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Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20th — A Day We Don't Celebrate, to Our Cultural Disgrace

This is greatly expanded from the brief (single-paragraph) thought in the July 15th edition.

With the big North American solar eclipse coming August 21st, we turn our thoughts spaceward, to something we desperately need to fix, as a species.

Before we get to the full topic, there are musical dimensions. Not enough songs have been written to propel and galvanize interest about the fundamental human drive behind space exploration. There aren't even enough songs to capitalize on the interest that is certainly out there — interest that's proven by the long lines at the box office every time Hollywood releases a new space epic. Compare today with this: during the heady days of astronauts being launched on Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, there was FRANK SINATRA singing "Fly Me to the Moon."

We should note that astronaut CHRIS HADFIELD recorded his performance of "Space Oddity" live aboard the International Space Station, and he pays extra homage to DAVID BOWIE where you can watch the well-made video of his singing and guitar-playing while floating in space. []

But it's the Moon that figures into a fair number of songs, sometimes overtly, often obtusely, and usually as a reference to romance. (The latter as in BOB WILLS' "San Antonio Rose," for example.)

Here are some essential "Moon Songs":

♪ CAT STEVENS sang “Moon Shadow” on his 1971 album, "Teaser and the Firecat" (“Oh, I’m being followed by a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow / Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow.”)

♪ JOHN FOGERTY still performs “Bad Moon Rising,” which he wrote for CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL's 1968 album, "Green River." And he's taken to singing it with misheard lyrics. (“I see a bad moon arising / I see trouble on the way / I see earthquakes and lightnin’ / I see bad times today." And in the chorus, "There's a bad moon on the rise" does indeed become "There's a bathroom on the right.")

♪ VAN MORRISON sang “Moondance” as the title track of his 1970 album. (“Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance / with the stars up above in your eyes / a fantabulous night to make romance / ‘neath the cover of October skies.”)

♪ The REM song, “Man on the Moon” is on their 1992 album, "Automatic for the People." (“If you believed they put a man on the moon / man on the moon / if you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve / then nothing is cool.”)

♪ There are two songs that hit the charts titled “Dancin’ in the Moonlight.” One is by KING HARVEST and it's on their 1973 album of the same name. (You'll know the lyrics to that one: “We get it on most every night / when that moon is big and bright / it’s a supernatural delight / everybody’s dancing in the moonlight.”) The other is by THIN LIZZY, off of their 1977 album, "Bad Reputation."

♪ DAVID BOWIE sang “Moonage Daydream” on his 1972 album, "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars." (“Keep your ‘lectric eye on me babe / put your ray gun to my head / press your space face close to mine, love / freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah.”)

♪ THE DOORS did “Moonlight Drive” on their 1967 album, "Strange Days." (“Let’s swim to the moon, uh huh / let’s climb through the tide / penetrate the evening that the / city sleeps to hide / let’s swim out tonight, love / it’s our turn to try / parked beside the ocean / on our moonlight drive.”)

♪ CAT POWER sang “The Moon” on her 2006 album, "The Greatest." (“The moon is not only beautiful / it is so far away / the moon is not only ice cold / it is here to stay.”)

♪ BRETT DENNEN did “Just like the Moon” on the 2003 self-titled album that brought him acclaim. (“I believe that you were born during an eclipse / and the stars named you moon child / then you come you rise into my sky / you stepped in front of my sun and it makes the whole world dark / and you light up the night / just like the moon.”)

♪ FLEETWOOD MAC did “Sisters of the Moon” on their 1979 album, "Tusk." (“She asked me / be my sister, sister of the moon / some call her sister of the moon / some say illusions are her game.”)

♪ JANIS JOPLIN sang “Half Moon,” written by John Hall and Johanna Hall, on her 1971 album, "Pearl." (“Half moon, night time sky / seven stars, heaven’s eyes / seven songs on seven seas / just to bring all your sweet love home to me.”)

♪ NEIL YOUNG sang “Harvest Moon” as the title track on his 1992 album. (“Because I’m still in love with you / I want to see you dance again / because I’m still in love with you / on this harvest moon.”)

♪ RADIOHEAD performed “Sail to the Moon” on their 2003 album, "Hail to the Thief." (“I sail to the moon / I spoke too soon / and how much did it cost / I was dropped from the moonbeam / and sailed on shooting stars.”)

♪ The immortal CHUCK BERRY did his song “Havana Moon” as a b-side to his single, “You Can’t Catch Me.” (“Havana moon, Havana moon / me all alone with a jug of rum / me stand and wait for boat to come.”)

♪ And, as we said at the start, “Fly Me to the Moon” is a song famously sung by FRANK SINATRA on his 1964 album, "It Might as Well Be Swing." It was written by BART HOWARD, and is also known as the songwriter titled it, “In Other Words.” (“Fly me to the moon / let me play among the stars / let me see what spring is like / on Jupiter and Mars.”)

There are more "Moon songs" in at article at AXS. []

Perhaps our list, and the piece that follows, will get your songwriting impulses launched. Let us know if you come up with something. If we're there at the launch, we'd like to be there when the Eagle lands.

Even if, with all this "austerity" BS while all the wealth flows to the top, it's not looking like any of us will live long enough to see humans land on Mars, or Europa*, or Enceladus*, or even return to the Moon.

* - yes, those are real places, and they're not very far away. read the article and you'll know what those places are.

Now, on to our bit of advocacy for something that really needs to happen.

(This is a single-topic edition. A full edition of MUSIC NEWS is nearing completion.)



By Larry Wines

July 20th. In any other country, if they had accomplished what Americans did on July 20th, today would be a national holiday. It's the day in 1969 that humans first set foot on the Moon.

Issuing the challenge to do it, in his May 25, 1961 speech to a Joint Session of Congress, is, all by itself, why John F. Kennedy got himself listed as a great figure in human history. There has been no parallel to it since.

Instead, we have deluded ourselves into believing Steve Jobs announcing a new i-Phone is a major event, and the average person checks their social media accounts multiple times every hour.

Once there was a time when adventure and exploration did not consist of hunting virtual cartoon creatures on a three inch screen. Fulfilling the potential of the human species was very real, and required taking risks, actually going somewhere, exploring, discovering, learning, reaching beyond all that had ever been done before. And it was the Russians who were doing it.

Kennedy's words to congress in voiced the challenge for America to regain the initiative, not with the kind of regime change foreign policy we see today, not with coups and massive arms deals to dominate oil regions as we have seen for the past 45 years, but through peaceful use of science. President Kennedy said to congress in 1961, "I believe this nation should commit itself, to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

Fourteen months later, as momentum built and imaginations were captured, the promise of his administration's "New Frontier" theme had become real. Kennedy delivered his "We choose to go to the Moon" speech on September 12, 1962, at Rice University in Houston, Texas. It's been acclaimed as "one of the most inspirational and prescient policy speeches in world history."

That address galvanized NASA to reach for the Moon — and they hadn't been at all sure they could do it. Press coverage of the president's address, which the White House had billed as "concerning the nation's efforts in space exploration" fired the public will. In his speech at Rice, President Kennedy cited the necessity for the United States to become an international leader in space exploration and famously stated, "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." Taken in its entirety, it's power to stir the imagination — and make us believe we can have a leader in which we can take pride — are both still there. []

But it is in the deeds, not the words, that history is made. America overcame its doubts and uncertainties, its voices of timidity and austerity, its calls for military spending instead of "shooting it all up in the air" with NASA. Despite the meat grinder of an insipidly stupid war that tore America apart, the challenge of an assassinated leader was given the funding for Apollo to go to the Moon. In fact, it received just enough priority that six of the intended ten lunar landing missions were achieved before the Nixon administration killed the funding.

While we should remember the utter insanity of defunding the final three launches after all the investment was made — including the fact that the hardware was built and delivered and the crews were trained and ready? Primarily because there is value today in applying that example to the excruciating stupidity of austerity in our time. Still, we should celebrate what we accomplished, and at last seize on that, and build on it to regain and reclaim the dream of reaching beyond our diminishing expectations of what is possible and who we are.

Today should be "National Space & Exploration Day."

But the corporatist capitalists who really run the country are too cheap to allow our government to declare any more holidays. They claim it costs them too much money in "lost productivity." Even though consumer spending is through the roof on any holiday when the stores and amusement parks and eateries are open. Any holiday, regardless of its purpose, produces a spike for the economy.

Yet let's not trivialize the focus. We have always been BIG advocates of making July 20th a holiday, because it needs to be. Really now, how many holidays are about dreaming and reaching and achieving and going beyond anything anyone has ever done before? How many times have humans set foot on a world other than our own? Yeah.

In 2012, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson delivered "an impassioned plea to the U.S. Congress to hoist America from its economic lethargy by boldly reinvesting in a robust space program." Five years later, they are not listening, but his address has more than enough power to motivate anyone else. []

Politicians have let us down more in terms of the future than anywhere else. Because each time they choose to wallow in a quagmire of our time, they lose sight of where we could be headed. That's even taken the form of lip service to being bold when there is no "there" there, and presidents of both parties share blame.

On July 20, 1989 — three-and-half years after the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger and her seven-member crew, then-President George H.W. Bush held a major address to announce the much anticipated "Space Exploration Initiative." It turned out to be a "bold pledge" that we would "Go to Mars sometime next century." Far from being Kennedy-esque, it was received more with stunned silence than anything else. In fact, its fundamental wimpiness was an invitation for congressional budget hawks to kill the undeveloped idea by declaring that "spending two billion dollars on anything is out of the question." Even though congress has had no problem spending three trillion dollars on endless wars that began with Bush 41's first war on Iraq/first war for petrol dominance.

Democrats may have hoped for renewal of their party's commitment to the space program when Bill Clinton was elected in 1992. After all, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson had successfully pursued a vigorous program of space science and exploration until Nixon began the many decades of defunding. (Jimmy Carter's four years had seen the stunning images of the planets from the two Voyager spacecraft, which were part of the necessary reliance on much cheaper robots, post Apollo, to go anywhere.) But Clinton merely sustained what was already in motion. There was no challenge to go to Mars within the decade.

And so the '80s, '90s, and double-aughts were all about the Nixon administration's decision to go with a space shuttle instead of NASA's planned Mars program. And in the absence of funding for any clear missions to do anything else, the Space Shuttle Orbiter would be an impressively large, overly sophisticated delivery truck with almost nothing to deliver. Sure, we got the Hubble Space Telescope and gained knowledge with Shuttle mission repair flights to it that were never intended. Otherwise, we justified the shuttle by building the International Space Station (ISS) to replace the Russian Mir, which had replaced the Russian Salyut.

What became the ISS was to have been the American space station "Freedom." But NASA insiders had taken to calling it "Fred," after budget cuts systematically eliminated all intended features — like growing all its own food, in space — and everything else that would have taken it beyond what the Russians had already been doing for two decades.

Some take heart that Americans being cheap is why we got an International Space Station, and cite that there is great value in that. If nothing else, it raises the question that if we can get along with one another in space, why can't we get along down here? Others point out that an international voyage to Mars would extend the point and provide real science and achievement.

The ISS has brought an era when we are stuck in low Earth orbit. We've simply been going around and around and around. And ironically, that's how NASA's own people first characterized things in the post-Apollo 1970s, when the first US space station went aloft. That was the now-forgotten Skylab, which had been cobbed-together from unused Apollo Moon mission hardware, like leftover like ocean liners re-tasked as harbor tugs.

In terms of human presence in space, we're back where we were in 1961 — astronauts go into Earth orbit, but no farther. But we lack the bold challenge JFK gave us in 1961, with a goal and a destination to walk on a world beyond our own.

It's hard to justify much about our national space policy since Apollo. The ISS really hasn't added up to anything. It can't leave orbit, and it's scheduled to be retired, with no way to replace it, in the early 2020s.

Space exploration, once so filled with promise, has given us most of the highest-grossing box-office Hollywood blockbusters, from the "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" franchises (the latter through generations on TV, as well), to films ranging from "Forbidden Planet" to "Alien" to "Contact" to "The Martian."

Along the way, reality went from bold vision to stuck in Earth orbit. Where we tragically lost two entire shuttle crews, as Challenger blew up after launch in 1986 and Columbia broke-up during atmospheric entry in 2003 as a result of a launch accident that was not detected but should have been. The irony is seldom noted that Nixon killed real space exploration by human crews because he feared another Apollo 13 accident, and worried that a second one might not be survivable. So he went with the shuttle as a "safer" Earth-orbit-only vehicle.

Fast forward to April 15, 2010, and the event catalogued as "Barack Obama Proposes a New Course for NASA, Kennedy Space Center." President Obama's unmemorable, uninspiring speech was titled, "Remarks by the President on Space Exploration in the 21st Century." It is worthy of note, because his proposal, which was essentially followed by congress, fundamentally altered NASA's course by ending the Constellation program that would have taken astronauts to the planets, asteroids, and back to the Moon. Granted, it was years behind schedule and billions over budget. But that same reasoning was not applied to the F-35 fighter, which is the most expensive military turkey ever, unless you look at the similarly over-schedule, over-budget US Navy Littoral Ship program.

Constellation never had a chance. It was to have been funded by ending U.S. participation in the ISS by FY 2017, under the G.W. Bush administration's NASA policy of cutting more than his predecessors had cut. By instead ending the Constellation program, the Obama administration decided to extend the ISS "to at least 2020," and "grow a new commercial crew program for delivering astronauts to and from the ISS."

It is in the word "commercial" that the new space paradigm is found. You can read Obama's 2010 speech here. []

It's really quite amazing that every president seems to embrace NASA, saying something equivalent to Obama's "I think it's cool." In his speech, Obama even noted Kennedy's bold challenge and joked about the TV commercials touting how astronauts drank Tang. He recalled one of his "earliest memories... sitting on my grandfather’s shoulders, waving a flag as astronauts arrived in Hawaii." And then he sold-out space exploration to the goals and intentions of for-profit business.

Last week, NASA quietly acknowledged that its always nebulous goal of sending a human crew to Mars sometime in the 2030s isn't realistic, because there is simply no funding to pursue that goal. At almost the same time, A Time magazine online piece reported that scientists in China "Just Teleported an Object Into Space for the First Time."

No, it isn't Captain Kirk avoiding the freeway commute. It's sending a photon from the ground to an orbiting satellite more than 300 miles up, using a process of new physics known as quantum entanglement, and Time got it from the MIT Technology Review. It’s the farthest distance tested so far in teleportation experiments, and the work was published online on the open access site arXiv. For about a month, the scientists have been beaming-up millions of photons from their ground station in Tibet to the low-orbiting satellite, and were successful in more than 900 cases.

But it's still earth orbit.

Back on November 12, 2014, in "Firsts in Space Require Political Will," I authored a piece on where we are in space exploration. []

In it, we noted "the descent of NASA from the gold standard to a hollow shell systematically deprived of funding due to America’s 'austerity' era."

In that three-year-old piece, we further opined:

"Any fall from prominence is complete when one’s position is ultimately passed by someone else. Today, it’s the ESA. Next, it will likely be China. Unless Americans rise-up and demand we return to a real, science-and-exploration-based, active and aggressive space program.

"Mars awaits — someone. While Russia and the US are bound by a treaty not to make territorial claims on celestial bodies on which they land, China is not a signator to any such treaty.

"The same goes for Europa, the moon of Jupiter that has more liquid water than the sum total of all the water on Earth. It’s beneath an ice crust, but it’s there, and it’s liquid water. Same thing on a much smaller scale at Enceladus, an ice-crusted liquid-water moon of much more distant Saturn.

"Want to find life somewhere other than Earth? Those are the places to go. Want to make rocket fuel to bring yourself back, or to go farther? Water makes liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, and that’s all the rocket fuel you need.

"We, as a species, are on the cusp of a Star Trek future. But we’re too cheap to go."

Those observations date back to 2014. Now, it seems anyone can tell you we are worse off, in some way or other, or in the sum totality of living in Trump's America. Certainly, we have become worse at remembering our history and drawing meaning from it. At least when it comes to meaning that is free from the context of some minor invocation or obsessive application to current dumbness. Even as it strains itself searching for Watergate allegories, mainstream media lets significant events, past and present, slip by without note. For example, they utterly ignored the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway in early June, even though that 1942 "miracle at sea" broke Japanese dominance of the Pacific a mere six months after Pearl Harbor.

Now, the news of the day — according to the singular fixation of 24-hour mainstream media cable — is only about the need for the impending coup. We're not even sure that they still make time for "the need" to celebrate our troops deployed in some endless and ultimately meaningless war du jour that invokes all the hoo-rah with none of the global significance of past wars, like freeing civilization from oppression.

Along the way to this place of hyperventilating Big Media, we have deprived ourselves of the very idea that there are heroes who don't carry guns or blow things up. We are so distant from our heroes of exploration and discovery that we have nearly forgotten that such people can exist. And in so doing, we have denied ourselves the inspiration they could, and should, be giving us.

Simply put, we could have gone to Mars. Instead we went to wars. Endless wars and proxy wars and drone wars and refugee-creating wars and fundamentalist-nutjob-fomenting wars, all aimed at obtaining control of the fossil fuels that are cooking our entire planet. Wars instead of Mars. That really makes a defining comment about our species.

Perhaps it's too late now. Perhaps the aquatic creatures of Europa and Enceladus — the oceanic moons of Jupiter and Saturn — will one day visit the dusty expanses of Earth. If they are a species possessed with irony, their archaeologists may conclude, "How curiously close that lost dominant land civilization came; they were utilizing the power of the sun through radiant energy collection and kinetic air current harvesting; yet, for some reason we'll never understand, they continued to bake their world by burning things."

By the time some exploring race of aliens gets here, perhaps all traces of human presence will be long gone. So their planetary scientists — from within their water-filled rovers, if they are from Europa or Enceladus — simply will think, "This hellishly hot, lifeless expanse could have held an ocean basin, even bigger than the dusty dry basins on the Red World."

At least Earth will die without becoming a Red World, because it's become unacceptable (for the sake of maximizing "defense" sales) to find a way to cooperate with Russia.

Or we could reject that vision of our own extinction and replace it with one of hope. Hope of becoming a spacefaring species that is ever-ready to explore, to discover, to learn, to understand, to advance. So, in that hope, today we'll think of you, Buzz Aldrin, and all your octogenarian (and older) Apollo astronaut colleagues. And Buzz, we'll think of you, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and those who have left us, including John Glenn, and Neil Armstrong, and Carl Sagan. And we'll think of the continuing voices of advocacy by all of you for return to a robust space program that actually GOES somewhere!

And so we wish you "Happy Space & Exploration Day" everybody. Even if we are subversives for saying it.

You can also explore some thoughts on similar topics by Neil deGrasse Tyson, in "We Stopped Dreaming (Episode 1)" [].


A companion MUSIC NEWS edition will be along shortly.


PLENTY MORE is archived, back to when Lassie was a little bitty puppy dog, Napoleon was a private, and banjos only had four strings.

The entire Guide, since we moved the archival editions to Blogspot years 'n years ago, is there and searchable at the basic url:


See you next time!


As always, we invite you to join us and to let us know what YOU are listening to, and what artists or bands just sent you swooning and need to be shared with others.

That's your part, so you'll know that a whole lot more is always coming soon — including fresh MUSIC NEWS, PREVIEWS & REVIEWS, and more additions to our massive guide to the MUSIC FESTIVALS of 2017.

Meantime, with everything happening as summer slips away? Go get tuneful!



Boilerplate? Where's the main pressure gauge? And the firebox?

What "boilerplate"? Who came up with that goofy term for the basic essential informational stuff...

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♪ The ACOUSTIC AMERICANA MUSIC GUIDE endeavors to bring you NEWS — and views of interest to artists everywhere — more specifically to musicians and the creative community and music makers and fans of acoustic and Folk-Americana music. That includes both traditional and innovative forms. From the deepest roots to today’s acoustic renaissance, that’s our beat. We provide a wealth of resources, including a HUGE catalog of acoustic-friendly venues (now undergoing a major update), and inside info on FESTIVALS and select performances in Southern California in venues from the monumentally large to the intimately small and cozy. We cover workshops, conferences, and other events for artists and folks in the music industry, and all kinds o’ things in the world of acoustic and Americana and accessible classical music. From washtub bass to musical spoons to oboe to viola to banjo to squeezebox, from Djangostyle to new-fangled-old-time string band music, from sweet Cajun fiddle to bluegrass and pre-bluegrass Appalachian mountain music to all the swamp water roots of the blues and the bright lights of where the music is headed now.
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