I just watched a report on the opioid crisis—our country is being decimated by it. In a way, the opioid crisis is the natural next step, after sixteen years of fear-mongering and internecine bickering in our politics. Politicians rang that “post-9/11 threat level” like a cowbell, keeping the entire country on tenterhooks for years, starting reflex-wars that still haven’t ended. People are fleeing the pain and negativity in many ways—opioids being just one, our present clown-presidency being another, desperate example of wishful thinking.
This country has finally run low on the only thing it always had too much of: Morale. Our chants of “USA! USA!” have a hollow ring to them, as if we were clapping for Tinkerbell’s life. We need another Franklin D., to re-teach us that we have nothing to fear except being afraid. And we certainly need some retro (i.e. fit for the office) president to come in and point this country towards the future again. These wealthy, corrupt elites are like fifth columnist agitators, who start a riot—just to provide cover for their looting and violence.
Our government is not some special reality show being broadcast on special channels—it is, at root, a fairly straightforward affair, that people of good will conducted poorly—but still, it was better than these soulless people now making a rat’s nest of neglect and privilege out of offices they’re not fit to fill. It is unfortunate that journalism has spawned two idiot half-brothers, Click-bait and the 24-hour News-cycle.
These new industries thrive on our disruption, confusing the needful work of a free press with entertaining gossip and hypotheticals—exacerbating problems under the guise of ‘providing information’, mixing the opinion-based editorializing and spin with the hard news. The ‘information’ thus provided uses the term so loosely that it impacts peoples’ faith in the real journalists—who are then vulnerable to accusations of ‘fake news’ from the dick-head-in-chief.
Someone like Trump finds a friend in these outlets—but they provide no assistance to any serious public servant who isn’t prepared to vamp for the ratings. The neo-realisti-cons have even carved out a demographic convinced that their propaganda is an alternative to the reporting in the NY Times or the Washington Post. And while journalists clearly are not famous for their precision, the journalism practiced at those papers is far more rigorous and objective than the Foxified alt-reality.
As always, there’s a dead giveaway, if you know where to look—I’ll give you a hint: it’s in the retractions. A paper like the Times will print a retraction at the drop of a hat—if an error of fact is pointed out to them, they will correct their error without a second thought.
A salient feature of the alt-right ranters, including Fox News, is their instinct to debate a refutation—they grasp their ‘facts’ to themselves much more tightly than an objective journalist. In their very rare instances of being forced into a retraction—it’s always partial, conditional, mealy-mouthed, unapologetic, and dismissive of the whole affair once it goes counter to their wishes. That’s a far cry from even an attempt at objectivity—and a sign of their ignorance, that they haven’t the good grace to be ashamed of such transparent mendacity.
It’s a tricky thing to call them out on—their bad impression of real journalists is an insult to ideal of journalism, and of being a journalist—but it passes muster for the distracted, upset viewers it’s targeted towards, so it works for them—when it really should have made them a disgraced laughingstock.
You know why Bernie is a Socialist? Do you know why we need socialism in America today? It’s because Capitalism has been gamed to such an extent that only some aggressive spread-the-wealth programs have any chance of stopping our slippery slide into a Cash Dictatorship. If we can’t find a way to deke all these lobbyists and campaign-contributors, we’ll never rescue our democracy from the banks and the fat-cats.
Spencer gave me a music book for Xmas—piano arrangements of works by Joe Hisaishi, a famous composer of anime films by Studio Ghibli and video game music, he’s also issued some albums. I’m loving getting to know this stuff—the melodies are fantastic, but bear with me—it’s not every day I get new sight-reading material and it’s still unfamiliar ground. I plan to post covers of every piece in the book, eventually.
I’m still digging myself out from under the profusion of photos received and recordings made during the holidays and the rest of this month. Today’s posted videos include one from a month ago, and three from a week ago—but they also include over one hundred photos that I’ve just gotten to processing. So, nothing in today’s posts is recent except the effort.
You’ll excuse some of the holiday photos—there’s still mostly nothing but baby pictures, so you can live with a few ornaments. That baby gets cuter every time I look. I barely listen to myself play the piano on these videos anymore—I just gaze at my adorable granddaughter and remember her recent visit.
It’s been a long week—but I used the time to get my backlog cleared, so it wasn’t a total loss. I needed to have a lousy day or two, just to convince myself that photo-shopping picture after picture was a pleasant enough way to pass the time, compared to the rest of what was going on around me—so, there’s no cloud but has a silver lining, once more.
I long to return to a time when I play for the camera, process the video or videos, and post them to YouTube—all in the same day. This playing catch-up is for the birds—and I’ve got a crick in my neck from repetitive keystrokes during the hours of photo-shopping. I’ve gotten to where I prefer receiving videos of the baby, rather than a slew of photographs—much less processing involved for five minutes’ worth of background graphics.
Enough shop-talk. Sometimes, I swear, I type just to hear myself think. This blog is supposed to at least try to be interesting.
The Buds-Up Time-Space Orchestra was delayed last week by a cold my partner caught—but Pete’s all better now, and here’s another fine mess he’s gotten me into. Seriously, though, I think some of it came out pretty good.
We almost didn’t get to the music, what with discussing the craziness in today’s politics—things are getting weirder, and not in a comfortable way. Eventually, however, we were able to move along to the Gershwin brothers—the song “Clappa Yo Hands” is one of their unfortunate efforts to force a patois onto the lyric—but it’s a nice song.
Then we tried Yellow Submarine and Yester-Me Yester-You Yesterday, both of which I suspect we’ve done before—but we mostly do the covers to warm up for the jamming (at least, I think we do) so no harm done. It’s hard for me to follow a professional drummer when I’m goofing around—add sight-reading and the results are suspect at best. But it’s fun to try—maybe don’t call the covers ‘music videos’, call them videos of us having fun—that’s the idea.
I’m pretty happy with the two improvs—I tried to play along with the drumming and mostly managed it—and the music isn’t awful. Five stars, as far as I’m concerned. Well, it’s been quite a day, what with the playing and the processing and the posting to YouTube—so, th-th-that’s all, folks!
It’s tomorrow now, but back when it was still today, Jessy sent me new photos of the Princess enjoying her first meal of ‘solid food’ (baby food, really—she’ll need to wait for teeth for anything solider). But she appears entranced by the process—and I’ve always suspected that babies look upon their high-chairs as thrones—so all is as it should be. I never get tired of that adorable mug.
But those new pictures only cover the first four minutes of today’s very long video—18 minutes of Christmas carols—thirteen of them in all. I have it in my mind, in these days before Christmas, to simply record the entire book of carols, first song to last song—and then move on to the next carol book—just to see if I can record the entirety of the Christmas piano experience, here in our living room, this year.
Because of that, you will notice that all these songs start with ‘A’, except the Bell Carol (one of my favorites). The next videos will move further along the alphabet, as you might expect.
I would have liked to sing as I played, especially with carols—I’ve known the words to most of them since early childhood. But, it’s harder for me to get a clean recording if I’m trying to play the notes and sing—so, maybe next year I’ll go for the vocals on all of them, too. I’d like to get a microphone set up before doing that—the other reason for not singing is that my voice doesn’t carry, over the piano, without some help. So much to do, so little time.
Anyhow, all these carols have certainly got me leaning towards the holiday spirit—and just in time to go over the river and through the woods to Nana’s house on Thursday (supposed to be quite a crowd this year—16 people or so). I love the season—until the pressure starts to build. If I could spend the whole time playing piano carols and making cookies, I’d be okay—but it’s never quite that simple, is it? Still, fun will be had—or my name isn’t Bozo de Clowne.
The peace and quiet of the suburbs is a myth. In the spring you have chain-saws and wood-chippers, in the summer it’s weed-whackers and mowers all day long, in winter it’s either snow-blowers, snowmobiles, or the collective grumble of an entire neighborhood full of individual emergency generators keeping their furnaces working during a power outage. That’s all discounting the delivery trucks, garbage trucks, septic trucks, oil trucks, moving vans, road-crew vehicles that clank in a variety of rhythms, and the occasional hot-headed hot-rodder with a muffler problem. The ‘summer special’ is the ice-cream truck that plays a Stephen-King-rendition of a nursery rhyme for hours on end—but never passes in front of your own house.
However, in the fall we get the king of noise-makers—the mighty leaf-blower. The guys that operate these things wear muffler-headphones like they use at an airport—but they fail to hand them out to the rest of the neighborhood. I miss the good old days—when the only loud noises were people playing their stereo too loud—or some drunk beating up his wife with the actual Hollywood soundtrack effects. There really should be laws regulating the manufacture of these unmusical noise-makers. I know that it makes people feel like they’re really working when it’s loud—but a car makes less noise, driving by, than these hand-held lawn-tools do—there’s something wrong with that, and very oppressive.
You may hear the whining of this thing during my videos—if I waited for them to stop, I’d never get anywhere. I played a few song-covers from my Looney-Tunes Songbook today—Warner Bros. published an oldies-songbook comprised exclusively of pieces used in the classic cartoons—it’s great fun. Some of the lyrics are very un-PC, but I just play the piano on those tunes, usually. I also attempted new improvs—it was a struggle, but there might be something there.
I’ve got the latest snaps of princess poopypants—they’re included in the videos. She’s such a charmer. I’m just crazy to finally meet her! If I wasn’t such a wreck I would walk to California, just to see that little baby. But at least I get the movies and the pictures—and they’re coming for the holidays (I hope—young peoples’ lives are so hectic).
Anyhow, here it is one o’clock in the morning and I’m still finishing up these videos—I just want to talk. And this imaginary piece of typing paper is my friend. I type and words come out on the screen—it’s just as if I were communicating with someone. Well, at least it’s quiet now. All the leaf-blowing men are snug in their beds, or drinking at a bar. I wonder how the Cubs did tonight?
O, no! Now, their only chance is a big upset. Go Cubs. (I’m a Mets fan, but a century is long enough to wait.)
Pete’s late—looks like no jam today. And I just got my microphone working! Oh, well. Oh, wait—maybe he comes at one, instead of noon? I can’t remember—maybe he does. Damn this swiss-cheese brain of mine.
Well, Jessy is expecting—which is great. Spencer is working on historical fiction for gamers (I’m not really sure—something like that) and he asked me for some medieval music examples recently, for research—he’s started up gardening and mowing, now that spring has sprung—which is also great. And Claire—well, as usual, Claire is unbelievable—life-drawing classes almost every day, a watercolor painting-tutorial day at the Botanical Gardens recently, and a drawing class in Katonah once a week. (She’s really becoming a phenomenally able graphic-artist). And that’s all beside the daily (at least) trips to the gym—and her ongoing work on her resume for her dream-job. Plus, she takes care of me, Spencer, and the house (with her other hand—ha ha).
So, let’s see—Claire was a prize pianist and music student in her youth, raised two toddlers as a young adult, got her Bachelor’s in computers and worked for an online-encyclopedia company during her programmer phase, then took care of her dying husband so well that the bastard never died, then went for her Master’s in occupational therapy, got in shape with pilates, yoga, and the gym, started drawing lessons—and is about to get a new job in her new OT career, at the same time as becoming a new grandmother. Lazy—that’s Claire—she’ll be sixty in a couple of years—and what will she have to show for it? Some people.
I used to have a life—boy, those were the days—but that was so long ago I can hardly remember what it was like. Okay, it’s one-twenty now—even if Pete was coming at one, he’s late now—looks like no jam today. Guess it’s time to go watch TV. Damn. Well, there were new movies on the menu yesterday—I hope one of them is worth watching.
Son of a bitch—Pete’s here!
Wednesday, May 25, 2016 6:20 PM
Okay, Pete came—we had a great session—then he had to go home—and I had a cheeseburger—now I’m just editing the video—and writing a blog about the political news of today.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016 8:41 PM
Okay, the best thing in the new movie listings is Zoolander II—hardly inspiring, although I’ll probably watch it. Ben Stiller really makes me laugh—when he isn’t making me puke—I think his masterpiece, “There’s Something About Mary”, redefined the boundaries of good taste in a comedy film—and it’s something of a genre these days. I can take that stuff, up to a point, but my gross-out limit is a very low bar.
I’ve gotten my rough cuts of the jam session edited—three improvs and a medley of eight Burton Lane tunes. The first improv sounded to Pete like calypso music, but I thought it sounded more like I was having a fit, so I call it ‘Calypsis’.
The other two improvs came out real nice—me in my best voice, I felt. You decide. One, “Either Way”, is three minutes, the other, “Twilight of the Gourds”, is a minute and a half—but still, all told we got about 32 minutes of video for the day—not too shabby.
Let’s talk about our Burton Lane songbook-covers video—first and foremost, none of this is Pete’s fault—he just puts up with my eccentricities. And, yes, this is some pretty sloppy piano-playing. But there are some moments of interest—and we did have fun joking around. If it were just me, I’d probably have second thoughts about posting this—but with Pete there, it’s still pretty entertaining, most of it. So, listen, don’t listen—either way, you’re right.
Thursday, May 26, 2016 11:38 AM
Last night I had my choice—sleepless, or sleep with nightmares. I finally got a few hours of shut-eye, but now that I’m up, my back is killing me. Which all goes to show that I had more excitement and fun yesterday than this old carcass is prepared to deal with. That’s a bad thing, kinda—but it’s also a pretty good thing, if you think about it. It’s not like I don’t get occasional nightmares and backaches—without having any excuse at all—and a good day is a good day, regardless of tomorrow.
Sherryl Marshall had her annual recital next door last night—I traditionally kick things off, since I’m shameless enough to do it—and it helps put the others at ease to see me mess things up (which I do) and not have the world come to an end. Everybody gets up and sings a song or three—I did “Masquerade”, “Maybe”, and “Marching Along Together”, all from the 1930s, and all (as Claire pointed out) from the ‘M’ section of my songbook. I’ve played my parents’ old songbook for decades, but still I had to rehearse these three for a few days beforehand, just to be comfortable performing them in front of other people (something I only do this one time each year, excepting Xmas-caroling sing-alongs).
Afterwards, when I got home, I was like an old car that keeps backfiring for a while after you turn off the ignition—spazzing and making involuntary exclamations—like the police were coming for me or something. I’m really not cut out for public performance. But then there is also a feeling of having made it through an ordeal, which is very satisfying. I spent most of today just basking in the fact that it was over with, and that I hadn’t screwed it up too badly.
I don’t get out of the house much. It’s wonderful of Sherryl to include me in these annual recitals—I’m not even one of her students. She says it makes the other students comfortable to see a neighbor there, that it makes it more casual—but I think she’s just being very kind to her shut-in, next-door neighbor. And these annual concerts help to remind me why I don’t try to perform more often on my own—it’s terrifying. I only do it that once each year—I don’t know how Sherryl has the courage to do it for a living. But then, she’s a real musician—a professional—and I imagine that gives a person more confidence when they stand up in front of a crowd.
I wish I could offer you some video from the concert, but I left my camera at home—I didn’t expect my singing to be worth recording. This re-enactment video will show you why—I guess I do better under pressure. Or maybe it was the setting—I don’t know.
Also, I want to wish all you mothers out there a very happy mother’s day!
Pete and I went for two today—and came up with an extended session which I am pleased to share with you here—three improvs, six cover songs, and a piece by Domenico Scarlatti, no less—it was quite the take and I am now very tired—we don’t usually get so ambitious on these monthly get-togethers.
Now you can say that the covers—and certainly the Scarlatti—are terribly done and I can’t really argue with you. I post these more for the fun we had than for any great contribution to YouTube. But I stand by the improvs—they’re not so bad—and I don’t care what you think. Nothing inspires me more than to have a drummer play along with me—and Pete’s the greatest.
We start, as always, with an improv—today’s first improv was a warm-up, kinda Spanish-ey (I like to steal rhythms from Rodrigo) but not quite the greatest thing ever. That’s the trouble with improvisation—you can’t just ‘start’, you have to work your way into it—and I fear I lose listeners sometimes just because you have to give us a minute before we get anything going. Listeners don’t usually give that kind of slack to a YouTube video—but there’s no way around it, for me.
Here’s the chronology of today’s two part set:
Improv – When The Deep Purple Kush
Domenico Scarlatti‘s Sonata – Longo 23
Improv – Bluesome
Cover: “Crystal Blue Persuasion”
Cover: “All My Loving”
Cover: “Crimson and Clover”
Improv – Stone Soup
Two (2) 1960 Covers: “Gee Whiz” & “Silence Is Golden”
Cover: “Sugar Sugar”
As you can see, the second round was shorter and less ambitious—but I’m still impressed that we had a second round at all. Only at the beginning of our sessions would I try something crazy like the Scarlatti—but I got that out of the way (and out of my system)—and trust me, you really haven’t played Scarlatti until you’ve had tympani backing you up—even if it is only bongo drums. There are many fine pianists (and harpsichordists) on YouTube, so you can hear the piece played properly (I gave you the Longo number) if you wish to do a search.
The second improv came out that way because Pete said, after the Scarlatti, “Hey, let’s try something more bluesey.” So I improvised using mostly seventh chords, which is my way of sounding bluesey. I’d play like Art Tatum if I could—but again, just search on “Art Tatum” if you want to hear some real blues piano.
I had a great time today—we played some of my favorite piano arrangements of cover songs from the sixties—and there was a third improv that we tried to be spacey with—like an acid trip on the piano—but I don’t know, I was pretty tired out by then. We had a great, sunny day to play in—so for today we bill ourselves as the Buds-Up Sunshine Band (with apologies to K.C., et. al.)
We talked a bit about a podcast—but as we discussed it, I realized that I always pick activities that can’t be rushed or scheduled. If I had to do an improv once a week on schedule—well, I couldn’t do it. It’s just like the poetry or the drawing—I can only do what I’m inspired to do; I can’t just decide it’s time to play an improv. Besides, I have my good days and bad days—getting together with Pete once a month is about as busy as I can manage—and even then, some months are better than others. Fortunately, today was kickass.
Happy Vernal Equinox (1st day of Spring) everyone! It’s colder today than it was on Xmas, so of course they’ve forecast a little snow for the area.
I’ve been asked about copyright issues. First, let me disclaim any education, pre-law or otherwise—I don’t really know anything—I can only give what is my present understanding of how these things go. Firstly, aside from my downloadable e-CD, “Opus Eleven by XperDunn”, I don’t have anything profit-based online—my YouTube videos are downloadable and are all part of their Community-Usage pool of material, my blog is not subscription-based, and I have nothing for sale on E-Bay—I’m a non-profit user.
As I understand it, that doesn’t exempt me from copyright law, it just makes me a low-value target for the litigious—unlike successful artists, who it seems must spend a great deal of time and money fending off pretenders to their work, valid or spurious. Were anything of mine to go viral, or to show any revenue-earning potential, then I would have rich people’s problems—but don’t hold your breath.
As far as what you can post to YouTube, there aren’t any hard and fast rules—you can even post a favorite album of yours, if you go to the trouble of making a video out of it. But if you do that, and the band you posted doesn’t like it, YouTube’ll take it down. What I do is slightly different. I post covers of music—meaning I perform a piece of piano music on video and post that.
A lot of my stuff is classical or folk—and that stuff is in the Public Domain—which means it’s at least a hundred years old and no one can ‘own’ it. But I do a fair number of jazz and pop covers from songbooks—and in these cases both the original music belongs to someone else—and the piano arrangement rights belong to the publisher of whatever book I’m sight-reading. Here’s the weird part—I own the video of my own performance.
In the case of covers, YouTube will send you an email asking you to agree that the song doesn’t belong to you—but they leave the video posted online. I always include a ‘cover’ tag with any such post of mine, just so nobody can claim I was trying to pull something. When I’m not feeling lazy, I try to include the credits and copyright info for each cover-song in my description text as well. It may subsequently have a suggestion-link that uses your video to sell the original artists’ e-tracks—but even if they don’t use it as advertising, the cover post itself is free publicity. Unpopular YouTube channels like mine don’t get a lot of views—and if I post a really bad cover, even my channel subscribers don’t watch it—so it isn’t as if it hurts the composer—unless he or she listens to it.
Perhaps I hadn’t made it clear in my previous posts about copyright claim disputes—in my case, it’s all about the principle of the thing. My sole downloadable CD for sale hasn’t sold even once in two years, that I know of—and that’s pretty much what I expected. Only when an artist generates revenue does the issue of copyright become a serious legal matter—after all, you’ve got to pay for the lawyers. If you are a piano player, like me (or play any instrument, or if you sing) then you should feel free to post whatever you record—nobody is going to sue you. No one’s going to pay you either, but no one’ll sue you.
That was a poem (if you can call it that) I wrote yesterday—don’t ask me to explain it—I think the title does that, if anything can.
Had some strange recordings today—well, it’s yesterday now—and the day before was pretty awesome also. That day I played a slow but nearly accurate ‘Arabesque’ by Debussy—and then, after listening to Sibelius’s Second Symphony in e minor, I tried to pick out the finale theme on the piano—and that one I call ‘Playing with Sibelius’—I really shouldn’t use his name, since I made quite a mess of his music (which is really beautiful—check out the YouTube of Leonard Bernstein conducting it) but I couldn’t pretend that his theme, even as jacked-up as I played it, was my own creation.
Then today, or yesterday rather, our good neighbor, Harlan, came over to repair our plumbing—you can hear some handiwork clunking about and such—while I was making a video of the snow falling outside our window—and I played some song covers that came out good enough to post. The camera was pointed towards Harlan’s house (even though you can’t see it in the video) and you can hear Harlan, at the end of the recording, asking why we’re filming his house (ha ha).
The two improvs I played after everyone else left, so they have no interesting stories to them—but I kinda like the way they turned out anyhow. February has been a big recording month for me—this makes twenty-six recordings for February and it’s not even over yet…. But the biggest thrill for today is—the toilet flushes again! Yayyy. (You never appreciate stuff until it goes away, do you?)
Well, don’t expect much, because it’s been a rough few days and it is Sunday after all. I’ve been thinking about Bernie Sanders and his surge in the early states’s polls—and while that doesn’t mean a change in the overall Democratic nomination process—it does feed into my worry that I’ve been so set on Hillary Clinton for so long that I might be overlooking something in her number one rival for the Democratic nomination. However, now that I’ve taken some time to think on it—this is why I’m ‘still for Hil’:
A couple of things—first, Sanders supporters might not be taking into account that Bernie’s message, while attractive to the Democrats themselves, may fall on deaf ears in the nationwide election. Secondly, while I applaud all of Bernie’s most thrilling reforms, I question whether any person could deliver on any big, sudden financial reform—there’s a lot of headwind in that process—and while Hillary may be promising to do less, she has more chance of getting it done.
Hillary Clinton, because of Bernie’s rhetoric, is becoming the ‘bird in the hand’ candidate. You can take what she offers and be fairly certain she’ll win the election (and, as importantly, work better with a probable GOP-majority congress) or you can reach for what Bernie is offering, even though the realpolitik of his succeeding in both the election, and in working with a GOP-led congress, are less than promising.
I kind of think of Bernie Sanders as an Elizabeth Warren without the wisdom to see that such reforms will require a longer game—and greater influence—than a presidential term or two. In fact, Liz Warren, continuing her struggle in the Senate, has more chance of getting these kinds of reforms passed than a President Sanders ever would.
The chaos of the Republican campaign has caused the Democratic race to be shrunk down into a cartoon of itself, with little room in the meager coverage—between Trump sound-bites—to get the subtle nuances of why Hillary Clinton is still far and away our best bet, in spite of Bernie’s pyrotechnics in live performance (who’d a thunk it, huh?) And I admit that my fear that one of those Republican clowns could possibly ‘slip through’ is another factor in my favoring Hillary Clinton. Bernie supporters should recognize that his appeal stems from the very things that will make him beatable by a Republican—‘Socialist’ isn’t a dirty word to Democrats—but to the rest of the country? Please. Not that I have any objection to Bernie Sanders—wonderful guy—great ideas—total champion of the little people—but as presidential candidate in lieu of Hillary? No.
So, that’s my two cents on the Sanders surge.
I played some music the other day, right after several days of practicing nothing but my book of Chopin’s Mazurkas—so I’ve entitled it ‘Mazurkoid’—not because it sounds like Chopin, but because it has harmonies and rhythms I’ve never have thought of, had I not immersed myself in his genius—and I like to give credit where credit is due. All my improvising, honestly, is informed by constant practice, sight-reading through the great composers, the great song-writers, and any sheet music I can find, really—so while I don’t know where my fingers will go next, I know that their paths have been shaped by others—and all I’m adding is my personality.
Today I played from my Jazz Standards book—these are songs that I may have posted previously but if so I guarantee that these are better versions than I’ve ever recorded before, so I want to post my progress, if nothing else. They’re even kind of listenable, if not professional grade, renditions—so please feel free to give them a listen. I also ended with a tiny improv that I call ‘Moving On’, because it sounded so bright and sunny—like a fresh start. Wish it was longer, but I was pretty tired from all that jazz. I had just failed to play a decent rendition of Gerry Mulligan’s “Five Brothers” which was so bad it’s not on the recording—and you can hear me mumble, “I ain’t no Gerry Mulligan.” as I begin to play the improv….
Xper Dunn plays Piano – January 17th, 2016
Nine Jazz Standards:
Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
Cute – by Neal Hefti
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
Moonlight In Vermont
Bernie’s Tune – by Bernie Miller
Let’s Get Away From It All
Fly Me To The Moon
Void unimaginable, an ocean without a floor or shore
Floating there I wait and see only distance and space
No company to joke with—no more after or before
Floating where eternity dances yet hides its face
With feet that never find a place
And I am small amid the vastness
And I am lost among the stars
And I am never going to see again the green
And I am stuck forever in between
And if I died no one would know it
And if there’s hope no one will show it
In this vastness
The power of nothingness overwhelming my mind
No chink in the every of everywhere always
No feature or landmark remaining to find
Come speak to me love—(I don’t care what she says)—
Say what you will but please say Yes.
Face and Bubbles – Collage
Tuesday, October 27, 2015 12:10 AM
Well, I may have gone a little too dark on this poem—I tried to pull the nose up, at the end—but maybe too little too late. Anyway, the point is that too much solitude is as mentally unhealthy as too little sunlight is physically unhealthy. Love is necessary, or friendship—even simple companionship which, while not as profound, may be easier to come by—I’ll take anything to break that recursive loneliness loop that eventually drives one insane.
The new pictures are made with my new oil pastels—I haven’t quite got the hang of them yet. I’ve always had a problem with color—I tend to use them all. I like prisms and rainbows—I’m very democratic, even inclusive, when it comes to color.
The piano cover of “Autumn In New York” goes well with all the gold and orange leaves outside my window—my voice—maybe not so much. I threw in the other three covers just because. I’m struggling with my improvs lately—I have been trying to make them better for decades, but I feel like I can’t find anything new anymore—we’ll see—maybe I’ll have an epiphany or something. In the meantime, I’m just trying to sound entertaining.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015 10:38 AM
Real Progress (2015Oct27)
In just a few days, we will have reached the one-year mark on our presidential campaign—I can’t help wondering what the previous twelve months of back and forth were supposed to accomplish, other than to fill air time on cable-news shows and politics-based social media threads. It’s hard to stomach all the focus on ‘who it will be’ without any concern about ‘what will they do’. Yet, with the right-wing, those are the same question—a tea-party candidate will do nothing—except try to keep others from doing anything—that’s their whole agenda.
Likewise, a moderate Republican will do nothing—not for lack of trying, but because of their tea-party brethren. And even a Democrat will get done only as much as the executive office allows—because the House and Senate are still firmly in the hands of the GOP. The only real hope for governmental or legislative action is if the Democrats can find a way to win back those Congressional seats, as well as win the White House. So this presidential campaign obsession is just the usual media focus on the inconsequential. Ben Carson (not to mention Trump) is a scary possibility—but the odds of anyone but white males voting for either one is so low as to make their chances in a general election ‘slim to none’.
The same can be said of Bernie Sanders—he’s got the far-left tied up, but he could never get the majority of the nation’s voters either. That leaves Hillary, whom everyone has assumed will win all along—only she’ll be hobbled by the same GOP congress that bedeviled Obama. Again, the real story—the story that’s being ignored—is whether the Democrats can elect local support, outside of the presidency.
Of course, I could be wrong—we may get a Republican president, if voters are stupid enough—what a hell on earth that would be. Despite Obama’s heroic efforts, we still haven’t dug ourselves out of the hole the last GOP president buried us in. The only good that came out of Bush’s two terms was getting Democrats out to vote—Obama began his terms with a friendly Congress and I’m still confused as to how we managed to screw that up.
Well, not really—the answer is horribly simple. The Democrats, while they have an edge on common sense and American values, are just as dumb, lazy, spineless, and corrupt as the Republicans—both our candidates and we voters. Intellect and transparency can find a place in the Democratic party—which, as I say, gives them something of an edge—but we’re still people, just like the GOP folks. And people are human—with all the failings that implies.
When I look back on all the changes in society, I’m dumbstruck by the incredible progress we’ve made. While we still struggle with racism, at least it has lost its legitimacy in the laws of our land. While we still lack gender equality, we have seen women get access to birth-control, jobs, and inclusion far beyond the Suzy Homemaker mindset of my childhood. While we still have issues with LGBT equality, we have at least progressed beyond the point of considering homosexuality as a crime, or a mental disease. To me, this is the real progress of our country—I could care less about laptops, cellphones, smart-cars, and DNA sequencing, if it doesn’t have the open-minded humanity that an enlightened, modern culture deserves.
Last night started out good—I’ve become a fan of The Big Bang Theory and it had a season premiere last night—they’re pretty funny. I enjoy the comfort of an established sitcom with a toolkit of running gags and themes—all expositions, settings, and character intros have long since been made and the thing just chugs along—funny, funny, funny.
Had a big meal (Bear makes a mean chicken) maybe too big—I felt like I had to have some coffee. But then I watched TV until 2:30 and my eyes still refused to droop. I didn’t sleep at all last night—I was reading a couple of great sci-fi books—“Appleseed” by John Clute is a book I bought about ten years ago but forgot to read; and “Nexus” by Ramez Naam, which I finished at about 6:30 am—fortunately it’s only the first book of a trilogy, so there’s more. But no more coffee at night for me!
Now here’s a bit of lyric for all you strong babies out there:
Hard muscle—lean cut—on a stri-king frail.
A hard look—a straight shot—makes my ego bail.
When she looks like a tank made o’doves
I could almost cry.
Talks like the drill sarge o’love—
I could nearly die.
Strong women—make me crazy.
Wo-o-ork it out—don’t be lazy.
Watch those ‘ceps pop—makes me dizzy.
Dat can’t be a woman—is she?
My god—that’s a lot of power.
Think it’s time for my cold shower.
Awe me with that rock of muscle
Tell me I can lose that tussle—please!
Baby—please—it’s too much—
Thoughts so hot they make me blush.
I’m a man with a plan but
A strong, fit woman there’s no man that is better than.
When you tell me I got-to-be nice
Then it’s understood—
No need to-tell-me the same thing twice
You know I’ll be good.
Strong women—make me crazy.
Work all day—make men look lazy.
Legs like trunks of trees of satin,
Eyes the light from stars get fat in,
Smell so sweet it makes me twitchy
And that voice so low and witchy.
Stand there like a tower of power.
Going strong from hour to hour.
Beauty—brains—and all that muscle
Tell me I can lose that tussle—please!
We poor men—fit and strong is supposed to be our thing. When we find strong women attractive, it’s confusing and a little embarrassing—but there’s no better make-up than muscle tone, nothing more youthful than a proud bearing. It’s funny—we talk about over-idealizing one standard of beauty—but that’s just the suits that make corporate decisions about magazine covers and such. For all our fixation on women, we men find attractive a myriad of flavors—tall women, short women, small women, big women, full-figured or skinny, any color hair, any color skin, librarians, firewomen, GI Janes, and nurses.
I find the spirit of a woman shows in her face and bearing—no matter what her outer appearance. You can see a person’s personality, male or female, and I find myself attracted to the spirit rather than the package—I think we all do.
Dy’ever have one of those days where you feel like instead of reaching a peak, you feel off the cliff? With health issues like mine, I often watch myself become more and more energized from day to day—recovering from whatever circumstance blew out my reserves of strength, like bad news or car trouble or just a crazy day. Each day I feel more like myself, more capable, containing more potential to get something done—and today was going to be one of those peak days where I really made a splash in a video, or in writing, or something. Or so it seemed, leading up to it. But today, phht!—nada, nothing, goose-eggs, zippo, kaput. I might as well go back to bed.
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 10:31 PM
I saw “Pitch Perfect 2” on VOD yesterday—it was okay, but “Pitch Perfect” was one of those movies that caught lightning in a bottle—beyond the premise, the characters, the songs—there was pacing, introspection, coming-of-age notes were hit—it was a perfect movie, in some ways. “Pitch Perfect 2”, I’m sad to report, was more like an extended episode of Glee guest-starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson. It was so busy hitting all the old themes and adding new material, that it never gelled into a movie. It wasn’t terrible—the songs were nice, Rebel is funny, and I’ve got an age-inappropriate ‘thing’ for Anna Kendrick, so it was watchable, but a let-down, still.
I’m too old for Glee—they sing contemporary songs and mash-ups—which I enjoy, but for me a sing-along uses songs my parents, and even my grandparents, used to sing. If I was a little more dexterous I’d get a job playing karaoke back-up piano—when you’re no virtuoso, it’s great to have voices drowning out the piano-playing. In today’s video of 1940s Song Covers, I even try to sing along myself—but that doesn’t help so much, since it distracts me from the playing—and I’m no Andreas Bocelli, either. I left in a brief interruption, where I’m begging my son to sing along with me—and he, being kinda shy, pretends to have a sore throat—someday I’ll catch him in the right mood.
This second video is more song covers—I would have called it Part II, but these songs aren’t from the 1940s—more like the 1930s thru the 1960s. I guess I just felt like singing today.
And here we have another ‘stitched-together’ improv that is really three different segments from among my cover recordings, when I stopped to take improv-breaks.
I’m running into some confusion lately—my improved piano-playing ability makes me very happy, and I enjoy posting new recordings of pieces that I’ve posted before, but much more listen-able. But even today’s posts, which came out pretty fair—I was tempted to not post them and wait for a better take. I also consider playing pieces many times over before posting a recording—something I am doing now with the Brahms Opus 117. Trouble is, even in my new condition, even when I’ve rehearsed a piece, I’ll still spaz out or stumble over a chord; I’ll still have pages to turn; I’ll still get folks wandering through my recording studio (our living room, that is). So perfection ain’t gonna happen—I post what I get and I hope for better in the future. But it is confusing sometimes. I would like to become a real boy (said Pinocchio the wooden pianist).
Pete came by yesterday—we killed our imaginary audience and made some recordings which I hope no one will mistake for Pete’s fault—if you look closely, you’ll see a very capable drummer trying to be nice to a totally awful piano-player. This mess is completely my responsibility. I almost never play with musicians because musicians, understandably, don’t go looking for half-assed collaborators—but Pete is an exceptionally kind soul and an old friend who is the exception that proves the rule.
This is a picture of Pete and Spencer back in the day–If you watch Spencer’s walk-through on the video, you’ll see he’s grown some since this picture was taken.
I’ve been thinking about collaboration lately. As I’ve mentioned often in these posts, I think that people may have excellent self-control when the situation demands it but that humanity as a group, as a mob, has no brain and does whatever it does, crazy (or even suicidal) or not. We try to mitigate this with governments and other frameworks for group action—but even these foundations can only influence people en masse to a certain degree.
Take the Drug War as an example—with Prohibition as a historical precedent, we can’t be very surprised that the Drug War has been a complete failure—drug abuse is a part of the human condition. People will seek out recreational drugs just as they seek out alcoholic beverages. After all, life is a struggle and there aren’t that many features that offer unalloyed enjoyment—we can gain peace from our relationships and achievement from our endeavors, but not always—and it’s a struggle, win or lose. But a weekend spree is an easy and affordable escape from the rigors of the work-week and the number of people who choose to do without it will never be unanimous—criminalization simply complicates things.
Collaboration, cooperation,—even democracy—all also run up against the matter of people all being different in many ways. I heard the debate yesterday during the news reports of the first two women who passed the Rangers Training School requirements. As the closet-misogynist debated the moderate-feminist, they both had some confusion about the fact that average men have expected differences from average women, but the best of the best soldiers are exceptional people with above-average abilities, gender notwithstanding. Generalizations about gender roles do not apply when speaking of virtual Supergirls—although, rightly, we ought to take the hint that generalizations about gender all have that flaw to some degree—because we are all different.
Thus individuality and human nature are both obstacles to traditional governments and other organizing frameworks—yet they are both strengths as well. Perhaps our paradigms of organization are at fault. Churchill once opined that ‘Democracy isn’t a perfect form of government—it’s just better than all the others’. And I feel that we have become sophisticated enough to look at democracy (and capitalism, for that matter) and start to face that fact—having found systems that outdo more ancients customs is great—but is it the best we can do?
For that matter, can Democracy and Capitalism coexist without one cancelling the other? We see many examples where capitalism has infringed on the democratic process recently—but there are also times when the force of majority rule outdoes the primacy of property. We aren’t really being honest about this whole subject—we’ve been too busy defending democracy from fascism and capitalism from communism to allow ourselves to question their basic values.
While Democracy and Capitalism fight it out (and while we pretend that they work together) we have a third player—religion, or Christianity, since I’m speaking primarily of the USA. Many conservatives will insist that religion is a bedrock value—in spite of the fact that we are famous for sidelining religion from our governing principles. They’ll put on their blinders and assure us that ‘religious freedom’ was only meant to apply to the different Protestant sects of Christianity—as if that made sense, and full ‘religious freedom’ didn’t.
This is partly a failure to understand history—in much the same way that conservatives insist that our constitutional guarantee of ownership of flintlock rifles translates into prowling the Wal-Mart with semi-automatic weapons. But it is also a failure to understand religion, as a concept. Most people of faith make the mistake of counting their religion as the truth, while all other religions are, at best, to be tolerated. But Truth and Faith are not interchangeable—particularly in the situation where we have allowed for the existence of more than one form of faith.
What the original colonists did was recognize that even a single individual’s unique faith, with or without an established church, may be questioned as to its validity—but it can’t be made illegal. The opposite truth to that premise is that no one religion can be made the legal faith under our government. Basically, we accept that citizens will have whatever faith they may or may not have, but the law will operate separately from any one faith. Anyone who seriously proposes that America become a Christian nation is as much a threat to our way of life as the Communists were in the 1950s—even more so, since the Commies have had their day and faded away. ISIS would be a better example, come to think of it—both parties wish to transform us into a theocracy.
But let me return to collaboration. In science fiction novels, one gets the impression that the human race will expand outward, mimicking our behavior of the exploration era and the pioneering era. One gets used to the idea of the human race having a ‘destiny’—a place or a state that our future selves will eventually reach out to and evolve into. We envision a solar system busy with mining, colonization, exploration, and discovery—our little blue marble, Earth, just a single part of a civilization that calls the Sun its home. We even dream of FTL starships that allow colonization of other stars—a future civilization so vast and varied that imagination can barely envisage its size, never mind its nature.
Our gravity well, however, is no small barrier. If humanity is ever going to go beyond Earth, it will have to involve tremendous collaboration. At this point in modern technology, we will need tremendous collaboration just to survive at all. Where does the motive come from? How do we mobilize our efforts towards the survival of humankind when we have never had to worry about it before? Up until now, we’ve been so sure that the Earth is invulnerable to our attentions that we have never considered it a factor in our decision-making. The whole debate over climate change is really just humanity trying to convince itself that we’ve outgrown that simplicity.
Our systems of government, of commerce, and our cultures have all developed under the mistaken mindset that humanity can do whatever it will—we are slowly coming to grips with the fact that this is no longer true.
Part of our problem is that heretofore we have assumed that the point of life was the afterlife—that we should concentrate on living our own individual lives under the tenets of our faiths because the important part, the afterlife, will be affected by how well we follow the rules while living. No part of human culture actually emphasizes the importance of species survival—‘God’ made us, so naturally we can’t be unmade unless ‘He’ decides to unmake us. Climate change, drought, chemical and oil spills, and nuclear waste make it clear that we can certainly unmake ourselves—there’s nothing religious about it, it’s just a fact.
So now we have to turn from our focus on our individual afterlives to the maintenance of the survival of the human genome, and to Gaea—or whatever you choose to call the overall biome of the Earth. For we have two ‘afterlifes’—one is a spiritual belief, the other is our offspring. To reach the first one, we have to be mindful of ethics. To protect the second we will have to begin having ethics as a group—something we’ve never had, and something I have no idea how we’ll ever attain. The alternative is to remain the simple, global mob we’ve always been—and just wait for the lights to go out.
The first time I got a true sense of history was when I asked my parents about World War II. My parents were children of the thirties, so WWII was their childhood, for the most part. But WWII as history—as it was presented to me in school, on TV, and in books and movies, was a historical event. When I asked them about it, it seemed to be something they heard on the radio news—no more a part of their everyday lives than I found the reports of Nixon’s Watergate scandal, which was a big part of my youth but which I found to be nothing but an annoying part of every day’s newscast and paper headline.
Most grown-ups of the early seventies were relieved when Nixon’s administration went to jail and he finally resigned—I was simply relieved that everyone could stop talking about it. My parents felt much the same about the last World War—it was something horrible that the grown-ups got upset about. There were things I learned about the Second World War that my parents didn’t know about—and didn’t have any interest in knowing about. I consider myself lucky that none of my kids ever took an interest in the Nixon era—I’d be just like my folks.
Similarly, we here at home knew far more about the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan than the soldiers who were doing the fighting. They probably don’t get CNN in action zones—and they’re probably too busy to watch it, even if they did. It’s always about perspective—if you can climb a tall tree in the middle of Kansas, you can see more than everyone else—but the people on the ground are the only ones who matter, the ones who get things done. On the news we see what’s happening everywhere—a soldier under fire has strictly local interests.
History, despite its importance, has already happened. We can talk about it, we can learn from it, but we can’t change it. Our interests in history tend to focus on whatever means something to us on its face. Everyone likes the Revolutionary War because it was a war for freedom—and freedom is a popular thing. The history of science has fewer fans—science is a forbidding enough topic without the addition of dry old history. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has remarkable success at it—yet he has to leaven it with plenty of the new, the latest things, the wildest new theories, the bleeding-est-edged tech. My point is that you don’t have to stray far from the beaten path of military events and inventions to find areas of history that have no writers, never mind no readers.
It makes sense. History, in a sense, is a playback of the past—put too much detail into it and you end up without enough of a present to do anything but study the past. Plus, history is the history of all—we have enough trouble keeping track of all the details in our own solitary lives. To tell the story of everyone mandates that we speak in mostly general terms—else we reduce history to a series of actuarial tables.
I was equally nonplussed by my parents lack of interest in the classic movies that I watched incessantly on old late-night TV, and later, at the dawn of cable, on American Movie Classics, followed, finally, by Turner Classic Movies. But those movies were seen by my parents as they were meant to be seen—in a big old movie palace with close-up faces ten feet high. Those stars weren’t legendary to my parents in the same way—they were contemporaries, even if my parents had never left Bayside Heights to mingle with the Hollywood elite.
More importantly, I have contemporaries of my own, many of whom have no interest in old movies. A taste for cinema isn’t all that common, no matter what generation you’re a part of. There are lots of people who go to the movies—that’s not quite the same thing—in the same way that lots of people listen to and dance to popular music, but have no interest in music in its broader sense.
One piece of music history that has relatively few fans is swing music. It gets by—no genre is completely ignored in this age of media. But being so distinctively antique while lacking the gravitas of classical music—plus being confined to such a tiny slice of the historical timeline—it has a specificity that limits its mass appeal to the occasional cameo in popular culture. I count myself among its adherents, though I don’t pretend to any great learning on the subject—I just like to play it. Don’t get me wrong—I listen to early Sinatra, Billy Holiday, Glenn Miller, Arte Shaw, and lots of others. There’s a sense of power to the percussion in swing music that isn’t exceeded (perhaps couldn’t be exceeded) until the advent of electric instruments and amplifiers.
I admire that—I’m always trying to get the maximum effect from my baby grand’s acoustic sound alone. I feel like whatever extra fanciness I could get from a synthesizer or a beat box would be frosting rather than cake—not that I don’t like frosting. And I recognize that there’s a power to amplification and synth that nothing I can do will match—maybe a great pianist could take that challenge, but I’m still shooting for ‘good’.
The jingoism of the post-war forties and fifties was out of favor by the time I ran across “They Call It America (But I Call It Home)” by Freddy Grant (1953). Singing such unabashed patriotic mush was frowned upon by my Flower Power generation (see this wonderful essay on Patriotism in Music).
Nevertheless I can’t deny the thrill of such crowing. It feels good to celebrate the greatness of America, even if we are far from the perfect picture being painted in the verse.
The “Our Love Affair” cover is not the famous “An Affair To Remember (Our Love Affair)”—a romantic song composed by Harry Warren for the 1957 film “An Affair to Remember”, but the lesser-known song from “Strike Up the Band” (MGM, 1940) in which it was sung by Judy Garland.
I used a bunch of my classical art graphics to create the video backgrounds today—they give a sense of history, though I didn’t put them into any chronological order or anything. I’m kinda pushing the copyright envelope today—song covers with screen-grabbed art-works. Hey, I can’t do everything myself—and my amateur status makes it all fair use, since nobody really watches my videos anyway.
The following songs are performed in “Six (6) Swing Songs That Start With ‘S’ “:
Oh–and just for laughs–I wrote a song lyric today, in honor of the season:
When the Spring is really greening
And the dog-flowers start to bloom
I can’t stand this crampy house.
I got to leave this musty room.
Outside, breezes float the pollen
And my nose begins to run
But it’s worth it for the freedom
And the warming of the sun.
Give me a Kleenex, baby
My nose in on the flow
Throw me a Kleenex, baby
I really got to blow.
I’d use my sleeve or spew it out but runny noses make me shout
Give me a Kleenex, baby
My nose in on the flow
Throw me a Kleenex, baby
I really got to blow.
Some days ago I threw a bag of birdseed onto the lawn outside the front door. It may not be for everyone, but I enjoy the racket every sunrise and sunset when the birds come to feed—and sing. The squirrels don’t sing much, but they do appreciate a bag of bird seed—boy, do they get chubby when I do this.
Bear suggested I place the video-camera outside the door for awhile and see what I got. That was a great idea—although I had to edit out a terrible amount of passing cars and idling or beeping trucks to get my final, idyllic background-footage. The remaining background sounds are mostly the breeze, the squirrels arguing, and the birds tweeting—I almost posted it all sans music.
Plus, I nearly didn’t post these two ‘cover songs’ videos—they’re terrible. But the squirrel is fun to watch. And the two ‘improvs’ videos are pretty good, for me—so I’m listing them first, in case any of you want to click on a video.
My old friend, Randy Bell, dropped by yesterday for a brief recording session. It had been three years since his last ascension from his Georgia home to visit his old stomping grounds and we had a lot of catching up to do. Inevitably, we turned to music—Randy, a one-time fervent ‘Dead-head’, has a very different musical perspective from mine, and our collaborations, while challenging, produce some very interesting results (for me, anyway).
It was a confusing afternoon in one sense—I have a tendency to improvise on basic chord progressions, and those chord progressions, being in some sense basic building blocks in a variety of tunes, can go in and out of the ‘cover’ domain. For instance, my favorite a-minor chord progression led Randy to start singing along, revealing those chords to be the basis of a Chris Issak hit, “Blue Spanish Sky”. However, as I said, some chords progressions are basic components to many pieces, of both classical and popular music. So if I have to credit Chris Issak, then Chris Issak has to credit basic music theory, as do the Beatles and the Turtles, who use the same chord progression in hit songs of theirs, and Vivaldi, who uses it in his “Four Seasons”.
Having crossed that line, I showed Randy how I had derived my favorite G-Major chord progression from Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. It was weird—after a good half hour of ‘improvisation’, we had recorded two ‘covers’!
But my favorite part was Randy teaching me to play a cover of a song written by someone we both knew—“Hard Road Blues”, written by Randy’s lifelong friend and one-time collaborator, Burrie Jenkins. Burrie is a Massachusetts composer and guitarist best known for his “Dharma of the Leaves” . I hope he doesn’t mind too much that Randy and I ‘roughed up’ his tune—it was hella fun to play…
It’s been a banner day for music here. First, I got off one decent improv this morning; then Pete arrived, and we knocked out two covers and two improvs—a decent day’s work for my YouTube channel and some decent music, if I do say so.
I’ve been practicing the “Brown-Eyed Girl” cover in anticipation of being accompanied by my professional drummer buddy—but the “My Guy” cover was just easy enough for me to get through without prep. The improvs made me very happy—if there’s a bit of paisley and patchouli in there, there’s a reason—‘nuf said. I’ve never been exactly ‘hard rock’, per se—which is why I appreciate the support from Pete, who definitely is. He always add so much energy, he almost makes me sound healthy!
Here we go…
I really needed today. Lately, I’ve been very down about the piano-playing—I’ve frustrated myself by working on difficult pieces and I’ve been even more frustrated by how hard it is to keep improvising without ‘going backwards’—if that makes any sense. But today was fun—and I’m truly pleased to share the results. Thanks, Pete!
Yesterday’s videos are weird — the cover video is of “Brown-Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, and “Do It Again” by Brian Wilson and Mike Love –I play both songs in the morning and then again in the evening. I had hoped for one to be better than the other, but they are both imperfect in their own way. I’ve been sight-reading out of my weight-class lately, and these recent videos are evidence of that, but there it is, anyhow.
The improv is weird too, though I can’t say exactly why.
The graphic images used are downloaded from the new Metropolitan Museum of Art online collection:
I’m still feeling off-balance today. When I’m happy the beautiful things in life make me want to sing but when I’m sad the beautiful things in life make me want to cry. There’s a little of both in today’s piano videos.
I’ve just learned that Gilbert Freeman has been injured at the Grand Canyon. He is presently in the Trauma Hospital in Flagstaff, AZ—I wish him a speedy and complete recovery. Gil is a retired music teacher responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of music-lovers, many professional musicians, and even a few virtuosi. We all have fond memories of our days in his choir and in his theatrical productions. I do hope he’ll be okay.
My George Gershwin songbook has always been difficult for me to play. Those Tin-Pan Alley harmonies make absolutely no sense, if like me you’re used to Bach, Mozart, or even Contemporary Pop—until I play them—then they make perfect sense. Gershwin’s music reminds me of Mozart in the way that he seems to find the perfect sound, right on the knife-edge of dissonance, or even just plain noise, but in its narrow escape from that, sublime in its perfect fitness.
This makes it all the more frustrating that, as sheet music, it is an obstacle course of illogical and unexpected twists and turns. I know, if I could only play it properly, how gorgeous it would sound, as I flub and fluff my improper way through it. And it’s fairly gymnastic playing, too, by my standards—physically on the edge of possibility, for me. So I was surprised yesterday when everything seemed to conform fairly easily to my hands—so ‘doable’ as to make singing along a possibility.
Today, I resolved to do a Gershwin Covers recital—I figured if yesterday’s sudden windfall ran true, I’d better take advantage while the advantage-taking was good. I decided it would be called “Gershwin is Sweeping the Country”, since “Love Is Sweeping The Country” is one of his peppiest, happiest tunes and I really like it.
I played four or five songs with semi-decent results (they comprise the video below) but when I got to “Love Is Sweeping The Country” my luck and/or energy had run out. There’s this damnable chromatic sweeping up and down in the course of the song—beautiful stuff, but murder on my brain and eyesight—so that recording went into the trash-pile, and all that’s left is the play-on-words of my title. I’ll work on it for later. It’s a really cool song.
Prior to playing, just to get the blood flowing, I took a walk. I meant to go all the way around the block, but when our driveway appeared, midway, I took the easy way out. Hence the title of today’s little piano improv “Short Walk”. I brought my camera along on the walk, though, so short or not, I got some striking photos of the local color. I hope they make a more picturesque background video than my ugly mug—once again, I’m relegating the video of me to the corners of the screen.
There are plenty more in my Gershwin songbook, but I didn’t want to press my luck today. I look forward to a second or third Gershwin Covers video, sometime soon.
Last evening was the fourth annual Students Concert that Sherryl Marshall hosts for her voice students—and she is kind enough to include me every year. This year I sang “The Way You Look Tonight” and got through it without any serious harm done. I didn’t have my trusty videocorder, so I’ve reproduced the effort today. Also, I threw in “Can’t Help Singing” because, unlike Sherryl’s stage last night, no one was watching this time. Both songs are by Jerome Kern.
“The Way You Look Tonight” has lyrics by Dorothy Fields. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936. The lyrics for “Can’t Help Singing” are by E. Y. “Yip” Harburg. Kern and ‘Yip’ earned an Academy Award for Best Original Song for it in 1945. At the 1946 Academy Awards, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II won for Best Original Song for “All Through the Day”—the award was posthumous in Kern’s case as he had died on November 11th, 1945.
I’m not like ‘Baby’ from “Dirty Dancing”—I went ahead and stuck myself in the corner—of today’s two videos. I wanted to show off my photos of all the life springing up out of the ground ‘round here. I used them ‘straight’ in the Kern-Covers video, but I went for a more psychedelic version on my longer-than-usual Improv to Spring. Hope you like both of today’s videos—especially as I don’t think I get any better than this.
Herman Hupfeld , in his beautiful lyric to “As Time Goes By”, wrote:
“This day and age we’re living in / Gives cause for apprehension
With speed and new invention / And things like fourth dimension.
Yet we get a trifle weary / With Mr. Einstein’s theory.
So we must get down to earth at times / Relax relieve the tension
And no matter what the progress / Or what may yet be proved
The simple facts of life are such / They cannot be removed.
You must remember this….”
We’re pretty familiar with the rest—there are few people who have neither heard this song nor watched the movie, “Casablanca”. But like the vast majority of standards, the ‘intro’ is usually overlooked—if not left out altogether. In the case of many songs, the ‘intro’ is no great loss. Some are outright drivel, or the worst sort of doggerel, and the fame of such songs indicates that some smart performer realized he or she had better get right to the ‘burthen’, without any preamble, or they’d lose their audience. And, surely, this also accounts for the fact that most classic songs are considered as having been properly performed whether they include the official ‘intro’ verses or not.
However, in some cases lyricists positively shine so much in their wit and wordplay that it’s a shame to leave the ‘intro’ unrecognized—particularly with the great lyricists. Nothing upsets me more than a songbook that decides not to print the ‘intro’—taking the choice out of my hands for the sake of volume, I suppose.
“As Time Goes By” has a fascinating introductive verse, as seen above. Hupfeld bewails the hectic pace of modern life, it’s constant changes and new information. He gets “a trifle weary of Mr. Einstein’s theory” and wants to get away from all that. He seeks out bedrock principles on which to rest, safe from the shifting sands of cultural distraction. And, of course, he finds them in Love, that favorite of all bedrock principles.
How surprised Mr. Hupfeld would be to learn that his theory of days-gone-by would see eternal popularity in spite of such enormous changes in women’s roles and in relationships generally. A kiss is still a kiss—except when it’s a workplace harassment lawsuit or a charge of improper touching of a minor or the gift of herpes. And in a way, a kiss is now more than a kiss, assuming that Hupfeld wasn’t imagining two men or two women kissing.
Worse yet, we are no longer allowed to ‘weary of Einstein’s theory’—we have to remember our PIN numbers, our passwords, the usual computer Control-codes, game-controller button-sequences, et. al. We have to worry about our AC’s BTUs, our car’s MPG, separating our recyclables, our FICA, our prescriptions deductible, and whether we have time to find out what ‘streaming’ is, or should we just keep trying to program our VCRs. Neither Hepfeld nor Bogie could have envisioned a culture where everyone had to learn to type—and only with their thumbs.
Still, the most luxuriously nostalgic aspect of these lyrics is that they still hung on to the dismissive subtext of that word ‘theory’. Today, when we mention Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, whether Special or General, we hear the word ‘theory’ in its historical sense, not in the sense that no one yet accepts the truth of it—much like the ‘theory of evolution’. Only the fringe-dwellers in today’s society place any emphasis on the word ‘theory’ in these phrases. Back in the early nineteen-forties, though, Einstein’s theories could still be confined to cocktail-party gabbing—Hiroshima and Nagasaki were yet to come, as were nuclear power plants, nuclear subs, nuclear aircraft carriers, or nuclear-powered space probes.
Today we take Relativity for granted, just as we accept quantum physics, or the big-bang theory. Now string theory, dark matter, black holes, and the Higgs-Boson particle have come to be commonplace concepts among physicists and cosmologists—even discussed on popular science programs for the layperson. On top of that, we are in the midst a digital-technology revolution, an upheaval so great that it threatens the stability of global civilization with its sheer speed, while we try to adapt from the ‘generational’ pace-of-change enjoyed for all prior history, to change that now happens on a monthly basis.
What wouldn’t we give to ‘sit under the apple tree’ of the 1940’s whenever we got weary of all that? Oh, for the days when the ‘facts of life’ were not only simple, but they couldn’t be removed! Here’s me taking a stab at the old classic, followed by two more piano covers from my piano songbook, “AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Songs”. (I also recorded “Evergreen” but left it out in the end—I’m sure I can do it better some day soon.) I left out all the video effects today—sometimes less is more….
This video of six song covers is seventeen minutes long—but it isn’t what I really wanted. I thought I’d dig up any John Denver songs I had the sheet music for, and do a recital of just that. But I couldn’t find “Rocky Mountain High” or “Annie’s Song”, his biggest hits—all I could find today was “Follow Me” (1970), “My Sweet Lady” (1971), and “Leaving On A Jet Plane” (1966).
Like many of my favorites from my high school years, “Follow Me” is one of those songs that has a great rhythm and spirit, but vaguely misogynist lyrics. In this one he actually sings, “..make it part of you to be a part of me..” (as if “Follow me, up and down…” weren’t enough).
It always freaked me out a little that song-writers of such a politically active and ‘enlightened’ era would shill for the barefoot-and-pregnant mind-set in lyrics to their otherwise-modern rock tunes. John Denver, Paul Anka, and Bobby Vinton were some of the worst offenders in this arena, but it was fairly widespread through the sixties and seventies. By the eighties I guess feminists were calling people out on some of this stuff to the point where other people started to hear what I’d been hearing, and things got a bit more ‘aware’ from that point on.
The only real trouble is, I like“Follow Me”—I enjoy singing it, even though I kind of gag on the lyrics. “My Sweet Lady” is likewise a bit much on the saccharine-macho side, but I still enjoy his recording of it. It is included here, however, only because I was desperate for John Denver songs—it’s not really in my wheelhouse, as it were. And “Leaving On A Jet Plane” always feels weird to sing because it was the song all the girls on the school-bus sang on the road during class outings—the most popular version was released by Peter, Paul & Mary, and Mary Travers’ vocals predominate on their recording, so it became a ‘girl’s’ song.
The other, non-John Denver songs are of the same ilk—popular music of the sixties and early seventies that managed to not be rock-and-roll—Tom Paxton, (“The Last Thing On My Mind” ) like Denver, was more of a folk singer/songwriter. The Bacharach/David team (“Look Of Love”) and David Webb (“Wichita Lineman”) were both of the sophisticated, atmospheric school—almost Jazz, but with enough Pop to hit the charts.
I regret that these covers aren’t my best work—but, as always, they’re the best I can do. However, I was very pleased with the piano improvisation “Spring Earth”. I feel like I got a real “Le Sacre du printemps”-vibe going on this one, in my own goofy way.
And I end with a few more photos of the spring bulbs popping up out of our yard….
Here are three more Cole Porter piano covers—true piano covers, this time. I tend to sound like a dog howling when you get these long-held notes. Besides, the playing is tricky enough on its own. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the improv(s) yet—they are two short quips, one from this morning, one from this evening. That’s true of the Porter, too—“Begin the Beguine” was played earlier, the other two this evening. Hope you like’em. And I hope you had a fine day, as well.
My apologies to all you who didn’t share this experience today—but I had a nice, quiet day. Turner Classic Movies showed Cole Porter musicals all day—I caught most of “Silk Stockings” (Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse) and the first half of “DuBarry Was A Lady” (Red Skelton, Lucille Ball). By that time, I felt an itch to do a little Porter of my own. I’d also felt a yen for this particular Jerome Kern song last night. Probably came into my head because it has ‘Spring’ in the lyric. Anyway, I had that all queued up, so you get one by Kern, two by Porter.
These scores are tough sledding—very thick chords, some of them. I’d give anything to just breeze them along in a nice tempo, but I work with the tools I have—my apologies. The improv is short today, but I thought it was kind of cute. You decide.
Again, source material credit for my graphics has to be given. Source graphics courtesy of : The Rijksmuseum Website. The Rijksmuseum Website, by the way, is a great site for at-home museum visiting—and if you’re digitally crafty, you can download anything you see, for free, and use it in a project of your own. It’s Gr-r-reat! https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en
Table cover, Christiaen Gillisz. van Couwenberg, c. 1650 – c. 1675
Gezicht op Derwent Water, in de richting van Borrowdale (Cumberland), Thomas Hearne, 1754 – 1817
I’m getting lazy about my videos. Today, I played two little piano covers but they only last for a coupla minutes, so I just left them tacked on to the improv instead of making a separate movie—so sue me. I’m still going to add “cover” to my YouTube tags, which is their criterion for posting something that’s copyrighted. I’m just excluding the song titles from the video’s Title and putting them in the Description instead. No big deal. I always include song titles in my cover-video Tags, and that’s how people find stuff nowadays anyhow.
Immediately following my improvisation there are two piano covers of classic popular songs,“I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine” and “In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town“, which I am reading from arrangements in the “Lawrence Welk Favorites” song book. Though hits in their day, they are rather obscure in the present-day popular memory, so I’m including these brief historical references from Wikipedia.
“I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine”[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]: a popular song, written by Mack David.
The most popular version was done by Patti Page in 1950. The Page recording was issued by Mercury Records as catalog number 5396, and first reached the Billboard chart on May 20, 1950, lasting 9 weeks and peaking at #8. It was her first Top 10 hit. The song was also one of the first recordings by Elvis Presley.
A Dean Martin version of the song was featured in the 1953 film “Scared Stiff” starring Martin and Jerry Lewis. The Patti Page recording is featured in the movie “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”. Actor Guy Pearce also briefly sings excerpts of this song in the film, as does Terence Stamp. The first Spanish-language version was recorded by Marco Tulio Sanchez, the precursor of rockabilly in his country Colombia during the 1980s. It was originally intended for Disney’s Cinderella, but not used.
“In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town” [From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]: a popular song written by Ira Schuster and Jack Little with lyrics by Joe Young in 1932.
Ted Lewis and His Band performed it in the film “The Crooner” in 1932. His version was released as a single and it went to #1, where it remained for 10 weeks.
Johnny Long and His Orchestra had a million seller of the song in 1946–a slight revision of their 1940 version. The ’46 version reached #13. Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version in the winter of 1958/1959. Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads re-charted the song in 1956 where it reached #27.
The graphics are from our garden last May—which is only two months away—something to look forward to.
Not for the first time, I’m using graphics from the Rijksmuseum website in my videos. One of them, “Whaling Grounds in the Arctic Ocean”, painted by a fellow named Storck in 1699, shows men not only whaling, but prowling about on the ice floes, attacking some poor polar bears! I guess they were attracted by the smell of the blubber being rendered aboardship? Anyway, it’s a fantastic painting—it even has some walruses hanging about in the foreground.
It being rather cold and savage, I used it as a frontispiece for the video “Improv – February Finally Dies”, which was the nicest title I could think of for the last day of this horrible month. All of the pictures are cool—you can see how I’ve crowded out my credits just to enlarge the pics and give you a better look at them.
For the end-credit page of the Piano Covers video, I used a sheet-music-cover illustration done by none other than Toulouse Lautrec (for the song, “Oceano Nox”) showing a sailor leaning over the prow of his ship, contemplating the night. I knew Lautrec did posters and commercial art, but sheet-music covers surprised me. For the title card, I used the wonderfully evocative “Egyptian Dancer in Tent” by de Famars Testas (1863).
For the improv “Spring is Possible” I used two different images of the sea-god, Oceanus—one engraved by Goltzius (1590) and the other by Galle (1586). I really enjoyed these paintings, so I’m going to add them to this post, following the YouTube Videos—check’em out.
Well, I was apparently ‘feeling my oats’ today—it didn’t help the piano covers any, but it sure came out in my improvs. I hope they sound half as good as they felt to play…
The great and powerful Peter Cianflone, drummer extraordinaire, came by today (or technically yesterday) and kindly agreed to join me in some ridiculous music-making, none of which is his fault—he was just an innocent, bongo-playing bystander. I do like the piano with a little extra percussion, though, and Pete’s performance upon the mini-bongos is not to be missed.
Nothing went right today at the keyboard—I haven’t listened to it all myself yet—the improv may be passable, who knows? But we had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs, so it’s all good.
We went to the A&P earlier today and I got Bear some Ferrero-Roche while we were there—Valentine’s Day accomplished. I also played her a few love songs, which are presented here, along with three improvs. Religions are all about Love, so I thought I’d give today’s improvs religious names. I don’t practice a religion, but I love the terminology. No offense.
16 Russian Folk Songs
(Covers from the Russian Songbook)
01) All Throughout The Great Wide World I Wandered
02) Do Not Scold Me And Do Not Reproach Me
03) The Boundless Expanse Of The Sea
04) My Sweetheart
05) No Sounds From The City Are Heard
06) Do Not Awaken My Memories
07) Stenka Razin (From Beyond The Island)
08) Snow Flurries
09) The Cliff of the Volga
10) The Story of the Coachman
11) The Little Bell
12) Farewell To Happiness
13) The Slender Mountain Ash
15) Oh, You Dear Little Night
16) Down The Volga River
The weatherman predicted the worst Winter storm in history for last night and the majority of today. The mayor of NYC made emergency announcements at 7 PM last night. I expected to be snowed in, without power, and who knows what else might happen.
Being a coastal storm, and heading northward, it trashed Long Island, Boston, and Maine, as predicted—sorry about that, Down-Easters—but here in Somers, where the initial forecast was one-to-two feet of snow, then just one foot—I’d be surprised if the official measurement reached six inches. It looks more like four or so.
Which means I was allowed to shoot, edit, and post four videos today—I shot the whole room in hopes that the weather outside would appear frightful, but all the video shows is a white glow where the windows should be windows. Unluckily, that left me with very dark videos, which I have tried my best to brighten with my video-editing controls, but it’s still a pretty lackluster show—just a dark room with my head peaking up from behind the piano.
I took some stills for the Titles and Credits graphics, too—in the “Mendelssohn – Songs Without Words No. 25”, you see where Claire couldn’t catch the cardinal outside our window (you can just see a bit of red). In the “Mendelssohn – Songs Without Words No. 24”, you can see a wren at the same window (it’s a very popular sill). The improvs just show pics of our yard covered in snow.
The two Mendelssohn pieces, as usual, are posted more as proof that I can sight-read/stumble my way through with minimal mistakes than as any competition for the real pianists out there—but that’s where I’m at—what else can I do? I’ll let you judge for yourself what sort of voice I’m in with today’s two improvisations….
Finally, here are some of today’s stills, on their own…
So, now I have my video of Joni-Mitchell-song piano-covers, my poem about my winter walk, and here I am, being greedy, trying for an essay to top it all off…
Well, the odds of my getting a good essay, when I haven’t actually been driven to the keyboard by frustration and a head full of roiling thoughts—when I’ve just ‘decided’ to try and squeeze one out of myself—are lower than dirt. So I might as well choose an equally off-the-grid subject, like Ancient Aliens. Nobody takes ancient aliens seriously, so they make a perfect subject for me—although, I should admit, being taken seriously is the last thing I need. I have a hard enough time being taken for a light-headed jester.
Nevertheless, there are many ancient ruins whose construction is ‘unexplainable’. It’s hard for me to accept that word, ‘unexplainable’. ‘Very difficult’ I could manage—even ‘mysterious’ I can handle—but for something to be entirely unexplainable (in my experience) is a poor use of words. In science, there were (and are) many unanswered questions—but we don’t just throw up that word, ‘unexplainable’, and move on—we find explanations. That’s what science is—the refusal to accept ‘unexplainable’ as an answer.
Now, ‘unexplainable’ does have a temporal meaning—even in science, there are many things which are not yet explainable. And if Ancient Alien proponents wish to replace ‘unexplainable’ with ‘not yet explained’, then I’m ready to listen to the rest of what they have to say. Until then, I have to place them in the set of all people who are willing to accept ignorance as an answer, rather than a challenge—and members of that set do not intersect with the set of all people who are rigorously scientific.
And scale, in and of itself, does not constitute any great mystery, to my mind. Huge blocks of stone may seem immovable, laser-guided precision of ancient carvings may seem impossible—lots of things appear at first glance to be outside of our capabilities—or the capacity of our ancestors. But give thousands of people hundreds of years to think and experiment and work things out, and there is very little that we can pronounce to be impossible. Large objects can be floated upon waterways, rolled on wheels or cylinders, or undermined in sand. These and other techniques can also be combined in various ways to enhance their power. In short, to pronounce something to be too big to move is actually just a way of saying that our imaginations have limits—a statement with which I could never agree.
Others questions, such as the visibility of the Nazca Lines diagrams only from the air, seem to me equally judgmental about the cleverness of people. There’s a tremendous gap, to my mind, between something that is very, very hard to do—and something that is impossible to do. Nor do I give credence to the issue of why ancient monuments were built. Without context, even our more modern structures, like cathedrals, have no obvious, practical use. In the particular case of the Ancient Alien question, we see many ruins of structures that have an astronomical connection—but the stars are as important to a farmer, or a sheepherder, as they are to an alien. The circuitous seasons have, for mankind, both a life-or-death meaning for agriculture and a more mystical attraction as a source of contemplation and dreaming—the addition of aliens is superfluous to their import.
Thus, while I’m open to the idea of Ancient Aliens, I’m less than satisfied with the current archive of ‘proof’ that we see on TV. Also, I’m not too crazy about the idea that humanity is nothing more than an experiment in some galactic laboratory run by alien overlords. I’d rather believe in God, if I could.
Felix Mendelssohn wrote a collection of piano pieces entitled “Leider ohne Worte”, which is German for Songs without Words. The collection is one of my favorite playbooks. They are challenging for me, so these aren’t good examples–though I’m sure YouTube has many other performers playing it much better. Anyhow, here’s my latest playlist of my most recent recordings from the book:
(One short note: the photograph used in these videos shows the Superman® socks my daughter gave me for Christmas!)
I stumbled through a short-concert-for-no-one earlier today. It includes two of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Lieder Ohne Worte” (Songs Without Words), a song from Cole Porter’s classic musical “DuBarry Was A Lady”, entitled “Come On In”, and (as always) a brief piano improvisation of my own devising. I hope everyone, or anyone, enjoys listening to it as much as I enjoyed playing.
In other news, I’ve begun a song project. At the moment I have only a rough draft of the lyrics, given below—I invite comment and constructive criticism:
Chopped greens, yolks in a bowl,
The wooden spoon, the shakers, the mitt,
The stove-tops, all four, full,
As the oven glows and bakes.
Boy comes into a warm steamy kitchen,
Aroma says stew’s on the stove,
The sure cutting of mom, cooking…
“Get yer hand out of there!”
“You wanna lose a finger?”
“What the hell’s wrong with you?!”
A boy who wants, just wants,
Thinks of a cookie in a bear-shaped jar.
Having been chased off, he tip-toes
Toward the pantry, stubby fingers
Reach for the china head.
Eyes wide, mouth agape, boy
Approaches the granting of his sugary wish.
“Get yer hand out of there!”
“Can’t you see me cooking dinner?”
“You wanna RUIN your appetite?!”
Boy walks away, then skips a little,
Hums a tune—a nursery rhyme,
Spins around and starts to sing,
Dancing along, closing his eyes,
He pipes angelic notes,
Transported to a fairy-land
Of song and dance and freedom…
“Watch where yer going!”
“What is your problem?”
“Get out of my kitchen right now!”
Please note that the mother’s lines are meant to be contrastingly loud and screechy, very unmusical—while the verse is meant to be all soft and trilly and peaceful. I’m not sure what the song is about yet—I’m just amused by the idea of the really strong contrast between the narrator’s lyrics and the mother’s words.
Pete Cianflone came to jam today–again, no drums–used a garbage can.
There’s a lot of sillyness happening in these videos. The Cole Porter song, “A Little Skipper From Heaven Above”, is a crazy song about a pirate captain who announces to his crew that he’s about to have a baby, that he’s really been a girl in disguise all this time… my performance is atrocious, but watching Pete try not to laugh is worth viewing.
My performance on the Christmas Carols is equally horrendous, but I couldn’t resist getting some Xmas stuff with Pete down on digital–even if it is the day before New Year’s Eve.
The piano cover of Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” will be familiar to my listeners (perhaps too familiar) but I like to bang it out now and then, just to update myself.
But I think the three short improvs we managed are the best of the day’s video ‘catch’. Pete tells me his brother, Richard, likes the ‘video FX’ that I often use, so excuse me if they’re a little crazier than usual–That’s for you, Richard!
Happy Holidays, everyone — and have an excellent New Year.
Well, I wish I’d posted this yesterday (It was Sequential Day, that is, the date was 12-13-14) But, I can only play when my aching back lets me, so today was the best I could do.
You have a choice with this post: you can read my boring-ass essay -or- you can listen to my silly-ass music–either way, please don’t forget to ‘like’ and ‘share’ or whatever.
“Baby Steps Among The Stars” – Part Two (Chap7)
Sounds easy—just place limits on money’s influence; allow it, where necessary, to be over-ruled by ecological or ethical considerations. But how? Much is made of the ‘revolving door’ of big-business executives and government regulators—doesn’t it invite corruption to have the same people flit between the leadership of these dangerous industries and the guardianship of the peoples’ interests, rights, and well-being vis-à-vis these industries? Certainly a conflict of interests is almost guaranteed by such intermingling. But what is the alternative? It doesn’t make much more sense to have all our potential regulatory chiefs be confined to those with no knowledge of the industry they monitor. Neither does it seem fair to ask a retiring federal regulator to find a job elsewhere than the industry in which he or she is a recognized expert.
And the power of Capitalism is likewise inherently bound up with the efficiency of our commerce—we can’t declare money invalid for one use and not another. If money has any purchasing power at all, it can ‘buy’ a person—or at least, their effort or their influence—which means that money can ‘buy’ exceptions to rules. The very versatility and anonymity that makes cash so useful also makes it impossible to confine to specific uses.
Worse yet, people are as much a part of the problem of Capitalism as its mechanisms. People, as has been mentioned above, are changed by both authority and submission to it—to be a boss affects one’s mind, as does being an employee. The office politics, the competition to climb the corporate ladder, the stress—all the unnecessary dramas produced by people under workplace conditions—are unavoidably caused by the nature of labor in business. This almost-biologically-mandated perversion of people in positions of authority has gotten much notice recently with regard to the police and their relationship to the communities they protect and serve. It would appear that any person given a gun to wear, and told to enforce the law, is in danger of becoming authoritarian, even violent towards those they ostensibly serve. But the same dynamics that obtain in that example are also true, to a certain extent, in any workplace where a manager is led astray by the urgings of power.
Because of this, it is safe to assume that, regardless of how many laws and regulations govern the workplace, it will always be an inherently unfair environment. Worse yet, this is only a statement of the influence of authority—it doesn’t even touch on the fact that people don’t necessarily arrive at a job with an intact, healthy psyche. People go through lots of stuff before they reach the legal age to get a job—and whatever traumas have formed their personalities are only exacerbated by ‘gainful employment’.
Indeed, this is true of people in general. Many are raised by less-than-perfect parents. Many are raised in religious fundamentalism, giving them a skewed perspective on reality. Many are raised in poverty, causing permanent fear and resentment towards those who live in comfort—and, conversely, being raised in wealth can lead many to become overbearing and dismissive towards the majority of the human race, particularly the poor.
The way we are raised, the conditions of our family and community life, the teachings of our spiritual leaders—all these things create a humanity that is far more disposed towards conflict than cooperation. The formation of an individual is so haphazard that a certain percentage of people can be expected to end up as murderers, rapists, thieves, and con-artists—and the rest of us are only relatively well-balanced. We are not perfect—we’re just good enough to stay out of prison, is all.
So when we speak of Civilization, of the Family of Man—or any such grand generalization—we are speaking in the aggregate of people who, as individuals, must each be considered potential time-bombs of anti-social behavior. And that behavior can take an infinite number of forms, from being crabby towards one’s own children, to being a cold-blooded dictator of an undeveloped nation. This clarifies the issue of ‘how can we be so self-destructive?” We can observe Humanity as a single entity, we can discuss Civilization as an overview of ourselves—but we have zero control over ourselves as a group.
Even when rules are so clear and exact as to describe a perfect situation, the troubles that live within each individual will eventually lead us to find ways to circumvent the spirit of the rules, to manipulate the letter of the rules, for selfish reasons. We have been in this race since Hammurabi’s Pillar, and even the lawyers find themselves working half the time in good faith with the law, and half the time working against it. When the rules get in the way of our dreams, we search for ways around the rules—it’s in our nature.
That’s us—nothing to be done about that. That was fine, back when the world was too enormous ever to be used up, back when God was in his Heaven, back before the Internet, when we weren’t on the cusp of quasi-AI and nanotech-enhanced, remote-presence medicine and self-contained, robotic Mars explorers. Now we don’t know whether to ban paraplegics from the Olympics because their hi-tech prostheses give an unfair advantage, or to baby-proof munitions factories so that single mothers can bring their kids to work.
In a recent broadcast, the discussion over e-share commerce brought out the point that Uber’s car service, while superior to existing urban transport, also circumvents a century’s worth of safety and regulatory legislation. This makes Uber both modern and primeval—they create a paradox by using modernity to circumvent civilization. (As of this writing, there is a news report that India has banned Uber due to a rape that occurred during a ride-share—an excellent example of the conflict between progress and human nature.)
Hacking has always been synonymous with coding—its only difference is in the suggestion of a rebel outlaw doing the coding. The term is important because software, like any tech, is open to both good and bad aims—but a hacker isn’t just a bad person who codes. Hacking can mean being a rebel, or a Robin Hood, who codes—possibly even a champion of human rights. Beyond that, the subject becomes one of syntax. But Hacking, as an activity, has also come to be synonymous with finding an easy way to solve or circumvent problems. So-called ‘life-hacks’ can be anything from the best way to refrigerate pineapple slices to the safest way to invest towards retirement. Hardly the acts of a criminal.
But Uber, and other e-share-oriented businesses, are busily pioneering the ‘corporate hack’, a digital backdoor that allows new forms of trade, free from the boundaries of written communication, brick-and-mortar competition, and civil oversight. These clever, new uses of the digital universe, however, create legislative loopholes faster than they generate new business models. The fly-by-night business, once confined to the mails, has now blanketed the globe via WyFy. A person without a physical location is not held back by the same constraints as a person who can be found behind the same counter on the day after you buy something unsatisfying from their shop. And when combined with computerized phone-answering, these businesses can even offer ‘customer service’ while still leaving the customer with no solid target for retaliation, or even complaint. Hence Yelp reviews, I guess.
So, complexity takes a quantum leap forward. Personal responsibility virtually evaporates. Global climate-change edges ever closer to global disaster. Population growth towers dizzyingly. Suddenly, our civilization is faced with an ultimatum—confine the term ‘civilization’ to mean only the one percent and consign the rest of us to savagery among ourselves -or- take a pick-axe to the existing paradigm through collective action. The first option is the most likely because it counts on the disorganized lack of action we can expect from ourselves as a group. The second option is far less likely, as it would require people, as a community, to act in their own best interest—something history tells us we have never, ever done before.
On the contrary, it seems that small, well-led groups of people are the only paradigm within which humanity can exert its greatest power. A team of dedicated people can be found at many of the central pivot-points of civilization’s history. Now, small groups empowered by technology, can accomplish incredible things—good and bad. Thus we witness the rise of SpaceX, a relatively new and tiny company that accomplishes things it once took a federal institution like NASA to orchestrate. And we see the birth of terrorist groups, without massive armies or host nations, capable of attacks on the world’s mightiest superpower. Even individuals have greater power than we ever dreamed—Snowden’s release of classified documents surprised us, in part, because it involved more pages of information than Edward, in an earlier age, could ever have moved without several large trucks—and he did it with a few clicks of a mouse, sending it all not just to one location, but virtually everywhere. That’s power—we all now have that power—any of us can send a mountain of information from one place to another, instantly.
Those of us old enough to appreciate the difference between then and now are hard pressed to encompass the meaning of such power as the digital age has conferred on us. Those young enough to take digital communication for granted have no idea how much the world will be changed by the growing inclusion of all seven billion of us into this information-empowerment. We tend to look at ‘progress’ as an ennobling evolution—that with great enough knowledge, surely wisdom must follow. But progress enables our fears as well, our greed and our bitterness—these things are provided with the same wings as our dreams.
So, at the end of all this trouble and woe, we find that improving ourselves and making things better for others is the most important progress of all.
But if truth is anything, it’s inconvenient. Take the Earth, for instance—looks flat, feels flat—and for hundreds of years, most people thought it was flat. Ancient Greeks who studied Philosophy (Science, before we called it that) knew that the world was round—some even calculated brilliant measurements that gave them a close approximation of the Earth’s diameter. Perhaps the Mayans, or the Chinese, maybe even the Atlanteans—knew similar stuff, but none of it mattered to Western Civilization during the Dark Ages. Most of ancient math and science would return to Europe during the Enlightenment via East, the caretakers of ancient knowledge during the chaos of post-Roman-Empire Europe—and, indeed, without that returning influx of science, Columbus may never have sailed.
These exceptions notwithstanding, the popular view was that the Earth was flat and arguing about it seemed a moot point. It was only after Columbus’s well-publicized return from the ‘New World’ that people began to see the globe, not as an intellectual exercise, but as a limitless expanse of unclaimed assets and resources. Now that there was land to be grabbed and money to be made, the world could be in the shape of a dodecahedron for all anyone cared. The truth of the world being round had ceased to be inconvenient.
But others remained. Now that we couldn’t avoid the image of all of us standing upright on the outside of a globe, gravitational force became another inconvenience. ‘Things fall down’ was no longer sufficient—because we now knew ‘down’ to be several different directions, and all of them inward, towards the center of the globe. Without Columbus’s voyages, there may not have been any cause for Newton to ponder the invisible force we call Gravity. But once his calculations produced the Laws of Motion, and the Calculus, it became possible to send a cannon-ball exactly where it would do the most damage. The truth of Gravity then went from inconvenient to useful—and physics was ‘born’. Between the chemists cooking up gunpowder and the mathematicians calculating parabolic arcs, the militant-minded leaders of early European states would forever-after find it convenient to shield the scientists from the witch-hunters and the clergy.
Science, however, would not confine itself to military uses. By the dawn of the twentieth century, we had begun to study ourselves. Archaeologists had studied our prehistoric past—and found it contained evidence of religion having evolved from primitive atavism to the modern churches. We discovered that God was a part of human lore, not of divine revelation—that God didn’t exist. This is the most inconvenient truth of all—and it has spawned a culture of debate, diversion, propaganda, indoctrination, and fundamentalist extremism. Half the world pines for the loss of innocence and simplicity—the other half is busy trying to undo science with suicide vests and beheadings.
I’ll always remain puzzled by this aversion to observable facts. We’ll trust science enough to take a ride across the globe in a multi-tonned, metal jet-airliner—but still hold it lightly enough that we pick and choose which science is convenient and which isn’t. Observable fact gets a bad rep—‘there’s more than meets the eye’; ‘all is not what it seems’; ‘the hand is quicker than the eye’—yes, observed fact can be misleading, but only because we feeble humans are doing the observing. Still, I consider the incompleteness of science to be a necessary characteristic of good science—observable fact may not be written in stone, but reproducible results are still of greater value than any other perspective has yet to offer mankind.
And the worst part is that we who believe in science are often so hard-pressed by theists that we shy away from the vital humanism that science lacks. It is, rather, all the more important to embrace what it means to be human in a world with no one to worship but ourselves. But we are too busy defending ourselves from people who would kill us in the name of their fairy tales.
What a day! I wrote a song, “Obama Went A-Courtin”; I played through two challenging piano arrangements, George Shearing’s take on “If I Give My Heart To You” and Bob Zurke’s version of “I’m Thru With Love”; and I threw in a couple of short improvs, just for fun…
“If I Give My Heart To You”
by Jimmie Crane, Al Jacobs, Jimmy Brewster
(c) 1953 Miller Music Corp.
Piano Interpretation by George Shearing:
“I’m Thru With Love”
words by Gus Kahn
Music by Matt Malneck, Fud Livingston
(c) 1931 MGM Inc.
Piano Solo Arranged by Bob Zurke:
I want to talk to these people. For starters, it isn’t fair that their personal stupidity gets so much exposure while the rest of us are stuck talking only to our small circle of friends and neighbors. I want to talk to Don Young, Chris Christie, Nan Hayworth, that bubble-brain on FOX news (Yeah, which one? I know.) and that 17-year-old walking pimple from Australia who likes ISIS, and killing people. I want to tell you all something.
You’re all assholes—stupid, sick, selfish, stuck-up, stupid assholes. Did you notice I used ‘Stupid’ twice? Yeah, that was on purpose. But don’t worry—you five are certainly not alone. There’s Rick Perry—Texas asshole. There’s Rand Paul—Kentucky asshole. There’s Vlad Putin—Russian asshole (bonus points—it’s not easy to make your ignorance stand out in Russia!) There’s Republicans as a whole—what a bunch of eyes-tight-shut assholes you people are. Nothing personal—you’re all just as stupid as mud, that’s all.
And a lot of you are evil motherfuckers, as well. Don’t get me wrong—you’re still unbelievably stupid—but evil, too. And in such a dazzling variety of ways—you’re selfish, you’re greedy, you’re xenophobic, you’re homophobic, you’re afraid of girls, you’re afraid of educated people—you’re even afraid of the thoughts in your own damn heads. How’s that for cowardice? What makes these lily-livered, piss-yellow cry-babies think that their fear-mongering is something the rest of us in the world have the slightest use for? Too scared to think straight, I guess.
Koch brothers? Are you listening? Your mother should have strangled the both of you with your own umbilicals—you think being rich makes you right? Sorry—being rich just makes you bigger assholes. But stay rich, please—if that’s what it’s like, heaven protect the rest of us—you two are already beyond all hope—a pair of scumbags with enough money to spread the fame of your idiocy far and wide. I guess I’m lucky—when I have something idiotic to say, at least I can’t afford a billboard to plaster it on.
So which makes me the most angry—you pack of morons, or the morons that feature you in the media, to the point of obscuring anything that really matters? It’s a tough call. Stupidity is generous to you all. But, no—it’s still you idiots. The people that have to make a living have at least some sort of excuse to do the stupid things they do—they’re not in charge of Stupid—that’s all on you, you self-important bags of excrement, you.
All that being said, here’s a piano improvisation in the same, damn-the-torpedoes vein:
And just to keep everything civil, here’re some pleasanter words from far pleasanter people…
Piano Cover: “When I Fall In Love” (plus “Improv- When In Love With Shakespeare”) (2014Oct21)
My early-morning, throat-clearing session:
A piano cover of “When I Fall In Love”,
followed by a brief improvisation which I have chosen to
entitle “Improv- When In Love With Shakespeare”.
(You may notice the improved quality of the vocals caused by the positioning of the camera closer to my mouth than the piano.)
Vnthrifty louelineſſe why doſt thou ſpend, Vpon thy ſelfe thy beauties legacy? Natures bequeſt giues nothing but doth lend, And being franck ſhe lends to thoſe are free: Then beautious nigard why dooſt thou abuſe, The bountious largeſſe giuen thee to giue? Profitles vſerer why dooſt thou vſe So great a ſumme of ſummes yet can’ſt not liue? For hauing traffike with thy ſelfe alone, Thou of thy ſelfe thy ſweet ſelfe doſt deceaue, Then how when nature calls thee to be gone, What acceptable Audit can’ſt thou leaue? Thy vnuſ’d beauty muſt be tomb’d with thee, Which vſed liues th’executor to be.
Here Shakespeare uses finance as an allegory, exhorting the youth to spend his beauty carefully, not to waste it in self-satiety, but to produce heirs
that may enjoy his legacy.
Thoſe howers that with gentle worke did frame, The louely gaze where euery eye doth dwell Will play the tirants to the very ſame, And that vnfaire which fairely doth excell: For neuer reſting time leads Summer on, To hidious winter and confounds him there, Sap checkt with froſt and luſtie leau’s quite gon. Beauty ore-ſnow’d and barenes euery where, Then were not ſummers diſtillation left A liquid priſoner pent in walls of glaſſe, Beauties effect with beauty were bereft, Nor it nor noe remembrance what it was. But flowers diſtil’d though they with winter meete, Leeſe but their ſhow,their ſubſtance ſtill liues ſweet.
This and the following sonnet can be seen as a pair–both use the seasons to symbolize the passage of time and the path of life. Youth is warned to
distill something permanent from his Summer, to keep him through hideous Winter.
Then let not winters wragged hand deface, In thee thy ſummer ere thou be diſtil’d: Make ſweet ſome viall;treaſure thou ſome place, With beauties treaſure ere it be ſelfe kil’d: That vſe is not forbidden vſery, Which happies thoſe that pay the willing lone; That’s for thy ſelfe to breed an other thee, Or ten times happier be it ten for one, Ten times thy ſelfe were happier then thou art, If ten of thine ten times refigur’d thee, Then what could death doe if thou ſhould’ſt depart, Leauing thee liuing in poſterity? Be not ſelfe-wild for thou art much too faire, To be deaths conqueſt and make wormes thine heire.
As with Sonnet V, the theme is the distillation of self against the losses of time’s passing–but with the specific notion, here, that ten children (!) make
a sure harvest against the poverty of age and death.
The other day my camcorder’s tripod broke. It was cheaper to buy a bigger, better one than to get it fixed (plastic pieces, especially vital ones, always break—I hope they don’t think they’re fooling anybody). I move slowly and deliberately nowadays—I’m damned if I can figure out how I broke it. But that was a special case (I hope). More often I run out of charge and get disappointed that something I was surprised to get a record of—was not recorded at all.
Yes, I run my camera a lot, but you know how hard it is to get a good recording when you’re self-conscious. Fortunately, I’m so absent-minded I can sometimes forget that there is a camera—but I have to run it every time, because I’m more likely to forget it when it’s always there.
I’ve also learned that I have to check the little screen after I hit ‘record’—sometimes it’s telling me that the lens-cover is still up, or the data-card is still in the PC port. There’s also a toggle switch to set the ‘zoom’—I don’t know why they can’t just use a set-switch instead of a toggle. It toggles so fast that I end up zooming in and out and in and out. It’s ridiculous.
The Internet is tightening up these days—only a few years ago I could download a graphic from Google’s Image Search and use it to make a point or to be funny—with all that stuff out there, it would be a shame to waste it and it’s isn’t like I’m getting rich off them. But those days are over. Not only have the graphics i-vendors created an overnight industry, they’ve found security measures that follow copies of their graphics. When they detect a Facebook posting or a blog graphic that ID’s itself as theirs, they contact you and threaten to sue you. So, goodbye Google Image Search.
I just use my own photos now—I have several thousand (I’ve transcribed both sides of the families’ photo albums into videos—and some other work). Plus I just take photos of anything—but I have to remind myself to do it. I’m so used to the camera taking videos; I forget to take a few snaps before I turn it off. I’ll have to start taking more pictures, however, since my need for them has suddenly increased. My primary use for graphics has been, until now, the two end-cards I use to bracket my videos. I like to have a still shot as part of the Titles Card and I prefer to use a different photo for the Credits Card, which makes two photos per video.
Now, I’ve begun using the old family albums (theirs and ours) to make videos to be overlayed onto the piano recital videos. This way I have something to look at as well as listen to. It may not improve the videos for everybody, but I have to work with what I have. Anyhow, because this will eat up a lot of my album collections, I’ll have to start using present-day snaps for the two cards, and sometimes for the overlay videos (I don’t want my family history to be the only thing in my videos).
They always get me, I tell ya. Back in the eighties I recorded myself on an audio-cassette recorder and listened to the (unedited) tapes in my car—my daughter took some (which I was flattered by) but there were few others involved, even as an audience. Blank cassettes were pretty cheap, I used the built-in mike—et, voila! Aside from the audio-cassette player/recorder (which I would have bought anyway, to listen to music) it cost me close to nothing.
April Fools Improv No. 2
I went from there to digital audio recorder, to camcorder, to HD camcorder with tripod—plus a few hundred bucks worth of software: graphics, audio-editing, video-editing, file-conversion, etc., and an external-hard-drive to hold it all. Some days I just say ‘f**k it’ and just play the piano. But I have gone so far as to buy mikes, an electric piano, and upload software to record straight from the keyboard’s MIDI port. I got it all hooked up, tried it out, and it scared me. It’s been gathering dust for a while now. It gives me the heebie-jeebies.
I’m thinking of quitting Facebook. I’ve enjoyed ‘interacting’ with people—I was surprised that everyone in my past was still out there, living lives I knew nothing of. I was amazed at some of the accomplishments of people who I last saw as children, or at best, teenagers. The connectedness to all the latest of the very latest in politics, showbiz, art, music, movies, books, writing, poetry, science, astronomy, space exploration, gadgets, discoveries, and absolutely everything else, has made me feel much more in touch with the world and the people in it. It’s almost like a canoe that goes along; and you can slip your hand in the water and feel the world flowing through your fingers.
So why quit? There are several reasons. At the end of the day, I don’t want my sole output to consist of keystrokes, mouse clicks, and peering at a glowing screen (no matter how mind-blowing the graphic). I can’t ‘Like’ my way through life. And the shadows of Mordor are gathering, i.e. between commercial and marketing activity, and Facebook’s own mad-scientist muddlings with what does or does not appear on our feeds, Facebook has become a dark wood with giant spiders in it. Several of my Facebook friends have been hacked. The interloper was found and expunged, the true people are back behind their profiles, and all’s well—plus, we all have an eye out now, if any of our friends starts IM-ing or posting strangely—but the chill is in the air.
It’s unsettling—whenever anything such as the internet, or snowboarding, or break-dancing—whenever anything draws a crowd of happy, engaged people who not only watch the thing, but begin to participate in the thing, the filthy rich will set up some kind of commercial approximation of it. Thus the clock is started. Once anything becomes a commodity or an asset, the race is on. Who can attract more customers; who can find the cheapest costs, who can get the highest price? Who has the best marketing campaign? Ultimately, it becomes regulated, circumscribed, a dead thing, a shadow of its former inspiration. It becomes a dark doppelgänger of what it could have been.
But Facebook is still free. Rather than simply quitting, I should consider changing my privacy settings. I could restrict my profile to just friends and a few favorite content providers, like George Takei, The Daily Show, I fucking Love Science, etc. Then I wouldn’t have to wade through the posts that are cleverly disguised sociology-landmines, or outright sales-pitches. My favorite ad is the small one on the bottom right of the Facebook ‘frame’—it’s usually a picture of a large-breasted young lady without a shirt, with the tag-line: “You gotta see this!” I actually clicked on that thing before I knew what I was doing. But the site you’re brought to is like a small-town diner’s paper placemat, just full of local service-businesses’ websites—and just reeking of hacker-vulnerability.
But cutting myself off from the ‘fire hose’ kinda defeats the purpose of being plugged into the whole world—it’s kinda the point. Otherwise, I imagine my friends and I will all end up uploading phone-pics of our breakfast each morning!
I know to avoid anything on the side-ribbons of the Facebook frame—no matter how intriguing. And I know to look for those little logos that warn of a larger organization behind that post. But it takes so long and gets so tiring. So, I guess I’ll stick with my friends, for a while at least, until the foliage gets too thick to hack through to them… ..if it gets too bad, I may still have to perform some sort of self-intervention. Life should not be lived on a keyboard. I spend hours on the computer, preparing and posting my little videos and my little essays (like this)—but I will not ‘hang out’ here. I have a perfectly good front lawn—there’s even some decent lawn furniture to sit in and talk (to myself if necessary).
Now, this is not the fault of Facebook, this is a failing of our Capitalism—one of its many—but nothing, not even Facebook (“It’s free and always will be.”) can keep out their tentacles. Facebook is a fragile thing, and it has become a badly trampled garden. We’ve all experienced ‘trolls’—they can be blocked and are, therefore, relatively harmless—but the ones who crawl behind the code (like the employees fiddling with our Facebook feeds) are far more difficult to spot, much less defend against.
Sociology is a wonderful thing. I took a course in college—it was great. But the first thing they teach you is that individuals are random and unpredictable, but the larger the ‘sample size’ (# of people) you study, the more predictable they become. And the internet is a darn big ‘sample size’. Sociology is primarily used in marketing research—its most profitable use (though it has many more important uses going begging). So it is only natural for market researchers to salivate over a titanic mass of consumers, all with the power to pay by clicking a mouse. But Heisenberg is on our side—the stats are only valid if WE don’t know we are being observed.
I saw a Times article—a man clicks ‘like’ on everything he sees on his feed for two days straight—even stuff he hates, he clicks ‘like’. He started getting crazy feed-posts from such nutjobs that he was afraid he’d be put on a government watch-list. His Facebook friends’ feeds went crazy, they were all screaming at him, asking if he’d been hacked. And some administrator at Facebook eventually called him to talk about it! He was messing up their trending algorithms.
It sounded like fun, but then I thought maybe it’d be better just to sign off for good and all. Would I lose something important, something worth staying in my present mode of checking out Facebook for two or three hours every day? Well, there are some people I interact with almost every day, very nice folks all of whom I enjoy being in touch with. And we all share stuff from the internet-fed chaos around us. All of them are too far away to have any regular contact with outside of Facebook.
Now here is the hilarious record of what happens when I try to play doubles with a real musician, Peter Cianflone–it’s almost too embarrassing to post, but I had so much fun—The first picture is to click on for the entire playlist (listen to all five videos in a row). The five individual videos are available below that, so you can pick and choose as you like. Enjoy, I hope!
Robin Williams is dead—an apparent suicide. And Philip Seymour Hoffman is still on my mind. Two of our greatest artists choose not to go on living—what is that supposed to tell us? Nothing good, that’s what. Lauren Bacall lived to a ripe old age—but those who worked for her or encountered her on the streets of Manhattan all agree she was quite scathing—nothing like the fond remembrances of Robin Williams that gush from everyone he ever met.
My late brother and I had a running debate on this—being nice, according to him, was a stupid waste of time—my attitude was that being nice to each other was the point of life. We both had firm beliefs in our opposite views—neither one of us could ever budge the other, nor did we get along all that well. But it seems we were just a dual personification of Yin and Yang—both pushing hard in different directions, which led to a spinning energy that neither of us could benefit from, nor be harmed by.
Why was I, the atheist, so sure that being nice to each other was the point of living? Well, when you take away the mythical support systems of the religious, you are left with no absolute reason to continue living—it becomes a choice. I see only one reason to make that choice, to face up to that challenge—and that is love.
But when love becomes a reason for greed or violence or persecution, it is a twisted thing. Whenever a parent takes from others for the sake of the family, the family learns a twisted definition of love. Whenever a patriot bad-mouths a foreign-looking citizen, he or she warps the true meaning of our country’s Constitution. Whenever a politician cries, “Be afraid—Be very afraid!” it is an insult to our founding fathers, who made a point of Freedom being something worth fighting and dying for.
The Patriot Act is a perfect example—politicians decide to cancel our civil liberties for our own good, just because someone might blow up a building (and this after hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their blood and their lives to earn those liberties).
Why has this become so confused? Because we seem to forget that Love, like Freedom, is more precious than life. Without love and freedom, we end up with a life hardly worth the name. We cannot insist on liberty for ourselves and deny it to others. We cannot both love and possess anyone or anything. Our love does not grant us title to the object of our love—to the contrary, it makes us a possession of our beloved. We don’t own our spouse or our kids—they own us.
We should be ashamed of our acceptance of the Patriot Act—its name tries hard, but its truth is as unpatriotic as Nazism or Communism. We have allowed this to continue long after the blind panic encouraged by the Bush administration had calmed down. We no longer support stupidity in the highest office. We no longer blindly support war against Bush’s enemies. Why do we hesitate to call for an end to the Unpatriotic Act? It is far more anti-American than the NSA phone-tapping that everyone got into such a flurry over.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, said FDR. Most people think, “Yeah, we shouldn’t be afraid—that makes sense”. But his words go deeper than that. Fear is the enemy of both love and freedom—we can choose, but we can’t have both fear and freedom. Liberty bounded by intimidation is a false concept—there’s another quote about ‘surrendering liberty for security ends up losing both’ or something like that. We have more pride than courage—we have more shame than faith in our country’s precepts.
The only thing Americans have faith in these days is money. They believe in the miracle of money, even as the power of money destroys our lives, our lands, our culture, and our country. It has even driven us to forsake the arts in our educational system—in spite of the fact that the arts are vital to understanding humanity (including ourselves). Outside of schools, the arts have become an industry—a multi-billion dollar industry that is, nevertheless, not important enough to include in our education programs. Go figure (at least you know math).
One important thing learned by studying the arts is that human expression invariably turns to love as its theme—the joys and sorrows of love are uppermost in everyone’s mind. Money is rarely the subject of a poem, a painting, or a song—and when it is, it is rarely shown in a good light.
Where did we lose the concept of sacrifice? We respect and honor it with words, when it comes to the military—but where else can we find anything but a jeering attitude at the thought of giving up something of ourselves for the sake of another, or of a group? We certainly don’t find it in business. We rarely find it in communities—the odd volunteer fire-person or EMT, the occasional volunteer food-outlet or shelter—but we find these rarities chronically understaffed.
I am as guilty as anyone. Whenever I’m asked to contribute to a charity, I feel like there are plenty of richer people who can just toss out twenties and fifties to whoever asks for it—the fact that generosity on my part would require doing without something for myself, when others can toss bushels-full at it and not even notice, seems unfair.
Plus, I don’t like the idea of crowd-sourcing programs that our taxes should be paying for—social engineering is beyond my experience and my budget, and if you don’t like ‘big government’, it’s only because you’ve never needed help. Having said that much, I must add that a lack of community involvement is as much a barrier to the inclusion of the marginal as any lack of funding.
Fortunate are the communities that knit themselves together—their lives are fuller and their opportunities are more diverse. I have noticed this especially in police-force communities—their isolation (or worse) from the general public drives them to seek each other’s company—they know the value of working together and of backing each other up—and the extreme danger of the job gives them all a strong sense of kinship. Does this lead to their sometimes thinking their wards are their enemy? I can’t say. But community is a strong tool—and a strong defense.
Babies will often create a temporary mini-community, when extended-family members and barely-known neighbors and a clique of schoolgirls who babysit, etc. will come together in common purpose. The group will slowly disintegrate as the baby reaches toddlerhood—but it will have acted as a community until that time.
The worst time is had by those who most need a community—those without family, those without homes, those without a support system of any kind. The worst communities are often those with the wealthiest residents—they pay their way through difficulties, hence they don’t want to pay for anyone else’s problems—and they’re too busy making more money to think of helping in some non-financial way, giving their time or attention to someone else.
Money can’t be simply thrown in the direction of the needy. The community must address their individual needs and concerns and then ask for money needed to achieve a specific goal. If a community has no leadership, or if leadership is without the support of a community, important issues are neglected. We do not need excitable or ham-handed leaders—we simply need responsible adults to think of their community as an important part of their lives.
Money is the score-keeper. Our lives are competitions. We all go after what we want; and someone wins, and the rest turn to other things. Our kids compete for class-levels, grades, scores, sports, and each other. It isn’t real competition—it’s more of a struggle to stay off the bottom. People like me, who have been forced to the sidelines by misfortune, are tempted to see ourselves as losers—for, even though life continues to be a struggle for us, our chances of scoring (i.e., making money) are zero. Those who are above the fray, the very wealthy, need only compete with the small number of their ‘peers’—and, more importantly, they change the rules as they go.
After decades of industry, banking, stocks, war armaments, monopolies, lobbying, and ‘person-hood’, the big-money people and corporations have widened the gap between themselves and the billions of blithely competing thralls of their unshakeable system. For they know the horror of our situation far better than we grasp it—the metaled jaws of commerce will macerate even the super-rich, if they get caught in a jam. Even a couple of billion dollars isn’t enough for this crowd—that’s still middle-class in their view. As the rule-makers, they have a horror of being made to follow someone else’s rules—so they’ve set the rules by now so it’s impossible for a nobody from nowhere to steal as much of other people’s money as they do. The Land of Opportunity and the American Dream have given way to a new American Order that says the money-people are fully in charge.
They scoff at people who work all day and don’t make enough money to both eat and take medicine. They look down their noses at the millions of chronically unemployed, as if the free-market system (which the money-people control) hadn’t put all those people out of their jobs. They lobby congress incessantly to protect their profits by legislating against our rights as employees, consumers, investors, homeowners, prisoners, or patients. Some of the worst corporations make their money from manufacturing weapons and outsourcing para-military mercenaries. They send jobs overseas to countries where the workers are more victimized than we are. They keep their money overseas so they can dodge their taxes, leaving us to pay for the communities they profit off of.
As you may have guessed, I’m not a big fan of money. If I had any money, I’d give it to my wife—she’d know what to do with it. I’d be much happier if everyone else had money—or no one. It’s just not working anymore—all it can do, from here on in, is make things worse….
Yes, I know this blog entry is disjointed and confusing–I’m on medication now, and for the next six weeks… Hopefully the posts will become more coherent with time. In the meantime, read all my stuff with a grain of salt.
In this improv, I attempt to use thirteenth-chords and eleventh-cords (at least, I think I am doing so). It’s a little slow in the tempo, but I was doing a lot of thinking between chords (like I have to, when it’s a new idea or technique) so please don’t hold it against me. I think it came out kind of dreamy (hence the title) but it has a certain ugliness, too, because of the strange discords such complex chords tend to create… But I don’t mind ugly.
Listen, I play my song books every day; I have a zillion of them, and I have carefully documented nearly all my preceding videos of piano covers with the Title, Composer, Lyricist, and Copyright holder of each song. But on this recording, I give the cover of the songbook (The Johnny Mercer Song Book) and I leave it to you to look them up if you’re interested. Johnny Mercer was an incredible Lyricist, but he also published many songs with both Music and Lyrics by him–making him rather unique amongst his peers.
Here I just play fifteen minutes of songs I like–I didn’t sing along this time, but sometimes I have, on previous recordings.
Well, things have been weird lately–Claire just started her new ‘Work Study’ job, Jessy just got offered extra work doing Real Estate photography on weekends, and Spencer and I are enjoying my new arrival of sour candies! I’ve been doing a lot of piano playing without the camera on–but here’s some new stuff I just did…
Improv – Th’Irish Wristwatch: All credit goes to Geo. Takei’s FB post of this seasonal (St. Pat’s Day) tongue-twister!
Improv – Debbie Reynolds & Tony Randall: I just watched their amusing movie (on Turner Classic Movies channel): “The Mating Game (1959) is an MGM film directed by George Marshall and starring Debbie Reynolds, Tony Randall, and Paul Douglas in his final screen appearance… It’s a great film, especially if you enjoy 1950s-1960s rom-coms. It stuck with me, and I needed a title for this piece….QED
George Winston’s “Longing” and “Lullaby”: I’m a rabid fan of George Winston–when I first began piano lessons, one of my goals was to be able to play some of his music someday–and while that day is yet to come, I get a real kick out of sight-reading through the music-book score!
3 Standards: ‘Look of Love’, ‘Lovers Concerto’, ‘Love Is All Around’
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
The Look of Love (1967 song)
Released January 29, 1967
Recorded Philips Studios, London
Composer: Burt Bacharach Writer: Hal David
Ursula Andress inspired Burt Bacharach to compose “The Look of Love” watching her in an early cut of the film Casino Royale.
The track is played while Vesper Lynd seduces Evelyn Tremble, observed through a man-size aquarium.
“The Look of Love” is a popular song composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and sung by English pop singer Dusty Springfield, which appeared in the 1967 spoof James Bond film Casino Royale.
In 2008, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It also received a Best Song nomination in the 1968 Academy Awards.
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
“A Lover’s Concerto” a single by The Toys
from the album: The Toys Sing “A Lover’s Concerto” and “Attack!”
Writer(s) Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, Christian Petzold
“A Lover’s Concerto” is a pop song, written by American songwriters Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell and recorded in 1965 by The Toys.
Their original version of the song was a major hit in the United States, the UK and elsewhere during 1965. It peaked on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 2
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
“Love is All Around”
Single by The Troggs
Released October 1967
Label(s): Page One/Fontana UK; Fontana (Mercury) US
Writer(s) Reg Presley
“Love Is All Around” is a song composed by Reg Presley and originally performed in 1967 by Presley’s band, The Troggs, featuring a string quartet and a ‘tick tock’ sound on percussion, in D-major. Purportedly inspired by a television transmission of the Joy Strings Salvation Army band’s “Love That’s All Around”, the song was first released as a single in the UK in October 1967.
On the US Billboard Hot 100, the record entered at No.98 on 24 February 1968, peaked at No.7 on 18 May 1968, and spent a total of 16 weeks on the chart.
Lastly, the graphics are by Hokusai
Please Note: The last video is two song covers of songs written by : Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Dancing in the Dark (Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz song)
“Dancing in the Dark”
Music by Arthur Schwartz
Lyrics by Howard Dietz
Recorded by Artie Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, et. al.
“Dancing in the Dark” is a popular song first introduced by John Barker in the 1931 revue The Band Wagon.
The 1941 recording by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra earned Shaw one of his eight gold records.
It was subsequently featured in the classic 1953 MGM musical The Band Wagon and has since come to be considered part of the Great American Songbook.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Alone Together (song)
“Alone Together” is a song composed by Arthur Schwartz with lyrics by Howard Dietz.
It was introduced in the Broadway musical Flying Colors in 1932 by Jean Sargent. The song soon became a hit, with Leo Reisman and His Orchestra’s 1932 recording being the first to reach the charts.
The first jazz artist to record the song was Artie Shaw in 1939.