If Only These Problems Were Myths Of A Past Age

If you have read Ve Le’s Non-Profit AF blog, you know that he often frames serious topics with a bit of humor, often extolling vegan cuisine and his obsession with the Oxford comma. Frequently though, he will go into full entertainment mode riffing on a theme and applying it to the non-profit world.

A couple weeks ago, he wrote a post recasting Greek myths as if they occurred in world run as a non-profit. With a hurricane recently piling on to the problems which have faced Puerto Rico over the last few years and another heading toward Florida, non-profits are going to be mobilizing to help affected communities recover. It seemed like a good time to point to humorous content before groups had to seriously dive in.

Le addresses a number of stories, but here are some of my favorites. In his retelling of the Trojan horse, the horse doesn’t contain soldiers who spread out to slay the city’s defenders:

The following days, they joined the boards of directors of several organizations in the city. They never read board packets, always stopped much more knowledgeable staff from taking bold actions, caused missed quorum, insisted on golf tournaments, and gradually ruined morale. And that was how the city of Troy fell.

In Le’s retelling of the story of Echo who had been cursed by Hera to repeat only what other people say:

One day, Echo met Narcissus and fell in love with him. “I should start a nonprofit,” he said to her. She repeated, “start a nonprofit.” He ran off and founded a nonprofit that gave used togas to poor people abroad, and Echo was heartbroken. But joke’s on Hera, because eventually, Echo became a nonprofit consultant who mainly repeated what the staff says, and boards thought she was so smart and she got paid a ton of money.

My favorite story was Le’s version of Hercules’ 12 Labors:

Those were: Plan a silent auction, diversify a board, give someone feedback, get everyone to track their expense receipts, conduct a 360 assessment without someone getting hurt, endure an icebreaker that involves making random mouth sounds, fire someone who is really nice but sucks at their job, call out a major donor for being a jerk, translate a budget into a funder’s own budget format, get more than ten likes on a social media post about an upcoming event, get a several people’s schedules to align for a meeting, and save enough for retirement.

There are about six-seven stories in all and Le has promised a part two which hasn’t surfaced yet. What I appreciate about Vu Le’s writing style is that the problems he addresses are obviously sources of frustration and anxiety for folks in the non-profit sector, but he skewers them so satirically you can feel a slight sense of relief at having an ally by your side that understands.

A Little Night of Georgia Music

About three months ago I mentioned that we were having a concert filmed for public television in our venue. We recently got word that it will make its broadcast debut on Georgia Public Broadcasting on July 4. After that, it will be available to stations around the country on their schedule. (So hint, hint, you should nudge your local stations to air it.)

The show is comprised of music by Georgia musicians including, R.E.M., Ray Charles, The Allman Brothers, Outkast, Ray Charles, and B-52s.  The show is a project by Mike Mills of R.E.M., classical violinist Robert McDuffie, and Chuck Leavell formerly of The Allman Brothers and currently keyboardist for Rolling Stones.

The show features Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra composed by Mills. The string orchestra performing in the recording comes from the McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University.

A little bit of a preview below. I am sure there is more video to come.

Curiosity Satisfied By A Strange Answer

I am not sure how I came across the article, but this Fall I came across an interview on The First Peoples Fund website with master traditional folk artist Kevin Locke. In the course of the conversation, Locke notes that what is widely known as the Native American flute is a pretty recent invention that wasn’t really part of the traditional cultural practices. The bolded section is the interviewer’s question. I don’t seem to see the interviewer identified.

In 1983 or 1982, a German American named Michael Graham Allen invented the Native American flute. It’s based on the Japanese wind instrument called a shakuhachi. I asked Allen why he did that. He said he made an original Indigenous flute but he didn’t know how to market it. He came upon this tuning system based on the Japanese shakuhachi and renamed it as a Native American flute….Pretty soon, everybody all over the world got interested in this instrument. But it’s not an Indigenous North American musical aesthetic. It’s basically Japanese. But the beautiful thing about it — and I’m not knocking it, I’m just saying people need to be aware where this instrument comes from…

And the instrument sounds so good! There are thousands of Native American flute music recordings that are just improvisational. I don’t want to discredit the music. I think it’s a great thing, but it has nothing to do with Indigenous tradition.

That in itself is a problem because the original genre associated with the Indigenous flute is a classic poetic or literary style that comes from the woodlands in the Great Lakes area, Northern Plains, and Southern Plains. And it existed for so many generations because the genre has characteristics that are uniform across most of North America. It’s a formulaic compositional pattern, even though the songs are diverse within themselves.

That’s so wild. First, I didn’t know the history of the Native American flute. Initially I had mixed feelings about its non-Indigenous origins. But what I’m hearing is that this musical instrument lifts your creativity. Is that accurate? 


I don’t know exactly how to process this since it pretty much seems like a type of cultural exploitation. Though I don’t know if the article provides enough information to determine that either if it was an Indigenous instrument that had Japanese tuning and was marketed as a Native American flute.  The situation is confusing and  Locke frames it in a very gracious way and seems to indicate that it has been a medium through which other Native artists have found success. It seems like it might have been invented in the name of Indigenous peoples but they also have primary ownership of it.

It does, however, clarify my previous general sense that Japanese and Indigenous cultures developed a similar musical instrument independently of each other. Not so much I guess.  I thought it worth following Locke’s suggestion about raising awareness of the instrument’s origins and posting about it.

On Hiatus

Apologies to my readers. The departure of some staff and absence of others has placed me in a situation where I can no longer post regularly. Hopefully this will resolve itself soon and I can return to my regular schedule. Until then, I hope you will continue to remain subscribed so you will receive notifications when my posts begin again.

I appreciate everyone’s support over the years.

Thank you