You Tread On My Dreams (2015Aug31)


Monday, August 31, 2015                                       1:54 PM

William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939) is an interesting guy. Considered one of the pillars of twentieth-century poetry, he was born in 1865—much like our twenty-first-century pop stars who were all born in the 1980s—centuries can be a weirdly illogical dividing line. Yeats’ life was a full one—he excelled early on, and it is said that he is one of the few writers who wrote their best work after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. His poetry is like walking through a dream—he really had a knack.

It always surprises me that a great artist and creator can have such subtleties of expression and nuance of feeling—yet their relations with women are always as confused and complicated as any moron’s. It’s as if women are men’s blind spot—and if you look at the present-day struggle simply to recognize women as equal, you may consider the theory proved. What is our problem?

His poem, “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” is a strikingly beautiful bit of writing—it has been quoted in books, movies, and songs galore. One of the most famous musical-setting versions is “Yeats Songs”, for baritone & piano, by Richard Bunger Evans—I’m not crazy about ‘modern’ atonal stuff, but you may enjoy it:

Yeats Songs, for baritone & piano:

The poem also inspires its share of artwork, as well—for example:

http://lacewoodshelties.blogspot.com/2009/03/aedh-wishes-for-clothes-of-heaven.html

Here are the words:

The Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light;

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

-W. B. Yeats

Gorgeous imagery, isn’t it? But isn’t Aedh being a little passive-aggressive? Aedh is one of Yeats’ three mythic characters—the others are the Artistic one and the Rational one, but Aedh is a pale, lovelorn victim of La belle dame sans merci—a passive-aggressive take on love if there ever was one. It’s not too far off from a rapist blaming his behavior on the woman’s attractive attire—as if, when men find women attractive, it’s their fault that we suffer when they fail to reciprocate our feelings. It’s as romantic as misogyny gets.

Still, it is romantic, much like when Elton John can’t remember what color eyes a girl has but still ‘loves’ her enough to write her “Your Song” (I won’t get into the details of Bernie Taupin being the lyricist—or of John being gay, for that matter). Much of our romantic-themed media is layered with latent misogyny—perhaps indicative of the confusion men feel when women want to be equals in public but still prefer a more brutish, or brutish-seeming, mate—that this is just the flip side of men’s feelings about the same things never seems to occur to us.

And speaking of gay—I think it’s possible that our emotional problems with the LGBT community are largely based on our tendencies to separate the female from the male—and when we’re struggling to meet public standards of political correctness concerning the ‘weaker sex’, gays make it all just too confusing—like an added complication that breaks our mental backs. It’s just a theory.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve wandered too far from any one topic to ever make a coherent post out of this mess, so why don’t I just offer today’s musical ‘sermon’:

You Tread On My Dreams:

O—and here’s something even weirder from yesterday:

Insecten:

Tweedly-Tweet   (2015Aug30)


Sunday, August 30, 2015                                         2:28 PM

I always knew I was special—and now I have proof. This morning I listened to a great YouTube of Leonard Bernstein conducting the Beethoven Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral) in F, Opus 68.

So maybe I had nature on the brain—but then I went to lie down and listen to myself. It’s not as self-centered as it sounds—I play CDs I’ve burned of my improvs, so that I have something to listen to while I roll cigarettes or watch close-captioned TV on mute or read a book.

I usually play it pretty low volume—just enough to hear it well without it actually striking my eardrums (I’m a sensitive flower) especially if I’m trying to read. By doing this I can hear when a particular improv has a sour note or an ugly passage—any awkwardness of execution, beyond the endemic. It interrupts my thinking—because, like everyone else, I’m used to perfect music coming out of loudspeakers—it’s almost impossible to imagine an album with a sour note on it. Not surprising, since a recording studio is basically a perfection filter that catches any trace of clumsiness and rules it right out—not that there’s anything wrong with that…..

I’m occasionally, pleasantly surprised by a bit of musical soaring that catches my ear in a rare piece—something that makes me proud. These are important for several reasons—one, obviously, it encourages me to continue playing Don Quixote on the keyboard. But I also play them back repeatedly, trying to take note of what I did and why it works and how I might use it in future.

There are, among those rare moments, even rarer instances where the key to what makes a passage striking is the emotional energy—not something I’m famous for, but it shows its head every decade or so. These passages stymy me—how can I transport myself into inspiration once I’ve sat down to play? You might as well ask me to fly.

Anyway, sometimes I listen to myself turned up real loud so I can hear every sound and nuance on the recording, just to make sure I heard everything I did—and whether any background sounds that might ruin the recording show up at high volume. That’s what I was doing today—I had the Bose cranked to 50—and I get to the third track, which is called “Blue Lake”. Now Claire and I have often joked that the birds outside our windows like to sing along with me at the piano—and it did seem kinda eerie sometimes, but I was too busy to pay attention.

Blue Lake:  

26 seconds in you hear a cricket or cicada or something, then after a minute in, you hear a bird chirping along for two minutes or more, with occasional chiming in throughout. But it’s right on the beat—you can even hear it get a little huffy about my messing up the beat (which I do).

So, I jumped up and went to tell Claire about it in the living room—and while we were talking about how strange it was, I felt inspired and began to record today’s improv, while Claire studied on the couch—and after a minute and a half of playing, the darn bird sang along again—but Claire says it was a different bird. There’s some other birds in there, too—although I can’t say whether the crow was doing his own thing or what. Once I heard them chiming in, I started to play to them, looking around the upper register for stuff they might react to—ultimately, this is less a musical piece and more a dialogue with my avian house-hangers. So I guess I have a fan club—boy, do I feel special.

Tweedly-Tweet: 

So that’s my day so far..

Music Hath Charms (2015Aug28)


It’s one of those days—I play the piano and sing along with myself—I sing along with the playlist on my PC (somewhere in there I marvel at the inordinate amount of lyrics I’ve somehow memorized over the years—yet still have some point in every song where I have to go ‘uh-la-la-yeah-oh-uh’). So—am I happy as a lark, or am I full of frustration and this is my passive-aggressive way of venting? It’s hard to say.

One thing I’ve noticed about music—if you do it properly, it’s pretty hard work—not that I see it that way—it’s a joy, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy—it takes focus, effort and seven kinds of coordination. They say playing the piano is the equivalent of rowing a boat; playing the violin is the equivalent of lifting weights; and conducting an orchestra is like being in a boxing match—in terms of calories burned, at least. For all I know, music has kept me from wasting away during my sick period—it was the only thing that got me out of bed.

Then again, I don’t exactly look like I frequent the gym. I’ve got a permanent paunch from having a liver transplant—there are certain abs of mine that will never flex again—but that just gives me a good excuse to look like most guys my age, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

A few nights ago, I wrote:

O, Joy and Rapture! I noticed that some drawings I was sure I had were no longer showing up on my PC—then I remembered I had some back-up files.

Trouble was backup files don’t restore themselves—and I had used Norton 360 software to make them. I figured I was in for a long, hard slog before I ever managed to restore these files but I went on live-chat with Norton Tech Support (didn’t hurt that it was one in the morning) and they set me up with a quick Restore-app download and I’m sitting here typing now because I’m waiting for my 50,000 files to finish restoring—how easy is that?! Sometimes a person gets lucky.

One thing I’ve finally learned from computers—if something is important enough to get on there in the first place, I’ll probably want it again sometime in the future—no files are truly deletable.

That may seem like file-hoarding, but with the proper directory-tree organization–and considering how big today’s hard drives are–you never get into the kinds of problems that plague real hoarders of actual stuff.

Of course, now that I have that stuff restored, I have to go through my backups and de-dupe the files, and move them to the correct sub-directories—there’s a lot of confusion in my mind after a few minutes of that sort of thing, so I’m still not done. But it’s all there—that’s the important thing.

I could listen to the Beach Boys sing “I Can Hear Music” all day long, I swear…. Hey—tomorrow’s Claire and I’s 35th wedding anniversary—cool, right? No wonder I can’t think straight.

I watched Hillary Clinton at the DNC meeting on CSPAN this morning—she gave a great speech. She defined the Democratic Party as the party that is concerned with the people—and she castigated the Republicans as out-of-touch. The former Secretary of State said the Republican presidential candidates were “all Trump, but without the pizzaz”—which I found especially apt.

How do the right-wingers rationalize their religiosity in a nation whose watchword has always been ‘separation of church and state’? How do they demonize immigration in a nation that is built upon an alloyed strength forged in a revered melting-pot? How do they maintain their dog-whistles of division in a nation where our progress is measured in the advancement of freedom and equality? It is only by preying on the weakness of will, the ignorance, and the self-love of their followers that the GOP inveigles us away from the true path of America’s future. End of speech.

So, I’ve been experiencing creative doldrums recently—I seem to have nothing musical to say in my recent improvs—it’s all just a bunch of seeking and not a lot of finding. This post, as well—I began it this morning but now it’s quarter to five in the afternoon—and it’s just a patchwork of disconnected ramblings. Anyhow, here’s my latest foray into the depths of the dog days:

It’s a Win-Win (For Me, Anyway) (2015Aug25)


Wednesday, August 26, 2015                                           4:01 PM

Well, we’ve been confusing two different things for a long time—for so long that it’s become a part of our national character—a lot of us think that good business practice is the same as good governance. So we must not blame Mr. Trump, who simply surfs the wave of public approbation.

I’m reminded of how the ‘modern’ age of machines brought so many sudden changes that some changes in our thinking went a little too mechanistic—into fascism. Fascism seemed reasonable at the time—it had logic and (pretend) science, and modern folk were all about the logic and science and mechanization back in those days.

Opnamedatum: 2010-1-19

Inflating of Nadars air balloon on a field outside the Barrier Utrecht, Amsterdam, September 14, 1865, John D. Brewer, 1865 [Artwork courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Website]

Likewise today we have great changes that influence changes in our thinking—we don’t even need wires today to make a connection, never mind something as arcane as eye-contact. We’re de-centralizing—we’re going Uber. And Americans maintain a firm belief that business will ‘regulate’ itself—although that is only true in terms of fair competition between companies, and has no relevance to the way in which business treats people. Unfair business practices do somehow persist—proving that business regulates itself on the same model as evolution—a bloody, kill-or-be-killed status quo that ends up with the winners becoming alpha predators—and everyone else is the food. The endgame is simply a new monarchy based on ownership rather than bloodlines—if those two things are truly separate.

20150825XD-Rijks_Hemelvaart_JanPunt

Hemelvaart, Jan Punt, 1748 [Artwork courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Website]

Because of technology, we have lost the connection between ourselves and our world—our survival is more dependent upon the economic infrastructure—the stores, banks, office buildings, mines, factories, ports, the housing, highways and airliners—than it ever was on the source material for those sophistries: the crops, water, air, lumber, cattle, and cotton—the stuff that hitherto more visibly either grew from or fed off the Earth.

Opnamedatum: 2012-07-19

Bacchus and Ariadne, Gerard de Lairesse, c. 1680 [Artwork courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Website]

We used to husband our resources, tend our fields, plant and harvest our crops—now we buy stuff. Some guy with a huge machine is doing all the agricultural stuff, somewhere out in that blank breadbasket between the coasts. Except for that one Mr. Greenjeans out in Iowa, the rest of us are working on maintaining our infrastructure—though it should more rightly be considered a superstructure, as it is built upon a natural world that once had a structure of its own—we couldn’t control nature like we do our modern environment, but we didn’t have to maintain it, either.

20150825XD-Rijks_Dolls-house_CloudySky_wBirds_NicolaesPiemont

Dolls-house Ceiling-Painting of a Cloudy Sky with Birds, attributed to Nicolaes Piemont, c. 1690 – c. 1709 [Artwork courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Website]

Progress isn’t addition, it’s a trade-off—you get the new, but you lose the old. And while we are marveling at the brave new cyberworld of our present—where paper is disappearing and robots are working faster and better than the humans they replace—we should give a thought to the tremendous loss that implies. It’s not a question—it’s a given. Worse yet, history tells us that we never appreciate the true value of something until it is gone beyond recall. So, while we know that our loss is enormous, we are still waiting to feel the pain. Some days, it feels lucky to be old.

20150825XD-Rijks_Paradise_Herri_met_de_Bles

Paradise, Herri met de Bles, c. 1541 – c. 1550 [Artwork courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Website]

As I see it, ‘isms’ will always trip you up. Take any Ism to its logical conclusion and you get mayhem—capitalism turns to thievery, democracy turns to mob rule, Christianity becomes a platform for hate and violence. None of our societal systems and structures stand on their own, alone—they all must be leavened with humanity. One sign of our modern progress is that some people are finally trying to turn humanity into ‘humanism’—they may mess it up—people usually do—but at least we recognize that there is something there, something elemental—that outshines any system of government or faith or justice. It is humanity that allows compromise, forgiveness, and tolerance.

20150825XD-Rijks_LossOfFaith_JanToorop

Loss of Faith, Jan Toorop, 1894 [Artwork courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Website]

These are the foundation of freedom and justice—without them, we have only an eye for an eye and the whole world blind—or at least lacking depth-perception. The most singular aspect of humanity is that it isn’t a system of checks and balances—it’s just giving. It’s what we do for infants, for the sick or hungry, for our grandparents and great-grandparents, for anyone we truly feel love for—or even for a stranger—we give, and we don’t look for compensation.

20150825XD-Rijks_Shipyard_AmsterdamAdmiralty_LudolfBakhuysen

The Shipyard of the Amsterdam Admiralty, Ludolf Bakhuysen, 1655 – 1660 [Artwork courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Website]

When I see these crowds at campaign rallies shouting for justice, I want them to stop shouting long enough for someone to tell them that you don’t get justice—you give mercy, and you hope for justice. Laws help keep the injustice to a dull roar, but nothing will ever end injustice but mercy, compassion, and generosity. If you’re fighting for someone else’s rights, you have a shot at being a force for justice, but if you just looking to get your own, Jack—you’re being selfish. Your therapists will tell you that’s a good thing—but your therapist is an idiot. Still, what can your therapist tell you? How do you tell anyone exactly how to be a human being?

20150825XD-Rijks_Val_van_Icarus_HansBol

Val van Icarus, Hans Bol, Anonymous, c. 1550 – c. 1650 [Artwork courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Website]

Thus endeth the lesson, as Sean Connery intones in “The Untouchables”. I’m wearing a T-Shirt today that I’ve had since one summer of the 80s, when our onetime family business, Mal Dunn Associates, threw a pool party, back in the day–pretty good shirts–still looks good:

20150826XD-TheMDA_T_Shirt (5)

I used the above photo, along with my usual pilfering of the Rijksmuseums website’s collection of masterpieces, for the three videos below:

We Know—But We Don’t Care (2015Aug24)


Monday, August 24, 2015                                                 11:37 AM

So deep in the woods one would think it already nighttime—until the late afternoon turns to brief dusk then vanishes into inky nothingness.

Now we know we’re being played (as if there were any doubt beforehand). The Dow dropped over a thousand points first thing this morning, said the news-crawl. As if the Dow were a sentient creature and not a room full of gamblers and crooks trying to out-scheme each other. How long will journalists maintain this false naivety—that the Dow or the S&P 500 or any of those indices do anything other than what the obscenely-wealthy, top owners and players want it to do?

Or let us examine the case of Hillary Clinton—the media have invented a thing called her ‘email scandal’—but they stubbornly refuse to address the question of exactly what wrongdoing Hillary Clinton is accused of. Her stalkers have engendered investigations in the Justice Dept., the State Dept., and the Congress—they even have a judge who, for whatever reason, has ordered a monthly press-release about the e-mail investigation—just so it is guaranteed a place in the news feed for the remainder of the presidential campaign. A real journalist might report on the lack of a single specific crime or harm that any of this mishegas entails.

I would sadly, resignedly accept that Hillary Clinton is more untrustworthy than any other politician—if someone would just say in plain words what proof there is of this universal assumption. In the absence of anything like that, I am left with the conviction that we’re being played. The ‘Hillary E-Mail Scandal’ has become a given—the media discuss how it hurts her polling numbers, how skillfully or unskillfully she is handling her ‘response’—but they never have time to talk about the specifics, the reality behind all the smoke and mirrors.

Or take the Trump circus coverage—the media can’t resist this guaranteed ratings-maker. They marvel at Trump’s decisive lead over the other sixteen GOP candidates—as if a reality-show star could help but outshine a crowd of narrow-minded white men. But they don’t like to dwell on the larger reality—that Trump supporters—like the Tea Party they came from—represent a vanishingly small segment of bitter, ignorant reactionaries. These congenital shouters and bitchers make a big splash on TV—but their numbers are so small that we not only expect Trump to lose to a Democrat (any Democrat) nationally, but we assume that it would be suicidal for the GOP even to nominate him.

Here we see a conjunction of un-enlightened self-interest—the media is drawn to shiny distractions over substance, and the GOP can’t get their baker’s dozen of extraneous candidates to step aside and let the poll numbers show Trump against just one or two opponents. Most of these GOP candidates are busy feeding their egos with public appearances and feeding their bank accounts with fund-raising—that their collective milling about leaves Trump free to destroy their party’s image doesn’t prompt a one of them to pull out of the race. Insanely, part of the coverage of Trump is the occasional observation by this or that pundit that the whole house of cards will collapse as we draw closer to the election—making all their coverage a complete waste of time. No one talks about what a waste of time it is for the other sixteen to be running at all—I guess that would be insensitive.

Just because no one’s ultimately in charge of anything, or responsible for anything, doesn’t mean that we aren’t being played. The stock market has been a scam since the day it was invented—banks themselves aren’t much better. Politics has always been a dirty business. And journalism, in its most common incarnation, is just large-scale gossip for profit—the occasional ‘heroes’ of the fourth estate were always backed by their editorial chiefs—but today’s editorial departments are being muzzled by owners, lawyers, and advertisers whose allegiance is to the bottom line rather than the bare facts.

Still, we don’t care. Life is too complicated if we view all of our institutions as con games and all political and military decisions as furtherance of corruption and ego-feeding. So, we trust the banks and the markets, we vote for the politicians, we work every day for the fat cats, and we watch the news as if it mattered. We know we are being willfully ignorant in doing this—but we have our own lives to live amidst all the craven conniving, so we close our eyes and step out into thin air, expecting concrete.

Vive La France (2015Aug22)


Saturday, August 22, 2015                                                3:51 PM

Instead of Donald Trump or Hillary’s E-Mails, I’d like to obsess about the overpowering of the young Moroccan bullet-train gunman outside of Paris yesterday—let’s spend the rest of the summer talking about that. The main heroes seem to be two US Marines—though without minimizing their heroism, it should be noted that the entire car—British, French, US, whatever—rose as one to beat the crap out of this would-be terrorist.

It reminds me of the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93, who fought the hijackers and died in the crash, sparing whatever Washington, DC target the terrorists had in mind. It is unhappy that people are prepared for this, but it makes me strangely happy to know that they now are. Terrorists be advised—people aren’t just going to sit there anymore.

It is daunting what a lone sicko can accomplish—but it is thrilling to know what a group of right-thinking strangers can do in response. And it’s well past time that terrorists got a little of their own back.

Neither can I contain my pride in our mighty Green Machine—those guys you don’t mess with. And it isn’t every day that we get to see them in their purest form—jumping to the defense of innocent people, without orders or prompting—hell, without a second thought. That’s just too cool. I don’t come from a traditionally military family, but my father was a Marine—he served in Korea—and I have a nephew who’s currently serving (Go James!) so I always feel a touch of pride whenever the United States Marines make the world a better place.

Clouds That Way (2015Aug21)


Friday, August 21, 2015                                           12:52 PM

I noticed that all the pictures from the Hubble telescope look a lot like clouds. In a sense the whole universe is a bunch of clouds—some have condensed into blobs of stars or planets or whatever, but most of it is just a bunch of stuff floating around—the solid objects are about as rarified as they are in the traditional image of the atom. Still, the Perseid meteor shower we watched last week was from a section of the ‘cloud’ of rubble shed by the Swift-Tuttle Comet, entering our atmosphere as the comet passes by every year. Despite their similar appearance to the clouds in our skies, the clouds in space can be made of up gasses, dust, pebbles, or boulders—and their temperatures can vary from near absolute zero to metal-melting plasma.

Our own clouds aren’t the homogenous water-vapor tufts we like to imagine, either, come to think of it—they can swirl into twisters, freeze the water into large hailstones, carry the dust from volcanoes and the smoke from fires, spark lightning-bolts whose heat equals the sun’s surface—not always little puffs of white, clouds.

So what can we learn from the cloud-like appearance of deep space? Should we have been studying cloud formations with the same intensity we study ocean currents and river flows? Should there be a ‘fluid dynamics’ branch for cloud formation? We study gasses and aerodynamics, sure, but a cloud is a discrete entity suspended either in the gasses of our atmosphere or in the vacuum of space—shouldn’t we be looking at this phenomenon as an important branch of physics? Or should we just look for horsies and duckies as they float in the summer sky?

Today is not the day for it—sky’s as blue as blue today, with a fresh breeze pushing the leaves on the trees—here’s video to prove it: