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Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Weirdo Club

I was thinking (again) about death (who doesn't?) and how weird and final it seems. But then I started thinking about all the other weird things that make up our existence, for instance: being born, having a body (this nose, these ears, this penis), being a kid, a teenager, an adult, the need for sleep, sex, companionship, money, a job, a home, a meal. It's all so weird, isn't it? And it's amazing how we learn to accept it all, kind of like "well, of course, that's the way the world is," and it's true, it is the way the world is, but it's still very strange, very weird. So, when you go with this line of thinking, death doesn't seem all that much weirder than anything else. Plus we see death and birth everyday. It's an everyday occurance, so what's so weird about it? Well it is weird, if you think about it, really think about it, but after awhile you just have to let it go, kind of ride with the weirdness, or put it out of your mind entirely. I think we humans become really good at putting things out of our minds, much of our time is spent lulling ourselves to sleep. We sleep through the weirdness and that's ok, until the weirdness kind of ups and slaps you in the kisser. So, it's probably better to ride the weirdness, incorporate it...just be weird. And really if you think about it, who's gonna really know?

Friday, December 30, 2005

Rambling Blues

Richard Wright: "The blues, contrary to popular conceptions are not always concerned with love, razors, dice and death."

Sunny Jimmy: "But if you think about it, that just about covers the landscape."

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Voice

I had a "William Blake" moment last night. Remember dear William, visited by Angels and other various personages (Milton)? Well, anyway, I was sleeping like a little baby, my brain was filled with strange and interesting psychic phenomena, when out of the blue, this voice comes to me, backed with just the right amount of reverb for maximum effect, this voice declares: "I am the one."

Wow. This morning, feeling well-rested (a new man, really), I realize this is my moment of revelation (at the same time, I'm wondering, was it a prophecy, a sign of dis-ease, a trick of the night, or a just a random burst of static?). Of course, for me, everything is always laced with ambiguity, uncertainty, befuddlement. I realize I have no idea who or what said these words to me. So, someone, or some thing, declared it's primacy to me, (who am I to doubt?), but I'm in the dark about the ultimate source.

The usual suspects come to mind, but none of them seem to be a more likely candidate than any other. So, I'm left with the voice and the message. Now what's a humble pilgrim supposed to do with that?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

G Minor

How do you put into words, what can't be put into words? Or how do you come to terms with the idea that what you do put into words somehow always misses the mark? I've been writing in my little notebook, and there is so much that I can't put down on paper. What's there in black and white is kind of the wisp, or residue of something larger, that I can't really formulate. So, in a way, it seems I'm leaving clues to another subject, a subject I can't really approach. How do you make a play out of that? Or a poem, novel or song? Lately my fingers on a fretboard, seeking out chords and notes, seems to be a better vehicle for what I'm trying to express. The guitar has become an easier voice for a language that is less explicit, less defined. G Minor. Now that damn chord kind of gets to the heart of the matter.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Dark Forces

I indulged in a little controlled, intentional poisoning, (too much red wine), at a cocktail party on Christmas Day. Why would I do such a thing? Beats me. I travelled to the deep fog of unreason, to the land of dark oblivion. I survived it. I was reminded why I now avoid such a trip. The good isn't as good, as the bad is bad. There are dark forces inside and outside. I think writing and singing about such forces is cleansing; living them, not so. Sometimes you can't even trust yourself.

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Ball

The Lovely Carla reminded me this morning that we are living on a ball that's spinning around in space. So this idea of grounding yourself, kind of takes on a different shade of meaning. If you think of our human situation, in "objective terms," it all appears kind of baffling and amazing.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Cheap Thrills

This year, more than ever, all the best Christmas stories, even the funny ones, are sad. Makes me wonder if it's the "observed," or the "observer." Yesterday, I went to Mass with my mother and sister, it seemed like the right thing to do, but when we got there, the church was overflowing, there was a children's chorus, and a nativity scene was being performed. The overly-enthusiastic Filipino priest brought in a little plastic baby in swaddling clothes and as he trailed the procession of wise men and barnyard animals, he held it high over his head for the adoring crowd to see. Talk about cheap theatrics. Where's the spinning pie tins when you need them?

I ended up bolting out of there. Not really in disgust, more of a bored impatience...I wondered if maybe all this love and attention being heaped upon some distant, mythological holy kid was instead spread around a little to each and every one of us, we could all make the world a little better place. Maybe a little less divine love, and a little more human love is in order? Anyway, I walked home alone, feeling a little less than groovy, kicking down the cobblestones, except of course there were no cobblestones to kick. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Play it Out

You can't dictate to, or replicate a day, instead you let it play out. You can pick the key, settle on a tempo, but the melody comes, unbidden, seemingly out of nowhere. Or maybe you have the chord pattern, a stray riff, and your partner comes up with a sequence of words, and at first blush the chords and words don't really seem to fit, but then you play it out, and chords and words start to cohere, a melody emerges, and after awhile you can't imagine those particular words standing up without those particular chords behind them. So you take these disparate elements and put them together and the two of you sit in the kitchen and you repeat the chords and words over and over, until you realize that you actually have a song. You both smile as your voices snake in and out, and around each other, sometimes in harmony and sometimes not quite. A little slice of happiness kind of descends over the scene, you've created something new, together, something that didn't exist before and there's joy and wonder in that knowledge. It's a little thing, just a little song, a ditty, kind of funny and sad at the same time, and it all came out unbidden; no struggle. You can't dictate or replicate a day, a song, it's a gift that you receive, and when all is said and done you realize that's sometimes how it all works.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Mellow Tone In

I'm unplugging, and plugging into a new reality: VacationLand. No work, all play, or, working only at playing until the new year. I'm throwing myself into all my creative pursuits, donning the guise of the ultimate improviser. Last night, I dropped a tab of melotonin, to kind of shift down, it worked, I slept in, got a great rest, feel recharged. Tried a new brew this morning: it's better living through chemistry... I'm planning on plunging deep into the Rock Opera...everything's coming up music!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Frozen Tundra

"As I was jogging across the frozen tundra..." This line popped into my head yesterday as I ran the lakefront path. It was a beautiful, sunny morning; cold, really cold, but the sun was glinting off the snow, the sun was dancing on the lake, the sun was bouncing off the icebergs floating in the murky blue. Yesterday, it was a sparse crowd out on the hustings, one of those days that seperates the "hardcore" runners, from the not so hardcore. I guess I'm in the hardcore camp, although, I must admit, I had taken a couple of days off, after I had gotten a bone-deep chill over the weekend. So, I was out there, running along, glad to be able to still do it, glad to have a body, glad to be in my body, glad the old bag of bones still knew how to navigate across snow and ice.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Rhapsody of Snores

I've had music on my mind. I've been creating my own, listening to other's, and I'm reading a book about the Beatles, "A Day in the Life." So, I was sleeping soundly, (maybe too soundly), it's probably something like 2:00 a.m. and suddenly, the Lovely Carla shakes me awake: "Jimmy, you're snoring." I immediately reply, (no thinking involved), "I'm not snoring...I'm musical."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Something's Missing

Joseph Heller wrote at least two great novels; the other one was "Something Happened." I'm thinking of writing my own variation entitled, "Something's Missing." I don't know what, and I don't know how or why, I don't know what; I just suspect there's something important that is "not there." I mean something really important. I mean, something really, really, really important. I don't know what, I don't even suspect I know what. It's missing, and I know I'm missing it, but I don't know what it is... The only clue I have, I wake up, I start going through the motions of a day, I do all the things I do, that I must do, and this sentence pops into my head: "This can't... be it."

Monday, December 19, 2005

"Nothing you can sing that can't be sung..." - Lennon & McCartney

Some days, do you wake up and wonder, "will I be handed my head?" or, "will I avoid getting my ass kicked?" Some days, when you go for a little jog on the lakefront (if you do), do you tell yourself, "just don't hurt yourself."

Alternatively, do you ever wonder if you could do something really great? Write a great novel or play? Compose a great song or album? Discover a cure for some horrible disease? Save the planet from global warming? Find a solution to hunger, poverty, the pain and suffering of the world? Develop a program to increase universal LOVE?

Do you ever have delusions of grandeur?

Where do you sit in the dichotomy between small and great, meek and brash, humble and grand; from surviving to thriving...?

Some days, I want it all...I want to make it to lunch without pain or heartache...and I want to shake up the whole wide world before dinner...now that would be a good day.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

"Listen to the Color in Your Mind" - J. Lennon

Color me exhausted...for some reason, I've reached a state of total "depletion." All I could do yesterday, was sit and play my guitar. I basically recorded layers of guitars, working on my rock opera. It's all very humbling. A step by step process. When it comes down to it, the only thing I really enjoy, is creating stuff. I fill my life up with words, music, images. So, the process of life seems to empty me, and then I reach out and try to fill up. But then, what you create, you let go too. So life seems like an never-ending "letting go." What can I un-grasp today?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

"I Can See Clearly Now..." - J. Cliff

Wow, it looks like a tendency to paranoia, pessimism, and schizophrenia (disassociation from reality) has it's payoff. Assume the absolute worst: your government is an out of control totalitarian empire, run by corrupt and evil people making really horrible decisions in secret. There's illegal spying, kidnapping, torture, murder, illegal wars, lots of pain and suffering and dead people. Every sick and evil idea that you can conjure in your fertile imagination, turns out to be a goverment run program that has been instituted behind closed doors. The sad reality, since you are paranoid, pessimistic and schizo, is that none of this surprises you. Any horrible thing you think turns out to be reality. You become so paranoid, pessimistic and schizo that everything is clear as a bell. You see so clearly, the sun blinds you. You end up getting sunglasses and a seeing eye dog. You change your name to Oedipus. Your motto: truth is beauty.

Friday, December 16, 2005

So Much, So Little

Ah well, how old world this morning, quoting old, dead, D. H. Lawerence - "...learn, learn, learn the one and only lesson worth learning at last. Learn to walk in the sweetness of the possession of your own soul."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Liberty on the Beach

Every once in awhile, I'm reminded of the big status game (it's amazing how subtle and sophisticated this game can get), human beings like to play. Big Monkey Man (or Woman) puffing themselves up, lording it over all the subordinate little Monkeys. This especially becomes apparent in my little business circle. It is a fucking annoying little game. Sometimes, with a little psychic distance, it can be entertaining, but sometimes in the middle of the muddle it's painful. Some days, I just know Charles Darwin is looking over my shoulder, taking detailed notes...and Roddy McDowell, looking like he badly needs a shave, is whispering in my ear..."hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil..."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"I'm no Prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls.' - M. Foucalt

"Culture is something done to us. Art is something we do to culture." - Carl Andre.

Last night I finished "Trickster Makes the World," by Lewis Hyde. It is masterful. It explores the Trickster figure in myth, in life, art, culture. Tricksters are "boundary crossers," they are tricky, unreliable, curious, maddening, dirty, witty, intelligent. They explore the areas that are forbidden, they try to poke holes in the walls of the "sacred," they try to rewrite the boundaries, they challenge why things are the way they are...after their mischief, things usually aren't they way they used to be. They also remind us that "the way things are," the boundaries between sacred and profane, (in culture, in politics) are sometimes useful, but once they are proven no longer useful, they can be "moved!"

In myth we're talking about Hermes, Coyote, Raven, the Signifying Monkey, the Golden Monkey, etc. In our culture it's usually the artists who play this special role (examples from Hyde): Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Allen Ginsberg. Examples from Sunny Jimmy: Dylan, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, John & Yoko. Hyde's one political example: Frederick Douglass, a slave who could read and write, who was more articulate than "his master." Suddenly, the false boundaries between slave and master looked ridiculous, inhuman.

"America, I will put my queer shoulder to the wheel." - Ginsberg
"I force myself to contradict myself, so as to avoid conforming to my own taste." Duchamp
"The world is holy! The tongue and cock and hand and asshole holy!" - Ginsberg

Here's Hyde himself: "We are transients in the world, we read books, yes, but we also read the swaying pine boughs, the turtle swimming below the ice, the dream fragment brought back by the smell of eucalyptus leaves, the unused bits of code on strands of DNA, the wobble of the flying frisbee - and each has its radiance to offer, a sense that there are surely secrets yet to be revealed if only the gates would freely open...but, they will never swing freely; a distant light is all there is, and that only briefly seen."

Trickster sometimes helps us kick open that gate. We find that there aren't just a few eternal truths but instead a plenitude of truths. This is why we must have our wits about us, be aware, awake...if we look at the world with new eyes, will we see something... new.!?! "If mind is shapely, art will be shapely." - Ginsberg

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Darkness at the Break of Noon" - B. Dylan

It's not officially winter yet, but the cold freeze has set in. Daylight is brief. Cold dominates. I had another long sleep. Many strange and garbled dreams, no good narrative line, but my dream state seems more real than my waking state. How strange. The pictures in my head, seem sharper, more tangible, than the cold reality around me. Maybe we evolved a consciousness to kill the boredom of a mundane world? I examine the afterglow of the dreams, looking for a clue, some kind of sign, some insight... nothing to grab onto, a feeling of something lost...looking to be found...

Monday, December 12, 2005

"I Hear My Train A' Comin" - J. Hendrix

I slept long and hard yesterday, (catching up from my r&r diversion) and I had a long (although, it seems, the dream world doesn't respect space and time), or what seemed like, a long and rambling dream. I guess there's no interpretation necessary: I was on a train, the train was traveling in a large circle, the train was filled with happy people, men, women, children, all excited about getting to the final destination, which sounded like some kind of Amusement Park. I was on the wrong train, I was the only one on the train looking for a way to get off. I was on a train and I was lost. I wondered how I got on the train, I was wondering how I was going to get off. I was wondering... The train stopped to pick up some more smiling, happy people; this was my chance, I jumped to the door, I jumped off the train, I found myself in some vast shopping mall, in front of a row of vending machines...I didn't know where I was going, I didn't know what I was going to do...the train left the station, the smiling, happy people went on their way. I stood alone in front of the vending machines...wondering what was gonna happen next...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Rock Muse

I'm starting to live the rock and roll life style: staying up late, playing guitar into the wee hours, coming home to a dark apartment, finding it hard to come down from the rush of performing, high from watching nubile young women dancing to the r&r beat that my mates and I laid down. Last night, the Telepaths (minus two) ripped up the song book. We tore through our little set of covers and two originals like three demons from hell. We had an appreciative and well-lubed audience of artists hanging out at the Flatiron Building. Our rough and ready performance was the essense of the r&r aesthetic. It was crude and rude and oh so fun. I woke up this morning, (I slept on the couch, didn't want to disturb the Lovely Carla) after four hours of sleep with a new lyric for a new song running through my head. This is called inspiration. My muse now wears a leather jacket and high-heeled sneakers. She's a r&r banshee and she wants me to rock out loud and proud.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

"The Humor of Escape" - M. Duchamp

"Nothing new under the sun can happen without absolute chance, it alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere." - J. Monod

"Art is an outlet toward regions which are not ruled by time and space." M. Duchamp

Friday, December 09, 2005

"Power: A Boot Heel in the Face" - G. Orwell

Is Little Bush "Stalinesque?" Go read Martin Amis' "Koba the Dread" about power and torture, and then see if you hear echoes in the lies streaming from the mouths of Bush, Rice, Rumsfield, and Cheney.

As Mark Kleiman so eloquently puts it: If we stopped torturing people, directly or by proxy, then we couldn't force them to reveal what they didn't know and what in fact wasn't true. And without untruths, the War on Terror would grind to a halt.

Also if you get a chance hunt down Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, it's breathtaking, heartbreaking and oh so true. Here's a speech Pinter has volunteered to write for our indecent, fearless, leader: ‘God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.’

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star" - The Byrds

So I was up late, playing r&r at a little bar with the Telepaths. We played two inspired sets. At one point, I think I channeled Neil Young's chauffer. Anyway, I'm a little fuzzy this morning, so I grabbed this quote which I came across at another site. I always wanted to be a star...

"The cosmos is within us. We are made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. We've begun at last to wonder about our origins, star stuff comtemplating the stars, organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms contemplating the evolution of matter, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness...Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves but also to that cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring." - Carl Sagan

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pissed-Off-Ness is the Mother of Invention!

I've found, surprisingly, that one of the key ingredients to "creativity" is pissed-off-ness. I'm always trying to find space, peace, enlightenment, flow, and I think much of my best work comes from those places, but what's amazing is usually that's not enough, you need a little extra spice, some "fucked-up-ness" to enter into the picture. I've found this is usually a spur to some new breakthrough, an extra willingness to take a risk. It's a "chip on your shoulder" type of energy. Lennon's comment: "We (the Beatles) were the biggest bastards, we knew we were the best godamned band in the world." Or what's that Lombardi line? "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Or that classic cliche: necessity is the mother of invention (see Zappa sitting on the crappa)! Hell, it's all true!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Behind the Music

I've always wanted to be in an R&R band. Ok, I think I wanted to be a Cowboy before that little dream materialized, but early on (mid sixties) I got the idea that Cowboys were no longer roaming the range in substantial numbers, and instead, there was this invasion of Beatles, Monkees, and Paul Revere and the Raiders, and I quickly reversed course and jumped on that dream horse. I remember lining up my brothers and sisters, assigning each an imaginary instrument, and kicking out the jams on "Can't Buy Me Love," "Steppin Stone," and "I'm a Believer." I ended up taking guitar lessons, but I never ventured out of my bedroom, plinking away to the lonely beat inside my head.

Later (late seventies) I hooked up with my cousin Michael and we used to jam away in his kitchen. These were long, intense acoustic jams fueled by beer and cannabis. We played songs like "Dead Flowers," and "You Can't Always Get What You Want." This was also the time I had a guitarist's dream job, I worked at a Hohner warehouse, where my job was to take guitars out of boxes (shipped in from Asia) tune them up, play them, looking for imperfections (loose or bad frets, buzzes and clicks). We had a friend named John who blew a mean blues harmonica, and for a time we became an acoustic trio, "Dead Midget." We never really ventured out. All of our best stuff was played in the kitchen, reverberating out over Michael's kitchen linoleum to our captive audience: a refrigerator and stove.

Later, instead of music, I ventured out into the world of theater. The Lovely Carla and I took acting classes, and I got it in my head that I could write plays. 10 years later, it seems it's true. One of our plays was called "Another Korea Revisited" (catchy title hunh?) and I decided to buy an electric guitar and compose a score. I was unable to get a group of musicians willing to commit to a six week run, (musicians are a notoriously flighty bunch) so, I did all the music myself. This was the beginning of my second great love affair with the guitar.

Which leads me to present day. The Telepaths. Finally, I am in a r&r band. We are good in our own way: rough, raucous. I'm enjoying playing with these guys immensely. We've actually got two shows this week. It's fun and inspiring. The experience has convinced me that the next theater piece should be a rock opera. Three chords and a solid backbeat...look out world!

Monday, December 05, 2005

"Keep on Rocking in the Free World" - N. Young

I'm thinking Georgie O. would be having a field day...our Secretary of State is in Europe telling our Allies that we "don't do torture" in secret prisons, which by the way, she's not admitting really exist, but please don't tie our hands in our fight with the enemy, and don't ask us to live with International definitions of torture. So please don't stop us from doing what we aren't admitting we are doing in secret places that we don't acknowledge actually exist. Is this confirmation that the Terrorists have already won?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Lost Ones

My father, speaking of his brother (two extraordinary men, now both gone) used to say that when he was a kid, little Bobby was "the artful dodger," he couldn't be pinned down, he was always a step ahead, or behind, the yoke. This mode probably officially ended when little Bobby (at 17 years old) artfully dodged himself right into the Marines. My father later joined the Army and served in the Korean War. Both these guys married, raised a passel of children, and worked hard for the bulk of their lives. Neither of them dodged their responsibilities as fathers, they assumed the yoke, they carried on with grit and grace. True American originals.

I was thinking of these two yesterday, as I skated on the periphery of the day. I have naturally assumed the mantle and played the role of Artful Dodger myself. This has been my primary mode since early childhood. I seem to have never "grown" out of it. No Marines for Sunny Jimmy. I guess I've basically lived a "long adolescence." I've been able to carry on relatively unscathed, no broken bones, a few scars (all self-inflicted). I've prided myself on being able to "skate," to talk myself out of any jam, to live brightly and lightly.

Of course, there are some things you can't dodge (talking doesn't help): taxes, aging, death. The last one is the hardest. We all have our "lost ones," people who come into our lives, influence us, inspire us, change us, and then... they disappear into the Last Great Dodge. We are reminded that we too will find the exit door sometime, probably, when we least expect it. So, we all have our "lost ones," and we are all "lost ones" in the making. When we honor those who are dead and gone, we also honor ourselves and those coming down the line. What a long, strange trip indeed.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

What Year is It?

Do you ever get the sneaking suspicion that you've morphed into Winston Smith? Do you ever feel like a "ghost in the machine?" Do you ever wonder at how seamlessly corporate and military power have merged into a mutual symbiosis? Do you ever think that the "public square" is just a super-saturated, consumer paradise, where the bars of the cell have been magically air-brushed out? Do you begin to doubt the veracity of what you are hearing, seeing and reading? Do you ever question a culture that slavishly worships the power and glory of the almighty buck? Do you think faith in "the market" is a license to rape, pillage and murder our fragile ecosystem? Do you wonder how a radical, peacenik, rabbi, murdered 2000 years ago could have been mythologized into a kind of biblical Donald Trump? Do you wake up in the middle of the night muttering to yourself, "greed is good?" Do you secretly wish you too had a Big Brother you could look up to?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Take a Beat, Add One Major Chord, and Shake Vigorously!

Last night, we had a productive Telepath rehearsal preparing for our show next week. It's amazing how good major chords strummed over a bass and drum combo can sound. It's been a lesson for me. What is creativity? Sometimes it's taking very common elements and putting them together. As simple as that! We are working with instruments that have been played by millions, using chords and notes that have been strummed over and over and over. We can't really step too far out of the confines of beat, rythmn, melody, harmony. Once you say you are gonna play R&R, you've accepted a whole set of boundaries. But within the confines of this type of music there's room for little creative sparks. It can be found in everything, the way a snare or high-hat rings out, the thump and resonance of a bass string, a certain vocal inflection. I guess it's obvious, but it's the human beings behind the mikes and instruments that add something unexplainable, something unlike anything else you've ever heard. Whether the band is good or bad, the band should be good or bad in their own unique way. Or at least that's where I think greatness lies. The trick is to find the quirkiness, the sloppiness, or the elements that aren't quite right, and push those to the forefront (my two favorite examples? Bob Dylan and Neil Young - both of these guys at one time or another were told they couldn't sing, couldn't play guitar, harmonica, etc.). This all fits in with my approach, looking for "happy accidents," putting the elements together, letting individuals be individual and seeing what happens. Not sure the results will work for everybody, but to my way of thinking, if they worked for everyone they wouldn't be "individual" enough.

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