Friday, November 30, 2018

Dweezil Zappa does Wichita—the music of his dad- Frank Zappa

By SJ Otto
I'm a life-long Frank Zappa fan, so when I heard that Dweezil Zappa, his son, was playing the Crown Uptown Theatre, November 20, I just had to go. For such a well known celebrity, the crowd was not so big that it took all night to get in. There was almost no line. But there was plenty of people there—a packed house. 
Dweezil mostly played his dad’s music, which was fine with me. He played a lot of the classics, such as Valley Girl and Call Any Vegetable. He also played some of the songs known to his followers, such as The Torture Never Stops and Sleep Dirt, but best of all, he played a lot of the lesser known songs, from such albums as Uncle Meat. That included; Dog Breath and Sleeping In A Jar.
I’ve always heard that Zappa’s music is hard to play and Dweezil said that between the songs they played. He had a large well equipped band and the concert was wonderful. It was a real treat to hear all those Zappa classics.
One thing I’ve always enjoyed about Zappa was his witty and satirical lyrics. Songs, such as Trouble Coming Every Day, about the Watts Riots, I Am The Slime, a slam on the effects of TV, and Porn Wars, a song about Congressional hearings over music censorship. He also did a lot of silly songs making fun of the latest trends, such as Disco Boy.

Dweezil Played center stage.
He had a large well equipped band.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

It's Family Photo time for the Gentry family!

Cam's family's home. Members of Cam's family used to live in this stone country house near Lawrence. Most of Cam's family came here to have their pictures taken. Here are Cam and all of her brothers, some nephews and nieces.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Veteran's Day—celebrating arrogance—Which I continue to oppose, year after year

By SJ Otto
Every year I run an article to commemorate various holidays—some traditional, as Halloween or Christmas. Not being a Christian I don’t celebrate Christmas, but instead I celebrate the Winter Solstice. There are some holidays, Thanksgiving comes to mind, where the tradition involves controversial events or beliefs.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day and it is probably my least favorite holiday in the US. All across the nation, and on my TV, people will honor the brave men and women who fight wars to keep America the dominant world power. It is a system of imperialism. It is built on arrogance, violence and war. Not long ago I heard singer Patti Smith say something to the effect, that it is ridiculous that we still have the institution of war in the 21 century. And for the US, this is the most pro-war period in history since World War II. To our leaders, both Democrat and Republican, the entire world is our back yard and they are free to do with it as they want. Gone are the illusion that the world is made up of free people who have the right to decide their own sovereignty and destiny. For this article I’m focusing on one imperialist problem—Afghanistan.
Consider this comment from Luke Coffey, of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank:

“After the 9/11 attacks, there were two main goals in Afghanistan: First, to deny Al Qaeda a safe haven from which to plan, train, and launch terrorist attacks on a global scale, and second, to remove the Taliban regime from power as punishment for not cooperating with the international community and for harboring terrorism.
Both were accomplished with relative speed.”

This is the longest war the US has fought in modern history. The US accomplished these goals, he lays out, almost immediately after the war in Afghanistan started. The goal now seems to be to completely destroy the Taliban. Al Qaeda left years ago. Now Afghanistan has a US built government which as not been acceptable to all or even most Afghanis. The Taliban is a part of Afghanistan’s political landscape. The US is still trying to punish them for something they did years ago. According to a commentary in The Washington Post, Daniel R. DePetris, a writer and fellow at Defense Priorities:

“To believe the Taliban wouldn’t think twice before again hosting transnational terrorists is far-fetched: The group lost its control of Afghanistan because of it. Indeed, in the years since, Taliban officials have openly regretted their past association with al-Qaeda.”

Unfortunately no one is listening to DePetris or anyone like him. From IOL:

“The Trump administration has no intention of leaving Afghanistan, despite all of President Donald Trump’s campaign bluster about withdrawing US troops and putting America first. According to Trump, he has now “studied Afghanistan in great detail, and changed his mind."
What lies behind this about-turn is the view of the security establishment that in order to maintain US global dominance, having a plethora of US bases in Afghanistan is imperative.”

Today we will hear quotes by those who have put military service on a religious level as something sacred:

“On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free. -Dan Lipinski”

And the bottom line is that line that we will hear over and over again, “we can live free.” But that last line is a lie. We don’t depend on controlling Afghanistan for our freedom. Our freedom has nothing to do with that. This is all about the national arrogance of a nation that feels a need to control everyone else’s government. It is all about what works well for this country and the lives of those who live in such countries is barely an after thought.
What bothers me most about his is that there is so little debate or discussion on these national issues. I belong to the Peace and Social Justice Center, of South Central Kansas. There are peace groups such as this all across the country. But anyone wanting to find out about them through the mainstream news media will be disappointed. I do all I can to work with that group to promote peace issues. But it seems like I’ve accomplishes little. Most groups, as the one I belong to, are religious. Even though I am an agnostic and a Marxist, I find a lot of common ground working with these people.
So year after year I write these articles and take part in activities with the Peace and Social Justice Center. As of today I don’t see any positive changes coming our way. But I keep opposing imperialism and the unnecessary wars that naturally come with it. Today is no different than last year’s Veteran’s Day.


Patti Smith - Without Chains

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

It's Halloween 2018

By SJ Otto

This year my wife, Cam Gentry, and I carved pumpkins.

Saturday I went to a Goth night and mingled with friends. Halloween has been one of my favorite holidays. I just love the myths and lore of Halloween. It is supposed to be the night that spirits can come back to the Earth to meet with us mortals.

Even though it was just 24 hours later, here is my porch on Halloween night.

It’s Samhain/Halloween, etc time again- Bela Lugosi a revolutionary

By សតិវ​អតុ 

Happy Samhain/Halloween, etc! Most people know this holiday as a time for dressing up, and children getting candy from “trick or treating.” But this was the most important holiday of the year, before Christianity came to Europe. The Druids, witches, Wiccans and other pre-Christian religions saw this day as a kind of New Year day. It was the most important holiday of the year, in which people celebrated the end of the harvest and the beginning of the new year. It was also a time where people believed that spirits could visit the living. That is why many people wore masks. They carved pumpkins out of fruits, such
For the rest click here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A visit to my son in Portland Oregon for summer vacation

By SJ Otto
I had a fine trip visiting my son Ethan, in Portland Oregon. It is a long plane ride, but much better than trying to drive there. We flew from Wichita to Texas and then to Portland.
My son now lives with his girl friend Ce Ce Williams, and her son Dru, in a modest house that they rent. This was the first time my wife Cam Gentry and I got to meet Ce Ce. We found her a pleasant person and she was a fine hostess. My son seems to like her a lot and we were happy to meet her.

Our first day in Oregon we went to the Timberline lodge. We ate in the Timberline Bar. The whole building is fascinating and it was built by the WPA in the President FD Roosevelt days. Outside was Mount Hood. I it is about the highest mountain in the state. The outside of this lodge was used to make the movie "The Shining".

In Terry's back yard.
Here we are eating lunch at the Timberline Bar. 

That evening we saw Ethan playing with his band Libido Cornucopia. They were playing at the Alberta Street Pub. I drank plenty of their tall boy beers which were on sale for $3. The band plays mostly a form of punk rock, which is my kind of music. It was a small audience, but the band has a large following.

The next day we went to the beach. Portland is about an hours ride to the Pacific. 

On the way we visited Fort Stevens. The Fort was mostly used for defending the Pacific Coast from attacks by Japan, during World War II. It is mostly just empty buildings today, with some cannons and a jeep fixed up for display. Most of the fort is still there although much of it is not open to the public. I read in the museum that a Japanese submarine actually fired at the fort, during the war. They didn't hit anything and the sub commander said he would not have fired at the coast if he new there were all those cannons lined up just waiting to sink him.

On one of the days we were there we all visited my brother Terry, his wife Barb, and his son Jeff. Terry lives in Sandy, Oregon, which is about an hours drive from Portland. Terry writes a column for The Columbian. He also works for the Forest Service-Zigzag Ranger District in Zigzag, Oregon.

We saw a lot of Portland, such as Powell's Books, a really big book store that doesn't carry any of my books. Cam and I also hung out on Hawthorne Ave, in Portland, with Barb. That street seemed somewhat of a bohemian area — kind of hippy like.

Here is Cam and I at Hawthorne Ave. 
Here is a picture of Ethan and Ce Ce.

So that was our trip. I took plenty of photos to remember it.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The wonders of nature—and there are those who hate it

By SJ Otto
As I get older I do what I have always done to relax myself—No! Not going to the bar for beer—OK I do that also, but this is something else. I go out to a park in the country were I can be with nature. I like to swim in theWalnut River. And I've heard from a few friends and relatives: "You want to swim with fish poop?!"
The water in that river, and many other Kansas rivers, is fairly clear. I take into consideration that fish can't walk out of the water and use a porta potty. Pooping in the water is their only option. I personally enjoy watching the smaller fish swim around, as well as crayfish, cranes, ducks and other forms of water wildlife.
There is something about being one with nature that I really enjoy. After all, most fish don't have police or foremen to tell everyone what do and how to think. There are natural things all around and none had to be manufactured and paid for. It is all free. The fish and other animals seems to find food on their own and no one sells it to them.
I often get the felling that most people hate nature. Many people I know never venture out into a wooded area that doesn't have toilets and bottled water. Most people kill some kinds of animals, at least insects if nothing else. I kill some insects, such as mosquitoes and roaches, but I don't kill anything that leaves me alone.
Snakes are a real problem for people. I know a lot of people who say they "hate snakes." They don't usually say they hate lizards or turtles. We could assume that part of this is because some snakes are poisonous. But so are a few poison lizards. Maybe most people don't realize that the overwhelming majority of the snakes in this area, in this state, are not poisonous. After all it was a snake that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, and I think that has a lot to do with people's fear of snakes, even for atheists.
And that brings to another reason people seem to hate nature. I constantly hear of men (mostly white guys) who always kill snakes when the find them. They often chop their heads off with a shovel. Maybe they think the woods is safer without snakes, but that just isn't so.
According to Dr. James Carpenter, professor of zoological medicine at Kansas State University,

"Several types of snakes live in the area. The only venomous types, copperheads and Massasauga rattlesnakes, are usually found around limestone outcropping and ledges and in fields when they are seeking food or trying to get some sun, he said, and most are just trying to get warm.
The water snakes in this area are not venomous."

And there is this:

“There are good things about snakes,” Charles Lee, extension wildlife specialist at K-State, said. “They are important in the ecology of our world. They do a little bit of feeding on critters like rodents or other small mammals that people may consider undesirable. All species have a value.”

I've noticed fewer snakes in the places I go in the last few years. I appreciate snakes. I like to see and watch them. It is too bad so many people kill them and kill them for no reason.
Snakes aren't the only problem. Many men I know won't swim in a muddy pond because of snapping turtles. Many women I know just won't swim in dirty water. But at least most of these people don't kill the turtles.
There are a lot of white rural men who enjoy going on a so called "coyote hunting." They don't eat these animals and the just want to see how many they can kill in one day. It really isn't hunting at all. It is mass slaughter. I listened the other day to an NPR story about coyote calling/hunting:

 " AL MORRIS: They don't want me to hunt. And I want to tell them to go to hell. The reality of it is we're good people. And whether you understand or not, I'm doing something legal. And I really don't care if you like it or not."

As CAMILLA FOX said, in that same article,
"It's gratuitous slaughter, and that's precisely what cockfighting and dogfighting were. And it was up until not too long ago that both those practices were still legal in the U.S."

My question is why are rural white people, or maybe white people in general so attracted to killing things with guns. I can understand hunting a deer and eating it. But for many of these white red-necks It is as if they want to go around killing anything that moves, that they can kill legally. I think many of these people follow a culture of death that goes right along with hating nature. If man doesn't control something, many people hate it.
I for one value my time in the forests. I don't need to kill the animals I find in order to enjoy myself. And I think it is a sickness that so many people are attracted to killing things. Living things and the places they like to live have a great beauty that does not need to be killed.  
Pix by El Dorado, KS.