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Monday, December 31, 2012

Everything All the Time!

Yes, "divine inspiration."  That's a worthy state of being.  Even if it's a chimera.  Or blast of imagination.  What if you believe in the divine? And what if you believe it's not "out there," but that it's "in here," and it's not some kind of egoistic state of bluff, but a grounded state of bliss? And it comes and goes and must be renewed daily, or maybe moment by moment?

Yeah, what if? And really let's say it's really just a humble state of communication with the world. This divinity is a small, plain, kind of homely thing, kind of like a rock, or a blade of grass, or a cup of coffee, or really anything. And it's not what you know, but how you look... how you look and see... you keep it simple and clean and neutral...

And you take it all in, everything, all the time...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Normal Person

The Other Person: "I want you to try to be a normal person today."

Me: "Normal?"

The Other Person: "Yes. And put on a nice shirt. And act... normal."

Me: "Hmmm... well... okay... I... I'll... try... I... guess..."

Saturday, December 29, 2012


So yes, you realize that you are not in control of your life.  Sometimes you can convince yourself that you are, but then events conspire to show you that this is just a fiction that you've created to try to make yourself feel better.

You then wonder if anyone or anything is in control of anything.  Probably not.  You like to pretend that there's some kind of plan, or agenda, or purpose, but it's probably lots more complicated than that. The world is stuffed with life, with beings of every kind, and every being has an interest, and these interests all connect and collide and compete and... whatever.

You think of fate, luck, destiny... but really these are just other names for "what happens."  And "what happens" is just "what happens."  After "what happens," we tell ourselves stories, and try to explain to ourselves what happened and what it "means."

We invent gods and mythologies, and grand conspiracy theories to try to explain it all...

This is all backward looking, a rear-guard action... and it's reliant on our imagination and creative ability to explain things to ourselves.  Takes lots of energy.  Maybe it's necessary, or maybe it's not.  It's part of our human thing for sure...

Friday, December 28, 2012


So what did I learn? (See previous post). That's what you ask when shit happens right? There must be some lesson, some wisdom earned? Maybe. Maybe not.

Lesson #1: Cross at the intersection.  Wait for the light to change.  Look both ways. Yes, I know it's simple stuff.  Stuff for morons really. You may think you can cross the street, anywhere, anytime. You think you are alive and aware and can see.  But you know what? You don't see everything.  You can't anticipate everything.  There are surprises.  You need to try to minimize the unpleasant ones.

Lesson #2: Tiny decisions can lead to major calamities. You are doing one thing, and that can set off a chain of events that leads to something else entirely. So yes, you think it's time to change your guitar strings.  The next thing you know you're bringing your broken guitar to the repair shop. And things precious to you can be swiped away at a moment's notice.

Lesson #3: You are not in control.  You think you are, but you're not...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Silly Mishap

What can I say? Yesterday was eventful.  Nearly "bought the farm." And my "go-to" acoustic guitar broke.

Two silly mishaps.  "Almost dying," was interesting, but the broken headstock on my guitar really upsets me.  I wonder how Pete Townshend could live with himself after intentionally breaking all those  guitars?

Silly mishap number one nearly equaled death in the afternoon.  

I was "jay-walking", although in this case, I wasn't really being reckless.  But I also wasn't at an intersection.  I carefully looked both ways, saw an opening, and stepped into the street.  At that exact moment, a black Jeep with two teenagers decided to enter the roadway.  The driver "floored it," and I found myself face to face with my mortality.  There was no escaping.  I was helpless.  A bag of mail in one hand, a coffee cup in the other.  Couldn't move. I watched the vehicle bear down on me... that was it...

My last words.... "Oh... Fuck..."  

Thankfully, mercifully, miraculously, luckily, the Jeep swerved and missed me by inches.  I paused in the roadway and gave the Jeep the finger. That's how it happens. I guess.

The guitar, well, the guitar is so precious to me, like an arm or leg, or maybe my liver.  Can't even describe the mishap.  But there's now a major crack in the headstock.  Hope it can be repaired.  That guitar has been through so much, just like me.  It's beat and scarred, and they don't make them like that anymore... kind of irreplaceable... but of course there's always glue! Here's hoping.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Blood and Noodle X-Mas

Yes, we caught the early showing of "Django Unchained" on X-mas day.  It's quite the satisfying movie adventure.  Quentin Tarantino finds the perfect tone in this B-Movie Epic.  And Jaime Foxx proves once again that he is one of America's great actors.  Plus Christoph Waltz is Tarantino's secret weapon.

Yes, lots of blood, mayhem, profanity, and the N-Word... but it all works.  Tarantino is a great writer.  His dialogue, his cinematic eye and his use of music (Jim Croce, Richie Havens) elevates this B-Movie into high art.  High and Low meet in Tarantino's vision and it's great.

Plus it's hip and fun.  Really.

Then it was onto Tank Noodle for an Asian feast.  This has sort of become our X-Mas tradition.  Blood and noodles. Perfect.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"We are what we are, that's the way it's going to be..." B. Marley

Christmas Day 2012.  Might put you in the mind of Jacob Marley.  Me, I'm thinking of Bob Marley...  

"Tell the children the truth..." Sounds like a good policy... and just what is the truth?  Aye yes, there's the rub, my Friends...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunbeams are never made like me...

Funny.  For no particular reason, I woke up singing, "Jesus don't want me for a sunbeam, sunbeams are never made like me..."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bright, Bold and Slightly Cocky!

A long weekend... that's good.  I'm thinking today's theme: FUN! I'm drinking a new blend of coffee beans called "Arriba!"  And there's a picture of a Rooster on the package.  Sort of looks like this guy. And the description: "Bright, Bold and Slightly Nutty." Sounds good.
And what's the theme song for the day? Well, of course, that would be "Little Red Rooster" from the early Brian Jones era Rolling Stones...


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Now. Yes.

Well, I suggest you get your philosophical insights, your "wisdom," wherever you can.  For me, one of the great sages, a funky, charismatic fount of brilliance is Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. Yes. Really...

"All we have is now, all we've ever had is now..." - W. C.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mad Adventurers

As Joe Strummer once put it... "The Future is Unwritten." And as the historians remind us... the past is up for interpretation. We are sitting right in the middle of both... we call that the present.  And the present is for the taking and the making.

The one thing the Mayans tell us is that all Civilizations end.  I choose to believe that we are entering a new era of "cosmic consciousness." I mean, "why not?!" It would explain all the turmoil.  The old ways of thinking and living are coming to an end.  And endings are scary.

Beginnings are scary too.  But they are also exciting. And promising.  Let's start a new adventure.  Come on. Don't be afraid.  The water is nice and warm and there's room for more Mad Adventurers! Take the plunge!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Joe Strummer: "Without People You're Nothing."

The radio reminds me that Joe Strummer died on this day in 2002.  That seems like a long time ago now. Ancient history.  Strummer and The Clash always spoke to me. Renewed my faith in the rock and roll thing. And as they used to say, there was a time when it seemed The Clash were "the only band that mattered."  I am a big fan of "London Calling," and the sprawling sound of "Sandinista!" Really, really great records.

I'm also a fan of Strummer's work with The Mescaleros... this version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" is one of my favorite cuts of all time!  Miss you Joe! Miss you Bob!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What of It?

And just what is a "racket?"  A "fraudulent scheme or business." But what of the honest man or woman? What of the honest trade? What of the honest intention? What of it?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Critique of Capitalism

Watching Mad Men season 5 on Blu-Ray is very, very enjoyable.  I won't give anything away, but I like the idea that seems to permeate the show, that everything is a racket: Religion, Marriage, Advertising, Politics, Art, Corporate Culture, Theater. There are very few characters (I can only think of one or two) who don't seem to be working an angle.  No one is clean. Everyone is compromised.  It's all done quite seamlessly and fairly subtly and really works.  Yes, so the show is actually a critique of late 20th century capitalism - with lots of smoking, drinking, and promiscuous sex.  Great show...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Really, Really Complex!

We are always on an emotional roller-coaster.  It kind of comes as standard-issue equipment.  A cauldron of emotions is always churning around in our bodies.  You can sometimes still the waters, but not for long, and it's amazing what can trigger an emotional storm.  Up, down, sideways...

On top of the emotions, we have this brain sitting up in our craniums that conjures all kinds of thoughts - rational, irrational, logical, illogical, magical, ridiculous, grave, serious, stupid, you name it.  And sometimes one thought follows another, and sometimes it seems the thoughts have nothing to do with one another, and they pop up unbidden, like some weird jack in the box contraption.

And then we inhabit these bodies that have their own purpose and agenda.  And we lug these bodies around, and deal with whatever they decide we should deal with.  And this is just us. Our beings.  Now add billions of other beings on the planet that we need to contend with, and co-exist with, and well, it all starts getting really, really complex.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Blood Tax?

Still struggling with the latest "slaughter of the innocents."  Such a horrible crime.  Mind boggling.  Disturbing.  Kind of challenges what you think constitutes a society of human beings.  And as always, there are no "answers." Crazy person run amuck.  Armed to the teeth.  Randomly gunning down children.

It's like a confounding puzzle you want to solve.  Why are there so many guns in the land? Are the "gun obsessives" in need of therapy? Is there a way to balance one's freedom to own a gun with other people's freedom of not being gunned down?

We are at a political stalemate, seems the gun lobby has pretty much won the day.  300 million guns floating around.  Guns are easily obtained.  And not just handguns, major automatic and semi-automatic weapons of destruction.

Guns are built and designed for one thing.  To kill people.  Maybe we institute a "blood tax."  Make the manufacturers accountable for the results of the use of their products?  Maybe that money could be used for counseling and support for victims of gun violence?  

Maybe we have a nationwide gun buy-back program? Can we shame people into giving up their guns? And give them cash for turning their weapons in?  Seems weird that a substitute teacher would need to own two semi-automatic pistols and a rifle.  Gun Crazy!

Maybe some creative lawyers get gun victims and families to band together in some kind of massive class-action lawsuit to make the gun makers and the gun lobby pay for their destructive products.

There are crazy, disturbed people among us.  No doubt. Millions of them. Can't ban crazy people.  I believe the craziness is just part of being human.  Of course, most of us maintain, live our lives without hurting ourselves or others.

I'm with Anton Chekov.  If you put a gun on a mantelpiece, somewhere along the line that gun will be used.  The gun will go off, the trigger will be pulled.  Could be an accident, or an act of violence in a moment of madness or anger...

Maybe we just choose not to put that gun in the scenery?  Live out another kind of story...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Freaking Gun Crazy

Horrid, despicable, unimaginable crime.  Can't outlaw crazy people.  A smart, civil society should do all it can to make it really, really hard for anyone to get their hands on a gun. Especially "automatic" weapons.

America is gun crazy.  It is a sickness.  Driven by fear. And there are many unhappy, sick people in the world.  Over 300 million guns floating around in America.  

Crazy Folks + Easy Access to Guns = Unimaginable Pain and Suffering.

Total stupidity too.  Gun advocates and the Gun lobby and the Gun Manufacturers have blood on their hands.  They should be held to account. And the weasel Politicians who bow down to the Gun Lobby should be shamed. 

Maybe some creative lawyers can band together and hold Manufacturers to account? To say nothing can be done is craven... and despicable too...

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Nearly Invisible Speck

You get these reminders, little reminders that you can break apart in one moment.  One moment.  You can fall apart.  Disintegrate into tiny microscopic pieces. You can crash and burn.  Everything you call "you" can collapse in a moment.

I don't think this should be "discouraging," no, you can keep your courage up in the face of annihilation. Remember you are special, but so is everyone else. You are the narrator of your own private narrative, but your story is not the central story... not by a long shot.  You are important to you.  To the universe you look like vapor, a tiny cloud, a blip, a nearly invisible speck in the great all-seeing eye.

And that's OK!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Good Luck Pilgrim!

I've bought into that idea that it all comes down to intention.  And I think you must be disciplined, and a stickler, and hold yourself to a higher truth, to try to make sure that your intentions are pure.  And I suppose you can never be sure.  We are such a tangled ball of confusion. And our egos get in the way and cloud our thinking.

And then of course, you must remember that "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  And it's easy to be misunderstood, even if you tell yourself that your intentions are good.  And there are so many contingencies, and so many ramifications to any action.  And what you thought was good and pure can lead to lots of pain and heartache and misunderstanding.

Purity may be another one of those chimeras we base a life on.

So yes, even the easy, simple rule is fraught.  That's the way it works in this mad adventure.  You have a compass, but it's unreliable... and every time you turn, the needles spin... good luck Pilgrim!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A R&R Dynamo!

I'm pretty conflicted about Pete Townshend's "Who I Am."  It's a book that is sometimes good, and other times not so good.  It's an easy read. Confounding too. Pete comes across as an intelligent, sensitive soul. But sometimes you think Pete is not the best guy to be telling his own story, or the story of the Who.

He lacks perspective. He's so conflicted.  And confused.  And there were all those years of alcoholism.  And those years of cocaine insanity. He's actually best on his early formative years as a child in London.  Clear-eyed.  He's a little less good on the Who years. One thinks he doesn't really understand his own accomplishments.

If you want to understand why The Who are a great and important band, listen to their string of masterful discs: Who's Next, Live at Leeds, Isle of Wight, Tommy, Quadrophrenia.  Plus don't forget the early singles: Happy Jack, My Generation, Substitute, The Kids are Alright, I Can See for Miles.  Pete channeled his angst, his anger and frustration into his music and his wind-milling stage persona.  That's the best of the man.  An artist.

And although Pete wrote most of the songs, The Who's greatness resided in the collective dynamic between Daltrey, Moon, Entwhistle and Townshend.

Townshend's self-portrait is messy and often unappealing. He's a guy pining for some kind of spiritual transcendence, so much of his work is about that topic, but you never really get a sense of what that transcendence actually means. And much of the book is wrapped up in the mind-numbingly mundane, in all kinds of trivial, empty things. Maybe that's a life, but it's not a compelling narrative, and not very interesting or enlightening for the reader.

My favorite sentence in Pete's book, is the last one: "If in doubt, just play."  That can pretty much serve as some kind of credo.  And when The Who were in their prime, they were a powerful, rock and roll dynamo!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

That's a Good One...

What does life teach us?  That's a good one... I think as you get older you get to decide what kind of relationship you want with life.  Everyone gets to decide on their own.  Of course, Life has a say in the matter too.  We call that fate, destiny, luck, accident...

Lately I've been in a very philosophical frame of mind.  A "love of wisdom," indeed.  Not sure if I actually possess wisdom.  Most of what I think of as wisdom has been borrowed from the sages and ages.

"Life is suffering."  That's the Buddha.  And if you love life, then you love suffering.  And if you really could love suffering, I guess you'd beat the game at it's own game.  Not sure if that's even possible.

But what if you could accept pain, suffering, depression, death, loneliness, etc. as conditions just as inevitable as joy, love, happiness, transcendence? All of these conditions are temporary.  Aye there's the rub...

"All things must pass."  (George Harrison by way of the Bhagavad Gita).

That could be liberating.  Really.  If you can really integrate that knowledge deep inside your being.  Everything is temporary.  So you could think: this pain is temporary; this suffering won't last, this joy will dissipate, this feeling of transcendence will disappear.  And something else will take it's place.  And that fine. That's life.  And we get to experience everything... enjoy the experience... enjoy the pain, enjoy the loneliness, enjoy the ability to feel suffering... don't cling, something else will come your way soon... guaranteed! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Leave-Taking

The spirit leaves.  Any time, in a moment.  Reminded of that fact two days ago.  One of our little feathered friends gave up the ghost.  It was unexpected, sudden.  Baffling. So sad.

It happens like this: something takes over. There is a "leave-taking," the wings spread, it appears as if the little being is preparing to soar, and then the body "drops." And then, it's over. You are left with the little perfect lifeless body.

No reason is given.  You can make up reasons, but they all seem so inadequate and beside the point. One moment life, one moment death.

What lesson? Not sure. Death happens. Spirit leaves. Those that are living need to pay attention to those still living. And remember those who have passed. Every moment is a moment of possibility. Every moment.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sum it Up?

Yes, we did this Toys for Tots show last night at the Red Line Tap... how do I sum it up?  We raised a boat-load of toys for the kids. We packed the place with people.  By any measure it was a wildly successful show...

There were reindeer, monkeys, drunk people.  Short ones, tall ones.  We raffled off the lamest DVD's ever made by man. We had a ukulele raconteur walking around in his bathrobe.  The Uber-Critic was surly and rolled around on stage.  We had Marines, Go-Go dancers, and a few unmitigated train-wrecks too. I was drinking Guinness. There was sonic bliss, and total mayhem too. Lots of holiday cheer.  A good time had by all...

Saturday, December 08, 2012


When you are little you think everything is "out there."  And then somewhere along the line you think everything is "in here."  There's the outward journey and the inward journey...

And then somewhere along the line you realize that it's both, and it's a dance, and you must juggle your perspective, always, every moment.  You are dazzled and confounded with the things of the world, and you find strength and insight inside yourself.

You are not helpless.  You are not an idiot.  You have resources. And you can use them to deal with the world as you find it.  That's how you live a full life...

Friday, December 07, 2012

Faith in the Creative Project!

It's all about the work... I suppose I adopted that line from Andy Warhol.  I think if you are in the creative realm, if you are really committed to what you do, you end up putting it all in the work.  You can't help it. And everything in your life, in your background, in your foreground, comes through.  That's the beauty of it.  That's what makes art important.  And transcendent, and inspiring.  We put the best of ourselves into the work.  Maybe sometimes the worst too.  Makes it all more compelling and layered... etc.

Anyway, my favorite photographer, Michael Doubrava has just posted some new work.  I am just totally bowled over by this man's vision.  He creates another world.  Sometimes it's a lovely order, or maybe a lovely disorder.  And things that seem like they seem, aren't what they seem.  

Or they are... or... you know, there's the real, the surreal and the beyond the real too.  Michael's work is beautiful and mysterious and exquisite. And if you know his methods, and his madness, you can't help but be inspired.  And your faith in the creative project is renewed...

Thursday, December 06, 2012

What Does Elvis Have to do With It?

Kind of stumbled into the r&r business... I mean on a local club level.  I've worked with promoters, and I've also promoted shows on my own.  It can be very rewarding to put a line-up of acts together and put on a show.  And then sometimes you think a show is gonna be really special. For this one, I'm just part of team. Lots of really cool people helped on this one.  And it's all for a great cause.  Really looking forward to it. If you live in the Chicago area, you should check it out!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

David Briggs was the Secret Sauce!

Did you ever play a CD over and over until it finally just gives up the ghost?  I've done it a few times. Just replaced my copy of Neil Young and Crazy Horses' "Ragged Glory."  I have really played the be-jesus out of this disc ever since it came out in 1990.  And the new CD sounds great.  Blasted it out over and over yesterday afternoon...

I wonder why it's so good?  Neil and the band are in peak form.  It is a raggedly glorious sound.  I suspect the X factor was the Producer David Briggs.  It's no accident that some of my favorite Neil Young music was produced by Briggs.  Whatever he brought to the sessions, whatever he did when collaborating with Neil worked out to the max.  He brought some kind of special hoodoo mojo factor.  Kind of mysterious... and his track record with Young is seriously great, some of the best music ever recorded...  David Briggs was the secret sauce!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

"When are things gonna get back to normal?" - Roger Sterling

We recently purchased the Blu-Ray DVD of Mad Men season 5 and have been really submerging ourselves in the show. It's really great, a period piece about America, and how during the sixties the ground shifted and everything changed. I love how music is used in the show.  Songs usually come at the end, kind of as an exclamation point. Last night we watched the "Tomorrow Never Knows" episode...

People remember "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart's Club Band" as the pinnacle of the Beatles musical achievement, but "Revolver" might actually be their best album.  And this is the song that kind of blew open the doors.  It opened minds, opened heads, this is when the Beatles got really "weird" and great...

And Lennon showed how a rock and roll song could be trippy, fun and deeply disorienting and profound too...

Monday, December 03, 2012

One's Man's Spiritual Epiphany is Much Like Another Man's Spiritual Epiphany

Another funny thing about Mike Scott's book (see previous post): the spiritual "epiphany" that he  describes when he was at Findhorn, a rural community in Scotland in the mid-nineties, is very similar to the spiritual epiphany I had on Clark Street in Chicago in the early two thousands...

It was funny to read in black and white someone describe the same basic experience.  Maybe it's characteristic of a deep meditative state.  It's also funny how language is so unable to convey the actual experience.  I mean the description is quite good, but it sounds sort of plain, mundane and blah.

Maybe that's also characteristic of the most profound experiences.  You can't really describe them.  Only truly experience them.  And when you do try to describe them you miss the target and fall into cliche.  Maybe the experience is sort of cliche.  But a spiritual epiphany is nothing to sneeze at!

And that feeling of "well-being and connectedness" is something special for sure... sort of earth-shaking and profound...

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Adventures of the Last Standing Waterboy!

Next up for me will be Pete Townshend's book, but first, just finished reading Mike Scott's book "Adventures of a Waterboy." Mike is the front-man, the leader, and sometimes the last and only Waterboy left standing. The book is a wonderful read.  It is beautifully written.  Scott is a heart-felt poet, and a man in love with, and driven by, music.

There are some haunting, beautiful and soul-stirring passages in this book.  Scott really is a r&r gypsy. And a great writer. He has followed his own muse and flitted from grandly different visions for the Waterboys, sometimes from one record to the next.  At times, he was striving for a Big Rock and Roll sound, and then  other times he was going for a rootsy, organic Celtic sound.  Probably his greatest achievement is "Fisherman's Blues," a dash back to that old Celtic sound, melding rock, folk and traditional music. Scott is a "Scot," who fell in love with Ireland, and the old music, and then put together an amazing band of traditional players to bring music alive.

There are also some other great albums by the Waterboys, especially the grandly rocking  "This is the Sea."  And I just discovered  "A Rock in the Weary Land." It's a a really powerful record, and another vision fully-realized. Influenced by Radio-Head's denser electronic sound!

Scott is sort of a baffling figure too.  He comes across as a very willful, intuitive person, with a grand spiritual vision.  He also comes across as "difficult" never settling on a single musical approach, never quite satisfied with the work, not comfortable playing the rock star role, unable to hold a band of musicians together.

You do think lots of things are left out of his version of his adventures.  But the Mike Scott you meet is a charismatic r&r poet.  And an amiable spiritual gypsy.  And his great poetic gift and his deep spiritualism drives some great, soul-full music. Recommended!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

I Can't Explain It!

I can't really explain it... I'm at the bookstore, in the r&r section... I'm torn between buying Pete Townshend's new book or Neil Young's.  I greatly admire both of these guys.  I love reading r&r memoirs, and some of them, like Keith Richard's book, seem like great literature too.  I'm obsessed with Pop Culture, and seeing Pop Culture through the eyes of some of the people who have been in the center of the hurricane is very cool.

So I'm torn.  Two big books, two expensive hard-covers.  Lots of words.  And for some reason I opt for the Townshend book.  And I actually think to myself, "I don't trust Neil." Is that right?! I love Neil Young.  I think he's an amazing artist, great singer/songwriter, unbelievable guitar player. What am I thinking?  Just looking at the cover, I think, "Neil's gonna bullshit me."

In fiction there's the "unreliable narrator."  Somehow Keith made it work, even though you think he's about as unreliable as you can get.  And yes, there's lots everyone leaves out.  That's what life and memory is... what you remember... what you forget.

Anyway, can't explain it.  I opt to go with Pete...  I wonder if I made the right choice .  Is Pete's book any good? Is he gonna bullshit me too? I guess I'll report back when I finish it!

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