December 2008

WHO THE F IS PARSON BROWN?

December 24, 2008

To all our fans, friends, and family,
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannuukah, and all the best in 2009!
Love,
The brothers of I SEE HAWKS IN L.A.
To_Wish_You_A_Merry_Christmas_West_Lake_Park_Los_Angeles_CA.jpg

Why America Won’t Starve

December 17, 2008

It’s a wintry day here in the usually overly sunny Southland. It feels very cold to SoCal native Hawks like the two Pauls and Shawn, and like a hint of real winter to Minnesotan Hawk Rob W. The snow level is thrillingly low in the San Gabriels to the north.

We’re cozy in our Northeast Los Angeles houses, working on songs and recordings, making ginger chocolate chip cookies, drinking hot tea and whiskey. Our hearts and good wishes go out to our fellow Americans entering a winter of real cold, or real economic peril, or both. The rest of the globe is far deeper in crisis, but our hearts and imagination aren’t big enough to embrace them. We’ve got enough troubles here at home.

Perhaps enough troubles to start minding our own business, bringing our troops home from U.S. military bases that occupy almost every time zone around the globe. Obama’s talking war in Afghanistan, but he might not be able to afford it. Dire economic trends might unleash the pacifist lurking inside the tough talking neo-JFK.Another strange silver lining: the crash in oil prices has suspended environmental wreckage in some of the last unspoiled places on earth: oil shale territory in Colorado and Wisconsin, coal tar operations in the Canadian wilderness. These desperate scarrings of earth are only profitable when oil’s above $50 a barrel. May their operations, heavy equipment, and rigs rust forever.

There might be quite a bit of rust in our collective future. And a reacquaintance with dirt and real physical labor. Our children may look back on the period from 1950 to 2008 as a time of mad excess, when humans thought they’d have big fast cars, big houses, comfy jobs, and 24 hour entertainment forever.A few nights ago, at the Westfield Century City Mall, Paul L and his brother Anthony, nephew Emilio, and friend William glided on a cloud of outdoor heaters, giant video billboard dream images, Leonidas dark chocolate and ultrafrappucinos, wandering gleaming labyrinths of Apple, Bloomingdale’s, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. The air was balmy and perfect, and so were our lives. Ron Howard’s “Nixon/Frost” somehow found the sweet side of Nixon’s carpet bombing of Cambodia. Even these sardonic mall wanderers were seduced and sedated. Never were four humans more comfy, not in the history of the globe.

Is this dream over? What do you think? Wethinks yes. 2012 doesn’t need an ancient prophecy. The Idiocracy scenario is far too optimistic. The black and towering storm clouds approaching may look worse than they are. But we can’t count on it.Can we remain calm as our physical assets diminish and our lifestyles collapse or get a little more real? We must. We must remain calm. Some of the Hawks, take your guess which, welcome a collapse. We picture days on the back porch, TVs somehow silenced, picking our guitars as neighbors come over to share turnips from their backyards. We are naive enough to wish for this, just as we were naive enough to believe that all would continue as it has for our entire lives.

We have wishes for our culture, hope for collateral damage: goodbye to celebrity worship, day trading, Hummers and their mysteriously prosperous owners, the paving over of hills and farms so that we can enjoy free junk from China in pastel junk mansions that are going to collapse in 50 years anyway, the smugness of Fox News and NPR, and the worst decades of music and song in the history of popular music. We’ve been far too proud of far too little. What have we doing with our lives? Where’s the drama, the struggle to survive that’s a given for the Plant and Animal Kingdoms? An ill defined injustice haunts our years of too much stuff. Something’s got to give. But it could be a little bit of all right. There are reasons for calm. America is a vast and heavily armed fortress that can only be conquered from within.

The Animal Kingdom needs food and water. We’ve got plenty of it. We waste most of it. The big change will be ending waste. McDonalds, Starbucks, blueberries from Argentina, driving 20 miles to sample the new cutting edge Euro/Thai bistro, jumping in the Volvo for an impulsive brew and bagel–these may end. But if we let a thousand farmer’s markets bloom, make meat eating a limited and special occasion, grow graywater backyard veggies, and stay calm–we’ll make it through these times.

Here’s a bright and shiny glimpse of the new paradigm, coming to an exurb, suburb, or urban plot near you:The Audacity of Parkland, by Alan Farago, in the latest counterpunch.com

GOOD TIMES IN CLAREMONT

December 8, 2008

Okay, guilty as charged. We’ve been polluting the clear country rock waters with dark and negative political screed. Let’s step away from our Kountry Kassandra persona and look fondly on this last Saturday night.

Claremont. Mysterious land of colleges and green lawns fronting stately and immaculate early 20th century mansions and lesser architectural gems. Surrounded by less green and unloved Inland Empire suburbia, where road rage and foreclosure lead our nation down its strange path (oops, stay away from the darkness). We always get lost on our way to downtown Claremont. This time is no exception. Paul M and Colleen are already arrived, and they guide us late comers (Rob, Paul L, Shawn, and Victoria) by cell phone to the fabled Folk Music Center, formed 50 years ago in the same folk explosion that gave us McCabes and the Ash Grove.

We screech into the parking lot, late for soundcheck, charge through the back door through the repair rooms, putting hundreds of ancient stringed instruments at risk. Into the big room, a museum of priceless sitars, African drums, Gibson mandolins, and hundreds of acoustic instruments lining the long walls. Like McCabes, the walls constantly hum with resonating strings. We greet our long lost sisters the Chapin Sisters, whom we haven’t played with in several months. The Folk Music Center people are swift and kind, and we do a quick sound check. The Chapin Sisters take the stage, while we lurk in the office on the other side of the concert room.

It’s a strange moment in the little room filled with Ben Harper posters and gold records. The Hawks are a bit tweaked out from events global and personal. As the angelic Chapin voices filter through drywall, Paul L and Rob wonder whose self loathing and negativity is greater. Paul L describes Shawn as “optimistic,” to which Rob claims that this optimism could be crushed like an eggshell. Shawn doesn’t disagree. We all decide that Paul M is indeed an optimist. Paul M nods with quiet assurance. How does he do it?Rick Shea appears at the office door. Rick projects a fatalism that makes negativity look like a childish indulgence. He’s just the antidote to our group angst.

The Chapins finish. The crowd loves them. We tune up and hit the stage. Hey, all our friends are here! Our cares vanish. We do a long acoustic set, and Rick Shea joins us on mandolin. It feels like there’s a fireplace in the room, Autumnal good feelings. For an encore we bring out the Chapin Sisters and stand at the edge of the crowd for an unamplified version of an old Crystal Gayle song and our song “Never Alive.” We head back to the office and the crowd hollers for more. What should we do? How about “Silent Night?” The Sisters nod. They can throw something together. We go back out, do a dobro version of the melody, and then Abigail, Jessica, and Lily let forth a seamless shimmering three part harmony. We imagine the Chapin singalongs of Christmas past, a rich family legacy, leading to this. The best harmonies you’ll ever hear.

[click to continue…]

We love Obama. He is the coolest President since JFK.
Oh, wait, he’s not President yet. Well, we will love him.
Unconditionally. We’ll even forgive him for allowing without comment or objection the Bush administration’s final middle finger to what was once known as “America.”

Twenty thousand U.S. soldiers are now stationed on U.S. soil to deal with domestic disturbances. Like what? The Battle in Seattle? The L.A. riots? A new march on the Pentagon to stop Obama’s invasion of Pakistan? Oops, we’re ranting. We’re a country rock band, not a clearinghouse for information on the collapse of American values. We yield to the professionals, with gratitude and admiration:Check this out, from COUNTERPUNCH, absolutely the best website for knowing what’s really going on in
“America.”

The New Generation of “Non-Lethal” WeaponsBy MIKE FERNER

“Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent.” — Isaac Asimov

The Army Times reported on September 30 that a combat brigade, about 4,000 troops, which could be called on for “civil unrest and crowd control,” had been assigned inside the United States for the first time since Reconstruction. Civil libertarians reacted immediately, noting the Posse Comitatus Act prohibits federal military personnel from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States. Peace activists condemned the decision as well. “It is a sad day for America when our government is preparing to protect itself by using the military on its own citizens,” Michael McPhearson, Director of Veterans For Peace, said in response to the news.

Now, in a December 1 story, the Washington Post reports that the Pentagon plans to have not just that 4,000, but 20,000 uniformed troops inside the U. S. by 2011. Dedicating 20,000 troops to domestic response “would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable,” Paul McHale, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said, but the realization that civilian authorities may be overwhelmed in a catastrophe prompted “a fundamental change in military culture.”The report in the Post made no mention of “civil unrest and crowd control,” focusing instead on the troops’ ability to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe.

However, the Army Times report of September notes that the First Brigade Combat Team’s commander, Col. Roger Cloutier, said his soldiers will learn how to use the first ever package of so-called “nonlethal” weapons the Army has fielded, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and weapons designed to subdue individuals without killing them.”It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities…they’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it,” Cloutier added.”

Where are these unruly American crowds and who are the dangerous individuals these “nonlethal” weapons will be used on? Exactly what is in the Pentagon and local police department arsenals? What, indeed? Read on, dear reader, and head for the hills:
http://www.counterpunch.org/ferner12082008.html

FUN

December 1, 2008

This looks fun. Fun times ahead. Peacemakers. Good vibes. Fresh new faces. Bursting with new ideas. President-elect Barack Obama with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gen. James L. Jones in Chicago on Monday.

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