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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

“Graveyard Shift” Coma Hut Edition

Lately, I feel like I am just stuck at a single intersection on the grid of the space time continuum. I am not moving forward or backward, up or down, through time or space. Just sitting there, waiting for something to come along that releases me. What that something is, I have no idea except that in some of my imagined versions of it I see it as being horrific while in others, a relieved unburdening.

It’s an awful sense of just waiting, the kind of feeling a little kid has while eagerly anticipating Christmas morning. Or the dread they have while waiting to be punished. Just sitting with anxious butterflies in the stomach, not knowing whether its Christmas morning or the Principal’s Office.

Been thinking that I should be using this time to work on a plan for a new business. Maybe we could set up a franchise where we put people into induced comas for set periods of time?

People could head down to the local Coma Hut (trademark pending) where we would put them into some sort of chemical suspended animation and store them in sanitary ( and virus free!) stainless steels pods for whatever time frame they desire. At the end, we open the pod and revive them, refreshed and relieved of having to actually live through the time period that has passed.

Right now, I would use it. Set the clock for the end of January in 2021, say the 21st, wake me up and tell me what has happened. Then depending on the outcome, I will either happily go out into that brave new world or sign up for another, and much longer, session in my coma pod.

I think it would be a huge success. One on every corner like Starbucks. We’d have a hard time keeping up with the demand and keeping those stainless steel pods in stock.

This would be our theme song for our video ads. It’s a version of the old Ramones classic from Tim Timebomb AKA Tim Armstrong along with Lindi Ortega. I played it here last year but it feels like its time is now, with me, stuck here on the space time continuum.

Here’s I Wanna Be Sedated. Have a good day and book your Pod Time™ down at your local Coma Hut™ now to beat the rush. Spaces are going fast!

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“Bold Run”- Now at the West End Gallery

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“Most people are convinced that as long as they are not overtly forced to do something by an outside power, their decisions are theirs, and that if they want something, it is they who want it. But this is one of the great illusions we have about ourselves. A great number of our decisions are not really our own but are suggested to us from the outside; we have succeeded in persuading ourselves that it is we who have made the decision, whereas we have actually conformed with expectations of others, driven by the fear of isolation and by more direct threats to our life, freedom, and comfort.”

― Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom

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Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, don’t mean nothin’ hon’ if it ain’t free, no no

Kris Kristofferson, Me and Bobby McGee:

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What is real freedom?

I can’t say for sure. Wish I could.

Lately, I have been thinking about the 1941 book from Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom. In it, Fromm writes about that we actually have a fear of freedom.  Real freedom requires personal responsibility for our decisions and actions and creates an almost unbearable anxiety in man. Real freedom means living without a safety net, where we decide who and what we are, what we want from life, where we are held accountable for each decision we make.

Put that way, freedom sounds much more perilous.

As a result, we have fostered a desire to be told what we should be and what we should do. Fromm makes the point that we want someone to make the decisions that guide our lives while maintaining the illusion that we have freely made them.

“Modern man lives under the illusion that he knows ‘what he wants,’ while he actually wants what he is supposed to want. In order to accept this it is necessary to realize that to know what one really wants is not comparatively easy, as most people think, but one of the most difficult problems any human being has to solve. It is a task we frantically try to avoid by accepting ready-made goals as though they were our own.”

A life of real freedom is scary and difficult so it is always tempting to just fit in, to accept a bit of comfort and security in exchange for losing a large degree of that freedom. Doing this make us susceptible to falling prey to those with less than honorable intentions.

“Escape from Freedom attempts to show, modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.”

The concept of this book seems to be playing out in real time lately.

I don’t know that we, myself included, understand the concept of real freedom. I have tried to shape and live a free life but have I succeeded?

I don’t know.

I will continue to look for an answer but in the meantime, here’s this week’s Sunday Morning Music. It’s I Want to Be Free, an old Leiber and Stoller hit first sung by Elvis Presley in the 1957 film Jailhouse Rock. While Elvis does a fine job with the song, I much prefer this version from Robert Gordon who had a nice run as a rockabilly artist with several memorable albums in the 1980s. Here, I think he fills in the blanks that Elvis left in his version.

Give a listen and have a good day. And take a minute to think about what you think real freedom is.

 

 

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The film Jojo Rabbit premiered on HBO over the weekend, which made me very happy. It hits a lot of sweet spots for me.

A great cast and a script filled with a beguiling mix of dark satire and tragic poignancy. Strong visuals. Big laughs and plenty of tears. Ridiculous (but still scary) Nazis.

Hitler eating a unicorn.

Yeah, you read that right.

There’s even some poetry from Rainer Maria Rilke as the film ends, a snippet from his poem Go to the Limits of Your Longing, which is shown at the top. Words that seem applicable to this time, for sure.

It also uses its soundtrack brilliantly. It begins with the Beatles singing their German version of I Want to Hold Your Hand over archival clips of Hitler’s adoring fans at huge nationalistic rallies that are chilling in their magnitude and fervor. Images from the infamous Nuremberg rally always puts a knot in my stomach. The film ends with the German performance from David Bowie of his always rousing Heroes.

Filmmaker Taika Waititi also makes brilliant use of the song Everybody’s Gotta Live. It’s a song from 1972 from a band of that era, Love, that is very underappreciated. Led by the late Arthur Lee, it was an interesting group, a multiracial group that dabbled in folk rock and psychedelia a la the Byrds. Their 1967 release, Forever Changes, is on the Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Rock Albums and was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2011.

Even so, I am sure most of us haven’t heard much of their work. But it shines in Jojo Rabbit and is certainly worth examining further.

Here’s a video with the lyrics and images from the film just to give you taste. If you get a chance to see the film, I recommend it highly. But be forewarned, that it is art and, as such, is a subjective thing. What I love may not move you at all.

Take a look and give a listen then have a good day. We all deserve one.

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Ah, some time off. It does a body good.

I enjoyed the time spent not writing the blog this week. It allowed me to readjust things a bit, put some things back into my personal rotation that I had let slip in recent times. It was time to examine things and think a bit without feeling the need to send it out into the world. Read a bit. Listen to some music that I had slipped by me.

There will be time in days ahead to talk about such things. Today, I am back briefly just to introduce this week’s Sunday morning music. It’s a song from the last album from Leonard Cohen just before his death in 2016 at the age of 82.

It’s titled You Want It Darker. 

With its ominous bass line and its focus on our mortality mixed with Old Testament imagery and a , it seems fitting for these times.

One of the words used in the chorus of the song is Hineni, the Hebrew word meaning Here I am. It was the response from Moses to God speaking to him through the burning bush. It was the answer from Abraham to the voice of God who then instructed him to slay his son. And it was the response from Isaiah when he hears the voice of God ask, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” It is generally an indication of faith and total commitment without question while awaiting one’s appointed task.

Here, Cohen seems to be questioning God. He’s not asking the listener if they want it darker. Seeing the way the world has descended into darkness, he is grilling God, almost questioning whether this deepening darkness is somehow the desire of God. There’s an edge of anger when he asks and replies: You want it darker/ We kill the flame.

It’s a powerful song, one that haunted me this past week. It reminds me that we are in for some trying times in the months ahead and that we need to be fully prepared to endure whatever is thrown our way.

Ready to say, with total commitment, HineniHere I am.

Have a good Sunday.

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“Trinity Isle”- Now at the West End Gallery

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I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.

—Lao Tzu

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Too tired today. It’s been a combo fatigue, both physical and mental, that has been building and really hit this morning. That just woke up but want to take a nap fatigue.

I think I am going to take a short break, a few days off to not think about stuff, to not worry about things that are out of my control. To not push. To not write.

Catch up on some reading. Listen to some music. Maybe focus on the words of Lao Tzu.

Simplicity. Patience. Compassion.

Or is it Simplicity- Patience-Compassion-Camera-TV?

See? I need a few days off.

We’ll see how it goes.

Stay cool and take five, okay? Here’s Dave Brubeck with his always cool Take Five. See you in a few days.

 

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“Blue Moment” – Now at the West End Gallery

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The true person is
Not anyone in particular;
But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world.

— Eihei Dogen, 13th Century Japanese Buddhist Priest/Poet

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Every color has its own feel, its own set of meanings that it forever carries with it. It reaches out and forms a bond with the viewer based on these sensory associations. I know, for myself, that blue carries a wide and deep set of such meanings with it, almost all positive by nature.

Soothing. Eternal. Placid.

Limitless.

I could go on with a list for quite some time. That’s probably why I usually find myself always returning to it in my work, find myself just staring not at the subject of a painting but at the color of the surface. The feel of it on my senses.

As Dogen saw in the blue of a sky, maybe there something Zen in the color, some connection to an infinite field of energy that is omnipresent, everywhere.

I don’t know for sure but I am willing to ponder the color blue a bit more this morning. Here’s a song from a while back from Chris Isaak that focuses on one facet of the blue spectrum.

Here’s Forever Blue. Have a good day.

 

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“Sovereign Solitude”- Now at the West End Gallery

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“10 percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and 10 percent is merciful, no matter what, and the remaining 80 percent can be moved in either direction.”

― Susan Sontag

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I was going to talk about some current events– the Portland protest moms, the opening of baseball and its integration of protest within it, the return of the term Death Panels in some areas to determine who gets or doesn’t get covid-19 treatments, and so on, maybe even share comedian Sarah Cooper’s brilliant treatment of the absurd Person*Woman*Man*Camera*TV episode– but I just can’t do it this morning.

Instead, I am thinking about the words above from author Susan Sontag and it has a ring of truth for me. Some are going to respond with cruelty in any situation– we all know someone like that, don’t we?— while some will always express a form of mercy and care. The rest of us hover somewhere in the middle, sometimes going back and forth toward the two extremes.

And so long as this stays in some sort of balance, that large groups of us don’t start moving toward the side of cruelty, it remains  a tolerable situation. Livable.

I worry that the acceptance of cruelty and the rejection of mercy has become too easy a choice for too many. Too many react without empathy, without the thought of others’ struggles and without considering how their own demeaning of others ultimately demeans themselves.

I would like to say if I am not merciful that I at least lean toward the side of mercy. Maybe just being aware of these poles of reaction is a start toward a world with a bit more mercy.

As always, I don’t know.

And the world keeps turning…

Here’s a lovely piece of new music from composer Max Richter that is custom made for this discussion. It includes a thought provoking video that I conclude must have been produced before the pandemic. I think we all notice things like people riding subways without masks or people hugging a little more now.

Anyway, please take a few moments and give a listen. It might help a bit.

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“One way or another, all the bridges between that time and this one have been burned. Time’s a reach, too, you know, just like the one that lies between the islands and the mainland, but the only ferry that can cross it is memory, and that’s like a ghost-ship – if you want it to disappear, after awhile it will.”

Stephen King, Dolores Claiborne

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I call this piece, at 16″ by 40″ on canvas, Carried Across. Included in my current annual show at the West End Gallery, it’s a painting that brims with potential interpretations for me. The ferry between the living and the dead is the one that jumps out, of course.

But the one offered up above, taken from a Stephen King novel, probably meshes best with my personal view of this painting.

We are always losing people as age takes its toll. Apart from just the loss of that person and all that that entails, we also lose a bridge to their experiences and the memories they held of them. Personal histories, lesser known details and larger myths are often lost in the void as this bridge collapses.

That came to mind in a very personal way the other day as I was able to visit my father for the first time in four months.His nursing facility had instituted a process that allowed one family member to visit a resident under very strict guidelines and I was able to see him in an outdoor courtyard, under an open tent. The process has since been put on hold as a staff member tested positive for the virus.

But sitting there with him was difficult. He was in a large reclining wheelchair and his head was bandaged in a turban-like manner to cover the wound and infection on the side of his head. He was way gone from the fentanyl and morphine he is given to ease the pain, his eyes only fluttering open for milliseconds at any given time. The nurse tried to point me out but he wasn’t able to move his focus my way.

I sat there for a bit just watching him. His hands went to his head covering in a rhythmic way, running his fingers lightly over the cotton mesh that held it in place. At one point he removed his mask and, with eyes completely closed, held it out in front of him while neatly folding it up. He then tried to out it in his pocket under the blanket that covered him. He then checked his wristwatch which was completely covered by the protective arm coverings he wears to prevent him from picking at the sores on his arms. He did this, too, without opening his eyes but seemed to be satisfied and let his head drop back to the one side where fell naturally.

I chuckled lightly at that. But having him there in front of me, still alive but so very far away at the same time, reminded me of all the stories and memories that are lost to us now. The good and bad, the funny and the tragic, the day to day reminiscences– all gone and inaccessible. I have known this for some time as we have witnessed the progress of his dementia but there was a finality in that visit.

It was like I had made that crossing on that ferry and had returned with a still empty chair.

Over the years, I have often regretted the lost opportunities in seeking out the stories and memories that bind us to our preceding generations. This is made especially clear when I work on genealogy and come across episodes or people that I would love to know more about. How they really were, how they talked, the little foibles and details that made them human that can’t be captured in documents or news reports.

That is the stuff of memory.

Maybe that should be the subtitle for this piece– Carried Across ( The Stuff of Memory).

Okay, here’s a song to go along with this painting, an attachment I made yesterday when the song came up on my playlist. It’s The Passenger from the godfather of punk, Iggy Pop. It’s a great tune, one that seems to be a staple for every alt-rock singer that comes along to cover.

Iggy Pop is an interesting and often downplayed character in the annals of rock music. One of my favorite memories of him was his appearance in 1977 on the Dinah Shore show where he sat down with the always hospitable Dinah Shore, David Bowie and Rosemary Clooney to talk about cutting himself with a broken bottle as part of a performance. It came out years later that he and Dinah Shore– who had an extremely long list of relationships and hookups through the decades– were an item for a bit. But seeing him on a show singing Fun Time on the same show where Rosemary Clooney sings Come On-a My House is everything you could hope for on a 1970’s daytime talk show.

One more little factoid: The sons of comedian Soupy Sales were members of Iggy’s band at that time. Younger readers are probably asking who the hell is Soupy Sales. Ask your parents or grandparents before those bridges burn down.

Anyway, here’s The Passenger. Have a good day if you can.

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“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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I wasn’t going to use the Goethe quote above because I couldn’t locate the source for it. But it made me both chuckle and nod in agreement so I thought I would go with it as is. It would, after all, explain so much of what is taking place at the moment.

The idea that we are a mental asylum and that perhaps those crafts we call UFOs are merely flying rubber rooms on the way to deliver some new batch of lunatics to us answers so many questions. If you watched the Chris Wallace interview with the president*** over the weekend, you might well believe that Goethe was on to something, such was the level of insanity on display. How someone could watch that, especially in the context of what is currently taking place in this country, and not feel that we are on the brink of sheer madness is beyond my comprehension.

The inmates have taken over the madhouse.

And adding to the situation is the fact that the madhouse is on fire. There’s an overwhelming summer heat all over the country that feels even more intense when you add to it the fires of anger and passion that are lighting up the streets of this country.

It certainly sets the tone for the events that will likely take place in the coming months. I am not looking forward to it but it can’t be avoided or ignored. In fact, doing so will only make it worse, will empower the inmates who have taken over the now burning madhouse to act even crazier. Nothing worse than a lunatic being egged on to even greater lunacy.

Yeah, this madhouse is on fire and the inmates in charge have no plans or desire to put it out.

So, I am sitting in the heat dreaming of coolness and hoping that there’s not a fleet of UFOs on the way to drop off a new batch of  crazies on us. The painting shown at the top, Fire and Ice, helps somewhat. It’s from my current West End Gallery show and is a piece that really helps me cool the heat from my own fires.

I will definitely need it.

Now let’s go back to a calmer time, say 1968. Nothing much happening back then. Here’s a song from that time that year that made sense then and sure seems to fit in at this point. It’s Fire from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. If nothing else, this slice of vintage video from the British TV program the Top of the Pops will make you smile.

It’s on fire out there. Try to stay cool. In all ways.

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Like much of this country, I am bracing for the heat we’re expecting today. I don’t have much to say this morning. Just want to veg out a bit. Read some things I haven’t been able to get to. Listen to some music I haven;t heard in a long time. Look at some photos.

You know, just avoid the sun and stay cool.

So, I am going to get at it. Here’s a little music for this steamy Sunday. It’s a song from Dwight Yoakam, someone whose songwriting and performance seldom disappoints. He holds a unique niche in American music, country but outside the popular genre. He did an acoustic album of his greatest hits all the way back in 2000 that’s a wonderful piece of work. Hearing the songs sung with only a stark guitar accompaniment really emphasizes the structure and strength of the compositions. This song, Throughout All Time, is from that CD. I am throwing in A thousand Miles From Nowhere from the same CD just for good measure.

I am including an image above from my West End show that I think fits nicely with this song. It’s one of my Baucis and Philemon pieces called Island of Bliss.

Have a good Sunday.


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