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  • I Don't Know if Stax Put the Horn in Soul, but It Sure Made 'em Belong!

    The Stax Box set of CDs is one of my prized possessions! Who can't use ten hours of ecstasy?! (To Anika)

  • Frank Named His Daughter Moon, and that is Where He Took Us!

    Frank Zappa was an extraordinary prodigy. Everyone always asked him what drugs he took, and he never took any. Drugs took him! He was backed by The Turtles at one time.

  • These Arms of Mine Miss Otis So Much!

    I had the privilege of seeing Otis perform twice when I was a teenager. On one occasion I got to sit next to Muhammed Ali (aka Cassius Clay at the time) and on the other, somebody got shot. So, memorable. As Dylan said when he heard Hendrix' recording of "All Along the Watchtower," Otis' version of "Satisfaction" was better than the Stones.

  • I shoulda taken a gap decade!

    Michael Sales going to college at 18 was nuts! The University of Pennsylvania offered so much more than I had the ability to take in. That said, I did learn what "inelasticity of demand" is (not great) and I'm pretty sure that I had a maximum of one class with Donald Trump (thank God!).

  • Capitalism, Communitarianism, Contradictions and Cosmic Consciousness

    Capitalism: A system that incentivizes productivity, transactional relationships, competition, efficiency, and consumption Communitarianism: A system that values traditions and relationships based on feelings, sometimes at the cost of candor Contradictions: Life is grayer than we’d like Cosmic Consciousness: An external reality and inner possibility A Young Capitalist In 1954. I made my first investment in stock 1957. I was 13 years old. A man I sat next to on an airplane told me about his company, American Maize. He was working on a way to use a liquid version of corn as an alternative to plastic to coat vegetables for sale in grocery stores. I liked the idea. A year or so earlier I’d read How to Buy Stocks, a book that was distributed for free by Merrill-Lynch, and I used savings from various gifts and a little bit of work to buy the stock. Engaging in “high finance,” even at the age of 13, came naturally to me. My family owned a furniture store in Louisville KY. The Sales Furniture Company was always overshadowed by the beautiful Bensinger’s furniture store building next door, and even today, 60+ years after its closing, I still find it necessary to point out that our store stretched over three buildings while Bensinger’s was contained in only one. Yet another aspect of my competitiveness that one would think I would outgrow! In any event, I grew up in a small business owning context. In fact, in the six generations my family has lived in the United States, entrepreneurship has been a constant theme. So, it seemed completely natural for me to develop an interest in the financial markets. That interest (and my family’s relatively privileged circumstances) led me to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where I had every intention of become a securities analyst and investment advisor. I did that kind of work over the summers while at school and for a year thereafter. A Conspiracy of Circumstances However, Ho Chi Minh, Dr. King, the Kennedy Brothers, and Bob Dylan seemed to gang up on me as the 60s unfolded, and they’ve never let me go. Ho had the audacity to beat the bejeezus out of the USA, which was murdering thousands of people in a place called Vietnam where it had no business being and upended my life plans. Even though that racist assassinated him, Dr. King walked right through that door labeled “Segregation Now! Segregation Tomorrow! Segregation Forever!” and became a model to me of what a real man looks like. Every time I listen to John and Bobby Kennedy speak in my mind’s ear, I moan at the thought of the future America was denied by those “murders most foul.” Dion sums up the way I feel about those three martyrs (and another one) in Abraham, Martin & John. Mix in the abracadabra of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and Dylan taking me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind with all the other turbulence of that era, and, Shazam!, you get an Anthropocean, who carries the name given to him at birth but finds himself a long way from the furniture store he used to call home. Like many others, I’ve bathed in a variety of streams that all seem to pour into and then out of the same head. I’ve learned from each of them. They bang and jangle and harmonize with each other. I’m trying to put my reflections on the various elements together into something that’s relevant to being in the Anthropocene. The Banality of Capitalism and the Heart of Communitarianism Realizing that the United States was as willing to make me and hundreds of thousands of other young men cannon fodder in 1968 just as Putin is today with young boys on Ukraine’s killing fields made me a harsh critic of capitalism. The core of winner-take-all capitalism is rotten. Everything is commoditized. Everything has a price, and everyone has h/er price. Every action is instrumental toward some other objective. All relationships are transactional. Nothing is valued for what it is in and of itself. Nothing is stable, immutable, timeless, sacred. Or, as that great admirer of capitalism, Ronald Reagan, once said in advocating for the clear cutting of a majestic red wood forest, “A tree is a tree. How many trees do you need to see?!” * Communitarianism predated capitalism. In Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft one of the founders of sociology, Ferdinand Tönnies contrasted the “natural will to act cooperatively” as characteristic of traditional communities (Gemeinschaft) with the “rational will” to act in pursuit of a specific end, which characterizes the “strictly business” orientation of capitalism (Gesellschaft). # These concepts weren’t taught at the Wharton School I went to, or, if they were, I never retained them, but I pursued communitarianism with a born-again fervor when I moved to the Haight-Asbury in 1968, and I’ve never abandoned it. But I have also come to recognize its romanticism, naïvité, and its limits to learning and growth. Many books, memoirs, articles, films, podcasts, websites etc. have been written, made and created about the Haight-Ashbury, and I will not recount my experiences there and in other parts of the Bay Area over the course of 8 years here in any detail. That said, it was the greatest experience of solidarity that I have known. The scope of curiosity and inquiry was vast, including, but not limited to: an intense interest in mysticism, the occult, religious studies and magic an obsession with listening to, creating and performing music and many other artistic modes of expression naturopathic medicine and natural foods organic farming counter-culture economics gender fluidity and sexual experimentation social and racial equality new forms of journalism and social science, and particle physics Mediocrities and haters like Ron DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor Green and Alex Jones who mouth off constantly and belligerently about “Freedom!” wouldn’t have lasted a week in the Haight’s culture. My friend, Barton Kunstler, wrote The Hot House Effect about periods in history where across many centuries and an enormous range of cultures, certain communities have stood out as bastions of creativity and intellectual progress. From ancient Athens to the vibrant American jazz scene of the 20th century, these seemingly disparate enclaves share a set of defining characteristics … factors that drove their unusual creative fervor. For a brief period of three or five years – depending on who’s counting – the Haight was such a place. Hundreds of thousands have been baptized in the waters of its psyche, culminating in its quintessential, ultimate and, perhaps, final, orgasmic expression across the American continent at Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York. The impresario, Bill Graham, built the Haight-Ashbury’s greatest shrine, the Fillmore West. He once described Jerry Garcia, the founder and leader of The Grateful Dead as someone “who epitomized what the utopia that never was and never will be is.” For me, the Haight, while obviously imperfect, was a much-needed antidote to the impersonality of mindless capitalism with the imperialistic wars and colonial occupations that always accompany its acquisitive and deadly rationality. The utopianism of the Haight’s tribe exercised great power over people like me. We’d had enough. The Limits to Learning in Communitarian Societies As documented in a variety of studies of utopian and revolutionary moments, including my doctoral thesis, the intensity of the utopian flame like that burnt so brightly in the Haight did not and probably could not last. One for all and all for one is a great feeling, but it doesn’t reliably put food on the table. Undying love and BFF connections are more situationally dependent than one might realize upon entering into them.Ⓧ A friend of mine said that “there is plenty wrong with capitalism, but it is the system that most closely approximates human nature.” Human beings are both self-interested and public spirited. These sentiments can be miscible, forming a uniquely homogeneous mixture when added together into the character of everyone in myriad variations. Capitalism can disappoint, but it has its merits: the establishment of units of value (e.g., greenbacks) and financial institutions (e.g., banks) lubricate transactions between strangers market structures facilitate the dependable exchange of goods and services, credit mechanisms that enable innovation insurance protects risk takers from catastrophic losses operational efficiency that promote safe and predictable manufacture and delivery of products, considered from a utilitarian perspective, many/most of the other mechanisms of capitalism when mixed together with governmental oversight and regulation based on compassion have a better record of providing quality goods and services at the lowest price to the maximum number of people than systems that attempts to guarantee specific results by over-controlling the marketplace. If one is fortunate enough to experience a period of passionate solidarity (such as I did) it may well shape one’s sense of justice and hope for life. It may cause one to feel bonded to certain types of people and causes forever. On the other hand, righteous idealism can be fragile. Strong family, friendship and community ties frequently have a mutual and self-protective substrate. Difficult conversations are often avoided. Learning is sacrificed in the name of caring that is actually an undiscussable codependency. Alliances that seemed so permanent fracture easily when the context that surrounded those relationships shifts and new realities emerge. Chaotic Cosmic Consciousness in the Anthropocene The Anthropocene is generating new truths at an impossibly furious pace. The invention of the Gutenberg press in 1439 is considered by many to have been an inflection point in human history. Information that was once possessed only by a small elite became widely distributed. One might legitimately say that new “Bibles” – new articles of truth – are being minted almost daily in the unfolding of this magical and often terrifying era, which has only just begun. Take cosmic consciousness. The cover of Stuart Brand’s groundbreaking publication of The Whole Earth Catalog in 1970 featured a shot of Earth from space. Conceptually, humanity had known for some time that the physical universe was a lot larger than we could feel, but seeing the Earth as it is seen from outside our atmosphere created a new type of consciousness. Humanity no longer had the idea of our planet existing in space as an idea, a concept. It was now a palpable fact. Those images gave all Earthlings cosmic consciousness as an incontrovertible truth, not as a mental construct. Just as the shift from a geocentric version of the universe to a heliocentric one shook our perceptions of our place in the order of things in the mid-16th century, so are the views we hold of ourselves today being rattled to their very foundation by the lightning-fast discoveries and that are commonplace in the Anthropocene. For example, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is transmitting images back to Earth that appear to be overturning everything we were once sure of regarding the age and history of the universe: The telescope spied galaxies from between 500 to 700 years million years after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, meaning the universe was under five percent of its current age…One galaxy is even believed to have around 100 billion stars. That would make [these galaxies] around the size of the Milky Way, which is "crazy," [according to] the study's first author, Ivo Labbe. It took our home galaxy the entire life of the universe for all its stars to assemble. "According to theory, galaxies grow slowly from very small beginnings at early times," Labbe said, adding that such galaxies were expected to be between 10 to 100 times smaller. What could be going on? One suspect is mysterious dark matter, which makes up a sizeable amount of the Universe. When dark matter "clumps" together into a halo, it attracts gas from the surrounding universe which in turn forms a galaxy and its stars, Labbe said. But this process is supposed to take a long time, and "in the early universe, there's just not that many clumps of dark matter," he said. Labbe referred to the "black swan theory", under which just one unexpected event can overturn [all] previous understanding—such as when Europeans saw the first black swans in Australia. He called the galaxies: "six black swans—if even one of them turns out to be true, then it means we have to change our theories…. the model is cracking." In other words, astrophysics and quantum physics are simultaneously blowing what we think we know about the physical world to bits. Human survival depends upon our inner state of consciousness going through a transformation comparable to what science and technology are presenting to us as truth to cope with the pace of change in a way that will preserve our distinctive abilities to feel, think and create. Without a thoroughgoing internal awakening, it seems likely that humanity will be succeeded by a coldly rational robots equipped with an intelligence that will enable them to endure a future that humans could not. People have employed practices such as meditation for millennia to create an inner space that is at home in whatever reality outer conditions might dish out. Psychotropics such as LSD and psylocibin can accelerate the process of seeing, feeling and accepting that one has only an infinitesimal place in a vastness of being that is completely out of mortal control and yet know peace. A “good trip” has much in common with the spiritual awakening and sense of belongingness that scores of thousands have cited over the eons of human history. Dreams are another avenue to the inner awareness and state of consciousness needed to exist in the Anthropocene. Most people don’t remember or record their dreams and some scientists dismiss dreams as nothing more than “electrical brain impulses that pull random thoughts and imagery from our memories.” However, one can develop the discipline to capture many dreams. Doing so, one encounters entities I experience as master teachers in the unconscious. It’s not a straightforward process and, from my perspective, one is almost always like The Fool who sets out on the journey described by The Tarot. But steady attention to the story of one’s self as presented in one’s dreams and to the validity of the dreamscape’s existence is also a pathway to the kind of inner cosmic consciousness needed to thrive in the outer one the Anthropocene is revealing. * According to many professional reporters in attendance at the event. # The experience of Blacks in America constitutes a tragic illustration of what happens when communitarians are thrown into a capitalist context. Millions were kidnapped from their homes, enslaved, and then “freed” only to be told during Reconstruction, “Okay, now you’re free. We, the folks who hold almost all of the power and wealth in this society, still think you’re subhuman and unworthy of education or the right to vote, but you now have a degree of legal equality. Therefore, we have every right to expect you to jump into a system you had no role in creating, to compete with your betters, play according to the rules that are already in place, and STFU.” Talk about crazy-making! (See Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: The Unfinished American Revolution for a an exhaustive and heart wrenching discussion of this pitiful history.) Of course, the West has brought this same supremacist rationality to many other peoples of the world, which is one of the key reasons the Anthropocene is in such bad shape. That isn’t to say that other cultures and systems don’t have their problems. They certainly do, but that’s no excuse for arrogant capitalism’s rape of so many societies and their peoples. Ⓧ Barry Oshry Power and Systems research provides both conceptual insights and specific. Illustrations of the impact that systemic spaces have on the creation and/or the dismemberment of community. I was following along nicely up to this point. While I, of course, know about Dr King and his work, this sentence doesn’t fit with the flow of the piece. Unfortunately he three in the song are overlapping but different than those you’ve cited.

  • Teach Your Parents Well

    Most, maybe all, local school boards or committees hold regular open meetings in which the public can speak near the opening of the proceedings. I’ve been observing some of these meetings in a county that voted 2-to-1 for Trump in 2016 and 2020. References to “Put parental rights first!” “Parents know best!” “Praise Jesus for the installation of a school board that will finally listen to parents!” and “There is no reason to teach anything about sex besides abstinence!” are commonplace. Given the incessantly increasing turbulence of the Anthropocene, it is understandable that many want public education to conform to whatever it did in the “Duck and Cover” Era, when America Was (supposedly) Great. The sheer volume of information in the Anthropocene is simultaneously intimidating, exciting, and completely overwhelming. Simpler ways of comprehending and dealing with reality are understandably attractive. While this graphic is dated, it does give a sense of the exponential growth of information technology (and many other sciences) during the last 125 years of the Anthropocene. It asserts that “the Singularity” is coming when computing power will surpass the capabilities of the human brain. As evidenced by the graph’s estimate of 2023 as the arrival date for the Singularity, its exact beginning won’t be known until it happens, presuming humanity doesn’t precipitate a global calamity before then. But the extraordinary advances being made across multiple scientific and engineering fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and genetics make it clear that an inflection point in history and evolution are fast approaching. When it comes to the pace of change, we ain’t seen nothing yet. The 50,000,000 young people attending America’s public schools need to be equipped with the facts and the frameworks that will give them a shot at leading meaningful and relevant lives as this century unfolds. Given that so many members of their parent and grandparents’ generations are in a state of ignorance mixed with denial over something as basic as the reality of climate change, these kids also bear a great burden of responsibility for helping their elders cope with the reality that is unfolding. The idea that educating the young to move the old toward a better understanding of how to use new thinking and new tools is nothing new in American social policy. The Department of Agriculture set up the 4-H Clubs in the 1890s explicitly to achieve this outcome: In the late 1800’s, researchers discovered adults in the farming community did not readily accept new agricultural developments on university campuses but found that young people were open to new thinking and would experiment with new ideas and share their experiences with adults. In this way, rural youth programs introduced new agriculture technology to communities. The idea of practical and “hands-on” learning came from the desire to connect public school education to country life. Building community clubs to help solve agricultural challenges was a first step toward youth learning more about the industries in their community. The impact of students who were more equipped for modernity than their parents was key to the adoption of technological advances in agriculture, an on-going trend that has contributed the steep decline in the number of rural Americans engaged in farming in the same time frame that the productivity of US agriculture as a totality has increased multifold. Floria, Where Ignorance Comes to Thrive In several Southern states there is a concerted effort to keep kids from even knowing about let along grappling with and understanding many features of the Anthropocene. Florida’s attack on education is particularly onerous and well-organized. Its governor, Ron DeSantis, is basing his administration and his likely presidential run on a culture wars agenda, with the public schools in the cross hairs. DeSantis boasts that Florida is “Where WOKE goes to die!” When pressed to define “Woke” while unsuccessfully defending DeSantis “Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees” (Florida 2022’s Anti-W.O.K.E. House Bill 7) before a Federal judge, DeSantis’ lawyer described Woke as "The belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them."§ That’s actually not a bad definition of the term. To my understanding, Woke refers to being aware of the intersectionality of such as race, gender, social class, disability, and possessing a curiosity about the physical and social sciences and their findings. These sociological drivers are constantly present in social, economic, judicial, and political life. The unwillingness to explore the dynamics of the interaction among these and other life-permeating influences creates a network of oppression of many Americans based on anti-intellectualism. As Richard Hofstadter’s classic article, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” reminded many, the roots of these “systemic injustices” date back at least as far as the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. DeSantis’ is attacking on Woke on several fronts: 50% of math texts proposed for classroom use in 2022 were rejected after nearly 6,000 pages were examined and state reviewers flagged several traces of critical race theory and inklings of “social emotional learning” in proposed texts, two topics that have been explicitly targeted by the DeSantis administration. DeSantis publicly blasted publishers for attempting to “indoctrinate” students. The Florida statehouse passed legislation in 2022 to expand state anti-discrimination laws and prohibit schools and companies from leveling guilt or blame to students and employees based on race or sex. Dubbed the “Stop WOKE Act” by DeSantis, it created new protections for students and workers, including that a person should not be instructed to “feel guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” due to their race, color, sex or national origin. Teachers are removing or covering all books in their classrooms because they fear they might be violating state law by not having the texts approved of by a librarian, or “certified media specialist” Professors are being denied podiums because their presentations might be related to Critical Race Theory in some fashion. The State is refusing to allow the College Board’s Black History Advanced Placement pilot to be taught in the state because its lessons delve too far into political agendas, broaching topics such as queer studies and abolishing prisons, which “significantly lacks educational value.” There’s a Special Place for Sex Ed in DeSantis Hell The deep hostility toward sex education expressed by many in the anti-Woke crowd is especially alarming. Their bodies are ever-present objects of curiosity and study by all young people, and no one is more interested in sexuality than adolescents. They don’t have a choice. Puberty foists the topic on them. This uneasiness about giving children and adolescents information about sex and sexuality is certainly the case in Florida. The most recent survey of sexual behavior among Florida public high school students by the Florida Health Department was completed in 2017. Having been a sexually active teenager, which was commonplace when I was that age 60 years ago, I was not surprised by the current findings**: 34% of high school females and 42% of high school males reported that they had ever had sexual intercourse. Overall, 38%, or about 4 in 10, reported that they had ever had sexual intercourse. 5% of the students had had intercourse before the age of 13. 22% by the age of 15 and 57% by the age of 19. 10% of high school students had had sex with four of more partners 13% of those who were sexually active did not use birth control during their last intercourse. This survey labels sexual intercourse as “risk behavior.” Understanding that adolescents having sex and every child having an interest in the functioning of their body at whatever age is more appropriately defined as “a fact of life.” It is true that the sexualizing of pre-pubescent children is repugnant to many, me included. Sexual activity is completely natural post-puberty. It’s what’s supposed to happen. Education can give younger children information about what sex is and how it works without encouraging them to obsess over feelings their bodies aren’t yet having. But the idea that giving young kids some information about the facts of life isn’t the same thing as “indoctrinating” them into a sexual orientation. Nor is providing teenagers with information and contexts with which they can learn about their own feelings, needs and the dynamics of relationships. Doing so helps a population that is going through many kinds of mood swings and hormonal changes comprehend themselves and make thoughtful choices. The linkage between sex ed and social emotional learning (SEL) is part of what makes SEL such a target by frightened people who want sex and the kind of self-reflection promoted by SEL to remain taboo in places like Florida. SEL’s objectives is to increase “students’ capacity to integrate skills, attitudes, and behaviors to deal effectively and ethically with daily tasks and challenges," for example, sex, sexual orientation, and gender dynamics. The anti-Woke campaigns inflamed by politicians like DeSantis are an effort to maintain the discussion of race relations, sex and the influence of science on understanding the Earth’s history and social activity in line with norms established before and during the first half of the 20th century in place with only marginal changes. They are right to believe that Woke shakes up unscientific beliefs regarding these matters. Gender is not binary. It is largely determined by the way in which people act in their specific cultures. There are many shades of gray in sexual behavior. Heterosexuality seems to be predominant among 80% of the population worldwide. Given the taboo on the expression of anything that is considered to indicate homosexuality in many cultures, one might assert that this figure could be as much as 10% higher than the true demographics. Regardless of what the statistic is, there are lots of variations in the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of heterosexuals. This is a truth about the Anthropocene that millions and probably billions of parents do not want to admit. When the prophet, Isaiah, said “a child shall lead them,” (Isaiah 11:6), he might well have been referring to the task that lays before the young today. They are the ones who are and will be so aware of the truth of Dylan’s words for this time as much as they were when they were written in 1963. Come gather 'round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown And accept it that soon You'll be drenched to the bone If your time to you is worth savin' And you better start swimmin' Or you'll sink like a stone For the times they are a-changin' They are the ones who can impress upon their parents the truth that it time for them to abandon the “old road.” The tsunami of the Anthropocene will wash away all outmoded ideas and idols. Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land And don't criticize What you can't understand Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command Your old road is rapidly agin' Please get out of the new one If you can't lend your hand For the times they are a-changin' It is said that “our children are born to transcend us.” They deserve an education that equip them to do so as well as possible in this roller-coaster called the Anthropocene. § Judge Mark Walker declared the Stop WOKE act to be unconstitutional and forbade it implementation in higher education. “If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case,” the judge wrote. “But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents.” ** I was not able to determine the sample size of the survey.

  • Talk about a sinkhole! Gravity is so tough it even bends light!

    In my experience, very few people understand Newtonian physics, let alone the Einsteinian version. But they sure get it at NASA! When they say "It is rocket science," they ain't kidding! Several years ago NASA launched a satellite that had to swing shot around the Sun twice (!) to get to one of Jupiter's moons at a precise time on July 4th. (That's about 540 million miles away!) It landed almost precisely at its intended destination right on time. It was thrilling to me, a guy who'd get lost driving around the block if I didn't have my GPS. The satellite's mission, in part, is to study the climate of this moon and report back. So, consider this: the people of the United States are okay with NASA studying the weather of a moon 500+ million miles away, but a whole bunch of us don't want to hear what NASA says about our own climate changes right here at home.

  • Who says the University of Chicago is where fun goes to die?!

    I had a short lived career at the University, but my daughter, Leila, is a proud graduate and editor of We Made Uranium!

  • Here's the one I got at Camden Town

    I saw Elvis the day before my twelfth bday in 1956. Talk about a life changing event!

  • My T-Shirts Are Me

    Not too long ago I was at a huge flea market in Camden Town in London. Hundreds of vendors. I was with two friends who were immediately disdainful of all of the schlock and trinkets populating the stalls: "What could you possibly find here that you'd want?!" said my snooty pals. "Rock 'n' Roll T-Shirts!" I responded immediately. And I was right. Everywhere I go, I keep an eye open for T-Shirts that appeal to some aspect of me. Maybe you do too. I'm sharing some of them here. Tragically, a number of my favorites got too many holes and faded out through wear and tear, so these are the survivors. But, as you'll see, it's not like collection has declined to a very few set of threads. Click each T-shirt to learn more:

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