Are we done having fun yet? It’s been wild, having a nutjob for president, but now that everyone is losing sleep over nuclear Armageddon, from an off-the-cuff remark he thoughtlessly made, isn’t it time we impeached this senile abortion and got a real president?
Democracy without compromise is simply the tyranny of the majority. We allow the majority to elect our officials, but those officials are meant to serve everyone, whether they voted for or against. That is a complex position to be put in—but don’t worry: corruption has dumbed the whole thing down to just ‘getting re-elected’.
Improv – Cuddle Closer
Americans should get back to doing big things for a reason other than profit. The Hoover Dam, the Highway System, the Railroads, the Space Station—Americans used to build great things for the sheer greatness of them. We don’t do that now—but only because we are too distracted to think of it. It makes us small, brings us all down in the mud of money, where the shills have all the power.
The fat gas-bag in the Oval—he infuriated me when he said, “Make America great again”, not simply because he dismissed our present greatness, but redefined our future greatness in terms of dollars and cents—the cad. He should never have been elected—and the fact that he was proves that this country’s greatness, as an ideal, has eluded not just Trump, but a good solid third of the electorate.
Improv – Blue Ballet
So the question arises—how do we convince Americans that they still live in a great country—for reasons that are staring them in the face—when they are so unhappy they can’t appreciate what we have here? One thing we could do is set all the television shows in foreign countries—remind Americans that, here, we are required by law to send our children to school—boys and girls. Remind them of the many ways America is a great place to live—that we don’t use our police as instruments of political oppression—that the vast majority of our cops are public servants, making their neighborhoods safe and just.
Our parochial experiences minimize the truth of this—there are countless protections and freedoms that are not givens, as they are here, in other parts of the world. Theoretically, we make our own laws and choose our own leaders—and it seems apparent that we have to face up to it: We have not been careful stewards of that hard-won privilege. We have become comfortable in the assumption that these freedoms can’t be taken away. We have to start running and voting—and in an informed way that moves us towards solutions to our problems.
The greatest Capitalist, Henry Ford, paid his factory workers high wages, so that they could buy one of the cars they were making. Ford was creating a product and a market at the same time. He wasn’t some present-day fool who saw no connection between business and people. The old saw, ‘You have to spend money to make money’ is most true of governments—this Republican push for ‘independence’ of the individual is just one-percenter propaganda—as if, in the age of global interconnectedness.
We have to grab our citizenship by the throat and wrestle that thing back to what it was intended to be—self-government by majority vote. In my mind, the issues that bedevil us are no longer the problem—at this point, the problem is the issues never get taken care of. We need to elect people who will shut the hell up and do something constructive. Godamit.
The summer rushes on—July reaches an end and the lonely, hot month of August is all that stands between us and the coming of another tilt of the global axis, anti-sunward. My daughter’s daughter, my granddaughter Seneca, had her first birthday—and, of course, her first birthday party (with balloons and cake and presents). Ah, youth—just to look at her makes me feel younger. I, for one, can’t wait for this August to end—because the three of them will be visiting afterwards—and that’s worth another winter.
Claire is painting and printing and charcoaling and pen-and-inking and oil pastel monoprinting and doing pencil portraiture and life studies and plein-air landscapes—it’s been summer art camp for the Bear this year. She’s fantastic and I’m hoping she’ll let me make a video out of a retrospective of her sketches sometime—but not everyone is comfortable splashing themselves all over the internet like I do, so we’ll have to see about that plan….
Spencer has been doing yardwork and home repair—on the one hand, I’m jealous because that used to be my favorite part of being a homeowner—but on the other hand, it’s great to have a real strong man around to do the stuff that needs to get done. I don’t know what the problem is with ‘failure to launch’—we couldn’t get along without Spencer’s help—I’m grateful that he hasn’t felt the need to move far away.
For now I’m having a great old time using baby videos to add a spoonful of sugar to my piano-playing videos. I figure it doesn’t really matter about the playing—how many people can ‘go to the videotape’ to review the first year of their lives? It’s not like it isn’t a happy story. And I’m not quite done yet. I’m listening to Borodin’s 2nd Symphony—it’s nice and long, and good music, which makes it perfect for working at the keyboard.
I’m working on the new batch of videos—this time ‘round, I’ve recorded a bunch of songs from my Dover Music Publications’ “The Ancient Music of Ireland – Arranged for Piano by Edward Bunting”. I include “Molly My Treasure”, “Plangsty Hugh O’Donnell”, “The Jolly Ploughman”, “Slieve Gallen”, and “Give Me Your Hand” (also known as “Tabhair Dom Do Lámh”, the track title used on the Chieftains’ “Chieftains 5” album). I can’t tell you how delighted I was to realize I was playing one of their favorite songs of mine. I practiced and practiced, but I could never approach the speed and vivacity of their recording.
The improvs—well, what can I say. They’re there—that I have the strength to sit on the bench at all is a minor victory, so there you go. It seems that the more tired my playing gets, the more adorable the baby becomes—so, she’s pulling most of the weight on these videos—thank you, Seneca!
Well—back to work—I can’t post this thing without the videos.
I am pleased to present to you my latest videos, featuring my adorable granddaughter (and my piano-playing). She has just started to walk, her first birthday is next week, and they’ll all be coming to see us in a couple of months—hooray!
The media have put our society into a glass jar—and forgotten to poke any holes in the lid. Why would a News-channel talk about one thing all day—and still claim to be News? Newspaper editors go crazy, trying to decide which of the thousands of significant News stories they can fit into each issue—while CNN and the rest confine themselves to one subject—and then struggle to find something new to say about that one subject, for weeks on end—until the next ‘top priority’ subject wanders in.
Denzel Washington recently quoted Mark Twain’s quip to the effect that one can ignore the News and be uninformed, or follow the News and be misinformed. But, Twain lived in a world of Newspapers—nowadays, we can remain uninformed—even with a cable-News channel blaring into the room all day.
Printed News cannot show the same sentence over and over—it cannot type two peoples’ essays, one on top of another, so that we can’t read either one’s words—Newspapers don’t distribute re-runs of previous days’ papers. But, when the medium is a noisy light-show, as with TV and video, content becomes optional—this hypnotically vacuous disgrace is open to them. Yet they’ll still swear that it is Journalism.
Plainly, TV News could supply far more information—if information delivery were truly its goal—by airing the prompter. Just turn that camera around and let us read it for ourselves, why don’t you? But then, it’s not really Journalism—no, no—this is Infotainment. Big business—why is it so easy to make money by degrading people?
It’s all about terminology—any old thing can claim to be ‘News’, but ‘Journalism’ is a different animal—a more rigorous bar to be met. We have many TV News shows—even News channels—but we don’t have much TV Journalism. The attention-based economy has stomped its footprint into our lives. While this predator ranges the landscape, we’ll have to look to books and newspapers for our hard facts—any info from media more ephemeral is tainted—ensnared by the commodification of sensational attention-getting—and thus suspect.
And most of all we must look to ourselves—the easiest thing we could possibly have an impact on—our own thoughts and feelings, how we live, how we treat others—one could conceivably spend an entire day ‘making the world a better place’ simply by being a better person—and it’s so convenient. I mean—you’re right there, already.
To avoid unnecessary conflicts without letting fear be the guide—to stand tall without the need to coerce others—these are the real problems of life. The rest is just details. If I mean well but do nothing, I am failing to interact with reality—but, if I do something, it’s hard to be sure it’s the right thing to do.
I have to search my heart carefully—ask myself what my true motivations are—whether I act out of righteousness—or just some tempting ego-trip that looks good. Then there’s the thinking through of an action, beforehand—will it get the results I seek, or simply show me off as a crusader? And will there be further consequences, beyond my immediate acts, that would ultimately worsen whatever situation I’m trying to help?
The bottom line usually is this—I can’t be of use to other people if I’m not with other people—if I don’t get involved in my community personally, I can’t really know what their problems are. So, I usually confine myself to not doing anything to cause trouble for others—living as a shut-in makes it hard for me to help others—but it’s still very easy for me to make other people miserable, if I’m not careful. Still, I miss being of use—the challenge and complexity of being a good person amid the hustle and bustle—those were the days. Not that I was very good at it—but I love a challenge.
Motivation means everything to me—when I catch myself doing something for unacknowledged motives, it really embarrasses me. I don’t like the image of other people seeing me argue for something and seeing what I’m really trying to say, and that I don’t even know it.
Motivation is, to me, like Body Language—in the way that Body Language can say much more than the words someone says—and can say it without that person’s awareness—motivation is the personality behind someone’s actions.
When I look at the talking heads of the News—or the politicians the News is about—I take note of what they say and what they do and how they vote—but I also keep an eye out for where they’re headed with the sum of their activity—I ask myself, where are they going with this?
I get dismayed by the number of public figures whose motivations are impervious to reason—people for whom facts can get in the way. I simply don’t understand it—if my stance on an issue runs counter to the facts, I cede the point—life’s too short to get mad because things aren’t the way I wish they were. Better to move forward towards something that promises a better future—and leaving reason out of that is madness (well, by definition, too, yeah).
We get a lot of debate about ‘alternative facts’ lately—people argue over what’s true or false, partly or *wholly, proven or merely alleged—and paste labels onto facts which they dislike, as if to cast them out. We all know that such a situation could only arise if one party were working very hard to obscure the plain truth—although, by now, we are dangerously close to it being all parties that are jumping on the bandwagon, when it comes to ‘fact-curation’.
I’m tempted to point the finger at the party with the ties to Russia—but I’ll let you puzzle that bit out for yourselves. Maybe it was incautious to so completely empower a man who’d made a career out of pushing the ethical envelope—that’s not very presidential. He’s so good at surprising us, keeping us off-balance—it makes some people nervous—even panicky. But not Congress—nerves of steel, those folks.
* (I spelt this ‘wholely’—but Word corrected me to ‘wholly’—I googled it—the first is English spelling, the second is American. Guess I read too many Brit authors.)
A good person, we are told, avoids fighting unless it’s absolutely necessary—but the one who throws the first punch has the best chance of winning a fight. A good person, we are told, cares about others—but then again, one is supposed to look out for number one. Honesty is the best policy—but a little white lie can sometimes be the difference between life and death.
If these sound familiar, it may be because they are often the crux of a drama: to fight or not to fight, to give or to take, to be honest or not. So, one might assume that ethics adds drama to life—ethics tell us to find a way around our animal impulses—and that’s where the drama comes in. But, if we are successful, we feel that we’ve risen above our animal nature—ethics is our way of proving to ourselves that we are above dogs.
No offense to dogs—some of them are far nicer than people—but if you try to reason with a dog, you won’t get far. Then again, trying to reason with some people is no different. They use the pretense of reason to rationalize the behavior of an animal. Even math can be warped into the service of bullshit—4 out of 5 dentists agree.
Some claim that ethics are pretentious luxuries, a thin veneer that falls away at the first sign of deprivation or hunger. But the same could be said of friendship—and while that may be true of many friendships, or ethics, it is not true of all of them. Some people are kamikazes about their friendships, or their ethics—are these people mad? Or are the rest of us missing out on some key factor?
I think it depends on how much you value yourself—if you consider yourself a part of something, you’re less likely to see yourself as irreplaceable—you’re more likely to see sacrifice, on your part, as benefitting the whole. If you think of yourself as a ‘lone-wolf’ individual, you’re more likely to see your own survival as the bottom line.
So, it seems our choices are: 1. suicidally sacrificial or 2. selfishly self-centered—at this point, we realize that everything has two sides and there is no simple, rote answer to any question. A-little-of-each presents itself as the obvious answer—but is it really that simple? Sorry—no, nothing is simple—then again, it can be, if you shut your mind to the endless variety of existence. This accounts for the effectiveness of some douchebag giving out with a derisive ‘whatever’ as a rebuttal to common sense. Apparently, ‘I don’t give a shit’ is an acceptable substitute for ‘I know what I’m doing’.
I don’t respect people that walk away from a losing argument—to me, losing an argument is the most educational experience there is—to find out that there is a better answer, a better way of seeing things. What could be of greater value? When I argue, it’s not to win the fight, it’s to communicate a different point of view—and if I lose the argument, I’m obligated to recognize that the other person had a better grasp of the issue than I did—and that I’ve learned something.
Even if someone hears me out and insists on disagreeing with me, because of their ‘faith’ or some such non-rational bullshit—even that I can respect more than someone who enters into an argument just to be belligerent—and walks away with a ‘whatever’ when they can’t bully me with their rhetoric. That’s just being a jerk, in my book.
The glut of such jerks online is similar to the increased hate and xenophobia that we see today—and it has the same source. Trump is a bully-arguer, and a racist fear-monger—and he won the election (or, at least, the Electoral College)—so, other bully-arguers, and racist fear-mongers, feel emboldened, having such a prominent role-model. And in the end, the bad example of our head of state may do more lasting damage than his bad governance. Bad laws can be rescinded, but encouraging people to hate is a poor lesson that can have a life-long impact on our society.
That is my strongest reason for wanting Trump impeached—conduct unbecoming an American. A leader should be an example—and his incompetent, unethical leadership isn’t nearly as damaging as his bad example. Trump isn’t just a bad president—he’s a bad person. #Sad!
Improv – Late in the Day
Thursday, April 20, 2017 3:29 PM
The Job of Jazz (2017Apr19)
The R&B brass section, the vocal back-up trio, the echo effect—and then the electric guitar comes in. It’s got smooth power—and makes you feel like you’re madly in love. But the drums seal the deal—you fall into another world—a world that was hiding behind the silence. At that point, anything the front man sings will sound like sexy poetry—he could be reading from a phone book. And that’s the artifice in art—to the audience it is transporting—to the creator it is hard work, made to seem effortless.
Poetry is much the same—Eliot called it ‘a mug’s game’. Writing in general is a matter of pacing and rhythm—even the graphic arts have a sweep to them that is the visual equivalent of rhythm and pacing—composition and contrast, highlights and empty space.
The paradox is pure—self-expression is not for the creative worker—it is for everyone else. It is an expression—which presumes a listener, a viewer, a reader. Yes, it is your unique and personal self-expression—but it is still an expression—a message sent—and why send a message if not to connect to a recipient?
That is the nakedness of it—to be honestly self-expressive is to reveal who we are—and who we are is the sum of our lifetimes. Thus honest self-expression becomes one’s life story—who we are and how we live. Its revelatory nature is the thing that frightens many people away—and they are all quite sensible people. Apparently, strong feelings and conflict drive some people to creative self-expression—contented people can enjoy art (I’m in that group) but they aren’t as driven as those who live and breathe their art as an almost exclusive preoccupation.
Some people insist on being the audience. They’ll call out to a celebrity actor by their TV character’s name—ignoring both reality and the hard work of the actor in an unconscious effort to merge entertainment with reality. To the actor, I imagine, that’s a double-edged compliment—the high regard of the delusional—but with their numbers so high, ratings are guaranteed—in some way, he or she is making their living by feeding that delusion.
And am I any saner, just because I know to turn off my willing suspension of disbelief as the credits roll? We all crave seeing our lives as something other than the reality—we love to connect to feelings we share, to experience vicariously and empathize with the challenges and exertions of heroes and heroines. Reading a good book isn’t much different from living in another time and place as another person. Coming to the end of a great movie is like waking from an incredible dream. Sex, drugs, and liquor have their place—but there is no escapism like the arts.
Hadyn – Sonata in C (Excerpt)
Friday, April 21, 2017 12:42 AM
These new videos I’ve posted today include one that is a sight-reading of the 2nd and 3rd movements from a Haydn Sonata in C (I forget the number). First of all, I misspelled Haydn’s name in the video, which is always embarrassing, yet I always do it. Secondly, I don’t keep any kind of rhythm and everyone knows that you have to keep a steady rhythm. Try to think of it as conversational sight-reading. Talented musicians sometimes take exception to my posts—they are the antithesis of good technique—and I get tired, sometimes, of explaining that I can’t play the piano as well as I would wish—but I like to do it, and I like to share it with people who aren’t so picky. I had a run-in just the other day and I wrote it up, but then I decided not to share it with you. Now, however, as a preemptive disclaimer to my poorly-played Haydn, I share it herewith:
Friday, April 14, 2017 6:28 PM
YouTube Scuffle (2017Apr14)
“Every Time We Say Goodbye” by Cole Porter (2013Jun06)
This is a video I posted four years ago. Three years go by—nobody watches, nobody cares—then, a year ago:
plica06 (1 year ago) This is so bad. You could have at least practised a bit before uploading.
xperdunn (1 year ago) plica06: What a perfect opportunity for you to show us all how it’s done with your own video performance. Or are you all talk and no go?
US GameRat (4 months ago) xperdunn: good thing you know how to handel this and im not being sarcastic at all, im being serious. dont worry about what he or she said, because even if you did or didnt practice that is one beautiful song and you deserve the love because i know what music is. i know why this was so good and it still is, so thank you for making this video become true because without this video i woulndt have any other help, and this is the only video i found because i have the same music, and i found it online and so youre basically helping me learn this song. but this video was better that what i thought than what i would find. you impressed me thank you! i dont care if this plica06 guy calls me some random 13 year-old-piano-player-wanna be, i dont give a shit. i love music, and no one can make me stop. i really have an extreme, basically addiction, or really really deep love over music. but yea. thanl you. at least you made this come true than someone judjing you by who you are because i know truly youre an amazing person. really. and im talking to xperdunn 🙂
xperdunn (4 months ago) US GameRat: thanks for the support, guy! We music-lovers must fight the forces of musical snobbery, encouraging everyone to enjoy music, no matter the trolls. Be well.
US GameRat (4 months ago) xperdunn yeah! thank you 🙂
pianoplaylist (2 hours ago) plica06 was extremely lacking in tact. I disagree though that he or she is a mere troll or a just a musical snob. You, sir, should fight the forces of mediocrity and make a version that is worthy of your years of investment of time and worthy of the genius work of art that this song is. It’s a free country and you can upload whatever half-baked, sight reading practice session you desire, but you obviously have the talent and the knowledge to refine your rendition and make it more pleasing to the ear. That would be more encouraging to the learners. Sorry for being harsh. I wish you the best in all things.
So, you can see that plica06 is critical of my poor piano playing—and because I post my videos to encourage other non-talented music-lovers to go ahead and share what they love, I don’t take crap from nobody—that’s part of it, showing people that a troll is nothing but a guy wasting his time at the keyboard.
But pianoplaylist is critical because he thinks I can do better. That’s the trouble with the internet—everyone has an agenda and nobody knows the whole story. I can barely hold a cup of coffee in my left hand—intentional tremors are just one of the symptoms of nerve damage—poor short-term memory is another. My decades-long struggle with HepC and liver cancer and a liver transplant—and all the permanent damage that was done to my body and my mind—make my poor attempts something of a triumph, even though they suck by the usual standards.
And that is the reason I post my videos—anyone else out there who has been told that they weren’t meant to play music—ignore the critics. Anyone out there that is embarrassed to post their music—post it anyway—be brave. If you have even a pinch of ability, you will soon be much better than I am, or will ever be. As long as you love music—play it—share it—don’t stop to listen to anyone else—they should be playing their own music, not stopping your bliss.
I was extremely gratified that my sight-reading was able to help US GameRat to learn to play this beautiful tune by Cole Porter, an American legend. If he is the only person that takes heart from my posts, so be it—good enough. But who knows, maybe there are more young beginners out there….
Chris Farrell has tuned the piano and spring has officially arrived—the sour flatness of a far-too-long winter is broken into shards of light by the bright eagerness of our perfectly-attuned piano. If you don’t see much of Chris lately, it’s because the Danbury WestConn needs him to tune all their pianos, all hundred-something of them, all year ‘round. Also, he’s working up a new website and writing the occasional song for the UN—yeah, that UN. His daughter is also busy—involved in two recent films “The Fits” and “Salero” (I forget if she directed, produced or both) and you can see them on Netflix if you’re looking for the good stuff.
It’s easy to stay humble when my piano tuner plays my piano far better than I ever could—come to think of it, that was also true of old Steve Anderson, who used to tune our old keyboards—I’m just not very good. But I sure sound better on a tuned piano—they practically play themselves.
Improv – Rainy Spring
Well, the world is a troublesome place—and it seems we add to its power and convenience at our peril—in this present time, with anonymized global comms, shoddy fissile-material security, jet bombers, and alt-news websites recruiting for terror, bad actors have never had it so good.
Every great thing our technology can do is diluted, polluted by the entrenched interests, especially in fuel-energy. Every great thing our Internet can do is smeared by the insecurity of hacking and phishing—the more we welcome it into our lives, the greater the risks. Every great thing our country meant to do for the world has been consumed by our military-industry complex abroad and the NRA at home. The eternal health crisis of modern drug use has been opaqued and diverted by our blind insistence on ‘criminalizing’ drugs—meanwhile Big Pharma bankrupts families (and promotes drug abuse) selling ‘legal’ drugs by prescription.
Improv – Thoughtful
None of the misbehavior is new—but the means, the opportunities, and the exploding variety of white-collar crimes, child armies, and gang activities all combines to demonstrate the kind of explosive change the good guys could be enjoying, if we weren’t being snookered into complacency by vested interests and politicians who see their very existence threatened by the possibilities of digital voting and online government transparency—these things will happen over the cold, dead bodies of the establishment’s entitled. And all the while politicians’ll puff up their chests and orate about democracy—and afterwards, a lobbyist will hand them a check for their reelection campaign.
The English had their mad King George—but unlike us, with Trump, they didn’t suffer the shame of having elected him. Trump is the triumph of ignorance and the death of representative government. And the Republicans who use his populist carnival-barking to advance their partisanship are truly “dogs who have caught a car”—up until now, we had the sense to expect them not to govern—but we foolishly made them our governing body, and they don’t know how—they’d lost for so long, they forgot that ‘winning’ wasn’t the actual job.
Thursday, April 13, 2017 2:04 PM
Dumber than Dirt (2017Apr13)
Trust in Trump—to perfectly simulate what a child would do, as president. He just dropped ‘the biggest non-nuke bomb in our arsenal’ on a suspected ISIS site in Afghanistan. Remember Afghanistan? That’s the country we armed in the eighties, so that they could repel the Soviet invaders—and when they did, we lost their phone-number—leaving the Afghanis with a ruin for a country and no post-war aid or support—like we have traditionally given, even to our enemies.
Twenty years later, in 2003, as we prepared to invade, we even joked that we couldn’t bomb Afghanistan ‘back to the stone age’ because they were already there—and there was truth to that. Fifteen years further along, Trump figures that one big bomb oughta do it—what do you think?
I think he’s dumber than the dirt he kicked up. The arms-makers must be drooling at this guy—it cost millions to send that single flight of Tomahawks to Syria—and I bet it wasn’t cheap to drop the world’s biggest bomb, either. At least he saved us the expense of getting congressional approval.
Poor Afghanistan—we love to fight there, but god forbid we help them keep their peace. That’s the trouble with all these trouble-spots—when the firing stops, everyone turns their backs. Why don’t we try fighting to help some of these people—is that too far beneath us? But then, Americans aren’t big on fixing stuff, even in their own country—I think we’re missing an opportunity here—infrastructure is universal—if we started fixing our own, we could globalize—there are plenty of places in the world that need rebuilding. Of course, they’d have to stop shooting first—and so would we.
This weekend started with a bang—but it sucks that we have to get our jollies from seeing our criminal president and his cynical Congress get their asses kicked. If only we could acquire the knack of electing statespersons instead of lickspittles. Well, there’s supposedly a surge of young women getting into politics as both activists and candidates, so maybe our choices will improve in future—let’s hope so. Not that men can’t produce the occasional Al Franken or Tim Kaine, but such men are rare as hen’s teeth on the beltway, or in state legislatures. Women can hardly hurt things.
Improv – Spring Dance
But enough about worldly matters. Oh, one last thing—the ‘Spring Dance’ video I posted today includes pictures of the grandbaby at her first Women’s March in San Jose—such a cute little protestor! There are also shots of the princess (and family) at her first California vineyard wine-tasting and a St. Paddy’s celebration. Even more exciting are the videos of her first attempts at crawling—that kid’ll be mobile any day now—poor parents.
Cover: “Who Needs to Dream”
These videos have taken me two weeks to get posted—I’m slowing down some, lately. But even without the cheat-factor of using cute baby pictures in the video, I think the music is okay—as always, it’s the best I can manage. I yam wot I yam, as Popeye would say.
Improv – Retro-Chrome
I’ve recorded the Barry Manilow covers before, but I enjoy them so I did them over again. Barry is the king of schmaltz—and I’m a big fan, even if my playing (and singing) doesn’t show it.
Improv – Hymnal
I guess I’ll have to get busy at the piano—these six new videos represent only a part of the pile of pix and video that’s been coming from Jessy lately—and I can’t show you all the baby cuteness until I have music to go with it. Still, I think what I’ve posted today should keep up anyone’s cuteness quota for awhile.
Improv – Haunted House Blues
Okay, I’m done—please enjoy these latest offerings.
Feeling a little disappointed lately with the traffic on my blog and YouTube channel. Makes sense, though—I’ve been so busy writing posts and posting videos that I haven’t spared any time to appreciate other people’s blogs and music videos. I do follow some bloggers and YouTube musicians—I’m not completely self-absorbed—and besides, isn’t the point of the Internet to allow us all to bounce our ideas off each other? Sharing ideas and creativity is the only real communication—everything else is entertainment—click-bait and eye-candy to lull the masses.
So, I’m thinking maybe the end of Winter is a particularly fertile period for people to get work done, get new ideas, and feel inspired to create. Like me, everyone else is too busy doing their own thing to check in with my stuff. Either that, or I’m getting old, predictable, and uninteresting—always a dark possibility that I’m sure I won’t recognize when it happens—if it hasn’t already.
Today’s videos use new pictures of the baby—some of them are a little dark because I just used them, as is, to make the video. I’ve been processing hundreds of pictures lately, and for this batch of 376 new ones, I decided to take the easy way out—no photo-shop, no enhancement, just the candid camera. Fortunately most of the pictures are just perfect, like their subject, and my only worry was in recording some music that would be suitable accompaniment to such a beautiful baby.
I tried to play one of Bach’s French Suites—the b minor—but my left hand is getting so spasmodic that I may have to stop sharing my piano-playing and go back to playing for my own amusement. It’s never been that good, but it’s really starting to mess up everything I play. And I really hate not being able to play a strong bass line—it’s my favorite part, dammit.
With our new president, I have a bug up my ass about something he says or does nearly every day—so I’m struggling to come up with non-political posts, just to break the monotony of my constant bitching. I need ‘happy’ posts because I don’t like to put my beautiful granddaughter’s videos on the same page as a post about that horror-show.
But here I am, bitching anyway—and about people ignoring me, no less. What an idiot. I look at YouTube Creators notes sometimes—they always talk about requiring a minimum of 1,000 subscribers for certain programs they offer—and I go check my channel and see that, for my eight years of posting videos, I’ve amassed a whopping 60 subscribers. Usually I’m grateful that there are that many—but YouTube always reminds me that I’m not really ‘in the mix’, as it were. It’s depressing to be a music-lover and be such a terrible musician. Still, it beats living without music in my life.
All’s I can say is—if global warming is going to destroy the world, it’s surely offering us some lovely weather for the apocalypse. Last day of February and it might as well be the first day of June. The crocuses, snowbells, and what-all are simply exploding out of the ground. I should get my camera out there while it’s all blooming—those flowers come and go in the blink of an eye. Even indoors, we’ve got red and white amaryllis blooming all around the kitchen. It’s a very flowery day—too nice a day to complain. Hello.
Well, today settles it—I get maudlin towards the end of Winter. I start writing poems, I start playing piano in a minor key, I write bitter diatribes with far more than my usual cynicism. My taste in music gets a little weepy, a little dirge-y—I read more than watch TV. It’s a whole ‘Spring-better-show-up-soon’ depression-fest.
Also, I tend to write a lot more personal stuff—half of what I write this time of year is either too personal or too depressing to post—and I go on and on about stuff that I’m pretty sure isn’t driving the throngs to my blog—but that’s February for me. I’m fading fast—and I need some sunshine.
Well, things have settled down a bit—I’m used to either rooting for a Democrat administration, or I’m worrying about the one, really-big mistake that a GOP administration is currently making—I’m not used to purely dysfunctional—that’s a new one on me—and, I suspect, on all of you as well. But normalization is inevitable—short of storming Penn Ave, we’re stuck with the Clown until 2020—and the more avidly we stare, waiting for an impeachable offense, the less likely one is—‘a watched pot…’ and all that.
I’m still getting used to an America that is not actively trying to exceed itself—I’ll miss that forever, or until it returns, whichever comes first. Never before has a candidate won an election with a message of despair. “Make America great again”—I’d like to punch that fucker right in the mouth—the only thing that isn’t great about America is your benighted ass, you fucker, and the cowering, feebleminded jerks who voted for your sick agenda.
But let’s not get ourselves all worked up, every damn day, over the same old tragedy. What’s done is done. The odds on Trump sitting his whole term are long—one definite drawback to not knowing what you’re doing: you don’t know the rules. And while Trump may rubber-stamp some of the GOP’s worst legislation, they will find it hard to actually work with him—everyone does.
Fortunately for the Republicans, their platform was already custom-tailored for wealthy bastards with no public conscience—but they will inevitably try to mollify their base with something—and that’s where they and Trump will part ways. Trump’s penchant for blaming the establishment will ring rather hollow in 2020, after four years of being the establishment, so it’s hard to see him pull this off a second time—unless he actually does something.
But like most of his kind, Trump’s greatest ally would be military strife—even Bush-43 looked more dignified with Americans dying all over the place. Thus, it isn’t that I don’t want Trump to do anything—it’s that I’m afraid his ‘anything’ has some dark options waiting. Improving education, creating jobs, fixing our infrastructure—these would all be laudable accomplishments—if Trump can improve anything on such fronts, I’ll be glad to reevaluate—but I’m not going to hold my breath.
As much as I look forward to the coming of Spring, it will be all the more bitter for being a time of rebirth in an new age of tyranny—for 2017, T. S. Eliot will have got it right: “April is the cruelest month….”
Today’s poem and videos all contain cannibalized artwork from my one and only book of illustrated poetry, “Bearly Bliss”. It may seem ironic that my hand-tremors make me unable to draw, yet I still try to play the piano with the same hands—this is because I’m used to sucking at the piano, whereas I was once pretty good with a pen.
It’s February, it’s Monday, and I’m feeling fatigued—I’m tired of Winter, I’m tired of watching politics, and I’m especially tired of wondering why—did you ever just throw up your hands and say ‘people are crazy’?
Why do people see governance as a team sport? How does gerrymandering work—do all the rich people get together and decide on which crook is getting elected this year? Isn’t there a point at which even wealthy people say to themselves, ‘Jeez, what about our children, our grandchildren—what kind of future community will they live in?’
People try to justify their support of the Republicans, or worse, of Trump, but I never hear a lot of carefully reasoned objectives and agendas—I just hear a lot of anger and confrontation and defiance—and these people aren’t really mad at the Democrats, or even the Left as a whole—they’re mad that the world has become a place that belies their conservative nature. That the Republicans, and much worse, Trump, are willing to play on those fiddle-strings is a shame and an unexposed scandal.
Science is king. Defy it in small things if you want—but notice that you take an airliner to get to the rally, that satellites inform the GPS in your rental car on your way to the venue, and that the Internet has made it possible to gather a large crowd at short notice.
Science rules. It even controls our money—cash was already a mathematical construct, even as mere paper—a utilitarian fiction for the sake of liquidity, but now cash is stored digitally, magically, like a genie in a bottle—kill the science and you kill the cash.
Advanced tech keeps us all clothed and fed and safe and warm—kill the science and you find your family living in a cave—if they survive. People talk about the economy—about how we need money to maintain order and security. Well, you need science just as badly—and that’s just the existing science—that’s not even going into the question of what happens to countries that fail to keep pace with science, moving forward.
Yet science is under attack in America—it’s downright oedipal. Where’s the erstwhile pride in ‘Yankee ingenuity’, in being first on the Moon, in inventing the Internet? We have taught the world that the real Olympics, the truest of international competitions, lies in science and technology—how have we managed to lobotomized ourselves in the process? How did the country that invented Public Education sink lower in scholastic achievement than Zimbabwe? People are crazy—and I’m tired of it. Trump is a traitor, not just to America, but to humanity—but then, that just makes him one of the Rich, doesn’t it? O right, it’s Monday….
I’ve spent the day creating new piano videos for my YouTube channel. These are something a little new—I’ve taken my ‘masterpieces of art’ graphics collection and interleaved them with baby pictures of Sen—so you see one old master, then Sen, then another old master, and so on. The baby watches the videos at naptime, some days, so this will give her something to look at besides herself—and all the paintings are colorful with vivid images (which was why I collected them in the first place).
One of the videos is fairly long—that’s partly because it includes a ‘cover’ of the old Carpenters tune, “Yesterday Once More”, which I play rather freely, for a wonder—and the following improv is about twelve minutes—so, a rare recording in several ways. The other one is shorter, just an improv, and only remarkable in that I chose to name it ‘Toothpick Charlie’, for no reason on earth—it’s a funny name, is all. But I’m satisfied with both performances, making it a good day’s work.
My mom’s not well—the doctors are trying to figure her out but so far the best they can do is a morphine drip. I wish I could travel—I’d take up residence in the bed next to hers—I could use a good morphine drip—and those damn doctors could get around to me once they’ve figured out my mom. Meanwhile, we’re all pretty concerned.
Been doing a lot of reading lately—nothing to write a review about, but passable fare. It’s like that old bumper-sticker about ‘a bad day of fishing vs. a good day of work’—a bad book is still better than your average TV show.
Fryderyk Chopin was tutored in piano by Wojciech Żywny from age six until age eleven. From age 13 to age 16, Chopin (a child prodigy) studied at the Warsaw Lyceum, then composition under Józef Elsner. Chopin lived in Warsaw until the age of 20, in 1830, when he and several friends decamped to Paris—just prior to the November Uprising that same year. This marked the start of a doomed Polish struggle against Russian rule which Chopin is noted as supporting from afar throughout his brief adult life.
Chopin was such a consummate pianist that some of his compositions, when they do not cross into virtuoso territory (which was often the case) are technically accessible even to someone like me—though reading-through and playing the correct notes (mostly) is still a far cry from a true, capital-P performance of a Chopin work. His delicate lyricism and serendipitous, near-improvisational freedom of expression are found nowhere else in written music—and merely playing the notes as written is just a beginning towards reaching the full effect.
But I try—there is something about playing a piece oneself, on the piano—it is the reason that I play, albeit poorly, and with no hope of ever mastering the instrument. When we listen to music, we hear only the sound it makes. But in reading the music, as written by the long-dead genius (or any other) and in pressing the keys with my own hands, I feel an understanding and a connection to Chopin that is easily equal to relationships I’ve had with living people—I get not only the end result, the sound—but also the roots, the human source of whatever musical invention I happen to be playing. It is a wonderful kind of rush that transformed the way I listen to music, as much as it included me in the making of music.
Thus, when I play Chopin, I can stop dead in the middle of the piece—odds are I had to, but even still, I speak to Chopin—I say, ‘clever, that bit—and very beautiful.’ And Chopin replies, ‘I thought you’d like that.’ It’s amazingly like a vicarious composition of my own—as if I was creating it instead of playing it off the sheet music—as if I were Chopin. Despite the fact that my end results are hardly praiseworthy, in the playing of the music myself, I can hear it as Chopin first imagined it—in some ways, sounding more beautiful than the most polished artist’s performance of the same piece.
I was a weird kid. I enjoyed classical music in grade school—I had a lot of LPs, and many more that I borrowed from the Katonah Village Library. I sometimes fought with my siblings about playing classical music on the big stereo in the living room (rather than their rock n’ roll—not that I didn’t enjoy some of that, too) but most often, I would stack’em up on my record player, turn out the lights and lie on the floor to listen in the dark. My dad hated that—he’d burst in and turn on the lights and say, ‘What the hell are you doing in here in the dark?’ or whatever.
But my point is this—I’ve always loved classical music. But it wasn’t until I was fifteen (way too old) before I took piano lessons. There’s something about hitting the keys and making the notes play—feeling the music as an activity, as a part of you, instead of listening to music—it gave me a heightened appreciation of music that I don’t believe is possible without some experience, with some instrument, or with the voice. Glenn Gould’s Bach recordings, for instance, went from relaxing to fascinating—without changing a note—it was like a veil was lifted for me. Music is a wonderful thing to hear—but it isn’t until you make your own that you get the full picture, as it were.
And I’d say that’s why I improvise at the piano every day, too. I can’t make great music, but I can make music—and there’s something very empowering about playing music that no one else has written down, music that I make up as I go along. Survivalists prepare for a life after civilization—I suppose I’m preparing for a life after I-tunes?
Well, latest talk from out West says the baby has just begun crawling, and she’s eating solid food (though why they call it ‘solid’ when it’s fruit from a blender is beyond me)—I feel like she’s going to grow up and I’m going to miss the whole thing. No fair!
But they are all well and happy, so that’s okay. And things are good here, too. The music-video inbox is slowly draining back down to ‘manageable’—and the improvs are as good as can be hoped for, given the performer. Bear found a beautiful print the other day—an Edward Steichen Flatiron Building poster with a statue of a man in a top hat—very pretty, with lots of blues in it.
We don’t obsess over the news, so once we’ve been bowled over slightly by the morning’s madness in the New York Times, we pretty much let it go for the rest of the day. Bear does the Sudoku and I do the Crossword—I check the TV listings to confirm there’s nothing good on TV again tonight, and we’re done. Then we have the rest of the day to ourselves.
I had the greatest lunch today—roast sausages, and a mac and cheese that (I don’t know how Bear does it) tasted like eating Fondue, but without all the fuss and equipment—sometimes Bear’s culinary magic blows my mind. I’m not too crazy about my recent reads—decent books, I suppose, but nothing I want to crow about—something of a let-down from the books I was reading last week (see reviews above).
Has anyone else noticed? When I drink Irish Breakfast Tea for awhile, Earl Grey tastes like the fanciest tea ever, but after drinking Earl Grey for awhile, Irish Breakfast Tea tastes exciting again. Weird, huh? And after both of them, a little Darjeeling, or even some plain Lipton, suddenly has more taste than I remembered. Same with coffee—even a great Mocha—after awhile, I enjoy switching to African or Arabic.
Well, you can tell I’m just blabbing away—had to have some kind of text to go with today’s videos—hope you enjoy them.
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!
I’m finally coming back down to Earth—this last holiday was the nicest time anyone has ever had—I got to meet our new granddaughter and visit with her and her Mom and Dad—a nice long visit, but not long enough by half. And, in the confusion, I have neglected to post any YouTube videos for the longest dry-patch my channel has ever gone through.
It isn’t that I haven’t been playing the piano. In fact, some of my best performances ever went unrecorded—played, for once, for the people in the room instead of to the camera.
The baby enjoyed my piano-playing in three different ways—she was charmed when I sang a song to her, she went to sleep faster when I softly improvised, and she loved to sit on my lap at the keyboard and play the piano with me. Had I been in my right mind there would be a bunch of video documenting all this—but I have nothing to show, since the camera was never on my mind—never turned on—it’s a shame, but nothing new—all my best work inevitably happens when the camera is not on.
I miss the baby. She’s the sweetest thing that ever drew breath. And a baby is a fitness regimen—not even having a baby, but just hanging out with a baby—involves all kinds of rolling about and lifting and holding—it’s a lot of work for someone who lies in bed all day. If they didn’t need caring for, babies would make great fitness-coaches for the infirm.
Anyway, it’s back to normal, here at the Dunn’s. Part of this extended hiatus was due to the hundreds of photos and the handfuls of baby videos I’ve been processing, in preparation for including them in the piano YouTube videos. Today, I’ve finally posted four new videos—part of the harvest from my ongoing processing of the visit’s photographic record. And, as a special bonus, I’ve included a cover of Gershwin’s “Somebody Loves Me”, which Bear and I sang to the baby.
Every year I post YouTube videos of myself playing Christmas Carols on the piano, occasionally singing along. I don’t do it because I play them so well—I just do it to celebrate the season. Also, singing Christmas Carols is one of my earliest childhood memories of a happy activity—sing-alongs, to me, are one of the greatest pleasures in life and, when it’s carols being sung, it just doesn’t get any better.
Caroling is one of the few times I can feel that great feeling from my youth—that God is in his heaven and all’s well with the world. The average carol only lasts a few minutes, but for that short span, I can almost believe—it’s very cozy. Usually, I don’t allow myself the indulgence—day-to-day life is only made more difficult by subscribing to wishful thinking—but Christmas only comes once a year, so what the hell. A little fantasy never hurt anyone.
This year I somehow decided to get very serious about the caroling videos—recording the songbooks from first song to last, so that I don’t have to wonder which ones I’ve done or which ones I’ve left out. I sometimes get serious about my YouTube videos—like with this one trio of Brahms Intermezzi I recorded last year, or the various Bach suites and partitas for keyboard. But my amateur-level piano technique doesn’t really stand up to serious scrutiny, so the projects usually fall apart before I’m finished recording the whole mess.
I’m getting more tenacious in my old age though, I guess—I’m closing in on the full Big Book of Christmas Songs—with today’s posting of twenty more carols, I’ve reached the ‘S’s—so, alphabetically, I’m almost to the finish line. And I am eager to finish this largest and most traditional of my Christmas Carol songbooks, because then I move on to the more popular-song Christmas music songbooks—and they’re a lot more fun/familiar and easier to play. Also, for all subsequent books, I plan to skip any carol already included from a previous book’s videos.
Time, as always, is chivvying me on—less than two weeks until Christmas, and these videos seem to take more time and effort with every post. I always over-do the Carol-playing—so, as the holidays go on, I get more troubled by back-strain, hand-tremors, and weakening eyesight (some music publishers are criminal in their demands on sight-readers—such tiny print). I reach a point where I’m actually conserving my strength for the live Christmas caroling—when a roomful of people are expecting me to accompany actual singing.
In the final result, by New Year’s Eve, I am more than happy to put the carol books away for another year—a full-month’s immersion in any genre is usually enough for me. But I wouldn’t give up my Christmas carols for all the tea in China.
Just because George Winston is the greatest single influence on my piano efforts, there’s no reason to blame him for what I post. I’ve listened incessantly to his recordings—but that is true of at least a hundred other artists—still, I don’t know the man. I don’t know what he’s doing—I’ve always just tried to sound ‘as good’ as he does—knowing full well that a great deal of the appeal to his recordings is the ground-breaking sound-engineering, capturing the lushness of a great concert piano, played by a master.
But I believe we approach these piano-things from opposite ends—he is a talented musician who practically founded the New Age movement, by bringing a geometric, yet non-baroque, technique to lyricism. I was drawn to his music because of my mathematical bent, and tried to lever my lacking abilities through the use of similar stylings—a far more superficial pecking at the borders of musicality. My goal remains to somehow sound ‘as good’ as George Winston, someday.
I don’t expect to achieve it—George Winston is the goods—and he’s as comfortable with classical as with folk, blues, or rock-n-roll—and has his own unique style, into the bargain. But why should I set small goals for myself?
I’ve just watched the first five episodes of Oliver Stone’s “The Untold History of the United States” on Netflix. The thrust of his re-telling of our modern history begins with an analysis of Russia’s virtually lone struggle against Germany, transforming what we think of as the main events of World War II into relatively minor clashes—in terms of land-area fought over, scale of destruction, length of time, and number of lives lost and persons wounded—and the stats certainly make that much plain. The Western Front was smaller, shorter, and less bloody in many respects—even with the Pacific War thrown in, ‘our’ War involved about a tenth of the size and horror of the struggle between Hitler and Stalin.
As he continues to explore the question of Truman’s decision to use the bomb, he frames it as more a demonstration for the Soviets than a body-blow to Japan. Stone suggests that the end of the Nazis enabled Russia to turn and join the US, as agreed, in fighting Japan, months afterward—and that their announcement of their intent to do so—came at about the same time as the two nuclear blasts—and was a great shock to an already-battered Japan. Thus, he presents the possibility that Russia, and not our new A-bomb, was responsible for Japan’s surrender, as well as Germany’s.
His revisionism also puts America squarely in the docket, to blame for nuclear proliferation, the military-industrial complex, and the entire Cold War that followed—and we must admit that the USA, being suddenly omnipotent (and not having their country reduced to rubble by the fighting, as was the case almost everywhere else) became the prime superpower—and had all the problems and corruptions that absolute power is known to herald.
Oliver Stone does have a habit of mentioning Stalin’s atrocities in asides, often, as if afraid someone will accuse him of glossing over them (which the asides almost accomplish, ironically). But while Stone presents a new perspective and a clarification of several old false assumptions—and highlights some overlooked or hidden aspects that radically change the context of certain events—he is still dealing with the problem of ‘history as general summary’.
His review, for example, leaves out the details of China’s suffering and transformation, its revolution and great famine. The British role in the man-made starvation in India during World War II, resulting in a genocide greater than the Nazis’, was overlooked as well (see Howard Fast’s “The Pledge”). An historical review, by its nature, leaves out more than it puts in.
His view of the last seventy years may be clearer-eyed, less American-centric—but it is still an impossible task to pick and choose the stand-out events of world history over so large a span of time, without putting one’s own ‘centrism’ into the picking. Still, Stone’s gruesome view of modern American history is, unfortunately, solidly-grounded in facts and records, shorn of the ‘spin’ which events are often given in their own time, and which tend to continue to stand as fact, absent an Oliver Stone.
The show, ultimately, is a flat statement to Americans that being ‘the world’s greatest superpower’ and being ‘the good guys’ are, almost by definition, mutually exclusive concepts. He almost makes us embarrassed that we don’t see something so obvious. Our laser focus on the high-points of American History, and our brushing aside of all the many sins: the original genocide of the natives, the kidnapping and slavery of the Africans, the dehumanization of ethnic and racial minorities, the industrialism that spawned sweat shops, child labor, tenements, and all the rapacity of Capitalism—we wave these things aside and point to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation. Don’t look over there—look here—o, pretty!
Most of history is a horror—and American history no exception. If you think about our greatest moments—the Bill of Rights, Women’s Suffrage, the Civil Rights Act, etc.—they are all merely points at which those in power finally conceded, for this specific case, for that specific group, that people should not be used and abused like farm animals. Points on the Timeline when those in authority declare, “Oh, did that hurt? I’ll stop now.” It’s almost funny that we have these tremendous struggles, usually over the question, “Why should I treat you like a human being?” It’s as if, when someone gets a little power, the rest of us have to turn as one and shout at them, “Hey, right and wrong still apply, douchebag!”
I suppose the great lesson of history is that victory is a sort of lobotomy—it convinces the victor that force is effective. And with force must come control. And with too much control comes the need for struggles anew, and a new victor, and on it goes.
In sum, I was reluctant to watch another rehash of the last seventy years of world conflict—but I was not disappointed in my hope that Oliver Stone wouldn’t have bothered to make this series without some surprising and new information—and observations that really change the context for lay-historians like myself. I love this sort of thing, because you can’t really change the accepted view of history without adding in some new data—and this series exposes many overlooked, obscured, and newly-discovered bits of information, and makes connections that seem obvious once made—making one wonder why Oliver Stone had to do it, all this time later. But I’m glad he did.
The subject guarantees that viewing will be somewhat daunting, and hardly inspiring—but looking ourselves straight in the mirror is ultimately a very healthy thing, if uncomfortable. I can’t help reflecting, however, that if Oliver Stone can take the old story and re-tell it as something almost unrecognizable—then I suppose someone else could do the same to his. When studying history, one must never neglect the grain of salt.
I’d recommend Haydn—particularly the piano works. Tell your digital concierge, “Play Haydn keyboard sonatas.”—and you’re good for several hours of peaceful working- or reading- music.
If the raw sunlight gets in your eye-line, tape a piece of colored construction paper on your window—the room stays lit, but you don’t get that one headache-inducing reflection in your field of vision. And it looks cheery—like a child’s art project—but you have to replace it once a year because construction paper fades and becomes very dreary-looking, in the end.
As a smoker, I’ve taken to confining myself to two rooms of the house—here in the front room, where I work, and my bedroom, where I watch TV and read. If the doors are kept faithfully closed, the rest of the house doesn’t reek of smoking—but it must be noted that I often open the front door for front-room ventilation, and I have a window-fan on exhaust in the bedroom, year-round (yes, it does get a little chilly in winter).
I’ve also surrendered to the smokeless ashtray—it’s stupid and noisy and uses too many batteries and is a pain to empty every time it’s full—but if you use one, it will demonstrate that most of the smoke in a smoke-filled room comes from the cigarette smoldering in the ashtray, not from the smoker’s exhalations. And studies have shown that smoldering butts give off the dirtiest second-hand smoke—much more unhealthy than ‘smoked’ smoke, and more of it.
Grapes, celery sticks, and baby carrots make the best working snacks—you can eat all you want and it won’t do the kind of damage that chips, crackers, or candy can do. Also, for smokers, hot tea provides a bit of steam-cleaning for the lungs—and drinking tea all day won’t fry your nervous system like coffee. There is something about tannic acid that makes tea bother my digestion more than coffee—but only if I’m really chugging it down, cup after cup. Moderation in all things, as they say.
Don’t multitask. Do what you’re doing and leave the rest for later—it may seem slower, but in truth, when each task is focused on, it gets done better and quicker—and if you go from one to the next without pause, the overall time-use is less than if you hop from one thing to another all day long—the hopping around makes you feel busy, but you’re actually wasting time interrupting yourself. And focusing on a task reduces the number of errors.
Enjoy your work—it is a choice. Even the most menial tasks can become a game in your mind. Indeed, the more menial jobs lend themselves to mind-games better than complicated ones. Insisting to yourself that you hate what you’re doing is counterproductive—and a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Stop when you’re tired. This is certainly something you don’t always have a choice about, but when the choice is available, take it. Nobody ever did great work while running on fumes. I often found that tasks that take an hour in overtime can be done in five minutes when approached fresh the next morning. Answers that play hide-and-seek in the darkness of fatigue will stand out clear as day in the clarity of morning.
Even in the middle of the day, pausing to refresh can do wonders for your productivity—much more so than dutifully slogging on. Short breaks are like remembering to breathe—something else you should try to do. But here is where ‘multitasking’ can actually be useful—if you get stuck on one project, and you have something else to work on that will take your mind off it, that can be as good as a break.
Get a comfortable chair—if your workplace won’t give you one, steal one. I remember one workplace where the office manager was a real stickler about furniture—I would steal a good chair from another room. Every night she had the janitor put the chair back where it came from—and every morning I stole it again. Improvise, adapt, and overcome, as the Corps likes to say.
Don’t get ahead of yourself—whenever I do that, I always skip a step. People used to ask me why I always walked with my eyes on the ground—and I would answer that I didn’t like to step in dog-poo. Ah the good old days, when picking up after our pets was considered beneath us. Still, there are things to trip on, slide on, and stumble over—watch where you’re going.
Well—who knew I had so much free advice to give. And you know what they say—free advice is worth every penny you paid for it.
I watch TCM today—they showed “Act One” (1963) based on Moss Hart’s autobiography, specifically the part when Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman first meet and collaborate on a play called “Once In A Lifetime”. “Once In A Lifetime” was Hart’s actual first play (well, second, technically—he flopped in Chicago with “The Hold-Up Man”, but the movie leaves that out)—and was made into its own eponymous movie in 1932. I found that out from IMDb, which also cleared up a great mystery: Even as a little kid watching TV game-shows, I was always at a loss as to why Kitty Carlyle was considered a great celebrity. Well now I know—she was Moss Hart’s wife—celebrity.
Then I went with KT to grab some Chinese at Imperial Wok—he had the chicken and broccoli—I had the Taiwanese rice noodles—you can always count on Imperial Wok. It was great to see KT—it’s been nigh on twenty years since last we met. He takes guff from the locals for being a rich guy, so I guess he’s doing pretty well—I certainly don’t get hassled that way, but I doubt I would mind. His daughter graduates in a week or so and already has a job lined up—things are going great.
Then Dee called. I’d seen on Facebook earlier that Malcolm’s multiple surgeries had been successful—only to find, yesterday, that all three of them got sick—Dee a sinus infection, Bossy bronchitis, and Malcolm developed a post-op infection. But they are all feeling a little better—it sounded like Dee had to get off the phone because she had children crawling all over her—I don’t know—it was weird.
So now I’m looking at Sen videos, emailed from Jessy. I’m almost too tired—it’s been a long day. I have a new shirt—very fancy and comfortable—it has green stripes and I think it’s made of a silk blend—it’s shiny. More later.
[10 minutes later:] Oh, those are sweet videos!
Tuesday, November 22, 2016 8:16 PM
Very tired now—I played some more piano, and now I’m back at the videos. I had something—but it’s gone now.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016 9:31 PM
Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:03 PM
That’s better—it’s funny how people (or at least I) get run down at the end of a day, like drained batteries, and then wake up feeling fresh the next morning. I didn’t notice as much—when I was younger. Sleep then was more like a switch turned on and off. But now I notice the steady decline in energy and focus as the day wears on—and the fatigue at the end of the day is so much greater now. But, as balance, I’m very appreciative of the freshness and acuity of the morning hours.
I’ve created two new videos using Jessy’s new videos of Seneca—for the first one, “Water Babies”, I lowered the volume of the piano-playing, so you can hear the baby. For the second video, “On ‘Xmas Comes Anew’”, I muted the volume of the baby-video, so you can hear the piano. “Water Babies” is older—I recorded it a few days ago and waited for baby pix—that’s why the dates are different.
Claire signed us up for Spotify—it’s nice to have every classical music recording I can think of, available for my listening pleasure, while I work away here. It has popular music, too—I just don’t listen to that stuff while I’m working. A lot of my work is my own music videos, though. It’s always been difficult for me to go from my own paltry music to the professionals and back again—I suffer from the comparison—but less now than I used to, so that’s something.
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.)
Ten days left in the election and the FBI announces it’s re-opening its investigation into Hillary’s emails. That doesn’t seem the least bit partisan, does it? It seems Hillary Clinton did not break the law by using a private server—so they have to go after her for misusing her private server. And even that didn’t turn up any great catastrophe—so they had to let it go. Now, they’re just messing around, trying to throw cold water on her campaign at the last minute. But, sure—the Democrats are rigging things.
Bernie said it best: “Can we just forget about the damn emails?” Hillary hasn’t been Secretary of State for four years now—if her private server was putting America at risk, it was then, not now. And no evidence has yet been produced showing she did anything seriously damaging, four years ago. Yes, we can keep looking into it—but it is old news, unless you have an undying desire to destroy Hillary Clinton. After all this time, and all this investigating, with no results—to re-open the case ten days before the election is pure politics.
But that’s par for the course of this election season. A disgusting egotist gets more respect than he deserves—and a fine leader gets mud thrown at her. Show me one decent thing that Trump has ever done—you can’t, because he’s lived a life of self-absorption. Now he wants to save America from itself—yeah, right. Did you hear him talking about ‘ghettos’ today? Yes, he’s seventy—hell, I’m sixty—I’ve heard the word—we used it (improperly) in the sixties. But nobody uses it now. See, Donald doesn’t get it—yes, anyone can become president—but only if you’re qualified to be president—otherwise, no sensible person would vote for you.
Lucky for Donald there are so few sensible people in this country. He’s still got a shot at this thing. Can you believe that? He should have never won the primary—Republicans, I’m talking to you. How did a TV entertainer out-campaign your best and brightest? How did you nominate possibly the only person who could lose to Hillary, after all the years of trash-talk you’ve all laid on her? With the media so eager to follow every red-herring you dream up about the ‘horrors of Hillary’, you’ve got most of the country seeing her as an evil witch, instead of the competent leader she actually is. Only one problem.
By turning your base into deluded crazies, you set the stage for this idiot. But he’s such an enormous douche that Hillary has a chance to climb out of the hole you’ve dug for her. I hope you’re happy. I know I will be, when Hillary takes the oath of office. Thanks, GOP.
P.S. Hey, people are talking about a post-election revolution. Yeah, good luck with that. Plenty of Second Amendment folks are voting for Hillary—so if you start shooting, they’ll be shooting back, believe you me. And they are not cowards, afraid to let Muslims or Mexicans find a place in this great land—or afraid of you idiots, either. So come ahead—just remember, if you think ISIS is scary, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Okay—Now—today’s video includes a life-study that Claire drew last night. She’s really going to town on this art stuff. In the middle I put baby pictures from our new granddaughter. I also played a Rodgers & Hart cover: “Where or When” in the middle of improvising. So this is a kind of patchwork performance. Hope you like:
Today’s video isn’t really a present for our future president—it’s more about my daughter and granddaughter—but their lives will be so much better for having Hillary Clinton in the White House for the next eight years—that’s right—eight. So the video is for them—but consider it a thank-you-in-advance to Hillary, as well.
I know that Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton’s birthday was yesterday, but you don’t turn 69 every day, so I think an extension is in order. And she does kinda look like a little girl up on the platform next to Michelle Obama—she’s really adorable. I know that Wiki-Leaks dumped some more emails about the Clintons profiting from their positions or their charity—but the State Department has nothing to say about it, and the alignments of government decisions concerning foreign actors that paid the Clintons is hard to prove (though easy to suggest) and proving that those government decisions were against the country’s best interests is an even harder case to make.
However, if I wanted to prove that her opponent was actually a threat to this country, rather than a fitting leader of it, I could easily do that to the satisfaction of most Americans—or so the polls would suggest. Or rather, the polls suggest that such proof has already been made—a bell that cannot be unrung, try though Fox News might.
He isn’t really the issue though. The general anti-Hillary tone of America is the subject that has aroused my ire this afternoon. When I hear those whiny people, squirming with delight at being on TV, yet saying things they should be ashamed of—repeating things they heard Trump say, or some other Republican, to the effect that Hillary is an untrustworthy, dangerous criminal—I could just spit.
For starters, we have this fine old tradition here that says no one is guilty until proven so in a court of law. Further, Hillary has been to court; she’s been to the Hill (for eleven hours); she’s been interrogated by the FBI. Usually, fugitives don’t make speeches on TV, so I’m going to assume that Hillary is not a criminal. Only during a campaign can someone call their opponent a crook, and not suffer for it—it’s slander. Criminal accusations are usually accompanied by evidence rather than innuendo—only during a campaign is innuendo sufficient.
Over thirty years of public service deserves more respect from us—it certainly gets respect from the people that pay her a fortune to come and talk to them. They must be interested in her ideas and her experience. You know, the talk-circuit is an industry in itself—many great and famous people make a good living off it—and there’s nothing illegal about it. I’m sure that Hillary’s fees make many people jealous—but that is their problem—not ours. We need only recognize that the most powerful people on Earth want to hear what Hillary has to say.
People tend to call the birthday girl ‘the lesser of two evils’—well, people, try this: you get yourself a law degree, spend some thirty-odd years in public service, be attacked by conservatives the whole time, raise a daughter, keep your marriage together, and start a world-class, global charity before you run for President, twice, while people say the ugliest things they can think of about you—then you, too, can be ‘the lesser of two evils’. Y’all’s got some fuckin nerve, is all I can say.
Have you seen the Republicans? Bunch of slimy toads—not a one of them I’d trust with grocery money. And lie—these bastards lie like they’re Michelangelo painting the Sistine ceiling—they lie like Mozart composed music—if an honest word came out of one of their mouths, I think the whole of Washington, D.C. would sink back into the swamp it came from. But the nice lady who wants to help children—she’s the dangerous criminal?—yeah, right. How stupid are we supposed to be?
You people get your heads on straight. Look at what’s in front of you and ask yourself, ‘Who am I gonna believe?’ Happy birthday, Ms. Clinton.
On the one hand, I could hate myself for becoming too old to have any ambition in music any longer; but on the other hand, I’m not so sure the intensity of my grasping for music was entirely helpful. There are certain aspects of my piano playing today that I believe are enhanced by my lack of fixation on exactly what I’m doing. I’ve always known that certain activities are done best when least thought of—and music is certainly a great example of that, but I’ve only recently seen certain aspects of that which have ‘held me back’ to a degree.
I always knew my physical limitations would hold me back in piano-playing. So it wasn’t until I accepted that, at sixty, I had probably reached wherever my physical abilities would take me, that I became aware of some mental limitations I had placed on myself—at least in the way I thought of my playing as it related to making sounds. Music is such a wonderful gift—it changes with maturity, always morphing into something more richly-layered, like one’s self, but never degenerating, like one’s body does.
So I accept that the music I play today is as good as it will get. It’s not as much as I hoped for, but it’s far more than I ever dreamed of, back when I started. It has been both a challenging and comforting companion—the best kind of friend.
Today I played a nice long improv. I’m not sure what it sounded like, so, we’ll see.
Then I played a bunch of classical arrangements for piano. Three of them were decent enough to post.
Then I played a little ‘trailer’ at the end.
So much for the musical portion of my day.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 6:29 PM
The Enemy of My Enemy (2016Oct26)
It’s funny—here we are with two weeks left—everyone’s pretty sure of the outcome of the election—more than that, everyone’s pretty clear that Trump was an evil anomaly—a thing that we narrowly avoided mistaking for a fit candidate. Yet one can still hear conservative pundits talking about his policies—as if he ever had any firm, practical, thought-out policies in the first place—and as if it still matters now, with early voting heavily in Hillary’s favor. Trump is fortunate to find the Republicans so in denial, and so blindly partisan, that nothing he says or does prevents most of them from pushing for the defeat of their arch-enemy, Hillary Clinton.
And this seems indicative to me. The Republicans have adopted an unhealthy habit of using any old rationale, provided it is anti-Democrat, and calling it a policy. The fact that these policies are impractical (like building a wall and deporting millions) or unconstitutional (like banning a religious group) or just plain crazy (like “bomb the hell out of them”) doesn’t seem to matter as much as whether a policy can be used to beat Democrats over the head. The blind partisanship, and nearly overt bigotry and sexism that lies at the heart of conservatism, have shed the restrictions of logic, science, and sense.
The influence of money hangs over both parties, but the Republicans seem to favor the plutocrats philosophically, as well—as if they approve of a classist view of the citizenry. This hit-or-miss business of the American Dream was like winning the lottery, even back when it had more frequent examples. To think that we can go along as we have been, with people being helpless in the face of big businesses, just so we retain the illusion of economic mobility—is to ignore the oncoming waves of change that will make employment a very different, and much less common thing than we are used to.
Republicans and Capitalists see the system as set in stone. Their focus is entirely on the status quo and the quarterly forecasts. They fear the true future—the reality behind their pushy forecasts—because time is no respecter of wealth or property or law. The Democrats (the good ones, at least) are more willing to face the future, and to say that people have rights that transcend profit.
When Democrats attempt to enact social safety nets, business regulation, or consumer protection, the Republicans always claim that the government does these things badly—and that the free market would do all this naturally, given free rein. This is false. It reminds me of a time when I was a young man working for my father’s company. I went to him and asked for a raise—I told him I couldn’t afford to live on my current salary. He replied that the company doesn’t pay people what they need—it pays people what they’re worth. (He could be a real hard-ass sometimes.)
Now, in a business paradigm, that makes perfect sense. But as a person on disability now—a person, in other words, who is worth nothing to a company—I can tell you that the free market doesn’t care if you are happy or sad, alive or dead—all it knows is mathematics. The Republicans get partial credit for their claim, however, because it is indeed rare that a government program runs any better than a square-wheeled bicycle.
Still, politics makes everything into a win/lose proposition. If a program isn’t perfect, it’s worthless. If a program is working, you shouldn’t criticize it. This is all very ineffectual and immature nonsense. Outside of political speeches, it is obvious to all of us that if something important doesn’t work, you don’t throw it out—you fix it. And one thing the Republicans don’t make a lot of noise about is this: government programs are complicated as much by wealthy influences and corporate lobbyists as they are by their inherent complexities.
And the whole ‘small government’ argument—please. You don’t hear Russia or China talking about ‘small government’. Our beloved Constitution is the rule-book for our government, such as it is, so we have to have government. And if we have a government, shouldn’t we have a good one, rather than a small one? What is the virtue of small, in the context of the 21st century? It would be nice to pretend we all live on our own farms, and don’t need no G-men snooping around—but that was two centuries ago. These fifty modern states, plus assorted territories, need an up-to-date, fully-functioning government—and anyone who wants it otherwise is a fool or a traitor.
When you don’t know if you’re being hacked by the Chinese, the Russians, or the North Koreans—do you want small government? When hurricane surges flood New York City—do you want small government? When the Republicans extol the virtues of small government, they are cheering for the idea that businesses can make a profit from abusing people’s trust—but only if the government turns a blind eye. That’s what ‘small government’ means to big business—and that’s why Republicans campaign on it. I’ll believe them when they start to advocate for ‘small military’. You don’t hear that one much, do you? ‘Small government’, my ass—the freedom to rip us off, more like.
What I really can’t understand is why people are so willing to believe the worst of Hillary Clinton. Have you seen The West Wing, or Madame Secretary, or Scandal? To be a politician, even a well-meaning one, you have to play the game—and it’s a rough game. When the Alt-Righters try to blow up her every machination into a demonic conspiracy, it works much better on Hillary than it ever did on anyone else. Why is that? I can never see the point.
Is it the old female catch-22—that if they’re tough, they’re crazy bitches, and if they’re not tough, they can’t handle a man’s world—is it that bullshit? Maybe partly—but I’ll tell you my theory: you remember how we went for good ol’ boys for our last four presidents? Bush Sr., Bill, and Bush, Jr. were none of’em geniuses—and Obama got away with being smart by being so darned charismatic no one noticed. But in all those elections, there were smart, capable, but non-charismatic eggheads that would have made decent presidents—and we practically thumped our chests in defiance, as if to say, “We don’t need any pencil-necked geeks running this place.”
And now we are stuck with Hillary—smarter than us, more reliable than us, harder-working than us—of course everyone hates Hillary. We’re all looking around for a president we can ‘have a beer with’—the most important credential America knows of, in a president. The candidate we want is missing—and boy are we ticked off that we have to vote for the candidate we need. We’ve never made a practical choice for president before—and wouldn’t you know it—it’s a woman this time. Ooh, my aching back.
That’s my theory. The presidency gives one person too much power—we can live with that, but we’re sure not going to vote for someone who’s smarter than us—that’s a step too far. Fortunately, most voters will (as they say on the news constantly) ‘hold their noses’ and vote for her. As if…—Hey, we’re lucky to have Hillary—take a look at the guts of your I-phone and tell me it’s okay for America to have a moron for president.
I have to laugh when the Republicans bow to the inevitable, and tell people to vote for Hillary for president, but to make sure they vote Republican on the down-ballots—to keep a ‘check’ on her power. Yes, sure—the woman whose life has been all about helping children and families—be afraid of what she might do—be very afraid. Meanwhile, we’re supposed to re-elect the bunch that thought stymying every initiative of President Obama’s, just because he’s black, was a great idea—oh, yes—let’s put them back in Congress, by all means. Although, personally, I think they should all be lined up and shot. Effing traitors.
The Republicans are just Trump-Lite—they both advocate the same things—testing us to see how self-destructively stupid a lie can be, and still work on the electorate. The Republicans never win an election because they are right, they win because we are stupid enough to believe their lies.
What no one talks about is the Russian interference in our election. Why are they doing this? Well, let’s see—they’re only attacking Clinton—not one email from the Trump camp. Can we deduce anything from this? It seems to me that they want Hillary to lose. Why would the Russians want Hillary to lose? Maybe they’re afraid of her. If they were afraid of Trump, they’d be trying to sabotage Trump’s campaign. But they don’t care about any other candidate—just Hillary. Am I the only one who sees some significance in that?
I think they’re afraid of her. If I were Russia, I would be afraid of Hillary. She’s gonna shut down their little expansion party—she’s gonna stare them down and, if need be, shove a cruise missile up their asses. You don’t mess with Hillary. Trump hasn’t gotten any endorsements to speak of in this campaign—it’s a shame that Putin is the only one who wants him to win. Thus, the Wikileaks are something of an endorsement for Hillary, if you think about it. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Beautiful day. Leaves is fallin. Sun is shinin. Can’t beat that. Sarah McLachlan may be an acquired taste, but her music is fantastic—what a voice. I’m making a video—I just played Bach’s keyboard arrangement of a Vivaldi Concerto in D, an early transposition from an early influence of old J. S.’s.
Then I played an improv—I don’t know what I’m doing, but it felt good. Now if it only sounds good. I called it “High-End Stroller” because that’s what baby Seneca rolls in these days. There’s a break about a minute in—the camera does that every twenty minutes, making a new file, but it loses a second or two of recording. I took too long with the Bach, I guess—it’s not usually a problem because I rarely play piano for more than twenty minutes—and I often restart the camera recording when playing for longer. What I really need is a film crew, I guess.
Shall we discuss politics? No! It’s far too nice a day for that—and tomorrow’s the final Shootout at the OK Corral, so let’s wait, shall we?
Autumn preys on my weakness—if anyone ever wrapped themselves up in melancholy, it’s me—and that time of year (thou may’st in me behold, when yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang…) sorry, Shakespeare got me—this time of year makes me dive deep into memory, loss, and the unending cycle of change that is living.
I fairly delight in depression while the summer fades, the leaves fall, and the winter looms. We must remember that ‘clinical depression’ is an imbalance, that modest, occasional depression itself is natural—a way of crawling into bed and putting the covers over our heads, while working or relaxing. Chronic Depression, the problem, is much in the news nowadays—but if you get depressed, sometimes, there’s no need to panic—it is only when it takes over your life that it becomes a problem with a capital ‘P’.
I used to prefer the grey, rainy days—but now I settle for leaves falling—the wet weather chills me to the bone, making me stiff and achy. I still enjoy breezes—you’d have to be dead not to enjoy a breezy day. But enough about the weather.
I just read a sci-fi book called “Machinations” by Hayley Stone. I was disappointed that the plot was a straight rip-off of Terminator, but it was well-written, with good characters, so I finished the book. Dear Ms. Stone: It isn’t science fiction if you don’t have a new idea—it’s just writing, however good. I took one star off of my Amazon rating—because it was a good book, but it wasn’t good science fiction. (If I finish a book, I usually give it full stars.)
I saw the “Ghostbusters” re-make—loved it—loved everyone in it. I don’t see how they could have pandered to fans of the old original any more than they did—and it was nice. Anyone who wasn’t satisfied is just too hard to please.
I enjoyed a few episodes of “Lucifer” on TV, but as with all outlandish premises, they try to ‘mealy-mouth’ it down to a drama, instead of juicing it up into a comic-book fantasy. I watched nine episodes of “Luke Cage” on Netflix, but I’m getting too old for the kid stuff. I’m having trouble with stories that contain corruption, violence, and amorality—they just upset me. My options are narrowing tightly—I’m down to mostly biopics.
I’m trying to read the new Bruce Sterling book, “Pirate Utopia”, but it’s hard—I’m sorry, I just can’t stand ‘alternate history’ sci-fi—it’s a bridge too far for me. Woulda, shoulda, coulda—that’s all it means to me. But Bruce Sterling is heavy-sledding—I’ll keep on for now, and see if I get drawn in. It might be one of those books you don’t get until you re-read it. Sometimes, they’re the best.
The idea that repetition suggests authority is no doubt rooted in the days when anyone who would gainsay the head man rarely got to repeat themselves. In fact, the value of free speech is more than mere human rights—it is the assertion that truth exists outside of, and in spite of, authority.
This can be used and, just as easily, misused—the Scientific Method is an example of the use of truth-seeking through disruption of the established consensus—science-denial is an example of the same principle, turned on its head, by conflating Science with Established Authority. The latter use amounts to saying, ‘I’m not gonna be bullied by all this provable, reproducible experimentation.’
This is irrefutable logic within the bounds of free speech, but it still falls outside of common sense, and is suggestive of a motive or agenda, rather than pure objectivity. Pure Objectivity doesn’t help matters any, by being an imaginary ideal that we aspire to, rather than obtain—so the arguments persist, simple by virtue of the complexity of the ‘knot’.
Propagandists, thus, still live by the rule—say anything three times, and people start to believe it. Trump states this in his Art of the Deal—as if he discovered a big secret. Whenever Trump lies (or rather, whenever he speaks) I always listen for that third time. It would make a deadly drinking game—a shot for every third repetition of a lie—the whole party would be passed out in the first fifteen minutes.
But Trump has become too used to this concept of the pliability of reality—his flights of fancy become ever more outlandish, more self-evidently false. Or, as he put it, ‘the shackles are off’. What gets me is, every time he lies, he’s saying that we are stupid enough to believe him, just because he says it three times in a loud authoritative voice. I find that incredibly offensive—not much different from the time he asked a crowd of Ohioans, “How stupid are the people of Ohio?”
He insults our intelligence with all these lies—I find it hard to grasp why people would take so much disrespect from him. But then, I’ve always had a great big chip on my shoulder, so I react pretty strongly to that sort of thing. He doesn’t ‘get’ that, yes, many politicians lie during campaigns—but they limit themselves to lies that can’t be technically disproven, at least not easily—like, with a quick Google search. Yes, ‘the Donald’, politicians lie, but within the bounds of reason—they don’t force cognitive dissonance upon their constituents, making their continued support require a blind rejection of the obvious.
I think, after this election is finally put to sleep, the media should start to take stock of the Outlandish factor: ‘Obama is a secret Muslim, alien Kenyan’, ‘Death Panels’, ‘Obama founded ISIS’, ‘Hillary is a she-demon’, ‘Trickle-down economics’, ‘Muslims are dangerous’, ‘Weed is dangerous’, ‘Poverty is a choice’—you name it, the Republicans are allowed to go on TV and say whatever crazy bullshit comes into their heads.
The media needs better ground rules—Trump supporters have been spreading their unblinking, shrill crazy-talk across America for a year—everyone, including the anchors, knows they’re lying, twisting the facts, and supporting a dangerous psychopath, yet they are rarely cut-off, or even interrupted, while saying things that make me physically ill. WTF, media? Mental disease can be just as contagious as germs, you know—you’re creating a health crisis by your lack of quality-control on the disingenuousness of your guests—in the name of fairness. It’s not fair, it’s a false equivalence and everyone knows it.
Journalism has a responsibility to give both sides of an argument—not one side of a very lopsided issue versus plain old crazy. That’s not ‘both sides’, that’s an invitation to inanity in nice clothes. And the media has had a parade of that from the day Trump declared. Once we are saved from ourselves, assuming Election Day isn’t a death knell for America, the media needs to rethink their ‘equal time’ policies—crazy doesn’t need any help—and it sure don’t need any free air-time.
Which reminds me—Trump says the media is rigging the election. Is this the same media that gave him billions-of-dollars-worth of free campaign advertising by reporting on his every word, obsessively, daily? Like I said—plain old crazy.
[Fit the Eighth : The Vanishing]
In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away —
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
Sunday, October 16, 2016 5:25 PM
Made a video today—not too bad—but then the darn camera’s charged died before the very last note—Arrgh! But the pictures of the grandiloquent granddaughter more than make up for the music’s shortcomings.
As you can see, when Seneca goes out in her stroller, she looks a little like a tiny granny-lady—very fussy and querulous—it’s so adorable.
Breakfast—is there anything sweeter than a hearty breakfast—and a handful of pills? Well, the pills are something I’ve acquired over time—what I really like is the bacon and eggs and hash browns—and then the sour of orange juice washing it all down—and then the hot, steamy, rich coffee (I take mine with lact-aid milk—the half-n’-half of the lactose intolerant).
And the best thing about it is that one isn’t supposed to have a hearty breakfast—all those nitrates, and fats, and the salt—OMG. Heaven forfend! But that just makes it taste better. And no breakfast is truly enjoyed without a newspaper, or at least a crossword puzzle or something—so you feel like you’re preparing your body and your mind for the day ahead. Well, the rest of the day—I don’t usually get around to breakfast until noon-ish—I know, I know—but it takes me a couple of hours just to wake up all the way. I’m kinda punchy for a while, at first.
Now, take a look at this picture of my niece holding my granddaughter—just look at the smiles on these two gals. It’s quite a photo, no? I stared at it for a good few minutes—it’s as good as a TV show.
But before I have my breakfast, I’ve uploaded this morning’s improv—it came out pretty good because I wasn’t entirely there. See, I tend to overthink things—so, when playing the piano, the more asleep I am, the better.
Thursday, September 22, 2016 12:43 PM
Aaah—so satisfying. Now that’s a breakfast. I made the mistake, however, of substituting the TV-news for a newspaper. When really bad stuff starts to go down, I realize I didn’t know how good I had it, when it was all presidential election claptrap—they were just filling time because they had no news—and no news truly is good news.
I see video of a pack of Tulsa police gunning down a stalled motorist in the middle of the highway in broad daylight. I ask myself, ‘what the hell is it like, living in Tulsa?’ I ask myself, ‘what would it be like if our cops just shot people down in cold blood like that?’ I find myself grateful, not to live in Tulsa—what a stain on this country. Then the stain running for president, the Donald, becomes the first Republican to hassle the cops about shooting black people. Why? Because, this one time, the shooter is a woman—Trump’s not castigating the police, he’s saying women don’t have the balls—a very different issue—but Trump’s an ass, and wouldn’t know the difference.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, the cops shoot another black man—this time they say he had a gun—his family says he had a book. The cops won’t release the video—they had one excuse yesterday—today they have a different excuse—they’re saying they’re just following the law. But the law about releasing cop videos just got rushed through their state legislature—so it doesn’t take effect until next week—and on the hypocrisy goes. But that doesn’t stop the media from drooling in anticipation of more violence during community protests there—so they can say there’s violence on both sides. Vultures.
I must confess—if the cops made a habit of shooting at me, I’d be tempted to shoot back—but I’m white, so maybe I just don’t understand the situation? Regardless, it sure ruins a good breakfast.
I’m an escapee. My disability sidelines me from the distractions of life, so I get to watch the rest of humanity go about its business. It’s a disturbing show—we’ve got a lot of chaos going on in the world. You who have jobs and other distractions are lucky; you don’t spend the day poring over the problems of the world.
I’m an escapee. I already died once, so my concern over dying is not the big deal it once was. Everyone knows we all die someday—but we don’t usually accept it—and that’s a healthy thing. I’ve accepted it—and while that tones down the fear of dying, it also detracts from the ambitions of living. Plus, I’ve gotten old, so any ambition of mine would just annoy people. My day is past, just like Dr. Evil holding the world hostage for a million-dollar ransom, in a time when a million bucks barely pays for a new house.
I’m an escapee—even from myself. I used to be very intent, very tightly wound—now I have trouble concentrating, so I’ve let go of all that OCD behavior, as much as I could. I enjoy playing the piano when I first wake up, because I’m not all there yet—I don’t get in my own way as much.
We’ll all be escapees in November, when Hillary gets elected—we will have escaped an unholy confluence—NBC Universal, The Republic Party, and the Alt-Right movement have created a monster out of a joke. In truth, Trump remains laughable. It’s the half of the country he’s bamboozled into supporting him that’s scary.
We’re also beginning to escape from our past Conspiracy of Silence shielding police misconduct in the persecution, and murder, of minorities. For generations, certain police in certain communities have indulged their bigotry in a calculated and cold-blooded fashion. For generations, minorities’ claims of unwarranted search, seizure, arrest, beatings, and killings have been waved away with a ‘he said, she said’ and a ‘who you gonna believe?’
But now we have video. The old tradition, the evil conspiracy, is being shot through its own heart—its secrecy—and I confess to a certain glee as I watch these criminals-in-cop-clothes try to explain away the truth as it plays on a screen in slow motion. The thin blue wall of silence doesn’t work against YouTube footage—bigots, your day is come.
Unrest will be part of this process. The unwillingness to absorb this age-old confederation of persecution, even while it plays on our TV sets, faces tremendous inertia among white people. We don’t want to believe that such villainy has been sniggering behind our backs while we trusted our men and women in blue. And we recognize that many police do their jobs with pride, competence, bravery, and integrity.
But our respect for the police as a group cannot be a shield for this pernicious evil that resides within it. Black communities gather in outrage, risking harm themselves, to protest this cancer within law enforcement, and within the hearts of communities. Evidence is plain to see—yet we do nothing but debate talking points.
Changes must be made. Perpetrators must face consequences, even when they wear the uniform. Improved training and community outreach must become the norm—as must criminal prosecution for these brazen killings committed under the guise of ‘keeping the peace’. Ironic, and unacceptable—and most of all shameful. Shame on them. And shame on us if we don’t root out this corruption with the same intensity with which we support our cops.
But I see all this as ultimately good, as progress—an ancient evil has been caught in the light of day and, if we do right, will be hounded into non-existence. Trump points to this unrest and other violence, and tries to say that violence and crime are increasing—statistics, as usual, make a liar of him—but that’s how he wants to frame our reality, so we’ll all get scared and vote for a bully. Crime and violence are at historic lows. The recent unrest is a part of making the police a force for good for everyone, including every shade of skin.
This is important work, not cause for hysteria. But, regarding Trump, that could be said about many of his positions, on just about every issue.
Wow—even I’m tired of me—I can’t imagine how fed up you must be, dear reader. But it’s the weekend now, so I’m going to do my best not to say anything until Monday, maybe even Wednesday—who knows?
Our granddaughter has a wonderful new toy in her crib—a small keyboard that she can play with her tootsies. Punkin sent me a video of it, so I’ve made a new video of the two of us playing together. Enjoy. (I’m the one in the green shirt.)
A long and productive day—Pete came by, we recorded most excellent musical diatribes, but he had to cut our visit short and return to the world from whence he came. Then Joanna came by to see Pete—moments too late, very frustrating—but she and I had a pleasant visit, at least. This time I remembered to take a picture:
Today’s posts bring my total YouTube uploads to 2,005. Of those, 59 are videos of Pete Cianflone and me, collaborating together on improvisations and song covers. The audio-cassette archives of our 20th-century recordings are lost in the mists of time—after many years of pursuing separate paths, we resumed our monthly journey together in January, 2014. It’s all on YouTube: Pete n’Me playlist
I’ll grant you, it’s an uneven catalog (always with the caveat that the problems are all mine—Pete’s a professional who’s nice enough to indulge me) but as we’ve gone along, Pete has figured out an impossible trick—drumming for a pianist with no sense of rhythm. He always makes me sound better than I sound by myself—it’s really something. Today’s videos are a perfect example—no matter how badly I mess up, Pete keeps things going.
Well, it’s been a very busy week. I think I’ll go back to bed for a few days.
La-dee-da…. I don’t care. Let it all swirl around me. I usually feel obligated to pay attention, to try to sort the wheat from the chaff. But it all roils on, with or without me—I could live the rest of my life without a glance at the world and no one would ever notice. I could stop watching TV or going online, wait until November, vote for Hillary—and the result would be the same as if I had obsessed over all the political reporting, day and night, leading up to election day.
Those of you with the health and strength can rush down to campaign headquarters and volunteer to get out the vote—you may even decide that you’ve found in Politics a lifetime career—you can make a difference. I am unable to do so—but that’s okay—like I said, my lack of involvement frees me from worrying about my level of engagement.
We live in a media-centric culture. It is a mirror that we hold up to ourselves—and so our lives are judged not just on what’s happening, but whether we find ourselves entertained. It’s a lot to ask of ourselves—as if the whole family-of-man was driving its car down the interstate, admiring itself in the rearview mirror, trying to keep one eye on the traffic and the road signs. We must pay attention—but there are some things that don’t require our attention—they get in the way of the stuff we must keep watching for—dangers, opportunities, and responsibilities.
Not that we don’t need entertainment—I’m not saying that. Ever since fireside storytellers lit the imaginations of their tribe to mark the end of the day, people have hungered for entertainment. It is a part of who we are—just as much as eating or sleeping. In modern America, we’ve found that an overabundance of tempting foods can transform nutrition into a health threat. By the same token, it seems that we have the ability to over-indulge in entertainment to the detriment of our mental health. Sensationalism leads us on, to shorter attention-spans, lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, and carpal-tunnel syndrome.
As a bookworm, I was an early-adopter of today’s media overload. Long before it was popular to spend the entire day staring at a rectangle in your hand, I was reading a book during every free second of my time. Even back then, I found that reading books (a supposedly relaxing activity) could become a binge activity. I’d reach a point where the eye strain, stiff neck muscles, and headaches made it necessary to stop awhile—even at three in the morning, with only one chapter left to find out the ending.
I got a lot out of those books—I learned a lot and I was exposed to new concepts and perspectives that broadened my understanding. But I also missed out on a lot of other things—the kinds of things other people did—which narrowed my understanding. It’s that whole ‘balance’ thing—it always bites us in the tush. And when it comes to the popularity and ubiquity of the I-phone, balance goes completely out the window.
People in olden times often resisted having a phone put into their home—if they wanted to talk to someone, they would go and see them. Nowadays, landline home-phones are only remarkable in that younger people have begun to feel landlines are superfluous. And, as in those days, we have many people today who don’t wish to ‘be online’—if they want to talk to somebody, they’ll call them on the phone. But like the people before, their children are using texts and Twitter and Skype, et. al., to keep in touch—so they are forced to adopt the new tech, if only to talk to their kids.
But what if you’re among the millions of people without the money for gadgets, without access to the internet, perhaps without even literacy? We are creating a divide between the digitally-enabled and the dark-zoners—and these two groups live in worlds that the other cannot comprehend, much less share.
We are approaching a point where digital illiteracy and lack of access will become more disabling than a lack of money. It is a new form of what film-director Godfrey Reggio called ‘Koyaanisqatsi‘ or ‘life out of balance’. Only, in this case, it is specifically Humanity that is putting itself out of balance.
Prototypical ‘wild’ humans evolved to live a life of constant struggle and frequent deprivation. We have built civilizations that free us from such rigors—but being free of the necessity of fleeing from predators, free of hunting, gathering, and finding water and shelter—that doesn’t change the way we evolved.
We still need to exert ourselves. We still need to balance food with activity. We still need to bond, to form social groups, and to share stories. We still need to keep these animal bodies of ours balanced on the tightrope of biological function. Any extreme unbalance of exertion, food, leisure, entertainment, or self-regard causes problems—as lack of balance always will.
So, in the end, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with eating McDonalds or playing Black Ops or Tweeting—the danger lies in imbalance, in overdoing any one thing to the exclusion of a diversity of activities. Just as a conversation must include both talking and listening, our lives must balance our pleasures with our requirements. We take our bodies for granted—but we ought to stop using them occasionally, just long enough to listen to them and give them what they need. But I should talk—I collect unhealthy habits like they were baseball cards.
Okay, videos for today—one new one, and one from a week ago that I’ve put off posting.
What a day—what a beautiful day. Lorraine Gengo and Joanna Binkley came by today, bought me lunch, and we sat and talked about cabbages and kings, just like the old days. All the high school years I spent chasing them around like deer—and just as hard to keep up with. And now they invite themselves over. Wonders never cease.
Of course, it’s a sad occasion—we were all good friends with Cris, and Cary still. He was a very striking personality and we all feel his passing. Still we talked of other things, too—catching up on forty years is both plenty to talk about, and nothing to talk about, but we made do.
I usually spend the day trying not to wear myself out but today I don’t mind being exhausted—I don’t get out much. Seeing people from the olden times really lifts my spirits. I’m kicking myself now, that I hadn’t the presence of mind to take a picture! And me making a movie every damn day…
Seneca’s latest video came out adorable, just like they all do. She’s got two outfits in the new pictures—one says, “Dad and I Agree—Mom is the Boss” (a nice fantasy—everyone knows the baby is the boss) and the other has a whale on it. The teddy-bear looks like a permanent fixture—it’s so cute the way little’uns have ‘sidekick’ dolls or toys or blankets that cannot leave their sides.
I’m happy also to note that my granddaughter continues the family tradition (well, my tradition—Bear is a normal person) of wearing mis-matched socks. I think it adds a certain panache, don’t you?
Pete’s coming! New videos from the Buds-Up Consort coming soon—watch this space….
I finally got in a file-folder from Bear, containing over 100 Photos of Seneca showing off his daughter, Seneca, at his Restaurant—he appears to dance about the place, introducing the Princess to all his co-workers. It’s beautiful—so I made a video of it. I can’t speak for the piano music—my fingers were a bit tired from photo-shopping all those pics—but I think it will do.
The photo sequence repeats once, because I only show each picture for 0.75 secs. That left me with a-minute-and-a-half for the whole sequence, but the music is three minutes. It’s driving me crazy to be in New York while my baby granddaughter is growing up in California—it’s just so wrong. They’re going to visit at Christmas time, so I’m very impatient for the holidays. Meanwhile, I have to settle for photos. Arggh!
Well, anyway, that was a full day’s work—and I think it came out okay—but I think I’ll use these pictures again, more slowly, on my next video. I like the way this one suggests movement, but it’s a little frenetic. I’d like to see the pictures come more slowly. Next time.
I’m confused. I like Hillary Clinton a lot—but everyone else seems to hate her. A person accused of endless atrocities, but never proved guilty of any of them, is a rare and wondrous thing. If she is truly guilty of all this criminality, then she is unbelievably clever. If she is not, then she is the target of the longest, most intense smear campaign in history—and yet continues to be the favorite for the upcoming. That would make her unbelievably tough. Clever or tough, or both—I like that—and I don’t see where all the spite is coming from.
I’m not confused about all the free media Trump gets—everyone knows: if it bleeds, it leads. Trump’s campaign has been bleeding (out of his wherever) since he first announced his candidacy by calling Mexicans rapists. Everything he says is full of entertainment value—he’s shocking. I’m shocked that, with all he has said, he has anyone willing to vote for him—and we are all shocked by his hate-speech, his rudeness, his trashing of American ideals, and especially his ignorance—considering the job he’s asking for.
Consider this: many people who know and work with Trump have been telling people that he is a narcissist, a cheat, and a bully. No one who has worked with or knows Hillary Clinton has anything bad to say about her. The people who vilify her are always people who don’t know her. Even Republicans she has worked with have testified to her competence and ability—and never accused her of duplicity, as her detractors do.
So, if Hillary Clinton is a villain, she’s not only clever enough to never be proven guilty, she’s also clever enough to fool everyone she’s ever met. And that’s too damned clever—that’s beyond the limit of credibility. One has to wonder. Is it a coincidence that these same people hate her husband, Bill, or her former boss, President Obama? That sounds a lot like the attitude of an angry Conservative, not the indictments of an objective observer.
These would-be angry-mob-leaders blame Hillary for the deaths in Benghazi—even after Ambassador Stevens’s sister said, “We all recognize that there’s a risk in serving in a dangerous environment. Chris thought that was very important, and he probably would have done it again. I don’t see any usefulness in continuing to criticize her. It is very unjust.“ The GOP do a disservice to the late ambassador’s heroism—yet the public still makes it a black mark on Hillary’s ledger, eclipsing the memory of Chris Stevens and the honor of his sacrifice.
That one bugs me the most—but there are two sides to all the accusations made by her enemies—and, as with Trump, only the most shocking and sensational sides are harped-on in the media. No one, to my knowledge, has ever done an in-depth analysis of the Hillary-smear’s long history, or the pros-and-cons of each smear, to expose this nebulous far-right propaganda machine for the ‘doubt factory’ it is. Sixty Minutes, where are you when we need you?
We should remember that her accusers are the same people who brought us Climate-change Denial, Reverse Racism, and Trickle-down Economics. They are the liars, not her. They are the criminals, not her. They are the bigots, not her. That should be clear to everyone. It is not. I’m confused. Are American voters such empty-headed lemmings? Can a horror-show like Trump really worm his way into power, when we have Hillary Clinton as an option? Someone explain this to me.
And while you’re at it, explain to me how people so judgmental that they disapprove of Hillary Clinton can elect a Congress full of village idiots. Those are the good guys? And Hillary is the Wicked Witch of the East? Very sound, everyone—extraordinarily wise—well done. Shit. Nice to know the country is just crawling with intelligence.
The world loves Hillary, but America doesn’t. The world believes in Climate Change, but America doesn’t. The world is dead set against using nuclear weapons, but Trump is considering it. How am I supposed to love my country, when it is so tightly-packed full of morons? I am confused.
For some reason, 36 years ago, I married a Bear. She married a Clown. We did the things that other families do—house, kids, pets, Christmas, birthdays—but we did something you don’t see too much of—we were silly. I find silliness to be precious—it’s something a lot of people don’t have time for. Some people even have an aversion to silliness—though that makes them the perfect people to be silly in front of.
Bear is not always relaxed enough to get silly—she spends most of her time being quite serious and busy. She’s lucky she has me—I know the value of silly. I’ll check—but I’m pretty sure she feels the same way—yeah, pretty sure…
I told her last night that I had forgotten to get her a gift. Bear doesn’t care—Bear doesn’t like a lot of gift-giving. She likes Christmas presents and birthday presents and she doesn’t mind a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day—but that’s it. No Mother’s Day, no Easter, no wedding anniversary, nothing where she feels a gift would cheapen the day. I try to get gifts anyway—silly ones, of course—but when I forget, it’s not the end of the world.
She said, “When I go shopping tomorrow, I’ll get myself some flowers.” That’s what we do—I tell Bear I didn’t get her a present, and she gets it for me (for her). I think she prefers to do her own shopping and decide what she wants—silly gifts are all well and good, but….
To the outside observer it might look like I get most of the benefit of being married and Bear gets most of the work—but only because it’s true—and I have an excuse—and a note from my doctor. But I do bring something to the table—old world queens had their court jesters—and Bear has her Clown. Plus, I kill spiders and fix toilets.
I don’t even want to think what my life would have been like without her. So that worked out pretty good. I am the lucky one.
Sunday, August 28, 2016 12:33 PM
It’s Addictive (2061Aug28)
I’m having trouble getting any work done on the computer. My wife is having trouble leaving the house. Friends come over and when they try to leave they just can’t walk out the door. It’s a real problem. We’re all addicted.
I’m a nerd by trade. My usual PC-monitor backgrounds and screen-saver slide-shows have always been NASA images—false-color galactic spectaculars, grandiose launch-fireworks, awesome celestial bodies—you know the drill. But I have recently received an influx of my granddaughter’s baby-pictures, which reminded me of younger times, when my computer graphics included our own infants—before they grew old enough to be self-conscious about being on daddy’s screen-saver. So, now, only occasional close-ups of solar storms or galactic star-cradles interrupt the steady stream of baby worship.
If you’ve had kids, or grandkids, then you know that your baby pictures are the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen—and it’s hard to look away. This is especially true when the actual enfant is on the opposite coast, unavailable for grandparental doting. Well, it turns out that having a slide-show screen-saver of such images is pretty close to graphics heroin.
I finish my typing or Facebooking or whatever, I go to leave the room, and I find myself caught, in glancing backward, by the full-screen splendor of our little Seneca. I walk into the same room later on, and I can’t bring myself to hit a key, stopping the screen-saver—I just sit and watch. When Claire (or anyone, really) tries to walk past the computer on their way out the door, they find themselves stopped in their tracks. She’s a cutie, what can I say?
I have piano recordings I’ve put off for days now, because I won’t edit the video without some fresh Seneca graphics to replace the image of me sitting and playing (with over 1,900 YouTube videos, I’ve seen more than enough of myself). Claire is holding out on me—but that’s between us, we’ll work it out. In the meantime, I have one recording that I really like—I may have to post them as is—or at least this latest one.
The universe is a big place (he said, apropos of nothing) and if we are honest with ourselves, our individual selves are such a minute part of the planet—itself a minute part of the whole—and we must accept that ego is entirely a biological-evolution thing—it is as misleading as our perception of the Earth as a flat surface—ego is a special case, only valid to one person in a specific point of time and space—certainly not any part of the larger reality around us.
We accept ego as a driving force, giving us the confidence to move forward, the sense of self-worth that allows us to believe in our goals and dreams—just as we move across the earth as if it were a table-top—it’s practical. But an overabundance of ego in one person is usually recognized in those around him or her—as delusional. So we conclude that ego, like glandular balance, is a healthy thing, and egotism, like any metabolic imbalance, is unhealthy.
Our egos are like our faces—other people see them clearly, while we cannot. And there is no mirror for an ego—except perhaps the brick wall of harsh reality, though sometimes even that has no effect. I’m not sure how big my ego is—I can’t be certain if my ego is in balance or not. It troubles me. But then, I’m out of shape too—no question, yet I can live with that—more easily than I can get myself to exercise every day. Sometimes I have to accept that I am what I am.
My point? I don’t know—my point is that it’s hot—too hot for this heavy, long-sleeved shirt I wore in the air-conditioned part of the house. My point is that I’ve gone down the rabbit-hole of presidential politics and it’s virtually impossible for me to write about anything else. But it’s Sunday, so I’m trying to take a day off from all that. Still, I catch myself nibbling around the edges of it.
For me this political ‘rumpus’ is about human nature, about character, about strength of purpose and clarity of vision—it’s not a party to me, it’s not a hootenanny where I get off on the sheer emotional energy of it. I’ve always been too damned serious—and this election is an exaggeration of that side of me. Don’t think that, because I’m taking a day off, that I don’t have a lot more scolding and griping to do—but that’ll wait.
In the meantime, I only have eight measly photographs with which to make four videos—I guess if I can’t squeeze any new shots out of Jessy or Claire, I’ll have to fall back on photos I’ve already used—we’ll see.
Now that the ‘ill wind’ of the GOP has bloviated sufficient extremism to fill a Gag Reel of non-presidential character, or lacking character of any sort, really, we might be deluded into sitting back and breathing a sigh of relief—but that would be a mistake. Trump sprang from the mulch he grew out of—the GOP itself is the same cold-blooded, empty-spirited anti-Americanism that Trump is—he only ‘let it all hang out’, rather than the GOP’s normal tactic of ‘teaching the controversy’, or as I like to call it, hyper-bullshitting.
Vainly trying to find rationales for the worst side of people—exclusion, xenophobia, isolationism, and heedless greed—the GOP has played Devil’s Advocate long enough for us to drop the ‘Advocate’ and call them by their true name. Paying taxes for the good of the common welfare is no sin. Welcoming those who thirst for a better way of life is no crime. Insisting that the least of us get the same rights and respect as the rest of us is not faintness of heart—neither is being unable to succeed, through no fault of one’s own.
They reach into our darkest desires and fears—they tell us to blame and to suspect—they take advantage of our desperation, dangling false promises in our view. The GOP are the orcs to the Democrat’s elvish. How anyone can fall for their nonsensical prating eludes me—it is an abandonment of reason and judgment that I would not think most people capable of—yet it deludes a good half of all Americans.
I would have thought the ‘whoops’ war, and the cratered economy, would have woken up voters to the glaring truth. Failing that, one would hope people noticed the Congress they elected has devoted the last eight years to neglecting the people –with an iron resolve usually reserved for doing something productive. And if all that wasn’t enough, you have the specter of Trump—the high prince of unreason—leading them into a tomorrow full of open, blatant hate and fury.
If you vote for any GOP candidate this election, Trump or otherwise, I wash my hands of you as an American—I don’t know where the hell you came from, but you can go on back now. Just kidding. That’s what the ignorant tend to shout—‘Go back where you came from’—even though they shout it at their neighbors, hence their ignorance. I get it, though—if I blame someone else for my problems, then it feels good to shout at them to go away.
I’m sick and tired of this election—I’ve always seen Hillary as the obvious choice; I’ve always viewed Trump as a nothing with an ego; and the longer this circus drags on, the more ludicrous the coverage becomes. But I’m angry at the glacial time-frame of political change—our lives change overnight, and have done for a long time.
Our politics have got to become more pragmatic—we have to talk about grown-up stuff and shunt aside the childish whinings of those who want to turn back the clock (but only in their favor). We have to demand transparency from government, we have to start expecting results, and we have to start voting for people who hold themselves accountable—because we sure can’t do it, after we elect them. With all the work that needs to be done, I really don’t want to hear any more bon mots from the Donald. I don’t want to hear people give Hillary any more crap—you try running the effing State Department—or help run a global charitable foundation.
I don’t suppose it occurred to any journalistic geniuses to research what, if anything, the Clinton Foundation has done—that story doesn’t grab clicks, I guess. But as a viewer, I wouldn’t mind hearing about it—even if it was just boring stuff about trying to make poor people’s lives better. But no, better we stick with vague suppositions about financial hanky-panky—that makes a better news chyron. But at all costs, please don’t inject anything other than the presidential race—that would imply that it isn’t the only thing that matters to everyone. Where would that leave your ratings?
The entire state of Louisiana got flooded and sixteen people died—that’s a tragedy—not to mention tens of thousands of homes destroyed, or at least their contents and first floors—nearly the same thing. But 1,245 victims died in Katrina, 233 deaths were attributed to Hurricane Sandy—much smaller disaster areas—that makes 16 a pretty small number, President Obama—go on with your golf game until your scheduled Tuesday visit. It isn’t the presidential presence that makes the difference—it’s the preparedness and the organization of the relief effort—and Louisiana gets a gold star. The Katrina disaster was an education as well as a tragedy.
I found it amusing these last two weeks that many news shows, especially the NBC network family, were able to suspend their laser-focus on the presidential race to watch the Rio Olympics in awesome detail. But then it was right back to all politics all the time. Would that all the news shows would have the integrity to continue to report on the rest of the country, and the world, and still find time for Trump and the stupid things he says. Perhaps Hillary will be caught on tape, hiccupping during a speech—think of the infinite attacks springing to mind among the Trump campaign staff. But you journalists have minds too—maybe you can find other things to report besides Trump’s latest hiccup-gate comment.
Once upon a time I supervised thirty employees and ran the computer systems all by myself—I made and spent money like a lord, because times were fat—People thought I was a computer genius, and in that context, I kinda was. Along the way, I had married, we’d had two kids, a dog, three cats, a house, and two cars. We live in a lovely, woodsy neighborhood with a beach on the lake, just north of New York City.
I worked hard, long hours on the hardware, the software, the supplies, training the people (people didn’t know what to do with a computer back then—and, to be fair, all the computers were different, with different, custom-made programs). I talked to clients and suppliers on the phone. I talked in meetings. I talked to individuals if they had a question or problem. I kept everything going and, on the side, de-bugged programs or wrote new applications. I was often brought in on a big closing as the resident nerd—back then, if you had your own nerd, you could get ahead of the competition using those new ‘computer’ gadgets. I was big stuff—in a small way, for a short time.
But I had my own corner office, with a beautiful view. I had a nice chair. I was happiest when I was just sitting at my terminal, writing code. That was the easiest part of the job. Dealing with customers and co-workers was never my strong suit. I was younger than a lot of employees, and that could be awkward for both of us.
On my birthdays, a group of friends and family would join me at a fancy restaurant. We’d eat fancy food and drink pricey wine—it was very sumptuous, not hard to take at all. Eventually, we’d toast to my birthday and everybody would say, “You are the lucky one!” It was said half-joking, ironically, because there wasn’t anything too special about me, but I was undeniably enjoying a lucky life—and it was a night to celebrate.
But I believe it. I said it to someone just recently. They looked surprised. They said, “You? You’re the lucky one?”, incredulously.
I said, “Yeah. I should have died ten different ways by now but I’m still breathing. I should be a grouchy misanthrope hiding in a solitary cave somewhere but (and here I looked at my wife) I live in this wonderful place with wonderful people. I have everything I want and nothing I don’t.” Now, that may be a slight exaggeration, but not much of one, not in any way that really matters.
I do believe it. There are so many ways in which the twists and turns of fate could have put me up against it, but that has never happened. Fears arise, troubles come, but with time they all fade, and a better day dawns—every time. If that’s not lucky, I don’t know what is.
And yet it isn’t much different from your life, is it, dear reader? We are all tremendously lucky to be waking up to this day, eating food, being with others, cruising around, reading books, whatever you like doing. It’s good, right? I mean, it could get worse. That would suck. That would be bad luck. But meanwhile we swim in a stream of good luck, barely noticing the miraculous moments go by. I am the lucky one. Say it with me.
Two months ago, when our daughter’s pregnancy (and on the west coast, yet) lurked in the back of my mind—and it still looked like we might get taken in by Trump’s big con—and I was smoking too much and doing too little—back then, I resumed my anti-depressant prescription. That’s how bad I got.
But a half-a-pill a day of that stuff really pole-axed me. Yes, I smoked a lot less, because a lot less of me was there—I was zombified. But the cutting back on smoking was good for me—I felt much better. The only trouble was that I wasn’t doing anything else, either—and I wasn’t upset about that. I was very far from upset about anything at all.
Now, if I had wanted to spend my life on drugs, I could do that all by myself—and with much fun-ner drugs. So I compromised—now I take a quarter of a pill every day—and only until October, when I will stop altogether, and see how it goes. There’s a reason I stopped taking them, after all, and if I can do without, I’d really prefer that.
So, back then, it wasn’t just raining anxiety—it was pouring. But now, with our brand-new, cute-as-a-button granddaughter, I’ve been inspired to play new piano improvs. Claire’s trip has inspired me to get out and do more—like doing my own shopping. The influx of baby pictures has given me lots of busy-work in photoshop, making them fit into my YouTube videos. I enjoy my playing more when I’m looking at photos of that beautiful baby instead of myself—I think it makes me sound better.
Then Pete came by today—Hooray! I was pretty disappointed with last month’s recording, because of the anti-depressants making me punchy and basically out-of-it. But we made up for it today.
We started with a request: “Jesu—Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J. S. Bach. (That’s two requests in August—for me it’s been a banner month for music.) I played it slow, so I would make less mistakes—but Bach is good that way—it’s still pretty, even slow.
Then we did a couple of jams back-to-back. That video is called “On A Wednesday Afternoon”. I enjoyed it much more than the title might suggest—I guess I was going for the ‘soft-sell’, there. No Pete Cianflone session would be complete without a bunch of weirdness in the video—blame it on Jessy—if she had sent me a bunch of baby-pictures, you wouldn’t even see us on the video.
Then Pete suggested we cover a Golden Oldie from the 60s, so we played “Let’s Live For Today”. Now, about “Let’s Live For Today”:
Songbook from “Great songs…” series, titled “of the Sixties – Volume 2″ gives the following credits:
But Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia gives the following credits:
“Let’s Live for Today”
Writer(s): Michael Julien, Ivan Mogull, and David Shapiro. “’Let’s Live for Today’ is a song initially recorded by the English band The Rokes in 1966. The song was later popularized by the American rock band The Grass Roots, who released it as a single on May 13, 1967.”
I leave that mystery to someone else to solve, but we had fun playing it—it’s not really a piano piece, but we made do.
The last bit of improv was bang-ish, so the video is called “Monstrous”. Pete said he might be able to come back next week, so we may get two sessions for August—who knows? We toasted the baby—well, I did, Pete doesn’t drink. A good time was had by all. I hope it’s as good to listen to. Enjoy.
As I was saying—new baby granddaughter, clearer mind, more piano music—and having more fun at the piano, baby-picture photoshopping, regular shopping… and it looks like there’s no need to worry about Hillary being elected—(but Vote anyway!) Suddenly, it’s not just raining good things, it’s pouring. Ah, life. That’s what I say. Ah, life.
Why do I always do this? I post a blog-entry about my rage over politics, full of invective and damnation—then, later in the same day, I post another blog-entry swimming in sweetness and light—usually to go along with my new granddaughter’s latest photo-shoot, hopefully with accompanying piano video using said photos. It’s ridiculous—no one who wants to read one could possibly want to read the other. What am I doing?
Truth is, I’m just being myself. I try not to get worked up about the election, but then I watch CNN or whatever, get a whole new bee in my bonnet, and I’m off to the races. I’d much rather spend the day doing what I did this afternoon.
Bear and Punkin have been emailing me regular albums of virtually daily baby pictures. Today’s batch of eleven photos inspired me to create a new frame for the photos in my video. I work in photo-shop (the Corel version) with screen grabs of medieval illuminated page borders and fancy capital letters (which I used to create a monogram-inset for the royal princess’ picture-frames), going to extra pains to ensure that each photo is the same size and in the same position. Otherwise the video doesn’t flow as well.
Our old friend, Chris Farrell, came by to tune the baby grand today. I waited until his visit before I played today’s piano improvisation. I hope you’ll notice the clarity of pitch—it should stand out, compared to the ‘sour’ recordings I’ve been making these past few weeks. I have to watch that, because frankly my ear isn’t good enough to notice, but I know musicians who actually suffer, hearing an instrument played out of tune. Today’s video does not have that problem. As they say, all mistakes are mine alone…
This is one cute baby. I have trouble sometimes finding inspiration to record my 2,000th improv (actually, my YouTube-uploads total is more like 1,976). However, knowing that I need an audio track for my baby-pictures videos makes it seem easy—but then again, I don’t try as hard—I just try to play something a baby might like. Today’s piece ends with a lullaby of sorts, hence the title.
Bear tells me that Lil Sen watched my previous video on YouTube—out in California—and seemed to think it was okay. Talk about inspiration. I’ll be playing piano improvs until further notice, no problem. Bear returns this Thursday—poor Bear, I’m sure she’ll be sorry to say goodbye (just for now) to our little sweety-pie. Though I’d better come up with a different nickname—I doubt Jessy wants to be called our ‘old sweety-pie’! But it’s bound to be confusing when your baby girl has a baby girl. I’ll work on it.
Okay, I give up. Yes, the computer room needs an air conditioner. In this heat I waver from wanting to stay in the cool bedroom, or coming out here to the hot-box and typing on my PC. I can be comfortable and bored, or engaged and sweating like a pig. Neither one is working right this minute—and I always decide I need A/C on the weekend, when I have to wait until Monday to order one. What a schmo.
I just got back from the supermarket. Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee pastas and Progresso hearty soups—it’s a can festival. Also some hot dogs. Now that I know I can make it into next week without shopping for a while, I feel better—plus, call me picky, but I like to eat dinner almost every day. I bought dill pickles and pickled sausage bites and some Laughing Cow and those round cheeses in the net-bag.
I found the world’s best microwavable breakfast—Eggo’s bacon-egg-and-cheese waffle-meals. And I grabbed some Polar Bears (Heath bar flavored). I was worried about getting those two things home and in our freezer before they were ruined—I think I made it.
Sunday, August 14, 2016 12:48 PM
“98.6” by Keith—what a great tune. It lifts my spirits. I collect one-hit wonders—the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not of the music world—strange artifacts that belong to no movement or genre but their own personal musical ‘ear’. There are a surprising number of them—and it’s sad in a certain way. Think about it—you can try for a musical career, spend a few years touring local bars and clubs, then peter out from lack of determination or lack of audience interest—or you can get lucky and hit it big, get signed to a label, tour big venues, the whole nine. But with a one-hit wonder, the artists are served the success-banquet and then have the whole thing snatched from their mouths after the first course. The same amount of grueling giggery, PR, lawyers, fans, and yet more giggery—then the promise of fame and fortune—then the almost instant fading of it all—how hard that must be. I love one-hit wonders—but I truly feel for the artists that make them.
And it begs a question that often haunts a sixty-year-old would-be artist like myself: Is there a finite amount of creativity in each of us, to one extent or another? Would Beethoven’s Tenth have been anti-climactic? Did Van Gogh kill himself because he had used all the colors in every way he could imagine—and was loathe to repeat himself? Was Dickens’ last novel just ‘more of the same’? In olden times an artists could be satisfied with just one single ‘masterwork’. Of course, if one is capable of that, there was probably a bunch of stuff one could do—Michelangelo did sculpture, painting, architecture, and poetry, but he did some things better than others.
But today, with the ‘industrialized’ arts, if you can have a hit record, contracts are drawn up by the money-people, as if to say, “Well, anyone who can please the public can continue to do so forever”. There is no recognition of the possibility that what makes someone creative may be the same thing that bridles at being expected to play those songs every day for years, or come up with another whole album of ‘more’. What the hell is ‘more’ when dealing with inspiration? And how can we expect inspiration to stick to a release deadline?
We think of art as a job. It was never a job. The musicians that played at weddings and dances were just the folks who had a knack for music—they had day jobs. The artists of old weren’t working on canvas—they were carving sculptures into the furniture they made, painting landscapes with glazes on the pots they were throwing. The ‘career’ thing started with court appointments—Michelangelo was part of his Pope’s court, Bach worked for his church choir until his fame made him a member of the household of the Duke of Brandenburg.
These early artists didn’t do anything but their art—but they were servants to royalty, at their beck and call—even with regard to subject matter and style. No artists made a living from their art except the travelling troupes of entertainers—and they were mostly fugitives, working sub-rosa in a culture that forbade merriment in general—criminals of art, in effect. No individual musicians made a living concertizing until the nineteenth century. The monetization of art has a fascinating history—but it is a history of the deformation of the original impulse to art.
Sunday, August 14, 2016 6:48 PM
I’ve made a nice video that contains our granddaughter’s latest pictures and, in between the two improvs, a piano cover of Cole Porter’s “Tomorrow”—so I tried to throw in some entertainment. It’s difficult to create a video under these rolling thunderstorms—I’m a computer hack since back in the ‘80s—lightning is my mortal enemy. I always rush to power down the PC when the lightning gets too proximate.
Usually a storm comes and I call it a day, computer-wise. But with this kind of late summer weather, I can either play the margins or wait for Fall—intermittent thundershowers are forecast for the foreseeable future.
So, I’m going to upload my video and get off until tomorrow—it’s hot and muggy even when the sun breaks through. Only a fool gets stressed on Sunday. Bear returns next Thursday, thank goodness.
Oh my. Did someone order a steam bath? What kind of ungodly weather is this? Wait, I remember now—every year about this time of the summer, it gets obnoxious enough that we almost feel grateful when the cold comes back. I hate the cold weather, but even I get fooled this time of year. Whew! I can’t stop sweating through all my clothes—it’s yucky.
Bear remains on the West Coast with her daughter (and her daughter) so I’ve been running around like a healthy person. I get so wound up I can’t sleep at night. Then I don’t wake up until noon. It’s getting me confused. I try to read books as much as I can—but that only lasts the length of the book. Then I have to wait until I’m ready to start a new one. You can’t just close one book and open another—it’s a rule, I guess. But I don’t like it.
The only bright point in this long wait is that my granddaughter’s pictures come in a fairly steady stream. I could stare at her all day—she makes me smile like an idiot, just sitting here by myself. Just knowing she exists makes my life a pleasure. After the first bunch, I requested some pictures of Sen with her eyes open. Oh man—I don’t know—it took me two days to process them all for a video—and I had to play eight minutes of piano improv to last the length of the final movie. I hope you enjoy it.
Several people, mostly Bernie supporters and Republicans, have put forward the thesis that ‘the lesser of two evils’ is a false choice and that evil is evil. This is prompted by their firmly-held belief that Hillary Clinton is some kind of monster. They all agree that they won’t vote for Trump—and who can blame them?—but they stick at turning to Hillary. I respect ethical staunchness—I’m a big fan. And I won’t wade into the morass of a politician’s long lifetime to parse her sins, venal or cardinal—though I would point out that truly villainous politicians often get caught and convicted—and seldom accomplish any meaningful governance.
Plus, no matter what you accuse Hillary Clinton of doing or saying—she has in her off-time, as Family Advocate, First Lady, and Senator, done some planning, some consensus building, and helped pass several pieces of notable legislation—and, as Secretary of State, she obviously pleased her boss, the President—and didn’t let the world fall into anarchy or let anyone invade the USA. So she has experience, ability, and a firm grasp of the realities of the U.S. government—she has been, to some extent, mentored by two presidents.
Compare that to the Independent party or Libertarian party candidates. Those two may have more experience than Trump, who decided at the age of seventy to give presidenting a try, but they are still pigs-in-a-poke compared to the most qualified candidate in history. Neither have endured one percent of the scrutiny of the candidate they challenge—and I don’t vote for somebody just because I don’t know anything bad about them—not if it’s because I don’t know anything about them.
So that leaves ‘not voting’. Don’t choose that, please—it’s un-American. Because ethics are ethics, chess games are chess games, and annoying chores are annoying chores—but politics is part ethics, part chess game, and partly an annoying chore. There are thousands of people out there, screaming at the top of their lungs—and since long before the primaries began—that Hillary Clinton must not be elected. Why are they so desperately trying to keep her from the presidency? Well, because they thought that Jeb Bush would oppose her in the general—or some other GOP with even less chance of beating her—it’s all political messaging.
If Hillary was as bad as critics paint her, serious, thoughtful people would be criticizing her—or charging her with some actual crime—or at least saying that they don’t think she would make a very good president. But no serious, thoughtful person is saying that—only her political opponents are saying that. And this may be extra confusing, right now, because serious, thoughtful are saying bad things about Trump. If it helps, try to remember that only one group disses Hillary—everybody disses the Donald. There is a difference between political mud-slinging and objective criticism. Media-savvy Donald knows this—and tries his best to turn all criticism into politics—accusing his accusers.
America is a big complicated place—there are a lot of people out there with a vested interest in their own agenda. I accept that politics is a rough business and—bottom line—Hillary Clinton is no angel (or if she is, it’s that one with the big flaming sword). But we don’t want an angel as commander-in-chief. We don’t want an angel across the negotiating table from Putin. We want a smart, serious, no-fucking-around grandma whose been there and done that. What we don’t want is a little imp with a big mouth. Or one of two strangers that wandered in late. And we certainly don’t want a bunch of goddamned Americans whining that their conscience is telling them not to vote.
If your ethics are that disturbed by the present race, then you started late—you should have been out there the last four years getting ready, finding a good candidate and helping them towards the presidency. Don’t show up in the summer before the election and say you’re not pleased with your choices. You Berners—he announced his candidacy on May 26, 2015—and all of you high-and-mighty reformers were sitting around doing nothing until your friends dragged you to his rallies. Hillary started ‘stealing’ the nomination in 2008. So get over it—if you really got inspired—good. Do something with that going forward—if you really believed what he was saying, there’s no reason to turn your back on politics now.
And you can start by voting for the candidate that didn’t come from a millionaire’s family—try Hillary—how do you know you won’t like it, if you won’t taste it?
O–and BTW, there are new baby-pictures in my latest video. Please enjoy:
The summer night is soft and cooling, but noisy—what with all the crickets calling through the screen door. It’s peak summer—quiet as a tomb. If you had somewhere to go, you’re already there. Me, I like to stay home usually. Spencer’s kind of the same way. It’s a Sunday night—it doesn’t come any quieter, if you don’t count the crickets.
I don’t watch the Olympics—not alone, anyway. I’ll linger on an event in the midst of channel-surfing, but that’s about it. And no programmer in their right mind would air anything good while the whole world’s on vacation and the Olympics are on. So the usual tired offerings on Sunday night are exhausted on a Sunday night like this.
I made some videos—one of them uses the pictures Bear took, out the window of her airplane as she flew to California. The other is the first request I’ve had in a dog’s age—someone asked me for a melancholy tune—so I’ve done my best to be absolutely drippy in that one.
I’m trying to make chicken noodle soup and blog at the same time—I’m likely to burn up a pot and go hungry. Wait a second—I’ll go check on it…. Still a minute on the timer. Oh no, another thing I forgot—Roadies is on—I’ll be back.
Sunday, August 07, 2016 11:36 PM
Here I was complaining about nothing being on TV, and I remembered that I like to watch Roadies, and then John Oliver, on Sunday nights. Man, TV goes by fast when you’re watching good stuff without commercials! It’s so rare on regular TV—I can see why people switch to binge-watching whole series seasons online. It’s much more satisfying—and if you don’t like it that much, you can just move on. I have a few Netflix series that I started and got tired of—I told myself for a while that I’d get back to them but as time passed I realized that wasn’t going to happen. But I’ve watched some really good stuff on Netflix, every season, all the way through—like Stranger Things, or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt —bingeing is great!
So now I’ve got one last improv to post before I call it a day.
Monday, August 08, 2016 12:27 AM
I got my bowl of Liptons, in case you wondered—there’s a timer app on Windows 10—good thing, too, because I never heard the kitchen timer go off. Imagine—I can cook and PC at the same time now—hmm… This opens up all kinds of possibilities.
See, I used to multi-task—like a normal person. But I have no short-term memory—or I have advanced absent-minded-ness (I was always absent-minded). Anyhow, I go for a long time without looking up from the keyboard—but with a timer?—oh, man.
I think our trip to the store yesterday helped ‘wake me up’ a little. I can do things—but then I get tired or I muck it up. So I get to a point where I stop doing stuff. But I should really make more of an effort to go outside and move around a little, every other day at least. I’m only mostly useless—I have to remind myself I’m not entirely useless. Not entirely. Not yet.
Okay, enough, the video is uploaded and it’s late—more later. Good night all.
Okay, so call me a starry-eyed optimist. I always reach for the moon—yesterday I was day-dreaming about a Clinton presidency with a Democratic-controlled legislature—with bill after bill, just sailing through—and changing the face of our future. But I just saw Hillary Clinton give a press conference in DC that was co-hosted by the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists —and Hillary said that even if she wins, and even if Dems take the Senate, there will still be a GOP majority in the House.
For at least two more years, she would have to contend with Paul Ryan’s Mad-Hatters Tea-Party. She recommends that supporters write their congresspersons to let them know we’re watching, let them know how we feel about obstruction of important bills—and of course to vote for Democrats in 2018 (though she didn’t say that last part—she has to stay on message about this election—she only alluded to the low voter turn-out in off-year elections, which allows the GOP to keep sneaking in).
Thus it won’t be all peaches and cream—even if there’s a Democrat blow-out in this election. The GOP will be able to continue their policy of obstructing the Dems and claiming the Dems can’t do anything. I don’t know why people keep falling for this. Massive misinformation campaigns in targeted demographics—that’s my take on it—the GOP can evert any issue—they can take the simplest cause and turn it on its head. Their reasoning never survives close scrutiny, but if they hammer half-truths into their base, over and over—their nonsense starts to sound like sense.
People are suffering. People are angry. Why people blame Hillary for this is beyond me. Hillary doesn’t control the government—legislation goes through the GOP—or never makes it past the GOP, more like—so why do people still believe them when they blame Obama? They’ll try the same thing if Hillary wins—but maybe people will catch on. Maybe people will see that an adversarial two-party system is deadly—only a truly bi-partisan system that does its work, and leaves the differences on the sidelines, has enabled our government to function throughout its first two centuries. We cannot continue with the GOP mind-set of winner-take-all. It’s bad for everybody.
Still, I remain optimistic. Our government will inevitably embrace the 21st century and all the digital magic that comes with—and streamlining data-collection, analysis, communications, and policy-making will do for bureaucracy what it has already done for our military—state-of-the-art tools for finding trouble-spots, creating solutions, and implementing those solutions, with digital monitoring that allows real-time feedback on its efficiency, will allow our government to change as quickly as the times—all we need to do is make sure the right people are deciding on our heading. Will America be run to please the wealthy and big businesses—or will we be governed in terms of what’s best for everyone—rich or poor, big or small? We decide—one way or another, we will not enter into our future without having anything to say about it—we just have to believe—and act appropriately.
The GOP and the lobbyists rely on political inertia and public indifference—the USA has run so smoothly for so long that many people feel our elections are just going through the motions. Let’s prove them wrong—let’s all vote—in every election—and get involved in politics more, locally as well as nationally. It’s a government by the people—but if the people lay down on the job, other influences take advantage. We have to fight back—no matter how boring or tedious the process may be. Vote for Hillary—and if you don’t like her, vote anyway—vote for somebody. Get off the sidelines. This isn’t a football game that we watch at home—this is reality—get involved.
Better (Same Day)
Enough. I’ve been hanging out here with Spencer—just us guys. Claire has found the way to San Jose and is holding her granddaughter as we speak. Lil Seneca is happy and healthy and Jessy is well also—Big Sen had to return to work. Lately Claire has taken some art classes including life studies sessions, pencil technique, pastels, charcoals, and even watercolor. I get a free art show every time she comes home—in one of today’s videos I share two of my favorite Life Studies with you.
I remember my teens—I was a pretty needy kid. I wanted to make friends in the worst way. One way I tried was to make my parents’ house a sort of Grand Central terminal for all the kids in my class who wanted to hang out somewhere, without their parents, and with other kids to hang with. Sometimes, when my parents weren’t around for awhile, we’d get some really heavy traffic going through the living room. After some time it became annoyingly clear that I had started something that I couldn’t stop.
Well, we never get that kind of traffic in our living room today. But since it is the room I record in, I often catch Claire or Spencer walking past the piano during a video—I think it adds character to the show. I have one today that shows the merest glimpse of Spencer, so I’ve called it Dunn & Son, Ltd.
Lastly, my piece de resistance, Granddaughter, is frustrating to post—I have all these beautiful pictures of our new baby, but I’m not sure I’m happy with my piano-playing on this video. The pictures make up for it, but I wish I liked the music better.
Okay, enough politics—what do I know, anyway—other people are already saying anything I have to say—people who get paid for it. I’ve been so swept up by the spirit of the Democratic National Convention—it was thrilling. But patriotism is something only idle people have a lot of time for—most people have stuff to do. So—time to stop obsessing over the TV and C-SPAN, and go back to reading books and watching movies and talking about myself. I know I’m not interesting, but I am interesting to me—and I like to write—or I should say type—I actually hate to write. If I had to do this with a pen and paper—I wouldn’t bother. But in an age of digital records, there is no saving of effort or of paper—there’s just ‘original content’.
Original Content means something you wrote yourself—without reference to Star Wars or Orange Is The New Black—something no other reasonable person would want to sue you for stealing. Be warned—if you do write something profitable, unreasonable people will come out of the ‘word-work’ to lay claim to it. But most writing has little value—so as long as you know you wrote it, you shouldn’t worry. If you’re serious about money—apply for a copyright. It’s easy—it doesn’t cost much (if you really expect to make money)—and it’s the first thing any serious professional writer does.
Original Content also applies to photos, artwork, music, and especially video. If you generate original content, which then generates a lot of clicks—you’re supposed to get paid for that. But mostly that stuff is generated in-house, so it’s not like you can just shop stuff around—although that might be a possibility, I suppose—but you’d have to go meet people. You can’t do business online—not all business, and especially closing a deal. When the Internet was young, sharing stuff was a big deal—now everyone wants to make a buck online—it’s no easier than most office jobs, unless you get a lucky break.
But I’m retired. I generate writing, artwork, and music and I just post it online. I don’t want someone else to use it without my permission—but I have no plans for a cyber-empire. I just want to be a part of it. I can’t do what young people do—posting photos of my junk, making dates on the dating app (damn, what is it? I wanna say ‘Rascal’ or ‘Heartify’…), or multi-player gaming—which I assume is tough on ‘grandpas’ like myself, especially if your hands shake. Most of the new online stuff is ‘young people only’—they don’t say that, but old people who try to fit in ‘with the kids’ are just as creepy online as they are in person. So I do ‘grandpa’ stuff and I post it. I post my piano-playing on YouTube. I post my essays on WordPress. I keep in touch with friends and relations on Facebook. I posted my old drawings on Pinterest, but I rarely have cause to add anything new.
I don’t expect a lot of people to listen to or read my stuff—some nice people do, who know me and don’t mind sleep-inducing stuff. I’m basically just putting my work out there for my own satisfaction—I like to do it. I used to have a spark of ambition—not much of one—I used to think maybe I’d become a great artist. Then I thought maybe I’d become a teacher. Eventually, I decided I just wanted to live a life without a specific goal—that’s a bad approach, but I was lucky. I ended up with a loving family, surviving a fatal disease, and cancer, and becoming an actual grandpa—oh, and I eat regular. I can’t complain.
Sometimes, after I had done a good drawing, I’d Xerox it—and the Xerox copy would look more professional than the original. There’s something of that in my postings—they just seem more substantial for being online for the world to see. I’ve actually had people tell me not to post stuff—you can’t post online without encountering trolls—but I pay them no attention. It’s like they used to say, “If you don’t like what’s on TV, change the channel.” That’s even more true of YouTube posts—if you don’t like my piano-playing, don’t watch it. I usually listen to classical music, myself—I usually only watch my own stuff once through, to check that it uploaded okay. Or I listen to it on CD, when the radio isn’t playing anything I like. It’s my fallback music.
So, Claire is flying to CA soon to meet our new granddaughter—Spencer and I will have to rough it on our own for two weeks—I hope we survive. Jessy and Seneca and Seneca are doing great. My mom had her 85th birthday today, down in Hilton Head, SC. I saw party pics on Facebook and wished I could have been there, instead of just calling to wish her a happy one.
I’ve gotten calls from Kevin Bouricius lately—he’s up in Massachusetts, trying to quit smoking. There’s a book of his oil paintings for sale online—it’s expensive, but the paintings are incredible. (http://www.blurb.com/b/4506248-paintings) He also has actual paintings, if anyone wants to go up there and buy one.
I’ll have to call Pete to set up our August jam—we usually try to post once a month, and I feel like I didn’t do too well this month, what with starting on anti-depressants at too high a dosage—I’ve halved it and I feel like I’m fully conscious again—although it was a great relief to be brain dead for a few weeks.
I was thinking, since Claire and I have our 36th anniversary coming at the end of August, about how our tradition used to be that Claire took the kids to Cape Cod or somewhere, and I’d stay home and work—we spent our anniversary in different states for years. I know it’s a weird tradition—but we’re slightly weird people. Well, the kids are grown, I don’t work, and Claire does—so that tradition has lapsed in more recent years—but if Claire stays with Jessy long enough, maybe the old tradition will come back one more time. I love the weird traditions, the ones that our just our own, the best.
I’ve been letting my muttonchops grow out lately—I look like I guy who shouldn’t have muttonchops but grew them anyway. Hey, you get bored when there’s so little to do. I shaved all the hair around my ears yesterday—I look like an idiot—and the muttonchops only make it stupider. But I stay indoors all day, so nobody sees it—just like my weird clothes. It’s kind of funny when I do go somewhere in public—people look at me sideways, but what’s the use of being sixty if I’m going to care how I look?
I have no new videos. Here’s a reprise of some recent ones:
My heart is full—I’ve been binge-watching the Philadelphia convention all week—the straight CSPAN feed (I want to make up my own mind—both about what’s worth watching and what I think about what I see and hear). Next week, I can go watch PBS, MSNBC, CNN, BBC, & FOX to see what the ‘buzz’ is. So far, it’s been like singing the national anthem—which I love to do—I love what’s best about our country. That doesn’t mean I ignore our problems. It certainly doesn’t mean I don’t worry. Neither does it mean that I believe everything I hear (from either side) nor was I born yesterday.
I’ve been a studious guy my whole life—I’ve studied world history, American history, and I follow politics. I’m sixty, which doesn’t make me an expert, but it does mean that I’ve lived through the same period of recent history as either candidate. I know what it was like for African-Americans in politics in the 1960s—and for a woman in politics in the 1970s—or rather, I remember what it was like for them—young people don’t know. If you had talked about a black president or a woman president back in those days, people would have laughed in your face. And if a gay person came out, he (or she) would have been dragged into a back alley and beat to death by an angry mob. No one can laugh at the first ‘if’ any more. Gays are still subject to violence—but the attackers don’t get a pat on the back anymore—they get charged with a crime.
People too young to have lived through those decades can be excused for not feeling Hillary Clinton—she’s just an old politician to them, with plenty of bad press. But they should recognize that Secretary Clinton has been getting bad press since before she graduated from law school—she has been a target of conservatives since she first appeared on the public stage, going undercover down south to prove that private schools maintained ‘hush-hush’ segregation, in violation of federal funding provisions.
People too young to know of Bill Clinton’s presidency can be excused for wondering what’s up with his cheating, their marriage, and therefore, her sincerity. Bill Clinton was a very young president when he got a blow-job from Monica Lewinski, an adoring, worshipful intern—then got in trouble when he swore he ‘didn’t have sexual relations with that woman’. He meant he hadn’t had intercourse, but others insisted that fellatio is a sex act and that he had lied. Now, Bill was a very popular president, very capable—and the GOP had to destroy him—they tried to impeach him, but couldn’t quite get him out of office. The whole country talked about blow-jobs for two years—it was stupid. Hillary stood by Bill, publicly, both as a believer before-hand, and as a wronged wife after the truth was publicized.
Now, people say that their marriage is a sham—as if no other marriage had bad problems and recovered. We’re coming up on our thirty-fifth anniversary next month and I can tell you—no marriage is without its ups and downs—long marriages are not a convenience, they are proof of character. But the press, comics, and her opponents, like to dredge this stuff up decades after the Clintons, I’m sure, have put it behind them.
Benghazi was Ambassador Stevens’ valiant choice, but her opponents insist on labelling it Hillary’s mistake. Her email server mistake did no demonstrable damage to national security or personal privacy—and she was not the only government official to do this—she was just the only one being stalked by her long-time haters. And let’s say that I have too high an opinion of her—that she has serious flaws. Look at her record, look at her achievements—recognize that the kind of work she does makes enemies in powerful places—recognize that she has been a target since before most of you were born.
If Hillary Clinton is an imperfect person, she has somehow managed, in spite of that, to do good for millions, to get healthcare for children, to broker a brief but important peace in the Mid-East, to get compensation for New York City, its police and its first-responders in the health crisis that was the aftermath of 9/11 rescue efforts. And much more—watch the convention for the full bio on CSPAN.org—it’s pretty damned impressive—and we should all be impressed. This is the lady who should be ‘locked-up’?! Yeah, by a dictator, maybe….
People say they don’t trust Hillary—I wonder who convinced them to think that way? People say Hillary makes mistakes—their list of complaints is mighty short for a decades-long career—maybe they had to look extra hard, maybe they had to inflate some things out of proportion—for instance, who the hell hasn’t had trouble with their email?
I trust Hillary because I have followed her career since she became First Lady—and I’ve learned about her life before that. There is a reason everyone in Washington assumed she’d be president two years ago—it wasn’t because she was an ‘insider’—it was because all of Washington knew her to be one of the brightest stars in American politics that anyone, on either side of the aisle, had ever seen. They won’t admit it now, during campaign season—but they’re still thinking it.
Anyway, I gotta go—don’t wanna miss her speech tonight…
Here’s a little something I played today—this convention is really lifting my spirits:
Summer is supposed to be hot and lazy, but I’m finding this summer kinda nerve-wracking. Our geopolitics are simmering dangerously close to a full boil—at this point it would be easier to list the countries that are stable and enjoying business-as-usual, if indeed there are any, rather than compile the list of trouble-spots and terror attacks. On the domestic front, we seem to be having a presidential race that is more a referendum on fact-based democracy than a choice of parties. The gun violence has hit record highs without anyone having a clue as to how to stop it. Violence of every kind piles atop itself, barely a day going by without a new atrocity in the news—it’s actually pushed our obsessive election polling off the top-stories-list these past few days.
I saw a Medium post this morning—a tongue-in-cheek essay listing the many horrors of the last six months, claiming that ‘due to extreme disapproval ratings the rest of 2016 has been cancelled’. I applaud this blogger—she or he has succeeded in finding anything funny to say about the first half of this year. I wish I could. The only positive message sensible folks like President Obama or Secretary Clinton can offer lately is ‘things aren’t as bad as they seem’, and ‘we all have to work together’. I can’t disagree—my life, compared to the average American, is just a bowl of cherries—and I’m far better off than the usual unemployed sixty-year-old.
And I would far rather welcome refugees from war-torn countries, and make allowances for long-term undocumented workers, especially those whose children were born here. Those who face these ideas with fear and anger are forgetting that none of us are native, except Native Americans—and they are overlooking that the net effect of all immigrations is always a plus for America. We have never failed to integrate and welcome any group into our nation before (well, eventually, of course) and I don’t see why we should start now. This nonsense about building walls, deporting masses of people, and banning religions—it’s not just un-American, it’s stupid. It’s a mistake we’ve never made before, so some people can’t envision just how horribly such ideas would work out in practice. With one exception—we’re still pretty embarrassed about the Japanese-American camps at the start of WWII. That failure of our national nerve still pinches—and it gives us a good idea of what extreme nationalism can do to the spirit of this country.
Our national spirit is a fragile thing—like many valuable treasures it can easily be misplaced or damaged. It can also be warped to the purposes of a charlatan—jingoism masquerading as patriotism, capitalist greed masquerading as national security, discrimination masquerading as religiosity, and other tap-dancing by power-seeking narcissists. Practicality is often used as an excuse to stifle our national spirit—we can’t afford it; it’s too dangerous; it threatens our children; it abridges our faith—but in the end, more of us are willing to trust in our spirit, our humanity, which is how we’ve gotten to our present level of social justice, work-in-progress though it may be.
Other nations marvel at our freedom of speech and of the press—they don’t really believe that such freedom can exist. Other nations marvel at our gender equality—women’s rights are severely curtailed in many nominally ‘developed’ countries. Even in Europe, many of their foreign nationals aren’t nearly as integrated into the fabric of their communities—they exist in separate enclaves that exaggerate the separation of cultures rather than combine them into a whole. America has its failings—don’t get me wrong. The persistence of racial division is undeniable and women are not yet fully equal in pay rates and other stats. The power of the wealthy is undermining our governance, our culture, and the economic divide is ever widening. And guns—boy, do we have a problem with guns.
For Americans, guns are the good guys. The colonists used guns to defend against the ‘savages’ and the many four-legged predators of the New World. The revolutionaries used guns to win our liberty as a nation—and one of their first new rules was ‘everyone can have a gun’. Guns made up both sides of the Civil War, and afterward, guns went west and made it wild—until other guns came and tamed the Wild West. Then we used guns to win the War with Spain, the First World War, and the Second World War. America wouldn’t be America without guns—and lots of’em.
Curiously, at present, we virtually ignore our armed military, those who are facing action in at least four other countries—and focus on gun misuse by Americans against Americans. Mental health seems to be a major factor—but I sometimes wonder whether the crazed gunman isn’t at least partly a product of a crazed community. The whole country is kinda gun-crazy—the mass murderers are getting their ideas from somewhere—and they’re getting their arms from somewhere too. I wish I had a solution to offer, but I’m as stumped as everyone else. I’m just on the lookout for those ‘better angels of our nature’ that have seen us through tough times before.
It’s looking like a long, hot summer. Here’s some music to help cool off:
Don Pietro del Cianflone has returned from summer hiatus—sing laude and strike the tambor! Here, we have the Buds-Up Semi-Ensemble wreaking havoc with the laws of both rhythm and harmony in a spectacular display of bongo-osity and piano-tivity. If you spot this duo—notify the musical authorities at once. If you hear something—you’ve heard too much!
The rest of this is just me—nothing to see here, just move it along…
That’s that, for now. A big thanks to Peter Cianflone for the jam session!
I like the idea of a public hearing—it could even be a new cable-TV channel—regular folks get up and say what they’re going through and what they would like to see the government do about it. Each statement could be followed by the names of the speaker’s town officials, their state officials, (with contact information so that people could call or write in) and the relevant legislation and programs that already apply, and a list of legislation that has been proposed but not passed. There could also be additional segments about legislation that was passed solely on the impetus of lobbyists—why they passed it, what the corporations get out of it, and how it deteriorates the public good.
That governor who recently got his corruption conviction overturned by the supreme court—he may not have done anything technically illegal, but with segments on our new show that link politicians to major campaign contributors, we could get rid of these jokers the old-fashioned way—by getting the word out, so they don’t get re-elected.
Of course, the same old problems apply—who would run such a TV channel and whose pocket would they be in? It would have to be very strictly administered to avoid the possibility of it being co-opted by a single group. And the financial needs of a TV channel would make it nearly impossible to avoid the same kinds of malfeasance that politics itself suffers from. Still, I like the idea.
Charles M. Blow wrote an editorial in today’s New York Times called “Giving Clinton Her Due” and I thought, ‘well, finally, some journalism about all the great stuff that Hillary Clinton has done over the decades’. But I was disappointed—the article was all about how well her campaign has done over the last month, compared to Trump. I just can’t fathom how people can pretend there is a comparison to be made between one of our most notable statespersons of the last four decades—and someone who hasn’t done squat, ever. Am I crazy or is this not the stupidest thing in the world today?
Even if Trump were sane, sensible, and thoughtful—wouldn’t it still be true that a complete novice, a green newbie like him, is a poor chose for ‘king of the world’? Add in the fact that he’s a narcissistic, psychotic imbecile and I have real trouble understanding how anyone can say his name, in conjunction with the election for Leader of the Free World, without laughing out loud. I can understand the talking heads—they get paid to say ridiculous things with a straight face—but regular folks? I just don’t get it.
And don’t tell me Hillary is a liar—who the hell isn’t a liar? Name another president who never stretched the truth—it’s practically a job skill in that regard. And the question isn’t just who is lying—it’s also who are they lying to? In the case of Trump, it’s a lifelong record of lying to everyone, for money. In Hillary’s case, when she misspeaks it’s usually in defense against the lies being spread by her enemies—she’s not lying to us, not the way Trump is. She’s just being a politician. And besides, let he or she who is without lying cast the first stone.
So get out there and set off some ‘works, everybody—happy Fourth of July!
Well, this is embarrassing—I wrote my Fourth of July post yesterday and now I want to write something else—but it’s still the day before Independence Day, so what am I supposed to do, pretend it’s not happening and just write about random stuff? Yeah, that’s the plan. So much for topicality.
Oh, it’s funny—and kind of exhilarating—when you look back at stuff that pissed you off and had you all off your game and under the weather for days—and you realize that your memory isn’t good enough to really remember what all that was about, so who cares anymore. If I can’t interface with the Internet without somebody getting in my face, then I just play Snood for a while and the whole thing’s forgotten—I’d like to take the credit, but honestly, it gets forgotten whether I like it or not.
Sometimes time moves too fast (usually) and sometimes time moves too slow (that’s the worst so I’m glad it’s the rarer of the two). Sometimes time seems to stand still—but if you wait awhile, you’ll need to go to the bathroom eventually. For me time has always been a little too elastic—my musical friends are always trying to encourage me to use a metronome—but that really just makes it worse—I get confused about the time between the clicks. So I made a deal with myself long ago—that even though music is primarily about rhythm, it was okay for me to do everything without a good rhythm, anyway—we’ll just call it an overabundance of rhubato, that’s all. It’s not that I don’t want to be rhythmic, it’s just that I can’t—time won’t let me, as they say.
I mean, I can feel an anger inside me—but through a combination of not remembering and not wanting to go there, I really have no idea why. Lots of things make me angry—I have an itchy trigger finger and a short fuse. Must be the Irish in me. Back in the day you could pick one thing to be angry about—the War, or Nixon, or Nuclear weapons, or the Ecology. But now there are just too many things going on, both good and bad—not getting angry is becoming an important skill, because the media will latch onto to that and make you watch TV all day or surf around the Internet until your eyes bleed.
Yes, there are problems out there—it’s time we stopped getting scared about it, or angry about it, and started getting serious about leadership instead. We are about to have an election in which a miserable, dangerous candidate has a shot just because people are so angry and so uncomfortable—and so poor. And that’s on our establishment, no question about it. They’ve been lying down on the job—doing everything but their job. It’s time we elected new people—but not the worst person in the world, just because he sees an opening.
We need to elect local officials who are not wealthy or corrupt, who have public service in mind. Then we need to do that with our state officials, then our congresspersons. Only when we have regained control of our political infrastructure can we do anything about the big dogs—the governors, the senators, vice-president, and president. Those things are just shiny objects for us to jump up and reach for while all the real work gets done behind our backs.
A vote won’t do it. People have to start going to town meetings, state party meetings, I don’t even know what kinds of meetings—that’s the sad part. The NRA’s zombie army all have the itinerary—surely the rest of us can start to realize that the crazies need to be beaten back at every river ford and mountain pass, that the lobbyists need to face down protestors outside their offices and in the halls of government. The reason we have such bad government now is because we have taken it for granted—but it needs work, just like your house or your yard—and they are overdue for a lawnmowing.
We don’t get paid to participate in our government, local, state or whatever—we may not even get what we want, personally, by participating. But if we think of it as an appliance that works when you push the button, then we get a government that has no brain, no heart. Only when large numbers of regular people show up will our government ever resemble our desires, or even our needs. We don’t need smaller government or bigger government—we need to be the government.
We had it easy—our biggest worry, back in the day, was the commies shooting off their ICBMs and making a crater of the globe (with the help of our retaliatory strikes, of course). But it was called MAD for two reasons—the obvious acronym, Mutually-Assured Destruction—but also because it was literally madness even to contemplate—and everyone knew it. We could worry about a madman getting hold of a bomb and starting something that would quickly get out of hand—but that was a long shot, mentioned mostly in novels of the ‘thriller’ variety. And no one seriously expected our governments to find any rational use for their nuclear arsenals—MAD, remember? Purely defensive, or so we would have it—don’t start none, won’t be none.
We didn’t worry about the environment—most of the pollution, and all of the data, would come later. Rachel Carson had made an iron-clad research project out of proving that the American Bald Eagle and other birds were endangered by the use of DDT as a pesticide, which caused egg-shell thinning and premature hatching. But we all took “Silent Spring” as a special case, a one-off complication. We were still fine with lead paint and asbestos insulation. Even the ecologically-minded were unaware of the build-up of consequences our civilization was beginning to have on our environment, and on ourselves.
We didn’t worry about energy—gas was pennies to the gallon—‘cruising’, the act of driving one’s car around just for fun, was a popular tradition among American teens—we wouldn’t have our first gas shortage until 1976. And even as we worried over OPECs surprising stranglehold on oil production, our concern was mainly over reliable supply-lines and the economic implications of foreign-oil dependence. Catalytic converters were invented only to reduce smog in crowded, car-choked cities—we were still decades away from any concerns over carbon-footprints and greenhouse gasses.
We didn’t worry about recycling—the first recycling drives were reliant on the need to do something with all the garbage—we were busy picking up trash along the highways or vacant lots and it all had to go somewhere. Lots of it was bottles and cans—and so a push began to make them all deposit-return containers—to compensate the collectors. Recycling as a concept, as a way to mitigate against runaway consumption, came later.
We were focused on trying to “Make America Beautiful”. At the time, it was considered more important to raise the fines and enforce the laws against littering—doing something with all that trash that used to line the highways came much later. I can still remember a time when, on family trips, the end of a fast-food meal was the act of jettisoning all the trash out the car window, at speed. Nor did we have to undo our seatbelts to do it—nobody wore those things. Of course, without them, or a speed limit, Americans on the highways were dropping like flies. Today’s highway fatalities, while still the number four killer, are nothing compared to our old stats—today’s roads are baby-proofed in comparison.
We had worries—sure. But we trusted our leaders. We thought the world too big to be vulnerable to our industry. We thought that faraway people who hated the USA only affected our travel plans, not our national security. Everyone watched the same TV shows—everyone listened to the same radio stations—we were connected as a culture. And we still felt that oppressing women and minorities and the disabled was just the way of the world—and being gay was still the ‘love that dare not speak its name’. It wasn’t right—but boy, was it simpler. The fine judgments of the politically correct were still decades away—on the other hand, we didn’t laugh at its complexity yet, either. We were still busy trying to laugh it off, deride it back into invisibility.
Part of our difficulty with the present is that our many problems, and our social progress, contribute equally to the growing complexity of life. Complexity is a big problem. You give everyone a computer network that they can carry in their pocket and what do they do with it? Well, some of us plan trips to Mars, sure—but most of us use it to meet for drinks or play games. You offer greater complexity to the human race and only a few will dive in—the rest will look for the ‘easy’ exit, like Twitter, Snapchat, or Angry Birds.
Complexity is a deceptive indicator—we don’t want our problems to become more complex, but we are okay with the needs of social justice making our interaction more complex. Well, perhaps we’re not ‘okay’ with it, not all of us, certainly—but we accept its inevitability. It stands to reason that making sure we override our assumptions, forcing the equality of persons who may have never enjoyed equal status—is a complex process. The political correctness of our speech is nothing compared to the complexities of legislating equal rights, not to mention enforcing that legislation. And all of this is working against the inertia of generations of handed-down bias and hate.
Certainly it would be easier to get rid of all that hate—then we wouldn’t need to legislate social justice. But some things need to be brought out in the open—people can be childishly secretive, especially when their hearts tell them there’s something not quite right about their behavior. Domestic abuse, child abuse, corporal punishment—these things are still problems that trouble us—but the numbers are way down. Not so long ago, beating your spouse or your children—that was a personal decision you made behind the privacy of your own front door. And if things got bad enough that the authorities became involved, they turned a blind eye to whatever madness the head-of-the-household was indulging in. Now it is recognized as the felony it always should have been—and for the most part is treated that way (though pockets of ignorance persist).
My point is that if such obvious evil has traditionally been hugged to the patriarchs’ bosoms throughout most of history—if denying them that outrageousness is so relatively new—then we can see how much more difficult it is to try to limit prejudice and bias (merely mental violence) in our daily lives. The fact that some people ridicule political correctness just demonstrates how small they see that evil as being. They target the most progressive view possible, which admittedly can often have paradoxes and growing pains from being so new a concept—and deride the least thought-out aspects of it, as if that negated the value of social justice itself. Niggling whiners—they cherry-pick the weakest faults of the new, yet have beams in their eyes when it comes to the monstrous faults of the familiar, old ways.
Evil has time on its side—and tradition. Human civilization grows like a goat-path, retaining every kink and twist of its caveman days—the push for social justice is an attempt to straighten some of those pathways. And not only because it is right—though it is justice we seek—but also because society is more efficient when it affords choice and opportunity to every individual, when the weak are not oppressed by the powerful.
Human nature is on the side of evil—we are naturally greedy, selfish, and demanding creatures. The history of legislation is the history of people trying to outmaneuver the rules—so of course it becomes very complicated. Everyone has got an excuse why they should be exempt from the sacrifices implicit in fairness. Even those who benefit from new legislation will sometimes seek ways to get more than their fair share of opportunity. We are none of us saints—even the downtrodden have urges. Make a rule, any rule—and you’ll find you need to make five more, to modify the first—then ten more, to modify the other five.
In truth, legislation only enables the bare bones of justice—it is only when our culture has absorbed the spirit of the law and begun to live in that spirit, that the rules work properly—and, ironically, that’s when the rules become extraneous, their job completed. Take seat belts—people began using them to avoid getting a ticket—now they do it for safety, and teach their children to use them, too.
Even seat belts have their complexity. At the advent of seat-belt legislation, many complained that wearing the original lap-belt was as likely to cause harm as prevent it. The head rest and the shoulder strap were added, which made seat belts effective safety measures under virtually any conditions. It wasn’t until after these improvements that seat belt legislation could be enforced (because the cops could see the shoulder strap)—but it also made wearing seat belts the sensible thing to do.
Yes, everything was easier in the old days—but not better. We often yearn for simpler times—but they were simpler because they were dumber—we were dumber. Nobody used to use a keyboard—except stenos, secretaries, bookkeepers, and keyboard players—we wrote things down with a pencil—and if we needed two copies, we wrote it down twice. Nobody knew how to connect up wires on appliances—if appliances needed wires, they came with—or an expert installed them. Now toddlers hook up their own video game consoles. People used to disappear from our lives forever—just by moving far away. If you really wanted to, you could write them a letter (with your pencil), glue a stamp on it—and a bunch of people would pass it back and forth until it ended up in a mailbox. Imagine. You can still do that, you know—I wonder if anyone does?
We didn’t worry about climate change—oh, it was happening—we just didn’t have a bunch of satellites collecting sensor readings on the atmosphere over years of time—or recording time-lapse proof of the shrinking of the polar ice and the glaciers. All of that information is very new—which is why backward-looking folks can pretend it isn’t real. Old folks call it new-fangled—but new-fangled information is still data—it won’t go away—we can never go back. Yet it’s hard to blame them for trying—I’d like to go cruising again, myself.
We believe what we wish and we think sometimes too
Sometimes we are faithful and sometimes, untrue
When we are not peaceful we’re provocative
People are silly—just watch them and see
People get ugly—you know they can be
People like laughing—it’s such a relief
But then we like fighting—and that causes grief
People are silly—if I wasn’t one
I’d say let them all walk around with a gun
I wouldn’t even mind taking a bullet from one
If I didn’t have a wife, a daughter, and a son.
(please note: this poem is in the style of Dr. Seuss, not actually by him.)
It’s a lazy day. Happy summer. I recorded one of Bach’s French Suites. Ordinarily I wouldn’t bother posting it, but I want to forget about the troll that bugged me a few days ago, so I’m posting more classical music videos. This one is no better than that one, because I don’t play all that good—but I hereby declare that to be okay. Anyone that doesn’t like it—doesn’t have to watch it.
I also managed an improv. The set-to with the troll took my mind off my biggest problem, which has nothing to do with my playing bad classical music. I’ve always played classical music badly. I usually tell myself that it’s background research—I only play the classical for practice—to get ideas and improve my technique—for when I improvise. Because I’ve been pleased with my growth in that area—some of my improvs are quite listenable.
I know this because I burn CDs and listen to them while lying around or reading. I started doing that way back when I was still using a Sony cassette recorder and never posted anything. The idea was to hear myself in playback and see what I sounded like to another person. I learned a lot—enough so that, at some point, I actually began to enjoy listening to my own CDs. They still couldn’t stack up against store-bought music, but they were good enough that, when factoring in that I had made them myself, it was nice to listen to.
But lately I don’t know. I’ve always sounded kinda the same, but I was always trying new things. I think lately the problem is that I’ve accumulated a bunch of ‘tricks’ that I like, and I use them too much—it’s getting repetitive. So I’ve recorded some improvs lately that I didn’t think were good enough to share online because they’re just too much like stuff I’ve already posted. I don’t know, maybe it’s just getting old. I have been improvising for like thirty five years by now—maybe I’ve just reached my peak and I don’t have it in me to do any better.
Anyhow, for today’s recordings’ titles, I recycled my drawings from the last post—I’m not making many new drawings, so I have to make the most of what’s left in my old archives.
Friday’s here—and just as I often don’t get fully awake before noon, I feel like I’m just getting warmed up whenever the end of the week rolls around. Old and in poor health is no way to suck the marrow from life. But I find I have company, or rather, competition.
That is to say that I’ve just finished reading Julian Barnes’ excellent historical novel, “The Noise of Time: A Novel”, touching on the life of Dmitri Shostakovich—a Russian composer of the Soviet era, and a favorite of mine since my early teens. I clearly remember mentioning the name to my mother one day, mispronouncing it, and being surprised that she corrected my pronunciation of his name—firstly because I realized he was famous enough for my mother to know his name, and secondly because I had been enamored of his music for months, while saying his name wrong (I had been thinking of him as Shos-TOCK-ovich!)
The Russians take pride in their deep sadness—as an American, I’ll never get that, but I get it, kind of. Masochism, irony, and melancholy are tools I have used myself in defense against a dysfunctional reality. But my life, and my troubles, are of an American smallness, in comparison to Barnes’ description of the living hell Shostakovich found himself in. He was a sensitive composer trapped in Stalin’s Russia, forced to publicly denounce his own works, and the works of his hero, Stravinsky—and other close friends and respected musicians; in danger for years from ideologues and politicians trying to ferret out disloyalty, even in thoughts and feelings, especially among artists—and even more especially in composers who had achieved global fame.
The book reminded me of the stories I heard about Soviet Russians living in terror of anonymous squads who came and took them in the night, often never to be seen again—and about the ideological tyranny that deposed aesthetics as the yardstick against which their art was ‘measured’—and sometimes condemned, along with the artist’s life.
Stalin’s rule, up to 1953, was so bloody that upon his death and the ascension of Khrushchev, it was said that ‘the Soviet had become vegetarian’. Although it may be more proper to say that the Soviet ceased to be cannibalistic, since Stalin’s machine had been devouring his own people. And Shostakovich was apparently a pretty nervous fellow—at the height of the pseudo-ideological criticisms of his music, he spent every night, for weeks, waiting at the elevator to be taken away by the KGB so that they wouldn’t have to burst into his apartment and drag him away in front of his wife and child. Barnes writes that Dmitri was just one of many people who observed this nighttime ritual during the terror known as Stalin’s Cult of Personality. Shostakovich’s life was one horror show after another—and it didn’t help that he was fairly well-off, compared to the average Soviet Russian—that just gave him more to lose.
As a boy, my favorite of his works was the last movement of his fifth symphony—but as I matured, I learned to prefer the rest of the symphony. According to Barnes’ story, Shostakovich was forced to add the final ‘triumphal’ movement to the symphony because the foregoing movements were so unremittingly ‘pessimistic’—and so he composed the final movement ironically. To my callow ears, and to the politburo, it sounded glorious (which saved Shostakovich’s life, and career)—but as my tastes matured I came to find the last movement somehow brash and ugly, and prefer the music that comes before—and now I know why, I suppose. Much is made in the book of the fact that when confronted with brainless tyranny, the only safe rebellion is in irony—but that irony over time gets lost in itself.
This book is no happy story, but it is something perhaps better—a fascinating story about strange and awful truths, and the horrendous lies that hide them, for a time at least. I have long since given up hope of finding in great artists’ lives any kind of reflection or explanation of the exaltation of their creations—but this book actually matches up the bleakness heard in most of his music with the day-to-day life of its composer. I read it in one sitting—something I’m only pushed into nowadays by irresistibly good writing and an enthralling story.
Barnes quotes Shakespeare at one point, mentioning that his Sonnet LXVI resonated with the artists of Soviet Russia, particularly the line, “And art made tongue-tied by authority”. I had to go look at the whole poem and I am struck, not for the first time, by how apropos Shakespeare always is, no matter how modern we think we have become:
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac’d,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgrac’d,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly—doctor-like—controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall’d simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tir’d with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
(Shakespeare, William (2011-03-24). Shakespeare’s Sonnets (p. 132). . Kindle Edition.)
I love that line about “And folly—doctor-like—controlling skill,”—geniuses so often appear to fools as people who need to be ‘cured’, or at the very least, ‘corrected’. The poem as a whole is fitting for a Shostakovich biographical novel—he too was often tempted by thoughts of suicide, harried by the ubiquitous surplus of malevolent injustice crowding every aspect of his life.
That’s my take on the book—-lacking a segue, here’s two improvs from earlier today–hope you like them:
Last night PBS aired the Memorial Day Concert from Washington DC—and all weekend long there have been war movies on TV—I just watched one of my favorites on TCM—“Sergeant York” (1941). An uncredited portion of the soundtrack contains “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” (by James Milton Black, 1892) sung in church at the beginning of the picture. Afterwards at the piano, I guess I mixed it up in my mind with (“Give Me That”) “Old-Time Religion”, another traditional gospel song from 1873.
My dad is in this picture somewhere–he served in Korea after boot camp, and made it home safe.
Anyhow, I decided to improvise on that, since the soundtrack of the movie had those themes woven into the music. I began by trying to pick out the tune, but if you can get past that, I think it turned out alright in the end. I’m remembering the fallen today—have a safe and happy Memorial Day, everybody.
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.
Yes, I know—it’s cheap and silly and stupid—but sometimes I just get desperate for a new sound. I thought, ‘maybe I could turn on the dishwasher or some other appliance—maybe a car engine idling—I don’t know—Oh wait—I know, I’ll play that ocean waves CD at a really high volume, so I sound like I’m playing piano on the beach.’ Yeah, right—no way it’ll sound like a cheap stereo playing ocean waves in another room. Hey, we do what we can—we work with the tools we have. And speaking of which—yes, I’m singing show tunes with a voice that sounds more like a torture victim’s than a vocalist’s—but I like the song, so deal with it.
When it comes to the fine arts, we are always prepared to follow the examples of those how have come before—in spite of also recognizing that past artists are of a greatness few can match. Thus we end up with grade-schoolers trying to emulate Mozart or Da Vinci, which is all well and good, especially if the youngster in question has a spark of talent that needs fanning into flame. But, as I have often put forward before, I believe the arts should not be a fenced-in preserve for the talented.
When we are in kindergarten, or even K-thru-3, we often sing songs together—this is both educational and fun, and little notice is paid to a lack of rhythm or tonal ear by any one child—though there is often material there for a critic, to be sure—and greatness is put to the side. Entire schools would gather for ‘auditorium’, which usually ended with a sing-along.
Later on, as early as high school, ‘choir’ becomes a class subject, weaning out those with little interest or ability. That’s fine—that’s understandable—it is school, after all, and they’re there to learn. But are all those other children meant to spend the rest of their lives without a song? That seems rather unlively to me. So I have been a one-man protest movement for music—aided these last ten years by YouTube, which allows my amateur efforts to reach far beyond the few people that walk past our house and sometimes hear tinkling inside.
Lately, I’ve had a few good improvs—but they’ve only lasted a minute or so. I have had to teach myself to sometimes be satisfied with that—there is a temptation to keep going, to create something of awesome architecture, like the musical greats of the past. But I am not a ‘musical great’—I’m not even a ‘musical so-so’—so if I record a mere minute of something nice, I try to accept that with good grace rather than try for something more traditional. And you would be surprised, as I have often been, by just how slowly the seconds tick by when you’re trying to be creative at the keyboard—a minute of decent improvisation is no small feat, not for me anyhow.
Also, while improvising, the longer one plays the more likely one will fall back on old tropes, familiar filler that one has used before—and one edges away from true improvisation and turns more towards rehearsal of the familiar. This is okay once in a while, but it should be recognized as such, or one’s improvs will come to sound like a familiar refrain. One’s personal musical style will make that problem enough without willingly pursuing the familiar. I’m proud that my daughter has told me that she can always tell it’s me at the piano—but I’d feel much differently if she had said I always sound the same.
Anyway, here are today’s selections—two very short improvs and one that is longer but is really three separate improvs (in different keys) in one video. Then there’s a long one that isn’t quite audience-ready—it’s a sample of the practicing of classical composers that I do to help keep my improvs changing and growing. One of my favorite songs is the old classic by Spanky McFarlane, “Sing Your Own Kind Of Music”—lyrics to live by, I’ve always thought.
Earlier in Western history, composers did not become famous as pop stars do today. Music in general did not get broadcast by any media. You knew the nursery rhymes of your neighborhood, the work songs, the dances, lullabies, love songs—folk music—but it wasn’t ‘folk’ to you, it was all of music, as far as you knew. Musicians had to spread their works on foot, like Johnny Appleseed, and many of them were popularizers of music, as much for their careers as for their love of music.
That is why there is a national flavor to each Old World country’s music—there really wasn’t a great deal of interaction between musicians who lived hundreds of miles away. We see composers, and later on, virtuoso performers, travel farther and reach more people, causing more concert halls and opera houses to be built, as transportation improves—until the invention of the phonograph and the radio begin to act as distributors of music, separate from the musicians themselves.
We think of classical music striving towards a greater freedom of expression, from the confining rigors of Gregorian chant to the wild liberty of the expressionists and the modernists—but that freedom was as much forced on them as fought for. Religious, political, and technological revolutions all caused upheavals in the norm, creating spaces where composers worked without the confinements of a generation earlier. That’s why we call the great composers geniuses instead of revolutionaries—they didn’t battle their way into new music, they discovered it within their imaginations. The tawdry battle between conservative and progressive music critics always lagged behind, creating a sense of resistance to change—but the musicians always simply filled a vacuum and left it to others to sort it out.
I’m always aghast at the contrast between old and current music—all those centuries of seeking the magic formula, the series of sounds that would thrill the audience—finally adding syncopation, blues notes, and latin rhythms to drive the excitement-level ever upwards—until the electric guitar came along, with that electronic buzz that satisfies people in a way that an entire symphony orchestra or big band never could, regardless of the composition of notes. Amplification added something unnatural as well—and suddenly four boys from Liverpool could fill Shea Stadium with adoring listeners.
It’s not that I hold it against rock and roll—I love the Beatles as much as the next member of my generation—it’s just so easy, it seems like cheating. The greenest beginner on an electric guitar can enthrall a roomful of music lovers—meanwhile a hundred musicians have to study for a lifetime to play a Stravinsky ballet suite—and it doesn’t have the drawing power of a Jimi Hendrix solo. People just love the alien sound of electronics—they can’t get enough of it. I think the “Switched-On Bach” album is probably Bach’s biggest sales hit of all time—and it’s because it was all performed on a Moog synthesizer.
It’s not as if electrification was the first music tech—keyboards were invented—bellows-driven organs, steam-driven calliopes, cranked hurdy-gurdies, paper-roll pianos, and spring-driven music boxes. And there’s the subtle plumbing that turned a pan pipe into a modern flute, a bugle into a trumpet—and all the mysterious varnishes and the carpentry of resonance that goes into making a fine string instrument—those Stradivariuses aren’t worth a king’s ransom for nothing. The modern piano-forte—what we call a concert Steinway these days—was such a masterwork of technology that many people link its emergence with the greatness of Beethoven’s piano sonatas—he was the first composer to have access to the modern version of a keyboard. He certainly makes use of its dynamic possibilities—no one could’ve written all those triple fortes and triple pianos for a harpsichord—or, at least, no one could play any dynamics without a hammer-action to control the volume.
Even today, music drives tech innovation—no musician is satisfied with what has come before—they’re always searching for something new—both in the music and in how it is played.
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.
“Doh!” sez Homer Simpson—though I like a solid “Damn!”
On Firefly they say “Fracking” when they might as well say “Darn”.
I say “Golly-Gosh” a lot, ‘cause I know it won’t do no harm.
But if I’m really in a huff a give a loud “Harrumph!”
Just so you’ll know I’m pretty close to losing all my shit.
‘Cause when I get to swearing there’s no telling when I’ll quit.
Saturday, April 16, 2016 12:24 PM
Lately I’ve been getting a busy signal from my brain—‘temporarily out of order’, ‘please wait—maintenance in progress’—whatever it is that makes my brain useless for anything except self-preservation. But today I’ve awoken with the feeling of fresh canvas—as if my brain is saying ‘yes, of course you can be creative—what are you waiting for?’
It’s kinda like when my hands are too shaky—I can’t play the piano, no matter how much I want to or how hard I try—but in a larger sense, in that my head is the ‘shaky’ part and if I push it, only garbage comes out. But as I say, today—fresh canvas, clear sailing, blue skies—however one puts it. And I don’t know where to start—should I just relish this feeling of power and potential for a while or should I jump right in and start doing?
Creativity cuts both ways—I can revel in sumptuous daydreams, just privately enjoying my own imagination—or I can attempt to hitch my Pegasus to some earthly activity—a poem, a drawing, an improv—which is a greater adventure, but has its pitfalls. My head is signaling that my creative juices are once again flowing—but I’ve yet to hear from the body, which decides every day on a different amount of gas in the tank.
Some days the body fairly screams for activity—pushing me out the door for a walk around the block, or doing a little spring cleaning on some especially dusty part of my work area. This is rare, though. Most days I’m lucky if I have the wherewithal to do some CD-ripping while I sit here typing. I complain about having to do this but truthfully I’m grateful for a little busy-work that falls within my competency—and I kinda dread the day when I’m done with the ripping. There’s something reassuring about having some simple job to do whenever I feel idle—feeling totally useless is one of the great drawbacks to disability. It can really eat away at your self-image.
Posting a poem, picture, or recording can be very satisfying—it feels like an accomplishment. Getting responses, in the form of likes, shares, or comments, really adds to that feeling—but sometimes the total lack of response can undo all that good feeling. Often, in desperation, I’ll ask Claire to look at my post and give me an opinion—she usually reassures me that I haven’t wasted my time. I have to be careful—I want attention—to a point—but not so much attention that I feel obliged to return that attention to others—I want to be admired without the hassle of admiring someone else’s stuff. I’m self-involved—what can I say?
Most people see a lack of energy as the inability to get sweaty doing hard work—it’s so much more than that. The brain uses energy—a chess player burns more calories than a weight-lifter. And that energy goes into learning, into appreciating what others do, and in doing your own stuff. Without energy, I learn less and am less interested in what others are doing—so when I do my own stuff, it’s claustrophobic—I’m trying to weave new patterns by rearranging old memes. Back in my healthy days, my creativity was a response to the torrent of new input of ideas, images, and concepts found in the world around me—now I’m trying to squeeze creativity out of a vacuum of house-bound, isolated idleness. The law of diminishing returns stands as a specter, always at my elbow.
I wouldn’t dwell on it—but there really is an exclusion that comes with age. I can’t hang out at a college student union or a local bar or any of the places that I remember enjoying—I’ve outgrown them—and even if I don’t accept that, the young people there will let me know in no uncertain terms just how out of place they consider an old geezer at their haunts. In a private setting, good manners usually prevent anyone from rubbing it in—but out in public, the elderly stand out. I think the sight of old people makes the young uncomfortable—we are proof that their fantasy will someday metamorphose into something like us—and with us out of sight, they are protected from that unpleasantness.
People fear death and wonder why—since it comes to everyone. But age is the real boogeyman—just as inevitable, sooner arrived at, and visibly uncomfortable—death is a mysterious and sudden end to everything, but age is a lingering torture of diminishments—activity, freedom, and comfort all shrinking with each year. Sure, it builds character like nobody’s business—but once your character has finished building itself, what then? Like T. S. Eliot says, we acquire a perfect understanding of our lives, just when it has gotten past time for that understanding to do us any good.
One’s children are a temptation—how easy it would be to try to attach myself to their lives, to make a surrogate life for myself by intruding in theirs—there’s no end of excuses I could make—my experience, my knowledge of the world and of people, a lifetime of skill and wisdom. But by doing that, I’ll only delay the time when they begin to think for themselves—by ‘helping’ them forward, I’d really be pushing them somewhere I never got to, for my own reasons—it just wouldn’t do.
No, age is the ultimate hard lesson—there’s nothing you can do but learn it—if you struggle against it, it just makes you look foolish.
Sunday, April 17, 2016 5:32 PM
I just finished a very difficult piece by Scarlatti—something I’ve practiced for decades and today was the best stab at it I ever took—so when I finished, I stood up and said, “Where’s my thunderous applause? Why don’t I hear thunderous applause? Something’s gone terribly wrong if I’m not hearing thunderous applause—and I’m not hearing thunderous applause—heads will roll.” In this way I comfort myself for doing well in an empty room. And of course I didn’t have the camera on—but that’s a funny story.
I recorded a quick trifle in the front room, and brought the camera into the living room, where the baby grand is, but then decided not to set it up and turn it on. I told myself, “You know, if you turn the camera on, somewhere there’ll be a noise—and you’ll get upset that the recording is ruined—and it’ll be a whole thing—so just leave the camera off.” So I did. And, boy, did I call it—the world’s most annoying dishwasher timer went off about twenty times before it finally quit—but I was able to just keep playing—because no one else was listening and I didn’t give a damn about the timer myself. I love it when I’m right. But that’s when I was comfortable enough to play the Scarlatti, to a marked lack of thunderous applause. You win, you lose, I always say.
Murder on 34th Street
This brings me to “Miracle on 34th Street”—the bane of atheists everywhere. I just caught the last half of it—the modern, Mara Wilson version. I prefer the original, Natalie Wood version—but this 1994 version is even more devastating to atheists. The trouble with “Miracle on 34th Street” is that it addresses the biggest problem for atheists—what about the children?
The central theme is encapsulated in this quote from the film: “If you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.” Or, even worse, this one: “If this court finds that Mr. Kringle is not who he says he is, that there is no Santa, I ask the court to judge which is worse: A lie that draws a smile or a truth that draws a tear.” We can use a ‘get tough’ policy when we are speaking to adults—but what about children?
We parents want to give our children something to believe in—nothing has caused me more doubt and worry than to raise our children without any religion—not because I believe in one of them, but because it is Santa Claus on steroids—something to believe in with a vengeance, as it were. I yearned to offer my children this imaginary comfort—and if I could have offered them the magic without all the poison it contains, I would have. Yet in the final analysis religion’s darkness outweighs the sparkle of fairy dust—I couldn’t indoctrinate my children into one of those shams and still look at myself in a mirror.
I was often tempted to lie to my children while they were growing up—some of the questions they asked made me sick to answer truthfully—because people can get very ugly—and the ugliest of them seem to gravitate towards the money and the power, thus shaping our society far more than the wishes of the vast majority ever enter into it. We live in a world where the unethical is often legal and the ethical is always bad business. To prepare our children to meet that world we have to warn them of some of the worst humanity has to offer—not that I laid it on that thickly, but even the barest outlines of society can be unpleasant to explain to innocents. This is especially true when you live to see a smile on their faces.
So, as pleasant as it might have been to spin them a yarn about angels and doves and pearly gates, I gave them the truth as I saw it. I don’t regret it. There are some nasty people out there who profess a strong faith in god—and if you ask them they’ll tell you all about him—some of them even talk to him. I’d have been damned if I was going to raise my kids to be prey for those types of crazies.
Hope you all got your taxes done—I didn’t. I just couldn’t get off the ground today. Some bad poetry, some bad writing, then some so-so piano. Maybe you did better.
On listening to a CD at my computer
Tinny trumpet echoes over bassoon
Bull fiddles thrust a basso tune at the moon
A symphony orchestra beams from my speakers
As I sit at my desk by myself I hear seekers
One hundred musicians from years ago
Play for me under the monitor’s glow
So I’m not really here—not while the note sounds
With music my transport, no trip’s out of bounds.
Be ready to cast off at first light. We mustn’t miss the tide.
The Harbormaster assures me that no pirate ships have been sighted within the Bay or its environs for several weeks. Nevertheless, be sure that we have sufficient gunpowder (and in water-tight barrels) should the need arise.
If you need me, I’m stopping at the Helm and Anchor. I’m looking forward to our voyage with more than a little excitement, as the map shows signs of great opportunity in Northern waters.
So I’m not really here—not while the note sounds
With music my transport, no trip’s out of bounds.
Please come at once. Our situation is more extreme than we realized. Supplies are short and the enemy has us tightly hemmed in—I pray this messenger can get through to you. I tell you our prospects are fading and without your help we will not last a fortnight. Avoid the high pass.
So I’m not really here—not while the note sounds
With music my transport, no trip’s out of bounds.
The MIDI-converter is playing with my head. I just noticed that its only labeled “MIDI” on the B channel, so I switched the piano cables to the B ports and plugged the USB back into the PC—and the darn thing is installing itself. I still don’t think it’s going to work. Piece of junk.
I was right. Still doesn’t record through SONY Music Studio. Piece of junk.
In high school I wrote a term paper comparing T. S.Eliot’s “The Waste Land” with Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland”—a spurious pairing based on both titles inferring the existence of a ‘land’ of some sort. On first reading I found T. S. Eliot rather opaque—so I was able to make a case that both works involved a lot of nonsense. My teacher was probably so glad that someone bothered to read Eliot that she forbore from destroying my facile interpretation of his poem—I think I got a high grade based solely on the ambition of my reading.
But having been introduced to Mr. Eliot, I was off and running. I read all his poems and most of his plays—then I read most of his essays—then I read critical analysis of Eliot’s life and works, seeking some explication of this rather difficult poet. In the process, I was led to read parts of the Bible, some Shakespeare plays, some poetry by Marvell and Donne, Jessie Weston’s “From Ritual To Romance”, and a good chunk of Fraser’s “The Golden Bough”. At one time I could recite “Burnt Norton” from memory—though at sixty now, and having read all the Four Quartets many times over, I think I understand the poem better now than I did when I could recite it.
Eliot is a strange influence on a young man—he was both after and before his time. He was after his time in the sense that Old World propriety meant more to this native of St. Louis than to the inhabitants of the modern-day London where he spent his adult life. He was before his time in many ways—not least of which being his rejection of religion in his youth and his return to it later in life—not unlike the born-again backlash against secularism that would sweep America a decade after his death.
Eliot being as much a philosopher as a poet, studying his work as an adolescent may have made me old before my time, at least mentally. Looking back on it, I feel that studying Eliot made me old before my time in much the same way that being ill for so long, and even dying momentarily on the table during my eleventh-hour liver transplant, made me dead before my time. In my mind the two are similar in having made me an outsider among my contemporaries and robbing me, in a sense, of the innocence enjoyed by most people—both the carefree-ness of youth and the ignorance of death most adults maintain right up to the end. But there is room for doubt as to whether those things affected me or if I just have that sort of personality.
Because of this feeling I have a tendency to feel irritable whenever my thoughts turn to social ills, politics, or man’s inhumanity to man—I know that most people give these things only cursory attention now and then, rather than becoming obsessed with our immature behavior as a race. Most people cling to the assumption that humans shouldn’t be any better than they ought to be—but my ‘old geezer’ perspective rants and raves at our insistence on such ingenuousness. I look ahead so persistently that I never enjoy the present—it is a maturity shared by few. And that’s the way it should be—it is foolish to take the world’s troubles on one’s shoulders, when there is little to be done about it other than fret.
‘One day at a time’ is considered great wisdom by many—to me, it smacks of the grasshopper—wasting away the present, without a thought for tomorrow’s troubles. But then, I’m no big fan of ‘surrendering to a higher power’ either. So no twelve steps for me—I get along without them, but I’m glad they work for other people.
Monday, April 11, 2016 11:53 AM
Yes, I know that Monday has a bad rep amongst the working—but for those of us who are unable to work, Monday has a sweetness to it that workers could never imagine. After being disabled it took me years to get over the vestigial thrill of the weekend. Every Friday night I would get that conditioned response—relief that the weekend was finally upon us—but what followed were two more days just like all the rest, if not less enjoyable.
Stores close early on the weekends—those that open on Sunday at all—and you can’t call any place of business to work out a billing or customer service problem. The weekend roadways, should I venture out, are crowded and slow. House-bound people tend to watch a lot of TV—and weekend TV sucks. (Okay, I’ll give you “Madame Secretary” and John Oliver on Sunday night, but that’s it.)
All weekend long it’s mostly sports on TV—I could never acquire a taste for televised sporting events—believe me, I’ve tried. Even Turner Classic Movies (TCM) deserts me—Slip Mahoney and the Gang in the morning and silent films at night. The news channels (which I dislike enough on weekdays) run ‘caught on tape’ prison documentaries instead of live reporting—which is very apropos—weekends on TV are a lot like prison. All of this makes perfect sense—the vast majority of people have lives—and those lives are busiest on the weekend—why run top programming for an empty room?
I’ve learned to love Mondays. On Monday the New York Times crossword is as easy as it’s going to get—and Jeopardy is once again on at seven—those may seem like little things, but they loom large when one’s life has few other high-points. Weekend food is usually leftovers and take-out, so the food is better on Monday, too. Everyone else is starting their week and that excitement comes through a little, even if there’s a lot of tail-dragging that goes with it. When weekends involved a lot of partying, I used to have a terrible time on Monday morning—now that I can’t have that sort of fun, enjoying Mondays is my booby-prize, I guess.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016 9:50 AM
There is so much music. I own so many CDs that a strong man couldn’t carry them all in one trip—stacks and stacks of them pile up as I continue re-ripping my collection to my new external hard drive—and all I can think about as I go through them is how much music is missing. My old LP collection was more complete, and I never lose that urge to buy enough CDs to equal that former glory—but that old collection was largely built up during my dad’s tenure as VP of Direct Mail at BBDO, back in the sixties. It included the Deutsche Gramophone recordings of the complete works of Beethoven (about twelve volumes of six records each) and the entire Time-Life classical music series (another pallet-full of records)—an avalanche of recordings he was given as free samples in the course of determining their mail-order ad campaigns. (We used to joke that he should talk Mercedes Benz into doing a Direct Mail campaign.)
I am one of five siblings, but neither my parents nor my siblings showed any interest in classical music back then—all the free records went to me and no one was jealous about it—in fact, I often fought over the living room hi-fi with my siblings—they much preferred Rock and R&B. I liked that music also—but I preferred variety—I wanted to listen to all music. The whole world was mesmerized by rock’n’roll back then—when I actually bought classical records at Fox & Sutherland’s, they were going cheap—sometimes only a dollar or two, where Beatles albums were closer to ten bucks. The whole classical catalog was referred to as ‘loss-leaders’—records that were produced to enhance the reputation of the label, rather than to make a profit.
Having that in my early days, I would get huffy, later on, when some piece of classical music became popular—“Thus Spake Zarathustra” used in the soundtrack to “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “Bolero” used in the movie “10”—people would say, “You’ve got to hear this!” and in my mind I was always thinking, “Yeah, right—like I’ve never heard that before, you philistine.”
When you listen to classical music and read classic literature at thirteen, you get used to being an outsider. But there is a way in which everyone will suddenly become an expert on something that found its way out of obscurity and into the spotlight for a time—and I find myself caught between my delight that others are finally sharing in the joy I get from these obscure sources—and resentment of my private preserve being trampled by the unwashed. But it’s not all my fault—I spent most of my time feeling outside of society and to do that day after day required that I build up some pride in being different—and there’s some unavoidable bitterness when that difference gets erased in a surge of popularity.
To make matters worse, there is so much music that even my obsession has gaps in knowledge. When ‘Classical Music’ appears as a Jeopardy category, I always assume I’ll know all the answers—but oftentimes I don’t—there’s just too much to know. Plus, ‘opera’ is the most popular form of classical music—and I’ve never much cared for opera—I don’t know much about it. Well, that’s not true—but I know less about opera than an opera buff.
It makes me laugh when Music Choice’s ‘Classical Masterpieces’ channel gives out with three factoids about the composer, that cycle on the screen while the piece is played on the audio. It’s ludicrous—they could be scrolling the composer’s complete entry from Grove’s Music Dictionary—or at the very least, the Wiki entry—in the time it takes some symphonies to play. Do they suppose that would make people less likely to watch? How information-phobic are people, anyway? They’d probably tell you that the factoids are meant to pique your interest so you’ll go google the composer yourself—but that’s just lazy.
Then again, I only turn to that channel when I’m reading—still, they could actually build up a viewership of music-geeks, if they put a little effort into it—maybe not—I don’t know. They make me irritable anyway, mis-titling and mis-crediting a surprising number of audio-tracks—so I know there’s nobody home at that company that gives a damn about classical music. I guess it’s still a loss-leader.
I feel better about my piano-playing when I listen to some Erik Satie—but that’s a false equivalence—since his rebellious ‘ditties’ flew in the face of more than a century of standards and practices in Western music, whereas my plonking about comes long after Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Cage—not to mention Zappa. Still, there’s something similar there and it makes me feel better about myself and my playing. I’ve been practicing a lot of Chopin and Tchaikovsky lately—and those two are definitely not reassuring to later musicians but, rather, make one feel that music in general is far beyond mere mortals.
MORNING AND NIGHT
Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Tchaikovsky—it’s weird how most of my practicing boils down to these three nowadays—I used to be all about the Baroque—especially Bach, Handel, and Telemann. I still play them on occasion but in recent years I’ve developed a fondness for that intimate personal touch so prevalent in the Romantics. I’ve also progressed to where they have become more accessible—the Romantics can be more demanding of technique.
I’ve been doing a lot of writing and a lot of piano-playing lately—but I haven’t had the presence of mind to include the piano recordings into the blog-posts, so this post will include several YouTube recordings I’ve neglected to share recently. Beyond that, there’s a great deal of piano-playing I won’t be sharing at all—sometimes I take a break from recording and just play—it gives me some elbow-room to take a break from being recorded. I’ve tried to learn to ignore the camera, but nothing I do seems to make me unaware of being observed—and that tightens up my playing in a way that makes playing without the camera a tremendous relief.
I wrote a poem yesterday about Tchaikovsky—not a very good poem, but I can’t help that. Much has been made of Tchaikovsky being gay (true) and of his being pressured into committing suicide (false) so it’s difficult for me to imagine his life and times—however, it is true that in spite of his innovative compositions, his contemporaries sometimes criticized him for being too European and not Russian enough—kinda strange for the guy who wrote March Slav, huh?
Tuesday, April 05, 2016 3:16 PM
My fingers plonk the keys—some Tchaikovsky
For beginners—full of Russian folk themes—
And the poor man’s life—under the thumb of
Entitled bullies and spoiled aristos.
Tchaikovsky is so delicate—so effeminate in some phrases,
Such fairy-like, walking-on-air-ish-ness—
His music is beloved—but for such a man
To live in the cold world—the horror.
I love Tchaikovsky—anyone, really, destroyed
By their own delicacy—to live is to die, and no matter
How long the course, among the many ways to die
What more glorious fate?
So many of us rail against the challenges of life.
But evolving acceptance of gays has rendered the isolation and frustration of millions of gay people through the centuries a uselessly cruel tragedy—in a way, by channeling his struggles into his wonderful music, Tchaikovsky got more out of his social taboo than most gays of the past. That doesn’t lessen his suffering—but his legacy is a lot more than most gay people in his era were granted. I sometimes ponder the possibility that most of the fine arts were practiced by a predominance of gays—it being the only place where they could express themselves without being thrown in jail or burned at the stake. Then I remind myself that there’s plenty of misery available to the straight life, too—enough to evoke creative expression to equal the biblically damned.
I also played an improv to go along with my previous post about Grandma/First Lady/Senator/Secretary/Candidate Clinton—which I belatedly include herein:
Then there’s this business, which I couldn’t think up a title for, so I used a misspelled version of a current movie title:
And that brings me up to date with my YouTube postings. I hope you enjoy some or all of them….
Wearing my new ‘Dark Knight a la Van Gogh’ tee-shirt and my ‘Starry Starry Night’ socks, I felt inspired to play an impromptu novelette, “Batty Batty Night”:
A lone figure strolls Gotham’s streets unmolested—is that a fleeting swirl of black cape atop that building?—is that the bat-signal on the belly of the night’s clouds? ….
Aside from the political and satirical cartoonists of newspapers and The New Yorker, cartooning is a group effort. I don’t know how they’ve computerized it nowadays, but it used to be the original artists drew in pencil, other artists did the inking, others the lettering, and one more for the coloring. Even the creation of a comic book super-hero was collaborative—Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster created Superman. In 1989, Bob Kane conceded that Bill Finger was a co-creator of Batman—it was unfortunate that Finger had passed away in 1974. Wonder Woman was created by William M. Marston, his wife Elizabeth H. Marston, and Olive Byrne.
But comic books, like rock-and-roll or politics, deals in high-brow ideals, virtues, and courage—as subject matter—while the business itself is as seamy as any other—dealing in promotion, property rights, and profit. It’s as if they found a way to make a buck off of telling kids, ‘Yes, there is a Santa Claus.” But I like comics—I’m not knocking comics—they’re fun. It’s just that the comics biz is a business, like any other. People will argue over credit, prestige, and audience recognition—or simply over money.
I always had half a mind to be a comic book artist, but anatomy was never my strong suit. You have to admire the forced perspective in some of those frames—that’s tricky stuff to draw. I guess I was never happy about the tiny boxes—I preferred a bigger piece of paper—and one per drawing. They do that now, in the more modern graphic novels—full page pictures—oh well. Besides, commercial artists have to draw fast—they need to crank that stuff out—I was always slow as molasses.
A fresh day in early spring—this is what we’ve earned by our patience through the long, dreary winter. The daffodils have a white pallor that suits them and belies the bright yellow they will eventually achieve. Here in the foyer the front door is ajar. A light breeze is clearing out the tobacco smoke and mixing in heady earth-tones of life stirring in the mud.
My head is clear and my mood is solid—something I’ve learned to appreciate for its increasing rarity. I’m also thankful about many other things I took for granted, back when they were so plentiful and constant I mistook them for permanent fixtures rather than the glory of youth.
My daughter’s gift for my sixtieth birthday was socks—Superman socks, Spiderman socks—an embarrassment of super-hero socks. She knows me too well. Not every adult is comfortable sporting Superman socks—I have no problem with wearing anything silly—red plaid pants with green plaid shirt and argyle socks—I don’t care. I never leave the house—and when I do, I assume everyone’s staring at me anyway because I’m kinda neurotic—so if they really stare at my socks, I don’t think anything of it. Life can’t have too much color in it, if you ask me. I could never be cool because cool people only wear black. I’ll wait for the funeral, thanks.
Okay, so—why play these creaky old tunes? Is it ironic? Well, maybe a little—but not entirely—some of them are fun, some are funny, some are just a great tune. Take, for example, “Paddlin’ Madelin’ Home”—now this song has got the silliest lyrics ever—and I’m not entirely sure the lyrics aren’t ingenuously sexual—they’re certainly suggestive. And “Yes! We Have No Bananas”—what kind of monster could fail to love that song? It makes no sense at all—I love things that make no sense at all. And I can’t sing “The Sheik of Araby” without picturing a mob of flappers swooning over Valentino wearing too much kohl around his eyes.
Old songs—the more I play them, the dearer they become to me. I think my favorite songs are still the ones I learned in grade-school assemblies and Boy Scout campfire sing-alongs. As a teen I was always eager for the latest hits—but I think people generally prefer songs they’ve heard over and over—it’s more fun when you don’t even have to think about it to sing along.
Today’s improv, “Extra-Sharp”, is passable–but you can skip the “Player Ade” improv from a few days ago–if it were anything special, I wouldn’t have waited so long to post it.
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.
I’ve been having a pretty good day—my blood tests came back and I’m all good—and while that leaves my recent lack of pizzazz a mystery, it’s still excellent news. Claire and I are discussing that possibility of my return to anti-depressants—at least for a few months to see if it’s an important factor in my quality-of-headspace.
I wrote a poem this morning that I found funny—I like to be funny, even if I’m not funny to everyone. Then I wrote a blog-post about how science fiction could save the world—which is also kinda funny, but not really, since the world appears in need of a little saving, in spots. And here I’ve just finished getting a decent improv on record—which I’m about to edit and upload to YouTube. Plus, I’ve just been in a better-than-usual mood all day.
Maybe it’s politics—I’m for Hillary, and the only person she needs to beat, after last night, is that mess the Republicans are stuck with. I have high hopes that America’s voters still have more than 50% sane people to match against the frighteningly large number of maniacs who actually think she’s the problem, and that billionaire bully the solution. I was worried that Bernie might get her, but his popularity appears to have grown too little too late. Nothing against the idea of Bernie as President—but as Candidate, his extremism would only drive more fence-sitters over to that GOP megalomaniac. Anyway, I’m cautiously optimistic that Hillary will end up our new president, as she should be. The idea of the alternative has already sparked a new record-high number of searches on ‘moving to Canada’—but wouldn’t it be easier if we all stay here, and Trump moves on to his next TV show (where he can only destroy viewers’ minds)? Keep it simple.
My wife thinks it’s because I got a good night’s sleep—to quote her, “You should never get up before noon, Bozo.” I don’t know—maybe she’s right. But I fear that getting up at noon one day is more a symptom of an irregular sleeping pattern than a reproducible result. Perhaps she just wants me to stay in bed (and out of her hair) ‘til noon—asleep or otherwise—ha ha. Can you blame her?
Today’s music has me first down in the dumps then up in the clouds, so I named them accordingly. I’ve been getting a great deal of sheet-music on video, but it’s all so bad I can’t watch the replay—I don’t know what the problem’s been lately—I can’t post any of it. But I still get a decent improv here and there.
I know what would fix our economy—raises. Nobody’s been given a raise since the 1980s. You could double the salary of any working person today, and they’d still be underpaid if calculated by the same increases the wealthy have enjoyed these last few decades. But no—the wealthy fret about how the world would end if we had a $15/hour minimum wage. Are you kidding me? Who could live on $15/hour? And if you can’t run your business without paying a living wage—then you can’t run your business—you’re incompetent. Since when does a business plan include victimizing your employees? Well, I take that back—literally all business plans do that, and always have.
It seems strange to me that employers make half their money short-changing their customers—and the other half from short-changing their employees. Shouldn’t we just shoo these people away? We haven’t converted to an ‘office-free’ economy—we’ve converted to a ‘security-free’ economy—at least to employees.
And a business is not a person. Until a business can feel pain, it will never be a person—and it will never deserve the rights and considerations of a person. That’s just legal mumbo-jumbo being promulgated by the rich. Let’s shoo all them off too.
I’m serious—terrorists at least have the decency to chop your head off and make a clean end to it—American employers want to enslave us and abuse us until the end of time—who’s really worse? Capitalism has gotten out of hand—and the only way to restore the balance is to make the streets our workplace, dismissing all CEOs, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and HR personnel. Shoo’em off, that’s what I say. Their mismanagement is going to let our infrastructure rot away and be buried beneath the waves of global warming, anyway—dismissing these entitled fops wouldn’t cause any less disruption than their continued oversight will produce. We’ll just feed them the same line they feed everyone else—‘Hey, it’s not personal—it’s just business’. It is unfortunate that wealth confers power, without conferring one whit of good judgement. It that sense, it greatly resembles violence.
Harumph! Anyway—let’s talk about something important—how’s Hillary doing? It is Super Tuesday, and the sun’s getting low in the sky—though, if you ask me, Leap Day is pretty special—making ‘super’ Tuesday something of an anticlimax. It’s just a bunch of primaries. Still, if I imagine myself in Hillary’s shoes (and yes that does feel uncomfortable) it must be a thrilling day.
I’ve gone from sight-reading through Chopin’s book of mazurkas to his book of nocturnes—I have hours of recordings I’ve spared my listeners—I enjoy sight-reading through good music like that—but I don’t keep to tempo—and I go back and correct myself when I flub a passage—it’s a lot more like actual reading than it is performance—it’s quite unlistenable. I just do it for myself—it’s really fun. And after I find favorites, and do them over and over, I eventually get to play them better. I used to post some of the work—nowadays I only post the finished product—when I’ve gotten it as far as I’m going to get it. But that’s a tough call—take today’s nocturnes—they’re not great, but they’re a lot better than the other four that I’m not posting.
The improvs are a poser as well. I try to make them all different and, technically speaking, they are all different. But inasmuch as they’re all ‘me’, they’re pretty much all the same, too. So I post them all, even knowing that some judicious editing would make my YouTube channel far more attractive. But when you post nearly every day, it gets to be like writing a journal—you’re too busy writing it to ever read it back to yourself. Same with this blog—sometimes I go look at a post from a year or two ago, and I think to myself, ‘Huh! Did I write that?’
I’ve just been listening to a bootleg CD, a gift from my friend, Chris, of a live concert of Peter Blegved at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn. It filled me with the sense of music being both powerful and personal—you pick your own words, you tell your own story, you make up your own tune. What could be more empowering? What could be more intimate?
I appreciate all that from a distance, though. You won’t catch me onstage in Brooklyn singing to a crowd of people (like they’d have me). There has to be a motive force to get a person onstage—I have nothing I wish to share that urgently with other people—typical of someone who’s always had trouble communicating. To me, it’s a struggle. It’s so easy to be misunderstood—and that’s when people are paying attention to begin with. All it would take is one heckler and I’d be outta there. I think of entertainment as show business, emphasis on the ‘business’—music, itself, is another thing entirely.
I guess that’s what I’m trying to say by posting thousands of piano videos on YouTube—I love music, but I’m no entertainer. I don’t really invite people to listen to my playing—more that I’m asking people to share my love for the music I’m struggling to recreate (in the case of the classical and other sheet music covers). I put the improvs out there because I don’t mind people listening to them, not because I think I’m the second coming of Tchaikovsky or something. Perhaps an illustration would help clarify—sometimes I listen to one of my better improvs and I think to myself, “Hey! That almost sounds like real music.”
It might help my self-esteem if I didn’t have such a deep appreciation of music—I’ve always been a fan of classical music, first and foremost. I like all the other kinds, but if I had to pick just one—classical. I like rag, swing, jazz, rock, blues, funk, folk, and show-tunes, too. Between the great composers and the great performers, the virtuosi and the rock-stars, Glenn Gould to Jimi Hendrix to the Bulgarian Soviet Female Vocal Choir, my mind is awash in the glory and the diversity and the ecstasy of centuries of great music. So when I plonk away on my Mason-Hamlin baby grand, it’s unlikely that I’ll get a swelled head.
Conversely, I never have to worry that I’ll run out of things to do—there’s always more music to learn, there’s always more music to invent, there’s always room for improvement in my technique—it’s an infinite hobby that offers nothing like an endgame—perfect for someone who’s feeling his years.
My illness has been serious enough to offer ample opportunities to contemplate death. I consider it unhealthy to dwell upon, but only when it remains in some distant sometime—when you hear it knocking, it’s only natural to give it some thought. Funny that my one great fear, it turns out, is the embarrassment—‘He was right in the middle of something—he actually thought he was going to keep on living—what a schmuck!’ I imagine the dirty clothes I hadn’t got around to putting in the hamper—all the loose ends that a person assumes they’ll ‘get to’ eventually. I could almost spend the rest of my life making sure I leave a neat room behind me, with no unfinished projects lying around. How sad for my family to have to tidy up after what I presumed would be the rest of my life—you know?
I don’t think anyone fears the actual dying itself—it’s the absence of the life that’s impossible to get my head around. What good’s a universe without me in it, right? At some point, I will no longer have a vote on what constitutes reality—I’ll be completely non-participating. That just doesn’t seem right—it’s eerie.
And it is unhealthy to dwell on—I’ve found that being sick enough to feel compelled to face death is a horrible curse—we’re not meant to face the infinite. Our lives are meant to be lived as if they are open-ended—admitting death’s inevitability spoils that. So I really shouldn’t even be writing about it—it’s not fair to you, dear reader. Forget I said anything.
In a reasonable world, Hillary Clinton would win the presidential race in a walk—and if I’m living in an unreasonable world, I’d just as soon not have my face rubbed in it. If, god forbid, a Republican did win, that would be a tragic-enough disaster, without making me listen to these people—as I have already for more than a year—for the rest of this year. I’ve listened to them ad nauseam—and in their case, that’s about three minutes in—do I really have to bear the sound of Trump’s voice until November? Hasn’t he said enough idiotic things?
I remember our last Republican president—do you? He was an idiot—he got us in a war by mistake—he destroyed our economy—he didn’t speak in complete sentences—and what sentences he managed to get out had made-up words in them. Cruz or Rubio would be just as bad—maybe worse—and the nightmare scenario of a Trump presidency conjures up the movie-title-to-be: “The Return Of Fascism” or maybe “The Rise Of American Fascism”.
We are all aware that there is a contest between these three Republicans—it’s all the news, all the time—but to me it resembles a bunch of drunks tussling on the sidewalk just outside a bar-room—my concern for who wins is nothing compared to my concern that a cop will come along and get them off the street before a passer-by gets hurt. But there are no cops on CNN, or in journalism generally. News shows can keep airing this stuff—but I’ve got better ways to spend my time than watching a stupidest-man contest.
Likewise, while I appreciate Bernie forcing Hillary to add a focus on income inequality to her platform—I don’t want to hear any more about how he’s going to make college, health-care, and whatever else, free for everyone—yes that’s the way it should be—there are a lot of things that aren’t the way they should be in this country—but nothing happens on inauguration day—and Hillary is better prepared for the day after inauguration—both domestically and internationally. I don’t think Bernie supporters understand what a president actually does—I think they think he or she’s a wizard who makes a decree, and changes things all by himself or herself.
So that’s it between me and the news—I’ll wait to hear from other people about anything important. Hillary should win—and even if she doesn’t—that’s just more reason not to spend until November listening to all of this back-and-forth BS. Seeing as how our government is already broken, I think it’s a pretty sweet gig—getting a free pass on all the work our government should be doing while we all have a two-year long conversation about the Donald. I’m sure the folks in Flint, MI or Hoosick Falls, NY are glued to their sets. If I ran CNN, I’m pretty sure I could find more interesting stuff to report on—but fans of ‘The Apprentice’ might tune out the news—and that’s a huge demographic. I can hear it now: “Mr. Dunn, you’re fired.”
It’s a wistful day—thoughts of long ago, dreams of the future, a strange contentment with the familiar troubles of the present—a day when happiness asserts itself, without any need for reasons. The specter of bad news is forgotten, still possible, but unlikely on such a day.
I played my electronic piano yesterday. I’ve been trying for years to figure out how to hook up the Yamaha and my PC—for many reasons—a MIDI recording has no ambient background noise—and a MIDI recording can be digitally transcribed into sheet music—and it would be easier to do multi-track recordings. Yesterday I attempted to hook up my latest effort—the M-Audio MIDI-to-USB converter—but whatever I did, I still couldn’t get it to record to my PC—so frustrating!
So, as a reaction to my frustration, I made one of my usual recordings, with my camera on a tripod. I did not name it ‘Disruptive Presence’ because my family takes turns walking through the room while I’m playing—I actually like it when someone walks by as I’m playing. The phrase just came to me—I’ve been described as a ‘disruptive presence’ myself in the past, and looking back, I’m proud of most of those incidents. Most people who might call you or me a ‘disruptive presence’ are pompous assholes who need to be disrupted—bad teachers, entitled middle managers, and other smug bullies. Thus I think of it as a badge of honor.
Another excuse for the title could be the sound-selections—this recording comes to over 15 minutes long—because for each instrument (piano, organ, strings, etc.) I played a little improv that suits the timbre of the sound I’m playing with. I play at least a little something using every voicing the Yamaha DP-95 has to offer. So it’s really ten improvs, ‘disrupted’ by changing sounds.