wwsp albums on bandcamp!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

"There is no success like failure." - B. Dylan

"You have permission to fail."

I was at Invision yesterday for an endings and beginnings seminar, it was one of those "out with the old, in with the new" kind of rituals, and that line about failure kind of stuck in my head.

If you write stuff, or sing and play music, or do any kind of acting or performing, there's always a "fear of failure" in the back of your mind. If you really think about it, it's an irrational thing. People will tear you down, they will sneer, or reject you, or maybe just shrug their shoulders, or whatever. It just goes with the territory.

Think of any artist or writer or singer and you will find people who criticize, who knock them, who make fun of them. In fact, it's usually the really creative, unique, artists those who try something new, something different, who are in for the greatest negative on-slaught.

I've written things that have kind of been met with contempt, or indifference. I think the key is to continue to work with heart, with love, with passion. If you do, you will find people who will connect with you. I believe that the passion, the love for the work is inspiring, and will inspire.

As Bjork says, "It takes courage to enjoy it." And yes, well, joy and love, and passion are worth taking a chance on. And if you "fail" in the process, good for you. Pick yourself up and go for it again! Let's bid 2006 a sweet goodbye, and embrace 2007 with passion, love...and no fear!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A New World

The last two weeks, the Lovely Carla and I have been living in a little creative idyll. It's kind of a self-made paradise. We have been working on our various projects, painting, writing, song-making, and at the same time we've been going to movies, floating, meditating, all the stuff that hopefully feeds the soul. Soul Food.

Last night we went see the film Pan's Labyrinth, and it is a very beautiful film. It works on many levels, at it's most basic level there's the split between the brute human realm we've descended to, or maybe in a way, we are married to, and the realm of magic and imagination. They co-exist side by side. Kind of another reminder of my insight in the tank (see previous post) of multiple realities crowding in on us. It is wonderful to be able to sink into someone ele's beautifully complete vision.

What's really great about the film, is that it is "true" to both realms. It leaves you exhilarated and devastated simultaneously. And well, that's a profound insight right there. That the exhilaration and devastation are somehow linked and maybe unavoidable. What's amazing also, is that a story about the right and left battling in the forests of Spain in the 1940s is oh so relevant to what's happening today, in so many excrutiatingly profound ways.

It's a Spanish film, (I think it's true they don't make them like this in Hollywood). It was great to see a packed house for such a clearly superior effort. We walked home afterwards and the streets were quiet. The trees and the sidewalks looked different. We talked as if something really profound had happened to us and we were still in the process of taking it all in. There was a numinous glow around everything surrounding us...now that's when you know a work has truly touched you. You can actually see the world with new eyes. And you know that not everyone is looking, that not everyone sees. And sometimes, you must spare the blood of the innocent...

Friday, December 29, 2006

"It takes courage to enjoy it." - Bjork

The Lovely Carla and I have a year end ritual that we have taken up the last few years. We visit Space Time Tanks for a massage and a float. It is truly an earth-shattering experience, at least, that's how it's worked for me within the confines of my own little noggin.

Hell, it takes courage to enjoy it, just like that little Icelandic fairy goddess so exuberantly tells us. By the way, maybe I'm a late-comer to Bjork, but this woman is an amazing little sprite, a mystical channel, a spiritual, dance-inducing singer-songwriter. I'm thinking she's some kind of genius. I've lately been listening to her first album and it's a beautiful and inspiring third-eye-opener.

Anyway, John Lilly used to take something like 10,000 micro-grams of LSD and float in an isolation tank for hours; our experience hasn't been anywhere near that extreme, just an hour or so, with a fairly clear head, floating in a briny soup. Time-tripping in our heads, doing some weird kind of "astral projecting," looking for space and, dare I say it, "enlightenment?"

So, yes, I started out with a "deep tissue" massage, very liberating, and oh so physical, and then, on to the float. And well, how do I say this, yes, I received a message, a voice in the darkness came to me. Was it a star? A cosmic dolphin? A god? A demon? Or maybe just an eruption of static from my own cerebral cortex? Who knows? I distinctly heard these words boom out across the salty water in that dank little tank: "There are too many fucking realities." Wow, wouldn't you know it, even the voices that come to me are profane!

Hmmm. I thought to myself, "great, what do I do with that?" I mean, I think it's true...and that may be a source of much of my confusion, and pain, and worry, and well general lack of focus, but well, now what?

So anyway, I float some more, I seem to be beyond time and space, I travel through the cosmic spider webs in my head and then out of the void, the voice comes again with a one word kicker: "SURRENDER!"

That's it. No explanation. No footnotes. No guidebook. I float some more, and then, well it's over, I get out, shower, dress. And sit in the lobby waiting for the Lovely C. in a kind of stunned silence.

We get back home, both of us in a renewed, rejuvenated state, silent and glowing. We sit and watch a Bjork DVD and well, that's when her words hit home, they kind of complete the line of thought started in the tank..."it takes courage to enjoy it." And I guess, all I can say is, "well, yes, it does..."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I'm With Bobby

"I've conceded the fact that there is no understanding of anything - at best, just winks of an eye - and that is all I'm looking for now, I guess." - Dylan (speaking around the time he tracked this joyfully rollicking masterpiece).

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

One Shit Sandwich Too Far

Today, declare yourself a Satanist, and well, you'll be the life of the party, an Athiest, you might get a yawn, an Anarchist, a giggle, but to declare yourself a Raw Foodist, ah well, that's one bridge too far, one toke over the line, I mean, that's as bad as calling someone (Rufus T. Firefly anyone?!) an Upstart!

We live in a tottering Giant of a nation, a Superpower that isn't so damn super anymore. I mean, if all we can do is blow shit up, aren't we really a pathetic beast of a nation? We are at most now, a Fast Food Nation (if you haven't seen the movie - see it - if you dare!) "You can't face the truth!" I mean, if you see it, you either have to dismiss it, or you might have to change your life.

Could we really change the world for the better by being more discriminating about what we put into our bodies? How simple, how radical! If we all stopped eating shit sandwiches (go visit a meat processing plant if you really want to suppress your appetite!) would our poor little pyramid economy come tumbling down? Bring it down! I mean, really, this empire truly is built upon shit -- with the right packaging, a friendly name, and slick ad campaign we will surely eat a shit sandwich (the meat industry feels it's their divine right to feed cows chicken shit, and well, dead cow brains too!) daily, and say it tasted good too!

What a fat, stupid, bloated nation we have become! Is there hope for us? Well, Studs Terkel tells us, "hope dies last." So, yes, I guess there is hope...but it is amazing how full of shit we really are...we eat it, preach it, and even start believing in it...where will it all end?

"Take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you'll duck soup for the rest of your life." - Duck Soup

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Writer

Since a very early age, rightly or wrongly, I have thought of myself as a writer. Even when I wasn't writing, although, I think it's true, that you are a writer only when you are writing. I wear the overcoat of alienation that a writer requires. I think a writer requires alienation from others or themselves, the better to observe. All good writing, I believe, comes from observation. All good ideas float in from the ether, and a writer, collects and filters. Imagination is a mirror.

Writing is solitary. It's a lonely activity, but really, when I'm writing, lonliness is an ally. Even if the world is knocking at your door, finally you gladly close it shut, and write, although, it's true, I can write in the middle of the chaos. When I was a bike courier, I used to write in a little notebook, I'd be sitting in the middle of a frenzied city plaza writing notes for my first play. Still, finally, you must find an oasis, a little corner in your head, to let the stream flow.

I'm enamoured with the flow. Sometimes you can stubbornly work your way through the text, I know some writers wrestle with every last sentence, but for me, it's best, when I can catch a wave and just hang on for the ride. I may go back and edit later, but when I'm riding that wave, editing is counter-productive. The worst censorship is self-censorship.

You trust that if you're true to the text, that something true will come out. Even the most ridiculous fabrications. You write and then, the words and sentences are on their own. They are not you, they have their own life. It's almost mystical or magical, and anyone can do it.

Isn't that true of just about everything?

Monday, December 25, 2006

River Deep, Mountain High

It must be the holidays...stayed up late playing music (me on guitar and my brother on harmonica), and exchanging presents with the family...I guess it all has something to do with the baby Jesus -- as John Tuturro's character in the Big Lebowski says, "don't fuck with the Jesus." So, well, I have no problem with the Jesus Man, I mean, he seemed like a peaceful dude and all, kind of met a violent end, and well, ain't that the way of the world? The peacemakers always seem to get the shaft. I don't buy the rising from the tomb thing (roll away the stone!), unless we're talking metaphorically or something, I mean, we all get laid low sometimes and yes, well, hopefully we'll rise again!

You've got to watch out for those who use the Jesus Dude to justify all their greed and hate and general bullshit...which also seems to be the way of the world -- someone comes up with a good idea, "love thine enemies," live with "love and forgiveness," and somehow that gets turned into a worldwide institution that beats the shit out of you, trying to make you conform to a weird brand of malevolent twistedness. Yeah, well, that's the way of the world too, right?

Anyway, I'm listening to some great soul music this morning, the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Ike and Tina Turner ...I also throw in a little Rude Boy Reggae to mix things up a little. Right now, Tina Turner is singing River Deep, Mountain High...and well it truly is a miracle, ain't it? I mean eventhough Tina and Ike had a sort of dysfunctional relationship they really created an incredible catalog of
explosive tracks...and there's some kind of lesson in the music, methinks...

P.S. The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz has thrown in the towel. Goodnight Sweet Prince...and remember...you may have passed, but I'm really thinking it's just a case of "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag!"

P.S.S. Check out the the great Trickster for an excellent little profile of the Godfather of Soul.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Better Than Prozac

If you're feeling low, I have a recommended course of action for you... drink three of these...and watch one of these...I promise you will feel much better at the conclusion of the session.

Friday, December 22, 2006

My Dinner with Wally

"It is astounding that America does work in the same way that an open dictatorship works, in that a handful of people really seem to be able to dominate an entire country.

If you go to a foreign country, and somebody looks at you frankly and says, 'Your country is going around terrorizing the world,' and then you say, 'Well, I'm against Bush myself. I didn't vote for him.' They look at you blankly. That's not enough. They know that's not enough. They know that you are benefiting every day, you are paying taxes, your money is actually paying for these things, so come on, that's not good enough."

Wallace Shawn (One of our greatest living playwrights).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Creed

The Orange County Creed (as per Robert Greenfield in S.T.P. a Journey through America with the Rolling Stones): "We're gonna make this American Dream work. Yessir, we are. By God, yes. Even if we have to kill everyone to do it."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Raw Life

I'm on vacation, which means another tempo, I have downshifted into a very creative cul de sac. It's amazing how happy I can be all by myself, reading a book, writing a play, recording music, running on the lakefront, soaking my old bones in a hot bath, drinking kick-ass coffee, eating raw. Yes, I have a new obsession, I have adopted the raw lifestyle. This is about as radical a step as anyone can take, I mean it's so fundamental, so contrary to the thinking of our modern conventional herd. I mean, being a vegetarian is one thing, you're already bucking the trend set by our fat, artery-clogged consumers of fast food, bloated livestock and overprocessed crap.

But to be a raw foodist is taking that contrary, looney stand to it's furthest extreme. I mean whole cultures have built their identities around cooking. Italian, Greek, French, Japanese, German, etc. To turn your back on anything that has been cooked, is to turn your back on thousands of years of culinary exploration.

So be it. I've been eating raw for about a month now, and I think it's been good for me. I'm not going to go into a rant about this, instead, if you want to find out why it's a good idea, and how it can make you happier, healthier and "more beautiful," I suggest this book. Beauty here is more than skin deep, in fact, the key idea seems to be that our internals spend a lot of time and energy digesting the crap we put in our bodies. We are basically JUICERS and some food is easy to juice and some isn't. The closer we can be to the raw, the live, the unprocessed, the better. Also, as a side benefit, by giving up meat, we may help save the planet, I'm convinced that our factory farms, the animal processing plants are brutal, ugly and dehumanizing. They're not so good for the environment or the animals either.

Anyway, it all makes some kind of sense to me. I can be quite disciplined when it comes to what I put into my body, although I have had my moments of debauch, where really anything goes, I'm speaking here of controlled and uncontrolled substances. Lately, I've been grazing on nuts, seeds and uncooked veggies. It hasn't killed me yet. Which I guess could be some kind of recommendation...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

All We Need is Now

I'm still thinking about my post yesterday. Maybe I should chalk up my "disorientation," to "death of my youth." There was a time and place that now only exists in my head. There are others who probably share some of the same thought-dreams, but even if we think back to world events, they are all basically unique to each individual. I'm not really a big one for nostalgia. I think we tend to forget the bad shit, and remember the good, it's probably a survival mechanism, but "things were not better then," I mean, it was the same jumble of good and bad, sweetness and madness, chaos and order, life and death.

There was good music then, there's good music now. There were major upheavals then, there are major upheavals now. There was war and peace, love and hate and well, you get the idea. Songs like "A Day in the Life," and "Within You, Without You," still speak to me today, but they came out of what was happening then, and maybe they still connect because what they were about was more than the moment, but they were also of the moment and they are "time-bound," just like us. Most of my favorite art is "of the moment." No art really is "timeless." I mean, some works can speak to us across time, but still they are works that were made by people in a certain time and place and if we don't know who they were, their circumstances, their culture, their politics, then we are the poorer for it.

I'm thinking that nothing stands up on it's own - except maybe a mountain, a tree, a sunset, the full moon, a leaf. When it comes to art, even "functional" art, there is always a maker, and that maker came from a certain time and place, a context. Pop art, and at this point in our cultural progression, isn't it all just "pop art," is the quest for the perpetual now. So, yes, "Love" is now, even if it's old hat, been done before, in a time and place that does not exist anymore. So, it's now and it's kitschy too and, well, we can remember the past, but there's no point in living in the past...it's not true that "All We Need is Love," no, instead, (although this will certainly not be a hit), I think it's true that "All We Need is NOW!"

Monday, December 18, 2006

Gimmee Some Truth

I don't want to rap the new Beatles CD, Love, a remix by George Martin and his son for CirqueDuSoleil in Las Vegas. The CD is a beautiful soundscape, using some of the best and most iconic Beatles songs, songs that have embedded themselves deeply into our popular consciousness. Some of these songs sound like they were recorded yesterday, they are that alive, exuberant, rocking and beautiful. Martin and his son have done an admirable job of re-mixing and re-matching these songs, bringing them alive by changing up the context.

I've been a Beatles fan since about the age of thirteen. I have lived and breathed this music for many, many years. I think what kind of disorients me about the whole enterprise is the "context of no context" nature of the endevour. Yes, some of the best songs transcend their time, but for me, the Beatles cannot really be plucked out of the context of the time when I first encountered and grew up with them. They were not just musicians who wrote beautiful, inspiring or insightful and challenging music, they were representatives of another cultural consciousness. Lennon and Harrison especially, represented an experimental, searching vanguard in the culture war between the "straights," and the "heads," the war machine and the peaceniks, those looking for some kind of enlightenment and those selling the same old line of crap.

It all sounds so cliche now, but there really was a counterculture, and the world really did seem to be at war, the young against the old, the musicans and artists in opposition to the politicians and the power structure. Of course, all of this got swallowed up and disappeared into the Great Global Corporate Culture Machine, and finally you have Lennon's "Revolution" blasting out in a theater in Vegas, and well, I think a lot of the meaning of the music, or what it represented at one time has been lost in nostalgia and kitsch. Now it's just music, a nostalgia show, then it seemed like so much more.

Isn't that how the story goes? So, yes, it's great to hear the supreme artistry of these four musicians, and I'm sure Cirque Du Soleil puts on a good show, but I'm thinking something gets lost in the process, or maybe it's just the passage of time that makes it inevitable. Without the context, without knowing the turmoil of those times, without understanding the great convulsions that were going on when these songs were written, much of the story is missing, by plucking these songs out of the canon, it furthers this de-contexualization...in my book not such a good thing, because so much is lost.

Maybe it's inevitable. Of course, it may be significant that Lennon and Harrison are no longer with us. I'm not sure if they'd be on the bandwagon for this kind of enterprise, although that great avant gardist, Yoko Ono gave her approval...so really what is my beef? Beats me. Somehow it all just seems kind of phony and kitschy, and well it smells of the hustle, only it's all wrapped up in a classy package. I guess Vegas is our real Paradise where all great pop icons either go before they die (Elvis, Wayne Newton, Celine Dion, Prince), or once dead, go to be deified. We can get a ticket and sit ringside, and well, sorry but that's not what I love about the Beatles...but, well anyway, that was all a long time ago...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

PsychoBabble

Hell, we live in a bi-polar world. There's a north and a south, and as C. Bukowski once wrote, there's the "South of No North." So, I don't know what's up with this bipolar syndrome. I mean, is it so unusual to go from euphoria to deep depression and back again? Especially considering the state of things today, it almost seems required. I think the real problem would be if you were stuck at one or the other poles. If you're swinging, hey baby, it's not so bad. "Don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that SCHWING!" I'm all for keeping up with the oscillation.

So lately, I've been in an existential wrestling match, wrestling with my demons, my expectations, my self-image, and my perceived enemies. There are people in the world who will go out of their way to fuck with you. Strange, but true. I kept telling myself "you've got to let it go, you've got to let it go." This then became my mantra, but of course, I was then stuck in the analytic process of trying to reason my way out of something I just wasn't ready to let go of. I ended up wrestling with my mantra. Remember as the Maharishi almost certainly didn't say, "the mantra will always win." And so you end up bouncing from one pole to the next. It can get kind of ugly.

Anyway, I hit bottom yesterday, this in the wake of our office Christmas party, which ended up being like a Pinter play, all sub-text; the important, essential conversations were the ones that were not verbalized. It was a strange kabuki dance that kind of crystallized it all for me as we sat around the table. I was able to detach, see my demons in front of me, and yes, finally let them go. So I settled in the deep south, and then started floating towards deep north...yesterday was deep, profound emptiness. Yes, I had finally let go. This morning, I already feel like I'm filling up, I feel renewed, ready for something new...and eventhough it's cloudy outside I can hear George Harrison singing, "here comes the sun." And I say, "it's alright!"

Friday, December 15, 2006

Music

"Music does not depend on being right, on having good taste and education and all that."

"Indeed, then what does it depend on?"

"On making music Herr Haller, on making music as well and as much as possible and with all the intensity of which one is capable. That is the point, Monsieur."

Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Life Coach - "I'll Sit Down and Wait for My Answer!"

The Lovely Carla has volunteered to be my life coach. I'm blogging from the coffee shop on the corner, making calls too, and the Lovely C. is by my side, working on paperwork. She has been giving me advice and encouragement. It's kind of like living with Knute Rockne ("Win one for the Gipper!") or Vince Lombardi ("Run to daylight!").

I can use all the help I can get, but really, it's a little much when I'm making a phone call and she's gesturing while I'm talking, almost like she's conducting an orchestra, she being Daniel Barenboim, me being the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She nods when I say something she likes, she gives me the "cut it," sign, if I say something she doesn't.

So, I get through one call and she gives me the thumbs up. So, okay, maybe this is going to change my life...all I ever needed was a little more coaching. Then, again, I hope it doesn't cramp my style. What next, a miked up helmut, so she can send in the plays?!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Messenger

One year I worked as bike messenger in the streets of Chicago. It was quite the challenging job. I think I was more alert and alive, moment by moment, than any other time in my life. I mean, it was required that you be super-on-guard just to stay alive. The job was survival. I had my brushes with car doors, I crashed to the pavement a few times, but I always wore my helmet, and I used my roller blading elbow and knee pads to help protect myself. I was lucky to come out of it in one piece. I got real lean, thin as a rail. Anyway, one thing I really liked about the job, it was totally consuming, totally physical, but when it was done, it was done. I never thought about any of it once I punched out for the day. I didn't make a lot of money, it was not a high status job, but I felt more "free" (I almost felt invisible), in the streets of the city, than I ever have since. I have a much better paying job now, but it requires a lot of "head" work, which is really hard for me to turn off sometimes. I have lately been totally consumed, and even though I can set my own schedule, the work has totally crowded in on me. There's no going back. It doesn't work like that...but sometimes I think about those days with a slight touch of nostalgia...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Time

"Time is a dicovery which is only made by thinking. We create it as an idea and do not begin till much later to suspect that we ourselves are Time, inasmuch as we live." Oswald Spengler

Monday, December 11, 2006

Visualize This!

I don't know if you believe in "vibes" and "psychic energy," and "auras" and that kind of thing. I do, or well, I mean, it sometimes seems to "work for me," if you know what I mean. I mean, I'm a big advocate of creative visualization, of creating mental images and then sending them out into the world. Do these mental images actually have substance? Do they have influence in the cosmic soup of our lives? Well, hey, I guess that's an open question. I actually think this kind of thinking isn't all that "out there" especially if you start reading about the current thinking in the realm of science, what with super-string theory, black holes, dark matter, worm holes and the uncertainty principle, and well, even Einstein's theories that both time and space are really kind of fungible.

So, the truth is we can't even trust our senses...or, we live in a time, when it's accepted that the world is more than what can be measured and counted. The idea that we are more than our bodies certainly appeals to me, and it kind of conforms to how I experience the world. I don't draw any great conclusions from this, except, instead, I use the knowledge, I meditate nearly every day. I go through a series of visualizations that I learned at this school. I actually went through a two year program, learning and refining, and hopefully sort of mastering how to create these mental images.

I do know the meditation has helped me focus, it's helped in my creative work, it's made me more aware and awake. Which is sometimes a mixed bag, I mean, you really see the world, and the people in it, and well, sometimes it's a beautiful, marvelous place, and well sometimes it's amazing how ugly it can all look. Somehow you have to be able to see clearly without letting it destroy you. Nice trick, huh? So anyway, this weekend, the vibes around here were all positive, the Lovely C. and I were in a creative flow, she was painting, I was writing, and the energy we seemed to create between us, seemed bigger than the both of us. Very cool, it was just how I visualized it!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sit Back and Wonder

I've been writing plays, or little perfomance pieces for about eleven years now. My great theatrical vehicle is our little company, Black Forest. I've been working on a new piece, and it's been a series of stops and starts. I must have about 100 pages of text. Some of it interesting, some of it total gibberish. The goal is to have a complete production ready for late spring 2007. I'm thinking, "rock opera," basically so we can incorporate some of the songs we've all been working on.

If it wasn't for this guy, I probably never would have started down this particular path. Or maybe I was always heading in this direction and Sam just provided the last little push. Sam's 1980 play True West, (I saw the Steppenwolf production with Malkolvitch and Sinese), really seemed to blow open the gates for me.

So, the last two days I have been writing in a complete stream of consciousness frenzy. I've got about fourteen solid pages. I love when it just flows out like that. Usually it's the best stuff. At least I think so. I can't predict it, I can't command it, sometimes it just comes. I think for some reason, reading an article in the New Yorker about Jasper Johns rekindled my imagination. He was asked how he decides what to paint and he said something like he just follows one brushstroke with another. That works for me too. One sentence, leads to another, and then you just let it come, and you sit back and wonder at all the words sitting on the page in front of you.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Two Jimmys

Lately, I've been working obessively on music. I eat it, play it, drink it. I mean, my ears have been filled with music. I've really bonded with my guitars, I've had music pour out of me in so many ways. I have played guitar since about 12 years old, my best all time job was working as a guitar tuner at a Hohner Warehouse (Hohner is famous not for their guitars, but for their harmonicas, they set the standard for the mouth harp).

In the guitar world, there are two primary schools, you are usually either a Fender player, or a Gibson player, all the other guitar manfacturers are either offshoots of these two standards or they are go off on some little tangent. In the rock world, I think there are two dudes who basically transcend all the other players out there, they were the orignators, they explored and defined the territory, they were founders of what we now think of as rock & roll guitar. All other players after them were either heavily influenced by one or both of them, or they were ignored, kind of like if you're a painter you either were influenced by Picasso, or you basically pretend that he never existed.

Anyway in my little dichotomy here (one of them was a Fender Stratocaster man, the other a Gibson Les Paul guy), I mean, this is just a thought experiment, I haven't really put a lot of brain cells into it, there's the Two Jimmys. First, there's Jimi and then there's Jimmy.

I truly believe these guys stand head and shoulders above just about anyone else, just because they did stuff no one ever did before, and some of what Hendrix did with his instrument no one even attempts. I mean, last night on public television I saw some clips of Hendrix at Woodstock and to watch him commune with his guitar is to watch something otherworldly. Kind of the same feeling you get when you watch John Coltrane play his saxophone. It's spirtual, it's alien, almost like watching a natural phenomenon, like a sunset or a cyclone.

I've also recently watched the Led Zeppelin dvd set spanning their live performance career. Jimmy Page's playing is flashy, intimidating, mind-blowing, and beautiful, lyrical too. These two guys are so different, Hendrix was never really in control of his life, or his career, he had managers and girlfriends who hounded and fed off of him. He was a poor kid who came from absolutely nothing, and he rose to fame and fortune in a flash, and then he was gone. It's kind of a cliche but it seems Hendrix was only free when he was onstage playing music.

Page on the other was a privileged kid, a very successful session player, always in control of his career and owner of his master tapes. Jimmy Page is the mastermind behind all those great Led Zeppelin records, every note you hear was worried and worked over by the fabulous Jimmy Page. Page has made a fortune and he has been able to see his legacy grow, and watch as his playing has influenced a generation of other guitarists looking to be r&r heroes.

These two guys also have inspired a lot of dreck, a generation of bombastic players who are treading the same ground to much less effect. Every truly great guitar player has always played in service to the music first, but there are some players just enamored with technique, which I think is actually a killer of creativity, the best players are those who can incorporate techinque and then forget it, and by doing so transcend it. But no matter, go back to the original recordings, and then check out these guys live on stage and marvel! By the way, I own and play Fender guitars...but I've always wanted to own a Gibson Les Paul too, I guess it must be my conflicted nature!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Against this Wall

I've had a major on-going Jasper Johns obsession for many years. One of my plays, "Space Modulator," was partly based on and inspired by some of Johns' writings. Amazingly, this signature, breakthrough work came to Johns in a dream.

It seems Johns also collaborated with Samuel Beckett - they worked together on a book, Beckett provided the text, Johns the images. Here's Beckett as he's examining one of Johns etchings, he is describing what he sees to Johns: "I'll tell you what I see here. Here, I see you try all these paths in different directions, but, no matter where you go, you come up against this wall."

Yes, indeed, Sam, I think I know what you mean.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Mask of Rationality

Over the years, I've dabbled with Tarot cards, I mean, I'll sit down, shuffle the cards, think of a question or contemplate my present predicament (I'm always in a predicament), and select the cards, lay them out and marvel at the pretty pictures. I'm not exactly sure why I do this, it's just another habit I've picked up over the years, and it probably feeds into my idea that the universe is a mysterious place, and well, why couldn't a sequence of picture cards tell me something about myself and the world as I conceive it?

I could just as easily be using one of those magic Eight Balls that you shake and turn over, looking for some kind of answer, or (and I always do this), cracking open a fortune cookie, looking for some kind of wisdom or guidance. I do this all with a sense of amusement, or ridiculousness, (I think I look at myself as a superstitious, hopeless, romantic fool, when I do this stuff), but still I do it, and I sometimes take the information that I get and kind of take it to heart. I guess you have to find your answers where you can.

I do think this guy put a lot of stock in the symbols that cultures use, and if many cultures keep coming back to the same images time and again, maybe it tells us something about the structures of our minds, or the contents of our human experiences?

The Lovely C. and I own a few Tarot decks including one originally designed by this famous fraud, Magus and self-billed "Wickedest Man in the World!" I like his Tarot deck, the imagery is very evocative, and I like how he characterises the Devil as basically a "lusty goat." Crowley judged our present Aeon to be hopelessly doomed, unless we realize our "star nature." Crowley thought we were brothers to the stars which echoes Carl Sagan's line: "we are star-stuff."

Anyway, not sure where I'm going with any of this, I just must acknowledge that I've spent time contemplating the meanings in the imagery of Tarot. Kind of like contemplating the grains of sand on a beach, or seeing the Virgin Mary's face in the water spot on the ceiling. Part of this journey is to understand just how strange the human brain really is, it's like a foreigner in the house of our bodies, and there are territories inside of us that really are a mystery. We wear the mask of the rationalist, and we wear the cloak of the irrationalist too. I guess these two sides must wrestle it out for themselves. This is what we call a life.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

About a Bass

I picked up a bass guitar less than a year ago, out of necessity, and thus well, yes, we call that the mother of invention, don't we? I needed to be able to add bass lines to songs I was writing, and after I got comfortable with my bass, a Danelctro Long Horn as pictured here, I became much more aware of basses and bass players. Now, when I listen to a song, I specifically gravitate to the subterranean world of thrumming notes, and low tone accents. Lately, I've actually written quite a few songs starting with a bass line and working from there. It totally changes how I look at music.

I've been aware of great bass players since the early days, Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, John Entwhistle, Sting, George Clinton, and then, there's a guy named Flea, that can stand shoulder to shoulder with any of these, he's one of the hardest working guys in showbiz in a crazy rock-funk, outfit - the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I'm listening to them right now, their lastest CD is Stadium Arcadium and you realize that the heart and soul of this band is the bass player. Very funky, slinky and percussive - the music really moves. There's something about a good bass line that works on a kind of sub-atomic level. If it's recorded right, you feel it right in the center of your gut.

So, any way, after reading Anthony Keidis' autobiography, I really root for these guys, they would not be your first pick for a group of guys who would make it out of the neighborhood alive. This band also features a really incredible guitarist, John Frusciante who brings a wealth of influences and new directions to the table. Good stuff, and funky too, and yes, well, I guess you could dance to it, if you were of the dancing persuasion.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Something Smells Funny

Yes, well, as they say the universe works in mysterious ways...I guess this would be one of my core tenets; in that respect you can count me with the mystics. I am not only perpetually mystified, I am MYSTIC-fied! I get in trouble when I fight it, or I try to have my way with the universe. That is not the way it works. The universe will have it's way with you, whether you consent, whether you like it or not.

So, I guess this could be characterised as a sort of fatalistic attitude, or as the Lovely Carla says, "embrace your fate!" The idea is that this embrace will lead to some kind of trascendant freedom. By embracing you are also letting go...very zen-like...

So, this morning, new information comes to light that totally changes the picture for me on the business battle front. What I thought was a defeat, may turn out to be some kind of victory, and isn't that just a laugh? I put myself up on the rack, kind of tortured myself with my own doubts and fears, and now, it all looks like a silly game that really didn't sully me in the least.

Turns out the joke is on me, friends. At least, that's how it seems today. Of course, it's still early, so in a universe where we come across phenonmena such this, and this, you sometimes just have to sit back and marvel, and wonder, and laugh until you can't laugh any more.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Too Much Too Soon

You must find your spiritual guidance where you can. You never know where the questions, or where the answers will originate. The Lovely Carla came back from a yoga session last week and told me, "you must accept your fate," before you can "change it." I put that in my spiritual pipe and smoked it good. I've been practicing the fatal embrace ever since.

Some folks look to this guy for insight, (he looks good in a flowing robe), but I prefer this wizened rock and roll dude for a more worldly perspective (have you ever seen another guy rock so hard in high-heels and pearls?):

"It's the self that finally reconciles effort and effortlessness, injury and forgiveness, control and surrender, conflict with others and accpetance of them, awareness of defects and unconditional love. You know why the self does this? Because it is pure unconditionality, which is all-inclusive love." - David Johansen.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Co-Conspirators

I have two great musical co-conspirators...this has been a fairly recent development that came out of Black Forest's last full-blown theatrical production, "Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath"

The first spinoff was a songwriting partnership with TPM in the form of this band: The Telepaths. If you have the time and the inclination, please turn your speakers up loud and check out our signature cut, "Area 51," as well as our newest stepchild, "Susan Sontag."

As a band we've already gone through three drummers, a couple of guitar players (we're ready for a VH1 Behind Music episode already!), it's just basically TPM and I keeping the r&r dream alive. Look for more good stuff in the future. We don't know where these songs come from, but it is our duty to channel them and bring them to the world!

Also, the Lovely Carla and I have been seriously (and not so seriously) been writing songs together. We're developing quite a catalog, and you will find some examples of our oeuvre here.

It's been a marvel and a pleasure to see the Lovely C. emerge as a songwriter and singer. Check out the beautiful, "Behind Closed Eyes," and the rocking "Her Stars, Her Wings."

I'm just basically going along for the ride...these two creative souls have been taking me in directions I didn't even know existed. It's really fun, exciting, truly the good work!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Strange Birds

After all this time, I'm finally venturing out of the Cro-Magnon phase of blogging to actually provide links in some of my posts. I just didn't know how, and I didn't worry about it, but I think it's a cool way of sharing info, and it's a tool used widely by most of my favorite bloggers. Sorry it's taken me so long to join the parade. Of course, once I realized how easy it really is, I feel kind of stupid. I'm not sure how often I'll really do it, but this morning, I decided to take the time to figure out how...

This morning, I'm listening to some new discs ("I am a Bird Now" and "Poses") that I purchased; two amazing performers, Antony and the Johnsons and Rufus Wainwright.

Two unique and inspiring voices. So delicate, so beautiful, sad too (especially Antony - his voice almost sounds too beautiful too affected to exist). Two strange birds too. I saw them both perform in the Leonard Cohen movie, I'm Your Man

I'm a big rock and roll fan, and I've learned to love performers who don't necessarily have wonderful voices, but when you hear Rufus and Antony, (both use strings and keyboards to great effect), you are reminded again that there are some vocalists who really can transport you to other realms of beauty just by how they hold a note, how a quiver, a catch in the voice, a certain phrasing, can change your world. Listen to Antony's delicate, otherwordly trill, listen to Rufus' powerful but delicate vocalizing bring something uniquely beautiful to Lennon's "Across the Universe."

Baby, it's cold outside, but with this music playing on the box, I'm feeling toasty all the way down to my strange bird soul...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Storm System

I'm not going to write about the weather, or well, hell, it's everywhere you look today, we're in the midst of a "major midwest storm system." Not all that bad if you have a home office and you've mastered your French Press, and you have a good supply of coffee beans to last for quite awhile.

Commandeering my computer, I've already visited Washington D.C. and British Columbia this morning. I 've conducted a teleconference bringing people together from Illinois, Wisconsin and California. I feel productive, although, it's the deep freeze, and well, I haven't ventured out of my humble abode yet today.

I had an incredibly long and restful sleep last night, which frankly can be all the difference. I feel a little more in tune with the rotation of the planet. Everything seems fine to me, even the snow and ice and wind gusts up to 50 mph. It's winter, in Chicago, and what else did you expect?

It's actually kind of reassuring that the weather, the natural world still has great influence over us. It's somtimes great when Mother Nature asserts herself (sometimes tragic too, I guess). In fact, those times when we tune it out, are really illusory times. We can fool ourselves with our other worlds. We are nature, and just like that falling snow, nature is us.

If we forget, it won't be long before we are reminded once again. And well, sometimes it's a hard lesson and sometimes it's a liberating rush...it depends on how it all manifests itself and who and where we are in the process.

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