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Friday, October 31, 2014

R&R Poet Does Not Disappoint!

What do I expect from my favorite writer, R&R poet, Shaman, and spirit-guide? I expect pithy insight - and enlightened commentary. And you know what? She does not disappoint...

"I can't say it's always been a happy life, but I like being alive." - Patti Smith

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cabal of Disgruntled Women?

Of course, as one of my good friends pointed out to me, the Ghomeshi thing (see previous post) isn't exactly a "he said/she said" kind of thing. It's a "he said/she said AND she said AND she said, AND she said" too thing. So yes, you have to believe that not only a disgruntled girlfriend is making stuff up, but that a little cabal of women are conspiring together. You know, kind of like those Weird Sisters in the beginning of "Macbeth."

And if your only defense (I'm paraphrasing) is that "Yes, well, I do have a weird kink in the bedroom, but it was all consensual," you need to make sure that all of your partners believe, and will say, that it was consensual too. Otherwise your understanding of "consensual" isn't really what you think it is.

So anyway, listened to Q last night. The show is one of my favorites. I think it will be fine without it's original voice. It will carry on. Sort of like the Tonight Show, or Pink Floyd.  Sometimes that original, defining voice can be transcended.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The "He Said, She Said" Thing is Always So Confusing!"

CBC fires Jian Ghomeshi Over Sex Allegations!

I hate those "he said, she said" kind of stories. You don't really know who is the perp and who is the victim. If you choose a side, you are just revealing your own bias. And people have no problem taking one side or the other, and totally denouncing those on the other side. So ugly.

And what is the truth? Hard to tell. Is it a case of a powerful, successful person, taking advantage of his position, or is it a case of a group of women "conspiring" to bring a good man down? 

The evidence is sketchy. Was it all consensual sex? Or was it aggressive uncalled for abuse? I have no great insight on this, except to say "who knows?!"

And then the lawyers will get involved, and then who has the better team of lawyers? Who has more money to spend? Who can demonize the other side more effectively? How do you decide what happened? And what is just?

It's all so murky, and muddy, and dark and confusing...

I did enjoy listening to Jian's show Q. I thought he was a charismatic, and gifted interviewer. He had a special interest in music, and I discovered lots of new music via his show: The Civil Wars, the xx, Shovels & Rope...

But there's the work and the man... and sometimes one does not really give us insight on the other... there's the mystery... what happened?!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Yes. Our. Choices.

I've never read any of the Harry Potter books. I saw a scene or two from one of the movies. That's it for my exposure to the phenomenon. But I think I kind of get what they're about. I'm not against Harry Potter. I don't think it's "witchery" or pro-Satan. Or anything like that.

But I do have some really great friends and teachers who have read the books. And I always like to hear their insights on things they like about the books. One of my friends highlighted this quote. Yes. Choices. Absolutely!

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." -Professor Dumbledore, 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets'

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Priceless and Fleeting!

"All We Will Ever Have" - exactly. I mean this is exactly where my mind has been lately. This is so eloquent and on target.

"We look about us, on the streets, and in the subways, and we discover that we are beautiful because we are mortal, priceless because we are so rare in the universe, and so fleeting." - Philip Applebaum

Saturday, October 25, 2014

All We Have is Beauty!

All we get is a slender reed to cling to. That slender reed is beauty. It's the one quality that makes the world tolerable. Time is a beast. It looms over us, it's unending. We live in a blip of time, but the universe carries on for millions and millions of years. It carries on with or without us. People come and go. Life rolls on. We look for meaning, we look for purpose, we look for a reason to believe. We mainly get silence. A large looming, monolithic silence. There is light, color, sound. There is the play of elements. That's it. We see beauty in the play. Or not. It's up to us.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Talent Doesn't Exist!

Yeah, I don't think "talent" actually exists. And I think the term is way over-used, and mis-used, too. There are very few Mozarts composing symphonies at 3 years old, but that is so rare and unusual. I mean some people have "perfect pitch" or a wide vocal range, or can jump high, or hold a basketball with one hand, but those aren't really "talents," I would call them physical gifts.

So yes, there are some "gifted individuals" who have an advantage when it comes to some tasks and occupations. But most of us have to apply ourselves.  We must study, and practice. And really, really want to do something. And it's amazing what we can do if we really get obsessed with doing it. We can do extraordinary things, even if we are just ordinary human beings. And sometimes it's our flaws, our lacks, our deficits, which propel us forward to be creative and enterprising, and to even work harder.

When someone says they don't have a "talent" for something, they are just taking themselves out of the game - it's like they just don't have the real "want to." Which is OK. Not all games are for all folks. We are drawn to some things and repelled by others, that's just part of our individual, unique personalities. But look at the history of art or music or business, or even sports, whatever you can think of, and marvel at all those hard-working "talentless" people who worked harder, practiced more, tried out more things, thought creatively and "out of the box," and who did, or are doing, amazing things.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Thing About "Art!"

That's the thing about "Art." Some times there is a very thin line between what's extraordinarily great,  profound and enlightening, and what's embarrassingly lame, poorly-executed and terrible. And it's all in the "eye of the beholder." And often this line shifts around over time. What may have once been considered a terrible mistake is now considered an essential, perfectly-conceived work. And vice versa. "Art" is just so damn nebulous too. I think that's why we love it. Can't pin it down. Can't contain it. Can't really understand it either. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bad Feelings and Noxious Vibes

Yesterday, as per Arlo Guthrie, I was just "sitting on the Group W Bench," minding my own business, when I was suddenly totally overwhelmed with bad feelings and noxious vibes. Where the hell did they come from? Waves of despair, worthlessness, and futility totally washed over me.

My mind and my body were permeated with these feelings of darkness. No clue what triggered it. Was it the cloudy day? The barometric pressure? Something I ate? Bad chemistry? Some kind of precognition? Who knows? 

I carried these dark feelings with me during the long, bleak day. I plowed on through. When I got home, I plunged into my own little flow activities. Made dinner. Played my guitar. Sang songs. Slowly, almost imperceptibly the darkness evaporated. 

This morning, I feel empty, and clear. The storm has passed. Where did it come from? Where did it go?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Complete Basement Noise!

The Complete Basement Tapes is to be released in November. I am going to have to dig deep into my pockets to get a copy. I mean, I do have the 1975 version, which has a pretty nice selection of songs, and I also have a burned copy of a bootleg version that had more songs, but looking at the track list of this version just looks so tempting. All the juicy bits!

This is probably the most famous and influential set of songs ever recorded in a basement - okay, maybe Exile on Main Street ranks up there too. Still this is an amazing collection of music from Dylan and the Band, chilling out, smoking dope, playing covers and originals. You can hear a ramshackle, laid-back ease and joy in the tracks. And what's funny and amazing, Dylan pretty much walked away from this music and moved on to other things.

These were raw tracks, not meant to see the light of day. And some of the songs are among the greatest songs Dylan ever wrote: Tears of Rage, I Shall Be Released, Goin to Acapulco, Sign on the Cross, I'm Not There, Clothes Line Saga. And some of them were never played again. Amazing. There is just an overpowering sense of creativity, oozing from every last track. Some of the tracks are messy, and there are false starts, and there's laughter, and that all makes it that much more exciting and mind-blowing. You hear Dylan relaxed and having fun, playing with his greatest backing band - just for the hell of it.

Love some of the covers they do too: Big River, You Win Again, Folsom Prison Blues...

The absolute complete best!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wisdom & Oblivion!

As Dylan famously sang in the basement, "too much of nothing," can be a bad thing. Turns out too much of something isn't a good thing either. It's all about the portions. Sometimes the right amount of poison can actually be "good for you."

And I think as I once said, "too much of a good thing, can be a bad thing." According to Wm. Blake, "the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom," but you know that little dude was kind of a joker, and that line comes from his little missile "Marriage of Heaven and Hell," and the quote is one of his Proverbs from Hell!  

The road of excess can also lead to oblivion... and maybe sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between wisdom and oblivion, but I think there really is a difference!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Found My Voice!

I got it into my head that I wanted to master the art of harmony singing. Really. I can always find time for my own crazy obsessions, and I happen to be living on my own right now with 4 little birds. And the birds have no real say in what I do, or don't do.

So, armed with a little digital recorder, a set of headphones, an acoustic guitar, and my voice, I have been singing and recording cover songs and working out harmony parts, and then overdubbing those parts. I didn't even realize I could do it. So just the doing is sort of empowering. 

I'm not saying it all sounds great, my voice is an acquired taste, even for me, but I have been surprised at my own vocal range. I can hear the notes in a chord and then sing the note. So I've worked out duo parts and trio parts. How self-indulgent. A duo and trio of me!

I guess in a way, it's sort of a very particular kind of "self abuse!" I do wonder about the neighbors, but hell, it's a free country, right?! Some of the songs I'm singing include: Dead Flowers by the Stones, Knocking on Heaven's Door by Dylan, Rain by the Beatles, Baby it's You by the Shirelles (the Beatles covered it too), and Redemption Song by Bob Marley.

Some of my all-time favorite songs. Anyway, I don't own the copyright on any of these songs, so I won't be posting them anywhere. It's all just practice. But it is all consuming. It's the good work. I have found my voice! After all this time...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Go Your Own Way!

If you are a human being, you should remember that you are a human being, and you are very much like all the other human beings on the planet. Our similarities are overwhelming. Whatever surface differences exist really are surface. We all have characteristics unique to us, but still we are also essentially the same.

At the same time, those unique characteristics really are unique to us. They are important and in small ways they are absolutely essential to what make us us. We really are goddamned snowflakes too. And what works for one goddamned snowflake might not work for another.

So what we do, what we eat, how we sleep, what we think, how we deal with life and stress, all of these things really are unique to us. And we should be happy to embrace our own unique ways. As Lindsey Buckingham once sang, "You can go your own way."

It's really the best advice I could pass onto to someone, if for some odd reason they were asking for advice from me.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Clean Green Cold Fusion - Magic Bullet?

Sometimes you get the impression that our species is hurtling towards a certain doom. But you know, people have been thinking apocalyptic thoughts from the beginning. And the human waves just keep rolling out. I mean, if you think far enough ahead, the sun burns out and the universe collapses. But we won't be around to see it happen, and that is a long, long time away.

We don't know how things will work out for our species in the medium term either. Most of us came on the scene in the middle, and we will leave in the middle too. We won't be around to see how it all works out.

John Robb tells us that our real existential threat is "a corrupt decision making system." We are a "smart" (although maybe not as smart as we think we are) and adaptable species - "... if our social decision making systems are sound, we'll avoid catastrophe. If not, disaster."

So, there's that. And then you hear about Google working on driverless cars, and Green technology improving by leaps and bounds, and then you read about Lockheed Martin, one of those great Military industrialists, working on clean, green cold fusion power and you think "magic bullet!"

And well it would be like one of those classic Greek plays where the "Deus Ex Machina" comes and saves the day.  Makes good drama.  So yes, there's hope. Always hope. And well, maybe we're not so smart, and not so dumb, but we are really really adaptable. And that's sorta, kinda encouraging...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

U2 - House Band for the Establishment!

Bono and U2 are the gift that keeps on giving. Probably not in the way they planned it. Bono actually kind of sort of "apologized" for "putting U2's album in everyone's iCloud library."

Bono: "I had this beautiful idea. Might have gotten carried away with ourselves. Artists are prone to that kind of thing.  A drop of megalomania, a touch of generosity, a dash of self-promotion, and a deep fear that these songs we poured our life into over the last few years might not be heard."

This after he and band cashed in their chips and took their $100 million from Apple to the bank.  Ha! Bono wants his cake and to eat it too. Guess you can't blame him. Bono wants to be rich, famous, successful, popular, and cool! Sorry. Doesn't work that way.

As Josh Wimmer, another disgruntled U2 fan puts it: "The worst part of being a U2 fan is just how goddamned uncool U2 is."

Yes, exactly. And "coolness" is a super slippery and elusive thing. You can't manufacture it. You can't will it. You can't really do anything to earn it. It just descends or not. You wear it like aura or not. You carry it or not. 

Love this from Josh: "... it's hard not to describe their 21st century incarnation as the house band for the establishment." Perfect! He then goes to suggest ways U2 can do things to try to earn back their "coolness." Which is a fool's errand. There's nothing to do, or can be done, to earn it back.

Which is not to say that U2 can't be cool again. But events would need to conspire. And it's hard to see how it could happen. I'm not saying U2 is fated to be thought of in the same way as Vanilla Ice, or Milli Vanilli, or M.C. Hammer, or... fill in the blank. There is a price to be paid for being "house band for the establishment." You cash in your cool card and you may never get it back.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Most Potent Drug in the World!

I often read John Robb's blog. And he often "blows my mind." Seems he is always thinking, and thinking "out of the box." Screw the box, right?

Anyway, this post "ISIS is the Leading Supplier of the Most Potent Drug in the World" is quite thought-provoking. Forget all the cable TV blather... Check out Robb!  Zealotry!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Life. It's Just the Doing!

Last week our little life was book-ended by a death and a birth. That's how it goes around here. Death and life. Sorrow and joy. All the time. 24/7.  It's that kind of Universe. 

And you realize it's always, always, always like that. Everything happens all the time. I guess if you could step back and look from a "God-like" perspective, it would just be a constant churning: life and death, dark and light, action and inaction, a push and pull, the old "in and out."

When you are in the middle of it all, riding the wave, it all seems sort of unbearable. You can be consumed by the churning ocean of your feelings. And then, sometimes you can exhale. Become a bit detached. Sort of Zen.  

Life makes Philosophers of us all. If we are awake. We are not going to figure this out. Life is not a puzzle to be solved. We won't get our way. We can't just finesse our way through it. We must experience it. Take it in. Endure.

Life. It's just the doing...

Monday, October 13, 2014

How Many Heroes Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

A good friend of mine told me he was on "The Hero's Journey," that his life was one long rambling narrative, with him as the Hero, and that Universe has been unfolding, scenes of his life have been rolling out over many years, but he was sure, soon, who knows, maybe any moment now, his life-long quest would be coming to fruition. He would find what he was seeking, the treasure was soon to be claimed. All he had to do was "follow his bliss" and all would be revealed and resolved... I was a little bit befuddled. I mean, I thought it was "I" who was on the Hero's Journey, and that this long rambling narrative was about the scenes in my life, and well... treasure, fruition, bliss, etc. I mean, what About Me?!?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Know Thy Self - If You Have One!

Self. What is it? Does it exist? Should we know it, and be true to it? Is it, as some tell us, just a fiction, a useful delusion? Or is it the essence of us? Essential?

If we do have a self, I think it's best to be ourselves, to the limit. To be ourselves as much as we can be ourselves. No sense in trying to be someone else.

But just like everything else in our lives, this "self business" is sort of a mystery. A question without a clear answer. Something we must decide for ourselves, that is, if we have selves in which to do the deciding!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"Selling is What Selling Sells." - Joe Strummer

Still haven't listened to U2's "Global Spam Record" yet. See my post "No Thanks U2!" Probably won't for awhile. I am a "spurned lover," nothing worse. I am totally pissed off that one of my favorite bands totally subsumed themselves into a corporate marketing campaign.  A big, powerful, popular band, that could basically do anything they wanted to do. A band that answers to no one.

It's the way that they released the record that really rubs me the wrong way. SPAM! Free Junk Mail! Talk about devaluing the music, devaluing Art. I just hate it! Still it did generate lots of opinion and good writing.

Terry Flamm at Broken Hearted Toy liked it - "Another keeper from this veteran Irish band." Greg Kot and Jim Derogotis of Sound Opinions "double trashed" it! Here's from the kinder and gentler Kot: "This is what a dinosaur does in it's last days." 

And maybe my favorite article is this from Jacobin Magazine - "This is what Capitalism does to music." What a great take-down. And this really, really pisses me off: "Both Bono and bass player Adam Clayton publicly lamented the dip in sales for 'No Line on the Horizon.'"

What's funny, I actually loved "No Line on the Horizon," I think it's a rich, layered, beautifully realized record.  It sold over 5 million copies! WTF!

So I guess it's just about the sales, the marketing and how many units sold.  How pathetic... 5 Million sold doesn't cut the mustard? I think of Nick Drake, of Big Star, of Van Morrison, of Sonic Youth, the Clash, the Ramones, the Velvet Underground, of all those great legendary bands who did great work, dying to be heard, dying for an audience.

"How much of this album was designed simply to sell itself?" Makes me think of U2 like toothpaste, like toilet paper, like a box of paper clips - except maybe less useful!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cry Baby Cry!

A young couple in our building have a new baby. Late in the afternoon, the little infant always has a crying session. It's like clockwork - every afternoon. Lasts for about 40 mins. or so. It's a very determined, and at least during these sessions, a very unhappy little baby. Yesterday, as I was heading out to the street, I heard the baby crying. My first and only thought: "Kid, you don't know the half of it."

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Dylan & Murray!

Voices from a life. This clip features two of the most significant voices I've encountered in my life. Don't "know" either of these people, but I do know much of their work. Music and films.  A friend tipped me to this clip this morning, and it just made me smile, and sing a long, and it opened my heart too...

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The History of the Universe

There was the Big Bang, then This Moment.  

Oh yeah, and there were a few things that happened In Between.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Eternal Sadness that Never Goes Away

Lucinda Williams has a new record coming out, a double-album.  She is a natural wonder, a woman with soul and grit and a fiery spirit. Her voice works like honey and acid, it gets under your skin. Don't piss Lucinda off!

She's a true American original. A poet and outlaw...

Love a whole string of her records: Essence, Car Wheels on A Gravel Road, World Without Tears, Blessed...

"A lot of times, I just write about the eternal sadness that never goes away." - Lucinda Williams

Monday, October 06, 2014

Beauty Surrounds Us!

Alive. All that we have can be snatched away in the blink of an eye. While we are here, I think we need to do our best to search out and see the beauty that surrounds us, to carry ourselves with grace, to be compassionate, and live to the fullest. To try to do the best we can. Lean to the light. Do the good work, etc.

Just because.

I came across this amazing video surfing for other things.  It's Bon Iver featuring Justin Vernon and Sean Carey - singing and playing piano at AIR studios. I don't own any of Bon Iver's records, although, I hope to remedy that situation soon, so I don't know if this is characteristic of their work or not. This little concert at an old church built in 1880 is just breathtakingly beautiful. One of the most soulful, beautiful mini-concerts I've ever seen or heard.

Life enriching. Soul-stirring. The kind of thing we should fill our lives with...

Sunday, October 05, 2014

"The Good Work" Mantra

So yes, one of my close friends, a great creative collaborator, a contemporary, an amazing spirit and soul passed away two days ago. So devastating. Word fails. Emotion wells up and is overwhelming. Feelings of bottomless pain and loss. And helplessness. 

I will miss him. It feels like a part of myself has died too.  And it's true. And final.  How to carry on? Nothing seems the same. Everything has changed.

We went to see the Magritte show at the Art Institute. My friend loved art, was in artist in all ways, so it seemed like the right thing to do.

I always kind of thought Magritte was sort of a "lightweight." I was wrong. His work does have a lightness of touch; it's whimsical, and mysterious, and odd, and beautifully, exquisitely, rendered. But there is depth, and the attention to surface is multi-layered.

And that lightness is profound too. There is a grace to Magritte. Something magical comes across, even as he focuses on the mundane or everyday. Sometimes a train is a train, or a pipe is a pipe, and sometimes it seems so much more.

Can a painting on a wall still speak to us? Can a perfectly realized image of a pipe capture you? Of course. It can knock you out, and enchant, and confound, and make you laugh, and scratch your head. And you will marvel at how the oil paint still looks moist and alive.

We had to wait in a line, in the rain, out on the street in front of the Art Institute to see the show. Waiting in a line is one of my most hated things in the world to do. But we waited. And really, surprisingly, the show was worth the wait.

If I have a "religion," I guess mine would be "art." It's not always reassuring, or good, and doesn't promise anything when we die, but it can enchant and challenge us now, and we can use it to help us try to fill that emptiness that is always fighting to consume us.

When my great friend and I were working together on a creative project, he would always tell me it was the "good work." This was then, and still is now, my mantra...

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Losing a Bit of Ourselves

People die. It happens all the time. If someone really close to you dies, it's sort of like losing a part of yourself. If you live long enough, you will experience this for yourself. There is pain, it goes very, very deep. There is loss. And there is really nothing to do about it. Except experience it. You don't want to forget. Forgetting is losing a part of your life, part of yourself too. You want to honor the person you have lost, and the time you have spent together. When we let people into our lives we are creating something together, something unique and extraordinary. When we lose these people, we are losing a bit of ourselves too. So you remember, and feel the pain, feel the loss, forever, or at least as long as you can remember, that's how life goes.

Friday, October 03, 2014


When the coffee is working, and the day is rolling out nicely, I'd say, "Tragically Optimistic!"

If the coffee is not doing it's magic, and there are bumps in the road, I'd say, "Optimistically Tragic."

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Shovels & Rope - An Unholy Racket!

Shovels and Rope, a husband and wife duo. I heard them on the radio, it sounded like a full band, then found out it was just the two of them making an unholy racket. Incredible energy. So good!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Euphoria. What is it Good for?

Euphoria. What is it good for? Who knows? It's an overflowing of good feeling, intense happiness, and self-confidence. From the Greek: a state of well-being.

Yes, a state you can visit, but not live in. Maybe a state that descends upon you? Or is it a self-generated state - some particular combination of body chemistry, barometric pressure, the weather, the day of the week, or something else?

Probably best to just enjoy it, and not question it too closely. I have found that my euphoric states are usually followed by some kind of depletion, or dip in energy... so maybe it's just a forerunner of something bleak?

And when does euphoria tip into "mania" - an abnormally elated mental state? Who knows? There is a continuum, one thing bleeding into another and one state drifting into another. That's life.

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