"Since the First World War Americans have been leading a double life, and our history has moved on two rivers, one visible, the other underground; there has been the history of politics which is concrete, factual, practical and unbelievably dull; and there is a subterranean river of untapped, ferocious, lonely and romantic desires, that concentration of ecstasy and violence which is the dream life of the nation."

Norman Mailer
"The whole work of healing Tellus depends on nursing that little spark, on incarnating that ghost, which is still alive in every people, and different in each. When Logres really dominates Britain, when the goddess Reason, the divine clearness, is really enthroned in France, when the order of Heaven is really followed in China--why then it will be spring."

"This new history of yours," said McPhee, "is a wee bit lacking in documents."

C.S. Lewis

Synchronicities this week

  • June 24 Midsummer/St. John’s Day
  • June 24, 1947 The first flying saucers are sighted over Mount Rainier by pilot Ken Arnold.
  • June 24, 1542 St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic and poet, is born.
  • June 24, 1938 500 ton meteorite lands near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
  • June 24, 1717 First Free Masons' grand lodge founded in London.
  • June 24, 1374 A sudden outbreak of St. John's Dance causes people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapse from exhaustion.
  • June 24, 1314 Battle of Bannockburn; Scotland regains independence from England.
  • June 24, 843 Vikings destroy Nantes.
  • June 23 Midsummer’s Eve
  • June 23, 1972 Nixon & Haldeman agree to use CIA to cover up Watergate.
  • June 23, 1942 Germany's latest fighter, a Focke-Wulf FW190 is captured intact when it mistakenly lands at RAF Pembrey in Wales.
  • June 23, 1888 Frederick Douglass is 1st African-American nominated for president.
  • June 23, 1848 Workers’ insurrection in Paris.
  • June 23, 1713 The French residents of Acadia are given one year to declare allegiance to Britain or leave Nova Scotia, Canada. They choose the latter, migrate to Louisiana, and become Cajuns.
  • June 21 Summer Solstice (11:28 a.m.).
  • June 21, 1964 Three civil rights workers-Michael H. Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James E. Chaney-are kidnapped and murdered by the Klan in Mississippi .
  • June 21, 1948 The 33 1/3 RPM LP record is introduced by Columbia Records.
  • June 21, 1944 Ray Davies of the Kinks born in London.
  • June 21, 1916 Mexican troops beat US expeditionary force under Gen Pershing.
  • June 21, 1877 The Molly Maguires, ten Irish immigrant labor activists, are hanged in Pennsylvania prisons.
  • June 20, 1947 Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, gangster, the “man who invented Las Vegas,” shot dead in Beverly Hills, Cal.
  • June 20, 1909 Errol Flynn, greatest of the swashbucklers, born in Hobart, Tasmania.
  • June 20, 1944 Congress charters Central Intelligence Agency.
  • June 20, 1943 Detroit race riot kills 35.
  • June 20, 1893 - Lizzie Borden acquitted in murder of parents in New Bedford Mass.
  • June 20, 1871 Ku Klux Klan trials began in federal court in Oxford Miss.
  • June 20, 1837 Queen Victoria at 18 ascends British throne ; rules for 63 years ending in 1901.
  • June 20, 1756 146 British soldiers imprisoned in the "Black Hole of Calcutta." Most die.
  • June 20, 1631 The Irish village of Baltimore is attacked by Algerian pirates.
  • June 20, 1214 The University of Oxford receives its charter.
  • June 20, 451 Germans & Romans beat Attila the Hun at Catalarinische Fields.

Monday, December 7, 2009

In the New Old Fashioned Way

If On a Winter’s Night…

Deutsche Grammophon

Through the Bitter Frost and Snow
Susan McKeown & Lindsey Horner
50-50 Music

Over the years, the seasonal mood has been shotgunned into unions, more or less unnatural, with every known variety of popular music. You might think you’ve got to pretty much work yourself into contortions to do something distinct with a Christmas album at this point in time. But not necessarily. All you really need is the merest hint of feeling for the season, a dash of concept, and a few decent players willing to throw themselves into the spirit of things, and--able as you are to ride the momentum of centuries of sentiment and celebration--you can do pretty well without an especially visionary take on the season. And then every once in a while, an artist happens down the Xmas trail through whose senses we can feel the season freshly; combine that with those aforementioned centuries of festive associations, and you can really have something.

Read the rest at the BlueGrassSpecial.com.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gilding the Lily: The Remastered Beatles

As with every mystery, literal and metaphorical camps battle over the interpretation of the Beatles. The literalists want there to be a literal, comprehensible, even if awful, solution to the mystery of the Beatles. The search for the pseudonymous bootleg, the lost killer outtake, the “Carnival of Light,” the Masked Marauders, the clues to the death of Paul, even, down at the abyssal end of the chain, the Manson family’s Helter-Skelter delirium--these are all at one end or the other of the literalist quest.

But just as scriptures are richest when read metaphorically, so too with the Beatles.

Don’t look outside the work for miraculous validation, says the metaphorical view. Look deeper into it. The miracles are buried layer on layer in the work. Understand the puzzling, suggestive, evocative elements not as mysteries with a literal solution like a detective story, but metaphors designed to produce, as Owen Barfield said about poetry, “a felt change of consciousness.”

With its implied suggestion of a definitive revelation, of long-buried gold coming to the surface, the remastered Beatles catalog released this fall is in one sense a classic literalist project. The CDs come with a lot of fanfare and some inevitably excited expectations. “You’re going to be knocked…out,” my CD-store guy—normally cool as a cucumber in the face of hype—breathlessly assured me.

To get a manageable handle on the remastered catalog, I’ve taken two albums, one from the early ‘60s beginnings—With the Beatles--and one late ‘60s high point—Revolver. I then picked a “good part” from each song—a hook, a chorus, a riff, a bass line, a drum fill, a noise, a shout, the bits of gratuitous inspiration that great performances throw off. At these isolated high water marks, I’ve compared the remastered version with the previous CD version. Here are the results.

Read the rest at BlueGrassSpecial.com

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: The Gothic Novel Alters Western Consciousness

Gothic fiction (sometimes referred to as Gothic horror) is a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. As a genre, it is generally believed to have been invented by the English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto.

Prominent features of Gothic fiction include terror (both psychological and physical), mystery, the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses and Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, death, decay, doubles, madness, secrets, and hereditary curses.

The stock characters of Gothic fiction include tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, Byronic heroes, persecuted maidens, femmes fatales, madwomen, magicians, vampires, werewolves, monsters, demons, angels, fallen angels, the beauty and the beast, revenants, ghosts, perambulating skeletons, and the Wandering Jew.

The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole's novel. Melodrama and parody (including self-parody) were other long-standing features of the Gothic initiated by Walpole. Gothic literature is intimately associated with the Gothic Revival architecture of the same era. In a way similar to the gothic revivalists' rejection of the clarity and rationalism of the neoclassical style of the Enlightened Establishment, the literary Gothic embodies an appreciation of the joys of extreme emotion, the thrills of fearfulness and awe inherent in the sublime, and a quest for atmosphere. The ruins of gothic buildings gave rise to multiple linked emotions by representing the inevitable decay and collapse of human creations—thus the urge to add fake ruins as eyecatchers in English landscape parks. English Gothic writers often associated medieval buildings with what they saw as a dark and terrifying period, characterized by harsh laws enforced by torture, and with mysterious, fantastic, and superstitious rituals.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (September 29)

"Autumn is poignant. It belongs to the angel who carries a point, the Archangel Michael, who wields sword and spear for the people of God against the powers of darkness. The point of Michael’s spear is the poignancy of autumn that pierces our hearts and wakes us from drowsy summer, calling us away from our summer home with a sharp longing for something else.

We humans see the spiritual beauty of a thing most clearly when its time is passing or past. Nothing becomes sacred or legendary until it dies. In autumn, nature’s time is passing. The world is at its most beautiful and poetic because it is passing away. The natural world lingers for a moment on the brink of
this transformation into legend or holiness. It has the bittersweet beauty of something that we are losing. The light turns from the clear, practical white light of summer into the mellow gold that we call antique—like the yellowed pages of an old book, the sepia of old photographs or tarnished brass. Old light; legends of the fall; Indian summer. Nature has one foot over the threshold of eternity and glows with a slant of light from the other side of the door.

Michael is the angel of this transition from time to eternity. The point of his spear is the point where eternity breaks into time and transforms it—both “now, and at the hour of our death,” as the Rosary says. The death of the year, beginning at Michaelmas, acts out this transformation sacramentally.

At the same time, there’s a new kind of life in the air. As dead leaves and withered plants shrivel back toward the ground, it’s as if their summer life is transformed into the tingling energy of the fall air. This combination of the beautifully dying and the bracingly awake is the unmistakable spiritual atmosphere of autumn. Michael is the patron
of the process. The flaming trees say it all. They are a last flare up of gorgeousness before death and, at the same time, a signal fire, a wake-up call to the soul. Michael, whose feast is celebrated one week after the autumnal equinox, is the lord of autumn, the angel of the flaming trees.
" Michael presides over the equinox, the time of the equal night and day, when things hang in the balance. Medieval art often shows Michael holding a pair of balancing scales—just like the Egyptian god Anubis, another lord of transitions and guide of the dead. Those balancing scales are the astrological sign of Libra, which begins a week before Michaelmas."

from Holidays and Holy Nights
by Christopher Hill
copyright 2003

Friday, September 18, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: Carter Files Report of UFO Sighting

On September 18, 1973, future President Jimmy Carter files a report with the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), claiming he had seen an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) in October 1969.

During the presidential campaign of 1976, Democratic challenger Carter was forthcoming about his belief that he had seen a UFO. He described waiting outside for a Lion’s Club Meeting in Leary, Georgia, to begin, at about 7:30 p.m., when he spotted what he called "the darndest thing I’ve ever seen" in the sky. Carter, as well as 10 to 12 other people who witnessed the same event, described the object as "very bright [with] changing colors and about the size of the moon." Carter reported that "the object hovered about 30 degrees above the horizon and moved in toward the earth and away before disappearing into the distance." He later told a reporter that, after the experience, he vowed never again to ridicule anyone who claimed to have seen a UFO.

During the presidential campaign of 1976, Carter promised that, if elected president, he would encourage the government release "every piece of information" about UFOs available to the public and to scientists. After winning the presidency, though, Carter backed away from this pledge, saying that the release of some information might have "defense implications" and pose a threat to national security.

from www.History.com

This Week in the Secret History: Ken Kesey, the Indiana Jones of Consciousness

September 17, 1935 – November 10, 2001

Farmer, wrestler, author, Intrepid Traveler

“To hell with facts! We need stories!”

“The answer is never the answer. What's really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you'll always be seeking. I've never seen anybody really find the answer -- they think they have, so they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.”

“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.”

Monday, September 7, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: The Still-Smoking Gun

Richard Helms, Director of the CIA

Richard Nixon, President of the United States

Excerpts from the Nixon White House Tape dated June 23, 1972, subsequently known as "The Smoking Gun Tape" in which Nixon and his aide John Haldeman discussed blacmkailing the CIA into intervening in the FBI investigation of laundered Nixon campaign funds. Richard Nixon resigned the presidency within four days of this tape being made public in August 1974.

Haldeman: ... they'll stop if we could, if we take this other step.

Nixon: All right. Fine.

Haldeman: And, and they seem to feel the thing to do is get them to stop?

Nixon: Right, fine.

Haldeman: They say the only way to do that is from White House instructions....

Nixon: All right, fine.

Haldeman: and say, ah...

Nixon: How do you call him in? I mean you just, well, we protected [CIA Director Richard] Helms from one hell of a lot of things.

Of course, this is a, this is a hunt, you will--that will uncover a lot of things. You open that scab there's a hell of a lot of things and that we just feel that it would be very detrimental to have this thing go any further. This involves these Cubans, Hunt [E. Howard Hunt, ex-CIA and Cuban exile case officer], and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves.


Nixon: When you get these people in, say: "Look, the problem is that this will open the whole, the whole Bay of Pigs thing, and the President just feels that" ah, without going into the details... don't, don't lie to them to the extent to say there is no involvement, but just say this is sort of a comedy of errors, bizarre, without getting into it, "The President believes that it is going to open the whole Bay of Pigs thing up again. And, ah because these people are playing for, for keeps and that they should call the FBI in and say that we wish for the country, don't go any further into this case", period!

Haldeman: OK

Nixon: That's the way to put it, do it straight (Unintelligible)

In 1978, Haldeman published The Ends of Power , in which he explained Nixon's statement that Watergate could "open up the whole Bay of Pigs thing". Haldeman said that "Bay of Pigs" (the failed 1960 attempt by CIA-backed exiles to topple Castro) was Nixon's code for CIA/Mafia plots to assassinate Fidel Castro, as well as the CIA's general sponsorship of violent, ultra-right wing, heavily armed and virulently anti-Kennedy Cuban exile groups in the southern United States. The CIA had not revealed any of this to the Warren Commission, the commission that investigated the Kennedy assassination. Haldeman eventually speculated that the "Bay of Pigs" was Nixon's way of referring obliquely to the Kennedy assassination itself.

When Haldeman did as his boss had ordered, and told CIA Director Helms that "the Bay of Pigs may be blown," according to Haldeman the reaction was galvanic. "Turmoil in the room, Helms gripping the arms of his chair, leaning forward and shouting, 'The Bay of Pigs had nothing to do with this. I have no concern about the Bay of Pigs.' " Recalls Haldeman: "I was absolutely shocked by Helms' violent reaction. Again I wondered, what was such dynamite in the Bay of Pigs story?"

In the wake of this meeting, CIA officials did, in fact, ask Acting FBI Director Pat Gray to slow the FBI's money tracing.

The tape was damning for Nixon because it was clear evidence of the president ordering the obstruction of the government's Watergate investigation. But it was apparently considered a matter of secondary importance to pursue the question of just exactly what Nixon was talking about. And, after Gerald Ford's blanket pardon of Nixon, no-one would ever be able to question the president under oath. And so the matter rests to this day, with Nixon in his grave.

The Watergate Burglars

  • Bernard L. Barker - Former Central Intelligence Agency operative. Said to have been involved in Cuban exile paramilitary action.
  • Virgilio R. Gonzales - Involved in Cuban exile politics.
  • James W. McCord - Former CIA agent.
  • Eugenio R. Martinez - CIA contract agent. Worked with militant anti-Castro Cuban groups
  • Frank A. Sturgis - Former CIA contract agent working with anti-Castro exile groups.
  • Howard Hunt - Former CIA case officer for the most radical Cuban exile paramilitary groups

Friday, September 4, 2009

In Music: Lords of the Highway

Lost Highways: American Road Songs 1920's to 1950's
Various Artists

In Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the Kid, played by Kris Kristofferson, is preparing to leave the Lincoln County Jail, having just disposed of two of Pat Garret's deputies assigned to guard him. In his leg irons he's shuffling around the second story room where he's been held, gathering up guns, ammo and blankets. He starts to hum, then sing, a little tuneless song, a list of places he's been. The list grows, the song lengthens, getting louder as the Kid piles on towns, landmarks, rivers. People in the street outside stop to listen; and when Billy realizes it, he starts to shout his silly tuneless song out at them, until he's gathered a silent, watchful audience and we've temporarily left the land of narrative realism for the country of folklore and ritual. Billy the Kid's Song of the Open Road is an American incantation. Call it singing the travels-it is a stock device that American storytellers can use to touch base with the roots of their subject, highway being to American story what the sea is to Homer's.
Read the rest at The Bluegrassspecial.com.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: Do the Horn Dance

The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance is generally accepted as the oldest continuously performed folk ritual in Britain, and one of the oldest in all of Europe. Six dancers in Elizabethan dress each carry on their shoulders an enormous set of reindeer antlers. Three of the sets are painted white; three are painted brown. They are accompanied by the Hobby Horse (a man with a small effigy of a horse resting around his waist, so he seems to be galloping); Maid Marian, a young man in women's clothing, and a traditional Fool. Musicians generally bring up the rear, in recent years being an accordion player and a young boy chiming in on the triangle. The dance involves the hornsmen weaving in and out of each other in a figure eight pattern. They then split into two opposing lines --white vs brown-- and do mock battle with each other.

There is documentary evidence that the Horn Dance goes back to the 16th Century--it was observed by contemporary diarists. But Abbot's Bromley locals have always said it was older than that. They were right. Chemical dating in the 1980's put the horns firmly on the heads of domesticated reindeer that lived in the 11th Century. So that the 21st Century marks at least the one thousandth birthday of the Horn Dance. (To make things more mysterious, reindeer were extinct in England at that time.) But there's some indication that these were not the original set of Horns used in the rite. Which, if the "old horns" were in use anything like as long as the "new" ones, sends us spinning back into the days of the Roman Invasion of Britain.

Or, as Nigel Tufnel put it, "The Druids...who were they...and...what did they do?"

The Horn Dance takes place on Wakes Monday, the day following Wakes Sunday, which is the first Sunday after September 4. In practice, this means that it is the Monday between between September 6 and September 12. It was originally a ritual of the Christmas season, but the date was shifted to autumn in the 18th Century.

Without further ado, England's longest running performance...

And here's the original Horn Dance tune...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: British Rockers & the Dream of Childhood; or Tragedy at Pooh Corner

"The true subject of English psychedelia was neither love nor drugs but nostalgia for the innocent vision of the child. ...Pop's late-60's preoccupation with the lost domain of childhood [was]... initiated by Lennon and McCartney with the single, 'Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane'.

"The revolutionary spirit then abroad in America and Europe was never reciprocated in Albion, where tradition, nature and the childlike view were the things that sprang most readily to the LSD-heightened Anglo-Saxon mind." Ian MacDonald Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties

From Pink Floyd's references to Wind in the Willows, to John Lennon's unending fascination with Lewis Carroll, to the Small faces stoned-out fairy tale, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, British rockers were obsessed for a time with the vision of childhood. "Show me that I'm everywhere/Then get me home for tea," George Harrison sang. Most evocative of all were the Incredible String Band, for whom the eyes of a child were a lens for viewing the hidden beauty and strangeness of the world.

Many of the great creators of English children's literature were people who felt themselves seriously, sometimes desperately out of place in their world. It's why they could create golden alternate worlds, tinged with palpable magic. The best of their work--like Wind in the Willows or the Mary Poppins books-- aren't just works of the imagination--they're works of vision. When psychedelia hit Britain, it was as natural a source for artists to look to as the Anthology of American Folk Music was for American musicians.

Cotchford farm in Sussex is where Christopher Robin Milne grew up-- the Christopher Robin, the inspiration and model for the central character in the Winnie the Pooh stories, which his father, A. A. Milne, wrote. The woods that stretch backward from the house are the 40 Acre Woods. The Enchanted Place on Top of the Forest is there. The bridge where Pooh and Eeyore invent Pooh Sticks is there. The garden of the house is maintained as a shrine to childhood, with rights of access granted in perpetuity to the Winnie-the-Pooh Society, and so to all Pooh- lovers.

It was here that Brian Jones, the most debauched and dangerous of the Rolling Stones and the band's founder, came in 1969 to try to pull his life back together, away from the mad Saturnalia that was pop star life in "Swinging London."

It was here that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards came to tell Brian he was no longer a Rolling Stone. The Stones wanted and needed to tour the United States, where they had not made a live appearance for several years. Brian, in his drug and booze raddled shape, could not possibly undertake the rigors of extended touring. He could barely play in the recording studio. Plus his two drug busts would effectively bar his entry to the States.

This was the Stones tour that ended in the debacle at Altamont. Things were turning dark all over as the 60s began switching off the lights.

Friends began to remark to each other that the benevolent atmosphere of Cotchford Farm was doing Brian good. Brian would allow no drugs in the house, (though he apparently still drank heavily from time to time). He talked about starting a roots rock band, what we would now call Americana--and was listening endlessly to Creedence. His housekeeper, Mary Hallett, who had worked at Cotchford Farm for decades, grew increasingly fond of him. She though he was a lost boy who needed a stable home. Sometimes, something in the way his hair fell over his forehead made her think of another golden-haired boy who had lived there long ago. Brian had wonderful, instinctive good manners that he could call on when needed and his relation with those younger and older than he were often very tender. It was with his peers, and himself, that the problems lay.

On the night of Wednesday, July 2, 1969, Brian had a few friends around--a girl friend, the contractor who had been doing repairs at Cotchford, his girlfriend. Maybe one or two others. They were sitting around the pool at the back of the house. Late in the evening, Brian announed he was going for a swim. He went inside to change, came back out, and dove in. As it was getting dark, and cooling off, the rest of the group went inside. A moment later, one of the women went back outside to get Brian. She found him lying face down on the bottom of the pool.

Brian was asthmatic. He was in terrible shape. He was probably drunk, and may have taken some sedative medication. There's nothing terribly mysterious about his death. Yet dark speculation--some of it verifiable--has swirled around the events ever since. There was some kind of bad blood between Brian and the contractors. Frank Thorogood, the head contractor, had apparently been trying to collect a debt from Brian for some time. He was the last person to see Brian alive. And someone was burning something in several small fires, in the small hours of that night, at Cotchford.

Something called to Brian Jones from Cotchford Farm, as the world of childhood, remembered or imagined, called to British rock and rollers toward the end of the 60s. Many of them would visit that country. Few of them paid so high a price.

"By-and-by they came to an enchanted place on the very top of the Forest..."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

In Music: Rhett Miller Bares His Heart to Someone

Rhett Miller
Shout Factory

"Indie" as a label for a band should be used in a strictly limited sense to refer to a band unaffiliated with the major labels. Used to suggest a sensibility, or a sound, the word is layered with unfortunate associations.

For instance, it's easy to say that Rhett Miller's band, the Old 97's of Dallas, Texas, have, for over a decade, been a beloved indie/alt-country fixture. And that's a shame.

Because the Old 97's aren't an indie/alt-anything band, but rather a near great rock & roll band within the broad river of tradition that flows from the Byrds. They practice certain lost arts, like the high-energy hook, that few know anymore They come on with a buzz and a whack and gorgeous melodic fillip. They command power chords and distortion as well as really from-the-heart sweet melodies and consistently diverting songwriting from frontman Rhett Miller--Miller, wearing his bleeding heart on his sleeve, love-obsessed, gangly, held together by twining strands of heartbreak and pugnacity. And there seems to be no reason for them not to sell large quantities of records. Except that their leader still seems to be a prisoner of the indie mind.

Indie cults are based on the myth of the beautiful loser, often personified in the pale ruined boy who fronts the band. As a band, the Old 97's don't seem interested in being beautiful losers. But Miller? If his new solo album is an indication, he sounds prepared to milk the personae of pale ruined boy for all it's worth.

Read the rest in the BlueGrassSpecial.com.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Secret History Readers: Choose Your Free One-of-a-Kind CD

These one-of- a-kind cd's are custom programmed, full of rarities and other artfully selected tracks, with original cover art. They are available only through the Secret History. Starting today, the first four readers to post comments on any story, current or archived, in the Secret History, will win the cd of their choice.

The first four readers who respond to any comments will also receive their choice of cd.
And finally the next four readers to sign up as followers will get a cd.

Take Your Choice...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, Percy Bysshe Shelley!

“Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”

Percy Shelley
(4 August 1792 – 8 July 1822)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: The Secrets of the Green Dragon Tavern

Almost since the events themselves, people of a certain cast of mind have insisted that crucial events of the American and French Revolutions were guided, planned, instigated by occult orders who practiced advanced forms of spirituality not accessible to the masses. Depending on which side of the Revolution you were on, this was either a good thing--the spiritually advanced sharing their gifts to lift humanity to new levels of freedom and dignity--or a bad thing--hidden radical elites wielding a dangerous level of influence over the ignorant masses to tear down divinely ordained hierarchy. Both sides were sure that the Order in question was the Freemasons. It used to be a given that the Freemason's were active on the side of American freedom--a disproportionate number of Masons signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Some of the most important revolutionary leaders were Masons, including George Washington, Ben Franklin, Samuel Adams and possibly Thomas Jefferson. About half of the officer corps of Washington's army were Masons. But modern materialist historians, allergic to anything that smells of mystery, had to eradicate the notion that the Mason's were helping to act out a scenario for the spiritual development of the world. To which the only answer, it seems to me, is that if they weren't, they certainly thought they were.

Which brings us to the door of the Green Dragon.

Boston's Green Dragon Tavern was one of the oldest tavern's in the city,having been in operation since the 1670's. In 1736, it was purchased by the St. Andrew's Lodge of Freemasons to serve as their headquarters.

Not coincidentally, it came to be known as the "Headquarters of the Revolution." In its cozy confines, the Freemasons played host to most of the radical revolutionary groups of the time, including the Sons of Liberty and the Committee of Correspondence.

A group of men dressed as Indians set out from the Green Dragon to dump tea from British ships into Boston Harbor. The British advance towards Lexington and Concord was monitored from the Green Dragon. Paul Revere set out on his ride from the Green Dragon.

Here's how the Masons see it...

"...it can easily be shown that in many ways the revolutionary ideals of equality, freedom, and democracy were espoused by the Masonic fraternity long before the American colonies began to complain about
the injustices of British taxation. The revolutionary ideals expressed in the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the writings of Thomas Paine, were ideals that had come to fruition over a century before in the early speculative Masonic lodges of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, where men sat as equals, governed themselves by a Constitution, and elected their own leaders from their midst. In many ways, the self-governing Masonic lodges of the previous centuries had been learning laboratories for the concept of self-government"(The Masonic Trowel)

On September 18, 1793, President George Washington, dressed in his Masonic apron, leveled the cornerstone of the United States Capitol with the traditional Masonic ceremony. Historian Stephen Bullock in his book Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, notes the historic and symbolic significance of that ceremony. "The Masonic brethren, dressed in their fraternal regalia, had assembled in grand procession, and were formed for that occasion as representative of Freemasonry's new found place of honor in an independent American society. At that moment, the occasion of the laying of the new Republic's foundations, Freemasons assumed the mantles of 'high priests' of that 'first temple dedicated to the sovereignty of the people,' and they '“helped form the symbolic foundations of what the Great Seal called ‘the new order for the ages’.”

Saturday, July 25, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: The Avenging Angel of California

Joaquin Murrieta (1829–ca. 1853), also called the Mexican Robin Hood, was a semi- legendary figure in California during the California Gold Rush of the 1850s. He was either an infamous bandit or a Mexican patriot, depending on one's point of view. Murrietta was partly the inspiration for the fictional character of Zorro. His name has, for some political activists, symbolized resistance against Anglo-American economic and cultural domination in California.

There is little historical evidence for the tale of Joaquin Murrieta. The only written source is a highly romanticized biography written a year or two after his death. The book says that Murrieta and his family went to California in 1850 to seek their fortune in the California Gold Rush. Instead of opportunity, he encountered racism and discrimination.

In the same year as their arrival, a Foreign Miners Tax was imposed in California and their Anglo-Saxon neighbors tried to run them off by telling them that it was illegal for Mexicans to hold a claim. Reportedly, the Murrieta brothers tried to ignore the threats as long as they could until they were finally forced off their claim. While mining for gold, he and his wife supposedly were attacked by American miners jealous of his success. They allegedly raped Murrieta's wife, flogged him, and killed his brother.

Angry and unable to find work, Joaquin turned to a life of crime, along with other disposed foreign miners, who began to prey upon those who had forced them from their claims.

In the novel, Murrieta sought justice through the legal system but was informed by a friend who was also a constable that there was no way to prosecute the crime because of a California law that prohibited Mexicans from testifying against Anglos. To avenge this injustice, Murrieta formed a gang from his family and friends to hunt down those that attacked his family. They killed at least six, and as they were then outlaws, they turned to a life of organized crime, stealing and using the money to help Californio's (Native Californians.)

On May 11, 1853, Governor of California John Bigler signed a legislative act creating the "California State Rangers," led by Captain Harry Love (a former Texas Ranger). Their mission was to capture Murrieta and his gang. The California Rangers stood a chance to share a $5000 reward for the capture of Joaquin Murrieta. On July 25, 1853, a group of Rangers encountered a band of armed Mexican men near Panoche Pass in San Benito County, 50 miles from Monterey. A confrontation took place, and two of the Mexicans were killed. One was claimed to be Murrieta.

The Rangers severed the alleged Murrieta's head as proof of their deaths and preserved it in a jar of brandy. The jar was displayed throughout California; spectators could pay $1 see the remains. Seventeen people, including a Catholic priest, signed affidavits identifying the remains as Murrieta's, and Love and his Rangers accordingly received the reward money. The preserved head was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

A plaque (California Historical Landmark #344) near the intersection of State Routes 33 and 198 now marks the approximate site of Murrieta's headquarters in Arroyo de Cantua, where he was presumably killed.

For more on Joaquin Murrieta, see...

The Robin Hood of El Dorado: The Saga of Joaquin Murrieta, Famous Outlaw of California's Age of Gold by Walter Noble Burns

Searching for Joaquin: Myth, Murieta and History in California by Bruce Thornton

Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta: The Celebrated California Bandit by John Rollin Ridge

Sunday, July 19, 2009

When Cowboys Get the Blues


Steve Earle

New West Records

"My wife and I were listening to the folk music show on our local public radio station the other Sunday night when we could no longer take one more brawny chanty about plying the Great Lakes on the grand old steamships. So I plugged in my iPod and started to play one of my British folk music playlists. It did the job clearing the air of all the heave-away-haul-away with its astringent northerness. The last song was a majestic and mournful pipe duet called "Kintail" from the great Scottish pipe band the Tannahill Weavers, which sounded like watching your true love pass over the horizon on a ship bound for Amerikay, or Frodo leaving Middle Earth at the Grey Havens. About halfway into it, my wife said, "They're always so sad." She meant all of it, all the songs we had just been listening to, all "folk" music. She was right. The folks that folk music comes from, way back when, were by and large people who didn't have much buffer, if any, between them and life. And that also means, of course, between them and death. Folk music is sad all over the world.

As country music grew from its poor mountain roots, moved into the city and started getting a steady paycheck, and a dry summer didn't necessarily mean immediate destitution, country singers, if they were after greatness, still had to invite the ghost to the party. It's not an accident that the greatest country singer of all, Hank Williams, is among the most notably mournful.

The ghost became the blues. The blues were the old hard times, internalized."

Read the full review at the bluegrassspecial.com.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: Eisenhower Proposes Interstate Highway System

There were rivers and paths in America that once seemed to be the gate to all good adventure. The Mississippi River, Route 66, all the blacktop two-lanes that led into the groves of America.

After the dolorous stroke in Dealey Plaza, such arteries of possibility dried up. The men to whom fear and money were everything laid over the land a vast grid of concrete in the name of national security, whose purpose was to turn all the places into no-place, so that people no longer knew where they were or where they came from.

These concrete sluices drained the life off half the nation, created an unthinkable continent of ghost towns, and sure enough the ghosts come forth to disturb our sleep. Now the withered spirits blow up and down old Route 66, Timothy McVeigh and the patriots, they own that road.

The act of Dealey Plaza led to this America where the dry souls are stacked like kindling.

The land was given over to the mundane light and the dry electric fever. “Save us from... the fever that strikes at mid-day” the psalmist prays. This was the same mundane light that fell on Dealey Plaza at noon that Friday.

“It will be cool under the underpass”, Jackie thinks as the black car rolls with dreadful slowness down Elm Street. In fact it never got cool again.

That mundane light of Dallas which to the spiritual eye is dreadful darkness, the dunnest smoke of hell. The light on Dealey Plaza is the light of Sunbelt gangsters, is the light on the parking lot of an Arizona savings & loan, is the light of Las Vegas that burns off the top of people’s heads to desiccate the moist brain inside, is the light that evaporates the pools of mystery, the light that shone all over America and burned out every shadow, that makes every photograph from the 50’s black and white, the light that says you’re seeing all there is to see, which is the great lie, the lie of Hitler’s open hand.

Copyright 2009 Christopher Hill

Monday, July 13, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: Bastille Falls; Stones Play First Gig

July 14, 1789 The hated Bastille Prison, symbol of royal despotism, falls to the Paris mob.

A shout out to all you French Freemasons--nice work. Good to win one once in a while.

"It is very hard today to feel that the French Revolution was as fresh as it really was. The Marseillaise is played today at diplomatic dinner-parties, where smiling monarchs meet beaming millionaires, and is rather less revolutionary than "Home Sweet Home." The Marseillaise once sounded like the human voice of the volcano or the dance-tune of the earthquake, and the kings of the earth trembled; some fearing that the heavens might fall; some fearing far more that justice might be done."

- GK Chesterton

July 12, 1962 The Rolling Stones play their first gig

Yes, my name is called Disturbance.

I’ll shout, I’ll scream, I’ll kill the king,

I’ll rail at all his servants.

July 12, 1942 Happy Birthday Roger McGuinn

With his famous granny glasses

and his immortal 12-string Rickenbacker...

...with which he made a sound more glorious than people had ever expected from pop music. A distinctly American noise, that seemed to be saying that it was a much more interesting country than you'd been led to believe.

"A little bit of courage is all we lack/ So catch me if you can, I'm goin' back..."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: Paul and John Meet

There are some moments when it's clear that a new world has begun. At St. Peter's Parish Fete in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool, a rather sloppy group of kids calling themselves the Quarrymen has just finished their set. A strangely confident, baby-faced 15 year old kid introduces himself to their leader. The band's leader, a year older, says something snide. Unfazed, the younger boy proceeds to show him the chords to Eddie Cochran's"Twenty Flight Rock." The older boy is snide no longer.

And so it begins.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Asymmetrical Warfare, cont.

To move the Arab Revolt north into the political hot zones would require a port to supply the Revolt. The place

Aqaba today. Note mountains behind town.

was obvious--the Ottoman port of Aqaba, at the tip of the Red Sea Gulf of Aqaba, at the extreme south of what is now Jordan. The problem was two-fold--Aqaba was in Turkish hands, and it was, in a sense, impregnable. The Arabs could request the Royal Navy to land an assault force at Aqaba, and they could probably have taken it. But again, the problem was two-fold. The British had no geopolitical vision of the Arab Revolt extending to the north of the Arabian Peninsula. And more practically, the lone track that led over the mountains and into the inland from Aqaba was heavily fortified, much more of a tactical challenge than the town of Aqaba itself, and liable to exact prohibitively high casualties from anyone who tried to force the way. After the apocalypse of Gallipoli, the English people has no more taste for attacking Turks in fortified positions, especially in the name of some exotic sideshow like the Arab Revolt.

But Lawrence and Feisal had just been given something better than the British Navy, if they played their cards right. For into Feisal's camp at Wejh had just ridden Auda abu Tayi, sheik of the Howeitat bedouin. Auda, in Lawrence's estimate, was "the greatest fighting man in Northern Arabia." The Howeitat were known wide and far for their belligerence, deriving much of their tribal wealth from raiding their neighbors. Auda was placing himself and his tribe at the service of the Revolt.

Now Lawrence happened to have seen some recently shot aerial photography taken by British reconnaisance planes, that included views of Wadi Itm, the mountain pass that led inland from Aqaba. From it, Lawrence could see that the Turkish fortifications in the pass were much more vulnerable to a force going down the pass from the inland, rather than one ascending it from the sea. Especially if said force could materialize by more or less complete surprise at the top, inland mouth of the pass.

And where could one typically find the black tents and the home pastures of the Howeitat? Why, in southern "Transjordania" as the British called it--a few day's ride, as it happened, from the mouth of Wadi Itm. But where were the Howeitat now?

The Howeitat were somewhere in Wadi Sirhan, the great dry watercourse that connects the northern Arabian Desert with the arable lands of the coast, the pasage from the nomadic to the settled. Reaching the Howeitat in Wadi Sirhan involved crossing some of the least hospitable country in northern Arabia, cutting through an outlier of the Great Nefud desert, and making it across something the Arabs called el Houl, the Terror. All told, it was a desert journey of abot 600 miles -- a huge loop from their current base on the Hejaz coast deep into the Arabian desert, and then back around again down to the sea at Aqaba.
They set off in May, 1917, with Auda, Lawrence, Sherif Nasir, the official Hashemite leader appointed by Feisal, and about forty bodyguards. The crossing was terrible, especially for an Englishman unused to Bedouin life. But they arrived intact at the tents of the Howeitat in their summer pasture in Wadi Sirhan. Auda succeeded in raising the Howeitat for the great raid, and they ultimately left the camp for Aqaba with about 500 of the most avid desert raiders in Arabia. After a string of diversionary raids and manouevers, they entered Wadi Itm, and found the Turkish fortifications falling like plums into their hands. No Turkish planner had anticipated a force of this size or organization to arise out of the disorganized, undisciplined Bedouin in their rear, who only made war on each other. One fort, at Abba el Lissan, held out until Auda, in a fit of pique, ordered an all-out, old-style camel charge. Lawrence, excitedly joining in, accidentally shot his camel through the head, and was sent hurtling head over heels into the sand. When he came to, the Turks had surrendered. The force then headed unopposed down the pass, through a driving sandstorm and entered Aqaba on July 6, 1917.

Hashemite/Howeitat forces entering Aqaba

From then on, the Arabs became a factor in the calculus of the great powers as they planned for the post-War East. And Lawrence's theories about the potential of the Arab Revolt became more than the fevered musings of one lone English eccentric in a black tent.