Pounding Beef



I walked into the kitchen today and found my wife engaging in the primitive practice of pounding on a slab of round steak with the edge of a saucer. Every so often she would pause and sprinkle flour over the meat, then savagely attack it with the saucer again. I have witnessed this strange behavior for so many years, first by my mother and then by my wife, and I have generally taken it for granted. But suddenly it struck me as so Neanderthal that I should maybe ask some questions. But questioning someone who is pounding meat with a saucer can be dangerous. When my mother used to do it she had that same fierce look on her face that she had when killing a snake with a hoe. One learns to address beef pounders very humbly and gently because they are liable to be in a bad mood from having to do such base work. In fact, one of my millions of theories about the human race is that people who decide to pound beef with a saucer are already in a bad mood and are taking it out on the poor round steak.

“Honey, shouldn’t I be doing that?”

Cold stare. “No, you won’t do it right. Go out and bring in some potatoes if you want to help.”

I don’t want to do that either. “Why don’t you use the regular metal meat tenderizer?”

Even colder stare. “That thing doesn’t do the job. And the flour plugs up the teeth. Go get some potatoes out of the pit.”

Thus it shall always be.

I like to talk about pounded round steak in this holiday season of eating high on the hog—or cow— mostly because I love the stuff, and when Carol turns it into Swiss steak with onions and tomato sauce and all sorts of mysteries out of the herb cabinet, this lowly kind of cheap meat tastes as good to me as the best prime Porterhouse steak in Omaha.

The Demanding Gifts of 2012


[Ukiah Blog returns early January… DS]


As this wild year comes to an end, we return to the season of gifts. Here’s the gift you’re not going to get soon: any conventional version of Paradise. You know, the place where nothing much happens and nothing is demanded of you. The gifts you’ve already been given in 2012 include a struggle over the fate of the Earth. This is probably not exactly what you asked for, and I wish it were otherwise — but to do good work, to be necessary, to have something to give: these are the true gifts. And at least there’s still a struggle ahead of us, not just doom and despair.

Think of 2013 as the Year Zero in the battle over climate change, one in which we are going to have to win big, or lose bigger.  This is a terrible thing to say, but not as terrible as the reality that you can see in footage of glaciers vanishing, images of the entire surface of the Greenland Ice Shield melting this summer, maps of Europe’s future in which just being in southern Europe when the heat hits will be catastrophic, let alone in more equatorial realms.

For millions of years, this world has been a great gift to nearly everything living on it, a planet whose atmosphere, temperature, air, water, seasons, and weather were precisely calibrated to allow us — the big us, including forests and oceans, species large and small — to flourish. (Or rather, it was we who were calibrated to its generous, even bounteous, terms.) And that gift is now being destroyed for the benefit of a few members of a single species.

The Earth we evolved to inhabit is turning into something more turbulent and unreliable at a pace too fast for most living things to adapt to. This means we are losing crucial aspects of our most irreplaceable, sublime gift, and some of us are suffering the loss now — from sea snails whose shells are dissolving in acidified oceans to Hurricane Sandy survivors

William Edelen: Joseph Campbell, Religion and Myths…


The Contrary Minister

Bill Moyers had two interviews with Joseph Campbell for his national television program, Bill Moyers Journal. In his introduction Moyers said “Joseph Campbell is one of the world’s foremost scholars of mythology.” Anyone having an interest in becoming religiously educated and enlightened will be helped by insights from these interviews.

Campbell brings out, of course, that mythological themes or motifs such as flood, virgin birth, resurrected hero, “heaven” concepts, a sacred meal (or ritualistic cannibalism) have a world-wide distribution and are everywhere. They are organized and ritualized according to local needs. In the Moyers’ interviews, Campbell said, “When people try to interpret a spiritual symbol (in mythology) as though it referred to a concrete fact, you have lost the message.”

Moyers: “Give me an example.”

Campbell: “Well, the image of the virgin birth is perfect for an example. This is a motif that occurs in all the mythologies of the world. There are virgin births all over the place in all religions. ‘Virgin birth’ is symbolic of the birth of the spiritual life, and so with resurrection themes or motifs. Misunderstanding consists in reading spiritual mythological symbols as though they were references to historical, factual events.”

Other observations by Campbell in the interviews include the following: “The ‘hero’ in mythology is always the founder of something, a new religion, a new age, a new way of life. The ‘hero’ founders of all religions usually go on their vision quest. The Buddha went into solitude and sat beneath the tree of Immortal Knowledge; Jesus goes off into the desert for 40 days; Zoroaster goes off into the desert, and so it goes.

Murdoch’s brazen bid to hijack the presidency…


The Guardian

Did the Washington Post and others underplay the story through fear of the News Corp chairman, or simply tin-eared judgment?

So now we have it: what appears to be hard, irrefutable evidence of Rupert Murdoch‘s ultimate and most audacious attempt – thwarted, thankfully, by circumstance – to hijack America’s democratic institutions on a scale equal to his success in kidnapping and corrupting the essential democratic institutions of Great Britain through money, influence and wholesale abuse of the privileges of a free press.

In the American instance, Murdoch’s goal seems to have been nothing less than using his media empire – notably Fox News – to stealthily recruit, bankroll and support the presidential candidacy of General David Petraeus in the 2012 election.

Thus in the spring of 2011 – less than 10 weeks before Murdoch’s centrality to the hacking and politician-buying scandal enveloping his British newspapers was definitively revealed – Fox News’ inventor and president, Roger Ailes, dispatched an emissary to Afghanistan to urge Petraeus to turn down President Obama’s expected offer to become CIA director and, instead, run for the Republican nomination for president, with promises of being bankrolled by Murdoch. Ailes himself would resign as president of Fox News and run the campaign, according to the conversation between Petraeus and the emissary, K T McFarland, a Fox News on-air defense “analyst” and former spear carrier for national security principals in three Republican administrations.

All this was revealed in a tape recording of Petraeus’s meeting with McFarland obtained by Bob Woodward, whose account of their discussion

Will Parrish: Burnt Out On Fire Suppression


Walking through the chalky gray ashes and charred remains of the lifeless shrub forest that spans the canyons and slopes of North Cow Mountain, the peak of which is roughly eight miles northeast of Ukiah, it is hard to imagine anything ever growing here again. This is the site of the “Scotts Fire,” which raged across 9,000 acres of this Bureau of Land Management-owned terrain this past September. Fueled by several 100-degree days and relatively strong winds, the fire started in a canyon where Goatrock Campground is located on September 7th, quickly running up the ridges through dry brush and vegetation, and torching chamise, manzanita, and blue oaks like so many matchsticks.

It is December now, and the bases of charred shrubs poke out of the ground, scratching the limbs of any passerby who fails to exercise caution in maneuvering through them. The ashy soil is littered in some parts with flakes split off of boulders – proof of the intensity of the recent heat.

In spite of the bleak and silent setting of grays and blacks, this scene actually represents the beginning of one of Mama Earth’s most fascinating cycles of death and renewal. It is only a temporary stage in a complex series of miraculous events in which the original vegetation will gradually renew itself. With the arrival of the late fall rains, green leaves and shoots have started to emerge. Upon close examination, they are coming from deep subterranean woody stumps that the fires were unable to touch: features that these trees and shrubs have developed across millions of years to adapt to regular fires.

The landscapes of California, as with similar Mediterranean-type climates

Todd Walton: The Gift of the Old Guy


Under The Table


Ray, a slender man of eighty-two, his white hair sparse, gazes out the bus window at the passing fields. He is lost in thought, truly lost, unaware of who he is or where he’s going. Ray’s wife Vera, on the other hand, knows exactly who she is and where she’s going. A buxom gal of seventy-nine, her fantastically curly hair tinted pinkish blond, Vera is Flo’s mother and Otto’s grandmother, and she and Ray are on a Greyhound bus going to Ukiah to be with Flo and Otto for Christmas, which is only two days away now. She sits so her shoulder touches Ray’s as she knits an orange and black afghan, her mind crammed with gift lists, recipes, and words of wisdom for her grandson.

“We should have driven,” says Ray, frowning at Vera. “How are we gonna get around without a car?”

“We don’t have a car anymore, dear,” says Vera, smiling at her husband. “Remember? We sold it three months ago. Since I don’t drive and they took your license away, there wasn’t much point in keeping it.”

“Must you remind me?” he says with mock indignation. And then, straining to remember, “Why did they do that?”

“You had another accident. And thank God no one was hurt.”

Ray frowns. “The light was green. The light was not red. I don’t care what anybody says. The light was not green.”

Vera nods. “Yes, dear.”

Preparing for Collapse: Non-Attachment, NOT Detachment…

How To Save The World

There is something seemingly unfathomable to the human mind about exponential curves. As I wrote last fall:

There is an old story about the invention of the chessboard, in which the inventor as his reward asks for one grain of wheat on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, and doubling until all 64 squares are full. The seemingly modest request adds up to many times more than all the wheat the world has ever produced. The purpose of the story is to teach about our inability to grasp the impact and unsustainability of accelerating increases in anything, particularly in the final stages. Even when more than half of the squares have been filled the inventor’s request still seems manageable. It is only when it is too late that its impossibility is realized.

 Even when almost all the squares have been filled, the request still seems manageable. We are now living in a world where almost all the squares have been filled. We have used up the easy-to-get half of the Earth’s resources, which accumulated over billions of years. We have used most of that in the last two centuries, and most of that in the last two decades. In the process we have destabilized the planet’s climate systems. We are nearing what is now being called “peak everything”.

And there is certainly nothing “normal” to human eyes in what mathematicians call a “normal curve”, at least when time is the independent variable. We always seem to perceive the future as much like the present, only more so, and our favourite works of utopian and dystopian fiction turn out to be mostly somewhat hyperbolized reflections on the best or worst of the world as it was when the authors wrote them.

Noam Chomsky on Obama, Campus Activism, Mexico and the Middle East…



Noam Chomsky’s latest books are Occupy (Zuccotti Park Press) and Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire and Resistance (City Lights Publishers).

RICARDO LEZAMA: Have you heard about the Stand With Us group/campaign?

NOAM CHOMSKY: No. Tell me about it.

LEZAMA: They are a group that spread favorable propaganda regarding the IDF on different campuses.

CHOMSKY: Never heard of them.

LEZAMA: Just trying to see how prominent their campaign was – must be a West Coast/Midwest thing. Moving on, What kind of repression do Palestinian Americans face in the U.S.?

CHOMSKY: In America, for one thing, all Muslims are subjected to a kind of Islamaphobia. That is endemic to the United States, and ranges from being detained in the airport, being followed by the FBI, problems at colleges, and elsewhere. Palestinians, of course, are a part of that, and there has been more in the past than today for Palestinian scholars in universities. For example, there have been efforts to defame them as anti-Israeli terrorists. However, it is the kind of repression that is familiar to ethnic groups out of favor with the U.S. government. I have plenty of Palestinian friends who make out fine.

LEZAMA: It is not off the charts?

The Ultimate Logic of a Society Built on Mass Murder…

Base Guide Cover Photo

Black Agenda Radio

Mass murder is at the core of the American national religion.”

As a native-born American, I grew up watching cowboy and Indian shoot-em-ups in which the highlight of the movie was when the white guys in the circled wagon train shot the Indians off their horses until all the red men were dead, and very silent. Indians didn’t do a lot of screaming in pain when they were shot; they just expired. Same thing with buck-toothed Japanese, line after line of them, charging into U.S. machine guns, falling instantly silent and dead. It was somehow quite clean, almost antiseptic, these cinematic rituals of death, all staged for the broadest popular consumption to demonstrate the inevitability — and cosmic justice — of ultimate white victory over the darker races.

This was mother’s milk to the white American nation — which is why Richard Pryor and kids like me rooted for the Indians. Mass murder is at the core of the American national religion, which is a celebration of a genocidal march across a continent filled with other, doomed human beings. America’s contribution to European culture was to invite “all the nations of Europe” to come to these shores and become fellow “white” citizens, whose status was defined by the enforced inferiority of Blacks and the remnants of the Indians. Ritual burnings of Blacks were organized as great public festivals, attended by thousands, staged in order to affirm whites’ collective right to commit murder. This monopoly on violence was what made them white Americans .

The modern mass American murder is overwhelmingly a white phenomenon.”

U.S. foreign policy reflects the nation’s origins and ghastly evolution into a globe-strutting mob