St. Patrick’s Day: Beyond Green Beer…Way Beyond

pThere are many ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Most of them involve raising a mug of beer. Below are a few images I have of the man of the hour.

Liner Notes from Sweet Burning Light, a sampler of Celtic and Celtic Christian music released in 1999: “Long ago in Ireland, on the Hill of Tara, a fire was to be lit by the High King’s druids marking the celebration of a pagan feast. The tradition was strictly enforced–anyone who was to light a fire prior to the king’s fire on that night would “be lit in the king’s palace the next day.” Yet, that same evening, on the nearby Hill of Slane, Patrick lit a fire to celebrate Easter. It not only preceded the High King’s fire, but it burned even brighter. The king call his druid priests to him only to hear them prophecy that Patrick’s fire would overcome his own fire and burn forever.”

St. Patrick in the Spirit by John Doan

Liner Notes from “the book of secrets” written by Loreena McKennitt while on tour in Italy in 1995 while reading Thomas Cahill’s “How the Irish Save Civilization” chronicling the life of Christian monks during the Western Dark Ages 500–1500 AD or CE (roughly Fall of the Roman Empire to Renaissance): “Monasteries were ofter founded in harsh, remote outposts like the Skellig Islands off Ireland’s west coast. Monks occupied themselves with the copying of religious literary and philosophical texts. Surviving manuscripts tell us much about the cultural identity and even individual characters of their creators via both the books’ beautiful ornamentation, and in the margins, the scribes’ own notations of a whimsical, personal or even racy nature.”

(I think some of the photos in the video below are from the actual Skellig Islands. Keep in mind, these islands would have been the absolute farthest western reaches of Western Civilization during the Dark Ages.)

Skellig by Loreena McKennitt

Just for the heck of it, here are Celtic Woman with “The Voice.” I love the juxtaposition of the sweet female voice and heavy drums.

And finally, a nice Irish Gaelic lullaby to help you drift off to sleep after maybe a pint too many.

Armenians and Cherokee Share ‘Trail of Tears’

Those of you with Armenian blood in you will understand why I am posting the piece below written by a Native American in The Tennessean on March 15, President Andrew Jackson’s birthday. Jackson was a Tennessean and his home is in Nashville. While I do not agree with some of the extreme language the writer uses (which was absent in the actual newspaper printed version of this column), I have long sympathized with the plight of the mostly Cherokee Native Americans who were forced out of their ancestral lands in the Southeast (mostly Tennessee and Georgia) and marched across hundreds of miles of starvation and death to “resettlement camps” in Oklahoma and further west. Their plight, known as The Trail of Tears, is remarkably similar to the fate suffered by so many Armenians approximately 100+ years later. While we all know that history is complicated and the truth is often difficult to unravel, there is no denying that there are events that need to be seen for what they are. As descendants of Armenians expelled from ancestral homelands nearing the April 24th date of the 100th Commemoration of the Armenian Massacres, we should take a moment to remember those who were sent to their death along American The Trail of Tears. 

FROM WIKIPEDIA — The Armenian Genocide (also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the Armenian Massacres and, traditionally by Armenians, as Medz Yeghern (Armenian: Մեծ Եղեռն, “Great Crime”),[9] was the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects from their historic homeland within the territory constituting the present-day Republic of Turkey. The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million. The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day Ottoman authorities rounded up and arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre.[10][11][12] — END WIKIPEDIA

Albert Bender Column

Every Day is a Monkey Trial in America’s ‘New Age of Disbelief’

On March 13, 1925, the Tennessee Senate passed the Butler Bill which banned the teaching of evolution in public schools. The law had already passed the state House of Representatives in January. It was signed into law by Gov. Austin Peay on March 21, 1925. It was the cause of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee later that year.dayton

            Although the law was repealed 42 years, the debate over evolution continues, to varying degrees, in school jurisdictions and academic circles across the country. Actually, every day in America seems like there is a monkey trial of one sort or another taking place whether it be about evolution, global warming, vaccinations or any number of other issues being scrutinized.

            The March issue of the highly respected National Geographic has a cover proclaiming “The War on Science” and explores the current “Age of Disbelief” in which scientific evidence about many issues is discounted and dismissed by mostly politically and religious conservatives but, also, on some issues, by some liberals, too.NGM2015_MAR_CV2-275x400 (1)

            One of the first things I tried to teach my children was the difference between these two statements: 1.) This is chocolate ice cream and 2.) Chocolate ice cream is the best ice cream. The first statement is a fact, the second is an opinion.

            Unfortunately, segments of our society now contend that just because they believe something, it is therefore true. That is not what made America great. America, for better and sometimes worse, has always challenged the status quo. Progress does not come from entrenched beliefs based on want or need. Progress comes from exploring and problem-solving based on curiosity and acquired knowledge.

            And while well-trained and educated people can sometimes look at the exact same data and evidence and come to different conclusions, no one can claim that the obvious evidence indicates the sun rotates around the earth. That is what it looks like, but that simply isn’t what is happening.

            I can’t and won’t debate each and every issue here. While I do not believe that science is infallible, I generally trust it over superstition, ignorance and political divisiveness and pig-headedness.

            I also believe the mechanics of a tree or the lifecycle of water are not political.

            And I believe we must educate ourselves so we understand, for instance, that, despite what politicians say, there is no such a thing as “American oil.” The oil belongs to the companies who drill it and refine it and most of them are not American and, besides, they can sell it wherever they get the best price.

            Most disturbing trend, though, is what is called “intellectual dishonesty” meaning a person knows better but chooses to parrot or espouse weak or disproven or even silly notions for some of the afore mentioned reasons.

            We need problem-solvers, not witch doctors, demagogues and deniers of truth. We need old people to remember what it was like to put men on the moon and for young people to begin dreaming big and doing big instead of day dreaming and living in virtual realities.

            There is work to be done that requires sound minds and honest hearts and a firm grip on reality. The stakes are high and time is short. Make a better tomorrow based on

Trudging through Noir to Oblivion

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is an excerpt from my novel, working title Shiva’s Dance. Play the music attached at the bottom if you wish for some moody atmosphere.

Saturday, December 6, 1980

Brooklyn, New York

After Ellen threw me out of her apartment, I was lost and alone during what are poetically called the wee small hours of the morning but was, as everyone knows, that haunted time of night when only blood suckers and rippers of human flesh roam the streets sniffing for fresh meat.

night 2

I lugged a suitcase in each cold hand for several blocks of stores and old brownstones that were mostly empty and boarded up. I knew the lay of the land: to the east, the sun would rise, hopefully soon, at which time it would illuminate the Manhattan skyline to the west; to the north was Albany, mountains, Canucks and beyond that, Eskimos and polar bears; Jersey junkyards westward across the river from Manhattan, cowboys and wild Indians beyond that, then the Rockies and then the sunny surf of California; Philadelphia and Washington to the south, then hillbillies and Caribbean pirates once you get to the water; angels and aliens among the night clouds scattered above; Murphy men in the doorways and hobos in the alleys and zombies in the sewers; the subways to Manhattan somewhere that way, if I remembered correctly, which I hoped I did.

I headed for my friend Jeff’s apartment in the Village, knowing that it will take forever. I stopped for a moment under a streetlight and threw the stuff I didn’t want into one suitcase and the stuff I wanted in the other.

A half block further, I decided to throw the toss suitcase into a smoldering garbage can in a trash-filled alley. I noticed two scarecrows leaning up against a wall trying to keep warm. “Here you go, gentlemen.” I placed the discard suitcase in front of them. I turned to walk on. “Fuck it.” I set the second suitcase down. “I can keep both hands warm now.”

One scarecrow laughed, coughed and wheezed, “Gotta smoke?”

“No,” I lied.

“We don’t need suitcases, you dumb fuck,” screeched the other scarecrow.

“Look inside or just burn em.” I kept moving and tried not to show any fear. I figured I’d walk until daybreak and then, even on a Sunday morning, I’d be able to get a cab to Jeff’s.

A little later, I couldn’t tell when, I was damp, chilled and desperately needing sleep. I flung a half-smoked cigarette to the sweaty, smelly pavement. A muted trumpet, the steam from the manhole covers and, oh yeah, a dog barked somewhere.Noir. Deep Noir. That’s where I was.

I trudged along to Benny’s Goodman’s forlorn “Goodbye,” or the somewhat sinister “Nightmare” by Artie Shaw. I thought I heard a torchsong-singing incarnation of Ellen slurring “Cry Me a River.” That kind of music was still played on a few big city radio stations and could be heard from juke boxes in musty taverns; faint echoes from a time when love was either all or nothing. Not like it was today when love can be customized to fit practically any situation you need or want.

I heard myself reciting a tough guy Philip Marlowe voice-over: Love’s funny, know what I mean? Funny how it can make a smart guy stupid.  You go in one side cocky and thinking you’re bullet-proof. You come out the other side riddled with holes and bleeding to death. Course I ain’t talking about bullet holes; it’s arrows, Cupid’s arrows. That little troublemaker, always waiting to ambush a guy just when his hopes are up and his guard is down. Like I said, it’s funny how stupid a smart guy can be when it comes to love.

Anything was possible that time in the morning. I turned a corner, came upon the coffee shop from Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks, the iconic four-person portrayal of late night urban malaise. I always thought of that place as a kind of waiting room for oblivion. There was nowhere left to go so I walked in. The guy behind the counter poured me a cup of coffee. It seems coffee is the only thing served there. Maybe the golden-haired attendant, dressed all in white, is Saint Peter or maybe he is a space alien and the two big metal coffee urns are his jet pack. nighthawks-designboom-04

I finished the coffee, stood without paying and went through the door on the back wall. No lion or lady waited for me on the other side;  no heaven or hell, either—just nothing, nothing at all.



Cry Me a River

Laura Nyro’s Eli and the Thirteenth Confession released this date 1968. She was her own genre.

There was madness to Laura Nyro’s music. Some songs tip-toed gently as fairy’s feet on flower petals; others stomped like a ghetto gang charging down an alley—and any one of her song’s could do both. Her lyrics could be glints of sparkling sunlight bouncing off flowing melodies or heavy hail pounding a tin roof or mournful tears washing away dreams. Upbeat as a picnic in Central Park. Dark as Satan’s heart. Jazzy. Folksy. Broadway. Soul. Funk. Rock. Gospel. Soaring. Crashing. A poetic muse. A alluring siren. A gutter cussing waif. Her creations were the ultimate synthesis of mind-soul-hand. They should have named a new genre of music just for her: Stream of Consciousness music.

If you have never listened to this woman and enjoy musical surprises, explore songs on You Tube.

Here are two of my favorite examples of her versatility. They go up down over and round just about every mood you can think of. Floating violins. Crashing drums. That’s Laura.

Women’s Blues from Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (Nyro’s)

Women’s Blues from Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (Nyro’s)

Cover of classic pop/rock. This is the kind of music that is running through the veins of some of us urban boomers. It’s just there. Can’t help it.

Gonna Take a Miracle

From Wikipedia

Laura Nyro /ˈnɪər/ near-oh[1] (October 18, 1947 – April 8, 1997) was an American songwriter, singer, and pianist. She achieved critical acclaim with her own recordings, particularly the albums Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968) and New York Tendaberry (1969), and had commercial success with artists such as Barbra Streisand and The 5th Dimension recording her songs. Her style was a hybrid of Brill Building-style New York pop, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, show tunes, rock, and soul.[2]

Between 1968 and 1970, a number of artists had hits with her songs: The 5th Dimension with “Blowing Away“, “Wedding Bell Blues“, “Stoned Soul Picnic“, “Sweet Blindness“, “Save the Country“, and “Black Patch”;Blood, Sweat & Tears and Peter, Paul & Mary with “And When I Die“; Three Dog Night and Maynard Ferguson with “Eli’s Comin’“; and Barbra Streisand with “Stoney End“, “Time and Love”, and “Hands off the Man (Flim Flam Man)”. Nyro’s best-selling single was her recording of Carole King and Gerry Goffin‘s “Up on the Roof“.[2]

In 2012, Nyro was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[3][4]

Eli and the Thirteenth Confession

(All music written and composed [and sang] by Laura Nyro)

Side One

  1. Luckie
  2. Lu
  3. Sweet Blindness
  4. Poverty Train
  5. Lonely Women
  6. Eli’s Comin’

Side Two

  1. Timer
  2. Stoned Soul Pinic
  3. Emmie
  4. Woman’s Blues
  5. Once it Was Alright Now
  6. December’s Budoir
  7. The Confession

Nemtsov assassination mirrors death of Greek reformer: “Z” (‘He is Alive’)

The assassination Friday in Moscow of Russian Boris Nemtsov, a strong critic of Russian leadership, reminds me very much of a similar attack in 1963 that killed  Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis. See the details below which I have glommed from quick research and slightly edited.

According to a CNN Feb. 28 article:

“His death, two days before a planned opposition march, has also outraged fellow opposition figures and prompted a slew of speculation over who could be behind it.

Some government critics pointed fingers in the direction of President Vladimir Putin or one of his supporters. State media reported Nemtsov had received threats linked to his stance on the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

Boris Nemtsov

Boris Nemtsov

He had been arrested several times for speaking against Putin’s government. The most recent arrests were in 2011 when he protested the results of parliamentary elections and in 2012 when tens of thousands protested against Putin.

He had most recently been critical of the Kremlin’s handling of the Ukraine crisis.

Opposition leader Ilya Yashin said his friend had been working on a report about Russian troops and their involvement in Ukraine.”

Nemtsov assassinated Friday

Nemtsov assassinated Friday


On May 22, 1963, shortly after democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis had delivered the keynote speech at an anti-war meeting in Thessaloniki, two far-right extremists, two men driving a three-wheeled vehicle, struck Lambrakis with a club over the head in plain view of a large number of people and (allegedly) some police officers. He suffered brain injuries and died in the hospital five days later, on May 27.lambrakis-grigoris

The next day, in Athens, his funeral became a massive demonstration. More than 500,000 people rallied to protest against the right-wing government and the Royal Court, seen by many to support the activities of the right-wing extremists.

The assassination of Lambrakis initiated an enormous popular reaction, and soon after, investigator Christos Sartzetakis, district attorney Nikos Athanasopoulos and Attorney General P. Delaportas uncovered connections of the police and army to far-right extremists.

The events that followed the assassination of Lambrakis led to rapid political developments. Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis resigned and left for Paris in July 1963. Soon thereafter, thousands of Greek youth founded a new political organisation called theLambrakis Democratic YouthMikis Theodorakis, one of Lambrakis’s friends and fellow activists, was elected its first president. [However, this brief reform period was followed by a military coup.]

The Greek military junta of 1967–74, commonly known as the Regime of the Colonels or in Greece simply The Junta, The Dictatorship  and The Seven Years, was a series of right-wing military juntas that ruled Greece following the1967 Greek coup d’état led by a group of colonels on 21 April 1967.

The life and death of Grigoris Lambrakis inspired the author Vassilis Vassilikos to write the political novel “Z”. The title stands for the first letter of the Greek word “Zi” (“[He] Lives!”), a popular graffito which began to appear on the walls of the buildings of the Greek cities in the 1960s, illustrating the growing protest against the conditions that led to the assassination of Lambrakis.

Z is a 1969 Algerian French language political thriller directed by Costa-Gavras, with a screenplay by Gavras and Jorge Semprún, based on the 1966 novel “Z.”

An epilogue in the film provides a synopsis of the subsequent turns of events. Instead of the expected positive outcome, the prosecutor is mysteriously removed from the case, key witnesses die under suspicious circumstances, the assassins receive (relatively) short sentences, the officers receive only administrative reprimands, the Deputy’s close associates die or are deported, and the photojournalist is sent to prison for disclosing official documents—mostly the result of the dictatorship which was repressive and brutal.

The dictatorship ended on 24 July 1974 under the pressure of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.1zNemtsov assassination mirrors death of Greek reformer: “Z” (‘He is Alive’)5:56