Book 25 of 100 – Connecticut’s Indigenous Peoples by Lucianne Lavin

We attended a presentation of Native American artifacts at the library that referenced this book, which is a comprehensive history of the discipline of archaeology in Connecticut as well as the native populations themselves, as revealed through their artifacts.

Having studied the pre-Roman populations of Western Europe, I am aware of the limitations of archaeological study in the absence of historical records, which in the case of Native Americans in Connecticut, are limited to the period after European contact.  Even this history is relatively ignored; we had a unit on Native Americans in 3rd or 4th grade, including a workshop with some members of the local tribe, but the idea that there was an extensive history of colonial-Indian conflict right in our backyards was completely glossed over.  I didn’t learn about it until I read a history of it sometime in my mid-30s.  (For instance, my neighborhood of the town I grew up in had been part of ‘Indian Country’ into the 18th century, and there was purportedly a massacre at an Indian village located in town (the massacre definitely happened, there is some controversy whether it was in our town or somewhere a few miles further north.)

This book does an excellent job of progressively integrating the historical facts of post-contact Connecticut with the archaeology as it comes closer in time to 1633.  Each chapter discusses various sites, what was found there, and what it means in terms of the history of the people who lived and left artifacts there.  The chapters on the Late Woodland and Final Woodland reference a lot of cultural information provided by contemporary Native Americans or their ancestors from the historical period, and the final chapter includes information on Indians up to the present day (including the frustrating tale of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation and their fight for recognition from the Federal government. 

While it can be regarded as comprehensive at the time of publishing, it’s also very much a jumping off point for the study of Native American history and prehistory in Connecticut, which is still a work in progress, and without any doubt an essential text for anyone interested in the study of the Indigenous cultures of Connecticut.


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Box of Rain, David Nelson and the B-Bender

Writing about the Grateful Dead online can be intimidating, as there are so many writers that do it so well, and one can feel like shooting a water pistol in the Mississippi.

Anyway, just a simple item I did some looking into.

Box of Rain, the opening song on the Grateful Dead’s 1970 classic American Beauty,  was my first ‘favorite’ Grateful Dead song.  I clearly recall a spirited discussion in the middle school library with a couple of my friends whether it was Jerry or Bob singing lead.  Though it was the early 90s, we were all interested in that era of music, and it wasn’t long before I was deeply into the Grateful Dead, an affinity that has never fully abated over more than 20 years.

Although we realized it was Phil Lesh on lead vocals before 7th grade was over, it wasn’t until recently, when I began to revisit my former love for the Good Old Grateful Dead, this time with the aid of the vast internet resources of the ‘Deadosphere,’ that I learned that ‘Box of Rain’ represented a few firsts.  Not only was it the first GD track with Phil on lead vocals, it was also the first track without Phil on bass.  (Dave Torbert of the New Riders did the deed as Phil strummed his acoustic guitar.)  AND, on top of that, it’s the first album track without Garcia on guitar.  He plays piano and the lead is by David Nelson of the New Riders of the Purple Sage.

Now, no one had to be paying very close attention to acquire this information, it’s on the back of the record, though I assumed it meant Nelson was playing a guitar on the track somewhere, not necessarily THE lead guitar.

Also by this time I had become a big fan of all things Telecaster, as well as a DIY guitar repair enthusiast, so I had read all about what the B-Bender was, and who had one, and who used one on what etc.  But I was still not very clear on what exactly it did and how it sounded, so I got to searching around,  and lo and behold – I read on the internets that the solo on none other than ‘Box of Rain’ was a b-bender performance by Nelson.  (Google will demonstrate this is all over the place on blogs and forums.)

Here’s a guy playing it on Youtube, albeit from 10 years ago…

Here’s the inventor, Gene Parsons, explaining the B-bender:


The main thing to notice in these two B-bending videos, at least for my purposes in this post, is the player’s left hand.  The bends on the B-bender are caused by a mechanism that’s activated by moving the guitar in some way, in both of these cases by moving the neck.

This is a post from the telecaster forum of record ‘The Definitive B-Bender Song List.’  The poster is a ‘Friend of Leo’ meaning a forum veteran with hundreds of posts:

Then the immortal Light into Ashes, the dean of GD internet scholarship:

‘8/2/69 – David Nelson plays guitar in Slewfoot and Mama Tried. He adds a different texture, and I wish he’d sat in more often!’

Then from the comments:

Cross-post from

[…]I have a more exciting discovery to announce, though… Listening again to the first few tracks of 8/3/69 (especially High Heeled Sneakers), it sounds like there might be a third guitarist in spots. The trouble is, the fiddle in the mix kind of blends into the other instruments; and the mix itself is weak & wobbly, with all the instruments cluttered together; so any third guitar is just a distant noise well in the background.

But in Mama Tried, the third guitarist is unmistakable, and up in the mix. Not only that, but he appears the night before on August 2 in the same spot as well!
In performances of Mama Tried before & after these shows, after the first chorus Garcia just plays a brief lick before the next verse, and the one guitar solo comes before the last chorus.
On August 2 & 3, though, another solo is added after the first chorus, in a very different style from Garcia’s – in fact, it definitely sounds like Clarence White’s B-bender style, very thrilling to hear, played the same way both nights. (Garcia then plays his usual solo before the last chorus.)
The most obvious candidate for this guest guitarist would be David Nelson. Not only was he playing with Garcia at the time, but he also played a (more restrained) B-bender solo in Box of Rain a year later.
I think he drops out of the show after Mama Tried.

On 8/2/69, Nelson also plays lead guitar on Slewfoot (same style) while Garcia is on pedal steel. It’s very cool, check it out.

I believe Nelson also plays the guitar solo in Mama Tried on 6/28/69. It’s not Garcia, it’s in the same style (though slowed-down), and with Peter Grant & John Dawson also guesting, Nelson’s presence is very likely.

Here are the three performances referenced:

There’s definitely a ‘not Garcia’ lead guitar on the first solo break on this version, as described.

This is 8-2-69, the first solo is the tele, and definitely some bending going on.  In the same show this guitarist is also audible in the Other One, faintly the entire song, especially around 1:19, from 6:08 on for a bit, and then around 12:30, 13:10, and most distinct from Garcia and Weir from 13:30-14:10, give or take.

listening to this again, the first solo is a standard telecaster with some nifty Roy Buchanan moves, I don’t hear anything too bendy that screams B-bender to me.  (Though I won’t pretend I could definitively pick out what’s a b-bender lick and what’s done with the fingers with 100% accuracy.)

In case it hasn’t become clear, what I’m saying that these shows, and (as will be shown) ‘Box of Rain’ was not played on a B-bender, it’s just Nelson’s ‘normal’ style of country inflected guitar, bends done in conventional fashion.

And here’s the argument:

To begin with, the B-Bender, while technically ‘invented,’ was by no means in widespread use at this time.  Parsons and White licensed their technology to Dave Evans sometime in 1969, and he began installing them for various guitarists.  Evans mentions guitarists he built them for, and Nelson is not on his list.

Of course, if I didn’t just like to hear myself type, I could have made this post one sentence:

Look at this 1972 video – Nelson steps up to the mic at the beginning – No tell-tale B-Bender spool below the bridge on his tele.  And watch him bend with his fingers:

But, and this is a bit crazy, here’s a video from 1975, where he is clearly bending with his fingers, and there is also no bending device visible on the front of his guitar:


The solo from Glendale Train (beginning at 56:08) gives a great view from the front of his left hand bending technique.

(now one can certainly still bend with the fingers while using the b-bender, but you can see Nelson’s not dipping the neck like he does in modern times with the bender.)


You can see it here, though that music stand is in the way – he does a good bend around 2:00 in – his left hand is stationary and he dips the neck down to create the bend, in contrast with his hand work in the earlier clips.  I don’t know if the one he is playing there is the first one he had made, as Fender has offered a licensed version since 1996.

Of course, if I was actually any good at internet searches, I could have gotten to the bottom of this before I wrote this lengthy post.  According to this, Nelson got his first B-Bender (aka Pull-String or Stringbender) in 1972:

In 1971 I purchased an Evans String-pull butcher-block tele at a local Atlanta music store that used to belong to Joe South. Being a NRPS fan I assumed that Dave Nelson was also playing a b-bender tele, but when they came to Atlanta in 1972, after the first album, he was playing a straight tele. After the show I went up to the stage and asked if he had ever used a b-bender. He said no and I offered to bring my guitar to him to check out. I wound up spending a smokey evening in their hotel room. Dave was impressed with the bender and asked if I knew where he could get one put on one of his teles. I said I knew a local Atlanta luthier (Jay Rhyne) who could probably make a copy of the mechanism in my guitar. Dave wound up handing his blonde tele over to me so Jay could do the work on it. I would then ship it to DN when it was done. Fortunately Jay did a great job and DN then became a b-bender player. His work on Box of Rain, and the first NRPS album were all done on a straight tele with traditional bending technique.

(post #12 on this thread, by user commP5)

So there it is – Nelson didn’t play the B-Bender in 1969 or 70 with the Grateful Dead, because he didn’t have one yet.  And even after he got one, he still didn’t play it all the time, as can be seen in the 1975 video.  I think he is playing it in the 1973 video featuring Jerry Garcia and Sandy Rothman, because I think I see the spool near the bridge, but the video quality is not great, and he doesn’t do any obvious moves in his solo, so its inconclusive.




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Book 24 of 100 – J is for Junk Economics by Michael Hudson

An amazing resource.  This is a brief intro to the actual study of economics and the way the ‘queen of social sciences’ has been perverted by special interests and sidetracked to serve the agenda of a very small segment of the population.

Dr. Hudson has spent more than 30 years studying classical economics and the history of money and debt.  He’s one of a small number of economists who get any time in the media who don’t fall in with the ‘mainstream’ neoliberal consensus that’s resulted in an increasingly polarized economy, stagnant for the majority, but booming for those who have spent the last several decades tilting it away from a productive economy that lifts all boats towards a system of peonage and patronage, where individuals and corporations collect private tax on what used to be held in common for all, while using the proceeds to purchase the services of politicians and erode democratic governments around the world.

Hudson makes no secret of his Marxist roots, and he certainly doesn’t shy away from drawing on Marx’s analysis, but he’s no doctrinaire Marxist, and he’s also made a lot of money for investors in his various jobs on Wall Street, (which I suppose ought to give him credibility in both the right and left wings of US politics.  This would actually seem to be the case as one of his partisans is former Reagan Treasury official Paul Craig Roberts.)  His ability to make money for his clients might also be seen by some as evidence of his accuracy in economic analysis.

This book, organized alphabetically by topic, gives many examples and demonstrations of how one particular economic ideology, one that serves the takeover of the economy by the financial sector, privileges financial engineering over capital investment in industry, and considers all income the same, whether extractive rent-seeking or productive investment leading to employment and equity, has taken over the discourse in this country, including most academic departments of economics.

I’ve since picked up a second book of his (almost done with it now,) which was a lot more in-depth on some of the topics, this one serves as a very good introduction to the concepts he studies and writes about.  In contrast to the 2nd book, which I’ve had for more than 6 weeks and still haven’t finished, I finished J is for Junk Economics in less than 3 weeks, and would have read it again except it was recalled to the library by a request from another patron.

A mind-changing and potentially life changing work I would recommend to anyone, and one I intend to add to my personal library as soon as I can.

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Book 23 of 100 – Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz

A fantasy of political intrigue, set in a ficitionalized Gwynedd, where humans coexist with Deryni, a manlike magical race who formerly lorded it over their human subjects before being overthrown centuries ago and outcast.

I read a review online that compares this to Game of Thrones, though this entire book would be a couple of chapters at most in any volume of that series.  The writing is accessible and the plot moves things along, so that 270 pages only took a couple of days to complete (which is just as well, as I’m falling way behind in this challenge!)

Anyway, minor spoilers forthcoming – following the death of the king, Brion, a human who acquired magic powers and ruled for 15 years after defeating Marluk, a powerful Deryni sorcerer, his loyal general Morgan, a half-Deryni himself, must help Brion’s son Kelson perform the ritual to unlock his own powers before he is challenged to a magical duel and destroyed by Marluk’s vengeful daughter Charissa, also known as the Shadowed One.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a tale of intrigue without betrayals and subterfuge, and a couple of cases of mistaken identity.

Based on this book, which I’ve had floating around since forever, I’d be interested to read more of the series, especially if they come in at such a manageable length.  Gwynedd is basically similar to medieval Europe, with the addition of the Deryni and their powers, including a powerful Church hierarchy that draws heavily on the imagery and ritual of Medieval Christianity, minus most of the theology (except as it pertains to occult powers.)  This makes it easy to get used to the setting.

On the other hand, it’s a bit slight, we do learn a few things about the character of each of the principals, but its hardly a deep study, and there is a bit of conflict as characters’ racial prejudices are challenged, but it reads a bit like it’s supposed to be the first volume of a trilogy (which it ended up being, whether or not it was intended that way when written.)


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Book 22 of 100 – Star Wars: Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover.

Finally a book about Mace Windu!

I read this once, so I’m not sure if it should count, but it was about 12 years ago, so I’m going to allow it.

Unfortunately, unlike most of the other Star Wars books I’ve read this year, much of the plot of this one has been contradicted by the new Disney Canon, as Depa Billaba, former padawan of Windu and a central character in this novel, was chosen as the master of Kanan Jarrus, the wayward Jedi who is the leader of the rebel band in the Rebels animated series, which prompted her history to be altered (mostly unnecessarily, IMO, though what happens in Shatterpoint is a bit dark to extrapolate on in a TV and comic book series marketed to pre-teens.)

Anyway, in the Star Wars version of Apocalypse Now, Jedi Master Windu returns to his home planet of Haruun Kal, where everyone can use the Force, and the Clone War has served to intensify and prolong the status quo ante, a guerilla war between settlers and natives, the Republic settlers seeking to mine the planet’s resources while the natives cling to their traditional way of life, herding of giant jungle creatures known as tuskers with the aid of their akks, reptilians resembling giant dogs that have a telepathic Force bond with their handlers.

Haruun Kal is a harsh world – the jungle itself is full of dangerous fungi that corrode metal and electronics, there are parasitical insects and carnivorous predators, and the kill or be killed ethos extends to the humans, as the lowland settlers and the native Korrunai are engaged in a war of extermination.  Windu is involved because his former padawan was sent to assist the Korunnai, as their antagonists had been recruited by Dooku and his Separatists, and she seems to have gone native (and possibly succumbed to the Dark Side.)

I won’t deem it necessary to recount the entire plot here, but I thought this was a surprisingly compelling treatment of the issues of colonial war and imperialism, just war theory, the role of ‘law and order,’ ideology and conflict etc.  There’s the tension, ever-present in Star Wars media from this time period, between the mandate of the Jedi to protect life and preserve peace and the waging of a galaxy-wide war ostensibly to that end.  In the end, Windu, the consummate Jedi, effects a solution very much in keeping with the mandates and tenets of his order.  This one was certainly worth reading again.


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Book 21 of 100 – Jerry on Jerry: the Unpublished Jerry Garcia Interviews, Dennis McNally, ed.

I don’t think its going out on a limb to say Garcia might be the most erudite and articulate high school dropout who spent most of his life fronting a rock and roll band infamous for drug use.

Illuminating and always entertaining, this book is also a beautiful edition illustrated with family and band photos of Garcia as well as dozens of prints of his artwork.

Interviews running the gamut, many conducted by McNally, the Dead’s publicist and historian since the 1980s, are edited skillfully by topic and/or time period.

I got this from one of the nearby libraries, and I don’t usually bother about owning rock memoirs, especially when so many are available in libraries, but this book would definitely make a worthy edition to any home library.

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Book 20 of 100 – The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism by David Harvey

A well thought out and exhaustive explanation of the behavior of capital and the crisis of 2008 from a Marxist perspective.

It’s not a surprise that a Marxist critique of the crisis would appear, and be widely considered, since the crisis was such a surprise to so many mainstream (mostly neoliberal) economists.

The dominant narrative of the crash of 2008 was that it was a glitch in the system that would get back on track once corrected (by massive payments to Wall Street from the Federal Reserve at the behest of the US government.)  Harvey’s point is no, that’s not a glitch, that is the system.  It requires continuous growth and in search of that is bound to exploit labor and consume resources in search of that growth.

The first lesson it must learn is that an ethical, non-exploitative and socially just capitalism that redounds to the benefit of all is impossible.  It contradicts the very nature of what capital is about.  (p. 239)

The root causes of the crash of 2008 were initiated in the 70s, when the reaction to the successes of the left and the implementation of the social state throughout the west:

The recipe devised was simple – crush the power of labour, initiate wage repression, let the market do its work, all the while putting the power of the state at the service of capital in general and of investment finance in particular.  This was the solution of the 70s, that lies at the root of the crisis of 2008-9. (p.172)

What’s to be done about, Harvey prescribes in the last chapter:

Perhaps we should just define the movement as anti-capitalist, or call ourselves the party of Indignation, ready to fight and defeat the party of Wall St. and its acolytes and apologists everywhere and leave it at that…As indignation and moral outrage build amid an economy of depression that so redounds to the benefit of a seemingly all powerful capitalist class, so disparate political movements necessarily begin to merge.   p.260

Harvey has his PhD in Geography, and a lot of his approach relies on the elaboration of the varying exploitation of different spaces by capital (he gives a shout-out to my hometown, one of the hedge fund capitals of the world in 2008, contrasting it with less well-developed locales.)   One thing notably missing from his analysis is the utopian rhetoric frequently seized as a straw man by critics of Marx and socialism.  This angle is usually employed to completely dismiss what is usually a fairly sharp and accurate critique of the excesses of a system that has us on track for a dystopian future of increasing inequality, austerity and privation, except for a select few who have managed to include themselves in a class of insiders.

I don’t consider myself a Marxist, maybe I’m holding out hope there’s some redeeming feature in our system.  But it’s hard to argue with much of Harvey’s analysis, looking as I am at the results on the ground.

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