical misconceptions we all believed.” Amen.  

LOGGING IN TONGASS