416. "Cosmic Grunt / Betsy DeVos"
- Open Mic Poetry/Prose Té Café, Pittsburgh, us@
- Wednesday, February 8, 2017EV, early evening
- I'd decided to read something for this before I knew what the theme was: "Let's make America great again by taking a stand against bigotry, sexism & fascism - by celebrating & coming together through our diversity" - in other words, an alternative to the Kleptocracy of the Plunderbund that is the Rump administration. I'd written 2 texts just a few days before: "Cosmic Grunt" & "Betsy DeVos". I read "Cosmic Grunt" in its entirety. It was a challenge because I was trying to both articulate the 400 words in such a way that they were both udnerstandable but also at least a little grunt-like - which involved trying to run them all together. In the interest of reading both pieces in less than the 10 minute limit, I skipped over the DeVos intro because everyone seemed to know who she was. In the presentation of the text below, I include the entire intro.
- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 6, 2017
I've been working on my 'opera' for the last year. It's entitled "Endangered Languages, Endangered Cultures, Endangered Ideas". As part of my research for the libretto for this, I read a book by Daniel Nettle & Suzanne Romaine entitled Vanishing Voices - The Extinction of the World's Languages. In this, they state that:
"The extinction of languages is part of a larger picture of worldwide near total ecosystem collapse. Our research shows quite striking correlations between areas of biodiversity and areas of highest linguistic diversity, allowing us to talk about a common repository fo what we will call "biolinguistic diversity": the rich spectrum of life encompassing all the earth's species of plants and animals along with human cultures and their languages. The greater biolinguistic diversity is found in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples, who represent around 4 percent of the world's population, but speak at least 60 percent of the world's languages."
I'm in the midst of writing a review of this book & one thing led to another & I ended up quoting the great Irish comic writer Flann O'Brien. An edited version of this quote is as follows:
"A lady lecturing recently on the Irish language drew attention to the fact that, while the average English speaker gets along with a mere 400 words, the Irish-speaking peasant uses 4,000."
"The plight of the English speaker with his wretched box of 400 vocal beads may be imagined when I say that a really good Irish speaker would blurt out the whole 400 in one cosmic grunt."
I was so inspired by this that I decided to take the top 400 British English words as compiled by Brian Kelk based on 29 works of literature by 18 authors (4.6 million words) in order starting from the most frequently used & to read them as "one cosmic grunt":
- written by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, February 6, 2017
I'm sure everyone here knows who Betsy DeVos is, she's the Great Dictator's nominee for education secretary. As with most or all of Trump's nominees her only qualification for this position seems to be that she's a billionaire &, therefore, willing to pull as many fast deals as possible while in her position. She's also a supporter of private Christian schools & we can say bye-bye to the separation of church & state if she gets in power. But never let it be said that I'm not willing to fact-check from time-to-time. Here's what Snopes.com, the rumor-checking website, has to say about the accusations against DeVos:
True. DeVos (born Elizabeth Prince) is the daughter of the late Edgar Prince, a wealthy industrialist, sister of Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater USA, and wife of Dick DeVos, entrepreneur and heir to the fortune of Amway founder Richard DeVos, valued at about $6 billion."
Amway is, of course, a pyramid scheme, a scheme based on leaving the losers holding the bag at the bottom of the hierarchy. Perfect for a Trump appointee!
"Donated $9.5 million to Trump's campaign?
"No education degree?
True. DeVos does have a degree, just not in education; she graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a bachelor's degree in business administration and political science."
"No experience working in a school environment?
"Never attended public school or state university?
"Never put her own children in public school?
"Does not believe in or support public education?
"Believes that public school teachers are overpaid?
"Supports for-profit education?
"Invested $200 million in Christian schools and organizations?
Undetermined. Through their nonprofit organization, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, Betsy and her husband have given tens of millions of dollars to a great many schools and organizations, some of which are identified as "Christian." For 12 years running, for example, the foundation donated between $200,000 and $300,000 annually to Potter's House, a nonprofit "Christ-centered" elementary school serving underprivileged children in Grand Rapids, Michigan."
"Doggedly advocates funneling money out of public education and into for-profit, Christian-based education?
Partly true. As noted above, DeVos has long been an advocate for "school choice," which does involve, to some extent, funneling money away from public schools and toward private educational options, including for-profit and Christian-based schools."
But what really got me was DeVos's statement regarding guns in schools. As an NBC article online informed me: "President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary told lawmakers at her confirmation hearing that guns might have a place in schools due to the threat from grizzly bears." That's what tipped me off that just because she's a billionaire whose money is rooted in inherited wealth doesn't mean she's out of touch with reality. I mean, that's when I knew that we're dealing with a major intellect here.
Not wanting to be outdone by Betsy DeVos in the area of good ideas for guns & children, on January 21, the day after the Dictator enthroned himself, I posted this humble proposal on Facebook so that every surveillance organization in the US would be immediately aware of my idea:
"Hhmm.. I'm thinking that all fetuses should be REQUIRED BY LAW to purchase handguns to hold in the womb so that when they come out as babies they'll be ready to shoot any & all comers. If abortion is made illegal this law will at least increase survival-of-the-fittest casualties & help keep the population down. The tendency of midnight specials to misfire will help insure that the poor continue to lose."
But I'm not sure that that's going far enough. SO, on February 6th, I posted another proposal on Facebook for the NSA to consider:
"I'm not so worried about the bears as I am about the dinosaurs. This country needs to be prepared for a thawing of hitherto undiscovered cryogenically preserved raptors & the like. This thawing won't be because of Global Warming, of course, since we know that's a myth conceived of by people adverse to the American Way (or is it the American Weight?). Anyway, the underacknowledged raptor-menace justifies taking money from public schooling taxes & buying RPGs for nursery school children. I don't mean to suggest that taxpayers should actually PAY for this, I just mean that the arms dealers should get the tax-payer's money. The nursery school children will have to sign IOUs for the weapons - thusly teaching them adult responsibilties at an early age & making sure they'll be permanently in debt to whatever front companies DeVos &/or her cronies may have investments in."
Given that DeVos hasn't proposed such obvious options, I think that she's a namby-pamby liberal & ought to be rejected.
There's a movie of this too here: https://vimeo.com/203362094 . The light showing behind my head has beeen delibereately tweaked in post-production.
- March 6, 2017 notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
417. Reading from "Paradigm Shift Knuckle Sandwich & other examples of P.N.T. (Perverse Number Theory)"
- Open Mic Poetry/Prose Té Café, Pittsburgh, us@
- Wednesday, March 8, 2017EV, early evening
- After 5 years of research I wrote "Paradigm Shift Knuckle Sandwich & other examples of P.N.T. (Perverse Number Theory)" in the 1st 6 weeks of 2008. I gave a reading from it at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC on November 1, 2008 (The entire reading can be heard online @: Segue at the Bowery Poetry Club, NYC <http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Segue-BPC.html> (scroll down to the appropriate mp3).) For various reasons, the book lay unpublished until I decided to publish it myself 9 years later. As of this reading, I now had a defective proof for it & I was waiting for a box of corrected copies of the book to be delivered. Given that I had retired & had begun living on a tiny fixed income, the extravagance of publishing the book might very well be the last such extravagance of my life.
I chose to read a short section from the bottom of page 76 to the middle of page 79:
- March 29, 2017 recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
- on my onesownthoughst YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/pWiuslygsWo
418. Book Launch of & Reading from "Paradigm Shift Knuckle Sandwich & other examples of P.N.T. (Perverse Number Theory)"
- The Glitter Box Theater, Pittsburgh, us@
- Saturday, April 1, 2017EV, evening
- After 9 years of letting this book lay fallow for various reasons I decided to finally publish it & to launch it at my new favorite venue, The Glitter Box Theater. Alas, this coincided with a friend's wedding & probably wouldn't have been very popular even without such stiff competition so only one audience member was there at the beginning & 2 more straggled in: 1 midway, the next near the end.
I projected the pages that I was reading from & interjected a brief excerpt from a relevant movie of mine too in order to show the audience what an intricate construct was involved & to generally increase the A/V value of the event.
Life has become somewhat strange for me at this point in Pittsburgh because even though I've been extremely active here in many ways for decades now there seems to be close to no interest in anything that I do. I consider this book to be a major new release from a philosophical/intellectual standpoint but I realize that close to none of my friends care about such things. Despite that, I hope that someone reading these notes will take the time to witness the movie linked to in order to appreciate the depth of effort that went into writing & designing the book & in order to seriously consider the Paradigm Shifting ideas that're put forth.
- The movie from this is on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/gw48jIh0oS4
- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
419. Premier of excerpt from "Endangered Languages, Endangered Cultures, Endangered Ideas"
- Babyland Loading Dock, May Day Cabaret, Pittsburgh, us@
- Friday, April 28, 2017EV, evening
- Starting in February, 2016, I began having the mms (m(usic(ian's))m(eetings)) that I have at my house center around speicifc intrsumentation that I want to have part of my 'opera' in progress: "Endangered Languages, Endangered Cultures, Endangered Ideas". I had 15 of these mms & I shot footage of all of them & made QuickTime movie samples from each. My friend & collaborator, Roger Dannenberg, then developed software to my specifications that enabled sampling from these movies & enabled other speicifc things to happen.
tENTATOVELY, a cONVENIENCE
The libretto for this, which I'm still in the process of creating, is based around research into enfangered languages & what's lost when the languages become extinct. Roger had only recently gotten the ELsoftware to the point where it could be used in performance & I decided to try to perform the 1st 6 paragraphs of the piece at this May Day Cabaret. Unfortunately, the venue was exposed to the weather & rain, as well as sotware failure, led to a very short & somewhat fumbling performance. The libretto, if I'd even managed to make it through the short excerpt selected for the vent, would've been:
""The extinction of languages is part of a larger picture of worldwide near total ecosystem collapse. Our research shows quite striking correlations between areas of biodiversity and areas of highest linguistic diversity, allowing us to talk about a common repository for what we will call "biolinguistic diversity": the rich spectrum of life encompassing all the earth's species of plants and animals along with human cultures and their languages. The greater biolinguistic diversity is found in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples, who represent around 4 percent of the world's population, but speak at least 60 percent of the world's languages."
""Like species, languages too can be thought of as occupying ecological niches. The majority of the world's languages are, however, narrow-niched, like Taiap in Papua, New Guinea. Relatively few languages-such as English, Arabic, or Chinese-are broad-niched. At the same time tropical ecosystems are typically rich in number of species, they are poor in the number of organisms-the opposite of northern latitudes. Thus, the population of any one species may be relatively small; it is variety which is great-another characteristic of a stable ecosystem. If we apply this biological analogy to languages, then we would expect to find great numbers of languages spoken by relatively small numbers of speakers in the tropics."
"Most of my personal interests have been in what I tend to think of as "narrow-niched" cultural equivalents: culture & ideas that're "rich in number of species" & "poor in the number of organisms".. or to put it in an admittedly distorted other way: 'rich in imagination' & 'poor in the number of people appreciating this richness'. The 15 mmmovies I made to cull from for my 'opera' exemplify this.
"It's important to understand just what's lost as a language disappears. Detailed local knowledge is lost. Imagine having to reinvent the wheel every thousand yrs or less? Imagine losing the names for a variety of animals, imagine reducing them all to just "animals" & then not noticing or caring that 60% of what's in that category becomes extinct. Now imagine that applied to yr friends & family, imagine that they all become just one 'thing' to you, just "friends & family" & nothing more differentiated. Now imagine 60% of them dying off & yr not noticing b/c you cd no longer tell any of them apart anyway.
""Younger Dyirbal speakers now also use the term iaban, which originally referred to a spotted eel, to refer to all kinds of eels. In traditional Dyribal eels had individual names. On a bush expedition one younger speaker was able to name various species of trees such as bottlebrush and ironbark in English, but could give only the general Dyribal word for "tree" (yuqu) for all of them. In earlier years, Bob Dixon had recorded names for over 600 plants from older speakers."
"In today's day & age the natural environment has become less compelling for many people than the media(ted) one. As such, far more people that I know are likely to know names for apps available for their iJoneses than they are to know the names of the trees in their backyard. Given that the apps are human-made, that the phones are human-made, that the internet is human-made, that prioritizes everything human-made over life that exists on its own. Such a process is dangerous to the environment not only b/c of the way resources become allocated but b/c humans lose the ability to feel connected to anything that's unmediated. They lose their kinship w/ the non-human."
- paragraphs 1, 2, & 5 are quotes from the great book by Daniel Nettle & Suzanne Romaine's entitled "Vanishing Voices - The Extinction of the World's Languages" & the 3rd, 4th, & 6th paragraphs are from my review of that ( https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/524556-biolinguistic-diversity?chapter=1 )
I made a movie of these 1st 6 paragraphs being performed in various ways. This movie includes footage from this May Day Cabaret premier: https://archive.org/details/ELIPabridged
- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
420. "Soap Box Opera - episode 6"
- corner of Finland & Melwood, 8th Annual Polish Hill May Day Parade, Pittsburgh, us@
- Saturday, April 29, 2017EV, afternoon
- For 6 years now I've given a short speech at a midway point in our annual Polish Hill May Day Parade. I love this parade & think it's a community event of great importance & generally plenty of fun too. This year, alas, the megaphone I was using ran out of power before I got to give the speech so we resorted to "The People's Megaphone" which meant that a group of volunteers repeated short sections of the speech as I recited it in small fragments. It was probably very hard to understand this way but it was very nice & cooperative for the people who assisted with this to do so. THANK YOU.
"Hi Everybody! Congratulations on creating an EIGHTH Annual Polish Hill May Day Parade!
How many people love the Public Library?
How many people love the Public Parks?
I love them too.. and, yet, the public libraries & many of the museums were created thanks to the vision of Andrew Carnegie, arguably a robber baron; and the creation of Frick Park was funded by the spoils of Henry Clay Frick, Carnegie's partner robber baron. As Howard Zinn tells it in his book entitled "The People's History of the United States":
"In early 1892, the Carnegie Steel plant at Homestead, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, was being managed by Henry Clay Frick while Carnegie was in Europe. Frick decided to reduce the workers' wages and break their union. He built a fence 3 miles long and 12 feet high around the steelworks and topped it with barbed wire, adding peepholes for rifles. When the workers did not accept the pay cut, Frick laid off the entire work force. The Pinkerton detective agency was hired to protect the strikebreakers."
NOW, what if WE, we the people of the May Day Parade, were to create our own institutions, what if this parade IS an institution? What if we were to create something as important as the libraries & parks but founded in a spirit that doesn't exploit workers? That doesn't pollute? What if we already have?
In 2001, some Pittsburgh anarchists founded things like "Book 'Em", a books-to-prisoners program, "Free Ride", a co-op to enable affordably working on and acquiring bicycles, and the "Big Idea", an anarchist Infoshop. All three are still going strong seventeen years later!
In 1971, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, a non-profit institution, began as a filmmaking-equipment access cooperative and as one of the oldest and largest media arts centers in the United States. Food Not Bombs was founded in 1980 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and that caught on in Pittsburgh by no later than the 1990s.
In the 2000s, Babyland has united a significant group of creative and productive people and NOW there's the ambitious Blumcraft Building pulling together even more people! It's fantastic.
What if the institutions created by all this positive egalitarian energy were still going strong 100 years from now?! There are so many possibilities. Take, for example, this quote of good cheer from a book called "Vanishing Voices":
"The Kuna Indians of Panama, for instance, have recently set up the world's first internationally recognized forest park created and run by indigenous people."
I wish us all luck. Remember, Frick himself didn't build that 3 mile long fence, he hired people to do it. May we never fall prey to the character assassins and the goonies, may the power-hungry never turn egalitarian institutions into hierarchies. Happy May Day!"
- The movie from this is on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/A_8Vgf97WMg
- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
421. ""MM 76 - Amusical Music Atheatrical Theater" CD release (mm 77)"
- Glitter Box Theater, Bloomcraft, Pittsburgh, us@
- Friday, October 13, 2017EV, evening
- In November, 2011, I started having a series of meetings, mostly at my house, called "mm"s - which stood for "m(usic(ian's))m(eetings). It was fun at 1st but by 2013 interest seemed to be flagging so I proposed that the main attendees produce a collective CD to showcase our talents. That way, if the mms faded out altogther there would be the audio recording as a memento. We had 2 CD release events, both poorly attended, & we all lost money on the project - with me losing far more than everyone else. It had been my hope that if we managed to make money by sales we would continue to release publications representing the work of other people in Pittsburgh. The interest in this seemed close to nonexistent.
By 2016, attendance was once again on the wane, with me being the only person there at some of the mms. By 2017, I decided to cut back on the actual meetings & try another CD & another release. The CD included some people who'd attended meetings & others whose work I was just interested in as possibly appropriate to the theme of "Amusical Music Atheatrical Theater". After a bit of wrangling, the release date & place were set & the available acts became:
Warren Burt (who sent a movie of him performing from Australia)
Ben Opie (who came from another gig that day)
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE & Meg Graham
How Things Are Made (only Matt Aelmore & David Bernabo because the usual 3rd member, Brian Riordan, was just getting back from Europe) (they, too, came after an earlier performance elsewhere)
& Mike Boyd
The Glitter Box Theater provided 2 assistants, Carlee Freeman & Jen Cooney, 2 of my favorite colorful people in Pittsburgh. Alas, only ONE paying vaudience member was there, Anthony Levin-Decanini, who had had something on the 1st mm CD & who had been very supportive of THAT CD.
The actual program was fairly diverse insofar as Noah played pop songs of his; Warren performed a piece on 2 iPads & an iPhone using simulated piano sounds; Ben played a phenomenal sax solo (alto & soprano); Meg & I performed the 1st 6 paragraphs of my 'opera' in-progress, "Endangered Languages, Endangered Cultures, Endangered Ideas"; How Things Are Made improvised on trumpet (Matt) & analog synthesizer (David); & Mike performed one of his scores for building an instrument in real time.
A music writer for the local weekly paper had claimed that she was going to give the event a "Critic's Pick" in the paper that week but then didn't. When that didn't happen, the main publicity I was relying on doing any good was null & void. When I confronted the music writer about this she claimed that it had 'slipped through the cracks.' I didn't believe her & still don't. I think she might've listened to a few seconds or minutes of the CD, decided it was 'too weird' & decided to support a more 'normal' musical act. Not long after, she had a feature story with a front cover picture about a music act that was apparently more to her liking. What was it? A single woman in her 20s who played guitar (as we all know, guitar is the only instrument), sang with country-inflected vocals, & was releasing an EP of the only 4 or 5 songs she had. In other words, unbelievably amateur & unoriginal. That confirmed my suspicions of how banal & biased (women, young) her tastes were. But young women on the cover of newspapers probably sell better than older guys.
I made 3 movies of the event:
485. a. "MM 76 RELEASE"
- shot using 4 cameras on Friday, October 13, 2017, at the Glitter Box Theater by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE with one additional iPhone provided by Noah Rectenwald of his section
- performers in order of appearance: Noah Rectenwald; Warren Burt; Ben Opie; tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE & Meg Graham; How Things Are Made (Matt Aelrmore & David Bernabo); Mike Boyd
- on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/XuoZopfS4CQ
b. "MM 76 RELEASE (medium rare)"
- on the Internet Archive here: https://archive.org/details/MM76RELEASEmediumRare
c. "MM 76 RELEASE (well done)"
- on Vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/241244343
422. "General Babyland"
- Babyland, Bloomcraft, Pittsburgh, us@
- Saturday, December 13, 2017EV, noon to 5PM
- "Babyland" is a collective of creative types that started out renting a warehouse in Pittsburgh that has now expanded & moved to a much larger industrial building only a few blocks away that's collectively being paid for. The overall new building is called "Bloomcraft". Babyland occupies the large basement, many other people occupy the large upstairs - including the wonderful Glitter Box Theater.
On December 13, 2015, a holiday sale of local crafstpeople/artists/whatnot happened at the old Babyland. I was invited to participate. I have a plethora of publications so I brought a substantial collection of them including my new CD which I was generously knocking the price down from $40,000 to only $10!:
I made something like $150 at that sale so I did great by my standards. There was another sale in the summer at the old Babyland. I don't appear to have any pictures from that. I think I put up a notice rejecting first-borns in trade. I provided paper & self-inking rubber-stamps for people to make a free souvenir with. I might've made about $110 then. The downward trend had begun. In December, 2016, there was a sale at the new Bloomcraft building in the Glitter Box Theater. A suggested donation of $15 to $40 got the maximum from me because I wanted to support the new space & because I was confident that I'd make money. I even spent some in advance on making a banner of reviews to display above me with "BUY HERE NOW" written on it parodying the famous "BE HERE NOW" slogan. I had music box rolls I made available to entertain with too:
My downward spiral continued. After expenses, I made something like $15.
I was invited to be a part of the December 13, 2017, sale. This time I was put in the Babyland basement fairly far away from the main hustle & bustle in the Glitter Box Theater. The number of vendors had more than doubled. This year I decided to strip my wares down to a few essentials to make setting up less labor intensive & to add a bit more of the performative:
I hung an image I'd made 29 years or so ago of a bar-code that when read by a medical scanner would produce: "Sell Yourself Until". Those words appear under the code followed by the completion of the sentence: "you can afford to buy yourself back". The idea was to comment on the rat race of being a wage slave.
My friend etta cetera had given me an ersatz Russian uniform that she'd gotten from a house-cleaning client 5 years before. The hat is a real Major General in the Russian Army Medical Corps hat, the jacket is a costume one, the pants, as I recall, came with it, & the shirt was something that I chose from my own wardrobe as vaguely 'matching'.
In preparation for this event, I made 24 'medals' to give customers who spent $10 or more:
I was wearing one myself. Given that many of the people I expected to be customers there I also expected to be as unethusiastic about the commercial end of Christmas as I am, I made signs for each of my types of products announcing them as "Antichrist-mas" whatevers. I thought that was funny but since people often seem to find me 'offensive' I was somewhat emotionally prepared for that to be the case. I was a bit surprised by people responding positively.
Not wanting to scare away customers from the adjacent vendors, I was somewhat low-key in my anti-salesmanship. I had a prop on the table of a Kalashnikov Vodka bottle. I find it amusing that there's a Russian vodka named after a general who, apparently, invented an automatic weapon named after him. I find it even more amusing that the bottle features an image of the general smiling (slightly). What would the American version be? "Gatling Gun Bourbon"?
A part of the idea of the Russian theme was to associate the "Antichrist-mas" with Soviet atheism. I also had a Chinese gong & a rattle to strike it with. The idea was that everyt ime I was to pronounce a customer "Culturally Enlightened" I'd strike the gong & pin the medal on them. I thought it was a great gimmick. I informed passing prospective customers of this amazing opportunity. Only one person spent $10 & got the medal. One person offered to buy just the medal but I told them that the cost would be more than that of everything for sale on the table. I wasn't about to sell out the integrity of the medals. When I informed one woman who was hurrying past my table of the medal she said "Good to know" but didn't stop to look at my goods.
Because of my poor sales of the year before, I paid the lowest entry fee this year of $20. After 5 hours of tabling I made $16 & gave away one book that'd cost me $13.50 to someone who deserved it. All in all, I LOST $17.50 as a result. What did I do wrong?!
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