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Monday, November 30, 2015

We All Come from Wolfpacks!

We watched the documentary "The Wolfpack." It scans like fiction, you think it's fiction, but it's not. Very entertaining, disturbing, enlightening. So improbable.

Six brothers. Locked in an apartment. Their whole lives. They watch movies. All their culture is pop culture. They act and recreate movies as a sort of daily ritual. They act in and re-enact movies like "Pulp Fiction," Batman," and "Reservoir Dogs."

They do it religiously.

Sort of like "Lord of the Flies" in an apartment on the lower East side of Manhattan. The movie makes you think. About "socialization." About cults. And religions. And families.

And how we are all isolated by what we do. We are all members of wolfpacks. To greater and lesser degrees. There are the inside worlds we inhabit, and the outside worlds we matriculate in. They collide and influence each other.

What do we value? What do we do? Who do we emulate? And with the choices we make, who are we serving? Ourselves? Or others? How to live with integrity? And freedom? How to make our lives our own?

Great movie.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

More Alive/Less Sensitive!

Yesterday, practicing cover songs for an upcoming show. 6 songs. Played them with two singers at our rehearsal space. Me on guitar. 6 songs, and we played each of them around 5 times. Multiply that and you get 30 songs. In a few hours. 

My fingertips. Every note etched into my fingertips. If you play guitar, you know about callouses. They are essential. They are your "badges of honor." You are changed by playing. It's almost like the strings, and where you place your fingers, are tatooed. You wear the changes. You are battle-tested. Hardened.

We recorded the last run-thru of songs and I just listened to the recording this morning. They all sound better than I thought they would. Satisfying. And my fingertips seem different. More alive, and less sensitive, at the same time.  

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Yes. People disappoint. That's a theme. 

Sometimes they surprise too. That's a theme too. 

Count on being disappointed and surprised. You wonder if it all evens out. Maybe if you extend the timeline into forever. 

Some days, some decades, it all seems like disappointment. Then again, there are always surprises along the way.  That's just the way it goes...

Friday, November 27, 2015

Sad. Hard to Explain.

You find out some one you know is a flaming, bone-headed racist. How to explain it? An intelligent person. One who has never actually had personal experience with people they feel "superior" to.

Baffling. Really. 

I mean, I know we all have some in-built bias, probably encoded inside us. Is it true that racism is "hard-wired in our brains?" Then none of us are exempt. But it is something we can recognize and work against. It is essential. To find empathy for our fellow beings. 

Celebrate and honor the differences between us. Maybe idealistic. But it's the only way.

 This deep hatred of people because of their "race" is just so confounding. Not something understandable. Sad. Hard to explain. Ugly.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Few Heroes in an Ugly Saga!

A 17 year old gets gunned down by a Chicago Cop, and a dash-cam video (see previous post) is finally released. And then all this latent ugliness and bias comes out. Arguments about racism, Good Cops vs. Bad Cops, Good Kids vs. Bad Kids.

Your lying eyes see what looks like cold-blooded murder, but then you are surprised that your fellow citizens can't agree that murdering a young black kid, even if he was up to no good, is not a good thing. It's hard to believe that there are "sides" to that argument. I even read a post where someone said the kid "got what he deserved."

So yes, racism, ugliness, bias, stupidity, willful ignorance is rampant among us. The video just kind of brings all that out into the light of day.

Now the story became a story of a video, and "will the people riot." But there's actually another pretty amazing story within the story, that's even more interesting.  None of this would be in the public conversation without an "Anonymous Tipster," and "an Activist/Journalist" named Jamie Kalven.

Someone within the Chicago City Administration saw the video and realized it did not confirm the story told by the Cops on the scene. In fact, of course, it totally contradicted the story told by those Cops. That kid did not rush the Cops with a knife, he was in the distance sort of tacking away from the Cops. No way was that killer-Cop threatened, or fearing for his life.  Not believable!

And the City Administration and the Chicago Police Department wanted to bury that video. They did all they could to assure that it would not see the light of day. Luckily, the Activist/Journalist, once he was tipped off, decided to fight to get it released. And luckily a Cook County Judge agreed that it should be released.

So yes, there are some "heroes" in this terribly ugly saga: an Anonymous Tipster, and Activist/Journalist, and a Judge.  A few good people. People not happy with the cover story, not happy that the truth was buried. 

The difference between living in a totally corrupt place, and a maybe not quite so corrupt place? A few good people with the idea that the truth should be brought into the light of day. So yes, a Cop who committed a crime, and people of power and influence trying to hide that fact. You wonder if the perpetrators, the man who killed, those who knew the truth,  and those who lied and covered it up, will be held to account?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Don't Believe Your Lying Eyes!

They tell you, "don't believe your lying eyes." You can watch the dash-cam of a Chicago Cop shooting down a 17 year old black kid here. The kid may have been in the wrong place, wrong time, maybe that's a knife in his hand, but you think the "death penalty" isn't quite justified for the actions of this kid. The Cop shot at the kid 16 times... mind boggling... chilling... how often does this happen?

If you do believe your lying eyes the dash-cam seems to show a cold-blooded murder, an execution of a 17 year old kid. I know it's a Cop doing the shooting, and Cops do have tough jobs, but murder is murder. There is no reason that Cop should have "feared for his life." If he did, he is in the wrong job.

It took a year for this video to surface. A reporter was tipped and had to go to court to get it released. Some might say it looks like  Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the States Attorney Anita Alvarez were covering up for political convenience. Isn't that a crime?! What they call "Obstruction of Justice?!"

Makes Spike Lee's "Chirac" so of the moment. Unfortunately. I for one look forward to seeing Spike's movie. I still consider "Do the Right Thing" one of the greatest American films ever made. Tony Fitzpatrick talks about "Chirac" here. There is something seriously wrong in Chicago, in the Police department and the Mayor's office.

Here's the "Chirac" trailer..

CHI-RAQ Trailer from 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Life of Fakery!

Someone hit me with this one, and it's resonated around in my head for awhile. I mean I've heard it before, but the conversation where it popped up was such an unlikely circumstance, I was down and out, staring at the abyss...

"Fake it till you make it." 

You know, it's a "positive feedback loop." Act like the thing you want to be, and in that way, you will become the thing you want to be.

I think about it, and well, much of my life has been faking it. No one told me I could be a writer, actor, director, song-writer, singer, guitar player. I just decided these were things I wanted to do.

I started doing them. And continued doing them. I faked my way through.

Now some folks may say it's all fakery. Still. But my life has been consumed with pursuing these things of fakery until finally my life is made of all these fake things. And it's a genuine life. A real, genuine pursuit.

A complete and convincing (at least to me), fakery.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Oh Yeah, and Clive Owen too!

More thoughts (see previous post), on the gorgeousness and fabulousness of "The Knick." We're about half-way through the 1st season, and caught up in a great narrative. The time is 1900 and the new century is one of discovery and invention. Thomas Edison is around hawking electricity and x-rays and the 1st phonograph.

And the key characters of the show are surgeons who are innovators - creative, driven, supremely passionate and flawed beings, trying to do things no one has done before. 

So yes, the form of the show, as conceived by Steven Soderbergh, and the theme of the show are totally aligned.

Soderbergh is an innovator - creative, driven, supremely passionate about creating a unique, beautifully filmed series. He pushes himself to create scenes in a new way. And uses the latest technology. But what's brilliant and uncommon -  he uses cutting edge technology, and his painter's eye, to film like the old masters. This is not a CGI fest, but a merging of old and new worlds.

So yes, available light, candlelight. Powerful digital camera, giving us exquisitely composed scenes. A powerful dichotomy. 

Also wanted to mention the soundtrack. The music pulls you out of it all. It's sort of a "techno," keyboard-driven sound. Not of the time at all. But for me this works beautifully too. In a way, the music is the atmosphere of imagination, and creativity, and technical invention that hovers over all the action.

The series seems to celebrate the best of us. Flawed beings that are able to transcend themselves to discover, experiment, and achieve things that have never been attempted or achieved before. And of course, there's the obsession, the delusion, the ego, the misguided, un-channeled passion that drives and consumes us all.

It's a time of sexism, racism, classism, ignorance, and hubris. Oh yeah, just like today!

Did I give you the impression that I think this series is absolutely brilliant? Oh yeah, and Clive Owen too. Thrilling!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Gorgeousness of "The Knick!"

Watch a few episodes of "The Knick," and you very quickly realize you are watching something "revolutionary." Actually the first scene of the first episode will tip you off that something extraordinary is going on with this cable TV series.

Yes, the characters are compelling, there's great acting going on, a dynamic narrative, but it's the look and feel of the show that is something new, something different, something really unique. I actually Googled "What kind of camera is used filming The Knick?" 

It looks like rich, saturated film, you know, the old kind of technology used by masters like Stanley Kubrick, but you find out that no, Steven Soderbergh uses a digital camera called "Red Epic Dragon." And its small and light, and can film in very low light, any available light like candlelight. 

And Soderbergh uses it like a master. This show is a labor of love, and a feat of technical mastery. Really. And it's beautiful. Nearly every scene is rich, layered, colorful, beautiful. Made me immediately think of Kubrick, you know like Kubrick from "Eyes Wide Shut."

Soderbergh shot every episode. He works quickly, he edits the series too. All handheld, puts the camera in unique places, gives us a true feast for the eyes. A true, a pure, auteur approach. Pretty amazing. High art. Gorgeous.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Gold Coins in the Garden!

A great little web article about Paul McCartney and John Lennon. 

"I think John's whole life was a cry for help." - Paul McCartney

And maybe that's why Lennon was so compelling, fascinating, exciting. And of course, Paul an amazingly creative, charismatic, musical genius. What a great song-writing team.

When I think Beatles music, I think: joy, exuberance, inventiveness, creativity, energy, melody. And all those things are there in the tracks. But what gives it all power is that very real pain, loss, doubt, and an insatiable unhappiness, unsettledness. Maybe it's that combo that makes the music so over-powering.

And what of their joint prophetic dream? They both had the same dream!? The mystical path on practical feet!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Stuck on Wonder!

Aging. It happens to everything/everyone. You get older. Although, I like to think that really it's just our experience that is getting longer.  

That Dylan lyric rings in my head: "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now." And it's true. I feel younger than ever. Less sure, less set in my ways.

The things I was so sure about as a youngster, I no longer feel sure about. So much is tentative, everything is on the bubble.

I am much more comfortable saying "I don't know." To all life's certainties. Not sure there are any certainties. Oh yes, there's death and taxes. But there is the great cloud of unknowing and exemptions. Don't forget exemptions! 

So much of what goes through my head now is not definitive, not assured, not certain. I am open. Open head, open door... I wonder. About everything... that's kind of a young thing that I'm stuck on.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Not Weak At All!

I am pleased that Kevin Drum takes us through all the gory details. Those cads who try make out Obama "weak" on "national security" and terror, should take a stroll through Drum's latest post.  Not weak. Not at all.

And those who are criticizing Obama's approach really offer nothing.  And isn't that a pattern? There is an intelligent, engaged, pragmatic, cool-headed individual in the White House. Most of his rivals are just talking heads, speaking lots of words, saying nothing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The GOP - Cringe-Worthy!

Yes, it takes a crisis to remind me how happy I am that Barack Obama is President of the United States. The GOP is a cringe-worthy entity. Their candidates for President are a bunch of mealy-mouthed idiots. Truly.

It is truly disgusting how they are using the terrible events in Paris to hype the fear and panic here. And of course some of them are pounding the table demanding we send more troops into harm's way. Does everyone forget how that worked out in Iraq? Isn't that how this whole thing devolved into the mess we have today?

Yes, as Obama says, a party that is fearful of 3 year old orphans kind of gives up their credibility as a viable party.  So pathetic! Kind of funny too. But really, really pathetic.

And yes, this is a good political doctrine to live by: "Don't do stupid shit!"

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Consoling a Friend!

Yesterday, I found myself in conversation "consoling" a friend. I was consoling, but could have been very easily the consoled one. As I have said before, we are all one catastrophe from catastrophe.

A positive thing happens and you feel positive. A negative thing happens and you feel negative. A series of positive or negative things happen and you think you are blessed or cursed.

I found myself saying things like: "You must believe, in something, even it's just believing in something. I love clear consciousness, clarity, and I think we are all more than our bodies. Maybe you can turn this bad thing into something good? Use this time to heal and do something. Something greater than yourself."

Was I really talking to a friend? Or was I really talking to myself? Maybe both?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Exploiting the Terror!

Yes, of course, (no surprise), Paul Krugman gets it exactly right. There are people who will want to exploit our fear of the terror. So predictable. The conservatives see this as an opportunity to use for political advantage. Remember how badly they responded to the attack in New York? Cooler heads. We need cooler heads. Good thing our current President is a smart, pragmatic man with a clear head. We need to think and act with clarity. Not with fear, panic, or terror reverberating in our heads.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It's Personal

Sadness. It wells up. That's the main thing. People wreaking horror, death and pain on other people. Makes you wonder, "What's wrong with people?"

As a tolerant, liberal-minded person, I stand up for equality, liberty, fraternity. We do have to call out the hatred, the backward, the radical fringe. Some choices, some ways of living, some practices, some beliefs are just not acceptable. 

Still you wrestle with your empathy and compassion for all that lives. 

But what do we do in the face of hatred? The terror-makers? How do we call out those who stand against a free, democratic, liberal-minded, socially progressive world?

Enemies of freedom? Radical ideology of any kind. Fundamentalism. People with the idea that they have all the answers. That there is a better world than this one. Anyone who will kill another human for an idea or religious belief. These folks are seriously sick.

Do we harden our hearts? Do we strike out in retaliation? Do we hope for some fleeting, ephemeral, impossible "justice?"

This kind of attack is "personal." It's an attack on all of us. All who want to live. What do we do?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The City of Light Under Attack

A barbaric, terroristic attack on the City of Light. Sends one into a spinning vortex. The slaughter of innocent bystanders, people going about their daily lives. Unimaginable, unconscionable. Leaves one grasping for answers. No answers come. How to deal with human beings willing to die and take others with them? 

Our great experiment: a free city, open, tolerant, welcoming. Human beings of every kind living together. It's an attack, on all of us. Anyone who lives, and wants to live free and happy.  So sad. You fear for the future. It's easy to search for easy answers.  There are no easy answers.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Elvis C. - More than a Footnote!

Elvis C.'s book is long (see previous post), so a 2nd post about it seems fine to me. There is lots of bitter, "gallows humor" in the book. The kind of humor a lapsed Catholic of Irish descent always revels in. Seems all was not peachy keen for "Little E." Like most of us, much his pain and turmoil came from his own hubris and a long series of self-inflicted wounds.

Anyway a few additional thoughts and tidbits...

Elvis burst on the scene like a hyper-active, angry and guilt-ridden Buddy Holly. Bigger glasses, even more nerdy, certainly pissed-off and edgy. He became famous for his insolent smirk. Funny, bitter, witty. Maybe too witty, too self-satisfied. But really thoroughly guilt-ridden. A chip on his shoulder.

Some of it was a pose, but the essence was real. Elvis was funny & angry & guilt-ridden. Right out of the box.

Like he says in the book, I'm paraphrasing, he wrote bitter songs for a certain kind of creep. His sudden success blew his life to smithereens. There was lots of wreckage along the way - broken vows, broken promises, broken beer bottles.

He was punched out by Bonnie Bramlett in a bar in a Holiday Inn in the late 70's. Elvis was blind drunk and belligerent, and said some terribly derogatory things about Ray Charles and James Brown. Bonnie laid him out (You go girl!).  This event hung over Elvis like a black cloud for many, many years. Chalk it up to too much booze and hubris. 

Over the years there was a mellowing. And Elvis became a go-to collaborator. He's played with everyone, written songs with some of the greatest song-writers in the Universe. Most of his work has a melancholy mood. But he really, really knows how to write a compelling lyric. 

The last few years he writes about characters. Not so much his own personal history. He tells us it's better for his head and heart that way.

What I love about the book, it makes me want to listen to music - Joe Henry, the Pogues, Allen Toussaint, Solomon Burke, Burt Bacharach, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney.

Just like Elvis, my taste in music has grown over the years. Suddenly all those odd detours and unique collaborations that Little E. took are intriguing and compelling. The last few days I have been listening to the record Elvis made with Burt Bacharach. It has been sitting on a shelf for years. I dusted it off and it's been on infinite replay the last few days.

It's not r&r, by any means, flugelhorns & strings, it's some kind of brilliant, shimmering, chamber-pop, or something like that. Pretty amazing stuff. So yes, Elvis. This Elvis too. More than a footnote.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Calling Yourself "Elvis!"

Almost done with Elvis Costello's book. It's thick. But reads well. You might think this Elvis is a footnote to r&r history, but not many people can say they have co-written songs with Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, and Allen Toussaint.

Elvis (Declan MacManis) is a wordsmith. He has a way with words. You can hear it in his songs, and the music of his prose. The book jumps around a bit, which to me seemed like a good thing. You get a portrait of Liverpool, of Elvis' family, a deep and moving portrait of his big-band vocalizing father.

I consider Elvis one of my r&r "discoveries." I inherited the Beatles, Stones, Dylan, but discovered Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, the Ramones, Talking Heads and Elvis. I was at the first show he ever did in the Chicago area. A tiny club. Up close and personal. I was a believer.

Certainly "My Aim is True," and especially "This Year's Model," are essential records. I kind of lost touch with him over the years. I fell for the angry young man with songs of "guilt & revenge." He sort of lost me when he revealed himself to be a "song & dance man."

As a friend of a friend once sneeringly said to a friend: "You like music, I like to ROCK." But over the years my taste has morphed, and I'd say I do like to rock, but I love music. Music of all kinds.

So now, Elvis' range of influences, projects and collaborations are quite breath-taking and impressive. There is a sadness, "unfaithful," and "disappearing" are key words in the title. There are lots of scenes and events included in a busy life. But you also get a sense that much is left unsaid, or referred to only glancingly. Lots of pain and heartache worked out in lyrics.

Think a Liverpool-raised, lapsed Irish-Catholic, prone to drink, and anger, and guilt, and revenge, and "unfaithfulness." With a love of music, and an extraordinary musicality.  Yes, to take on the name "Elvis" was an act of hubris, arrogance, a joke, and a marketing gimmick. But much of his musical life has been pretty extraordinary. And music, songs, are central to all that happens in this life.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

One Step, One Step!

One step. One step forward. One step back. 

Sometimes it means standing in place. Lately I've been involved in a range of projects, and all of them seem to require infinite patience. Maybe that's a good thing? 

But then, some days, it's clear that I don't have infinite time. So yes, patience, but then very impatient to get things completed. But everything takes time. More time than originally thought. It's like running in mud, or on a treadmill. Running. Running. Going nowhere.

Slowly, oh so slowly seeing some progress... but it's hard. I can hear that clock ticking, always, always ticking. Steady. Constant.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Just Play!

Work. Right. It's all we have. Well that's a little bit too Puritan. There's also play. We have work and we have play. You want to make your work as fun and creative and amusing as play, and you want to make your play as serious, all-consuming, rewarding and fulfilling as work.

In our creative realm we always talk about the "good work." If you are going to do the work, or if you have work to do you should try transforming it. Make work, work for you. Make work play.

Then you have it knocked. Right? 

Kind of that Zen idea. If you must sweep. Sweep. Everything is contained in that motion, that activity, that action. And if you give yourself totally to what you do, by that commitment you fill everything with meaning.

That's the idea at least. No mindless actions. All actions fully mindful. Make work play. And then play. Just play. 

Monday, November 09, 2015

Tell the Story Your Way!

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. 

Memoirs. Autobiographies. People telling stories of their lives, as they remember it. Think the "unreliable narrator." Because of course our "memories" are not infallible. Just because someone remembers something, doesn't prove it happened, or happened the way they remember it.

And story-telling is an art. Not a science. What makes a great story? Editing. What you leave in, what you leave out. So we tell a story based on our memories, and it's an act of recall, an act of creation, an act of imagination, an act of discipline.

What's true, what's not true? Who gets to decide? If you are the writer, you decide. Then the reader decides whether what they read sounds true, seems true, is a good story. If it's a really, really good story, you are carried along and go with it.

Is everything "literally" true? Or is a really great story, told with verve and gusto better than true? A really good story is art, poetry. It's own kind of truth.

I think of Nabokov, Keith Richards, Amanda Palmer, Elvis Costello, Mary Karr, Patti Smith, Helen MacDonald, David Carr - I read their stories, and decide to ride along with them. Their truths shine through. The way they choose to tell a story. The way they choose to believe it all happened the way they remember it happened.

And yes, we all tell our stories. We tell the stories of the lives we want to live, want to believe we lived. We tell the stories of who we want to be. We pick and choose from a universe of facts. We tell a good story that we think people will want to read. We all get to make history. We tell it our way.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

The Adversary Gave Us Evolution!

One of the guys running for President thinks that "The Adversary" encouraged Charles Darwin to come up with the theory of evolution! And who is the Adversary? Well, you know, SATAN!

And we really haven't recovered, have we? Darwin really did a number on us, he left us with a major, freaking head-trip. Dear Brothers & Sisters, we are not so different than Chimpanzees!  Humans and Chimps - oh so closely related! How diabolical! 

Once that thought is released into the land. All hell breaks out!

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Jean Genet - Favorite Thief!

My favorite thief? We should all have a favorite thief, right? As Bob Dylan once sang, "You must be honest to live outside the law."

Ok. I will go with Jean Genet. Orphan, poet, writer, spent lots of time in prison. Sprung by Jean Paul Sartre. Genet wrote his first novel on toilet paper in prison. It was destroyed by one of the prison guards. Genet just wrote the whole thing again. That's determination.

Genet - favorite thief!

Friday, November 06, 2015

You Can't Really Say the Truth!

"Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" 

One of those very ridiculous questions. Always asked seriously. And a serious answer is expected.

You can't really say the truth, right? For instance, you can't say:

"I don't see myself at all. I see a blank, a blackness, a hole in the fabric of reality. I'm not there at all. In fact I don't see myself now either. Just don't see myself. I look in mirrors and I am always surprised that I'm still here. So yes, I struggle every day just to be here. In the moment. Hope that answers the question..."

Thursday, November 05, 2015

After Reckoning - Denial!

Yes, so what happens the day after the day of reckoning? See previous post. 

Well, it's a new day. A new frame of mind.  And like my partner pointed out to me, the day after the day of reckoning you are free... 

Free to go back to your normal, finely-tuned, and oh so effective "state of denial!" Think Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein: "What hump?!"

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Day of Reckoning!

Yesterday was a day of reckoning & accounting for me. Facing the music. Meeting with folks to discuss things. Folks and things I'd rather just forget. But forgetting just isn't going to cut it. So anyway, off on a wild goose chase across the city to take care of business.  At least it was a gorgeous day. So yes, even for me, head filled with worry and doubt - a beautiful blue sky, a sparkling afternoon, sunshine and color. People of all stripes dashing past me on their way to... wherever...

A Morrissey lyric kept running through my head, appropriate, and not so subtle: "What a terrible mess I've made of my life."

Morrissey is a "go-to" lyricist. And isn't he just one of the greatest songwriters of all time? Another day, and another mood and maybe this line would be keeping me company: "There is a light that never goes out." But no, it was not that kind of day.

If I were to sum things up. My life. I mean, I hate to do it, not my normal mode, the summing up is a gruesome frame of mind, a gruesome game. One I work hard on avoiding. But anyway let's see, where do I start...

At least...

... I'm not dead yet.
... I haven't killed anyone.
... Things could be worse.
... I still have all my body parts.
... Everything still works.

Maybe the bar is set a bit low? But anyway, that was my day of reckoning. You get down to the bottom. And then there's the looking up.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Amanda Palmer - Wind-Up Twitter Machine!

I was reading Elvis Costello's new book (he's a funny, intelligent, interesting writer), but then took a detour to read Amanda Palmer's book "The Art of Asking." Amanda is super-famous for her Kickstarter campaign for one of her records. She raised over a million dollars, with over 25,000 individuals donating to her campaign.

Amanda is a very, very unique individual. Her book has a few  simple, powerful ideas. Probably the most intriguing, is that it's OK to ask. It's a powerful tool. And surprisingly if you are open and honest, lots of people will be open to helping you, if you are willing to reach out. And Amanda has really lived this idea. Amanda has totally surrendered herself to "the crowd." Crowd-surfing, crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding. 

Human beings are social animals. We need each other. To ask for help is a risk, it's scary, there's the looming fear of rejection but all of us need and want to connect to others. No man or woman is an island. There are no "self-made" people. We come from a long line of others and those others help make us who we are. We can connect, it's as simple as being forthright, honest, vulnerable and willing to ask.

Amanda gave a TED talk that now has over 7 million views that pretty much contains the essence of the book. The book fills in details. You learn more about Amanda. Maybe sometimes you learn more about Amanda than you want to, but that's the way she lives her life. She shares. She tweets. Always. Obsessively. She is a master of sharing and "over-sharing." 

She certainly has used social media to the max. And she was ahead of the wave. Early adopter. Surfing social media for all it's worth. Pretty amazing story. She started out as a living statue, one of those folks dressed up, out on the street, performing for the crowd. And then she has gone on to a pretty impressive career, maybe not so much in music, but definitely in the "asking" and "self-promoting" biz.

I did wonder somewhere in the book if all this asking and openness and over-sharing is a bit too much? What's personal? What's private? When is it best not to ask the crowd for advice or help? And what happens if the crowd decides they don't like you, and don't want to help you? Amanda has some stories about that too.

When is enough, too much? I guess Amanda will find out. And she will tell us about it, in detail. For sure. Check her Twitter feed, she's probably tweeting right now.

Monday, November 02, 2015


The really, really big questions? Unanswerable. That's funny. Human. 

For instance: Ultimate Meaning, Purpose, Life, The Universe, Spirit. 

We can all hazard guesses. We can swear we know the answers. We can cling to theories. Pound on books of wisdom. Follow the thought-trains of other smart folks.

But really, finally, totally the big ones are Unanswerable. We get to ask the questions. And maybe that's all we really get. And we get to figure out how to live without really knowing.

We live with uncertainty. Mystery. We just don't know. Even if we really do want to know. And we will probably never really, really know the fundamental things we don't know.

So we live with that knowledge. The knowledge that our knowledge is quite inadequate, unsatisfactory, partial. And we deal.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

So Much Hurly-Burly!

I for one hate to see that Grantland is no more. It was a daily must-read for me. So good on sports, pop culture. Long, in-depth articles. A few days ago ESPN unceremoniously pulled the plug. Is there room on the internet for long-form journalism? Hope so. 

But so much of what is happening out in our "social media" is so "short-form." Click-bait headlines, silly videos. Feeds our short attention spans. We are insatiable for the next click. So much hurly-burly. Less taste. More filling.

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