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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Deepest Wisdom

As 2015 approaches, I am feeling road-tested. I mean, I have been driven around the block a few times. I mean, like over and over and over again. I can look back and remember things that happened long ago and far away in another century.

Time marches on. With big muddy boots.

Sometimes it all seems sort of arbitrary, and meaningless, I mean does the universe really count by number? Is this a "by the numbers" universe? Does 2015 really mean a thing?

It is some kind of marker. Maybe it's a gauge of how much experience a person has accumulated on the planet. Some of this experience is helpful and instructive, and some of it is maybe not.

I'm in a wise guy mood this morning. And what is "wise?" If you pressed me, I'd say it's all sort of Zen/Paradoxical.  

This is the worst of times, the best of times (thanks C. Dickens), each of us is the center of a universe that has no center. We are the most important thing in the world, and the least important. All life is holy, and all life is cheap.  

I think, sometimes I really have no clue about what's really going on. And maybe that is the deepest wisdom of all...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Living in the Moment!

Living in the moment. Living moment to moment. I recommend it. Days run away like wild horses. Years pass by in a blur. You blink, and there goes a decade. But you really can live in the moment. And sometimes a moment can seem like a lifetime.

The past is gone, the future isn't here. And what you remember, and what you imagine, is not really what you thought it was, or what you think it will be.

It's only the moment, the now, the always now, that exists in real time. You can get lost in a moment. You can find everything there. And everything is real, and true, and alive in the moment. Every moment is the first, and it is the last. Moment. That's it.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Our Recycled World!

Our recycled world.

And then there is music about music. Songs about other songs. And bands really trying to be other bands. And movies about movies. And movies about TV shows, and TV shows about movies, and novels about TV shows and movies, and movies about novels and about TV shows and movies, and don't forget comic books made into movies, and TV shows, and grand multiple movie franchises.

And then there are restaurants that are about being a restaurant. Fast food joints that are about serving things that are something like food. They resemble, remake actual real food into a sort of faux facsimile. And there are vast hollow chains spread across the land, chock-full of products that resemble other products, except, not as good, not as well-made, not really good stuff - crappy stuff that breaks and falls apart and disintegrates and clutters up our lives, but always at the "best price."

And it turns out that we are very sophisticated in our tastes and we actually grow to like stuff that resembles other stuff. We like the copies of copies. It makes things familiar but slightly different too. We think we are smart and discerning and we get really good at tracking how things become other things, and where they are derived from, and what spawned them, and we get joy and pleasure in our great, smart understanding of our recycled existence.

When we come up against something truly authentic, original, challenging, something that doesn't fit the template, it's very off-putting, and really we want to kill it or ignore it, or bury it. It's the kind of stuff that shows us maybe we don't know what we think we know, and maybe what we know is wrong. And we laugh at the idea of "authentic," and "original," and think that they are not important, or just the same old thing pretending to be something else.

It's a nicely contained, well-insulated existence.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Past With Some New Toys

I grew up in the "Generation Gap" era. Also there was the "Pepsi Generation." There were all these kids, and then there were the adults and it seemed like there was a large, unbridgeable, yawning gap between them. Still it turns out that what the adults did and what the kids ended up doing too wasn't really all the different or radical.

"No more war," turned into lots of little wars, conducted by professionals. And then of course the "terror" came down upon us, and then there was "perpetual war."  Yes, the hairstyles changed, and the clothes, and the movies and music, but much of it was the same old stuff in a new package.

I guess the internet and computers, and smartphones are a leap into the future, but in many ways the future seems pretty much like the past with some new toys.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Age!

Some things get better with age. Guitars. Tube Amps. Fine wines. Bourbon.

Some things decidedly do not get better with age. For instance human beings.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Created and Destroyed!

And yes, maybe we are stuck on a cross too.  We are nailed to a contradiction.  Our bodies are imperfect, fragile, subject to time and decay. But our consciousness is nearly perfect. With this amazing tool we can imagine anything. We can transcend time and space. We can create, and conjure. We can conquer all comers.

We perceive the world and invent it too.

But since we have both this fallible body and this expansive mind, we are sort of trapped in a nether-world of imperfection and perfection. We are nailed to a cross. We create and destroy and are created and destroyed.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Our Story Too!

Whatever the story. This day is sort of a remembrance and celebration of events that supposedly happened long ago. Who knows if it was the real story, and if it really happened at all? I think it's best to think of it all as some grand poetic metaphor. Some little baby was born somewhere. And a new consciousness sprang into the world. It happens every day. Actually probably every minute of everyday. That's how we continue to add to the billions of beings with consciousness to the planet.

And this little baby was "special," and "different," just like every other one. And then this little baby grew up and had a life. And then as an adult that life ended. That unique consciousness disappeared from the planet. Or at least that's how it seems to those on the planet. And this too happens all the time, every hour of every day. 

So yes, the world begins and ends every moment. So I guess we can celebrate that. It's kind of a bittersweet thing. And where does that consciousness go? Does it vanish? Does it accumulate? Or transform? I guess we decide to think of it any way that appeals to us.

And if we tell the story, and repeat it, in that way it lives. It's the same for all of us. That's the story, our story too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Believing! And Hope!

Believing. I believe it helps to believe. In something. Not sure what. But just believing in something. Something greater, or bigger, or more meaningful. I think it helps to make it through this "vale of tears."

Now, you hope that what you believe doesn't cloud your mind or vision. Doesn't actually blind you to the world. You hope that a simple belief in believing can be empowering. And that you can use it to see the world more clearly. You hope.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Adds to the Darkness!

Since everyone has a megaphone, everyone has a platform to vent, everyone has something to say, and everyone really, really wants to be heard, we end up with so much "ugly rhetoric." Really shameful. There are too many of us willing to spread the hate. Instead of trying to be cool, rational, pragmatic, sympathetic, empathetic, understanding, so many of us just can't wait for an excuse to fan the flames. All of our "social media" just makes it all so easy to spew awful words. It's like many of us actually want to hype the hate, inflame the situation, yell "fire" in a crowded room. It's a little baffling, and terribly destructive. Yes, as they say, "words have consequences." I believe in intentions,  good intentions and bad intentions, and if your intentions, and your words are coming from a dark place, that only adds to the darkness. And you and your words are part of the problem.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Really there is no escape...

That's how it goes. You think it's gonna be one thing, then it turns out to be another. You think it's gonna be bad, turns out better than you thought. You think it's gonna be good, turns out worse than you expected.

You end up doing things you didn't think you'd do. This can be an eye-opening thing. Maybe broadens your horizons. Or you think, "Never Again!" We are all trapped. By circumstance. By time. By biology. Sometimes being trapped is actually a good thing. Sometimes not. And really there is no escape.

You want to escape. But escaping just means accepting a new set of conditions. I think it's best to choose the things you do, and the people you spend time with, wisely. Very carefully and wisely.  Of course, you won't know what is wise until it's too late, one way or the other. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Re-Invented!

Maybe it was the gleam in the eye. Maybe it was the studied vacantness. Maybe it was the look of embarrassment when I mentioned our past shared theatrical adventures. This man standing on the corner, shaking a bell, soliciting coins for the Salvation Army, used to be a fellow-traveller in our world of theatrical madness. He excelled in the theater of excess. He specialized in a creative approach supplemented by lots of drink and smoke, and over the top theatricality.

He looked at me as one of the Souls of the Damned. A denizen of a fallen world that he gladly, thankfully, has left behind. He wanted to make me disappear. He told me he had "re-invented" himself. He was a new man, a different man, and he'd prefer not to be reminded of where he came from and what he used to do. And that creative realm, was actually part of a destructive lifestyle that no longer worked for him.

I wanted to tell him we weren't that much different. I too have re-invented myself, I do it all the time. And yes, I too have left the drink and smoke behind, but the theatrical madness, never. But it wasn't really the time or place for any of that. He's on a new, better path, I'm just a reminder of that old road that leads to some kind of hell.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rare and Uncommon

"I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now." 

I kind of understand that Dylan line even more deeply than I ever did before. The longer I walk around on the planet, the less sure I am about so many things. When I was younger, I was lots more opinionated, and sure of myself, and willing to tell someone about it, and argue about all the finer points and judgements, and I wielded my opinions like a blunt instrument. Even when I was a gawky, shy teenager, I held very strong opinions and ideas about the world, which I was glad to share with all the unfortunate ones in my viewfinder.

Now, not so certain, not so sure, not so opinionated, or at least lots more circumspect about wielding my grand judgements. I don't have quite so many grand judgements to wield. I still make judgements, all the time, but I am a little more suspicious of my own mind, my own prejudices and biases, and I question myself about how I have come to certain conclusions. Most of the time, I realize there are no definitive conclusions to be had.

Yes, I'm certain this is a journey, and certainties on this journey are rare and uncommon. One thing I am sure about - that great storied line we find in stories is a lie: "And then they lived happily ever after." No, sorry, it doesn't happen like that. Ever. Only in the stories we tell each other. Only in our imaginations.

There's the journey of life. And then there's death. And that's just another part of the journey too. And we can name things good or bad but what we name things doesn't really describe or encompass them. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

2015 is a Hoax!

2015? Really? It sort of sounds like a hoax, right? It sits uncomfortably on the tongue. Can it really be? Seems like some strange, distant future time. That time is almost here. The future is now. Whether you want it or not.

If you were born some time in the last century, 2015 just seems sort incomprehensible. It sounds like a time and place you could imagine, but not really inhabit. Where does the time go? For some reason, I never imagined myself living in 2015. I mean, I never imagined not living in 2015. 2015 just sounds and seems so unlikely.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Mean, Well, Anything!

Yes, America's Pro-Torture Cult. I guess I'm kind of surprised and horrified that there should be such a thing, but then again, why? We did build this country on Slavery, and Genocide. And there is no sense in running down all the horrors and crimes we have committed in defense of our Freedom.

So, what are we capable of doing and justifying? Well, just about anything. I mean, well, anything!

And yes, well, as Kevin Drum points out, an unapologetic Moral Cretin like Cheney actually represents a good portion of our populace. Cheney is just a perfect embodiment of the problem.

So yes, some of us really are this depraved and morally befuddled: If we torture people, it is good and justified, because we do it to our enemies. If our enemies torture us, it is not good or justified, because our enemies are doing it to us.

Perfect Moral Clarity!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Scrape and Scramble for the Crumbs!

Yes, and then, counter to Albini (see previous post) the Shazam Effect is probably bad for music. People like to listen to popular songs that they've heard before. They like to listen over and over and over. Which is good for the popular songs and artists, but not so good for everyone else.

The main takeaway from the Shazam Effect: "The top 1 percent of bands and solo artists now earn 77 percent of all revenue from recorded music."

So yes, another fine example of our "Winner Takes All" Universe. The 1% rule our Finance, our Politics, our Social Networks, our Music, our Art. The 1% sucks the oxygen out of the Universe and converts it into $ and Power for themselves.

The rest of us are left to scrape and scramble for the crumbs that fall from their tables. Maybe that's why many of us turn to glue to sniff?!

UPDATE: And check out this great article about how those blockbuster Superhero Franchise Movies that everyone flocks to, are totally destroying what used to be a pretty cool art form.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

We Are All Now Pimply Glue Sniffers!

I must admit I really enjoyed Steve Albini's take on the state of the music industry. He's seems pretty pleased with the new landscape. And I can't really argue with anything he says. With the internet  and low-cost recording technology, the days of the Major Record Labels and the "rule of the suits" really has come to an end.

We are all DIY-ers now.  And as Albini tells it: "If a bunch of pimply glue sniffers could do it, we reasoned, then anybody could."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Living with Keef!

"FYI: When your girlfriend tells her girlfriends that she is 'living with Keith Richards,' it isn't necessarily meant as a compliment."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Someone's Favorite Band!

What you want…

You don't want to be everybody's favorite band.  Too grand. Too bland. You think it must entail some serious compromising and crowd-pleasing. It's kind of like craving to be a fast food meal. And craving seems pointless. How does such broad appeal work? Who the hell knows?

You don't want to be no one's favorite band. This would be sad. Possibly tragic. And at least certainly quite frustrating. Playing for lots of empty rooms. Lots of unsold CD's in your closet. Alienated and alone. 

You do want to be someone's favorite band. A niche. A micro-market. Attentive and intelligent ears. Serious listeners. People who would listen to the music, read the lyrics sheet. Make a commitment to what you are trying to communicate. Kind of a cult. Yes, a cult. That's probably what you want.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Buddha - Kick-Ass Role Model!

This Woman, she's been rumored to be (horrors), a "Fundamentalist Christian," (Yikes! She doesn't believe in climate change!) noticed the Buddha medallion hanging around my neck. It's been there for years and years. And I've known this Woman for years and years too. Turns out you can discover new things every day. Yes, well, so this Woman was startled to see Buddha hanging around my neck. She sort of flinched and asked, "Is that Buddha?"

"Yes, it is…" All she could muster in reply was a sort of strangled "Oh." It's almost like she discovered I tortured puppies or something in my spare time.

Nothing more to be said. Yes, Buddha. A pretty kick-ass role model. Think Compassion. And a meditative life. What more can you ask, what more can you aspire to? I walked away with an extra little spring in my step. Yes! Buddha!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Those Who Torture, Those Who Were Tortured!

I had the exact same reaction as Kevin Drum to those trying to "defend the indefensible." Torture is Not a Hard Concept.  There are all those "stony-faced men" trying to tell us that what happened wasn't really torture, and anyway it was necessary to fight the terror, and well, what's the big deal anyway?

These same "stony-faced men," should be facing prosecution for Crimes Against Humanity. Yes, it is that simple and clear. Of course what they did was torture. Do a thought experiment. Imagine our soldiers, our sons and daughters experiencing those procedures.  No doubt it was torture. And turns out that it's not a very effective method for extracting information, but it is a tremendous tool to debase and dehumanize - both those who tortured and those who were tortured.

Vox has a handy overview of the 16 Absolutely Outrageous Abuses...

Yes, and Mr. Cheney should be handcuffed and put on a plane and dropped off at the Hague to answer for his crimes.

And Torturing people doesn't make you a Hero. And it isn't a badge of honor, and it doesn't make you tough and clear-eyed. And it isn't the "right thing" to do in "difficult circumstances."

Torturing people is cowardly. Torture is for cretins and sadists. It is an act of weakness. It's an act of desperation and fear. Only the worst of us would resort to torturing other human beings. There is no justification for it. And to "institutionalize" it, is an abomination and a stain on us all!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bad is Good, and Good is Bad!

Yes, it's super-easy to feel like Winston Smith. I grew up hating the enemy. When I was a kid, that was most significantly the God-less Soviet Union. We were told our enemy had nuclear missiles pointed at us, and they were certain to push the button, and we'd all have to hide under our desks, and pray for a miracle, or we could just kiss our asses goodbye.

I read about those two monsters: Stalin and Hitler. These two were the two-headed personification of Evil. And how many movies did we watch where the Nazis were the ultimate bad guys? And it was easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Bad guys killed innocent people. They tortured people. They spied on their own citizens. Their governments lied to them. They lied about torture, they lied about spying, and they lied about reasons for sending men into wars. The Good Guys? Well...

Turns out my own country, the Good Guys also did all these things. So yes, that Winston Smith feeling.  An alien in my own country. The "Good Guy/Bad Guy" thing sort of seems naive. And stupid. And sort of irrelevant. So yes, I live here. I keep my eyes peeled. And I don't believe the bullshit. I don't love Big Brother, even if he tells me without him the Bad Guys would devour me. I don't love Big Brother, because I can't really see the difference between him and the Bad Guys. If my government tortures, and spies, and lies well, even if they are doing these things for me, they are also doing these things to me. 

Bad is Good, and Good is Bad! And Freedom is Slavery... and well, read the book!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

American Torture & Gulags!

Andrew Sullivan is one of the most eloquent, engaged voices out in the blogosphere, especially when it comes to the Bush/Cheney Torture Regime. In the darkest days, when the USA went off the rails in response to The Terror, Andrew was a strong, clear voice. He has not been afraid to point out that "enhanced interrogation," is, and has always been, torture. And torture is illegal, and immoral, and those who do it, or authorize it, should be prosecuted for "crimes against humanity."

So with the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's "Torture Report," Andrew Sullivan is a "go-to" source. He and his staff have meticulously plowed through the report and comment on it as they go.  It's all a must-read. Chilling, outrageous, sad, disturbing, terrible. We knew some of these horrors before, but not in such detail. And it's worse and more horrible and inhumane than many of us imagined.

Certainly one of the darkest chapters of the history of the USA. We are no different than our enemies if we commit atrocities against the enemies who commit atrocities against us. "Black Sites" of torture are just another way of saying "American Gulags." We want to look away, but we must not! And we must prosecute those who committed these crimes.

Here is Ronald Reagan's position on the matter: "Each state party is required to prosecute torturers who are found in it's territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."

Kevin Drum also sums up the report quite succinctly: "... The torture was far more brutal than we thought and the CIA lied about that. It didn't work and they lied about that too. It produced so much bad intel that it most likely impaired our National Security, and of course they lied about that as well."

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Occupation Failure!

I do think you have to keep "trying things." Trying to do new things. Or, I guess I mean, you should keep doing new things. It's something you learn in the creative realms, which for me would be theater and music. You are always searching, testing, and performing and then moving on. 

Lots of ideas blow up, or fall flat. Or outright fail. That's part of the process. So yes, failure is an occupation. But it's all the little failures that show you the way. And you can apply this to any realm in your life. You wear failure like a cloak. Don't take it personally. Run the idea to it's conclusion. Test it, see if it flies. Most times it doesn't, but once in awhile you will be surprised. There is life in a new idea, a new venture, a new attempt. And that brief success is worth the trouble.

Monday, December 08, 2014

What Happened!

Sometimes we can't even agree about what actually happened. What one person sees conflicts with what another person sees. Details and facts that are persuasive to one person, aren't persuasive to someone else. We grasp at evidence that supports our position, and eliminate evidence that contradicts our position. People who have lots in common, who agree about a lot of things, come down on completely opposing sides of an issue. It happens all the time. And some of our most fundamental conflicts, conflicts that have gone on for years, for decades, for centuries are never resolved, but are just argued over and over. That's an inevitable part of the human adventure. 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Trial of the Night!

Sometimes sleep is a restful state where your body, your brain, refreshes, restores, recharges. And then, sometimes sleep is a stressful adventure. Weird scenarios play out. You turn into other things. You fly and fall, and realize you didn't study for the big test.

Lately it's all about losing control of my arms, my hands, my fingers. Very disturbing. Sleep has become this elaborate scenario of incapacitation. Paralyzed. Rendered an invalid. I wake up happy to find that my arms, hands, fingers still work. But the night was such an ordeal, a trial!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

A Literary Life

You wake up and think you are in a romcom. Or maybe just a bad comedy. But instead you are in the middle of "Moby Dick," a tale of madness and obsession, or the "Catcher in the Rye" - you want to erase all the "fucks" in the world, or "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," - everything is twisted and out of control, or "Catch 22," - everyone you know is mad except for you, and you're not so sure of your sanity either, or the "Lord of the Rings Trilogy," - you are in for a long, strange journey filled with lightening and thunder, but you are the hero of a fabulous adventure, and all will work out in the end. But no, it's turns out you are really in a Beckett play. Doesn't matter, which one, a short work, a long famous work, it's all the same, and life is a slog, it's real, it's odd, and fractured, and you just have to carry on, just because. There is no alternative. You live. And you wait. And live some more.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Dumb Little Monkey!

You don't want to be just a dumb little monkey....

But some times you don't want to know, you don't want to see, you don't want to say. 

Sometimes it's just better if you withdraw. In to silence. It's better for you and for everyone else. 

So yes, sometimes the smart play is to be a dumb little monkey...

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The In-Justice System!

Kevin Drum writes about the Eric Garner chokehold case, (murder), and he says whatever I was gonna say about it much better than I.

If we build a system of Justice that just embodies our biases, opinions, and prejudices, if we create society where different people are treated differently because of  their cosmetic differences, well, then of course, the system is not a system of Justice, at all.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Misunderstood!

"I suppose I'm not really surprised that no-one understands me. I mean, I don't understand me."

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

An Odd Existence!

We are caught between the extraordinary and the ordinary. It's extraordinary that we are alive. It's kind of amazing to think about all the things that had to happen for us to be living, breathing, human beings. But then, our days are filled with ordinary moments. So much of our time is getting from one place to another. Waking up. Going to sleep. Eating. There are moments of boredom. There's down-time and sometimes we are even killing time. Every moment is precious but we don't really live like every moment is precious. Our time is limited, but sometimes we act as if we have all the time in the world. We are caught between knowing that every moment that passes, never comes around again, and acting as if we can hang onto every moment, and the moments will keep on coming. It's an odd existence.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Laughter and Food!

Laughter. It's the best medicine. Along with really good food. Both are excellent medicine. 

You should think of laughter as essential to a good life. I mean, genuine, heart-felt, gut-busting laughter. You can't will it, but you must be open to it. And I don't mean that cynical, sarcastic, cutting type laughter. And not the laughing at the poor, or halt, or lame. I'm talking about a generous, robust, life-affirming type of laughter.  When it overtakes you, there is nothing better. 

And food, good food, it really is medicine. Better than pills and injections and operations. Eating well is essential. And food closer to the source is the best. Anything you grow, dig up, or pick. Avoid food processing. Avoid eating animals. Our industrial meat processors produce sick, bloated, unhealthy animals. Go for green food. Green is good. Colorful food is good. Fresh, organic. Good!

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