WWSP's "The Alternate Boot!"

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. 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Not in Control...

Out of control. Or maybe better, not in control.

That is a lesson. Hah! 

Like we need another damn lesson. Life teaches us that rarely are we ever truly in control. We can be present. We can be aware, alive, awake to the moment. But the moments that make up our lives are not within our grasp, or control. We experience moments. They rush over us, and past us. They are part of our lived experience. We can see them, count them. But we can't hold them or bend them to our will. They appear and vanish.

There are forces in the Universe greater than us. What happens, and what doesn't happen is not really up to us. We can "try to make something happen," we can will, we can wish, we can hope, we can prepare, we can study and practice and set goals, devise plans, but really what happens is always contingent on a Universe of movements, actions, energies all swirling around like a mad cloud.

There is astronomy, geology, biology... there is the human realm. What will our fellow humans do today? What are their motives? Are they rational? Insane? Badly deluded and mis-conceived? 

Probably all of the above.

The a.m soundtrack - Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk"  (1979). A double album. Lindsey's folly. It cost over $1 million to make this one. It was considered a commercial failure, only sold 4 million copies at the time. Funny. It's a pretty good record. One track features a full marching band. It's all over the map. A sonic bubble-bath. No hard edges. So, so easy on the ears. Lindsey wanted to make a "post-punk" record, but to me it just sounds like middle of the road, radio-friendly pop/rock. Three voices. Solid band. Well-played. Pretty much sonic white-bread. Easy listening, for sure.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

New Rules/New Habits...

Yes. The Pandemic has changed us. No doubt. Vox tells us there are 8 new habits we should all keep post-lockdown....

Check it out. Pretty good list. Let me paraphrase:

Less shopping! 
Stop and smell the roses! 
Family & Friends!
Stay Connected - BLUE WAVE!
Your body is your Temple!
Vegetarianism, Cooking, Gardening!
Visit Nature!
Work from Home as much as possible!

Let me add:

Impromptu Pizza Party anytime! Vegetarian Pizza, of course. Any day of the week is OK for a Pizza Party! Long bike rides or walks on the lakefront every day!

Music. Music. Music. Listen to, play, compose, record music as often as possible! 
Sleep. Dream. Yes. Dream of better days.

It's almost like a you can have a good time. Like the best time ever. Except, of course, for the deadly, nasty, global pandemic, looming over us all, floating in the air, the sickness and death, the social chaos, the social injustice, the toxic clown President, the feeling that everything is disintegrating, that the world as we know it is collapsing all around us.

Otherwise. Everything is fine!

The a.m soundtrack - Buffalo Springfield's "Selections from Buffalo Springfield Box Set" (CD #4) (2001). - The greatest B.S. record that never was. From the album copy: "...a bonus 4th disc with their first two albums... mono & stereo, newly remastered." Disc 4 is pretty much amazing track to track. Opens with the anthem "For What It's Worth." Yes. The remastering is amazing. I don't know where I got this one. It is stamped: "Not for Sale, for Promotional Use Only."  A great rare find.  A blast of 60's protest & optimism from one of the great, legendary, lost-cause bands. Three great singer-songwriters. They pretty much self-destructed in a haze of egos, drug busts, bad blood, competition, poor management, bad luck, bad vibes. The band told Neil Young he couldn't really sing. Stills and Young were seemingly always engaged in a power/ego battle. Neil famously hated the mixes and recording methods of these records. Still some great tracks: "Broken Arrow," "Bluebird" "Burned," "Down to the Wire," "Flying on the Ground is Wrong." Amazing stuff.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Silent Listening...

Wiser heads than mine tell us we should often practice silence, and concentrated listening.
So, yes, today I take that wise, hard-won advice.

A morning of silence.
For George Floyd
and everyone else
struck down
by racism,
injustice,
violence.

The a.m. soundtrack - No music. Just the vibrations knocking around in my head. Silence for the fallen ones. Listening. Quiet listening today.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

We really are all one...

I've been up since the crack of dawn. Seems I've lived a lifetime already, in just a few brief daylight hours. I broke down crying once this a.m. Listening to NPR. Friends of George Floyd in Houston Tx, remembering their friend, inspirer and mentor "Big Floyd." Heart-breaking. Another life snuffed out for no reason, except for racism, and the callous disregard for life.

You wonder if we have reached an inflection point? Protests throughout USA and the world. The murder of unarmed people of color at the hands of the Police really must stop. Maybe we will all wake up? One of my go-to sayings: "A change of consciousness can happen in an instant."

Maybe that instant has arrived? Hope so. "There but for the Grace of God, go I." We all need more empathy, more imagination. We need to be able to "put ourselves in another's shoes."

It really is possible. To think of Human Beings as Human Beings, first. The same. Different too. Different backgrounds, different histories, different shades and characters, but essentially the same. Different but the same. One. Human. Being. Life. We all should be able to live, to love, to actualize ourselves in the world. If one of us is struck down, we are all struck down. One of our lives snuffed out, we are all snuffed and diminished.

The a.m. soundtrack -- "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (soundtrack)" (2000). Original score by Wu-Tang Clan's RZA. A hip-hop masterpiece. The soundtrack to the great Jim Jarmusch film. Seeded thru the record Forest Whitaker reads passages from "Hagakure: the Book of the Samurai." Fantastic. Groovy. Profound. Fun. As Village Voice Robert Christgau writes: "hip-hop as mystery, beauty, pleasure—as idealized aural environment." Yep. So true. One of my all-time favorite records.

Monday, June 08, 2020

The Long-Haul.

Summer in the heartland.

A blast of adrenaline early Monday a.m. Well-rested, a satisfying and eventful weekend. It is true, the days are one long schmear. The pandemic is still here, relentless, like that shark in "Jaws," that scary, doomy, music playing, always, in the background, death potentially around any corner, but the music seems to be sort of fading away, getting quieter and quieter. An ominous, ubiquitous cloud of doom, but it's sort of vaporizing.

What "phase" are we in today? Who knows? People are still getting sick and dying too, but now it's like just built-in to our daily expectations. Every day we go out, it seems less and less folks are wearing masks, less social-distancing, are we all just bored with the pandemic?

My partner and I are living by the old rules. Covid-19 is still in phase one, mowing folks down willy-nilly. We are doing our best to keep our eyes on the ball, to stay safe, take care. We are in for the long-haul. We wonder how long the long-haul will be.

Taking it hour by hour now.

The a.m. soundtrack - U2's "All that You Can't Leave Behind." (2000). Beauty. Optimism. Faith. Belief. Soul-stirring. A blast of pure, unadulterated adrenaline. Beauty and Optimism in the face of the darkness. No apologies. Pop/Rock songs exquisitely played and recorded. A spiritual experience. "It's a Beautiful Day." Yes. For sure. I believe.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Creating, Composing, Playing, Listening, Thinking, Dreaming, Music.

Music.

Music has been the savior in this time of pandemic, of trauma, toxic leadership and social unrest. Creating, composing, playing, listening, thinking, dreaming, music.

The hardest cut has been not being able to make music with our band. We can play at home, in the kitchen, in the bedroom, one guitar, two voices, a bit of percussion. But we truly, madly, deeply miss playing music with our wonderful band of musicians. There is nothing quite like sitting in a circle, a group of musicians, listening, communicating, creating new music together.

Playing music to a camera doesn't do it. It's really does need to be live, in the moment. Yesterday we had the chance to meet in the little "village green," wearing masks, six-feet apart, social-distancing, sitting under shady trees, with a big, blue sky looming overhead. We played some brand-new songs. Two guitars, a violin, voices, percussion. It was so fun, thrilling, satisfying, life-affirming. Soul work.

The best kind of soul work imaginable.

The a.m soundtrack - Kings Go Forth - "The Outsiders are Back" - (2010). Sounds like a throw-back to another era. Late 60's or early 70's soul. A ten-piece band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sounds like it was recorded on tape, vintage analog gear, all the musicians in the room together, making it happen, in the moment. Maybe "old-fashioned," but it's the good stuff, the right stuff, the soul stuff, done supremely well. I "discovered" this one via Greg Kot of Sound Opinions. I look to music "critics" not so much to hear criticism, but to hear what they may be enthused about. This is a great, rare find. A fabulous band and sound.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Make Love, Not War...

The protestors came out to protest police brutality, to protest the horrifying, the often-occurring,  phenomena: U.S. Cops killing unarmed folks of color.

How did the U.S. Cops handle the protests? With more brutality. They are on viral videos all over the internet beating protesters, some white, some black, all unarmed.

Yikes. Maybe there really is a systemic problem here? As they say, we need Guardians, not Warriors.

Peaceful, Non-Violent Protest. That is the greatest weapon the U.S. citizenry can bring to the conversation. I think of Gandhi, MLK Jr. Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks. I mean I understand the frustration, the rage. Still, it's must be channeled into positive, constructive action. Organize, march, speak out.

Make Love, Not War. Really, I mean, I know it all sounds, cliche, too easy, a bit hippy-dippy. But you must ask yourself: "What's So Funny About Peace, Love & Understanding?"

It is a dead-end to match violence with violence, bullets with bullets, beatings with beatings, death with death. No way forward. Peace, Love, Grace, Protest, Organize, Vote, Unite. Make a stand for Truth, Justice, Equality, Fraternity.

The a.m. soundtrack - Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On."  (1973). Sexy. Chill. Good vibes. Slinky grooves. Pure, graceful soul & funk. Marvin's voice is an uncommon thing of beauty & grace. Yes. Gorgeous. Love truly is the answer. Making love too. Let's get it on...

Friday, June 05, 2020

Phil Collins Dream.

Dreams. I live with the idea that my dreams are important. I mean, I'm not sure. I have had some amazing, visionary-type dreams: dead voices, famous, and not so famous, folks making a visitation, in the dead of night, to say something, or to show me something. I've also been baffled and confused by my dreams. Lots of poorly-constructed narratives, fragments, dead-ends, weird, strange, illogical tangents. Like bad French-Art-Films directed by the Three Stooges.

What's going on with our dreams? Beats me. Are our brains just like computers? Downloading info, clearing the cache, processing the events of the previous day? Maybe, although, that is not how I think of my dreams.

Coded-messages. That's closer to the mark.

A long-winded way to get to the point. Phil Collins, the famous r&r roller, member of Genesis, vocalist & drummer, popular solo artist, with lots of ubiquitous, and annoying music on the airwaves, especially in the 80's, came to me last night. We were at a music venue, on the same bill, (not likely, especially in pandemic times). Phil was drinking (I think he is long-time, famously sober now) and he was pretty unhappy. Disgruntled. He told me about recording and mixing "In the Air Tonight," a massive hit.

I was super-interested, I love talking music, even though, I am not a Phil Collins fan, I don't own any of his records, I usually try to avoid his songs when they are on the radio. Except, you know, that one song, "In the Air Tonight" the mix, the drum sound, the tension, the payoff. Pretty good single. I was pretty encouraging, trying to rally Phil, assuring him that the song was amazing.

He wasn't really having it. He was miserable. Defeated. Deflated. Unhappy. Unsure. Unfulfilled. I was surprised. To say the least.

What is the coded message? The message was the dream itself. The reality of Phil. Something about life and ambition. Success & failure. Trying to make something beautiful, something worthy, something lasting, and sadly, unfortunately, coming up short. Oh Phil...

The a.m. soundtrack - Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight." (1980) played this morning via YouTube. Like I said, I don't own any Phil Collins records, so, just like over 200 hundred million other folks, I'm listening to, (and watching), this one on-line. A few more coins in Phil's pocket. You know, it actually, really does sound pretty good. Makes me think of Sisyphus this morning... pushing that rock up the hill, watching it tumble down...


"Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand
I've seen your face before my friend, but I don't know if you know who I am
Well I was there and I saw what you did, I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you've been
It's all been a pack of lies
And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
Well I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
Well I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord, oh Lord"
-Phil Collins

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Our Right and Our Duty...

This is from Germany, where the folks there have significant experience to draw upon, dealing with an authoritarian, nationalist leader. I don't know German, but here is a helpful translation:

“Trump protected himself from protests in a bunker in the White House. We as Germans can say from experience: From this point on, things usually go downhill.”


The idea, the theory, the concept, the intent and design of Democracy: "Consent of the Governed." Our elected officials are supposed to represent the interests of the people. "Servant of the People." If the President is calling troops out against his own people, if he is building barricades in front of the White House, with a ring of police and military, well, Pilgrim, something is gravely wrong in good old USA.

As Patti Smith once reminded us: "People have the Power." Of course, we can't take our own power for granted, we need to care, to pay attention, to vote, to voice our concerns if things are not going well. To march in the streets. Peaceful, non-violent protest. That is our right, and our duty as Americans.

The a.m. soundtrack - Miles Davis & Gil Evans - "Sketches of Spain." (1960). Another great Miles Davis record. Unlike anything else he ever did. Shows he could do pretty much anything. Beautiful flugelhorn & trumpet thru-out. Lush orchestrations from Gil Evans. Brilliant. Breath-taking. It has an  old world, Spanish flavor. Makes you think of little villages off the water, bull-fights, beauty, color, life, blood, the poet Lorca. Gorgeous. Thrilling.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Warring Mind...

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald 1936.

Only two opposed ideas? Yes. Sure. I think some of us have more than two opposed ideas warring and clashing inside our heads. A head always clashing. So, with so many warring ideas swirling around all the time, maybe not so "first-rate." A grand goulash of mushy ideas. Not so intelligent but for sure, pretty much confused.

I am thinking of these fruitful "ISMS" this morning...

Fatalism - "resignation in the face of events."
Optimism - "put the most favorable construction on actions & events."
Pessimism - "expect the worst outcome," "reality is essential evil."
Realism - "concern for fact or reality, rejection of the impractical or visionary."
Idealism - "theory that the ultimate reality lies in a realm of transcending phenomena."
Actualism - "the view that everything there is, is actual."
Existentialism "individuals are self-determining entities, responsible for making authentic choices."
Rationalism - "accepting reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct."

I would say all of these ideas/theories are alive and well in many of us. It's all about proportion, percentages, we are always navigating, working thru, trying to figure it all out, moment by moment.
A clash, a raging cauldron, a hurricane. Alive in our heads and bodies pretty much at all times. It can be exhausting. 

The only solution: silence, meditation, doing our best to still the raging head. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. 

The a.m. soundtrack - Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue." (1959). A blast of genius cool. Beautiful. The Miles Davis Sextet featuring some of the all time great Jazz musicians of any era: John Coltrane & Cannonball Adderly on Sax, Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums. Perfect. Miles trumpet is such a cool, evocative, musical voice. There is a grace, a lightness of touch in every track. No doubt a masterpiece record. Recorded at two sessions in New York. Breath-taking. Life-affirming. We are all lucky to have this record. Not just a great Jazz recording, one of the finest recordings ever made, any genre.  The finest stuff. Always a pleasure to put on the box. Sit back and luxuriate in the genius of great musicians playing, listening, communicating, transcending. They totally bring it, with grace & beauty.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

First. Remember...

First. Remember.

The Toxic Clown President is NOT winning. He is flailing, desperate, deeply and irrevocably unpopular. He is President in the time of a Global Pandemic. Over 100k people (and counting) have died on his watch. The economy is in shambles. Massive unemployment. Businesses are collapsing.

The Toxic Clown President is a coward. He doesn't know how to lead, or persuade, to legislate, to build coalitions, to heal or comfort a nation. His brain is disintegrating. He is hated, laughed at, mocked. There is very little respect for the Toxic Clown.

The Toxic Clown President can only divide, stoke the violence, fan the flames of racism. He is a shit-stirrer, a noxious, toxic cloud of destruction. Supremely corrupt and incompetent. How does he have any support in USA? It's a bit of mystery. I suppose his support comes from those who just don't give a fuck.

I do believe we are watching the end of the Toxic Clown President. His day of reckoning is coming. I predict election day 2020 will the first day of the healing for the nation. He has lasted much longer than I ever thought possible. He is a really, really nasty persistent virus which has invaded the body politic.

I remember my band did r&r show at the end of 2019. I was onstage telling the little crowd that I was looking forward to 2020. A year of clarity, clear-seeing. I was optimistic. Obviously, I had no clue. I should have consulted my Greek Mythology. I am thinking of the story of Oedipus.

Yes. Indeed. 2020 is the year of clarity and clear-seeing, but what do we see?

Pain, destruction, death, police brutality, murder, racism, systematic corruption, failure, bad-blood,  a nation tearing apart, National Guard in the streets, threats of military deployments against the American population, deadly pandemic, deep dysfunction, the center collapsing, folks losing hope, doom and gloom. Yikes!

I think of Vince Lombardi. Yes, he is my Obi Wan Kenobi in the dire times of strife. Two key quotes I live by:

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."  AND "Run to daylight."

Yes. Indeed.

The a.m. soundtrack - LCD Soundsystem (2005). Fuck it. You know, they probably threw some great parties in the Dark Ages too. It's a dance party in my kitchen this morning. James Murphy is singing  about Daft Punk playing at his house. It is time for a dance party. But, of course, in 2020 Pandemic, you end up dancing in the kitchen all by yourself. Lots of beats and grooves on this one. And Murphy is just the best DJ imaginable. Intelligence. Edgy good taste. You want to be socially-distant friends with Mr. Murphy. Yes. You do.

Monday, June 01, 2020

The Center?!

"The center will hold."

Maybe not. Turns out there really is no "center." The Universe doesn't roll like that. So the murder of a black man, opens up the yawning abyss, reveals the dark heart of our shared hallucination: USA.

Not only the death of a human being, the death of an idea, the death of a shared vision.

It couldn't have come at a worse time. It's never a good time to live in a land where human life is treated so callously, but really, this time is worse. Toxic Clown President. Deadly Global Pandemic. Great Depression-level unemployment.  Deep divisions across the land and the globe. American Nazis on the rise. Entrenched racism, economic inequality, de facto apartheid. Corruption. Dysfunction. Mania.

It's been grim around our place the last few days. Sheltering the storm. Mourning the death of another human being, mourning the death of our optimism and positivity. It feels a bit "out of place" to be optimistic.

An anger & sadness hangs over us. So yes. We are ruled by gravity. It holds us to the ground. We grasp for some "reality" it too is a shared vision. An idea.

We cling to these ideas: Truth, Beauty, Love, Grace, Hope, Kindness, Equality, Justice. We hope they are real, solid, timeless and substantial. But at the same time we know they too are just "shared visions."

What happens when our vision of a "center" vanishes? What happens when all our beautiful ideas appear to be distant, fading chimeras? It gets a bit dark and lonely staring into the abyss.

I fall back on the usual practices: silence, contemplation, patience, cool-headed-ness, reason. I conjure up a center, a sacred place to reside. I imagine all of us, the billions of us on the planet all living in a welcoming center, a garden, peaceably, responsibly, caring for each other, loving and creating new visions that we can all share together.

It's a bit of madness. I know.  A bubble for sure. But it's a bubble worth conjuring up.

The a.m soundtrack - Explosions in the Sky - "Take Care, Take Care, Take Care" (2011). Amazing record. Gorgeous. Usually three electric guitars and a drum-kit. Fabulous. Shimmering. An American band from Austin Texas. No words. All instrumental. A rock band elevated to high art. No pretension. Just superb execution. Recommended.

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