Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Matthew's Begats" - Andrew Peterson, 2004 (Contemporary)

Abraham had Isaac
Isaac, he had Jacob
Jacob, he had Judah and his kin
Then Perez and Zerah
Came from Judah's woman, Tamar
Perez, he brought Hezron up
And then came

Aram, then Amminadab
Then Nahshon, who was then the dad of Salmon
Who with Rahab fathered Boaz
Ruth, she married Boaz who had Obed
Who had Jesse
Jesse, he had David who we know as king

David, he had Solomon by dead Uriah's wife
Solomon, well you all know him
He had good old Rehoboam
Followed by Abijah who had Asa
Asa had Jehoshaphat had Joram had Uzziah
Who had Jotham then Ahaz then Hezekiah

Followed by Manasseh who had Amon
Who was a man
Who was father of a good boy named Josiah
Who grandfathered Jehoiachin
Who caused the Babylonian captivity
Because he was a liar

Then he had Shealtiel, who begat Zerubbabel
Who had Abiud who had Eliakim
Eliakim had Azor who had Zadok who had Akim
Akim was the father of Eliud then
He had Eleazar who had Matthan who had Jacob
Now, listen very closely
I don't want to sing this twice
Jacob was the father of Joseph
The husband of Mary
The mother of Christ

I hope you paid very close attention to all of that because there will be a pop quiz at the end of this post...just kidding. Ever notice how whenever some people tell a story it seems like they always have to go back to the Garden Of Eden to tell it? Andrew Peterson's "Matthew's Begats" does exactly that, but fortunately for us he doesn't quite go all the way back, and it only takes him 2 minutes and 12 seconds to do it. This little ditty is taken from the Bible from the book of Matthew, chapter 1.

The purpose of Matthew's Begats is to establish the genealogy of Jesus. If you were to flip through the Bible randomly, you would notice that any time a person is introduced as a character in a story, we are told (at least) who his father and grandfather were. Many of these ancestry reports also name the person's mother, and quite often the country from which the character's family came from. While these can sometimes be quite lengthy and boring, they do serve a real, historical purpose.

The Older Testament of the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, which is the language of the Nation of Israel. Historically, nearly all of the people groups of the Middle East were oral cultures, which means that they didn't write things down a lot. They simply passed their people's history from person to person and generation to generation by word of mouth such as telling stories and singing songs. As is true with all oral cultures, because of the nature of informational preservation being "the norm", very little information was lost or altered. While we in the West might find such communication inconsistent and unreliable, for these cultures it was a way of life. So, in the same way that we preserve facts in writing with little alteration is the identical mechanism for which oral cultures preserve facts...the only difference is in the medium.

In the Israelite culture, since there were very few written records (including family trees), the characters in the various stories were given brief genealogical introductions so as to establish credibility. Family lineages were well known among all the people. If the story character was foreign to the nation, then his or her country of origin was given as an identifier. All one would have to do, to establish that character's existence, would be to travel to the named geographical area, speak the character's lineage, and then watch the locals' heads nod up and down. So, every time there is a lineage in the Bible, it is to establish that he or she was not a made up character and that he or she really did exist and do the things that were mentioned in the story.

Matthew's Begats are no different. Historically, they establish the existence of Jesus Christ's presence on this earth as a real, honest-to-goodness, flesh-and-blood person. There are virtually no cultures that deny His existence in this capacity. To do so would be unrealistic and silly; no one, acting in any capacity, could ever be in any position to say for certain that a man named Jesus never existed, for along with the "stories" the things He did during His life, what is undisputed is the existence of His followers, their writings, and the unearthed archaeological artifacts.

A good analogy of historical genealogical evidence can be seen if we look at our own surnames. One's surname is usually the unique familial identifier. More weight of importance is given to one's surname than one's first name. In fact, for example, in China, a person's familial name is given before his birth name. Historically, many surnames grew out of of one's occupation. The name "Smith" historically implies that one's family was involved in some sort of craftsman trades work, suggesting that one's ancestor was perhaps a blackSmith or silver Smith. "Wainwright" and "Wright" are derivatives of the term for a wagon repairman. Three guesses what former occupations were perhaps held by founding members of families named "Carpenter" or "Shepherd". Our own surnames can also designate the name of the family's founder. Consider, for example, "Anderson" (the son of Andrew) or "Johnson" (son of John). Surnames were also given to indicate a particular geographic or topographical region from which one's family hailed, like: "Hill", "Ford", and "Woods". Furthermore, while today the surnames rarely have anything to do with these historical indicators, one can generally determine another's nationality simply by the name's appearance, spelling, and pronunciation. Examples are "Lopez" (of Spanish descent), "Jablonski" (of Polish descent...the "ski" gives it away), "Fong" (of Chinese descent), and the dead giveaway of "McDonalds" or "O'Briens" from Ireland. The Begats, however, do not just establish the mere human person of Jesus in history.

There are numerous places in the Bible and throughout other historical records in which the preservation of a single name was of great importance. Genealogies do not only tell us occupation, origin, and attribute. Genealogical records were also historically kept to establish and maintain class and influence. A knight during the Middle Ages had to produce his "patience of nobility", was a record of his family tree proving his higher social class. The nobility (kings, lords, counts, etc.) keep long, lengthy records of their heirs and ancestors in order to maintain their family's occupation of their office and act as identification and evidence of their right to bear such noble offices and titles and to act in their respective official capacities. A noble family heritage also entitled him or her to more respect and privilege.

Again, Matthew's Begats keeps right in step with tradition. However before I demonstrate this, I must go forward from His birth and describe a particular scene surrounding His death.

Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He is God. As such, He is and has laws (such as lying, stealing, cheating, etc.). Man breaks those laws a lot. Like on earth, judges cannot ethically carry on intimate relationships with criminals. So it is with God. So mankind has to be punished, just like the courtroom criminal. But no matter what Man does, he conviction cannot be undone. Just like our earthly laws, once a felon, always a felon. As with our earthly laws, a penalty must be paid. The Bible teaches us that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the standard of God. So, we will all one day stand before the Great Judge, each one of us (including me) with a mountain of sin penalties from our breaking of God's laws. Just like on earth, "not getting caught" doesn't mean the crime wasn't committed, and the passage of time does not negate this fact, either. So, Since God has no use for our money or our possessions, the penalty for sin is eternal death. The baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago to live a perfect life and to die an innocent man on a cross...to sacrifice Himself in place of our own selves, so that our sin penalties (now and forever) are paid in full. We can either accept the sacrifice of His body and spirit or we can one day stand before Him and use our own to pay the penalties. It's up to us.

I mentioned that He was innocent when He died. This is true. There were many accusations against Him. None but one of them held merit. That accusation is never forgotten in the description of His crucifixion; however, I find that the gravity of the truth in this accusation is often missed or lost. The lineage of Jesus Christ, given by Matthew 1, traces His parentage all the way back to Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. However, about half way through Jesus' family tree, there is mention of a king named David. It is this particular ancestor that, had Jesus played up and called more attention to, might have saved His life. But He never did. Only at the beginning of His birth story (found synoptic in Matthew 1 and Luke 3) is this king heritage mentioned.

One thing we can credit to the Jewish oral culture is that there wasn't a single person in the culture who didn't know his history. They even knew the metaphysical details surrounding these events. King David was the best king that Israel ever had. He was such a good king, and God was so pleased with King David that He made an unconditional promise to Him. God told David that he would never cease to have an heir sit on the throne of Israel. This was a straight-up promise that God made with no strings attached, that from that point on, someone from David's children would always be the king of Israel.

A long time had passed since King David. The nation of Israel lost many political battles and was conquered and nearly destroyed by many invaders such as the Babylonians. Ultimately, the Babylonians then gave way to the Roman Empire. However, just because a nation is overcome by another does not mean that the heritage of kingship disappears forever. Israel had been under the control of hostile nations and lived in fear and hatred of them for many hundreds of years, but ever since the Babylonian invasion of Israel around 594 B.C., they were never strong enough to attain their own autonomous monarchy again.

When Jesus was crucified, the only accusation that was substantial enough to get the attention of the then-ruling Roman government and to "stick" was that Jesus had claimed to be King of the Jews. It was customary for the crime of the crucified person to be burned in wood and hung above his head as he hung on his cross. On Jesus' cross, in 3 languages, hung the letters "INRA", which stands for "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." This was the crime Jesus was ultimately crucified for.

Jesus Christ, born in a manger, was the lost heir to the throne of David. The Roman tetrarch Herod knew it - he ordered all Hebrew boys under the age of 2 to be killed for his power was threatened by another king. Travellers from the Far East knew it - they brought Him gifts fit for a King and bowed down and worshiped Him. Jesus was descended from King David, which would have made all the difference in the world to the situations in which He often found Himself, including His death. But He never even mentioned entitlement to His earthly throne at all. Not one word. His purpose was not to be the king. It was to be the Savior of all mankind so that mankind would no longer be eternally separated from Him. He loved us that much. But the Bible teaches us that He came unto His own people, and His own people rejected Him. As his well-documented family history shows us...He really was the King of the Jews!

Happy Birthday King Jesus!

"Matthew's Begats" - Andrew Peterson, 2004
(bluegrass version)

~information been-getted from lots of different places, but mostly from the Bible from various places from the Newer Testament Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Cities In Dust" - Siouxsie & The Banshees, 1985 (gothic rock)

Water was running; children were running
You were running out of time
Under the mountain, a golden fountain
Were you praying at the Lares shrine?
But ohh oh your city lies in dust, my friend
ohh oh your city lies in dust, my friend

We found you hiding, we found you lying
Choking on the dirt and sand
Your former glories and all the stories
Dragged and washed with eager hands

But ohh oh your city lies in dust, my friend
ohh oh your city lies in dust, my friend
your city lies in dust

Water was running; children were running
We found you hiding, we found you lying
Water was running; children were running
We found you hiding, we found you lying
your city lies in dust
ohh oh your city lies in dust, my friend

Hot and burning in your nostrils
Pouring down your gaping mouth
Your molten bodies blanket of cinders
Caught in the throes .......

Your city lies in dust

"Cities in Dust" is probably THE most well known song by gothic rockers Siouxsie & The Banshees, and ironically the song is about probably THE most famous volcanic eruption in history - Mt. Vesuvius. The cities in dust, then of course, are the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which were both destroyed by the mountain on August 24, 79 A.D.

Mt. Vesuvius (in Italy) is one of the European mainland's only active volcano to have erupted in the past 100 years. The 79 A.D. eruption is of particular historical (and lyrical) note because archaeological expeditions to the area unearthed petrified "statues" of the townsfolk. i.e the eruption was so quick and deadly that many died right in the midst of their activities and their bodies were forever preserved as ash-to-stone statues. Volcanoes are quite diverse in their eruption behaviors due to the diversity of the composition of the earth's crust beneath and the length of time between eruptions. Some are quite docile, such as those on the Hawaiian Islands. Mt. Vesuvius, however, has a propensity for violent, explosive eruptions more along the lines of something like Mt. Saint Helens in the Pacific Northwest.

For the citizens of Pompeii and Herculaneum, first warnings of the volcano's rumblings came on February 5, 62 A.D. At about mid-day, a long and muffled roar shook the town. Unfortunately, nobody knew was it was, nor did they know where it came from. Dispite being a very active volcano in geologic terms, as far as human time lines went, it had lain dormant for as long as anyone could remember. Plus, because of the prolonged dormancy, there were no records to suggest that this particular volcano ever caused any sort of destruction.

This earthquake lasted for two days. It shook the foundations of buildings, which damaged walls and ceilings. Residents fled the scene for fear of the failing buildings, but many fell victim to many rifts and chasms formed by the shaking ground outside of the cities. Nearby reservoirs broke and the cities were flooded. As with all earthquakes, the duration was short, lasting only a moment with aftershocks lasting for just a few hours after. Dispite the event, citizens returned to their cities and rebuilt what was damaged.

For the next 17 years the earthquakes and tremors continued, and every time, the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum made repairs, intent on making their city more grand and spectacular than it had been previously. Nearing August of 79 A.D., the frequency of these warning signs increased, however their intensity was so slight that buildings were not destroyed, and so the villagers were not alarmed. However, other warning signs that we currently deem as evidence of impending volcanic doom began to arise and were also disregarded. For example, natural wells and springs began to dry up. Today, we understand this sign as a dramatic increase in temperature, which causes the water to evaporate, but to those who lived in Pompeii and Herculaneum, it was merely a sign that the gods were displeased.

On August 20, the earth began to rumble and crack. The usually calm ocean began hurling ferocious waves against the shoreline. Horses and cattle and other animals became uneasy and unsettled. Finally, on August 24, the earth could no longer contain its fury and the mountainside gave way to the tremendous pressure underneath with an earsplitting crack. Firey stones and flames spewed from the mountain's summit sending ash and rock raining over the countryside. Mud flowed from the side of the mountain at incredible speeds, swallowing up and burying anything and everything in its path. Yet even worse were the invisible killers - mephetic vapors which rolled down to the towns silent but deadly - asphyxiating gases such as sulphur dioxide, carbonic acid, and hydrogen sulfide. The most deadly of all volcanic gases, however, is carbon dioxide.

It was now that the people of the sister cities chose to flee. Many of them stopped to retrieve their personal belongings and load up their oxen, horses, and donkeys with whatever they could carry. Because of the pandamonium, many people opted to stay inside in their homes and businesses waiting for the streets to clear. Ignorant of the invisible dangers, still many others took shelter in inner rooms of their homes, believing the structures would protect them from the ash, mud, and other volcanic debris.

For those who waited to long to escape or trusted in their internal shelters, death inevitably came. As many as 400 were asphyxiated by the invisible carbon dioxide that crept through every crevice. Many could not outrun the mudflows. If none of those things were to blame for one's death, then there was yet one more element which no living being could escape: volcanic ash fall, also known as "hard rain". The US Geological Survey has this to say about "hard rain":

"Volcanic ash consists of tiny jagged particles of rock and natural glass blasted into the air by a volcano. Ash can threaten the health of people and livestock, pose a hazard to flying jet aircraft, damage electronics and machinery, and interrupt power generation and telecommunications. Wind can carry ash thousands of miles, affecting far greater areas and many more people than other volcano hazards. Even after a series of ash-producing eruptions has ended, wind and human activity can stir up fallen ash for months or years, presenting a long-term health and economic hazard."

Volcanic ash is not the product of burning things. It is not water soluble, is extremely abrasive, mildly corrosive, and conducts electricity when wet. Yet the particles are tiny enough to be suspended and carried by air currents, which fall to the ground long after the other volcanic dangers have passed. These particles are also minute enough to be inhaled, which causes burning to the lungs, esophogus, and other air passage. The body cannot remove these particles efficiently, so the more ash that is inhaled equates to eventual respiratory failure. In the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, there was enough hard rain to bury the entire city in 30 feet of volcanic ash in a matter of hours. At this rate, though each ash particle is tiny and almost weightless by human standards, even just a few inches is enough to collapse an entire building.

We know so much detail about this ancient eruption thanks to Roman historian Pliny the Younger who chronicled the events surrounding his uncle's (Pliny the Elder) death, which he wrote about to another Roman historian, Tactitus. Pliny the Elder was also a casualty of this eruption in that he was a maritime commander who tried to use his navy ships to rescue those who fled the area. You can read exerpts of this disaster from Pliny the Younger's letters HERE.

As if this dual tragedy wasn't enough, today Mount Vesuvius isn't just the only active European volcano, it is also the most deadly. While in 79 A.D. the population death of the two cities was limited to only about 15,000, today there are 3,000,000 people living at this mountain's base.

"Cities In Dust" - Siouxsie & The Banshees, 1985

~Information from sources that'll blow you away, such as:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"American Witch" - Rob Zombie, industrial rock (2006)

This is a journey of angst, fear, guilt, anxiety
This is a journey of angst, fear, guilt, anxiety
This is a journey of angst, fear, guilt, anxiety
This is a journey of angst, fear, guilt, anxiety

Body of a monkey and the feet of a cock,
Dragged from her home on the killing rock,
Black dog dying on the weather vain,
The Devil's in a cat and the baby's brain,

The End - The End of The American,
The End - The End of The American,
The End - The End of The American,
The End - The End of The American Witch,

Alone on the hill and ready to die,
Cancer of darkness - blacken eye,
The mark of the wolf and the sign of the calf,
Angels bleed down above the raft,

We all pray for 20 innocents,
We all bow down 20 innocents,
We all hang high - 20 innocents,
We all accused - 20 innocents,

Do you want to know where their dreams come from?
Some showed the faith and some showed none.
Do you want to know where their dreams come from?
Some showed the faith and some showed none.

The song was released in 2006, but in 1692 release never came for hundreds that were accused, 19 hanged, 1 pressed to death, as many as 13 dead in prison, and 2 dogs executed as "agents". These statistics represent the unfortunate souls who found themselves in the midst of an episode of mass hysteria in Puritan Massechusetts - the Salem Witch Trials. Whether the blame lies on the Indian frontier wars, economic conditions, teen boredom, congregational difficulties, or personal jealousies, it all began with little Betty Parris, age 6. Betty was the daughter of Village minister Samuel Parris. In 1688, Samuel Parris was invited to Salem by prominant elder John Putnam.

During the exceptionally cold winter of 1692, Betty became strangely and violently ill. She writhed with fever, suffered convulsions, lashed out, and ran about indoors diving under furniture. While there are theories to suggest that her behavior was purely conscious pretend out of boredom, there are now other theories that support the plausibility of an actual illness such as "convulsive ergotism", which is an illness caused by the ingestion of "ergot", a fungus found in developing rye grains; rye was the common cereal of the time. To put it in perspective, the modern hallucinogenic drug LSD is a derivative of ergot. While there is no way of proving either theory, the symptoms caused by convulsive ergotism matched that of Betty's...and also the symptoms of many of the folk of Salem who acted strangely that year.

Talk of witchcraft began when Betty's playmates, Anne Putnam (11 yrs.) and Mercy Lewis (17 yrs.), and Mary Walcott began to exhibit the same highly unusual symptoms. Believe it or not, it was actually the town doctor who was responsible for the ignition of the hysteria that would follow, for when his treatments of the girls failed, it was he who suggested that the origin of the afflictions was supernatural in nature. The widespread belief in witches made the doctor's diagnosis all the more likely. Apparently a doctor is above error or ignorance, so who was making the girls sick?

The list of afflicted girls had grown to 7 and now included: Anne Putnam, Elizabeth Hubbard, Susannah Sheldon, and Mary Warren. The girls' behavior worsened. They would contort themselves into grotesque positions. They would often freeze in mid-motion, and they cried out and complained of biting, pinching, and stinging sensations, leading the townsfolk to believe that these sensations were being controlled by an outside source.

First, the focus turned to Minister Parris's Indian slave, Tibuta, whom he had acquired in Barbados. A neighbor, Mary Sibley, tried to help Tibuta with a form of counter magic. She instructed the slave to bake a cake of rye, mixed with the urine of the afflicted person, and feed it to a dog. Dogs were believed to be agents of witches who carried out their commands. However, Tibuta's act in carrying out this magical witch cake actually landed her in more trouble. Now it was obvious she was a practicioner. She baked her cake on February 25 and by February 29, an arrest warrant was issued for her and two other women. Betty Parris and Abigail Williams named their afflictors (as was the judicial requirement of the time) and the hunt was on. However, was was dismissed was the obvious corroboration of stories between the two girls. Abigail Williams and Mercy Lewis even began claiming to see witches flying about in the winter mist. No matter how ridiculous and "fixed" the story became, the accusations and testimonies of the girls were supported by the Putnam family.

The first three women to be tried for practicing witchcraft were: Tibuta, the Indian slave and obvious choice; Sarah Good, a beggar and homeless social misfit; and Sarah Osbourne, an old and quarrelsome woman who hadn't been to church in a year. The trial was set to take place in a local tavern, however on the date of the event, hundreds of townsfolk unexpectedly showed up. Of course, during the examination, the girls began their act contorting, screaming, crying, and carrying on before those in attendance and the magistrate. Soon, others of the village came forward with stories of cheese and milk spoiling suddenly and animals being born with deformities (signs of the presence of witches in the environment).

As was the custom, the magistrates asked the accused the same leading questions over and over again. The very nature of the questions suggested that the magistrates had already decided that the women were guilty. Strangely enough, though, the entire escapade might have ended right then and there had it not been for Tibuta. Perhaps it was out of fear or maybe it was out of sheer frustration, but she admitted being a witch. She testified that she met a tall man from Boston (Satan) who appeared as a dog or a pig and asked her to sign his book and do his work. Tibuta, though, not only ruined her own chances of release, she ruined the release of Good and Osbourne, for in her testimony, she stated clearly that these other two women, plus one more, were also witches. Her confession launched an even more expanded prosecution and the hunting of witches became even more zealous. ***Click to see Tibuta's inquisition. ***Click to see Sarah Good's inquisition.

Next would come the naming of Sarah Cloyce, Rebecca Nurse, and Martha Corey as afflictors. Now, however, it wasn't just children putting on the show. Ann Putnam's mother, Ann Putnam Sr. joined the accusers. No one was safe. The records show that even a 4 year old girl, Dorcas Good (daughter of Sarah Good) was accused of sending her specter to bite the victims. Little Dorcas was imprisoned for 8 months and watched as her mother was carried off to the gallows. The perfected performances of the "afflicted" girls continued to evolve. As it did, so did the number of accused. ***Click to see the examination of Rebecca Nurse.

Jails grew to capacity and the colony teetered on the brink of utter chaos.
Just then, Governor Phips returned from England. His first order of business was to create a new court, "the oyer and terminer" to hear witchcraft cases. Five judges were appointed to the court. The Chief Justice was gung-ho witch hunter William Stoughton. The court followed the advice of ministers (who were not legally trained) and that of a townsman named Cotton Mather, who was a popular author on witches at the time. The court instituted the "touching test". Accused witches were forced to touch their accusers in the courtroom; it was believed that the touch of the afflictor would stop the contortions of the afflicted. Of course, when touched, the young girls immediately ceased their convulsions. Another test that was implemented was the "witch's marks" test. Here, the court would strip the accused of their clothing and subject their naked bodies to scruitiny, looking for some kind of birth mark, mole, or other such markings upon which it was believed the witch's familiar would stick to. Hearsay, gossip, suppositions, and stories - all evidence that would normally be disallowed in the court - were admitted as evidence. The accused were not allowed to have any legal counsel. They were not allowed to have witnesses testify under oath on their behalf, and there was no chance of appeal. If a verdict of 'not guilty' was returned, the jury was asked (by the displeased Chief Justice) to reconvene and consider a guilty verdict (i.e. it wasn't a choice to find the accused not guilty). The court was a joke.

Soon, more and more adults of all walks of life would join the movement in accusations. If there was a long-standing struggle between families, one accused the other of being witches (such as the showdown between the Putnam and Topsfield families). Citizens who openly criticized the trials found themselves on trial. Skeptics who questioned the existence of witches wound up on trial. People who tried not to get involved and denounced the trials were accused. It didn't matter if you lived in Salem or not; village ex-minister George Burroughs, who was living in Maine at the time, was accused of forming an Indian-devil alliance during one of his failed military campaigns. He faced 30 accusers. If one refused to stand trial, he was punished by imprisonment and faced an execution of being pressed to death under stones; this was the case of 80 year old Giles Corey.

Finally, but Autumn of 1692, the bloodlust began to subside. Two figured prominently. Increase Mather, father of zealous court puppeteer Cotton Mather, published Cases of Conscience, considered "America's first tract on evidence". His dissertation persuaded the court to disallow spectral evidence (hearsay from the victim that the accused's "specter" had visited her). Highly regarded minister Samuel Willard circulated his Some Miscellany Observations, which brought forward some theological arguments concerning good and evil and how the Devil might even cause the innocent to appear guilty. These writings greatly influenced Governor Phips, who then overhauled his court. He removed the "touch tests", "witch's marks" tests, and implemented a burden of proof that we still used today - the accused may only be found guilty by a clear and convincing evidence. Eventually, Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, issued a decree of atonement and apology.

The following is a list of those who were executed as a result of the Salem witch trials: (to read a transcript of the actual trial, click on the lighted name)

Hanged on June 10

Hanged on July 19

Sarah Good, Salem Village
Rebecca Nurse, Salem Village
Susannah Martin, Amesbury
Elizabeth How, Ipswich
Sarah Wilds, Topsfield

Hanged on August 19

George Burroughs, Wells, Maine
John Proctor, Salem Village
John Willard, Salem Village
George Jacobs, Sr., Salem Town
Martha Carrier, Andover

September 19
Giles Corey, Salem Farms, pressed to death

Hanged on September 22

Martha Corey, Salem Farms
Mary Eastey, Topsfield
Alice Parker, Salem Town
Ann Pudeater, Salem Town
Margaret Scott, Rowley
Wilmott Reed, Marblehead
Samuel Wardwell, Andover
Mary Parker, Andover

Other accused witches that were not hanged, but died in prison:

Sarah Osborne, Salem Village
Roger Toothaker, Billerica
Lyndia Dustin, Reading
Ann Foster, Andover

Thirteen others may have also died in prison, but sources conflict on the exact number.

"American Witch" - Rob Zombie, 2006.

~gathered from clear and convincing sources such as:


Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Run To The Hills" - Iron Maiden, 1982 (heavy metal)

White man came across the sea
He brought us pain and misery
He killed our tribes, he killed our creed
He took our game for his own need
We fought him hard we fought him well
Out on the plains we gave him hell
But many came too much for Cree
Oh will we ever be set free?

Riding through dustclouds and barren wastes
Galloping hard on the plains
Chasing the redskins back to their holes
Fighting them at their own game
Murder for freedom a stab in the back
Women and children and cowards attack

Run to the hills run for your lives
Run to the hills run for your lives

Soldier blue on the barren wastes
Hunting and killing their game
Raping the women and wasting the men
The only good indians are tame
Selling them whisky and taking their gold
Enslaving the young and destroying the old

Happy Thanksgiving! (or thereabouts). It's only fitting that this Thanksgiving episode of What's That Song About talk about Thanksgiving-type stuff...like Indians, for that is exactly what this heavy metal ditty is all about. However, the song has nothing to do with thanks or giving, but has everything to do with taking. True to Iron Maiden form, it's actually a quite brilliant piece of historical poetry-set-to-music which describes, in retrospect, the white man's colonizing of Indian lands. Interestingly enough, there is no particular time period associated with the lyrics.

Verse One is written from the perspective of the Indians, particularly the Cree (which is stated at the end of the verse). The Cree are one of the largest group of indiginous North American peoples. Their tribes are still found across Canada and the American Northwest, especially in Minnesota and Montana. This large people group is made up of many smaller groups, for example: Moose Cree, Swamp Cree, Woods Cree, Plains Cree, etc. However, the name "Cree" is never used by these people unless they are speaking English or French. It is not their proper name, but rather a name that was given to them (as if they didn't have one already) derived from the French "Christenaux" (and other spelling variations), and thus this word is often shortened to "Cri" which then bacame "Cree" in the phonetic spelling. These people, however, do have a name for themselves. In their own language, they call themselves Nehiyaw, Nehithaw, Nehilaw, Nehinaw, which is to mean, "those who speak our nation's language", and Ininiw, Ililiw, Inyu, or Iyyu, all of which mean "person or man" who has descended from this nation historically.

The Cree were skilled buffalo hunters and horsemen who formed an alliance with the Sioux nation and the Stone Sioux (Assiniboin). Their lives were particularly peaceful and open to adaptation. They were first known to the Jesuit missionaries as early as 1640. This nation was known to be quite hospitable, though somewhat nomadic in their lifestlye, as like most hunting peoples they had to follow their food source's migration. The Cree were known to eagerly trade with the foreign white men as well as other Indian nations even if they were not allied. Since their first introduction, the Cree were open and friendly with the French and English settlers, who left the Cree comparatively undisturbed to roam their vast territory. Nevertheless, however well-intended their friendship with the foreigners was, in the long run it did not help them.

While there is very little written history about this nation, there are, however, a few mentions of quarrels and skirmishes between them and other neighboring tribes. Casualties from fighting amongst other native peoples was somewhat minimal. However, the greatest killer of this and other indiginous peoples was the white man's diseases (such as Smallpox and others, a concept which is self-explanatory)...and the colonization of native lands by foreign settlers. While the Cree numbers have recently bounced back, in 1776 the population was estimated at 15,000, but within the last century the population was estimated at a mere 2,000-3,000. It is common knowledge that not only did the intruders fight for the land they wished to settle (which spent lives on both sides), the development of hunting and grazing lands into large farmsteads eventually led to changes in the natural environment (depletion of food animals, deforestation, changes in vegetative dynamics, etc)., which meant to the near disappearance of these native people. The white man just took over and ultimately gave nothing in return...not even a "thank you".

Verse Two of our song is from the perspective of the white settlers who were out to achieve the ultimate goal in their belief in what would later be known as "Manifest Destiny" - the belief that it was obvious (manifest) and certain (destiny) that the United States would expand from the Atlantic Seaboard to the Pacific Ocean. In 1803, the United States acquired 828,800 square miles of French territory. Prior to its exploration, the U.S. had no idea how much it had actually purchased (or what the land consisted of), but, quite frankly, neither did the French. This Louisiana Purchase was explored by Merriwether Lewis and William Clark (helped, of course, by Sacajawea) and was the first official transcontinental crossing made by people who were not indigenous to the land.

Lewis and Clark had heard rumors during their journey that the Assiniboin nation was a ferocious people, but they did not encounter any of these people and were therefore unable to affirm or dispel this notion. It was based on these sorts of unexplored rumors that many white settlers advanced in the manner that they did. The white frontiersmen advanced westward, many under the assumption that all native people were savages and were to be dealt with before any harm could befall the settler, his family, or his possessions. Even if it could be said that the foreigners did know about the peaceful tribes, it was nearly impossible for the average settler to know the difference between the friend and foe. As many of us would do today, these native people naturally faught to retain their land. However, because their ways were not the white man's ways, this fight for survival was taken by the settlers to be outward and open hostility. Thus, the white man faught the Indians all the more fiercely.

Whatever the Jesuit missionaries and early settlers had learned about the many friendly nations was forgotten. The white man believed that, regardless, he was entitled to take whatever land he laid claim to. In 1823, the Supreme Court handed down a decision (Johnson vs. M'Intosh) that Indian peoples could own land, just not claim title to it, which proved to be an utterly dreadful decision for the natives. Ultimately, this expansion led to Andrew Jackson's 19th century concept of 'Indian removal' - a policy adopted by the U.S. Government to ethnically cleanse the land of Indian people so that the new frontiersmen could have it. In 1830, Congress approved and President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law. Ideally, this was to move southern nations and tribes to lands west of the Mississippi River (as if they thought those lands were yet unoccupied). One such act of this Act was the infamous Trail of Tears. In time, even the relocation of natives to the western lands would prove futile as white settlers eventually moved into these lands, themselves.

Finally, Verse Three of our song is from the perspective of an outside observer looking retrospectively at the deplorable goings-on of the western frontier. Not surprisingly, this observation more closely mirrors verse one than verse two. When we study our nation's history and development, we should realize that perhaps things were not handled as delicately as they should have been. No apologies can be made for man's natural instinct to go forth and expand, for deep inside, for all men feel inside that stagnancy is not survival; it is a death sentence. However, certainly the Indians were not treated fairly, and considering the circumstances surrounding our own fledgeling nation's birth, we as a nation should have been more sympathetic or at least more accommodating to those who were here before us, just as the Jesuits and other earlier settlers had been. For sure, hindsight is always 20/20.

**It should be noted that the acts of the nation as a whole were not condoned by the nation as a whole. There were a great many citizens (particularly Christians) and politicians (including Senator Davey Crockett, Tennessee) who opposed these expansion practices and opposed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and the passage of this Act was only after bitter debate and passage by a small majority.**

"Run To The Hills" - Iron Maiden, 1982

~information gathered from all kinds of friendly sources from east to west, including these particularly interesting places I tracked down along the way:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Sixteen Tons" - Merle Travis, 1946 (country)

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you
Then the left one will

"Sixteen Tons" by Merle Travis is a song for the working man in one of the world's most deadly and miserable, but necessary, occupations: coal mining.

Anyone's who's family has ever worked in the mid-20th century mining industry can attest to the difficulty of such work. It wasn't just that the hours were long. It wasn't that the working conditions were unsafe. It wasn't that the work was back breaking and thankless. Probably the single greatest complaint from the coal miners was their earnings. There isn't a coal mining or coal-mining-reminiscent song around that doesn't mention the mean wages given for such a hefty work performance. What's more, they all describe the meager lifestyle of the workers and their families. In this song, Travis sings,

"You load sixteen tons what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt..."

This line is allegedly one that Travis' father (a coalminer, himself) used to say quite frequently. Coal mining didn't pay much. In fact, it paid so little that though one went to work, his wages were barely enough to cover his expenses. let alone any new debt he incurred or old debt that he fell behind on. If you didn't work, you didn't get paid, so there was no such thing as a sick day, personal day, or vacation. This normally would seem to not be a problem; however, considering the unhealthy working conditions (mild to severe) if you were a miner, you worked through the pain no matter what.

Many hazards assailed mine workers. Sometimes even the miners' own fatigue was to blame. Since OSHA didn't exist yet to govern the operations, very few precautions were taken around equipment, machinery, or electricity. There were many equipment and equipment related accidents, not to mention that the earth, itself, had some surprises. Mine shafts and roofs collapsed. The threat of suffocation from lack of oxygen far below the surface was real as was gas poisoning from undectable noxious subterranean fumes. The gas, however, was not always silent and deadly; sometimes it made quite an explosion. It also wasn't uncommon for a person to walk into a mine perfectly fine but walk out missing a limb or paralyzed.

External dangers weren't the only hazards that threatened the lives and limbs of the workers. Besides the usual back, joint, and muscle complaints, biological disorders also arose. Skin disorders in the form of many types of dermatitis from bacteria plagued workers' bodies, including feet, because of the serious lack of ventilation. Of course, pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) was fairly common and actually lead to a reduced life expectancy for the infected miner.

If you thought low wages and long hours for back breaking work was bad, wait until you hear how low, exactly, those wages were.

St. Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go.
I owe my soul to the company store.

This line is a reference to the payment system often used by early mining companies. Workers were not paid a regular wage with a regular check or cash handout. In fact, may of them weren't even paid with anything that was even considered valuable! Owing one's soul to the company store refers to the truck system and debt bondage.

In the truck system, employees are paid in commodities rather than actual money. This severely limits their ability to choose how their wages are to be spent. A common element was for miners to be paid with what was called a "scrip", which was merely an unexchangeable credit voucher for the company store. At the company-run store is where workers and families of workers had to purchase their various necessities. This form of exploitation became a routine business practice in the 18th and 19th centuries as industrialization left many without a means to support themselves and their families. Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the truck system was that it, by its very operation, made it impossible for workers to have any cash savings.

Many workers and their families incurred more debt to the company than their weekly truck wages could cover. Families and workers often lived in company-run dormitories or apartment buildings. Rent (and heat) was deducted from the miner's wages as if he was being paid in cash. The mining companies, themselves, were highly entrapreneurial. The cost of living was exaggerated so as to turn a profit, which left less voucher funds for the purchase of drug and sundry goods at the company store. Of course, even the prices of those consumables from the company store were highly inflated. However, since the miners didn't actually receive cash for their labor, what the voucher didn't cover could be bought on credit. The miner would owe the company more labor service to pay for his credit line. This became a viscious downward spiral. Miners were rarely paid enough to make ends meet, let alone enough to make ends meet and cover a credit line. It was a hole they could never dig themselves out of. Debtors and their families were bound to a life of servitude until the debt was paid.

In short, it took a special person to work in the filth and misery of historical mines. It was dirty. It was intense work. The days were always long and the mines were always dark. One had to possess physical resilience and muscular strength to even put up with the working conditions. Stories are even told of miners who have returned home from a day in the shaft, sat on their front porch, and fallen asleep for the night without even changing their clothes or cleaning up. Miners were a tough and salty sort. They had to be just to survive.

Luckily today, mining in modern countries has changed dramatically. There are extensive work condition rules that require compliance by law, and the overall external and biological dangers have been brought to a minimum, thanks to modern technology. While the work is still hard, labor regulations are also in place to protect workers. But perhaps most importantly, the truck system and debt bondage system have been views by modern civilizations as utterly unacceptable and is now illegal (although, sadly, it is still implemented in places).

"Sixteen Tons" - Merle Travis, 1946 (folk)
This recording is the later, chart-topping version sung by 'Tennessee' Ernie Ford, 1955

~tons of information mined from lots of places around the internet

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Why Does The Sun Shine?" - They Might Be Giants, 1993 (alternative indie rock)

The sun is a mass of incandescent gas
A gigantic nuclear furnace
Where hydrogen is built into helium
At a temperature of millions of degrees.

The sun is hot
The sun is not
A place where we could live
But here on Earth there'd be no life
Without the light it gives.

We need its light
We need its heat
The sunlight that we see
The sunlight comes from our own sun's
Atomic energy.

The sun is hot

The sun is so hot that everything on it is a gas:
Aluminum, copper, iron, and many others.

The sun is large

If the sun were hollow a million Earth's would fit inside
And yet it is only a middle-sized star.

The sun is far away

About 93 million miles away
That's why it looks so small

But even when its out of sight
The sun shines night and day.

Scientists have found that the sun is a huge atom-smashing machine.
The heat and light of the sun are caused by nuclear reactions
between hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, and helium.

The Sun, ladies and gentlemen. 'Nuff said. Well, maybe not quite 'nuff. The tune is catchy, the cd is pretty good, and the facts are straight. As a matter of fact, while I was looking around for something intelligent to say about the sun that TMBG didn't already, I found the lyrics of this song included in some astronomy lecture notes from some pretty prestigious educational institutions. However, I find that in some aspects these lyrics fall short in discription. Allow me:
  • More specifically, 600 million tons of hydrogen are "built into" 596 tons of helium at a temperature of 5800 degrees Kelvin. That's 9,980.33 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's just on the surface where it's cold! The core temperature of the sun is modeled to be 15.5 million degrees Kelvin. That's 27,899,540.33 degrees Fahrenheit. Sunblock anyone?
  • Are you always reminding people at home to turn out the light when they leave the room? The sun's luminosity is 390 trillion trillion watts (that's 3.9 with 26 zeros after it) and a "watt" is the amount of light it puts out in 1 second. Since the sun burns night and day, that means that at today's rates, at 6.3 cents per kilowatt hour, your electric bill for ONE DAY (24 hours) would be $5.9 nonillion (yes, it's a word). That's a 5.9 with 30 zeros after it. Better start puttin' in for some overtime.
  • It takes 8 minutes for the light from the sun to reach the earth, but for you to outrun the shadow of the setting sun, you would have to travel at 1,038 mph. Fasten your seatbelt!
  • "Large" is an understatement. It would only take you about 2 weeks to drive all the way around the Earth at 60 mph. The sun is 2,733,185.6 miles in circumference (870,000 miles in diameter). At 60 mph, it would take you 5 years to drive all the way around...and that's providing you don't stop to eat, sleep, use the restroom, or ask for directions.
  • But remember it's only a middle-sized star. Stars the size of our sun are called "dwarf stars"...probably because the largest stars, called "giants" and "supergiants" that can be hudreds of times larger across than our sun. For example, Betelgeuse in the Orion constellation is 650 times larger in diameter than the sun.

I hope that clears up some of the ambiguity that the song leaves us with about certain things. Just please don't ask me to sing all of that.

"Why Does The Sun Shine?" - They Might Be Giants, 1993

~sun facts from stellar places such as Ohio State University's astronomy department and UC Berkeley's Center for Science Education and many other hot spots. The math is all mine, so if it's wrong, be a sport and give it a little help.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" - Gordon Lightfoot, 1976 (ballad)

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitchee Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconson
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T'was the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind

When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
At 7 pm a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it's been good to know ya.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the words turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Well, it's November and we haven't wrecked anything this month, so I figured today was a good time. How about a boat...a really big one that sank on November 10, 1975? Happy (or not) belated sinking anniversary. The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is more highly acclaimed by only one other shipwreck in history - the Titanic. That being said, however, it is THE most mysterious and most controversial shipwreck of all time, mostly because nearly every theory surrounding its disappearance and why it sank is pure speculation.

"The ship had been christened in 1958 and launched into the Detroit River on June 17. It was named after Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee's new board chairman, whose grandfather and five great uncles had been ship captains.

By 1975, the Fitzgerald was showing an average amount of wear for a ship on the Great Lakes. She had passed a rigorous two-month inspection (required yearly) in the spring of 1975, and had passed the Coast Guard out-of-water inspection (necessary every five years) in the spring of 1974. She was certified as seaworthy and safe for operation. An Oct. 31 inspection uncovered routine seasonal damage to the cargo hatches, but the Fitzgerald was granted permission to operate as long as the repairs were complete before the 1976 season.

There were 29 men aboard when the Fitzgerald launched that November. She was captained by Ernest McSorley, 63, of Toledo, Ohio. High water in the lakes since 1969 had prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to allow owners to load their ships to a greater depth and the Fitzgerald was no exception. She was loaded three feet deeper than had been considered safe in 1969, making her deck three feet closer to the water line." - Detroit News

On Nov. 9, gale warnings were issued for Lake Superior. By 2:15 p.m. on Nov. 9th, the giant lakes freighter had filled her cargo hold with 26,116 tons of taconite pellets in Superior, Wis., and was on her way south to Detroit, as an uneventful shipping season ran down.

The Edmund Fitzgerald was lost with her entire crew of 29 men on Lake Superior November 10, 1975, 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point, Michigan. Once under way, the Fitzgerald didn't travel alone. She met up with another ore freighter near Two Harbors, Minnesota - the Arthur Anderson, who's captain was Captain Jesse B. Cooper. Cooper and McSorely maintained radio contact, discussing the storm. Due to the increasing intensity, they agreed to change course and to steer nearer to Lake Superior's north shore. They were hoping that by keeping close to the shores of Canada they'd be somewhat protected from the storm. The two ships weathered it together, maintaining radio contact and a distance of only 16 miles between each other.

The storm worsened. Not uncommon on and around the Great Lakes, it began snowing heavily, blurring all visibility. As if that wasn't enough, the waves grew steadliy to 12-16 feet. Winds gusted at 90 mph. The Soo Locks, where the Fitzgerald was due, were closed. The Coast Guard issued a warning that all ships were to find safe harbor until the storm subsided. By 6 pm on November 10, the crashing waves towered a hulking 25 feet over the vessels.

The crashing waves knocked out the ship's radar; so, Captain McSorely let the Anderson catch up and help him navigate the now treacherous waters. At 7:10 pm, Captain Cooper radioed Captain McSorely to warn him that they were approaching another vessel 9 miles ahead. However, Captain Cooper also a ssured Captain McSorely that upon their present course, the ship would pass to their west. The first mate of the Arthur Anderson signed off by asking, "How are you making out with your problem?" The Fitzgerald replied: "We are holding our own."

That was the last anyone ever heard from Captain McSorely or any of the 29 crew aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald. The 729-foot behemouth had vanished in the blink of an eye. On November 10, 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald was lost at sea with all hands. An extensive search was launched to find or recover the lost vessel, but not a single trace of her was to be found: there were no bodies, no debris...nothing. As the song says, in Detroit, Michigan, the bell at the Mariner's Church rang 29 times - once for each of the crew. On November 14, she was located. They were found 530 feet below the surface of Lake Superior, just 17 miles from their safe harbor of Whitefish Point.

Even though it was found, the Fitzgerald was never salvaged nor was the remains of the crew ever recovered. It remains in it's finaly resting place even today. However, on July 4, 1995, at the request of the crew's surviving family members, the ship's 200 lb. bronze bell was retrieved by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society. The endeavor was jointly executed by The National Geographic Society, The Sony Corporation, the Canadian Navy, and Sault Ste. Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians (who maintain the legend, as the song says). The bell is now in the Great Lakes Shipwreck museum as a tribute to her lost crew.

The Crew: Ernest M. McSorley, 63, Captain, Toledo Ohio; John H. McCarthy, 62, Mate, Bay Village, Ohio; James A. Pratt, 44, second mate, Lakewood, Ohio; Michael E. Armagost, 37, third mate, Iron River, Wisconsin; Thomas Bentsen, 23, oiler, St. Joseph, Michigan; Thomas D. Borgeson, 4l, maintenance man, Duluth, Minnesota; John D. Simmons, 60, wheelsman, Ashland, Wisconsin; Eugene W. O'Brien, 50, wheelsman, Toledo, Ohio; John J. Poviatch, 59, wheelsman, Bradenton, Florida; Ranson E. Cundy, 53, watchman, Superior, Wisconsin; William J. Spengler, 59, watchman, Toledo, Ohio; Karl A. Peckol, 20, watchman, Ashtabula, Ohio; Mark A. Thomas, 2l, deck hand, Richmond Heights, Ohio; Paul M. Rippa, 22, deck hand, Ashtabula, Ohio; Bruce L. Hudson, 22, deck hand, North Olmsted, Ohio; David E. Weiss, 22, cadet, Agoura, California; Robert C. Rafferty, 62, steward, Toledo, Ohio; Allen G. Kalmon, 43, second cook, Washburn, Wisconsin; Frederick J. Beetcher, 56, porter, Superior, Wisconsin; Nolan F. Church, 55, porter, Silver Bay, Minnesota; George Holl, 60, chief engineer, Cabot, Pennsylvania; Edward F. Bindon, 47, first assistant engineer, Fairport Harbor, Ohio; Thomas E. Edwards, 50, second assistant engineer, Oregon, Ohio; Russell G. Haskell, 40, second assistant engineer, Millbury, Ohio; Oliver J. Champeau, 4l, third assistant engineer, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Blaine H. Wilhelm, 52, oiler, Moguah, Wisconsin; Ralph G. Walton, 58, oiler, Fremont, Ohio; Joseph W. Mazes, 59, special maintenance man, Ashland, Wisconsin; Gordon F. MacLellan, 30, wiper, Clearwater, Florida

About the Great Lakes (and why they're so treacherous):

Unless you live here (like I do), you know there really are no words to describe these bodies of water. The term "lake" is the understatement of the year. They're more like inland seas than lakes. The Lakes are actually one giant waterway system, all connected to each other, flowing from west to east, down the St. Lawrence, and out into the Atlantic Ocean. These Lakes are so enormous that they actually create their own weather systems, capable of even creating inland hurricanes. The Lakes make up 22% of the world's fresh water. There is enough water in the Great Lakes to cover the 48 contiguous states with 9.5 feet of water. Even under normal circumstances, when Canadian winds sweep across these Lakes, the winds draw an incredible amount of moisture, but when these winds finally make landfall they cannot hold it any longer and dump that moisture on the surrounding land.

In the summer, the Lakes are fairly calm and precipitation is normal, although because of them we have a saying, "This is Ohio. If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes." However, winter time is when it really gets going. The "Witch of November" in the song is what us locals know as that cold, hard west wind that just blows incessantly during the month of November. You've probably heard of "The Bible Belt" down South and "the Corn Belt" in the MidWest. Here in NE Ohio, off the shores of Lake Erie, we have "the Snow Belt". Because of the Great Lakes, it is not uncommon for it to snow several feet in a matter of just a couple of hours (from the air that can't hold it's moisture as it rises over the land). And yes, it gets REALLY cold AND snowy here, usually around January and February.

But the intense weather isn't the only reason these Lakes are deadly. Having dived these Lakes, I can personally attest to the fact that these Lakes (at least Lake Erie) can go from having great depths to extremely shallow in a matter of just a few nautical miles. The silt sea bed is always on the move and forever changing shape. Also, because one Lake feeds into another, the water levels go up and down seasonally, as well as the occasional surge or sudden withdrawl of water levels. This can make shipping quite dangerous, as in the case of the Fitzgerald, where they were laden with enough ore to lower their hull significantly, which could have caused the ship to run aground on the many shoals found in each of the Lakes. However, the shape and depth of the shoal can vary a great deal in as little time as a day, making safe navigation a real chore in calm water, let alone during a severe storm. The Lake bottoms are just as unpredictable as the weather above!

"The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" - Gordon Lightfoot, 1976

~information gathered by "surfing" the internet, specifically the Detroit News

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" - The Four Lads, 1953 (popular)

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it's Turkish delight on a moonlit night

Every gal in Constantinople
Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople
So if you've a date in Constantinople
She'll be waiting in Istanbul

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can't say
People just liked it better that way

So, take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks


Why did Constantinople get the works? Well, it's not nobody's business but the Turks...it's pretty much well-documented world history. The reason for the name change is really quite simple.

Contstantinople was the imperial capital of the Roman Empire. It was founded by Emperor Constantine I in 324 A.D. on the site of the already existing city, Byzantium, which was the capital of Christendom succeeding ancient Greece and Rome. Rome was entirely too far away from the frontiers, and Constantine needed a place where, while he was away, he could still be readily defended and yet have military access to the Danube and Euphrates frontiers. The name "Constantinople" is a shortening of the city's christened name, "Constantinopolis"...Constantine's City. Six years later, in 330 A.D. it was proclaimed the new capital of the Roman Empire.

Constantinople grew to be a city of great importance as the Roman Empire grew, located strategically between the Great Horn and the Sea of Marmara where Europe meets Asia. Throughout the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest cities, and was often referred to as the Queen of Cities. The city has also been nicknamed the City on Seven Hills and the Door to Happiness. However, the name Constantinople was how everyone knew the city well into the 20th century.

The city had many nicknames, official and unofficial; colloquial and international; documented and undocumented. Naturally, the nicknames reflected the city's various attributes from its wealth to its location. Eventually, one name began to stick - Istanbul. The irony of it all is that "istanbul" really isn't a name, either and the use of this particular term for the city in regular Turkish speech dates back to at least the 10th century. It's another description. The word "istanbul" is from the Greek istim boli meaning "in the city", "to the city", or more simply "downtown".

So out of all the hundred or so poetic licenses taken to describe today's third largest city in the world, in 1930 the Turkish government proclaimed that from that day forward, all letters, packages, communiques, correspondence, and any other communication to or about this city should essentially be addressed: "Downtown".

"Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - The Four Lads, 1953

~information gathered from "the net", "the world wide web", or more generically..."online".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"The Ballad of Thunder Road" - Robert Mitchum, 1957 (folk pop)

Let me tell the story, I can tell it all
About the mountain boy who ran illegal alcohol
His daddy made the whiskey, son, he drove the load
When his engine roared, they called the highway Thunder Road.

Sometimes into Ashville, sometimes Memphis town
The revenoors chased him but they couldn’t run him down
Each time they thought they had him, his engine would explode
He`d go by like they were standin’ still on Thunder Road.

And there was thunder, thunder over Thunder Road
Thunder was his engine, and white lightning was his load
There was moonshine, moonshine to quench the Devil’s thirst
The law they swore they`d get him, but the Devil got him first.

On the first of April, nineteen fifty-four
A Federal man sent word he’d better make his run no more
He said two hundred agents were coverin’ the state
Whichever road he tried to take, they’d get him sure as fate.

Son, his Daddy told him, make this run your last
The tank is filled with hundred-proof, you’re all tuned up and gassed
Now, don’t take any chances, if you can’t get through
I’d rather have you back again than all that mountain dew.

Roarin’ out of Harlan, revvin’ up his mill
He shot the gap at Cumberland, and screamed by Maynordsville
With T-men on his taillights, roadblocks up ahead
The mountain boy took roads that even Angels feared to tred.

Blazing right through Knoxville, out on Kingston Pike,
Then right outside of Bearden, they made the fatal strike.
He left the road at 90; that’s all there is to say.
The devil got the moonshine and the mountain boy that day.

Last month, we catapulted a train off the side of a mountain (well, sort of). For this month's installment of vehicular tragedy, we're sending a car off a mountain cliff at 90 mph.

"The Ballad of Thunder Road", recorded by Robert Mitchum, is actually the theme song for the 1957 film, Thunder Road, which also starred Mitchum. In the movie, Robert Mitchum played a bootlegger in the 1950s named Lucas Doolin who ran moonshine along the local roads at excessive speeds to escape the revenuers. I can hear you thinking, "But I thought this blog was about preservation of fact, not fiction. There are a million fiction songs out there..." and in that you would be correct. But I bet you didn't know that the movie AND the song were inspired by an actual event. Yep, Thunder Road was loosely based on an incident in which a driver was transporting his contraband and was said to have fatally crashed on Kingston Pike in Knoxville, Tennessee, somewhere between Bearden Hill and Morrell Road. Metro Pulse writer Jack Renfro stated that the incident occurred in 1952 and was witnessed by novelist and playwright James Agee, who passed the story on to Mitchum.

The movie, itself, isn't all that far-fetched as far as runnin' 'shine was concerned. Moonshine is any distilled spirit made in an unlicensed still. Yeast ferments a sugar source to produce ethanol, then the alcohol is extracted through distillation using a still. So, what you're putting in your flex-fuel Chevy Tahoe, well, them thar corn squeezin's is the 'zact same stuff...ethanol. Fifty years ago, it was illegal. Now you can buy it for $2.83/gallon at the fuel stop, but I wouldn't recommend drinking it...not then, and not now, either.

While it is true that the government outlawed moonshining because they didn't make any money off of the operation, if they couldn't tax it, it meant that they also couldn't regulate its production. And if there is one thing that the government actually does a pretty good job of, for the most part, it's food and drug regulation. Moonshine was made from all sorts of questionable substances. Any sugar source was used, including fruit or even tree bark (for flavor). Bootleggers' whiskey usually came out of the still at 100 proof. The more pure the alcohol, the greater the risk for alcohol poisoning. Clandestine labs were set up out in the woods where there was no quality control. Contaminants from a poorly run/made still or bad raw materials often led to fatal conditions, which includes lead poisoning from solder joints and methanol poisoning if too much cellulose got into the mixture. The only purity test for the backwoods bootlegger was to pour some of the 'shine in a spoon and light it on fire. If it burned blue, then they said it was OK (it wasn't very accurate, obviously). Moonshine is, however, not illegal if one concedes for the government to collect its share and regulate the production. It's not illegal to make it for yourself...it's illegal to sell it to others.

Moonshining was a highly profitable business, just as the alcohol industry is today. For mountain people, it was often their only source of income, especially during times of war, depression, or whenever the already tough mountain economy got tougher. Moonshining was actually a family business that was often passed down from one generation to the next. Naturally, the 'shiners (who didn't pay the tax) took it as an offense that the government should intervene on the family business. So, if you're going to make booz and sell it, but not pay the government, then you're going to need someone to transport it...someone who can drive good and fast to outrun the cops (because if the cops didn't know about your operation, your squeezin's probably ain't that great). You need a bootlegger.

In the movie, Mitchum drove a hot-rodded '51 Ford 2-door sedan with a custom tank in the back to hide the moonshine. Bootlegger tricks are as old as the hills those cars and trucks drove on. It wasn't enough just to drive a fast car; you had to drive something that could adequately hide your product. There were false bottoms, false fender wells, hidden compartments, and countless other schemes of false this-or-that to hide the whiskey in case you did get caught. But being caught meant going to jail. Without a bootlegger, you can't get your product to your customers (oh yeah, and the law has probably found your still and dismantled it by now, too). No 'shine, no customers...no money.

The bootleggers would do anything and everything they could to make sure that the whiskey made it to the hands of whoever was paying for it. Often, the entire welfare of the family depended on it. To sustain the production, bootleggers would sometimes take incredible risks such driving at top speeds (during times before the DOT knew things about road safety and crash science) and taking the back roads through hazardous terrain that the vehicle wasn't built for. The possibilities for accidents were the same then as they are today, if not greater. Vehicles weren't equipped with modern safety devices such as an anti-lock braking system, traction control, or airbags, which would have been extremely useful for the man who drove off the side of the mountain.

Moonshiners made their place in American history, but in such a way that they became heroes instead of villains. The bootleggers' hot rod vehicles became a hobby for motorists all over the country, not to mention that their heinous driving gave birth to one of the greatest American sports. Since the bootleggers had to outrun the authorities, they had to upgrade their vehicles. They eventually started getting together and making runs with fellow 'shine runners. They soon began to challenge each other, which ultimately lead to nationally organized stock car races, and in 1948 NASCAR was born.

"The Ballad of Thunder Road" - Robert Mitchum, 1957

And as a special treat, this posting comes with not just one video, but TWO. The film Thunder Road became a cult classic. It played in the drive in movie theaters even into the 1980's where one young man was inspired by the film's theather poster alone and wrote his own song, "Thunder Road". That man is none other than The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

"Thunder Road" - Bruce Springsteen, 1976

~information squeezed from here and there on a super-fast internet connection.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Space Oddity" - David Bowie, 1969 (folk rock)

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

Ground Control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may God's love be with you

Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Liftoff

This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare

"This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do

Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much she knows"

Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit's dead, there's something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you....

"Here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the Moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do."

The song's main character, Major Tom, is a fictional astronaut and the story the song tells is that he gets lost in space. The song was inspired by Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowie planned the writing and release of Space Oddity to coincide with the BBC's media coverage of the launch of the US's Apollo 11 moon landing mission. See...not everything is about war and politics.

Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the moon, launched on July 16, 1969. It was this flight that made history forever and reached Pres. John F. Kennedy's goal when he said, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." On July 20, Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin and Neil Alden Armstrong walked on the moon's surface while lunar command module captain, Michael Collins, orbited above.

It was this lunar landing where Neil Armstrong uttered the very famous words, "Houston, Tranquility Base, here. The Eagle has landed." However, unbeknownst to most people, when Armstrong spoke those words, he through Mission Control into somewhat of a tizzy...because nobody at Mission Control had no idea what he was talking about at first.

The call sign Armstrong was supposed to use was Eagle, which was the name of the lunar module (LEM) that actually landed on the moon's surface - the vehicle that carried the two astronauts. It was given the name Eagle because of the bald eagle insignia that it carried. There were actually a few other call signs that NASA toyed with during the planning. Thankfully, the call signs Snowcone and Haystack were quickly changed before being announced to the press.

Tranquility Base, the name Armstrong gave to the Eagle's landing site, was a spot in the southwestern corner of the lunar plain called The Sea of Tranquility, near the craters Sabine and Ritter. The Sea of Tranquility is the name of one a lunar mare (latin for 'sea'). They were called 'seas' by the early astronomers who mistoook them for actual water seas. However, they are not water seas but basaltic plains formed by ancient volcanic eruptions.

During space travel, call signs are given to people and vehicles...never landmarks. However, unlike most names bestowed upon lunar landmarks, in the light of the Apollo 11 mission's huge history-setting success, the designation Tranquility Base was soon officially recognized by NASA and the International Astronomical Union. Because of those famous Armstrong words, Tranquility Base now appears on lunar maps as Statio Tranquillitatis.

And while Neil Armstrong went down in history for his famous, albeit erroneous quote, somehow Houston's response got lost in the shuffle:

Capcom Charles Duke: "Roger, Twan... [correcting himself] Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot."

Hey, give the guy a break. He was probably excited. And he had every reason to be because his space flight didn't turn out like Major Tom's. Nope...they saved that for the sequel - Apollo 13.

"Space Oddity" - David Bowie, 1969 (original video and recording)

(gathered from various sources in space...cyberspace, that is)

Monday, September 29, 2008

"London Calling" - The Clash, 1979 (punk)

London calling to the faraway towns
Now that war is declared-and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, all you boys and girls
London calling, now don't look at us
All that phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain't got no swing
'Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing

The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Engines stop running and the wheat is growing thin
A nuclear error, but I have no fear
London is drowning-and I live by the river

London calling to the imitation zone
Forget it, brother, an' go it alone
London calling upon the zombies of death
Quit holding out-and draw another breath
London calling-and I don't wanna shout
But when we were talking-I saw you nodding out
London calling, see we ain't got no highs
Except for that one with the yellowy eyes

Now get this
London calling, yeah, I was there, too
An' you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
London calling at the top of the dial
After all this, won't you give me a smile?

I never felt so much a' like

Even the punks have something to teach us!

"London Calling" was the first track recorded by this British punk band in 1979 and it reached No. 11 on the UK Singles Chart. Of course, it didn't do very well in the States (reaching only to No. 30 on the Club Chart) because punk music was never intended to be heard by the masses...the "squares". However, "the underground" provided a great place for musicians to vent their political and cultural frustrations without fear of reprisal from the fans or their producing companies. After all, at this time, punk rock especially was about playing what you wanted to play and saying what you had or wanted to say.

The song was written by Clash band members Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. The song revolves around the state of the world's countries nuclear power capabilities, not so much as they appeared in the world in 1979, but it poses more of an apocalyptic look to the possible future of such goings-on. While we have learned to harness nuclear power for the good of humanity, today we are blessed to have a wealth of knowledge and technology at our disposal. However, in the world during which the song was written, bear in mind that in 1979, the home computer consited of an Atari 800 that was really good for playing Pong or Asteroids; nevermind running a dangerous, precision-required nuclear reactor. The technology for ultimate safety just wasn't available. In particular, the song uses the accident which occurred at Three Mile Island as an example, which is noted by the lyrics, "The ice age is coming/The sun's zooming in/Engines stop running/and the wheat is growing thin/a nuclear error but I have no fear..."

Three Mile Island is a civilian (meaning non-military) nuclear power plant located on an island in the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was built with two pressurized water reactors. These reactors use ordinary water under high pressure (superheated water) as a coolant. While these types of nuclear reactors are the most common in the world, they do have some severe disadvantages. In order for the superheated water to remain liquid (and not turn to steam), this requires high-strength piping and a heavy pressure vessel. The higher pressure can increase the consequences of a loss of coolant accident, which is a form of nuclear reactor meltdown, which is what happened at Three Mile Island when one of the feedwater pumps broke. In a nutshell (without being too nerdy...after all, this is pop culture) coolant, obviously, keeps things from overheating. You put it in your car. Nuclear particles move around and create friction. When particles are split (fission) or joined together (fusion) friction happens again. Friction causes heat. When your serpentine belt or your water pump break in your car, there is nothing to cool the parts that rub together (like the particles). If you keep driving it, you'll seize your engine. The same thing happens with a nuclear reactor. The particles get too hot and well, there you have meltdown.

The accident at Three Mile Island in 1979 was probably the most significant nuclear accident in the history of the American commercial nuclear power generating industry. Approximately 43,000 curies of radioactive krypton (think Superman) and just under 20 curies of radioactive iodine into the environment. While that sounds very ominous, this incident really wasn't all that big of a deal. There were no deaths recorded, and although 25,000 people lived within 5 miles of the reactor site, there were no reported injuries from radiation.

What made this reactor meltdown so prestigious was general public ingnorance of nuclear power and the lack of information available and understood by the public. For starters, just a few weeks prior to the meltdown, the movie The Chine Syndrome was released...and guess what it's about. Yep. A sci-fi movie about a nuclear reactor meltdown. Also, during this time, there was much political and social activism against nuclear power. To make things worse, during the occurrance, there was a lack of official information available to the public. People like to know what's going on, and when they're not told they panic. There were, though, several mass adverse health affects, however even those have been judged by many epidemiologists to have been stress induced BY the fearful public.

The incident has been a point of interest as an example of how groups of people react and make decisions under stress. There were many decisions made by public officials, plant operators, and the general public that was made based on information that was either non-existent, incorrect, misleading, or irrelevant. However, what we DID learn was that people are afraid of what they don't understand. Nuclear physics is not something that the average person is wired to comprehend, so even something as innocuous as Three Mile Island can cause a panic. What this incident also taught us was that these things should NOT be taken lightly. As a result, safety in operation of nuclear power plants has been greatly improved. Today, we have emergency plans, standardized checklists, trouble tags and alarms - all kinds of bells and whistles and fancy gizmos on these complicated things that help us all sleep better at night instead of fearing total apocalyptic chaos...like The Clash did.

By the way, the repeated lyrics (and title) "London calling" refers to the BBC World Service's radio station identification during WWII. "This is London calling..." was heard during opening news/informational broadcasts and emergency and broadcast interruption to occupied areas.

"London Calling" - The Clash, 1979

(all information in this entry is hoping to be correct...and not irrelevant, having been gleaned from all kinds of places from London to Pennsylvania)