WWSP's "The Alternate Boot!"

Thursday, August 06, 2020

A Nightmare Unlike Any Other...

A nightmare...

Picture it:
A large gathering. Maybe like the Grammy's, or the Oscars. Lots of famous people, celebrities from all over the world. Everyone dressed in their finest duds. There are TV cameras, this is a major event that is being broadcast across the globe. Imagine billions of eyes  riveted to screens, paying close attention to what's happening. You are there, on the spot. You are expected to sing a song. A song you don't know. It's a Radiohead song. One you have never heard before. Funny. You have always had a difficult time understanding Thom Yorke when he sings. It usually takes many listens before you can begin to parse out the lyrics to his songs. It's one of the pleasures of listening to Radiohead. You take in the sound first, you let the sound-waves of the band and Thom's voice wash over you, and you come up with meanings later. But this is different. There is no pleasure in the not knowing. You don't know the lyrics, you don't know the melody. You have no clue how to sing this song. Someone has given you the sheet music, and it looks like Egyptian hieroglyphics. No help. In fact, the sheet music just confounds the problem. You have a "situation" on your hands. No way out. There you are. Nervous as hell. Sweating. Stumbling thru a song you don't know. This is your big opportunity to make an impression on billions of people around the world. And you are flailing, stumbling, halting, doing a really poor version of a mystery song you don't know. You think to yourself: Thom Yorke is going to be very displeased with my performance. There is no way around it... yikes...

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

The Sanctuary...

Some times I find myself playing "caretaker." Usually taking care of a furry, four-legged soul.

I am in a grand old house, two blocks from the shore of a Great Lake (don't forget, as the sign says, it's "a dangerous body of water"). Yes. Dangerous & beautiful.

I find myself in a weird cul de sac of luxury. It is not disagreeable.

I have been reading RZA's "Tao of Wu."  It is a tale of poverty & riches, ignorance & wisdom, Gangsta and Holy Man.

I am also streaming Kung Fu movies. I wanted to see what RZA saw, to know what RZA knows.

So, I watched, The Five Venoms, The Thirty Six Chambers, The Return to the Thirty Six Chambers.
Funny.

I am not really into Kung Fu. But after wading thru those crude, but entertaining films, I found an exquisite masterpiece by the great filmmaker Wong Kar Wai: The Grandmaster.

So beautiful, powerful, enlightening. Renews my faith in the power of art.

So what else? I am drinking a new brew of coffee: Andes Mountain Brew.

And I am stuck on playing one record, over and over and over again: Led Zeppelin II (1969).  Page is a riff machine, and really just a fabulous guitar-master. Bonham is an exquisite drummer, (I can even listen to his drum solo on Moby Dick, over and over), power, yes, but a precise grace too. Plant does a bit of over the top caterwauling on a few tracks, but he also sings with passion and nuance especially when he sings about Frodo and Gollum, and John Paul Jones is the secret weapon on bass and organ.  Jones never makes a false move. Is Led Zeppelin II the greatest album ever made? No, probably not, I mean it's not even Led Zeppelin's best album, there are 3 or 4 others that rank up there with the best, but II does sound fabulous in these comfy digs. Play it loud on the BOSE, it sounds majestic.

So, yes, things are different here. Lots of time to contemplate & meditate, to water the garden, to take long, rambling walks. Whatever is happening out in the world, I can kind of keep it at bay. This is a time of sanctuary and renewal.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

The Movie...

The movie...

You know, the movie has been playing long before you came in, and it will play long after you leave. You are in your seat, you have your popcorn, and soft drink, you are trying to take in the action on the screen. You think you know some of the actors, you kind of think you know the gist of the plot, but really, it's all guesswork. There are long stretches where you have no clue what's going on. You find yourself closing your eyes and dozing in the slow parts. You wake up and are on the edge of your seat for some of the tense parts. You find yourself trying to lay down in the aisle, but it's too constricted. You'd like to hide under your seat, but you won't fit, there's old candy wrappers, and empty popcorn containers under there. It's sticky too. Your shoes sometimes stick to the floor. You are stuck in your seat for long stretches. You do take bathroom breaks. You slink out to the lobby, it's bright and empty. The bathrooms are shiny and clean. Antiseptic. Someone has been working hard to keep things clean. You want to figure out what's going on. You'd like to know, is the movie an action flick, a mystery, a comedy, a romance, one of those weird, foreign flicks that you'll never get? There is no one around to ask. You realize that the movie will run long after you are gone. So you really won't know  how it all turns out, you won't find out if it's a "feel good" flick, you know, life affirming, or a sad film, a multi-hanky, tear-jerker, or inconclusive, or mysterious, or maybe a cliff-hanger, a first in a series of movies, maybe it's franchise film and there will be a sequel, a prequel, or a later reboot? I mean, "only the Shadow knows..." So, back to your seat. Sometimes you zone out and just watch the colors on the screen, the soundtrack washes over you like water over a rocky shore. You can't make out anything specific, it's all just sound, color, fury & thunder...

Monday, August 03, 2020

Future/Now Self to Past/Then Self...

A Close & Dear Loved One sent me some old Polaroids of a few other Close & Dear Loved Ones. Glimpses of a time and place now long gone. One photo was a younger version of me, decades younger. I look pretty fresh. Not sure if I ever saw that photo before. I also look a bit surprised and bemused. Expectant?

What would my Future/Now Self tell my Past/Then Self?

Here goes:

"Don't worry. The future is not what you think it's gonna be. Nothing is gonna be what you think it's gonna be. So maybe don't think about it too much. You really don't know what Life is, and the questions you have about Life and Yourself and Others too, are just going to multiply as you go. The Mystery of it all will deepen. Try to take it slow. Time rushes by in a blur. Pay attention to all the little details. Keep your eyes open. Lots to take in. The details, the little things that you don't think are important, actually are important. Most of what you think you know is wrong. Don't worry about it. Most of the decisions you make are gonna be wrong too. Maybe, instead of "trusting your gut," try flipping a coin? I mean it's sounds crazy, but really the coin-flipping is probably just as good as anything. Be yourself. Don't worry about what others think of you, or what you think other people think you "should do." There is no "should do." Do what you do, but, I mean, really do it to the max. Own it. Be alive & awake in the moment. Those moments, everyone of the moments of your life are precious. They roll out really fast. One day you wake up and realize long stretches of your life now exist only in your head. All you have from the past are stray memories, long-lost photos. Remember: You will lose just as much as you gain. That's OK. I mean, that's Life..."

Sunday, August 02, 2020

More Thoughts On Masks...

Of course, once you pose the question: Why is wearing a mask during a pandemic even a question?

The answer easily emerges: Because it is a highly charged issue, that illuminates all the differences alive in the Human Herd.

Yes, "Elementary, my Dear Mr. Watson."

Hamlet asked: "To be or not to be?"
We ask: "To mask or not to mask?"

It's an existential question. Highlights all the fundamentals of believing and disbelieving that Humans embody.

What is Life?
What is Death?
Is there an Afterlife?

Are we guided by...

The Fickle Finger of Fate?
The Various modes of Luck: Good, Bad, Random, Blind?

Is the Universe Guided and Watched Over by an All-Powerful, All-Knowing God?
Or is it a place where Life has emerged, and Humans must take responsibility for their own actions?

Do you believe in Climate Change? Do you believe Human Beings have wrecked the interconnected web of our ecosystem? Do you believe Humans can remedy the situation?

Or is it all in God's hands? God's Will?

What of Human relations? Are we all in this together, or are we all alone? Is it a brother and sister hood of Humans and connected souls, or is just a grand contest of one against one? Are we all on a journey of discovery together, or is it just a grand competition?

What of Politics? Is just a game of Power? The mighty vs. the weak? The wealthy vs. the poor? The haves vs the have nots?

Democracy - We all collectively decide.
Autocracy - Strong-Man Decides.
Communism - Each according to their needs.
Socialism - We need to take care of each other.

Or something else?

Do we need to care about other people? Do we need to take care of each other? Or is it just about "Freedom?" Don't tread on me...

You see, a little conundrum like wearing a Mask in the middle of a raging pandemic brings up all the issues that confound us. We wrestle with this shit everyday. Welcome to the wonderful world of Being Human.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Mask or No Mask...

This current crisis exposes all the flaws of our system & culture.  And you know, the flawed nature of being human.

Thinking optimistically, it is an opportunity for change, growth, evolution & progress.
Thinking pessimistically... hmmm... maybe not...

I guess we shall see.

This "mask thing" really highlights the weird nature of our human predicament. To wear a mask or not to wear a mask. It seems like a little thing. A safe thing. A logical, rational thing. But it is quite amazing and instructive to see how some folks really, really don't want to have to care about anyone else. They just don't want to be told to care, they just don't want to. So they just won't wear a damn mask. Nope. Not gonna do it. Funny. Weird.

The mask is symbolic. It's a way of saying, "Yes. I do care. About you, about me, about the health and safety of the human herd."  And the science, the data tells us that wearing a mask cuts down on transmission of the virus. One person wearing a mask helps a bit, two people wearing masks, helps even more, two people wearing masks and keeping their distance, really dramatically cuts down on transmission. Nothing mysterious about any of this, it's just basic common sense.

But...

There are some folks who really, really don't care about other folks. They just don't. And they don't want to feel guilty about it either. 

There are some folks who really don't care about anyone or anything except themselves.  And who knows, maybe their dirty little secret is that they don't really care about themselves either? That's psychology. Those maximally selfish ones? I mean, basically these are the dyed in the wool assholes amongst us. Maybe there are more of these than we ever realized? You these are some to the same folks who refuse to wear a seat-belt, or refuse to quit smoking, or who continue to drive drunk, who like to play with guns, who like to bully other people, and yeah, vote for toxic-clown, reality-tv idiots.

If you are not one of these folks it's a bit bewildering, eye-opening, surprising, confounding. Maybe pisses you off a bit too. WTF. Get it together people. We are all in this together, whether you want to believe it or not.  

Mask or no Mask. Says a lot depending on which way you decide to go on this issue...

Friday, July 31, 2020

Gonna or Not Gonna...

Events conspired.

A barrage of news. Elevated temps. Feeling a bit under siege. 

We were sitting in the shade. Taking a break in the late afternoon, in the middle of a long bike-ride. Hot. Sweaty. Alive. We were talking about the events of the day, and of our time on the planet. A very-typical kind of conversation for us. Everything under the sun up for discussion. A daily existential examination.

My friend told me this line that came from my mouth did not sound Zen, no, maybe too much of that "under siege" feeling, too much of an air of resignation, but, you know, I do think it's "true:" 

"Whatever is gonna happen, is gonna happen, whatever isn't gonna happen, isn't gonna happen."

The a.m sound track - Fever Ray's "Fever Ray." (2009). Stunning. Electronic. With great heart and soul. Beautiful. Different. Amazing. The lyrics to "Dry and Dusty" get me, cut me open-wide, every time: 

"Never leave me
Walk close beside me
Your hand my hand
Fits so easy
No tomorrow
Let us stop here
We did some great things
Didn't we?
Dry and dusty
I am a capsule of energy
You speak softly
We are capsules of energy
Work as I've been told
In return I get money
Small feet in the hall"

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Bat-Shit Crazy...

Turns out. I mean, maybe it has always been so, and maybe, really, we always knew this, but it is now pretty clear, I mean, blindingly obvious, that, many, no, ok, most, of our fellow Americans are pretty much "bat-shit crazy." 

You know. This pandemic thing isn't a "hoax," it is not a liberal conspiracy, George Soros and Bill Gates are not conspiring, they are not trying to fool and cheat us and plant microchips in our asses. 

I mean, Blame the bats

"The new coronavirus appears to have circulated unnoticed in bats for decades, scientists found. Horseshoe bats are the most plausible origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen, researchers led by Maciej Boni of Pensylvania State University’s Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics said in a study published Tuesday in Nature Microbiology."

And you know, wearing a mask is no big deal. Trying to stay safe and healthy is not a radical idea. It's not an infringement on anyone's right. There is no specific right to be a "selfish asshole." Not in the constitution. I mean, I know there's that gaudy phrase:  "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

I know. A bit nebulous. But really. Some of this shit is just common sense. Get it together, people.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Crooked Wheel...

The crooked wheel.
A broken spoke.
You can learn to live with it.
Don't even notice it.
You ride your bicycle everyday.
That crooked wheel wobbles.
You just adjust.
You acclimate to the wobble.
You wobble too.
You don't even know it.
You are totally unaware.
You are a badly wobbling entity.

One day, your front tire goes flat.
You take it to the bike shop for repair.

The bike tech wonders how
you could even ride
with such a bad wobble.

You shrug. You "didn't know."

You leave the bike there.
Walk home.

Hours later 
you pick up
your bike.

New tube.
Fixed spoke.
No more wobble.
Crooked no more.
Newly aligned.

It's like a new bike.
A new ride.
You fly straight.

You roll down the pavement, the path, with ease.

You can learn to live with the crooked wheel.
But you don't need to.
You can wake up.
Straighten up and fly.
Straighter than an arrow.
With ease... 
broken
crooked
wobbling
no more.

Sometimes a change of consciousness 
is one flat tire away.

The a.m soundtrack - Chicano Batman's "Invisible People." (2020). New sounds. Just "discovered" this band, actually tipped to it by Greg Kot of Sound Opinions. Per Greg: One of the "best of 2020, so far." Fun. Funky. Great catchy tunes. A melting pot of influences. Sounds so new and refreshing. Chicano Batman, the kind of Superhero we could use right now. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Together, Alone...

J.P. Sartre -- "Hell is other people."

Seems a bit harsh. 

I'd say: People are the problem and the solution. Look around, most of our problems are caused by other people. People will be the ones to provide solutions. People = Both Hell & Heaven.

It is strange to realize that all one's "anti-social tendencies" are now survival strategies. The less human contact the better. The lonely path is the safer path. Time for silent contemplation. So necessary. We are left to our own devices: reading, dreaming, living in a world of solo actors. Living inside our heads. A long path of discipline.  Smart. Safe. Aware of germs, religiously washing our hands, staying clean, clear-headed in everything we do and say.

At the same time, living this solo trip, you realize we are all the same. We are all in this together. And if we are to solve the major and uncountable problems confronting our species, we must work together. One great community.

Still a touch of  lonely paranoia seems rational & reasonable. We are all in this together, but of course, we are also in it alone...

Monday, July 27, 2020

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday Believing (inspired by the late great John Lewis)...

I do believe 
we need to 
imagine 
envision

a better world 
a better way
a better day

Act like we
are
what we
want 
to be.

Let Love
guide us.

Turn from
Hate
Fear
Worry
Doubt.

Lean to
the light.

Don't be afraid
to embody
the Good
the Right
the Beautiful.

Imagine
Envision
that we live Now
in the Beloved Community of Souls.

The a.m. soundtrack - The Dirty Three's "Ocean Songs." (1998). Majestic. We need to listen. To the ocean, to the trees, the grasses, the wind. We need to humble ourselves. Take in the vibes around us. There is love all around us. Life. Love. Beauty. This is a record to savor. Guitar, Drums, Violin. Everything is in the grooves...

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Folks are Getting Lax...

Oh my. Folks are getting lax.

I think even really smart folks, those who are listening to "the science" are getting a bit casual on this whole virus thing. My friend and I stopped over to check out an outdoor, neighborhood concert yesterday. Nice summer evening. The cicadas buzzing.  5 musicians on the lawn, set up between between houses. About 25 folks scattered around, drinking refreshments, grooving  to the music. Most everyone was wearing masks, but a few did not. And a few folks actually got upfront, close and personal with other folks. One person actually pulled down her mask to talk to another  person. Hah! That's pretty dumb.  Another person came up and wanted to hug, and had to be delicately fended off. It was all a bit disconcerting. It's the first time since the lockdown we have been around that large of a group. My friend and I are pretty Covid Militant. We were a bit shook up. Probably won't be doing anything like that again for awhile.  Just not worth it. Even though we all crave human, social interaction. We must assume that Covid is everywhere,  everyone is infected. Maybe a bit paranoid. But, well, being militant, that's the safe and smart way forward.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Long Days in Pandemic...

My days in pandemic.

I have fallen into a weird rabbit-hole of day to day existence.

Long walks.
Long bike rides.
Long meditations.
Long song-writing sessions.
Long lunches.
Long music-listening sessions.
Long reading sessions.
Long streaming video sessions.

My days are long. I mean really, really long.
Time has slowed down to a crawl.

We wear masks outside at all times.
We wash our hands frequently.
We rarely converse with other folks.

It's a weird hermit-like routine. Not totally disagreeable.

We do tune into the news. The news is all bad. More illness. More death. The "Trump Virus" is loose in the land. The corruption and incompetence at the top is breath-taking, soul-killing. Democracy is being pummeled to death. You wonder how anyone can support the Toxic Clown Prez, but you realize there are brain-dead Zombies afoot in the land.

We hope the sensible, rational, intelligent ones can hang on til November. It's seems like a life-time away. We may all be thru with the Virus, but the Virus is not thru with us.  Hanging tight. In for the LONG haul. Hope to make it to the light...

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Glimmers of Light...

Glimmers of light. It doesn't take much to crack thru the gloom...

Nancy Pelosi just knows how to put words together. She is now calling the Coronavirus, and all the corrupt shit that has descended upon us over the last 4 years the "Trump Virus." Yes. Exactly. I mean, perfect. I burst out in laughter on that one. I have adopted this as my go-to phrase too.

What else makes me smile? I found myself in an automobile yesterday. A rare thing nowadays. The windows down, summer day, radio blasting at maximum volume. Two songs defined the afternoon and left their imprint on my consciousness, two classics: The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," and Stevie Wonder's "Living in the City." Perfect dichotomy. Two of our greatest songs. Left me breathless, and well, strangely inspired, and hopeful.

And...

Reading about the "Wall of Moms"  and "leaf blowers against tear gas" in Portland. 

"A group of women who call themselves the Wall of Moms has drawn national attention, clad in bike helmets and goggles. They link arms to form a protective barrier between law enforcement and Black Lives Matter protesters who took to the streets after the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police."

Yes, just like "Athena of Portland" (see previous post), this just renews my faith in the Human Project. Peaceful, non-violent protest.  Folks taking to the streets, demanding justice and a better day.  Hopeful. Sometimes Humans Beings really can do the right thing. Dare I say it, "We Shall Overcome!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Power and the Glory of Athena of Portland...



I must say that I was totally knocked out by this story. This image is astonishing. Let's just say that I have a new hero, or is it a new heroine? "Athena of Portland:" - As the newsprint tells us: "She emerged as an apparition from clouds of tear gas as federal agents fired pepper balls at angry protesters in the early Saturday darkness. A woman wearing nothing but a black face mask and a stocking cap strode toward a dozen heavily armed agents attired in camouflage fatigues, lined up across a downtown Portland street. The agents, dispatched by the Trump administration over vociferous objections of state and city officials, are part of a force that has fired projectiles at and detained activists protesting nightly since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police May 25."

To put yourself in the line of fire. Naked as a jay-bird. Exposed. Vulnerable. Peaceful.  Maybe a touch crazy. Who wants to be that vulnerable in the face of tear-gas, billy clubs, and burly men? I mean, talk about intentionally putting yourself into harm's way. But maybe crazy-cool, like a crazy-cool kitty-cat. The wonder of the eternal feminine. The joy, the mystery, the power of a beautiful, unarmed, naked body. "Pussy Riot," indeed. 

Amazing. Poetic. Lyrical. Myth-making. Totally renews my faith in the Human Project! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Go-To Phrases...

Some "go to" phrases...

I think of myself as "Covid Militant." Seems sensible. I am only listening to the experts, the scientists, doctors, folks with their heads screwed on straight.  I do think it's smart to tune into the intelligence, and to tune out the stupid. It's not that hard to do. 

Avoid the loud-talkers, the raving mouth-breathers, those who think they know shit, when it's clear they don't. BTW - We really need to stop entertaining ourselves by listening to idiots. It has been a very destructive trend in our culture. Check out the radio & cable TV personalities who trade in stupidity, and weird-ass conspiracies, I mean, don't check them out, TUNE THEM OUT! Pollution. Brain pollution.

I think of Neil Postman and Roger Waters, early on they told us we are "entertaining ourselves to death." Death and stupidity.

As an antidote, seek out the intelligent ones. Those dedicated to clear-seeing, clear-speaking.

Try to find an "Unwarped Perspective." Life. It tends to warp us. We need to find ways to "UNWARP" ourselves. Clear-seeing, clear-speaking, clarity in everything we do.  Meditation helps. Silence helps. Good sleeping helps. Dreaming. Yes, dreaming is essential. Eating well. Sticking with vegetables is recommended.

Alive. Aware. Awake. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Hard Lesson #2

We must live with contradiction & complication. We must holding opposing ideas in our heads at all times.

For instance, (one of my favorites), "Life is cheap. Everything that lives is Holy."

Or, you know, (see previous post), "Life is suffering. Life is a joyous gift."

Wm. Blake once wrote: "Some are born to endless night, some are born to sweet delight."

Most of us get both: Endless Night AND Sweet Delight. It's all about proportion. You hope for less of the one, and more of the other, but how it all ultimately gets doled out to us is sort of a mystery.

We want to know what we can't know.
We want to do what we can't do.
We want to be what we can't be.

But we can know and do and be. We get the chance. To do the best that we can do. Yes. It's true.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Hard Lesson #1

We may all start out young and innocent, but it doesn't take long for that to change. We learn the "hard lessons" fairly early in the game. 

Lesson #1, and maybe the only one we need to learn...

"Life is Suffering." - Buddha 

Yeah. No way around suffering. We all suffer. We can't solve suffering, we can't avoid it, or talk our way out of it. There is no denying.  Life is suffering.

Think:

Loss.
Death.
Pain.
Worry.
Doubt.
Fear.

You get the idea.

Unsolvable, unreconcilable.

We must live with suffering. Learn to live with suffering. And still carry on. Not move past, not deny, just live with suffering as best we can.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

A New Era Beckons...

I am, (surprisingly), feeling relatively healthy and optimistic this morning. Maybe I shouldn't trust my feelings, I mean, feelings are like germs, they are invisible, and they can really turn you, but this morning my feelings are strong and surging, (maybe blame the morning coffee brew: "mind, body & soul"), they are like waves crashing over and thru me, and they are relatively healthy and optimistic waves, at least that's how they seem to me. Maybe a bit strange and off-target?

I mean, in the bigger picture, it seems we are in the crash and burn phase of our global crisis. Lots of folks seem lost, clueless, or actively, stupidly mendacious.

But now, this a.m. I am choosing to think this is the beginning of a new era. An era where we appreciate science, rationality, facts, reality, truth and truth-telling. An era of progressive humanity, fully-realized in all aspects of our personal and global lives. It's a lot to ask. A lot to envision. And well, it may seem a bit heady, foolish or overly-sunny.

And not everyone will be on-board with this new era.  They will need to be pushed to the side, marginalized. I mean, we will welcome all comers, but there are always the hold-outs, the last Stalinists (I am reminded that folks cried when Stalin, the unimaginably murderous strong-man, died), I mean some folks will never "get it," they just become obsolete.

Onward, upward. A new era beckons...

Friday, July 17, 2020

When You are Inspired...

Inspired. Right? That's how we want to live our lives. Totally inspired. Enthusiastic. Alive. Aware. Awake. In the moment. In the flow of life. Open. Embracing. Expansive. Always growing, morphing, changing. 

It's not easy. And maybe it just happens, or not. Are we born that way, or does it descend upon us?

When you are feeling it, in every cell of your body, the feeling is the absolute best. All your senses are sharp, focused. Ideas are dancing in your head like fireflies. You are ready for the next thing, pretty much whatever is coming down. You are always, always onto the next thing.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Weird Narrative...

You can't help thinking we are watching the "unraveling." Not to say that the "end is near," because, there really is no beginning, and there is no end. Just the great always expanding, undefined, middle.  We are stuck in the middle. Trying to figure out what's happening.

What's happening? Maybe the great unraveling?! 

Everything degrades, rusts, tends to dysfunction. Everywhere you look, everything you hear, everything you see, seems to be falling, sliding, pulling apart. There are "stressors" on the system, stressors on the people, and the people aren't really handling it all that well.

This is a test of character, a test of our resilience. Our resilience as human beings, as a collective species. Many of us are failing, flailing, grasping at straws. Some of us acting totally stupidly. Goofy. Clueless. Crazy thinking.

I think the antidote is Clear-seeing. That's the ticket. Not sure if enough of us will see the light before the dark engulfs us all. Yikes. It's a weird narrative. We are truly in a pickle.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Better Living with Chemistry - Electrolytes!

Steve Martin in the movie "The Man with Two Brains," (1993) famously "cooked his nines." I really don't remember much else about the movie, but that phrase has been a go-to phrase around here ever since. There was a bit of a heatwave in the heartland, and one day, no doubt, I "cooked my nines." It has happened to me in the past. This time though, I think I cooked my sixes too. Made me think of that Hendrix song: "When Six was Nine." Yes. A six is a nine when it's turned upside down and vice versa. Anyway, cooking your sixes and nines is not a good thing. There were a few days where I felt this force pushing on me. I described it to my friend as the "Unseen Hand" squeezing my head from above.

What's the remedy?! Dear Pilgrim: think Electrolytes!

Luckily, I remembered, or it came to me in a flash. They make some powders and potions that can help you replenish your electrolytes. Seems my sixes and nines have returned, and the Unseen Hand has disappeared. Whew. That's the way to do it. Better living with chemistry!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Astonishing Recording...




I haven't listened to all that many records released this year. Only a handful. And, hell, this year from hell, is far from over. We've only made it to July. These next few months could be really long months. I have a feeling we are in for some surprises along the way, but, no matter, I am willing to declare Lucinda Williams' latest record, "Good Souls Better than Angels" a masterpiece, a major artistic statement from one of our greatest musical souls. The record channels the zeitgeist of 2020. Definitively.

It is an overwhelmingly powerful record. So raw and it kicks serious ass (see previous post for first impressions). I have now listened to it a few times, on headphones, on our stereo with the big speakers in the living room. It is the real deal. Head-turning. Punches you in the gut. The band goes toe to toe with Lucinda and she holds nothing back. The drummer, Butch Norton and the guitar player, Stuart Mathis really bring it. So much fire and power and nuance and they make a big, bold, indelible impression.  Lucinda is so engaged and pissed off at the current state of the nation. Her song, "Man Without A Soul" takes a whack at describing someone we all know, someone we all hope will be banished from our lives in November. It's a great track. Reminds me of that phrase: "Anger is an Energy." Yes. The key is to be able to channel that anger, that rage. Lucinda does the good work, for sure. Every track on this record shimmers with intelligence, poetry and fire. Astonishing.

You are a man without truth
A man of greed, a man of hate
A man of envy and doubt
You're a man without a soul

All the money in the world
Will never fill that hole
You're a man bought and sold
You're a man without a soul

You bring nothing good to this world
Beyond a web of cheating and stealing
You hide behind your wall of lies
But it's coming down, yeah, it's coming down

You're a man without shame
Without dignity and grace
No way to save face
You're a man without a soul

How do you think this story ends
It's not a matter of how
It's just a matter of when
Cause it's coming down, yeah it's coming down

There's a darkness all around you
To cover all you're hiding
There's no light in your eyes
You're a man without a soul

Now the exits will be closing
A sad life will be exposed
No dealer and no deals
Cause you're a man without a soul

How do you think this story ends
It's not a matter of how
It's just a matter of when
Cause it's coming down, yeah it's coming down

Yeah, it's coming down
Yeah, it's coming down
Yeah, it's coming down
Yeah, it's coming down
Yeah, it's coming down
Yeah, it's coming down
Yeah, it's coming down

Lucinda Williams

Monday, July 13, 2020

Of Course, All of the Above...

Feeling a bit blue? A bit down and out? Feel a bit like an "Unseen Hand" is gripping your head and squeezing, hard?

Maybe it is...

Spiritual
Psychological
Rational
Biological
Physical
Hysterical
Metaphysical
Logical
Delusional
Pathological
Sociological

Maybe, (and you knew this was coming), all of the above?

The a.m. soundtrack - Lucinda Williams' - "Good Souls Better Than Angels" (2020) - Just bought this one. Listened once. A total knockout. I mean, I was stopped in my tracks a few times. Head-turning music, played with true-grit. I didn't catch all the words, but Lucinda is on fire. She is pissed off, raging against the dying of the light, and the stupidity and evil nature of many of those surrounding us. She is a hell-cat. One of our finest singer-songwriters. No doubt. This time around the band totally, totally kicks ass. Stuart Mathis is phenomenal on guitar. It's raw, dirty, rocking. My jaw dropped a couple times during playback. The production is fabulous. Kudos to the great, legendary producer Ray Kennedy. Recorded in Nashville. One listen tells you this is a classic. One of the finest. Love the fire and brimstone from Lucinda. I'd go to hell and back with her, the ride is worth it. Can't wait to put it on again.  I need to understand the words too. More than worth it.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Quiet Silence...

I fell off the planet yesterday. Totally unplugged from everything. It was pretty glorious. To find my own space, cut myself off from all outside influences, sink deep into my own consciousness.

There is a quiet silence. You can get there. I believe it is a healing.

No a.m. soundtrack today. We purchased a handful of new records. Some new artists I've never heard before, and a few go-to artists we know well. I need to let the music sink in, absorb it, before I can write about any of them. I do love discovering new music, and I do love re-connecting with music that's been around for awhile too. Music is one of the driving forces in my life. Music & Quiet Silence too.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Dreaming in Covid...

Yes. Dreaming in Covid-19. It's true. I have had a few very vivid Covid-19 dreams over that last months. Maybe not surprising. Probably, like you, I have read about the virus, I have studied the graphs, I have listened to the experts, the doctors, I have poured over the data, I have speculated about a vaccine, I have wondered and worried about how this global pandemic will change USA and the world. I have changed my habits: frequent hand-washing, socially/physically distant from my fellow humans, religiously wearing a mask any time I venture out. 

I have become a coronavirus expert. Amatuer, don't you know? Last night I had another quite vivid Covid-19 dream. I was in line for a public restroom, and there was an enormous crowd waiting in line. Hundreds of folks. So strange and surreal. I was in line, trying my best to hold my place, but at the same time trying to be safe. A man walked up to me and "tagged" me. He put his hands on my chest and said: "This is how you get Covid-19." And then he walked away. 

 Funny. I am not a hypochondriac, I am not "overly" worried, or frightened of getting sick. But I think I am "appropriately" concerned, doing my best to stay safe.

A local restaurant in our neighborhood just recently re-opened for business. My friend and I walked past one day, the outdoor patio was packed with customers, people are so desperate to "get back to normal." We were a bit horrified, no one, except the waitstaff, was wearing masks.

Word is that restaurant just closed again. Turns out one of their staff came down with the virus. So back to lockdown and an intensive "cleaning." Not surprising. The virus is with us. We may be ready to get back to normal, but normal no longer exists.

"This is how you get Covid-19." Yes. It is simple. The problem is other people. You must assume everyone you meet has the virus, and act accordingly. Otherwise, you are being foolish.  Don't be a fool.

The a.m. soundtrack - Cornershop's "When I was Born for the 7th Time." (1997). I have not listened to this one for a long time. Don't know why. It is one of my favorite records. An uncommon knockout. It still sounds fresh and new. It was a record we played often, I mean constantly, when it came out in the late 90's. It is a fabulous record. So many sounds, influences all mashed up together: "low-fi funk expands into low, fat grooves, and Singh's pancultural, anti-racist lyrics become more sophisticated but no less impassioned." So tuneful, funky and groovy. Funny and smart too. It ends with a "Punjabi" version of the Beatles "Norwegian Wood." Classic song and reminds me that the first time many in the Western world heard a sitar in a pop song, it was  George Harrison playing on John Lennon's song on "Revolver." It's kind of cool that Cornershop re-claimed and re-purposed it. What a joy of a record. It sounds just perfect this a.m. in the wake, the morning after, Covid Dream Land...

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Car-Crash Phase...

Channeling the Hermit from the Tarot this a.m. The "Rider-Waite Meaning" - "The Hermit shows that you are taking a break from everyday life to draw your energy and attention inward and find the answers you seek, deep within your soul. You realise that your most profound sense of truth and knowledge is within yourself and not in the distractions of the outside world. You leave behind the mundane to set off on a journey of self-discovery, led only by your inner wisdom and guiding light. Now is the perfect time to go on a weekend retreat or sacred pilgrimage, anything in which you can contemplate your motivations, personal values and principles, and get closer to your authentic self."

Right. Not claiming any special powers here. Looking for an "inner wisdom and guiding light."

I see a series of clashes on the horizon:

Blue vs. Red
Intelligence vs. Stupidity
City vs. Rural
Healthy vs. Not so Healthy
Rational vs. Irrational
Science vs. Religion
Not Completely Crazy vs. Totally Fucking Crazy

Yikes. I do think we are in the car-crash phase of our present Global Pandemic Crisis. I hope most of us make it thru relatively unscathed.  Not holding my breath on that reality. 

No. Instead, deep breathing, silent meditation, leaning to the light, searching for an inner wisdom, peace and grace.

The a.m. soundtrack - John Frusciante's "Shadows Collide with People."  (2004). John is an amazingly gifted, lyrical, guitar player. An on-again, off-again, on-again member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. A famous car-wreck of a human being. Famously strung-out, into the Occult, burned down his house (literally) in the middle of his deep drug-phase, some on-going emotional issues. He is also a creative dynamo. A melodic, slinky, beautiful touch on electric guitar. Heavily-influenced by Hendrix. Listen and marvel at his guitar playing across a handful of excellent records (the Peppers are a surprisingly, counter-intuitively, great band, I mean, funny enough that). This is a nice solo outing. Certainly, "Hermetic," with a dash of Peppers.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Random Lines...

"Yeah. My hair looks great, but the rest of me is melting."

"I'm six years ahead of you, think of that. Everything we do. Every step we take. I'm six years ahead."

"Take your hands off the wheel. There are bigger things going down right now. I mean, we aren't driving anyway."

"I have given up trying to figure things out. Who knows?!"

"The U.S.A. is the richest country in the world. The most technologically advanced. We have more Covid-19 cases than any other country. More deaths. WTF?!"

"I really, truly, madly, deeply, think I cooked my nines' this time."

"No, I don't think schools will reopen in the fall... or they will close back up really quickly if they do. Disease and death are a great motivators, don't you know?!"

"Coffee in the morning, kombucha at night. Reasons to be cheerful."

The a.m soundtrack - Jimi Hendrix' "Are You Experienced?"  (1967).  A foundational r&r statement. For the longest time, if pressed, I would have said that "Electric Ladyland" was Jimi's best record. But lately, this debut record totally knocks me out. I'm having a bit of a re-think. It's an old recording now, but I recently snagged the 2010 Song Legacy version of the album which includes six extra tracks, original singles and album tracks. Usually, I am not a fan of adding extra tracks to an album, there is something sacred about the original vinyl album format, but you know, in this case, the additional tracks on the remastered CD fit and flow well. This band, this artist, were too much for one little vinyl record. This version of the album just builds on the original, overflows with originality, with fire, with magic, with power, grace, humor and experimentation. It's is over-powering, overwhelming. I am playing it on low volume this morning on the BOSE system, and it just sounds totally fabulous. Brings out some of the subtleties and textures of the music. Hendrix' guitar is a force of nature, power, grace, slinkiness, and Mitch Mitchell is one of the finest drummers amongst us. They really play so well together. Two soloists fighting and co-existing. Prodigious talents. Noel Redding on bass holds it all together. So many great tracks: Purple Haze, Hey Joe, Red House, Stone Free, Third Rock from the Sun. Yes. It's trippy. Psychedelic. LSD is the spirit hanging over the record. Jimi was pushing the boundaries of music. He was also fascinated by UFO's and time-travel. Which leads to some of the funniest, weirdest tracks and some of the finest experimentation. A boundary-crosser. A magus. A major talent. Unique voice and spirit. Nothing quite like the Jimi Hendrix Experience. A classic record. A masterpiece. Still thrilling and head-opening. Alive. Inspiring.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Air Quality Alert!

There is an "Air Quality Alert" today in the Heartland.  Be assured, the "Alert" is not to tip you to the idea that the Air is "Quality" stuff. No, the tip is that the air is "Bad," "Toxic" and assuredly not good for you.

Also, listening to the radio this A.M. I think it is safe to say that the air is a toxic combination of "Stupidity," "Racism," "Human Fallibility" and a "Decided, Determined, Block-Headed, Ineptness."

Human Beings are polluting the air with all their garbage and flaws. I am not feeling good about my fellow Humans this morning. 

The a.m. soundtrack - Stevie Wonder's "Journey thru the Secret Life of Plants."  (1979).  A soundtrack album to a documentary. Everything Stevie Wonder does is worthy of a listen. I snagged this one fairly recently, I have only listened a few times. Not what I expected. It's pretty damn cool. Opens the door to another world. Mostly instrumental, but some singing too. One of the first all-digital recordings. Sounds pretty amazing. It's goofy and weird. "Wonder remarked in 2004 that the album "was an experimental project with me scoring and doing other things I like: challenging myself with all the things that entered my mind from the Venus's Flytrap to Earth's creation to coming back as a flower." Yes. Coming back as a flower would probably be an upgrade, even for one of our finest Humans. Wonder.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Hope & Visions...

No one, (not even me), wants to make any political prognostications about our 2020 election. We are all gun-shy. We remember, I mean, the memory is seared in our brains, of what happened in 2016, and we have lived with the dire, toxic, mind-numbing, soul-killing consequences ever since.

Let's just say, I hope, I pray, I am trying my best to work the MOJO, I intend to do a conjuring and special dance to assure a Blue Wave 2020. I mean, I will vote for the Democrats up and down the ticket.

It's instructive to watch our current White Supremacist, supremely racist, toxic-clown in chief, flail away, in the midst of a pandemic, and a sea-change in attitudes about race and social injustice. He is a man "out of time," and out of step with reality. He has his rabid, zombie army who follow him, no matter what, but they are fucking bat-shit crazy, beyond repair, beyond reason, beyond the pale. Luckily, they are out-numbered by the rest of us.

Still the toxic clown is doubling and tripling down on racism, and division. It's kind of extraordinary. He is a one-trick pony, a toxic-waste-dump of a human being. Yikes.

I do think we are watching the end of a movement. Looking forward to the crash and burn, and then we must collectively rise like the Phoenix from the ashes. A new day. A new reality. I see a new country emerge from the wreckage. I really, really do.

I mean, no predictions, these are just the hopes and visions that drive me. We must stay engaged, and positive. The Trump Cult is a Death Cult. We must turn to Life, to Love, to A Better Day.

We must...

The a.m. soundtrack - Prince's "Around the World in a Day." (1985). What to say about Prince? An exotic, rare bird. A musical genius. No doubt. Strange character. A hybrid-being and a boundary-crosser. The only other musical artist I can compare him to is Jimi Hendrix. Both were fabulous guitar players. Both shy. Unique voices. Unique songwriters. Unique spirits. This record is sort of "psychedelic." Rock. Pop. Funk. A little bit of Soul. Gospel too: "Everyone is searching for a ladder." A strange mix. Actually, kind of confused and profound. Which is kind of great, and so human. I have always had a bit of trouble understanding where Prince was coming from. A workaholic, prodigious talent, a religious man, a gentle character, twisted, sexual, maximum sensuality in everything he did. Maybe a bit of a  tortured soul. Complex. Lonely. Strange. The work is impressive and amazing. So sad that he died from an overdose of opioids. A tragic ending to an amazing career and life. This record has grown on me. It took awhile for me to get into it.  But so many sounds, layers. Sophisticated production. Pretty amazing. I mean, yeah, I do love this one, even though, also, it's a strange beast, off-putting, and sometimes, maybe even ridiculous. Makes me smile, wince, & laugh. A mixed-bag of genius.

Monday, July 06, 2020

"Wait."

Pandemic time.

Push the button on red-light pole in the cross-walk in our town, and a voice, male, sort of robotic, says: "Wait." Push it a few times in a row and it sort of sounds kind of "musical" - "Wait... Wait... Wait..."

I think of that as the theme song of the Pandemic 2020.

Time has slowed down. This holiday weekend almost felt like one long, hot summer. 3 days felt like a whole summer.

"Patience, Grasshopper."

"Wait."

Whatever you are doing. "Wait." Take your time. Long, lazy, wandering, bike-rides on the lakefront. Long, leisurely lunches. Long movies. Long listening sessions. 

Everything is longer. Stretched out. Slowed down. Even the sweat rolling off my brow takes forever... 

The a.m. soundtrack - John Zorn - "The Big Gundown" - 15th Anniversary Edition (2000). A freaky soundtrack. A tribute to the late, great Ennio Morricone, one of the greatest film composers ever. This is a wild album. I own many Zorn discs, for awhile I had a major John Zorn obsession. Avant Garde, edgy, weird, mind-expanding & mind-blowing music. Zorn always pushes the envelope. No, scratch that, with Zorn there is no envelope to push. This morning I hear the news that Morricone died at 91. What a great man, what a fabulous artist. His film-scores, especially in those great "spaghetti westerns" were like another character. Distinctive, funny, enrapturing, head-spinning, cool, pop. Zorn reimagines the soundtrack to the "Big Gundown." It's weird, fabulous, sort of ridiculous too. Adds a bit of spice to the morning coffee session.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

No Monuments. Trees.

Let me toss out an idea into the body politic...

No monuments. Trees.

There are no perfect Human Beings. We are all imperfect, flawed, incomplete, contradictory, capable of great and horrible things.

Human Beings should not be putting up monuments of other Human Beings. That is just pure vanity. Unearned. So, you know, I have no problem with Human Beings taking down monuments to other Human Beings. 

On the other hand, I'm not big into angry mobs. My thing is peaceful, non-violent protest.  But I do support the movement to remove monuments across the land.

I would suggest all these monuments should go to museums. They are part of our history. So if you have a monument of a White Supremacist who owned slaves, you should put it in a museum with a placard explaining who that Human Being was, and what horrors he inflicted on other Human Beings. How many slaves did he own? How much money did those slaves generate for the White Supremacist and the economy of the USA?

Maybe that would be a way forward to begin to calculate the reparations we should be giving to the sons and daughters of the slaves who now live across the land? Yes, I am also for reparations. Let's get economists to work on the equation. How much revenue was generated by slave labor in USA? What was that worth to the country in terms of GDP? What is that number of $ in today's economy? Divide it up the total by the number of descendants of slaves, and parcel out their share. Maybe there should be a monthly or yearly stipend?

I understand. That doesn't adequately account for all the pain, heartache, unimaginable suffering, of the slave economy, but maybe we can finally try to pay some of it back. There is a debt  that must be re-paid by white America to the Black families that were ripped apart, destroyed and exploited.

So, anyway, back to my "no monument, trees" idea. Every spot where a monument is removed, plant a tree. Plant a tree that is native to that locality. We need more tress. It's good for the planet, our ecosystem. Trees are life, and support life. No monuments. Trees.

The a.m soundtrack - Otis Redding - "The Best: See & Hear, Otis Redding" (2009). This is an excellent compilation. "Deep Memphis Soul." Indeed. Great voice. Incredible band. This disc spans a career. 15 amazing, soulful, life-giving tracks. Includes: Shake, Change is Gonna Come, Try a Little Tenderness and the song I remember hearing on my little transistor radio, Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. Those horns, that bass player, a big-time band, and Otis singing his heart out. Unlike anything else. Fabulous. The real-deal. Astonishing.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Maybe a Few Moments of Silence?

Sure. Celebrate the "birth" of America. Independence Day 2020. Throwing off the shackles of the British Monarch. Yay!

But, really, come on, it's the middle of a pandemic. Do you need to blow off firecrackers? Do you need to congregate in large groups without masks?

Are you freaking nuts?!

And remember this country was founded on Genocide, Slavery, Misogyny, Racism, Homophobia & Xenophobia.

Maybe a few moments of silence for all the death, destruction, bad blood, travesty & tragedy? That would be appropriate...

The a.m. soundtrack - Allman Brothers' "Brothers & Sisters" (1972) - Unexpectedly good. Duane Allman & Berry Oakley were dead and buried when this was recorded. Surprising that the band carried on. This is probably the Allman's last really good record. This was before Dickie Betts and Greg Allman had their falling out, before Dickie Betts lost his head to bigotry, drugs, racism, and inflated ego. Of course, the Allmans carried on for decades, but no doubt their best work was behind them. Both Duane and Berry had died in motorcycle crashes. This was recorded in the aftermath of those tragedies. This one sounds great this a.m. A classic, American band. Southern to the core. Interracial. Soulful, bluesy. They were broken, but they carried on. So American, so Human.

Friday, July 03, 2020

I'm in with The Dangerous Ones...

I am not immune from bias. I am not immune from stupidity. I do my best to overcome my biases and stupidities. My fellow Humans are really starting to piss me off. I intend to take a breath, lean to the light, and try to envision a better world.

Be sure to check out this video from Eleven Films, it is incredibly powerful. Kind a review of how far we have fallen, how badly we have neglected, abused and wrecked the vision of the Shining City on a Hill.

Here's to a new vision of the Illuminated Community of Souls.

Count me in on the side of "The Dangerous Ones."

"Let the motherfuckers burn..."

Vote in November 2020 like your life and your country depended on it. Because it really, really does.


The a.m. soundtrack - Sturgill Simpson's "Sound & Fury." (2019) Sturgill sounds pissed off too. The record starts with car door opening and closing, clicking the radio on. Makes me think of the car in Stephen King's "Christine," ominous. Getting ready for a rough, wild ride. Not sure what it's all about. But you know, anger is an energy. The key is how to channel it, how to ride it to a new idea, a new vision, a new dream. The ones that don't get it? Well, pardon my French, fuck them.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Not So Smart...

Humans.
We aren't as smart as we think we are.
I write from the perspective of a Human.
I have lots of experience being Human.
And of not being as smart as I think I am.

We are clever.
We are resourceful.
We are enduring.
We are legion.

But every day, many of us go out of our way to prove that we are not as smart as we think we are.
That is just the reality of the situation.
The Human Predicament.

It's explains a lot.

Look at our burning planet. 
Look at the vanishing nature of nature, caused by Human ignorance.
Look at the ugly mess of our Politics. 
Look at all the pain, horror and suffering we inflict on ourselves and our fellow Humans.

Look at the endless steam of idiocy, selfishness, small-minded-ness we unleash every day.
Yikes.

Yesterday, out in the Heartland, wearing my mask, trying to be safe, I ran into a friend. She was not wearing a mask. She admitted she was "terrified" of getting Covid-19. But she wasn't wearing a mask while she was out walking her dog. I asked her why. Her response: "I just don't want to."

Exactly. We are not as smart as we think we are.

The a.m. soundtrack - More silence this morning. Sometimes silence is the only appropriate soundtrack. A moment of silence for the enduring Stupidity of Man...

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

All the News is Bad...

All the news is bad.

It's the first day of July. 
Summer in the Heartland.

Hot & sticky today.

I have the radio on (am I nuts?)
and all the news is bad.

I mean, every damn story.
Bad.

What's a Pilgrim to do with that?

I decide to let the chatter flow over me.

I mean, I want to know what's going on in the world.
But I refuse to be swamped.

I'm gonna have to find some serious diversions today.
I expect lots of activity. 
Lots of music.
Sink into a book.
Keep moving.

Lean to the light. Damn the torpedoes.

The a.m. soundtrack - Silence. This morning: silence. No music. I just let the radio chatter away at me like some weird electronic Tower of Babel. It reminds me that my fellow human beings are a gnarly, disagreeable lot. Oh man, we could do so much better!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Plugged in. A Weird Kick.

Plugged in.

It's a weird kick.
To know "what's happening."
Too much news.
Too "newsy" for your health.
Mental,
Physical,
Spiritual.

One thing after another.
How much reality can one soul take?

Try to dose it out.
Filter.

Let the light in.
Parcel it out.

Meditation
and
silent contemplation 
are possible antidotes.

What do you think of the latest news?

Don't know...

overwhelmed
stupefied
exhausted
over-out-raged

Am I hearing and seeing what I think I'm hearing and seeing?

The a.m soundtrack - Cowboy Junkies' "The Trinity Session." (1988) Recorded live with one mic in a church in Toronto. It's soft, soothing, gorgeous. No hard edges. Everything is hushed, beautiful, whispery. Every sound on the record is in place to support Margo Timmins voice. The record opens with an a cappella track. There is a quiet beauty and grace to every track. Originals and covers. Great cover versions of Hank Williams and Lou Reed. Medicine. Quiet. Contemplative. Pretty much a masterpiece recording. A chill-out document.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Character Matters...

Character. 

What do you do when the chips are down? When there is a crisis? When you don't know the right answer? When you are scrambling in the moment? 

What do you do? Do you melt? Disintegrate? Deflect? Put your head in a cloud? Stand tall? Cower in the corner? Take the bull by the horns?

Maybe in sequence of a life you end up doing all of the above. Different times, different circumstances.

It's only later you judge. What happened? What did I do? WTF?

You do your best, and damn the torpedoes. Try not to judge yourself or others too harshly. We are all human.  Live. Let live. Be gentle. Be kind. Lend a helping hand. Lean to the light. Try to leave the place in good order, better than when you arrived. At least, that's a worthy goal to shoot for.

The a.m. soundtrack - King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues in Aspic." (1973). I get the impression this King Crimson record is sort of over-looked, under-valued. I think it's quite good. Not what I expected. Delicate. Sophisticated. And then really noisy, a bit annoying too. I love the violin and the percussion instruments. Of course, great musicianship,. I especially love John Wetton's bass and vocals. A bit whimsical, magical, experimental, edgy and dissonant too. One of their best records. I own the EMG released 24bit CD remaster. The sound quality is amazing.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

What's the Narrative, Jimmy?!

"What's the frequency, Kenneth?"

"What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" is a song by the American alternative rock band R.E.M. from their 1994 album Monster. The song's title refers to an incident in New York City in 1986, when two then-unknown assailants attacked journalist Dan Rather, while repeating "Kenneth, what is the frequency?".

Right. Poor Dan Rather.

This morning, I wonder, "What's the Narrative, Jimmy?"

Are we on a sinking ship? Are we in the deep, dark, woods looking for a way to a clearing?

Have the bad actors overwhelmed us? Are we working towards some kind of grand reconciliation? Are we doomed, or are we soon about to be saved?

Or really is it "none of the above?" Another "incomplete" in the slowly unfolding scheme of life?

Maybe we make our own narrative? Keep it simple, keep it small, and local. I did this, then this, then this, etc. Maybe that will have to do. I just don't know.

The a.m. soundtrack - Dave Spector's "Blues from the Inside Out." (2019). I know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows this guy. Turns out Dave Spector lives in my neighborhood. I needed some advice, I reached out to Dave, and he did me a favor, showed me a bit of kindness, and it looks like it set me on a positive course. So this record is personal. Urban blues. Modern, urban blues. Some great electric guitar. Lots of energy and style. Features lots of great musicians including Jorma Kaukonen from the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. Good stuff. Well played, goes some places I didn't expect. Recommended.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Daily Givens...

Everything is different this morning. I wake in a different bed, in a different house, breathing different air. It's a bit weird, disorienting.  Turns out the coffee-maker is the same, and I brought my own coffee beans, so there is a slight continuity in the brew.

The plague is raging outside. It is so strange, we have entered a "new phase" here in the heartland, but the news is all about how the virus is spiking across USA. So even as folks are relaxing, less guarded, the virus is multiplying faster than ever.

Strange. My fellow human beings. So surprising. So disappointing. Folks get tired, folks get bored. Folks want to get back to "normal." I am determined to stay healthy. I have an assortment of face coverings. I expect to "wearing a mask" for a long time. Oh yeah, staying physically-distant from my fellow humans, and frequently washing my hands are now just daily givens. The new normal.

The a.m. soundtrack - The Beatles' "Rubber Soul" (1965). I have a good friend, a music-obsessive, a bit older than me, who tells me that this is the greatest "pop album" ever recorded. He may be right. Although, it's possible this isn't even my favorite Beatles album. Maybe. Maybe not. If pressed I might say "Revolver" or the "White Album," or "Sgt. Peppers," but you know what, who cares, doesn't matter. This morning, "Rubber Soul" sounds fabulous on the BOSE, yes they have a BOSE music player here too. I am listening to the UK version of Rubber Soul, a stereo re-mix by George Martin. Smart. Catchy. Optimistic. Funny. Enthusiastic. Brimming over with positive energy. This is, no doubt, no argument, the greatest band, the band that set the table. They were the first big band to hit, they wrote all the best songs, every other band is in their debt and shadow. You can go there. Any time. The Beatles, they are smarter than you, they have a broader taste in music than you, they were there, they did it, they were always the coolest of the cool. All the girls wanted them, all the boys wanted to be them. These guys changed the world. No doubt. If you want to understand the Beatles be sure to read Ian McDonald's fantastic book about them, "Revolution in the Head." Definitive, enchanting. Head-opening. Makes me happy listening to these tracks. A different time and place. No doubt.

Friday, June 26, 2020

What Have I lost...

I am "on the road" this morning. In a foreign place. It's a rainy morning. Dark. I am feeling a bit wistful. Uncertain. Tentative. Just want to get a few words on the page.

What have I lost
What have I found

Where have I been
Where am I going

What do I know
What have I forgotten

What's for lunch

The a.m. soundtrack - Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad"  (1995). I don't own this one. It was sitting on a shelf. Put it on the box this a.m. I don't know why I don't own a copy. I think I will order one up. It's a great record. Bruce with an acoustic guitar, sometimes a harmonica, singing in that great folky tradition. Conjures up Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Stripped down. Hard-won wisdom. Bruce is a great, socially-conscious songwriter. Writing about life in America. Great voice. Essential.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Our Politics/Our Religion

Who knew?

That our Politics would be our Religion?

Who knew that every action and decision would be guided by our Politics?

Who knew that wearing a mask in a the middle of a global pandemic would be a political act? Who knew that even believing we are in the middle of a global pandemic would be a political act?

Who knew that caring about the health and viability of the interweaved Ecosystem that supports all life on the planet would be a Democratic thing?

Who knew that taking actions to stay safe and healthy meant you were probably a Progressive, Blue-State Democrat?

Funny. Yes. It's true, my politics dictate that I believe in Science, in a Progressive agenda of Human Rights, Social Justice and Equality.

I believe that we are responsible for our actions. That it is up to us to strive for a better world for all. Who knew that that vision was a deeply political act, and that the other side would do all it could to deny, deflect, and sabotage any attempts at progress?

It true. There is a deep divide in America. Blue vs. Red. It's hard to believe. But it is true. From this side of the divide, looking across to the other side, all I see is ignorance, racism, anti-intellectualism, anti-science, anti-human-rights, a decided intention not to face the reality of our human condition. A conservative, Red-State stubbornness and denialism. It's amazing & baffling. A determined reactionary backwardness that we constantly need to battle.

The a.m soundtrack - Silence. I tried to play Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros' "Streetcore" (2003), but the BOSE system tells me: "disc unplayable." Bummer. I really wanted to hear Joe's voice this morning. He does a fabulous version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" on this record. The record was completed after Joe's untimely death. It kind of serves as an epitaph. So, anyway, I conjure up Joe singing Marley's song in my head this morning. The soundtrack in my head. "Oh pirates, yes, they rob I..."

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Apotheosis of Ignorance...

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” - Issac Asimov

Oh man. This seems so, so true. Especially today, in our present era. The folks banging us all upside the head with their deep, passionate ignorance are legion. And they have their ignorant, toxic-waste-dump champ in the White House. Amazing. Ridiculous. The apotheosis of ignorance.

The a.m soundtrack - Brian Eno & Robert Fripp's "Evening Star." (1975). Yes. It's great. I just purchased this one, and received it in the mail yesterday. Played it 3 or 4 times so far. It's fabulous. Heady. Ambient. Instrumental. Hard to hold. Drifts. Floats. Two titans. Great collaboration. Intelligence in the making and the grooves. I think just listening is good for the brain.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Fight the Gloom...

Fight the gloom.
Wrestle with the darkness.
Rise above the pain and heartache.

Acknowledge the sadness, 
push thru to the light.

It's not easy.
But it is necessary.

There is pain, sadness, death, gloom, darkness...

There is joy, sunshine, light, fun, happiness, life...

It's up to us to juggle and navigate the two grand strands as best we can.


The a.m soundtrack - Townes Van Zandt's - "In Pain."  (1999). Townes, a great singer-songwriter, a sad, haunted, tortured soul. A life of a "series of drug addictions." Someone once asked Townes, "Why do you write sad songs?" Townes replied: "You don't think life is sad?" Yes. Life is sad. But it's not only sad. Listening to this album is a journey, and a joy of discovery. Townes was a true, American original. Great acoustic guitar playing, sensitive, evocative vocals. Inspiring creativity. You kind of wish it all worked out better for him. He lived, he wrote, he sang, and left a long discography of great music. His life was a long, train-wreck, but the work is inspiring. That's something.

Monday, June 22, 2020

"Ordinary Sad-Ass Humanness" - Wm. Gibson

I am reading William Gibson's novel "Peripheral." I am so happy to be reading a William Gibson novel. I've read many. He is brilliant, a writer of distinction, a writer of big ideas, pushing the present-now forward into a future-now present. Or something like that. What's always great, and exciting and rewarding: the big ideas are married to a vivid reality, the ideas are conveyed by solid characters, who are always navigating a complex world that looks very much like our world, but pushed.

Exciting. Revealing. Enlightening.

Looking for a good narrative to get you through a pandemic? You can't go wrong with Gibson.

Last night, reading in bed, I came to chapter 101, page 414 of my paperback copy. Love this chapter title, it rang a bell in my head...

101. Ordinary Sad-Ass Humanness.

I spoke the words out-loud, and remarked, for no-one to hear: Exactly!

The a.m soundtrack - Dr. John's "Gumbo" (1972). Authentic. Real. Vivid. Soulful. Funky. The city, the musical history of New Orleans bleeds across these tracks. Joy. Pleasure. Sexy. Old-timey. Good vibes. Classic tunes. Loose. Analog. The musicianship throughout is extraordinary. A treasure trove of great sounds.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

If Gravity Fails...

What can a Poor Soul count upon?

Gravity.
Coffee.
Pasta.
Art.
Music.
Silence.
Dreams.
Creative Impulse.

The a.m. soundtrack - Donnie Darko Movie Soundtrack (2002) - This is a magical record. I have listened to this one many, many times. The movie is great too. It's not what you think it is. It's a small movie that tackles all the big things. A movie about death, god and the lack of god, time-travel, love, beauty and the sadness/madness of being human. The movie is totally enhanced by the soundtrack. It adds a layer of beauty and intensity to the movie. Created by Michael Andrews, using old analog synths, etc. A great record. Includes a cover of Tears for Fears "Mad World." Gorgeous. Heartbreakingly fabulous.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Out to Lunch...

Ok. It's been a long morning already. Went to bed early, and got up super-early. Spent some of the morning listening to the radio. The BBC tells me that my fellow human beings are pretty much stark, raving mad. Totally crazy. I guess that's not new news. Conspiracy Theories are rampant throughout the human herd. Many of us are suspicious of government, of science, of each other. 

Who to trust? 

Many of us are out to sea, out to lunch.

Then I learn that it turns out even our own memories are super-unreliable. We can't even trust our own memories. So we are our own unreliable narrators spinning out our own unreliable tales.

We tell the story, we make it up as we go, the story can change, morph, grow foggy, become a whole new narrative. I suppose it's true, we are hopelessly lost in a hall of mirrors of our own conjuring. We can't  trust the mirror, our own eyes, our memories, or the reliability of our own bodies.

Yikes. 

The a.m soundtrack - Neil Young's "American Stars & Bars"  (1977). A rambling, shaggy-dog of a record. Recorded in multiple studios over 29 months. It's a mess. A holy, beautiful, loose, funky, glorious mess. Most of the tracks seems live in the studio, very little over-dubbing, but who knows? It starts with a few tracks with an amiable country lilt (with backing from Linda Ronstatdt, Nicolette Larson and Emmylou Harris), and also includes some epic songs, "Like a Hurricane,"(with Crazy Horse), and "Will to Love" (Neil all on his own. He sings from the perspective of a salmon swimming upstream to spawn, and to die, recorded in one long, stoned-out session with David Briggs, Neil is singing in front of  a raging fire, you can hear the logs sparking and popping on the track). It's just a great, crazy-cool record from Neil. A shaggy-dog wonder.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Worry...

"You don't worry about the future."

I "found" this message, hatched from a fortune cookie, yesterday. I mean, I must have saved it, and then, misplaced it. It turned up yesterday. The last time I was at a Chinese restaurant was "pre-pandemic," now many months in the distant past. I do think we now need to label our eras like so: 

Pre-pandemic/Pandemic/Post-pandemic.

I think it's true. I don't really worry about the future. I probably should. I think the "worry breakdown" for me is as follows:

The Future? Don't worry. Who knows? Hope it's gonna be OK. Or at least not as bad as some say.

The Present? Too busy to worry. Being in the moment takes all your might, attention and focus.

The Past? Yes. Worry about the Past. Worry over it like a dog worrying over an old bone. Worry over it. You can't change it. It continues to grow. It looms over you. As the saying goes: "You think you are through with the past, the past isn't through with you."

The a.m. soundtrack - The National's "Sleep Well Beast."  (2017). Another extraordinary album from the National. A great band. Subtle, beautiful, sophisticated, layered, sounds fabulous on the BOSE system this morning. Matt B. is a vocalist and lyricist unlike any other. This one grows on you. All of their records do. A knockout.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

"How did we ever muddle thru?"

We pretend to be rational beings. "Rationality" is a mask that we put on once in awhile. I first got that idea, many years ago, from a great book called "Impro" by Keith Johnstone.

Keith also pointed out that "adults" are basically damaged children. That explains a lot too. 

I heard a Doctor yesterday speaking on the radio, an expert in infectious diseases talking about the pandemic and the USA's response to it. It was head-opening. A bit disheartening too. Bottom line: USA has fucked up big time. 

Seems USA is a roiling vector of infection and a mess of madness & contradiction. Maybe a 1/3 of the country is completely batshit crazy. They think the pandemic is a hoax, they think it's some kind of liberal plot to take down their dear leader. They think Bill Gates wants to implant micro-chips in everyone.

WTF?

I suppose this is nothing new. The human herd has always been a mixed-up bag of craziness, bad-blood and supreme confusion. You wonder, "How did we ever muddle thru?" A glance back at history, it's a pretty sordid, bloody, crazy-ass narrative.

Who is in charge? What's a Pilgrim to do?

Yikes. You hope the not crazy ones outnumber the crazy ones. But you can't be sure. I am left with: Lean to the light Pilgrim. Try to keep your head. Try to see clearly. Take care. Be safe. There are voices out there, there are signs of intelligence on this planet, really, I promise, you just have to pay attention, seek and ye shall find.

The a.m. soundtrack - Tinariwen's "Emmaar" (2014). There is something reassuring about this record. Primarily songs in another language, words I just don't understand. A sound. Foreign, exotic. Beautiful guitars, flowing music from a land far away. Puts me in mind of vast desert landscapes. Blazing sunshine. Cool, healing, electric guitars. Medicine for the head and soul.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Under Pressure...

You think you are swimming along ok. Chill. The days stretch out and, there are long hours of silence, time for long walks, biking, silent contemplation. 

But there are those big, looming issues swirling in the air, and in your head always: pandemic, uncertainty, finances, mortality, worries, doubts, odd fears of all kinds.

It can be so exhausting... under pressure...

The a.m soundtrack - Queen & David Bowie - "Under Pressure."  (1981). For some reason, this song was dancing in my head in my sleep last night. I don't own a copy of it, so it's off to YouTube for a  listen. It was a hit. Catchy. Two iconic performers, Freddy Mercury and David Bowie. A blast from the past, resonates in the moment. Yes. Alright, I get it. Under Pressure...



Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Vector of Infection...

"I don't want to be a vector of infection." 

- A sentence from a sweet, young bartender at our local micro-brewery.

Why was I at the local micro-brewery? I just stopped by for pickup. I brought my re-fillable 32oz bottle. I was masked, the bartender was too. The micro-brewery open just for carry-out. We both sanitized, and kept our distance. It was just quick exchange. No. I am not "off the wagon."I am still dedicated to "diamond-clear-consciousness." One of our new things in time of the pandemic: occasionally imbibing locally-brewed kombucha. Zesty. Tasty. Rejuvenating. Yes. Fermented too. But it's not much of a buzz. Just a refreshing drink that takes the edge off a bit.

Yes. Trying not to be a vector of infection...

That does seem to be a worthy, necessary goal in the time of global pandemic. You read the news that folks are getting tired of the pandemic. They are yearning to "get back to normal." They are tired of wearing masks, social-distancing, washing their hands, and isolating from others.

They want to get to the next phase.

Poor babies. Maybe better to not be a "spreader?" Better to not endanger your fellow humans? Better to do  your best to not get ill, and pass it on? 

The a.m soundtrack - Cat Steven's "Teaser and the Fire-Cat."  (1971). Classic singer-songwriter. So sensitive. So inspiring. That voice. The record opens with "The Wind," just a voice, and a beautifully played guitar. Takes your breath away.  Beautifully recorded. Cat Stevens = enlightened spirit. No surprise he later became a devout muslim. R&R holy man.

Monday, June 15, 2020

"So Much to Do, So Little Time" - Dark Man

Yes. Yesterday. Sunday. Another long day in the the sunshine. It's our new thing. Venture out to the lakefront, find a comfy, sheltering spot, and bask in the sunshine. No worries about too much exposure to the sun, we were outfitted (masked & anonymous),  in masks, hats and sunglasses. 

We talked of many things. Lots of questions. Not too many answers. Oh well. I thought of Dark Man's motto: "So much to do, so little time."

The a.m soundtrack - Crazy Horses' debut album.  (1971). The great, ill-fated Crazy Horse. Neil Young's fabulous, garage band. This is the only Crazy Horse (not backing Neil Young) album to feature Danny Whitten, fabulous singer & guitarist. Danny died of a heroin overdose in 1972. A great, lost record. An amazing lineup of musicians including Nils Lofgren, Jack Nitzche, Ralph Molina, Billy Talbot. Secret DNA of r&r in that lineup.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

An Incomplete...

A long walk yesterday. The two of us, just like moths, went to the light. It was a sunny, windy day. We found a sheltered spot, our backs against a stone wall, and basked in the brilliant daylight. It was warming, rejuvenating.

Folks were out and about. Many people flocking to nature. Many wore masks, many kept their distance, many didn't wear masks, many didn't keep their distance.

We wondered about the virus, was it in the air, was it swirling around us, did any of the folks walking around carry it? No one really knows.

The hidden danger. 

We talked of many things. The usual topics: state of the world, race relations, global warming, global pandemic, the economy, our fucked up political situation, life, love, and "what's it all about?"

I think the conclusion we came to is that we humans get an "incomplete." Lots of work to do; on ourselves, and on our shared reality. We can do so much better. We could, we should, be working to build a better world for all. You wonder if we ever will.

The a.m soundtrack - Alabama Shakes' "Boys & Girls" (2012). A stunning debut album. A knockout, a throwback to 60's rock & roll and Southern r&b. "Soul Rock!" Great band. Brittany Howard is a force of nature singer and guitar player. Backed by an excellent band. The opening track is a perfect anthem for our times, maybe for just about any time... "Hold On..."

[Verse 1]
Bless my heart, bless my soul
Didn't think I'd make it to 22 years old
There must be someone up above
Sayin', "Come on, Brittany, you got to come on up

[Chorus]
You got to hold on
Hey, you got to hold on"

[Verse 2]
So, bless my heart and bless yours, too
I don't know where I'm gonna go
Don't know what I'm gonna do
There must be somebody up above
Sayin', "Come on, Brittany, you got to come on up

[Chorus]
You got to hold on
Hey, you got to hold on"

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Still Waters Run Deep...

Still waters run deep.

Yes. I am a long-time meditator. I can still my mind. I can let my emotions flow & dissipate with the best of them. I can imagine healing gold light suffusing every cell in my body. I can envision myself sitting in a green, welcoming, calming, forest clearing, running energy, renewing my being to it's core.

Yep.

But, you know, these are all just tools I use because, still waters run deep. I can have a long, restful, renewing, revitalizing meditation, and then, the next moment, holy shite... the world comes crashing into my being.

Meditating is a necessary tool.  Left to my natural state, I am lost in a mad swirl of madness.

My head is a roaring, crashing ocean,
My body is swimming in crazy, contradictory, overwhelming emotions.
Mad feelings of guilt, loss, anger, inadequacy, zip around in my being like unhinged tornados, tsunamis and hurricanes.

Still waters run deep.

Yes. There are depths to every human being. There are big looming issues, (for instance mortality), and conundrums waiting to pounce at the drop of a hat.

As Kermit the Frog from "Sesame Street" once sang: "It's not easy being green."

The a.m soundtrack - Leon Russell's Debut Solo Album. (1970). Extraordinary. An uncommon, American original. A fully-realized musical sensibility, sound and band. Leon was a longtime studio musician, he was the go-to pianist with Phil Spector's studio band. Leon makes an incredible debut as a solo artist. It's a loose, fun, intense, beautifully recorded and performed record. It's got a vibe, a groove, a spirit. Oh yeah, Leon had some "friends" drop in for the record, pretty much a "who's who" of rock royalty including: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Ringo, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker, Klaus Voorman, Delaney & Bonnie, Merry Clayton. But Leon doesn't get swamped by the guests, he is fully in charge, totally shines. Leon Russell, one of the not so secret agents of change in r&r.  He had a major impact on early 70's r&r. This is a great record. I own the 24K Gold CD, remastered in 1993.  I bought it used from 2nd Hand Tunes for $8.99. A great, rare find. It sounds amazing. 

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