White Dam and Eastern Bloc Blues

Remnants of incapacitated industry bring to mind contemporary interpretations of Eastern Bloc sounds.  This first sample, produced by the Polish nu jazz duo Skalpel, offers hip hop beats occupied by Polish jazz samples scrubbed from the archives.


Igor Boxx, 1/2 of Skalpel, recently went solo with the debut album Breslau.  Compared to the lush, polished sound of Skalpel, his tracks have a colder resonance.

“Russian Percussian”

“Fear of a Red Planet”

Aaron Funk is a Canadian electronic artist known as Venetian Snares.  During a 2005 trip to Hungary, he produced the album Rossz Csillag Alatt Született.

The concept of the album came when Aaron Funk imagined himself as a pigeon on Budapest’s Királyi Palota (Royal Palace).  Its third track, “Öngyilkos vasárnap” is a cover of the song “Szomorú vasárnap” (“Gloomy Sunday”) by Hungarian composer Rezső Seress, which has been referred to as the Hungarian suicide song. According to urban legend, Seress’s song has inspired the suicide of multiple persons, including his fiancée. The song was reportedly banned in Hungary. It has also been covered by many artists. Billie Holiday’s vocals are sampled in this track.


“Öngyilkos Vasárnap”

American Beech, Fagus grandifolia

Two Yellow Leaves

by Erinn Batykefer

October has slicked the mirror-flat rivers with yellow

leaves.  We pull them from the current

and mark time: the color of my infant skin under a bili light;

a dozen July apples carried to the kitchen

in your shirt, their yellow sugar slick on a serrated knife.

I see the high sun snapping against sheets on the line,

my hipbones pressing out and opening late one summer,

the yellow outline of bone under skin.

I see here: the 16th Street Bridge flinging skeins of yellow iron

over the flood-ochered Allegheny, this morning’s diner-

on an edge of light as blinding autumn flutters

through the poplars’ paper-coin leaves.  My leaf-shaped heart

welling up through the river, yellow.

Pink Wood Sorrel, Oxalis crassipes

Until now, I never associated shamrocks with flowers.

While enjoying a bowl of spicy vegan chili, I unexpectedly caught some live Irish music this afternoon at The Globe.  Around four o’clock, a group of grey haired men lugging instruments began filing in and shuffling furniture, while forming a circle of chairs around a central microphone attached to a small black monitor.  Initially there were seven: two guitars, one accordion, two violins, a mandolin, and a slight woman with a small harp. Luckily, I had my recorder with me, so I sampled their set.  I chose not to edit background noise/conversation, as it was part of the experience.  Listen to the first two songs below.

In the middle of the third song, a woman in a purple hoodie walked in carrying a soft, violet dulcimer case.  A man with a mustache and a violin followed.  Closest to the musicians sat a group of five children under three feet tall.  One fellow in Superman pajamas struggled to get situated in a rocking chair, and as the musicians played, he rocked back and forth to the rhythm. To listen to a couple songs including the dulcimer, click below.



The following stream of consciousness is an old journal entry scribbled years ago about a quarter mile from the boulder above:

I joined a fuzzy patch of flourescent green on the north side of a beech half-submerged into the forest floor like a splintered bridge across an inlet of clover with miniature fuchsia rafts the shape of campy cartoon gloves from the 1930s.

Under lime green umbrellas occasionally polka-dotted with complimentary pink mites a black-brown salamander crunched through the forest floor when fifty yards north over a small hill a large brown face with a black mustache and well-trimmed beard grew out of the distance into a tanned beer gut carrying the rest of a shirtless man through the forest over fallen trees and wild onions directly toward the mites clover and salamanders here on a soft log below an azure hole punch through the canopy.

The man had a leather tool belt around his waste, or so I thought.  Or maybe a pair of binoculars. He spotted me writing on a log.  As his girth filled my field of vision, I realized that the faded leather strap submerged below his stomach held an old revolver.

While student teaching in a first grade classroom, Holden taught me that moss grows on the north side of trees.  At the age of six, he had more energy than anyone I’ve ever met. He also knew that poison ivy has 3 leaves.

Tenacity near the derelict Gilman Paper Company.

The Gilman Paper Company was sold to the Durango Paper Company in 1998, which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009.  Recent talk of turning the site into a swath of high-end condominiums along the St Marys River was hushed when developers realized the scale of environmental cleanup necessary after decades of pollution.

When my family moved to St Marys in 1989, the majority of people were either employed by the Navy, or Gilman paper company.

Who knew that my little sister would eventually go bowling with Mikhail Baryshnikov, thanks to Howard Gilman?

An excerpt from Forbes.com describes Gilman’s “pet projects:”

The Fall of The House of Gilman

by Robert Lezner and Tomas Kellner

$154 million spent transforming the White Oak Plantation in Yulee, Fla., which was acquired by the Gilman family in 1938, into a dance center for Baryshnikov and other noted artists, a conference center and a home for 60 species of endangered and threatened animals, including reticulated giraffes, okapis, black and white rhinoceros, and cheetahs. Howard played host at White Oak to U.S. presidents and celebrities and their families, often using the company’s plane to ferry them to White Oak. The guests were fed meals prepared by top-notch chefs. Bill Clinton played golf on Gilman’s private nine-hole course.

A high school friend told me that rather than ceasing to pollute the air 365 days a year, Gilman chose to simply pay the annual fines.

The kicker for our high school football team made considerable hazard pay at the Gilman Paper Company wearing a hazmat suit, climbing and cleaning scrubbers.

Concrete Slabs in a Toxic Pool

Milky Toxicity

The greyscale stones are actually floating pieces of soiled styrofoam that shift with the wind.

For years, the air in St Marys’ historic downtown/riverfront area reeked of sulfur.  A friend had a four foot mini ramp in his backyard right on the marsh, and some days the stench was unbearable.

Judging from singed stacks of annual profit and loss statements scattered around the ashes, this house once held an accounting office for Gilman.  The shell of a home was later visited by anti-Christians, Crips, and squatters.

Squatter Remnants

Crip Graffiti

Oxidized Calculator

Egyptian Walking Onion, Allium cepa

About a year ago, I snatched curious bulblets  from what looked like a large alien onion plant during a walk through a nearby garden.  One forgotten, dry little bulb sat on the kitchen windowsill collecting dust for a year.  Until last week.  I rolled a paper pot, tucked her in, then soaked.  Six days later, twin jade sprouts poked through the soil.

Itching to wander, she’s more than doubled in height in two days.

A week later, she’s ready to move out of the kitchen window.

Today Alex planted the onion in our vegetable bed at school.  Turger pressure’s low, so it’s pretty droopy, but an optimistic touch is just what it needs.

Stretching, the tallest of four plants towers above an old tofu bucket.  The bulge rises like a burp before February.

In the knot’s place, three bulblets (one with thinned, crimson skin) remain, and
a family of spiders finds pungent refuge beneath.

To jump ahead a year into the future of this plant’s life, click here.

Red Maple, Acer rubrum

I ran into a former student and his family Friday evening while rounding a sharp curve along the Greenway.  The oldest of four under ten was riding a blue mountain bike.  I challenged him to a race, so we peddled furiously down a straightaway for a hundred yards or so, then slowed in the forest under a shower of maple helicopters.

I remember throwing handfuls of twirling maple wings into the air as a child, imagining a dizzying ride aboard a miniature single-seater.

Flanked by maples, the Dillingham Street bridge spans the Chattahoochee River, connecting Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama.  Each November, thousands converge in solidarity at the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus in an effort to shut down The School of the Americas, now called the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.”

Below is a recording taken while leaving the solemn procession which ended in approximately 20 indiscriminate arrests, including journalists, a 90-year old Jesuit priest, and a local barber who stepped out of his shop to watch the march.

Initially established in Panama in 1946, it was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” The SOA, frequently dubbed the “School of Assassins,” has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned.

Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.

SOA Watch

Each year the Puppetistas testify for memory and creative resistance.

On March 7th, 2011, WikiLeaks released two cables from the U.S. embassy in Costa Rica “that offer insight into the U.S. pressure tactics to keep the SOA/ WHINSEC in business” (SOA Watch).

Read the cables here:
Cable 1:

Cable 2:

All The People Who Are Now Red Trees

By Martín Espada


When I see the red maple,

I think of a shoemaker

and a fish peddler

red as the leaves,

electrocuted by the state

of Massachusetts.



When I see the red maple,

I think of flamboyan’s red flower,

two poets like flamboyan

chained at the wrist

for visions of San Juan Bay

without Navy gunboats.



When I see the flamboyan,

I think of my grandmother

and her name, Catalan for red,

a war in Spain

and nameless laborers

marching with broken rifles.



When I see my grandmother

and her name, Catalan for red,

I think of union organizers

in graves without headstones,

feeding the roots

of red trees.



When I stand on a mountain,

I can see the red trees of a century,

I think red leaves are the hands

of condemned anarchists, red flowers

the eyes and mouths of poets in chains,

red wreaths in the treetops to remember,



I see them raising branches

like broken rifles, all the people

who are now red trees.