Election 2020

Election 2020
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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pick Up a Guitar - Everything Transformed!

This is a phenomena, I know, because it has "happened to me" multiple times. Put me in a new place. New surroundings. Pick up a guitar. Not my guitar, a guitar owned by someone else, start strumming. Just mindlessly strumming.

Find a new riff, a new chord progression, a new song.

I love when that happens. It's always a surprise. I am always amazed how a new guitar will lead to new things. The feel, the sound - all different, all unique to that particular instrument. It could be a beat-up, crappy guitar, with bad action and cheap wood, difficult to play; or it could be a fine instrument - well-made, aged wood, sweet action, easy to play.

Sort of doesn't matter. Or, I mean, of course it matters, but each type of guitar can offer up something unique. Yesterday I found myself with an old Martin D18 in my hands. The serial number tells me that it was made in the Martin Factory in mid 1971. Old, resonant, mellow. A really fine instrument. A work of art.

And I played it pretty much all day. Sat in a foreign kitchen, notes ringing out in the loneliness. I found a new song, a long, melancholy lament, a haunting instrumental. Hope to come up with words that can match the mood. 

That D18 offered it up. It's the only way I can describe the process.  I picked a guitar up and everything was transformed!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ryan Adams Covers Taylor Swift?

Okay, this sounds just weird enough to be interesting. Ryan Adams does an album-length cover of Taylor Swift's insanely popular 1989 record. Wow. Strange.  I own a couple of Ryan Adams' records: HeartBreaker, Ashes & Fire, and his last one Ryan Adams. I was sort of disappointed by the last one. Don't exactly know why. I guess I think Heartbreaker is amazingly great and Ashes and Fire too. My first intro to Ryan was Ashes and Fire and that one was quite captivating. And I love the loose nature of Heartbreaker.  Not a fan of Taylor Swift. I mean, I guess that's wrong, I'm not not a fan, just don't listen to/haven't listened to her music, and not really all that interested.  But I do find Ryan Adams sort of fascinating, and this sounds like it might be worth a listen.

Friday, August 28, 2015


I love this from Paul Krugman. There are no "conservatives" anymore in USA. Only reactionaries. Trump is Big Boss Man. Reactionaries are all about power & privilege. Protecting the hierarchy.  Makes so much sense. All falls in place. As Krugman says, "Trump isn't a diversion, he's a revelation..."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Crisis Point!

"Yes, well, the thing is, and it's a tricky, and delicate thing. What happens when you get to the point where you no longer believe your own bullshit? It is some kind of point of no return. A crisis point. I suppose it's some kind of break-through, or break-down."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

You. Are. Lost.

I forget. Does bullshit float? I couldn't remember. So, I Googled it. I came up with "Life & Bullshit." Not exactly an answer. That's how it goes. You ask a not exactly a question, and come up with a not exactly an answer. What happens when you don't believe the bullshit anymore? You. Are. Lost.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What's Wrong with People?!

Yes, I suppose it is stunning and disturbing that hate and misogyny (see previous post) are a winning combo in the marketplace. But, then again, it turns out that hate is a market and a pastime. Haters are empowered by our latest technology. This young woman in Chvrches has to deal with a barrage of hatred every morning in her mobile feed.  Terrible. Absolutely appalling! What's wrong with people?!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Derogatis Calls out Dr. Dre for a Life-Time of Misogyny!

Dr. Dre has an Ike Turner problem: famous musical legends who enjoy beating on women.  I am so pleased that Jim Derogatis of Sound Opinions takes Dre to task for his "disgusting" misogyny.  It is surprising how many people just want to look away. Derogatis truly is a "critic" or music appreciator with heart and integrity. He's not just a business shill or cheerleader. Glad he isn't afraid to speak up against the vileness.

Dr. Dre is a billionaire, a mogul, a key figure in Apple Music. You'd think his past of beating women, might make him a little more circumspect about singing about beating women now, but I guess that is not the case. Misogyny is just part of his tired schtick.

And it's a money winner!

And what of the "Straight Outta Compton" biopic? Derogatis tells us it's "the lamest kind of gloss-over!"

And well, at least Derogatis has always been consistent. Here he is on the original album release in 1991: 

“This is an album of hate-filled songs that glorify gang rape and beating women to death, an album so nihilistic that its lyrics brag about making money from these topics. It’s the most vile, rancid, festering pile of crap I’ve heard in my life. It is also one of the top-selling albums in America for the third week in a row.”

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Lost King in a Lost Time

This may come as a shock to some of you. It came as a shock to me. I swear it happened. I mean, I swear on a stack of Bibles (no, that's seems pointless), I swear on a stack of Korans (no, I mean, hunh?), all right, never mind, I swear on a fresh, hard-bound copy of "Infinite Jest." Yes, okay, see, I'm deadly serious.

I saw an apparition walking the streets. Alive as you or me. 

It was in a "hard" neighborhood. A neighborhood known for drug deals, and gang shootouts. The part of town where the police vehicles with sirens ringing, and cherrie tops flashing are always rushing towards. It's where those unmarked cars (you can always spot an undercover vehicle) are speeding off to.

Anyway, I have been riding my bike through that part of town on my way to do a job over the last 2 weeks. I ride with my head down, with a purpose, hoping not to call notice to myself, or ruffle any feathers. I am riding like a guest, I know this is not my turf - just passing thru!

Anyway, on Clark Street, across the street from the grocery store, there is a liquor store, and that liquor store is the anchor of the community. There is always a steady stream of foot traffic, going to, or leaving from, that liquor store. People buy liquor (of course), but also cigarettes and lottery tickets too. A very popular destination.

There are always old-timers and hard characters hanging out in front. It's a sketchy place, again, I zip by trying not to see or be seen. But this where I had my vision. Or where I saw my vision. What vision?

I saw a man dressed as an impossibly ancient warrior. A desiccated, old, Viking, a crusty being, more ancient than the hills, looked like he had been recently dug up out of some primeval burial ground for Kings. A long kilt-like garment, long, gray, flowing hair on his head and on his chin. Gold and silver dangling from his ears and arms. He looked to be about 300 years old. He walked slowly, steadily, with purpose, towards the liquor store.

I am convinced he leached in from a breach in the space-time continuum. A ghost, an apparition, a vision, my warrior, spirit-guide. He looked like a King. A Lost King from a Lost Time. He had a real-ness, a gravity, and at the same time he looked like he was striding in another reality.

I didn't stop, but slowed down. Took him in, in all his faded, blazing, time-less, glory. My thought in the moment, "Is this real?"  It was sort like experiencing a lucid dream in the daylight. I wasn't sleeping, but, I wonder, was I dreaming?

This was an impossible vision. Totally. Contrary to everything else on that street. Contrary to logic and rationality. And now that I think about, I seemed to be the only one on the street who even noticed the Warrior King. How is that possible? I have no explanation. But I am now convinced he was a messenger. My glimpse of him was a sign, a word, a reminder, a prophecy, from another place and time. 

Now, of course, every time I pass thru that part of town I look for him. And every day that goes by, and I don't see him, the more I realize he really did appear to me. His absence now, makes his presence then, that more real. Weird. So weird. But true.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Connecting the Unconnected!

Yes, I do like the "scientific method."  It has led us to all kinds of marvels and wonders. And I do love some of the grand theories of science - evolution seems like a great saga, and I love cosmology too.

But I think I want my universe to also be filled with signs and myths. I like things pointing to other things, and I love a good story. And I'm big on making connections. Connecting things that at first seem so unconnected.

There is endless entertainment and insight in doing that kind of brainstorming.  And once you start connecting, well, it really is an endless, all-comsuming, very rewarding occupation.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bucky Fuller Does a Yoda!

How does little old me have any impact in the world? That might be one of those hopeless-seeming questions.

I love this from Buckminster Fuller. Be the "trim tab!" And how to do it? You will be "getting rid of the little nonsense," and "getting rid of the things that don't work, and aren't true."

So I’m positive that what you do with yourself, just the little things you do yourself, these are the things that count. To be a real trim tab, you’ve got to start with yourself, and soon you’ll feel that low pressure, and suddenly things begin to work in a beautiful way. Of course, they happen only when you’re dealing with really great integrity.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Variation of Rollins

A variation of a Henry Rollins' lyric: Really sad things happen some times. Some times happens all the time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Two Sentences

Two sentences from a conversation yesterday. Out of context, they seem like bright, shiny ideas that a person could live by...

Don't fear anything.

Be hopeful.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Abbie Fest 27 - Day 3 - The Stuff of Myths & Legends

Still wearing my yellow performer's wristband from the Abbie Fest this morning. A little reluctant to take it off. There is a rumor that this 27th year of the Abbie Fest could be the last one. I choose not to believe it.

As Rich Cotovsky, as Abbie, always tells us, "the myth looms larger than the reality." And I choose to live with the myth. And myths never die. They live as long as there are people to pass them on.

So yes, we spent a good portion of the afternoon & evening at the 3rd day of Abbie Fest as "the audience." And there were glorious, mythical happenings all around us.

We saw a man eat fire, walk on glass and pass 150,000 volts of electricity through his body to light up a fluorescent tube. We saw another young man defy gravity and juggle bowling pins. We watched three large nubile women totally command a room, conjuring laughs and tears - messing with our heads with tales of alcoholism, suicide and disease.

We saw a young man become a wizard, time-travel, have sex in a laundry room, and take a cupcake, which he splattered on his forehead, and declare it "semen!" We watched a stage-full of young enthusiastic comedians blow up all our preconceptions about what's funny and what's not funny.

We were entertained by the human spirit in it's many bodily forms - old, young, hairless, fat, lithe, beautiful, interesting. We were dazzled. Exhausted. It was sublime and absurd. Funny and tragic. The stuff of myths and legends.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Our Show @ Abbie Fest

Last night at Abbie Fest Day Two, as Black Forest, we did our performance piece entitled "and now..." a nice open-ended title. Left us the ability to do whatever we wanted to do. Which is our strength. We do what we want to do when we want to do it. No commercial concerns. No doubts or worries. It took us a long time to get there. 

Maybe "no doubts or worries" isn't quite right, a little too strong. Of course we have doubts - can we do the work to the best of our ability, remember our lines, bring emotion and honesty to the moment?

Worries too - will our cast and crew turn up on time, will my guitar stay in tune, can my partner sing and vocalize even as she's battling a cold? Will anyone be there to listen and take in our performance?

Pretty much "yes" on all counts. 

We went for an honesty, a genuineness, a certain heartfelt beauty in our performance. It all seemed to work and connect. And lots of the old-timers and performers that we know and respect responded enthusiastically.

Very, very satisfying.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Abbie Fest - The First Time!

You're in Chicago. What to do? Check out Broken Hearted Toy - the options are endless!  We will be at Abbie Fest 27 - Day Two.  

Last night, I bumped into a woman dressed to the nines, waiting to get in the restroom at the Mary Archie Theater after watching Rush Pearson in Diary of a Madman. She was a little giddy and breathless, and gushed: "This is my first Abbie Fest."

I replied, "It's a wild ride." I was a little envious, trying to remember what it was like experiencing the fest for the first time. I know it was a powerful first experience. I've been hooked and haven't missed one since.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Abbie Fest 27!

Here in Chicago, Abbie Fest 27 kicks off tonight @ 7:00 p.m. Terry Flamm at Broken Hearted Toy has a nice little preview of the 3 day festival

Our little theater group Black Forest will be doing a "performance piece" on Saturday, Day Two. Monologues and music. We usually do an original work for this fest. We have presented new work for more years than I can count, more than 10, less than 20.

It is a wild carnival sideshow of an event. Lots of talent and creativity on display. One act following another. The energy of the event, the collective consciousness of the thing, transcends any one act. 

There are always surprises along the way. Highly recommended! Nothing quite like it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

That's What We Want Our Artists to Do

Terrible, traumatic events have happened around here.  Losing loved ones is one of the most unexplainable, hard to reconcile events you can conjure up. We all lose loved ones, so I guess it's part of being human.

How to deal? 

We turn to what we always turn to - art. The making of art (also of course, the consuming of art created by others). Yes, I subscribe to the school of art as healer, art as religion, art as therapy. No apologies. And it turns out that if the person doing the art, is doing it for very personal reasons, those same reasons can be powerful reasons for others to relate to the art in a very intimate, powerful way.

Art is a human thing, and it is the working through the human thing that brings us the greatest art. Do artists need to suffer in order to create great art? Probably. And why? Because to suffer is a human thing, a deeply profound human thing. We don't need artists to seek suffering, we need artists to live a life, and in the course of life suffering is inevitable. The really great artist uses that suffering to create work, just like they use everything else in the human arsenal.

The true artist takes that suffering, that pain, and transforms it. It's a personal and a universal thing. That's what we want our artists to do.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Calls and No Calls!

I love this song & video from Mr. Mo. Telephones. And more telephones. What a perfect song!

Yesterday, I had the opposite situation. I was waiting for a call. A very important call. A call I studied for, prepared for, anticipated, and looked forward to, etc. And the call didn't come. No explanation. It just didn't come. Total silence. And it seemed like some kind of death or final judgement. 

Can a life be summed up by what didn't happen?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Radicals - The Genuine Kind

It's funny. 

Our culture rewards the loud, bold, audacious, outrageous. Those who push themselves to the front. Those who love to talk and to primp in front of mirrors. We reward the loudmouth, the blowhard. We applaud the big gestures, the dazzling, the overwhelming.

Turns out the counter-cultural choice is to be simple, small, meek. To be clear-headed, clear-eyed. The "radicals" are those people who tend to silence, contemplation, humility, grace. Those who practice genuine kindness. Those who don't always yammer away. Those who do less, buy less, live lightly on the land.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Trump's War with Fox

This is excellent - Trump's war with Fox.  

As heterodox conservative commentator David Frum said, "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox."
Why is all this interesting? Partly because it's all so ridiculous, and also partly because it exposes Fox News for the crazy propaganda machine that it has been for so many years. 

Nate Silver thinks Trump can't win against Fox... Still, I think Josh Marshall is correct - Trump is not done. This absurd saga has legs!

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Cultural Leap to the Abyss of Ridiculousness!

Can a whole Culture "jump the shark?" It seems to be a logical question. Just open your eyes and ears and look around. We kind of do live in a TV show. And the decline we are all feeling in every aspect of our lives is palpable.

It all probably happened long ago. Maybe we should wait for future historians to pinpoint the exact point of no return. But there is no doubt that we have made a collective leap over a hungry, finned, predator.

Can a whole culture succumb to ridiculousness? That's easy. Yes, of course!

Saturday, August 08, 2015

And So On...

Haven't seen this movie, "A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence," , but I do love the title, and it sounds like a movie I would enjoy. And I love this from Ray Pride:

"Andersson seems also to hew to Emil Cioran’s shrugging, “Better to be an animal than a man, an insect than an animal, a plant than an insect, and so on.” 

Yes, maybe we have this evolutionary tree thing all wrong. Maybe it's the microscopic, single-celled, short-lived organisms; the beings with focus and simplicity who are at the top of the chain. And maybe Human Beings are actually at the bottom. We are so complicated, conflicted, contradictory. Almost like some malignant collection of dislocated parts.  Of course, we are so Ego-inflated we think we are the best, smartest, most beautiful. Funny.

Friday, August 07, 2015

The Bullshit Detector Hangs it Up!

It takes a "fake" newsman, a "fake" pundit to tell the truth. Because  you can't bullshit a bullshitter. And as he says, "bullshit is everywhere."  So our best bullshit detector is a guy who pretends to be what he isn't, but he does it in a way that shows us that he knows, that we know, and it's all very entertaining and enlightening, and refreshing. The Bullshit Detector warns us all to be vigilant. Brilliant. We will miss this guy. Wonder what he will do next?

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Change isn't slow...

Change. It seems so slow. That's an illusion for sure. Change isn't an illusion, the slowness of change is an illusion.

I'm beginning to think (this came to me slowly) that change is so fast, so small, so incremental, and so all-inclusive, that it's almost invisible to our senses.

Everything is always changing, right? But it's not noticeable, or it is noticeable, but we don't notice it. Our cells are changing, every microscopic particle is in a state of change. 

And everything else? Yep, changing too. In a million ways. Every moment. The changing nature of everything is so deep and complete, it's not even all that interesting. Much less perceptible.

Then, one day dawns, you wake up, and you realize everything is different. And has been for a long time, I mean, it has been changing all the time. 

You are changed, the world too. And just as you register that reality, you and it, have already moved on from that moment too.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Every Single Day is Anything Can Happen Day!

"Anything can happen day." I guess it was a Micky Mouse Club Show thing. Before my time. "Today is the day that is filled with surprises; nobody knows what's gonna happen."

Of course, you find out that every day is anything can happen day. Every single day. And that means birth & death and everything in between. So in one sense we are all Mickey Mouse Club members, whether we want to be or not. "Nobody knows what's gonna happen" can start to sound pretty damn ominous.

Lots of our days have the "same day" feel, maybe human beings try really hard to make their days the same. We thrive on routine. Society demands routine. If you have a job you lock into a daily grind. We hate it and love it. Gives us something to do, fills our lives with sameness.

And then Anything Can Happen Day comes along and knocks a hole in your reality. And you realize there is no sameness at all. Every day is chock-full of surprises. There's the joy and the horror. The sorrow and the pity. We get ice-cream and cake, and bullets and funerals too.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Teachers & Teaching

Teachers. And teaching. This post made me put on my thinking cap. Over my life I've had a handful of influential teachers. It wasn't about mastering a topic, it really was about inspiration. Learning how to learn.

I can think of three teachers who really made me excited about writing, and spurred me on to write. And to read. Two of them were writers themselves. They shared their writing with me. Made me think that we were on the same road together. They inspired me and challenged me, and read my work with real enthusiasm.

I had one guitar teacher who taught me very basic music theory and notation. But this was a young man who looked like George Harrison and played a Gretsch Country Gentleman. He just exuded cool. I learned enough to plunk along, but was inspired to acquire that same coolness factor.

I took some acting classes. Had one great acting teacher. She always called me and my partner "rock stars." She didn't say much about my acting. Lot's of silences and long looks. Her best advice about acting: "You have to really, really, really want to do it."

Meditation. I learned Transcendental Meditation and "psychic" meditation from a few different teachers. I learned the basic tools. The how to. It was a total revelation on all levels. I still use my "mantra" that I acquired in the 70's, but it was the "psychic" version of meditation that I picked up in 2000 that totally transformed my life.

"Creative Visualization."  Not sure if I have successfully transformed the world, but the technique has transformed me.

I also remember that contingent of Nuns in grade school. They taught me guilt, and pain, and fear. And I learned how to read. And acquired the love of reading. Maybe as a tool to flee the guilt, the pain, the fear. So I guess I owe a "thank you" to those scary old penguins too.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Harden or Deepen

You bang up against reality. Like someone said, (who, I can't recall),  you do trust the realness of reality. So you bang up against it. Get knocked around. Knocked off your stride. Large holes are drilled into you. Big places where you used to know things and people.

You realize somewhere along the line that life is an experience. You gain and you lose. You pretty much lose everything you gain. Hopefully, at the end, the two things balance out, but there are no guarantees. Some gain more than lose, and some lose more than gain.

You get two choices. You can "harden your heart," or "deepen your heart." You don't get to do both. Your heart just isn't that big or resilient. So harden or deepen. That's your choice. What you choose defines you. Gives your life the color, the tone, the feel of your existence.

I recall that "voice" that came to me in April 2013... so I guess deepen it is for me.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Art As Prayer...

Art as a form of active prayer. Yes. 

My take would be the art-form does not matter. It could be painting, sculpture, dance, music, theater, writing, pottery, weaving, whatever...

And the content of the art doesn't matter. Trivial, profound, exuberant, melancholic, silly, somber, enlightening, darkening, whatever...

The act itself is the act itself. It's already life-enhancing. "The expression of creative skill and imagination..."

And the prayer can be to an empty void, or a big daddy, or nature, or family of gods, or some great cloud of unknowing, whatever...

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Playing Wrong is Sometimes So Right!

I am so happy I sought out and bought Peter Hook's wonderful book on Joy Division "Unknown Pleasures." It is truly a pleasure to read. And Hook has such a great narrative voice. A true character, not afraid to say what's on his mind. And he tells the story of this band as he remembers it, and pulls no punches, he lays it all out for the reader.

I love how he talks gear, and band dynamics, and rehearsing, and playing gigs, both the great and not so great. He tells us how his distinctive sound evolved, how he learned to play "wrong," using only three fingers, and why he played up high on the fretboard  - because his amp was so crappy and sounded so bad when he played low notes.

Practicalities and luck gave us his totally distinctive and creative style of bass playing. There's a lot of humor in the book. And there's darkness and sadness too. Knowing what we know now, you wish Ian Curtis would have slowed down and taken a break, and maybe somehow he could have made it through. You are driven to go back to the music, just to listen to a totally unique, influential, and original band.

And you marvel at how Hook and company (minus Curtis) went on to form another great and influential band - New Order. A kind of incredible saga. 

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