Monday, March 31, 2008

Justified and Ancient

Two guys, British techno-pop rockers, named Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, formed a group called the KLF. The name KLF was the last in a long line of group alias. They were part of the British acid house movement in music in the 1980's and early 90's, and they based their group’s mythos and media on a book.

From the outset, they adopted the philosophy espoused by esoteric novels The Illuminatus! Trilogy, gaining notoriety for various anarchic situationist manifestations, including the defacement of billboard adverts, the posting of prominent cryptic advertisements in NME magazine and the mainstream press, and highly distinctive and unusual performances on Top of the Pops. Their most notorious performance was at the February 1992 BRIT Awards, where they fired machine gun blanks into the audience and dumped a dead sheep at the aftershow party. This performance announced The KLF's departure from the music business, and in May 1992 the duo deleted their entire back catalogue. (from wiki)

In their 1991 album “The White Room”, but with origins dating back to their debut album, they published this song, called “Justified and Ancient” or “Stand by the Jams”. The imagery in this video is telling. It depicts the Goddess of Chaos, Mu, and her hand maidens, and makes numerous references to Mu or Lemuria. It also makes visual references to the burning wicker man, which is a pagan ritual. What’s more, they put Tammy Wynette, who is the undisputed queen of country, as the Goddess Mu, which I believe is a stroke of pop culture genius. This was filmed before her death in April of 1998.

The title "Justified and Ancient" refers to The KLF's pseudonym and earlier incarnation, "The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu" (The JAMs). The JAMs took their name from - and mirrored - a fictional subversive cult from the 1960s intellectual conspiratorial novels The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Just as the fictional JAMs made it their remit to propagate chaos and confusion, so too did the real JAMs and The KLF. Their attempts to subvert the music industry and other establishments were frequent, unconcealed and controversial. The song "Justified and Ancient" is a statement of identity and rebellious intent. Moreover, it deliberately understates this intent. (from wiki)

I stumbled upon this song about 10 years ago and it struck a chord in me that I’ve never been able to shake. I didn’t understand the subtle undertones and the imagery then. Now, as I find myself navigating a changing and emerging new world at this unique time in Earth’s spiritual history, and evolving right along with it, I can say that I finally get it. If there was ever a time that the Goddess of Chaos was having her way with the world, be it Kali Ma, Sekmet, or Mu, now is that time. As She ruthlessly paves the way for transformation on this tiny planet, can we only hope but to stare in awe at her power and hold on as tight as we can?

Or do we release comfortable (but futile) illusions of control to ride the ebb and flow of change as best as we are able?

Do we simply let go?

Here, for your consideration, is one of my favorite songs and videos, an instance where mankind's spiritual transformation manifests in popular culture.




Sunday, March 30, 2008

Show Me Jesus

I'm not sure if its the way I was raised, or the time my family spent as Jehovah's Witness, but I've never felt a particular kinship to Jesus. Even though I'm pretty sure that Ammachi is here for much the same reason, and I worry that some day something horrible will happen to her to help save the world, I still can't find a connection with the man.
Cartoon Dolly
Then I heard this song. It took the Dolly Momma to sing it for me to really hear it. It makes my heart ache, and makes me wonder if once I didn't have a strong connection to the christian movement ... or perhaps to Christos, either the man or the mythos. Maybe it's just that yearning for God is yearning for God, no matter what form your God(dess) is in.


I needed my celebrity guardian angel to show me Jesus.




He's Alive
(Words and music by Don Francisco)

The gates and doors were barred
And all the windows fastened down
I spent the night in sleeplessness
And rose at every sound
Half in hopeless sorrow
And half in fear the day
Would find the soldiers breaking through
To drag us all away

And just before the sunrise
I heard something at the wall
The gate began to rattle
And a voice began to call
So I hurried to the window
Looked down into the street
Expecting swords and torches
And the sound of soldiers' feet

But there was no one there but Mary
So I went down to let her in
John stood there beside me
As she told me where she'd been

She said, "They've moved Him in the night
And none of us know where!
The stone's been rolled away
And now His body isn't there!"

We both ran towards the garden
Then John ran on ahead
We found the stone and empty tomb
Just the way that Mary said
But the winding sheet they wrapped Him in
Was just an empty shell
And how or where they'd taken Him
Was more than I could tell

Oh, something strange had happened there
Just what I did not know
John believed a miracle
But I just turned to go
Circumstance and speculation
Couldn't lift me very high
'Cause I'd seen them crucify Him
Then I saw Him die

Back inside the house again
The guilt and anguish came
Everything I'd promised Him
Just added to my shame
When at last it came to choices
I denied I knew His name
And even if He was alive
It wouldn't be the same

But suddenly the air was filled
With a strange and sweet perfume
Light that came from everywhere
Drove shadows from the room
And Jesus stood before me
With His arms held open wide
And I fell down on my knees
And I just clung to Him and cried

Then He raised me to my feet And as I looked into His eyes
The love was shining out from Him
Like sunlight from the skies
Guilt and my confusion
Disappeared in sweet release
And every fear I ever had
Just melted into peace

He's alive! Yes, He's alive!
Yes, He's alive and I'm forgiven
Heaven's gates are open wide
He's alive! Yes, He's alive!
Oh, He's alive and I'm forgiven
Heaven's gates are open wide
He's alive! He's alive!
Hallelujah, He's alive!
He's alive and I'm forgiven
Heaven's gates are open wide
He's alive! He's alive!
He's alive!
I believe it, He's alive!
Sweet Jesus!

Music Witch

Stevie Nicks looking fabulous at more than fifty. Ruby red lips singing about desire and need. Feeling the link between past lives and now, I wonder how many times this music witch has given it over to someone who has what she needs.

Stevie has been singing the depths of my heart for years, since I was a teenager.


Sing it for me, Stevie … sing it for me.




Sorcerer
- words and music by Stevie Nicks
- appears on Trouble in Shangri-La released May 1, 2001
Produced by Sheryl Crow and Stevie Nicks
Engineered by Brian Scheuble
Drums: Matt Chamberlain
Bass: Tim Smith
Guitars: Sheryl Crow.
Peter Stroud and Jeff Trott
Keyboards: Patrick Warren
Guest Vocalist: Sheryl Crow
Background vocals: Sharon Celani and Lori Nicks

Lyrics

I'm tired
I'm thirsty
I'm wild-eyed
In my misery

Timeless
in your finery
It's a high price
For your luxury

Chorus:

Sorcerer
Who is the master
A man and woman on a star stream
In the middle of a snow dream

Sorcerer
Show me the high life
Come over Let me put you on ice

All around black ink darkness
And who found lady from the mountains
All around black ink darkness
And who found lady from the mountains
Lady from the mountains

I'm tired I need you badly
I'm wild-eyed In my misery
Timeless in your finery
It's a high price For your luxury

(Chorus)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

SACRED SPACE

ORIGINALLY POSTED in my spirital blog, this includes new pictures of sacred space in the house.

Sacred space has been a consistency in my life. No matter what my problems were, what my situation was, and even no matter what my age, I have unconsciously created or sought out sacred space. It is where I go to get comfort or calm, center myself, and connect with the Goddess. It can be a natural setting or a shelf I decorated. It doesn’t matter what it is, because what matters is the feeling you get being there. If looking at it feels good, makes you feel like you’ve connected, then chances are you’ve found a sacred space that works for you.

During the first 33 years of my life, I felt tossed about like foam on the surf. I reacted to everything and understood nothing but my anger and impatience. I’ve spent the last ten years working on the ability to respond, as opposed to react, and seeking insight into my spiritual and emotional wounds. Taking haven in sacred space has made that process possible.

Before I allowed the Goddess to truly install herself in my heart, I went to the ocean to connect with Her. I’ve always resided close to a large, living body of water. First, it was the Connecticut coastline, where the power of the Atlantic is muted by Long Island Sound. Then, it was the crisp, cold Pacific Ocean on the California Coast, where nothing blocks the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Living near water has always been important to me, and in times of turmoil, the ocean was my refuge, the place where I went to recharge my batteries.

My partner, Leslie, and I have been together for almost 25 years. In 1995, we lived in San Francisco, and her mother, who’d been with us for 8 years, died of lung cancer. She was at California Pacific Medical Center, and we were there with her day after day, as she struggled with the cancer’s invasion of her body, and we struggled with hospital administration. Many times, we found ourselves driving down to Ocean Beach, taking our fill of its healing properties, positive ions, and generally decompressing. In fact, it was there that we found our angel, Casey, a golden retriever, who would be our savior after Leslie’s mother died, when we desperately needed someone to take care of in our transition. Casey, one of the most significant animal totems and signposts in our life, was a gift from the Ocean, a gift from the Goddess, at a time when we needed one the most. We didn't know it then, but Casey's work guarding over us, her human charges, had only just begun.

In 2000, when the office and on-going projects pushed my endurance to the limit, and I was exhausted and sick with bronchitis, I found Her comfort on the coastline in Malibu, California. Over the fourth of July holiday, we stayed in a cabin that faced the water just like the movie stars. It was fabulously fancy. I wrote in my journal late at night outside on the deck, by the light of the moon, and grew tired as the waves sang their lullaby. I woke the next day feeling those waves as they rumbled an insistent baritone in my chest, and a mob of pelicans fed raucously over the ocean, just 50 yards from where I slept. By the end of that trip, I was leaving offerings to the Goddess on the deck, which seemed the natural thing to do. Her gift to me then was the word delegate, which was to be my challenge in the workplace as I grew to understand the power of teamwork.

In this, the Goddess led me to one of my life’s charges. I have an understanding of how individuals can unite and produce something that no individual can accomplish alone. As a consequence, I am very confident in this area, and instill confidence in those around me. My charge is to help individuals achieve their full potential by awakening their skills and natural abilities. Initially, this manifested in the work place, but it has since manifested in other areas of my life, the most important of which is at home with my beloved Leslie and our daughter. This generous gift from Mother leaves me grateful and humbled.

By far the most sacred ocean spot I’ve visited is Pescadero Beach in Northern California. I cherish all of my experiences with the Great Mother at the ocean, but She feels more alive to me here than any place else. Once, while picnicking with my family, I said to my daughter, “Do you see Mother Nature at work here, Elizabeth?” And her answer, completely innocent at three years old was, “Boy, she sure is getting everything wet!” I began my personal relationship with the Goddess here, by speaking to her out loud. I’ve asked Her for a million blessings here, and felt completely safe here. I’ve used Her bounty in crafts, projects, and rituals in a way that celebrates her abundance, but is respectful of her limited resources. I’ve sat on Her cool sand, with my back against the solid rocks, and closed my eyes in meditation. The sound of the sea, its constant motion and sighing, is Her breathing. The waves pounding on the shore is Her heartbeat, synchronizing with my own until the profundity is too much to bear and I must open my eyes once again.

Through nature, the Goddess embraces me with her thousand arms at the ocean, and I, her child, am at peace there, content in the palm of Her hand ... my sacred space.

Rocks

These crafts were made in November 2005 by Elementary School Students in Millbrae, California. Leslie and I were co-chairpersons on a school project called "The Snowflake Shop", wherein the kids spent two days in craft workshops making the items that would be purchased in the The Snowflake Shop as Christmas Gifts. They created, among other things, these paper weights. The rocks are from Pescadero Beach in Northern California.

Full Moon Altar

FULL MOON ALTAR created in August 2007.
Amma

Mothers fill our lives with love.

Strega Space

Altar space honoring memories of Stregheria in ancient Italy.

Strega Space 2


Note: The photo above, "Pescadero Beach" is copywritten by Leslie Faber in 2005. All rights reserved.

The Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer


I had this piece up in my office in San Francisco for more than five years, but it didn't occur to me to take a picture and post it until tonight. The original was done on October 3, 1993, on bristol paper, with pen & ink and colored pencil. I used white out to make the stars. The Silver Surfer is a lonely space cowboy whose only trusted companion is his board. This piece was inspired by a cowboy. He was lonely, too, and for the most part, thought more of his horse than anyone he knew. The year I did this, he won first place at the Grand National Rodeo in his class, which was Reigning. His surfboard didn't let him down.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Our Aries Daughter


Our daughter Elizabeth is bosom friends with a young lady named Margaret and a young lady named Lindsay. Elizabeth is an Aries who has Virgo predominantly in her chart. Margaret is also an Aries, although her energy is very different from our daughter’s. Lindsay is a fiery Leo spirit whose photographic memory is always on the job and whose needs, wants and desires often collide with her 10 year old intellect. On the surface, Margaret, or Margie, seems a quiet and shy child. When you get to know her, she’s a lot like Elizabeth (or Liz, as her friends call her) … silly, funny, out-going, opinionated, unflinchingly polite in other’s homes, but prone to sudden outbursts of drama in her own. They’re all smart, sensitive kids who navigate a prickly pre-teen school environment every day, one full of peer pressure, while maintaining their own identities. They juggle heavy academic workloads, in addition to family life and whatever extracurricular activities their parents have them wrapped up in. For Margaret it’s music lessons, and for Lindsay it’s sports.

Why our children need any extracurricular activities is beyond me. Truth be told they would much rather be talking on the phone and/or playing on the internet. They’re on the phone every chance they can get, up to and including moments before lights go out for the night. They frequent Neopets and Club Penguin on line, whenever they can squeeze it in, and enjoy virtual play dates with one another and other kids from around the globe. They also keep a watchful eye open for inappropriate questions, behavior and activities and report them promptly when they occur. I find it strange that the web connected world has become much smaller even for our children, but I find it sad that watching for predators while they play is an engrained part of what they do. Our daughter assumes it as part of the responsibility of using an open chat.

We eliminated after school activities for Elizabeth because school work and visits to see her great-grandmother keep her busy enough. There isn’t enough time to get all those activities and homework in before the evening runs short, robbing Elizabeth of sleep. If she doesn’t get ten hours of sleep a night, our beautiful little daughter becomes a grumpy pre-teen beastie.

Goofy Hats

Juggling two best friends is an on-going process for Elizabeth. It’s like tending a garden, I think. Both Margaret and Lindsay consider our daughter their best friend, and so Elizabeth has become adept at acknowledging them both as important, even though she relates to each of them differently. Every once in a while, however, there is a disturbance in the force. When this occurs, it is frequently Lindsay who finds herself on the short end of the stick. She is a very emotional little girl, but isn’t always articulate about what is going on, which the other two consider a breach of friendship etiquette. Liz and Margie talk about everything, while Lindsay is less talk and more action. She is also more of a social butterfly, so rather than stick religiously with the other two, ensconced securely in a zipped up friendship cocoon, Lindsay prefers to hang out with the guys now and again.

When rifts occur, it is a cause of great drama. Liz and Margie get on the phone together to conspire. Outraged opinions and escalated scenarios are shared again and again. The tiniest of problems quickly morph into a gynormous lapse of personal character. Then, more often than not, Liz and Margie try to confront Lindsay with her unforgivable breach of friendship etiquette at school. Or, Liz and Margie get on the phone together, conference call style, to confront Lindsay. Lindsay goes to great lengths to argue the point, of course, which does little validate Elizabeth’s point of view.

My daughter and her bosom friend, Margaret, exhibit steriotyped Aries style, I think. Identify. Analyze. Homogenize. Conspire. Confront. And then, lock and load, baby … annihilate!

This is the way it went until most recently Lindsay’s mother intercepted such a phone call and made it known that it isn’t cool for Liz and Margie to gang up on her daughter, who was very upset behind the scenes.

And rightfully so.

After all, we all process conflict differently.

As Elizabeth goes through these issues with her friends, she often comes to us for talks … it’s what I would refer to as coaching in the workplace, but what is in truth a call for absolute and complete emotional availability on my part for our Aries daughter who, with great intensity, seeks clarity and understanding in all things. She demands complete emotional engagement, and calls me out emphatically when I drift. In our talks, Leslie and I encourage her to see the world through the eyes of others. This can be a challenge for any self-possessed Aries child, who, at an early age and in all sincerity, has already figured out the world’s greatest mysteries. If Lindsay didn’t feel like talking or was moody, maybe she had a bad evening at home, or maybe she didn’t get enough sleep. Maybe her mood had absolutely nothing to do with Liz and Margie. We’ve also encouraged Elizabeth to communicate effectively with words, instead of jumping to conclusions or blowing things out of proportion. “Be the master of your domain,” we tell her. A person can have the best intentions in the world, but if they are unable to communicate effectively, those intentions can be for nothing. She also enjoys roll playing when relationships get particularly prickly, and likes to go through dialogue again and again until she has a situation straight in her head. She experiences conflict, and we talk. Elizabeth listens and learns, and then applies what she’s learned in her friendships. Our support is an incredibly important part of her life experience.

I watch Elizabeth go through these ups and downs with her friends, and it brings me back to my own childhood with shocking clarity. The thematic similarities are personally astounding. I was the spirited and self-absorbed Leo, and I have a preponderance of Virgo in my chart like my daughter does. My dearest friends, the ones I needed the most, were Aries people. They weren’t close to one another, but each of them had their own version of friendship etiquette that I was often oblivious to and got in trouble for disregarding many times. I wasn’t aware of the need to balance my relationships when I was a teenager, and rather, had more distracting issues on my plate and no support from my parents. None of us did, really, which is the significant difference between then and what my daughter experiences now. My desperately needed friends and I contended daily with parents who were negligent, ignorant, mean, and/or abusive when we should have been able to take for granted their support, love, understanding, and guidance. We were shooting from the hip, and in our confusion, many times ended up shooting one another. Hell, I didn’t learn any of this stuff until I was in my thirties, and even then I wasn’t very good at it. Old habits die hard.

Ironically, the Leo/Aries theme that began in my childhood and remains an echo in my adult life, manifests in my daughter’s relationships right now.

Silly Girls

This week, Elizabeth had Lindsay over for a play date. They spent a glorious afternoon romping through the house, playing with their Littlest Pet Shop guys (there is a whole new line of really cute ones), eating the homemade chocolate chip cookies Leslie made for them, and talking about Elizabeth’s birthday which is coming up. We have big plans for a trip to the flagship “Build-A-Bear Workshop” store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Leslie and Elizabeth dropped Lindsay off, and she left a bag of her things behind in the van. I went through that bag and found two of Elizabeth’s Nintendo DS video game cartridges and a tin of truffles, neither of which Elizabeth gave her.

Uh oh.

Talk about your breach of friendship etiquette.

Assuming Lindsay took her things; Elizabeth immediately jumped to conclusions and spent the next two hours fuming. Her eyes were hurt, her mouth was scrunched up tight, and she made incredulous miff and sniff sounds repeatedly. How could Lindsay do that to her? Why did such a wonderful play date have to end that way? Worse, what will this horrible breach of friendship etiquette do to Elizabeth’s birthday plans?

We got home, and Leslie and I headed toward a paint project in the basement. We asked Elizabeth to join us, but she was preoccupied. Our 10 year disappeared into the study and into deep thought.

An hour later the issue was resolved.

Rather than get on the phone with Margie to conspire, Elizabeth thought about the problem, and then called Lindsay directly. In a non-confrontational manner, she mentioned she found two video games in Lindsay’s bag. Lindsay, completely innocent, thought they must have fallen out when they were playing and put Elizabeth’s game bag in there.

Of course.

Then, Elizabeth brought up the truffles.

“Why did you take that tin, Lindsay?” she asked calmly, “I said you couldn’t have
it. I collect them.”
“But, I wanted it,” Lindsay squeaked in a tiny, captured voice that revealed so much about her child-like heart.

“You know, Lindsay, stealing isn’t what friends to do one another,” said my daughter, the self-possessed Aries and self-appointed Teacher of Friends.

For a moment there was silence.

And then …

“I know,” Lindsay said in an even smaller voice, “I’m sorry.”

Completely satisfied with Lindsay’s apology, Elizabeth gave the issue no further thought. The birthday trip to New York City is perfectly intact, and Elizabeth is going to Lindsay’s house tomorrow afternoon for another play date.

I am in awe. Elizabeth handled a conflict with one of her best friends with complete confidence and calmness. When I have to deal with an issue like this with someone from the past, I frequently run smack headlong into a wall of my own emotional anguish. It chokes me, and robs me of my objectivity. I have to work very hard to push beyond it.

“Elizabeth,” I asked, “how do you know Lindsay is telling the truth?”

She looks at me like I’ve suffered an Alzheimer’s moment, which, by the way she sees plenty of at her great-grandmother’s rest home.

“I know when Lindsay is lying, Nana,” she says with obvious inflection, “she was telling the truth.”

Our Aries daughter trusts her instincts.

How lucky this child is to have the unconditional love and support of her parents.

And how lucky are we to have a well adjusted, self-possessed Aries child to show us how it's done.

Three Girls

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, THELMA!

An All American Beauty!
Young Thelma
Thelma Marine Pascal
March 19, 2008
87 years old
My Grandmother
"Spitting the Grim Reaper Right in the Face!"

Thelma


Thelma

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Food for Thought

If you're interested on a different spin on the Eliot Spitzer thing, check this out ... unbelievable. For a different view, visit http://www.gregpalast.com/. This article is compelling in the extreme.

D~

****************************************

The $200 billion bail-out for predator banks and Spitzer charges are intimately linked
By Greg PalastReporting for Air America Radio’s Clout
March 14th, 2008

While New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was paying an ‘escort’ $4,300 in a hotel room in Washington, just down the road, George Bush’s new Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was secretly handing over $200 billion in a tryst with mortgage bank industry speculators.Both acts were wanton, wicked and lewd. But there’s a BIG difference. The Governor was using his own checkbook. Bush’s man Bernanke was using ours.

This week, Bernanke’s Fed, for the first time in its history, loaned a selected coterie of banks one-fifth of a trillion dollars to guarantee these banks’ mortgage-backed junk bonds. The deluge of public loot was an eye-popping windfall to the very banking predators who have brought two million families to the brink of foreclosure.

Up until Wednesday, there was one single, lonely politician who stood in the way of this creepy little assignation at the bankers’ bordello: Eliot Spitzer.

Who are they kidding? Spitzer’s lynching and the bankers’ enriching are intimately tied.
How? Follow the money.

The press has swallowed Wall Street’s line that millions of US families are about to lose their homes because they bought homes they couldn’t afford or took loans too big for their wallets. Ba-LON-ey. That’s blaming the victim.

Here’s what happened. Since the Bush regime came to power, a new species of loan became the norm, the ‘sub-prime’ mortgage and its variants including loans with teeny “introductory” interest rates. From out of nowhere, a company called ‘Countrywide’ became America’s top mortgage lender, accounting for one in five home loans, a large chunk of these ‘sub-prime.’
Here’s how it worked: The Grinning Family, with US average household income, gets a $200,000 mortgage at 4% for two years. Their $955 monthly payment is 25% of their income. No problem. Their banker promises them a new mortgage, again at the cheap rate, in two years. But in two years, the promise ain’t worth a can of spam and the Grinnings are told to scram - because their house is now worth less than the mortgage. Now, the mortgage hits 9% or $1,609 plus fees to recover the “discount” they had for two years. Suddenly, payments equal 42% to 50% of pre-tax income. The Grinnings move into their Toyota.

Now, what kind of American is ‘sub-prime.’ Guess. No peeking. Here’s a hint: 73% of HIGH INCOME Black and Hispanic borrowers were given sub-prime loans versus 17% of similar-income Whites. Dark-skinned borrowers aren’t stupid – they had no choice. They were ‘steered’ as it’s called in the mortgage sharking business.

‘Steering,’ sub-prime loans with usurious kickers, fake inducements to over-borrow, called ‘fraudulent conveyance’ or ‘predatory lending’ under US law, were almost completely forbidden in the olden days (Clinton Administration and earlier) by federal regulators and state laws as nothing more than fancy loan-sharking.

But when the Bush regime took over, Countrywide and its banking brethren were told to party hearty – it was OK now to steer’m, fake’m, charge’m and take’m.

But there was this annoying party-pooper. The Attorney General of New York, Eliot Spitzer, who sued these guys to a fare-thee-well. Or tried to.

Instead of regulating the banks that had run amok, Bush’s regulators went on the warpath against Spitzer and states attempting to stop predatory practices. Making an unprecedented use of the legal power of “federal pre-emption,” Bush-bots ordered the states to NOT enforce their consumer protection laws.

Indeed, the feds actually filed a lawsuit to block Spitzer’s investigation of ugly racial mortgage steering. Bush’s banking buddies were especially steamed that Spitzer hammered bank practices across the nation using New York State laws.

Spitzer not only took on Countrywide, he took on their predatory enablers in the investment banking community. Behind Countrywide was the Mother Shark, its funder and now owner, Bank of America. Others joined the sharkfest: Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup’s Citibank made mortgage usury their major profit centers. They did this through a bit of financial legerdemain called “securitization.”

What that means is that they took a bunch of junk mortgages, like the Grinning’s, loans about to go down the toilet and re-packaged them into “tranches” of bonds which were stamped “AAA” - top grade - by bond rating agencies. These gold-painted turds were sold as sparkling safe investments to US school district pension funds and town governments in Finland (really).
When the housing bubble burst and the paint flaked off, investors were left with the poop and the bankers were left with bonuses. Countrywide’s top man, Angelo Mozilo, will ‘earn’ a $77 million buy-out bonus this year on top of the $656 million - over half a billion dollars – he pulled in from 1998 through 2007.

But there were rumblings that the party would soon be over. Angry regulators, burned investors and the weight of millions of homes about to be boarded up were causing the sharks to sink. Countrywide’s stock was down 50%, and Citigroup was off 38%, not pleasing to the Gulf sheiks who now control its biggest share blocks.

Then, on Wednesday of this week, the unthinkable happened. Carlyle Capital went bankrupt. Who? That’s Carlyle as in Carlyle Group. James Baker, Senior Counsel. Notable partners, former and past: George Bush, the Bin Laden family and more dictators, potentates, pirates and presidents than you can count.

The Fed had to act. Bernanke opened the vault and dumped $200 billion on the poor little suffering bankers. They got the public treasure – and got to keep the Grinning’s house. There was no ‘quid’ of a foreclosure moratorium for the ‘pro quo’ of public bailout. Not one family was saved – but not one banker was left behind.

Every mortgage sharking operation shot up in value. Mozilo’s Countrywide stock rose 17% in one day. The Citi sheiks saw their company’s stock rise $10 billion in an afternoon.
And that very same day the bail-out was decided – what a coinkydink! – the man called, ‘The Sheriff of Wall Street’ was cuffed. Spitzer was silenced.

Do I believe the banks called Justice and said, “Take him down today!” Naw, that’s not how the system works. But the big players knew that unless Spitzer was taken out, he would create enough ruckus to spoil the party. Headlines in the financial press – one was “Wall Street Declares War on Spitzer” - made clear to Bush’s enforcers at Justice who their number one target should be. And it wasn’t Bin Laden.

It was the night of February 13 when Spitzer made the bone-headed choice to order take-out in his Washington Hotel room. He had just finished signing these words for the Washington Post about predatory loans:

“Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye.”

Bush, Spitzer said right in the headline, was the “Predator Lenders’ Partner in Crime.” The President, said Spitzer, was a fugitive from justice. And Spitzer was in Washington to launch a campaign to take on the Bush regime and the biggest financial powers on the planet.
Spitzer wrote, “When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners the Bush administration will not be judged favorably.”

But now, the Administration can rest assured that this love story – of Bush and his bankers - will not be told by history at all – now that the Sheriff of Wall Street has fallen on his own gun.
A note on “Prosecutorial Indiscretion.”

Back in the day when I was an investigator of racketeers for government, the federal prosecutor I was assisting was deciding whether to launch a case based on his negotiations for airtime with 60 Minutes. I’m not allowed to tell you the prosecutor’s name, but I want to mention he was recently seen shouting, “Florida is Rudi country! Florida is Rudi country!”

Not all crimes lead to federal bust or even public exposure. It’s up to something called “prosecutorial discretion.”

Funny thing, this ‘discretion.’ For example, Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, paid Washington DC prostitutes to put him in diapers (ewww!), yet the Senator was not exposed by the US prosecutors busting the pimp-ring that pampered him.Naming and shaming and ruining Spitzer – rarely done in these cases - was made at the ‘discretion’ of Bush’s Justice Department.
Or maybe we should say, ‘indiscretion.’

************
Greg Palast, former investigator of financial fraud, is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Salt Faery in Corel Draw


Trippy ... sort of what you might see if you could see a faery's aura. It's hair looks like a sparkler, doesn't it?

Fooling Around With Corel Draw ...

Rapture trace
"Rapture" Outlined

Rapture neg
"Rapture" Negative

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Faber Flip



Dear Bloggers …

This one is for Mark. It’s Saturday, and when we woke up it was raining. The temperature is gradually edging up toward the 50’s, but I don’t expect a Spring Easter this year. I’m procrastinating, which is one of the things I do best. I have a list of repairs I want to do in the house this weekend, and re-grouting the tile in the foyer is one of those things. I started it last week. Why did I ever think I could mud the foyer? Man. It is WAY harder than it looks. Hard to get the lines precise, hard to clean up the haze. Not to mention the fact that being on your hands and knees, for, like, way too long, is a requirement. The entire project is hard. Yesterday, I played hooky and Leslie and I replaced all the bulbs and light diffusers in the ceiling fixtures downstairs. It’s really much better, now. But here I am still staring that foyer in the face … ugh!

Update on Sunday, March 16, 2008 -- no success! I tried working with the grout again, and it's just not sticking. We give up! Gonna call a professional!


Foyer


As you know, Leslie has been very busy upgrading and changing parts of the house to make it more sellable. These are her projects, and she's been very diligent with cost control and quality. She recently had the security system in this house re-hooked up to the monitoring company. We believe this is a big plus to a buyer, but every time we generate a little bit of smoke cooking in the kitchen, we have to worry about that alarm going off. It did this morning when I was making quesadillas. What a mess! It shrieks so loud, I feel like my heading is popping off! Then, I input the code as quickly as possible, and race around looking for a phone so I can tell the monitoring company it was a false alarm. The last time it happened, we had four fire fighters here, the boss of which was required by protocol to come into the house and verify it wasn’t on fire. I practically had to hog-tie Daizy, who is, as you know, in charge of security here.


Watch Dog Daizy


I look some pictures of other work we’re doing … here you go, Ambie, as promised.



New Sliding Doors



New Slider


Here are the sliding glass doors to the three season room, which is still a mess with Christmas things and all the other bits and pieces no one wanted to lug downstairs. We’ve got some guys coming to help move things around in a few weeks. I’ll get it dealt with then.


New Storm Door


Here is the beautiful new storm door Leslie had installed. It totally changes the look of the front door. You can exchange the glass for screen.


New Garage Doors


Here are the new garage doors. There is nothing quite like new garage doors to give an old house a face lift. It didn’t cost much, and the installer had it done in an afternoon.


Living Room


This is the front part of the living room. We painted two walls a beautiful green, and it really makes the room feel less sprawling and more cozy. I painted this myself. We’re going to paint one wall in the master bedroom a different color, too.

Last on the list of big things is putting new flooring in the downstairs. We’re using a product called Kenecto, which is a lot like Pergo, only it’s a vinyl product and will wear better. It installs right over the existing tile so there are no worries about pulling anything up. We're also putting new railing on the front porch. If we have enough time, we might change out some of the cabinets in the downstairs kitchenette, too. We’ll see how it goes.


Here, just for your entertainment, Mark, is something silly ...




*************************************
Gas Station
Take care, Mark! We love you!








Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rants

R * A * N * T * S

b a b y



On Obama ...

The man isn't close to being in office, but he remains a catalyst for race arguments of one type or another, in a way that surpasses whether or not he is qualified.

If everyone is getting this worked up NOW, I wonder what will happen down the road.

I'm scared, you guys.

On McCain ...

I don't think McCain even looks HUMAN. You know that movie "The Men in Black" and how all the aliens are parading around society unnoticed, but if you look real close you'll see things that simply aren't right? Well, that's the feeling I get when I look at McCain, and trust me, folks, I'm not really that much into aliens. The way he holds his head, his jawline, the spandex wife ... it's like he's an alien crammed into a Republican suit. He look odd to me. Wicked odd.

On Our Daughter ...

My greatest desire for my 11 year old is that she won't grow up to be a sheep. I would like to see her be an individual. What's happening with the schools in the physical sense is terrible, but what is happening in terms of discipline, conduct, and expectation in my opinion is much worse. I've written about this before ... where I live, public school treats children like inmates. There are no efforts to see chidlren reach their true potential. In fact, all creative activities have been suspended, cut back, like the unnecessary branches of a tree. A child going through this sytem will grow up to be an automaton, an unthinking robot, unwilling to go outside the lines, and more than likely, unable to go outside the lines when they're grown. Their energy is repressed, their individuality squashed completely, so when they do go outside the lines it will be doing something illegal that will land back in the penitentiary.

Powerpuff Girl Birthday 1999


What Leslie and I try to instill in our daughter is the ability to deal effectively with peer pressure and society's pressure while maintaining her sense of self. We would like her to be able to see it, and call it by name, without wanting to confirm to it.

Consequently, we have a LOT of talks about why things are the way they are, why people act the way they do. I mean, she NEEDS to talk about these things in order to make sense of them.

On Home Schooling ...

Every day I wonder if home schooling is the way to go. I think it takes a very special person to be able to home school, and honestly, I don't know if I have it in me either. I don't know if my daughter's other Mom has it in her, and she's got a background in specal ed. It demands an incredible personal commitment. I'm in the research phase right now.

On Private School ...

I'll tell you ... my daughter is attending a private school. She has been for the last two years. But over the last two years, we've discovered issues with the private school situation, too, that no longer make it the big cure all we thought it would be.

On one hand, the level of education she's receiving is great. There's a lot of stress on the kids, but with a parent doing the right support, it's not back breaking. I noticed that kids going from public to private are in for a rough haul, though. There is a big difference in what they have to transition from. On the other hand, though, the whole social scene absolutely SUCKS (that's as in, STINKS with a capital SUCK, as the domestic goddess once said). My daughter is learning and she is surrounded by a bunch of bitchy, snarly, ugly, little pony tailed monsters, who make play out of ridiculing people. Many of these children come from money. Lots of dough, and little character, I'm afraid. What's ironic here is that they are NOT focused on the two mom thing. Frankly, they couldn't care less. What they focus on is that my daughter refuses to participate in mean games and overt gossip. Anything that is hurtful, she refuses to support. And she tells me that they talk about her behind her back because she won't. As you can imagine, we have long discussions about this.

I mean, she's doing okay. She has a bosom friend there, and they are thick as thieves, so she has her own circle. She's an Aries and is therefore self-posessed ...

But, good grief ...

A Walk on the Beach



On Home Ownership ...

Welcome to the "Homeowner's Club of America" aka "Our Lady of Perpetual Debt" ... congratulations!

On Emergency Preparedness...

When I was growing up, my grandmother had loads of food stocked in her house in case, you know, the russians came or something. Her two car garage was lined with shelving, and the shelving was packed. She was a child of the depression and therefore canned everything and anything she could cram into a bell jar.

When we lived in San Francisco, we had all the components of emergency preparedness, including packets of food that required only water to make and enough drinking water for a week. But that was about earthquake preparedness.

Now? Hm, I haven't given it much thought.

On Intuition ...

My inner voice has always been there, being very strong when I was a little kid. Then, for the longest time it was silenced by other inner racket, like thoughts, needs, wants, and silliness. The crud that life put on me and the things I had lessons to learn about. But it was there, and it was heard when something stressful was happening or if there was danger. Then, I thought it was strong intuition.

When I began to focus on my spirituality, it got louder, but still it wasn't more than a squeak. It got louder when I listened to it, when I empowered it, and when the other mental clutter became secondary.

Shadow



On Economics ...

I've watched ... families whose primary breadwinner has to get another job, and it can take many months as finances go straight down the crapper. I wondered why they would let that happen until I found myself looking for work after relocating to CT from the West Coast. There aren't a plethura of middle management positions out there, trust me. As economics quickly wittled away at my self-defined career direction, I found myself doing temp work as a secretary until I found what I'm doing now, which is a middle management position. Thanks to my granny, Thelma, for making me go to business school, because I fall back on those skills every day. They really helped keep the boat afloat.

When my brothers and I were living with my grandparents (draining their resources obliviously) back in, like, the late 80's, my grandfather's privately owned music studio had to close when he got sick. In the end, he was flipping biscuits at McDonald's to pay the bills. This is a man whose family had money during the depression. This was something I never thought I'd see that arrogant man do (although you should've seen the look on my grandmother's face when all the McD's employees showed up at his funeral to pay their respects -- it was hard for the old girl, whose pride was bigger than her butt at the time).

We find out what we're made of when economic times get hard.

P.S. For the record, I'd like to point out that like death and taxes, which are ever present, there will always be a need for a halfway decent secretary no matter where you live. There may not be any other jobs on CareerBuilder or Monster or whatever web based system you use. But there are always secretarial jobs out there. Now that revelation was enlightening!

Our New House!


On Real Estate ...

I've come to the conclusion that most real estate professionals are bottom feeders. I found out in the real estate class that I took ... the first unofficial rule for striking a deal is "if they don't ask, don't tell". There's so much going on out there, people running headlong into a bad deal, and the agents and loan brokers just don't say anything ... I was surprised to discover how many laws and rules there are for doing that work, and how many agents are perfectly oblivious to them and/or simply disregarding them to make a buck.

Gross.


On Dying ...

I don't THINK I'm afraid of dying ... but then again I haven't exactly looked the spectre in the face either. What I know for sure is that I want to be here for my daughter and my partner when they need me, for as long as they need me, so basically dying right NOW would be out ... And I don't think being intrigued by death is strange or anything. I think it's a worthy topic to ponder unless you're, like, Catholic or something (no disrespect to Catholics ... but as they said in Shrek 3 ... Ew-eth!).

I've been doing loads of reading. Barbara Hand Clow is a favorite author right now. She's a medium, and what she's written confirms and reinforces what I'd started to believe and read about in the past. I think that maybe when we die our emotional state follows us, like, we really do make our existence. So, if we're at peace emotionally, we move on at peace to the next thing. If we're attached to the world, we stay stuck or return to do the same lessons again very quickly. Hand Clow wrote a book called "The Mind Chronicles" and she's very descriptive in this area.

Full Moon Rising


On the Housing Market Crises ...

Before I got the job I have now, I took the state of Connecticut's real estate class thinking I wanted my license. I was reassessing my career at the time, and maybe sellling houses would work. Suffice it to say, I came to my senses right around the time the market took a serious dump. I got a lot out of the class, tho, which was in a way a distilled version of economics.

The housing market is one of the most basic cogs of the U.S. economy, and for it to be crashing the way it is tends to be more frightening than most people may realize. Just like death and taxes, people will always need a home, and so this need is one of the most basic components in the larger economic machine, right? I don't think we can just blame the banks, though, for what is happening (and fundamentally I agree that if you borrow it, you owe it). I also think we should blame the real estate industry, the brokers, and everybody else, who helped get unqualified people into homes they can't afford.

Here's a story ... when we left California to move here and be close to my grandmother, we put our house in a suburb of San Francisco on the market. This was just before the market began to decline. We had offers on our home before it was even advertised. We didn't find this out until later but the people who bought it, got 100% percent financing for an absurd amount of money, which is the going rate for a home in the area I lived in. This place was by no means a mansion. I mean, their monthly mortgage has got to be more than seven grand.

I asked my agent who they were and what they do wondering how solid the deal was, and while she couldn't tell me anything without violating confidentiality laws and all that crap, she told me they were "entrepreneurial". Okay, I can get behind that.

After the fact, and thanks to our ever diligent neighbors from across that street, we discovered that the people who bought the house were a latino family. An older man and a woman moved in, and it was their son who struck the deal. The woman ran an unlicensed day care in the house, while the father and their son, the entrepreneurs, were WHAT? Bus boys, working in a restaurant called "Gunther's" down on the main drag in town and less than five minutes away.

So, basically, a lender gave a bus boy a fully financed loan for $XXX,000 and the real estate agent and all others involved helped make it happen.

I'd like to point out here that THEIR agent was also a latina, who knowingly put that family in a house she had to realize they couldn't afford. No offense to anyone here, by the way. They may have shared the same language, but I wonder if that family thought their agent would be looking out for them ... We went back to have dinner with our neighbors about a year later, and the house was weeks away from complete foreclosure ... and after all that work we put into before we left.

The point to all this is that while I believe we all have a responsibility to what we owe financially, I also know that people get screwed righteously every single day. You can't tell me that we don't at some point have to assume a responsibility for one another, too. I believe the only reason why the government is involved is because they know full well that if the housing market completely collapses, the American economy may well reach a brand new low ... one that could possibly make the Great Depression look like a waltz in the park.

My grandmother would shit a brick.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bette & Balls

Dolly Parton - He's Alive

FROM OUR WORKSHOP: Serenity

Faery Logo


ser6


Serenity is a Peace Faery, an elemental whose calling is healing. Whether healing the world or someone's body, someone's mind, or working to dissipate the never ending net of negativity that envelopes Mother Gaia, peace faeries are always busy in silent meditation or prayer. Their work is on the subtle plane. This particular feary is native to New Haven, but I'd wager other Peace Faeries can be found hanging off the hem of Ma's sari in India. Serenity went to be with Jen on Christmas of 2007, where she now does her work nestled in a warm cove of Jen’s personal office.

ser2ser8

ser5ser1

Glowing Serenity

The Aura of Serenity.

Fooling around with Corel Draw.

Sculpted by Donna.
See faery mythos
here.
Backyard Faeries by Donna & Liz Faber
(c) September 10, 2006
"Each Backyard Faery is sculpted individually and no two are alike.
They are hand painted and lovingly placed in a jar for safe keeping.
But don't worry, we do let them out eventually. "

Sheila

Sheila

The original of this piece is 16"x24". It was done in four hours with a very motivating case of PMS on March 10, 1991. Black ink and water color on Bristol water color paper. I call her Sheila.

See more of my work here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Couldn't Resist ...

Humorous Pictures
Enter the ICHC online Poker Cats Contest!

Grandmother Spider makes an appearance on one of our favorite web sites ... icanhascheezburger.com aka lol cats, is the one site we indulge in regularly.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

BARBARA NOIR

Barbara Noir (Black Barbara)



I've also called this piece "Black Barbara". It's one of my favorites. It's done in pen and ink with black pencil, 16"x24", March 1991, on bristol paper.

Barbara Noir Traced

Fooling around with Corel Draw.


See the rest of my work here.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

FROM OUR WORKSHOP: Elizabeth's Faeries

Faery Logo

We got into a faery frenzy in July of 2006, which wasn’t too long after we arrived in Connecticut. We were still getting to know our new house, and I was still unwinding after career/life overload in San Francisco. We had yet to experience the lessons on friends and family the following Christmas would bring us, and which would trigger a long series of therapeutic blog entries for me. I saw a picture in a magazine that inspired this whole thing, and the creative urge and its manifestation felt manic. It was so cool that I could go with it, that I had the room to express it, and that I didn’t have to derail for work. I’ve worked every day since high school, so this six month sabbatical was wonderful! I was also thrilled that my creative expression became realized three dimensionally through sculpture. This was a first and it was fascinating. What was equally as fascinating, although not quite surprising, was the way our daughter picked up the ball and ran with it. Elizabeth has sculpted in the past, and so took to this like a duck in water.


CLASSIFIED


Elizabeth and I were engaged directly in faery creation for three straight days, together giving life and story to the first few faeries in our collection, some of which have since found homes with friends. The first will always be my favorites. I’m going to write more on this in my spiritual blog later, because this effort does have spiritual significance to me, but for right now, I’ll let them stand (or flutter) on their own merit.



CLASSIFIED


Here are some of Elizabeth’s Faeries in what she says should be called the “Classified Faery Files” because we share even a tiny a glimpse of the creative process and thereby spoil the myth of their existence.

Well … you know as well as I do that myth and reality are interdependent.

The Kupla



kupla cropped


This little fellow grew drowsy after the merry chase that landed him captured in this jar. This faery is a Kupla (koop-la), and he lives off the items he steals from the homes of humans. He is wearing pajamas, cut from big people pajamas, and had his teddy with him when he was taken. You'll note the teddy has wings also. This faery was captured by Liz, who knows (and has yet to divulge) his secret Kupla name. She figures he's already in the jar, so, why embarass the little guy.

Note: Elizabeth gave the Kupla to her girlfriend Lindsay for Christmas in 2007. He now resides happily in Ansonia, CT, where he strives to tease the family cat ... you know, when he feels like getting up.



kupla crop




My pen and ink rendering of Elizabeth's Kupla done in February 2007 and colorized with Corel.

Frostine, Queen of the Frost Faeries

f4f3
f2f5
Frostine is Queen of the Frost Faeries and an elemental. She is unhappy because she was caught and has many things to do! Don't worry, Frostine, we'll let you go soon, so you can join Jack Frost this winter and return to freezing dew drops.

Note: This Christmas 2007, Elizabeth gave Frostine to her bosom friend, Margaret. She now resides in Northford where she has been busy at work with winter decorating.

There are many more, but these were Elizabeth's first and so will always hold a special place in our family's faery history. We continue to make faeries in our workshop, the most recent of which is a water feary Elizabeth made. It has a mermaid tail. It's the coolest!

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