Saturday, April 30, 2011

the monthly pundit

I had something political to say this morning, so I posted it on the "other" blog,


Thursday, April 28, 2011


I've been finding this occurring more and more in yoga classes I'm taking, and it doesn't seem to matter too much who the teacher is, as long as he or she has deep teaching skills. It doesn't happen so much when I do my own asana practice at home.

As movement begins, the mind begins to seek the inside of the body. The mental self sinks down ever deeper into the physical self as the movement deepens and intensifies. Mental contact with the outside world becomes tenuous, and asana becomes a form of meditation. At the conclusion, I'm barely aware of the transition between movement and rest, and only at the end of Savasana, the rest period, do I become aware that I've entered into a state of profound bliss, which immediately begins to dissipate at the resumption of normal activity. However, a residue of that state of mind remains throughout the rest of the day, and it's great.

In my own practice, that state doesn't occur during movement, possibly because I'm functioning as both teacher and participant (and it never happens when I'm teaching a class, which involves thinking). But then I usually fall down a similar rabbit hole during pranayama (controlled breathing) and, especially, during meditation.

I never thought about asana as a form of meditation before, but now find it to be that (among other things) when I have the opportunity to turn off the front part of the brain, follow simple and familiar instructions, and sink like a stone into the depths of my own muscles, sinews, and quietly but ceaselessly moving organic life -- blissed out and loving it.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

the word

The greatest news story of the week was provided by an antique book expert who stumbled across a bona fide copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle in Sandy, Utah.

The Chronicle's owner inherited it from a great-uncle many years ago and it's been gathering dust in his attic for decades. Ken Sanders realized what he was looking at as soon as the owner pulled it out of its sack. The binding of the 1493 volume is literally falling apart, but the pages are still white, as the paper is made from rags rather than wood pulp. The words applied to the pages by letterpress are as sharp and vivid today as when they were pressed, and nearly every page is full of black-line woodblock illustrations.

The Nuremberg Chronicle was intended to serve the need for a comprehensive history of creation. It was published by Anton Koberger about 60 years after Johannes Gutenberg perfected the letter-press in the city of Mainz, and has an original Latin text by Hartmann Schedel.

However Ken Sanders, now displaying his find at his rare book shop in Salt Lake, knows that what he's got, while astonishing, isn't worth a lot of money. He doesn't really have the book, but only about a third of its pages, and there are several hundred known copies of the work, many in much better condition. But "Just the opportunity to handle something from the very beginning of the printed word and the book itself, especially, ironically, in the 21st century with all this talk of the death of the book, and here we have a book that's survived 500-plus years," Sanders said. "It's just exciting ... The value of an artifact like this to me is the least interesting part of it all."

Before the printed word there was no history for ordinary people, there was only myth and legend, and the study of history was reserved for those who had access to books and other written records After printing started, it became impossible for church or government authorities to suppress and extirpate any idea whose time had come, because they could never find and burn every last copy.

Print is speech frozen in time, and speech is a god-like power. Consider the first verse of the Gospel John, as seen here on a page letterpressed at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz in 1986. The text following the blue capital reads "In principio etat verbu," -- In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.

Click twice on the photo of the Gutenberg page to see the image in real size.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

tarot de besançon

I bought these cards about 10 years ago from a private dealer in the Netherlands, but this is the first time I've used them for a reading, and possibly the first time anybody has.

The Renault Deck was made the old-fashioned way in Besançon, France nearly 200 years ago, printed from wood blocks and then hand colored by the artisan using four large stencils, then cut from the large sheets they were printed on into 78 approximately 4-1/2-inch by 2-1/2-inch cards. Their heavily-thumbed backs and the smell of strong tobacco that still lingers in the deck tell me they were used primarily for playing the game of tarot during most of their long life. All 78 cards remain in reasonably good condition considering their age and hard usage.

The woodblocks the cards were printed from weren't carved by the cardmaker Renault, but by an earlier artist, Jean Jerger, also of Besançon, in about 1800. Renault purchased them a few years later, but made his own stencils. The coloring of the Jerger deck was much more thoroughly and carefully done than that of the Renault cards, which appear somewhat slapdash in execution -- one of the reasons I love their unmistakable folk-art quality.

The Tarot de Besançon is based on but not identical to the Tarot de Marseilles. The cardmakers of this southern French city opted for a regional variation, made to placate the clerical authorities, and replaced the II - Female Pope and V - Pope cards with images of the Roman gods Juno and Jupiter. For card players the change was insignificant, since what matters in gaming is the value of each card rather than the symbolic meaning of its image. For card readers, however, the switch weakens the integrity of the tarot sequence.

So even though I've had this deck for 10 years, I hesitated to read with it. What I finally decided was that if Juno or Jupiter showed up in the spread, it would void the reading, and I went ahead with the result pictured here.

The Reading

Three cards read left-to-right (no Fool card this month). The three cups signifies indecision, hesitation, or confusion in matters of love. The female person in the center is the "Valet de Baatons" (sic), whom I conceptualize as what might be called "the Jill of clubs," is the individual referenced in the the three of cups.

The trump card on the right, designated "Capucin" (with a backward "N") in this deck, and called "the Hermit" in most modern tarots, was originally called either "Time" or "the Old Man" in the oldest decks, and was meant to be associated with the Greek god Cronos (Roman Saturn). His lantern was originally an hourglass, and he means to remind us that the passage of time is relentless and irreversible. Yes, it's true that I'm not getting any younger, but there's still plenty of life left in me, and I'm ready to meet that special someone who will confuse me, and cause me to hesitate and have hard time deciding.

Click on the image for a larger view; click twice for actual size.


Friday, April 22, 2011


The discussion was about gambling, but the larger question arose, "Is this a free country or not?

To which I replied, "Yes, it is, Gail, yes it is."

"We are all perfectly free to eat Cheez Doodles™ and drink beer until we weigh 400 lbs., to sit on a couch and watch American Idolatry until we're lobotomized, to gamble in casinos until we're a million dollars in debt to VISA, to repeat fascist excuses for wholesale larceny and making war on all Muslims and vote Republican, to become addicted to tobacco and smoke it till we cough our lungs out, and to be fat, dumb, and happy.

"Or we're free to choose, as I have, to do none of those things. Some people say this is far-left radicalism and political correctness, but I call it self-preservation.

"And it really comes down to that simple question, would you rather live or die?"


Thursday, April 21, 2011

bible movie!

The disc player on my computer is busted, so I bought a little portable dvd player to watch movies on. Up first is a 1997 made for tv biopic of the life of king solo-man.

A coupla guys in leather hats are drag racing their two-horse chariots in the desert east of bakersfield, and old solo-man wins when his brother A Donija crashes.

Then there's a line of extras carrying spears marching single file in the foothills up by Garlock, CA, and a line of fellows on horses, with very horrorshow like swelling of martial music with cymbal crashes.

Solo-man, son of king david, talks with a very upper-crust Anglo accent. In fact, the old testimony sounds like shake spear in this movie. King David is totally starry, lying under a pile of blankets.

Too weird. These chellovecks are prancing around on horseback in leather jerkins and conical leather hats talking like lards and borons.

Then, a sudden shift of ambulance, and we focus in on solo-man's mom, bath sheba, and she was very stiff and proud and haughty. This is like the old testimony if Jane Austen had wrote it.

Lines of priest guys in brown hoodies carrying candles in a castle or church, and some of em don't like solo-man. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, some good-looking Latina is playing a little lap harp in Israel as David, who sounds an awful lot like the late John Huston, is getting ready to croak.

Now the children of israel are having a barbecue by those pink sandstone pillars that line the wild rose canyon road entrance to death valley. This is a really lo-budget movie where I recognize lots of the holy land locations, the only set seems to be an abandon bldg, and the director likes having people in lines.

No real skillful segues here. The music changes abruptly, and now we're getting a montage of some sort. Uh oh, trompettes! Must be a war! A Donija vs solo-man again.

Some kind of religious ceremony -- david up on his feet wearing his crownaronie, making a speech and all, and rappin down to solo-man how he's gonna build the grate temple.

king david is taking his time, and waxing philosophical. This is turning out a very slow, boring, and tedious experience cinematique. OK now it looks like the funeral, then solo-man gets topped with the brass hat as his useless and despicable brother plotzes.

this is an on-the-fly so-cal production with a bunch of professional english stage actors sitting on thrones and making speeches, and this particular one is about how A Donija will sleep with the fishes. After comes an interlude that looks like it was shot in a nevada ghost town like rhyolite. I must say, though, the mojave in late spring can be very green and pretty.

Ah, now comes the dirty business with nathan and his (coff coff) egyptian wife. I think the stories of solo-man and david are getting mixed. God, this flick is a yawner. I think i'll turn it off and go fix somethin to eat. Guess I'll miss solo-man's temple, which I understand was on the side of his head.


Monday, April 18, 2011

the mighty morgan

The US silver dollar pictured here, designed by George T. Morgan and struck in the millions but intermittently by the US Treasury between 1878 and 1904 and again in 1921, is what people used to call "hard money." It's easy today to forget that when it was minted in 1895, the Morgan's value was universally accepted as one dollar, even though the silver in it -- a little more than 3/4 of an ounce or 90 percent of the coin's weight -- would trade for less than that.

But now, with silver futures trading at over $43 an ounce, the deeply conservative impulse of which hard money preferences are so much a part resonates with renewed vigor. One web pundit educated in such matters wrote that "Clueless central bankers seem incapable of understanding why printing billions of pieces of colorful paper (currency) might affect the price of gold," an observation that underscores the popular conviction that the money the Federal Reserve creates simply by declaring that it exists isn't real money.

It's still real enough that we can exchange it for the goods and services we need and want, but the erosion of the American greenback's value has accelerated dramatically since the end-of-decade economic calamity and the corresponding flood of fiat money meant to stanch that calamity. Today we see that erosion in hard-edged relief, as if backlit, and awaken from our dream of fiat money to see essential commodities such as food and gasoline on the one hand and the US dollar on the other, at opposite ends of a gigantic see-saw.

Some point to the Hunt brothers' cornering of the silver market several decades ago, which caused the price to bubble out to $50 before it precipitously collapsed in 1980, or the sudden spike in gas prices to five bucks in the summer of '08, to argue that today's run-up in commodities prices is the result of speculative manipulations rather than the dollar's erosion. But they're wrong.

Hundred-dollar oil, three-dollar avocados, five-dollar bread, 1500-dollar gold, and forty-dollar silver are here to stay, and it will only get worse from now on, or if you're one of the lucky ones in possession of some hard money, better. And if you're looking to acquire some, you couldn't do better than the Morgan.

Both the Morgan and its successor, the Peace Dollar, are viable currency because of their uniformity and ease of authentication. They are also universally acknowledged to be worth many times their face value -- $33.55 at this precise moment -- such is the effect of fiat money. In addition, they're easily negotiable, unlike gold which is now so valuable that it's impractical as a medium of exchange except for very large purchases.

The Morgan, is far and away the sexiest US coin in semi-circulation today. Many if not most were hoarded in Treasury Department vaults for decades, because the government feared the inevitable easy-money inflation that would have resulted from circulating all of them when they were minted. Sold off in huge lots to eager and rich collectors in the early '60's, many still have the deep mirror-like luster of uncirculated money. If oil is the king of commodities, the Morgan Dollar is the queen of currency.

If this topic interests you, there's an interesting article here on how the JP Morgan banking firm might be attempting to keep silver prices artificially low, and how their ability to do so may be at an end.

El Gato Negro

Saturday, April 16, 2011

the long way home

Yesterday after my longtime friend Ron and I along with his roommate Aaron had been held captive by the hugga-wugga monster for several hours (not an unwelcome imprisonment, but real nonetheless), I realized I had to drive home from Capitol Hill before darkness fell. I can't drive after nightfall any longer because the fading eyesight of advancing age causes me to become too easily confused.

Fortunately we've reached the season when twilight doesn't begin until after eight p.m. It was Friday evening, when the insanity of our car-dependent culture is at its most intense, and the congestion of the week's-end commute is compounded by everyone's wanting to get home as quickly as possible. What I found, though, is that if you just wait it out, even on a Friday night the thundering herd disappears as quickly as it materializes between three and four in the afternoon, and yesterday by 6:45 it was gone completely.

So in very light traffic, moving at a relaxed and moderate 30 miles an hour most of the way, I took the long way home as daylight began to wane. Descending Capitol Hill, I was impressed by the number and size of the trees there in the heart of this lovely city, only a mile or so from downtown, then motored slowly past the University of Washington and through its densely populated student ghetto. Rather than getting on the freeway, dreaded I-5 from there, I turned left at 70th Street and drove along the margin of Green Lake.

The lake is a jewel, the inescapable geographical feature of the urb's northern half, sitting between and adjacent to the two busiest roads in the state. Yesterday evening its water was smooth and still as a sheet of silver reflecting the setting sun, its calmness mirrored in turn by my own mental tranquility. I directed the gently purring engine of my decade-old VW Beetle onto the Green Lake cutoff, pulled into traffic on Highway 99 for one block, then turned left again to ascend Phinney Ridge, aiming toward the gentle declivity on the other side and Greenwood Ave.

And there I was back in my own neighborhood. Piece of cake, even on a Friday evening.

Photo by Ionna Dodu of Bucharest, Romania


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

hero needed

When the dragon came among us no one dared to oppose it. "Let it do what it wants," they said, "and it will leave us alone."

But then the dragon ate the sun, and all life on earth began to die. Still, nobody made a move against it. Paralyzed by fear and despair, they counted the days until the end, or would have if there had been any more days and nights. But with the sun gone there was nothing left but perpetual darkness.

Where is the hero who will save us? We need a hero willing to seize the day, attack the dragon in his lair, split him from head to tail, and recover the sun, if it's recoverable. If there's no hero, then a band of brave men can do the job. In either case, we can't simply sit waiting for the same people who have allowed this intolerable situation to develop to help us.

Watercolor by Carl Gustav Jung, leaf 119 of "The Red Book." Click on the image for a larger view.

El Gato

Monday, April 11, 2011

bright shining star

So Carl, who manages the medical cooperative where I fill one of my prescriptions, asked how my medication was treating me.

"It's great," I said, "It completely gets rid of the Parkinson's tremor and the anxiety that goes with it. The only thing is it makes me feel heavy, almost like I'm paralyzed sometimes."

When I told him the specific type of remedy I've been using, he said "You might want to steer more toward the Sativa types of medicine," as opposed the Indica varieties, which tend toward more physical effects.

I later found out that this was something I should have known already, because it's an essential diagnostic element in effectively prescribing marijuana for treating specific illnesses. In short and fairly accurately, Sativa strains are mostly cerebral, Indica strains mostly physical, and the shiny "Sativa Star" I got today seems like the perfect treatment to relieve my symptoms without side effects.

The reason I'd never thought about these things before is because the idea of having a choice of what kind of cannabis to get is new for me, and something I'm not used to, but I have to say I like it. Plus, the people at Seattle Medical, once you establish your legitimacy as a patient, are friendly, helpful, and always knowledgeable. Today was a perfect example.

It's great having the laws that allow this. I spent many of my 66 years buying what was available without giving a thought to what variety it might be -- it was that kind of transaction, I'd be in sad shape if I had to do that now. So it's nice to be able to treat my illness with legitimate medicine, without having to feel like a criminal, and it's great having a place like Seattle Medical, who provide a much-needed service to the public in the spirit of the law.

Dave B

Saturday, April 09, 2011

skeletons updated

Further researches into my great-grandfather's history (see the post directly below this one) have turned up new information as well as a couple of discrepancies in my initial understanding, and these make clear why no serious historian ever relies on a single source.

The discrepancies and omissions are connected to the one important issue of the day, especially for a young southern male of that faraway time: establishing one's manhood and full citizenship in the crucible of the Civil War.

My great-grandfather, 23-year-old Timothy Brice and his brother, my great-uncle David, one year older, volunteered for service together in the 50th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company "K" (Brooks County) on March 4, 1862. But when the regiment marched out of Savannah four and a half months later, traveling north where it would be attached to Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia , only David marched with them. He went on to participate in some of the bitterest fighting of the war, eventually meeting his death on the second day of the Battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864, not at Gettysburg a year earlier as I previously wrote.

Timothy was left behind. He was discharged from the army on July 17, 1862, the same day the regiment marched from Savannah, and presumably returned home to Brooks County, where he later married, fathered 10 children, and lived out his days. Why he was discharged and under what circumstances I have not a clue.

It would take a very serious flaw in one's constitution or character to be unconditionally discharged from an armed force as desperate for manpower as the Confederacy's was. Perhaps my great-grandfather was gravely ill, or maybe he was painfully unfit for soldiering and warfare. In any case, Timothy Brice had a very short interlude in service and did no fighting for the C.S.A.

This story will be updated and completed some time in the future. Four of the five questions every historian and every reporter always asks (What, where, when, how, and why) are answered, but the final and most important one remains elusive. For now.

What little information that survives about my patrilineal ancestors demonstrates that for the American generation coming into maturity in the 1860's, exactly as it was for my father's generation 80 years later, the great and earth-shaking wars of modern times are the central and defining events which order their lives.


Thursday, April 07, 2011


My grandfather, Sam Brice -- that's him sitting in the foreground with his feet tucked under -- was born in 1889, and looks to have been slightly less than 10 years old when this family picture was taken, dating it to shortly before 1900.

His father, Timothy Brice, is seated at center beside his dour-looking wife Mary, surrounded by their ten children and, on the other side of the white picket fence holding the clan's first and at this date only grandchild, the inevitable "Aunt" Ellen. This was, after all, Brooks County in Southern Georgia.

I've never known any but the barest facts about my great-grandfather, that he was born in 1838 and looked a lot like me. He probably fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War like his brother David, who was one year older and was killed at Gettysburg in 1863, but I have no hard evidence of that. A bigger question has to do with inheritance. Why did Timothy's father, Francis Brice, choose to pass over his three older surviving sons at his death in 1878 and bestow the inheritance on his youngest boy, Mitchell?

Timothy's family looks moderately prosperous, but Mitchell, after inheriting his father's plantation in 1878, became a local baron of the type for which the south is famous. He added to the lands he inherited, and in time also augmented his empire with a large sawmill and general store. Slavery was gone by the time Tallokas Plantations fell to him, but black labor was governed by peculiarly southern laws and rules which historian Douglas Blackmon calls "Slavery by Another Name."

He became rich, acquired extensive holdings in local banks, and became a director of at least one of them. He was Chairman of the Board of Brooks County Commissioners and developed an English gentleman's habits, acquring a taste for fine horses which he raised on his property and raced successfully in Atlanta, New Orleans, St. Louis, and New York as well is in local venues.

How did this extended family come to be what they were, and where did the opportunity for them to develop lands and businesses originate? The answers lie in some of American history's greatest high crimes and misdemeanors.

Timothy Brice's grandfather, my great-great-great grandfather Joseph Brice and wife Martha emigrated from England shortly before the turn of the 19th century, settled initially in Pennsylvania, then moved to southern North Carolina, where Francis was born in 1804. In 1833 Francis and his wife made the overland trek to southern Georgia in a covered wagon, and there he acquired the land that would become the family seat and source of great fortune.

From whom he acquired it, or under what terms I have no idea. But I do know that this happened two years after President Andrew Jackson began enforcing the Indian Removal Act, forcing the former Cherokee owners of that area to move west, to present-day Oklahoma. In doing so, he ignored a Supreme Court decision declaring the act illegal.

Lots of Americans have skeletons in their closets, and many of these, perhaps most of them, are non-caucasian. It's difficult to notice this after a while, however, because when the skin comes off and the flesh falls away, we all tend to look the same.

Eram quod es; Eris quod sum.

See also, and scroll down to "Brice."

Click on the image for a larger view.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011


A friend took me to see The Adventures of Prince Ahmed last night, and I have to admit I'd barely heard of it before. Big oversight.

This is not just an unusual and innovative filmwork from mid-1920's Germany, but also the earliest surviving animated feature (two earlier ones from Argentina by Quirino Cristiani are lost). Using scissors, paper, cardboard, and sometimes very thin lead sheets, artist and filmmaker Lotte Reininger, along with her husband, two assistants, and half a dozen avant-garde artists and animators, spent three years (1923-26) cutting the film's human and inhuman characters and backgrounds, while cinematographer Carl Koch painstakingly photographed them frame by frame, in the manner of modern claymation.

The results of Reininger's scissorwork and artistic conception alone demonstrate amazing skill and patience. Look, for example, at the elaborated featherwork on the prince's costume, and the lace trailing from Princess Pari Banu's headdress.

Adapted loosely from several stories in The 1,001 Nights of Scheherazade, the plot includes elements of Prince Ahmed's story as well as the famous Aladdin story, has the inevitable evil sorcerer, a sympathetic witch, and a flying horse. It's pure fairytale and all archetypes.

No original nitrate copy of Ahmed has survived. For a while only black-and-white prints were available (the original was hand-tinted). Using one of those black-and-white prints and a highly-technical, complex process, British and German archivists restored the movie in its original colors in 1998/99.

One more thing made this event memorable: the movie's soundtrack, and yes, silent movies need to have them, or lose a lot of atmosphere and mood. Last night's soundtrack was by David Keenan and Nova Karina Devonie, Seattle composers and performers, playing the score for Ahmed they were commissioned to write in 2008, on accordian, guitar, banjo, glockenspiel, viola, percussion, and slide whistle. They've performed this work extensively since '08, all over the world, from Australia to Waterloo (Iowa), and complement the film immeasurably.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

SS and 71st*

Today I will write about the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen, a topic suggested to me by a random blog topic generator. As it turns out, my young father crossed paths with these 9th SS Panzers Hohenstaufen when that command surrendered near Steyr, Austria in May of '45. Dad was with the 71st Infantry, the "farthest east" US division, which reached Steyr at the same time as units of the Russian Red Army advancing from the east.

The 9th SS Panzers was moved around a lot during the short history of its active role in combat. They first saw action in Poland in the spring of '44, but were quickly moved to Normandy and from there took part in the general retreat inland which occupied most of the next year.

The pictures from my dad's wartime divisional chronicle don't show the Panzers, but they do show American and Russian troops meeting up and eating together, along with the obligatory group portrait of the high generals on the scene, Inset at the bottom of the page is a destroyed German #88 anti-aircraft gun near Steyr.

History from the troop's eye level -- that certainly gives a different kind of view. At the troop's eye level you see the individual nuts and bolts on the machines that drive modern war along, Nowadays, killing mechanisms are more dependent on electronics and less mechanical than in the past, still nothing has changed much since gunpowder came along.

Klick on pic to make it big, then klick again for actual size.

*Clinger, Johnson, Mazel, and Nichols, The History of the 71st Infantry Division (1946, Augsburg, Bavaria: 71st Infantry Division (self-Published).

Manuel Delorez

Friday, April 01, 2011

peace & freedom

Graffitied wall decoration, the John Lennon wall in Prague.

Peace and freedom. In the days to come we'll need to remember that peace and freedom is what we want.

People all the world over are longing for peace and freedom, craving it, starving for it, At the same time there are powerful evil forces loose in the world, institutions that have fortunes staked on rupturing the peace and suppressing freedom.

I don't know what the solution is, but I do know that the answer to violence is not to oppose it with more violence, just as an adequate response to hatred can't be hateful.

From Wisconsin to Waziristan, we all want the same thing. It's really simple, but getting it is not, as that will involve a lot of imagination and creativity. John Lennon knew this.

Photo by DiAnne Grieser, March, 2009.