Thursday, July 24, 2014

Prometheus Fans

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Buffalo Springfield

Buffalo Springfield was an American-Canadian rock band formed 1966 whose members included Richie Furay, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer, Jim Messina, Ken Koblun, and Jim Fielder which combined rock, folk, and country music. The band released the well known political anthem "For What It's Worth".

BS (ha ha) was plagued by infighting, drug-related arrests, and line-up changes that led to its break-up after two years. Three albums were released, but many demos, studio outtakes, and live recordings remained and were issued in the decades that followed.

Neil Young and Stephen Stills met in 1965 at the Fourth Dimension in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Young was playing with The Squires, a Winnipeg group he had led since February 1963, and Stills was on tour with The Company, a spin off from the Au Go Go Singers. Although the two did not see each other again for almost a year, the encounter left both with a strong desire to work together.

When The Company broke up at the end of their tour, Stills moved to the West Coast, where he worked as a studio musician and auditioned unsuccessfully for, among other things, The Monkees. He had been in a band called Buffalo Fish with fellow Greenwich Village transplant Peter Tork, who encouraged him to audition.

Told by record producer Barry Friedman that there would be work available if he could assemble a band, Stills invited fellow Au Go Go Singers alumnus Richie Furay and former Squires bass player Ken Koblun to come join him in California. Both responded, although Koblun chose to leave before very long and joined the group 3's a Crowd.

In early 1966 in Toronto, Neil Young met Bruce Palmer, a Canadian playing bass for a band called the Mynah Birds. In need of a lead guitarist, Palmer invited Young to join the group, and Young accepted. The Mynah Birds were set to record an album for Motown Records when their singer Ricky James Matthews (later known as Rick James) was tracked down and arrested by the U.S. Navy for being AWOL. With their record deal canceled, Young and Palmer decided to head for Los Angeles where they hoped to find Stephen Stills.

'53 Pontiac Hearse
Roughly a week later, discouraged at having been unable to locate Stills and ready to depart for San Francisco, they were stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles when Stills, Furay and Friedman, sitting in their white van, recognized Young's black 1953 Pontiac hearse, which happened to be passing in the opposite direction. After an illegal u-turn by Furay, some shouting, hand-waving, and much excitement, the four musicians realized that they were united in their determination to put together a band. Drummer Dewey Martin, who had played with garage rock group the Standells and country artists such as Patsy Cline and The Dillards, was added to the roster less than a week later after contacting the group at the suggestion of the Byrds' manager, Jim Dickson.

Buffalo Springfield Steamroller
Taking their name from the side of a steamroller, made by the Buffalo-Springfield Roller Company, that had been parked on the street outside Friedman's house (where Stills and Furay were staying), the new group debuted on April 11, 1966, at The Troubadour in Hollywood. A few days later, they began a short tour of California as the opening act on a bill featuring The Dillards and The Byrds.

The final 20th century concert appearance was at the Long Beach Arena on May 5, 1968. After the band played many of its best-known tunes, an extended 20 plus-minute version of “Bluebird” became the group's swan song. Buffalo Springfield disbanded a little more than two years after it had begun.

Buffalo Springfield -- the Band.
Despite their popularity, Buffalo Springfield was never a major commercial success. "For What It’s Worth" was a significant hit and the group's legend grew stronger after the breakup, increasing with the later successes of its members. The longevity and impact on popular music several members would experience in the years to come solidified their early years of artistic creativity.

Stills went on to form Crosby, Stills & Nash with David Crosby of The Byrds and Graham Nash of The Hollies in 1968. Young launched a solo career, but in 1969 also reunited with Stills in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which saw the beginning of his sporadic relationship with that trio. Furay and Messina were founding members of Poco. Furay later joined J.D. Souther and Chris Hillman to form the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, and Messina teamed with Kenny Loggins in Loggins & Messina.

Palmer was CSNY's first choice to play bass, but due to various personal problems was replaced by Motown prodigy Greg Reeves. After recording a commercially unsuccessful jam-oriented solo album in 1970, Palmer faded into obscurity, although he did briefly play that same year with Toronto blues band Luke & The Apostles. In the early 1980s he appeared on Young's Trans album and then played with Martin in the "Buffalo Springfield Revisited" tribute band in the mid-1980s.

Band members include:

Richie Furay – guitar, vocals (1966–1968, 2010–2012) Stephen Stills – guitar, keyboards, vocals (1966–1968, 2010–2012) Neil Young – guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals (1966–1968, 2010–2012) Dewey Martin – drums, vocals (1966–1968; died 2009) Bruce Palmer – bass guitar (1966–1968; died 2004) Jim Messina - bass guitar (1968) Ken Koblun - bass guitar (1966)

Additional musicians

Joe Vitale – drums, vocals (2010–2012) Rick Rosas – bass guitar (2010–2012)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When All Seems Lost

I recently completed William C. Dietz's book, When All Seems Lost (Ace Books, 2007). For those of you unfamiliar with Dietz, he writes science fiction, much of it military science fiction. His stories are full of action, intrigue, aliens, and space travel. His stuff is a lot of fun. The Legion of the Damned series is an extension of the French Foreign Legion into a distant high tech future. I could be wrong, but I think When All Seems Lost is the sixth book in the series.

Here is a quick rundown of the story:

The interstellar war with the ruthless Ramanthians continues as the sentient bugs fight to the death with no rules except to win. They overwhelm their opponents on the battlefield by sheer numbers and turn any survivors into slaves.

In When All Seems Lost, the Ramanthians unknowingly capture President Marcott Nankool, the head of the Confederacy of Sentient Beings. They send him to the forced labor camp on the planet Jericho. One of Nankool's aides, human diplomat Christine Vanderveen, accompanies him and protects his identity.

Meanwhile, ambitious Vice President Leo Jakov insists Nankool is dead and appoints himself interim president. However, Legion General William Booly (from earlier Legion of the Damned books) assigns Captain Antonio Santana to lead a suicidal rescue mission to Jericho. To thicken the plot, Christine Vanderveen is Santana's betrothed.

Rather than reveal the conclusion, I'll end this teaser review here. Although When All Seems Lost is part of a series, it stands well as a single read. Like the rest of Dietz's stuff, the story is fun, easy to read, and depicts an unlikely future that is easily overlooked. Dietz is an outstanding writer and story-teller.

Be What You Are

Guys being guys in New Delhi.
And so, after reading yet another article penned by a woman on how men should behave, I feel compelled to offer my two bits. In the first place, just as no man can understand what it is like to be a woman, neither can a woman know what it is like to be a man. Would it be proper for me to write an article describing how women should act, feel, and think? I think not. Although now that I noodle it, it might be fun.

The article I read, like so many others (I swear there must be a free template somewhere out on the internet), had numbered points to make, all predictable, all biased toward the feminine side, and all ludicrous. Let me explain why.

The first point was that men should be able to "feel". In the first place, we do feel. But, in the great big wide world of jockeying for position at work and competing with your fellow teammates and striving to be all you can be, it's best to not show your hand. That means most of the time repressing your emotions is a good thing. Men are stoic, or at least, should be. We should learn to repress both our pain and our desires so that we may perform better and not be punished or ridiculed for crying or whining or taking time out so that we may be melancholy for a day. Honey, I'm staying home from work today because I can't stand thinking about the Rangers losing that doubleheader.

The second point insisted that men should bare their souls, whatever that means, and then dropped this little gem: "Real euphoria goes deeper than sex." Really? Maybe she meant to say true love lasts longer than sex. I don't know but I'm not going to bare my soul without knowing what it means first.

We are then told that we should do things for women that they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves, like scraping ice from a car windshield in minus zero temperatures. Such deeds are not to be accomplished just for your wife either, they are to be done for all women. Again, I ask, why? To be nice in the hopes that we get to bare our soul later? Wait a minute. Are women weaker than men? Do they need help? For the last thirty years, I've been told we're equal in every way, so what's the deal?

No, we don't.
This next point is a mind blower. It says that we should think about our mate, our wife, our girlfriends, when we wake up from sleep. First thing. Numero uno. Huh? You know, I'm sorry, but once again, I've got to go to work. At least, let me use the bathroom.

Next, she says we should be on time. I'm always on time. Whether it's a date, a job, an interview, whatever. I'm always on time. On the other hand, most women I know would rather be dead than show up first at a party.

Then there's the admonition about a woman's time of the month. The author says, "A real man isn’t put off by talk of cramps, cravings or the occasional roller coaster of emotions that happen during shark week. Real men can buy tampons." Yes, I'll get in the car and go purchase tampons at Walmart if both your ankles are broken, but yes I will be put off by menses discussions because I was taught all my life to shut up whenever the subject came up. Everybody just pretended nothing was going on. It was the red elephant in the room but God help you if you wondered if her bad mood was due to her monthly cycle.

Ladies' cycle.
The seventh point was another one of those culture shifting, mind numbing assertions that we (men) must have an open mind. You know where I'm going with this, right? She says, "Real men aren’t racist, sexist or homophobic." Also, "They don’t believe they are stronger, more intelligent or superior because they are born with a penis." Sorry to tell you, but yes we do and yes we are, and no amount of you telling us how cavelike our behavior is, is going to change us. We'll just tell you what you want to hear while we continue to believe whatever the truth is.

We are told we must listen. Well, I do listen and I hear you. It's just that I don't necessarily agree with you, that's all. There was some other stuff, but I don't remember because I wasn't really paying attention.

The final point was designed to release all the tension that had built up during the course of the article. It said that we should drink bellinis. A bellini is apparently considered to be a ladies drink and I have no problem with downing a few. If you want to try one or a dozen for yourself, here's the recipe: The Bellini consists of puréed white peaches and Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. Marinating fresh peaches in wine is an Italian tradition. The original recipe was made with a bit of raspberry or cherry juice to give the drink a pink glow. Due, in part, to the limited availability of both white peaches and Prosecco, several variations exist.

Have a bellini.
California produces a white peach that works well, and yellow peaches or peach nectar can be substituted, especially if peaches are out of season and the flavor would be very bland. Other fruits or even flavoured liqueurs (peach schnapps, for example) are sometimes substituted for the peach puree.

The Cipriani family produces Bellini Base for the signature cocktail of the Harry's Bar restaurants. Other sparkling wines are commonly used in place of Prosecco, though richly flavored French champagne does not pair well with the light, fruity flavor of the Bellini. For a non-alcoholic version, sparkling juice or seltzer is used in place of the wine.

All you really need to know is that it's cool and refreshing and if you don't like it, you can always order a beer on the next round.

So, that's it. My view after reading dozens of these types of articles over the years, is that women think they want a boyfriend who can be their best girlfriend. I suspect, though, that if that arrangement is made, it won't be long before said girlfriend hooks up with a construction worker. Guys, be yourselves and don't worry about it.

By the way, my girlfriend will "get" this article because she is cool. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Code of Hammurabi

Hammurabi was the sixth king of Babylon (that is, of the First Babylonian Dynasty) from 1792 BC to 1750 BC. He became the first king of the Babylonian Empire following the abdication of his father, Sin-Muballit, extending Babylon's control over Mesopotamia by winning a series of wars against neighboring kingdoms. Although his empire controlled all of Mesopotamia at the time of his death, his successors were unable to maintain its control. It has been said that Hammurabi was Amraphel, the King of Shinar in the Book of Genesis 14:1.

Hammurabi is widely known for the code of Babylonian law: the Code of Hammurabi. One of the first written laws in the world, the Code of Hammurabi was inscribed on a stele and placed in a public place so that all could see it, although it is thought that few were literate. The stele was later plundered by the Elamites and removed to their capital, Susa; it was rediscovered there in 1901 and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The code of Hammurabi contained 282 laws, written by scribes on 12 tablets. Unlike earlier laws, it was written in Akkadian, the daily language of Babylon, and could therefore be read by any literate person in the city.

The structure of the code is very specific, with each offense receiving a specified punishment. The punishments tended to be very harsh by modern standards, with many offenses resulting in death, disfigurement, or the use of the "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth" (Lex Talionis "Law of Retaliation") philosophy. The code is also one of the earliest examples of the idea of presumption of innocence, and it also suggests that the accused and accuser have the opportunity to provide evidence. However, there is no provision for extenuating circumstances to alter the prescribed punishment.

A carving at the top of the stele portrays Hammurabi receiving the laws from the god Shamash or possibly Marduk, and the preface states that Hammurabi was chosen by the gods of his people to bring the laws to them. Parallels between this narrative and the giving of laws by God in Jewish tradition to Moses and similarities between the two legal codes suggest a common ancestor in the Semitic background of the two. Fragments of previous law codes have been found. David P. Wright argues that the Jewish law used Hammurabi's collection as a model, imitating both its structure and content.

Similar codes of law were created in several nearby civilizations, including the earlier Mesopotamian examples of Ur-Nammu's code, Laws of Eshnunna, and Code of Lipit-Ishtar, and the later Hittite code of laws.