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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ironwood Rain Live! Photos from gigs

a selection of photos of Ironwood Rain in performance...

Ironwood Rain Photos

Ironwood Rain Live
- photos of IR from live performances

IR Photos through the years
- a collection of rare, vintage photos of the illustrious IR members...

IR Photos through the years

Here's some vintage photos of IR members through the years.
Set the wayback machine to... WAAAAY BACK!
See if you recognize these familiar faces from days gone by:

Did you guess right?
Mikey (1969)

Scotte (1983):


Apocalypse: The Forever Ending Story (excerpt 3)

All the Time in the World: Varieties of Doom

God's Wrath: The Happy Ending

God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.
- Voltaire

He hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn't an afterlife.
- Douglas Adams

Medical advances neuter the most dreadful plagues and afflictions, science provides unimaginable advances, and most of the world aspires to peace, while unparalleled discoveries, greater freedoms, and better standards of living have been on their latest march for nearly two centuries. Amidst all this, what accounts for the apocalyptic cast of mind of so many free and affluent people? The calamitous events that punctuate even the best of times play their roles, of course. Yet, an apocalyptic worldview does not depend on any specific event or scenario. It is instead a wonderfully clever device for dealing with the anxiety and uncertainty of mortality by making at least our collective fate predictable. Other factors include feelings of inadequacy or sinfulness that lead to fears of divine displeasure. As these concerns are generalized and then understood as a supposedly inherent human corruption(9) , they become collective and are incorporated into systems over time. Conditioning by such systems encourages the belief that people cannot be truly happy before death brings them to heaven; by extension, humanity cannot be fulfilled until it collectively passes away.

Thinking about this extinction and naturally looking for pattern and purpose, human beings try to make some sense of the absurdity of mortality, expanding it to cosmic proportions. A fondness for dualism then asserts itself, providing the satisfying good against evil, God versus Antigod notions that make apocalyptic tales so much easier to understand and enjoy. Complicating the issue, however, which is among humanity's most extraordinary talents, the anger and frustration of an apocalyptic ending becomes frightening. So, these feelings are projected through a creator/destroyer God who is infinitely wise, lovingly devoted, and very much larger than us. God then exercises His own anger and frustration, which is understandable, considering how naughty we had already admitted to being. This makes arguing about the whole affair quite pointless, so most folks just go along. The circle complete, there is order established amidst the chaos of existence, meaning within an otherwise unfathomable universe, and a central place for us in a grand divine plan. This is seen by most folks as far superior to a future as poorly understood future fossils in an existential nothingness.(10)

God the Creator in this way becomes the destroyer/redeemer, wiping us from the physical face of creation for our own good. The eighth century BCE poet/philosopher Hesiod, working in this vein, said that man's only hope was to abandon himself completely to divine will. He pictured history as a series of deteriorating dispensations(11), or stages of existence, culminating with unprecedented social calamity and general warfare before humankind was obliterated for its sinfulness and debauchery. God would turn Creation right around and take everyone home because they could not behave properly.

While this scenario might seem a fearful prospect, it is not viewed as such by the apocalyptically-minded for two primary reasons. First, apocalypse provides the aforementioned predictable ending to creation mythology. If there is a known beginning, there must be rising action, climax, and falling action before the story's conclusion. It fits how we understand life, literature, and afterlife. Next, it provides a comforting sense of moral or social justice. Those who have wronged or ridiculed us will be punished at last without our having to personally act against them. This is particularly helpful when the antagonist is really large and powerful, as was the case with the Babylonians, Romans, Catholic Church, and others. It is an expedient point of view - supplying a reason for the state of the world, a just reward for the faithful, a horrible punishment for the wicked, and eternal bliss afterward in a place where neither uncertainty nor Romans need darken the doorstep again.

The comfort of apocalypse is little different today. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent and point out the guilty. It affirms the need to believe, offers succor to the downtrodden, and promises that those who refuse to obey the rules and confirm the faith will pay the ultimate price for sewing their seeds of doubt. Commies, pagans, and heretics will convert or perish. Better yet, New Agers will get theirs in The End. But wait! They have an End of their own, and it is neither comforting nor pretty. Unless you're a tree.

No Redeeming Value: The New Age of Apocalypse

It's a wonder we don't dissolve in our own bath water.
- Pablo Picasso

"Do you believe in the devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man?"
"I'm not sure that man needs the help."
- Calvin & Hobbes

Because the West has developed into a largely secular society in the sense that we do not believe that God causes lightning or that illness is necessarily a heavenly punishment, many people no longer expect divine apocalyptic visitations or cosmic events heralded by trumpets and the pitter-pat of angelic sandals. Superstitious and obsessive habits of mind persist however, and so we invent various secular apocalypses such as the Y2K/millennia frenzy. These apocalyptic devices not only support our psychological need for neat beginnings and endings, but they do so in a way that satisfies modern sensibilities, such as a computer malady in place of plague, or disaster from space rather than from heaven. In addition to, or despite, various religious concepts of our inevitable and imminent demise, a definitively secular apocalyptic assumption permeates popular media and literature. Consider the numbers of books and articles panting about looming environmental catastrophes including global warming, invasive non-indigenous species, loss of biodiversity, overpopulation, mutating viruses, and myriad other aspects of Gaia's revenge. This tally does not even include those who fear cataclysmic world war or destruction from space, either through some impersonal cosmic rock, or from an advanced troupe of alien step-brothers(12). Interestingly, these secular dooms often share two primary elements.

First, the crisis is at hand and something must be done at once to avert catastrophe.(13) Fortunately, in a secular apocalypse as opposed to the usual divine doomsday, there is generally some desperately expensive but decisively effective sacrifice of our material lives that we can make to avoid destruction.

Second, while the idea of a proactive method of avoiding calamity is hopeful, if the end does occur in one of these godless scenarios, there is not necessarily a redemptive factor; our existence might simply be over, thereby making way for the next evolutionary experiment. There is no eternal reward and no period of divine probation, with God being for all practical purposes as dead as humanity and their harp seal jackets. The whole thing would be quite meaningless. Nietzsche would be gratified if he weren't so dead already himself. This is a departure from the essentially hopeful traditional apocalypse, where humanity is spanked by God and then given a nice lecture and a hug before everlasting bedtime.

Fascination with an imagined global catastrophe is nothing new of course, but the apocalypse as a do-it-yourself project is a fairly recent idea. Following the nuclear destruction of the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War and the ensuing superpower brinkmanship, total existential destruction seemed not only possible but unavoidable. In an odd way, the recent addition of New Age enviro-goddess mythology has reintroduced renewal of spirit into the apocalyptic scenario. Survivors will be forced to listen to Yanni and wear crystal and turquoise accessories, but survival must come at a price.(14) This return to doom's purpose and meaning is not only natural, but was probably inevitable, as again, a proper apocalypse must complete the plot curve while balancing ruin and renewal in order to be truly compelling. The trick with a secular apocalypse is to do this within a framework in which God is either not the agent, does not exist, or is interested in outcomes of the story beyond those concerning human beings.

The New Age apocalypse also has a political element, but this is nothing new. From its origins in early religious literature, apocalypse has repeatedly been engaged to support political causes. Examples of this include not only today's Christian fundamentalism, but also Nazism, communism, and modern-day mysticism. Communism and National Socialism (Nazism), despite their antagonism toward one another, shared core political ideas masquerading as science. For instance, consider the communist idea of the progress of history and the Nazi eugenics program.(15) They each believed that a methodical understanding and even manipulation of the past and future was possible for an elite few. With religious apocalyptic believers, communists and Nazis shared millenarian beliefs in which the world would undergo a climactic conflict, followed by a profound change in the state of human existence and an eventually purified society. Their utopian fantasies in the end brought nothing but catastrophe to the twentieth century, as each party showed themselves to be somewhat less capable than God of handling the whole affair. Although they had claimed prophecy of a sort regarding the eventual positive outcomes of their struggles, as it turned out they were only struggling with reality, which then came crashing down around them. Still, they did manage to establish the secular apocalypse as a workable entity.

Engulfed by the subsequent secular apocalyptic wave, Christian eschatology largely assumed the role of folklore in modern society, its symbology mingled with contemporary terminology and experience. The result has been a period of pseudo-religious speculation about the end of the world without the assured comfort gained from edifying religious texts. As we will see, the missing information is often filled in using dubious science rather than questionable theology, usually at the expense of attention to genuine threats, the understanding of which calls for deeper thought and careful observation. Since some things never change, what sometimes passes for scientific truth with overly enthusiastic secularists is unfortunately not examined any more closely than the religious assumptions of the sacred past. Those who quiver in anticipation of today's new predictions of doom therefore seldom understand that the science behind their assumptions is not static, and is even sometimes just plain wrong.

(9) A succinct example of this point of view from philosopher Thomas Hobbes states that " the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power that ceaseth only in death". Hobbes reached this conclusion by hanging out with politicians and aristocrats who by definition would aspire to this end; a self-fulfilling divination if ever there was one. Had he spent more of his adult life with common folk, he would have realized that the "general inclination of all mankind" is a decent sex life, good food, pleasant company, and a nice place to live. That’s why beer commercials look the way they do.

(10) Recent studies suggest that birth trauma can also create a predisposition to apocalyptic thinking. "At birth, the safety and warmth of our womb-world ends and we're forced painfully through a narrow passage into a colder, crueler world." (Finney, 1999.) Death being the next great passage, the pain of our earlier birth experience can therefore elicit great fear and apprehension. Tales of blissful afterlife and punishment of those who didn't behave themselves according to the rules are designed to assuage these feelings. So is red wine, making it a natural ritual accoutrement.

(11) These dispensations were symbolized by a golden age, followed by silver, brass, and iron stages leading up to the end of all things. This metallic symbolism would be copied later by the writer of the Book of Daniel. The idea of dispensations of human existence would also be adopted by apocalyptic worrywart Joachim of Fiore (see chronology.) Dispensationalism would eventually become a central tenet of modern apocalyptic theology.

(12) These scenarios are often used in concert. For instance, overpopulation and rainforest deforestation result in an exotic and deadly plague that is no longer curable because of the loss through pollution and overdevelopment of the very plant species whose byproducts might have saved us. Of course, it could just as well be that a threat from space, such as a comet on collision course, could bind the world together in mutual self-defense. It is also equally possible that some nabob would simply convince everyone that comets are God's will, so why bother saving ourselves?

(13) For many, that something means simply attaching environmentally-friendly bumper stickers to one's Volvo and donating money to the Sierra Club.

(14) It should be noted how distasteful New Agers and Christian fundamentalists find one another's points of view regarding the End of the World and its purpose. Some Christians actually use the rise in New Age belief as further evidence for their own End Times scenario, while New Agers often see Christian fundamentalism as a hindrance to the ascension of human consciousness.

(15) Among the more bizarre Nazi beliefs was the notion that they were the Aryan descendants of the Nephilim, giants of the Old Testament. The Nazi breeding program was designed to recapture and purify the Nephilim genes, resulting in a race of new Aryan "supermen" who would then use their mythical powers to assume control of the world and rid it of bastardizing racial influences. Nazi scientists therefore organized a breeding program to produce this perfect Aryan race. They based their criteria for the perfect human specimen on such important characteristics as skull size. Two things stand out regarding the irrelevance of this technique. In the first place, the Aryans likely originated in Persia, and would have been a bit swarthy for Nazi tastes. Also, cranial size has nothing to do with intellectual capacity, as even a cursory inspection of Mike Tyson strongly suggests.