Posted by: Michael D. Austin | August 18, 2016

Smart vs. Stupid Energy and What *You* Can Do

About a week ago, I purchased my third hybrid street car in a row. My goal in doing this is/was to reduce my personal use of dat ol’ debbil petroleum energy, and via my personal actions by leaving as many prehistoric dinosaurs and flora in the ground as possible.

Five and 1/2 years ago I leased my first Prius. In less than three weeks I’ll return my second leased Prius. Even with my foot pressed against the floor, I’d get upwards of 44 MPG with these cars. Nice.

Before I bought my first Prius, I also shopped the Ford Fusion. The Ford dealership with which I talked at the time was especially full of themselves, and they even denigrated the Prius for its “old” hybrid design. Not a big deal for me since the Prius’ mileage would regularly exceed the Ford Fusion hybrid by upwards of 12%. Ford also wanted much more money for their car, so Toyota got my business. The Prius was a good street car for me. Over 5 1/2 years I logged 123,000 miles between the two of them.

But last week I switched my allegiances. I wanted a slightly bigger car than the Prius, and I also found my two to be fugly. I actually like the looks of the Ford Fusion. While I was shopping I discovered that Ford is making screamingly-good deals on their new Fusion Energi, which is a plug-in hybrid. Ford sold me a one for $3,000 less than my most recent Prius.

It gets average mileage which is at least as good as my two Prii, and Ford’s in-car computer has been quoting average mileage north of 47 MPG. This includes its first 19 electric-only miles on each trip. Right now, I’m plugging it into a standard 110-volt AC plug. It takes around 6 1/2 hours and 65 cents to charge its 5.4 Kw usable capacity. On a 220-volt plug Ford quotes 2 1/2 hours’ charge time.

So, if it costs $3 per gallon for unleaded fuel, and you estimate the Fusion Energi would get a minimum of 38 MPG using only dinosaur juice, it would cost $1.50 to power the car its first 19 miles of each road trip. But an electric charge does that for only 65 cents. This is a good thing.

The Ford Fusion Energi

The Ford Fusion Energi

And now, one of the many reasons I point this out – Obama is proving yet again that he’s anything but an environmental president. As says, he’s up to this destructive task:

“On August 24th, the Obama administration is planning to sell off an area the size of Virginia for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. This fossil fuel auction is set to take place in the New Orleans Superdome, just an hours drive from Louisiana cities and towns that have just been ravaged by unprecedented floods.

Louisiana is in a state of emergency and the Red Cross is calling this the worst disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Sandy.

We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and stop treating the Gulf Coast like a sacrifice zone. In the midst of a climate-fueled disaster, which will most gravely impact those already marginalized in our society, moving forward with this auction is a terrible idea. Selling fossil fuels at the New Orleans Superdome — the site of one of the most visible and tragic instances of climate injustice in recent memory — is nothing short of insulting.

In this moment, we need to stand with Gulf communities who have been resisting the fossil fuel industry for decades.

President Obama can allow the fossil fuel industry to carry on with business as usual, or he can stand with Louisiana residents who are living under a state of climate emergency. He can’t do both.

We are calling on President Obama to cancel the upcoming fossil fuel auction and stop new offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico altogether.”

You now have the option to stand with me, with the other supporters of, to sign their petition to encourage Obama to cancel this idiotic auction.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | June 22, 2016

Handmade Amusements, No Motors

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | June 22, 2016

Refugees Build Models of Lost Antiquities

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | May 19, 2016

Paying Our Muses Well

Les Baxter's LP, Ritual of the Savage

Les Baxter’s LP, Ritual of the Savage

This is for all of us who love music, and who also listen to it on our smartphones, tablets, and computers. Now, the way we all ‘purchase’ and consume music —  its format — is changing yet again. This finally seeped into my awareness from an unexpected article in Digital Music News, which I mention below.

I became a paying audiophile at the tail-end of the LP era. I bought my first LP, The Moody Blues’ “On the Threshold of a Dream,” at age 13. One of my albums also included Santana’s, “Abraxas.” I still remember the way my dad’s eyebrows rose slightly when he saw its cover ;-)

Depending on how you count them, my time in this body has seen no less than seven format changes in the delivery of music:

  • vinyl including LPs and 45s
  • AM radio
  • 1/4″ reel-to-reel tape
  • FM radio
  • 8-track cartridges
  • compact cassettes (3.8 mm tape)
  • Sirius radio subscriptions on dedicated boxes in my home and car
  • CDs, the non-starter large laser discs, DVDs, Blu-ray, and now 4K
  • digital files on iPods, smartphones, and computers, and now,
  • streaming via the computing cloud
Whipped Cream & Other Delights, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

Whipped Cream & Other Delights, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

There was one party with my parent’s friends when I was around 10 years old when I stood silently awed in front of AM radio legend, Robert Weston Smith, known in the Los Angeles region as Wolfman Jack. He regarded me patiently. The Rolling Stone’s “Satisfaction,” and Sam the Sham and the Pharoah’s, “Wooly Bully,” were pounding over the loudspeakers.

By age 13 I’d been listening for over a decade to my parents LPs which included show tunes, the de rigueur Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass of the time, and also their version of instrumental music for love, exotica (Read: sex ;-). Although my parents started what was said to be the seventh Sister City program in the United States with my hometown and a city in Mexico, we had no banda music LPs.

Two of my mom’s favorite LPs, to which she would sometimes sing, were the soundtracks from Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s movie, South Pacific, and also The Music Man. I can still carry the tune and remember some of the lyrics from The Music Man. At a drive-in theater, from the middle seat of my parents’ Wimbledon White, 1965 Ford Country Sedan station wagon, that movie was the first time I’d seen the astounding Robert Preston perform.

I can still sing some of the song, “Edelweiss,” from my memory of the movie version of Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s stage musical, The Sound of Music. Decades later both my son and I were surprised that he was going to school with Julie Andrew’s grandson, and his then middle-school friend described her personality tongue-in-cheek as, “annoyingly cheerful.” At at a young age, at Los Angeles’ Music Center, I was in the audience with my parents to watch Zorba. 

Gratefully, I missed the reel-to-reel and 8-track days. They were fiddly and somewhat short-lived. But compact cassettes had become popular in my 20s, although they were especially perishable because their technology was prone to fast degradation from heat and by simply playing them lots. So I collected only a few of them. Richard Marx’s eponymous 1980’s album on audiocassette is the one I can recall in this moment. From his song, “Don’t Mean Nothin,” “It don’t mean nothin’, no victim, no crime… it don’t mean nothin’ until you sign it on the dotted line,” he wrote and sang from first-hand experience about the cut-throat nature of the publishing and production companies of the music business. Inspired by his song and this article, I just paid iTunes its $1.29 to own and hear it again.

All of this music came from real people, with real lives. And, I have lots of first-hand experiences with, and can relate to musicians and singers. In college I sang tenor and baritone in a vocal ensemble which spread the good word of PDQ Bach’s tongue-in-cheek, “The Seasonings.” I took a little music theory to have a clue what was printed on the sheet music from which I was supposed to read. I also had a tutor for it. I also fronted a garage band for a little while, which never got to the gigs stage because it’s hard to keep even a good band together and have a life. And, although it’s not the same thing as being a published, touring musical artist, it’s not like I have no experience:  For fun and gettin’ by money I performed singing telegrams while I was in college.

To start doing that, I pulled out what used to be called a phone book, scanned the yellow pages, and got excited by the idea of singing telegrams. About the next day I showed up, without an appointment at the Balloon-o-Grams shop in what used to be Santa Barbara’s Piccadilly square. Proprietress Joann hired me on the spot. She asked if I could roller-skate (well) and I lied, “Yes.” Usually I sang simple standards like The Birthday Song. Once in a while I’d pen an original limerick or song because I was having fun.

I drove my own ’65 VW microbus camper to the gigs for her flat rate pay of $10, for about 45 minutes’ work. My bus’ name was Milton P. Quicksilver. Of course, quick he wasn’t. But he was steady. I paid my own gas, insurance, and upkeep on the ride. Even with tips, I often I broke even and figured that was OK because I was a student at university.

The Evidence

The Evidence

Although one of my favorite delivery costumes was simply a bright blue baseball cap with stuffed, yellow lightning bolts, my first-ever delivery was in a gorilla costume, to a pretty, petite birthday girl at a boutique advertising agency. My bravado, and likely the fact that I picked her up and carried her while I sang to her, made her and her workmates think I was pro. I was almost as surprised as they were :-)

And, yes, the parties I got invited to were amazing. Another of my patrons, who hired me to deliver at a party in honor of her boss passing the CA Bar exam. In my gorilla suit I sang romantically to her boss, which greatly and gleefully embarrassed her. Which was exactly the point of what I was asked to do. Her employee, my very pretty patron, was maybe 19. I was about 23. After I was done with my act my patron invited me to stay. I shucked my gorilla suit and got myself a drink.

It was around an hour later at the party, after the social lubricants had been imbibed, and after dark. Since we were in the foothills of Santa Barbara at a wonderful home with Spanish architecture, everyone game for it had just stripped naked and stepped into the hot tub. The tub was almost full, and there was only one spot left to sit. Some wise-ass male joked when my patron came late for her entrance. Since I’ve never asked her I’m still not sure if she came late from modesty, or she instead wanted to make an entrance. Of course, it could have also been both. But buck naked since she was the last one to step into the tub, and wise-ass guy cracked in a loud voice, “Oh look! They float!”

Mike and Harvey, dressedMonths later, after I had abandoned singing telegrams because my interest in being paid so I could eat had outweighed my interest in performing, I unexpectedly saw my patron again. She was standing across the floor of the Standard Brands Paint store at which I clerked. We locked gazes other across 30 yards. I walked over to say hello.

My co-worker, Dave, was having a serious conversation with her about how to paint her and her husband’s house. Her husband wasn’t there. Latex or oil-based? What colors would she like?

While I grinned broadly, she quickly spoke first when I walked quietly up to them. She said brightly, “Hi! I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.” Dave turned so lobster red I’ve never seen anyone that color since that time. He shrank speechlessly away. She and I stayed friends a long time, even during her second marriage, and her two children by a good man who was also a good attorney.

For every successful musical superstar, there must be thousands who never remotely succeeded in their dream. Although I’ve had warm, personal backstage conversations with the likes of Al Jarreau, or the band Air Supply, their successes are exceptional. While you’re reading this, it would serve everyone  —  including you  —  to remember that most of that music is produced by artists who pour their hearts and souls into their work. As with any work which requires high levels of skill and frequent dedication which borders on insanity, its creators deserve to be paid very well. Artists who help us move, shape and recreate our world fresh every time we listen to their inspired work should be treated no differently. Right?

Bill Wadhams

Bill Wadhams

When I first arrived in Los Angeles, my girlfriend at the time had a friend, Ann, whose boyfriend was the lead singer in the band Animotion. Bill Wadhams is his name. I watched him and their band perform on-stage at the local punk rock hang, Madame Wong’s, just a little while before their only big hit, “Obsession,” began charting. He didn’t write it.

Off-stage, Bill had said that he actually detested singing the song. I don’t know if he feels the same way about it now, as I see that Animotion reunited in around 2001 and they’re still performing. But back then, after the song started charting, the owner of the band’s name personally canned all it’s members, trying to start over fresh with new members. I take satisfaction that the owner failed because none of the band deserved that treatment as far as I could see. It seems that Bill has yet to retire to his mansion in the south of France with a full house staff from his earnings as a musician and artist.

Janice Gerard

Janice Gerard

Later that decade, there was also a 6 1/2 year stretch of time in the late 1980s when I lived with a knockout singer-songwriter. She was beautiful, petite, and had pipes to match the best of ’em. She could cover Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” She could cover Janis Joplin or pretty much any rock or show tune. She could growl at the top of her voice or sing gentle lullabies. We had amazing parties with our musical friends. One of them was a hardware engineer for an aerospace company, who wrote and played his own, unpublished songs. And she worked lots of wedding parties and New Year’s celebrations so she could sing professionally. It was her dream to go pro and perform her own music.

She suffered for her art. She wrote beautiful, moving songs. She even wrote, sang and recorded quite a good song, about and dedicated to me. She somehow wrangled a contract with Paul Simon’s producer, Hilton Rosenthal, to perform and publish her own music. She opted to bail out of the cut-throat musical originals game in her mid-30s, when her contract, and her prospects as a pro musician performing their own originals, didn’t pan out to her satisfaction. Wisely she put a time limit on her career with her originals. I figure that was smart, as the music business is and was one of the toughest industries in the world in which to excel. To express her personal love of music, she still does covers. She still lives in California, and is married to a guy who provides them a comfortable living from his profession as an insurance executive.

Karen Hart

Karen Hart

My brilliantly-talented singer introduced me to another musically-active couple. The husband had been a tour manager for bands like Rush, Chaka Khan, and the Motels. The wife recorded, performed and sang her own original songs, and she still does. Her original music is featured in John Waters’ 1985 movie, Lust in the Dust.

In addition to her own music, Karen Hart’s beautiful, amazing voice is the one you hear when superstar Sigourney Weaver lipsyncs her lullaby in the movie, “Snow White:  A Tale of Terror.” Later, from love Karen gifted my second wife, me, and our wedding reception guests by performing her music. For free. But to the best of my knowledge, Karen and her husband weren’t ever featured on Robin Leach’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous ;-)

Fiorella Terenzi (photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

Fiorella Terenzi (photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

Through an introduction by Karen’s husband, in that same decade I happened to find myself standing with, and talking to the same beautiful woman about whom Thomas Dolby wrote his famous song, “She Blinded Me With Science.” Her name is Fiorella Tirenzi, and she’s an astrophysicist. We were at an event in Malibu to discuss art, passion, and community.

Terenzi’s also her own musician, who has written and published her music. We talked for around half an hour about personal passions. I asked her if she had ever lost hers. She said she nearly did when she was doing the mind-deadening work of cataloguing stars to earn her doctorate. She stuck with her primary work and teaching as a college professor instead of doing music full time. In looking up what Tirenzi has been doing lately, it seems she has done well, but it hasn’t been because she made millions from her music to buy her own space exploration craft.

kevyn13There are more artists I have known who struggled and triumphed to deliver the art from their hearts. For a while I was spending social time with the astonishingly-talented Kevyn Lettau. I met her when I showed up one night at the now-gone La Velee jazz club in Studio City, CA, expecting to see some great jazz act fronted by a man.

Instead, before the show began, a willowy blonde walked up to the lead mic and checked its height. That was Kevyn. I was very surprised. Her performance was electrifying, and she was accompanied by the Yellowjacket’s Russell Ferrante. I bought several of her albums on CD.

My pretty patron from my singing telegram days came to hear Kevyn perform at La Velee, because my patron’s daughter aspired to be a pro singer and had a fabulous voice for a 12 year-old. Both mother and daughter were astounded by her vocal range and skill. Kevyn’s was the voice of Philippine Airline’s advertising songs. She still lives in California, and hasn’t yet bought her own airline from her earnings as a musical artist.

Karen Briggs, jazz violinist

Karen Briggs, jazz violinist

Then, around 2008, there was the night that I watched, from five feet away, the astounding talent of Karen Briggs as she riffed her electric violin on her sublime original tune, “Scheherazade’s Groove.” She was on fire! At La Velee she gave one of the most enthralling performances I’ve ever seen for very little gate money. Her sweet, 11 year-old daughter was selling admission tickets at the door. By herself. She also helped to sell Karen’s CDs during the show breaks.

And although Karen has performed with very popular musicians including Yanni, at Greece’s Acropolis, it doesn’t look to me like she has moved to the sunny Mediterranean.

Now, put all this experience in the context of published music, the callings and needs of artistry, and changes in published music formats for everyone. The world is again changing music delivery formats. In my own history, in the early 1990s I started selling or giving away my modest collection of wonderful LPs. They included Simple Minds, the Eurythmics, Peter Gabriel, Level 42, U2, Tears for Fears, Cock Robin, one Blood, Sweat and Tears compilation, and Genesis. I had already started collecting CDs. They were comparatively inexpensive for how long they lasted. I didn’t own any Sting, and only one Springsteen compilation which was a gift. And although there’s definitely a difference between the sound quality of analogue LP recordings compared to CDs, all of us except the most discerning audiophiles prefer the ease and convenience of optical discs. I never owned a laser video player because I felt they and their discs were luxuriously expensive.

All that musical artistry above affected me. I can still sing many of the songs on those albums from memory. All those artists’ songs were especially important to me because their inspired creators captured in time the specific essence of invaluable, universal human emotions. For everyone. The artists who created them worked long and hard, and suffered to bring them to us. In 2009 Kevyn graciously agreed to let me use one of my favorite songs of hers, “Pickin’ Weeds,” as Blue Planet Almanac’s theme song. She wasn’t paid for that because Blue Planet Almanac was produced pro bono by me, for two years. I, too, have ‘given blood’ at the office.

All of us who appreciate and listen to inspired music benefit from the hard-won personal growth, sufferings and triumphs of the living, breathing artists who created them. One of my favorites lines about this is from the Tears for Fears song, “Working Hour,” which observes ,“We are paid by those who learn by our mistakes.”

Yes, it looks like we’re smack in the middle of yet another format change. I didn’t see it coming when I bought my first smartphone, an iPhone 3GS. I expected the digital storage formats to last a while. But then I’m not in the music industry. I got the iPhone because my son observed casually one day that for someone like me who loves so much music, a smartphone combining many functions would be perfect. He was right. I’ve been very, very happy with the format change. My collection of around 250 CDs is somewhere in a box. The ones I wanted to have handy are currently stored in iTunes.

Personally, I have 15.9 continuous days of sound files, mostly music, in my iTunes 11.x installation on my PC. I ‘own’ it all. That’s 4,097 items comprising 33+ GB. A fair chunk of my music was purchased through Apple’s iTunes Store. Some was imported from CDs, and only a few files were imported from friend’s CDs. Some time ago I stopped updating my iOS software because Apple has been releasing crapware mobile OS updates for nearly two years. Likewise, I didn’t switch to versions of Apple’s desktop software later than 11. Apple’s desktop and mobile updates cause more problems than they solve. Many are now surmising that Apple has lost its luster, for those and other reasons.

The next format change, you’ve probably already noticed, is streaming. There’s Soundcloud, Spotify and many others. The only reason I avoid using them most of the time is that they pay signed artists next to nothing. The publishing companies will continue to do this as long as you, personally, decide not to pay the artists for their work. In effect, a musical artist’s pay is less than nothing; the artists go in the hole with their own money to produce their art. I have, by comparison, listened by subscription for several years to Pandora, and paid my favorite artists via iTunes, or once in a while bought the artist’s CDs directly from them. Journey or Antonio Pontarelli, for example. But although it’s piddly money, at least Pandora and iTunes pay the artists something rather than nothing, as do Soundcloud or Spotify. The station seed playing right now on my Pandora One is Tangerine Dream, whose music I never collected.

This time, I see the next format change as being driven by the cold fact that most people don’t want to pay musical artists anything close to fair compensation for the blood, sweat and tears which artists pour into their music. So, would you accept that for yourself? If your answer is no, then why would you do it?

That’s all important context for the little news article I just found via someone’s Facebook feed, “I’m a Label Executive. And This is My Fair Warning on iTunes Music Downloads.” So, after I’ve invested my money and time for several years in Apple’s store, the ‘market’ forces of technology (and greed) are changing formats yet again. In the long run, this might be a good thing. Maybe not. We’ll see. And we’ll see if the artists actually get paid. If the aggregate of your decisions are to go with the flow of what the music publishers try and tell you, you know where that ends up.

The simple facts are that if you want great music, into which its artist has poured their heart and soul, you gotta expect to pay them for it. Although anyone listens to music streaming services, you have the option to actually purchase the artists’ albums or songs instead of expecting they’ll make their money from the infinitesimal amount the streaming service said they’ll pay them. Otherwise we’ll all end up with homogenous, flavorless, colorless musical wallpaper. Where each song sounds the same or very close to the song that just played before it. If you want that, you can have it. I don’t want that. I want musical artists who actually play instruments which took them a long time to master, and vocalists who suffered and triumphed to create their art. I’m unwilling to end up with a homogenous, boring world full of Soulja Boys and Milli Vanilli dross.

And you?

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | May 7, 2016

Findhorn’s Film, “A New Story for Humanity”

Since you follow Blue Planet Almanac, you’ll want to watch this. Mouse here to see it. Storytellers from every field and walk of life contributed to it. Happy viewing!

Findhorn New Story film

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | April 28, 2016

Damn the Redwoods! Full Speed Ahead!

Bruce Bratton

Bruce Bratton

Here’s Bruce Bratton, a widely-respected Santa Cruz, CA, institution, interviewing UC Santa Cruz students, and activists, Andrew W. Austin and Kyra Fitz. Click the play triangle below to hear them. UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) and the UC Regents are trying to expand their undesirable construction over the top of UCSC campus-owned forests, and in the process pack more tuition-paying students into tighter quarters and impacted classes.

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin

Over their 30 minutes on the air, Fitz and Austin discuss taking issue with the surreptitious manner in which the UC administrators are trying to run UCSC like it’s a profit center, instead of a nonprofit in the public’s trust. Simply put, the UC Regents and UC Santa Cruz administrators are trying to make lots of revenue by compromising their written mission statements.

So, did you know that:

Kyra Fitz

Kyra Fitz

Redwoods once grew throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The first redwood fossils date back more than 200 million years to the Jurassic period. Before commercial logging and clearing began in the 1850s, coast redwoods naturally occurred in an estimated 2 million acres (the size of three Rhode Islands) along California’s coast from south of Big Sur to just over the Oregon border. When gold was discovered in 1849, hundreds of thousands of people came to California, and redwoods were logged extensively to satisfy the explosive demand for lumber and resources.”

And, “Today, only 5 percent of the original old-growth coast redwood forest remains, along a 450-mile coastal strip. Most of the coast redwood forest is now young. The largest surviving stands of ancient coast redwoods are found in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Redwood National and State Parks and Big Basin Redwoods State Park.”

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | January 19, 2016

Stories – Making Them for Prosperity

“What question could change my life?,” from Mary Alice Arthur at TEDxKielUniversity. I found Mary Alice at Findhorn’s 2014 New Story Summit. I streamed it live. This woman has skills, “The stories that have yet to be told need you.”

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | January 17, 2016

Seeing Earth


T.S. Eliot circa 1955, from Columbia University's website

T.S. Eliot circa 1955, from Columbia University’s website

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree”

~ from t.s. eliot’s “Little Gidding”

This morning, one of my best friends ever, Laila Selk, watched this video, “Overview,” from her computer. I heard its surprising dialogue in the background. About this vid she wrote, “When I’m feeling down, watching/contemplating this lifts me right back up.” Thank you, Laila!

“Overview” is a wonderful vid by people whose work deserves our attention, but not because they’re technological wizards. Instead, because they’re awakened humans. The biggest reason our war-loving species needed to go to into space is to appreciate Earth so we’d have the choice to preserve it. In the context of an ailing, suffering Earth, and an ailing, suffering humanity, the billions we spend on the space program make it a fool’s errand.

Humans will comparatively soon be the most endangered species toward the end of this Sixth Extinction. We need lots more heroines and heroes whose quotidian activities give us lots to look forward to, and less emotionally-stunted cretins like those poster boys for willful greed, the Koch brothers, and their political sideshow-distractions.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | December 17, 2015

Love Song to the Earth

Vocal performances include those by Jon Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney, Sheryl Crow and Fergie. In watching and hearing this, I’m reminded about Dr. Leonard Shlain’s lecture on, “The Alphabet vs. The Goddess,” the internet might tend to counteract our trend to violence since the invention of written language. Via LinkedIn, I receive notices from people like Candice Gaukel Andrews and groups like National Wildlife Federation. That’s how this one arrived in my inbox.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | December 1, 2015

The American Oligarchy: Follow the Money

"A Flood of Money," via the NY Times article, "A Wealthy Governor and His Friends are Remaking Illinois," on 11-29-15

“A Flood of Money,” via the NY Times article, “A Wealthy Governor and His Friends are Remaking Illinois,” on 11-29-15

As the money goes, so goes both conservation and consciousness. Robert Reich wrote about this NY Times article linked below:

“There are now four classes in America: an underclass, an anxious class in the middle, an overclass, and an oligarchy at the very top.

The underclass is the bottom 20 percent with family incomes under $26,000 this year, who live in marginal neighborhoods, whose kids attend lousy schools, and whose families are in continuous danger of hunger, homelessness, or serious and unattended medical problems.

The anxious class is the old middle class — 75 percent of Americans, with family incomes between $26,000 and $80,000 a year, whose jobs are becoming less secure and who are living paycheck to paycheck, and most of whose children will not live as well as they do.

The overclass is the top 5 percent, earning between $80,000 and $300,000 a year, who still feel pressured and worry about the future but can afford to live in good neighborhoods and send their kids to good schools.

The oligarchy is the top 0.1 percent, most earning over $1 million a year and sitting on over $15 million of wealth, who now possess almost all the power. Through their political contributions, lobbying, ‘think tanks,’ and media, they essentially rule America – influencing politicians and organizing the market to get most of the economic gains.

It’s a vicious cycle. The only way to reverse it is through a political revolution of the sort Bernie has been advocating.

What do you think?

(PS: If any of you still harbor doubts that America is being taken over by an oligarchy, you might take a look at what’s happening in Illinois, via article below).”

Here’s the article, “A Wealthy Governor and His Friends are Remaking Illinois,” at the NY Times, 11-29-15.”


Posted by: Michael D. Austin | November 7, 2015


I’ve been meditator a loooong time. A couple of years back as I interviewed David Lynch in front of the media wall at a celebrity-rich event, I stood next to many whom most of the world would reflexively ask for an autograph. I was there as a journalist, and to be happily calm. I interviewed Thomas Jane and Stephen Collins, and then I talked with David. I asked him, “When did you first know you were onto something with TM?” He seemed mildly surprised, and quickly replied, “You know, that’s a good question,” and he then answered with a version of the story which opens this vid. I didn’t hear anyone else asking him a similar question that night. Which makes me wonder how often he has told it. You would find very interesting the sorts of people who meditate. A few of the better known ones are mentioned here.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | October 22, 2015

Patron Saint of the Altar of Obscene Wealth

Saint Murdoch

Saint Murdoch

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | October 20, 2015

David Koch, An Environmentalist for the 21st Century

David Koch, America Loves You

David Koch, America Loves You

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | October 20, 2015

Rupert Murdoch, We Love (Not) Your Editorial Policies

Sociopath of the Year

Sociopath of the Year

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | January 21, 2015

Declaration to Restore Mother Earth

Declaration to Restore Mother EarthAlthough it’s gonna get worse before it gets better, at least you can be one of those who notices and speaks what’s happening. A personal and collective Declaration to restore the Earth from the destruction created by modern society is at the link, inspired by the Elder Brother’s message.

Via Declaration to Restore Mother Earth:

“Mother Earth’s rights are equivalent to Human Rights. The reactivation of sacred places and sacred sites is vital for the reconstitution of a healthy and balanced life on Earth.

In this task, restoring and reactivating the neglected and injured sites of Mother Earth is urgent. It is necessary to carry out this task on a global level in all biocultural regions of the earth and to revitalize the sacred elements of life: Air, Water, Earth and Fire.

The Natural Rights of Mother Earth should be upheld and endorsed by the United Nations System and by national and regional laws.”

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | January 18, 2015

Letters to Gaia™

This post marks a new direction in which I’m taking Blue Planet Almanac™. Experience, intellect and intuition all show me, on a regular basis, that everything we notice has an effect on us and everyone else. And I’m anything but the only person who can support this with facts. What comes after this are my thinkings aloud, They’re not meant as sound bites so don’t expect them in that context, but they’re instead meant to to connect joyous and important things. This is also letting the ghosts out so they can move on.


Most of you reading this probably won’t know who Anita Moorjani is. But you can look her up. The abbreviated version of her experience is:  She was mere hours away from a death by a cancer that was four years in the making. From a seemingly unconscious coma she heard her doctor, who was out of Moorjani’s earshot, say just that. Then, for reasons which she explains in her books and teaching, she recovered fully. Within only the western paradigm no western medical professional will ever be able to fully explain why. Western professionals will be either speechless or speculative.

Although Moorjani’s experience is very unusual, it’s anything but without precedent. Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander is another famous one. I’ve met and talked with him, including having sat at his luncheon table. I’ve also heard him speak at length but haven’t yet read his books. Since around 1980 I’ve had many very unusual friends who do research on consciousness or who have had such experiences as Moorjani and Alexander. There must be at least hundreds thousands of people who have had experiences of inexplicably spontaneous healings, many of whom have documented them. Probably more like hundreds of millions. But you won’t always hear about them in the U.S. because the American Medical Association, giant pharma and their kissin’ kin never bank on them. Those sort of institutions will try to dissuade you that such experiences won’t help you because they can’t sell you anything and instead have policies which make money on you by keeping you ill.

As I listened to Anita Moorjani’s webinar, as one caller discussed how she had mysteriously gotten lupus several months after her marriage (without other coincidences) I began paying even closer attention to that session than I had at first. There was something important in the caller’s presence which wanted my attention besides my clear sense that she’s a wonderful person. But I’d yet to identify it. Sweet and intelligent, the caller was casting around in the open for causes of her dis-ease with Moorjani, looking for solutions. The caller had helped herself significantly with diet and medical advice, but she still didn’t feel she was healing to her full potential. She asked the kindly-voiced Moorjani what she might notice and suggest.

Then, Moorjani asked her caller a couple of questions about time of onset of her symptoms. They discussed that the caller had left her home country to be married and start a new life, and that she felt significant, unspoken loss of her old lifeways and friends. Moorjani is unusually accurate as an intuitive, and asked her caller how she felt about that. The line went silent for a moment, and those of us open to empathetic presentiment started to feel her response even before she spoke. The caller was deeply sad about the loss of bits of her old life, about her former self. She wept gently.

But thus her healing had started. Moorjani next described the caller’s real opportunity in healing as one to acknowledge and heal the deep, deep pining she felt for her old life. Telling the caller to continue following the advice of her doctors, she also told her she’d have the best results in healing from walking herself through that to joy. As above, so below. As a man thinketh, so he becomes. Whatever you think, you are that. Examples of this come from every field and great teacher.

The caller’s experience is a microcosm of Earth, of Gaia. As Bruce Lipton would point out, each of us alive can be likened to a single cell in a planet of billions of human cells. Every human has around 50 trillion to 70 trillion living cells. And when you add the cells of all the other organisms on the planet, even scientific notation wouldn’t ever give you an accurate number. That’s why something like a Gaia theory becomes supremely useful. And in a symbiosis which is millions of years in age, scientists are now finding that we have another 2/3 of that amount of cells which are bacteria, living both in and on each one of us. We’re mini-ecosystems unto ourselves and always have been. There are many things we are yet to understand, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be amazed and awed by them, right?

As Moorjani’s and her caller’s conversation unfolded, I was nearly overcome with the unresolved feelings I’ve had about Gaia. You’ve heard of Gaia theory. I’ve written about it in a peer-reviewed research essay, and spoken about it on Blue Planet Almanac™ broadcasts as yet another voice in its clear support. I’ve seen where Gaia has been and seen where she’s bound. The facts about what humans have done are anything but pretty. My readers who most appreciate this will be familiar with many things on the list we’ve done to the planet. The Sixth Extinction, chemical agriculture, runaway overpopulation, psychopathic geoengineering, habitat destruction and climate change  –  anthropogenic causes one and all.

If we save our own bacon it’ll be nothing short of a miracle. And although I see miracles every day, I don’t see clearly how an aggregation of them would bring Gaia back to healthy homeostasis. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen, only that I can’t yet see it. I feel that miracles must occur for us to survive and prosper in the ways I’d prefer, living in the same ways virtually all of you would prefer.

But now that we know what’s happening. What are we doing about it? How do we live in joy, health and prosperity? Who has to tell us it’s OK to live those ways? You know the answer to that if you stop and think about it. It’s you.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | July 15, 2014

Save Lives and Make a Super Bowl Champ Cry

How many times in person have any of us seen a 300 lb., 6’4″ Super Bowl Champion cry? Last week I saw it my first time.

Roland Williams is my personal friend, but our friendship began as I consulted with him about how to actualize his many brilliant plans on how to inspire and motivate people. The very first time we talked for a half-hour meeting, it turned into two hours and surprised us both. He’s also an author. What footballer writes? And many times he has been a featured sports analyst on TV networks which include CBS Sports Network, ESPN, MTV, NBC, NBC Sports Network, Nickelodeon, NFL Network, CNBC, Fox, Fox Sports Net, CBS and ABC.

You’d expect someone of his stature and accomplishments to be successful and tough. He is both of those things. And he’s also unusually articulate and smart. The man does amazing financial spreadsheets, for example. And, how many times have you heard a tough footballer quote anthropologist Margaret Mead to focus his audience? He has. Yet, besides the occasional clean tackler who caught him before he scored touchdowns, there’s one thing I now know which will bring him to his figurative knees.

Seeing young boys and young men suffer, from exactly where he grew up and went to school, made him cry. Rochester, New York the lowest rate of high school graduates in the nation, an abysmal, depressing, astonishing 9%. Roland has three young boys of his own. When he cried over the destroyed human potential in Rochester, he saw the dimly let roads he avoided when he was young. It was painfully easy to imagine his own boys struggling. So, he got busy in a huge way, stretching his own resources past their limits to create successful change.

Roland Williams' Champion Academy

Roland Williams’ Champion Academy

Now, I don’t have to spell out for you what the cascading effect of a 9% high school graduation rate means. You already know and it’s anything but pretty. But what I could tell you is that we’re all less than six degrees of separation from anyone in the country. It’s vital that people show these young people who someone cares enough about them to support their success. Their lives depend upon it.

For the past eight months Roland put his shoulders and heart into solving the problem. He created an amazing, highly creative solution called the Champion Academy. He launched it in Rochester, and it’s happening right now. I ask that you right now navigate to its crowdfunding site, dig deep, and help his young charges achieve their dreams. Volunteer, donate, and dig deep to give. Then you might make him instead cry tears of joy, and you will have directly touched the first several hundred young boys and young men who deserve a break and a better chance than that through which they’re suffering. And depending upon your own level of commitment and involvement, it’s likely I’d bring him to your company to provide a rocket boost to your teams.

Roland has received many awards for his charitable efforts including the prestigious NFL Unsung Hero Award, he has twice been the Oakland Raiders Man of the Year, also the Press Radio Club Pro Athlete of the Year, and multi-year finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. His Champion Academy isn’t about the media limelight or athletic successes. It’s about saving lives.

Can you imagine the kind of amazing triumphal stories this man can tell? They’re big. But he doesn’t yet have one exactly like this, and it’s not about him. It’s about heart and compassion. Let’s make this about the young men he’ll gratefully save. They need us. They need you.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | March 15, 2014

Some Work from Cartoonist Horst Haitzinger

This is my first time recognizing Horst Haitzinger’s wonderful work by his name. In the form of sericels I’d seen and sold some of Hans Bacher’s work, the artist who owns the site at which I found these Haitzinger examples. I spent 16 years on a large, Los Angeles animation fine art gallery.

One1more2time3's Weblog

HORST HAITZINGER , born 1939 in austria, is one of the best known political caricature artists in germany. already as a student he published his first drawings in the satirical magazine SIMPLIZISSIMUS, from the mid-sixties on he works for numerous publications. for daily newspapers he creates one or more drawings a day, about 15.000 so far. his unique robust brushstroke-style as well as his sarcastic irony are very well known in the german speaking parts of europe. his beautiful watercolors, oil-paintings and black/white drawings are in exhibitions and published regularly. following is a small selection of my favorite watercolors.

the illustrations are from the book HAITZINGER HIGHLIGHTS, 1998 bruckmann verlag, ISBN 3-7654-3355-1
© haitzinger / bruckmann verlag

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Posted by: Michael D. Austin | March 2, 2014

Bruce Lipton on Consciousness and Gaia

Bruce Lipton on consciousness and Gaia. If you want to find out where we’re going, here’s one of our sages. If you want just the bits on planetary consciousness, start watching at 44 minutes. Remember the word homunculus as you watch this and how it applies to your cells and the planet.

But the first 43 minutes are fascinating, as he sets the stage to talk at that point about the reflections of our bodies into the planet. Thank you Bruce Lipton and Iain McNay of

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | March 2, 2014

Is the Species Which Attacked You in the Courtroom Now?

Is the species which attacked you in the courtroom now, and can you identify it?

Is the species which attacked you in the courtroom now, and can you identify it?

Thank you, Dan Piraro :-) Surfers can visit for more.

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