Indigenize!

Rekindle Your Wild Joy and sense of deep Belonging through spiritual ecopsychology and the arts, incl. bioregional awareness, animistic perspectives, strategies for simple living, & low/no-tech DIY fun.

Lessons from Omelas January 24, 2018

Ursula-K-Le-Guin

 

I was sad to hear that writer Ursula K. LeGuin died last night. I got to meet her once, when she was GoH at a conference of the Mythopoeic Society, and found her to be as stunningly present and wise in person as on the page. Plus I was moved beyond words when she chose a piece of my art for the “Author’s Choice” award. But that was just a mild fangirl moment: her influence on me was much longer and stranger.

We rarely get the chance to know and understand the influences we have had on the lives of others. You know? “That changed my life,” someone says, referring to some random statement or deed that you may barely even register or recall. Yet it turns out to have had a profound impact on them. This is just such a story.

When I was in high school, I had the tremendous blessing to have gotten Joanne Burnett (also fondly known as “Burnie”) as my teacher for sophomore English.

She had also founded the Tolkien Society, a haven for the brilliant weirdos who otherwise would likely have no home in high school society at all and may even have dropped out. Honor students who loved science fiction and fantasy: the skinny smart boys who knew every word to Monty Python’s routines; the musical genius girl who was put two years ahead and so was emotionally worlds away from most of her peers; and me with my untimely wild curly hair and braces on my teeth, a flowery vocabulary, and a noxious only-child combo of shy insecure artist with poor group social skills plus the costumed ego that attends a love of theater. She took us all in and gave us not only alternate worlds to inhabit, but a real-life community to go there with in a creative way that had us all laughing and reveling in our weirdness instead of drowning in it and then squelching it for survival. We built a dragon float for Homecoming, complete with steam that shot out in the general direction of the football team.

Burnie 1980 copy

One day, Burnie was teaching LeGuin’s short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” It’s a story about ethics. It teaches insecure kids about the need to care about others. What greater lesson could there be? It made many of us into activists. That story, combined with Burnie’s political letter-writing assignment, made me feel politically empowered for the first time: able to contribute to making large change instead of just being a helpless victim of circumstance.

This story, Omelas, moves her. She had taught it dozens of times already, but every time, she told me later, she had cried. This was no different. She got to the end, and not only teared up, she struggled to control her tears so much that she could not keep reading. Her head was down as she held the book loosely in her left hand and tried not to sob.

You know kids. Adolescents struggle with their own turbulent emotions, so a teacher openly showing hers like that? Awkward. The class sat there semi-frozen, looking at her fixedly or darting glances at one another out of the corners of our eyes. Waiting for Ms. Burnett to pull it back together, the silence in the room grew uncomfortable. Too uncomfortable.

I know what it is like to feel strong emotions when it’s socially unacceptable, and the desperate futility of trying not to cry.  In fifth and sixth grades, the world got to me and I cried every day from a feeling of impotent agony. It began in math class, where the cruelty from Dean, the blond freckled kid in the desk next to mine, was strongest. Turning the pain inward like so many girls do instead of outward like Dean was doing, I began to physically hurt myself every day. In a visible way, which of course made things far worse. And after awhile, I couldn’t stop. (But that’s another story, perhaps for another time, if there’s a chance it can help someone now.)

My unwanted tears welled up other times too, when feeling helpless fury over other kids’ meanness, especially in groups; or at home, when considering the “duck and cover” training we were told would save us from nuclear attack, even though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how cowering under a tiny school desk for awhile could help much.

This duck-and-cover practice meant repeatedly confronting its inherent idea that we might never get to grow up. That we were all at the mercy of powerful men at the helm of our countries; men who might be, or get, mad enough to push that button.

I understood that possibility as real, due to repeatedly experiencing Dean’s casual meanness. And when you look at the world that way, why would anything matter? Since we might never get to have a grownup life or career anyway, why not just read comic books and climb trees while you can? Why not savagely poke each other to the point of blood with your compass’ steel point in geometry class when nobody is looking? Why not just do anything you want while you can, and damn the rest of the world?

Burnie’s lessons about social justice finally gave me a reason why. I mean one beyond the heart, which knew all along and had been crying for that; she offered a reason that I could articulate in order to then reason with others. So I thought her tears for injustice unspeakably beautiful. She dared to face the situation, which is the first stage of changing it. She faced it with not only her mind, but also with full, brave heart and spirit. And she was teaching us how, too.

I didn’t want her to be put down for her open sensitivity like I had been.

So when the feeling in the room began to grow too uncomfortable, I got up from my seat and walked to the front of the room, where I gently took the paperback book from her hands. Finding the last line she had read, I read it aloud again to orient everyone and then kept going with the story from there, reading it aloud for the class until the end. I then closed the book, quietly placed it near her on her table, and returned to my seat.

Ms. Burnett looked up through her tears and smiled a thank-you. In a few moments, after blowing her nose, she pulled herself together enough to lead a moving discussion about the story and its lessons regarding what is truly important; about to best live as a full human being. Lessons that few high school teachers dare to touch, let alone from a place of deep personal authenticity. Deep, vital questions that can impact a student for life.

The only reason I remember this story is that Burnie told it again numerous times over the years. How my kindness at age 14, in the face of widespread potential disapproval from my peers, had moved her. How that act had demonstrated, in a small way, the principles the story was trying to teach.

Because of that story, I caught Burnie’s attention and eventually we became dear friends. This friendship lasted more than forty years, until her death a few months ago, and was one of the greatest blessings of my entire life. In my later teens and early 20s, it brought me a whole larger community of kind nerds, with whom I still remain emotionally close even though I now live in a different state. Burnie’s people-gathering skills spawned our own local chapter of the Mythopoeic Society as well as the first northern Nevada chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism. She saved the brilliant weirdos like me, and I in particular have LeGuin, in part, to thank for it.

Now I teach the “Omelas” story too, but to Ecopsychology M.A. students. It opens doors to discuss the needs and wants of the individual vs. collective, and the hard question of whether we have an ethical responsibility to take action when need is seen, especially when it seems futile in a practical sense. The outer and inner ramifications of each choice (to act or not) make for juicy discussion. I now get to honor and encourage in my own students, as Burnie put so fabulously, “the moral courage to give a damn.”

 

Collared_Sparrowhawk_(Accipiter_cirrocephalus)

 

Ursula K. LeGuin loved Taoism, as do I, and her themes often speak of the balance inherent in that philosophy (and in ecological reality). I’ll end this with my favorite poetic lines from the first book of hers that Burnie gave me at age 14 or 15.  I still call upon it in times of need. May it serve you in turn.

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The Creation of Éa

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light
only in dying, life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky.

— Ursula K. LeGuin, epigraph in A Wizard of Earthsea

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Farewell to two bright spirits that have enhanced this world by their embodied sojourns here. (I can imagine the “Hereafter Speculative Fiction Book Club” that’s forming in Taoist heaven as you read this. Maybe discussing books that haven’t yet been written? Maybe offering useful suggestions to their future authors? We writers can hope…)

Further Resources:

My personal favorite by LeGuin is actually Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences. What is yours?

 

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Collared Sparrowhawk image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Image of Ursula K. LeGuin sourced from http://www.orderofbooks.com. Image of Joanne Burnett was made around 1980 by unknown source, perhaps the Wooster High School (Reno, NV) yearbook.

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Leading a Contra Dance Role-Swapping Workshop June 22, 2017

Filed under: Arts,Dance — BrujaHa @ 10:25 am
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I dance both roles buttons

 

Contra dancers, if you’ve ever been curious about dancing the other gender role, I have published a new article with co-author Erik Erhardt about how to optimally pull it off.

We of course offer tips for smooth swapping points and the like, yet our main point is the “prime directive” of keeping neighbors, shadows, and other dancers in the line comfortable with this kind of play so that acceptance will grow among participants and non-participants alike, thereby ensuring ongoing fun for all. Here’s the beginning:

Leading a Contra Dance Role-Swapping Workshop.
CDSS NEWS (Summer 2017, pp.10-11 with fuller text online)

Introduction

This article offers concrete “hows” for experiencing even more joys in contra dance. A workshop that encourages dancers to play in both dance roles is a fun opportunity that also helps evolve the skill of
your dancers. While swapping roles initially seems like an advanced skill, it is often learned quickly and improves a person’s ability to dance well in either role.

We first provide swapping principles. In the online version of this article, we provide a selection of swap
points in three scenarios, then we offer a workshop outline that you can use, based on the “Gender Shenanigans” workshop we gave at Stellar Days and Nights dance camp held in the mountains of Colorado in February 2015.

While this type of workshop works well as part of a weekend dance camp with most dancers in “traditional” dance roles, small doses have proven to be popular at local dances, too.

Swapping principles

It can be very fun to cultivate the ability to be “ambidancetrous”; that is, to be able to dance either role and even to switch roles multiple times during a given dance.

When considering role swapping, the first thought that arises might be the simple puzzle of body mechanics in the various moves. But first and foremost in community dancing is actually the need for consideration for good dance etiquette. Etiquette is the art of making someone else feel comfortable, and this includes not only obtaining consent from your partner, but also being aware of the expectations of the entire dance line.

Always dance with respect for your neighbors. It is our observation that the essence of truly excellent dancing isn’t making fancy moves, but matching the needs and energy of each person met. Just as the elderly or disabled may need shorter, gentler swings, attention and courtesy must be given to each person encountered when swapping. Be in the right place on time for the next move, and confidently project to approaching dancers, particularly beginners, which role you’re dancing. This can be done by making eye contact, clearly offering the appropriate hand, and additionally saying “I’m the gent/lady” if helpful. If you’re swapping, you shoulder extra responsibility for dance excellence. If we follow this “prime directive” of respecting the line, role swapping will continue to grow in acceptance and popularity, even among those with little desire to do it themselves. …

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Link to the full article, including a list of swappalicious moves and a three-part workshop you can try out with your own local dancers:  Leading a Contra Dance Role-Swapping Workshop

Enjoy! Please let us know your thoughts by posting in the Comments below. Also, if you try the workshop, let us know how it works out for you. It’s through many voices that a community is made.

(NOTE: The very useful “What’s Your Preference? I Dance Both Roles” buttons illustrated at the top of this page are made by Mark Galipeau for the San Francisco Bay Queer Contra Dance (now “Circle Left”), one nexus of the gender-free dance movement. For minimal cost, you can order the buttons for distribution. I’m one of many who has handed out dozens of them to all who want one.)

 

Solabaration! 2016 December 17, 2016

Filed under: Announcements,Arts,Dance — BrujaHa @ 12:55 pm
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Folks along the Front Range of Colorado, come drive the cold winter away tonight with dance, song, story, cheer, xtreme juggling, a mummers’ play and more. All ages are welcome.

I’m honored to be one of the three dance callers.

Solabration Click on the sun for info.

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Square Dance in the Rural West: An Oral History July 26, 2016

Don & Fay promenade

Check out my new article in the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) online journal. It’s based on interviews with my elders, who can really tell a story, and contains small photos of those faboo 1950s dance outfits.

Best of all is getting to witness how community dance like square dance or contra dance forges community.

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“Square dancing hit its heyday in the far west during the 1950s, and many elder members of my family were heavily involved in it. Hank Fields, my dad, was a popular square dance caller long before I was born. I follow lightly in his footsteps as a contra dance caller today; thus my interest in what the dance scene had been like for him. What are the similarities and differences with dance today? And what got so many people so passionately interested in square dancing back then?

“At a Fields/Glascock “inlaws & outlaws” family reunion held on my cousin’s ranch in rural Idaho during the summer of 2003, I spoke with a number of older folks who had been active in the square dance scene back in the 1950s, asking about their experiences.”

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 To read the whole thing, go to:

CD+S Online, vol.1

Or get directly to my article itself

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 I hope you like it! Please leave comments here.

 

student loan saga February 2, 2016

student loan feeling seal

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It’s done.

I just lovingly placed every paper related to my student loans in the recycling bin.  They are paid off.

It only took me 14 years. (:-0)   My hair is white, just like the jokes say, but by George, they are paid off. The balance due, once over $45,000 USD, is now zero. I sit in a bit of stunned silence. I now have no debt whatsoever. I am free.

This is a bit of a surprise, I’ll admit. When I graduated, I joked they could sell my body parts when I die of old age to finally pay off my student loans.

Thinking about how many of you folks are in the same boat, I decided to write this. Perhaps you will benefit from hearing some of the small strategies that helped get me here.

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My Student Loan Strategies

  •  While still in school, spend time and energy seeking out other sources of money too. My loans, while huge to me, were not as enormous as they might have been because I also went for every fellowship, scholarship, and the like that I could.  The best one was the California Graduate Student Fellowship. When I entered grad school, I took the time to fill out the mountainous forms very carefully. It took days to hunt up all the data they wanted. And then I waited. When the envelope came, I was very excited… until I opened it and found I’d been rejected. This was a major blow. I scraped up my last savings and took my first loan, and attended school anyway, scared of the debt I was accruing. That fear did impact my joy in my studies. The next year, I halfheartedly filled out the form again with mostly repeat data and sent it off. To my surprise, this time I got the fellowship. Thousands of dollars, repeated for four years.

  The message here is: stick with it. Apply more than once. Fellowship boards apparently value tenacity. Repeat applications show that we really want what they are offering. In fact, speaking from hindsight, it seems to me that tenacity is one of the major gifts of attaining a higher degree. A Ph.D. in hand proves that its bearer can finish something, even when the process grows teeth-grittingly frustrating and tedious and all you want is to bail; to go to movies and read bad science-fiction novels and have a life again. You stuck with it. Stick with the application for money process, too. It’s worth it.

Different scholarships and fellowships skew for various criteria. Some are place-based (for, say, residents of a particular US state). Some are diversity-based, with desire to support people of certain demographics such as immigrant ethnicities or a populace that they view as under-represented in higher education. The American Assn of University Women (AAUW) likes to support young women going into STEM fields and older women returning to school after a break for child-rearing or other work. One reason I think the Cal Grad people chose me is that I am the first person in my family to go to college. Be sure to apply for the ones whose criteria relate specifically to you: the odds are better, since the pool of applicants will be smaller.

  • Pay the loan principle off as fast as you can.  I  noticed that when I paid what I thought I could afford from my modest wages, the actual amount of the debt never went down. In fact, it was still going up. How maddening!!  I felt like Sisyphus, doomed to eternally labor for the bank’s benefit, never to gain my own freedom. This wouldn’t do.

  My way out was to ALWAYS pay more on the principle than on the interest. It takes a bit of calculation to figure out the number, but it’s worth the effort. Even $10 per month adds up on your side of the ledger, thereby reducing the interest that accrues – in geometric proportion. When I sold my car in order to take a nomadic job where I wouldn’t need it or have a place to store it, the money went directly to the principle on those loans. Do stuff like that.

Incremental additions directly applied to the principle pay off. I never paid huge amounts each month, never more than I could afford, and yet now the loan is GONE!!!

It’s a good idea to consult with a representative of the loan company to determine how much extra principle to pay each month in order to get that amount down, based on your own means and comfort level. This can be complex to figure out on your own, as their calculations of interest vary from day to day.

  • Keep your honor. I’ve heard some students and grads say that they never intend to pay their student loans off. Bailing on the loan was never an option in my mind. My family is big on honor, and given the vagaries of economic status and other aspects of life, I figure that integrity is all I’ve ultimately got. Really.  I was given the option to accept the loan, which allowed me to gain a wonderful education. Surprisingly, this then led to interesting jobs that I would never have otherwise gotten to do. I owe the money and there was no question that I’d keep paying it back – if only so I could sleep at night. Again, I knew it might take so long that they’d have to take the last bits out of my dead hide, but I was determined to continually do my best to hold to the responsibility I accepted. If you take loans or gifts of any sort, please treat the exchange with honor. 
  • If you have to, take a Forbearance. This allows you time to not pay on that loan for awhile when your financial situation gets rough. In 2009, I not only lost my job, I lost my entire workplace. Three college campuses were brought down in flames by the institution’s disastrous leadership. And that was right when the “Great Recession” hit the USA, so no new jobs were to be had either. It took two years before I found another full-time position that paid enough to not be scrounging for food (see a fun post on that) and running down my savings just to avoid becoming homeless, let alone pay off this loan. The Forbearance allowed me to stay in good graces with the loan company while keeping my money in my pocket. Keeping good status in their eyes is important if you ever want another opportunity to borrow big money, such as buying a home.

 Requesting Forbearance status means you are being brave and upfront about your situation (see “honor” rant above) so the loan company understands what’s going on. It signals to them that you are not just taking advantage of them by casually skipping town; you are a responsible person who still intends to pay eventually, and right now you’re doing the best that you can. While this plan elevates your status in their eyes, this plan is still not ideal, as the interest on your loan continues to accrue. 

  • Work at the same time you’re going to school in order to keep your loan amount down.  It’s good to have some money coming in from other sources.

…But don’t do what I did. At one point, while attending grad school full time, I had six (SIX!!) jobs. They were all part-time, but still. That was too much. My body finally gave out and I got sick. Extremely sick. So sick that I had to drop out of not only school, but work, and life itself for a year and a half. I was literally broken. This is actually why my student loans wound up being so high: because I couldn’t work, I took out even more loans to pay off the high-interest Visa bills I’d run up for my rent, food, and health care costs. Ugh.

Take care of your health and sanity first and foremost. Hold to certain boundaries regarding workload. You’ll need those habits even more if you become a college professor.

  • Some might say that the best strategy is to not take any loans in the first place. If you can pull that off, I agree. It was pounded into my head from a young age to never go into debt: “If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.” But three big purchases don’t fit within that category, simply due to constraints of time: a house (who has the kind of money to pay full cash upfront?), health concerns (if you wait, there may not be a you left…), and education that you’d like to gain and apply now. These are investments in a stronger, happier future. That said, it’s still good to invest wisely: don’t get in way over your head. Don’t buy a McMansion if you can’t afford the payments and taxes. I took seven years to complete my B.A. degree in order to avoid taking any loans. But I decided it was worth it to take loans on my Ph.D.
  • There are some ways to get forgiveness of part of the loan.  Check out the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. It’s meant to encourage newly minted college grads to take public service jobs like government or nonprofit work, recognizing that tons of loan debt may turn grads off from taking lesser-paying but otherwise satisfying positions in the service industries.

I applied for the smaller but similar California GradAPLE after completion, a program for new grads willing to serve full-time as a college teacher in certain settings for three consecutive years. Applying involved another terrible series of California state forms, with updates for each year. But once attained, it allowed forgiveness of $2000 of that student loan debt skimmed right off the top. So the hourly wage worked out well.

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student-loan-ancients toast

Larger Societal Concerns

Now, all of this said, I know well that I’m not yet addressing the larger societal concerns that underlie the existence of these large student loans in the first place.

Contrast my experience with that of my then-sweetie when we were in grad school. He is a Swiss national. Once he passed a battery of tests proving his ability and desire, he received education clear through to the Ph.D. that not only was free, but he was paid a living wage to do it. He did not need to take six menial jobs in order to survive while studying. He could focus on his studies and thereby really get good at his field (which was theoretical astrophysics. As you might imagine, extended time to focus just on that was useful.)

The fact that most American scholars have to take out what amounts to a mortgage on our brains in order to gain higher education, particularly at the B.A. level, is appalling. It’s a national race to the bottom. Given the questionable economy and job market, fewer and fewer people are going to be willing to gain a liberal education under those conditions – and with good reason, given the squirrely economy and questionable job market. That trend is a detriment to us all.

Increasingly, students are being viewed as consumers rather than scholars or learners. The sort of education that is seen of most value focuses on technique: electrical engineering; MBAs. Don’t get me wrong. Technical training is a great thing. But it should not be the only education we value and seek. And tech edu should also have a component that builds human beings’ capacity for a better life, not just a bigger wallet.

Education should not be solely tied to current potential jobs.  We need a populace who is trained to THINK; to question, to seek meaning, not only to be good cogs in an existing economic structure. A liberal education is worth getting. It makes for a happier, fuller, more examined life. It gives you a fuller perspective on whatever is happening around and within you. And it remains yours forever.

The current constant-growth capitalistic structure will dramatically shift within the next thirty years anyway, because it’s not sustainable. Constant growth is the ideology of the cancer cell, not of a thriving living being or system. If American standards of consumption were to be exported everywhere at the current rate (as is increasingly happening), Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute conservatively estimated that it would take at least 1.5 earths to provide the raw environmental resources alone. So the indefinite continuance of “business as usual” is obviously not going to happen.  This means the available jobs will also change. There’s no guarantee that a job you train for today will even exist in ten years. Many of the top-paying jobs today, such as those in the tech industry, didn’t even exist in imagination thirty years ago. That field was pie-in-the-sky nerdville when I was a teen. So choosing a field of education based solely on current perception of its earning power may not ultimately pan out.

The consequences of making higher ed prohibitively expensive is that fewer and fewer American people are getting the kind of liberal education that helps one to make sense of life and to enjoy living it to the fullest.

It also means that fewer will gain the critical thinking skills that allow us to begin to understand whole systems and how to effect some change within them.

I suppose some politicians like this idea of keeping the majority uneducated in how to really think, because it means the people across the country will be more easily malleable and swayed, making their own personal wealth agendas easier to push forward. When reading the news, it’s always worth asking, who stands to gain from this situation? 

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Concluding Remarks

Anyway. While we have the situation we have, I applaud those of you who decide to educate yourself despite the hardship. Whether you do it via traditional schooling or by investigating on your own, the time and energy is worth it.

Education is one investment that can never be taken from you by others. 

And I hope that the small strategies I offer here for getting out from under student loan debt help you out as they helped me.

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frodo loans over.jpg

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Yogi Explains Jazz September 23, 2015

Filed under: All My Relations,Arts,Humor,music — BrujaHa @ 6:15 pm
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RIP Yogi Berra, whom my friend Steve Gaddis rightfully calls “America’s unintentional Zen master.” Yogi_Berra_1956

By way of example, here’s his take on jazz – in which he captures its spirit better than anyone I’ve ever heard:
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Yogi Berra Explains Jazz
By Steve Chalke

Interviewer: Can you explain jazz?
Yogi: I can’t, but I will. 90% of all jazz is half improvisation. The other half is the part people play while others are playing something they never played with anyone who played that part. So if you play the wrong part, its right. If you play the right part, it might be right if you play it wrong enough. But if you play it too right, it’s wrong.
Interviewer: I don’t understand.
Yogi: Anyone who understands jazz knows that you can’t understand it. It’s too complicated. That’s whats so simple about it.
Interviewer: Do you understand it?
Yogi: No. That’s why I can explain it. If I understood it, I wouldn’t know anything about it.
Interviewer: Are there any great jazz players alive today?
Yogi: No. All the great jazz players alive today are dead. Except for the ones that are still alive. But so many of them are dead, that the ones that are still alive are dying to be like the ones that are dead. Some would kill for it.
Interviewer: What is syncopation?
Yogi: That’s when the note that you should hear now happens either before or after you hear it. In jazz, you don’t hear notes when they happen because that would be some other type of music. Other types of music can be jazz, but only if they’re the same as something different from those other kinds.
Interviewer: Now I really don’t understand.
Yogi: I haven’t taught you enough for you to not understand jazz that well.

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Thanks to Michael DeLalla for introducing me to this Berra interview. His fingerpicking guitar wizardry can be heard at fallingmountainmusic.com

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Machine Moment September 17, 2015

2face_sewingmachine_behindthevoiceactors.comWe who enjoy material prosperity in the modern day Industrial Growth Society are expected to chuck out imperfect possessions that we don’t use anymore and go buy new ones.

However, I like to repair and repurpose things, so I’ve been doing some mending.

Some of the clothes on the pile are nearly worn out. But that’s because they’re favorites and therefore too beloved to just let go softly into that dark night of the rubbish bin or consigned to a second life as cleaning rags without a fight. Others, I want to alter in some interesting way; to usher their good raw material into a new and more currently useable form.

Even though I’m much more skilled at sewing the archaic way, with a simple needle and thread, I got our old sewing machine out for the first time in many years to make the work go faster.

“Faster,” she said. Ha! As soon as I attempted to begin, the thread snarled up in incredible thick tangles over and over behind the bobbin. This being on the bottom side of the piece, I didn’t notice it until quite a few inches were already sewn and I was congratulating myself on the excellent choice to employ some metallic plug-in help. Then the snarl caught on the foot hardware and everything stopped cold. I turned the work over, and omg. In certain places, what was intended to be a neat row of small stitches was a mass two inches thick and a half-inch deep! What a mess.

I tried a few more times, with no luck. As a last desperate resort, I finally broke down and got out the owner’s manual to try and understand what was happening. Not surprisingly, this helped. Improper settings for the kind of material, thread, stitching style, etc., had indeed caused part of the problem.

But really, getting deeper to the core of the issue, machines have never liked me.

You’d think they would cut me some slack due to my family: my dad, a mechanic, served their kind his entire life. He worked on aircraft, cars, motorcycles, and small stroke engines like chainsaws and outboard motors. He even single-handedly rebuilt three-and-a-half P-51 warbird airplanes from the WWII era, one from a husk found abandoned out in the desert. And my mom cared for this exact same sewing machine for decades. Where’s the gratitude?

But machines don’t seem to think that way. It’s all about their needs and their individual relationships with us soft-bodied creatures, and something about me is apparently just too much water to their oil.

Thinking about it, maybe it’s because I’ve not given this one a name, nor painted Celtic knotwork all over it, or suchlike. I seem to get along better with the machines that I anthropomorphically spoil, or at least art up. Or perhaps it balked because I don’t use it enough, and it feels under-appreciated; without a strong purpose. Hm.

You reading this: how do YOU personally develop a mutually happy relationship with the machines in your life? Inquiring, frustrated minds want to know.

For myself, I think I am better off sticking mainly to simpler tools like the hand needle, thimble and thread. Even with it occasionally drawing blood and me taking a lot longer to complete tasks, there’s less wariness between us. We know what to expect from one another. We can get along.