Saturday, December 5, 2009

Blog #117: Obama’s Bush Moment, Mininova 

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West Point Speech Turns Supporters into Cynics

As Obama supporters across the land listened in horror, the great communicator that was Barack Obama, began to more and more mimic the words of George Bush. Despite pleas from rabid supporters like Michael Moore, who in an open letter written the day before Obama’s West Point address, pleaded with him to, among other things, not commit more troops to Afghanistan. “With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics.”

Obama went on to define our Afghanistan mission, giving peace lovers only the caveat of a pullout beginning in 2011 “if ground conditions permit.” As Obama is forced by his position into backing policies demanded by the office, his eloquence suffers in kind. And true to the old cliché of a picture being worth a thousand words, the morphed image below expresses the muddle more eloquently than any mere words can.§

Bush morphs into Obama during West Point Speech

– photo from The Daily Beast

A Triad of Videos

As we roved the internet this morning we stumbled across an interesting YouTube video. As usual this led to the discovery of a second video, and finally a third.

Mangled Beatlemania

Beatles 3000 is an historical look back at the 1,000 year old phenomenon known as The Beatles. The perspective gets a little distorted from this perspective, as John Lennon is the only Beatle accurately named, Paul becomes Paul McKenzie, and George and Ringo morph into Greg Hutchinson and Scottie Pippen. Why? Don’t ask, just view this 1,000 year look back by clicking on the arrow below.

Sex Offender Shuffle

From the ever helpful Dade County, Florida police department comes everybody’s favorite video, the Sex Offender Shuffle. Your favorite neighborhood perverts shimmy and shake as they introduce themselves to your neighborhood. This video gets a seal of approval from such widely varied groups as Sex Perverts United for Perversity and Law Enforcement Officers for Permanent Incarceration.

And now for something completely insipid. Well, not in the eyes of a mother who created it. How about a slideshow video set to a Celeste Dionne song, showing a Canadian mother’s two boys and her baby, in various stages of sleep, at home, in airplanes, in Paris, in England, etc.? Little boys are beautiful and innocent looking, and would undoubtedly fill the dreams of those sex perverts in the video above who favor little boys. And thanks to the miracle of YouTube we can bring them to you in all of their glory.


And so the three videos above give you just a hint of the wide swatch of subject matter covered by the web’s premiere video service, YouTube.§

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Man engages in mouth-to-beak seagull feeding – photo:

R.I.P. Mininova

Last week the bit torrent site which got the most traffic, Mininova, shut down its torrents after being ordered by the Dutch legal system to quit allowing the downloading of illegal material. According to the website Torrent Freak, it was by far the most popular and heavily used tracker of torrents with an impressive 175,820,430 visits and close to a billion page views in the last 30 days, Mininova set a record that they will be unable to break in the near future. Last August a Dutch court ruled that Mininova had to remove all links to ‘infringing’ torrent files, with disastrous consequences. From Torrent Freak:

Since it is technically unfeasible to pre-approve or filter every potentially infringing torrent file, the Mininova team decided to throw in the towel and only allow torrents to be submitted by approved uploaders. This move resulted in the deletion of more than a million torrents, many of which were not infringing any copyrights at all.

Thankfully, there are still plenty of alternatives for those BitTorrent users who are looking for the latest Ubuntu, OpenSUSE or Fedora release.

The most famous bit torrent site is undoubtedly The Pirate Bay in Sweden. It went to trial last year, and it too lost to the movie studios and recording industry which brought the suit. And its four leaders have been sentenced to one year in jail. But despite losing in the courts, in the tradition of their forebears of yore, the Pirate Bay lives on, its servers located in places unreachable by Swedish law.

And so despair not, ye torrent seekers. Willing and able trackers still await thou seeking. The website Torrent Freak named the 10 most obvious successors to Mininova. The Pirate Bay was listed 9th. The list included:

(1.) Torrentzap (2.) Fenopy (3.) ExtraTorrent (4.) KickassTorrents (5.) BTjunkie (5.) Monova (7.) IsoHunt (8.) yourBitTorrent (9.) The Pirate Bay (10.) ShareReactor

Torrent Freak didn’t say what criteria they used to determine the numbering sequence, but some mathematical rating must have been used as you will note that two torrents tie for #5, and there is no #6.

Update: The owner of Monova, told TorrentFreak that he has reserved all Mininova usernames for people who want to make the switch to his site. The account names can be claimed here!

Also, TF reports that they replaced some sites in the original top 10 because they went down or started to serve trojans, or viruses. The full account of this article is available from Torrent Freak which may be found here

Pirate Bay toddler waters the establishment.

– photo:

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This Week’s Camp Reminiscences

Children’s Camps represent all shades of philosophy, and that especially holds true in the area of discipline. Each of the three camps I worked for confronted discipline when necessary, but each in its very own distinctive way. For instance, at the Settlement Camp, which had three 3-week trips each of the summers that I worked there, had a level of discipline just a step up from that of a reform school. Things were fine as long as things went well. But the minute something out of the ordinary happened, well, you would have thought it was a major security breach.

A Finger in the Dyke

The Settlement Camp director was a young man named Sol E., who had used another person’s abandoned thesis as his own at the N.Y. School for Social Research. However, he was a very basic and uncomplicated personality who directed the camp as if his finger in the dyke was all that was keeping the place from exploding. I had a strong feeling that his deep felt feelings for an almost old testament biblical handing of discipline was because he was afraid that any show of conciliation would be taken as a sign of weakness on his part which might perhaps damage his authority.

I know that sounds extreme, but take the case of Micky and Michelle. Mickey was a fifteen year old camper, and his girlfriend Michelle was fourteen. Mickey and Michelle were both from the Settlement House neighborhood in New York, and were boy and girl friend in the city. Both were very popular among their peers, in fact, Mickey was the closest thing the older boys had to a leader. And Michelle was equally influential among the older girls.

Near the end of their trip the older boys and girls were given a dance. It was held with the idea of the helping campers learn to socialize with the opposite sex. At any rate, the boys and girls cabins were separated by a large distance. After the dance and about twenty minutes after the girls’ were put to bed, Mickey was caught coming from the girls’ cabin. A cardinal sin in the eyes of the camp director, and, would you believe, punishable by expulsion. I mean, the end of camp was a couple of days away. But sending Mickey home early would negate his ever returning to the camp.

When word came down of Mickey’s eminent expulsion I couldn’t believe it, and although Mickey was not in my group he was respected by many in my cabin, and so I tried to reason with Sol to temper Mickey’s punishment. But he was unyielding, and prattled on about the necessity of setting an example, and all of the other verbiage the hardheaded use to justify their overly harsh judgments. Mickey was sent home and it cast a dreadful pall over the end of camp for both the older boys and girls cabins.

Same summer, same trip. I have told this story before of how my group in my third year also managed to bring down the ire of the powers that be. The spirit of creativity being what it is, it seemed that one or more of my campers had used a knife to carve some designs on a cabin window sill. Unfortunately the carver didn’t carve his initials onto the sill, and so there was no way for the counselors and the camp director to tell who had actually committed this affront to good order. The incident happened about four days before the end of the final three-week trip of that summer.

When we brought the carvings in our cabin’s window sills to Sol’s attention, he immediately went into his law enforcement mode. He called a meeting of the campers, and read them the riot act. He demanded to know the name of the carver(s) so that proper discipline could be meted out. What he didn’t tell them was that exposing the guilty would have meant their immediate expulsion. When no one voluntarily came forth either as the perpetrator or to expose him, Sol decreed that the entire bunk was going to be confined to the cabin until the guilty party was exposed or the camp ended. They would leave the cabin only for meals.

I had never taken courses in social work, and so I had no educational standing to intercede on my campers behalf, but the penalty seemed terribly heavy handed to me. It is true that whoever carved up the sill had broken the rules and the results certainly didn’t improve the looks of the window sill, but on the other hand there was no actual structural damage to the cabin. I argued high and low to Sol on behalf of my campers, but it was to no avail. Unless the perpetrator was identified and duly punished the boys would be kept in the cabin for all activities except meals until either they capitulated or until the trip ended.

It seemed to me that both in the case of Mickey cited above, and in the case of my campers, Sol was actually going out of his way to look for infractions so that he could render punishment. And that’s exactly how things worked out, on what was to be my last year working at the Settlement Camp. Sol’s verdicts were set in stone, and both cases cast a wide pall over the end of the camp trip well beyond the persons affected.

I had discussions about it with Charles Cook, who was the director of both the House in N.Y. and the Camp in Beacon. Charles reminded me of Sol’s masters degree in social work, thereby closing the subject. I couldn’t believe such draconian measures were necessary to run a recreational camp, and so made arrangements after camp to apply to John and Ellie Seeger, who ran Camp Killooleet in Hancock, Vt.

John and Ellie were both teachers at the very progressive Dalton School in N.Y.C., and I was anxious to see how teachers in a genuinely progressive institution would handle disciplinary problems. I found out during my first year there that of course, nothing short of injury would have sent a child home, and an injury had never happened during the camp’s history. Counselors were encouraged to solve problems without using strictures like the ones practiced at the Settlement Camp. And just as I expected the camp ran smoothly under such radical tenets as trust and love and reason.§

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My Brief Return the Following Summer

I got a chance to discuss the matter with Sol E. after my first Killooleet summer. I was staying with Pete and Toshi Seeger for a couple of weeks before railroad training my way back to Houston. Pete was doing a sing one night at the Settlement Camp which because of its three week format was still going when I arrived after Killooleet closed, and I went down with Pete to visit my friends on the staff, and to give my report of discipline at Killooleet to both Sol and Cook.

Sol’s attitude seemed to be that teachers at a progressive school had weird ideas about discipline, and besides, the children there mostly come from middle and upper class families, and therefore present different kinds of disciplinary problems than do children from the Settlement neighborhood. According to Sol the neighborhood kids required a more basic level of discipline.

Charles Cook did not look well, he looked extremely gray in the face, so I decided not to bring up the matter with him. As I sat inside the house with Toshi’s father, Takashi Ohta and a couple of off duty counselors, you could hear Pete and the children singing songs extolling freedom and brotherhood from the yard right outside the Main House. At one point Charles Cook came in, drew Takashi aside and complained of not feeling well. Takashi immediately called the Camp’s physician, who was there within ten minutes. While the doctor was taking Mr. Cook’s blood pressure in the Camp Dispensary, Charles Cook, his heart having stopped, suddenly fell off the chair.

Charles Cook was dead. Someone brought a note to that effect to Pete to move the campers up the hill so they would not see the hearse which would be coming for Mr. Cook’s body. Pete ended the song he was singing a couple of verses early, then told the children that as they sang This Land is Your Land they were going to walk up the hill, where they could admire the beautiful sight of the Hudson River, and on the other shore the town of Newburgh, N. Y.

The children rose, and as Pete led the way one hundred and fifty campers, 30 work campers, and twenty or so counselors followed this truly, modern day Pied Piper up that hill all the while lustily singing Woody Guthrie’s anthem to America, This Land is Your Land. When they got to the top of the hill Pete kept the song going standing with his back to the mountain so that the campers were facing away from the view of the hearse, until it had come, loaded it’s haul and departed. Only then did he have the campers turn around so that they could take note of the exceptional view of the Hudson River from high on the hill.

Unfortunately Sol E. was to live only through the following winter. He died while driving a load of Settlement House campers for a weekend at the camp, as while he was drinking from a bottle of wine, his vehicle struck an off road obstruction. None of the campers were hurt, but the bottle ended Sol’s life. And that pretty well ended my association with the Settlement Camp. I still feel that sending home that camper early and restricting my boys to their cabin for four days was needless overkill, but the question was now moot. A higher power seems to have had the final say in the matter.§

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A First Summer Musical Explosion

But these days my memories prefer to recall that first summer at the Settlement Camp which had been quite an adventure. There were nightly sings after dinner, and because that first year we had no sound system, the children sat on bleachers and the counselors relayed the songs to keep them in tempo.

We did at least one very creative modern day version of Little Red Riding Hood that summer, which we even did original music for. And of course this being the first summer I had attended any camp, I was very fortunate to have three talented work campers whose musical talents I could draw on. There was a boy, fifteen year old Danny Bernstein, from whom I learned the old English comic song, Anne Boleyn (With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm, She Walks the Bloody Tower. . .) Dan was a real gifted guitarist, and was an eager participant in camp entertainments.

However, the two work campers who most influenced my subsequent song leading career at the Settlement Camp, and then on to Killooleet and Blueberry Cove, were two quiet, reserved, and very talented twin sisters, also 15 that summer, named Irene and Ellen Kossoy. As I said a few weeks ago, it was from them that I learned my two greatest camp hits, The Ship Titanic, and Sipping Cider Through a Straw. They sang both songs during a camp variety show that first summer, and when I asked them for the lyrics they obligingly wrote them out for me. I wasn’t much of a singer, to be frank. I was more of a rabble rouser. But I could get a group singing, and those two songs fit me like a glove, and went on to carry me through many a camp sing through out the twenty-two years I worked at the camps.

It is a small world, indeed. In the course of these camp reminiscences I had contacted Kate Seeger, who is presently running Camp Killooleet, which is the only one of the three camps I worked for which is presently active. At any rate, when I credited the Kossoy Sisters with teaching me my two “hits” it turned out that she knew them and evidently alerted them to the news, for I got an email from Irene filling me in on their lives and what they are doing these days. I don’t know if any other readers of this blog know of them, but just in case any do I’ll publish her email.

Kate Seeger, an old friend of ours, mentioned to us that we had been responsible for some of your camp "hits." First of all, we were so glad to hear your name, but then surprised, as we always thought it the other way around - that we were influenced by you!

It's hard to summarize over 50 years (we're now 71!) but will try to do so in a nutshell. We still sing, but do only a few concerts a year. In 1956 we recorded "Bowling Green" for Tradition Records, which was reissued as a CD by Rykodisc in 1997 when they bought up the whole Tradition catalog. It's now out of print, but we're told that it will soon be available on iTunes and Rhapsody.

For many years Ellen lived in St Louis, raising a family, while I did the same in Boston. Children are now grown (we each have 2) and Ellen moved to Boston about 10 years ago. We now live part of the year there (the warmer part), and the rest of the year in Guatemala (long story).

In 2002 we recorded another CD, "Hop on Pretty Girls", (also difficult to find – another long story), in the belief that we should record about every 40 years.

It's always wonderful to hear about an old friend and are glad to hear that you're doing well. Best, Irene (Saletan) and Ellen (Christenson) Kossoy

’Tis indeed a small world, and what goes around really does sometimes come around, and all the other usual suspects. It was great hearing from Irene, and since they are 71 these days, and I am 12 years older, that puts my age that first year at the Settlement Camp at 27. Thanks Irene, I had forgotten how old I had been that summer.§

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And so the ends another Little Eddy Blog. We have fun creating this little tome each week, and hope you’ll come back again next week to see what we are ranting and railing about then. Meantime, keep up the old spirits, and especially nourish the young spirits within.

Keep in mind, we are only as old as we feel. Most of the time I feel about fifteen, and each morning it is a total shock when I look in the mirror and see that strange old gray-bearded geezer looking back at me. I have to look away, or the truth will come surging in. So take it from me. Act the age you feel, and avoid mirrors at all costs. Hang in there. Bye, bye. Just don’t buy what they attempt to pass off as Republican Reasoning. It’ll get you every time.

The Real Little Eddy §

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