POEM:  Ode to Navigation (2017Aug26)


20170826XD-POEM_Ode2Navigation_01

Saturday, August 26, 2017                                                7:58 PM

Ode to Navigation

 

Gusts of emotions push me askew and awry

No star or sun do guide me across the sky

The yaw and roll of time and heart

The mystery of end and start

Awash on a quantized sea, afoam with tessellations

Sighting a castled isle, athwart with crennelations

Spraying up flumes of probability

Dashing upon the rocks of mortality

Knowing that my past had got the best of me

Leaving the rest of me

Sailing into the dusk of danger and death

Parsing the delta twixt fact and faith

Pressing the limits of love unboundeth

Hiking the summit of truth and grace.

Birthday Video   (2017July30)


Sunday, July 30, 2017                                              3:17 PM

Birthday Video   (2017July30)

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The summer rushes on—July reaches an end and the lonely, hot month of August is all that stands between us and the coming of another tilt of the global axis, anti-sunward. My daughter’s daughter, my granddaughter Seneca, had her first birthday—and, of course, her first birthday party (with balloons and cake and presents). Ah, youth—just to look at her makes me feel younger. I, for one, can’t wait for this August to end—because the three of them will be visiting afterwards—and that’s worth another winter.

Claire is painting and printing and charcoaling and pen-and-inking and oil pastel monoprinting and doing pencil portraiture and life studies and plein-air landscapes—it’s been summer art camp for the Bear this year. She’s fantastic and I’m hoping she’ll let me make a video out of a retrospective of her sketches sometime—but not everyone is comfortable splashing themselves all over the internet like I do, so we’ll have to see about that plan….

Spencer has been doing yardwork and home repair—on the one hand, I’m jealous because that used to be my favorite part of being a homeowner—but on the other hand, it’s great to have a real strong man around to do the stuff that needs to get done. I don’t know what the problem is with ‘failure to launch’—we couldn’t get along without Spencer’s help—I’m grateful that he hasn’t felt the need to move far away.

For now I’m having a great old time using baby videos to add a spoonful of sugar to my piano-playing videos. I figure it doesn’t really matter about the playing—how many people can ‘go to the videotape’ to review the first year of their lives? It’s not like it isn’t a happy story. And I’m not quite done yet. I’m listening to Borodin’s 2nd Symphony—it’s nice and long, and good music, which makes it perfect for working at the keyboard.

I’m working on the new batch of videos—this time ‘round, I’ve recorded a bunch of songs from my Dover Music Publications’ “The Ancient Music of Ireland – Arranged for Piano by Edward Bunting”. I include “Molly My Treasure”, “Plangsty Hugh O’Donnell”, “The Jolly Ploughman”, “Slieve Gallen”, and “Give Me Your Hand” (also known as “Tabhair Dom Do Lámh”, the track title used on the Chieftains’ “Chieftains 5” album). I can’t tell you how delighted I was to realize I was playing one of their favorite songs of mine. I practiced and practiced, but I could never approach the speed and vivacity of their recording.

The improvs—well, what can I say. They’re there—that I have the strength to sit on the bench at all is a minor victory, so there you go. It seems that the more tired my playing gets, the more adorable the baby becomes—so, she’s pulling most of the weight on these videos—thank you, Seneca!

Well—back to work—I can’t post this thing without the videos.

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In Response   (2017Jul29)


Friday, July 28, 2017                                                8:06 PM

In Response   (2017Jul29)

A friend told me I play piano better now than I did eight years ago—which is gratifying (even if talking ‘two levels of bad’, it’s good to be on the right side of it). It’s funny—I’m in worse shape, but I’ve become better adapted to it.

I lost some core muscles in the ’04 transplant op. Even five years later, in 2009, I was still struggling to do a single sit-up—and failing. Now, I’m better adjusted—I can do sit-ups now—but it’s dangerous to ask so much work from so few muscles, so if I overdo, I get spasms. I remember an early gym class, sixth grade, or junior high, maybe—where I did more sit-ups than anyone else. Time sure flies.

What is a laser, you ask? The term “laser” originated as an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. Invented in 1960, a laser sends a beam of light in a straight line (this is called coherent light)—unlike, say, lightbulbs, which send out light in all directions. This creates a very precise and powerful cutting tool, often replacing the scalpel in modern surgery. But lasers can be used for many other things besides burning—laser-calibrated ‘tape-measures’ allow contractors to measure a space’s dimensions without walking the length of the space—the list of uses is endless.

So—bacteria—lousy segue, I know—but today I’m thinking about bacteria—so, I did a quick Google-image search:

how_humans_use_bacteria_oversize20161121-1545-cvfkgm

As you can see from the chart, bacteria are useful because they operate on a molecular level—they can be tricked into modifying gene-sequences or fermenting India Pale Ale (IPA). Here are just three of the other fascinating things I found that deal with modern advances in bacteria-based technology:

 

Researchers generate clean energy using bacteria-powered solar panel

(Photosynthetic extracellular electron transfer processes using cyanobacteria—miniscule output compared to traditional solar panels, but still a step towards bio-solar energy cells.)

https://phys.org/news/2016-04-energy-bacteria-powered-solar-panel.html

 

Liquid-crystal and bacterial living materials self-organize and move in their own way

(Clothes that will breathe—for both of you.)

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170511165351.htm

 

From Antarctica: It’s Alive!

(Planet as Petri Dish.)

https://ultraphyte.com/2015/02/07/from-antarctica-its-alive/

 

So, my friend (and anyone else interested)–there’s a brief reply to your kind email. I hope I’ve answered your questions. Write again soon.

 

 

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)


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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