Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bilbo's Adventures

Over the years I have been blessed to have taken some incredible trips and witnessed the grandeur of God's wonderful creation. I have mountain biked in Mammoth Lakes California...I have stood on the top of Cascade Pass in Cascade National Park and soaked in the spectacular 360 panorama of the incredible North Cascades...I have stood at the base of Mt. Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park in the afternoon and watched one avalanche after another tumble huge blocks of ice towards an unnamed lake below...I have seen, up close, mountain goats and bighorn sheep grazing grass as I hiked up the trail towards Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park...I have hiked and seen the incredible array of wildflowers on the most magnificent mountain in North America, Mount Ranier...I have drank ice cold fresh water from Iceberg Lake in Ansel Adams Wilderness...I have seen the tallest, oldest, and largest trees in the world...I have hiked the Sierra Mountain range from north to south...I have stood on frozen lakes in June...and...I have lost 22 pounds in six days while hiking over mountain passes in my home state of California...and...I have been blessed to see all that I have seen in the past 40 years. I still remember my first adventure to the High Sierra's with my two uncles as if it were yesterday. I can still see the crystal blue Sabrina Lake and the aspen's shaking in the wind...I have so, so, many fond memories.

Last summer I decided to keep a journal of my summer adventures in a beautiful Celtic design journal that I take on vacation. And,I thought it might be fun and inspirational to those who love travel to make some of these entries public by posting them over at my photography blog which I have renamed Bilbo's Adventures. At this time I have only posted one journal entry but this summer I intend to keep a daily record of my three week adventure along the northern California and Oregon you are getting cabin fever and wish you were somewhere else just stop by Bilbo's Adventures and just let your imagination take you away.

The Lost Coast

Friday, June 13, 2008

More of simply the best

Throughout his career Bruce Cockburn has never shied away from controversy. His left leaning songs have inspired many but have no doubt caused some to wish that he just stick to the music. But, Cockburn can’t just stick to the music because politics and world events is an important aspect of the world we live in and the life he lives. Bruce Cockburn is no armchair critic. Over the years Cockburn has traveled extensively abroad which provides the basis and inspiration for many of his political leaning songs. Also, he has been personally involved in numerous projects which range from the removal of land mines in Africa to bringing attention to the terrible plight of Native Americans, South Americans, and most recently the people of Iraq. One may not agree with Cockburn's particular political conclusions but there is no doubt that Cockburn’s political songs are written and performed with great passion and we can respect his convictions and zeal even if we don’t always agree with his viewpoint. Following is a sample of some of Cockburn’s songs which reflect his perspective on the world we live in.


Out in the desert where the wind never stops
A few simple people try to grow a few crops
Trying to maintain a life and a home
On land that was theirs before the Romans thought of Rome

A few dozen survivors, ragged but proud
With a few woolly sheep, under gathering cloud
It's never been easy, or free from strife
But the pulse of the land is the pulse of their life

You thought it was over but it's just like before
Will there never be an end to the Indian wars?

It's not breech-loading rifles and wholesale slaughter
It's kickbacks and thugs and diverted water
Treaties get signed and the papers change hands
But they might as well draft these agreements in sand

Noble Savage on the cinema screen
An Indian's good when he cannot be seen
And the so-called white so-called race
Digs for itself a pit of disgrace


Goons in blackface creeping in the road --
farm family waiting for the night to explode --
working the land in an age of terror
you come to see the moon as the bad news bearer
down where the death squad lives.

They cut down people like they cut down trees --
chop off its head so it will stay on its knees --
the forest shrinks but the earth remains
slash and burn and it grows again
down where the death squad lives.

I've got friends trying to batter the system down
fighting the past till the future comes round.
it'll never be a perfect world till God declares it that way
but that don't mean there's nothing we can do or say
down where the death squad lives.

Like some kind of never-ending Easter passion,
from every agony a hero's fashioned.
around every evil there gathers love --
bombs aren't the only things that fall from above
down where the dead squad lives
down where the dead squad lives

Sometimes i feel like there's a padlock on my soul.
if you opened up my heart you'd find a big black hole
but when the feeling comes through, it comes through strong --
if you think there's no difference between right and wrong
just go down where the death squad lives.

This world can be better than it is today.
You can say i'm a dreamer but that's okay.
without the could-be and the might-have-been
all you've got left is your fragile skin
and that ain't worth much down where the death squad lives.


Abe Lincoln once turned to somebody and said,
"Do you ever find yourself talking with the dead?"

There are three tiny deaths heads carved out of mammoth tusk
on the ledge in my bathroom
They grin at me in the morning when I'm taking a leak,
but they say very little.

Outside Phnom Penh there's a tower, glass paneled,
maybe ten meters high
filled with skulls from the killing fields
Most of them lack the lower jaw
so they don't exactly grin
but they whisper, as if from a great distance,
of pain, and of pain left far behind

Eighteen thousand empty eyeholes peering out at the four directions

Electric fly buzz, green moist breeze
Bone-colored Brahma bull grazes wet-eyed,
hobbled in hollow of mass grave
In the neighboring field a small herd
of young boys plays soccer,
their laughter swallowed in expanding silence

This is too big for anger,
it’s too big for blame.
We stumble through history so
humanly lame
So I bow down my head
Say a prayer for us all
That we don’t fear the spirit
when it comes to call

The sun will soon slide down into the far end of the ancient reservoir.
Orange ball merging with its water-borne twin
below air-brushed edges of cloud.
But first, it spreads itself,

a golden scrim behind fractal sweep of swooping fly catchers.
Silhouetted dark green trees,
blue horizon

The rains are late this year.
The sky has no more tears to shed.
But from the air Cambodia remains
a disc of wet green, bordered by bright haze.
Water-filled bomb craters, sun streaked gleam
stitched in strings across patchwork land and
march west toward the far hills of Thailand.
Macro analog of Ankor Wat’s temple walls
intricate bas-relief of thousand-year-old battles
pitted with AK rounds

And under the sign of the seven headed cobra
the naga who sees in all directions
seven million landmines lie in terraced grass, in paddy, in bush
(Call it a minescape now)

Sally holds the beggar's hand and cries
at his scarred up face and absent eyes
and right leg gone from above the knee

Tears spot the dust on the worn stone causeway
whose sculpted guardians row on row
Half frown, half smile, mysterious, mute.

And this is too big for anger.
It’s too big for blame
We stumble through history so
humanly lame.
So I bow down my head,
say a prayer for us all.
That we don’t fear the spirit when it comes to call.


padded with power here they come
international loan sharks backed by the guns
of market hungry military profiteers
whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared
with the blood of the poor

who rob life of its quality
who render rage a necessity
by turning countries into labour camps
modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom

sinister cynical instrument
who makes the gun into a sacrament --
the only response to the deification
of tyranny by so-called "developed" nations'
idolatry of ideology

north south east west
kill the best and buy the rest
it's just spend a buck to make a buck
you don't really give a flying fuck
about the people in misery

IMF dirty MF
takes away everything it can get
always making certain that there's one thing left
keep them on the hook with insupportable debt

see the paid-off local bottom feeders
passing themselves off as leaders
kiss the ladies shake hands with the fellows
open for business like a cheap bordello

and they call it democracy
and they call it democracy
and they call it democracy
and they call it democracy

see the loaded eyes of the children too
trying to make the best of it the way kids do
one day you're going to rise from your habitual feast
to find yourself staring down the throat of the beast
they call the revolution

IMF dirty MF
takes away everything it can get
always making certain that there's one thing left
keep them on the hook with insupportable debt

Gospel Of Bondage

Tabloids, bellowing raw delight
hail the return of the Teutonic Knights
inbred for purity and spoiling for a fight,
another little puppet of the New Right.

See-through dollars and mystery plagues,
varied detritus of Aquarian Age.
Shutters on storefronts and shutters in the mind --
we kill ourselves to keep ourselves safe from crime.
that's the gospel of bondage...

We so afraid of disorder we make it into a god
we can only placate with state security laws,
whose church consists of secret courts and wiretaps and shocks,
whose priests hold smoking guns, and whose sign is the double cross.

But God must be on the side of the side that's right
and not the right that justifies itself in terms of might --
least of all a bunch of neo-nazis running hooded through the night
which may be why He's so conspicuously out of sight
of the gospel of bondage...

You read the bible in your special ways,
you're fond of quoting certain things it says --
mouth full of righteousness and wrath from above
but when do we hear about forgiveness and love?

Sometimes you can hear the Spirit whispering to you,
but if God stays silent, what else can you do
except listen to the silence? If you ever did you'd surely see
that God won't be reduced to an ideology
such as the gospel of bondage...


Picture on magazine boardroom pop star
Pinstripe prophet of peckerhead greed
You say 'Trust me with the money -- the keys to the universe'
Trickle down will give us everything we need

Brand new century private penitentiary
bank vault utopia padded for the few
And it's tumours for the masses coughing for the masses
Earphones for the masses and they all serve you
Trickle down give /em the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood
What used to pass for education now looks more like ignoration
Take the people’s money and slip it to the corporation
Yellow rain golden shower pesticide firepower
Summon feudal demons of sweatshop subjugation

Workfare foul air homeless beggars everywhere
Picturephone aristocrats lounge around the pool
Captains of industry smiling beneficently
Leaking hole supertanker ship of fools
Trickle down give me the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood
Take over takedown big bucks shakedown
Schoolyard pusher offer anything-for-profit
First got to privatize then you get to piratize
Hooked on avarice- how do we get off it?
Trickle down give me the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood
Trickle down give me the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood


There's a broad river winding
Through this African lowland
The moon is held up orange and big
See it raise its hands
And the last ferry's pulling out
With no place left to stand
For the mines of Mozambique

There's a wealth of amputation
Waiting in the ground
But no one can remember
Where they put it down
If you're the child that finds it there
You will rise upon the sound
Of the mines of Mozambique

Some men rob the passersby
For a bit of cash to spend
Some men rob whole countries dry
And still get called their friend
And under the feeding frenzy
There's a wound that will not mend
In the mines of Mozambique
Night, like peace,
Is a state of suspension
Tomorrow the heat will rise
And mist will hide the marshy fields
The mango and the cashew trees
Which only now they're clearing brush from under.

Rusted husks of blown up trucks
Line the roadway north of town
Like passing through a sculpture gallery
War is the artist
But he's sleeping now

And somebody will be peddling vials of penicillin stolen out of all the medical kits sent to the countryside.

And in the bare workshop they'll be molding plastic into little prosthetic limbs
For the children of this artist
And for those who farm the soil that received
His bitter seed...
The all-night stragglers stagger home
Cocks begin to crow
And singing birds are starting up
Telling what they know
And after awhile the sun will come
And we'll see what it will show
Of the mines of Mozambique


Everything's broken in the birthplace of law
As Generation Two tries on his tragic flaw
America's might under desert sun
I saw her frightened eyes behind the muzzle of her gun

Uranium dust and the smell of decay
Sewage in the street where the kids run and play
Not enough morphine and not enough gauze
Firefight in darkness like snapping of jaws
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad

You couldn't see the blast-the morning was bright-
But some radiant energy flared up into the light
Like the sky throwing its hands up in a horrified dismay
Or the souls of the dead as they sped on their way

Carbombed and carjacked and kidnapped and shot
How do you like it, this freedom we brought
We packed all the ordnance but the thing we forgot
Was a plan in case it didn't turn out quite like we thought
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Simply the Best

There's roads and there's roads
And they call, can't you hear it?
Roads of the earth
And roads of the spirit
The best roads of all
Are the ones that aren't certain
One of those is where you'll find me
Till they drop the big curtain....Bruce Cockburn

I have been a fan of Bruce Cockburn since the 1990's even though Cockburn has been on the music scene since the late 1960's. Cockburn is not a household name in this country but he is somewhat of a legend in his native country Canada. My introduction to Cockburn's music was the result of a fluke encounter unless one wants to attribute it to fate or providence which is o.k. with me. I was sitting in my pastors office one afternoon and I picked up a denominational church magazine and read a review of his album, Nothing but a Burning Light. I found the article intriguing and his "over the hill Generation X" look somewhat rolled the dice and went down and purchased the album without ever having heard any of his songs. I then went home... sat on the patio... and listened to the album maybe three or four times before I came back into the house. It was an instant connection and the rest is history. Shortly thereafter I bought another album and loved it as well...but...the big bonding moment came when I attended a three week conference at Humboldt University later that summer. One afternoon I walked into a little hole in the wall record store and it was there I found almost all of Cockburn's cassettes. I purchased maybe eight or nine of them and feasted on the music of Cockburn for the entire three weeks....

There is a lot I like about Cockburn's favorite aspects of his music are the rhythm and the lyrics. Most of Cockburn's songs are on the slow side which fits my own preferred pace of life. Although I can hang with the likes of Pearl Jam and Green Day, on most days, when I am home or in the car I prefer the slow, drip, drip, sound of a good Cockburn song...regarding his lyrics...Cockburn's lyrics are poetic and considered some of the best in the industry...but...don't take my word, here is a sampling of some of the lyrics from some of my favorite Cockburn songs. I'll begin with the last stanza from one of my favorite Cockburn songs, A Child of the Wind.

Little round planet
In a big universe
Sometimes it looks blessed
Sometimes it looks cursed
Depends on what you look at obviously
But even more it depends on the way that you see


Not a knife throw from here you can hear the night train passing
That's the sound somebody makes when they're getting away
Leaving next week's hanging jury far behind them
Prisoner only of the choices they've made
And everyone's an island edged with sand
A temporary refuge where somebody else can stand
Till the sea that binds us like the forced tide of a blood oath
Will wear it down - dissolve it - recombine it

Anyone can die here they do it every day
It doesn't take much effort though it goes against the grain
And the ultimate forgetfulness of violence
Sweeps the landscape like a headlight of a train
Ice cube in a dark drink shines like star light
Starlight shines like glass shards in dark hair
And the mind's eye tumbles out along the steel track
Fixing every shadow with its stare
And in the absence of a vision there are nightmares
And in the absence of compassion there is cancer
Whose banner waves over palaces and mean streets
And the rhythm of the night train is a mantra


Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it's pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you live too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage

I've proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strip's worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And every one was taken in
Powers chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage

I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing
It's as if the thing were written
In the constitution of the age
Sooner or later you'll wind up
Pacing the cage

Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can't see what's round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend
Today these eyes scan bleached-out land
For the coming of the outbound stage
Pacing the cage
Pacing the cage


Wild things are prowling - storm winds are howling tonight
Everything's transforming into pure crystals of light
The heart is a mirror; it throws back the blaze of love
Bathed in that glow it's no secret what I'm thinking of
I want to wait no more
Wait no more
Wait no more
Sipping wine with angels in this torch-lit tavern by the sea
What does it take for what's locked up inside to be free?
Fold me into you, you know where I'm dying to be
When my ship sets sail on that ocean of deep mystery
I want to wait no more
Wait no more
Wait no more
What does it take for the heart to explode into stars?
One day we'll wake to remember how lovely we are
Lightning's a kiss that lands hot on the loins of the sky
Something uncoils at the base of my spine and I cry
I want to wait no more
Wait no more
Wait no more


I've seen a high cairn kissed by holy wind
Seen a mirror pool cut by golden fins
Seen alleys where they hide the truth of cities
The mad whose blessing you must accept without pity

I've stood in airports guarded glass and chrome
Walked rifled roads and landmined loam
Seen a forest in flames right down to the road
Burned in love till I've seen my heart explode

You've been leading me
Beside strange waters

Across the concrete fields of man
Sun ray like a camera pans
Some will run and some will stand
Everything is bullshit but the open hand

You've been leading me
Beside strange waters
Streams of beautiful lights in the night
But where is my pastureland in these dark valleys?
If I loose my grip, will I take flight?

You've been leading me
Beside strange waters
Streams of beautiful lights in the night
But where is my pastureland in these dark valleys?
If I loose my grip, will I take flight?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Military Spending

Robert Scheer in a recent L.A. Times article writes, “Why is U.S. military spending at the highest point, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than at any time since the end of WWII? Why, without sophisticated military opponent in sight, is the U.S. spending trillions of dollars on the development of high-tech weapons systems that lost their purpose with the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago?”…Several years ago I asked a similar question after discovering the U.S. spends more money on it’s military than the next ten countries combined!...and…the U.S. has spent more money on “one” nuclear sub than all government spending on PBS programs in all the years… Speaking of nuclear subs…Why are we continuing to shell out 2.5 billion dollars for a sub? Terrorists don’t have nuclear subs do they?...The last time I checked, the 9/11 hijackers used box cutters which could have been purchased for a couple of bucks at a local Wal-mart to do their dastardly deeds. If the terrorists don’t require nuclear subs than we must be building them to protect ourselves from the Chinese, right?...According to the 2007 Pentagon report to congress, “the intelligence community estimates China will take until the end of this decade or later to produce a modern force capable of defeating a moderate size adversary”…If the threat from abroad is not “real” than why do we continue to spend so much of our national treasury at such historical levels?...Have we become so paranoid?...or…is it a case of big business?...or both…and…is it any coincidence that Joe Lieberman who is one of the most vocal proponents for the building of nuclear subs representative of the same state, Connecticut, where the company that builds nuclear subs is based?...It does make one wonder and be suspicious…

The current Pentagon budget for this year is 625 billion, plus another 100 billion for other federal budget expenses for homeland security, nuclear weapons, and covert operations. The current amount is 35% higher than when George Bush came into office and is “larger than all other nations combined”…The next president of the U.S. is going to have a hell of time financing any of the domestic reforms without slashing and burning the current military budget…and…I wonder if they are going to have the political will to do so…but...if the next president and congress don’t do something to curtail and put the breaks on our runaway military spending than we may be joining the Soviet Union in running our economy into the ground… and… we won’t have anyone to blame except for ourselves for accepting hook, line, and sinker, the “myth of violence”….I’ll end with this excerpt from the Babylonian Creation myth and the haunting words of Walter Wink.

He sliced her in half like a fish for drying:
Half of her he put up to roof the sky
Drew a bolt across and made a guard to hold it.
Her waters he arranged so they could not escape

Blood I will mass and cause bones to be.
I will establish a savage, ‘Man’ shall be his name.
Verily, savage-man I will create.
He shall be charged with the service of the gods
That they [the gods] might be at ease!

"Violence is so successful as a myth precisely because it does not seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It is what works. It is inevitable, the last, and often, the first resort in conflicts…The myth of redemptive violence undergirds American pop culture, civil religion, nationalism, and foreign policy, and that it lies coiled like an ancient serpent at the root of the system of domination that has characterized human existence since well before Babylon ruled supreme…and…in the Babylonian myth, creation is an act of violence: Tiamat, “mother of them all”, is murdered and dismembered; from her cadaver the world is formed. Order is established by means of disorder. Creation is a violent victory over an enemy older than creation…This myth is the original religion of the status quo, the first articulation of “might makes right”. It is the basic ideology of the Domination System. The gods favor those who conquer. Conversely, whoever conquers must have the favor of the gods…and..Any form of order is preferable to chaos, according to this myth."....Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers