Sunday, February 27, 2011


I recently revived friendships with a couple of people I used to work with back in my professional musician days, long ago and far away in the fabled town of Anchorage, Alaska. It's been 30 years since Carrie and Jerry and I traveled into that unknown, frozen land to do a six-week gig as the house band at a little gin mill on a downtown corner, the Keyboard Lounge. I ended up staying for seven years, and Jerry stayed longer than that. Carrie, always the most volatile of the group, stayed about a year, left, came back, got married in Anchorage, and then left for good, ending up in Florida. I landed in California via Boston, then eventually returned to the home of my adolescence, Seattle. Jerry's been a music producer and nightclub owner in Texas for the last 20 years.

It was surprisingly easy for the three of us to resume the conversation where we left off so long ago, and that left me wondering whether people ever change at the most fundamental levels. I would probably seem like an entirely different person today than Dave the Drummer who appeared nightly at the Keyboard, drank too much, smoked too much, and talked too much using too much loud profanity, expressive of deep-seated resentments. My life has been transformed in many ways since then, and the transformation continues, but talking to Carrie and Jerry I realized that deep down, we're all the same people we always were. A person might refine himself and the way he lives, but the foundations of the personality are lodged deeply and immovably, having been set in place during the earliest phases of our forming personalities.

I think you can teach an old dog new tricks, and even new habits, but you can't change him into a different dog.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Thursday, February 24, 2011

the revolutionary

Jose Guadalupe Posada, the Mexican political cartoonist and engraver, is most famous for his amusing and often satirical calaveras (skulls) and skeletons, so I was surprised when I ran across this emphatically pre-mortem Posada portrait of the famous revolutionary from Morelos State, Emiliano Zapata.

It's a lovely, poster-ready engraving which captures the great warrior's idealism and ferocity, while its images of bullet holes foreshadow Zapata's violent death by multiple gunshot wounds. Posada lived and died during the Mexican Revolution, so this must have been one of his later works. He had enjoyed some notoriety during his career, but died unknown and impoverished in 1913. Zapata survived another six years, eventually keeping his date with assassins' bullets at a carefully-laid ambush in 1919.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Snow is falling thickly and silently all around town right now. It's too warm for any to accumulate this afternoon, but as it continues falling overnight and the temperature drops, Mother Earth and Father Sky will be preparing a new world for us to live in come morning.

This reminds me of another February, 39 years ago, when my wife and I came limping back to Seattle after a very rough patch of time in California. She was pregnant with our daughter, I was out of work, and we were all but homeless. We were fortunate to have some kind of roof over us when the snow fell after a few weeks' warm stretch, blanketing the red camellias blooming outside our window, then sticking around a couple weeks.

Everything gets quiet and very peaceful when it snows. Traffic gets reduced by about 90 percent and the accumulated drifts muffle what little sound there is. The timing of this event is good from my vantage point, and I'm glad to see it this time.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Sunday, February 20, 2011

post mortem

The politics of predation is just a single facet of our cultural decline. It goes along with TV shows and movie "entertainment" that consists mainly of violence and sadism.

When the rich and priveleged attack and loot pensioners, workers, and the poor it's one more indication that you're living in a culture that has lost its moral compass, and is on the skids.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Friday, February 18, 2011

between two blogs

The sun is shining in Seattle; the mountains are out and it's a gorgeous day, with the cold, clear weather a prelude to snow, I'm told. For once, that's fine with me; I don't have to drive anywhere this weekend, and could easily walk the 18 blocks to a yoga class at Bitter Lake tomorrow morning, if need be.

Bitter Lake, pictured here with my old bicycle, the original Schwinn, is one of Seattle's many little hidden idyllic spots; on a nice day a it's a tiny, tucked-away pocket of paradise.

Now, I've been avoiding any political writing lately, and anyway over time I've made an effort to relegate all things political to that "other" blog. However, I do want to mention in passing that I'm enjoying reading Bostonian Gene Sharp's "From Dictatorship to Democracy," a 93-page pamphlet subtitled "A Conceptual Framework for Liberation," and a how-to manual for revolutionaries.

Sharp, now 83, is a hands-on instructor. He didn't travel to Egypt during during the recent brouhaha there (his health is now frail), but has been to every other world hot spot over the years as they occurred, and his little book was widely consulted by the activists in Tahrir Square.

It's rather dry (it's an instruction manual, after all), but edifying. A paraphrased content sample would be "Non-violent confrontation works; violence doesn't, because it will rebound on you." The little book is available for free PDF download, or, if you want the Html version simply Google "Gene Sharp From Dictatorship to Democracy" and choose Html.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

the 866 code

I've been getting calls on my cell phone from area code 866, but I don't answer them.

I caution people to never answer area code 866 calls.

Those who answer those calls fall under the 866 curse, and great harm shall come to them.

Oh, no! It's the robot caller from the Agua Caliente Casino again!!

It's not area code 666 you need to worry about, nor Area 51!

--Etaoin Shrdlu

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

winter passing

It's a rainy, blustery winter day here in Seattle, a nice day to stay indoors with the heat turned on and a cup of hot coffee, watching the drops splashing against the windows.

This is the time of year when people of the Salish Sea used to repair to their long lodges for the round dances.

It's blustery outside but quiet in my heart today. The clock ticks contentedly, telling me the world is at peace, despite the fact that many humans as well as other creatures continue suffering dreadfully, and I feel for them.

Painting by Poulsbo artist Robin Weiss.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Thursday, February 10, 2011

flying high

Okay, I've watched this a couple of times, and I know it's not humanly possible for anybody to do what this guy does with those two little drums. But he does it anyway; you just have to watch his hands to believe it.

For Zakir Hussain, younger in the video than he is now, this music is a spiritual discipline reflected in his face, as well as the result of thousands of hours of rigorous practice. Zakir is the son of the late Allah Rakha, also a master of the tablas. I was privileged to hear Allah Rakha in person when he accompanied Ravi Shankar on his US/West Coast tour in 1967, and it was a life-changing musical experience.

So now if you've got five minutes, check out this YouTube of Zakir Hussain playing a solo in Tintala, a 16-beat cycle, and the most commonly encountered in Indian classical music, and enjoy.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

evil things

This odd-shaped and sinister-looking 900-foot-long asteroid which some scientists say will probably hit the earth (by 2036) while others say don't worry about it ain't gonna happen, is named 99942 Apophis. It looks like a malicious ghost.

Apophis is the Greek form of the name for the evil old Egyptian god Apep, represented in ancient art as a huge snake. It isn't by chance that the serpent's image is also the pictogram for evil throughout C.G. Jung's Red Book. The identification of snakes with evil and with frightening intentions is universal.

In this picture the god Autun wards off the evil Apep. This whole business with this spooky looking little evil astorrhoid is creeping me out.

Click on the images to get a larger view.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Monday, February 07, 2011

the mummy's curse

A tenacious and high-volume correspondent asks, "What are the implications for the US if the Muslim Brotherhood (in Egypt) succeeds?"

Well I can tell you what the implications for the US are if the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't succeed.

Our fate will be to fall under the curse of the mummy!!

Abdul al-Hazred, distinguished professor of comparative numismatics at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Mass., has written in a scholarly work that "Those who fall under the curse of the mummy, great harm shall come to them!"

Etaoin Shrdlu

Sunday, February 06, 2011

physico-mental activity

One of the most frequently e-mailed New York Times articles in recent memory was a piece by Sindyan Bhanoo which ran on January 28 suggesting the possibility that meditation causes physical changes in the brain.

M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.

Curious? Read it here.

I've been meditating for about a year now, about 12-15 minutes a day (nothing like the two hours a day the subject who is the article's main focus has been doing), and I've certainly noticed changes in attitude and outlook. But it never occurred to me that there might be corresponding physical changes as well. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, since yoga asana (movement) practice has mental as well as physical effects.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Friday, February 04, 2011

february read

The cards for February indicate positive developments on the horizon, in keeping with my horoscope which says great things will be happening for me, especially the first five months of the year.

The two of spades predicts the start of some kind of partnership having to do with work or health (or both, since my work is health-related), but not romance; that would be the deuce of hearts. I have no idea who this new partner, friend, or associate might be.

Eight clubs is an indicator of highly-focused mental concentration, of pursuing one's goals with an intense single-mindedness of purpose. That pretty much sums up my state of mind right now.

The trump card, Justice, indicates balance and amplifies the eight. If you're sure of yourself and your goals are creative and aimed at helping people, having a mission is not fanatical, but merely a sign of determination.

This is the first month of the last quarter-year that I didn't draw the Fool card to the spread, which tells me I now have someplace to go.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Its appropriation in this country by a groundhog from Pennsylvania has obscured the ancient origins and great significance of the February 2nd holiday, formerly known as Candlemas, or from even more ancient times in Ireland, Imbolc.

It's one of the great cross-quarter days of the year: if you represent the year as a circle divided into seasonal quarters by the two solstices and the two equinoxes, then superimpose an "X" dividing the circle into eighths, Candlemas will be the line halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox.

February 2 is actually the true beginning of spring, when the earth, now swollen with the winter rains, begins to stir. The daylight is waxing and darkness is waning, as the promise of the sun's return, made at the solstice, becomes abundantly manifested. Today's beautiful weather in Seattle is right on cue.

For those reasons and more, we celebrate Candlemas as a day of renewal and rejuvenation, a good time to shore up the New Year's resolutions and to re-commit to our plans of dedication to a discipline, a program, or a plan of action. Reflecting on the significance of the ancient holidays and feast days is also a way to re-connect with the consciousness of our ancestors, which was embedded deeply in the slow and majestic rhythms of the earth and sky.

For a more comprehensive treatment of this important day, see Seattle blogger Waverly Fitzgerald's School of the Seasons.

Etaoin Shrdlu