Monday, October 23, 2006

The Perfect World?

“You are the pioneers and the founders of this new world, and you have unbelievably great opportunities to put your stamp, to leave a legacy, to create things which will endure and have value. The opportunity to participate in the creation of a new world is really a rare one and so I hope you cherish it.” - Mitch Kapor -

This quote from Kapor is taken from his speech at the Second Life Community Convention this past August. Mark Wallace expanded on Kapor's insights and on the growing communal phenomenon called Second Life.

Kapor calls the evolution of activity which utilizes wikis, mailing lists, blogs, and virtual communities, as massively distributed collaboration. This MDC is a growing tool used in practically everything imaginable, including education, emergency relief, and also the constant birth and growth of thousands of virtual communities. MDC is the fuel which feeds the growth of this phenomenon. And it adds to the development of our virtual worlds while allowing us to discover possible practical applications which will benefit our communities.

I heard of Second Life quite a while ago, but it was just recently while traveling late one evening that I tuned into an NPR station and caught a program entitled The Infinite Mind which was hosted by John Hockenberry. I had tuned into a special four part series done by IM called "Through the Looking Glass". Here is an excerpt from their website about the four part series.
We here at The Infinite Mind relished the opportunity to enter the 3D arena of virtual technology and within eight weeks had constructed our own 16 acre virtual broadcast center in Second Life. From our virtual studios we went on to produce live broadcasts with guests including author Kurt Vonnegut; singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega; internet visionary Howard Rheingold; and world-renowned designer John Maeda, of the MIT Media Lab, along with others who plan, build, live, work and play in on-line "virtual worlds." The series was taped for broadcast, in front of a live audience, from inside The Infinite Mind's virtual studios and broadcast center on Second Life.

It just so happened that when I stumbled upon the program, the guest was the infamous Howard Rheingold. One of my personal heroes of sorts. So needless to say I spent the next hour or so constantly scanning the radio waves searching for alternate stations as the hills I were traveling through kept blocking the remote station's air waves. (Note: Need to check on that satellite radio thingy.)

The virtual interviews via Second Life can now be found on Blip TV. These interviews include not only Rheingold, but also John Maeda, Kurt Vonnegut, and Suzanne Vega.

Just what the hell is Second Life? Well, this is the immediate definition given via their website:
Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by a total of 1,097,243 people from around the globe.

Second Life even has it's own economical system and the SL marketplace currently supports millions of U.S. dollars in monthly transactions. If you are interested and want to learn more about SL, there was a video released earlier this year entitled Glimpse Inside a Metaverse: The Virtual World of Second Life. There was also a piece done about SL on Tech TV which is fairly short but yet very informative.

I must say I'm intrigued by this new world with the possibliities it offers us through our on-line worlds. Pretty awesome stuff and I'm thinking there is something here all contributors of on-line communities might utilize. The tools of the future are changing rapidly and it will take a community of real people to keep up with technology and it's usefullness to our virtual communities.

And as soon as I pay for my home here in the real world, I might just think about purchasing my virtual home! I'm thinking of a place with a view of the mountains, and plenty of trees not exposed to the constant acid rains, and maybe a fresh cold spring nearby which hasn't been exposed to high Mercury levels. Ahhh, the perfect world! :)

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is. - Kevin Tillman -

We the people have allowed rampant corporate/political corruption to destroy our constitution, along with the justice and the rights the document represents! In his article, After Pat's Birthday, Tillman stresses the point that somehow we have allowed, and even have helped perpetrate these injustices against humanity itself. Tillman tells us the power of this somehow is nurtured by fear, insecurity, and indifference. I suppose these three could be considered the trilogy of authoritarianism.
Fear...In times of fear, authoritarian impulses are less constrained and people feel less able to complain about them. After all, no one wants to be thought unpatriotic when the country is in such grave danger. And when there is no check on government officials certain of their own rectitude, the temptation for them to act unilaterally and arbitrarily becomes irresistible. Such is the problem we face today, with a president and an attorney general who have dedicated themselves to stamping out all evildoers both outside the country and within it.

Insecurity...An evil exists that threatens every man, woman, and child of this great nation. We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our homeland."

Indifference...This maelstrom of conflicts has many sources. Primarily, the Bush administration has consistently demonstrated loyal support for the interests of multinational corporate power, and drawn support in turn from Christian fundamentalist political forces that base their appeal on apocalyptic messages of "rapture" and "end times." The financial interests of the administration's corporate supporters, coupled with the intolerance of its religious base, make for a fanatical and poisonous challenge to democracy. The same forces have simultaneously shown utter indifference to the cruel economic consequences and the environmental devastation caused by single-minded pursuit of their political agenda. The result is the economic, political, and spiritual context of the civil liberties emergency we face today.

Somehow we have fallen into this well constructed power grab which has imprisoned our spirit...Somehow we must escape this authoritative trap and place the country back into the people's hands! Somehow!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Mine Safety..Profit over Life

Well, the administrative idiocy continues as Bush ignores the Senate, UMW, AFL-CIO, and the families of the victims of the Sago Mine Disaster and appoints Richard Stickler as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. Even though Stickler's mine management history is steeped in injuries that were double the national average

Stickler has spent the majority of his career as a coal industry executive focuesed on profits...not safety. He is known for making concessions and granting exceptions from safety rules for certain mining companies. He was also in charge when the Quecreek Mine Disaster took place and he believes our current mine safety laws are adequate even though we've lost eighteen miners this year!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The War Prayer

Mark Twain is believed to have dictated this around 1904-05 but it was rejected by his publisher. It was later found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts. It was published in 1923 in Albert Bigelow Paine's anthology, Europe and Elsewhere. Although this work deals with a different war in a different time...war and the horrors of it's reality will forever remain relevant to all of humanity.

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

*God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!*

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(*After a pause.*) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

This appeared on Information Clearing House and was transcribed by Steven Orso

Monday, October 02, 2006

Let's Hear the Truth!

I have been impressed by Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich's actions. He has repeatedly stoop up and voiced his concerns and he seems to be one of the few of our elected officials who has actually shown some real concern about the path in which this country is now upon. In his speech from the floor of the House, it's evident that Kucinich is troubled over the deterioration of the checks and balances between the powers in our government.
"I want to know, are Members of Congress who challenge this administration as to their taking us into illegal wars, is that somehow contrary to allegiance to the United States? I mean, we need to think about this. What are we doing to this institution here? Are we turning us all into mice here, running into a corner because we are afraid to challenge the President?

If you haven't heard of Sam Gardiner, who once taught at the National War College, I urge you to read his report entitled Truth From These Podia. It has to do with the information warfare, perception management, and psychological operations which were/are being used in our government's misinformation war against it's people.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tribute to the 'Dillo'

I close my eyes and concentrate...I can feel the coolness of the shade from the wisteria which was draped overhead. I can smell the sweet aroma coming from the table next to mine as they pass around a big fat one. "Huh? What's that? Sure man, pass it on over this way!" I can still taste the wonderful peanut butter and bananna sandwiches with cantelope slices on the side. Ummm, those were the best! And as my mind continues to drift back to that time, I can hear the music. Ahhh! The music! Some of the best artists performing in one of the best places, and it was shared with some of the best people that I've ever had the pleasure to meet.

This place, is where the cowboys and the hippies began to find some common ground. I'm not sure if it was the music, the power of place, or whether it was just time for the people to evolve. Now that I think about it, it was a really strange unearthly place which didn't mirror any of the cultural, ethnic, or lifestyle differences or conflicts which were so prevalent in society at the time. This time I'm referring to can be called the decade of the dillo and the place was known as the Armadillo World Headquarters. The Armadillo was host to names such as Charlie Daniels, Bruce Springsteen, Emmy Lou Harris,Willie Nelson, Taj Mahal, Leon Redbone, Asleep at the Wheel, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, Steve Fromholtz, BB King, Jerry Jeff Walker, Greezy Wheels, Edgar and Johnny Winters, Pointer Sisters, Bonnie Raitt, and many, many, more. That list is just the tip of the iceberg as this phenomena grew. With a song release from Michael Martin Murphey the name cosmic cowboy was now hip.

In an essay by Michael Allen, he relates how the counterculture of the time had a larger impact on the cowboy culture than what most people would admit.
"Cowboys" and "Hippies" are not as different as one might think. This article explores the connections between cowboys and hippies portrayed by 1960s and 1970s countercultural musicians, moviemakers, and novelists who stressed themes of the Myth of the West and the Cowboy Code. These portrayals of "Cosmic Cowboys" show that many scholars' generalizations about the "radical" and "leftist" nature of the 1960s "counterculture" break down under close inspection.

We're just a couple of free spirits driftin' across the land.
Chris LeDoux, "The Cowboy and the Hippie"

On New Year's Eve of 1980, Kenneth Threadgill played the last concert at the Armadillo. I was very fortunate to just happen to be in Austin during the early 70s and I was fortunate to have a good friend who drummed for Threadgill during '73-'74 in his Velvet Cowpasture Band. This allowed me a unique backstage position during a small section of this era of the Dillo and I shall never forget how the people came together in spite of their differences. A solidarity which to this day I can't explain. But I am proud I was able to experience the phenomena which proved to me that it is possible for the people to unite and share in taking part in something which is considered impossible by the mainstream!

Steve Hopson has some awesome photos of the old place featuring a lot of Jim Franklin's art.
"Armadillos and hippies are somewhat alike, because they're maligned and picked on. Armadillos like to sleep all day and roam at night. They share their homes with others. People think they're smelly and ugly and they keep their noses in the grass. They're paranoid. But they've got one characteristic nobody can knock. They survive." - Eddie Wilson (Founder of AWHQ) -
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