Election 2020

Election 2020
Gaseous Little Baby Man Dirigible Implodes!

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Saigon Falls, Ho Chi Minh City Rises!

It was thirty years ago today that the last American helicopter decamped from the rooftop. I was 19 years old. The Vietnam War (the Vietnamese call it the American War), is like a sad and embarassing old friend who shows up unexpectedly at your doorstep demanding reconciliation, or a really horrible nightmare that comes back after many, many years; a strange, open wound. My view of our government, the world, the press, the protest movement, the youth culture, sex, drugs and rock and roll are all inextricably linked up with that horrible, sad, befuddling, tragic, and absurd conflict (58,000 American men and women dead, 2-3 million Vietnamese dead), to save the world from one more domino falling into the Commie Camp!

I experienced the war through pop culture: Newspapers, TV, movies (see "Apocalypse Now," "The Deer Hunter"), books (read Michael Herr's "Dispatches," Neal Sheehan's "Bright Shining Lie"). My heroes were all in oppostion (the counter-culture), John Lennon, Bobby Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, Hunter S. Thompson, Ken Kesey, the Conspiracy Seven (Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, etc.). It was clear that the 'system' was evil. Nixon had turned guns on the students (Kent State). Long hair was a political/cultural statement. We lived in Another Tribe (The Woodstock Nation).

It's hard to get a handle on the last thirty years (it's so odd for me even to write that -- my life streaming out before/behind me). That time is layered into my being, even as I have moved on, evolved, changed, grown older, etc.

"We find ourselves in a bewildering world.  We want to make sense of what we see around us and to ask: What is the nature of the universe? What is our place in it and where did it and we come from?  Why is it the way it is?" -- Dr. Stephen Hawking, Ph.D., from "A Brief History of Time."

I'd add these questions too: Who am I? Where am I going? What have I learned? What have I forgotten?

Friday, April 29, 2005

"Where are You Going, My Darling Young One?" - B. Dylan

I had a car yesterday, I drove down old streets that I used to haunt. It was kind of like visiting parts of my brain (my memory) that have been buried for a long time. The days accumulate, time passes (at least that's how it feels), things I used to know, I've forgotten, things I never knew, are now front and center in my head. There's a perceived continuity to this "I," that follows me wherever I go. Do my experiences add up to something, or is life a process of 'taking away?' As we evolve and change some things are lost. I just hope I'm not leaving the best behind me in the long, lonely streets.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


I was going to post a monologue (it came to me in a blur last night) from the new play I'm working on, but I realize I'm a little superstitious about the whole process. I look at playwriting as a "spooky" enterprise. I accumulate facts, incidents, ideas and lines, (I have about 30 pages of notes so far, jotting down things that intrigue me, some of the same things that surface in this blog), then somehow I "discover," a voice, or a series of voices that kind of "take over." I start making connections, trusting that if I can make the leap from one thing to another, others will be able to do the same. It's a way of "fooling" myself into creating something new, it helps keep things fresh, I make little "discoveries" along the way. I realize it's really a little game I've learned to play, I sort of know the outline of the rules, but what actually comes out, and when it comes, is all basically unknown. It's not something I can force, or will, if I'm trying too hard, it doesn't quite jell. It's not about "effort," it's more about "inspiration," but the key is to sit down at the keyboard, without any preconceptions, and tap into the flow. What's weird is I've had a number of "false starts," (who knows, this could be another one) but last night, one of my original conceptions came back to life. I realize, I do know what I want to write about, but I've been hesitant to fully commit myself. This "voice" just came pouring out, I realized it is demanding to be heard! OK, so my job is to not get in the way, to open myself, to be the vehicle, and let it come down.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Brain = Abbie Normal!

I jumped into a mind-bending book called, "Godel, Escher, Bach." It is about the brain, music (J.S Bach's beautiful, complex, music), art (Escher's beautiful, complex drawings), Godel's incompleteness thereom, complexity, artificial intelligence, puzzles, etc. Some of it already is well 'over my head,' but it's a dazzling brain-teaser about our brains, which I realize is one of my eternal subjects of inquiry. I've always been intrigued by the idea of a brain trying to examine and understand itself, which is one of the 'plots,' embedded in the book. This idea of 'self-knowledge,' 'self-reference,' was one of Kurt Godel's great acheivements: he discovered 'self-reference' (and incompleteness) in an abstract language (mathematics). The implication is that this discovery applies to other 'formal systems' as well (for instance: a brain?)

We're always trying to come up with an analogue to our brains, to put them in a neat box: its a computer, its a sophisticated clockwork, its a complex circuit. I like this description: a brain is "a squishy bulb, poised between dread and dream." So, of course, this all sets me off on a wild flight. Our brains are like little universes that use our bodies to propagate other brains. This way, 'the brain,' continues to grow and evolve just like the expanding universe we live in. The mystery is how do 'animate beings' spring from 'inanimate' matter? Maybe the question is besides the point? Animate and inanimate are possibly arbitrary labels? So we are pieces of a mosaic, we, in microcosm, reflect the universal macrocosm?! It seems universe/brain is growing and evolving, maybe without purpose - except to fill the void (how can void exist?).

Edgar Allen Poe (after smoking large quantitites of opium) wrote in his philosophical treatise, "Eureka," that we are all little pieces of god, that basically "universe" is a description of god. Not sure if that explains anything, but I kind of like the idea that we are "universe" too and we all together (everything animate and inanimate) are on a journey to fill the void! William Blake: "everything that lives is holy." Sunny Jimmy: "everything lives!"

OK, obviously the coffee is having it's desired effect, my head is spinning with self-referentiality. Yikes --- watch out for the organic french roast! It's a good trip, but where does it lead?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

"Beisball, has been berry, berry good to me." - G. Morris (SNL)

The games we play... another image in my head: I'm a kid, freckle-faced, sandy-haired, I'm in the backyard of my house, I'm throwing a rubber ball against a brick wall, I'm a pitcher on the mound, mowing down imaginary batters one by one. I've got my baseball glove, oiled and worn in, I'm throwing the ball as hard as I can, strengthening my arm, working on my control, finding the strike zone. The ball bounces back and I field the ball too. I'm locked into a perfectly complete loop; it's summer, no sound, except for the rubber bouncing against brick. I would do this for hours. Single-minded, determined, all alone. Not bored, not unhappy. Just present, in the moment.

It's been a long time since I've watched a baseball game...

I came across this quote this morning and I think it captures what I think is one of the key allures of the game: failure is built-in, but it is not the end: "Baseball, like life, is at heart a prolonged test, a journey requiring skill, luck, patience and the capacity to lose dozens of games and still emerge as a winner."

One of my childhood heroes: Ernie Banks, a player for the Chicago Cubs, he was always on a the losing end with a losing team. But, Ernie was not a loser, no, he was the smiling, happy, winner, the best player on a bad team, his motto - "Say hey, let's play two!"

Monday, April 25, 2005

Is there a Relativist in this Monkey House?

Hey can I put in a few kind words for the "relativists?" It seems the Pope has decided to attack a new straw man: The Relativist, and this kind of reminds me of the Religious Right's demonization of "the Liberal," or their latest campaign against "Activist Judges."

I'm not an expert (on anything?), but since I'm a big adherent of the evolutionary (physically, spiritually) viewpoint (Jesus, Mohammad, Ghandi, Buddha and I were/are genetically 99% identical to chimps) - we live in an evolving universe - what we know for sure today, may not be what we know for sure tomorrow, a good motto to keep in the forefront of our forebrains: "SEEK AND YOU WILL DISCOVER!" I think its obvious that the Scientific approach - let's test our hypothesis and see what happens - has been very successful exploring and trying to comprehend the world. Science too has been demonized, but I think it's clear that it is the Politicians who have failed us - see Hiroshima/Nagasaki - not the scientists.

So, I think some kind of Relativism has it's merits. Look at the evidence, for instance the history of Man, and you will see that Morality and Truth, have been bounded by the context of culture (Slavery, women's rights, "the universe revolves around the earth," "stoning is a just punishment," "multiple wives - what a great idea" "Blacks are inferior to Whites", "Gay people are sick," etc.) Now if I'm a Pope, I probably should not be a Relativist, my job is to put on the robe, and accept my infallibility (sheesh what a Poser!).

But I submit it's the Absolutists who really create the havoc; those who claim to be inspired by God - Christians, Muslims (maybe not the Buddhists - they seem so mellow!). A little Relativism should make us all a little more humble ("maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong - let's try it, and see what happens"), not such a bad idea!

By the way, for clarity's sake, there's this from the Philosopy Dictionary: "few philosophers are willing to describe themselves as relativists. However, most of the leading thinkers who have been accused of relativism--for example, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Peter Winch, Thomas Kuhn, Richard Rorty, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida--do share a certain common ground which, while recognizably relativistic, provides a basis for more sophisticated, and perhaps more defensible, positions. They all have two features in common: 1) They all assert that one thing (e.g. moral values, beauty, knowledge, taste, or meaning) is relative to some particular framework or standpoint (e.g. the individual subject, a culture, an era, a language, or a conceptual scheme). 2) They all deny that any standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others."

Now of course, Science for good and bad, is one of these "frameworks." Who gets to claim the "priviledged standpoint?" ("God is on my side!") Isn't that the nub of it? Beware of the moral absolutists - I'm thinking they're the ones acting like "uppity monkeys!" Remember your humble beginnings fellow pilgrims!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

"I've Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up to Me." - R. Farina

"..there is always Soma, delicious Soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon..." - Aldous Huxley.

Imagine Hamlet on Soma. Imagine Vincent Van Gogh on Soma. Imagine Hunter S. Thompson on Soma.

I read an article by Peter D. Kramer, the author of "Listening to Prozac," in which he argues that we will be able to eliminate clinical depression as a disease sometime in the near future.

Is this a good thing? Why do we have this romantic notion that depression and "artistic insight," and "literary greatness" go together? Maybe because some of our best writers have been "bummed out?" Shakespeare's "Hamlet," depicts the Sweet Prince as the poster boy of depression (to be or not to be), the quintessential "Melancholy Baby."

Then there's guys like Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus, Woody Allen. These guys seem to be able to offer the 'bleak vision,' but somehow, miraculously, they are able to find the trapdoor to absurdity, laughter, joy.

Camus' points out in his famous essay on Sisyphus (the existential hero) who is punished by the gods (the gods intend Sisyphus to suffer) - he is condemned to the futile task of pushing a rock up the hill, only to see it, roll back down, that Sisyphus remains upbeat. His rebellion, his fidelity to self, rests on his refusal to be worn down!

It is joy that opens our eyes to the absurd --- and to freedom! "The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." - A. Camus.

If we could elminate depression, would we make the world safe for Van Gogh? "Beset by great evil, a person can be wise, observant and disillusioned and yet not depressed. Resiliance confers its own measure of insight. We should have no trouble admiring what we do admire - depth, complexity, aesthetic brilliance - and standing foursquare against depression." - Peter D. Kramer

Saturday, April 23, 2005

"I Ain't Gonna Be Your Dog." - Chester Burnett (a.ka. Howling Wolf)

"A winter's day, in a deep and dark...April!?" Paul Simon did not write that lyric, it doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, but it's that kind of day.

I dropped the Wittgenstein biography ("I'm a genius, I'm such a miserable genius, and if I'm not, I don't deserve to live.") and jumped into Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink - The Power of Thinking Without Thinking." Now isn't that appealing, to think without thinking? The books tells us we do it all the time, and I guess the evidence is all around us.

It is fascinating, because it's about our brains, and how we know stuff that we don't know we know (Wittgenstein by the way would agree). What do we know in the blink of an eye? It turns out a lot -- we read faces (mind-reading), we make all kinds of unconscious (not Freud's version) judgements and decisions, that we don't know we're making, and if we start analyzing why we made such and such a judgement, we get really confused, or actually lie about how or why we came up with that particular judgement (or something like that).

In times of danger, anger, fear and stress, some of us can make some miraculous, life-saving decisions in a blink, and others of us can make catastrophic mistakes -- Amadou Diallo -- "lookout, he has a gun!" Forty one bullets later, "Oh shit, it's only a wallet!"

Hey, evolution explains a lot: " At 175 (heart beats per minute) we begin to see an absolute breakdown of cognitive processing... the forebrain shuts down, and the mid-brain - the part of your brain that is the same as your dog's (all mammals have that part of the brain) - reaches up and hijacks the forebrain. Have you ever tried to have a discussion with an angry or frightened human being? You can't do it... you might as well try to argue with your dog."

The dog will always win the argument. You can banish him, punish him, but you ain't gonna reason with him. Doesn't this explain a lot of the pain, suffering and turmoil in the world? It's a dog eat dog (we become the dog) world when we live in anger and fear.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Share the Dream

I had a brief conversation with a client yesterday. We've established a great relationship over the years, we're from such different backgrounds (I'm a white, Catholic, Chicagoan born and bred, he's an African American, Baptist, native Brooklynite), we're on such different tracks (I work for a small, entreprenurial company, he works for a large bureaucractic behemoth), but somehow we have developed a real rapport, a mutual trust, a shared sensibility.

We have a business relationship, but we've been able to transcend it, and together we can 'share the dream.' Since it's business first, we both obviously see the advantage to working together, we're both motivated by the money, the status, the opportunity for success. But, there's so much more, a real respect, on both sides, for the uniquely different paths we've chosen.

The conversation was short, the dream (we will build lasting empires together) kind of floated above us, and then drifted off into the great unknown. Will anything really come of our plans? Who knows? But that feeling of reaching out, saying "hello" to another human being on a very fundamental level kind of vibrated inside me. I think that's the kind of "vibration," that can change the world, one being at a time.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"What are you rebelling against?" "What d'ya got?" - M. Brando in the "Wild One"

Hey, at least its good to know that the Snakes aren't in hiding (see every prominent position in Washington D.C. -- and the Vatican!) I smell a Rat(zinger) in the house! What's that saying, "the only good Pope is a dead Pope?!?"

I was conversing with a fellow Catholic (she is the practicing kind, I'm not) and she said to me, "I hate to think that your Catholic upbringing ruined you." My response: "I don't think of myself as ruined, it just gave me something to rebel against." She replied, "No I don't mean ruined you as a person, but ruined your relationship with God."

Hah, double hah-hah. This really cracked me up. No, I thought (this part of the conversation was only in my head) my relationship with The Great Belly Laugh (there is no belly, no laugher) is just fine. I can hear the echoes of laughter in everything I do, think, see, and feel ("Tommy can you hear me?").

It's a planet-cracking laughter, the best kind. Not in derision, not in sarcasm, laughter from a place deep inside. The kind that emanates from the knowledge that it's a crazy, wonderful, silly, profoundly confounding life we live!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

"Now, that's something that looks better with pants on." - Sullivan

So I have this Black Irish friend, let's call him Sullivan, who is another 'work at homer.' We are both part of a strange new class, people who use computers, cell phones, faxes; who primarily perform their day-jobs from home. I'm in marketing, Sullivan is an engineer (he's working on cooling towers for a project in Puerto Rico at the moment). You will see folks like us at your local Starbucks, sipping expensive coffee concoctions, logging onto the web, typing furiously on our keyboards, surfing the world wide web, talking on our little silver cell phones.

Anyway, Sullivan, in the way that he always does, left me a message that he was coming over, he was riding his bike over to my apartment, and he was meeting me for lunch. Since, he knew I wasn't big on lunch, we were going to go to Starbucks and have coffee together. This is how it goes with Sullivan, he calls, he tells me when he's coming over, and what we're gonna do. It's his way; I go along with it, because he's a genuinely funny guy, he usually has me in stitches with his dry, Black Irish humour.

He comes over, we go to Starbucks, it's beautiful outside, so we decamp to a bench in the park and sip our iced venti skim lattes (these are the magic code words strung together just so). We had a great talk. Sullivan, as usual, had me laughing so hard, I almost keeled over. To passersby we may have looked like two middle-aged street bums, (and hell, would they be wrong?). We both had these maniacal grins on our faces, the laughter came out in ribbons. I can't really relate what was so funny, I wish I had a tape recorder, but without the full picture, Sullivan's sharply chiseled features, his massive and inviting forehead, his crooked grin, so much would be lost even on audio tape.

We walked back to my apartment, he hopped on his bike and that was that. I might not hear from him for months now. But then, sometime (who knows when?), out of the blue, Sullivan will emerge, he'll open me up, and the laughter will flow once again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

"Address the Ball." "Hello, Ball!"

Dear reader, please forgive me, I'm working through something. I've been contemplating a vision (see previous post) of myself (is it really me?) as a 13 year old boy, all alone, whacking a golf ball into the distance. So, here goes: we are born (where were we, before we were born?) into the human race. It's a 'race,' like no other. We all start from a different place, with a different face. We may think we're in competition, for food, status, sex, etc., (and maybe we are) but this is basically a sideshow. Some of us prosper and live, some of us wither and die. Ultimately, we all end up in the same place (not sure what this place is, or is not). What we choose to 'do,' is what defines us. What we believe, what we say, and think about ourselves, seems less important.

So, this little boy, swings his golf club; he's not trying to score, not trying to surpass anyone else, not trying to impress his friends and family, not trying to 'win' a girl. He's not trying... He swings the club, with no effort, or, he's working in the realm of 'effortlessness,' where the club, the ball, the distance are at play in some optimum balance. There is no 'perfect shot,' but there are times when everything seems to fall just right, and the little white ball takes an extraordinary little trip into the world. The boy, is working towards some unity of mind, heart, spirit, but he doesn't know it, it's not in his head, he's working from a much simpler framework, killing time, passing time, no, in a state of timelessness. There's no fear, no dread, no confusion, no indecision, no feeling of guilt ("Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine") or invalidation. There is no time, no judgement. God is not looking over his shoulder. God is irrelevant in this state. Again, these are not words or ideas that even surface in the boy's consciousness. There's a clarity of purpose. A simple, clean, swing - nothing more, nothing less...the world... complete.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Golf is an Old Man's Game

An amazing day yesterday. It seemed I finally caught up with my body, I inhabited my space, felt completely alive, moment to moment. An odd, but completely cool feeling. The day was expansive. The Lovely Carla and I went to Invision for a "Sanctuary" Meditation. It was the right place, right time, right message. I have been wrestling with a problem, I have been trying to "think myself" out of it, to no avail, the more "thinking" I've done, the more confused I've become.

So, I just cleared it all out of my space. Let it all go. Afterward, we participated in a "psychic healing," and I was given this message: "you are stuck in indecision, you can access your original passion, which you knew when you were very (very, very) young."

I was reminded of this vision: I'm 12 or 13 years old. I'm all alone, I have a nine-iron in my hands, I'm hitting golf balls into a ravine. I would do this for hours (it was summer), hitting balls, chasing them down, hitting them again, etc. It was a time when I was usually alone. No friends, no one to confide in. I never really thought of myself as a 'golfer,' I just liked to hit the ball, watch it arc over the ravine, bounce on the ground, and roll.

Time was expansive. Afternoons seemed to extend out forever. I was alone, but not really lonely. I was happy to be alive, no more, no less. I gripped the club, wacked the ball, each time the ball carved out another invisible path in the air. I was there, alive, and nothing else.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Small Day

Yesterday the Lovely Carla was off to see her mother, so Sunny Jimmy was left to his own devices. I totally 'unplugged,' from the world by plunging into it. I went for a long (over an hour) run on the lakefront; the southern breeze, the sunshine and moderate temperature made it a very enjoyable romp - the exquisite "lonliness of the long-distance runner."

In the afternoon, I went to Starbucks (I've got to feed the monkey) and got myself an "iced-vente-skim-latte" (it's important to string the words just so) and found a bench in a small park near the EL. I sat and meditated for about an hour. This was a great "ritual cleansing," I went through a series of visualizations, blowing up the dreck and bullshit from the week, creating images of clarity and focus: this is what I will create!

Late afternoon, I was back at the ranch, I made a special chicken recipe (chopped onions, a rich marinara sauce), green beans, lentil soup. Oh yeah, I had a chocolate bar (opens up the center of your head) too! I rented two DVDs, "The Last Waltz" (a young Dylan, the Band, Van Morrison, Neil Young - my heroes) and Wim Wender's beautiful, meditative, "Wings of Desire."

I finished the day listening (on my "Walkman") to Ry Cooder & Manuel Galban playing Cuban Surfer Music on their CD "Mambo Sinuendo." Magical, otherwordly guitars dancing in my head. I dozed off in the middle, woke up, turned the player off, and drifted into the black.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Turn Up Your Amusement!

Oh little Ludwig you are driving me mad. I'm about 190 pages into a biography on Ludwig Wittgenstein. I must admit, I find little Ludwig a real pain in the ass. Over the years, I have read many biographies and autobiographies. It's a great way to meet people, to re-experience history, I've been inspired to see the world with new eyes, I've found great material for my plays; usually reading about other people's lives fires my imagination. It's a way of 'putting on a new mask,' illuminating new thoughts, new ideas.

I have an unwritten rule (all my rules are unwritten, the first rule: MAKE NO RULES!) that if I start a book, I finish a book. I know there have been exceptions, but I usually stick to this rule (sometimes I buy a book and never crack it open, maybe I'll get to them before 'the Big Sleep' comes) and it usually pays off in ways I'm not sure I can pin down.

Some of the inspiring (and not so inspiring) characters I've met over the years: Vladimir Nabokov (his 'Speak Memory' is one of the best autobiographies ever written), Jean Genet (maybe the coolest, most inspring character I can think of: an orphan, a thief, a homosexual, the ultimate outsider, he wrote his first novel in prison on scraps of toilet paper; a guard destroyed it, Genet wrote it again and smuggled it out of prison - remarkable!) William Blake, Sonny Liston, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Muhammad Ali, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, Vince Lombardi, Elvis Presley, Robert Oppenheimer, Kurt Godel, John Boorman, Luis Bunuel, Andy Warhol, Jerry Lee Lewis, Crazy Horse, Black Elk, General George Armstrong Custer, Francis Bacon, Joseph Cornell, Yukio Mishima. ETC.

Then there are the characters that I absolutely loath (it's a short list, I think it's important not to judge others, no one can walk in another man's shoes, and each of us has some redeeming qualities, right!?!) Stalin (an absolute murderous brute - the black hole of humanity) Richard Nixon (an incredibly flawed dude, who had an an uncanny ability to draw energy from hate and envy), Howard Hughes (he trusted no one, he was convinced he could buy any man in the world) and now Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ludwig is a complex character, on the one hand he was convinced he was a genius, on the other he totally loathed himself (he may have been a homosexual, which totally freaked him out). Every other page, little Ludwig is considering suicide. Suicide seems to have been a family hobby!

Wittgenstein was considered by some to be a genius, one of the key logicians and philospher's of the 20th century. He was a mad and maddening dude. I'm compelled to plow forward (there are interesting insights on nearly every page), and at the same time I'm repelled by Ludwig's super-inflated ego, and finely tuned self-loathing.

I think there are two essential tools in the Human Survival Kit (remember no one gets out alive): humility, and a great sense of humour. Come on people, let's try to keep the yucks coming!

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Empire Strikes Back

I was reading a review of a memoir written by a Cuban woman whose family escaped during the Mariel boatlift. One man's (Fidel Castro's) utopia: No God, No Beatles. No God, I can handle. No Beatles, intolerable. This is a good example where too much power in too few hands is clearly not a good thing. A Cuban talking about America: "It is a land where a man can eat a Ham sandwich everyday."

Yes, I want to live in a multi-cultural, muti-ethnic, democracy. I'm beginning to fear that BushCo. is in the process of complely destroying it. Instead, we are becoming an authoritian, military/industrial police state, run by Evangelical numbskulls, where crony capitalism, and the culture cops run rampant.

What would it take to have the Christian Evangelicals unleash the Pentagons guns and toys of destruction on their own civilians? I'm not so sure we aren't really close to finding out. What if we woke up out of our consumer frenzy? What if we realized how easily a small entrenched group has grabbed onto all the levers of power? What if we opened our eyes to see that both sides of our political conversation are off the rails?

So, I'm sitting around listening to the Beatles catalog from "I Want to Hold Your Hand," to "Get Back," I'm eating my daily ham sandwich, I'm wondering, "what would Jesus do?" I'm thinking it's not such a bad country after all. I'm basically another little Nero, fiddling while ROME BURNS!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Don't Glove the Knuckles!

The Telepaths played their first gig at Silvies last night. What can I say? Well, probably a lot, (remember, I do think of myself as a writer first) but I don't really want to deconstruct it. It felt good. You can try to dissect a 'good vibration,' but where's the upside in such an operation?

I came across this quote from Saul Bellow's first novel, "The Adventures of Augie March." I submit it as a suitable epitaph for the Telepath's first night.

"I am an American, Chicago born - Chicago that somber city - and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes not so innocent. But a man's character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn't any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"Come Down off the Cross We Can Use the Wood" - T. Waits

This is how history is made. A man dies, and then the battle over who he was, what he said, what he meant; who now carries on his essential meaning and philosophy? We saw this with the Pope, conservatives, liberals, etc. all interpreting, embracing, rejecting, ignoring particular statements and symbols to make their case one way or the other.

A couple things that stand out for me: he was against the war in Iraq, he warned against the dehumanizing aspects of capitalism (property is more important than people?!). Here's a more mystical version of this pope: "I am. I remember. I watch. Look at the cross, in which God's 'I am' means love. Look at the cross and forget not...To watch is to love your neighbor - it means fundamental human solidarity."

How many hearts and heads did this old man (he always seemed old) touch?

The final image, the final symbol, a picture in the newspaper. Amidst all the pomp and ceremony, all the gold and finery; a simple, plain, pine box. After all, (forget the absurd notion of infallibility) here lies a human being, so much, so little, now gone, never gone, energy transformed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Noodling Probability

I've been noodling over an article I read in Friday's NY Times entitled "One Hundred Years of Uncertainty." It's by Brian Greene who has written about SuperString Theory in "The Elegant Universe." Greene writes about Albert Einstein, and the series of papers he wrote in 1905. Out of one of the papers was spawned Quantum Mechanics which describes a kind of 'spooky' universe, where there is no certainty, only probabilities. What we call 'reality' is just a bunch of jostling possibilities, that we 'force' (by observing the observed) into an outcome. So we live in a cosmos whose internal workings are highly uncertain. Our common perception is merely a definitive-looking veneer.

OK sounds kind of kooky, but Quantum Mechanic's mathematics has "helped to make some of the most precise predictions in the history of science." One the one hand, this is all kind of disturbing, our perceptions are proven (again) to be illusory, but the universe is alive with probabilities and possibilities beyond our imaginings. Isn't that a more hopeful, exciting and mysterious universe to live in? It may be reassuring to live in a world of certainties, but this appears to be illusion; if we live in a world of probabilities, lets make our best guesses, lay down our bets, and see what happens!

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Leisure Suit

Yesterday was Sunny Jimmy's Day of Leisure:
1. Wake up, brew up a pot of coffee, write in my blog (I'm tired, I'm oh so Tired).
2. Draw a hot bath, soak my weary bones, read my Wittgenstein biography (He's a genius, he's oh so miserable, oh, yes, he's such a miserable genius!)
3. Dim Sum at Furama. A group of friends. A big round table. Munch, munch, munch: one dumpling, two dumplings, three dumplings, etc. How many dumplings make a meal? Oh Grasshopper, what a silly question!
4. The Lovely Carla and I take a long rambling hike on the lakefront. See the people, oh so many people, who are these people, where are they going, where have they been?
5. Watch the Northwestern Women's LaCrosse Team. Wow, Lacrosse is exciting. See the women run, run women, run. Look how they throw and catch so well with that birdcage thingy?! This is so cool: watching college women in shorts running around on fields of green!
6. Stop in that cool little coffee shop in Downtown Evanston for a hot choclate. So sweet, tastes so good. Can't be bad for you?!
7. Back home fiddle with my guitar and effects board. I fine tune sounds for the upcoming Telepath's gig. (Add a little reverb here, a little feedback there, with a little volume I can bring down a mountain.)
8. Around 6:00 p.m. I crash out on the couch. (That's it I'm gone!)
9. Around 10:00 p.m. the Lovely Carla wakes me up (My body floats over to the bed -- I'm out til 6:45 a.m.)
OK Leisure time is over!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Oh, Sweet Dumpling!

This last week I pushed myself into a state of complete exhaustion. I had something to do every day and every night, I didn't get enough sleep, I was running around, chasing after big events and small, with little time to reflect; except, once a day, early in the morning in my little blog space. I had this feeling that I was watching myself, I was so tired, my body was filled with such complete 'tiredness,' there was no room for 'me,' instead, I kind of hovered above and behind myself, following my body as it made it's appointed rounds.

Everything had less meaning, less resonance. I was the quintessential 'hollow man,' going through the motions. In a weird way, it was kind of cool, it was a way of really experiencing the divergence of body and spirit. Images and thoughts kind of washed over me, I was so passive; I grabbed onto nothing, I just let it all pass.

This morning, I feel I've finally reintegrated. These are my fingers, these are my thoughts, this body is my vehicle, my instrument. Nothing to chase today, I think I'll just let it all come down. The Lovely Carla and I are going for a Dim Sum Brunch at Furama later this morning. I'm looking forward to the floor show: Chinese women pushing little silver carts loaded up with tiny white plates filled with food of every kind wrapped in perfect little dumplings. Yum, Yum. Our bodies are just like those dumplings right? You don't know what's inside until you commit yourself, make your choice, open wide, chew and SWALLOW!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

"Strange Brew, Look What's Inside of You" - Cream

This morning, sun, silence and clarity. Last night we hosted a dinner party, for the Black Forest crew. It was quite the evening, good food (our chef made vegetarian lasagna), good wine, and an impromptu 'unplugged,' jam with the Telepaths. It's very cool to have a group of people, aligned on a project (Edinburgh or Bust), all bringing their smarts, know-how, and creativity to the table. We have a clear-eyed, focused group. It seems to me, we can do anything we choose. There's no fear, no hesitation. I feel kind of caught up in the stream, this is not something I need to lead, instead, other energies are carrying this forward. It's a strange sort of alchemy that we're invoking. This morning, I'm an empty vessel, waiting to be filled with the next moment, and the one after that, etc.

Friday, April 08, 2005

"When the Thrasher Comes I'll Know it's Time to Give What's Mine" - N. Young

The last few days have been an incredible flurry of activity. I'm feeling a little creaky and worn out this morning ("my coat is torn and frayed, it's seen much better days"). So I fire up the coffee maker, grind up a little 'sweet love blend,' and try to find a state of 'not so creaky.'

All kinds of ideas and images have been washing over me, and since I'm a little 'low energy,' I have been just letting it all come down without latching onto or holding anything. It's sort of an agreeable state. I don't have any major decisions to make, no great statements, ('I've got nothing, Ma, to live up to'), nowhere to run to today. I've got to catch up to myself, kind of re-inhabit my mind, my body.

The world, the target, seems to be waiting for me to make the next move. I'm in a 'serpintine,' frame of mind. Zigging and zagging on the runway, not ready for take off, not really 'expecting to fly.'

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Road Movie

Yesterday was a road movie. I had to pick up the Golden Girl in a parking lot, in a far suburb, near the long ribbon of road that would take us to our destination. I was driving a Hyundai Sonata (I always think Beethoven), sun-roof open, rock and roll (The Who, Lucinda Williams) blasting on the CD player. It was one of those rare days where the sky was blue, the sun was bright and shiny, with temps in the 70s. We had a mission: on the far south side of the city, about an hour of driving ahead of us, we were to do a training session for our company, pass our knowledge onto the next group. The Golden Girl was dressed for summer, all in white, blond hair, smiling, beautiful.

We glided over the pavement at high speed, everything going by in a blur. It was one of those days where everything kind of washes over you, you don't grab onto anything, you just let it come and go. We chatted, laughed, words floated between us and then vanished. The training went well, ("move your mouse here, click here, etc.") everyone was happy and then, we were back on the road. We were basically retracing our long, flat, path, but it felt like a new road, a new adventure. Finally, back at the original place, (the suburbs are a parking lot) Golden Girl exited to find her own car, and I was on my way alone. I cranked the CD player a little louder (what's that Drive By Trucker saying? "Turn the knob to 10 then break it off.") I pointed 'Beethoven' towards the east and drove into a shining future.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"Yonder Stands the Orphan with His Gun..." B. Dylan

Looking for inspiration, the Lovely Carla and I, found ourselves at the Auditorium on the corner of Congress and Michigan Avenues last night. Hell, if you want to be inspired, you must seek it out once in awhile. We went to see the Bob Dylan Show ("All new show! High Grade, Future Perfect") with special guests, Merle Haggard and the Strangers. What a quirky pair of American Originals! Both guys are creaky, old, geezers but man, they are the Coolest Cats walking around on the planet! The show was kind of like a Grand Old Opry extravaganza, both Dylan and Haggard featured great fiddle players (Dylan's was a dazzling young woman) lap steel guitars, tight rythmn sections and great guitar interplay. Haggard joked that the Strangers were the only band in the land that had an ambulance in their entourage ( a couple of them, white-haired, country gentlemen in leisure suits looked like Kiwanis club regulars).

Dylan's set was a revelation. Every time I've seen him he has put on a completely new show, and this was no different. Familiar songs were totally re-arranged. He sang with a strange, off-beat, intensity (his voice is unique, exquisite, no one sings like this guy). Dylan never picked up a guitar, he played piano and harmonica for the full set. Dylan wore a cowboy hat with a kind of country and western uniform, a dark blue suit with gold buttons and red stripes running down the sides of his trousers. Yes, he looked odd, a strange country marionette, but, he was so natural, so in the moment, the oddness did not seem like an act. Or maybe the affectation is so completely integrated in him now, it's just another manifestation of his artistry.

Both these guys have 'it,' and I'm not exactly sure what it is, just a coolness, a presence, a genius, for being able to write songs that resonate, and to sing them and make them live. Life and performance have totally melded for these gentlemen. Life as performance. Exhilarating! And oh, yes, inspiring!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Two Women

The Lovely Carla and I went to Spoon, last night, a nice, comfy Thai restuarant on Western. We spent the evening chatting with Rebecca the 'world traveler,' and Liz, Queen of the Windy City Rollers. Rebecca just came back from 14 months on the road: South Africa, China (teaching English) and Thailand. She's a photographer and she has hundreds of incredibly beautiful and revealing pictures. Faces and places from exotic and distant lands. She is the perfect traveller, she assumes a neutral demeanor, just passively recording her impressions of the incredible human story unfolding around the world. What is really refreshing (and also astonishing) about Rebecca is her ability to refrain from imposing her own will and viewpoint on those she meets. She is truly like a butterfly, floating from one flower, to another, touching down, tasting the nectar, and then moving on. She's a tiny, slip of a woman, with amazing heart and courage.

Liz too is a dynamo, although in a completely different package. She is building an incredible organization of women, dedicated to bringing the Roller Derby to Chicago. Liz has a vision of a vast sisterhood of Derby Dames, who are tough, sexy and committed to each other and the wacky sport of Roller Derby. It's a quest that has garnered incredible buzz in Chicago, they've been featured in the Reader, on various radio stations and TV too. Liz is a mother of two girls, she holds down a full time job, and in her 'free' time, she runs the Rollers. She is a remarkable woman, who wants to accomplish great things. It's inspiring to listen to her mad quest. I see her as a Derby Dame Don Quixote, but in her case I do think she will defeat all windmills.

Two women, so different, each extraordinary.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

"A Long Strange Trip" - The Grateful Dead

I'm a non-practicing Catholic (I don't need to practice, I already know how!), so, a dead Pope, has a little resonance in my life. On the one hand, it means almost nothing except, another human being has passed, reminding us all of the Emergency Exit Door just offstage. 'Pope' has always seemed to me to be an absurdly inflated job title, we don't need no stinking Pontiff to interpret anything for us. The Roman Catholic Church looks to me to be another evil bureaucratic power structure that only serves itself. Then there's the hideous spectacle of Pedophile Priests, and the Church's ridiculous stand on birth control in an already over-populated world.

On the other hand, there is this from Mr. Sun:

"Imagine a boy who loses his mother at age 8, his only brother at age 12, and the last remaining member of his family, his beloved father, at age 20. In an oppressed country in troubled times, he is completely alone in the world. What does such a boy make of his fractured life? He becomes the spiritual leader of more than a billion people. There is so much in the external world, and my internal beliefs to obscure the wonder of that beautiful story, but I don't think I'll let it happen. This non-Catholic is going to remember the story of that boy for at least a little while as the sides inevitably begin to form."

For a moment, if you can forget all the bullshit, all the pomp and circumstance, you have to marvel at how that little boy survived to make something of himself. Human beings sure are a curious lot!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Solid Gold

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. I was out and about yesterday, a business meeting in the afternoon, a birthday party for a collegue in the evening. On one level, everything was fine, no major dramas (a couple of odd sideshows, but no blood was drawn). Got home late, woke up with the light this morning. Feeling kind of 'hung over,' not from alcohol, but from too much 'human interaction.' All my meditation work over the years seems to have made me more perceptive and sensitive to other people and their energies. I spend a lot of my time, 'seeing' and clearing 'psychic debris.' I consider myself on a mission to find clarity in my life and my work (does that sound like new age bullshit?). Everything I do, every situation I find myself in, either helps in this cause, or does not. I want to spin the bullshit, (mine and other's) into pure gold.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Buddha of No Ego, No Buddha

I was reading a review of Ian McEwan's new novel, "Saturday," and came across this: "he wanted to evoke that sort of paradise-on-earth feeling of total absorption when time just falls away...a complete evaporation of self-awareness. There ought to be a name for this. You can't really call it happiness, because at the time you're not even aware of it." It's odd, to strive (without striving) for a state where you are so 'in your body,' your body falls away. To so completely actualize yourself, that you totally lose yourself. Oh sweet paradox!

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