Pleased To Present (2017Jul16)


Sunday, July 16, 2017                                              10:42 PM

Pleased To Present   (2017Jul16)

I am pleased to present to you my latest videos, featuring my adorable granddaughter (and my piano-playing). She has just started to walk, her first birthday is next week, and they’ll all be coming to see us in a couple of months—hooray!

 

XperDunn plays Piano
July 15th, 2017

Improv – Sonatina

Improv – Toesies

Improv – Grasshopper

Improv – Refractions (w/Cover: “Nobody’s Sweetheart”)

Improv – Sunlight

 

ttfn!

 

New Thoughts (2017Jul13)


Friday, July 14, 2017                                                2:10 AM

marinerd

New Thoughts (2017Jul13)

“no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”  —The U. S. Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 9

Technically, the excerpt above would not apply to the Trump campaign, since he was not in office until the inauguration. But it seems likely that, if the founding authors felt this strongly about an elected official’s behavior in office (with respect to foreign influence) they may have simply assumed that no one flouting these important ethics, during the campaign, would have a prayer of being elected—by the people, or the Electoral College (whose sole purpose was to act as a stopgap against charlatans of such sort).

That Trump—and his administration—continue to dismiss the perfidy of attempting collusion with a foreign power to influence a national election—claiming that ‘most people would have taken that meeting’ goes beyond political inexperience, into amorality. This, in the face of precedent— in September of 2000, close adviser to Vice President Al Gore, Rep. Tom Downey of Long Island, N.Y., received an anonymous package of purported info on the Bush Campaign, and turned it over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

That only a single precedent exists is no doubt due to the hare-brained nature of such over-the-top aggression—few presidential candidates, never mind an entire coterie of such a culture, so single-mindedly pursue the destruction of their opponent, without bothering to offer anything positive about their own character. That Trump and his goons miss that they miss that—is deeply troubling. I heard someone say the other day that Trump’s administration couldn’t be more generically ‘bad-guy’ if they had been written into a superhero comic-book as the villains.

If, as with the rest of us, any old guy could walk into court and file a criminal complaint against Trump, most judges would probably find probable cause for a grand jury—his son’s emails are more than enough to get the ball rolling. But that is not the case—we have to wait until the Republicans in Congress have decided that Trump has gotten too hot even for their ice-cold, cynical hands. Meanwhile, they can point to ‘congressional hearings on the matter’—but somehow it has neither the urgency of HRC’s Benghazi hearings nor the presumption of guilt we saw at HRC’s ‘server’ hearings. Why is that, we wonder?

But anyway, I wanted to say something about healthcare that everyone seems to have forgotten—we didn’t use to have any. We used to have insurance companies that could do whatever they wanted—in the name of free enterprise—and business was great—for them. For the millions of people who only dreamed of taking their kids to a doctor—or spending another few years with their sick grandparent—or trying to raise a disabled child on a low-middle income—it wasn’t working so good—it wasn’t working at all.

You may remember those days—it was only eight years ago they changed it—and forever, before that, there had been no responsibility taken by our government to care for every citizen’s health. We saw people being admitted to emergency rooms and we told ourselves that anyone, in an emergency, could be treated by a doctor. We didn’t think of all the ways that health issues can impact people and families and businesses, aside from being allowed in the ER when you’re almost dead.

We saw other countries switch to socialized healthcare—and heard the domestic industry pooh-pooh those other countries’ fairness as not being as dynamic as our competitive business-model. Plus, it would wipe out the present health-insurance industry—and—lots of Americans just hate the idea of giving free stuff to poor people. They hate it as much as I hate the idea of making poor peoples’ lives more difficult than they are already.

Michael Moore made a wonderful movie once—I forget which one—where he showed a ‘Canadian slum’, which was a lovely-looking, crime-free neighborhood—with free childcare for working mothers and, of course, free healthcare. See, now, I could live right next door to people like that and not feel bad about having more money than them—because they wouldn’t be suffering from their lack, they would simply have less money. Plus, if I went broke, and became poor, my life would change very little—as a sick old man, my entertainment expenses are minimal.

Anyway, the point is—the Democrats had to scratch and claw their way to passage of Obamacare—because it was a game-changer. Now that Americans have had affordable health care for some years, Republicans will look like total dicks if they just repeal it—not a single voter will be without a relative that suffers from a repeal—and even Machiavellian gerrymandering can’t undo that.

Now they struggle to pass a ‘repeal and replace’ bill—but they can’t do it. They can’t repeal it outright. And they can’t replace it with something that is effectively a repeal-in-other-words—the CBO has called them on that dodge three times in a row already.

They can’t work together with Democrats to make real improvements on Obamacare—because they don’t have the political stones to sink their careers for the sake of the citizenry—like Obama did when he signed it. There are real problems with Obamacare—and it hurts the country to leave them unaddressed—but the Republicans persist in trying to put this egg back in its shell, when they should be cooking.

marinern

Thursday, July 13, 2017                                           5:35 PM

I think it is important to recognize that there is always more to things than the simple explanation. Now that the Trump/Russia Collusion scandal has expanded to include election-tampering in general, we will inevitably reach a point where the insidious disinformation-campaign by the Russians, working with the Alt-Right or not, will be compared to mass media.

In my rants I have frequently ranted the same thing. But the mass media disinformation problem is more like the healthcare problem than the Trump/Russia debacle—because, as with the medical profession, the aim is a pure one: doctors try to help, and do no harm—and media is meant to inform and entertain.

In both cases, the transition to profit-based paradigms has created massive amounts of business: Medicine spawned Big Pharma, the Health Insurance industry, Corporate research, surgical and care devices from stents to remote-control surgical bots. Media has spawned the Networks, Cable, E-books, Computer Graphics, Streaming services, Online researching and metadata massage, movie franchising, social media—and, of course, cable news.

In both cases, profit has proven to be a dehumanizing influence in industries that are based, nominally, on humane goals. Our country’s medical care is the best in the world—for about ten percent of citizens, perhaps less. For the other 90%, care is more expensive and less professional than in socialized-medical-care countries—so when someone tells you that socialized medicine will be a big step backward, they are referring only to the fabulously wealthy.

Likewise, introducing the profit motive into a free press makes a lot of money and endless access to data for that ten percent or less—and distorts the so-called ‘news’. This could be fought against if it weren’t for the further distortion of people’s perceptions wrought by our click-bait culture. By narrowing our focus down to one issue, one headline at a time, cable news does two harms: first, the blindered presentation of individual issues makes them seem even more unsolvable and more numerous than they really are, and by removing the context, they prevent us from seeing the whole, where many of the answers we look for may be found.

marinerg

Wednesday, July 05, 2017                                                1:51 PM

It’s sad the way I’ve lost interest in people. Whenever I talk to people now, I find myself waiting for them to get bored and go away—while I hypocritically try to sound interesting so they won’t think I’m boring. I’m not really as selfish as that sounds—I’ve lost interest in myself, too, in a way—that is, I don’t push myself or dream of big goals anymore. I’ve soured, is probably the most concise expression.

For most of my life I was on a manic search for the new—I thought I was in love with learning, but it’s nothing so noble—I just feel stifled when things become overly familiar—I ‘need’ to find something new, all the time. Do you have books you keep telling yourself you’ll read? I don’t—I’ve read them all already. Do you keep telling yourself you’ll try this or that, someday? I don’t—I have already done everything I know of (and, yes, lots of things are fun the first time). But none of that stuff is fun anymore—it’s old.

Then, so am I.

rodinevilspirits

Trump and Putin need to stop misusing their elected offices to market their brands. Corruption has gone beyond ubiquitous, to in-your-face. Around the globe, we see it—starting with our own GOP, and a president who neither fully divests nor refuses emoluments–who puts his family members on staff as if running a mom and pop store instead of the USA.

But corruption is even more malignant in Mexico, and in both Central and South America. Corruption is more sophisticated in Europe and the UK—as one might expect. But we see the worst of it in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, China, and Russia. Russia is the supreme example—their ‘democracy’ was hijacked by the head mob-boss in post-Soviet Russia—and he has been getting reelected for 17 years. And this thug still has veto-power on the UN Security Council. Same as the other two thugs—Trump and Xi Peng.

But I’m not pointing fingers—my point is the opposite—that corruption is an ingredient of society—the only variables are: how deeply ingrained, how inhumane its profit-motive, and whether the ‘townspeople’ can stand up to bad government without being gunned down. It’s certainly more nuanced than that, but you get my concept, I hope.

Health Care Legislation was a very different thing before the Affordable Care Act (what there was of it). The ACA (or ‘Obamacare’, as I like to call it, for short) was the first law to require the health insurance industry to provide coverage that was less profitable, but fairer. Coverage that protected sick people, Obamacare virtually stated, could not be purely for profit—it had to have standards of an ethical nature, since Health Care was a business of life and death.

The health insurance industry felt obliged to resist lowered profits and increased regulation—they thought in terms of profit and loss. Like most industries, insurers can see no middle ground between maximum profit and a threat to their rights to do business. They can talk that way—corporations have many of the rights of a person—but they aren’t ‘person’ enough to have to face their own family after saying some of the cold-blooded, hypocritical press-releases they do—neither must a corporation tell individuals, to their faces, what they intend to do to them—or take away from them—or cheat them out of.

The law may say that a corporation is a person in the eyes of the court—but, outside the court, I think we can all agree that a corporation is the shittiest person anyone has ever met—not that anyone can meet those flat-faced, lobby-laminated excuses for human flesh. If a corporation sues someone, it’s never about the corporation’s integrity, as a person—it always because someone threatened their profits, their cash-flow, their public image. I could loiter around and spit on a corporation all day long—it’s not a person—it won’t even get its feelings hurt.

I’m stumped about what gives these actuarial fictions any Constitutional rights—it’s as if there’s a carney-ride gateway for piles of money, with a sign that says, “You must be this high to have all the rights of a person—without any of the consequences.”  Someone will have to explain it all to me someday. Then explain why such a stupid idea endures, like it was the friggin Emancipation Amendment or something.

statue-liberty-evacuation

Tuesday, July 11, 2017                                             2:25 PM

When will we face our embarrassment that we let Russian disinformation and hacking—and the media hoopla—trick us into letting crooks into the Administration? Trump’s gang have shown themselves without honor, without competence, without honesty, and without any regard for the Constitution—and, in spite of that, the Republicans scruple to impeach him (perhaps because he’s only slightly more cynically unethical than they are). But someday we’re going to have to face it—we’ve been had.

And the Russians go right ahead with their global program of disruption of democracy, attacking unity wherever they find it—especially in the United States. We take for granted that word in our country’s name—but it has been our shield and buckler, without us even really appreciating the power of unity. Our government had the wits to appreciate the strength of unity when FDR said, ‘let there be labor unions’. Business owners fought against it, but not having any moral ground to stand on, they were overruled.

Inclusion is just our modern way of saying ‘Unity’, when unity has become an old-fashioned expression. But old things are best—and there’s nothing like unity—teamwork, looking out for the guy next to you, etc.

And the media go right ahead, making a circus of the most serious aspect of our lives—money, taxes, legislation, infrastructure, consumer protection, et. al.—they talk about it in throbbing tones, dramatizing and stirring the pot of what is really a bunch of vote counting and legalese. I’m not saying journalists shouldn’t cover the news—but stop making it into some Shakespearian comic tragedy full of personalities and gossip. Stop making money broadcasting our political fate as if it were a football game, goddammit.

They usually reply that they’re just giving the public what they want—but that’s bullshit—if that were true, they could just broadcast porn and ESPN, and skip the news altogether—but if they’re going to do it, they should do it as a public service, not as a competitor in the ratings wars. They way they’re doing it now, it’s more like they’re cheerleaders for the devil—at their most thrilled when our country is on the brink of disaster. Cronkite did not announce Kennedy’s assassination breathlessly, like some Shopping Channel shill—he did it with tears in his eyes. Why? Because he was a human being—with a slight taint of decency.

inferno25

Friday, July 07, 2017                                                6:10 PM

I lost my memory and I can’t remember where I left it. I lost a liver and received a stranger’s to replace it. I’ve lost my health and all I have is writing to distract me. I lost my cigarettes when they diagnosed my emphysema—and I lost what little self-respect remained when I found I didn’t have the will to quit smoking, while slowly dying of emphysema. How stupid is that?

Very stupid—but I’m allowed to be. I used to be semi-intelligent—I know what intelligence means—and I no longer have it. If HepC made my brain stupid and I have to live with that, then I’m not going to blame myself for being stupid. I’m not really blaming myself for anything—that’s the beauty of learning to stop blaming other people—you get to stop blaming yourself, because the same excuses apply, no matter whose fault something is.

What excuses do I allow other people, in trying to stop blaming them? Well, there’s the thing about everybody being a product of how they were raised—genetics makes us all unique, but a common upbringing tells in most people. I use this one for parents and teachers—I tell myself that they were raised in an earlier, rougher period of time—by parents that were raised in an earlier, rougher period of time, etc., etc. If kids didn’t swear to raise their kids better than they were raised, we would all still be living in caveman times.

Conversely, a variant of this excuse, for contemporaries, is: I tell myself they were raised by weird, strict parents with weird, narrow-minded ideas. Basically parents are an excuse and a reason to be excused—as a parent myself, this comforts me. This rule is not reflexive however—good outcomes do not imply good parenting—goodness, in fact, often occurs in spite of bad parenting—and some terrible people have very nice parents (or, at least, one of them is, sometimes).

But it doesn’t really matter what excuses we use—the goal is to stop blaming other people. This is our goal, not because these people we blame deserve forgiveness, not because time has passed—not even because it allows us to take the moral high ground—none of these really require forgiveness. We want to stop blaming other people because it simplifies and improves our own head-space.

I am not, however, a forgive-and-forget person. If someone lies to me, I won’t rely on their word any longer. If someone takes from me, I won’t do business with them ever again. I don’t do these things because I hold a grudge—I do them because it would be crazy to ignore someone’s character. I don’t forget information, even if it is negative information. I stop blaming because it is a useless activity, but I don’t forget. Memory is a useful survival skill.

But I am no machine—I’m sure I contradict all these words half the time—when I write, I sometimes talk about me as I wish I was, not as I really am. Some of my thoughts make perfect sense in the moment, and then sound like idiocy deluxe a moment later. Life is a shifting target.

pn010

Emphysema (2017May08)


DSC_8914

Monday, May 08, 2017                                            12:32 PM

Emphysema III   (2017May08)

Improv – Deuce

 

Improv – Trey

 

Improv – Quatro

 

Improv – Embracing the New

 

Improv – Having Fun

 

Improv – Persistence

Forgive the cliché, but it is the best of times, it is the worst of times. At long last, everyone who wanted me to quit smoking (including myself) is getting their wish—on the other hand, I’m quitting smoking—or, at least, I’m striving to do so—and there is some discomfort involved.

I started with patches and single-digits of cigarettes per day, then I stopped patches and went back up to double-digits for a day—but now I’ve been back in single-digits, and without any nicotine patches, for a couple of days. Learning to use my Advair corticosteroid inhaler twice-a-day has added a wrinkle—lately I’ve been waking up with huge pupils and no irises. It goes away after an hour or so—but apparently I’m tripping in my sleep.

I don’t know if that’s nicotine withdrawal or cortisone side-effects, which I could say about my mood-swings, tremors, and more-frequent spasms as well—and, in a way, not being sure helps with avoiding the cigarettes—I thrive on chaos, and at the moment, it’s non-stop.

Reaching zero total cigarettes is not the challenge for me (well, not the biggest one). Once I full-stop on the cigarettes, I will experience a healthy, calm stillness—I won’t be reaching for things, I won’t be drugged (except for caffeine), my mind will be relatively clear and my ears won’t be ringing.

That will be torture—that yawning void will be begging me to put the cigarettes back into the mix—you know, for fun—and nothing will distract me from that nagging voice—that’s going to be the real challenge. Stillness bugs me—clarity seems like a waste, a self-imposed chore.

That behavior used to have a function—my old mind was always threatening to over-rev itself, always in danger of over-heating—it needed an extra-viscous lubricant to reduce the friction. Nowadays, I’ve merely become used to that approach—my mind has little risk of overexerting itself nowadays, but it still enjoys a bit of viscosity to the thought-process—it’s what I’ve become comfortable with.

But, good-bye, comfort! It’s cigarette-quitting time. And please—don’t mention it. Talking about cigarettes is the worst thing I can do—and I certainly don’t need anyone else bringing it up.

The doctor switched me to a new anti-depressant—it’s hard to say, with all the rest of the chemicals, but I’m pretty sure it’s an improvement. And I’ve stopped taking vitamins every day—I’ve switched to a multi-vitamin every other day, and a B-complex every four days. Apparently that’s more than enough—every day is overkill, or so I’m told—and it makes less work for my stomach.

I could go on, but you get the picture—I’m going squirrelly, trying to become healthy—and I’m so unstable that the whole thing could crash and burn any minute—my kingdom for some will-power!

Tuesday, May 02, 2017                                            11:13 AM

Emphysema II   (2017May02)

Back to the doctor’s office we go—to get the skinny on my breathing and how to use an inhaler. Apparently, I have 75% use of the lungs of a 91-year-old.

Thursday, May 04, 2017                                          2:45 PM

Advair is the brand name for my new cortico-steroid inhaler—it’s a pain in the ass to use and very weird. Sometimes, being sick makes you a helpless, involuntary drug-tester for future users of new drugs.

Inhaling steroid dust is nothing, though, compared to trying to quit smoking. I’ve been messing around with a mixture of nicotine patches and will-power—it’s heavy sledding. I wasn’t sure I had it in me. However, Bear has obtained Chantix for me—it’s a quit-smoking drug with side-affects like you wouldn’t believe. I think I might have just enough will-power to quit smoking, if it means I don’t have to take that shit—I don’t want to give up tobacco for my health and, in the process, go mad or bleed internally or whatever Chantix might do to me.

I’m sure not-smoking is a wonderful thing—but it will never be anywhere near as nice as smoking. How come every time I have to do something for my health, it means making life less enjoyable? The biggest problem with quitting is that I spend all day not-doing-something—which is weird and unenjoyable—and I’d much rather be so involved in doing something that I didn’t think about what I was missing. I need a hobby, I guess.

Thursday, April 27, 2017                                        12:22 PM

Emphysema   (2017Apr27)

Emphysema is fun—a true smoker’s disease, unlike lung cancer or heart disease, which any old Tom, Dick, or Harry can fall prey to, emphysema is virtually unheard of except in the case of long-term smokers. The little bubbles at the end of the bronchioles, the alveoli, become enflamed—or even necrotic—thus disabling their function (to be the exchange-point for oxygen). The lungs can pump away like a bellows—but the oxygen being breathed in does not make it into the bloodstream.

Without that fuel, the body works much harder—shortness of breath, fatigue, and weight loss are common symptoms of emphysema. Most people notice shortness-of-breath right away, but those who lead a sedentary lifestyle may not notice this—or connect it to something other than lack of exercise. Idiots like that may wait until their lungs actually hurt before they get a chest x-ray.

I got a chest x-ray yesterday. Fun’s over. I now have to quit smoking. I already had to quit drinking—this is the last straw. I’ve run out of vices. How does one live a life without vices?

But never mind that. How do I quit smoking? I’m four hours into this brave new world and I’m clenching my jaw and feeling dizzy—that’s with a nic-patch, mind you—so it’s all in my head. We fear change—and this is a perfect example of why.

Since I was eighteen—so that’s about forty-three years, about 16,000 days, at two packs a day—that’s over 600,000 cigarettes, give or take. Honestly, I may have spent more time smoking a cigarette than I’ve spent on anything else. Also, I kind of liked smoking—as an activity—it was relaxing and enjoyable.

But now I have to confront tobacco as an addiction—I’m not ignoring nagging doomsayers anymore, I’m ignoring my own health by any future smoking. As with my old liver problems, the lungs don’t self-repair—emphysema is forever—and while nothing can reverse the damage, each cigarette can worsen it. Good times—as usual. Well, Claire is happy, at least, at last—without ever truly nagging me about cigarettes, she has hoped I’d quit for a long time.

Eternal Argument   (2017Apr19)


Wednesday, April 19, 2017                                              1:51 PM

A good person, we are told, avoids fighting unless it’s absolutely necessary—but the one who throws the first punch has the best chance of winning a fight. A good person, we are told, cares about others—but then again, one is supposed to look out for number one. Honesty is the best policy—but a little white lie can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

If these sound familiar, it may be because they are often the crux of a drama: to fight or not to fight, to give or to take, to be honest or not. So, one might assume that ethics adds drama to life—ethics tell us to find a way around our animal impulses—and that’s where the drama comes in. But, if we are successful, we feel that we’ve risen above our animal nature—ethics is our way of proving to ourselves that we are above dogs.

No offense to dogs—some of them are far nicer than people—but if you try to reason with a dog, you won’t get far. Then again, trying to reason with some people is no different. They use the pretense of reason to rationalize the behavior of an animal. Even math can be warped into the service of bullshit—4 out of 5 dentists agree.

Some claim that ethics are pretentious luxuries, a thin veneer that falls away at the first sign of deprivation or hunger. But the same could be said of friendship—and while that may be true of many friendships, or ethics, it is not true of all of them. Some people are kamikazes about their friendships, or their ethics—are these people mad? Or are the rest of us missing out on some key factor?

I think it depends on how much you value yourself—if you consider yourself a part of something, you’re less likely to see yourself as irreplaceable—you’re more likely to see sacrifice, on your part, as benefitting the whole. If you think of yourself as a ‘lone-wolf’ individual, you’re more likely to see your own survival as the bottom line.

So, it seems our choices are: 1. suicidally sacrificial or 2. selfishly self-centered—at this point, we realize that everything has two sides and there is no simple, rote answer to any question. A-little-of-each presents itself as the obvious answer—but is it really that simple? Sorry—no, nothing is simple—then again, it can be, if you shut your mind to the endless variety of existence. This accounts for the effectiveness of some douchebag giving out with a derisive ‘whatever’ as a rebuttal to common sense. Apparently, ‘I don’t give a shit’ is an acceptable substitute for ‘I know what I’m doing’.

I don’t respect people that walk away from a losing argument—to me, losing an argument is the most educational experience there is—to find out that there is a better answer, a better way of seeing things. What could be of greater value? When I argue, it’s not to win the fight, it’s to communicate a different point of view—and if I lose the argument, I’m obligated to recognize that the other person had a better grasp of the issue than I did—and that I’ve learned something.

Even if someone hears me out and insists on disagreeing with me, because of their ‘faith’ or some such non-rational bullshit—even that I can respect more than someone who enters into an argument just to be belligerent—and walks away with a ‘whatever’ when they can’t bully me with their rhetoric. That’s just being a jerk, in my book.

The glut of such jerks online is similar to the increased hate and xenophobia that we see today—and it has the same source. Trump is a bully-arguer, and a racist fear-monger—and he won the election (or, at least, the Electoral College)—so, other bully-arguers, and racist fear-mongers, feel emboldened, having such a prominent role-model. And in the end, the bad example of our head of state may do more lasting damage than his bad governance. Bad laws can be rescinded, but encouraging people to hate is a poor lesson that can have a life-long impact on our society.

That is my strongest reason for wanting Trump impeached—conduct unbecoming an American. A leader should be an example—and his incompetent, unethical leadership isn’t nearly as damaging as his bad example. Trump isn’t just a bad president—he’s a bad person. #Sad!

Improv – Late in the Day

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017                                        3:29 PM

The Job of Jazz   (2017Apr19)

The R&B brass section, the vocal back-up trio, the echo effect—and then the electric guitar comes in. It’s got smooth power—and makes you feel like you’re madly in love. But the drums seal the deal—you fall into another world—a world that was hiding behind the silence. At that point, anything the front man sings will sound like sexy poetry—he could be reading from a phone book. And that’s the artifice in art—to the audience it is transporting—to the creator it is hard work, made to seem effortless.

Poetry is much the same—Eliot called it ‘a mug’s game’. Writing in general is a matter of pacing and rhythm—even the graphic arts have a sweep to them that is the visual equivalent of rhythm and pacing—composition and contrast, highlights and empty space.

The paradox is pure—self-expression is not for the creative worker—it is for everyone else. It is an expression—which presumes a listener, a viewer, a reader. Yes, it is your unique and personal self-expression—but it is still an expression—a message sent—and why send a message if not to connect to a recipient?

That is the nakedness of it—to be honestly self-expressive is to reveal who we are—and who we are is the sum of our lifetimes. Thus honest self-expression becomes one’s life story—who we are and how we live. Its revelatory nature is the thing that frightens many people away—and they are all quite sensible people. Apparently, strong feelings and conflict drive some people to creative self-expression—contented people can enjoy art (I’m in that group) but they aren’t as driven as those who live and breathe their art as an almost exclusive preoccupation.

Some people insist on being the audience. They’ll call out to a celebrity actor by their TV character’s name—ignoring both reality and the hard work of the actor in an unconscious effort to merge entertainment with reality. To the actor, I imagine, that’s a double-edged compliment—the high regard of the delusional—but with their numbers so high, ratings are guaranteed—in some way, he or she is making their living by feeding that delusion.

And am I any saner, just because I know to turn off my willing suspension of disbelief as the credits roll? We all crave seeing our lives as something other than the reality—we love to connect to feelings we share, to experience vicariously and empathize with the challenges and exertions of heroes and heroines. Reading a good book isn’t much different from living in another time and place as another person. Coming to the end of a great movie is like waking from an incredible dream. Sex, drugs, and liquor have their place—but there is no escapism like the arts.

Hadyn – Sonata in C (Excerpt)

Friday, April 21, 2017                                              12:42 AM

These new videos I’ve posted today include one that is a sight-reading of the 2nd and 3rd movements from a Haydn Sonata in C (I forget the number). First of all, I misspelled Haydn’s name in the video, which is always embarrassing, yet I always do it. Secondly, I don’t keep any kind of rhythm and everyone knows that you have to keep a steady rhythm. Try to think of it as conversational sight-reading. Talented musicians sometimes take exception to my posts—they are the antithesis of good technique—and I get tired, sometimes, of explaining that I can’t play the piano as well as I would wish—but I like to do it, and I like to share it with people who aren’t so picky. I had a run-in just the other day and I wrote it up, but then I decided not to share it with you. Now, however, as a preemptive disclaimer to my poorly-played Haydn, I share it herewith:

 

Friday, April 14, 2017                                              6:28 PM

YouTube Scuffle   (2017Apr14)

“Every Time We Say Goodbye” by Cole Porter (2013Jun06)

https://youtu.be/4BMa7HEE1Uo

This is a video I posted four years ago. Three years go by—nobody watches, nobody cares—then, a year ago:

plica06 (1 year ago) This is so bad. You could have at least practised a bit before uploading.

xperdunn (1 year ago)  plica06: What a perfect opportunity for you to show us all how it’s done with your own video performance. Or are you all talk and no go?

US GameRat (4 months ago) xperdunn: good thing you know how to handel this and im not being sarcastic at all, im being serious. dont worry about what he or she said, because even if you did or didnt practice that is one beautiful song and you deserve the love because i know what music is. i know why this was so good and it still is, so thank you for making this video become true because without this video i woulndt have any other help, and this is the only video i found because i have the same music, and i found it online and so youre basically helping me learn this song. but this video was better that what i thought than what i would find. you impressed me thank you! i dont care if this plica06 guy calls me some random 13 year-old-piano-player-wanna be, i dont give a shit. i love music, and no one can make me stop. i really have an extreme, basically addiction, or really really deep love over music. but yea. thanl you. at least you made this come true than someone judjing you by who you are because i know truly youre an amazing person. really. and im talking to xperdunn 🙂

xperdunn  (4 months ago) US GameRat: thanks for the support, guy! We music-lovers must fight the forces of musical snobbery, encouraging everyone to enjoy music, no matter the trolls. Be well.

US GameRat (4 months ago)  xperdunn yeah! thank you 🙂

pianoplaylist (2 hours ago) plica06 was extremely lacking in tact.  I disagree though that he or she is a mere troll or a just a musical snob.  You, sir, should fight the forces of mediocrity and make a version that is worthy of your years of investment of time and worthy of the genius work of art that this song is.  It’s a free country and you can upload whatever half-baked, sight reading practice session you desire, but you obviously have the talent and the knowledge to refine your rendition and make it more pleasing to the ear.  That would be more encouraging to the learners.  Sorry for being harsh.  I wish you the best in all things.

xperdunn:

So, you can see that plica06 is critical of my poor piano playing—and because I post my videos to encourage other non-talented music-lovers to go ahead and share what they love, I don’t take crap from nobody—that’s part of it, showing people that a troll is nothing but a guy wasting his time at the keyboard.

But pianoplaylist is critical because he thinks I can do better. That’s the trouble with the internet—everyone has an agenda and nobody knows the whole story. I can barely hold a cup of coffee in my left hand—intentional tremors are just one of the symptoms of nerve damage—poor short-term memory is another. My decades-long struggle with HepC and liver cancer and a liver transplant—and all the permanent damage that was done to my body and my mind—make my poor attempts something of a triumph, even though they suck by the usual standards.

And that is the reason I post my videos—anyone else out there who has been told that they weren’t meant to play music—ignore the critics. Anyone out there that is embarrassed to post their music—post it anyway—be brave. If you have even a pinch of ability, you will soon be much better than I am, or will ever be. As long as you love music—play it—share it—don’t stop to listen to anyone else—they should be playing their own music, not stopping your bliss.

I was extremely gratified that my sight-reading was able to help US GameRat to learn to play this beautiful tune by Cole Porter, an American legend. If he is the only person that takes heart from my posts, so be it—good enough. But who knows, maybe there are more young beginners out there….

Improv – First Star

Factuality    (2017Apr18)


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Tuesday, April 18, 2017                                          12:52 PM

There are seven billion people on the planet—and that’s a large number of people. If every one of them used the same amount of resources and energy as the average American, the Earth would ignite like a matchhead, leaving a gray, smoking waste where once we had green, lush bounty. I don’t say this to bedevil my countrymen—I’m just stating a fact.

Neither do I believe we are guilty as people for living as we do. The evil logic of Capitalism creates the over-abundance of pollution and waste, as much as our lifestyles do. In many cases, as in the use of a personal, gas-powered vehicle, the choice of whether to use one is made a matter of ‘can one afford to?’ rather than ‘should one use a car, at all?’ And it isn’t the citizenry that decides how much public transportation is available—it is wealthy capitalists who determine what industries are most profitable—and the health and safety of people does not enter into that formula.

On the one hand we have politics and government, which we all debate with enthusiasm. On the other hand we have the obvious—that each of us wants to live his or her own life without restraint. Simply put, we don’t want the government interfering in our lives—just in everyone else’s.

Government governs best which governs least—except for my next-door neighbor, who needs a lot of governing, right? But government can’t manage the welfare of the citizenry without some control over the citizenry. We try to make that okay by providing the citizens with control of their government, through democracy, but in the end that government must impose rules upon us, whether those rules were democratically arrived at or not.

So, ideally, we want rules that will constrain everyone’s behavior, but which we ourselves find little or no burden. For many people, the criminalization of pot carries no onus, because they don’t smoke pot. For those who do, the criminality of it is an outrage. For those earning minimum wage, income taxes are no great burden—a little bit less than too little is no big deal. For those who must pay millions, taxes seem truly hurtful.

Politics, as we have lately seen, is a far cry from government. Politics used to be an arena for those who felt they knew, better than the main run of folks, how to govern—but politics has devolved into a kind of industry, where motives (if there are any, beyond money or power) are no longer ideals. There are exceptional politicians, still—but their tiny numbers make them less than the main thrust of political discourse—and they are often ridiculed by the ‘stuffed-shirts brigade’ for trying to do something unusual—as if the ‘usual’ had some sanctity to it.

Plus, politicians have surrendered themselves to the moneyed interests as the natural course of things—where, in the past, their reluctance to bow to pressure was their only difference from the businesspeople they now submit to, as if business had the rights instead of people. If they must be so craven, they should just scrap the whole wasteful circus and let the businesspeople run things for themselves. That’s not a bad idea—let business deal with the problems of humanity for a while and maybe they’ll realize that neglecting people is, in the long run, as bad for business as it is for the people.

But let’s be real—people are so stupid they’d burn this country to the ground, if only they can keep making a fast buck. The few sensible people among the crowd talk too softly to be heard over the shouting of the self-important. We haven’t lived like the other animals for a long, long time—yet we still think and act like them. We have the ability to coordinate the entire human race into one, united family—but that is the last thing anyone in power wants to do. They tell us to focus on the ‘economy’, meaning the shell-game that they are currently winning, rather than any bigger picture that involves a higher form of civilization.

I see us all too clearly—and I’ll tell you true: if we destroy ourselves, it will be no great loss. If we can’t do any better than we are right now, the entire Earth and everything that lives on it (or what’s left of it) will be better off without humanity’s thoughtless abuse. And why are we all working so hard—seven billion sweating and striving so that seven hundred or so can enjoy the fabulous wealth and power that humanity is capable of?

All you hard workers out there—start taking long lunches—let the assholes figure out where the toner is for once. And stop watching the news until they rediscover journalism—or at least until they start ignoring Trump. Trump may be president, but still, we are all stupider every time he speaks. And that is only slightly less true for every Republican politician and spokesperson. Let’s face it—they are not another side of things—they are the wrong side of things—else why would they have to hack the system with Wikileaks and Citizen’s United, etc.? They do not express a different side of the truth—they seek to obscure the truth—and that’s not acceptable. Not to me. Only to a media that thrives on confusion and sensation and distraction.

I don’t want to bring down clownish assholes like Trump and the rest of the GOP—I want to incite a rising up of the people who’ve given too much and gotten too little in return. I want people to stand up on their hindlegs and start barking back at these slimy crooks—bring enough light into our society that the flimsy facades of these bastards become as transparent as onion skin. Then we won’t have to topple Trump and his ilk—they’ll crawl back into the holes they came from, their putrid skin burnt by the sunlight of reason, justice, and tolerance.

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Monday, April 17, 2017                                          3:20 PM

Jerks Of a Feather   (2017Apr17)

Like calls to like—Trump is more interested in Kim Jong Un than in anyone in our country. That’s because both leaders are far more concerned with their egos than with the welfare of their citizens. Un inherited poor citizens and Trump grabbed up the rich citizens—and even the world’s largest ocean won’t keep them from standing toe-to-toe, puffing out their chests though the rest of the world holds its breath against the possibility of nuclear winter.

Trump’s got it easier—all he has to distract us from is his treasonous campaign, his ignorance, his incompetence, his taxes, and his nepotism. Un has to actually distract his people from their starvation in a country with no electricity or telephones—a much heavier lift. But give Trump his full four years and who knows? The two countries may end up looking much the same.

Retail stores are hurting from the rise of Amazon, etc., and the cheapness and convenience of the Post Office, UPS, and FedEx. The USPS may not be carrying any first-class letters anymore, with the internet and email rendering them obsolete, but the package biz is booming—our local postal worker complains about the packages that clog up his office when we don’t pick up our mail every day. And with their price-point (and certain grandfathered-in legal restrictions) the post office maintains a strong advantage over third-party delivery services, like UPS.

The fact that many entry-level jobs at retail stores are disappearing, as site-specific shopping disappears, would be no great loss, as careers—but many of those jobs were taken by young people—who were already hard-pressed to find employment, or work experience of any kind. Technology always subtracts jobs from the economy—tech-positive types will assure us that they create new jobs while they destroy the old ones, but let’s take this retail business as a case study.

Floorwalkers and clerks were once needed for every shop in the mall—will there be an equal demand for UPS and FedEx drivers? And will that experience prepare young employees for future jobs as well as working in a retail store? I don’t think so. I think it’s time Silicon Valley started designing apps that use people instead of code—create jobs, not programs. Otherwise we’re headed for a fully-automated society with zero employment.

That would be doable, in a somewhat socialist society—but in pure capitalism, unemployment means poverty, period. So we can either start progressing backwards—or embrace socialism. Yes, it’s ironic that capitalism created the situation, our present race towards human joblessness—and for profit, no less. But that doesn’t change the facts: that a capitalist society requires consumers, and consumers can’t pay without jobs. It’s also ironic that business owners are even more vulnerable than workers, in that any business, nowadays, can disappear overnight—and losing a business is a much greater fall than merely losing a job.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017                                            3:00 PM

Happy Easter   (2017Apr16)

Pick your preference—the solemnity of a holy day, or an Easter egg hunt and a fight over the Cadbury egg. I prefer combining the two and watching Turner Classics’ day-long re-airing of the Hollywood treatments of the Christ—kinda like Eddy Haskell reading the New Testament to June Cleaver.

As a boy, in Catholic Church every Sunday, I would look at the bas-reliefs on the walls of the church—the Stations of the Cross were depicted in small, white-marble tableaux and spaced along the walls on both sides. I was fascinated by the way everyone had a different way of sticking their tongue out to receive the sacrament—it was cognitive dissonance to walk up to the priest and stick out your tongue, but you had to do it.

I never liked Easter egg hunts—they were competitive, but you weren’t supposed to be greedy—very strange, conflicting messages. You were supposed to find as many as you could, but you shouldn’t find them all, because then the littler kids would be left out. Stupid game. We did it for our kids, but we put their eggs on opposite sides of the yard so they each had a search area and could take their time.

I don’t like Easter—it’s like Christmas without the fun and presents. And way too many hard-boiled eggs were involved—which meant deviled eggs, egg salad sandwiches and just plain hard-boiled eggs, with salt, for a snack—for days afterward—yuck. And I hate mint jelly, which only appeared at Easter dinner.

I think Americans like Jesus because he dissociated faith from the state, just like our founders dissociated the state from the monarchy. And it’s a grand story—death and resurrection, freedom from the pains of this world—I’d buy it—who wouldn’t. But faith is like quitting smoking—it sounds a lot better than it is—especially when you’re down in the dumps.

So happy Easter, everyone—and enjoy the movies.

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Piano Tuner   (2017Apr12)


20170413XD-SenOnTheScramble_01Wednesday, April 12, 2017                                              3:17 PM

Chris Farrell has tuned the piano and spring has officially arrived—the sour flatness of a far-too-long winter is broken into shards of light by the bright eagerness of our perfectly-attuned piano. If you don’t see much of Chris lately, it’s because the Danbury WestConn needs him to tune all their pianos, all hundred-something of them, all year ‘round. Also, he’s working up a new website and writing the occasional song for the UN—yeah, that UN. His daughter is also busy—involved in two recent films “The Fits” and “Salero” (I forget if she directed, produced or both) and you can see them on Netflix if you’re looking for the good stuff.

It’s easy to stay humble when my piano tuner plays my piano far better than I ever could—come to think of it, that was also true of old Steve Anderson, who used to tune our old keyboards—I’m just not very good. But I sure sound better on a tuned piano—they practically play themselves.

Improv – Rainy Spring

 

Well, the world is a troublesome place—and it seems we add to its power and convenience at our peril—in this present time, with anonymized global comms, shoddy fissile-material security, jet bombers, and alt-news websites recruiting for terror, bad actors have never had it so good.

Every great thing our technology can do is diluted, polluted by the entrenched interests, especially in fuel-energy. Every great thing our Internet can do is smeared by the insecurity of hacking and phishing—the more we welcome it into our lives, the greater the risks. Every great thing our country meant to do for the world has been consumed by our military-industry complex abroad and the NRA at home. The eternal health crisis of modern drug use has been opaqued and diverted by our blind insistence on ‘criminalizing’ drugs—meanwhile Big Pharma bankrupts families (and promotes drug abuse) selling ‘legal’ drugs by prescription.

 

 

Improv – Thoughtful

None of the misbehavior is new—but the means, the opportunities, and the exploding variety of white-collar crimes, child armies, and gang activities all combines to demonstrate the kind of explosive change the good guys could be enjoying, if we weren’t being snookered into complacency by vested interests and politicians who see their very existence threatened by the possibilities of digital voting and online government transparency—these things will happen over the cold, dead bodies of the establishment’s entitled. And all the while politicians’ll puff up their chests and orate about democracy—and afterwards, a lobbyist will hand them a check for their reelection campaign.

The English had their mad King George—but unlike us, with Trump, they didn’t suffer the shame of having elected him. Trump is the triumph of ignorance and the death of representative government. And the Republicans who use his populist carnival-barking to advance their partisanship are truly “dogs who have caught a car”—up until now, we had the sense to expect them not to govern—but we foolishly made them our governing body, and they don’t know how—they’d lost for so long, they forgot that ‘winning’ wasn’t the actual job.

Thursday, April 13, 2017                                        2:04 PM

Dumber than Dirt   (2017Apr13)

Trust in Trump—to perfectly simulate what a child would do, as president. He just dropped ‘the biggest non-nuke bomb in our arsenal’ on a suspected ISIS site in Afghanistan. Remember Afghanistan? That’s the country we armed in the eighties, so that they could repel the Soviet invaders—and when they did, we lost their phone-number—leaving the Afghanis with a ruin for a country and no post-war aid or support—like we have traditionally given, even to our enemies.

Twenty years later, in 2003, as we prepared to invade, we even joked that we couldn’t bomb Afghanistan ‘back to the stone age’ because they were already there—and there was truth to that. Fifteen years further along, Trump figures that one big bomb oughta do it—what do you think?

I think he’s dumber than the dirt he kicked up. The arms-makers must be drooling at this guy—it cost millions to send that single flight of Tomahawks to Syria—and I bet it wasn’t cheap to drop the world’s biggest bomb, either. At least he saved us the expense of getting congressional approval.

Poor Afghanistan—we love to fight there, but god forbid we help them keep their peace. That’s the trouble with all these trouble-spots—when the firing stops, everyone turns their backs. Why don’t we try fighting to help some of these people—is that too far beneath us? But then, Americans aren’t big on fixing stuff, even in their own country—I think we’re missing an opportunity here—infrastructure is universal—if we started fixing our own, we could globalize—there are plenty of places in the world that need rebuilding. Of course, they’d have to stop shooting first—and so would we.

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Bear’s Birthday   (2017Apr10)


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Monday, April 10, 2017                                          9:53 AM

It’s my lovely Bear’s birthday today—may she live forever! O, how the celebration will ring out across the universe. O, how joyous are the people of Earth to have the mighty Bear in all her glory, marking another year with all of us.

The Bear celebrates her day with special yoga sessions and perhaps a jar of lingonberry preserves. We don’t know—the mysterious Bear moves about the community with speed and stealth—she is not presently here.

Improv – Jones Beach

 

Bear’s home! And it’s time for bagels with lox and cream cheese—yay! I got Bear a selection of Swedish jams and soda-bread for her birthday—from Hemslojd, you know. I think she liked the printed tin more than the food. Well, enough of that—Bear doesn’t like to be talked about online.

Improv – Pop Patchouli

 

Monday, April 10, 2017                                          7:34 PM

Pete came by today—we got just one improv out of it—I haven’t been playing well lately. It’s very frustrating. But Pete is great and we had fun, so one improv is all we get. Considering how much trouble the piano has been giving me lately, I’m grateful for the one.

 

Improv – Five Dollars

 

Improv – Appalachian Trail

 

Cover: “Girls On the Beach” & Improv (Coda)

 

Improv – Breezy Meadow

 

Improv – Water Sprite

 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017                                          6:59 PM

I’m almost done with new videos—including Pete and I from yesterday. I watched “Hidden Figures” today—what a great movie—I’m going to get the book—movies about history always leave out a lot from the book. It’s one of the few times you can still enjoy reading it after watching the movie—because it still has surprises in it.

 

Improv – Crocuses