WWSP's "The Alternate Boot!"

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Better, More Just, Equal & Loving Union.

I am a writer. So my usual "go to" mode, is to write words down on a page. I put my "faith" in words. Usually, this ability to write things down is an essential tool in my kit-bag. My humble way of trying to process the moments of a day. Sometimes the moments are indigestible. There's no way to convey or sum up the chaotic stew of thoughts and emotions swirling around inside my body and head.

The news of the day in America 2020: riots, fire in the streets, pain, suffering, violence, bad-blood, mayhem. The exposure of deep wounds in the fabric of our country. Wounds that have never healed.

Sometimes words fail. Sometimes you actually come up empty. All I can do is repeat some key words that ring in my head this morning: Peace, Justice, Love, Equality, Fraternity, Community.

I hope for some kind of dawning of the light. Some openness to Truth, Reality, a Reckoning, Reconciliation. A Better, More Just, Equal and Loving Union.  It may be an idealistic dream, but it's a dream to stake our lives upon.

The a.m. soundtrack - Rabin Abou-Khalil's "Blue Camel." (1992). As they say, "Arabic Music" fused with Jazz. So gorgeous. Wordless. Resonates. Hard to convey the beauty. Cuts across time and culture. A heady trip. Rabih About-Khalil plays an oud and it sets the tone for the record. What's an oud? - "The oud is a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument with 11 or 13 strings grouped in 5 or 6 courses. The oud is very similar to modern lutes, and also to Western lutes. The modern oud is most likely derived from the Assyrian Lute."

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Is that Too Much to Ask?!

The killing of unarmed black folks has got to stop.

Killer cops.
Rage in the streets.

It is a sad, tragic, unjust, immoral, disheartening reality.

Life in America, 2020.

Of course, no one in authority (for instance our toxic, idiot President), should be "fanning the flames" of violence.

It feels like we are collectively spinning out.

There must a reckoning, a healing, a renewal.

You wonder, are we, as human beings, smart enough, empathetic enough, responsible enough to do the necessary work to learn to live together? Can let go the old prejudices? And work towards a more perfect union?

Can we create a world where every being is treated with respect, care and love? Is that too much to ask?

No one speaks to this topic better than the Rapper Killer Mike. This is from last night, it
is passionate, heart-felt, heart-breaking, must-watch TV. Watch and weep for the loss of life, watch and weep for the soul of our country. We must reach down deep and do so much better...



The a.m. soundtrack - The Handsome Family's "Singing Bones"  (2003). - A unique and satisfying record. An uncommon collaboration. The duo: Brett and Rennie Sparks. Brett has an incredible voice, a full baritone, operatic. Rennie is an amazing lyricist, she tells dark and amazing stories. Gothic. "Far from Any Road" was used as the theme song for True Detective's first season. It's haunting, gorgeous, it really set the tone for the series. The whole record is a deep, moody, acoustic trip. Gothic American. Makes me think of Flannery O'Connor, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Nathanial Hawthorne. Old American & wise. Dark, strange, haunting.

Friday, May 29, 2020

That Long Book...

Another chapter in that long book, "Everything You Know is Wrong."

Check out this episode of Terry Gross's Fresh Air: "How the Lost Art of Breathing Can Impact Sleep and Resilience."

Turns out we don't really know how to breathe. We should all, always, be breathing thru our noses. I sometimes do it. I mean, when I meditate, I actively concentrate on my breathing, and maybe that's the most important part of the meditation, but sometimes I forget. Sometimes I am a "Mouth Breather." Turns out that is not good. God knows what happens when I'm sleeping.

Turns out also that we humans have been on a downward trajectory for the last 400 years or so. Our skulls are shrinking, our mouths are getting smaller. Maybe it has something to do with the food we eat. Too much food processing, not enough healthy, concentrated chewing. Smaller mouths and crooked teeth.

So less breathing thru our noses. Shite, we don't even know how to breathe correctly! Less oxygen to our brains. No wonder we seem stupider than ever. We humans are actually "devolving." Who knew?!

I mean, yes, the signs have been everywhere, just check out the daily news, but still, it's surprising to get knocked upside the head with new information. Sometimes you realize we really, really don't know what the hell is going on, and who we really are...

The a.m soundtrack - The Chieftain's - "Long Black Veil."  (1995). Going back to my Irish roots this morning. Another thing I was pretty wrong about. I grew up believing I was 1/2 Irish, turns out, no, more German and Polish than Irish. So really, I spent lots of time not even knowing who I was, what my genetic heritage was, or who were "my people." This is sort of a gimmick record. Traditional Irish songs. An all-star cast of singers fronting the Chieftains. Still, it's an amazing "Who's Who" of artists: Sting, Mark Knopfler, Mick Jagger, Van Morrison, Sinead O'Connor, Ry Cooder, Marianne Faithful, the Rolling Stones, and Tom Jones. For some reason, it all sounds a bit hokey this a.m. I mean, it really is a gimmick record. Except of course for Van and Sinead.  They are the real deal, as Irish as they come. Some of the tunes make me long for the little Emerald Isle. Even if only a tiny fraction of me is connected to that shimmering, green paradise... like I said, "Everything You Know is Wrong." Okay?!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

A New Vivid World of Light...

I have never been a germaphobe. Until now.
I have never been a hypochondriac.  Until now.

A Frog in the Throat?! Yikes.
A Sneeze? Holy Shit.

Was that a Cough? Heaven Forbid.

I go through the inventory: Where did I go, who did I encounter, what did I touch, how often have I washed my hands?

I wear a mask every day. Open the doors to our building with a paper towel. I count my fingers and toes every day. Listen to my body. What's going on in there?!

All seems fine this morning. No cold, no virus.  I am "relatively healthy." That's a thing, right?!

There is death and mayhem all around us. Over 100,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19 in the USA. A sad, tragic milestone. It truly is the "plague." The New Dark Ages. No doubt.

The people in charge here are incompetent, corrupt, vindictive and paranoid. Doesn't help the situation. How to be positive/optimistic? Is that even a correct way to be?

I don't know. I see light. I do. I think we are at a pivot point in our Democracy. A dark time is here, but it won't be here forever. Let's hope some of us make it thru. Blue Wave 2020. And then let's all turn to empathy, social justice, a better Democracy, a new vivid world of light. Yes. I see it.

The a.m. soundtrack - Bonnie Prince Billy - "I See a Darkness"  (1999). This is a dark one. Stark. Vivid. A "delicate, intelligent record." No doubt. Layered. Empathetic. Will Oldham's voice is an expressive, keening, haunting thing. There's a skull on the cover.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Defeat the "Inner Saboteur."

Defeat the "Inner Saboteur."

I do think I am learning lessons. Always.

I mean, the world is a moving target, and I am too. Sometimes I feel human beings don't really change. We are all the same little people we were at a super-young age. The years just add a bit of gravity and history to the timeline.

On the other hand, I do think we are always morphing, changing, renewing, maybe cycling-thru our lives. There is a clear trajectory. We accumulate and grow and change. I do think you can teach an old dog new tricks. I do think our brains are elastic, and malleable.

So I think we are essentially the same and different too. We are still, and moving.

I have often found myself improvising in the moment. Shooting from the hip. Impatient to "make something happen." This has often come back to bite me in the ass. Poor decision-making. Poor planning. False moves. Self-sabotaging actions.

Lately, I have been fighting my own instincts, my own intuitions, my own usually, overly-impatient self. Some of this has been enforced by the pandemic. Do less. Listen more. Sit quietly. Think. And then, let the thoughts drift away.

I have been holding my cards tightly to my chest. Biting my lip. Not so quick with the snappy remark. Knowing I don't have to get in the last word. Not so sure, or disagreeable, about the passing moments of the passing day.

I used to read a lot of literature about Zen, I was always fascinated, and attracted to the Zen Masters. But I always felt I was missing something. Zen. What Zen? But now, I feel I am living in a more Zen-like state. Not in any big, philosophical/religious way, just in little actions of care and quiet.

Silence. Contemplation. Letting go. Seeing the Ego do its thing, laughing at, and observing the Ego do it's thing. I am at the steering wheel, but really, I am taking my hands off the wheel... maybe gingerly guiding it with my fingers. Living lightly. Watching the "Inner Saboteur" but not letting him take the lead on the narrative.

Now and Zen.

The a.m soundtrack - U2's "Unforgettable Fire."  (1984). I bought this one when it came out in 1984. I have always thought it was a beautiful, magical recording. It's arty and ephemeral. Atmospheric. All the U2 elements are there. Great band. Solid drumming. The big, loping, luxurious bass up front. Edge's sonic-landscape-guitar, Bono's fierce intelligence. The cover is a picture of Slane Castle where the album was conceived, written and performed. Killer production team: Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. The best. No doubt. This was the first of a long string of great records where band and producers pushed the envelope on sound and conception. There are a couple anthemic tracks. Lots of mood oozes across the tracks. Shimmering beauty. Saying something too. Unforgettable.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Dazed by the String of Days...

Days.

Ray Davies wrote a great pop song called "Days."

Charles Bukowski's famous line: "The Days run away like wild horses."

Bono used the line for a U2 song.

Sometimes the days are a blur, they kind of smear together over each other. One day you look up and a string of days have flown by. Some days totally stand out. Unfortunately, the really dark days tend to be vivid, easily recalled. They are the "pivot point" days, where something (usually traumatic) happened and everything is altered forever.

Sometimes the good days stand out too. Is it true that the dark days seem to have more gravity, and the bright days are more ephemeral? I don't know.

Yesterday, Memorial Day 2020 was pretty much a positively standout kind of day.

Leisurely morning, great coffee, wrote in my blog, worked on Moog tracks, went for a long, invigorating 40 min bike ride with my partner. We basked (socially-distant, masked and anonymous) in the sunshine, meditated in the shade, had a long, rambling conversation about life, love and yes, unfortunately the pandemic. We talked about all the silly people congregating close together and NOT wearing masks. Surprising. We returned home and filmed a music video of one our older tracks. We also recorded a demo of a new song. Then it was Pizza Party and watched a couple episodes of Mad Men season 3. It seemed like an incredibly long day. Fruitful, and fun. Memorable.

The a.m. soundtrack - The Smiths' "Strangeways Here We Come"  (1987). The last record from The Smiths. It's great. Lush. Beautifully recorded. The band is at the top of their form. Amazing creative/musical collaboration. Morrissey & Marr were an incredibly gifted, unique, prodigiously creative song-writing team. Sophisticated pop/rock of the finest kind. Marr isn't just a fabulous guitarist, he is a composer of pop masterworks. Shimmering, layered. Of course, Morrissey is a great vocalist and an uncommonly brilliant lyricist. Funny, cutting, intelligent, graceful. This was the last time Morrissey and Marr worked together. Something happened. Whatever attracted them to each other, whatever worked so perfectly over 4 studio albums and a great collection of singles, seemed to evaporate. Why does what works so well, work, and then, NOT work? It's a mystery. The record is a true masterwork, makes me smile. It's is life-affirming to listen to work this perfectly composed and performed. Inspiring.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Mind Game of "What If?"

You play that game in your head, "What If?"

I guess, imagining alternate realities, alternate pasts, and potential futures is something we tend to do. Especially when we have time on our hands, "spit-balling," chilling out, contemplating our lives.

Not sure how fruitful it is, especially when reviewing your own long, sordid history. A common phrase pops up in my consciousness, knowing it's a tired, but useful cliche: "If only I knew then, what I know now..."

We can't rerun the model. The Universe only, truly, unfolds one way. I mean, the scientists tell us reality is all about probabilities, chance, randomness; every moment is basically a coin flip, but even with that, the coin only ends up one way.

What happens is what happens. Reality is what actually happens. Of course, not just one thing happens, everything happens all at once, all the time. Trying to figure out what actually happened is really a life-long quest. A crazy-ass rabbit hole, a shimmering hall of mirrors.

Is there a "grand narrative" or just an ever-changing, always morphing churn and burn? The Universe is expanding, life and death happen moment to moment. Trying to detect a pattern, discern a meaning, imagine a purpose, that's such a human thing.

So the game of "What If" is just a game. Maybe it lights up some of the darkness. "I did this, but I could have done that..." We try the alternate reality on for size. It's just a Mind-Game.

Maybe it's a way of trying to come to kind of understanding? Recognizing pivotal moments. Moments that changed the trajectory of our lives.

Now. This moment. Here we are. The past is growing, the future is shrinking. The moment is here. Present in the Present. Still, sometimes, you ask yourself: "What If?!"

The a.m soundtrack - Tricky's "Maxinquaye" (1994). I realize there is a bit of a pattern. I do like to listen to floating, drifting kind of music in the a.m. Usually I avoid the heavy beats. I am not a fan of the "four on the floor" beats from the dance floor.  I usually like a bit of moody atmosphere. Tricky's record is perfect. Dark, groovy, trippy. There is a beat, there is movement, but it's pretty light on it's feet. Some of this record reminds me of Portishead, for instance the sultry female vocals, but it's different too. Maybe even harder to get a handle on. A dream record, with a groove.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Live There...

Sun is shining.
It's Sunday.

Long weekend.

You can almost forget the mayhem, almost.
Best to concentrate on the little things.

Taking care.
Being safe.
Dreaming of better days.

Sometimes you really need to micro-focus.
Don't look too far ahead, or too far behind.

Moments make up our lives.
Best to live there, in the micro-stream of moments.

The a.m. soundtrack - Nick Cave & Warren Ellis' "White Lunar" (2009). Mostly instrumental tracks. One of the great collaborative teams. Haunting. Beautiful. Movie music, film scores, a rag-tag collection of work. Lots of gorgeous violin from Warren, lots of beautiful piano from Nick. Together Cave & Ellis are an amazingly prodigious creative powerhouse. I just love all the work they have done separately and together over many different projects. This one really resonates. It drifts and drives. Challenges you with beauty.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Waiting is the Hardest Part, No Doubt...

Patience.

When I think of my time in Coronavirus, I think of my time spent waiting.

Waiting for a friend.
Waiting for something to happen.
Waiting for good news.
Waiting for the time to pass.

Waiting, and...

watching the clouds passing over my head.
watching the waves crashing to the shore.
watching the little birdies flitting from tree to tree.

Waiting for lunch.
Waiting for the computer to boot up.
Waiting for an idea.
Waiting for the mail.

Every time I think I should "make something happen," events conspire to make me wait.

I sit Buddha-like, waiting, waiting, waiting.
I sit and wait, and think of Tom Petty's great song, I can't help it, I hear him singing in my head: "The Waiting is the hardest part."

Yes, Tom is correct.

The a.m. soundtrack - Tame Impala's "Lonerism."  (2012). We all practice loner-ism now. The first time I played this record I thought "Flaming Lips." I was sure it was Wayne and the boys. It sounded like a David Friddman production (the long-time Producer of the Flaming Lips). Nope. It's all Kevin Parker with an assist from Jay Watson on two tracks. Oh yeah, turns out Friddman did help out a bit, he gets an uncredited assist. Kevin Parker sings, and plays all the instruments. It really is a document of aloneness. It does sound like the Lips to me. But it's great. There is something about a musician sitting in his room all by himself creating a world of sound. Lonerism in action.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Natives are Restless.

The natives are getting restless. Folks are losing patience. This lockdown, sheltering in home thing is getting a bit stale and tiresome. People want to shop. People want to party. People want to go to bars. People want to eat out at restaurants. People want to "get back to normal." People are clamoring to open the economy and get back to business as usual.

Funny.

The coronavirus is still deadly, super-contagious, there is no cure, no vaccine, medicines don't seem to help. The numbers of ill and dying continues to rise. The virus is still the global menace it has been from the start. Nothing has changed on the virus side of the equation.

The virus is deadly, nasty, persistent, patient, going about replicating itself in any host it can find.

Still, the natives are getting restless.  The American Nazis are marching. The Right-Wing Armed Militias are loaded and ready to rock. Some folks just don't want to wear a mask or social distance. What about FREEDOM?

Remember Patrick Henry? His famous words: "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death." Covid-19 suppresses a smile and replies: "Sure, no problem, I have a deal for you, how about both?!"

Well, yeah, sure, you are FREE to get ill, you are FREE to die. But what about when your freedom collides with someone else's health & safety? Something has to give.

I am on the side of Health & Safety.

Patience Grassshopper. Keep your head. Keep your cool. Nothing has changed. Ask yourself: What is important? What is essential? What will you give up? What can you do without? What will it take to stay safe and healthy?

Do that, Grasshopper.

The a.m. soundtrack - Moby's - "Play."  (1999). Yes. This record changed Moby's life. It changed my life too when I first heard it. It was an unexpected experience. No doubt, a masterpiece. A powerful, overwhelming set of music. Transcendent. Emotional. Exciting. Playful. Head-opening. A techno, laptop album that transcends. "Chicago Sun-Times critic Jim DeRogatis noted its incorporation of such disparate musical influences as early blues, African-American folk music, gospel, hip hop, disco and techno, "all within the context of his own distinctly melodic ambient stylings." Yep. Essential. For sure.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Remember Your Essence.

Paul Williams reminds us: "Remember Your Essence."

Yes.

Remember your Intuition too.

Remember you are more than your body.

Remember that your time is precious.

Remember to Love.

Remember to stop and listen.

Remember you are one being in a vast world of beings.

Remember to step lightly.

Remember to remember.

The a.m. soundtrack - Dead Can Dance's "Spirit-Chaser"  (1996). We own 4 or 5 of Dead Can Dance's albums. Love them all. Still, this one is a standout. It combines new and old sounds. Organic and synthetic sounds. Perfectly integrated. Recorded at Quivvy Church in Ireland. Something unique comes across. There is a song called "Indus" which has an "inadvertent" nod to George Harrison's fabulous song "Within You Without You" from Sgt. Peppers. It's a highlight track on the Beatles album and a highlight track here too. Lisa Gerrad and Brendan Perry are in fine voice as usual. So many great sounds. A swirl of mad wonder.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Compliments...

Sometimes I do get compliments. Of a kind.

I have been working on more instrumental mini-Moog music. It's a totally engulfing, a totally obsessive flow activity for me. I can get lost for hours creating sounds. It's sort of a long-form meditation in sound; generating and soaking myself deeply in waves of sound. There is no great point, or objective, or reason, except to occupy my mind and my time, and to create something that didn't exist before in the world. I am doing it just because I can.  "Art for Art's Sake."

I am not changing the world, but the process is changing me.

It is pretty exciting to be working with an instrument, the mini-Moog, something that I never played before, so different from guitar, which I have played for most of my life. Puts me in a different zone. Everything is new, foreign. I think of music differently, I hear things I haven't heard before.

I have been driven in this direction by the lockdown, by long hours "sheltering in place." At the moment, playing music with our band seems like a distant memory, and a shimmering, shaky mirage out there in the future. So, I am left to my own devices.

Is any of this work good, or worthy? I don't know. I am not really judging the work. Except, "Does it sound good to me?" I am "just doing it." Creating sounds that appeal to my own aesthetic tastes. Constructing sounds that seem to work together.

My long-time partner listened to some tracks.  She seems a bit bemused by my detour, side-project, rabbit-hole, strange, solitary obsession.  Here comes the compliment:

"You are a gnarly goat, but sometimes beauty comes out of you."

Hah! I'll take it. I mean, it's almost better than a Grammy!

The a.m. soundtrack - Ofra Gaza's "Kirya."  (1992). An Israeli singer. Middle Eastern sounds married to a modern Pop/Rock production. American Producer Don Was, Iggy Pop guests on one track. A fruitful mashup of sounds. World music, foreign, exotic,  mysterious, with a solid, well-produced modern backing. Very moody & atmospheric. The words, I don't really know what the words mean, but the sounds are old and new world fabulous.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

"Something Happened."

Last night, in the deep quiet of the evening, another long day of laying low in the shadow of the pandemic, my partner looked deeply into my eyes and asked me:

"What happened?"

It hung over us like an unanswerable, existential question. No ready answer came to mind. No words could convey the state of the world, or our lives in it, our time time together, the decades that have come and gone, the many turns of the planet.

I thought of Joseph Heller's great, cryptic, epic novel...

The words popped out: "Something Happened."

We exchanged glances. No expression. No smiles. No disappointment. Just a meaningful exchange.

That will have to do. Yes. Something happened.

The a.m. soundtrack - David Johansen and The Harry Smiths - "Shaker." (2002). David Johansen is standing in a cemetery on the cover. He brings long-dead voices back to life with this project. Voices from the grave: Son House, Furry Lewis, Muddy Waters, Lightnin Hopkins, Geeshie Wiley and a few more. Recorded live in a church over two days. Brilliant, classic, acoustic blues. Perfectly rendered. The human story in 3 min songs. Everything is there in the tracks. The hurt, the blues, the wisdom, the death, the glory, the mystery.  You wonder: "What happened?!"

Monday, May 18, 2020

Secret Garden.

Oasis.
Hideout.
Secret garden.
Private space.
Center of your head.
Retreat.
Vacation.
Quiet location.
Calm center.

Your body.
Your temple.
Your internal landscape.
Your own personal space.

Silence.

Your heart beating.
Your breath
flowing
in
and
out
with no effort.

Sit back and enjoy the show...

The a.m soundtrack - "Requiem for a Dream" (soundtrack) - (2000). Composed by Clint Mansell. Peformed by the Kronos Quartet. Powerful. Overwhelming. Disorienting. Edgy. The soundtrack for the film by Darren Aronofsky, based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr. The movie is a bit of a slog. Lots of pain & suffering. A tragic story about human beings living tragically. It's also about addiction: addiction to sex, food, drugs, depression, ignorance, self-sabotage, incessant suffering, TV, false hope, & pipe-dreams. Etc. You name it. So human. The soundtrack is moody, gorgeous, ominous, head-turning. Perfect for a dark, rainy Monday morning in the long shadow of a pandemic.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Goofing Off is Now Essential.

Goofing off.
Staying home.
Laying low.
Chilling out.
Enforced patience.
Taking things slow.
Doing less.
Taking your hands off the wheel.

No "seizing the day,"
instead,
letting the days drift by...

Laying on the couch.
Listening to music.
Watching movies in the middle of the day.
Pizza party!
Re-binge-watching Mad Men (into season 3 already!).
Playing my guitar.
Playing my mini-Moog.
Recording songs.
Listening to Marc Maron's "WTF."
Eating well.
Sleeping well.

Who knew that "goofing off" would be the new lifestyle choice?
Who knew laying low, becoming a Howard-Hughes-Like-Hermit, would be the lifestyle of 2020 and  a radical political stance?

No shopping. No restaurant hopping. No social activities outside the home.

Staying safe. Lazing around. Waiting for the vaccine...

The a.m. soundtrack - Howling Wolf's "I Ain't Gonna Be Your Dog."  (1994). 2 CDs. The original Chess Masters. Essential. The source. Hard-hitting, killer, Chicago Blues. Blues in full-force, blues in big-band mode: harmonica, guitars, piano, sax, bass, drums. An all-star blues lineup. Big time urban blues.  1950's-late 1960's. These are essential tracks. Sometimes Eddie Shaw on Sax, Hubert Sumlin on guitar, James Cotton harmonica. The Holy Grail of the Blues. The DNA found later in white-boy blues bands like the Rolling Stones, and that guttural, sand-paper voice, the "Wolf persona" adopted by Tom Waits. Howling Wolf was there first. Glorious, thrilling, essential blues. No blues cliches. Funky, loose, sophisticated, layered. Fully-realized. The Stones mined some of this vibe in the basement in France in 1972, their big-band blues was modeled on Wolf and Muddy Waters' bands. Howling Wolf: the real, the righteous stuff. A rollicking good-time.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

"Me" Watching "Me."

Yes. Funny.

I started my day yesterday thinking of my mind as a blank slate (see previous post). It seemed to work swimmingly.

My state of mind, pretty much all day yesterday, was a state of:

Dislocation
Disconnection
Disenfranchisement
Disorientation

I was basically "off the hook."

It was a strangely agreeable state of mind. I watched myself navigate the day. It felt like I was observing someone else. For some reason I flashed on G.I. Gurdjieff's idea of "conscious self-observation."

I was "Me" watching "Me" in the world. It made "Me" feel less like "Me." It was not a feeling of "self-absorption," more a  genial "clear-seeing." It was not an Ego-driven thing, it was a "drop the Ego" kind of thing.

I was a subject and object simultaneously.  It was strangely invigorating.

This morning I still feel renewed, refreshed.

The a.m. soundtrack - Peter Gabriel's - "Passion."  (1989). This is a haunting, beautiful, wondrous record. The soundtrack for a Martin Scorcese film, but it's not just a soundtrack, Gabriel worked on it as a complete record. It features an amazing group of musicians from around the world. It is extraordinary. Truly the best of "world music." Traditional instruments and sounds, combined with electronic/ambient sounds. Amazing. It starts out ominously, mysteriously. There are moments of hushed wonder and awesome beauty. Gorgeous. A labor of love. High Art. Recommended.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Blank Slate.

I have decided I am a blank slate today. It's Friday. It's "anything can happen day."

So, yes. Clear my head.
Still my mind.
Let it all come in.
Let it all wash over me.

That's the ticket.

No.

Don't need no ticket.
Just climb onboard.

The a.m. soundtrack - Buddha Bar VI  (2004). Another chill-out record. I forgot we owned this double-cd set. The Buddha Bar was a real place in France. We played this one a lot in the mid-to-late 2000's. It's been sitting on a shelf for awhile. They say a big, golden Buddha was always smiling down on the music room in Paris. DJ's spinning their custom mixes & records. This album was recorded & compiled by a DJ named Ravin. Mellow. Chill. Head music.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

We Can Choose To Live Lives of Clarity, Hope, Love and Grace.

We can handle the truth. I mean the species. There are some hard truths that we all must live with, and live with them, we must.

For instance:

We all will die.
Everyone we know and love.
Including ourselves.

Human Beings are not the center of the Universe.
We are just another species that happens to live here.

We don't really know what we are doing most of the time.
We are just making it up as we go.

There are too many of us.
We are destroying the ecosystem that supports our lives,
and the lives of all the other species on the planet.

No one is in charge.
No Big Daddy will save us.

We (the collective We), are the authorities.
We make the decisions.
Our fate is in our own hands, to an extent.

Luck and Randomness are powerful forces that have momentous sway in our lives.

Despite our "Death Sentences," we can choose
to live lives of Clarity, Hope, Love and Grace.
Not to please some Big Daddy in the sky,
but just because, it's the better path...
to live a Life with Heart, Soul, Integrity & Truth.

We are resourceful, creative, resilient.
We can do it.
Damn the torpedos.

The a.m. soundtrack - 2 CD set - "Beautiful Bollywood."  A compilation album. I don't know what year it was released. A label from the Netherlands. Don't know how we came to own it. My partner was deeply into dance and trance music for awhile. Thinking we probably saw a Bollywood movie, and decided we wanted a little of that Bollywood vibe in our home. But maybe it was just luck we stumbled upon this one. It's a bit electronic, groovy, trippy, with that shimmering Indian vibe. Digging deep into the CD collection this a.m. Looking for the exotic, the colorful, the overwhelming power and beauty of being alive. The first track is called "Pickels." What's not to love?!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

People Really, Really Do Have the Power...

Some good news...

People really do have the Power. Hong Kong is a success story (so far), in beating Coronavirus. A lesson for us all.

"The secret sauce of Hong Kong’s response was its people and, crucially, the movement that engulfed the city in 2019. Seared with the memory of SARS, and already mobilized for the past year against their unpopular government, the city’s citizens acted swiftly, collectively, and efficiently, in effect saving themselves. The organizational capacity and the civic infrastructure built by the protest movement played a central role in Hong Kong’s grassroots response."

People. Organized. Mobilized. Eyes and heads open to reality, facts, science, experience. They tuned out the noise, they were always ahead of the politicians and their government. They took responsibility for their own lives. They put their health and their safety first. They worked with others to do the same. They shared real, honest to goodness info, they communicated it to each other. 

"There’s a lesson here, as the United States deals with staggering levels of incompetence at the federal level. Stories have been written by doctors in major hospitals in the U.S. about how they tried to source masks in the black market and disguised PPE shipments in food trucks to avoid their seizure by the federal government. As Taiwan and South Korea show, timely response by a competent government can make the difference between surrendering to a major outbreak and returning to a well-functioning, open society without lockdowns or deaths. But Hong Kong also teaches that people aren’t helpless, even when their government isn’t helpful."

The a.m soundtrack - Eleventh Dream Day's "Ursa Major" (1994). A great, rare find. A joyful noise. A fabulous band, a tremendously satisfying record. This is the only record of their's I own. It's a  beautiful blast of perfectly, balanced r&r dissonance. Great electric guitars. Tight, but loose, band. This is a pure joy and pleasure. I found it in the used CD bin at my local record store. So good. Life-affirming. Good news. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Dream Eno.

During lockdown, I have been obsessively, learning, navigating and playing a mini-Moog synthesizer. Funny. I have always been about organic, authentic r&r. I play a Fender Telecaster and a Hohner Jumbo acoustic. I own an old tube amp. I am all about playing live in the moment with other musicians in a room. That's how our band rehearses, how we play out, how we have made all of our recordings.

But in lockdown, I am left to my own devices.

So as a lark, a goof, a kick, I decided to learn something totally new and different. I am deep down the rabbit hole now, creating weird and moody soundscapes. It is amazing, the mini-Moog synth seems to have an infinite number of sounds. So many dials and settings. I spin the switches and see what happens.

Not sure what I will do with all the tracks I am creating. I am just in the mode of creation. It's a good way to occupy my time.

Lately, I have been listening to lots of music featuring synths. New Order, Brian Eno, Danger Mouse. Last night, Brian Eno visited me in my dreams. Yes, my Dream Eno came to me and said: "The world is a mad swirl of sound."

Dream Eno, you are so right...

The a.m. soundtrack - David Bowie's "Lodger" (1979). I just purchased this record. It came in the mail yesterday. I'm only a couple decades late to the party. It's the third record in the Berlin Trilogy. Strange. It was recorded in Switzerland. Close enough to Berlin, I suppose. I do get it, though, it's kind of a continuation of the sonic experiments Bowie initiated on "Low" and "Heroes." David is in great voice. It's another unique & original collaboration with Brian Eno. Produced by Tony Visconti. It's sounds great. Fabulous musicianship. It's a bit experimental. Spiky. Arty. All of these tracks are new to me. They weren't played on the radio very much. Fresh. "Complex and rewarding." Yes. Indeed.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Common Sense Contingent...

I guess this is a pivot point. A "make or break" moment.

Do you choose to listen to the doctors, the scientists, and your own common sense?

OR

Do you listen to politicians, those worried about their political fortunes, and those chattering economic cheerleaders chanting "Go back to work, now!"

One group is telling us there is a nasty virus in the land. It is super-contagious, there is no cure, no vaccine, and no good therapy to help you survive it. The smartest thing is to try not to catch it. The only measures you can take are wearing a mask, staying home as much as possible, being socially-distant when you are outside, washing your hands frequently.

The other group is telling us, "So what? Go back to work, go back to business as usual. Shop! Remember this is the land of the FREE the home of the BRAVE!"

Put me in the "common sense" camp. I do not think this is a difficult choice.

The a.m soundtrack - Talking Head's "Fear of Music."  (1979). A spiky, twitchy, nervous-sounding band. Fear permeates the record. What to be afraid of? Pretty much everything. David Byrne always seems to be singing from the edge of hysteria, or phobia, he seems distressed, unhappy. A stranger in a strange land. This record is produced by Brian Eno. Eno and Byrne really became quite the creative collaborative team. Dynamic. A great band, always catchy, groovy, and off-kilter. Maybe the standout track for me is "Heaven" a shimmering ballad with the great line, "Heaven is a place, where nothing, nothing ever happens." 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Caught in Between.

Utopia --   "a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions, an impractical scheme for social improvement, an imaginary and indefinitely remote place."

Dystopia -- " an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives."

Caught between unreal dreams of Utopia and the very realness of Dystopia.

It's easier to break things than to fix them. It's easier to destroy than create. It's easier to stoke the fear, harder to stoke Hope.

Is Love stronger than Hate? I don't know. Unfortunately, maybe it's a draw?

I lean to the light. Every damn day. But man, it's been a hard year so far. I fall back on the cliches. The cliches that can "save" a life: ONE DAY AT A TIME, FAKE IT TO MAKE IT...

Take your hands off the wheel, you aren't driving the car anyway...

The a.m. soundtrack - Os Mutantes' "Everything is Possible."  (1999). Crazy fun. A blast of Brazilian psychedelia. A compilation: The best of Os Mutantes. Kick down the doors, open your head. This is a kick in the pants. Enthusiastic. Trippy. Cool. You put this one on and you think: "Yes, it's true, anything is possible!"

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Dissident of the Light.

I have to rally.
Get tough, because when the going gets tough,
the tough get going (hat tip: V. Lombardi).

So many people I know are:

downhearted
gloomy
desperate
doomy
sad
depressed
suffering from PSTD
faithless
pessimistic
apocalyptic
cynical
sarcastic
paranoid
conspiracy-minded
fear-full
doubtful
maximum worriers

They have lost the inclination to hope
Maybe for good reason, but I can't go there

I have decided to dissent.
To choose another path.

Happiness is a choice.
Hope is a lifeline.
Being positive is necessary.
Clear-seeing in the light.
I am a Dissident of the Light.

As the great Lombardi also once said: "Run to Daylight."

The a.m. soundtrack - Rye's -  "Woman"   (2013). Another rare find. I was tipped to this one by Greg Kot from Sound Opinions. Mellow. Lush. Sort of a mysterious record and band. Started as a duo and then became something else. The vocalist is male, sounds a bit like Sade. Amazing. "Innovative Leisure" music.  Sounds gorgeous and very, very, chill this morning.

Friday, May 08, 2020

You Have Always Relied on the Kindness of Strangers...

You are reminded that your life is reliant, contingent, upon on an elaborate Rube Goldberg Machine.


You have always relied on the kindness of strangers.
You have counted on things working out.
You hope that  all the gears are well-oiled, the tires are inflated, everything works to spec.

Aye there's the rub.

Maybe the machine is a bit too elaborate.
The designers/inventors got a little too carried away with their inventiveness.

You are a foolish one. Sitting at the table, trying to eat your soup. Expecting everything will work out fine.

You forgot:

the bug in the software
the spanner in the works
that rust never sleeps
and sometimes, things just don't work out.

The a.m soundtrack - Wilco's "Star Wars." (2015). It starts with dissonance. A spiky instrumental. A blast of energy and sound to clear the cobwebs of your expectations. This is a band that can do anything. Chock-full of fabulous musicians, three guitar players, an incredibly inventive drummer, keyboards; a band with their own home studio, everyone at the top of their game. An incredible band of musicians fronted by Jeff Tweedy. A truly wonderful vocalist and songwriter. Another great Wilco record. What's my favorite Wilco record? Whichever one I am listening to at the moment. This morning, this is it.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Hi-Jacked!

Lost voices.
Dead lands.

Crossed wires.
Disconnections.
Dislocations.

Dead-ends.
Rabbit-holes.

Broken lines.

Hi-jacked by the times.

What's next?

The a.m. soundtrack - Kan Wakan - "Moving On." (2014). I have listened to this record over and over many times. I especially like to hear it early in the day. Turned up loud. Luxurious listening. I still can't get a handle on it. It is dreamy, trippy, gorgeous, amorphous. It has everything. Grooves, orchestrations, beautiful vocals. It like a dream or like clouds. It drifts in and out.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Make it to the Daylight.

I wonder if Covid-19 will be a constant theme around here for the foreseeable future? Unfortunately, probably.

Every day, every conversation, every news story, every event, just about every moment has Covid-19 swirling around, underlying, or looming over it; it always either front and center, or lurking in a subtly subterranean way.

It's about space.
Our lives.
Having our own space, inside, outside.
We have given so much of our space to a novel coronavirus.

That's just the reality.
This nasty virus circulated around the globe.
It came to us all very, very quickly.
It's amazingly contagious.
It's amazingly deadly.

So how to maintain our space?
Mental & physical?

Cultivate silence.
Meditate.
Long walks.
Eat well.
Sleep well.
Keep positive.
Maybe pray.
Or dream of better days.

Our job now is to stay healthy.
Survive in the age of Covid-19.
Make it to the other side.

The a.m. soundtrack - Sigur Ros' - "Ágætis byrjun"  (1999). As Friedrich Nietzche puts it: "Without music life would be a mistake." This is the one. I can't convey how powerful, beautiful, inspiring, and life-affirming it has been to discover this band, this record. It has been a major presence in my life ever since I first came across it around 2000. I can't count the many, many times I have  listened to it, inhabited it, submerged into it, let it wash over me. It always works. It always, always sends me to other places. Beautiful, healing, inspiring places. A great work of art. A magic spell. A gift.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Jumping Ahead.

Jumping ahead. 

It's something we all do. We want to get to the conclusion. "Are we there yet?" We want to be first with the answer. We look out at a hazy future; dark, obscure, amorphous, not even born yet, and we want to define it, sum it up, put it in a box, wrap it up, and put it on the shelf.

Of course, the future can't be contained, can't be summed up, doesn't even really exist yet. Unless of course, Past, Present & Future all exist simultaneously, which some wacky scientific models suggest. Oh yeah, some esoteric religions too. Which, you know, who knows?

Time is a strange concept. We are told, "time is relative." I mean, yes, really, isn't everything relative?

So, anyway, the Future is supposedly out there somewhere, looming, expectant, promising, forbidding, bright and shiny, dark and gloomy. We aren't exactly sure what to expect. Just another mystery in which we are wrapped.

Joe Strummer: "The Future is Unwritten." Yes, but the uncertainty is sometimes a killer. We want to know...

Best not to think too far ahead, it's dark and unformed out there.

The a.m. soundtrack - Atoms for Peace - "Amok" - (2013). You may think "Radiohead." Some of it definitely sounds like Radiohead. Thom Yorke's voice, Thom Yorke's lyrics. Radiohead's longtime Producer, Nigel Goodrich. Lots of beats and programming. Sort of groovy. Maybe the big departure, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers plays bass in this band. If you have ever seen video of this band playing live, you will marvel at Thom and Flea in kilts, playing together in a mad frenzy. It's sort of like Radiohead, and sort of not. It sounds great this morning. A bit ethereal, dreamy, with some catchy grooves.

Monday, May 04, 2020

What Season is It?

What season is it?

You may think it's Covid-19 season, always on, all the time.

But actually, it's Spring. Green buds. Green grass. Flowers pushing up into the daylight. Milder temps. Healing sunshine.

What day is it?

You may think it's Covid-19 Day.

But actually it's Monday.  We still have a rotating 7 day week. Despite appearances.

I just finished Albert Camus' masterful novel "The Plague." I don't think I am giving anything away if I say it's a powerful, indelible read. On the last page we get to the nub of the question, and there we find the narrator's, and probably Camus' answer too...

"... to state quite simply what we learn in time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise."

Yes. Maybe. It's a close call. I mean I hope so. I suppose we'd put Camus in the optimistic/hopeful camp. I'd like to be there too.

The a.m. soundtrack - Bombino's - "Deran"  (2018). Beautiful, liquid, flowing guitar lines from this amazing Nigerian musician. The songs are all in a language I don't understand. I like it like that. The voice is just as fluid and beautiful as the electric guitar. Every track is like a rippling, flowing stream, an absolutely gorgeous sound. It all sounds "spiritual" to me. Electric guitar church.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

A Guest & A Teacher.

Covid-19.

It's an unwelcome guest. It's here, it's there, it's everywhere. It's deadly, nasty, scary. A teacher. An unwelcome teacher, but a teacher none the less.

What are the lessons so far?

Patience.
Silence.
Isolation.

Slow-going is ok. 
One step at a time is good.
Don't think too far ahead.

It reminds us that biology, science and nature rule. Gravity too. It reminds us of love. Love. The love we have, the love we are, the love we seek.

Camus's great book "The Plague" (a guide-book for our present reality), reminds us that our minds are composed of memories, the daily grind, and the slimmest, little, grayest hopes for a future.

Hope for a future. Yes. Very necessary.

The a.m soundtrack - David Bowie's "Low." (1977) Essential. Influential. The first of his "Berlin Trilogy" records. Something totally new. Bowie's first record with Brian Eno. Bowie traveled to Berlin to get away from L.A. and a major cocaine addiction. Accompanied by Iggy Pop. Iggy was trying to kick heroin. A very, very productive creative period for both Bowie an Iggy. Produced by Tony Visconti. That unique drum sound launched many imitators. There is something appealingly loose about this record. Bowie searching, birthing a new persona. Eno makes a great contribution to the record. His synthesizer tracks are amazing, and give Bowie a superb soundscape to do something beautiful and uncommon. A fabulous collaboration. Songs of drive, beauty, innovative but easily connects. So creative. So beautiful. Great Art. Inspiring.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Simplify. Serpentine.

Simplify.
Serpentine.
Down to the essentials.

Best to stay light on our feet.

Lots of time to be alone.
The trick is to be alone, without feeling lonely.

It helps to shelter in place with a good companion.
Try our best not to drive each other mad.

The highlight of every day has been a long walk on the lakefront:
Sunshine.
Blue sky.
Trees.
Water.
Motion.
We are alive, and  attracted to living things.
It is a big, beautiful world, virus or no virus.

Simplify.
Serpentine.

The a.m. soundtrack - Paul McCartney's "McCartney" (1970).  Paul's first solo record. Unadorned. No George Martin sweetening. No other Beatles. A home-made affair. Recorded on basic home-recording equipment at Paul's home in St. John's Wood. It was the end of the Beatles and the beginning of a long, amazing career for Beatle Paul. Who has had a better life? One of the great voices in music. An incredibly gifted musician. Undoubtably a musical genius. This record is all Paul. Turns out he can play every instrument better than pretty much anyone else. I love the rawness of the record. So un-Beatle-like in many ways, but still that great voice and musical sensibility. Some of these songs sound like sketches and "toss-offs" but it's so good. Loose. I think Paul felt liberated to just create on his own. A love-letter to his wife Linda. The radio staple "Maybe I'm Amazed" is found here. I love hearing Paul play drums, you can hear him working out, with lots of heavy-breathing on "Kreen-Akore." A perfect lockdown, stay at home record. Simplify!

Friday, May 01, 2020

Our Only Hope is Clear-Seeing.

I am nearly done reading Albert Camus' "The Plague." It does seem essential reading. Almost a manual and dissertation on our present present.

A story of a time. A story of now. Humans, we have always lived with plague. Sometimes we know it madly, deeply, intimately, sometimes we don't.

Friday. Sun breaking across the heartland.

This morning we review the situation...

There is no plan.
No one knows what's next.
No one is in charge.
It's a moment by moment, day by day, week by week, month by month thing.
Folks are getting restless.
There is no "normal."
Everything has changed.
Covid-19 is alive in the land.
Fear is alive in the land.

There are those trying to pull us all together.
There are those trying to pull us all apart.
Same old battles.

Folks are dying. How many? Even the count is in dispute.
This a.m. I hear some countries are counting the dead in Nursing Homes, some are not.
Astonshing.
Our only hope is clear-seeing.

The a.m. soundtrack - Mark Lanegan's - "Blues Funeral" (2012). This is a superb record. Another great collaboration record. Lanegan & Alain Johannes create moody soundscapes. Lanegan's voice is dark, expressive. The lyrics are bit abstract, surreal. No false moves. The Quietus described the album's sound as: "Blues Funeral incorporates beats marshalled by sequencers with grand cinematic sweeps and a rock & roll sensibility that reveals an artist refusing to paint himself into a corner."  Perfect soundtrack for a plague.

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