Joni Mitchell’s “Shadows and Light,” showing off Pat Metheney, Don Alias, Lyle Mays, Jaco Pastorious, Micheal Brecker

April 23, 2017

Cover of the vinyl album and CD of

Cover of the vinyl album and CD of “Shadows and Light,” the album produced from Joni Mitchell’s 1980 tour of the same name. Wikipedia image

I think we have this DVD in our collection — surprised no one’s complained to have it taken down.

It’s wonderful.

Joni Mitchell at her jazzy best, voice in peak form (she always is). What’s so amaazing about this tour is the backup band. Don Alias performed percussion. Pat Metheney, the guitar wizard, accepted Joni’s invitation. Michael Brecker went along on saxophone. Brilliant young (then) keyboardist Lyle Mays played.  The sadly, doomed bassist Jaco Pastorious did some of his best work on the tour. Every musician seemed to be at the top of his or her form — and it shows, gloriously.

Go see. Then buy the CD and the DVD of the tour.

We won’t see a tour like this again, probably ever. Joni Mitchell’s health problems are well known. Jaco Pastorious died in 1987 after a descent into mental illness. (Son Kenny introduced us to the great Robert Trujillo-produced film “Jaco” last summer; another one worth watching and listening to.)

But we do have the performance from that one night in 1980, at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

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No, Earth Day 2017 does not celebrate Lenin, who was anti-environmentalist – annual debunking of the annual Earth Day/Lenin hoax

April 22, 2017

This is mostly an encore post, repeated each year for April 22 and Earth Day — sad that it needs repeating; anti-environmentalists don’t appear to learn much, year to year.  (Yes, some of the links may be dated; if you find one not working, please let me know in comments.)

In 2017, we may need this post more, to put up with anti-science backlash to the March for Science.

You could write it off to pareidolia, once.

Like faces in clouds, some people claimed to see a link. The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, coincided with Lenin’s birthday. There was no link — Earth Day was scheduled for a spring Wednesday, when the greatest number of college students would be on campus.

Link to permanent Earth Day site, at EarthDay.org

Link to permanent Earth Day site, at EarthDay.org

Now, years later, with almost-annual repeats of the claim from the braying right wing, it’s just a cruel hoax.  It’s as much a hoax on the ill-informed of the right, as anyone else. Many of them believe it.

No, there’s no link between Earth Day and the birthday of V. I. Lenin:

One surefire way to tell an Earth Day post is done by an Earth Day denialist: They’ll note that the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, was an anniversary of the birth of Lenin.

Coincidentally, yes, Lenin was born on April 22, on the new style calendar; it was April 10 on the calendar when he was born — one might accurately note that Lenin’s mother always said he was born on April 10.

It’s a hoax. There is no meaning to the first Earth Day’s falling on Lenin’s birthday — Lenin was not prescient enough to plan his birthday to fall in the middle of Earth Week, a hundred years before Earth Week was even planned.

About.com explains why the idea of a link between Earth Day and Lenin is silly:

Does Earth Day Promote Communism?
Earth Day 1970 was initially conceived as a teach-in, modeled on the teach-ins used successfully by Vietnam War protesters to spread their message and generate support on U.S. college campuses. It is generally believed that April 22 was chosen for Earth Day because it was a Wednesday that fell between spring break and final exams—a day when a majority of college students would be able to participate.

U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the guy who dreamed up the nationwide teach-in that became Earth Day, once tried to put the whole “Earth Day as communist plot” idea into perspective.

“On any given day, a lot of both good and bad people were born,” Nelson said. “A person many consider the world’s first environmentalist, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born on April 22. So was Queen Isabella. More importantly, so was my Aunt Tillie.”

April 22 is also the birthday of J. Sterling Morton, the Nebraska newspaper editor who founded Arbor Day (a national holiday devoted to planting trees) on April 22, 1872, when Lenin was still in diapers. Maybe April 22 was chosen to honor Morton and nobody knew. Maybe environmentalists were trying to send a subliminal message to the national subconscious that would transform people into tree-planting zombies. One birthday “plot” seems just about as likely as the other. What’s the chance that one person in a thousand could tell you when either of these guys were born.

My guess is that only a few really wacko conservatives know that April 22 is Lenin’s birthday (was it ever celebrated in the Soviet Union?). No one else bothers to think about it, or say anything about it, nor especially, to celebrate it.

Certainly, the Soviet Union never celebrated Earth Day. Nor was Lenin any great friend of the environment.  He stood instead with the oil-drillers-without-clean-up, with the strip-miners-without-reclamation, with the dirty-smokestack guys.  You’d think someone with a bit of logic and a rudimentary knowledge of history could put that together.

Gaylord Nelson, Living Green image

Inventor of Earth Day teach-ins, former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson

The REAL founder of Earth Day, Wisconsin’s U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, usually recognized as the founder and father of Earth Day, told how and why the organizers came to pick April 22:

Senator Nelson chose the date in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an “environmental teach-in.” He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet; it did not fall during exams or spring breaks, did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other mid-week events—so he chose Wednesday, April 22.

In his own words, Nelson spoke of what he was trying to do:

After President Kennedy’s [conservation] tour, I still hoped for some idea that would thrust the environment into the political mainstream. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called “teach-ins,” had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me – why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?

I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.

At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air – and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two members of my Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office.

Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events:

“Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems…is being planned for next spring…when a nationwide environmental ‘teach-in’…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned….”

Nelson, a veteran of the U.S. armed services (Okinawa campaign), flag-waving ex-governor of Wisconsin (Sen. Joe McCarthy’s home state, but also the home of Aldo Leopold and birthplace of John Muir), was working to raise America’s consciousness and conscience about environmental issues.

Lenin on the environment? Think of the Aral Sea disaster, the horrible pollution from Soviet mines and mills, and the dreadful record of the Soviet Union on protecting any resource. Lenin believed in exploiting resources and leaving the spoils to rot in the sun, not conservation; in practice there was no environmental protection, but instead a war on nature, in the Soviet Union.

So, why are all these conservative denialists claiming, against history and politics, that Lenin’s birthday has anything to do with Earth Day?

Can you say “propaganda?” Can you say “political smear?”

2017 Resources and Good News:

2015 Resources and Good News:

2014 Resources and Good News:

2013 Resources and Good News:

Good information for 2012:

Good information from 2011:

Good information from 2010:

2014’s Wall of Shame:

2013 Wall of Shame:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2012:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2011:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2010:

Spread the word. Have you found someone spreading the hoax, claiming Earth Day honors Lenin instead? Give us the link in comments.

UAW's March for Science banner

UAW’s March for Science banner

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April is the month to fly your flags!

April 5, 2017

Is April the cruelest month?

It’s cruel to people who want to fly U.S. flags often, but only on designated flag-flying dates. (April is also National Poetry Month, so it’s a good time to look up poetry references we should have committed to heart).

For 2017, these are the three dates for flying the U.S. flag; Easter is a national date, the other two are dates suggested for residents of the states involved.

One date, nationally, to fly the flag. That beats March, which has none (in a year with Easter in April and not March). But March has five statehood days, to April’s two.

Take heart! You may fly your U.S. flag any day you choose, or everyday as many people do in Texas (though, too many do not retire their flags every evening . . .).

Three dates to fly Old Glory in April, by the Flag Code and other laws on memorials and commemorations.

  • Easter, April 16
  • Maryland, April 28, 1788, 7th state
  • Louisiana, April 30, 1812 – 18th state

Some people have abused the flag in April.

Caption from The Guardian: Ted Landsmark (centre): ‘I had a sense that something really significant had happened.’ Boston, April 5, 1976. Photograph: stanleyformanphotos.com

Caption from The Guardian: Ted Landsmark (centre): ‘I had a sense that something really significant had happened.’ Boston, April 5, 1976. Photograph: stanleyformanphotos.com

See “That’s me in the picture: Ted Landsmark is assaulted in Boston, at an ‘anti-bussing’ protest, 5 April 1976,” Abigail Radnor, The Guardian, April 17, 2015; and “The U.S. Flag in the 20th Century (Part 2),” The Portland Flag Association.

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Can we fly the U.S. flag in March?

March 27, 2017

U.S. flag displayed by horse-mounted marchers in a San Francisco St. Patrick's Day Parade (perhaps 2014); image from United Irish Societies of San Francisco (UISSF).

U.S. flag displayed by horse-mounted marchers in a San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade (perhaps 2014); image from United Irish Societies of San Francisco (UISSF).

I usually put up a post near the first of the month listing the occasions upon which U.S. laws urge us to fly Old Glory. March usually slips by without such  post.

No good reason, other than in most years, March offers no regular commemorations upon which flag flying is urged. The odd year is when Easter comes early. Easter is one of the holidays the Flag Code says flags should be flown.

But, most years, Easter falls in April, as it does in 2017.

The Flag Code urges residents of states to fly the U.S. flag on the anniversary of their state’s entering the union, on statehood day. Those are the only dates in March, most years.

Flag fly dates, for March (already past, in 2017):

  • March 1, Ohio statehood (1803, 17th state)
  • March 1, Nebraska statehood (1867, 37th state)
  • March 3, Florida (1845, 27th state)
  • March 4, Vermont statehood (1791, 14th state)
  • March 15, Maine statehood (1820, 23rd state)

A lot of St. Patrick’s Day revelers and parade marchers display the flag, but it’s not an official U.S. observance. I keep hoping, but I get little traction for a law urging flying the flag to observe Freedom Day, on the birth anniversary of the Father of the Constitution, James Madison.

People gathered on the lawn of James Madison's home in Montpelier, Virginia, to display the U.S. flag in a card display, 2011.  AP photo?

People gathered on the lawn of James Madison’s home in Montpelier, Virginia, to display the U.S. flag in a card display, 2011. AP photo?

Much irony, and great history, in the U.S. colors being shown so dramatically on St. Patrick’s Day, a day relatively uncommemorated in Ireland, and commemorated in the U.S. chiefly to help overcome bias against Irish immigrants.

I’ll try to keep up better, next year.

Sure, you may fly the U.S. flag every day in March. You need not wait for sanction from a Presidential Proclamation or a Congressional Resolution. You may fly the flag every day. (Just follow flag etiquette when you do.)

U.S. colors led the St. Patrick's Day parade in Seattle, Washington, in 2014. Photo from IrishClub.org

U.S. colors led the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Seattle, Washington, in 2014. Photo from IrishClub.org

U.S. colors stood out in a field of green at the St. Paul, Minnesota, St. Patrick's Day parade, 2015(?). Photo from VisitStPaul.com.

U.S. colors stood out in a field of green at the St. Paul, Minnesota, St. Patrick’s Day parade, 2015(?). Photo from VisitStPaul.com.

Members of the Yorktown Irish Pipes and Drums Corps march in the 35th annual Northern Westchester-Putnam St. Patrick Day Parade, in Mahopac, New York, 2011. Photo by Seth Harrison

U.S. flag displayed as members of the Yorktown Irish Pipes and Drums Corps march in the 35th annual Northern Westchester-Putnam St. Patrick Day Parade, in Mahopac, New York, 2011. Photo by Seth Harrison


Happy coincidence: Pi Day is Albert Einstein’s birthday

March 14, 2017

How many ways can we say happy birthday to a great scientist born on Pi Day?  So, an encore post.
E=mcc - logo from AIP

E=energy; m=mass; c=speed of light

Happy Einstein Day! to us.  Albert’s been dead since 1955 — sadly for us.  Our celebrations now are more for our own satisfaction and curiosity, and to honor the great man — he’s beyond caring.

Almost fitting that he was born on π Day, no? I mean, is there an E=mc² Day? He’s 138 years old today, and famous around the world for stuff that most people still don’t understand. 

Fittingly, perhaps, March 14 now is celebrated as Pi Day, in honor of that almost magical number, Pi, used to calculate the circumference of a circle. Pi is 3. 1415~, and so the American date 3/14 got tagged as Pi Day.

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, to Hermann and Pauline Einstein.

26 years later, three days after his birthday, he sent off the paper on the photo-electric effect; that paper would win him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

In that same year of 1905, he published three other papers, solving the mystery of Brownian motion, describing what became known as the Special Theory of Relativity and solving the mystery of why measurements of the light did not show any effects of motion as Maxwell had predicted, and a final paper that noted a particle emitting light energy loses mass. This final paper amused Einstein because it seemed so ludicrous in its logical extension that energy and matter are really the same stuff at some fundamental point, as expressed in the equation demonstrating an enormous amount of energy stored in atoms, E=mc².

Albert Einstein as a younger man - Nobel Foundation image

Albert Einstein as a younger man – Nobel Foundation image

Any one of the papers would have been a career-capper for any physicist. Einstein dashed them all off in just a few months, forever changing the fields of physics. And, you noticed: Einstein did not win a Nobel for the Special Theory of Relativity, nor for E=mc². He won it for the photo-electric effect. Irony in history. Nobel committee members didn’t understand Einstein’s other work much better than the rest of us today.

117 years later, Einstein’s work affects us every day. Relativity theory at some level I don’t fully understand makes possible the use Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which revolutionized navigation and mundane things like land surveying and microwave dish placement.

Development of nuclear power both gives us hope for an energy-rich future, and gives us fear of nuclear war. Sometimes, even the hope of the energy rich future gives us fear, as we watch and hope nuclear engineers can control the piles in nuclear power plants damaged by earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.

English: Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp

Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If Albert Einstein was a genius at physics, he was more dedicated to pacifism. He resigned his German citizenship to avoid military conscription. His pacifism made the German Nazis nervous; Einstein fled Germany in the 1930s, eventually settling in the United States. In the U.S., he was persuaded by Leo Szilard to write to President Franklin Roosevelt to suggest the U.S. start a program to develop an atomic weapon, because Germany most certainly was doing exactly that. But while urging FDR to keep up with the Germans, Einstein refused to participate in the program himself, sticking to his pacifist views. Others could, and would, design and build atomic bombs. (Maybe it’s a virus among nuclear physicists — several of those working on the Manhattan Project were pacifists, and had great difficulty reconciling the idea that the weapon they worked on to beat Germany, was deployed on Japan, which did not have a nuclear weapons program.)

English: USSR stamp dedicated to Albert Einste...

Everybody wanted to claim, and honor Einstein; USSR issued this stamp dedicated to Albert Einstein Русский: Почтовая марка СССР, посвящённая Альберту Эйнштейну (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Einstein was a not-great father, and probably not a terribly faithful husband at first — though he did think to give his first wife, in the divorce settlement, a share of a Nobel Prize should he win it. Einstein was a good violinist, a competent sailor, an incompetent dresser, and a great character.

His sister suffered a paralyzing stroke. For many months Albert spent hours a day reading to her the newspapers and books of the day, convinced that though mute and appearing unconscious, she would benefit from hearing the words. He said he did not hold to orthodox religions, but could there be a greater show of faith in human spirit?

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

When people hear clever sayings, but forget to whom the bon mots should be attributed, Einstein is one of about five candidates to whom all sorts of things are attributed, though he never said them. (Others include Lincoln, Jefferson, Mark Twain and Will Rogers). Einstein is the only scientist in that group. So, for example, we can be quite sure Einstein never claimed that compound interest was the best idea of the 20th century. This phenomenon is symbolic of the high regard people have for the man, even though so few understand what his work was, or meant.

A most interesting man. A most important body of work. He deserves more study and regard than he gets, in history, diplomacy and science.

Does anyone know? What was Albert Einstein’s favorite pie?

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Elk on the Utah skyline

March 7, 2017

Utah’s wildlife managers were plugging the deadline to apply for permits to take an elk in the wild, and they added this picture:

Utah elk in the sagebrush, with mountains in the background. Photo from Utah Division of Wildlife Resources,

Utah elk in the sagebrush, with mountains in the background. Photo from Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, “courtesy Jim Shuler.”

Don’t know the location, but I’m guessing south of Provo, since the mountains in the back look a little redder than they would be just from afternoon sunlight (anyone know?).

In my original home town, Burley, Idaho, we got Challenge Dairy products. For reasons I don’t remember or know, my mother bought Challenge butter over others, from a large display in the small Sparr’s Grocery (did I get the name right? Still there?) . I liked their stuff because they had the coolest logo. I regretted losing access to that stuff when we moved to Utah.

Butter box from Challenge Dairy showing the full logo for the company.

Butter box from Challenge Dairy showing the full logo for the company.

That photo above reminded me of the Challenge logo.

Surprised to discover Challenge Dairy is a California co-op, and not an Idaho concern.

Today we get Challenge Butter in our local Tom Thumb supermarkets in North Texas — but Tom Thumb was bought by Safeway, which was bought by Albertson’s, both of whom have deep history in the west.

Deadline for Utah elk permits was March 2, by the way. Probably about the same time next year, for 2018, if you’re looking to hunt.


Disney showed how to beat malaria in the Americas, without DDT

February 26, 2017

Still photo from Walt Disney's "Winged Scourge," a wanted poster for "Anopheles, alias Malaria Mosquito." The 1943 film short suggested ways to cut populations of the malaria-spreading mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. Disease prevention would aid the war effort in 1943, it was hoped.

Still photo from Walt Disney’s “Winged Scourge,” a wanted poster for “Anopheles, alias Malaria Mosquito.” The 1943 film short suggested ways to cut populations of the malaria-spreading mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. Disease prevention would aid the war effort in 1943, it was hoped.

Malaria’s scourge hobbled economic progress across the Americas, and critically in World War II, that hobbled the war effort to defeat the Axis powers, Germany and Japan.

U.S. government recruiting of Hollywood film makers to produce propaganda films hit a zenith in the war. Even animated characters joined in. Cartoonists produced short subject cartoons on seeveral topics.

In 1943 the Disney studios distributed this film starring the Seven Dwarfs, among the biggest Disney stars of the time. The film was aimed at Mexico, Central America and South America, suggesting ways people could actually fight malaria. Versions were made in Spanish and English (I have found no Portuguese version for Brazil, but I’m still looking.)

the lost Disney described the film:

The first of a series of health-related educational shorts produced by the Disney studios and the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs for showing in Latin America. It was also the only one to use established Disney characters (the Seven Dwarfs).

In this propaganda short, the viewers are taught about how the mosquito can spread malaria. A young mosquito flies into a house and consumes the blood of an infected human. She then consumes the blood of a healthy human, transmitting the disease into him. It turns out that this is actually a film within a film and the Seven Dwarves are watching it. They volunteer to get rid of the mosquito by destroying her breeding grounds.

A Spanish-language version of the film:

Fighting malaria in the U.S. became a grand campaign in Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. Roosevelt administration officials saw malaria as a sapper of wealth, especially in the rural south. Part of the charge of the Tennessee Valley Authority was to wipe out malaria. By 1932, public health agencies in malaria-affected counties were beefed up to be able to promptly diagnose and treat human victims of malaria. TVA taught methods of drying up mosquito breeding places around homes and outdoor work areas. Sustained campaigns urged people to make their homes tighter, against weather, and to install screens on windows and doors to prevent mosquito entry especially at peak biting periods, dusk to after midnight.

U.S. malaria deaths and infections plunged by 90% between 1933 and 1942 — just in time to allow southern military bases to be used for training activities for World War II. After the war, the malaria-fighting forces of the government became the foundation for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). With the introduction of DDT after 1945, CDC had another weapon to completely wipe out the remaining 10% of malaria cases and deaths.

It’s worth noting that in the end, it is the disease malaria that is eradicated, not the mosquitoes. In most places in the world, eradication of a local population of disease carriers is a temporary thing. A few remaining, resistant-to-pesticide-or-method mosquitoes can and do quickly breed a new population of hardier insects, and often surrounding populations will contribute new genetic material. Eradication of a vector-borne disease requires curing the disease in humans, so that when the mosquitoes come roaring back, they have no well of disease from which to draw new infection.

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