Why we’ve counted years – a Big Deal

a new system for reckoning the passage of time

years.timeline“What year is it? It’s 2019, obviously. An easy question. Last year was 2018. Next year will be 2020. We are confident that a century ago it was 1919, and in 1,000 years it will be 3019, if there is anyone left to name it.”

Those are the opening sentences in the article A revolution in time by Paul J Kosmin. The subtitle: “Once local and irregular, time-keeping became universal and linear in 311 BCE. History would never be the same again.”

D’oh. There are so many concepts we take for granted – the number zero, e.g. – that we take assume that they’ve somehow ALWAYS existed. But “from earliest recorded history right up to the years after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the late 4th century BCE, historical time – the public and annual marking of the passage of years – could be measured only in three ways: by unique events, by annual offices, or by royal lifecycles.”

What about the Hebrew calendar, for which it is currently 5779? “One of Alexander’s Macedonian generals… introduced a new system for reckoning the passage of time. It is known, after him, as the Seleucid Era. This was the world’s first continuous and irreversible tally of counted years. It is the unheralded ancestor of every subsequent era system, including the Christian Anno Domini system, our own Common Era, the Jewish Era of Creation, the Islamic Hijrah, the French Revolutionary Era, and so on.”

Moreover, “these Seleucid Era year numbers were marked onto an unprecedented range of public, private and mobile platforms. Era dates were affixed to market weights, jar handles, coinage, building constructions, temple offerings, seal rings, royal letters, civic decrees, tombstones, tax receipts, priest lists, boundary markers, astronomical reports, personal horoscopes, marriage contracts – and much, much more. In our own world, filled with ubiquitous date marks, it is easy to underestimate the sheer novelty, and so historical significance, of this mass year-marking. But, in the ancient world, this was without precedent or parallel.”

Why is this such a big deal? Chronology and dating “are the stuff that history is made on, for dates do two things: they allow things to happen only once, and they insist on the ordering and interrelation of all happenings. Every event must be chained to its place in time before it becomes an available object of historical articulation. And the modes by which we date the world, by which we apprehend historical duration and the passage of time, frame how we experience our present, conceive a future, remember the past, reconcile with impermanence, and make sense of a world far wider, older and more enduring than any of us.”

For ABC Wednesday

Stonewall, Rainbow Railroad, and the church

a bigot with a legally-obtained gun

StonewallDuring the Adult Education class at church early this month, we discussed the Stonewall demonstrations of June 1969, which started the modern LGBTQ+ movement.

One of the pastors asked how we felt after seeing one of these short films, and I said, “Wary.” Always the optimist, I am. Though it’s great that Stonewall was designated a national park in 2016, I keep seeing all the retrenchment since that date. There is still discrimination that exists in the workplace, in public accommodations, and at businesses.

Some recent examples:
A district attorney won’t prosecute gay domestic violence cases because he’s a ‘good Christian’ He says he believes same-sex marriage is “social engineering” and therefore it isn’t domestic violence

Alabama lawmakers protect judges from having to perform same-gender weddings

Unrepentant Hate-Preaching Homophobic Sheriff’s Deputy Doubles Down in New Sermon – ugh, a bigot with a legally-obtained gun

From Stonewall to Trump: Do Trans Lives Really Matter?

The Rainbow Railroad helps LGBTQ+ people escape violence and persecution in Egypt and elsewhere. Sadly, the folks are more likely to go to Spain, the Netherlands, or Canada, and less likely to go to the United States.

Franklin Graham Goes on Anti-Gay Rant, Says ‘Gay Pride Flag Is Offensive to Christians’ (n.b.: there is a pride banner hanging over the entrance to our church)

And other examples too numerous to mention.

Note that a lot of this bigotry is taking place in the so-called “Christian” community. One of the older gay men in Adult Ed noted that, back in the day, the gay bars WERE their “church”, (mostly) safe havens for a population that was largely invisible to the general public.

This is why it’s so important that the “welcoming” or “more light” churches remain vocal in its support of all of God’s people. As people of faith, we must confront homophobia in the church.

I was thrilled by the Pride March in Albany on June 9. There were more houses of worship represented than I’d ever seen before. Plus most of the folks running for office locally.

The pride flag raised over the State Capitol for the first time in NY State history. A suburban town in Albany County, Colonie will now recognize LGBT Pride month because of one man.

New York City expects 6 million visitors for the Stonewall Uprising 50th anniversary.

And in a big heaping bowl of schadenfreude: Louisiana floods destroy home of Christian leader who says God sends natural disasters to punish gay people.

Suggestions: work for/be a candidate

At least two of them are from Colorado

This is what happens when I ask for suggestions for retirement.

Tom the Mayor said: Howz about picking a good person, and making them the next POTUS! Volunteer, My friend! Make a difference!

My problem is that I’m not ready to pick a candidate yet. See all those people pictured? Who ARE they?

Which is what people obviously said about Steve Bullock, governor of Montana; Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Florida; and Sean Moulton, congressman from Massachusetts’ 6th district. None of them got enough support to get on the debate stage this week. Neither is 89-year-old Mike Gravel, former U.S. Senator from Alaska, but he’s running a different type of campaign.

Beyond them, I know little enough about John Delaney, Marianne Williamson, Eric Swalwell, Tim Ryan, Michael Bennet, and John Hickenlooper to say, je ne sais pas. I do know the latter two are both from Colorado and that I love saying Hickenlooper.

Maybe after the debates (and maybe not yet). Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Julian Castro, Tim Ryan, Bill de Blasio, and Jay Inslee will debate Wednesday, June 26. The second group, who will debate Thursday, June 27, will feature Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, Marianne Williamson, Eric Swalwell, Andrew Yang, and John Hickenlooper.

Kevin, from my hometown, with whom I went to college, suggested: run for a local office. Show the world what a good politician looks like. Probably not happening. I was going to suggest that I have too many skeletons in the closet, but then I looked at the guy living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I now realize I have NBO idea what that threshold is anymore.

Alison, my ex-SIL, recommended: Try to see all the annual meteor showers. Now THAT’s a swell idea! Here’s a calendar. “The meteor showers listed are the easiest to observe and provide the most activity. Particular attention should be noted to the time and moonlight conditions. All these showers are best seen after midnight. Some are not even visible until after midnight.”

For reasons too complicated to explain, listen to Midnight At The Oasis – Maria Muldaur.

I’m still taking your suggestions, which, as noted, I can totally ignore.

A song that’s a cover version

I have LOTS of cover albums.

CovervilleThe next musical prompt is: “A song you like that’s a cover by another artist.” A cover version is “a new performance or recording by someone other than the original artist or composer of a previously recorded, commercially released song.”

I’m a very big fan of the podcast Coverville with over 1250 shows. “Listen to music so good, you’ll feel like you’re cheating on the original versions!”

I have LOTS of cover albums, including of Aerosmith, Johnny Cash, Elton John, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Richard Thompson, Elektra records, and Motown, among many others. I own at least two dozen albums of just Beatles covers, including re-creations of most of the Fab Four output.

There are those songs you never knew were covers – well, YOU knew – such as the obvious classics: Hurt – Cash, Respect – QoS, and All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix.

Listen to:
Strawberry Letter #23 – Brothers Johnson (#5 pop. #1 RB in 1977); OA: Shuggie Otis (1971)
Remove This Doubt – Elvis Costello (1995); OA: the Supremes (1966- b-side of You Keep Me Hangin’ On)
Every Little Thing (He) Does Is Magic – Shawn Colvin (1994); OA: the Police (She- #3 for two weeks in 1981)
Got to Get You Into My Life – Earth, Wind, and Fire (#9 pop, #1 RB in 1978); OA: the Beatles (1966; #7 in 1976)

Baby, Now That I Found You – Alison Krauss (#49 CW in 1995); OA, The Foundations (#11 pop, #33 RB in 1968)
The Mercy Seat – Johnny Cash (2000); OA: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1988)
Big Bad Bill Is Sweet William Now – Van Halen (1982); OA: Margaret Young, accompanied by Rube Bloom (1924).
Jump – Aztec Camera (1984); OA: Van Halen (#1 for five weeks in 1984)
Spanish Harlem – Aretha Franklin, #2 for two weeks pop, #1 for three weeks RB in 1971 OA: Ben E. King, #10 pop, #15 RB in 1961
My Heart – Audra McDonald (2006) OA: Neil Young and Crazy Horse (1994)

All chart action from Billboard (US); RB – rhythm and blues/soul; CW – country
OA – original artist

The Best Cover Songs of 2018 according to Cover Me

50 Cover Songs Way Better Than the Original

K-Chuck Radio: Thou Shalt Not Cover Motown (if you don’t know what you’re doing)

Senator Elizabeth Warren turns 70

the trouble with “tough” women in politics

Elizabeth WarrenAs a candidate for President of the United States, Elizabeth Warren probably has a plan for that. The Guardian suggests she is the intellectual powerhouse of the Democratic party.

Recently, she’s been getting applause even in heart of MAGA country. I think that’s because the “liberal firebrand” had been a diehard conservative, for years a registered Republican.

Maybe that’s why her campaign is “on the rise”. “Voters are inspired by her personal story of struggle growing up in Oklahoma and how she connects that to her worldview of fighting for everyday people and challenging power.”

She tells about her dream for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Back in the 1970s, “our toaster oven had an on-off switch and that was it. At some point, someone had the bright idea of adding a timer and automatic shut-off. This simple change made it a whole lot harder for distracted mothers” – like her – “or anyone else, to leave it running until it set the kitchen on fire.

“Thirty years later, while working on an article about how the government could protect consumers from predatory financial companies, I thought about those old toaster ovens. By then, it was all but impossible to buy a toaster that had a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house. A government agency monitored toasters for basic safety, just like government kept lead paint out of children’s toys and rat poison out of medicine.”

Elizabeth Warren has lots of ideas about education. Her student debt plan, formulated from grassroots pressure, is seen as an outsized economic boon for people of color. Try her new calculator to see how much of your student loan debt would be cancelled under her plan.

“Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a teacher… But that meant I’d need a college diploma. Our family didn’t have the money to pay for it.. But I got my second chance at a public commuter college that cost $50 a semester and opened a million doors for me.

“I got my degree and I got to live my dream: I became a teacher for students with special needs. My story was only possible because America invested in kids. That just isn’t true today.

“Betsy DeVos is the worst Secretary of Education we’ve seen. She and her team are up to their eyeballs in conflicts of interest. Instead of championing our students, they protect for-profit colleges that break the law and cheat them.”

And she has a plan to pay for things. An Ultra-Millionaire Tax in place for the 75,000 largest fortunes in the country would cover Universal Child Care and early education, do universal free public college, and cancel student loan debt for 42 million Americans. Even the 1% know they aren’t paying their fair share: a new poll shows 60% of millionaires support her idea.
Elizabeth Warren.obama
It seems she has two major impediments in her campaign. One is that she’s a woman of a certain age. Jill Filipovic wrote in the New York Times about age and the female politician: “They are seen as too young and inexperienced right up until they are branded too old and tedious. Elizabeth Warren… finds herself put in the same ‘old’ category as [Bernie] Sanders and Joe Biden, even though both men are nearly a decade older than she is. Men who are more or less the same age as Ms. Warren — John Hickenlooper (67), Jay Inslee (68) — are not lumped in with the white-hairs.”

The Daily Show’s Desi Lydic weighs in on why female 2020 presidential candidates such as Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren aren’t getting as much media coverage as their male counterparts.

Hillary Clinton’s 2016 communications director talked to Vanity Fair about Warren, Harris and the Likability Quotient. She sees the trouble with “tough” women in politics, is that “The media unintentionally perpetuates male candidates’ advantages because they look and sound like candidates who have won in the past. And—shocker—they’re usually men.”

Rebecca Solnit writes Unconscious Bias is Running for President: On Elizabeth Warren and the False Problem of ‘Likeability’. She sees stories like this one – I Can’t Believe Elizabeth Warren Is Losing to These Guys – as articles that tie her to failure before the race has truly started.

The other topic of “controversy” is described by former Treasury Secretary Robert Reich: “Elizabeth Warren is one of the most talented politicians and policy leaders in America. We must not allow Trump or anyone else to ‘swift-boat’ her because she identified herself as an American Indian three decades ago.

“At worst, Warren may have stretched the bounds of the definition of whiteness. That’s understandable. She grew up in Oklahoma, a state created from Indian Territory. She probably witnessed the disrespect and occasional brutality that Native Americans were, and still are, subject to. Her own genetic test showed at least one Native American ancestor. She has stressed that she is not a member of a tribal nation.”

“She hasn’t insulted Native Americans by calling a leading politician ‘Pocahontas’ and joking about the Trail of Tears in the 1830s.

“Warren got no career benefit from her self-designation. At every step of her exceptional rise in the legal profession, those responsible for hiring her saw her as a white woman. The fact that she claimed Indian descent on a Texas bar form that was meant to be confidential is further evidence that her identification arose from sincere belief.”

One can agree or disagree with her positions on other specific issues, but that’ll have to be another post. Still, there’s reason to believe that she would make America great again. Guess who voters prefer in 2020 if the ‘perceived electability’ factor was removed.

Elizabeth Warren turns 70 on June 22, the same day as Meryl Streep.