A few weeks ago, I visited the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. I didn’t expect that I’d like the exhibition that much- my eyes tend to glaze over at the discussion of military specs. However, some of the museum, which is on a functioning Air Force Base, really surprised and impressed me. I liked that the museum had seven different Air Force Ones available, four of which could be explored inside and out.
I also really liked looking at the ways in which different air force jets and planes of different eras were decorated. I took many pictures of the cheesecake-style pinup gals, critters and skeletons that adorned these big flying weapons. The gals are not surprising I suppose- they echo the centuries-old tradition of masthead mermaids on ships. What really struck me was the use of contemporary cartoon characters as happy icons of war.
I decided to string together my photos of airplane cheesecake and cartoon characters in another simplistic Youtube slideshow. Check it out, and look out for the Seven Dwarves, Donald Duck, Goofy, The Jolly Green Giant, Dennis the Menace and Dumbo, all emblazoned proudly on the face of military jets.
I wandered around at this year’s St. Louis Earth Day celebration with a camcorder to capture some of the many images and sounds. I boiled my raw video down into two short videos, each of them lasting about five minutes.
The first one is the “fun” video–you’ll see what I mean. I’m assuming that some of the scenes at Forest Park will give you a smile or leave you shaking your head. Free hugs, anyone? Or how about some sound therapy? And do consider the computerized body analysis administered to me by a chiropractic group working really (really) hard to sell me their long-term services. BTW, I took their test assuming that any legit test would pick up on a rather serious condition I’m dealing with–half of my left hand has gone numb and my left arm is at 1/2 strength due to a pinched nerve; it’s so bad that I’m almost certain to have neck surgery in a few weeks. But the elaborate computerized scan didn’t pick up on that major issue. I did learn that my gall bladder is in great shape, however.
Editing down these videos, I was surprised at how much music one can hear at the festival. Musician Leslie Sanazaro, who has often promoted “green” issues, is featured at the end of this first video (a few months ago, I produced a three-part interview with Leslie). Enjoy!
Now for the “serious” interview. Among all the people attending the fair were a few contractors who sell products and services that can really make a dent in the amount of energy used by your home. The first half of this short video features a firm (Home Green Home) that does elaborate energy audits for about $400. According to Marc Bluestone, up-front cost would be a bargain based on the amount of energy you can save (more than 20% of your energy bills). The second firm, Missouri Solar Living, installs solar equipment for water heating and electricity. You’ll hear some compelling facts and figures, especially about solar hot water. Note: I don’t know any more about these two firms than you’ll see on this videotape, but I did enjoy meeting these guys at Earth Day and I appreciated hearing energy-saving information from two companies who are actually doing substantial work out in the field.
If the title didn’t give you a Clue, then I just have to tell you that I like metals. I like melting metals. And I finally did a video of metal melting.
Why? People are always asking me about how light titanium metal is. I was inspired by Theodore Gray and his Periodic Table Table to collect a set of samples of representative metal bars so as to show people. To let them feel for themselves.
I started with Tungsten, because it is as heavy as gold and the hardest one to shape. I then collected and shaped matching bars of aluminum, titanium, bronze (95% copper), steel (97% iron), and magnesium (lighter than carbon). But absent the lead, I can’t illustrate how much heavier tungsten (gold and platinum) are than lead. Pity I don’t dare use silver, gold, or platinum bars. They would be funexemplars, but I fear short lived.
But lead (Pb from the Latin Plumbum, as in plumbing, plumb-bob, etc) is now harder to get. This useful material has been in household use for almost 6,000 years. Children who likely drank from lead vessels gave us every advance in our civilization. But about a generation ago, it was declared toxic. So now it is getting hard to find outside of radiation labs, and expensive there.
So, I decided to cast my own piece of fresh lead plate from some crusty and oxidized 19th century lead pipe. To feel the pipe is to understand its utility as a weapon; heavy and rigid, yet soft.
Unfortunately, I didn’t set up my camera to show me chopping up the lead pipe. I used a hammer and chisel to get through the crustiest parts (hundred year old drain pipe, eww). But tin snips work well on 1/4″ thick lead. It cuts like cold butter. But shiny.
And the piece I ended up with evoked a geological feature I’d visited: Shiprock in New Mexico. Magma oozed up through a crack in the Earth’s crust forming a vane much like you see on my cast plate. An accidental demonstration in practical geology.
To succeed as a musician who performs your own creations, you need a diverse skill set honed through hard experience. Being able to play an instrument proficiently is merely one part of that package. My recent interview of Leslie Sanazaro Santi reminded me of the many skills one must develop, as well as the immense amount energy one must invest, in order to have a successful career of performing one’s own music. Truly, the performing musician’s skill set includes virtually every one of the multiple intelligences set forth by Howard Gardner.
I first met Leslie Sanazaro more than a year ago, at a weekly farmer’s market at Tower Grove Park in St. Louis (Leslie was recently married and she is just beginning to use her new name: Leslie Sanazaro Santi). While staring at some vegetables, I heard some captivating music about 30 yards away. Helpless to resist the siren song, I walked up toward the sound-source and took a seat on a folding chair. Ten feet from me, a woman rocked on her keyboard bench as she sang and played, her whole body “dancing” with her rhythms and her foot actively stomping out the beats. It was obvious that this was a musician who truly felt her music and believed in it. She had no drum machine nor any other gimmicks. What I heard was straight-forward first-rate music. It occurred to me that she seemed too serious about her music to be playing for an audience of only a dozen people at a local market.
My brother-in-law Steve, an accomplished blues and jazz musician, soon joined me in the small audience. We agreed that we were listening to an impressive performer and composer. After staying for a full set, I told Leslie I enjoyed her music, I handed her $10 for a copy of her CD, “Stars in the Attic,” and I signed up for e-mail updates regarding her future performances.
For the next year, I received mass-distributed e-mails every week or two indicating Leslie’s playing schedule, mostly at venues in or near the City of St. Louis. Eventually, her e-mails indicated that she was going on a tour through Asia, playing dozens of shows before returning to St. Louis. In September, 2008, the e-mails indicated that Leslie had released a new CD entitled “On Your Roof.” It sounded like things were going her way.
About a month ago, I visited Leslie’s site at “Reverb Nation,” to listen to several of her new tunes from “On Your Roof.” Bottom line: this CD is impressive. Her music has ratcheted up to a new level and the clean studio product spared no attention to detail. More than ever, I was impressed with Leslie’s high quality voice work and the sparkling cadence of her lyrics. In order to fully understand my motivation for this elaborate (and yes, glowing) profile of Leslie Sanazaro Santi, take a moment to visit Reverb Nation and listen to a few of her tunes (I especially recommend listening to “Put on Your Shoes” and “Hot and Cold” to hear some of the many impressive things she can do with her voice).
On June 7, 2008, I had the opportunity to discuss the commercialization of American children with Josh Golin, the Associate Director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.
Josh’s two-part interview was sponsored by—no one. Isn’t this total lack of commercial sponsorship a pleasant change of pace?
People who warn about the commercialization of our children sound quaint or even shrill to most other Americans. After all, how could it possibly be a bad thing to buy lots and lots of things for our children, to “spoil” them?
As Josh indicates in this interview, there is now scientific data substantiating that buying children more things is harming them. More stuff (and the anticipation of yet more stuff) leads to a warped set of attitudes and priorities, as well as obesity and attention disorders.
I enjoy talking with Josh because he makes his case clearly and enthusiastically. You can see this for yourself by clicking on the two videos of his interview. What CCFC offers in place of a chokingly endless stream of products is common sense: children can thrive without owning the toys hawked by merchandisers. Instead of more toys, children need more creative play and more time developing real life relationships with other children and adults in their communities.
Part I – Interview of Josh Golin
We all know that American middle class children don’t need most of possessions they have (they are a lot like their parents in this regard). Because there is a limited number of hours in a child’s life, giving children more of what they don’t need leaves them with less time and energy for the sorts of things they do need, such as physical fitness, healthy relationships and creative play.
In 2006, Norman Solomon wrote War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. His book detailed the information tactics the American government uses to launch wars.
I was able to attend a viewing of “War Made Easy” last Saturday night at the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis (NCMR2008). This crisply edited movie was narrated by Sean Penn. Much of what keeps this movie engaging are the dozens of carefully chosen news media clips generated during various American wars for the past 50 years, including large numbers of videos clips from the Vietnam war and the Iraq occupation. The magic of “War Made Easy” is that the directors carefully edited and arranged these clips to show us that nothing much has really changed: If an American president has decided that he wants to go to war, the watchdog American media is likely to become a lapdog and we will inevitably go to war.
Following the screening of “War Made Easy,” I attended a discussion of the movie led by media critic Norman Solomon and the co-director and producer of the movie, Loretta Alper. The following morning, Ms. Alper granted me the opportunity to interview her further regarding the making of “War Made Easy.”
Whenever we Americans go to war, we get there through a well-documented series of stages. As I watched “War Made Easy,” I saw better than ever that these stages are entirely predictable in the context of America’s warmongering ways.
Perhaps this characterization of America sounds too shrill, but just look around. The evidence is everywhere that war is a sport in America just as sports are warlike. Our TV shows and movies overflow with violence as a first-rate method of dealing with conflict. The toys we foist on our boys extol violence as the most obvious way of settling disputes. We challenge each other with statements like “support the troops,” no matter what those troops are doing (and see here ). We are all too ready to invoke the word “war,” because that word triggers a ready-made conceptual frame for freely and guiltlessly expressing ourselves with bullets, bombs and blood. In America, this frame of war is such an incredibly effective filter that we proceed to consider only the “benefits” of war and we ignore the massive damages inflicted on both war-zone civilians and upon millions of Americans (and see here).