byronius, 2012/02/28 


So my Fedex driver tells me he’s from a little city in the Ukraine, called something frickin’ unpronounceable. So I Google Earth it, then I google it. Wow. Named for Felix Dzerzhynsky, the founder of the Cheka, the Bolshevik Secret Police. Heavy industry, mostly ferro-metallurgy and chemical processing, as the picture shows. Leonid Brezhnev was born there.

But the most interesting part was that it was originally two villages founded by the Zaporozhian Cossacks. Now, these guys grew out of the Ukrainian people’s need to defend themselves against slave raids by the Crimean Tatars, who sold as many as three million Ukrainian men, women and children into slavery to the Ottoman Empire. The Ukrainians created the Cossacks as a professional military force, and built a fortress on the island of Khortytsia, in the Dnieper river, and forming what they called a Sich, or ruling council. The Tatars razed this fortress, and the next, and the next after that. They considered the Ukrainians to be fair game, and called the practice ‘harvesting the steppes.’ This was business, and they would tolerate no resistance.

But the Cossacks became fierce horsemen, merciless and tough, and they eventually grew strong enough that they began to actually prey on the Tatars. The Ottoman Empire eventually got involved in the conflict, and there is a famous painting of the Cossacks drafting their reply to the Ottoman Emperor’s demand that they submit to his will:


Apparently the reply was quite rude. They were famous for their military prowess by this time, often serving as mercenaries for other European powers, including the Hessians.

Well, the Cossacks end up in a long-running feud with the Tatars and the Ottomans. Whole lotta human pain on both sides. Although the Cossacks remain fiercely independent, they eventually align themselves with Russia, who annexes them, incorporates the officer class into the nobility, and reduces the remainder to peasant status. Still, they remained free, and were able to provide shelter for refugees fleeing serfdom in Russia and Poland.

Which pisses off Catherine the Great. So, in 1775, she orders the Zaporozhian fortress and leadership liquidated:

With this we would like to let our Empire and our faithful subjects be known that the Zaporozhian Sich is now destroyed and the name of Zaporozhian Cossacks is to be no more as well, mentioning of whom will be considered no less as an affront to our Imperial Majesty for their deeds and insolence for disobeying the will of our Imperial Majesty.

The Russian military succeeds in carrying out this task, which breaks up the Cossack nucleus, but fails to defeat the Cossacks themselves, which still dominate the area to this day.

Now, they’ve come to California. I do so love the melting pot.

So today, I got a movie idea from Martin Gilbert’s great World War One book. It’s about Thomas Masaryk, the Czech patriot. In 1916, he and a force of ten thousand Czechs left the Austrian empire and travelled to Russia to fight on the side of the Russians against the Central Powers, Germany and Austria. After the Russian Revolution began, the Czechs watched in horror as their Russian commander, General Dukhonin, was beaten, stomped, and shot to death by the Bolsheviks. They were now leaderless, a long way from home, and the Bolsheviks were acting suspicious and hostile toward them.

Masaryk thought fast, and the highly-competent Czech force seized a train from the nearby rail station, boarded it, and fought their way five thousand miles across Russia to Vladivostok, which had the only port that could carry them home. The Bolsheviks and the Red Army tried to stop them at every turn, blocking the tracks, ambushing them — but the Czechs kept going. Took them seven months of serious fighting to make it home.

Masaryk would eventually convince Woodrow Wilson to help him found the Czech Republic, of which he served as President for many years. He died in 1937, and so didn’t live to see the Nazis conquer his nation — although he had frequently voiced his concerns over the growth of the Nazi movement.

That’s a god-damned good story, and I want to see that movie. I’m writin’ it, right after ‘Albik Trizz’.

It’s Tuesday.

Odd one out

Max, 2012/02/26 

Hi folks. This is the first time I’ve been away so long on I don’t recognize a single post on the front page. It’s awesome we have such a vibrant and prolific community and feel a little weird not taking part. I’m working like crazy to try to keep to a schedule on the music scoring project I’m working on. A rather significant shift in consciousness has occurred which is worthy of a post as soon as I can break away for long enough. Coming soon.

You are now enroute… to the planet Venus.

SkyHarbor, 2012/02/25 

[co-published at Jupiter Research 25 February 2012]

Another rough-cut gem from terminalpictures… with footage from the 1959 Soviet film “Nebo Zovyot”. Music is a ‘cover’ of Sun Ra’s “Rocket Number Nine Take Off For The Planet Venus”… cool!


Cat eyes, 2012/02/24 


Cat eyes,  
By: Jean Claude Gérard

By: Jean Claude Gérard

Anybody else notice


that the entire Republican presidential field is composed of vicious, mean, ugly, lying, mirthfully cruel, dark-hearted, cunning, spider-minded, internally-constantly-screaming, dead-eyed profiteering torture-lovers?

It’s like Darwin’s gauntlet for bad people. The peak of pustulous throwback evil.

They don’t hide it anymore; they flaunt it. And Republicans aren’t satisfied at all with the levels of darkness; they want their leaders to be much, much more Sauron-like. They long for a mass-murderer with the balls to Just Do It, and none of these milque-toast candidates will shed all semblance of reason and logic and get down in the Moloch mud and shout for the blood of millions to be poured over their writhing bodies.

It’s not even funny anymore. They want to End It All. They are screaming for Night To Fall. They’re the tribe of cannibalistic troglodytes from Quest For Fire, and whoever ends up winning the nomination, they’re going to pull about 43%.

It’s fucking scary.

Like uh, Brainville…


1956. 1st song on Sun Ra’s (nee Sonny Blount) 1st LP, “Sun Song”. From there on it was upwards and OUTwards!
Ahead of his time much? Saw him and his Arkestra live twice. What a treat!

Songs of Survival…


Am I a ‘perv’ because I like this? Maybe. It’s really about the SONG* though, but I think the video is quite innocent and cute. My friend (and ace keyboardist) Evan Smith posted it earlier and I sat up with a start of recognition!

If you’ve never seen the low-budget quasi-indie film “Everything Is Illuminated” starring Elijah Wood (‘The Lord of the Rings’), you SHOULD. It is remarkable. Never count out the Russian (well, Ukrainian) Jews!

The film touched me quite deeply and was both depressing and uplifting and funny and sad all at the same time… now that’s a neat trick! But finally, when the end titles ran, this was the song that played over the credits. For want of a better label, I’ll call it ‘Klezmer/Ska’, but its ‘Jewishness’ is unmistakable, and it turned out to be an unexpected but perfect denouement to the movie. But now, I can’t get the damned thing out of my HEAD! 😉

Shalom y’all!

* “Start Wearing Purple” was performed and recorded by the band Gogol Bordello. Lead singer Eugene Hütz played ‘Alex’ in “Everything is Illuminated”.

Three Black Crows.

byronius, 2012/02/23 

I first met Craig Cornett in Solano Park in Phoenix in 1981. He was playing John Prine tunes, and we ended up becoming quite good friends, moving to Boulder together to grow mushrooms and make music, going through the Madman Tunnel to emerge some years later, after which we lost touch for awhile. He sent me this video — best thing he’s ever done, really good lyrics, swings. I always loved his voice.

Get a chance, vote him up. Wailin’ Jimmy Pepper lives still.

A Preclassic Maya ‘Sistine Chapel’…

[click to enlarge]
A ‘psychedelic’ section of the north wall mural at San Bartolo, Guatemala.

[co-published at Jupiter Research 23 February 2012]

In the lowland jungles of Guatemala, an ongoing excavation at ‘El Mirador’ (roughly ‘The Watcher’) is revealing that there was nothing ‘primitive’ about the so-called ‘Preclassic’ (1000 BC – 250 AD) era of Maya history. The Mirador Basin has been called the ‘Cradle of Maya Civilisation’. San Bartolo was a satellite complex about 60 miles to the ESE of the large El Mirador site. In addition to the spectacular murals (carbon dated to ca. 100 BCE), very early examples of Maya ‘glyphs’ have been found, dating even earlier to ca. 300 BCE.

The images in this section of the mind-blowing mural could have come right out of 1960’s San Francisco! Note the ocelot, lizard and more coming out of the highly stylised ‘smoke’.

Whatever those cats and kitties were smokin’ 2100 years (!) ago, clearly it wasn’t tobacco!

read more…

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