WWSP's Shadow of th Marigold

Monday, September 30, 2013

Strange Dream

Yesterday I assisted on a music video shoot. It was sort of surreal. Shooting video on the river. A woman in leather, with little black wings, a black hat and a black umbrella. Sort of like the Black Angel. She sat in a little wooden boat. A man in long frock coat. Surrounded by sheet music floating around him in the water. The man ritualistically placed a long pipe on the dock. He pushed off the dock and left that pipe behind. Then it was over to a train station. We waited for a train to rush past. The man in the frock coat walked the tracks, smoked that pipe, slashed a big paper mache heart with a dagger. It was like a strange dream in the middle of the day.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dazzle & Fool!

Yes there is something extremely amazing and seductive about the virtual/digital world we have created. It's an alternate reality that bleeds into, and encompasses, just about everything.

Still, it is not analog. And we are first and foremost analog creatures. Even if we don't really want to be. But sometimes the glorious nature of our physical, analog, flesh and blood reality blows the digital world away.

Sit on a beach. Watch the water. Hold a pile of sand in your hands. Breathe.

We are not numbers. And really we can't reduce the universe to numbers. Really. Or if we do, we reduce it and alter it. Even if it can dazzle and fool us!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What's In and What's Left Out?

The last two days I have been obsessed with editing footage (see previous post) I shot years ago of the Windy City Rollers first event. It was open call for Roller Girls. The event was held at the Cork Lounge in Chicago.

It's funny, I think I am a real good film editor. Mainly because I get totally obsessed, and am not content until I have a complete rough cut. It's like an itch that I have to scratch. And I can't concentrate on anything else until I get it done. It seems sort like a sickness. And that kind of obsessive behavior really comes in handy.

Anyway, I finished the rough cut last night. Really happy with how it came out. I plan on delivering it to one of the founders of the Rollers in the next week or so.

It's funny, it's a document of a wild, free-wheeling event in a bar.  I was reminded how really life is this over-powering river of energy, and we can try to catch the river in a cup, but it's definitely just a paltry approximation of the thing, maybe part of the thing, but not the thing.

You point the camera and capture something, and you miss all the other things not in the frame. And then you have hours of footage and make snap decisions about what's actually gonna be in the film and what's not.

So you have a document, but the document is just a tiny fraction, a fractured, arbitrary, and partial record of what actually happened. You can't capture it all. It washes past you. You snatch a few frames, you put those frames together, and you say, that was what happened... and you know there was so much you didn't see, didn't hear, didn't film, and didn't put in the video.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Art and Artlessness of Editing!

Oh yeah, I took this video, three reels of it, of the early days (The first day or two!) of the Windy City Rollers, the all-girl roller skating league.  I shot the video, and then put the reels on a shelf and promptly forgot about them for years. And years.

Yesterday, I rustled through stacks of tape and found the original reels. I do have a shaky hand, but the images and the sound came out pretty good. I did all these interviews of aspiring roller girls. It's pretty interesting. I'm in the process of editing it all into a movie now.

I think it's gonna be a pretty raw, Cinema Verite kind of thing.  Editing is an interesting art. Do I let the camera linger, wander, and let "dead air" into the frame? Or do I nip and tuck and make it smooth and neat?

I'm thinking the lingering and wandering is really, really cool... 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Middle of It!

Life is this rollicking adventure. It's big, it rolls, it rocks. We are in it. In the middle of it. But most of the time it feels like we are clinging, barely, on the margins. It feels like the action, the heart of the thing, is some place else. That life is doing it's thing over there somewhere, and we are over in a corner, missing out.

This has always been they way it feels. Ever since the earliest days. That we are clinging. We are on the margins. We are nearly invisible. And we are missing out on the main action. As Tom Waits once sang, we are always "Looking for the heart of Saturday Night."

And the heart of the thing is like Eldorado, or Atlantis, or some mythical place where we are the center of the world, the center of attention. And the truth of the thing is that that place doesn't exist. There is no center. And really we are marginal, we are clinging, we are missing out, we can never be in the middle of it, even if we are in the middle of it... really...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

If You Wuh a Twee? What Kind a Twee Wood Ya Bee?

I think "reincarnation," is a cool idea. Is it far-fetched to think that our "energy" recirculates and reanimates, and returns in a multitude of forms?  

And I think "karma" is a cool idea too. Is it far-fetched to think that  there is a "law of cause and effect?" And the good and bad acts determine our next act?

And really, don't we live in a far-fetched kind of world? And what's far-fetched anyway?

So I was thinking about my life. Lessons of my existence. What have I learned this go-around?

Silence.
Humility.
Patience.
Ego-less-ness.
Grounded-ness.
Perseverance.

This is my human life. And the lesson? Be like a TREE! Did I miss my calling?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Morning's Theme

For some unknown reason, the phrase, "intimations of mortality" has been rattling around in my head.  I didn't know that Wordsworth has a famous poem called "Ode on Intimations of Immortality."

And I didn't know that there was a long profile of Allen Ginsberg called "Intimations of Mortality," either.

And I found both of these this morning. 

And I hear Stephen King speaking on the radio about death and his new novel. There does seem to be a theme here...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Little Seeds of Potential

We spent yesterday afternoon working on new songs. It's always a hopeful thing.  Little seeds of potential. If we can make songs sound good with two voices and one acoustic guitar, it's a good bet that bringing them to the band will make them even better.

Some songs come fast, in a flash, some are clunky at first and need work. Both modes can work. You never know when a little riff will lead to something better. So we slogged through the steps, worked out parts, played with the timing, worked out changes, etc.

We had our little digital recorder. This is an essential tool. Sometimes things emerge in the moment, and if you don't capture that little spark, well, it can vanish. Also you can later review and hear the good and the bad.

So after the session it's clear we have some new candidates for a whole new set of music. Love this part of the process. It's work, but it's the essential work. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Clear-Eyed Mornings are the Best

Those clear-eyed mornings are the best, the mornings when you rise early, wake well-rested, the sun is shining, coffee is strong, everything is rosy, full of hope, optimism and potential.  

Later, you will decide whether you squandered the day, or lived it well, you will evaluate and assess. But that's for later...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Cheap Guitar

Picked up someone's cheap Chinese-made acoustic guitar, and started strumming. It's amazing, but every guitar has a personality. No doubt. And every guitar has a song or two in them. And when that guitar is in your hands, you are in the power of that particular instrument.

You can fall in love with a cheap guitar. It may just be an infatuation that will easily and quickly pass, but when you have your hands on it, in that moment, it feels like the world to you. You have your "go-to" guitars, waiting for you at home. They really are yours. So this cheap guitar is just momentary diversion.

This sort of flimsy acoustic guitar is a little bit clunky, sits in your hands a little awkwardly, but still there's something there, something unique, something intrinsic to this particular instrument unlike anything else. It may be a pale copy, a knock-off, but it's got personality. It's got a sort of spirit. And there's a little bit of magic that sort of hovers around it.

You want to use it, to own it, to conjure that magic. For a moment.

Friday, September 20, 2013

This is Beautiful...

Sometimes words are not necessary... sometimes words just get in the way...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Always Be Buzzing!

We are always reaching out and putting things in us... ideas, fluids, elixirs... etc. The idea is to keep the buzz going. 

Always. 

To go from the buzz, to the buzz, to the buzz, to the buzz.

Always be buzzing!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Car

The car. You are driving the car. You are behind the wheel. Sometimes you wonder if the car is driving you. And just how did you get here? In this car, this moment, this wheel?

Was some of this "predetermined?" Was it inevitable? Sort of like destiny? Those decisions you made, just how decisive where they? And could things be different? Could everything be different?

And the wheel. Do you need to keep you hands on the wheel? Does it really matter? Do you let go? And see what happens? And was that part of the story from the start? You let go the wheel, and it's hard to tell one way or another.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Patience

Patient. Having patience.  That's a tough one. Especially when you get the idea that time is passing. And you really only have so much time, and you don't know when your time is up. The clock is ticking. Right? And there's this biological tempo that you are dancing to, that has nothing to do with your ideas, plans, hopes and dreams.

So you plow ahead. And wait. And hope you can get the things done that you need to get done, when you can still get things done.  You have to be patient, even though you know the universe does not take into account your plans. You have a timetable that has nothing to do with any other timetables that may exist out there. It's maddening. Another aspect of the mystery of life. Patience. Really?!

Here's Axl whistling past the graveyard...

Monday, September 16, 2013

So Good, Like Magic!

It's a rare and fine thing when all the pieces come together. When they do it's almost like a magic act. You are surprised, thrilled and inspired.  That's how it was for us yesterday for the matinee performance at Red Orchid Theater's production of "Simpatico."

We were lucky to score some tickets for the second to last show.  Since Michael Shannon is in the cast, it was almost guaranteed that the run would be a total sell-out. But the work is truly great, and it lives up to any pre-show hype or expectation.

I didn't realize that "Simpatico" is such a rich play. It's definitely one of Sam Shepard's best, and that's saying something, considering his amazing track record. And the play is completely, totally realized. Dazzling. Every choice from set design to sound design to casting, was absolutely perfect.

One of the best theater pieces I've ever had a chance to see. Yes, that good. And yes, Shannon was great, but so was every other cast member in the piece. Not one weak moment. Perfect. Wow.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Don't Expect a Thing

Yes, I think you should pursue what you pursue and don't worry about the others. Maybe they will follow, or maybe not. But you do what you do. And do the best you can. You do it, and don't expect a thing. Really.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Beehive Hairdo!

I loaded up a two new "singles" to Broken TV on Bandcamp, and am now calling it an EP - "Don't Worry It's Always On." It's available to stream on Bandcamp, also you can download it for FREE, or pay what you want. It's the Radiohead model of pricing! 

Anyway Broken TV is my little side-project. It's the place where songs that I've written and recorded in my home studio, that don't really have a natural home, will find shelter. They are the lost causes and hopeless cases. 

Be sure to check out my song "Beehive Hairdo," it's dedicated to Amy Winehouse. Her untimely demise kind of shocked and saddened me. A loss of a real talent. Poor girl. I hazard to guess that there are not many 3 min. plus pop songs with both "transmigration" and "transubstantiation" in the lyrics. 


 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Crap Stuff!

Crap. Crap bikes. Crap guitars. Turns out you can do a lot, or get a lot out of, crappy stuff.  My crap bike died yesterday. The back axle just sort of disintegrated. Rust never sleeps. And well it's just a useless, rusted hulk now. I immediately found a replacement on Craigslist, no time to waste, I have to have a bike. 

There is a guy in our neighborhood who collects, refurbishes and sells crap bikes. I bought the bike that died from him about 2 years ago for $25. I scored another crappy one from him for $55 yesterday. It's basically the same crap bike, but I didn't bargain with him, he's deaf and dumb, we communicate via text and sign language. Bargaining just didn't seem worth it.

Anyway, there's a whole market for crap bikes. And they do the job. Same thing with crap guitars. I own a couple. I mean, I love them, they are so crappy, they are cool. I mean Jack White has made a career out of playing crappy old guitars no one else valued. Of course, now people value them.  Anyway, I have wheels, and i have guitars and their crappy-ness is sort of a style, and a badge of honor.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quite a Thing to Behold!

Yes, the weather: hot, cold. Sunny, rainy. Weather can bite you in the ass. It can lay you down. It can caress you, and lift your spirits.

It just is... and we must endure it, experience it, ignore it, or embrace it.  

Yesterday, it was ungodly hot in our part of the planet. Oppressive. And if you were out in it, like I was out in it, it could not be denied, only endured.  The trick was to survive.  I was a haystack... a haystack on fire... still, I made it through, and by the making it through, I was sort of empowered.

But the raw power of the elements is quite a thing to behold.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Not Buying It!

People I sort of trust & respect are making the same arguments for war that people I really didn't trust or respect at all made a decade ago. And that war that we were lied into then, by the worst scoundrels you can imagine, turned out very badly indeed, I mean, horribly badly, so badly, it left a stain that cannot be removed or forgotten, and we were all damaged by it. And the mayhem and dark reverberations continue to this day.

Anyway that one was criminal, horrible, immoral, incompetent and totally unnecessary.

And the latest sales pitch just sounds like a retread of the last one. If there are reasons to "go to war," to drop bombs on another country, the reasons sound hollow, lame and completely unpersuasive. Weary. Yes. War weary. And weary of those who promote war. And weary of those who tell us that not going to war is a sign of weakness. Not buying it.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Wanda Jackson Kicks Serious Ass!


Over the weekend, our local 2nd Hand Tunes closed their doors. Sign of the times. I will really miss that special meditative time I spent browsing through stacks of CDs.  Surfing the internet is just not the same satisfying kick.

Picked up a handful of CDs really cheap.  One of the best is Wanda Jackson's Jack White produced "This Party Ain't Over." I think it's a great disc.  Lots of cool song choices - songs from Bob Dylan, Amy Winehouse, Jimmy Rogers and Morey Amsterdam (Dick Van Dyke Show!).

It is a rollicking good time. It's definitely got a 1950's, Sun Studios vibe, but it's overstuffed with a big, loose sound, including horns and some really cool, kick-ass guitar playing from Jack White. And Wanda Jackson has a very distinctive voice.  Sort of cartoony, but expressive and cutting too. Wanda Jackson kicks serious ass on the album.  There is a great rockabilly vibe that permeates it all. And it is a party!

I was recently knocked out by Jack White's album "Blunderbuss" and I think he definitely explored some great ideas with Wanda on this album that also paid off later on his solo disc.  Love the band and the production, and once the smoke clears, I find I'm a big Wanda Jackson fan! Rock on Wanda!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Bad, Horrible, A Waste of Time, Doesn't Quite Do it Justice!

We are very selective when it comes to seeing movies, plays, bands. Time is short, and we are always on the look-out for inspiration, so it's best to do some homework and try to filter out the dreck.

But sometimes that filter doesn't work. We went to a play last night, presented by a theater group that usually does great work. And their production was stunningly, completely, terribly bad. Really. A total misfire. Nothing good to say about the work.

Lots of ugliness all around. Some of it was intentionally ugly, which I suppose was meant to be funny, but wasn't, and lots of it seemed to be unintentionally ugly, which was just ugly.  

I am not going to name this group, or their show. What's the point? After this post I intend to forget that I ever stepped into that little theater. Lots of yelling. Over the top yelling in a little black box. It was noisy, gave us headaches. It was torture.

My favorite moment of the whole piece was a moment of silence. But it was a only brief moment, and then the nausea rose up again. In the spirit of the piece, let me just say, it was like sticking a hot poker in your eye, burning your eyeball to a crisp and then digging it out and feeding it to your cat. Yes, it was like that...

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Greatness

"Yes, I'm waiting for "greatness" to rear up and bite me in the ass."

Friday, September 06, 2013

Maybe Calling Themselves The Civil Wars Was The First Mistake?!

I first came across the Civil Wars via Paul Krugman. He's not exactly the first person you think of when you think of music, but every once in a while he posts videos, (usually on Fridays), and after his infatuation with Arcade Fire, he discovered the Civil Wars, and well, then, I discovered them between his posts on economics and politics.

Two people, a man and a woman, very photogenic. Two very beautiful voices. One acoustic guitar. Wonderful harmonies. Something unique and special. Maybe a little too commercial and polished for my tastes, but still, they are an impressive duo.

They rocketed to fame, riches, Grammys. And then, on tour in England they imploded. They just released a new record, but only Joy Williams is talking and promoting. John Paul White is onto other things. And not talking to his musical partner at all.

Fascinating. What killed the duo? Was it a love affair (they are both married to other people)? A power struggle (her husband is their manager)? Political - is she Republican and he a Democrat? Cultural? Or what? Who knows? And why is it fascinating?

They look like they had it all. Amazing talent. A great chemistry. Unbelievable success. And then, well, it all falls apart... and maybe it was only when they were singing, those two voices soaring that all was well.  And strangely, maybe that just wasn't enough.

And maybe all the success and ambition, the needing, wanting, grasping, and then the having... maybe it's not what you think it is...

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Small Things

Yes, there is hope. People change. They are changing all the time. Sometimes they just don't know it, or recognize it. And this changing can be for the good. People can open their eyes. Open their hearts.

And sometimes people feel so alone. So disconnected. But they can sometimes see that they really aren't alone, and really aren't disconnected. 

These are small things, subtle shifts in thought and perception. But these small things can change everything. And transform every moment of every day.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Too Disconnected to Figure it Out!

Yesterday was a pretty agreeable day. It didn't sicken me, or lay me under. I mean, I was relatively happy, I had slept well the night before, and ate well, so I was fortified, and although I was "busy," I was not overburdened with tasks or responsibilities.

It was an odd day. I was strangely disconnected from myself. Sort of watched myself go from "station to station." I walked around. And talked to a few folks. I did all the things you are supposed to do, if you are a lively human being.

But even though I went through all the motions, the disengagement of my "self" from the things I was doing, seemed fairly pronounced. This was not disagreeable. In a way it was very agreeable. But it had an edge of strangeness. Sort of like I was watching a version of my life, but it was a life that I was just putting on for size.

Maybe I was in an "enlightened" state. Or a faintly "schizoid" one, or maybe it's a sign of profound soul-sadness. I couldn't tell. I was too disconnected to figure it all out. And I guess, that seemed OK too.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Running with the Dogs

"You are the last person on earth I'd think would end up running with the dogs." 

A person who runs with the dogs, doesn't really have a solid foothold in the company of humans. The ties that bind have given way, and that person has found themselves on the ground with all the doggies, big and small. Loyalty, consistency, trustworthiness, these are qualities that the dogs respect. Silence is a natural state. Barking and growling are only tools to find one's space and are usually employed sparingly.

You are in the elements, always. You breathe the air, whether it's fresh or not. You gravitate to parks, to the lakefront, any place where trees and grass and the sound of the wind and water predominate. You matriculate in the world of the humans, but you don't really belong. You can cater to their expectations, you can hold a conversation, you can gain their trust, but you aren't really of the same kind.

You are a little bit wild, feral, mangy. You are physical. Your body, what it needs, how it moves, these are your most important concerns. Your every step counts. And as long as you move with the dogs, you know you are alive. And being alive, that's the whole game.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Classic Celtic Blues Thing - Richard Thompson's "Electric"

Another recent record that blows me away is Richard Thompson's "Electric." It was recorded at Buddy Miller's house in Nashville on 16-track analogue tape, and well, you can hear the difference. It's warm, full, and powerful.

It's primarily a trio, with some added musicians on some tracks. Amazing band. A Celtic power trio. Thompson himself describes it as "funk-folk," or "folk-funk." It will also put you in mind of other great power trios like Jimi Hendrix Experience and Eric Clapton's Cream.

Thompson is fully engaged here. Nicely written songs. Songs with gravity and meaning and wisdom. And his voice carries weight.  But what really propels this album to greatness is Thompson's guitar playing. Especially his electric guitar. What a compelling, beautiful and exhilarating ride. Thompson has a style all his own. Sort of a classic Celtic blues thing, but no cliches - original, fiery, supple, like quicksilver.

This album grows on you with every listen. A classic. Amazing. Richard Thompson has an amazing catalog of music from Fairport Convention to all those great records with Linda Thompson. "Electric" is just a great, fully-realized project. Old world and new world collide and create sparks and thunder.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Jack White III Finds It!

Jack White III - his record "Blunderbuss" was not an under the radar release. It garnered lots of sales, Grammy nominations, and some controversy. White is just one of those polarizing figures in music. Some love him, some hate him. He is a supremely talented musician, with a strong conceptual sense, he seems self-possessed, confident, sensitive and he always seems like he has a little chip on his shoulder.

He can play pretty much any instrument. He has a supple and evocative voice and a very distinctive guitar style. He's been in a bunch of high profile bands - White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather and and host of other less known ones too.  "Blunderbuss" is the first record as a solo artist.  And on first listen (just listened to it a couple days ago) I came away thinking it's some kind of masterpiece. 

It's sonically expansive, heartfelt, musical, adventurous.  Recorded beautifully. With an large palette of sounds.  The more Jack stretches his musical ambition the more I like it. There is one song that sounds a little too reminiscent of the White Stripes and that song ("Sixteen Saltines") is probably the weakest one on the disc.

Piano is featured throughout the album and it just adds a whole sonic dimension that helps open up the songs. There's also mandolin, strings, pedal steel.  I love that White kind of left the "garage rock" behind. He pretty much perfected that with the White Stripes, and although he is perfectly capable of rocking out, this album seems more mature, sophisticated, and sonically engaging.

"Love Interruption" is one of the best tracks on the album. Here is White with an all female ensemble.  It's gorgeous. Also, I must say, Jack White sounds a little hurt and unhappy on this record, someone has done him wrong. And you know what? A real genuineness emerges from the wreckage and it's a good thing.  Jack White III is best when he  opens up and let's it out. For real. Highly recommended! 

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