Night Music: Shine On You Crazy Diamond

January 24, 2022

Poem: As The World Turns

January 24, 2022


As our world winds

through the stars,

do we leave sparks

in our wake?

Do we leave others guessing

what voices we use,

and what good

friends we’d make?

Are we more than

a falling garnet or

just a crashing bore

for heaven’s sake?

Image: Glass & Brick

January 23, 2022

Night Music: If You Don’t Know Me By Now

January 22, 2022

The Day The Revolution Began

January 22, 2022

The_Russian_Revolution,_1905_Q81561Today is the 117th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”, when the Tsarist authorities fired upon and attacked a march of unarmed protesters in Saint Petersburg led by Father Georgy Gapon. Official casualties listed between 90 and 130 dead, though witnesses consider the figure of 1,000 killed and wounded to be more accurate.

Bloody Sunday led to severe unrest across Russia, including anarchist-inspired mass strikes and workers’ councils, and was eventually the prelude to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

The use of the mass strike and elected workers’ councils — anarchist tactics dismissed for decades by Marx and Engels — proved decisive in bringing workers, peasants and intelligensia together. “A new weapon, more terrible than street warfare, had thus been tested and proved to work admirably,” observed anarchist Petr Kropotkin.

The events of 22 January 1905 led eventually to the Tsar’s October Manifesto and the 1906 Constitution which granted a modicum of civil liberties to the people and created the first Duma or parliament. More importantly, after January 1905, the Tsar was recognized simply as another vicious autocrat rather than the Father of the people and his position and prestige were fatally damaged.

The reaction to the January massacre closely followed anarchist ideas, proving the value of the anarchist theories of the mass strike and self-governing recallable workers’ councils. However, in the years following, reactionary social democrats under Lenin and others gradually manipulated their way into control. They infected the revolution with the false dogma of Marx-Engelsism and the corrupting idea of the “vanguard” which, after 1917, led inevitably to a dictatorship not “of” the proletariat but “over” the proletariat in the evil state capitalism of the Soviet Union.

Image: Heron

January 21, 2022

R.I.P. Meat Loaf

January 21, 2022


One of the great performers is gone.

Night Music: From Kyoto

January 20, 2022

Image: River at Sundown

January 19, 2022

Memoir: King

January 19, 2022


The dusty road had held us all day long. Huge trucks belching choking fumes had raced past us, barely missing our outstretched thumbs by inches it seemed. Sometimes they blared their industrial strength horns at us, scaring us, pushing us away from the road edge. There had been very few cars, and those mostly tiny SEATs already filled with farmers and dogs and kids, and certainly not looking to pick up two hippies dirt-encrusted from too much unsuccessful hitchhiking.

I guess we managed to walk three or four miles that day, in the blazing sun, just south of Valencia. We had expected better luck (“Gibraltar by evening!” had been our war cry as we emerged from a night in a roadside culvert) and had not prepared for such a long long day trudging through heat and dust and flies. We were exhausted, and more, we were dehydrated, the half dozen blood oranges we had each consumed notwithstanding.

Ahead of us we could see the outskirts of a village, and a village meant a cafe and Coca-Cola and even iced water, perhaps. It was one of those days when we knew we were willing to spend a few of our remaining pesetas. We stumbled forward, the dust scuffing beneath our feet, coughing. We must have looked liked ancient mummies straight from the desert as we finally collapsed into the two canvas chairs set out under the tin-roofed patio of a tiny cafe. I can only imagine the thoughts that were flowing through the old man’s head as he took our order for two Cokes.

We had been sitting for some minutes before we realized that an old radio was scratching its way through the late afternoon heaviness. And it may have been a minute or so more before we understood that it was speaking to us in English. American Forces Radio, probably from Germany. “…And as the crowds begin to gather from all across Memphis, we remind our listeners that President Johnson will speak to the nation this evening, on this day when Dr Martin Luther King has been shot and killed on his hotel balcony…”

The Cokes, glistening as the ice melted down the sides of the bottles, stood unremembered as our tears washed black gullies across our cheeks.

Night Music: What’s Up

January 18, 2022

Is Vancouver Livable? It Depends

January 18, 2022


A group of UBC scientists has recently published a scholarly article with the weighty title of “A spatiotemporal analysis of inequalities in life expectancy and 20 causes of mortality in sub-neighbourhoods of Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 1990–2016.” It looks at changes in the causes of death in Metro Vancouver over those thirty years as a function of where the deceased lived and the economic inequalities between districts.

The introduction notes that:

“Urbanisation has been shown to widen health inequalities and increase the number of people at the extreme ends of the disease morbidity and mortality distributions within major global cities.”

The good news is that overall life expectancy acoss Metro continues to grow:

“Over this period, females not only lived longer than males, but the gap between [census tracts] CTs with some of the highest LEs (90th percentile, P90) and the lowest LEs (10th percentile, P10) decreased during this period for females and increased for males, with inequality most recently at its highest for males over the 27-year study period.”

However “In Canada, life expectancy was found to be lower among First Nations communities by an average of 16 years (Tjepkema and Wilkins, 2011) compared to non-Aboriginal adults.”

The survey notes that the area with the lowest life expectancy (LE) is the Downtown Eastside, probably no surprise there, where LE is just 60.2 years. This compares with the UBC Endowment Lands where the LE is a mighty 90.4 years.

“These disparities may result from systemic injustices, such as inequitable health care and nutritional food access, and social and environmental determinants, such as income and race inequality and urbanisation. These factors affect not only mortality rates of chronic diseases over time, but they were also drivers during recent acute health crises, such as the opioid overdose and covid-19 pandemic.”

We also have a pretty good idea about what is, eventually, killing us and how that has changed over time (though I am obliged to note that this is all pre-covid data):

An interesting survey.

More Alphabets

January 17, 2022


I posted a graphic about the evolution of our western alphabet recently and received some interest, so here is some more along the same lines.

Specialists have been studying an alphabet created in 1834 in Liberia, Africa. It was devised to write down the Vai language which previously had been purely oral.

“According to Vai teacher Bai Leesor Sherman, the script was always taught informally from a literate teacher to a single apprentice student. It remains so successful that today it is even used to communicate pandemic health messages.”

Rare African script offers clues to the evolution of writing

The studies are looking at how the alphabet has evolved over time to see if general characteristics of alphabet evolution can be adduced.

“There’s a famous hypothesis that letters evolve from pictures to abstract signs. But there are also plenty of abstract letter-shapes in early writing. We predicted, instead, that signs will start off as relatively complex and then become simpler across new generations of writers and readers … applying computational tools for measuring visual complexity, they found that the letters really did become visually simpler with each passing year.”

Elsewhere in West Africa, illiterate inventors have reverse-engineered writing for languages spoken in Mali and Cameroon, while new writing systems are still being invented in Nigeria and Senegal.

Image: Philadelphia #1

January 17, 2022

The Coup In Hawai’i

January 17, 2022

Today is the 130th anniversary of the takeover of the Hawai’i Islands by American trading interests, overthrowing the native kingdom.

America already had a long history of violent and genocidal imperialist annexation (“Manifest Destiny”) on the mainland.  The coup in Honolulu was a logical, if long, step of the same impulse into the Pacific.

Muhammed Ali — The Greatest

January 17, 2022


Muhammed Ali would have been 80 years old today.

The men in my family always loved boxing. As a kid I regularly saw fights on BBC TV and I listened at night to American Forces Radio to follow the American boxers. In May 1966 my Dad spent good money to take my grandfather and me to Highbury Stadium in London to watch the rematch between Muhammed Ali, by then world champion, and Britain’s hero Henry Cooper. I was already a (secret in that crowd) Ali supporter and wasn’t surprised when he stopped Cooper. It was a great night (even from a very long way from the ring) and a memory I shall cherish always.

Soon after, Ali was challenging the draft and the Vietnam War (“No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger”) and the establishment itself, and he was even more of a hero to me. His pride and his sacrifice for his beliefs were inspirations for us all.  As was his calm demeanour while facing a future with Parkinson’s.  He deserved every moment of glory he ever received. Hard to believe there will be another anything like him in my lifetime.

I am saddened to lose him, but glad that his trials are over.

Ali 2

Poem: Fog

January 17, 2022


The smog-laden tangerine fog

tinted by a million lamplights

lays heavy tonight;

the busy rustle of the city’s moves

lost in its depths

like the delicate harmonies of a dulcimer

played in the attic as heard in the basement.

Closer, much closer, I hear

the lazy rustle of the scorpion

picking carelessly at a pecan shell.

I blink in the orange darkness.



Night Music: Forever Young

January 16, 2022

Image: City Abstract XV

January 15, 2022

Remembering Luxemburg & Liebknecht

January 15, 2022

One hundred and three years ago today, on 15th January 1919, the Spartacist heroes Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were tortured and murdered by fascist Freikorps mercenaries of the German social democratic government.

Who remembers that government today?  No-one. But the memory of the two heroes lives on in glory.  As Luxemburg wrote on the day of her death, speaking as the embodiment of the masses: “I was. I am. I shall be!”