Here’s what could be lost if Trump bombs Iran’s cultural treasures

Inside the Sheik Loftallah mosque, in Isfahan, Iran. It is a Unesco world heritage site.

Yes, there’s a lot wrong with the track of the Iran government’s hard-line policies, especially those related to Israel. However, the American powers that be seem to believe it’s time to take the “civil” out of western-civilization. Folks, the international rule of law matters. The USA has lost its way. Could the rest of the free-world please now choose someone else to lead it? – Paul

Steve Rose at the Guardian has written a guide to some of Iran’s world-heritage jewels that the US president has warned the Government of Iran that he will obliterate.

Read the article here:

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12 Reasons Why Your Blunt Friends Are The Best Friends To Have – Appreciate Them!

While your blunt friends might come across as a little embarrassing from time to time, overall they’re probably the best friends you have. They come in handy for a number of reasons and are almost always there when you need them, aren’t they?

Sure, most people tend to overlook these kinds of people, but they truly are important regarding this world and how it works. Blunt people are willing to say things that need to be said even if they’re hard to get out. They are able to live in the truest to themselves way possible, and they do not hide their feelings.

Below I am going to go over some reasons why blunt people make the best friends and what you should appreciate about yours. While they might get under your skin every once in a while, they are truly there when you need them. Blunt friends might not always make sure you’re seeing what you need to see rather than what you want to see.

See the rest at

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New kind of signal in the human brain

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“The Holy or the Broken”: The story behind Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

This was going to be the expression of an indignant rant several years in the making, but instead, it’s going to be an admission that I was wrong.

Several years ago, while serving as the Music Director at a Montreal area Anglican church, I was disturbed when that particular Sunday’s worship leader broke out a runaway cover of Hallelujah, post-service. The congregation joined in whole-heartedly at the “Hallelujah” choruses, while I fumed somewhat indignant and rageful that this person was performing something better suited to anything but a call-to-prayer.

Don’t get me wrong. It would be doubly ironic and sacrilegious if I, as a musician who grew up parroting all things folk and poetic would dislike anything by Leonard Cohen, let alone his iconic Hallelujah. In fact, I did love the song — and had often performed it myself — just not in the context of liturgical music appropriate for a Communion Service. I can’t remember the outcome at the time. Did I say something, or did I simply try to forgive a just another in a long line of faux pas?

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.

On the last Sunday of Advent, I attended my parent’s church where they have attended from 1962 to this day, and are still active parishioners. I attended there regularly up until my late teens, and in the years since I would visit from time to time. The evolution of my thoughts on the topic of the Anglican Church of Canada is complex and layered, and best a topic for another time. Admittedly, my attitude towards my family’s “home parish” has often been coloured by not only family dynamics, but by my sometimes oscillating theology and my forever growing disdain for “bricks and mortar” church politics.

As the service began on this particular Sunday, I felt content to be in the moment despite the fact that it turned out to be one looking like one of those typical Christmas Pagent Sundays that I was usually wanting to avoid.

As the hour went by, I was content to be there taking it all in. The service was perfectly imperfect, nostalgic, and irreverent (in the best tradition of a post-orthodox sense). It ended with Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which triggered that old indignance, but got me thinking for days afterward about Cohen’s meaning behind the song.

Of everything I read, two articles highlighting Alan Light’s book “The Holy or the Broken” opened me up to the spirituality of this song and calmed my lizard brain.

Leonard Cohen’s song is perfect, where I am not. – Paul

See links and excerpts of the articles below:

The story behind legendary artist’s most famous song, excerpted from Alan Light’s 2012 book ‘The Holy or the Broken’, published in Rolling Stone, Dec. 12, 2019.


In a July 2011 service at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the reading of this story was accompanied by a performance of “Hallelujah.” The Reverend Dr. R. M. A. “Sandy” Scott delivered a sermon with his explication of the David story and its usage in the song.

“The story of David and Bathsheba is about the abuse of power in the name of lust, which leads to murder, intrigue, and brokenness,” said Reverend Scott. He recounted that until this point, David had been a brave and gifted leader, but that he now “began to believe his own propaganda – he did what critics predicted, he began to take what he wanted.”

Reverend Scott calls the choice of the word baffled to describe this David “an obvious understatement on Cohen’s part. David is God’s chosen one, the righteous king who would rule Israel as God’s servant. The great King David becomes no more than a baffled king when he starts to live for himself.

“But even after the drama, the grasping, conniving, sinful King David is still Israel’s greatest poet, warrior and hope,” Scott continued. “There is so much brokenness in David’s life, only God can redeem and reconcile this complicated personality. That is why the baffled and wounded David lifts up to God a painful hallelujah.”

Following the David and Bathsheba reference, the sexuality of the lyrics is drawn further forward and then reinforced in an image of torture and lust taken from the story of Samson and Delilah – “She tied you to a kitchen chair / she broke your throne, she cut your hair” – before resolving with a vision of sexual release: “and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah!” Both biblical heroes are brought down to earth, and risk surrendering their authority, because of the allure of forbidden love. Even for larger-than-life figures and leaders of nations, the greatest physical pleasure can lead to disaster.

“The power of David and the strength of Samson are cut away; the two are stripped of their facile certainties, and their promising lives topple into the dust,” wrote Reverend Thomas G. Casey, S.J., a professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University, of these first two verses. “The man who composed songs of praise with such aplomb and the man whose strength was the envy of all now find themselves in a stark and barren place.”

Lisle Dalton, an associate professor of religious studies at Hartwick College, noted the many levels on which Cohen’s linking of David and Samson works. “Both are heroes that are undone by misbegotten relationships with women. Both are adulterers. Both are poets – Samson breaks into verse right after smiting the Philistines. Both repent and seek divine favor after their transgressions.

“I don’t know a lot about Cohen’s personal life,” Dalton continued, “but he seems to be blending these two figures together with, we presume, some of his own experiences. There’s no ‘kitchen chair’ in the Bible! There’s a biblical irony that highlights the tendency of even the most heroic characters to suffer a reversal of fortunes, even destruction, because they cannot overcome their sinful natures. The related tendency, and the moral message, is for the character to seek some kind of atonement.”

In the third verse of “Hallelujah,” Cohen’s deadpan wit returns, offering a rebuttal to the religious challenge presented in the previous lines. “You say I took the Name in vain,” he sings. “I don’t even know the name.” He then builds to the song’s central premise – the value, even the necessity of the song of praise in the face of confusion, doubt, or dread. “There’s a blaze of light in every word; / it doesn’t matter which you heard, / the holy, or the broken Hallelujah!”

“A blaze of light in every word.” That’s an amazing line. Every word, holy or broken – this is the fulcrum of the song as Cohen first wrote it. Like our forefathers, and the Bible heroes who formed the foundation of Western ethics and principles, we will be hurt, tested, and challenged. Love will break our hearts, music will offer solace that we may or may not hear, we will be faced with joy and with pain. But Cohen is telling us, without resorting to sentimentality, not to surrender to despair or nihilism. Critics may have fixated on the gloom and doom of his lyrics, but this is his offering of hope and perseverance in the face of a cruel world. Holy or broken, there is still hallelujah.

Finally, the remarkable fourth verse drives this point home, starting with an all-too-human shrug: “I did my best; it wasn’t much.” Cohen reinforces his fallibility, his limits, but also his good intentions, singing, “I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you.”

And as he brings the song to a conclusion, Cohen shows that for a composition that has often come to be considered a signifier of sorrowful resistance, “Hallelujah” was in fact inspired by a more positive feeling. “It’s a rather joyous song,” Cohen said when Various Positions was released.  “I like very much the last verse – ‘And even though it all went wrong, / I’ll stand before the Lord of Song / with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah!’ ” (While the published lyrics read “nothing on my lips,” Cohen has actually almost always sung “nothing on my tongue” in this line.) Though subsequent interpreters didn’t always retain this verse, its significance to Cohen has never waned: Decades later, when he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he recited this full last verse as the bulk of his acceptance speech.

“I wanted to push the Hallelujah deep into the secular world, into the ordinary world,” he once said. “The Hallelujah, the David’s Hallelujah, was still a religious song. So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion.”

“He’s rescued the word hallelujah from being just a religious word,” said the Right Reverend Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydon, in the BBC radio documentary. “We’re broken human beings, all of us, so stop pretending, and we can all use the word hallelujah because what it comes from is being open and transparent before God and the world and saying, ‘This is how it is, mate.’ “

Read the rest here


Time Passes, but a Song’s Time Doesn’t

Time Passes, but a Song’s Time Doesn’t – a review of Alan Light’s book ‘The Holy or the Broken’ in the New York Times, by Janet Maslin, Dec. 9. 2019


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Is Trumpism a Cult?

Has Trumpism become a cult? A new book by Sean Illing, a former cult member, makes the case. Sean Illing of VOX recently had a conversation with Steve Hassan.

The question almost feels like a provocation. And yet more and more people, like veteran Republican strategist John Weaver, are comfortable saying, “Yes.”

Famed CBS anchor Dan Rather made the case most recently on the CNN show Reliable Sources. Even former Trump White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has likened Donald Trump supporters to a cult.

It’s a provocative claim that I’m not sure is entirely convincing. On one hand, there is something cult-like about the hold Trump has over his supporters and the Republican Party. At the same time, calling it a cult seems too easy, a way of avoiding a much scarier truth about our politics — namely, that Trump isn’t all that exceptional.

A new book by cult expert Steven Hassan, called The Cult of Trump, is the first serious attempt to argue that Trumpism is a cult. Hassan has studied cults for years and is himself a former member of the “Moonies” cult, an offshoot of the Unification Church of the United States led by Sun Myung Moon that made headlines in the 1970s.

Hassan is convinced that Trump is more than just a manipulative, charismatic politician. The president, he writes, “employs many of the same techniques as prominent cult leaders and displays many of the same personality traits.”

Read Sean Illing’s conversation with Steve Hassan here at VOX:

See my previous post: The Cult of Trump

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The Institute of Official Cheer

It’s been forever since I last perused the pages, nay, plumbed the profundity of James Lileks website, The Institute of Official Cheer.

Check it out:

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A Gangster In The Whitehouse

I was trying to avoid the depressing vortex of American politics during the Holidays. However, came across this article by David Frum in the Atlantic that is worth a read.

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House Ordered From 1920’s Sears Catalog!

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Career in Music is Damaging to Mental Health


child microphone
Musicians are three times more likely to experience depression, with many working under ‘poor conditions’, a new academic study from Help Musicians UK has found.

Posted 16 October 2017 in

Can Music Make You Sick?, commissioned by the charity and undertaken by University of Westminster researchers Sally-Anne Gross and Dr. George Musgrave, offers insight into the scale of the mental health challenges facing Britain’s music industry.

In the largest known academic study of its kind, a survey of over 2,200 musicians revealed they are up to three times more likely to experience depression compared to the general public.

Money worries, due to precarious and unpredictable pay plus the juggling of many different jobs, can exacerbate the issue, with poor working conditions cited as a major issue.

Elsewhere, the report found sexual abuse, bullying and discrimination may also be prevalent, with a musician’s working environment prone to being antisocial and unsympathetic.

Social challenges were also cited as a contributing factor to declining mental health, as relationships with family, friends and partner often come under pressure.

The report was intended to shed light on areas Help Musicians UK and the wider industry can focus on to improve conditions for musicians, artists, songwriters, composers and producers.

To this end, the charity has made three pledges; to establish a music industry mental health taskforce, launch a 24/7 mental health service, Music Minds Matter, and finally, advocate change across the industry.

Christine Brown, director of external affairs at Help Musicians UK, said: ‘Help Musicians UK is uniquely placed to commission and share the results of this important, game-changing study. The charity granted nearly two million pounds last year to those that need it most in the industry, so it is a natural step to examine the key issues and make a call to action to help implement wider, lasting change in the industry, namely Help Musicians UK’s three key pledges.

‘The British music industry is in rude health and has a world class reputation – but to continue the long-term wellbeing of the industry and its workers, we aim to create a constructive forum for discussion, partnership and collaboration.

‘Through the new Music Minds Matter service, we are closer to providing the crucial support, advice and education the music community desperately needs. Together we can continue to chip away at the stigma, so that in the long term those working in the community never have to suffer in silence.’

Researchers Gross and Musgrave added: ‘This research is a crucial step forward in our understanding of the complex relationship between the working conditions of musicians and mental health conditions.

‘The honesty and poignancy of our interviewees has made possible this important work, and informed the service provision being implemented by Help Musicians UK, and for that we are truly thankful. We welcome the new service Music Minds Matter and hope that this research can spark a wider debate both in the music industry about the welfare of those at its heart, and more generally about the challenging nature of precarious work.’

Can Music Make You Sick? summary reports can be viewed here.

Looking for help and support? Read our article You are not alone: help for musicians suffering mental health issues.

Read Gross’ recent comment piece for M – Music industry should work together to protect new and niche artists.

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Nothing Less Than a Civil War

“Great American Pizza & Subs, on a highway about 100 miles southeast of Las Vegas, was busier and Trumpier than usual. On any given day it serves “M.A.G.A. Subs” and “Liberty Bell Lasagna.” The “Second Amendment” pizza comes “loaded” with pepperoni and sausage. The dining room is covered in regalia praising President Trump.

All were welcome, except liberals.

Trumpstock attendees say they are used to being denounced, another quality they feel they share with the president. It’s part of why they are protective of him, to the point that they refuse to acknowledge the possibility of a Trump loss in 2020″.

But this October morning was “Trumpstock,” a small festival celebrating the president. The speakers included the local Republican congressman, Paul Gosar, and lesser-known conservative personalities. There was a fringe 2020 Senate candidate in Arizona who ran a website that published sexually explicit photos of women without their consent; a pro-Trump rapper whose lyrics include a racist slur aimed at Barack Obama; and a North Carolina activist who once said of Muslims, “I will kill every one of them before they get to me.”

Link to article at

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