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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mystery of Identity

This is going to be one of those "what if" kind of posts...

What if you found out you weren't who you thought you were? That the story of your life, and your family history was incorrect? And all the people who could "clarify" the situation, who could trace, and tell you how events actually rolled out, what actually happened, are now long gone?

And the stories, the "truths" that you grew up with, and lived with, aren't really what you thought they were? And the actual fabric of your being, the building blocks, the deep in the bone elements are actually quite different than what you had been told, and what you believe? And you don't know why the story was told in an altered way, you don't know if there was some dark secret, or embarrassing reality, and what seemed so important way back in the distant past, is now just an interesting fact, but that fact is now blurred, erased, altered, and impossible to bring to the light of day.

And who knows, maybe it was all just a misunderstanding, or a little "white lie" that buried an inconvenient truth, but then there is cold science, and there is biology, and there are some realities that are stubborn and persistent, and will emerge, no matter how the original story was told.

And maybe this doesn't really feel like a "betrayal," maybe it's just another mystery, and you've grown used to all the mysteries that pile up around you, and really it's just a surprise, a surprise that something as specific and "tangible" as your own identity, could be complicated, and contrary, and oddly at odds with so much of who and what you thought you were and are.

And in a way, maybe this changes everything, but then again, maybe it really changes nothing, but instead just opens up another door that leads to a certain foggy darkness, leaves another cloud in your head, and well, it's pretty cloudy in there already, and well, what can you do, that's just the way the story goes.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Writer's Head, Writer's Eyes

If you think you are writer, I mean if you write, and look at the world with the head and eyes of a writer, you see the world through a unique perspective. The events of a life, the things that happen in a life, the feelings, the thoughts, the emotions, the coming and goings of people, and things, are just raw material for the writer.

This puts the writer in a writerly mode - a step back from the hustle and bustle, the hurly burly. If you keep your writer's eyes, your writer's head, you are always observing, looking for things that you can "use," that you can put down in words on a page.

There is a little arrogance, or maybe self-centeredness about the process. Not only is the writer experiencing the world, but he or she is already thinking how this all can be rendered into sentences and paragraphs. And how this can be explained, or depicted for others. It's a way of imposing a narrative, a line of thought on an endless stream of events.

Are there some things the writer shouldn't write about? It's up to the writer.

What is important? What stands out? What is interesting? What is extraordinary? It's up to the writer. If the writer is good, this can be astonishing, revealing, enlightening. Or it can be deadening, concealing, dumb-making.  It's up to the writer. And the reader too.

Oh yeah, the writer imagines the reader too. It's kind of a self-enlcosed universe...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Beatles vs. Stones

I have a good friend who insists that you have to choose, that you can't really like both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, that the Beatles vs. Stones is one of those deep existential questions that needs to be resolved, and if it isn't, you betray some fundamental character flaw, that you're a weak-kneed, flip-flopper.

I embrace my inner flip-flopper.

Even as I'm right now submerging myself knee-deep in Beatlemania via "Tune-In," and re-listening to their amazing early work, I am working on Rolling Stones songs for a show with our band whitewolfsonicprincess on September 6th.

I see the Beatles as a technicolor dream, and the Rolling Stones as a dream in rich black & white. If I had to choose, I'd say the Beatles were the greatest band, because they were there first, and they had a wider range of influences and styles. But although the Stones had a little narrower scope, in the course of their career they absorbed and reimagined Blues, R&B, Rock and Country just as successfully as any other band in the world.

And because the Rolling Stones had a little bit narrower focus, some of their records seem to me to be absolutely flawless. And this particular string of records seems unbeatable: Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street.

Still the first long-playing record I ever owned was The Beatles "White Album," (A double album!) and their impact on me is pretty much incalculable. But I never saw them live, like I have the Rolling Stones, and if you pressed me, it would probably be "Exile on Main Street" that I'd say is the greatest r&r record. But "Revolver" would be close second and maybe some days "Revolver" would be #1. And really I think musically the Beatles were the more inventive and creative unit (plus all 4 sang), but the Stones didn't do "granny music" and although sometimes the Stones were badly out of tune live, and in the studio, they didn't record a song as gratingly insipid as "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." That song drives me up the freaking wall! And McCartney's love of schmaltzy songs kind of taints some of the Beatles records for me... but hell, Sir Paul is a force of nature and a musical genius, so what do I know?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Joyous, Enthusiastic, Inspired!

I'm now about 500 pages into Mark Lewisohn's "Tune In." I wonder if the other volumes will be "Turn On," and "Drop Out." But that's probably a little too Leary...

Alterante title: "In Tune" - it seems like these guys always played in tune and on pitch, voices and guitars... amazing.

I have been driven back to my copy of the Beatles "Live at the BBC" two cd set (Volume Two is on my wish list!).   It's probably the closest you can get to what it was like to hear the Beatles in the glory days of Hamburg and Liverpool - recorded for the BBC from 1962-1965. A live 4-piece r&r group without all the hysterical screaming. Perfect soundtrack for the book. Except of course, Stu Sutcliffe played bass and Pete Best played drums in the early versions of the group. On these sessions you have Paul McCartney on bass (showing that it's not an instrument for the "fat guy in the back") and Ringo Starr on drums.

So yes, "Live at the BBC" is the lineup that we all know and love. Cleaned up and lots more disciplined on stage.  Lots of covers of all the music the Beatles loved.  I have been listening with new ears. This is some of the best music the Beatles ever played, these were the songs where they found their own sound. They were more than an amazing covers band. They listened, absorbed, embodied and reconstituted these cover songs. They learned 100's of these songs, early rock & roll, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Goffin & King, the Shirelles, the Marvellettes.  They loved the Tamla/Motown Girl Groups, and they weren't afraid to tackle any song that appealed to them.

There are some hokey show tunes and schmaltzy things too.  You realize the Beatles really loved music and their tastes and appetites were voracious. Probably wider and greater than your own.  Listen to "To Know Him is to Love Him," or "Baby It's You," and it's all there - the stunning harmonies, tight arrangements, and then there's that special, secret sauce, the "It Factor" (see previous post). Four voices. Joyous, enthusiastic. Inspired. And a source of much Mania!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is "It" Real?

This article about the "It Factor," from Grantland is good. Funny too.  It's about NFL quarterbacks, but can probably be extended into other realms. The "It Factor:" What is It? Does It exist? Does It come and go? Who has It? Who had It, and who doesn't have It anymore? Can you lose It? Or did we all just misread It? How do you get It? Who can recognize It? Is It real?

We think we know what the "It Factor" is, we can name people who have It. There are intangibles,  qualities, that we believe make up the "It." We think we know those qualities, (leadership, bravery, work ethic, charisma) and we swear we can see them embodied, see them in action. 

This is important in the NFL. Big dollars are attached to the question of "It." Every team is looking for that "franchise QB," there are scouts, and databases, and "evaluators," all trying to scope out that special secret sauce called, "It!"

How to explain a Tom Brady or Russell Wilson? How to explain that these two premier, Super Bowl winning QB's were passed up by every NFL team when they were available in the draft? How could all those experts miss the "It?" Maybe Brady and Wilson had "It" already, in spades, but nobody knew "It" yet, nobody saw "It," until, well, until they showed they had "It!" And then, well, of course, everyone decided that they had "It!"

Update: And what if underestimating someone's "It Factor," actually increases it? So in that case it wouldn't be surprising that Brady and Wilson were under-appreciated coming out of the draft, the under-appreciating was actually another element added to the mix of "It!" And maybe that under-appreciation will always be part of the elixir of "It," an element of under-appreciation adds an extra "chip on the shoulder," a little more "fire in the belly," which is then used as another motivator to show everyone that they were wrong about "It!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Microbiome - I didn't know that!

You could go through life exclaiming, "I didn't know that!" It's probably/maybe wiser to do that, as opposed to going around exclaiming "I knew that!"

We don't know what we don't know...

This little primer on the microbiome from Vox  gets you thinking about your body in a new way. Think: thriving, seething little ecosystem. At least that's the new paradigm science wants you to try on for size. 

Is it bad to have trillions of microbes living in and on you? No. It might be a very good thing!

Monday, August 25, 2014

We Sit, Shop, Grow Fat!

I listened to a great and enlightening conversation with Evolutionary Biologist Daniel Lieberman yesterday. The gist: our human bodies have evolved much slower than our human cultures. Our bodies are stuck in the Stone-Age, and we are "mismatched" with our current culture/society. Revelatory!

We were made to run, to hunt, to gather. And instead we sit, shop, and grow fat. Really, really super-sized fat. And most of our diseases are the result of this evolutionary mismatch. We are in conflict with our bodies. If we do what comes naturally - maximize calories, maximize and store fat, to be used later in times of crisis or need, well... just look around folks!

We must be very discriminating when it comes to the "modern world." It's a killer. We have built a world of comfort and plenty. We are not equipped biologically to live in the land of plenty, the land of fast food and cheap calories. We come from another world entirely. Our bodies are still stuck in a Paleolithic (early Stone Age) mode. Our bodies are of the past, alive in a present that over-rewards us in every way.

All of this makes so much sense. That dangerous Darwinian ideas resonates across the ages. What a conundrum. Our culture is in a turbo-speed evolutionary mode, and our bodies are still intimately connected to that long line of folks taking one little step at a time.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Deadly Stuff!

Yes, well, as they say, "pick your poison carefully." You will embody that poison. If it doesn't kill you immediately. And really, the poison that doesn't kill you at first taste, or kills you slowly, over time, is just as deadly as the stuff that drops you down dead on the spot.

The definition of poison - "a substance with an inherent property that tends to destroy life or impair health."  And "something harmful, or pernicious, as to happiness or well-being."

Yes, much of our "nourishment" and "entertainment," and human company is a certain kind of poison too. So you must tread carefully. I don't mean you that you should be timid, or fearful; just on guard, careful, and vigilant.

Yesterday I saw the effects of a slow-motion poisoning, of the head, of the body, of the spirit. It's a sad, debilitating thing. And it's happening all around us, all the time. And we are all subject to the effects. You can get a "contact" poisoning too. And it's easy to over-look, or down-play, or outright ignore.  Denial is such a powerful tool and poison too.

Best to keep your eyes peeled. And be sort of stingy on the things you take into yourself.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Punk Band Before Punk!

"Performing blotto and belching, farting, chewing, swearing, smoking, drinking and making lewd signs fast became the norm, the way to do it, done six long nights every week. Rapidly, all the stage time they'd ever had was matched and multiplied..."

"They did the first Carl Perkins LP, the whole first Johnny Burnette LP, the whole first Buddy Holly LP, as well as Elvis' Golden Hits, the whole first Gene Vincent LP..."

"In seven extraordinary weeks at the Kaiserkeller the Beatles had doubled the vast amount of stage time already accrued at the Indra. In total, inside just fourteen weeks, they'd rocked Hamburg for about 415 hours - like 276 ninety minute shows or 830 half-hours - and every night tried not to repeat themselves. No one stopped to realize it, and there was no way of knowing anyway, but the Beatles had to be the most experienced rock group in the world, not just Liverpool. And Hamburg didn't only multiply their repertoire, it toughened their voices, seasoned their characters, enriched their personalities, and strengthened their stamina."  - Excerpts from Mark Lewisohn's "Tune In."

I'm about 400 pages into "Tune In," Mark Lewisohn's amazing book on the Beatles early years. It's a story that has been told many times, but not quite this way, not quite with this detail, so, in that way, the story is new and astonishing.  In Pop Culture terms this is ancient history, I mean what happened last week is already "old news," but this story is rendered so vividly, it's like you are along for the ride in Hamburg and Liverpool in those early, early days (1960, 1961) of the band.

The Beatles were a punk band before punk. They were the Ramones & Sex Pistols and a harmonizing Girl Group like the Shirelles too. They were loud, and wild and they wore leather, and smoked on stage, and stomped around in boots doing their best to  bring the rickety stage in the Kaiserkeller crashing to the ground.

They made friends with a group of German art students, one of them named Jurgen Volmer and another Astrid Kircherr who took some gorgeous b&w photos of these rock & rollers...

Friday, August 22, 2014

To Seize and Be Seized!

Yes, well, Linklater's movie is still kicking around in my head. My initial post about it is here. So many great scenes and lines. It's an experience, like any other significant experience. That's the power of well-realized art. This sequence of dialogue has been rattling around inside me the last few days.

"You know how everyone's always saying seize the moment? I don't know, I'm kind of thinking it's the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us."

Maybe sometimes we do the seizing, or maybe we are seized. Or maybe we just meet the moment halfway?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Crooked Ladder

Have the Cops gotten too good at busting people? Interesting question.  The crooked ladder  is a way to transcend humble beginnings. But if we bust and incarcerate a whole generation of people, that ladder will never be available to lots of young males.  Our drug laws have criminalized way too many people. And the laws have not been applied equally.  Maybe a little bit of tolerance of non-violent "crime" can actually be a social good? Maybe lots of those young "street dealers" are just social strivers, street-level entrepreneurs, maybe we'd all be better off if some of these "crimes" were de-crimilized? Maybe busting poor people for jay-walking is total bullshit! Turns out court fees for low level stuff - traffic stops and jaywalking, is a major cash cow for Municipal Government in Ferguson MI. Malcolm Gladwell reviews the history and shows us that America was built by immigrant gangsters. Maybe we shouldn't just pull the ladder up and away, maybe we want people to climb the ladder? Maybe assimilating the "street smart" is good for society. I guess that sounds like a Liberal argument. But maybe it's just common sense?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When a Mistake isn't a Mistake!

One of the lines I wrote for the piece we performed over the weekend, was written in the script, and memorized as this: "The thought crept up and jumped out at me like an inebriated joker in a gorilla suit."

What I actually said during the show on Saturday night: "The thought crept up and jumped out at me like an inebriated gorilla in a gorilla suit."  

What I actually said was "wrong," but got a big laugh. It's actually a funnier line.  It worked so well, I decided, right there, in the moment, to repeat it, to repeat the mistake. And by repeating it, I was kind of claiming it, and deciding that it wasn't a mistake at all.

Someone later remarked that was the mark of a true professional.  Claim the mistake. Or as Brian Eno once put it, "Honor your mistake as a hidden intention."

Not sure, about that, I mean, the idea is to speak the words that are written, but this mistake sort of did the trick, and sometimes doing the trick is just enough.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Linklater Brings It!

You work on a project, write it, rehearse it, perform it. And then it's done. How to fill the void, the inevitable emptiness? Find other creative work that inspires.

We did just that yesterday. We saw Richard Linklater's latest movie "Boyhood." It's safe to say Linklater is one of our finest movie-makers working today, and at any time. And "Boyhood," is just a beautifully sublime example of a perfectly realized film.  Made over a 12 year period, it follows a boy and his family thru the 2000's.

Yes, it is some kind of masterpiece. A movie of our lives, our times. It will hit you on all levels. It asks all the big questions, but it does it in a subtle, almost invisible way. One of the finest movies I've ever witnessed. Reviews or descriptions don't do it justice, it must be experienced.  Loved it. Love it. It's sort of sublimely devastating, and renewing, at the same time.  Linklater brings it. What a great, great film. A must-see. Transcendent. Inspiring.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Abbie Fest 2014: Day Three

If your show came off fairly well on Saturday, and you stayed out late basking in the vibe, and watched some other cool shows into the wee hours, you are tired Sunday for the last day of Abbie Fest, but at least it's a sort of satisfied tiredness.  That was the case for us yesterday. Better than if the show came off badly... then you are just bone-tired, and you are kind of kicking yourself over lost moments and opportunities.  Not a good feeling.

So, yeah, anyway, we were tired yesterday, didn't really catch up, but felt good about the debut of our show the previous evening, so we could sit back and relax for the last day.

I pretty much laughed the day away. The highlight for me was the insane wackiness of Hobo Junction. I hesitate trying to even convey what their show was about, it was silly, stupid, ridiculous, over the top, insane, funny. Very funny.  

And The Resonant Authority. "Trust Only Us... We Are They!" Brilliant! Again, I don't have the energy at the moment to describe this show.  It was the best. So funny. Profound too!

And don't forget The Abbeys. Close harmony singing. Lots of Everly Brothers. Two voices, two black Gibson acoustic guitars, and a standup bass.  Pretty cool in a sort of uncool way. They've been singing together for 23 years.  The real deal.

We ended the evening late at the Horizon Cafe.  Family cooking. What a great little family diner! I ate a spinach/feta omelet the size of my head.  It was perfect, and delicious, and I ate the whole thing! 

That's it! Abbie Fest 2014! Put it in the books.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Abbie Fest 2014: Day Two

This was our day. We premiered our new piece called "Shimmerings." I blanked early in the show. Got to a line, and then blanked.  I know it happens, but it hasn't happened to me very often. I knew the script. I was well-rehearsed. The lines were in my head. Somewhere. But I got to a line and then stopped.  Dead-cold. My head was completely empty. I turned to my partner on stage, and luckily she bailed me out, started to do an action that triggered the line. I didn't jump, didn't panic. I righted myself, the line came, and then the rest of the show pretty much rolled out without a hitch.

The audience was with us. Surprise! It was first night. And maybe the last. That has been the pattern. We do a show at the Fest, it sees the light of day, and then vanishes.  It's a sort of Zen-type thing. It's our special brand of r&r theater. 

Before the show, I sat in the dressing room, facing a large mirrored wall. It was sort of like that scene from Raging Bull, Deniro channeling La Motta.  I tried to meditate, tried to ground myself, the waiting really is the hardest part. I couldn't help looking at myself in the mirror. It's not something I often do anymore.  I usually just check to see if I'm still here. But don't really want to linger on the details.  The years, the scars kind of accumulate. So, anyway, I looked in the mirror, and saw my father looking back at me. I realized, for the first time, that I really do look like my father, the way I remember him.  The same eyes, the same facial structure. But it was more than that, it was like he was with me, in me.  I really felt inhabited. It's been 8 years since he died. He died in August. And there he was, with me, in me. That was another surprise.

Oh yeah, we saw a few amazing shows last night. 

Mary Arrchie did "Hellish Half-Life" Shorter works from Samuel Beckett.  Powerful, disturbing, perfectly realized.  It was almost too real, too good, too perfect. Elemental. Hellish. Oh yeah, it's about us!

The Living Canvas presented "Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Skins." What to say? Breath-takingly great. Amazing. Beautiful. Captured the spirit and embodied it! So good. Words fail. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Abbie Fest 2014: Day One

You can't dip your toe in the same river twice.  You know, you're different, and the river is too.

Same with the Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Fest. Even if you've been there before, it's never exactly the same. Even if you are watching the opening ceremony where Rich Cotovsky channels the spirit of Abbie Hoffman, listen to Hendrix's still amazing, enthralling "Star Spangled Banner," and sing along to Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," at the end, just like you have so many, times in the past, it isn't the same.

Every year, the energy is different. There are new people. Old people. Everyone is a little older. I mean, the young ones seem even younger, and the old ones even older. Still, we were renewed into the ritual last night.  A very inspiring kickoff to the 3 day fest.  Rich Cotovsky also performed in Mary Arrchie's "Wild Dogs," a perfect little piece of theater. Rich has totally weathered into the role.  A man eats a Twinkie off the floor like a dog, and runs around the theater space like his tail is on fire. That's some kind of theater magic. And when Dylan's "If Dogs Run Free," starts playing on the stereo system, you just get a little chill, and want to howl at the moon.

Day two today!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Crappy = Self-Sufficient!

Cheap stuff. If you have a limited supply of cash, buying cheap stuff is essential. And there is a coolness factor when it comes to cheap stuff. Sometimes buying other people's discards can lead to some distinctive, cool, counter-mainstream, choices.

There are guitarists who have made a career, collecting and playing really crappy, and cheap guitars. It turns out lots of those instruments have very unique and interesting voices. Paying lots of dollars doesn't necessarily mean a better sound. I have a pretty cheap Mexican-Made Telecaster, that has lots of gritty personality. It's a guitar that I have modded, and fiddled with, and it is very much a "custom" guitar. Cheap, but custom. And I use it often!

Same with bicycles. I have excelled at finding really cheap bikes, discarded and refurbished. There is a whole sub-culture of crappy, vintage bikes that exists on the margins.  It's funny, the front tire of my pretty crappy bike was recently stolen. I, for some reason, not really thinking, wheeled it into a fancy bike shop to see if they could outfit me with a new tire and rim.  It was like I was a visitor from another planet. They looked at the bike like it was some ancient, rare, animal that they had never seen before.

And I guess it would be like driving a Model T into a car dealer today.  So, anyway, they told me that they would need to "special order" a new rim and tire, and that said rim and tire were rare and expensive parts, and they quoted me a price about 5 times what I originally paid for the bike. Very funny.

It was only then that I remembered I had another really crappy bike down in the basement at home, it was a bike that had served me well, but had basically disintegrated, and for some reason, I didn't get rid of it, but put it in storage. Turns out the front tire and rim were in good shape.  And they were exactly what I needed! Presto Change-O! I installed the tire and rim from the disintegrated bike and I was back in business.  If you specialize in "crappy," you can be pretty self-sufficient! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Everything is Fixable!

Everything is fixable. OK. Maybe not quite.  There are some things that are just not fixable. Suicide and Death by other means, top the list, but there's also disfigurement and old age. There are some things we can't fix, but most things we can.

I came across this little article about "depression and suicide." Interesting and informative.  At the end of the article, there was this, something to keep in mind...

"Ken Baldwin, who survived a jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, once told the New Yorker's Tad Friend that as he was falling, "he instantly realized that everything in my life that I'd thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Enjoy it While We Can!

It's really hard to get here. If you calculated the odds, it seems like a pretty healthy long-shot that you are even here, walking, talking, doing the things you do. What are the chances that that particular egg met up with that particular sperm? I mean there are billions and billions of us, so it's obvious this happens all the time, but just how did we get to you?

So, when one of us purposely X's themselves out, it sort of makes you pause, take stock.  And words do fail. And words like depression don't really make it explainable or understandable.  You can't walk in another person's shoes. And you can't feel anyone else's pain. We all feel pain and know what it is, but it's only ours, and it's not something you can trade or translate.

Morrissey famously said (hopefully being sincere, and not flip) upon hearing of Kurt Cobain's suicide: "I respect his decision."  What does it take to take yourself out? What kind of logic? What kind of state of mind must one be in to go through the practical steps that get you to take your own life?

Death is coming. It has it's own timetable.  No need to speed it along.  Why not live? There are lots of reasons to live. You see others with money and fame and the love and admiration of lots of other people, and you think that might be enough. It should be more than enough.  But we all get to decide this for ourselves.

And maybe death is not the end. We don't really know. But there is something amazing and cool about life and consciousness. And from this perspective it looks like it doesn't last forever. So I think we should try to enjoy it while we can, if we can.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Vivid, Vivid Detail!

I'm on page 210 of Mark Lewisohn's Beatles book, "Tune In." They are all still teenagers, Lennon is the oldest at 18. I believe I now know more about the Beatles formative years, than my own. My own childhood seems like a dimly glimpsed and recalled dream. Yes, it's an extraordinary book, but you definitely need to buy into the idea that these 4 lads are of supreme importance. I do, yes, I do.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Our Little Dream Bubble

Our little theater company, not so much a company, more like a little dream bubble, has been doing original work for nearly 2 decades.  We are in the midst of bringing another new piece to life, which we will premiere at the Abbie Fest this coming Saturday.  Yesterday was an intense session of rehearsing.

The day before we had a little bit of a "blow-up," we wanted to just forget the whole thing. This is part of the process. There's the initial inspiration of imagining, writing, envisioning, and then you go through the 5 stages of grief and loss. Finally you end up with "acceptance."

You kind of find out what you have, and try your best to realize it.  Yesterday we got into a little discussion, trying to decide if we are "Acting?" Or just "Performing?" For some reason we decided we are primarily "performing," with a little bit of "acting," on the side. And just what are we "performing?" 

We've decided it's a "piece." A thing. Not quite a play, sort of a performance thing, but not exactly. It's got a little bit of acting, some performance, there's music, and movement, and it all rolls along. There is a theme, there is some coherence, but it's also a little schizoid, and frenetic.  It's kind of what you might expect from our little dream bubble.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Capitalism vs. The Climate!

Question: "Is Earth fucked?" The Answer: "Yes, pretty much."

This is the defining issue of our generation, and of generations to come. And Capitalism is the problem. It's funny, Capitalism has been the solution for so long. It has led to so much wealth and so much prosperity.  It is the engine that keeps on giving. 

But it turns out our strength is also our weakness. "Unlimited Growth," is unsustainable.  In Nature, unlimited growth is actually called Cancer!  Naomi Klein has a new book coming out - "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate." Sounds like a "must read!" You'd think that if we really are the "Smart Monkeys" we'd throw in our lot with the Climate, in a heartbeat. We shall see...  

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Personal Influences

And what about me? What song (see previous post) or book or movie "changed my life?" I look back. I think that kind of thing must come from your "formative years." Young and impressionable.

Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle." That was the first Vonnegut novel I read, but you can add "Slaughterhouse 5," and "Breakfast of Champions" to the list too.  I had dabbled as a writer in grade school and high school, but coming across Vonnegut changed everything for me. Head-opening and funny. Deceptively simple, profound. I didn't think of writing or of writers the same ever again.

Sam Shepard's "Unseen Hand and Other Plays." This collection made me think I could write for the theater. It became an obsession. And led to acting and putting on productions, and founding a little theater company.

Bob Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind." I heard this song at a Folk Mass as a little kid. I thought it was some kind of old time folk classic. When I found out it was written by a 19 year old kid from Minnesota, well, it just blew my mind. My Mom brought "Dylan's Greatest Hits" home and I adopted it.  That sandpaper voice, so hard, so cutting, so elusive. I got my hands on a guitar, took lessons, it became my constant companion.

John Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band." The Beatles were done. Lennon's first album was a sort of a blood-letting. It was kind of an anti-Beatles manifesto. So personal. So clear-eyed. I thought it was the greatest record ever recorded. So basic - guitar, bass, drums, piano on a few tracks. Lennon's voice. Powerful. The best r&r voice on the planet. Bleak too. I still think it's the greatest album ever recorded. It's almost too real. It's almost too personal. Lacerating. Not easy listening. But great.

Hunter S. Thompson's political writing. I remember being in High School and reading HST out loud to my classmates. It was like I was revealing a personal secret. I stammered and got embarrassed, but I just knew that I was telling some kind of mad, corrosive truth.  HST was crazy, druggie, funny, and he was from an alternate reality.  I have carried this alternate reality with me ever since.

 "Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Live with the Bomb." It was an old movie. Black & white. Seemed so crazy. I realized that was the world. Funny. Crazy. We were all in this mad caper together. And we'd probably all blow ourselves up for some stupid reason. This one stills rings true. "We'll meet again, don't know how, don't know when..."

Friday, August 08, 2014

One Track Can Change A Life!

They say a song can change a life. In Mark Lewisohn's book, this is the track, recorded for RCA in Nashville in 1956, that blew minds and changed the trajectories of lives of a few teenagers, who later became pretty influential people in England. It's an atmospheric little song about a suicide, and hard-luck love.

It's hard to time-travel back and to hear this song with fresh ears.  We have heard so much r&r music over the years. We know so much about Elvis, and all that knowledge sort of clouds the crystalline simplicity and otherworldly spookiness of the track. It's like a voice of a ghost.  We hear the voice, and then flash on all the stages of Elvis' career, the terrible, cheesy movies, the Vegas schlock, the emergence of the clown-like specter of the Drug-Addled, Great White Whale Elvis. But the Elvis of this song, is not yet that Elvis.

It's impossible to experience this song, this Elvis for the first time. To hear it with ears that had never heard anything like it before. Hard to understand or convey what the impact must have been on those who heard it in 1956. But just listen to the track. Otherworldly echo & reverb. Essence of R&R. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison & Starkey all say this was the track that changed everything (Keith Richards too mentions this track as seismic and seminal in his book, "Life"). Lennon talks about how it was hair-raising, spine-tingling, (he experiences the song on a deep physical level), and it was just the pure sound of it that gave him a new mission and purpose in life. The song was a shared experience that connected and shaped these four teenagers before they even knew each other. And then, surprisingly, they found each other, and then well, they had a story to tell too.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

What Life is All About!

We are doing a new piece at the Abbie Hoffman Died for Your Sins Fest. Which has been our habit for many years now. We usually do something we haven't done before, although, all of the pieces we have done have had a certain similarity, you could probably string them all together into some kind of grand narrative.  Someone told us that we do "interpretive theater" by which I think they meant you need to hire an interpreter to explain what it's about.  I don't know, it always just comes out the way it comes out. Maybe that's a flaw or a feature. I'm pretty Zen about it. We do what we do.

This year, the piece is called "Shimmerings," but it started out as "Dead Poe," but I thought that title just gave too much away.  It's sort of inspired by Edgar Allen Poe, and we incorporated some of his poems and other writings into the piece.  I was thinking about how the great man Poe ended up in the gutter, out of his head, and that kind of gave me a starting point.  Poe wrote an an amazing little tract called "Eureka" which is some kind of illuminated document, and sort of resembles "string theory." 

"Eureka" is either brilliant, or just maybe the kind of document someone with an advanced mind and lots of opium might write.  Anyway, we work in some of the "Eureka" text too.  It all has put me in a very speculative and philosophical state of mind.  Running thru the text, memorizing the lines, and I have been tracking with Mr. Poe. And it makes me all wonder what this life is all about. Not sure about that either. Which I guess really is the general theme and gist of our theater work. No one really knows anything about the important things, there is mystery that underlies everything...

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Priests of Process

One day working and hanging with the Theater People, and then the next day, working and hanging with the Jazz People. Both camps kind of work on the margins of the larger cultural scene.  Secret societies. Specialists. Almost like Monks or Priests of Process. There are the unique ways of working. Lots of energy and intelligence brought to bear on projects that will be seen and heard by only a very small audience. There's creativity, and practice, and experience, and improvisation, and a sense of play. There may be dreams of "changing the world," of "kicking down the doors," of making some kind of grand cultural impact, but those dreams are buried deep in the bones. Forefront in the brain, in the body is process.  Process and work.  It's all consuming. And that's everything.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Art as Gift!

Somewhere along the line I read David Foster Wallace talking about "Commercials vs Art," and how a commercial could be artful, but can't be art, because it's purpose is to sell you something, and that Art is a "gift." Not just a gift possessed by the artist, but a gift that the artist gives to you. It has no ulterior motive, except to be. In one sense an Art Object is sort of "useless." Now of course, there is an "Art Market," but the marketing of art has really nothing to do with Art. The impulse of Art is to create something - painting, song, story, etc. that didn't exist before, that takes on a life in the viewer's or listener's or reader's mind. And the moment or action of Art happens in this kind of strange and esoteric communication between the Artist, the Art, and the person who receives the Art. And maybe what's communicated is a sense of beauty, or some kind of feeling, or a spark of an idea or whatever. It's a little thing, a thing that can't really be quantified, or marketed, or captured. It happens, or it doesn't happen. You can't buy it, or own it; that sense, it's kind of a gift, a gift that is just presented to you, whether you recognize it or pick it up, that's up to you. It has nothing to do with selling or buying.

Monday, August 04, 2014

One More Outrage

Yes, it turns out that Human Beings are capable of just about anything. Lying, murdering, thieving. We will torture each other. We will slit a throat, stab in the back, gun down as easily as brushing off a fly.  You could catalog the atrocities.  You could list the crimes and outrages. And you could probably rank them too.  Abusing children is pretty much the lowest of the low. But murdering children is even one more outrage, as horrible, as unconscionable, and as unjustifiable as you can get. And then, watch it, Human Beings will even, with a straight face, stand in front of other Human Beings and come up with excuses and reasons for murdering children. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Long Unfolding!

And then questions lead to more questions. As human beings, we think we are pretty hot stuff. That we are smart and can figure things out.  But after awhile you begin to wonder if dogs or insects think the same thing. So in my previous post (see below) I make lots of assumptions, that maybe just show that we don't really understand as much as we think we understand.

We are very much influenced by our own personal experience of time, causation,  and  what we think of as a "sequence of events." We may just be bumping up against the limits of our own understanding as individuals, and as a species. Maybe as they say, "everything we know is wrong," or at least, partial, and maybe even beside the point.

So we look at a life, or a history, and we see a sequence, but this kind of looking and seeing and analysis, this kind of understanding, is actually just a construction that we use to try to make sense of a grander thing that we can't really encompass or get our heads around.  Yes, we are trying to catch an ocean of life, of experience, of time, in a little sieve.  The water pours through the sieve, we watch it and draw conclusions, make speculations, think we understand.

We try to separate our selves out from the universe of things but by stepping out we have already lost the thread.  There is a long unfolding going on. We are part of it, and only a tiny part of it. And that is all really. The rest is just sort of for "entertainment purposes only." We can think and speculate all we want, maybe it's useful to us.  But there is a grander thing going on. And it has very little to do with what we think or speculate about it.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

One Way this Thing Rolls Out?

So you are reading a story. Or really a history. A narrative of a sequence of events. You understand that there are many narratives, probably as many narratives as there are stars in the sky, or grains of sand on the beach. But really, there was just one particular sequence of events that happened. One sequence, one, a series of events rolling out one particular way. You wonder if there is only one way for anything, for everything to happen. Is it true that whatever happened was the only thing that could  have happened? Did everything have to happen the way it did happen? Could one detail have been different? And if you change one detail, is it a totally different story, a different history? Is there really only one way this thing rolls out? Counter-factual - is there really such a thing as "could," or "would," or, "what if," or are these just mind-games we play? 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Leaders vs. Salesmen

Maybe it's the guilt-ridden, ex-catholic in me, but I ended up reading (see previous post) the last essay from DFW about the 2000 Presidential primary.  What a gruesome subject. McCain, Bush2 - negative campaigning, etc.

Still it was worth the slog. DFW shows us the media machine from the inside. And goes on a very interesting digression about "Leaders," and "Salesmen."  He makes a rock-solid case that we live in the age of the Salesmen, very few Leaders to be found. And aren't we leery of Leaders anyway?  

The the mass market marketing campaign has morphed into every aspect of our lives. And is "truth-telling," just another marketing approach?  It's hard to pinpoint the genuine, the true when everything is for sale and everything is just another tactic to be used to gain some advantage or vote.

And voting is voting, and not voting is voting. And those in power (see the day's headlines) actually want to turn us off from voting and participating. What a hall of mirrors.  The last line from DFW: "Stay Awake."  It's harder than you think.

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