Ostara and the Origin of Easter’s Symbolism

Easter is perhaps the most significant day on the Western liturgical calendar, celebrated in commemoration of the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead after his crucifixion on Good Friday. Many of the symbols and traditions of Easter have their origins in an older, Germanic tradition that is still celebrated to this day by Christians and neopagan revivalists alike, Ostara.

Ostara is traditionally celebrated on March 21, spring equinox as it is the solar compliment to Easter’s lunar reckoning. It is one point on the Eight-Fold Wheel of the Year, and it is regarded as one of the four high holy days in modern Druidry called Alban Eiler: “the Light of the Earth.”

The word Ostara derives from the old Anglo-Saxon word Eostre, the name of an obscure Germanic goddess about whom little is known today. Her name is linguistically related to the word for “east,” giving further credence to the strong solar significance of the holiday. And from this name we also derive the word Easter.

In modern paganism Ostara is regarded as the Festival of the Trees, due to the regrowth of their foliage at this time of year, a strong metaphor for resurrection and rebirth. Agriculturally Ostara comes at the end of the spring sowing season. Flowers are blooming everywhere and the insect population is making a drastic comeback. The animals are beginning to start their mating dances and pollen wafts through the air fertilizing the crops. Colored eggs and rabbits are indicative of this season by virtue of their association with fertility. In such, this holiday is directly associated with the inner Cauldron of Incubation. This is a very inspirational time.

At Ostara the Corn Mother is celebrated in her first stirrings of pregnancy and often symbolically sacrificed as an expectant mother must sacrifice of herself to bare and care for her children. This is a consistent theme amongst many agricultural societies from the Anglo-Saxon John Barley Corn to various Native America manifestations of the Corn Mother.

It’s not all just joy and the pleasures of fertility, however. Ostara also has certain themes of conflict associated with it. As the day that finally signifies the summer’s conquest over winter, the conquest of darkness by light, and allegorically the conquest of evil by the good an d majestic solar hero. And so we see ritual competitive sports and ball games are traditional at this time. Amongst many Western European populations there will be a ritualized and symbolic battle between the seasons, often in the form of a sword dance wherein the participants act out the opposing roles as either teams or one on one.

Ostara may not be Easter, but the two holidays share a common history, symbolism and philosophical character that are significant to the natural cycles of life. The winter has finally ended. There is abundance in life and resources looking forward. The darkness has been conquered.


Trump’s Response to Coronavirus was Better than the Critics

I keep seeing this argument that President Donald Trump didn’t act quickly and decisively enough to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. However, I don’t think that is an accurate or reasonable position to take.

Of course with black-swan events like this it’s always easier to look back with 20/20 vision and criticize activities than it is to deal with a crisis in real time, but from my reading of the timeline of events I just don’t know what more we could have expected of the American President. He was ahead of the World Health Organization, his European counterparts, and the leaders of his opposition party. Suggesting the American President didn’t act quickly enough ignores everything that has happened up until the time being.

Below is a timeline of important and relevant events as they took place with regard to the actions of world leaders with regard to the covid-19 outbreak of 2020.

December 31, 2019
The first time China reported the existence of covid-19, the novel coronavirus. [source]

January 14, 2020
The World Health Organization, the organization which advises the world on matters of health was following China’s lead in saying there was no evidence of human to human transmissions of the coronavirus. They were wrong.

January 20
A man in Washington State who had just returned from Wuhan, China was identified as the first case of covid-19 in the USA. [source]

January 29
The WHO advised against applying ANY international travel restrictions due to the virus. They were wrong. [source page 2]
(page 2)

January 31
President Trump declared the coronavirus a public health emergency and stopped flights from China and six other countries, and suspended entry for foreign nationals who pose a risk of transmitting the virus, DISREGARDING the recommendations of WHO. He was correct. [source]

Democrat leaders including Biden, Pelosi and Schumer were busy calling POTUS “racist,” “xenophobic,” and un-American for his travel bans. They were wrong. [source 1, source 2]

March 10
Italy finally decided to start taking the virus seriously and issued a national stay at home order. [source]

Austria catches up with POTUS and closes its border with Italy. [source]

German Chancellor Angela Merkle was still procrastinating on emergency measures [source]

March 11
WHO finally catches up with POTUS and declares coronavirus a pandemic. [source]

March 12
President Trump suspends travel from Europe to the US. [source]

March 15
Germany, Spain finally catch up with POTUS and *partially* close their borders due to the virus. [source 1, source 2]

March 17
EU leaders finally catch up with POTUS and close off EU borders to foreign travel. [source]

Compared to the greatest minds and leaders of the world and those of his opposition party, the president was ahead of the curve. I don’t know what foresight the critics think President Trump should have had that no other world leaders or the World Health Organization had that would have caused him to act even sooner when he was already taking more decisive action than everyone else.

It’s all political bullshit. Can we just work together to get through this mess without politicizing a pandemic is full swing?

(This article will be updated as more information is discovered.)


Bob Marley’s Rebel Music, My Guiding Light

Today would have been Bob Marley’s 75th birthday if he had lived. Tragically, he died of cancer on May 11, 1981 at the age of 36. Most people know that Bob Marley and the Wailers put reggae on the map, taking it from obscure local Jamaican music and turning it into the international phenomenon it became. But for me, Bob Marley isn’t just another name among the many other ground-breaking musicians of the 1960s and 70s. When we talk about Bob Marley we’re not just talking about music anymore; we’ve crossed into the subject of mysticism and religion. Bob Marley is less like a rock star and more like a biblical messenger.

I grew up in coastal and beach towns, so I always knew who Bob Marley was, but through a lot of my early teens I was more into punk rock and heavy metal. Then in 1993, I was the president of my church youth group at St. Anne’s and we took part in an annual Diocesan Youth Camp Out. This was two nights at an outdoor coastal retreat which brought high school kids together from Catholic churches over the whole Florida Panhandle. The theme that year was “One Love, One Life” and Bob Marley’s hit song was played at all the activities throughout the weekend. The t-shirts had red, green and gold on them. It was a genuine religious experience on a Florida beach with Bob Marley’s message front and center.

I was captivated by how much of Marley’s music was religious in its nature. It may as well be gospel music. Listening to Marley’s lyrics is like listening to a hymn, and that one-drop beat and the rootsy melodies are infectious. It wasn’t a stretch for Marley’s music to become an influential part of my ever-growing spiritual life.

As I grew into my late teens, I became more disillusioned with modern life. I’d had a miserable experience in public school. I came to realized that the Church is full of vipers, but only after I had been bitten. I became aware of the corruption of government. The ongoing and almost unconscious genocide of Native peoples weighed on my mind and my soul. I felt like I had been lied to my whole life, and that everything I thought I knew up to that point was propaganda. I didn’t know who I was.  What does any of it even mean? I became angry and a little bit radical. I learned that thinking for myself is an act of rebellion.

I could have gone bad at this point, but I didn’t. Instead this is when Bob Marley’s music became most important to me. It captured my frustration and soothed what it could, and redirected what it couldn’t into a positive fire. This was real rebel music. It was rooted in positivity and righteousness, rather than the negativity found in so much of other rebellious music. Rather than being angry, self-destructive and nihilistic, I learned to be impassioned about injustice, and constructive while invigorating my faith and maintaining a sense of wonder about the world. This is what held me together. The message I learned from Bob Marley and through him from other reggae artists and the Rastafarian movement is something that has continually been a guiding light for me over the years.


It encouraged me to embrace my roots.
It helped me bridge the gap between my indigenous traditions and my orthodoxy.
It helped me understand the significance of my place in the greater movement of history.
It helped me to see that each native struggle as another front of the same global struggle for freedom, and sovereignty.
It helped me to understand that I have a role to play in this struggle and how I can fulfill that mission through education, prayer, and service to my people and revitalization of our traditional cultures.

I can’t stress enough how important it was for me that this message of reggae didn’t just want to teach me rules and ethics and tell me to be a good boy, and it didn’t just encourage me to rebel without a cause. The Rastafarian philosophy freely recognized and validated my grievances with the modern world and gave me positive means to deal with negative realities.

So today isn’t just another birthday of another popular musician to me. It is the anniversary of the day a great man came into the world who would have a positive spiritual impact on many disillusioned youth throughout the world for over five decades now. He may have saved my life. While Bob Marley should be remembered for his groundbreaking music, he is also remembered for his role as an emissary of the divine, a messenger for the revolutionary word of God – Jah Rastafari.


Imbolc (St. Brigid’s Day)

Imbolc is an ancient Celtic Fire Festival traditionally celebrated on February 1st and heralds in the beginning of spring. For several hundred years this day has been the feast day of Saint Brigid of Kildare and before that of an Irish goddess by a similar name.

As the first day of spring, Imbolc is placed early in the season because Celtic people recognized that seasons begin upon their incubation rather than at their midpoint as the seasons are generally measured today. Similarly, the feast day itself as with all Celtic fire festivals begins the eve before the actual calendar date. Being a fire festival, Imbolc was marked by bonfires, hearthfires and candles. And as is traditional for the Irish any time of year, Imbolc would be celebrated with a solemn visit to sacred wells, or rivers

By Imbolc, the days have become noticeably longer since midwinter’s darkness as the sun continues to mature in the sky. The young earth is becoming fertile and the young sun begins to show signs of his virility. Seeds that have lain dormant in the earth will soon sprout. Life is becoming more active as the cold winter fades away. The stag begins to regrow his antlers and shall soon be searching for his spring-time mate. This is the day for coming of age.

In its earliest incarnations, Imbolc was a shepherd’s holiday likely called Oimelc, meaning “ewe’s milk.” At this time of year, the female sheep have often recently given birth and are lactating. Another proposed meaning of the name Imbolc would translate to “in the belly” carrying forward this theme of fertility, mating and pair-bonding.

Though Imbolc is still celebrated continuously in parts of Ireland and Britain, it was also adopted into the neopagan Eightfold Wheel of the Year in the mid twentieth century. In this progression, Imbolc is the first discernible evidence of the fulfillment of that divine promise of Yule, celebrating the returning of light and the fertility of the earth.


Anciently, Imbolc is the feast day of Brigid, patroness of poetry, medicine and metallurgy and celebrates her as the fertile virgin Earth-bride to be mated to the returning sun of spring personified as the youthful Green Man, an archetype of the springtime blooming. His hair and beard are usually represented as leaves and vines. His symbols are horns, vegetation and snakes. Though, the male hero plays an integral role in this relationship, Imbolc is truly in celebration of the Bride. Amongst her many epithets Brigid is referred to as “mistress of fire,” “old lady of the whirling fire,” and selchi shut emyss; “mistress of serpents.” The Catholic saint is portrayed just as strikingly though far less romantically as a bride of Christ.

The serpent is also a symbol of Imbolc. Much like the similar event of Groundhog Day which falls at this same time, the sighting of snakes at this time of year indicates the arrival of spring. Snakes brumate in the winter; a kind of mild hibernation. They return in the spring, making their reappearance a sign of springtime fertility. Snakes have been seen as symbolic of rebirth in many cultures due to the manner in which they slough their skin and are thus each time ‘reborn.’ The sighting of the first serpent of spring is considered a good omen bestowing virile blessings upon the seer. For this reason, the historical celebrations of Imbolc included the pounding of a serpent effigy and the pronouncement: “Today is the day of the Bride. The serpent shall come from his hole. I will not molest the serpent and the serpent will not molest me.”

As an agricultural celebration and the first fertility rite of the year, Imbolc is a time to prepare the fields for the sowing. Traditional celebrations for this time include breaking ground for new crops or blessing the fields, the plows and other farming tools, and offerings were made of milk, honey or mead, and cakes or bread.

Historically, by this time the winter supplies would be dwindling. Few if any fruits or vegetables were available. Wild animals are quite lean in late winter and so were the people having dropped their summer weight as they entered the lean season the Church would eventually institute as the season of Lent. Since wild foods are scarcest and our favorites scarcer still, this time period has historically marked a time of fasting.


Kurt Cobain’s Journals Reveal a Man Worthy of No Admiration

Kurt Cobain, the front man of the groundbreaking 1990s Seattle grunge band Nirvana has been considered the “spokesman for a generation” though his fame only lasted for roughly two and a half years before his inevitable 1994 suicide. His music was revolutionary and his fashion quickly became imitated by the mainstream, but Cobain was far from worthy of adulation. He was an extremely troubled person. He was depressed and angry, narcissistic, hateful, antisocial, poorly educated, hypocritical and self destructive with a major drug addiction, but a knack for writing catchy tunes.

I’ve always liked Nirvana’s music, but I’ve never cared much for Cobain as a person. I did eventually acquire all five Nirvana albums, but I have never worn their t-shirt. I say this to illustrate that I’m not just some Nirvana hater. I can separate the man from the music, and this article is about the man as he chose to present himself, his thoughts, ideas and values in his own words. I just don’t think there is much to admire about Kurt Cobain outside of his musical success. That was my opinion at the height of his fame, and after reading his “Journals,” published in 2002, that opinion wasn’t changed. It simply provided more evidence and details to confirm my earliest thoughts.

The Positive

I’ll begin with a positive note regarding what was admirable about Cobain. He was driven and he did seem to have a plan which he followed unwaveringly to eventual commercial success. He did what a lot of musicians and bands don’t do but should; he wrote out his vision for Nirvana. He crafted his business mission statement as it was – he thought out his distinct musical identity, his image and the values he wanted to project. He clearly identified his influences and what he wanted to influence his music. He wrote out steps and tactics in his journals. He thought about distribution, exposure, and reaching fans in an era before the internet made this much easier. He didn’t just do this once; as time went by he revisited and revised his plan as he figured out more about his tastes, styles and abilities instead of just drifting aimlessly in a chaotic musical landscape. Sadly, however this one paragraph is all that I found admirable in Cobain’s journals. The rest of his character was tragically flawed, and ventured into dark and evil places.

Obsessed with Grief

The most noticeable character trait displayed in Cobain’s journals is his overwhelming obsession with grief. His early preoccupation with suicide is evident by page 5, written no later than 1989, exclaiming “kill yourself,” a sentiment that is repeated multiple times throughout the Journals. He was fixated on everything “bad” to the point it seems he had no room left in him for joy. He hated everything. He hated himself. He was ashamed to be white, ashamed to be male, and ashamed to be American. I think this grief and self-hatred is the root of all his many other issues. When a person hates himself it leads to an inability to enjoy anything. It leads to nihilism, self abuse and eventually if left untreated to complete self destruction. Kurt Cobain eventually became dark, uninspired, and hopeless.

Obsessed with Division

Cobain was obsessed with creating division in the world. Though he portrayed himself as an advocate for love, tolerance and inclusion, it’s obvious he thrived on strife and division. He was especially preoccupied with creating division between the generations. This seems to originate from his personal issues with his own parents and upbringing. He wasn’t satisfied with his own sense of isolation; he wanted everyone else to feel that isolation too. He hated his parents therefore everyone of his generation should also hate their parents. Misery loves company.

Rape Fetish

Cobain was obsessed with rape, conflating it with traditional masculine sexuality to which he claimed to be opposed. He mentions rape repeatedly. He even imagines himself as a rapist, and writes about a time in high school when he tried to take advantage of a young girl who was considered “retarded,” though supposedly undiagnosed. At a later point he decided it was Nirvana’s job to “teach boys not to rape.” Apparently his method was to write songs like “Polly” and “Rape Me” that are so ineffectual they sound as if they are romanticizing rape. He later acted perplexed when listeners didn’t comprehend these were supposedly “anti-rape” songs.

Between pages 90 and 95 Cobain wrote the most bizarre part of his journals, a story about a fictional serial murderer, rapist a child molester he named Chuck Taylor. Apparently Chuck became this monster due to his father’s influence. It includes a very graphic scene in which Chuck is forced to watch as his father beats, rapes and sodomizes his mother while extolling the virtues of being a “man” and abusing women. In another entry (pg 109) he says he likes to make incisions on an infants’ stomach and then “fuck the incision until the child dies.” It’s another peek into Kurt Cobain’s grotesque dysfunction.

I got the sense that Cobain had a rape and murder fetish that haunted him, contributing to his self-hatred. He related this to himself “as a man,” and projected that upon the idea of masculinity. Since he saw “right wingers” as representing traditional masculinity he could project his sickness and self-hatred onto them as an “other” thereby gaining a false sense of virtue and self-righteousness for hating them instead of addressing his own demons.

Hypocrisy, Self-delusion and Terrorist Advocacy

Hypocrisy was another of Kurt Cobain’s worst traits. In multiple entries, Cobain says that to him “punk rock means freedom.” It’s another recurring thought in his journals. This would seem to be a motive for his hatred for “right-wingers,” because he saw them as trying to restrict his freedoms through pro-life and other religiously based legislation. But he wasn’t very considerate of other people who chose to live in a manner in which he disapproved.

There are multiple entries in which Cobain expressly advocates for and glorifies Left-wing terrorism. Amongst the many examples of people Cobain said he wanted to kill, he wrote a disturbing passage describing how he wanted to go through high schools and put guns to the heads of popular kids and force them to renounced their “gluttonous” lifestyle or be killed (132). He didn’t write this as a frustrated teenager. He was a grown man well into his twenties expressing a desire to murder kids who simply used their freedom to make different choices than he made. Here, Kurt Cobain’s reoccurring hypocrisy is on full display in one of the most disgusting of ways.

Cobain’s writings also show a strange obsession with the KKK and outlandish caricatures of “right wingers” and misogynists. He really was a product of the west-coast’s socio-political atmosphere and ideology which helped warp him into someone who seemed to be barely clinging to his humanity.

Cobain’s self-delusion is most evident when he wrote about his place in the music industry. Of course he wanted to be successful as a musician, but he felt guilty for that so he tried to rationalize his ambition to fit his radical ideology. Rather than honestly admitting he was desirous of fame and fortune, he instead tried to portray his major-label aspirations as some form of punk-rock Trojan horse strategy. He liked to say he was working on the inside to “rot” and destroy the industry, while in reality he was sitting as the cherry on top of Geffen Records, raking in all that gluttonous money he wanted to shoot children for enjoying.

He liked to pretend that he was in polar opposition to the rockstar excesses of the 1980s, but that was really just his form of gluttonous stardom. He wasn’t the wild, pussy slaying, private jet flying party animal. Instead he portrayed himself as the neopunk rock star; prepackaged rebellion, and feigned social consciousness. He knew he was playing a role that didn’t align with his real identity, and he felt pressured by the image he constructed of himself. That kind of cognitive dissonance must certainly be hard to live with.


Lack of Depth

There was a common misconception in the 1990’s that Cobain’s lyrics were mystical script of otherworldly genius that had to be decoded in order to truly perceive their great depth. I never bought it. While I could enjoy the energy of his music, I always thought his lyrics were haphazardly written, sloppily thrown together into a reckless word-salad. In his journals and other interviews he clearly reveals that his lyrics were quite often retched out at the last minute or adlibbed onstage until something stuck. He was frustrated by people who tried to analyze his lyrics because he knew there was nothing there worth analyzing. Cobain’s lyrics seem disjointed and jumbled because they are disjointed and jumbled. He mumbled and slurred a lot of his words because it really doesn’t matter if you understand them. Don’t look for depth and insight in Cobain’s lyrics because there is none.

He Loved His Ignorance

One of the more disappointing aspects of Cobain’s personality is that he preferred to remain ignorant. He mentions repetitively that he is not particularly well educated, and the grammar, and spelling throughout his journals is evidence enough of this. He wrote “I purposefully keep myself naïve and away from earthly information because it’s the only way to avoid a jaded attitude” (pg 125). That’s just dumb. Cobain liked to have strong opinions that resulted in a radical ideology and violent attitude, but didn’t want to actually have the knowledge by which to evaluate those ideas. He preferred to keep his miseducated opinions that fueled his desire to murder children because it made him feel good. Kurt Cobain was an idiot.

To go along with his multiple displays of ignorance and irrationality, Cobain liked to disparage musicians who actually bothered to learn music. He specifically ridiculed Eric Clapton who not only helped to forge modern rock and roll, but also managed to survive the test of time even while battling the same vices (heroin) that Cobain was too weak to overcome. Cobain regurgitated the same clichéd wannabe punk rock jargon that music theory is “bullshit.” The irony seems lost on him when he also complains about not being a very prolific songwriter. He never made the connection that music theory gives a person more tools to work with to create more original music instead of rewriting the same song over and over again while feeling like a fraud. Cobain’s inability to write new, significant music after “In Utero” contributed to his final mental breakdown and eventual suicide. It’s an example of how Cobain consistently made decisions and embraced attitudes that lead him steadily down a path of self-destruction.

To his credit, I suppose, Cobain knew all this about himself and through all his ignorance, hypocrisy, self-deception, delusions and his antisocial personality he freely admitted it. He told us as much in his lyrics.

“I’m a negative creep”
“I’m a liar and a thief”
“I think I’m dumb”
“I hate myself and I want to die.”

Rooted in self-hatred, fear, ignorance, left wing politics and drugs every decision he made was another step toward his early suicide.

Maya Angelou said “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” Kurt Cobain showed us time and time over again. There is nothing there to be admired.


Keith Richards: Life, a Candid Autobiography

Keith Richards’ 2010 autobiography Life is a solid exposé and memoir on the life lived by the Rolling Stones guitarist. Weighing in at 547 pages of narrative, it’s clear that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer intends for the reader to come away with a full picture of himself, not just as a founding member of one of the greatest rock bands in history, but as an individual apart from that legend.

The autobiography kicks off with a scandalous story from the road of when Keith and Stones’ rhythm guitarist Ronnie Wood were arrested with a number of illegal substances in Fordyce, Arkansas in 1975. It’s one of the more exciting stories in the book and it sets the tone for numerous tales of drugs and legal issues to follow it.

After that, Life immediately shifts to Keith’s childhood, adolescence until he meets and begins playing music with Mick Jagger (p. 77). This was the hardest part of the book for me to get through. It seemed overburdened with trivial details about Keith Richards the child. While some meaningful events and information is relayed her such as his initial introduction to music and guitar a lot of it seemed unnecessary, but then it is the story of his life, not just of his adult music career.

This makes for an autobiography that is well balanced between the author’s personal life and ideas and his superstar music career. It’s not written in a manner that tries to glorify the rock and roll lifestyle or to revel in fame, but it doesn’t shy away from it or wrap itself in false humility. Keith opens up and tells us quite a lot of personal information about himself, his origins, his philosophies, his loves, his strengths, and his weaknesses. He writes intently on the subject of music and how he came to it with passion, the origins or the Rolling Stones, his often adversarial friendship with lead singer Mick Jagger, his addiction, resulting arrests and subsequent rehabilitation.

The book is chocked full of stories and candid details. Some of the points I liked the most include the following.


The Rolling Stones didn’t write their first song until 1963 when their manager Andrew Loog Oldham locked Keith and Mick in a kitchen together in Willesden and told them to “come up with a song.” Before that, Keith thought songwriting was someone else’s job. This is easy enough to understand since up until this time in music history it was very common for the songwriters to be different people from the performers. Truthfully before the Beatles made it fashionable popular bands rarely composed any of their own music.

Keith makes it quite clear that there was never any rivalry between the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, or between any of their respective members. They were friends. Keith refers to the two bands as being a “mutual-admiration society.” He even says that they would call each other up and plan their single releases so to not compete with each other (pg 141). Any amount of rivalry that may have seemed to exist was nothing more than media hype.

As mentioned above, Keith speaks very candidly about his drug addiction. Early on in his life, Keith experimented with recreational drugs, alcohol and cannabis. He was introduced to amphetamines while on tour in the US with R&B acts including Little Richard and Bo Diddly. He talks a bit about LSD in the 60s and a particular three-day trip he took with John Lennon which was so significant that neither of them could quite remember what all had happened. His terrible addiction to heroin however came about in a far less cavalier manner. It happened the same way it seems to happen with the opiate epidemic plaguing the US today; from an injury and overmedication. He was in a car wreck and afterward was in such pain, having a nurse come to clean his wounds everyday that he was prescribed morphine. After several weeks on the drug he became hooked. When the doctor took him off the medication he had severe withdrawals which he treated with underground opiates and eventually heroin which he continues using for the next several years.

I really love that Keith talks about his experiences with Reggae and Rastafarians in Jamaica where he lived for some time. He speaks very highly of the culture, philosophy and most especially the music of the Rastas he became friends with, and how that was a major influence on him and helped him get his head straight from years of excess.

If gleaned properly there is probably a solid handbook’s worth of advice and information on beginning in music, theories on how to approach playing guitar, songwriting, performing live, recording and band dynamics. Keith doesn’t come across with any rock star pretentiousness to speak of. He does get a little preachy and high minded at points, but otherwise stays well-grounded even when telling tales of times when Keith was anything but grounded.

Life is a thorough trek through the years of Keith Richard’s history. It’s sometimes a little wordy, a bit snide, and long. It isn’t always a page turner, but it does hold a reader’s attention fairly well and it delivers all the juicy, candid details a fan of the Rolling Stones, or just rock and roll history will enjoy.


Joker; Best Movie of 2019

The Joker is possibly the most iconic comic book villain of all time. He has been played five times now in live-action television and film since 1966, each interpretation improving upon the previous rendition until that unfortunate thing Jared Leto did in 2016. I was a little apprehensive about a live action Joker origin movie because DC universe flicks have been unimpressive over the past few years and casting has been a major part of the problem. But with Joaquin Phoenix reprising the role, all concerns can be laid to rest. Joker is its own movie not to be conflated with other recent DCU film adaptations, and fortunately it shows.

[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]

As the film opens, it’s 1981. Arthur Fleck is sitting in front of a mirror putting on his clown makeup. He’s one of a half-dozen rent-a-clowns shown working for the Haha company to be farmed out for meager gigs. A broadcaster can be heard on the radio reporting the dismal state of Gotham City and the overflow of litter in the streets. Arthur is a sad case, trying to force a smile in the mirror, bewildered by his own misery.

Phoenix gets lost in the character of Arthur, bringing him to life. He’s a proto-Joker based loosely off the Batman: The Killing Joke graphic novel, but more pathetic. He’s a tragic character going through a sad transformation. He lives with his mom in a rundown urban apartment building. He doesn’t have a girlfriend, or any friends to speak of and he never gets any mail. It seems he may as well not even exist. But he does exist and he has to live with himself every day.


Arthur has an unspecified mental disorder causing him to have inappropriate and excessive emotional reactions. He has been seeking treatment from a publicly funded therapist, and even she is little more than a detached bureaucrat just putting in the time but not the effort to see Arthur’s individuality or pay attention to him. A couple scenes later we learn that the City of Gotham is pulling funding for the service and Arthur is going to lose access to his seven different medications. Arthur feels abandoned, rejected. The realization he’s coming to is communicated without sacrificing anything for poetry when his therapist exclaims “they don’t give a shit about people like you.”

Arthur is bullied and ostracized, and he’s not socially or psychologically equipped to deal with his challenges. He is faced with so little respect or empathy that even when he is assaulted and mugged on the street by a roving gang of teens who steal and destroy the sign he was hired to wave, his boss holds him responsible for the loss. When his coworker Randall pushes him to take a gun for protection he feebly tries to refuse and then winds up dropping it at another gig resulting in his being fired. Randall lies to the boss saying Arthur had pressured him for a gun.

Arthur is trying to function in the world, but he just can’t seem to make it work. Being a fan of comedy, he tries his hand at standup only to bomb miserably and to become the object of public mockery when a clip of his performance is played on the Murray Franklin Show, a late night television talk show hosted by a comedian (Robert De Nero) Arthur has admired for years.

When Arthur is assaulted again on the subway by three “wall street guys” and this time pulls out the revolver and blows two of them away it’s a bit sympathetic. After all, the only people he’s harmed so far were handled in self-defense. Then he pursues the third culprit into the station, and shoots him in the back. This is the moment the Joker begins to emerge as Arthur is shortly afterward seen dancing joyfully in celebration. Even he is surprised how easily killing comes to him without any remorse. Over the course of the movie Arthur descends further into violet retribution against the people he perceives have wronged him.

Arthur kills his mother when he discovers that she has lied to him about his father, and his past, and allowed him to be abused as a child by one of her lovers. He later kills Randall for lying about him. Then when he is invited on the Murray Franklin Show to talk about the clip of his embarrassing performance at the comedy club he chooses this moment to reveal himself to the world as Joker. He confesses his murders on the air and makes an impassioned speech about the world’s injustice, and how rich, out of touch elites like Murray Franklin are the problem just before shooting the host in the head, killing him.

Joker is about a man that an increasingly dysfunctional society not only has no use for, but openly disdains. He has a very tenuous grasp on reality, is unable to function or communicate effectively and he is floundering in a state of failure with no one to lean on for support. Media ridicules his genuine attempts to succeed and be accepted while news headlines sensationalize the murderous clown on the loose causing protesters against Gotham’s elite to adopt clown masks the way Guy Fawkes masks have been adopted in the modern world. It doesn’t take long for Arthur’s fragile mind to see where his recognition and validation will more easily be found.

I love that Todd Phillips dispensed with the classic story of Joker’s origin as a villain falling into a vat of chemicals and emerging with green hair, white skin and red lips, and instead chose a story of a troubled man working as a clown, struggling as a comedian who descends into murder and crime. Even as a child I’ve always found the chemical origin silly. This idea that Joker was a professional clown before his criminal career makes a more believable story with more depth to the character. This could really happen. Initially I was less than enthusiastic about the makeup rendering a distinctly classic clown appearance complete with a red nose instead of just resembling a clown as Joker has always been portrayed, but as the character develops this look quickly becomes the face of Joker.

Unlike a lot of superhero universe movies, Joker didn’t require a lot of special effects or CGI to keep it interesting. There were no muscle-bound heroes dominating the screen. In fact it was the complete opposite. Phoenix plays a scrawny, sickly looking character, having lost a remarkable 52 pounds for the role.

Joker is darker than most comic book movies, but the Batman universe usually is. It alternates between gloomy, funny, and tense, providing a range of emotional experience manipulating your perceptions along the way. Sometimes we’re not quite sure who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, just like Joker himself, and we share in his insanity during the show. It seems a fair amount of the story may be nothing more than Arthur’s delusion anyway. We can never be too certain what reality actually is.

Now to the big question that every fan will be talking about; where does Phoenix rank up next to the other live action Jokers? The truth is for me it’s hard to say. The movie is about Arthur Fleck who over the length of the story becomes the Joker. The actual Joker gets very little screen time, and we never get to see the fully developed criminal mastermind that the Joker is known to be. It’s difficult to compare this Joker to the screen time of Ledger’s or Nicholson’s Joker. The character of Arthur Fleck becoming the Joker is however performed amazingly, and the few minutes we get to see the Joker realized is full of promise. I would bet if a sequel is produced Phoenix would give Ledger a run for his money.

To put it simply for me, Joker is the best film of 2019, and one of the best superhero universe films ever.


The Guinness Brothers; All for the Craic

The internationally touring Irish musical duo The Guinness Brothers have been spreading the craic* from pub to pub and festival to festival over two continents for the past seven years. Consisting of Colm Kelly on vocals, guitar, and harmonica, and Roddy Carreira on vocals, mandolin, banjo, and occasional percussion, The Guinness Brothers really are the life of the party.

Based out of Albufeira, Portugal (though Colm originally hails from Kildare, Ireland), they are consistent performers at Irish Pubs, weddings and events at a nearly non-stop pace throughout Europe and the United States.

I naturally met Colm on his first trip to Pensacola as a performer at McGuire’s Irish Pub. Sometime later Roddy came along with him and brought the full Guinness Brothers experience to McGuire’s. One of the most immediately noticeable features of a Guinness Brothers show, as well as a Colm Kelly solo performance is that Colm has a natural gift for working a room and amping up a crowd. With Roddy beside him, they create a power team of sarcasm and debauchery that will have any festival ground, reception hall, or bar entertained and actively involved with all the antics they bring with them.




A Guinness Brothers show is more than a musical performance; it really is a party. The boys don’t want the audience just sitting and listening as each songs fritters by, but instead in the age-old Irish tradition they want you to be a part of the show, to interact, dance, sing, shout out responses and play along for the fun, or the “craic” as is said in Ireland.

Their sets include a wide variety of musical styles from Irish Traditionals, pop, rock, country and more, all of it delivered in the distinct high energy fashion that is a staple of a Guinness Brothers show. On top of all that, the boys are also known to boldly take requests from the audience. Even if they haven’t rehearsed the requested tune before, they’re likely to give it a shot anyway, and fake their way through it, all for the craic. It’s a bit of game to them, a challenge to which they’re eager to rise.

Speaking of games, as an audience member you might find yourself drafted into any number of games such as “left-hand drinking” during which the audience is only allowed to drink with their left hand. If someone is caught drinking with their right hand they’ll be called out, asked to stand up and down their drink all in one. This becomes a lot of fun as the audience begins to call each other out as the night goes on, and of course all for the craic.

In 2019 The Guinness Brothers released a live album appropriately titled Live Craic, a twelve song set including Irish favorites such as Whiskey in the Jar, The Wild Rover, and Rocky Road to Dublin as well as classic rock and popular covers like Folsom Prison Blues, Thunderstruck and Take On Me, with a half dozen more.

The album does a great job at capturing the spirit and the vibe the duo produces with Colm’s signature fast, percussive acoustic guitar rhythms and Roddy’s bright and lighthearted mandolin standing out ontop of the mix. Their rendition of The Wild Rover especially gives a sense of the back and forth banter the two are known for engaging in between and even during songs.

Their interpretation of the traditional reel The Moving Cloud is particularly demonstrative of Roddy’s proficiency with playing Celtic melodies. That and his dynamite mandolin lead on Whiskey in the Jar really helps to ground the disk’s versatile song selection in the Irish musical tradition from which the duo emerges.

While Live Craic is a good listen its only drawback is that you don’t get the full experience of all the antics of a Guinness Brothers live show. How could it? So, the only way to rectify this is to download this album now and make sure you catch the Guinness Brothers live at one of the various venues in which they perform throughout Europe and the United States.


* In case you haven’t figured it out by now, “craic” is a traditional Irish word for fun, joviality, or living comedy. It’s derives front the same root from which we Americans get the idea of “cracking jokes.”


I Was Featured in London Celtic Punks Web-Zine

The London Celtic Punks are an informal club based out of London, dedicated to the promotion of Celtic-Punk music.

Recently the editors of their web-zine found my Pub Songs on Palafox ep, seemed to like it and decided to write me up a little review.

Go on over there and read it!





Friday the 13th and the Ghost in My Backseat

Paraskevidekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th, and this evening, I had my weird Friday the 13th experience.

I was on my way home from dropping off my daughter at her school dance. As I was turning a corner I saw for a brief flash in my rearview mirror the image of a ghastly woman as if she was sitting in my back seat. She had a sort of bluish illumination with two dark eyes with blackened mascara-like smears running down her face. Nothing too original, but it did cause me a split second’s release of adrenaline. The best part is that I know exactly what I saw and why.

Yeah, kinda like that!

For uncertain reasons in the Western world and especially the United States when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday it is believed to be an unlucky day.

I grew up with this superstition and believed in it to whatever degree young children can believe in anything they have no ability to understand and no reason to believe other than the influence of their peers. The fact that I was a very young child at the beginnings of the extremely successful Friday the 13th movie franchise has shaded my view of the event in a particular light for me.

I’m not unique in this, these days Americans particularly see Friday the 13th as a scary and dark day, a sort of reverse holiday similar to Halloween without the costumes or trick-or-treating. It comes with its own myths and urban legends. Much like the Santa Claus at Christmas of the Easter Bunny in spring, the murderous hockey mask clad and machete wielding zombie Jason Vorheese from the Friday the 13th movies is and for a long time to come will be in the future attached to this spooky unholiday. This really is a testament more to the quality of the marketing of the franchise than the quality of the movies themselves that even as I child I found to be more funny than frightening, but I still love them. Jason lives in mythology alongside classic legendary supernatural evils like the Headless Horseman, Dracula, or Frankenstein.

There’s a fair amount of speculation regarding the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition, but no one really knows for sure. The number 13 has been considered an unlucky number for hundreds of years. This is so prevalent that most hotels do not even host a 13th floor. The numbers on an elevator will often go straight from 12 to 14 because many people are afraid to rent a room on the 13th floor. It might seem crazy, but it’s true.

The superstition of 13 being bad luck seems to have arisen during the middle ages and is assumed to have come from the story of the arrest of Jesus after the Last Supper when He and His twelve apostles were present equaling thirteen.  Similarly, the fact Jesus was crucified on the following day; Friday made that day a particularly infamous part of the week, one which Catholics and Orthodox Christians still consider a day of fasting. These two beliefs combined seem to be the origin of the superstition; two unlucky points occurring at once although the origins of Friday the 13th being especially unlucky didn’t seem to arise until the 19th century.

In the 20th century authors such as Maurice Druon in his novel Le Roi de fer (1955), and John J. Robinson in his book Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry (1989) postulated a connection between this superstition and the day on which the Knights Templar were arrested on charges of heresy by King Philip the IV of France, Friday the 13th of October 1307. This was echoed in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003), and other books, memes and papers since then. Although this is one of my favorite hypotheses, the evidence to support this being the origin of the superstition is dubious at best. It’s more likely a combination of reasons.


In my car, as quickly as the ghastly woman had appeared in my rearview mirror she was gone, but I could still see the impression of her eyes. They were spots of dirt with what appeared to be smeared finger print running down the glass. As I was turning the corner the setting sun passed directly behind me for just a brief moment. The sun’s rays reflected off of the mirror in a manner framing the fingerprints in a glow and accentuating the smudges. Then my lizard brain took over and assembled this into an image I could make sense out of based on the fact I’ve been thinking about Friday the 13th and creepy stuff all day. When my daughter gets home from her dance we plan on watching some scary movies.

Human psychology is such a fascinating subject.


Music, Art, Culture and Modern Critiques

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