dirtsong

Dirtsong

My wife and I went to see “Dirtsong” last night at UC Davis. Here are some of my unconnected thoughts.

Thankfully, the music was beautiful, because it took me half the concert to ignore the fact that I was surrounded by Progressive Liberals who recently celebrated the violent suppression of free speech at UC Davis and UC Berkeley. I kept having visions of taking over the stage and berating the audience, “This is what it feels like to be lectured by an asshole protester. Maybe you should remember this the next time a campus event you dislike is shut down by an asshole you happen to agree with.” Naturally, I didn’t do that because I’m not an asshole Leftist protester.

Most of the songs were sung in some aboriginal dialect, and thus there was no context to the silent movies of staring faces that confronted us throughout the performance. The audience was left with only our emotional devices to process the information, which was probably the intent of the entire program.

The silent movies were occasionally accompanied by slogans about “old law” and the land. One slogan that spoke to me was “I will never be like you. I am not your way.” I found that refreshing, but I couldn’t help wondering how “old” and “natural” a law has to be before Liberals will embrace it.

The band was all white men playing western instruments. It felt like reverse cultural appropriation (yes, I know that’s a “racist” thought), but I suppose it was meant as a symbol of the white man’s appropriation of aboriginal land.

One of the two songs sung in English was about “you will never take my land.” So that cleared things up a bit, although some reviews say the performance is all about “black and white solidarity.”

Leaving the concert, I wondered if the despair over losing “old cultures” will ever end, and why “Progressives” who love this sort of despair are always talking about “unity” and “forward.” It should be possible to celebrate history and culture without trying to destroy your own. But maybe I’m just a white oppressor.

Again, the music was beautiful. The women’s voices were powerful and uplifting. The silent movies were fascinating. The faces were unforgettable. But it was impossible for me to ignore that the performance took place in a milieu that Leftists have created on university campuses – which is explicitly designed to exclude people who have the “wrong” opinions about music, art, culture, and the world at large.

At least I got to enjoy 25% of the concert. And that was enough, because the tickets were free.

JBrown MoonState: Rapping the 2016 California State of the State Address

[Dark stage. Intro with heavy breathy Darth Vader beat. Background singers line the stage in dark robes.]

Expo
Nential
Spend
Cut
Spend

[Full lights! Nuclear blast sound effect! Mixmaster JBrown cuts through the line of singers, bling blazing, mic in hand.]

We doin’ the zigzag no mo yo
Inequality be risin’ sharp bro
The 1 percent ain’t earned respect no
My stocks are down! why that? – whoa!

[Background singers take off their robes, revealing sexy environmental uniforms. JBrown dances spasmodically.]

Affordable Care Act yah brah
Carbon pollution nah brah
Working families blah blah
Employee pensions rah rah

[JBrown cuts in.]

Radically decarbonize the economy bro
Two tons of gas my target, ho
Send deniers to the gulag yo
On a green train bullet to the brain – go!

[Background singers.]

Medi-Cal spending yah brah
Water for the farmers nah brah
Fish need it all blah blah
Except for our swimming pools rah rah

[JBrown.]

Gots to get to massive fixin’ mo
Roads and bridges be failin’ bro
Climate is causin’ the chaos you know
Don’t tell me ’bout LA sewers – no!

[Background singers.]

Big budget surplus yah brah
Middle class jobs? nah brah
Feds and the prog tax blah blah
Minimum wage rah rah

[Music fades to dreamy utopian environmental sounds. JBrown speaks earthily into mic.]

Yes, it is clear that California is still The Great Exception. We dare to do what others only dream of. Difficulties remain, as they always will. That is the human condition. And finding the right path forward is formidable. But find it we will, as we have in the past and as we will again – with courage and confidence. All love to Jesus Christ. Peace out. Thank you.

[JBrown moonwalks backward off the stage. Background singers put their robes back on. Darth Vader beat returns. Stage fades to black.]

Expo
Nential
Spend
Cut
Spend

Expo
Nential
Spend
Cut
Spend

Expo
Nential
Spend
Cut
Spend

The Crash of the Sun

Kaali Meteorite Crater on the island of Saaremaa.

Kaali Meteorite Crater on the island of Saaremaa. Source: Tina Gill.

You won’t find much if you search the Web for “the crash of the sun.”

Some of what you do find is less than palatable, unless you’re into the ambient/electronica/experimental music of the Italian band SBPS2. Down at the tail end of the nine Google results, you’ll find a link to Volume 23 of Estonian Folklore.

Estonia is a curious country. Snuggled up against Russia — if one can place such a cuddly word so near to that totalitarian nightmare —  with a frozen coastline on the Gulf of Finland, the country has been fought over by Poland, Germany, Denmark, Germany, Russia and Sweden. In the 1400’s it was part of Livonia, and despite the Christianization of the pagans the country still has its own curious identity.

The Livonian Confederation, 15th century

The Livonian Confederation, 15th century

In 1639, the characters from my novel travel by ship from Reval (present-day Tallinn) to Riga, and are forced to land on the island of Saaremaa to make repairs.

Ulf looked around at the crew members sleeping on the dry sand around him. Others had been sent for construction materials, food and water. From the west, borne on the soft wind, he could hear the bark of seals and the cries of birds. Master Jens turned the carcass of the dead bird over the open fire and continued the telling — the endless telling — of yet another boring story from the dying past.

“The island settlements to the east are ancient, and the place was known to the vikings as Eysysla. Eirik – a bastard son of the Norsk King Haakon Sigurdsson – invaded here 600 years ago, killing everyone he found and taking Danish ships as his own. But today it is a haven for healers. They say massive stones fall here from the sky, trailing fire and bringing magic elements. Don’t be surprised if witches appear to you out of thin air. And whatever they ask of you, don’t do it.”

Ulf wished the old man would just shut up.

As you can see, I am not Ulf. The story of the meteorite is real, and it fascinates me — as do the other stories that Master Jens tells. Volume 23 of Estonian Folklore tells what really happened.

The Kaali meteorite crash is the kind of unique and astounding event that must have become a topic of storytelling and singing for many generations afterward. As mentioned above, it evidently occurred around 2000 BC, on Saaremaa Island in the Baltic Sea. As recent scientific studies have established (Tiirmaa 1994), a meteorite of iron streaked from east to west over the Estonian mainland, broke  apart as a result of atmospheric friction, and hit the island in at least 9 places, leaving craters that can be seen to this day.

Tiirmaa (1994: 63) likens the event to a small nuclear explosion (minus radioactivity). … the amount of energy needed to form the main crater was equivalent to 1-4 kilotons (1–4 million kg or 2–8 million pounds) of TNT explosive. The largest fragment hit the ground and exploded with enough energy to create a crater 110 m in diameter, 22 m deep, with a rim 4–7 m above the ground.

It is hard to imagine what went on in the minds of the humans who saw flaming chunks of the sky fall to earth, heard the sonic boom of the streaking fragments and the ear-splitting crash, felt the ground shudder beneath their feet, and were engulfed by a great cloud of dust and ash. Trees, animals, and dwellings within a radius of 2–5 km from the site would have been destroyed, a forest fire would have been ignited, and the survivors would have had to run for their lives to avoid asphyxiation from the vaporized and pulverized matter and gases. This may have been the greatest meteorite impact ever in a populated area. It was truly a fearsome and spectacular event, more than enough to alter existing world-views and to inspire new tales and songs.

The long-tailed fireball would have been brighter than the sun, visible not just on Saaremaa but as far as 700 km (450 miles) away (Meri 1984: 55; Tiirmaa 1994: 65). Included in the area of direct observability are much of southern Finland and Karelia, the Novgorod area of Russia, the Polish coast, and lower Sweden.

At the end of the dissertation comes a song. The Kaali Meteorite Song. “Each song line is to be sung first by the lead singer [storyteller], and repeated by the chorus [listeners].”

Narrator: The night was dark. The sky-god Ukko decided to shed more light on earth.

Ukko struck to make a fire,
Struck a white-hot lightning fire.
From his flaming sword he struck it,
As the sparks did fly and sputter;
Fire hit against his fingers,
Sputtered sparks from sacred fingers,
High above aloft in heaven,
On the starry plains of heaven.

Narrator: He entrusted the care of the fire to the maid of air, for her to form and shape.

Into a new moon to form it,
Into a new day to shape it.

Narrator: But this did not turn out well.

Imbi rocked the baby fire,
Back and forth the little white one.
On her hands she held the fire,
Put the spark up on her fingers:
Fire fell from butterfingers
From the fingers of the guardian.

Narrator: The catastrophe followed

Heaven torn and lacerated,
Skyvault became perforated;
Fire tore through sky like blizzard,
Sped and crashed along the cloudline,
Through nine heavens it descended,
Through six spangled vaults of heaven.
Evil deeds it then accomplished,
Cruel deeds it perpetrated:
Burning up the daughters’ bosoms,
Tearing at the breasts of maidens,
And the knees of boys destroying,
And the master’s beard consuming.
And of all its deeds most evil:
Burned the baby in his cradle.
Went on burning many uplands,
Many uplands, many boglands,
Crashed at last into the water,
In the waves of Lake Alue:
And the fire rose up flaming,
And the sparks a rose all crackling.
Three times in a night of summer,
Nine times in a night of autumn,
Roared up to the height of spruce trees,
Sprang up high against the shorebanks
With the strength of furious fire,
With the might of angry white heat.
Even threw the fish on dry land,
Heaved the perch across the beaches.