Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dissipation-Driven Adaptation

Jeremy England
From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life. “You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said. His idea [is] detailed in a recent paper and further elaborated in a talk he is delivering at universities around the world. A plant is much better at capturing and routing solar energy through itself than an unstructured heap of carbon atoms. Thus, England argues that under certain conditions, matter will spontaneously self-organize. If England’s approach stands up to more testing, it could further liberate biologists from seeking a Darwinian explanation for every adaptation and allow them to think more generally in terms of dissipation-driven organization.

Find out more here. Jeremy England's website here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fall of Saigon

In late April 1975, the outskirts of Saigon were reached by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). On April 29th, the United States knew that their token presence in the city would quickly become unwelcome, and the remaining Americans were evacuated by helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft.

The surrender of Saigon was announced by the South Vietnamese president, General Duong Van Minh: "We are here to hand over to you the power in order to avoid bloodshed." General Minh had become South Vietnam’s president for two days as the country crumbled.

On April 30th, the North Vietnamese Army took over Saigon with little resistance, and it was quickly renamed Ho Chi Minh City in honor of their revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh, who had died several years before. Later in the day President Minh announced: "I declare the Saigon government [of South Vietnam] is completely dissolved at all levels."

U.S. commander General William Westmoreland was in charge of all operations during the Vietnam War until 1968. He commanded units full of young men placed in an alien environment, with no clear front in the conflict. Life in the jungle became a horrific experience for U.S. troops. Illegal drugs filtered their way into the daily routine of many servicemen, quickly corrupting any morale that had once been present.

Furthermore, for the first time, people back home began to resist the draft, and demonstrations against the war became a regular occurrence. Many Vietnam veterans also took part in the efforts to stop the war, which personalized the issue. The U.S. government could now see that the war was a "tar baby," and began to make plans to extricate its forces.

After great efforts by the U.S. to withdraw without losing the war, and the establishment of a peace agreement with North Vietnam in Paris on January 27th, 1973, American soldiers began to leave Vietnam for good. At that point, the war had left a black mark on humanity. Of the more than three million Americans who had served in the war, more than 58,000 were dead, and some 1,000 were missing in action. Approximately 150,000 Americans were seriously wounded.

North Vietnam's commitment to cease hostilities, as spelled out in the Paris Agreement, was hollow. Even as the U.S. military was rapidly departing the region, the NVA was plotting various strategic game plans to take the south.

By April 25th, 1975, after the NVA captured Phuoc Long city, Quang Tri, Hue, Da Nang and Hue, the South Vietnamese Army had lost its best units, more than a third of its men, and nearly half its weapons. The NVA were closing in on Saigon, which forced President Ford to order an immediate evacuation of American civilians and South Vietnamese refugees in Operation Frequent Wind.

The operation was put into effect by secret code. Remaining citizens, refugees, and officials were to stand by until the code was released. "White Christmas" was the code, which was broadcast on the morning of April 29th. Refugees and Americans then "high-tailed" it to designated landing zones.

U.S. Marine and Air Force helicopters, flying from offshore carriers, performed a massive airlift. In 18 hours, more than 1,000 American civilians and nearly 7,000 South Vietnamese refugees were flown out of Saigon.

South Vietnamese pilots also were permitted to participate in the evacuation, and they landed on U.S. carriers. More than 100 of those American-supplied helicopters (more than $250,000 each) were then pushed off carrier decks to make room for more evacuees.

At 4:03 a.m., April 30th, 1975, two U.S. Marines were killed in a rocket attack at Saigon's Tan Son Nhut airport. They were the last Americans to die in the Vietnam War. At dawn, the remaining marines of the force guarding the U.S. Embassy lifted off.

Only hours later, South Vietnamese looters ransacked the embassy as Soviet-supplied tanks, operated by North Vietnamese, rolled south on National Highway 1. On the morning of April 30th, Communist forces captured the presidential palace in Saigon, which ended the Second Indochina War.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Handle With Care

Roy Orbison

Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988) was best known for his distinctive voice and emotional ballads. Orbison grew up in the great state of Texas and began singing in a rockabilly/country and western band in high school until he was signed by Sun Records in Memphis. Between 1960 and 1964, 22 of his songs were on the Billboard Top Forty. Roy's life was marred by tragedy, including the death of his first wife and his two eldest sons in separate accidents.

Orbison was a natural baritone with a three- or four-octave range. Elvis Presley and Bono have stated his voice was the greatest and most distinctive they had ever heard. While most men in rock and roll in the 1950s and 1960s portrayed a defiant masculinity, many of Orbison's songs instead conveyed a quiet, desperate vulnerability. He was known for performing while standing still and solitary, wearing black clothes and dark sunglasses which lent an air of mystery.

Roy Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas, the middle son of Orbie Lee Orbison, an oil well driller and car mechanic, and Nadine Shultz, a nurse. Both of Orbison's parents were unemployed during the Great Depression. Searching for work, the family moved to Fort Worth during his childhood. He attended Denver Ave. Elementary School, until a polio scare prompted them to return to Vernon. Later, the family moved to Wink, Texas. Orbison described the major components of life in Wink as "Football, oil fields, oil, grease and sand", and in later years expressed relief that he was able to leave the place. All the Orbison children were afflicted with poor eyesight; Roy used thick corrective lenses from an early age. A bout of jaundice as a child gave him a sallow complexion, and his ears protruded prominently. As a result, Orbison was not particularly confident in his appearance and he began dyeing his nearly white hair black when he was young. He was quiet and self-effacing, remarkably polite and obliging — a product of his Southern upbringing. However, Orbison was readily available to sing, and often became the focus of attention when he did.

On his sixth birthday, Orbison's father gave him a guitar. Orbison later recalled that, by the age of seven, "I was finished, you know, for anything else". Orbison's major musical influences as a youth were in country music. He was particularly moved by Lefty Frizzell. He also enjoyed Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers. One of the first musicians he heard in person was Ernest Tubb playing on the back of a flatbed truck in Fort Worth. In West Texas, however, he was exposed to many forms of music: "sepia"—a euphemism for what became known as rhythm and blues (R&B); Tex-Mex; orchestral Mantovani, and zydeco. The zydeco favorite "Joli Blon" was one of the first songs Orbison sang in public. At eight, Orbison began appearing on a local radio show. By the late 1940s, he was the host.

In high school, Orbison and some friends formed The Wink Westerners, an informal band that played country standards and Glenn Miller songs at local honky-tonks, and had a weekly radio show on KERB in Kermit. When they were offered $400 to play at a dance, Orbison realized that he could make a living in music. Following high school, he enrolled at North Texas State College, with a plan to study geology so that he could secure work in the oil fields if music did not pay. He formed another band called The Teen Kings, and sang at night while working in the oil fields or studying during the day. Orbison saw classmate Pat Boone get signed for a record deal, which further strengthened his resolve to become a professional musician. When his geology grades began to drop, he switched to Odessa Junior College to consider becoming a teacher.

While living in Odessa, Orbison drove to Dallas to see Elvis Presley, who was only a year older and a rising star in the music scene. Johnny Cash toured the area in 1955, playing on the same local radio show as the Teen Kings and suggested that Orbison approach Sam Phillips at Sun Records, home of rockabilly stars including Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Cash. In their conversation, Phillips told Orbison curtly, "Johnny Cash doesn't run my record company!" but he listened to a song that the Teen Kings had recorded on the Odessa-based Je–Wel record label and offered the Teen Kings a contract in 1956.

The Teen Kings went to Memphis and although Orbison had grown weary of "Ooby Dooby", Phillips wanted to cut the record again in a better studio. Orbison rankled quietly at Phillips' dictating what the band would play and how Orbison was to sing it. However, with Phillips' production, the record broke into the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 59 and selling 200,000 copies. The Teen Kings toured with Sonny James, Johnny Horton, and Cash. Influenced by Elvis Presley, Orbison performed frenetically, doing "everything we could to get applause because we had only one hit record". The Teen Kings also began writing more material such as "Go! Go! Go!" and "Rockhouse", generally in standard rockabilly style. The band ultimately split over disputed writing credits and royalties, but Orbison stayed in Memphis and asked his 16-year-old girlfriend, Claudette Frady, to join him. They stayed in Phillips' home, where they slept in separate rooms; in the studio Orbison concentrated on the mechanics of recording. Sam Phillips remembered being much more impressed with Orbison's mastery of the guitar than his voice] a ballad Orbison wrote called "The Clown" was met with lukewarm appreciation at best. Sun Records producer Jack Clement told Orbison after hearing it that he would never make it as a ballad singer.

At Sun Records, Roy was included in Elvis Presley's social circle, and once picked up a date for Presley in his purple Cadillac. Orbison sold "Claudette", a song he wrote about Frady, whom he married in 1957, to The Everly Brothers and it appeared on the B-side of their smash hit "All I Have To Do Is Dream". The first and perhaps only royalties Orbison earned from Sun Records enabled him to make a down-payment on his own Cadillac. However, frustrated at Sun, Orbison gradually stopped recording and began touring music circuits around Texas to make a living. For seven months in 1958, he quit performing completely. His car was repossessed and he had to depend on family and friends for funds.

For a brief period in the late 1950s, Orbison made his living at Acuff-Rose, a songwriting firm concerned mainly with country music.

Playing shows late into the night, and living with his wife and young child in his tiny apartment, Orbison often sought refuge by taking his guitar to his car and writing songs there. Songwriter Joe Melson, an acquaintance of Orbison's, tapped on his car window one day in Texas in 1958 and the two decided to write some songs together. During three recording sessions in 1958 and 1959, Orbison and Melson recorded seven songs at RCA Nashville, but only two songs were judged worthy of release by RCA.

Roy & Claudette
Orbison became one of the first recording artists to popularize the Nashville Sound, a trend of country and pop crossover music that used session musicians dubbed the A-Team: guitarists Grady Martin, Harold Bradley, Ray Edenton, and Bob Moore; pianists Floyd Cramer or Hargus "Pig" Robbins; drummer Buddy Harman; and backup vocals by the Jordanaires or the Anita Kerr Singers. The Nashville Sound was developed by producers Atkins, Owen Bradley—who worked closely with Patsy Cline—Sam Phillips, and Fred Foster. In his first session for Monument in Nashville, Orbison took on a song that RCA had refused, "Paper Boy", backed by "With The Bug" as the B-side, but neither charted.

According to musician and author Albin Zak, the combination of the studio—engineered by Bill Porter, who experimented with close miking the doo-wop backup singers — production by Foster, and accompanying musicians, gave Orbison's music a "polished, professional sound...finally allow(ing) Orbison's stylistic inclinations free rein". In addition to the Nashville Sound's core components, Orbison requested strings in the studio. With this combination, Orbison recorded three new songs, the most notable of which was "Uptown", penned by himself and Melson. Impressed with the results, Melson later recalled, "We stood in the studio, listening to the playbacks and thought it was the most beautiful sound in the world".

"Uptown" earned a modest spot at number 72 on the Billboard Top 100 and Orbison set his goal on negotiating a contract with an upscale nightclub somewhere. Rock and roll itself, in its infancy in the late 1950s, was stalled. Elvis Presley was in the Army. Eddie Cochran and fellow Texan Buddy Holly — both of whom Orbison had previously toured with — had died. Little Richard had found religion and Chuck Berry was in jail. Orbison's former Sun Records colleague Jerry Lee Lewis was disgraced when his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin was reported widely in the press. In their wake, pop music filled the radio waves, dominated by teen idol crooners who sang cleansed formulas like those about the twist dance craze and "death discs" like "Teen Angel" and "Endless Sleep".

Orbison and Melson wrote "Only the Lonely" and tried to pitch it to Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers but were turned down. They instead recorded the song themselves at RCA's Nashville studio using a new strategy: building the mix from the top down rather than from the bottom up, beginning with the close-miked background vocals in the foreground and ending with the rhythm section soft in the background. The technique became Orbison's trademark sound. The single shot to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit number 1 in the UK and Australia.

Instantly Orbison was in high demand. He appeared on American Bandstand and toured the U.S. for three months non-stop with Patsy Cline. When Presley heard "Only the Lonely" for the first time, he bought a box of copies to pass to his friends. Melson and Orbison followed it with the more complex "Blue Angel" which peaked at U.S. number 9/UK number 11, a self-performed version of "Claudette", and "I'm Hurtin'", which rose to number 27 but failed to chart in the UK.

"Running Scared" reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 9 in the UK. The composition of Orbison's following hits reflected "Running Scared": a story about an emotionally vulnerable man facing loss or grief, culminating with a surprise ending in a crescendo that employed Orbison's dynamic voice. "Crying" followed in July 1961 and reached number 2; it was coupled with an R&B up-tempo song titled "Candy Man" written by Fred Neil and Beverley Ross, which reached the Billboard Top 30, staying on the charts for two months. Orbison's second son was born in 1962, and Orbison hit number 4 in the U.S. and number 2 in the UK with "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream?)", an upbeat song written by country songwriter Cindy Walker. The rest of the year he charted with "The Crowd", "Leah", and "Workin' For the Man", which he wrote about working one summer in the oil fields near Wink. His relationship with Joe Melson, however, deteriorated over Melson's growing concerns that his own solo career would never get off the ground.

Lacking the photogenic looks of many of his rock and roll contemporaries, Orbison eventually developed a persona that did not reflect his personality. He had no publicist in the early 1960s, no presence in fan magazines, and his single sleeves did not feature his picture. Life magazine called him an "anonymous celebrity". After leaving his thick eyeglasses on an airplane in 1962 or 1963, Orbison was forced to wear his prescription Wayfarer sunglasses on stage and found that he preferred them. His biographers suggest that although he had a good sense of humor and was never morose, Orbison was very shy and suffered from severe stage fright; wearing sunglasses helped him hide somewhat from the attention. The ever-present sunglasses led some people to assume, that the stationary performer was blind. The black clothes and desperation in his songs led to an aura of mystery and introversion. Years later, Orbison said "I wasn't trying to be weird, you know? I didn't have a manager who told me to dress or how to present myself or anything. But the image developed of a man of mystery and a quiet man in black somewhat of a recluse, although I never was, really."

His dark and brooding persona, combined with his tremulous voice in lovelorn ballads marketed to teenagers, helped Orbison corner the pop market in the early 1960s. He had a string of hits in 1963 with "In Dreams" (U.S. number 7/UK number 6), "Falling" (U.S. number 22/UK number 9), "Mean Woman Blues" (U.S. number 5/UK number 3) coupled with "Blue Bayou" (U.S. number 29/UK number 3). He finished the year with a Christmas song written by Willie Nelson titled "Pretty Paper" (U.S. number 15 in 1963/UK number 6 in 1964).

Roy goofing w/Lennon & Ringo
As "In Dreams" was released in April 1963, Orbison was asked to replace guitarist Duane Eddy on a tour of the UK in top billing, with The Beatles, whose popularity was on the rise. When he arrived in England, however, he saw the amount of advertising devoted to the quartet and realized he was no longer the main draw. He had never heard of them and, annoyed, asked hypothetically, "What's a Beatle anyway?" to which John Lennon replied after tapping his shoulder, "I am." On opening night, Orbison opted to go onstage first although he was the more established act. Known for having raucous shows expressing an extraordinary amount of energy, Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr stood dumbfounded backstage as Orbison performed completely still and simply sang through fourteen encores. Finally, when the audience began chanting "We want Roy!" again, Lennon and McCartney prevented Orbison from going on again by physically holding him back. Starr later said, "In Glasgow, we were all backstage listening to the tremendous applause he was getting. He was just standing there, not moving or anything." Through the tour, however, both acts quickly learned to get along, a process made easier by the fact that the Beatles admired his work. Orbison felt a kinship with Lennon, but it was Harrison with whom he would later form a strong friendship. The moniker of "The Big O" would eventually follow him back to the States, where it became an unofficial nickname for Orbison.

Touring in 1963 took a toll on Orbison's personal life. His wife Claudette began having an affair with the contractor who built their home in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Their friends and relatives attributed it to her youth and that she was unable to withstand being alone and bored; when Orbison toured England again in the fall of 1963, she joined him. He was immensely popular wherever he went, finishing the tour in Ireland and Canada. Almost immediately he toured Australia and New Zealand with The Beach Boys and returned again to the UK and Ireland, where he was so besieged by teenage girls that the Irish police had to halt his performances to pull the girls off him. He continued to tour, however, and visited Australia again, this time with The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger later remarked of a snapshot he took of Orbison in New Zealand: "A fine figure of a man in the hot springs, he was."

Bill Dees
Orbison also began collaborating with Bill Dees, whom he had known in Texas. With Dees, he wrote "It's Over", a number 1 in the UK, and a song that would be one of his signature pieces for the rest of his career. When Claudette walked in the room where Dees and Orbison were writing to say she was heading for Nashville, Orbison asked if she had any money. Dees said, "Pretty woman never needs any money". Forty minutes later, "Oh, Pretty Woman" was completed. A riff-laden masterpiece that employed a playful growl he got from a Bob Hope movie, the epithet Orbison uttered when he was unable to hit a note ("Mercy!"), and a merging of his vulnerable and masculine sides, it rose to number 1 in the fall of 1964 in the U.S. and stayed on the charts for 14 weeks; it hit number 1 in the UK as well, spending 18 weeks total on the charts. The single sold over seven million copies. Orbison's success was greater in Britain; as Billboard magazine noted, "In a 68-week period that began on August 8, 1963, Roy Orbison was the only American artist to have a number-one single in Britain. He did it twice, with 'It's Over' on June 25, 1964, and 'Oh, Pretty Woman' on October 8, 1964. The latter song also went to number one in America, making Orbison impervious to the current chart dominance of British artists on both sides of the Atlantic."

"Oh, Pretty Woman" was the pinnacle of Orbison's career in the 1960s. He and Claudette divorced in November 1964 over her infidelities, though they remarried in August 1965. Wesley Rose, at this time acting as Orbison's agent, moved him from Monument Records to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), for a million dollars and the understanding that Orbison would expand into television and films as Elvis Presley had done. Orbison was a film enthusiast, and when not touring, writing, or recording, would dedicate time to seeing up to three films a day. However, Rose also began acting as Orbison's producer. Fred Foster later argued that Rose's takeover was responsible for the commercial failure of Orbison's work at MGM; engineer Bill Porter agreed that Orbison's best work could only be achieved with RCA Nashville's A Team. Orbison's first collection at MGM, an album titled Goodnight, sold fewer than 200,000 copies. The British Invasion also occurred at the same time, changing the direction of rock music significantly.

While on tour in the UK in 1965, Orbison broke his foot falling off a motorcycle in front of thousands of screaming fans at a race track, and performed his show that evening in a cast. His reconciliation with Claudette occurred when she went to visit him while he was recuperating from the accident. Orbison was fascinated with machines. He was famous for following a car that he liked on sight, and making the driver an offer on the spot. He had a collection worthy of a museum by the late 1960s. He and Claudette shared a love for motorcycles; she had grown up around them, but Orbison claimed Elvis Presley had introduced him to motorcycles. However, tragedy struck on June 6, 1966, when Orbison and Claudette were riding home from Bristol, Tennessee. She was struck by a semi-trailer truck and died instantly.

Roy & Claudette
A grieving Orbison threw himself into his work, collaborating with Bill Dees to write music for The Fastest Guitar Alive, a film that MGM had scheduled for him to star in as well. It was initially planned as a dramatic Western, but was rewritten as a comedy. Orbison's character was a spy who stole and had to protect and deliver a cache of gold to the Confederate Army during the U.S. Civil War and was outfitted with a guitar that turned into a rifle. The prop allowed him to deliver the line "I could kill you with this and play your funeral march at the same time", with — according to biographer Colin Escott — "zero conviction". Orbison was pleased with the film, although it proved to be a critical and box office flop. While MGM had included five films in his contract, no more were made.

He recorded an album dedicated to the songs of Don Gibson and another of Hank Williams covers, but both sold poorly. As the psychedelic rock movement took hold in the late 1960s, Orbison felt lost, later saying "[I] didn't hear a lot I could relate to so I kind of stood there like a tree where the winds blow and the seasons change, and you're still there and you bloom again." He continued to tour, and had previously made some smart real estate investments, so money was never an issue for him again. During a tour of the Midlands in England on September 16, 1968, he received the news that his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee, had burned down and his two eldest sons had died. The property was sold to Johnny Cash, who planted an orchard on it. On March 25, 1969, Orbison married German teenager Barbara Jakobs, whom he had met several days before his sons' deaths. His youngest son with Claudette (Wesley, born 1965) was raised by Orbison's parents; Orbison and Barbara had a son (Roy Kelton) in 1970 and another (Alexander) in 1974.

Orbison recorded in the 1970s, but his albums performed so poorly that he began to doubt his talents. Orbison's version of "Love Hurts,"a song composed by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and first recorded by The Everly Brothers, was remade by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, and again by heavy metal band Nazareth. Sonny James sent "Only the Lonely" to number 1 on the country music charts. Bruce Springsteen ended his concerts with Orbison songs and Glen Campbell had a minor hit with a remake of "Dream Baby". A compilation LP of Orbison's greatest hits went to number 1 in the UK in 1977. The same year he began to open concerts for The Eagles, who started as Linda Ronstadt's backup band. Ronstadt herself covered "Blue Bayou" in 1977, her version reaching number 3 on the Billboard charts and remaining in the charts for 24 weeks. Orbison credited this cover in particular for reviving his memory in the popular mind, if not his career.

On January 18, 1978 Orbison underwent a triple heart bypass. He had suffered from duodenal ulcers as far back as 1960, and had been a chain smoker since adolescence. Although he felt revitalized following the triple bypass, he continued to smoke and his weight fluctuated for the rest of his life. When Orbison felt strong enough to perform again, Scott Mathews took him into the recording studio and produced a version of "Oh, Pretty Woman" on a national radio and television advertising campaign for Tone Soap, a woman's beauty bar. This proved to be a much needed financial windfall for Orbison as Mathews saw to it that the company paid top dollar to license the use of Orbison's original composition and another large fee for Orbison's services.

In 1980, Don McLean covered "Crying" in a version which hit number 5 in the U.S. and stayed on the charts for 15 weeks; it was number 1 in the UK for three weeks. Although he was all but forgotten in the U.S., Orbison took a chance and embarked on a tour of Bulgaria. He was astonished to find he was as popular there as he had been in 1964; he was forced to stay in his hotel room because he was mobbed on the streets of Sofia. Later that year, he and Emmylou Harris won a Grammy for their duet "That Lovin' You Feelin' Again" (from the comedy film Roadie, in which Orbison also cameoed).

Van Halen released a hard-rock cover of "Oh, Pretty Woman" (titled "(Oh) Pretty Woman") on their 1982 album Diver Down, again exposing a younger generation to Orbison's legacy.

Orbison's career was fully revived in 1987. He released an album of his re-recorded hits titled In Dreams: The Greatest Hits. A song he recorded named "Life Fades Away", written with friend Glenn Danzig, was featured in the film Less Than Zero. He and k.d. lang performed a duet of "Crying" and released it on the soundtrack to Hiding Out, winning a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.

However, one film in which Orbison refused to allow his music was Blue Velvet. Director David Lynch asked to use "In Dreams" and Orbison turned him down. Lynch used it anyway. The song served as one of several obsessions of a psychopathic character named Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). It was lip-synched by an effeminate drug dealer played by Dean Stockwell, after which Booth demanded the song be played over and over, once beating the protagonist while the song played. During filming, Lynch asked for the song to be played repeatedly to give the set a surreal atmosphere. Orbison was initially shocked at its use: he saw the film in a theater in Malibu and later said, "I was mortified because they were talking about the 'candy colored clown' in relation to a dope deal ... I thought, 'What in the world ...?' But later, when I was touring, we got the video out and I really got to appreciate what David gave to the song, and what the song gave to the movie—how it achieved this otherworldly quality that added a whole new dimension to 'In Dreams'."

The same year, Orbison was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and initiated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Bruce Springsteen, who concluded his speech with a reference to his own song "Thunder Road": "I wanted a record with words like Bob Dylan that sounded like Phil Spector—but, most of all, I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison. Now everyone knows that no one sings like Roy Orbison." In response, Orbison asked Springsteen for a copy of the speech, and said of his induction that he felt "validated" by the honor.

In 1987, Orbison had begun collaborating with Electric Light Orchestra frontman Jeff Lynne on a new album. At the same time Lynne was completing production work on George Harrison's Cloud Nine, and all three had lunch one day when Orbison accepted an invitation to sing on Harrison's album. They contacted Bob Dylan, who allowed them to use a recording studio in his home. Along the way, Harrison had to stop by Tom Petty's house to pick up his guitar; Petty and his band had backed Dylan on his last tour. By that evening, the group had written "Handle with Care", which led to the concept of recording an entire album. They called themselves the Traveling Wilburys, representing themselves as half-brothers from the same father. They gave themselves stage names; Orbison chose his from his musical hero, calling himself "Lefty Wilbury" after Lefty Frizzell. Expanding on the concept of a traveling band of raucous musicians, Orbison offered a quote about the group's foundation in honor: "Some people say Daddy was a cad and a bounder. I remember him as a Baptist minister."

The Traveling Wilburys
Lynne later spoke of the recording sessions: "Everybody just sat there going, 'Wow, it's Roy Orbison!'... [E]ven though he's become your pal and you're hanging out and having a laugh and going to dinner, as soon as he gets behind that mike and he's doing his business, suddenly it's shudder time." Orbison was given one solo track on the album titled "Not Alone Anymore". His contributions were highly praised by the press. Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 spent 53 weeks on the U.S. charts, peaking at number 3. It hit number 1 in Australia and topped out at number 16 in the UK. The LP won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group. Rolling Stone included it in the top 100 albums of the decade.

Orbison was in high demand for concerts and interviews once again, and was thrilled about it. He began writing songs and collaborating with many musicians from his past and newer fans to develop a solo album titled Mystery Girl. U2's lead singer Bono had become aware of Orbison when he saw Blue Velvet and, with The Edge wrote "She's a Mystery to Me" for him.

Mystery Girl was produced by Jeff Lynne, whom Orbison considered the best producer he had ever worked with, while Bono, Elvis Costello, Orbison's son Wesley and others offered their songs to him. The biggest hit from the album was "You Got It", written by Lynne and Tom Petty. It posthumously rose to number 9 in the U.S. and number 3 in the UK.

Although the video for the Wilburys' "Handle With Care" was filmed with Orbison, the video for "End of the Line" was filmed and released posthumously. During Orbison's vocal parts in "End of the Line", the video shows a guitar in a rocking chair, next to Orbison's framed photo.

While Orbison determinedly pursued his second chance at stardom, he reacted to his success in constant surprise, confessing "It's very nice to be wanted again, but I still can't quite believe it." He lost some weight to fit his new image and the constant demand of touring, as well as the newer demands of making videos. In November 1988, Mystery Girl was completed and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 was rising up the charts. Orbison went to Europe where he was presented with an award and played a show in Antwerp where footage for the video for "You Got It" was filmed. He gave multiple interviews a day in a hectic schedule. A few days later a manager at a club in Boston was concerned that he looked ill, but Orbison played the show to another standing ovation. Finally, exhausted, he returned to his home in Hendersonville to rest for a few days before flying again to London to film two more videos for the Traveling Wilburys. On December 6, 1988, he spent the day flying model airplanes with his sons; then, after having dinner at his mother's home in Hendersonville, Tennessee, he died of a heart attack at the age of 52.

Although Orbison is counted as a rock and roll pioneer, and has been cited by numerous critics as one of the genre's most influential musicians, his style was noted for how it departed from the norm. Rock and roll in the 1950s was defined by a driving backbeat, heavy guitars, and lyrical themes that glorified youthful rebellion. However, very little of what Orbison recorded met these characteristics. The structure and themes of his songs defied convention, and his much-praised voice and performance style were unlike any other in rock and roll. Many of his contemporaries compared his music with that of classically trained musicians, although Orbison never mentioned any classical music influences.

The loneliness in Orbison's songs that he became most famous for, he both explained and downplayed: "I don't think I've been any more lonely than anyone else... Although if you grow up in West Texas, there are a lot of ways to be lonely." His music offered an alternative to the postured masculinity that was pervasive in music and culture. Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees stated, "He made emotion fashionable, that it was all right to talk about and sing about very emotional things. For men to sing about very emotional things... Before that no one would do it." Orbison acknowledged this in looking back on the era in which he became popular: "When ["Crying"] came out I don't think anyone had accepted the fact that a man should cry when he wants to cry."

Orbison admitted that he did not think his voice was put to appropriate use until "Only the Lonely" in 1960, when it was able, in his words, to allow its "flowering". Carl Perkins, however, toured with Orbison while they were both signed with Sun Records and recalled a specific concert when Orbison covered the Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald standard "Indian Love Call", and had the audience completely silenced, in awe. When compared to the Everly Brothers, who often used the same session musicians, Orbison is credited with "a passionate intensity" that, according to The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, made "his love, his life, and, indeed, the whole world [seem] to be coming to an end—not with a whimper, but an agonized, beautiful bang".

Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel both commented on the otherworldly quality of Orbison's voice. Dwight Yoakam stated that Orbison's voice sounded like "the cry of an angel falling backward through an open window". Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees went further to say that when he heard "Crying" for the first time, "That was it. To me that was the voice of God."

Orbison's severe stage fright was particularly noticeable in the 1970s and early 1980s. During the first few songs in a concert, the vibrato in his voice was almost uncontrollable, but afterwards, it became stronger and more dependable. This also happened with age. Orbison noticed that he was unable to control the tremor in the late afternoon and evenings, and chose to record in the mornings when it was possible.

Orbison often excused his motionless performances by saying that his songs did not allow instrumental sections so he could move or dance on stage, although songs like "Mean Woman Blues" did offer that. He was aware of his unique performance style even in the early 1960s when he commented, "I'm not a super personality—on stage or off. I mean, you could put workers like Chubby Checker or Bobby Rydell in second-rate shows and they'd still shine through, but not me. I'd have to be prepared. People come to hear my music, my songs. That's what I have to give them."

Orbison attributed his own passion during his performances to the period when he grew up in Fort Worth while the U.S. was mobilizing for World War II. His parents worked in a defense plant and his father would bring a guitar in the evenings and their friends and relatives who had just joined the military would gather, and drink and sing heartily. Orbison later reflected, "I guess that level of intensity made a big impression on me, because it's still there. That sense of 'do it for all it's worth and do it now and do it good.' Not to analyze it too much, but I think the verve and gusto that everybody felt and portrayed around me has stayed with me all this time."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Breaking Bad

Going against my typical disdain for anything that comes out of Hollywood, I have worked my way through the five season HBO series of methamphetamine manufacture and distribution entitled Breaking Bad.

Breaking Bad won awards for its acting and writing and I wanted to see what the hubbub was all about. I watched season one with fading interest, got bored during season two, thought things might be turning around in season three, wondered what the writers were thinking in season four, and finally relieved in season five when the series ended with the predictable death of the lead character.

Like most all of television programming, Breaking Bad was a highly touted waste of time. I can't even say it was a disappointment because it was exactly what I expected, a nihilistic treatise on the pursuit of wealth and titillation in a drug frenzied America.

Result of American drug culture.
If you think Breaking Bad was anything but a statement on the lowest common denominator for American entertainment, you should be ashamed of yourself. The acting was truly abysmal and stereotypes populated the entire story. Now that I think about it, I don't recall even one black actor which is beyond belief in a television series about American drug-dealing. I can tell you this: If I see one more vacant stare from someone riding in a Prius, I think I'll scream.

Come on, Hollywood, you can do better. I suppose I could lead this little essay into a discussion of what art is supposed to do for us. You know, whether art should be instructional to the public in a moral sense, or whether it should simply entertain with bigger and better explosions and car chases, cheap thrills for the huddled masses sitting in the nanny glow of widescreen high definition.

Honey, the show is starting!
For those of you who thought Breaking Bad was good stuff, let me ask you this: did it make you think? Did it make you feel better about your life? Did it offer a way out of your day to day prison of doubt, fear, and neglect? Is that the kind of trash you urge your friends at the office to watch?

Breaking Bad offers a steady stream of murder, mayhem, and insanity. If you like that kind of thing so much, what does that say about you?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Power of Lies

by Paul Craig Roberts

It is one of history’s ironies that the Lincoln Memorial is a sacred space for the Civil Rights Movement and the site of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Lincoln did not think blacks were the equals of whites. Lincoln’s plan was to send the blacks in America back to Africa, and if he had not been assassinated, returning blacks to Africa would likely have been his post-war policy.

As Thomas DiLorenzo and a number of non-court historians have conclusively established, Lincoln did not invade the Confederacy in order to free the slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation did not occur until 1863 when opposition in the North to the war was rising despite Lincoln’s police state measures to silence opponents and newspapers. The Emancipation Proclamation was a war measure issued under Lincoln’s war powers. The proclamation provided for the emancipated slaves to be enrolled in the Union army replenishing its losses. It was also hoped that the proclamation would spread slave revolts in the South while southern white men were away at war and draw soldiers away from the fronts in order to protect their women and children. The intent was to hasten the defeat of the South before political opposition to Lincoln in the North grew stronger.

The Lincoln Memorial was built not because Lincoln “freed the slaves,” but because Lincoln saved the empire. As the Savior of the Empire, had Lincoln not been assassinated, he could have become emperor for life.

As Professor Thomas DiLorenzo writes: “Lincoln spent his entire political career attempting to use the powers of the state for the benefit of the moneyed corporate elite (the ‘one-percenters’ of his day), first in Illinois, and then in the North in general, through protectionist tariffs, corporate welfare for road, canal, and railroad corporations, and a national bank controlled by politicians like himself to fund it all.”

Lincoln was a man of empire. As soon as the South was conquered, ravaged, and looted, his collection of war criminal generals, such as Sherman and Sheridan, set about exterminating the Plains Indians in one of the worst acts of genocide in human history. Even today Israeli Zionists point to Washington’s extermination of the Plains Indians as the model for Israel’s theft of Palestine.

The War of Northern Aggression was about tariffs and northern economic imperialism. The North was protectionist. The South was free trade. The North wanted to finance its economic development by forcing the South to pay higher prices for manufactured goods. The North passed the Morrill Tariff which more than doubled the tariff rate to 32.6% and provided for a further hike to 47%. The tariff diverted the South’s profits on its agricultural exports to the coffers of Northern industrialists and manufacturers. The tariff was designed to redirect the South’s expenditures on manufactured goods from England to the higher cost goods produced in the North.

This is why the South left the union, a right of self-determination under the Constitution.

The purpose of Lincoln’s war was to save the empire, not to abolish slavery. In his first inaugural address Lincoln “made an ironclad defense of slavery.” His purpose was to keep the South in the Empire despite the Morrill Tariff. As for slavery, Lincoln said: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” This position, Lincoln reminded his audience, was part of the 1860 Republican Party platform. Lincoln also offered his support for the strong enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, which required Northerners to hunt down and return runaway slaves, and he gave his support to the Corwin Amendment to the Constitution, already passed by Northern votes in the House and Senate, that prohibited any federal interference with slavery. For Lincoln and his allies, the empire was far more important than slaves.

DiLorenzo explains what the deal was that Lincoln offered to the South. However, just as empire was more important to the North than slavery, for the South avoiding large taxes on manufactured goods, in effect a tax on Southern agricultural profits, was more important than northern guarantees for slavery.

If you want to dislodge your brainwashing about the War of Northern Aggression, read DiLorenzo’s books, The Real Lincoln, and Lincoln Unmasked.

The so-called Civil War was not a civil war. In a civil war, both sides are fighting for control of the government. The South was not fighting for control of the federal government. The South seceded and the North refused to let the South go.

The reason I am writing about this is to illustrate how history is falsified in behalf of agendas. I am all for civil rights and participated in the movement while a college student. What makes me uncomfortable is the transformation of Lincoln, a tyrant who was an agent for the One Percent and was willing to destroy any and every thing in behalf of empire, into a civil rights hero. Who will be next? Hitler? Stalin? Mao? George W. Bush? Obama? John Yoo? If Lincoln can be a civil rights hero, so can be torturers. Those who murder in Washington’s wars women and children can be turned into defenders of women’s rights and child advocates. And probably they will be.

This is the twisted perverted world in which we live. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, is confronted with Washington’s overthrow of the elected government in Ukraine, a Russian ally and for centuries a part of Russia itself, while Putin is falsely accused of invading Ukraine. China is accused by Washington as a violator of human rights while Washington murders more civilians in the 21st century than every other country combined.

Everywhere in the West monstrous lies stand unchallenged. The lies are institutionalized in history books, course curriculums, policy statements, movements and causes, and in historical memory.

America will be hard pressed to survive the lies that it lives.

Friday, April 24, 2015


Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy. In recent years, it has also come to include a fashion and lifestyle movement that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk stories are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or the American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk features anachronistic technologies or "retro-futuristic" inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or the modern authors Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, Stephen Hunt and China MiƩville. Other examples of steampunk contain alternative history presentations of such technology as lighter-than-air airships, analogue computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine.

H. G. Wells' Time Machine
Steampunk may also incorporate additional elements from the genres of fantasy, horror, historical fiction, alternate history, or other branches of speculative fiction, making it often a hybrid genre. The term steampunk's first known appearance was in 1987, though it now retroactively refers to many works of fiction created even as far back as the 1950s or 1960s.

Steampunk also refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions, or subcultures, that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and films from the mid-20th century. Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical "steampunk" style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.

Steampunk is influenced by and often adopts the style of the 19th-century scientific romances of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley. Several works of art and fiction significant to the development of the genre were produced before the genre had a name. Perhaps the first steampunk short story is "The Aerial Burglar" (1844) by Percival Leigh. The oldest precursor of this genre in film, Fritz Lang's masterpiece, Metropolis (1927), may be the single most important early film to represent steampunk as an emerging stylistic genre. Titus Alone (1959), by Mervyn Peake, anticipated many of the tropes of steampunk, and the film Brazil (1985) was an important early cinematic influence toward creating the genre.

Jules Verne's Nautilus
In fine art, Remedios Varo's paintings combine elements of Victorian dress, fantasy, and technofantasy imagery. In television, one of the earliest mainstream manifestations of the steampunk ethos was the original CBS television series The Wild Wild West (1965–69), which inspired the film Wild Wild West (1999). In print, the A Nomad of the Time Streams trilogy by Michael Moorcock, which began in 1971 with The Warlord of the Air, was also an influential precursor.

Although many works now considered seminal to the genre were published in the 1960s and 1970s, the term steampunk originated in the late 1980s as a tongue in cheek variant of cyberpunk. It was coined by science fiction author K. W. Jeter, who was trying to find a general term for works by Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates, 1983); James Blaylock (Homunculus, 1986); and himself (Morlock Night, 1979, and Infernal Devices, 1987) — all of which took place in a 19th-century (usually Victorian) setting and imitated conventions of such actual Victorian speculative fiction as H. G. Wells' The Time Machine.

Airship Fleet
Many of the visualizations of steampunk have their origins with, among others, Walt Disney's film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), including the design of the story's submarine the Nautilus, its interiors, and the crew's underwater gear; and George Pal's film The Time Machine (1960), with the design of the time machine itself. This theme is also carried over to Disney's theme parks in the designs of The Mysterious Island section of Tokyo DisneySea theme park and Disneyland Paris' Discoveryland area.

Aspects of steampunk design emphasise a balance between the form and function. So too is it like the Arts and Crafts Movement. But John Ruskin, William Morris, and the other reformers in the late nineteenth century rejected machines and industrial production. On the other hand, steampunk enthusiasts present a “non-luddite critique of technology.”

Shop online for Steampunk gear here.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

SS Edmund Fitzgerald

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an American Great Lakes freighter that sank in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975, with the loss of the entire crew of 29. At the time of launching on June 8, 1958, she was the largest ship on North America's Great Lakes, and remains the largest to have sunk there.

For seventeen years the Fitzgerald carried taconite iron ore from mines near Duluth, Minnesota, to iron works in Detroit, Toledo, and other Great Lakes ports. As a "workhorse," she set seasonal haul records six times, often breaking her own previous record. Captain Peter Pulcer was known for piping music day or night over the ship's intercom system while passing through the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers (between Lakes Huron and Erie), and entertaining spectators at the Soo Locks (between Lakes Superior and Huron) with a running commentary about the ship. Her size, record-breaking performance, and "DJ captain" endeared the Fitzgerald to boat watchers.

Carrying a full cargo of ore pellets with Captain Ernest M. McSorley in command, she embarked on what would become her final voyage from Superior, Wisconsin, near Duluth, on the afternoon of November 9, 1975. En route to a steel mill near Detroit, Michigan, the Fitz joined a second freighter, the SS Arthur M. Anderson. By the next day, the two ships were caught in the midst of a severe winter storm on Lake Superior, with near hurricane-force winds and waves up to 35 feet (11 m) high. Shortly after 7:10 p.m., the Fitzgerald suddenly sank in Canadian waters 530 feet (160 m) deep, approximately 17 miles (15 nautical miles; 27 kilometers) from the entrance to Whitefish Bay near the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario—a distance the Fitzgerald could have covered in two hours at her top speed. Although the Fitzgerald had reported being in difficulty earlier, no distress signals were sent before she sank; Captain McSorley's last message to the Anderson said, "We are holding our own." Her crew of 29 all perished, and no bodies were recovered.

Many theories, books, studies and expeditions have examined the cause of the sinking. The Fitzgerald might have fallen victim to the high waves of the storm, suffered structural failure, been swamped with water entering through her cargo hatches or deck, experienced topside damage, or shoaled in a shallow part of Lake Superior. The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald is one of the best-known disasters in the history of Great Lakes shipping. Gordon Lightfoot made it the subject of his 1976 hit song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" after reading an article on the event, titled "The Cruelest Month," which Newsweek printed in its November 24, 1975 issue.

Investigations into the sinking led to changes in Great Lakes shipping regulations and practices that included mandatory survival suits, depth finders, positioning systems, increased freeboard, and more frequent inspection of vessels.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Who's In Charge?

Global power brokers, that is, those who hold the reins to government action and cultural control, are often accused of acting as a cabal, a semi-secret, loose-knit structure of well-placed officials and corporations. We call this cabal by many names -- the Illuminatti, the IMF, the Communist Party, the Rothschilds, the Kochs, Buffet and Soros, and so on. They truly are all legitimate aspects of the dehumanizing influence that seeks to control the actions and even the existence of humankind across the globe.

However, even conspiracy noobs know that the ancient Pharoahs, and Kings and Emperors weren’t the real rulers, and that our Presidents and Prime Ministers are just puppets. The true power brokers are the bankers who operate behind the scenes. The scheme is as simple as it is ancient: bankers finance the public rulers through good times and bad, they finance wars and profit by lending to both sides, and the bankers always come out ahead. Subsequently, wealth builds through generations.

Many (if not most) of the banker families kept their money and power in the family over the years, but they still had a big problem. Their bloodlines didn’t always “breed true.” Every so often, some idiot son or daughter would inherit and lose the family fortune.

Billions were spent on the search for immortality, but to no avail. Shoot, the search still goes on today. However, somebody finally figured it out - that is, how to create an immortal system to preserve wealth and power. Behold, the corporation.

Corporations now are treated as legal persons throughout the world - they have economic and political power equaling or surpassing that of nations, but with neither the weaknesses of living persons, nor the constraints of governments. Even better, corporations have no allegiances, and no responsibilities to the people of the world. Their only commitment, under international law, is to profit - and they are best described as “psychopaths.” Meanwhile, people are no longer people. We are just “consumers” being used for our energy, our intellect, and our ability to procreate.

Oh, many of us believe we are free, that we choose our paths, that we control the television remote, that we choose what to eat, think, and feel. The truth is, we don't. They do. Even the view of reality that is presented through the media is fake.

If Corporations are people, they are psychopaths.

A handful of companies control the world's food supply and thus, they control what you eat.

Ten mega corporations and their interwoven supply chains control the output of almost everything you buy.

Over 90% of the media is controlled by just six companies, down from 50 in 1983. Nearly everything you think you know about the news (and your entertainment) is shaped from these six mega media companies.

37 top banks have merged to become four mega banks in a little over two decades, while the nation’s 10 largest financial institutions hold 54% of our total financial assets.

It's simple, really. All the hubbub is about profit and control. They control what you think and so they control how you act. It is their version of reality you feel so smug about, not your own, and it has nothing to do with truth or justice.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing."

- Aristotle

Photon Fun

Today, I'd like to talk about photons and how they are created. Photons, by the way, are what we call the discrete particles that constitute light. They occur upon state changes within atoms.

First, it's interesting to note that photon emission is essentially instantaneous (within uncertainty limits). The frequency of the emitted light is determined by the energy difference between the starting and the final state of the atom. The frequency is that energy difference divided by Planck's constant.

Photons are packets of electromagnetic energy that travel at the speed of light in that medium, and not a whit faster nor slower. A photon, therefore, doesn't need to be propelled away from the atom. Gravity will certainly affect the path of the photon, since it distorts spacetime, but an atom is extremely light, so the effect is pretty small.

Per your edification, it should be noted that all electron clouds are not globular. In fact, most have pretty exotic and interesting shapes. Only the "s" levels are spherically symmetric.

In any case, photon emission from an atom is equally probably in all directions.

The frequency of a photon is related to the energy of each photon. The higher the frequency, the higher the energy of each photon. When an electron drops from one level to another, it loses a certain amount of energy, so that energy goes into creating one photon. So, it's the energy level difference that determines the photon frequency (i.e. photon energy). You can think of it as an instantaneous process, there's never a half-photon floating around being constructed.

Once a photon is created, it travels at (guess what) the speed of light. It'll fly away on its own. Emission direction is pretty much random, though some emission mechanisms are directional.

A photon is the smallest possible amplitude increment of an electromagnetic field. It's like one notch on the volume knob of your stereo. So a photon can't be built up, it doesn't gradually increase in energy, because a photon is the smallest possible energy increment.

There is no trajectory, as such, for a photon. One way to think about it is that when the atom emits a single, pure photon, the probability amplitude of electric field intensity over a certain volume of space suddenly jumps up one notch. When the photon is observed, the probability amplitude suddenly concentrates at whatever place the photon was observed.

What happened in between? That is not knowable, since no observations were made, and knowledge without observation is logically contradictory.

The exact details of photon emission from an atom, would involve very complicated relativistic calculations, because an infinite number of complicated processes involving the electron(s), the final (real) photon, and an infinite number of virtual photons must all be considered. Even calculating in complete detail what happens when a single isolated electron is coupled to the radiation field (i.e. allowed to interact with virtual photons) is a problem for which Julian Schwinger and Richard Feynmann jointly received a Nobel Prize. And the problem was not entirely solved.

A photon does not expend energy to travel. This reflects Aristotelian physics, not Newtonian. Consider the meaning of inertia.

Entropy is not like energy. It is not a physical measurable quantity. Entropy is a measure of the ignorance implied by your definition of the state of a system. Hence depending on how you define the state of the system you are considering, you may have different values of the entropy. Generally most physicists interested in a simple treatment of photon emission would work with a single wavefunction, for which the entropy would be and remain zero.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

“Today the path of total dictatorship in the United States can be laid by strictly legal means, unseen and unheard by the Congress, the President, or the people. Outwardly we have a Constitutional government. We have operating within our government and political system, another body representing another form of government – a bureaucratic elite.”

Senator William Jenner, 1954

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Universe Eventual: Chimera

Greetings, sci-fi fans! Occasionally I receive an email asking if I would care to do a review for a new science fiction book. I've agreed to read cold manuscripts aplenty and even committed to writing reviews for strangers on many occasions. Most of the time, it has turned out to be a chore because the writing or the story was so awful as to be painful. Well, I am happy to report that is not always the case.

Writer Nathan Beauchamp recently contacted me and asked if I would read and review his latest project, the starter book in a new series entitled, Universe Eventual: Chimera, scheduled for release on April 25th (2015). At first, I thought I'd pass but then I saw that the book was a team effort and, as one always interested in alternative ways to get the words down on paper, I decided to give it a go.

The Chimera team consists of three members: Nathan Beauchamp, Joshua Russell, and editor Rachael Tanger. Because of the tag-team writing aspect, I had honestly expected to see noticeable changes in voicing and tone and style. There was a time or two during the course of reading when I thought I may have detected some of that, but generally the prose flowed evenly and easily. The author name is a blend of the team member's name: N (for Nathan), J (for Joshua), and Tanger (Rachel's last name). Clever, huh?

Since Chimera is the first in a series, it's a little unfair to comment on the total story -- I mean, after all, I've only read the intro. However, that intro is pretty good. Chimera is advertised as a Young Adult (YA) offering and I think that moniker is fair enough as well.

The story centers on a group of teens who are selected to man and navigate a spaceship (the Chimera) from their stranded colony back to Earth. We don't really know why Earth transports stopped arriving at Stephen's Point colony but it has been seventeen years since one has arrived.

The Chimera is guided by an artificial intelligence that has a few problems in itself. For one, it can only communicate with certain individuals. Spoiler alert here: one of those individuals turns out to be a main character, a young, foul-mouthed girl with a penchant for steering spaceships.

The world of Stephen's Point is described as a benevolent theocracy with a religion devoted to the original navigator of the Chimera, a guy named Stephen -- thus, we have the world named after him. Stephen, we are told, became something of a prophet and left prophetic hints scratched into rock faces in hidden places. We are also told that later on poor Stephen went insane. While not everyone in Stephen's Point is a true believer, apparently the authoritative nature of the religion has resulted in the basis for a secular revolution. Now, I can't say for sure because, as I explained before, I've only read these first 229 pages of the series.

The characters are drawn with clarity and each has something with which they struggle. There is a hint of romance and a dash of intrigue. Of course, there is mystery with the promise of discovery and revelation. Isn't that why we like to read science fiction?

I look forward to finding out what happens to those chosen to guide the Chimera back to Earth and wonder when the next installment will be released. Chimera is defintely a series. All the questions that are raised in the intro book are not answered! While this may be a point of frustration for many of us, it is still a fair marketing technique and one that has proven to work for series-loving sci-fi fans.

Universe Eventual: Chimera, by N.J. Tanger, will be available at More info about the book and the authors can be had at

Thomas C. Stone
Author of The Harry Irons Trilogy

The Lemmings Have United!

The Blind Authority Fallacy is also known as: blind obedience, the "team player" appeal, the Nuremberg defense, divine authority [form of], and appeal to/argument from blind authority. Cops use it, politicians use it, bureaucrats really like to use it, and generally just about anybody in charge uses it as an argument to remain in charge.

The Blind Authority Fallacy asserts that a proposition is true solely on the authority making the claim while extreme cases also ignore any counter evidence no matter how strong. The authority could be parents, a coach, a boss, a military leader, a divine authority, or, more frequently, the government.

Logically speaking,
Person 1 says Y is true.
Person 1 is seen as the ultimate authority.
Therefore, Y is true.

During the Nazi war crimes trials at Nuremberg after World War II, Nazi war criminals were charged with genocide, mass murder, torture and other atrocities. Their defense was "I was only following orders."

Most of us begin our lives seeing our parents as the ultimate authority, and we experience their wrath when we question that authority. Unfortunately, this bad habit is carried over into adulthood where we replace our parents with a coach, a boss, a teacher, a commander, or the state. Rather than question, we blindly follow. This fallacy has probably resulted in more deaths, pain, suffering, and misery than all others combined.

Your obedience to authority is monitored in order to determine if you are of a criminal nature or not.

Millions of people were killed in Nazi Germany in concentration camps but Hitler couldn't have killed them all, nor could a handful of people. What made all those people follow the orders they were given? Were they afraid, or was there something in their personality that made them like that? In order to obey authority, the obeying person has to accept that it is legitimate (i.e. rightful, legal) for the command to be made of them.

Obedience is a form of social influence where an individual acts in response to a direct order from another individual, who is usually an authority figure. It is assumed that without such an order the person would not have acted in this way.

Obedience occurs when you are told to do something, whereas conformity happens through social pressure (the norms of the majority). Obedience involves a hierarchy of power/status. Therefore, the person giving the order has a higher status than the person receiving the order.

Blind trust in government is not a virtue. It’s what has gotten us into the mess we’re in. People blindly follow the dictates of authority without bothering to apply common sense or critical thinking to the orders. This may be the proper course for one serving in the military (up to a point), but aside from that, most people have an implicit trust for people in power and in uniform. They have an implicit trust in bankers, lawyers, scientists and doctors, because, as has been drummed into us, these are prestiged professions. Now, there are many honorable people in these professions, but there are also many power hungry control freaks, sociopaths, liars and psychopaths too, because that kind of personality gravitates towards power – and that is precisely what makes a worldwide scheme of tyranny a possibility. If you are not streetwise, your unquestioning obedience can easily be exploited to serve the global conspiracy.

If, at this point you are saying to yourself, "What worldwide conspiracy?" you may stop reading at this point and return to your regularly scheduled programming. The rest of you may please continue reading.

The Milgram Experiment was repeated all over the world with people from different walks of life. It was replicated over and over, and the results were always the same. The experimenters consistently found that around 50-65% of people blindly followed and obeyed instructions from a figure in a uniform, a figure of perceived authority, even if that figure was asking them to inflict harm on others.

That means people went against their own moral code and sense of ethics to willfully and willingly injure another person, all in the name of following orders!

What percentage of people would obey if they were ordered to commit murder? The answer might surprise you. When we see uniforms and badges, hear an authoritative, confident voice, or perceive that someone is part of a larger institution (e.g. the Government, a big corporation, or is a banker, lawyer, scientist, doctor, etc.), we tend to not engage in critical thinking. We tend not to challenge. We tend to become more submissive and pliable, and for some reason, we tend to give them our unquestioning obedience.

At the Nuremberg trials, humanity decided that “just following orders” was no excuse, and that a soldier who decided to kill someone shared part of the guilt and responsibility for his actions just as much as the commander above him.

This is why governments love their uniforms, medals, cloaks, frocks, gowns, badges, hats and other adornments. It’s all about image. It’s all about controlling perceptions. When you are addicted to power, it’s all about gaining the upper hand and getting the other person to submit to your will. Flashy adornments can cause a person to go from beta brainwaves (everyday consciousness, business mode) to alpha brainwaves (relaxed, more submissive mode).

You see, it’s a form of mind control. Yet, when you come to the table without any preconceptions, and you look at things squarely without any misplaced reverence, you see that none of these professions deserve your undying allegiance, and certainly not your unquestioning obedience. The thing is, respect and trust must be earned. They are not to be given up automatically – unless you want to be controlled or deceived.

Why would we give the Government our unquestioning obedience, when upon closer inspection, it lies, cheats, steals and is the leading cause of death in the 20th century (democide)?

Why would we give bankers our unquestioning obedience, when upon closer inspection, they have a monopoly on money creation, lend out money that didn’t exist before (and still collect interest on it), produce nothing yet slowly suck all of the capital out of society and into their coffers, as well as fund both sides of world wars to get richer off death and destruction?

Why would we give lawyers our unquestioning obedience, when upon closer inspection, they readily admit that the appearance of reality is more important than reality itself?

Why would we give scientists our unquestioning obedience, when upon closer inspection, many are paid by the corporatocracy to deliver preconceived findings such as that vaccines, fluoride, GMOs, smart meters and cell phones are safe, despite independent evidence to the contrary? When they push corporate-funded junk science onto the public to advance their careers?

Why would we give doctors our unquestioning obedience, when upon closer inspection, many promote chemotherapy, vaccines, radiation, fluoride and Big Pharma drugs, all of which are poisonous and will eventually kill you in large enough doses? Remember the ad series when doctors promoted Camel cigarettes? If doctors could be convinced (or bought off) to promote carcinogens like tobacco back then, how can we rest assured anything has changed?

There is a time and place for following directions and orders – but secular humanity has swung out of balance with nature and is allowing the worst, most selfish and most manipulative people to tell the rest of us what to do, what to think and what to believe.

The mainstream media is owned by the authorities and gives people daily doses of lies and the public swallow it whole, without asking for any evidence! Yet whenever someone in the alternative media speaks the truth, immediately they are bombarded with “where’s your proof”? Fair enough, but why aren’t the same standards applied to the liars in Government and the mainstream media?

We’ve got a full surveillance state (NSA spying on everyone), we’ve got endless war (the US and allies starting wars where ever they want on trumped up evidence), we’ve got legally sanctioned indefinite detention and torture (Guantanamo among many examples); yet, still, some people deny the existence of any conspiracy!

You can show some people concrete evidence that the Government is lying, and they will still find a way to deny or rationalize away the facts, even if the proof is in front of them.

It’s cognitive dissonance. Once people have decided the Government is the good guy and out to protect us, they will defend it tooth and nail, and give it their unquestioning obedience – the very thing that is working to enslave them!

For those who choose to live in denial, your days are numbered. There will come a time where denial will no longer be a luxury you can afford. Ignorance is a choice – especially in this day and age. For some people, it’s going to be a very rude awakening.

Questioning reality in the face of propaganda and mass media programming shows great courage, curiosity and open-mindedness. It is also the beginning of a trip down the rabbit hole, a glimpse behind the curtain at those who are convinced they know better than you.

In an ever delusional world where lying newsmen tell fake news, where mendacious politicians spin every event, where mass murder is conducted under the guise of a fake war on terror, where mass-produced food poisons and where medicine kills, questioning prepackaged reality is a sign of individual strength and character. It takes courage to ask the tough questions that mainstream journalists fear to touch. Here are six ways to question (their) reality:

1. If the point of all the draconian laws passed since 9/11, including the Patriot Act and other means of mass surveillance, is to keep you safe from terrorism, why are almost all of the FBI’s “successes” in capturing “terrorists” the result of sting operations the FBI engineered itself?

2. If so many of your rights and freedom are being taken away under the guise of saving you from terrorism, why are you 58 times more likely in the US to die from a policeman shooting you than a terrorist?

3. If the mass surveillance grid being set up is really to keep you secure, then why has the NSA failed to foil a single terrorist plot, despite having access to every electronic transaction (call, text, email, etc.) made by every American?

4. If false flag events like 9/11, 7/7, Sandy Hook and the Boston marathon bombing were really carried out by bogeymen like “Islamic terrorists” and “lone nutter” shooters, why do they all share the common thread of occurring alongside a government-executed drill – at the exact same time, at the exact same place, for the exact same purpose?

5. If the world really were undergoing manmade global warming, why did so many scientists fudge, conceal and distort the data as exposed in the ClimateGate emails?

6. If you are crazy to question your reality and not believe everything the Government tells you, then why did scientific studies like this one reveal that those who actively question their reality (dubbed conspiracy theorists) are less hostile and more fact-based than conventional believers?

Question the reality that is presented to you over public broadcasting and cable and radio as well as revisionist history and false views of science and technology. Speak truth to power. Defy authority. Deny tyranny. Do not cooperate with injustice.