The Arcade Of Automatons

No one online presents the fascinating and sometimes disturbing art of fantasy quite like Lily Wight. Check out her Arcade of Automatons. The soul of objects and objects becoming ensouled have been part of the human dream in stories like Pygmalion, Pinocchio, and the recent movie, Hugo. Physical representations can be downright spooky. Ok, maybe not the lego automaton, but how about the skull and crossbones clock or the 16th century monk? Enjoy these great finds.

The day the music died

“We need magic and bliss, and power and myth, and celebration and religion in our lives, and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it.” – Jerry Garcia.

I was carried away in a rapture. And so i am a Deadhead now…” —Joseph Campbell

Jerry Garcia, 1966, by Zooomabooma, CC By-NC-SA 2.0

Jerry Garcia, 1966, by Zooomabooma, CC By-NC-SA 2.0

With all due respect to Don McLean, the music died on August 9, 1995, the day we lost Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist and most easily recognized member of the Grateful Dead.  Between 1965 and 1995, the Dead played an average of 77 shows a year.  Though volumes have been written about the experience, it is difficult to put into words.  Joseph Campbell was friends with several members of the band.  In a 1986 symposium with Garcia, drummer Micky Hart, and several Jungian analysts, Campbell said:

“The genius of these musicians- these three guitars and two wild drummers in the back… Listen, this is powerful stuff ! And what is it ? The first thing I thought of was the Dionysian festivals, of course…This is more than music. It turns something on in here (the heart?). And what it turns on is life energy. This is Dionysus talking through these kids. Now I’ ve seen similar manifestations, but nothing as innocent as what I saw with this bunch. This was sheer innocence…This is a wonderful fervent loss of self in the larger self of a homogeneous community. This is what it is all about!”

The Dead were always a touring band, and the shows were unique events that people loved or hated – I’ve never met anyone who was indifferent.  When they played Sacramento or Oakland on weekdays, half of the people in my department at work – and we’re talking electrical and software engineers – would arrive in the morning in tie-dye and take the afternoon off to attend.  The other half could not have cared less.

Campbell’s assessment reveals the “innocent joy” I felt after my first few shows, captured by the lyrics of “Scarlet Begonias:”

Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand,
Everybody’s playin in the Heart of Gold Band.

In reality, you don’t get that close to Dionysus without paying a price.  Thirty years on the road took its toll on Garcia.  In the summer of 1995, he checked himself into a rehab facility and died in his sleep of heart failure a week after his 53d birthday.

Jerry and the Dead left us a huge musical legacy, with at least one song, “Truckin,” designated as a National Treasure by the Library of Congress.  Surviving members of the band continue to release the best concert tapes, and everything has just been remastered for iTunes.  You can look at the collection here: Grateful Dead on iTunes.

In the end, maybe Joseph Campbell, with his eyes of innocence, saw it most clearly when he said, “It doesn’t matter what the name of the God is, or whether it’s a rock group or a clergy. It’s somehow hitting that chord of realization of the unity of God in you all, that’s a terrific thing and it just blows the rest away.”

Rest in peace, Jerry, and thanks for the ride!

The original Ghostbusters: The English Society for the Extermination of Ghosts (1908)

Let’s say you’ve got a haunted castle or cottage in Edwardian England – who ya gonna call? The “English Society for the Extermination of Ghosts,” of course, led by the owner of a small sports bar (in modern terms), who found a new way to harness the energy of his patrons. Armed with stout oaken cudgels, they set out to rid the country of haunts – read all about it in this post from “Freaky Folk Tales.”

freaky folk tales

The original ghostbusters

In Edwardian London, if you had something strange in your neighbourhood then you would most likely call on the services of one Charles Dove. The establishment of the English Society for the Extermination of Ghosts, was borne out of several gentlemen having far too much time on their hands and a desire to find something more purposeful for their redundant athletic qualities.

Dove placed several advertisements in local papers at the time and was most surprised to be inundated with applications to join his team. However, despite the immediate allure, Dove promised each man signing up to the ‘Death on Ghosts’ brigade nothing more than an oak cudgel to lay the unsuspecting phantoms. And, although all the ghost warriors professed their disbelief in ghosts, I am reliably informed that Dove decided it wise always to send two hunters to lay away the reported miscreant spectre.

The Times, April 18…

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Finding Happiness

Here is a wonderful post from the Bhutan Chronicles, a blog by two European professionals who found work in Bhutan, the country that replaced GDP as a measure of its wellbeing with the Gross National Happiness index. Reflecting on life in Bhutan, Antonia says, “Coming from a competitive environment where superlatives are the norm, I find myself suddenly absorbed by this difference between driving myself to be happier and just accepting happiness.” Enjoy!

bhutan chronicles

“Stop running. Happiness has been chasing you all this time…”

Moving to Bhutan does funny things for one’s happiness. Increasingly famous for developing the concept of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan is the first country many people think of when asked to name the happiest place on earth. This has even led the Tourism Council of Bhutan to adopt the slogan, “Happiness is a Place”. Happiness is much more than a place, but indeed, Bhutan has been a great place for me to learn about my own happiness.

People often ask me if I am happier here, and whether those around me are truly the happiest people in the world. The answers to such questions are at first complicated, and eventually simple. People here are not in a race to be happier or happiest. I was amazed to learn recently that the happiness of an individual is 50% genetic, 40% attitude…

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We are barely a month shy of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville, one of the key clashes of the Civil War. At the Chancellorsville Visitor Center, Mary Stong-Spaid discovered her home is actually on the battlefield. Earlier this month, she offered these moving reflections and photographs of Civil War graves and monuments.

I referenced Nathanael West recently in a comment on another blog, saying his Day of the Locust seemed very contemporary with its “huge undercurrent of frustration, fear, and dissatisfaction.” Here’s a great post for fans of all things noir by Alastair Savage, comparing and contrasting West and Raymond Chandler.  BTW, the name “Homer Simpson” comes from Day of the Locust.

Midge, who blogs at “The Wild Woman Within,” has done us all a great service with her re-evaluation of Ebenezer Scrooge, citing numerous overlooked features of a man who did his best in difficult circumstances. Consider:

  • He was environmentally conscious, limiting his use of coal.
  • As a small business owner he was a job creator and not one of the 1%.
  • And any arm-chair shrink should be able to explain how all his losses combined to create the armor around his heart, which appears as meanness to the casual glance.

We owe Midge our thanks for setting the record straight!