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John Prine and Iris DeMent…In Spite of Ourselves

   I love this song,,, yeah, it’s just on the edge of bawdy, but dang it, it’s so much like Vickie and me.. our life is so different, and we love it so!


~John Prine~
‘In Spite of Ourselves’

But she’s my baby,
and I’m her honey,
never gonna let her go
In spite of ourselves
We’ll end up a’sittin’ on a rainbow
against all odds
Honey, we’re the big door prize
We’re gonna spite the noses right offa’ our faces
there won’t be nothin’ but big ol’ hearts
a’dancin’ in our eyes

Factory Farming Just Ain’t Right

Factory Farming is a word that means the overcrowding of animals in miserable conditions, depriving them usually of sunlight and the ability to feel the ground underneath their feet. It is a modern response to a system in which animals are regarded as having no value other than their inherent value as a commodity, their own feelings of discomfort are relegated to inconsequential if they are even regarded in any way at all other than as a value product.

   This type of close-quarters stocking results in cannibalism and other severe psychological distress on the animals. Due to the quick and easy transmission of disease in these unnatural conditions, the animals are dosed regularly with high amounts of antibiotics, as well as hormones to increase the meat production.

   “you are what you eat’ is the old axiom… but why is it when it comes to this method of ‘animal husbandry’ (I can’t really regard it with those words I learned in Ag. classes), we don’t apply the same thinking? It is precisely because these farms are not at our doorstep.  No one really sees the miserable conditions of the average ‘laying hen’, kept with a dozen other hens in a small area just large enough to stand in, with no nesting box, the hard wire cage floor designed to roll the egg down the bottom and out a chute where it will roll on to it’s eventual cleaning and crating.

   Yes, this makes for a low-cost food source in terms of economics. But what is the cost to the body of the hormones and antibiotics in our foods? What are we doing to our children, the next generation when we encourage them to eat these chemicals? Might there be a correlation in the age of puberty American children are now entering so early and their food sources? The rise in autism is attributed to several factors, but none have been proven yet, might the meat ingested by the mother while pregnant be a factor? The aggression seen among young women now, how much of that is merely sociological, and how much might be attributable to high levels of chemicals in their blood and brain from before birth?

   One thing to know, if you buy your meat from an organic farm, the animals cannot be given antibiotics unless there is a definite reason to prevent the death of the animal.  And as I recall, that animal cannot then be sold as organic. (we don’t raise meat animals, so I never studied the rules too closely). Animals on organic farms are also required to be allowed to get out into the sunshine a little each day. The sun is the great giver of energy, it enters the body and the cells and gives us vitamins that the body cannot properly make without it. It is essential for animals also. When I go by our neighbors cattle pastures, and see a ten acre field with twenty head in there, I see the young calves playing, butting heads, I know those are well-cared-for animals with plenty of room to roam.

   I don’t know the solution to this issue… primarily I guess it rests on the shoulders of the government to pass laws to restrict or eliminate factor farming. this will doubtless cause meat prices to rise a bit, but it will also result in more rural jobs for farm workers to care for the animals, the factory farms are designed to be as low on human labor as possible to decrease costs. The huge amounts of manure from the concentrated animals would be spread over a larger area, resulting in less localized pollution from manure. And perhaps the food supply would be healthier than we now have, with less antibiotics messing up our own immune systems, and fewer growth hormones causing rage incidents and ten year-old women.

   At any rate, the article that caused this rant is at the NY Times, ‘The worst way of farming’.

Opt-Out Lists

   Who hasn’t ever gotten an e-mail and been afraid to hit the ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom? We are told this is the way the Spammers determine when they have a ‘live’ e-mail… then they go and sell that e-mail address to lists that will sell it on to all kinds of businesses and Spammers. But our e-mail list you can subscribe to is different, we will go and remove you, and not sell your e-mail on… so the old saw is not applicable in every case.

   But what of those annoying phone calls at dinner from telemarketers? What of credit card solicitations? There are ways you can opt-out of those deals without getting burned… go to a great article in the NY Times called ‘Don’t Call, Don’t Write, Let Me Be’. In this you will find the number to compel phone solicitors to stop calling your house….go to donotcall.gov. Or call toll free, (888)382-1222.
   You can also end credit card offers by going to (888) 567-8688. They will want your SSAN, but you will end the unsolicited credit card offers, (but not if you are a business…Rivenrock Gardens continues to get offers, but John and Vickie the owners do not).
   Getting lots of unsolicited e-mail and other offers through the phone is a hassle, and no one likes this form of ‘in-yer-face-advertising). We use our e-mail list to (mostly) pass on useful information as to the specials we might have coming up due to weather or other factors. Also our e-mail list is a double-opt-in, meaning first you have to enter your e-mail to the form, you then get an e-mail sent to you which you must click the link to let us know it is really your e-mail and that you really do wish to join. Yes, some folks might say it’s a double hassle, but it ensures that people cannot maliciously input someone elses e-mail causing us to ‘spam’ them unintentionally.

   Privacy is something we treasure in our own private lives, and we wish to extend the same courtesy to all we deal with.

Ballad of Dorothy Dunn Screening Tonight

Our neighbors Al and Val of the ‘Blues Doctors’
helped on the film score of the film ‘The Ballad of Dorothy Dunn’,
the true story of a lynching that happened near here in the thirties.

You can read about the film at the producer’s website.

They are having a screening tonight and tomorrow night at the SLO library.
You can see the screening and meet the production people
including Al and Valerie Ingram.


Ancient themes, and modern times

Ancient themes, and modern times   “I think Scandinavian Paganism, to us here, is more interesting than any other. It is, for one thing, the latest; it continued in these regions of Europe till the eleventh century; 800 years ago the Norwegians were still worshippers of Odin. It is interesting also as the creed of our fathers; the men whose blood still runs in our veins, whom doubtless we still resemble in so many ways.”
Thomas Carlyle

   Vickie and I spent part of the late afternoon relaxing watching a Disney Channel movie called ‘Buffalo Dreams’. It was a cute and family-safe movie with many of the Disney cliché moments. But it was also a really interesting movie for me due to it’s dealing with the Native American sociology in relation to modern times and values juxtaposed with ancient traditions and the habit of many youngsters of turning away from the ancient ways.

   I enjoy examining peoples from an Anthropological perspective. And this movie allowed me to again examine many of the beliefs that were common long ago in Native American cosmology and the similarities with the ancient Norse traditions. My father raised us three kids up with a deep appreciation for the ancient ways, both Native American and our own Norse ancestry (we have some Cherokee as well). And the common thread in both cultures is a belief in a main god, as well as a host of lesser beings, both spirit and minor gods. The animals of these people serve as intermediaries between the land and the heavens, and to cause offense to animals might mean a disconnection from the providence that the Creator gives. Therefore it is permissible to kill an animal as long as an adequate need exists, and a prayer of thanks is made.

   The movie has one fun part where the young man who is one of the main stars has a dream where an eagle speaks to him after he shares the hamburger he is eating. Mentioning the dream to his young Navajo (La Dene) friend he is told that the Eagle carried messages from the people to the Spirits in the sky. This is reminiscent of the Norse tradition wherein the earth is under the branches of a giant tree called Yggdrasill. This giant Ash tree has large roots that are continually gnawed at by a giant dragon named Nidhogg and his accompanying serpents, and goats and deer pluck its branches. There is a giant Eagle that sits on the top of the tree, and he has a hawk that perches on his beak between his eyes. There is a squirrel named Ratatosk that climbs up and down the trunk carrying insults from the dragon to the eagle. This is the tree that the god Odin (AllFather) is said to have sacrificed one eye to and hung from upside down for nine days (three times three, three being a magic number) in order to gain knowledge of the location of the sacred spring named the ‘Spring of Mimir’ which gave knowledge and wisdom when one drank the waters.

   There is a telling moment in the movie when the young Indian says “I’m tired of being Navajo. When the Navajo did not know why something happened they made up a story of animals that caused something, or that explained why something happened a certain way”. Yes, this is true, people without science must explain things in a way that their children can understand even if it is not correct, but erronious explanations are usually seen as better than none at all. Yet it is the lack of explanations that leads one to explore and to find the answers, and modern scientific inquiry will lead one to a deeper knowledge of all things, and it seems to me to lead to a deeper appreciation of nature and the presence of a higher power we might well call ‘AllFather’ as the Norse did, or ‘The Great Spirit’ as many of the native tribes did here.

   The world is large, and still very much unknown to us, at this stage of our evolution into this exploratory field we call ‘science’ we are like children on tricycles and not men sending spaceships into the heavens. But as the secrets of the earth are opened up, I predict that the enormity of the earth and heavens will cause us to revert back to worship of a Creator that built all the things we find, as no logical explanation will be found in the Life Sciences.

   It is interesting to note also that in many of the ancient traditions of the Americas, the times are in cycles, and each cycle draws to a close with earthquakes, famines and wars. The Mayas said this cycle would end on December 21 2012. And that creation would start over. The Norse did not give a date to the end of this cycle, but it would end with a huge battle between the forces of good and evil at a place called Ragnarok. The earth will quack as the giant wolf-beast called Fenrir breaks loose from his bounds beneath the earth. He would wreak havoc on the earth and swallow the stars with his upper jaw while his lower jaw destroyed all the land. The only people to survive this cataclysm would be a man and a woman who would hide in the crevices of the giant Ash tree, and when the catastrophe is over would venture out onto the land, to start the process over again.

   This also reminds me of the sad story of the ‘Ghost Dance’. Native tribes throughout the USA were misled by a medicine man named Wavoka from the Paiute tribe of Utah. He said that if the people all joined together and danced to exhaustion the lands of the White Man would roll up like a blanket and take them away with their high buildings, farms and factories. And the land of the ancients would be fresh underneath like the fresh skin of a newly-shed snake. He even sold ‘bullet proof’ ‘ghost-shirts’ of nice buckskin. He would fire his old musket at them, and the people would see a puff of dust as the ball struck home, but there would be no hole in the shirt. It is said that he might have fashioned his balls from dirt coated with a thin layer of lead to resemble a standard ball. Sadly for his followers, the ghost-dance was made illegal, and the tribes were prevented from dancing it enough to cause the earth to roll the white man out.

   All my life, I’ve thought it was a bit of a shame that we did not adopt more of the Indian values into our culture. Being able to live a hunting-gathering culture with a limited basis in science and private property might be a fun way to live (even though life-spans would be lower). But the less technologically-oriented are likely to lose in a war. So I suppose what we have is what has to be in order to survive.

   We are now the holders of this great and fine land. The N/A people are not gone; they are here; both on their reservations, and the farms and the cities. They are also here in the blood of nearly every American living. Most Americans carry some of that noble ‘Red blood’, we are a group of people with blood from all four corners of the earth. And it is this ‘hybrid vigor’ that gives this land its strength, power and nobility. Let’s learn from the wisdom of the ancients, all that they can teach us of morals and values and mix this with the modern tenets of science, culture and higher principles taught by all the great religions.

   God Bless the USA!

Second Hand World

~Bachman Turner Overdrive~
‘Second Hand’

No reason to get excited
But I feel a change blowin’ in the wind
Everything’s filled with confusion
So let’s start the world over again
And get it second hand, slightly used, soiled
Get it second hand, carelessly abused, spoiled

I see you’re looking to find new horizons
But there are footsteps everywhere you go
And somebody else has been asunder
The sunshine has wilted and crawls

I’ll get it second hand, I’m dazed and confused
Turn back the second hand, I pay all my dues
I got rid of my dues and I’m all fixed up
Watch me talk about it

Second hand, yeah used, second hand
I got it second hand, all used up
Second hand

Uncontacted Tribe in Brazil on verge of ‘contact’


Tribesmen from an uncontacted tribe in Brazil Tribesmen from an uncontacted tribe in Brazil aim their arrows
at the helicoptor hovering over their homes

  I recall in the seventies there were still WWII Japanese soldiers coming out of the jungle on remote islands in the Pacific. There were also stories of previously uncontacted people in wild lands, peoples such as the Tasadai of the Philippines, and tribes in the Amazon and New Guinea.  Those stories to me at the time made me realize the world was rapidly closing and becoming smaller, yet still held unexplored territory, land that had not yet been grid-mapped and surveyed for it’s wealth and exploitation begun.


   But now, at this entry into the twentyfirst century, you would expect all the land had been audited by the anthropologists, surveyors and Wal-Mart executives. But still some uncontacted tribes exist here and there in the world… and half of them are in Brazil or Peru. That little part of the jungle on the border region of those two historic countries in South America still holds some tribes who have never seen the ‘outside’ world. What do they know of it? Have they heard of the death that can come to them from contact with the outside?  When they see flying machines hovering over them, what do they think? Is this a monster to them, or do they recognize that it is a human-controlled contraption that might do monstrous things to their people?

   It’s hard to imagine that word has not filtered to them for generations of the new people in neighboring lands, the people who will push them off their land and likely lead to diseases that will decimate the tribe. Because, regardless of how much we might want to observe them and meet them and learn from them and gain a deeper understanding of our own backgrounds through these people who are still living the way of our own ancestors… to even gain contact in a friendly way will likely lead to the majority of the tribe dying from relatively (to us) innocuous diseases such as colds or flues.

   Survivor-International is a site that publicises the desperate race to preserve the lands of these isolated peoples before illegal logging and other land-grab measures lead to their deaths. These are the people who took the photo of the tribesmen aiming their arrows at the flying-machine over their thatched huts.

   The world still holds mystery…. the ocean, some mountains and the steamy jungle all holds treasures that will be revealed slowly, generation by generation as new technology allows us to probe into these places of mystery.

SAG and Strike Possibility

A friend of mine, Tony Stengel wrote a fine and well-thought-out piece concerning the ‘Screen Actors Guild’ (SAG), the possibility of a strike, and the lack of professionalism among many of the actors nowadays.

   Here is what he wrote….

Before you get the idea that I am just writing to bash SAG, because I am going to a little bit.  You need to know that I am a BIG supporter of the guild.  I have been a member of SAG (and AFTRA) for over 20 years. I am a member of the SAG Native American Caucus and a volunteer Director at the SAG Conservatory / AFI for over 12 seasons.  I have acted as Sergeant at Arms and I actively participated in the last strike.   I also do more than most members (and Americans) do, and that is VOTE!  With that out of the way, I am not happy with SAG.  There will always be something that a member can find fault in.  We rent when we used to own our own building, the way SAG sold out the background performers when they first took jurisdiction, performers with disabilities have fallen so far off the radar that they don’t even keep stats for them, a casting website “iActor” is finally up, 15 years late, the lousy deal we got in the last contract in regard to DVD’s, etc.  But regarding the strike, first we were unsure and then we thought the WGA took care of a lot of our issues, now it seems to be a coin toss.  I think there will be a strike but I hope not.  A week after the WGA settled their strike I found myself at one of those small A-List Hollywood insider parties.  The ones in million dollar homes with producers and Oscar winners, butler service, pictures of people with Andy Warhol, the Queen and JFK on the wall, etc.  You know the type.  Anyway when the small party got smaller the producers started dishing on the potential of a SAG strike, they insisted that there will be a strike.  Remember this was just after the WGA strike ended, when we were all optimistic.  One very big producer said something that I found very interesting.  He said that “aside from the top level…actors are not partners in the industry”.  Ouch!  They have respect for crewmembers but not the actor.  I think it is because of the often lack of professionalism.  I am blaming SAG!  They have no standards, no training and no concerns other than Dues, Health and Pension and a bit of Safety.   What other union allows untrained, unprofessional people to represent them.  Could you imagine trying to join a Carpenters Union while barely knowing what a hammer is?  There are no standards to even something as simple as how a resume should look.  “Featured” has come to mean extra work, but it is not.  Arriving late, not knowing how to hit a mark, maintain an eye line, repeat blocking in different frames or act on set -ON CAMERA, cost production money!  Do we deserve a raise?  Is it fair to learn on set when we are being paid, very well, to perform as professionals?  I could go on but my point is this.  I urge SAG members to insist that our guild negotiates hard and is not fast to strike.  A strike would effect a lot of people but sadly the over 80% of SAG members who earn a living from non acting jobs will be the least effected.  For the working actors and those that may become one someday, we need a piece of new media, a say in product placement, as it deprives us of potential commercial revenue, and more compensation for DVD’s.  Then we need some standards put in place so that we will have deserved what we got.  For too long has the word Actor been codeword for “Flake”.  I am also a Director / Producer so I see both sides.  I want the best for SAG members and I want them to deserve it!  Join me in holding our union accountable!  Yours in solidarity, Tony Stengel

Rivenrock Scorpion

Today I was doing some weeding, and just as I found a rattlesnake a few weeks ago, today I found a scorpion. I filmed the scorpion, it’s not too interesting of a video, but for folks who’ve never really seen a  scorpion, maybe it’ll be fine to watch.

   I’ve been stung by one of these little critters one time, it felt like being poked with a nail, and the skin on my finger turned dark and fell off after a week. Luckily, the skin underneath had hardened some, and the hole in my finger grew back in just fine after a month or so.


Lompoc California 1969…Crossroad of the Drug Trade

Lompoc California, 1969: Crossroads of the Drug Trade

   Timeline 1969 – Lompoc, on California’s Central Coast was at the crossroads of the drug trade. The psychedelics came through from the Bay Area on their way to the California Southland. As if in exchange; from the Southland came the Mexican marijuana and the South American cocaine. Amphetamines were already being ‘cooked’ in houses near Lompoc. And out of the exotic orient came small parcels of heroin, courtesy (it was alleged) of military members coming back from Vietnam and Thailand.

   It was that brief shining year so soon after the ‘Summer of Love’ when the country was preparing to leave the sixties behind, and to step forward into the seventies. Into this volatile soup of chemicals came a young woman, a girl really. No one knows where she came from, and no one knows her name, because her life and all her hopes were savagely stolen by ‘Person/Persons Unknown’.

   Sue Grafton, a local writer wrote of this crime against humanity in her book ‘Q is for Quarry’”

   I got my copy on loan from the Santa Maria library. But I chose the audio version so I could ‘read’ it while driving. Judy Kaye narrates it in a very well done style. She shows very high ‘voice-control’ skills and manages the many accents of the various characters quite well.

   Sue writes in the style I would imagine Ellery Queen writes in. Now, I have never read an Ellery Queen novel, so I might be wide of the mark in this statement. I am not a huge fan of murder-mysteries, I only got the book because it takes some facts from a local unsolved murder that has perplexed me for nearly forty years, and weaves a tapestry of real and imaginary scenes, some of which I know, and some that I feel must be fictional. Note: the local County Seat and County name are changed (is this to protect the innocent?)

   The murder happened in 1969 outside Lompoc, and remains unsolved, even to the point where we don’t even know who the girl was. And in all of these years, no one has come forward to claim her as a long disappeared sister, daughter or girlfriend.

   This crime so fascinated Ms. Grafton that she got the local officials to look into this matter again. They disinterred the body, and had a forensic sculptor do a probable recreation of the girls features and image.

   One can see further info on the murder and the investigation by going to Jane Doe Unsolved Crime

   The people at the library said that the book caused such a stir among the local folk when first released, that it was always on the ‘waiting list’ of books, and never really sat on the shelf until I checked it out a few years ago.

   Sue Grafton has written a great many highly acclaimed books. Anyone interested in the genre would like her writing style. Personally, the local scenery that unwove fascinated me while the story played out. It’s fun to live in a little tiny place, and read about it in a novel, it’s just gloomy that it is a sad case that brings the news.