The Hotline

Truth is often less amusing than fiction.  The 1964 dark-comedy movie, “Dr. Strangelove” utilized the newly installed hotline between Moscow and Washington.  President Merkin Muffley confers with his counterpart in Moscow during the height of the nuclear crisis.Hotline-DrStrangelove

The movie’s telephone setup was only a dramatic device.  On the actual hotline, there is no direct voice line between the two capitals.  The actual, original hotline was basically, just a dedicated Telex system intended as a means to exchange written communications and data between the governments of the US and the USSR.

On August 30, 1963, President John F. Kennedy became the first US chief executive to have a direct link to the Kremlin.  The stated purpose of the hotline was to enable communication between the White House and the Soviet Premier.

The system was promoted as a way to reduce the risk of war by accident or Hotline-KennedyKhrushchevmiscalculation.  It was agreed that the system would only be used in the event of a tactical emergency but not for routine diplomatic communications.

The hotline was installed following the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The two superpowers had edged towards all-out nuclear war.  After the Kennedy administration discovered the Soviet Union had installed missile systems on the island nation of Cuba, a highly intense diplomatic exchange between Washington and Moscow ensued.

The message exchange was hampered by inefficient communications.  Encrypted conversations had to be telegraphed or radioed between the Pentagon and the Kremlin.  The transmission and reception was sluggish and unwieldy.  Thankfully, the two leaders resolved the crisis peaceably.   Still, as one result, officials feared that another misunderstanding could escalate to crisis level if the nations had to rely upon the outmoded technology of the day.

The original idea for a hotline between Washington and Moscow was born in 1954 when officials realized some sort of direct communication was necessary.  They understood that the huge nuclear arsenals were in a state of constant readiness.

Bureaucratic sluggishness and procrastination on both sides of the Atlantic stalled the hotline.  Even though both the US and the USSR attended the “Conference of Experts on Surprise Attacks” in Geneva, Switzerland in 1958, few efforts were made to develop a system.  In fact, military advisors in both Washington and Moscow were dead set against any direct communication between the President and the Premier.

When the 1962 missile crisis erupted, the existing communication roadblocks seriously hampered the negotiation process.  Shockingly, it took about twelve hours to receive and to decode the first settlement message in Moscow. When the communique’ was finally decoded, interpreted, and a reply  prepared, another, more threatening message had been sent from Moscow.

Only because Kennedy kept a cool head was the situation salvaged.  The President tactfully ignored the second message by pretending he never saw it.  Kennedy answered only the first message.  In the process, the Cuban Missile Crisis simmered down. Once relations had normalized, officials in both nations decided to step up work on a direct communication link.Hotline-equipment

The first version of the hotline system used four “full-duplex” teleprinter link-ups.  Washington and Moscow had one each of the devices. One utilized the Latin alphabet, the other the Cyrillic alphabet.  Because of the use of Cyrillic and Latin telex machines, each staff could write in their own languages.

Each telex machine was protected by a cipher machine, as well. In an effort to maintain objectivity, the cipher equipment was manufactured in Norway.  That nation was considered to be neutral and impartial.

The two stations were linked via Transatlantic Cable to London, then by landline to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, and finally Moscow.

In the summer of 1984, the US and USSR agreed to upgrade with fax machines.  Identical “Group III” fax machines, running at 4800 baud were connected at both capitals.  By the next year the upgrade was operational.

Due to increasing rates of technological obsolesence, another upgrade was initiated in 2007.  The fax link was replaced by a computer network.  The old cable was replaced by a fibre-optic link with a redundant satellite link. The improvements became operational the following year.  That technology comprises the current hotline system.

Even though a conventional “red” phone is not an actual componant of the hotline, there is a separate voice link that was installed in the 1990s.  The current “red” phone is used for normal diplomatic and routine communications between Russia and the US.  Of course, the “red” phone could possibly be used by special arrangement during a crisis.

До свидания  (Dasvidania)
Hotline-iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness notes the first messages sent over the hotline. “THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPED OVER THE LAZY DOG’S BACK 1234567890″ In reply, the Soviets wrote a romantic description of the setting Sun in Moscow.

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Matériaux …Floral Friday

Artists have long known that the nature of a substance affects the outcome of a project.  On the surface, this seems obvious.  After awhile, this fact finds its way into the recesses of

Images are clickable.

Images are clickable.

memory and is not consciously resourced.  It becomes reflexive or automatic.  I was reminded about this relationship between material and outcome, this week, during a discussion with an architect.

I gave this a little thought, then decided to purposely choose some containers and contents, strictly by what they’re made of.  I was surprised at the final results of the compositions.

I began by sifting through some storage containers in the basement, to see what they might yield.  First, I stumbled across some old souvenirs from Amsterdam that I’d forgotten about.  Right away, I knew that wood was going to be one of the materials.

Certainly, I was also influenced by the artifact, itself.  The wooden shoe triggered memories of a bike ride through the Dutch countryside.  Small, delicate flowers, like those I remembered, would complete this arrangement.



The next item needed a lot of extra effort, but I still wanted to use it.  The silver vase required a generous amount of polishing compound and plenty of elbow grease.  As I rubbed away, the idea for material and composition came to mind.   Steam-formed wood provides a perfect counterpoint to the shiny, industrial nature of polished metal.


A stoneware vase with an aboriginal theme triggered the immediate vision of a blend of the traditional with the avant-garde.  There was no hesitation as the composition came together intuitively.

I learned an important lesson with these experiments.  That is, I need to pay closer attention to the nature of the materials, themselves, when I take on a project.

J 7-1-01The Blue Jay of Happiness remembers a quote by Aesop.  “Beware that you do not lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.”

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August Is Romance Awareness Month

During his last visit, my friend Jorge weaseled out a confession from me.  Jorge mentioned that he regretted throwing out all his old love letters.  My friend had come across the idea Romance-01that he wanted to write a book or at least some short stories.  The letters could have provided inspiration for at least a few best sellers.

Jorge paused and looked into my eyes and asked if I had ever wanted to do the same thing.  Did I bother to keep any of the old letters from my former lovers?

I mentioned that I had given a passing thought to writing a story or two for someone’s anthology, but I don’t feel confident enough to author an entire book.  I cautioned that was not fishing for encouragement, either.

Jorge flashed a smile and asked, “But did you keep any of the letters?”

A few moments later, I told him I have every single one of them.

“Do you ever read them?”

I said, “A few years ago I could only get through a dozen or so of them before I stashed them away again.”

The cat was out of the bag.  I’m more of a romantic than I’d previously let on.  It was time to discuss past loves and lovers. What about romance?

Our culture is obsessed with romance.  Romance is a mixed bundle.  There are entire industries based upon romance.  There are publishing houses that distribute nothing but romance novels and collections.  Film and television thrive on romance stories.  Most of popular music regards falling in love or breaking up.  Florists, confectioners, and restaurants derive much of their income by way of romantic design.  You can probably think of other examples of how romance is encouraged.

However, some “experts” aren’t so enthusiastic about romance.   We’re told that romantic love is superficial and can lead to heartache.  Romance is attachment.  Romance can lead to fear of loss.  Romance is based on pleasure.  We’re told that romance is not “real” love.oldcouple

It’s good to have a communication about love and romance with a friend like Jorge.  A good friendship is based on love, but is not mawkish and sentimental. Romance is maudlin, emotional and totally subjective. Friends can objectively examine topics like romance without worrying that subjectivity will ruin the discussion.  In fact, personal experience can be used during the give and take.

Romance leaves us vulnerable.  We can yearn for the beauty of romance of new-found lovers.  We often reminince about past loves.  Sometimes we want more romance in a current relationship.  This strong desire leaves us vulnerable to crass commercialism, too.  We open ourselves to marketing of commodities for weddings, Valentines Day, and other commercial “events” like national romance month.

It’s easy to become cynical about romance if one is not currently involved in a romance or during the aftermath of a breakup.

Romantic love is nothing to sneeze at.  Romantic love stems from a deep, biological drive.  It’s a drive that social institutions have attempted to regulate and sublimate, to some success, albeit temporarily.  Many of us believe that society can control expression of biological drives through legislation or religious fiat.  The enforcement of such rules has caused a great deal of suffering and persecution. Such implied and overt rules have created social categories based on ideas and idiology.

It’s important to remember how much we take for granted that human relationships are based upon ideas.  Can a relationship really be based upon an idea?  Do we use ideas to enforce other social ideas about categories?  How does the emotional drive towards romance reinforce the mental concept of social relationship?

Can we have romance without demands, ownership, and possession of another person?  Deep down, inside, can we really pigeonhole human, biological drives?  Volumes of religious and political laws, dogma, and studies have been written about each of these singular questions. None of these are likely to be fully resolved anytime soon.

Anyone who has fallen in love knows the power of romantic love.  We can use reason and logic to observe it so we can describe it for literature or scientific research.  However, if a person is in the throes of romance, reason and logic are weak tools to use in our efforts to control or halt the strong drive.  It is extremely difficult to escape the incredible emotional influence of romantic love.

To be torn away from a romance is one of the most insufferable experiences a human can endure.  The arts bear witness to the depth of feeling and suffering from heartache following the end of a romance.  Many people who are “burned” in this manner have become gun-shy and reluctant to persue another love affair.  Other people thrive on the thrilling emotional rollercoaster of falling in and out of love.

Romance-02Romance is at the heart of the great historical tragedies and wars.  Among the most famous, is that of Helen of Troy and Paris.  Romance is also the spark that ignites the enduring love that matures into our family lives.  In one way or another, romance serves as the fire that drives our civilization.

Jorge said that “true love” is not attachment nor detachment. Love isn’t fear nor pleasure. Romance does encompass all four of these aspects.  Romance can be a means to find love or it can merely become a means to its own end.  In quiet contemplation, a person needs to sort out the various ideas, concepts, and emotions.  What remains, in the end, is love.

The ancient sages discovered that there is beauty in love; there is understanding in love; and there is freedom in love.

If you have never experienced love, there is no wisdom in hunting for love.  Love is elusive. We cannot judge. We can only observe.  Patient, mindful waiting is required.  Love cannot be willed, it can only be revealed.

Romance may or may not be part of “true” love.  This is only a question that can be resolved by being true to oneself and your partner.

Jorge said the question of romance may be why I keep my ex-lovers’ letters and my reluctance to re-read them. He said that the same question caused him to burn those from his ex.

We both realized we’d touched some nerves during our visit.   The romance question will have to be pondered further alone.

It was time for us to go to the gym for a physical workout to let off some emotional steam.

moi1988bThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Nicholas Sparks.  “Romance is thinking about your significant other, when you’re supposed to be thinking about something else.”

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Fascination With Sri Chinmoy

1973 was a watershed year for my inner life.  It was a time of sorting through various occult arts and study.  Personal meditation practice had become more focused.  My musical tastes were expanding into new directions, as well.Chinmoy-LoveDevotionSurrender

Music provides a mental backdrop to our lives.  This has been especially true ever since the proliferation of electronic reproduction and broadcasting of popular music.  Youth, especially, tend to relate to music and musicians to a considerable degree.

The first musical offshoot happened when I became hooked on Carlos Santana’s album “Caravanserai”.  It’s music was a complete departure, in style, from Santana’s earlier music that had energized my youth.  “Caravanserai” set the stage for music that totally captivated me next.

Carlos Santana collaborated with (Mahavishnu) John McLaughlin, on an album titled, “Love, Devotion, Surrender”. The album represented a drastic departure from Santana’s earlier, salsa styled crossover latin rock.  I listened to the new album continuously, in the car, during the long commutes to and from work.


“Real tolerance is compassion in disguise. When we have real tolerance, the seeker in us sees the expansion of his loving heart, his illumining soul and his fulfilling goal.”–Sri Chinmoy

The obsession with “Love, Devotion, Surrender” caused me to investigate the sea change behind Carlos Santana’s vibe.  It turned out that Santana had become deeply interested in the music of the fusion band “The Mahavishnu Orchestra” and lead guitarist John McLaughlin.  McLaughlin, in turn, introduced Santana and his wife, Deborah, to guru Sri Chinmoy.  Chinmoy accepted Carlos and Deborah as disciples in 1973.  That same year, Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin recorded the album.

I wondered, “Who is this mysterious guru who influenced one of my favorite musicians?”

Sri Chinmoy was the youngest of seven children born in East Bengal (now the nation of Bangladesh) in the village of Shakpura, on August 27, 1931 as Chinmoy Kumar Ghose.  After the death of his father in late 1943 and his mother in early 1944, the Ghose children entered the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.  Chinmoy claimed that two years later, at the age of 14, he had attained full enlightenment.

“Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything,  you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.”

Chinmoy’s official biography says his next 20-years were spent practicing meditation, work in the ashram’s industry, and studying Bengali and English literature.  Chinmoy said that he translated works of the head of the ashram, Nolini Gupta, into English.

Chinmoy had natural athletic ability, as well.  He was encouraged to hone and enjoy his interests in athleticism by his elders at the ashram.  When he wasn’t meditating, Chinmoy was the captain of the football (soccer) and volleyball squads.  He also claimed to enjoy cricket. In addition, Chinmoy authored essays, poetry, and wrote devotional music.

Chinmoy claimed to “hear a message from within” that he should become a teacher to people in the West who were seeking spiritual attainment.  With the help of American sponsors, Chinmoy emigrated to New York City, in 1964.

Upon his arrival in the US, Chinmoy was employed as a junior clerk at the Consolate of India.  He was encouraged and supported by his supervisors and colleagues to give talks about Hinduism.  By the mid and late 1960s, Chinmoy received invitations to lecture, from universities, and even the United Nations.

“Love of the limited self, the very limited self, is another name for human love. Love of the entire world is another name for divine love.”

Just as youth of the late 1960s and early 1970s had become interested in Eastern and Indian philosophy and religion, Chinmoy attracted the attention of musicians.  John McLaughlin, in particular, was to become very important to Sri Chinmoy.  McLaughlin had a budding interest in Indian philosophy and had been reading the books by different teachers and yogis.  His eventual choice of guru was Sri Chinmoy.

Chinmoy gave McLaughlin the name “Mahavishnu”.  With Chinmoy’s spiritual inspiration, he formed the jazz-fusion group “The Mahavishnu Orchestra”.  Then, in 1972, he introduced his new friend, Carlos Santana, to Chinmoy, as mentioned earlier in this post.  The intro happened during one of the regular, weekly United Nations prayer meetings.  The guru dubbed Santana, “Devadip” or Light of the Lamp of God.  It was at this point that Mahavishnu and Devadip planned the collaboration album.

During this period, Sri Chinmoy expanded his reach by opening more meditation centers and expanded the scope and number of his writings and lectures.  Many of his talks were accompanied by musical concerts.

The lectures and concerts took Chinmoy around the world.  His United Nations resume enabled him to meet with international leaders.  The media described him as an “ambassador of peace”.


The guru never charged monetary fees for his services nor concerts.  During his tours, Chinmoy taught his contemporary, blended version of yoga and meditation.  Some estimates place the number of his disciples at some 7,000.  What attracted many of his followers was Chinmoy’s departure from the traditional practice of seclusion.  He said that withdrawal from the World is unnecessary for spiritual growth.

McLaughlin and Santana weren’t the only popular figures in Chinmoy’s circle of influence.  The guru also advised Olympic gold-medalist Carl Lewis.  Lewis acquired meditation techniques and was encouraged in his athletic practice by the guru.  In turn, Lewis said that his spriritual growth had been boosted by his association with  the guru.

Chinmoy and his followers became known for their feats of athletic endurance, as well.  In 1977, members of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team swam the first of more than 40 crossings of the English Channel.  Their other accomplishments included ultra-distance running.  One event was the Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race.  Long distance bicycling was included in the mix and some mountain climbing events, as well.  One devotee, Ashrita Furman, is the only person in history to hold a hundred Guiness world records.  He credits Chinmoy’s meditation techniques for giving him the inner strength to do so.

The guru was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, by members of the Icelandic Parliament, several Czech professors, and two others.

On October 11, 2007, Sri Chinmoy suffered a heart attack and died at his home in Queens, New York.

Chinmoy-iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness passes along this Sri Chinmoy saying:  “If we feel inwardly strong, we will have no need or desire to speak ill of others.”  

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Everybody’s Book Of Knowledge (Review)

I slid the book from the new books shelf because of the title.  Everybody’s Book of Knowledge.  I was immediately reminded of the set of encyclopedia we had in our home when I was young.  Our family’s 20 volume set was packed with concise articles about BookOfKnowledge-covervarious topics of interest to children up to high school age. I liked it so much, that I read the entire set, covers to covers.

The book in my hands, at the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library, turned out to have a different pedigree than the Book of Knowledge of my childhood.  Everybody’s Book of Knowledge: A Giant Compendium of Yesteryear’s Facts is a product of the United Kingdom.  It’s the second edition of the book originally published in London as Every Boy’s Book of Knowledge.  I quickly flipped through a few pages and decided to borrow it.

At home, I began to closely examine the book.  The introduction explained that the book is a condensed version of a two volume British encyclopaedia called Everybody’s Enquire Within.  The books were an offshoot of the common household tomes from the Queen Victoria era onward.  The “Enquire Within” books generally contained information about etiquette, household tips, and articles about curious topics.


Once I got past the awkward British rules of verb conjugation and how their culture names many  common objects, I set about to enjoy the pages that are generously illustrated.

Right away, I noticed that each mini article was titled as a question.  For instance one is entitled, “How Many Hairs Has Your Head?” Another comes under the heading, “Why Do We Sometimes Lose The Sense Of Smell?” Another is, “Can Butter Be Distinguished From Margarine?” Even the full color foldout illustrations use questions in the titles. “What Is That Butterfly Called? All The Species Found In Britain.” I pose my own question. “Were the Victorian compilers of this book instructed to only use titles in the form of questions?”

Many of the questioning titles are ridiculous to the point of absurdity.  “Is The BookOfKnowledge-ducksSteeplejack’s Calling Dangerous?”  “Did Napoleon Play Cards?”  “What Is Brocolli?”  “Why Has The Billy-Goat A Beard?”  “Are Any Monkeys Civil Servants?” The last title is a loaded question that we will likely answer in the affirmative without even reading the article.

After awhile I forced myself to ignore the peculiarity of question-titles, and simply enjoy the quaint nature of the articles’ content and the dated nature of the illustrations.  The drawings are quite detailed and artistic in their own rights.  The photographs are fascinating simply because of their ages and subjects.

BookOfKnowledge-tartanThe entries are not presented in alphabetical order as is the case with modern encyclopaedia. The pages contain topics that are totally unrelated.  For example, we find: “Where Is The Golden Gate?” “How Can Boiled and Raw Eggs Be Distinguished?” Did Cinderella Wear a Glass Slipper?” “Which Well-Known Poets Kept Strange Pets?”  All of these topics appear on one page.

I couldn’t help but compare how the act of reading Everybody’s Book of Knowledge is similar to random surfing of the Internet.  Thankfully, there is an index.

Overall, the book is rather entertaining as it opens a window on bygone times.

{ Everybody’s Book of Knowledge: A Giant Compendium of Yesteryear’s Facts; Edited by Charles Ray; 320 pages; published by Prion in London, UK; ISBN: 978-1-85375-880-5 }

J 7-1-01The Blue Jay of Happiness could not find an entry about blue jays in this giant compendium.

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Life On The Moon In 1835

On the sultry streets of New York City of August 25, 1835, newsies cried out the headlines about a major discovery.   New Yorkers were compelled to read about an incredible world, filled with strange plants and animals.  There were living things on the Moon!  The latest MoonHoax-iconedition of the “New York Sun” newspaper was on the streets with the hottest exclusive story of the day.  It was the first of a series of six sensational articles about the discovery of life on the Moon!

Under the byline of doctor Andrew Grant, the account was described as a reprint from the “Edinburgh Journal of Science”.  Grant was introduced as a colleague of the most famous astronomer of the day, Sir John Herschel.  The Herschel party had travelled to Capetown, South Africa the year before, to build an observatory housing a very large, powerful telescope.  What was seen through the lens of the scope apparently amazed the stern astronomer.

The Edinburgh Journal account described solid evidence of life forms.  The first installment of the series described bizzare creatures that resemble two-legged beavers, unicorns, and more importantly, furry, winged, human-like creatures that flit about like bats.MoonHoax-01

The story went on to say that professor Herschel constructed his telescope to research every aspect of the Moon.  The account claimed that the telescope was quite huge and measured some seven metres in diameter.  It had a secondary, powerful lense, comprising of a “hydro-oxygen microscope” that could illuminate, magnify, and project an image to a screen for study.  In this manner, the scientists could examine the entymology of the Moon.  That was how insects were discovered there, as well.

The “Sun” was one of the new breed of popular newspapers called the “penny press” that pandered to the mass audience. The periodicals sold well because of their cheap price and their reader-friendly narrative “journalistic style”.  Editors of the “Sun” were eager to expand their readership.  Just like other penny press newspapers, they lured the public with the hottest gossip and lurid tales.  In this manner, the “Sun” was similar to today’s tabloids.  The first installment of the Moon story in the “Sun” captured the public as never before.

As you can imagine, people were completely captivated by the stories.  Problematically, none of the descriptions were true.   Doctor Andrew Grant was a completely fictional character.  The “Edinburgh Journal of Science” was an actual scholastic publication, but it had ceased operations several years earlier.  The readership, and scholars hadn’t seen the satire of the series.


The five remaining articles went on to describe the plants and flowers found on the Moon’s surface along with amazing herds of animals that roamed the moonscape. The first sign that intelligent life existed on the Moon was claimed in that the animals were able to build small dwellings and build fires.  The humanoid creatures were “covered…with short and glossy, copper-coloured hair, and had wings composed of a thin membrane, without hair, lying snugly upon their backs”.  There was also a population of a “higher order” of human-like beings.  Supposedly there was a temple constructed out of sapphire, as well.

The series ballooned into mass curiosity and enthusiasm among the population.  Other New York newspapers, several in outlying areas, and even in Europe reprinted the news accounts.  The “Sun” profited greatly from sales and permission for reprints.  One result of the series’ popularity was that it cemented, in place, the already high circulation numbers of the “Sun”

A committee of scientists from Yale University was taken in, too.  They hoped to find the original data from the “Edinburgh Journal”.  “Sun” employees played delay tactics of sending the researchers back and forth from the printing plant to the editorial offices to discourage the group.  The scholars returned to Yale, not understanding they, too, had been hoaxed.

As far as journalistic archivists can reckon, the Moon series was probably invented out of whole cloth by the “Sun” reporter Richard Adams Locke.  The writer, educated at Cambridge University, apparently intended to lampoon speculations about extraterrestrial life.  Particularly annoying to Locke were the tales written by the Reverend Thomas Dick. Reverend Dick was famous for his blending of practical philosophy, astronomy, and Christianity. He hoped to tone down the tension between Christianity and the field of Science.

On the pages of some of his best-selling, popular books, Dick claimed that the Solar System contained exactly 21,891,974,404,480 inhabitants. Out of that nearly 21-trillion number, the “Christian Philosopher” said the Moon, itself, was home to 4,200,000,000 beings.

Because of the public’s consumption of Reverend Dick’s writings and a general tendency of the mass population to go along with popular notions, most people consequently got caught up in the series from the “Sun”.MoonHoax-03

The “Sun” admitted, on September 16th, the stories had been a hoax but the paper never printed a full retraction. Sales figures did not drop afterwards, either.  Many of the readers enjoyed the idea that the series was intended as a joke.  In many intellectual corners, the “Sun” was greatly admired for its ability to pull off such an incredible hoax and to take advantage of the credulity of the general public.

The Great Moon Hoax of 1835 had become the first Mass-Media event in history.  The combination of the already high circulation of the “Sun” and its spread to other papers and reprints elsewhere meant that everybody in New York, and elsewhere found out about the “discoveries” at about the same time.  People in many parts of the world of all social classes shared in the phenomenon simultaneously.

Before the introduction of the steam-powered printing presses in the 1830s, such a massive demonstration of the power of mass-media would have been impossible.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness notes that at first, Sir John Herschel, whose supposed work was quoted, was amused by the hoax.  His attitude turned to annoyance when people continued to believe that the stories were not bogus.

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Joyeux Anniversaire Jean Michel Jarre

At those times when the conversation turns to music and I’m asked who my all time favorite artist is, I quickly mention Jean Michel Jarre.  I think he stands head and shoulders above anyone else I’ve ever heard.  Frequently, in response, they look at me Jarre-portraitwith a puzzled look, and ask who he is.

I’m at a loss as to why Jarre isn’t known to a great many people, especially those who  love music.  His live concert extravaganzas are attended by more than a million people at a time.  His first record breaker was at the Place de la Concorde for Jarre’s “Equinoxe” presentation. More than 1,000,000 attended it.  That number has been surpassed three times.  His first mainstream album, “Oxygene” was released in 1976, it managed to sell 12,000,000 copies.  It remains as the all-time best selling album in France.

I’m going to indulge in a bit of bias and favoritism on today’s post.    A week doesn’t go by without something by Jarre playing on my stereo. I’ve always had a few of his albums out and ready to play ever since 1976.  In fact, I’m listening to the “Rendezvous” CD as I write this.

For us devotees of Jean Michel Jarre, today is a red letter day on the calendar. This is Jarre’s birthday.  I usually celebrate it by scheduling a few playbacks of his albums according to my moods.  Today, began with “Rendezvous”.  After meditation, I’ll play Jarre - Oxygene“Oxygene” and the “Houston/Lyon” CD. “Téo & Téa” is on tap for this afternoon. Finally, “Waiting for Cousteau” goes on this evening.

Jean-Michel André Jarre was born on August 24, 1948 in Lyon, France.  His father was composer Maurice Jarre, who left the family when Jean-Michel was five years old.  Parenting was completed by his mother, French Resistance member and concentration camp survivor, France Pejot.  The young Jean-Michel spent several months, each year, at his maternal grandparents apartment where he was able to observe street performers.

His musical influences are many. I’d have to write a book to list them and how they nurtured Jarre’s talents.  He was schooled in classical music and affected by Igor Stravinsky. He enjoyed jazz and pop.  Ray Charles was an eye opener to the youngster.  He was also influenced by the visual arts.  In fact, Jarre enjoyed creating his own paintings, some of which were exhibited at the Lyon Gallery.

Jarre-EgyptWhile he studied at the Conservatoire de Paris, he supported himself by selling his paintings and playing guitar for the pop band “The Dustbins”.  At the same time he began his experimentations with mixes of instruments and electronic manipulation of sound.

The artist has learned and borrowed from different cultures.  This aspect keeps Jarre’s music fresh yet timeless.  Jarre’s earliest album still sounds as contemporary and undated as his most recent offerings.  As testamonials to this vibrancy, he consistently plays sold-out concerts at the largest stadiums in Europe.  His 1990 concert at Paris-La-Défense attracted 2,500,000 fans.  Jarre holds the Guinness Book of World Records audience size record of over 3,500,000 people. That was the 1997 Russian concert for which Jarre was invited to highlight the 850th Year since the founding of Moscow.

What is incomprehensible to most Americans, is that Jarre’s music contains few, if any words.  The nature of his instrumental music allows it to speak to all people.Jarre-HoustonLyon

Jarre’s sense of the spectacular is expressed best in his live events. Concertgoers are engulfed in digital and analogue musical technology, megasize HD screens, lighting and laser choreography, and fireworks.  At many events, Jarre employs local musicians and choral groups which signifies his embrace of each venue’s local culture.

Although Jarre is famous for his macro-concerts, I believe his studio efforts are the most enjoyable.  The music is at once grand and neo-classical yet penetrating and personal.  In the car, Jarre’s music shortens the journey.  At home, I can close my eyes and take a drug-free psychedelic trip.

I need to thank Jean Michel Jarre for providing much of the soundtrack for the past 38-years of my life.

Au revoir
1978veryhappymeThe Blue Jay of Happiness notes that Jean Michel Jarre is also an ambassador for two important projects, “Education for All” and “Water for Life”.

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