Monday, May 31, 2010

ENV: Trip Report, 29 May 2010

Report to TexOdes
In between work today (29 May 2010), i ran down to Cooks Slough, largely to try to film the Orange Shadowdragons that were found by Terry and Troy Hibbits and Tripp Davenport. I was able to locate three of them, but it was miserable hot and they would flush and constantly hang up in dense canopy where i could neither film nor take pics. Nevertheless i was able to get about 15 brief looks. Two were at a spot under big oaks next to the slough at the junction of the main Paseo trail and the Los Indios trail, just past the shaded bench (maps available at the trailhead). They perch in the scrubby oak sprouts, but flush up into the oaks. At this location i also photographed a Mexican Wedgetail. The third shadowdragon i had was on a different trail after i misread the map. It was along the road just before you get to marker #3 and the Lunker pond overlook. It behaved the same as the others. Also at Lunker Pond were a Carmine Skimmer, three Slough Amberwings, a Pin-tailed Pondhawk and a Jade Clubtail. Near the first spot was a super cooperative female Filigree Skimmer.

I strongly recommend trying for these late in the afternoon, but beware that the gates close at 5 pm -- they open at 8 am. I spent about three hours there, and was very focused, so didn't chase down a lot of things that probably needed better looks, but nothing was flying or patrolling -- it was all about flushing and chasing down. Nevertheless i had decent variety if not numbers.

TX: Uvalde Co., Cook's Slough, 29 May 2010
1 Blue-fronted Dancer (photos)
2 Familiar Bluet
1 Double-striped Bluet
1 Mexican Wedgetail (photos)
1 Common Green Darner
1 Jade Clubtail
3 Sulphur-tipped Clubtail (photos, film)
3 Orange Shadowdragon
1 Filigree Skimmer (photos, film)
6 Four-spotted Pennant
2 Black Setwing (photos)
2 Swift Setwing (photos)
1 Pin-tailed Pondhawk
8 Eastern Pondhawk (photos)
2 Widow Skimmer
1 Twelve-spotted Skimmer
1 Carmine Skimmer (photos, film)
4 Roseate Skimmer (photos)
2 Blue Dasher (photos)
20 Eastern Amberwing
3 Slough Amberwing (film)
4 Black Saddlebags
2 Red Saddlebags

1 Little Yellow
2 Dainty Sulphur
80 Checkered White
2 Great Southern White
4 Lyside Sulphur

1 Black Swallowtail
2 Giant Swallowtail
3 Blue sp.
100 Bordered Patch
25 Phaon Crescent
15 Red Admiral
6 Variegated Fritillary
1 Gulf Fritillary
4 Question Mark
3 Tawny Emperor
1 Hackberry Emperor
2 Queen

50 Common/White Checkered-Skipper
6 Tropical Checkered-Skipper
20 Common Sootywing

1 Ilia Underwing, Catocala ilia (photos, film)

20 Spotted Whiptail (film)

6 Slider sp. (perhaps P.c. gorzugi)

4 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
2 Wild Turkey
1 Green Heron
20 Black Vulture
40 Turkey Vulture
2 Red-tailed Hawk (B.j. fuertesi)
1 Greater Roadrunner
2 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
2 Mourning Dove
2 Common Ground-Dove
4 Black-chinned Hummingbird
8 Golden-fronted Woodpecker
1 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
10 Brown-crested Flycatcher
1 Ash-throated Flycatcher
1 Great Kiskadee
2 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
4 Bell's Vireo
1 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
20 Barn Swallow
1 Cliff Swallow
2 Black-crested Titmouse
1 Bewick's Wren
1 Long-billed Thrasher
3 Yellow-breasted Chat
3 Northern Cardinal
1 Pyrrhuloxia
2 Painted Bunting
12 Olive Sparrow
1 Dickcissel
4 Lesser Goldfinch
1 Audubon's Oriole
2 Hooded Oriole
100 Red-winged Blackbird

Some other observations for the day

TX: Kerr Co., Ingram, 29 May 2010
1 Two-tailed Swallowtail

1 Golden-cheeked Warbler (my place is within a GCW territory, but i hadn't heard the male for a couple of weeks, then woke up to him singing, by the time i was getting into my jeep at 7:30 he was quiet)
1 Zone-tailed Hawk (while i was gassing up, an adult bird was circling low overhead, squealing and being answered by a bird in the trees along the river across the street. i see this in town bird often, but have never been able to pin down the nest site, i got some bearings and will go looking this week.)

TX: Uvalde Co., just N of Uvalde in wettish vegetated slough/ditch, 29 May 2010
1 Groove-billed Ani (this bird flew across the road in front of me and i stopped to double-check. it was curious but stuck to the back of the vegetation)

TX: Real Co., Big Springs Ranch
1 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (photos, film)
10 Sleepy Orange (film)
1 Red Admiral (film)

8 Common/White Checkered-Skipper (film)
1 Southern Broken-Dash (photos)
1 Northern Cloudywing (film)

2 Prince Baskettail (film)
1 Roseate Skimmer (film)

+ Blanchard's Cricket Frog

1 Spotted Sandpiper
1 Canyon Wren
+ House Finch
2 Lesser Goldfinch

1 White-tailed Deer (photos)

TX: Real Co., about six miles N of Big Springs Ranch along US83
1 Variegated Meadowhawk

2 Northern Bobwhite
1 Orchard Oriole

TX: Uvalde Co., Cook's Slough Pictures
click on picture to see full-sized

Ilia Underwing, Catocala ilia

Filigree Skimmer, Pseudoleon superbus, female

Blue-fronted Dancer, Argia apicalis

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COM: ABC Linguistic Morons strike again

Hohohohoho, ABC makes me want to be a talk show host.

In their latest screw-up, ABC news shows a video of a bus driver lecturing kids about gay rights and bigotry. The story itself is disturbing enough from many angles, but ABC screws it up with a simple misspelling. Let's hope the parties involved got it right.

What the driver says is this: "If you can't believe in tolerance toward one another, you don't belong here."

ABC used subtitles on the video that translate it this way: "If you can't believe intolerance toward one another, you don't belong here."

Way to go ABC.

[update 3 June 2010] Thank you CBS for not letting ABC one-up you in goofy mistakes this week:

"A source close to Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga told CBS News he has been told Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig will not reverse a botched umpire's call that caused Galarraga a perfect game Wednesday night. "

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OBT: Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper dies at age 74
Two-time Academy Award nominee was battling prostate cancer
By Christopher Weber, AP, updated 5/29/2010 11:18:01 AM

LOS ANGELES — Dennis Hopper, the high-flying Hollywood wild man whose memorable and erratic career included an early turn in "Rebel Without a Cause," an improbable smash with "Easy Rider" and a classic character role in "Blue Velvet," has died. He was 74.

Hopper died Saturday at his home in the Los Angeles beach community of Venice, surrounded by family and friends, family friend Alex Hitz said. Hopper's manager announced in October 2009 that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The success of "Easy Rider," and the spectacular failure of his next film, "The Last Movie," fit the pattern for the talented but sometimes uncontrollable actor-director, who also had parts in such favorites as "Apocalypse Now" and "Hoosiers." He was a two-time Academy Award nominee, and in March 2010, was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

After a promising start that included roles in two James Dean films, Hopper's acting career had languished as he developed a reputation for throwing tantrums and abusing alcohol and drugs. On the set of "True Grit," Hopper so angered John Wayne that the star reportedly chased Hopper with a loaded gun.

He married five times and led a dramatic life right to the end. In January 2010, Hopper filed to end his 14-year marriage to Victoria Hopper, who stated in court filings that the actor was seeking to cut her out of her inheritance, a claim Hopper denied.

"Much of Hollywood," wrote critic-historian David Thomson, "found Hopper a pain in the neck."

A major hit
All was forgiven, at least for a moment, when he collaborated with another struggling actor, Peter Fonda, on a script about two pot-smoking, drug-dealing hippies on a motorcycle trip through the Southwest and South to take in the New Orleans Mardi Gras.

On the way, Hopper and Fonda befriend a drunken young lawyer (Jack Nicholson, whom Hopper had resisted casting, in a breakout role), but arouse the enmity of Southern rednecks and are murdered before they can return home.

"'Easy Rider' was never a motorcycle movie to me," Hopper said in 2009. "A lot of it was about politically what was going on in the country."

Fonda produced "Easy Rider" and Hopper directed it for a meager $380,000. It went on to gross $40 million worldwide, a substantial sum for its time. The film caught on despite tension between Hopper and Fonda and between Hopper and the original choice for Nicholson's part, Rip Torn, who quit after a bitter argument with the director.

The film was a hit at Cannes, netted a best-screenplay Oscar nomination for Hopper, Fonda and Terry Southern, and has since been listed on the American Film Institute's ranking of the top 100 American films. The establishment gave official blessing in 1998 when "Easy Rider" was included in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Crashing failure
Its success prompted studio heads to schedule a new kind of movie: low cost, with inventive photography and themes about a young, restive baby boom generation. With Hopper hailed as a brilliant filmmaker, Universal Pictures lavished $850,000 on his next project, "The Last Movie."

The title was prescient. Hopper took a large cast and crew to a village in Peru to film the tale of a Peruvian tribe corrupted by a movie company. Trouble on the set developed almost immediately, as Peruvian authorities pestered the company, drug-induced orgies were reported and Hopper seemed out of control.

When he finally completed filming, he retired to his home in Taos, N.M., to piece together the film, a process that took almost a year, in part because he was using psychedelic drugs for editing inspiration.

When it was released, "The Last Movie" was such a crashing failure that it made Hopper unwanted in Hollywood for a decade. At the same time, his drug and alcohol use was increasing to the point where he was said to be consuming as much as a gallon of rum a day.

Shunned by the Hollywood studios, he found work in European films that were rarely seen in the United States. But, again, he made a remarkable comeback, starting with a memorable performance as a drugged-out journalist in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam War epic, "Apocalypse Now," a spectacularly long and troubled film to shoot. Hopper was drugged-out off camera, too, and his rambling chatter was worked into the final cut.

He went on to appear in several films in the early 1980s, including the well regarded "Rumblefish" and "The Osterman Weekend," as well as the campy "My Science Project" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2."

More trouble, another comeback
But alcohol and drugs continued to interfere with his work. Treatment at a detox clinic helped him stop drinking but he still used cocaine, and at one point he became so hallucinatory that he was committed to the psychiatric ward of a Los Angeles hospital.

Upon his release, Hopper joined Alcoholics Anonymous, quit drugs and launched yet another comeback. It began in 1986 when he played an alcoholic ex-basketball star in "Hoosiers," which brought him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

His role as a wild druggie in "Blue Velvet," also in 1986, won him more acclaim, and years later the character wound up No. 36 on the AFI's list of top 50 movie villains.

He returned to directing, with "Colors," "The Hot Spot" and "Chasers."

From that point on, Hopper maintained a frantic work pace, appearing in many forgettable movies and a few memorable ones, including the 1994 hit "Speed," in which he played the maniacal plotter of a freeway disaster. In the 2000s, he was featured in the television series "Crash" and such films as "Elegy" and "Hell Ride."

"Work is fun to me," he told a reporter in 1991. "All those years of being an actor and a director and not being able to get a job — two weeks is too long to not know what my next job will be."

For years he lived in Los Angeles' bohemian beach community of Venice, in a house designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry.

In later years he picked up some income by becoming a pitchman for Ameriprise Financial, aiming ads at baby boomers looking ahead to retirement. His politics, like much of his life, were unpredictable. The old rebel contributed money to the Republican Party in recent years, but also voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008.

The early years
Dennis Lee Hopper was born in 1936, in Dodge City, Kan., and spent much of his youth on the nearby farm of his grandparents. He saw his first movie at 5 and became enthralled.

After moving to San Diego with his family, he played Shakespeare at the Old Globe Theater.

Scouted by the studios, Hopper was under contract to Columbia until he insulted the boss, Harry Cohn. From there he went to Warner Bros., where he made "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant" while in his late teens.

Later, he moved to New York to study at the Actors Studio, where Dean had learned his craft.

Hopper's first wife was Brooke Hayward, the daughter of actress Margaret Sullavan and agent Leland Hayward, and author of the best-selling memoir "Haywire." They had a daughter, Marin, before Hopper's drug-induced violence led to divorce after eight years.

His second marriage, to singer-actress Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, lasted only eight days.

A union with actress Daria Halprin also ended in divorce after they had a daughter, Ruthana. Hopper and his fourth wife, dancer Katherine LaNasa, had a son, Henry, before divorcing.

He married his fifth wife, Victoria Duffy, who was 32 years his junior, in 1996, and they had a daughter, Galen Grier.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Daily Silliness


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OBT: Jacob Leicht

Texan was 1,000th GI killed in Afghan war
'He always wanted to die for his country,' brother says
By PAUL J. WEBER, The Associated Press, updated 6:42 p.m. CT, Sat., May 29, 2010

KERRVILLE, Texas - The 1,000th American serviceman killed in Afghanistan had already fallen once to a hidden explosive, driving his Humvee over a bomb in Iraq in 2007. The blast punched the dashboard radio into his face and broke his leg in two places.

Marine Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht didn't survive his second encounter with a bomb this week. The death of the 24-year-old Texan born on the Fourth of July marks a grim milestone in the Afghanistan war.

Leicht, who spent two painful years recovering from the Iraq blast, was killed Thursday when he stepped on a land mine in Helmand province that ripped off his right arm. He had written letters from his hospital bed begging to be put back on the front lines, and died less than a month into that desperately sought second tour.

An Associated Press tally shows Leicht is the 1,000th U.S. serviceman killed in the Afghan conflict. The first death — nearly nine years ago — was also a soldier from the San Antonio area.

"He said he always wanted to die for his country and be remembered," said Jesse Leicht, his younger brother. "He didn't want to die having a heart attack or just being an old man. He wanted to die for something."

The AP bases its tally on Defense Department reports of deaths suffered as a direct result of the Afghan conflict, including personnel assigned to units in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Uzbekistan.

Other news organizations count deaths suffered by service members assigned elsewhere as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes operations in the Philippines, the Horn of Africa and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Leicht's brothers told the AP that the military also told the family that his death put the toll at 1,000.

When military officers went to tell Leicht's parents that their adopted son had died in combat, sheriff's deputies had to help navigate them to the 130-acre family ranch tucked impossibly deep in the Texas Hill Country.

Big guy, soft heart
It was here that Jacob Leicht chopped thick cedar trees and hiked the rugged limestone peaks, growing up into an imposing 6-5, 200-pound Marine with a soft heart. He watched "Dora the Explorer" with his brother's children and confided to family that he was troubled by the thought of young civilians being killed in battle.

But for Leicht, born in a Lemoore, Calif., Navy hospital, the battlefield was the destination. He threw away a college ROTC scholarship after just one semester because he feared it would lead away from the front lines.

"His greatest fear was that they would tell him he would have to sit at a desk for the rest of his life," said Jonathan Leicht, his older brother.

When Jacob Leicht's wish finally came true, it didn't last long.

His first deployment was to Iraq in 2007, but he was there just three weeks when Jesse Leicht said his brother drove over two 500-pound bombs hidden beneath the road.

One detonated, the other didn't. The blast tore through the Humvee, shooting the radio into Leicht's face and knocking him unconscious. He felt something pinch his thumb, and the gunner's face was filleted so badly by shrapnel that medics couldn't keep water in his mouth.

None of the five people were inside the vehicle died. Jesse Leicht said an Iraqi interpreter, the only one on board who wasn't seriously injured, dragged his brother from the mangled vehicle. The blast snapped Jacob Leicht's fibula and tibula, and the recovery was an agonizing ordeal of pins and rods and bolts drilled into his bones.

But all Jacob Leicht could think about was going back. He launched a campaign for himself at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, writing letters and making phone calls about returning to combat. More than two years later, he was finally healthy enough to serve again.

Nine days before his brother stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan, Jesse Leicht enlisted in the Marines. Using Facebook to reach a friend stationed at a base not far from his brother, Jesse asked the soldier a favor: If you see Jacob, let him know I signed up like him.

"Hopefully," Jesse Leicht said, "he got the word."

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Friday, May 28, 2010

The Daily SIlliness

RT @BPGlobalPR just asked a scientist why there are so many crows in the south. Turns out they are seagulls. It was AWKWARD.


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The Daily Sillness

Home in Utopia . . .


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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Daily SIlliness



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MSC: Another Award for Anderson Fair Flick!

For The Sake Of The Song wins Audience Choice Gold Medal for best music documentary at the Park City Film Music Festival!


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ENV: Alaotra Grebe

Wetland aliens cause bird extinction

BirdLife International has announced, in the 2010 IUCN Red List update for birds, the extinction of Alaotra Grebe Tachybaptus rufolavatus. Restricted to a tiny area of east Madagascar, this species declined rapidly after carnivorous fish were introduced to the lakes in which it lived. This, along with the use of nylon gill-nets by fisherman which caught and drowned birds, has driven this species into the abyss.

"No hope now remains for this species. It is another example of how human actions can have unforeseen consequences", said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife International's Director of Science, Policy and Information. "Invasive alien species have caused extinctions around the globe and remain one of the major threats to birds and other biodiversity."

Another wetland species suffering from the impacts of introduced aliens is Zapata Rail Cyanolimnas cerverai from Cuba. It has been uplisted to Critically Endangered and is under threat from introduced mongooses and exotic catfish. An extremely secretive marsh-dwelling species, the only nest ever found of this species was described by James Bond, a Caribbean ornithologist and the source for Ian Fleming's famous spy's name.

And it's not just aliens. Wetlands the world over, and the species found in them, are under increasing pressures.

In Asia and Australia, numbers of once common wader species such as Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris and Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis are dropping rapidly as a result of drainage and pollution of coastal wetlands. The destruction of inter-tidal mudflats at Saemangeum in South Korea, an important migratory stop-over site, correlated to a 20% decline in the world population of Great Knot. Huge flocks of these birds once visited northern Australia, but annual monitoring by scientists have found corresponding declines in numbers.

"Wetlands are fragile environments, easily disturbed or polluted, but essential not only for birds and other biodiversity but also for millions of people around the world as a source of water and food", said Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife's Global Research and Indicators Coordinator.

Turning the tide
However, the Red List update shows that we now know, more than ever, that conservation works. Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina has been downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered as a result of conservation work to restore natural vegetation on its island home. SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) and RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) have worked together with others to turn around the fortunes of this species in what is a model for other projects.

"This is a clear example of conservation action succeeding in turning the tide for a highly threatened species", said Andy Symes, BirdLife's Global Species Programme Officer. "Where there is commitment and financing we can save species. We have the knowledge and will, but there needs to be better funding globally to address the loss of species."

In Colombia, Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis has also been the beneficiary of conservation through work by Fundación ProAves. Protection of its nest sites and education programmes in local communities telling people about its uniqueness has lead to a steady increase in numbers, resulting in downlisting to Endangered.

"These successes show what is possible, and they point the way forward to what needs to be done by the global community", said Dr Butchart. "2010 is the International Year of biodiversity; world leaders failed to stem the decline of biodiversity. We cannot fail again."

"The monitoring of bird species is a key contribution to the monitoring of biodiversity worldwide. We must praise BirdLife International, their Partners and all ornithologists around the world for their massive effort to better understand the current extinction crisis and also their efforts to save some of the most threatened species", said Dr Jean-Christophe Vie, Deputy Head of IUCN's Species Programme.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MSC: World Music News Wire #7

Watch out! Here they Come Again! A Tiny West African Nation Inspires a Politically Provocative Afro-Rock Re-invention


In the political maelstrom of Washington D.C., where Dr. King marched for civil rights, where soldiers vigorously protested Vietnam, and thousands continue to speak truth to power on the steps of the nation’s capitol, an adamant African voice exclaims, “Adje! Adje,” urging people to take action against social injustices. From atop a smoldering, Afro-rock soapbox, rooted in the traditions of his homeland, an African immigrant and activist belts out this rallying cry, warning against state corruption and capitalistic greed. “People are trapped between governments and corporations,” says the Togolese-born Massama Dogo – singer, guitarist, composer, and founder of the band Elikeh. “Africans,” in particular, he continues, “are being used and abused” by these institutions.

Exploiting a musical pulpit adorned with gritty guitar-heavy grooves, Dogo’s poignant diatribes achieve full resonance on Adje! Adje!, the new release from his D.C.-based ensemble. Emerging out of the increasingly vibrant African music scene in Washington, which includes such recently noted artists as Cheik Hamala Diabate and Chopteeth, Elikeh, who fittingly take their name from an African word meaning rooted-ness, have found a way to penetrate the saturated Afro-pop market by tapping the largely unexplored cultural roots of Togo.

Watch on YouTube

Elikeh_cover Having been overshadowed by the Afro-pop powerhouses of its neighbors – Ghana, Benin, and Nigeria – Dogo and his group seek to put the tiny sliver nation of Togo on the musical map. Even within Togo itself, this nation’s music has been marginalized by its own state-sponsored media. Remarking on his childhood growing up in this West African country, Dogo recalls, “the radio never promoted anything from Togo. They only played music from other countries.” Although it is improving, even today, Elikeh faces a tough Togolese media that are primarily oriented towards Ghanaian hip-life, Congolese Soukous, and Ivorian Zouglou music.

But Dogo has never been one to back down from a political fight, as struggle and government participation run deep in his blood. A son of a long-time Togolese government minister, as a young man, Dogo risked his family’s reputation by speaking out in protest of the very institutions in which he and his relatives were entrenched. “People were surprised to see me talking about the government. I was going against those in power and the opposition party, by pointing out their corruption.”

As a child, Dogo similarly defied his father by playing the guitar instead of the one-stringed African lute called a tchimo. And, later, while directing the orchestra (guitar band) at the University of Lomé in Togo, he rebelled against his cohorts who only wanted to play cover songs. “At the time,” Dogo explains, “people only wanted to do covers of Western music like the Scorpions and the Rolling Stones. They also wanted to do popular African music from everywhere but Togo.” Dogo, going against the grain, wanted instead to play original material – his own compositions based on indigenous Togolese traditions, such as the upbeat skank of agbadja (often incorrectly confused with a reggae influence).

Finding little reception for his seemingly radical ideas in his own country, Dogo decided that it might be easier to pursue his artistic interests abroad, immigrating to Washington D.C. in 2000. When he arrived in the U.S. his struggles did not end, as he continued to confront many obstacles, not the least of which was the language barrier. Throughout his life, he had only spoken local African dialects and the language of Togo’s colonizer – French. “Everyone was speaking too fast, and no one could understand me when I tried to speak English,” he recalls. “I couldn’t even get water. I said ‘watah’ and no one knew what I was saying.”

Ironically, language, that was once a burden and barrier for him, has now become an asset, defining his sound and helping to distinguish his music from other artists. Dogo sings in a unique hybrid dialect only spoken in Togo’s capital. A mix of French and two indigenous African languages – Ewe and Mina, the intrinsic tonal qualities of these languages give his music a discernable melodic flavor. Although this language is not widely understood, inviting pressure from the music industry to sing in English, Dogo has remained true to his heritage, noting that, “this language influences the music and makes it what it is.”

Illustrating the distinct sonic beauty of this creolized African dialect, Dogo relates the hardships of his adjustment to American life on the song “Madjo.” Creating an entrancing mixture of linguistic buoyancy, over the intimate rhythmic strumming of a loan crystalline acoustic guitar, Dogo trades versus with guest Malian rap artist Yeli Fezzo, who sings in Parisian French.

On Adje! Adje!, Dogo is able to realize his artistic vision, creating original music that fuses indigenous Togolese traditional elements with contemporary sensibilities. “Novi Nye” (My Brother), begins with the interlocking bell and drum pattern of a music known as Kamou. This driving triplet-based rhythm continues as a muted guitar plays off this polyrhythmic motif, accompanying a sanguine flute characteristic of the Kamou, which floats throughout the song, giving the track a refreshing lightness. As a trio of guitars produces a stir of timbres and textures, each subtly using different electronic effects, the celebratory vocals call for unity among the various ethnic and political groups within Togo. “I wrote this song just before the recent presidential elections in Togo,” says Dogo. “I was thinking that although my country is divided along political lines, with the ruling faction living in the north and the opposition in the south, we are all brothers and sisters.”

Departing form the trends, Elikeh carves out their own musical space. “Everybody is going for straight up Fela Kuti Afro-beat style right now,” Dogo claims. “We have some of that influence; we have some highlife in there, but the way we incorporate rock is not there in other bands. As a joke we call it Afro-high; but we cannot call it that because everyone would think we are high all the time.” Reminiscent of the raw and rough Afro-rock sound coming out of West Africa in the 1970s, the songs “Oleblemi,” and “Get Ready” feature hard-hitting funk-rock grooves with mildly distorted guitar solos from veteran John Lee, who has played with a number of noted African musicians, including Baye Kouyate.

The band’s sound is also distinguished by the trifecta of gravely guitars that weave throughout the album, creating dense multi-layered polyrhythmic patterns. These textures shimmer on “Let’s March,” a slow-burning re-invention of a composition by Nigerian songwriter Orlando Julius Ekemode. “The original uses keyboards,” Dogo explains, “but I think that a lot of African bands overuse keyboards.” Providing a direct connection to the roots of this song, the rhythmical guitar of Frank Martins—who also appeared on Ekemode’s original recording of this song—reverberates on this African anthem. Martins is also featured on “Aiko,” which uses a slowed-down version of a style from the Southern part of Togo called tumewe, combined with the call and response of the agbekor style.

Building on the precedent of musical political activism set by artists such as Nigeria’s Fela Kuti and Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo, a majority of the ensemble’s songs have profound political themes. Opening the record with a haunting a capella chant, the album’s namesake, “Adje! Adje!” offers a warning. “We are saying: watch out! Here they come again – the multinationals and the corrupt governments,” says Dogo. “But this time we won’t let them take over our place!” This poignantpolitical message is punctuated with tight horn stabs, interlacing guitar lines, and dense polyrhythmical drumming provided by Tosin Aribisala, who is no stranger to socially conscious music. Arisbisala has toured with Femi Kuti, in addition to recording a tribute to Fela Kuti (Red Hot & Riot), which included such notables as Macy Gray, Erykah Badu, Sade, Baaba Maal, and Taj Mahal.

With their distinct brand of Togolese-infused “Afro-high,” which merges a re-invention of the rugged Afro-rock of the 1970s with Afro-beat, highlife, and roots music of West Africa, Elikeh prove that the marginalized music of a tiny overshadowed nation can inspire engaging new sonic landscapes, and stand shoulder to shoulder with its more notorious neighbors.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

The Daily Silliness

Dude Perfect Perfect Again!


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COM: Congratulations!

Congrats to all the Grads and Scholarship and Award Winners!


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COM: ABC, ABC, ABC :shakes head in shame:

Okay, back to the most language-sloppy network on the planet, ABC just can't seem to figure out how English works -- not at the writer level, nor at the editing level (which i'm not sure exists). Today's beaut:

Pyongyang swiftly responded by denying that North Korea had "nothing to do with the sunken ship" and criticized the Obama administration for "endorsing, protecting, and fabricating" the report.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

COM: Hail Yes!!

holy smokes -- check out Herschel Self's video -- especially 1-2 minute mark


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COM: Clone Fight!

Por La Lidia, anything goes . . .


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The ol' home state proves an embarrassment again . . .

ENV: Argonauts!

thanks to @kevin zelnio --


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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

MSC: World Music News Wire #6

Translating Ecstasy from Syria to the Blues: Gaida’s Secret Passion is Revealed



For Gaida, morning in Damascus meant melodies: waking to the sound of her father’s radio while he shaved, the predawn intertwining calls to prayer bursting from mosques across the world’s longest-inhabited city. Strains of Umm Kulthum and Fairouz rose from radios and stores as horses clopped and cars purred by. The age-old harmonized with the modern.

These sounds shaped the gorgeous and thoughtful Syrian singer’s impeccable musical intuition and velvety yet crystalline voice, now channeled into the stunning live performances and bluesy originals of Levantine Indulgence, a set of songs as rich and subtle as the Fertile Crescent oasis of ancient Levant. With her voice as a common denominator, Gaida has found the soulful sweet spot where complex Levantine rhythms synch up with breezy hints of bossa nova, pounding belly dance beats, and that certain swing found only in jazz.

Gaidacover Gaida’s songs, refined over a decades-long journey, unite the elegance of Arabic poetry and the refined ornamentation of Middle Eastern vocals with the sophisticated urbanite sensibilities of her adopted home. They translate the elevated tarab (ecstasy) into the indulgence of a personal passion that drove the girl from Damascus to defy her beloved father and find her voice, meanwhile moving from intimate clubs to prestigious national venues like the Kennedy Center and major feature films, including Jonathan Demme’s 2008 drama “Rachel Getting Married.”

“For me, indulgence means giving yourself a treat,” explains Gaida, who is now based in New York. “When we perform as a band, we give ourselves the freedom to create something beautiful. We indulge ourselves. If I want to improvise, I improvise. I forget myself.”

Gaida comes by this indulgence honestly, having gotten a primer in Middle Eastern song and improvisation from toddlerhood. “My mother would sit with me in the living room and teach me the song word by word,” says Gaida. “Then I would sing it back to her. That’s really where my musical training came from.” Soon, Gaida was writing down favorite song on slips of paper, tucking them into her schoolbooks for safekeeping. Looking in a mirror to aid her first improvisations, Gaida began crafting her own highly personal versions of Syrian folk classics like “Almaya.”

Damascus itself conspired with Gaida’s warm and musical family, with their large record collection and love of musical get-togethers, to create a sonic foundation for the singer’s future art. Gaida fondly recalls the complicated chance harmonies that appeared as the city’s muezzins performed the calls to prayer.

“The call to prayer has been stuck in my soul since I was a little kid. Four o’ clock in the morning, when Damascus was so quiet, all the mosques were calling for prayer, and you hear the collection of them in the most unbelievable harmonies. Mostly I would hear the mosque next to our house, where they used to improvise from one maqam (melodic scale) to another. And improvise beautifully,” Gaida reminisces. “I think this is where I get a lot of the melodies in my head and why improvisation comes easily to me. You can throw me in any band and I invoke the sounds around me and mix them within me.”

Gaida had a chance to do just that, when her studies took her to Detroit to get a degree in biology. Her pursuit of a career in the sciences was encouraged by her engineer father who was opposed to his daughter becoming a professional performer. “I only know how to sing. It’s the only thing I do naturally. It’s like an itch. An itch that I can’t stop,” Gaida reflects. “When my dad did not encourage me, I felt like I had something wrong with me. Yet it increased my desire to do it. The more someone wants to stop you, the more you want to sing and make music!”

The itch led Gaida to her university’s music school and to a new world of American jazz, blues, and rock bands. Soon, she found herself performing a regular gig at a local Lebanese restaurant. “My eyes were always on the door worrying that my dad might come in. Even though he was in Syria!” she laughs.

Coincidentally, during her first restaurant concert, famous Lebanese poet Maroon Karam happened to be in town and caught the show. He was so taken by her voice, he gave her the bittersweet poem of separation that became “Ghayeb,” featured on the new CD. He also filed a story in the pages of a Lebanese magazine about his adventures in Detroit, praising Gaida as one of the best Middle Eastern voices he had ever heard. Gaida’s nightmare came true. “My family saw the article. Usually when families see something like that they are proud of you. But my mom called and said, ‘What are you doing? You are going to give your dad a heart attack!’” recalls Gaida. “I felt so guilty instead of proud. I stopped singing.”

Yet nothing could end Gaida’s passion for music. Melodies began appearing in her head when she least expected them. When her younger brother Ammar got married, she and her brother and musical collaborator, Adel, wanted to create a song together, but Gaida developed a frustrating case of writer’s block: “It was getting close to the wedding date and I still couldn’t come up with anything,” Gaida recounts. “Adel called me and said, ‘You are not going to do it; I’m going to do it.’ And I said, “No I will do it!” and hung up the phone and started singing a song. I called my brother back and started singing for him. He said, ‘Oh my god, that is it. That is it!’ The siblings recorded “Ammar” in Adel’s tiny bedroom studio in Queens. Breakthrough recordings of “Ammar” and “Ghayeb” from this mid-1990s period form the backbone of their respective final versions on the new album.

The next breakthrough came when she moved to New York and began hanging out in the city’s increasingly vibrant Arabic music scene—one that, like Gaida, is evolving a unique voice and sound. After a concert at Alwan for the Arts in Lower Manhattan, Gaida found herself jamming with oud player Najib Shaheen, which caught the ear of percussionist Johnny Farraj. Soon, Gaida became a fixture at Arabic jam sessions around the city, where she met Iraqi-American jazz trumpeter and santoor player Amir ElSaffar. Gaida would improvise melodies for ElSaffar, and he in turn would create a filigree of jazz-inspired arrangements for songs like “Kaifa Uhibuka.” The two bi-cultural musicians were coming from opposite ends—maqam and jazz—and meeting in the middle.

These new musical connections marked a rebirth for Gaida, who is also a trained speech therapist that works with Arab children and professional vocalists, a field that gave her scientific knowledge to back up her impeccable vocal technique. Her unstoppable passion for music led to a revelatory realization for her father: His daughter had become an amazing and respected artist, as well as a talented health professional. “Now I don’t feel guilty if I’m singing,” Gaida muses. “I did what my dad wanted me to do professionally

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Monday, May 17, 2010

The Daily Sadness

RIP Ronnie James Dio . . .


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Friday, May 14, 2010

ENV: Homicidal Whales

so, just to throw this out there . . .

i think there may be a personality disorder amongst higher homicidal mammals . . . did anyone else notice how ugly Tillikum is -- -- lumpy obese body, tiny freakin' head, weirdly bent fins . . . what if he was being emotionally abused for being ugly by his tankmates?

i first noticed this trend with that homicidally bent chimp, Travis, a couple of years ago . . . . . . that was one majorly ugly mammary-fed beast . . . it's a good thing he had human friends, 'cause i think his own species, and maybe even Bonobos, would have rejected him . . . and look at the end result . . .

just sayin'

this is not Travis, this is a 'cute' chimp . . .

Check out the whale video at Kevin Zelnio's Dee Sea News:

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

MSC: Bieber!

Justin Bieber to headline American Idol finale show . . .


MSC: Batboy Flying High

Congrats you guys, Tyler . . . "Bat Boy: The Musical" nominated for Best Musical Production by Austin Critics Table Awards . . .


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The Daily Silliness

@FakeeEtiquette When confronting an ellipsis abuser, speak his/her language: use frequent, uncalled-for pauses and trail off at the end.


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COM: Editing part 232

Of course, local newsprint is not immune from the national poor editing epidemic . . .

From the Kerrville Daily Times:

“The kids weren’t two excited about it, but they’ll get over it when summer comes,” said Hunt superintendent David Kelm.

. . . and this, in addition to being just a poorly wrought sentence:

What has followed since the most talked about last place finish in Comfort track history has been a since of pride.

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ENV: Gulf of Mexico Impacts on Birds

Information on Bird Impacts from the
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

What is the Likely Impact on Birds?

The concern for birds are three-fold.

  • Brown PelicanThe first is the immediate threat to individual birds from oil contamination. The first oiled birds are now being collected and sent to rehabilitators in the region. Many birds could be killed but never collected, particularly 'plunge-diving' birds such as pelicans, gannets and terns.
  • The second is from reduced food availability due to contamination of seafood stocks. Many of these are the same stocks that are the foundation of much of the regional coastal economy.
  • The third concern is from oil impacts to bird habitat. There are a number of Globally Important Bird Areas directly in the path of the advancing spill that are under immediate threat.The long-term effects on birds will be decreased breeding success as nests fail due to contamination of eggs that come into contact with oil and due to birds being forced from contaminated areas to marginal breeding sites or sites that are already at maximum capacity.

What are the Latest Developments

IBA MapABC has produced a map showling the location of Globally Important Bird Areas in relation to the advancing oil spill. Last updated May 3, 2010.

ABC Warns that Oiled Birds Found Onshore May Be a Fraction of the Total Toll on Birds From Gulf Spill

ABC Releases List of Critical Sites Most at Risk from Gulf Oil Spill, Demands Re-Assessment of Ecological Impacts of U.S. Energy Policy.

What is ABC doing?

An information hub: ABC is currently playing an important role in educating the media and the public on the possible impacts to hundreds of species of birds and their habitats in the Gulf Coast region as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. We are fortunate to have on staff many leading authorities in a diverse range of specialties related to the avian impacts of the spill, including toxicologists, seabird experts, avian habitat management specialists, and conservation policy professionals.

Response task force: ABC is a member of a small task force in Washington, D.C. that is comprised of a select number of national conservation organizations and representatives of the Department of Defense, Department of Interior, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This taskforce gives and receives real-time information on the coordinated response activities that are occurring on the ground in the Gulf States, and helps steer available resources to areas the data show to be of high value, such as those where threatened or endangered species are known to be present, or where a high number of breeding/staging birds occur at different times of the year.

Long-term policy assessment: ABC plays a key role in ensuring that government policies, laws, and regulations are structured and enforced to best protect birds and their habitats. Over coming months, ABC will be carefully evaluating the causes behind the spill and its effects to see how policies may best be put in place to ensure the fullest remediation of the spill’s impacts, and to prevent other disasters occurring in the future. ABC will also be monitoring the fallout of the spill on policies relating to other forms of energy generation to ensure that there is no rush to pass energy policies for coal, wind, hydro, or solar in place of oil that negatively impact birds. ABC advocates for a balanced, rational U.S. energy plan that takes into account all affects on birds and their habitats, and works to inform regulators and lawmakers of avian issues resulting from energy policy.

What Can I do?

ABC is fortunate to have many members and followers, such as you, who have inquired about ways in which they can help. For those who wish to volunteer as part of the on-site efforts, we have provided a list of contact numbers as follows:

  • American OystercatchersTo report oil on land, or for general community and volunteer information, please phone the BP response hotline on 866 448-5816.
  • To report oiled or injured wildlife, please phone 866 557-1401.
  • Volunteer opportunities exist in the Gulf Coast states and are being coordinated as follows: Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama
  • Fishermen wishing to offer assistance in cleaning up the oil spill should phone the Vessel of Opportunities Program at 281 366-5511. Shrimp boats, oyster boats, and other vessels are being hired to deploy booms.

ALSO: Audubon Magazine blog on the spill:

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ENV: Hawaiian Seabirds

Hawaiian Resort Sued Over Seabird Deaths
Starwood Hotel responsible for over one-quarter of downed Newell’s Shearwaters on Kaua‘i

Newell's Shearwater. Photo: © Jack Jeffrey

Lïhu‘e, Kaua‘i – Four citizen groups, represented by Earthjustice, filed suit today against the St. Regis Princeville Resort over the luxury resort’s failure to prevent the ongoing deaths of rare native seabirds, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. The St. Regis is a property of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which also owns the Westin, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, W Hotels, and Le Meridien brands.

Hui Ho‘omalu i Ka ‘Äina, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, the Center for Biological Diversity, and American Bird Conservancy filed a similar suit against Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative in March. The groups are trying to protect the threatened Newell’s shearwater (‘A‘o), whose population on Kaua‘i declined by an alarming 75% in only 15 years (1993 to 2008), as well as the endangered Hawaiian petrel (‘Ua‘u).

The resort is responsible for the greatest number of deaths and injuries of imperiled seabirds on Kaua‘i due to artificial lights, while birds hitting KIUC’s power lines is another significant cause of harm.

During the fledging season (from late September to early December), rare Newell’s shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels heading to sea are attracted to bright lights in and around the St. Regis, which is situated on a coastal bluff in an otherwise dark part of Kaua‘i’s North Shore that is an important seabird flyway. Trapped in the lights’ glare, the confused birds circle repeatedly until they fall to the ground from exhaustion or strike the resort’s buildings.

Once Newell’s shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels are grounded by light attraction, they are highly subject to predation by dogs, cats and other mammals, as well as to injury and death by vehicles, other human activity, or due to dehydration or starvation.

Data from the Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) program indicate that, from 2000 to 2008, over one-quarter of the total number of shearwaters downed by artificial lights on Kaua‘i went down at that one resort. Figures for the 2009 fallout season show a similar trend, even though the St. Regis just completed a $100 million renovation that reportedly included some lighting changes.

“The renovations may have made the resort more posh, but they haven’t stopped birds from getting killed and injured,” said George Wallace of American Bird Conservancy. “These species are among our country’s most imperiled birds. It is imperative that the threat of light attraction be dealt with.”

During a 2009 tour, hotel representatives claimed that the resort had adopted several measures to protect the birds, including dimming interior lights and lowering polarizing window shades to minimize light visible from the exterior and keeping pool lights off. Unfortunately, only a week after those assurances were made, a site inspection on the night of October’s new moon, when fledging seabirds are particularly vulnerable to the attraction of artificial lights, revealed that none of these measures was being implemented.

“A resort employee told me that, to improve the guest experience, they were under orders to keep the lights on and the shades up,” said Maka‘ala Kaaumoana of the Kaua‘i-based Hui Ho‘omalu i Ka ‘Äina. “It’s shocking that the St. Regis is putting its profits ahead of fulfilling its kuleana (duty) to stop killing our native seabirds.”

SOS program data for the 2009 season show that over sixty imperiled seabirds came down at the resort this year. While many of those birds were later released by the SOS program, leading seabird experts question whether any significant numbers of those birds ultimately survive the ordeal.

“In the past thirty years, the SOS program has banded and released over 30,000 seabirds on Kaua‘i, but almost none of those banded birds have ever been seen again,” said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, who represents the groups. “The experts tell us we simply can’t assume those birds survived.”

Jeff Chandler of Hui Ho‘omalu i Ka ‘Äina said losing the birds would create a significant gap in Native Hawaiian culture.

“Since the ‘a‘o nest in the mountains and live at sea, they remind us that everything is connected,” said Chandler, a Kaua‘i fisherman. “We look to those birds to help us find fish, something we’ve been doing since ancient times.”

“The Endangered Species Act requires the St. Regis to reduce the number of birds it kills and injures to the bare minimum, and also to offset any unavoidable harm, such as by protecting the birds’ breeding colonies from predators such as pigs, rats and cats,” explained Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. “We’ve asked the resort to live up to its legal obligations, but it refused to make any commitments, leaving us with no choice but to go to court.”

“The resort is getting a free ride, profiting from Kaua‘i’s uniquely beautiful environment while, at the same time, harming its biodiversity,” said Kaua‘i resident and biologist Don Heacock, a member of Conservation Council for Hawai‘i. “We need to put a stop to this kind of unsustainable development.”

“We doubt the resort’s high-end clientele would be happy to learn Kaua‘i’s seabirds are paying with their lives for the St. Regis experience,” said Peter Galvin of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The resort is part of a multi-billion dollar hotel operation; it has no excuse for refusing to make the investments needed to save Kaua‘i’s seabirds.”

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Man Says Psychic Preyed on Satanic Abuse He Suffered as Child; She Says He Wanted to Join Her Business

As a child, Drakar Druella was raised a Catholic and also had been the victim of ritual abuse, so when he turned to a Portland, Ore., psychic last October looking for spiritual advice, he said, her strange requests made some sense.

First, she wanted $22,000 to buy a tabernacle from the Vatican that would rid the 42-year-old of "negative energy," he said. Then, over the course of seven weeks, he said, she asked him to buy a $46,000 Hummer and four Rolex watches totaling $38,000 -- all to help create a spiritual center.

But after his credit card debt soared to $150,000 and he said he saw her try to use the same religious ploy on two other women, he went to police. Druella has since filed for bankruptcy and said his credit has been ruined.

Now, police are investigating possible fraud conspiracy charges against the psychic, 39-year-old Cathy Stevens, a Gypsy whose lawyer says she is being persecuted for her religion.

Stevens' lawyer said Druella is a person with "mental health issues" who is trying to "smear" her for things he did because he wanted to go into business with her.

As the investigation continues, who is the victim in this bizarre story: Druella, a transsexual bookkeeper with a troubled past, or Stevens, a fortune teller who believed her client was a willing business partner?

In January, police raided both Stevens' home and her psychic shop in the hip, southeast section of Portland and charged her with aggravated theft. After fingerprinting her and holding her for a few hours, she was released and charges were dropped pending further investigation.

"We still have other victims to come forward," said Portland Police Department Sgt. Sue Kruger, who refused to reveal more. "We want to look at the whole case together with all the charges rather than add things down the road."

The psychic has since closed her shop and, Kruger said, "As far as where Cathy Stevens is, I couldn't tell you that."

Druella, a transsexual who was born a woman, said he was only looking for "a few tidbits to direct me and comfort me and give me a sense of safety and security" when he went in to the Hawthorne Psychic Shop for a palm-reading last October.

"For lack of a better word, I had a midlife crisis," Druella said. "As a result of some soul-searching, I thought I would try to live as woman again after 20 years living as a man -- to go back. I was struggling at the time."

Druella said he had a "rough time" stopping testosterone, which he compared to a woman's hormonal response after a hysterectomy, and "coming out" again as a woman to his co-workers.

"I was looking for someone to give me a little sign or something," said Druella, who had previously seen other psychics and spiritual teachers. "I went into a tailspin. I didn't sleep well for eight months and I was fighting the flu.

"I had a desire for a loving figure and spiritual person in my life and [Stevens] really did play on that," Druella said. "I was really vulnerable."

Stevens, whom he described as dressed in a jean skirt and boots with her dark hair pulled back in a pony tail, "seemed like an average nice person."

"She didn't have any weird stuff, just metaphysical books on her shelf and pretty candles and incense, he said.

Man Says Psychic Preyed on His Catholicism

But in the course of their first conversation, which cost $265, Druella said Stevens "pressed upon a sensitive thread' -- his Catholic upbringing.

"She said that I had some kind of bad energy around me and was profoundly concerned for my well-being," said Druella, who told her about the "heinous abuse" he said he had suffered as a child.

Druella said a relative had performed satanic rituals on him before the age of 5. Experts define ritual abuse as any psychological, physical or sexual assault on an unwilling victim committed by cultists or in the name of religion.

"She hit the jackpot when she knew my history," he said. "I just went for it lock, stock and barrel."

Druella said Stevens told him that she had "special connections" to the Vatican.

"She called it an exorcism and said she needed a tabernacle," he said. "After she used it, she would return it and I would be fully refunded. She was lying and I believed it."

Druella, who has an associate's degree from Portland Community College and has worked for 10 years with the same company, said he had always "lived simply" and had "impeccable" credit.

But at her urging, he said, he bought an H-3T Hummer for $45,940 so they could go to a remote area and do spiritual work.

Druella said he also agreed to buy four Rolex watches, totaling $37,840 so Stevens could use the "special components" to save his life.

He also handed over journals from his previous advisor, giving the psychic even more material to take advantage of his "belief system," Druella said.

But Stevens, who could not be reached by, contends Druella was an eager investor in her spiritual operation and even brought in his own clients, according to her lawyer.

After her arrest on Jan. 25, she hired John W. Neidig, a lawyer who has defended numerous cases of religious freedom to "defend her against potential charges."

Just last year, Neidig defended Raylene Worthington, the Oregon City mother who was charged in the death of her 15-month-old daughter Ava, who had a treatable medical condition.

She and her husband Carl, who belonged to the Followers of Christ Church, which preaches that members should turn to prayer, not doctors, in times of illness, were acquitted of manslaughter in the case, though Carl Worthington was convicted of misdemeanor criminal mistreatment.

Stevens is a member of the Spiritual Psychic Science Church of Truth, based in Azuza, Calif., and moved to Portland one year ago, Neidig said.

"This is an established church and established religion and our Oregon constitution is pretty darn clear and very protective of people's right to worship according to their dictates," he said.

Neidig said the tabernacle, like the rest of the expensive purchases, was Druella's idea.

"He actually wanted to go into business with my client," Neidig said. "He wanted it to be a class act. He wanted all these video players with flat screen TVs for counseling people at their spiritual center. He was seeing his own clients and doing fortune telling."

Neidig said Druella had frequent emotional flare-ups when his female alter ego, "Rachel," emerged.

"When he went off hormones and got real wiggy, and Rachel would surface," he said.

Druella bought the Rolex watches for his mother and sister and asked Stevens to keep them safe at her shop, according to Neidig.

As for the Hummer, it was for Druella's personal use, though Stevens had borrowed it once, he said. "It's orange because it was Rachel's favorite color," Neidig said.

Psychic Claims Police Defamed Gypsies

The pair had plans to move in together at Steven's large house, which she rented from Portland's former police chief, Ron Sill, the lawyer said. Druella bought bedroom furniture and a washer and dryer, but soon, according to Neidig, Stevens became uncomfortable with their relationship and broke it off, returning the appliances.

But Neidig said the most egregious offense occurred when Druella filed charges with police and they defamed Stevens in the affidavit, calling the case: "Gypsies and Fortune Telling Fraud."

"That was pretty doggone racist," he said. "Gypsy is a pejorative term of slang that is placed on these people. My client is pretty offended by this."

Neidig said police characterized Gypsies as "swindlers and fraudulent."

He also alleged that police raided Stevens' house under false pretenses, "concocting" a story with her landlord that the insurance company needed to inspect the property so that they could gain access.

With a search warrant, police later confiscated all her financial records and journals, he said. This week a Multnomah County judge refused to return them to Stevens for two months until the investigation is complete.

"She needs to file her taxes," Neidig said."She is very upset. This whole thing has cost her a lot of money."

Stevens has not ruled out filing a lawsuit against the police for violating landlord-tenant laws, the lawyer said.

As for Druella, "He's obviously got mental health issues and maybe poor judgment," Neidig said. "Now he's trying to smear Cathy Stevens for his own decisions."

But Druella contends he was an easy target for Stevens.

"She was playing on my history," he said. "She knew completely what to do. I was scared for my life."

Druella said he came to his senses when Stevens asked him to help persuade two other clients "how wonderful she was" and "how they needed her."

"The first woman had two children and was gay and had been through a break-up," he said. "[Stevens] asked this woman to get her a tabernacle, and this woman was not ritually abused and exposed to Satanism."

Stevens allegedly tried the same tack with a second, professional woman. Druella said he approached each of the women and told them to "get the hell out of here."

"The business woman who dealt with finance was utterly humiliated, too embarrassed to report it to the police," he said. "The gay woman was suicidal -- she had given her the last $200 she had for her children's Christmas presents."

Druella said he, too, was ashamed that he fell for Stevens, but was comforted when a sympathetic police detective told him: "This isn't about intelligence. It's about being vulnerable, so stop beating on yourself."

Druella said his life crisis is now resolved, but no thanks to Stevens.

"I knew when I stepped forward it was going to be ugly," he said. "I knew what people would say about me. They can be very cruel. But I had to say something. It's been profoundly difficult, but it was my choice and the right thing to do."

Druella said he won't ever seek psychic advice again.

"One of the big lessons I learned is we all carry our own wisdom inside ourselves," he said. "You don't have to go outside to find it. You just have got to figure things out for yourself sometimes." Tags: , ,

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

MRF: Joseph's Sundance Film!

listen closely . . .


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MSC: Another Star on the Horizon

next . . .

Greyson Michael Chance


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COM: Comment Morons . . .

Right off the bat it seems silly to take article commenters to task for their spelling and grammar skills . . . most are so busy frothing at the mouth and relying on their sordid views of how everyone else should run their lives that the craft of communication escapes them . . .

HOWEVER, when a commenter, as i sometimes do here on my blog, takes a newswriter to task then they best be prepared for all the other language nazis to pile on . . . to borrow a cup of cliche -- hilarity ensues . . .

so here's a sequence following an article about yesterday's Montreal landslide that consumed a house and killed four members of a family . . . it was a sad happening, but the comments relate to the more trivial matter of the loss of an "n" . . .

p.s. my favorite is the lady telling folks to not comment at all if all they're going to do is comment on typos, yet she felt compelled to post about people posting about typos . . .

the line in the article was:
While there was no official word on the cause of the sinkhole, geologist Judith Patterson told CNN affiliate CTV that the sinkhole looked like a kind of landslide know as a “lateral spread.”

then this first response:
"known as" not "know as". Damnit CNN, you guys most certainly need to hire more overpayed editors. Posted by: Adame Esmakidze

followed by these:
@Adame "'known as not 'know as'. Damnit CNN, you guys most certainly need to hire more overpayed editors." You mean "overpaid"? Posted by: Brian

Are you people for real? A family of 4 dies watching a hockey game in their own home, and you're writing about the definition of affiliates and typos? . . . How about not commenting at all? Posted by: Dorothy Catania

At Adame Esmakidze, It's overpaid, not overpayed. Good job there on correcting others you hypocrit Posted by: Ell

How about overpaid, not overpayed. Damnit CNN, you guys need to get a better peanut gallery. Posted by: Kitty Conrad

Adame, do you realize you misspeledl "overpaid" while pointing out the typo on "known"? Posted by: Peter Fulton Foss

The correct spelling would be hypocrite. You people who want to correct everybody else should have a dictionary in your lap at all times. Posted by: Kitty Conrad

. . . Oh yea . . . I more than likely mis-spelled some things here . . . I get that . . . no need for any of you egomaniacal, high school english teacher wannabes to point it out for me Posted by: DonTheCanuck

@ Ell....its hypocrite not hypocrit....good job on correcting others! Posted by: me

This is getting to be way too much for one day. Your misspelled word, Peter, is "misspeledl." Posted by: Kitty Conrad

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

MSC: World Music News Wire #5

Gypsy Wagons, Slap Bass, and Mad Loves: The Unseen Musical Forces behind Fishtank Ensemble


A Rose Fishtank Ensemble photo

Parked next door to a sandwich truck sits a hand-built, mule drawn “Gypsy wagon,” like an apparition from a bygone era, in the driveway of a contemporary hillside home in Hollywood, California.

Belonging to Fishtank Ensemble, it embodies the wild and wooly journeys of the band’s eclectic and eccentric members—vocalist Ursula Knudson, violinist Fabrice Martinez, guitarist Doug “Douje” Smolens, and bassist Djordje Stijepovic—who share a vibrant passion for unbridled creativity and music with Roma roots. The quartet with a quirky name blazes new musical trails on their new album, Woman In Sin due out May 11, 2010.

Fishtank_cover “We all met at a performance space called the Fishtank,” explains Knudson, who often finds herself explaining the group’s unusual moniker. “It had lots of windows, so passers-by could peer in on the activities inside like a fish bowl.” The budding ensemble then spent the weekend learning an entire repertoire of Romanian folk music. They quickly got a local gig, when someone asked the name of the band. Caught off guard, Knudson recalls, “I just blurted Fishtank. It doesn’t fit, and I actually like that.”

Their gallop across traditional and original sonic landscapes began in Europe, with serendipitous inspirations, irresistible urges, and love at first sight. It stretches from the echoing caves of Granada to the bombing of Serbia, from rollicking Venice to brooding Transylvania. “We were all guided by unseen forces and random acts of fate,” Knudson reflects.

As a teenager and promising musician, Martinez hitchhiked to Istanbul, collecting a treasure trove of instruments along the way. As jeeps with armed men patrolled the city, Martinez played illegally on the streets to collect enough money to fly back with all his instruments. “One day out of the blue I heard this music near a theatre,” recalls Martinez. “It was just one old guy playing violin and singing in an alley. Nothing more, and I loved it!” Inspired, Martinez returned home to Paris and immediately sold all his instruments, leaving him only with a violin that had been in his family for years. “I wasn’t interested in other music anymore, just the violin,” he says. “I resurrected this long-neglected family heirloom.” His fiddle led him to learn from some of the finest Roma players in Europe.

Smolens also found himself pursuing a passion he couldn’t deny and tracing a Roma route of his own, thanks to some flamenco recordings he just couldn’t get out of his head. He had grown up in the L.A. rock scene, playing drums and hanging out with Billy Idol and Slash of Guns ‘n’ Roses, and had no intention of picking up a new instrument. “I tried to resist for years,” Smolens laughs, “but in the end, I had to learn to play flamenco guitar. It grabbed a hold of my heart.” This unexpected calling led Smolens to the heartland of flamenco—learning from Gitano flamenco masters in the caves of Granada, Spain—and inescapably shaped his musical future.

Passion struck opera-trained American Ursula Knudson as she stood in a mass of masqueraded partiers at Venice’s notoriously decadent carnival one year. “Everyone was just staring at each other. After becoming bored with this scene, I went to a casino where Vinicio Capossela was playing,” recalls Knudson. From across the crowded room, as if by fate, her eyes met with those of a stranger: Martinez, who was playing with Capossela at the time. “He came up to me and we began talking about music,” she continues. Despite having respective fiancés, a year and a half later the two were married. Guided by hidden forces, they soon began their romantic wagon wanderings through Transylvania, and eventually wound up in Oakland, where they teamed up with Smolens.

These traveling troubadours soon picked up exceptional Serbian bassist Djordje Stijepovic, who literally wrote the book on upright slap bass and has lent his trademark slapping style to some of the best rockabilly, Gypsy, bluegrass, and blues acts around the world. Growing up in Serbia, he got his hands on recordings by Elvis and the Stray Cats despite bombs, sanctions, and political upheaval. His masterful bass playing won him gigs with local Romany stars in smoky bars and coffeehouses from the tender age of 13, where the unique pulse and flash of the Balkans became second nature to the omnivorous musician. After moving to US he fulfilled his rock'n'roll dreams playing in a band with Lemmy from Motorhead and Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats.

All these diverse roads led to California, where Fishtank Ensemble became an egalitarian society of like-minded musical overflowing with talent that lend to its rich and varied sound. As this wandering caravan forges new musical trails, each member contributes their own aesthetics and experiences to the collaborative creative process. “I like to start songs,” Smolens notes, “but I really love when the band helps finish them. We all end up shaping them and creating something unexpected.”

Woman in Sin teams with a polyglot array of personally-felt folk influences channeled into vivid original songs like the sexy title track, written by Smolens with extensive input from the group to showcase Knudson’s striking looks and torch-singing persona. Providing a solidly swingin’ foundation for the band, Stijepovic’s bass is virtuosic, upbeat, and sensual by turns, especially in a sultry duet with Knudson, the jazz standard “Fever.”

On “Cou Cou,” Smolens and Knudson mix French and English in a playful tease of original lyrics as Knudson’s girlish voice gracefully drifts between the guitar and violin, with a wink to the Hot Club of France. Reveling in the sounds of Django Reinhardt while adding rock ’n‘ flare, Smolens’ flamenco-tinged gypsy jazz guitar style shimmers.

Echoing the memories of Martinez’ days as a circus performer, a musical saw (played by Knudson) warbles a high-pitched haunting refrain on the lilting waltz “Espanolette.” “The saw is my thing,” says Knudson with a smile. “It works because I am a singer, and it involves the same bodily intuition. People always tell me that they can’t tell the difference between the saw and my voice.”

Stijepovic keeps the party going with an original take on an irresistible Balkan dance form with “Djordje's Rachenitza”. “It’s a big thing in Bulgaria and Serbia,” Stijepovic explains,” but the 7/8 groove also gets people dancing anywhere. So I just had to write my own.”

Inspired by a Kurdish melody, “Nadim” is a blisteringly fast and darkly entrancing jaunt that features percussive bass slapping, virtuosic violin solos, and technically skilled guitar work. The title of the song pays homage to a melody by Martinez’ favorite violinist, Nadim Nalbantoglu. “It was incredibly hard to figure out,” Knudson explains, “but Fabrice loves a challenge. We all worked from the basic melody and arranged something very Fishtank Ensemble sounding.”

Showing the band’s versatility and emotional range, “O Dewel,” is a seductively slow-waltzing, musical prayer. Featuring lyrics in Romanes, a West European dialect of the Roma language, this intensely pensive piece produced a powerful spiritual experience in the studio. “It was a magical moment,” remembers Knudson. “On the first take, there was this point where the music swelled and we all felt it. It’s just that kind of a song.” Shifting gears, “Opa Opa” invites the listener to a raucous celebration by evoking images of dancing Gypsies on tabletops. Knudson notes that, “It’s just a dirty party song from Serbia that is like a volcano of sound.”

With a new emphasis on original material and old-school skills, Fishtank Ensemble has matured into their distinctly odd yet remarkably apt name, performing a self-aware selection of twisting timbres and tempos that capture an ineffable joy. “We want to produce music that people have never heard before, taking audiences to new places, so they can experience a range of emotions that we transmit through song,” muses Knudson. “That is the best thing we can offer: our heart.”

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Friday, May 07, 2010

ENV: Jamaican & Black-capped Petrels

H. Shirihai; The Tubenoses Project
Although no Jamaica Petrels were seen, good numbers of Endangered Black-capped Petrel were.

Jamaica's petrels reveal some of their secrets


Searches at sea off the eastern coasts of Jamaica in November 2009 have revealed the presence of significant numbers of Pterodroma petrels. The pelagic expedition was part of the global Tubenoses Project coordinated by Hadoram Shirihai and Vincent Bretagnolle and was supported by BirdLife International’s Preventing Extinctions Programme with funds from the British Birdwatching Fair. Its primary aim was to look for the Critically Endangered (and possibly extinct) Jamaica Petrel Pterodroma caribbaea. This mythical seabird – known locally as the 'Blue Mountain Duck' – has not been recorded since 1879 when the last specimens were collected in Jamaica's Blue Mountains.

Although there have been several recent but unsuccessful land-based searches for this species, a targeted pelagic search – using fish-based 'chum' to attract petrels – was considered worthwhile. After all – other tubenoses (such as Fiji Petrel Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi and Beck's Petrel Pseudobulweria becki) have recently been rediscovered or observed at sea for the first time in this way. At-sea chumming positions were carefully chosen in an effort to attract petrels in the vicinity of or en route to the Blue and John Crow Mountains, which are cloaked in forest with deep 'leading' valleys suitable for breeding petrels. Between 17 November and 1 December almost 100 hours were spent at sea at various points off north-east and eastern Jamaica.

No Jamaica Petrels were found. However, 46 individual Black-capped Petrels Pterodroma hasitata – an Endangered species – were seen and photographed. This species had previously been recorded just once in Jamaican waters (it is known to breed only in Hispaniola and possibly eastern Cuba). Although it is impossible to be sure that these Black-capped Petrels were Jamaican breeders, their behaviour suggests they are and that their nesting area lies in the John Crow Mountains. They were observed coming close to the island during the late afternoon and evening, in small numbers, and sometimes in pairs (including one case of a displaying pair). They nearly always flew toward the island or would mill around at sea below the mountains, as if waiting for darkness before flying inland. If these Black-capped Petrels were indeed breeding on the island, it is also possible that, just maybe, the Jamaica Petrel also clings on in these same mountains.

"There is still much to discover about seabirds in the Caribbean, but these targeted searches off Jamaica made some exciting and important discoveries which could have important conservation implications" —David Wege, BirdLife International

"Although no Jamaica Petrels were found, the numbers and behaviour of the Black-capped Petrels we discovered suggest that Jamaica supports a breeding colony of this Endangered species and if this petrel has survived hunting and invasive predators, the Jamaica Petrel might just survive too", said Hadoram Shirihai.

A number of other seabirds, rarely seen in the Caribbean, were recorded during the pelagic searches off Jamaica last November. Three Band-rumped Storm-Petrels Oceanodroma castro were seen on separate days (the species was previously known in the Caribbean only from records in Cuba and Antigua); one Leach's Storm-Petrel Oceoanodroma leucorhoa was found, as were two Pomarine Skuas Stercorarius pomarinus and one Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus – all considered vagrants in Jamaican waters.

"There is still much to discover about seabirds in the Caribbean, but these targeted searches off Jamaica made some exciting and important discoveries which could have important conservation implications", David Wege, Senior Caribbean Program Manager, BirdLife International.

Further work in these areas around Jamaica and in the Blue and John Crow Mountains should assist regional efforts to conserve the Black-capped Petrel, and may eventually lead to the rediscovery of Jamaica Petrel too.

To download the full expedition report click here (PDF 1 MB)

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COM: More dysfunctional editing

ABC always seems to take the prize . . . i'm beginning to wonder if they just go out looking for language idiots to hire as reporters/writers/editors . . . in any case, they provide a nearly daily cringe or chuckle with their barrage of linguistic lunacy . . .

some of their better recent faux pas . . .

4/28 "The Camden Police choose to keep a policy on searches that's one and a have pages, and it's woefully deficient. Even the state police here in New Jersey have adopted much more extensive guidelines than the Camden Police," Rossetti said.

5/7 "As for the possibility of a trading error, he said in his market the system worked and he didn’t see any unusual activity, “per say.”"

and one from CBS (10 May 2010) in which they detail a bug that caused Twitter to scramble for a fix, but at the end of the article somehow it became an embarrassment for Facebook. WTH?

the last two graphs of the article:
Twitter said that the bug did not make public any protected updates.

It was another security embarrassment for Facebook. Over the weekend, one of its board members was victimized by a Facebook phishing scheme.

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