Jon Stewart and the Rally to Restore Sanity

This video is not a very good quality one, the message is so powerful and so essential that I’m putting it here anyway. It is Jon Steward speaking at yesterday’s Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington D.C. Jon spoke from his heart to the 150,000 plus participants in this event, and he said more in twelve minutes than the politicians, analysts, experts, pundits, and all the rest have said in millions of words on TV, in print, and on the floor of the Congress of the United States.

I also am including the text from the transcript of the speech in case you can’t get the video to play, or miss what he’s saying. It’s that important.

“I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but it’s existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold it’s magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.

If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists and Stalinist and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker and perhaps eczema.

And yet with that being said I feel good—strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin- assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!

The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do — but they do it. Impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.

Look on the screen this is where we are this is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car swinging I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA. She loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by concession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go, ‘Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car?’ Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together and the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land.

Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. You’re presence was what I wanted.

Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you.”

This is the kind of speech you want to see quoted in the history books of the future. Words that changed the direction in which we were traveling. Words that in their eloquence and passion, made a difference. A real difference. Words that transcended partisanship, ideologies, agendas, and prejudices.

And these insightful words were not given by a world leader, president, or congressman. They weren’t given by a professional talk-show host. They weren’t the words of professional network newscaster, and not those of a professional political analyst. They were given by a stand-up comedian who has a comedy show on TV.

We are at a strange time in the bizarre kingdom we inhabit, when the wisest, sanest, most rational voice of them all is the voice of the court jester.

Jeremy Messersmith – A Girl, A Boy, and A Graveyard

This video, which seems just right for Halloween, is the latest collaboration between Jeremy Messersmith and animator Eric Power. ” The new video, “A Girl, a Boy, and a Graveyard” chronicles a love story, featuring two werewolves, a graveyard or two, spooky birds, a spider, and Frankenstein thrown in for good measure! Wishing you a Happy Halloween.

Marshall Chapman – I Love Everybody

I remember listening to Marshall Chapman back in the 70′s. She was playing folk music accompanied by her jangling electric guitar when the other female folkies were strumming acoustic guitars. She had fire and passion and different hook to her music. One thing and another and I lost track of her for the last thirty years. Today I reconnected to her, twelve albums later, on Music Fog’s great video series. Here’s some of what I’ve been missing, from her latest CD, Big Lonesome.

Over the Rhine


The concert by Over the Rhine last night was well worth attending. Nearly three hours from start to finish, highlighted by nine or more songs from their as-yet unreleased new album, The Long Surrender. I lost count of the number, but it had to constitute nearly the entire album. From my perspective, this new CD will be a must-have for anyone, not just OTR fans. Some great wordsmithing, beautiful melodies, and wonderful performances will highlight this release, that’s for sure.

Above is Karin Bergquist singing the song “Born” from their Drunkards’ Prayer CD. This is my favorite OTR song of all-time and they led off their performance with it. It was the only song they performed from that CD, probably their best one if I had to choose only one. They performed three songs from their Trumpet Child CD, which is their last released studio recording. They threw in a cover song written by their friend, Kim Taylor, and other than that, the entire show was given over to performing the upcoming CD. Most of these songs they had never played live before, so it was a great treat for the packed house audience at the renovated Goshen Theater.

We had front row priority seating, just to the left of center stage. I was able to get some decent photos from that vantage point with the DSLR without using flash. No bobbing heads to shoot over or around is always a plus for this type of thing. The last two photos here were shot at a high ISO setting and so tend to show a little noise, making them appear a little grainy, but that’s normal for these types of lighting situations, in my experience.

In addition to Karin, and of course, her husband Linford Detwiler, who actually constitute the band, they had a friend from Cincinnati on stage with them, and this trio was performing together on stage for the first time. I missed the other man’s name, and apologize for not being able to credit him, but he was integral to the stripped down sound they brought to the show, playing a wide array of percussion instruments, and various stringed ones as well. He also sang some very good harmony vocals and joined in with the on stage banter.

The stories are integral to OTR and their music, and they really know how to tell stories, not just in the songs but also in the lead ins to the songs. They really connected with the audience, but then they had also connected when we had seen them in concert before. They seem to have a natural ease about them and are very comfortable on the stage. This really pulls the audience into the performance, and the fact that they had considerable personal history connected to the Goshen area going back twenty or more years, also seemed to strike the right chords with the audience.


All in all, a great night and a great show. I even forgot my sore back for a couple of hours, and though I’m still a little punchy feeling from the lack of sleep after being out later than I’m used to, I sure am glad that we went to this show. I can’t wait for the release of the new CD, and for the next time they’re in our area so we can see them again.

Corporate Profits Soar Under Obama

Regardless of the bad press President Obama receives from the likes of Faux News and the Wall Street Urinal, some recently released statistics tell a better story. The anti-business, Socialist, etc., President may have done something right when it comes to the nation’s business climate, afterall.

According to statistics released by the Commerce Department this week, corporate profits have gone up an astounding 62 percent from the beginning of Obama’s taking over the White House to mid-2010. That is a bigger gain at a faster rate than any comparable 18 month period since the 1920s, and eclipses those of the booming ‘50s and ‘60s, or the increases under Reagan and Clinton.

John McCain’s economic adviser during his 2008 presidential campaign, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, has publicly conceded that Obama probably does deserve some of the credit for stabilizing the chaotic financial system he inherited in 2009.

Obama economic adviser Larry Summers has pointed to the profits data to argue that Obama isn’t anti-business, as his critics charge.
“A 65 percent increase in profits over two years is not what you expect from a business-hostile set of policies,” Summers said in June, using preliminary data that was revised in this week’s Commerce Department release.

Hard to Believe

From Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, quoted here:

There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

And that’s just the beginning:

As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.
A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.

If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas, like Chicago, have been labeled felons for life. These men are part of a growing undercaste — not class, caste — a group of people who are permanently relegated, by law, to an inferior second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits — much as their grandparents and great-grandparents once were during the Jim Crow era.

And there is one primary reason for all of this: the war on drugs. Blacks buy, sell and consume about 13-14% of the drugs bought, sold and consumed in this country — roughly equal to their percentage of the population. Yet blacks make up almost 50% of all incarcerations brought about by drug charges.

The war on drugs is destroying millions of lives and families, not to mention whole communities. It’s time to end it and replace it with a rational system of regulation that focuses on drug abuse as a public health problem rather than on imprisonment.

Koalas

Koala “bears” aren’t a type of bear at all, and their non-scientific name doesn’t include “bears” on the end, as is commonly spoken outside of Australia by the English speaking world. They are simply “Koalas”.

So if they aren’t a member of the family Ursidae (bears), what are they? In fact, they are marsupials, along with kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, and possums, among others. Marsupials have the distinctive feature of a pouch, called a “marsupium”. Unlike most marsupials though, a female Koala’s pouch opens downward, rather than upward.

The name “Koala Bear” is thought to come from English speaking settlers around the 18th century, who frequently would name new animals they saw based on what animal it looked like that they were familiar with. Around this same time, Koalas were also often referred to as “tree-bear”, “sloth”, “monkey-bear”, and other such names by these same settlers.

While Koala’s may look cuddly, they are anything but. Their fur is not soft and fluffy like it appears, but rather has more of the consistency of wool. So snuggling with a Koala would feel about like snuggling with sheep, only Koalas have long claws and incredibly strong grips. They also are very solitary animals, preferring to be by themselves most of the time, so make poor pets.

Another myth surrounding Koalas is that they sleep most of the day because they are intoxicated by the eucalyptus leaves they eat. In fact, they simply have very slow metabolisms and it takes a long time for their bodies to process these leaves, which are normally poisonous to most animals. Also, given that they almost exclusively eat eucalyptus leaves, this tends to introduce very little caloric and nutritional value into their diet. So, they have to sleep nearly 20 hours a day, conserving energy and allowing time for their bodies and the microbes in their digestive tract to process the eucalyptus leaves.

Bonus Facts:

Koalas are the only surviving member of the family Phascolarctidae, with all the other types of animals in that family having become extinct.

Phascolarctos comes from the Greek word for “pouch”.

Koalas almost never need to drink water, getting sufficient water from the leaves they eat. In times of drought or when food is scarce, they will drink water from streams and the like, if necessary. But generally speaking, they don’t need to. This is a good thing too, because Koalas are slow moving and easy prey when on the ground.

Eucalyptus leaves are poisonous to most animals, but Koalas are uniquely adapted to be able to process the leaves. They have special kinds of teeth that help grind the leaves into a fine paste and then they have a special blend of bacteria in their digest tract that break down the poisonous oils in the leaves so as not to harm the Koalas. These same microbes also are responsible for most of the nutritional value the Koalas get from the leaves, with the microbes breaking down the leaves and producing the various vitamins that the Koala needs to live.

The special blend of microbes found in the stomachs and intestines of the Koala get there through the mother, who excretes a special type of feces, called “pap”, that the baby Koalas eat when they are about ready to leave the pouch. Without these microbes, the Koala would not survive.

When Koalas are first born, they are about the size of a large raisin. At this point, they are also blind and deaf. The extent of their abilities at this stage is simply to climb, which they will do until they reach the mother’s pouch. Once there, they’ll attach to one of the nipples and stay there for the next 6 months or so, until they grow too big to fit in the pouch. The baby Koala, called a “joey” will stay with the mother until it reaches around a year to two years old. The Koala will leave to find its own home once the mother is ready to have another joey.

Despite the fact that Koalas are slow moving animals, they have no real natural predators, due to the fact that they spend the vast majority of their lives high up in trees.

Numbering in the tens of millions only a century ago, today there are only about 40,000-80,000 Koalas alive in the wild, with that number dwindling fast as their natural habitat is destroyed by wildfires and humans.

The Truth Behind Ten Fairytales

The Pied Piper
In the tale of the Pied Piper, we have a village overrun with rats. A man arrives dressed in clothes of pied (a patchwork of colors) and offers to rid the town of the vermin. The villagers agree to pay a vast sum of money if the piper can do it – and he does. He plays music on his pipe which draws all the rats out of the town. When he returns for payment – the villagers won’t cough up so the Pied Piper decides to rid the town of children too! In most modern variants, the piper draws the children to a cave out of the town and when the townsfolk finally agree to pay up, he sends them back. In the darker original, the piper leads the children to a river where they all drown (except a lame boy who couldn’t keep up).

Little Red Riding Hood
The version of this tale that most of us are familiar with ends with Riding Hood being saved by the woodsman who kills the wicked wolf. But in fact, the original French version (by Charles Perrault) of the tale was not quite so nice. In this version, the little girl is a well bred young lady who is given false instructions by the wolf when she asks the way to her grandmothers. Foolishly riding hood takes the advice of the wolf and ends up being eaten. And here the story ends. There is no woodsman – no grandmother – just a fat wolf and a dead Red Riding Hood. The moral to this story is to not take advice from strangers.

The Little Mermaid
The 1989 version of the Little Mermaid might be better known as “The big whopper!” In the Disney version, the film ends with Ariel the mermaid being changed into a human so she can marry Eric. They marry in a wonderful wedding attended by humans and merpeople. But, in the very first version by Hans Christian Andersen, the mermaid sees the Prince marry a princess and she despairs. She is offered a knife with which to stab the prince to death, but rather than do that she jumps into the sea and dies by turning to froth. Hans Christian Andersen modified the ending slightly to make it more pleasant. In his new ending, instead of dying when turned to froth, she becomes a “daughter of the air” waiting to go to heaven – so, frankly, she is still dead for all intents and purposes.

Snow White
In the tale of snow white that we are all familiar with, the Queen asks a huntsman to kill her and bring her heart back as proof. Instead, the huntsman can’t bring himself to do it and returns with the heart of a boar. Now, fortunately disney hasn’t done too much damage to this tale, but they did leave out one important original element: in the original tale, the Queen actually asks for Snow White’s liver and lungs – which are to be served for dinner that night! Also in the original, Snow White wakes up when she is jostled by the prince’s horse as he carries her back to his castle – not from a magical kiss. What the prince wanted to do with a dead girl’s body I will leave to your imagination. Oh – in the Grimm version, the tale ends with the Queen being forced to dance to death in red hot iron shoes!

Sleeping Beauty
In the original sleeping beauty, the lovely princess is put to sleep when she pricks her finger on a spindle. She sleeps for one hundred years when a prince finally arrives, kisses her, and awakens her. They fall in love, marry, and (surprise surprise) live happily ever after. But alas, the original tale is not so sweet (in fact, you have to read this to believe it.) In the original, the young woman is put to sleep because of a prophesy, rather than a curse. And it isn’t the kiss of a prince which wakes her up: the king seeing her asleep, and rather fancying having a bit, rapes her. After nine months she gives birth to two children (while she is still asleep). One of the children sucks her finger which removes the piece of flax which was keeping her asleep. She wakes up to find herself raped and the mother of two kids.

Rumpelstiltskin
This fairy tale is a little different from the others because rather than sanitizing the original, it was modified by the original author to make it more gruesome. In the original tale, Rumpelstiltskin spins straw into gold for a young girl who faces death unless she is able to perform the feat. In return, he asks for her first born child. She agrees – but when the day comes to hand over the kid, she can’t do it. Rumpelstiltskin tells her that he will let her off the bargain if she can guess his name. She overhears him singing his name by a fire and so she guesses it correctly. Rumpelstiltskin, furious, runs away, never to be seen again. But in the updated version, things are a little messier. Rumpelstiltskin is so angry that he drives his right foot deep into the ground. He then grabs his left leg and rips himself in half. Needless to say this kills him.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears
In this heart warming tale, we hear of pretty little goldilocks who finds the house of the three bears. She sneaks inside and eats their food, sits in their chairs, and finally falls asleep on the bed of the littlest bear. When the bears return home they find her asleep – she awakens and escapes out the window in terror. The original tale (which actually only dates to 1837) has two possible variations. In the first, the bears find Goldilocks and rip her apart and eat her. In the second, Goldilocks is actually an old hag who (like the sanitized version) jumps out of a window when the bears wake her up. The story ends by telling us that she either broke her neck in the fall, or was arrested for vagrancy and sent to the “House of Correction”.

Hansel and Gretel
In the widely known version of Hansel and Gretel, we hear of two little children who become lost in the forest, eventually finding their way to a gingerbread house which belongs to a wicked witch. The children end up enslaved for a time as the witch prepares them for eating. They figure their way out and throw the witch in a fire and escape. In an earlier French version of this tale (called The Lost Children), instead of a witch we have a devil. Now the wicked old devil is tricked by the children (in much the same way as Hansel and Gretel) but he works it out and puts together a sawhorse to put one of the children on to bleed. The children pretend not to know how to get on the sawhorse so the devil’s wife demonstrates. While she is lying down the kids slash her throat and escape.

The Girl Without HandsFrankly, the revised version of this fairy tale is not a great deal better than the original, but there are sufficient differences to include it here. In the new version, a poor man is offered wealth by the devil if he gives him whatever is standing behind his mill. The poor man thinks it is an apple tree and agrees – but it is actually his daughter. The devil tries to take the daughter but can’t – because she is pure, so he threatens to take the father unless the daughter allows her father to chop off her hands. She agrees and the father does the deed. Now – that is not particularly nice, but it is slightly worse in some of the earlier variants in which the young girl chops off her own arms in order to make herself ugly to her brother who is trying to rape her. In another variant, the father chops off the daughter’s hands because she refuses to let him have sex with her.

Cinderella
In the modern Cinderella fairy tale we have the beautiful Cinderella swept off her feet by the prince and her wicked step sisters marrying two lords – with everyone living happily ever after. The fairy tale has its origins way back in the 1st century BC where Strabo’s heroine was actually called Rhodopis, not Cinderella. The story was very similar to the modern one with the exception of the glass slippers and pumpkin coach. But, lurking behind the pretty tale is a more sinister variation by the Grimm brothers: in this version, the nasty step-sisters cut off parts of their own feet in order to fit them into the glass slipper – hoping to fool the prince. The prince is alerted to the trickery by two pigeons who peck out the step sister’s eyes. They end up spending the rest of their lives as blind beggars while Cinderella gets to lounge about in luxury at the prince’s castle.

Mike Pence, Hoosier Hypocrite

Remember, Mike Pence will be the number two man in the Republican controlled house if they pull off taking over that legislative body. This is what he believes. This is what he wants. It makes me embarrassed to be a Hoosier with guys like this from Indiana running around shooting their mouths off. He had eight years of the Bush regime to stand up and oppose deficits, and borrowing, and all the rest of his litany, and yet he went right along. Now we’re supposed to trust him to fix what he broke in the first place?