Let the Creeps Do It   (2017Nov21)

Sunday, November 19, 2017                                            5:21 PM

Let the Creeps Do It   (2017Nov21)

I don’t know who underestimates public intelligence-levels more—the politicians or the media. When the pols tell us that ‘making the rich richer and raising taxes on everyone else’ will make our lives better—it’s not new. But it is more threadbare than ever before—‘trickle-down’ economics (AKA “Piss on you!”) was defensible, barely, as a new theory. As an old, fully and luxuriously debunked theory, ‘trickle-down’ economics is a worn-out tune on an out-of-tune fiddle. Or are we expected to forget about Dubya’s last year in office?

That’s the pols—ugh—mean and stupid is a bad combo. Then there’s the media—getting together a panel, pretending that Trump is a real president—with fully thought-out policies and a well-reasoned agenda. Then they pretend that the Republic party is an entity—instead of an organized-crime front for all the big ‘mostly-legal’ corporations we once saw as servants, rather than masters. Nowadays, our goods and services providers tell us how it’s going to be.

And when I say us, I mean not only we consumers—but the government that once protected us from rampant tycoonery. It’s a little late now—but if we could regain control of the legislature from the rich, that would be a good thing.

But let’s talk impeachment—I hope they take Senator Franken’s Polaroid and use it to remove him from the Senate. That would open the door to doing the same thing to Trump—if acts prior to taking office are actionable, and if one lady’s testimony and a photo are sufficient—well, we’ve got a president who’s famously confessed on tape, and twelve women testifying that he wasn’t lying about his behavior, just to impress Billy Bush.

No, when the Donald was bragging to Billy-boy about how much he enjoyed the ‘perks’ of fame (and bragging to Stern how much he enjoyed the ‘perks’ of owning a teen beauty pageant) Trump was being entirely frank. Far more frank than when he called all twelve of his accusers liars.

[Note: I didn’t publish the preceding quickly enough—a second accuser of Franken, while he was in office, has come forward—which makes the previous reasoning moot. However, the whole ‘glass houses’ thing is still totally in effect—in a world that even pretends to ethics.]

I’m so tired of critiquing the buffoonery of a goon who should have never been made president—there’s more than enough, in his first nine months, to have the entire country surrounding the Executive Mansion with Tiki-torches. I can’t believe Trump, of course—but what I really can’t believe is these creepy little legislators, hiding in their offices, dodging questions about all this questionable (some might say treasonable) incompetence and malpractice.

Is the job of governing so odious that we allow the most cretinous pests exuded from law school to hold power—just so we don’t have to?

*******************************************

Enough with the negativity–let’s hear some music:

POEM:  Ode to Navigation   (2017Aug26)

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Saturday, August 26, 2017                                                7:58 PM

Ode to Navigation

 

Gusts of emotions push me askew and awry

No star or sun do guide me across the sky

The yaw and roll of time and heart

The mystery of end and start

Awash on a quantized sea, afoam with tessellations

Sighting a castled isle, athwart with crennelations

Spraying up flumes of probability

Dashing upon the rocks of mortality

Knowing that my past had got the best of me

Leaving the rest of me

Sailing into the dusk of danger and death

Parsing the delta twixt fact and faith

Pressing the limits of love unboundeth

Hiking the summit of truth and grace.

Hurry Up, Mr. Mueller   (2017Aug18)

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Friday, August 18, 2017                                           3:50 PM

323,000,000 people live in the United States—61.3% white—that comes to 198,000,000—which leaves 125,000,000 non-white. Anyone preaching division in our country is trying to cause trouble—period.

Human nature is such that any form of institutionalized division, even so-called ‘separate but equal’, will lead us down a path that can only end in persecution, slavery, or genocide. And America is uniquely vulnerable to this abhorrent rationale, being a melting pot, and having hundreds of millions of people from every corner of the earth—every race, every color, every religion, every orientation. If we start to tear ourselves apart, we’d make our first civil war look like a tea party.

So, anytime someone tries to sell you on division or hatred, they’re really encouraging you to partake in a bloodbath. They want your blood to spill. Oh, they’re nice enough about it—all reasonable and logical sounding at first. But their bottom line is death—for ‘many sides’, as the orange fool would say.

In the land of equality, when people claim others are unequal—they are the problem, not the others they’re so aroused about. By their logic, writ large, if any one person on earth committed a crime, we should all be in jail. That’s a lovely fantasy, I suppose—but this Nazism thing is often a symptom of a more general mental mistake—trying to rationalize things into what one already believes them to be, or what one wishes things could be, instead of taking them as they are (as godawful messy as that may be).

So, hurry up, Mr. Mueller. I think Congress is about ready to impeach—as soon as you can tell them just how horrible the whole back-room story is, they’ll no longer have any defense as to why they still sit on their hands while an egomaniac ruins our country.

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Crisis of Controversy   (2017Aug07)

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Sunday, August 06, 2017                                         4:22 PM

Crisis of Controversy   (2017Aug07)

I just watched a report on the opioid crisis—our country is being decimated by it. In a way, the opioid crisis is the natural next step, after sixteen years of fear-mongering and internecine bickering in our politics. Politicians rang that “post-9/11 threat level” like a cowbell, keeping the entire country on tenterhooks for years, starting reflex-wars that still haven’t ended. People are fleeing the pain and negativity in many ways—opioids being just one, our present clown-presidency being another, desperate example of wishful thinking.

This country has finally run low on the only thing it always had too much of: Morale. Our chants of “USA! USA!” have a hollow ring to them, as if we were clapping for Tinkerbell’s life. We need another Franklin D., to re-teach us that we have nothing to fear except being afraid. And we certainly need some retro (i.e. fit for the office) president to come in and point this country towards the future again. These wealthy, corrupt elites are like fifth columnist agitators, who start a riot—just to provide cover for their looting and violence.

Our government is not some special reality show being broadcast on special channels—it is, at root, a fairly straightforward affair, that people of good will conducted poorly—but still, it was better than these soulless people now making a rat’s nest of neglect and privilege out of offices they’re not fit to fill. It is unfortunate that journalism has spawned two idiot half-brothers, Click-bait and the 24-hour News-cycle.

These new industries thrive on our disruption, confusing the needful work of a free press with entertaining gossip and hypotheticals—exacerbating problems under the guise of ‘providing information’, mixing the opinion-based editorializing and spin with the hard news. The ‘information’ thus provided uses the term so loosely that it impacts peoples’ faith in the real journalists—who are then vulnerable to accusations of ‘fake news’ from the dick-head-in-chief.

Someone like Trump finds a friend in these outlets—but they provide no assistance to any serious public servant who isn’t prepared to vamp for the ratings. The neo-realisti-cons have even carved out a demographic convinced that their propaganda is an alternative to the reporting in the NY Times or the Washington Post. And while journalists clearly are not famous for their precision, the journalism practiced at those papers is far more rigorous and objective than the Foxified alt-reality.

As always, there’s a dead giveaway, if you know where to look—I’ll give you a hint: it’s in the retractions. A paper like the Times will print a retraction at the drop of a hat—if an error of fact is pointed out to them, they will correct their error without a second thought.

A salient feature of the alt-right ranters, including Fox News, is their instinct to debate a refutation—they grasp their ‘facts’ to themselves much more tightly than an objective journalist. In their very rare instances of being forced into a retraction—it’s always partial, conditional, mealy-mouthed, unapologetic, and dismissive of the whole affair once it goes counter to their wishes. That’s a far cry from even an attempt at objectivity—and a sign of their ignorance, that they haven’t the good grace to be ashamed of such transparent mendacity.

It’s a tricky thing to call them out on—their bad impression of real journalists is an insult to ideal of journalism, and of being a journalist—but it passes muster for the distracted, upset viewers it’s targeted towards, so it works for them—when it really should have made them a disgraced laughingstock.

You know why Bernie is a Socialist? Do you know why we need socialism in America today? It’s because Capitalism has been gamed to such an extent that only some aggressive spread-the-wealth programs have any chance of stopping our slippery slide into a Cash Dictatorship. If we can’t find a way to deke all these lobbyists and campaign-contributors, we’ll never rescue our democracy from the banks and the fat-cats.

Wanted: Quiet Folk   (2017Aug10)

Improv – Glamorous Air

Thursday, August 10, 2017                                               1:53 PM

Wanted: Quiet Folk   (2017Aug10)

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.

Pete n’ Me – Improv – Considering

 

Birthday Video   (2017July30)

Sunday, July 30, 2017                                              3:17 PM

Birthday Video   (2017July30)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pleased To Present   (2017Jul16)

Sunday, July 16, 2017                                              10:42 PM

Pleased To Present   (2017Jul16)

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

 

XperDunn plays Piano
July 15th, 2017

Improv – Sonatina

Improv – Toesies

Improv – Grasshopper

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

Improv – Sunlight

 

ttfn!

 

Don’t You Dare Use the Word ‘Care’   (2017Jun23)

Friday, June 23, 2017                                               2:27 PM

Don’t You Dare Use the Word ‘Care’   (2017Jun23)

The Republicans never wanted those tens of millions of citizens to have health coverage—that would mean “socialized medicine” (that dreaded scourge that keeps the entirety of the-rest-of-the-developed-world healthy). Besides, worried the GOP, how will insurers and pharmacists maximize their profit-potential with the government looking over their shoulders?

And so the Republicans fought tooth-and-nail to prevent passage of the Affordable Care Act—they called it a ‘death panel’, they scare-mongered until scare-mongering became the habit of theirs it is, today. The Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act. Tens of millions of citizens have health coverage today because of it.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act would threaten the lives of tens of millions of citizens. Repairing the Affordable Care Act would be the obvious choice for any sensible person.

But if voters had any sense, these charlatans wouldn’t be elected into the offices they hold. How they can shamelessly wave their billionaires’ tax-cut in our faces like they’re “doing good” is beyond me—is there no limit to their dis-ingenuousness?

A child could see through their blatant posturing—just as a child could see through Trump’s blatant posturing, when he started tweeting about “tapes” of his convos with Comey. These dopey clowns that run our country would be met with gales of laughter, if not for the horror they practice upon the youngest and weakest among us—I think I understand Stephen King’s “It” a lot better now.

 

Goodness Me   (2017Jun02)

Friday, June 02, 2017                                               12:16 PM

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.)

Eternal Argument   (2017Apr19)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017                                              1:51 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improv – Late in the Day

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017                                        3:29 PM

The Job of Jazz   (2017Apr19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hadyn – Sonata in C (Excerpt)

Friday, April 21, 2017                                              12:42 AM

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

 

Friday, April 14, 2017                                              6:28 PM

YouTube Scuffle   (2017Apr14)

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

https://youtu.be/4BMa7HEE1Uo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xperdunn:

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

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

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

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

Improv – First Star

Piano Tuner   (2017Apr12)

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

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

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

Improv – Rainy Spring

 

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

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

 

 

Improv – Thoughtful

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

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017                                        2:04 PM

Dumber than Dirt   (2017Apr13)

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

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

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

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

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Bear’s Birthday   (2017Apr10)

IMG_3120

Monday, April 10, 2017                                          9:53 AM

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

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

Improv – Jones Beach

 

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

Improv – Pop Patchouli

 

Monday, April 10, 2017                                          7:34 PM

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

 

Improv – Five Dollars

 

Improv – Appalachian Trail

 

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

 

Improv – Breezy Meadow

 

Improv – Water Sprite

 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017                                          6:59 PM

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

 

Improv – Crocuses

 

Latest Offerings   (2017Mar25)

Saturday, March 25, 2017                                        2:26 PM

Cover: “Can’t Smile Without You”

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.

 

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POEM:    Belonging   (2017Mar09)

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Thursday, March 09, 2017                                                1:49 PM

 

Belonging

The piano growls at me from the corner

The wind blows memories against the window-glass

The ache circles within me, an adversary in waiting

The air stings my skin with the numbness

The time flails my thoughts, world encompassed

Within my tiny brain of electrified glop

The computer invites me to crawl inside

The speakers hug my ears—the monitor titillates

Then the music ends.

Alone in a room with the atmosphere battering

At the house as the only sound—eerie and lonesome

I can’t type you away.

 

By Xper Dunn

 

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Flippy

 

Pete— and Political Depression   (2017Mar07)

20170306XD-BabySoxTuesday, March 07, 2017                                        7:38 PM

It was fun playing with Pete yesterday, as always—we did Sixties covers and an improv at the end—shorter than usual, but I’ve been somewhat fatigued lately—this post also has two solo videos I’ve been trying to upload for a few days.

I enjoyed the annual arrival of March 4th on Saturday (You know… ‘What’s the only day of the year that’s like a military command?’) The worse a joke is, the better I like it. It was also brother Russell’s birthday the previous day, March 3rd—had he lived, he would have been 59 last Friday.

Lots of politics in the news—but I’ve decided it’s all a big conspiracy—the politicians, the media, the wealthy, the corporations—they do their little school play and we all applaud, like they’re responsible grown-ups instead of empty suits with staring fish-eyes. As Al Pacino once said, “I’d like to take a blowtorch to this place.” Now that they have us arguing amongst ourselves over what’s true, we’re doomed—they’re even dropping any pretense of ethics, they have us so locked up—it’s pitiful.

So I’m taking the night off from playing their bull-pucky games. I tell you what really gets me—the pretension to respectability, so transparent, so far removed from actual respectability. All we expect of them is that they can speak intelligently about the job they’re supposed to be doing—and they can’t even get that much together.

But pose? Man, can these monkeys pose. I suppose, given the majority of them having no ethics, it’s just as well they don’t know much. But enough about politicians—competent people are hard put to throw themselves in with mongrels and such saintly folk are thus eternally doomed to labor in the minority—like Warren, Franken, and Sanders. My blogging, about what that gang of thugs in Washington is doing, is even less effective.

Well, there goes my plan to write something cheery. Dammit.

What can I say? I’m not a chipper guy. And I really am feeling tired lately—it’s not helping. I think I have political depression—they’ve changed our democracy into a reality show/game show/talk show—and I get depressed remembering the good old days—when people still had working heads and democracy was a serious responsibility. Remember? It was just four years ago.

Anyway, thanks as always to Pete, for being such a good sport about playing music with me—and for being such a good friend.

20170306XD_Pete_n_Me_GRFC_01

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Hello?   (2017Feb28)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017                                             11:42 AM

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.

Sunday   (2017Feb26)

Sunday, February 26, 2017                                               1:52 PM

Sunday—and February almost over—these months just whip by if you don’t stay on top of them, eh? I’ve gotten a whole slew of new baby videos in from the fam—so, new YouTube videos are the order of the day.

I sent a Rusty-the-Robot teething toy—which appears in the videos—she seems to get a kick out of it, so I’m a happy grampa. Lil Sen is really starting to crawl now, so there’s lots of action in the videos—Sundance here I come.

With a February like Spring, it isn’t that I deny Climate Change—it’s just that I kind of like it. Is that wrong? It’s not like I’m the guy causing it.

I’m reading a new sci-fi book called “Breakthrough”—it’s about a lady scientist who tries to tell people that ocean levels are falling. No one will listen to her because they think she’s a climate denier—but it turns out there really are aliens running a star-gate on the ocean floor in the Bermuda Triangle, siphoning off seawater for their parched planet. It’s fun—I hope the earthlings win—we’ll see.

I’ve been adding a lot of sappy stuff to my Spotify playlist recently: Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic”, Johnny Mathis’s “Chances Are”, Billy Holiday’s “I’ll Get By”, Dusty Springfield’s “Spooky”, and some Chopin Nocturnes—even some Carpenters, and Barry Manilow—I guess I’m getting backfire from Valentine’s Day, I don’t know. I’m always into sappy, but I don’t usually dive this deep.

So, that’s Sunday, here at the Dunn’s.

Not Flat—But Maybe Our Brains Are   (2017Feb25)

 

Saturday, February 25, 2017                                             7:34 PM

20160107XD-NASA-MagneticReconnectionIt should be no surprise that the era of Trump has brought back a resurgence of Flat-Earthers—in the quest for distraction and chaos, no idea is too ludicrous. (And if Trump didn’t generate three scandals per day, our gaze might linger on one of his fouler failings.) Believing that the Earth is flat is kind of like a religious thing—it didn’t exist for the ancient Greeks, who knew better, and it doesn’t exist today, among most developed nations’ peoples.

The surface of the Earth is observably curved. If you watch a sailboat pass below the horizon, the boat disappears first—the masts remain visible for longer—this is not something that happens on a flat surface. If you send a perfectly horizontal laser-beam across the desert floor, someone a quarter of a mile away would have to hold a piece of paper ten feet over their heads to catch the beam’s reflection—that’s because the light is a straight line—the Earth’s surface is not.

The ancient Greeks did not need to see Earth from space to know that it was round—it is perfectly plain to see, from several simple exercises like those just described—not to mention the Moon—also visibly, patently spherical, is hanging in the sky half the nights.

But beyond this—we also have proof that Earth is not only round—but spinning like nobody’s business—the Coriolis force is what causes Foucault’s Pendulum to work the way it does (and why the water spins in a flushing toilet—clockwise here, and counter-clockwise in Australia. Without the Coriolis Effect, water would simply fall down a drain, not spin around it).

And there’s the question of why nights are longer at the poles—why we have seasons in the temperate zones—and why it’s so hot near the Equator. Ultimately, one has to stay indoors, both physically and mentally, to maintain a belief in anything so easily disproved as a flat Earth. I find that those who insist on a Flat Earth are not merely stating that single mis-fact—they are attempting to delegitimize Facts themselves.

In effect, it is a declaration that a person has the right to dismiss reality, for no reason at all—and that is the case—but the result, in a perfect world, would be a diagnosis of insanity, not a debate with serious people. In my youth, a person purporting the flat Earth theory would be told to sit down and shut up—we were busy going to the Moon back then, and had little patience with willful ignorance.

Now it is all the rage—getting someone to say something wildly stupid is irresistible click-bait to the so-called journalists of mass media—a Flat-Earther is money in the bank to them, regardless of how low it puts the bar of public discourse, or eats away at the fabric of modern society. And here is where we find the connection between the rise of Trump and the sudden resurgence of Flat-Earthers in the media. They both substitute attention-getting for intelligence-gathering. They are both subtle attacks on our way of life—perhaps too subtle for us to defend against. What do you think?

20130224XD-NASA-Mercury_messenger

Hurry Spring   (2017Feb21)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017                                             4:06 PM

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.

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Monday Blahs   (2017Feb20)

Monday, February 20, 2017                                             1:14 PM

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….

***

Journal Entry   (2017Feb19)

Sunday, February 19, 2017                                               3:28 PM

20170218xd-goghvestibuleofasylum1889

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.

Nothing much else to go on about.

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Chopin   (2017Feb11)

Saturday, February 11, 2017                                             9:48 PM

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?

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Xenophobic Nonsense   (2017Feb07)

Tuesday, February 07, 2017                                             6:47 PM

Okay, time to slow things down. Trump’s blitzkrieg of incompetence has the overall effect of forcing us to play his game, on his timetable. He does and says so many inflammatory, imprudent, borderline-illegal things that we simple folk are spurred into instant response—there’s never time for sober discussion—his stupidity is faster than light.

And while it may seem impossible to justify ignoring Trump and his minions for even one second—I sense that pulling back from his shit-storm of non-ideas, and taking the time to laugh at him and them—and to remind ourselves that life goes on, madness in the White House be damned—is the correct course. When caught in an inane conversation with a drunk, we don’t try to win the argument—we try to move away from the drunk—and this seems the sensible course in the case of Trump’s fascist Justice League of Losers and their obsession with media-storms.

Granted, Trump’s Electoral College win is a huge blow—in spite of the majority voting against him, he holds the presidency for the next four years—and that’s a lot of power for a crazy egotist. But the sub-set of Americans identifying as Trump supporters is still, in many ways, a far more ominous threat in the long term. These people are trapped within the echo-chamber of ‘alternative’, resentful, paranoid fantasies about how the world works, outside of their town.

Where their existence was once threatened by the ubiquity of information, the rise of biased information sources has now strengthened their grip on such self-excusing delusions. Bigotry is back in fashion. As long as Trump (and their portion of the Internet) reinforces their balky refusal to open their minds, they’ll feel infinitely justified in maintaining even the craziest notions.

These people have even been convinced to vote against Health Care, for themselves and their families. Think about that. It’s not far different from offering someone a juicy steak dinner—and them punching you in the mouth, like you’d insulted their mother.

You tell them the globe is warming, sea levels are rising, untold disaster awaits—and when their boss at the oil company, or the coal mine, sez, ‘No, it isn’t’, they dutifully jeer at the scientists. Scientists! People who make a career out of sweating the details—and who, more to the point, have no dog in this race—unlike their deniers.

I’ve seen regular people—not rich business owners or anything, just regular folks—who actually oppose the Minimum Wage. The sole purpose of a minimum wage is to make it hard for employers to pay you less than you deserve. Do these people think that the rule will only apply to immigrants—and even if it did, do they hate immigrants that much? How will they feel when their own kids can’t find work that pays their rent? Minimum Wage might start to look a little more attractive then.

So, in my humble opinion, there are some tragically, self-defeatingly, self-destructively stupid people out there—and a lot of them vote. For the most part, they don’t really oppose the changes that the Left promotes—they simply fear change—and that is their only real point of agreement with their leaders, especially Trump. Imagine a 21st-century American putting billions of taxpayer dollars into a wall—a big, stupid wall. Hasn’t he read Clausewitz?

A wall can be swum around, tunneled under, and flown over—if Trump’s idea was to stop immigrants, he’s a failure—if he merely wants to inconvenience them—good work, Donald, spend away. Although it should be noted that immigrants are no strangers to inconvenience. The act of building a big wall can be seen as less of a practical exercise and more of a desire for the world to be so simple. It is a statement more than an achievement—and those familiar with Trump’s pre-presidency resume will recognize this theme.

The sad truth is that rich people raise lazy kids—and rich countries raise lazy citizens—America maintains its preeminence by constantly blending in fresh blood. And if the newcomers are not creamy white, that is beside the point—they are eager—even desperate, for a chance to make something of their lives, and their families’ lives. They work like dogs. They take everything seriously. They listen to what’s going on around them. Basically, all the stuff that you and I are too ‘over’ being Americans to bother with.

These people prevent the rest of us from drowning in our own toxins of apathy and entitlement, selfishness and irresponsibility. They recharge the battery of America and they always have—our own ancestors were part of the process. Deciding to stop now, to shut it all down, to ban travel and build a big honking wall—suicide—sheer suicide for our country and ourselves.

Don’t take my word for it—look at Europe. A lot of those countries are accepting refugees, not simply out of the goodness of their hearts, but also because their populations are becoming too small and too aged to maintain their economies. They need immigrants—and the only reason we don’t is because we’ve always had them. We’ve never known what lack of change, lack of growth is really like—stagnation is foreign to us—but not for long, if we keep up this xenophobic nonsense.

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Hail Mary Pass   (2017Feb05)

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Sunday, February 05, 2017                                                2:30 PM

Super Bowl LI today—it may have started already, for all I know, but even non-sports guys like me can’t help but hear about it—and the commercials, and the half-time show. It’s a national institution, there’s no denying that.

And a business watershed—the ad people can spend the whole year getting ready their Super Bowl commercial—and if they get it right, it’s an instant classic, a feather in their cap for the length of their career. Between the ratings fluctuations and the reviews of the half-time entertainment, it’s a show-biz watershed as well. And, of course, it’s a sports thing, first and foremost.

My experience of football was brief and uninspiring—so I don’t want to get all ‘sour grapes’ about the game—it’s exciting stuff. Still, I can’t help worrying that Football will go the way of Cigarettes. With cigarettes, we had that first study showing it was dangerous—and that made the sensible people quit.

But, between industry pushback and personal inertia, smoking remained quite commonplace. Then a second push, following a few court cases lost by Big Tobacco, virtually wiped cigarettes from the face of society—and that was a good thing—I remain a rare smoker, still, but I’m not complaining about the non-smoking movement.

So, too, with football—we’ve already had the big announcement—that hundreds of micro-lesions can form in the brain through repeated concussive blows, making football a very risky way to get rich. Industry has pushed back fairly successfully, minimizing the risk and making noises about helmet sensors and increased vigilance—but the basic facts have not changed.

Now that symptoms can be linked to their true causes, and autopsies include inspections of brain matter for long-term damage, the connection between a youthful football career and a middle-age of drooling vegetation, or suicide, will become nakedly obvious. If we are just now getting rid of bullfighting, how long can we continue to support a sport that kills its human players a few years after they retire? It doesn’t look good for American football.

 

Still, chain-smoking somehow seemed to make a World War into a bearable ordeal—so, if we need a weekend of football to get us through the new World Order fumbling into being, down in Washington, so be it. At this point, any diversion is a gift from above.

And I come bearing gifts of my own—two new improvs with pictures of the world’s finest baby. The music is so-so, but the pictures are adorable. Somehow, the Big Game got politicized—but all I care about is the new “24” series that follows the game—hey, if Keifer isn’t in it, why are we watching? Couldn’t they just call it something new? Well, I’m ‘too old for this shit’, as they say—maybe Sutherland is too.

 

 

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Baby Talk   (2017Feb01)

Wednesday, February 01, 2017                                       7:23 PM

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.

 

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Digging Out   (2017Jan29)

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Sunday, January 29, 2017                                        1:00 AM

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 Time-Space Orchestra   (2017Jan26)

Thursday, January 26, 2017                                              9:21 PM

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!

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XperDunn Returns   (2017Jan18)

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017                                          6:18:47 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Big Book of Christmas   (2016Dec16)

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Friday, December 16, 2016                                               11:29 PM

I’m trying to post my final Christmas carols before anyone gets here—I expect to be posting far less once the house gets full-up. I have the raw recordings from last night, but editing them will take some time. This always happens to me—I’m about to complete my big project of recording the entire Christmas songbook—and before I finish, I’m already feeling foolish for having bothered. After all, who wants to watch a long piano recital by a half-assed piano-player, no matter the theme of the concert?

But then I remember that family will watch. Poor piano-playing can actually add a homey touch to a video—and these videos are as much baby-albums of all little Seneca’s pictures and videos, as they are piano performances. I haven’t really created a Playlist—I’ve created a deluxe photo album of the first four months of my granddaughter’s existence (with holiday soundtrack included). And that is certainly worth a little effort on my part.

Just as few words about the completed playlist of: the Big Book of Christmas Music. There is one song missing from the book—“Joy To The World”, strangely enough—somehow the page came loose, and I couldn’t play just the first page, and stop in the middle. It’s not important—I’ll just include it in the next book’s recordings (“Joy To The World” is in every Xmas songbook).

Also, there are a few of these that I don’t play so well. Some pieces use figurations, especially in the left hand, that are difficult for me—I usually avoid them, but this was a clean sweep of the table of contents, from beginning to end, so I did the best I could with the ones I shouldn’t have been playing. The good news is that I won’t be posting these carols ever again, now that I’m sure I’ve done the whole book.

In doing this sight-reading every year, I’m always struck by the carols and songs that are of an earlier popularity—the ones that you can only barely remember hearing before—and then in childhood. There’s really an endless supply of Christmas and holiday music—I was just watching Bill Murray’s “A Very Murray Christmas” (2015) on Netflix yesterday—and that whole musical special was a list of songs I don’t have the music for—great stuff, too. I hadn’t realized there’s this very show-bizzy-type side to Christmas music as well—and Paul Shaffer is fantastic at that stuff. It was excellent fare—for a Christmas Special.

As for the words—this was a big project for me—and close-captioned lyrics would have made the whole thing take ten times the work. If you want to sing along, the lyrics to songs are easily searched online—so, I left it to you, if you want them, they’re out there. I did supply the title at the beginning of each song, so you’ll know what song to do a lyrics-search for.

The entire playlist can be heard here.

But if you want to find a song, here’s the detailed list:

 

Thirteen (13) Christmas Carols – November 21st, 2016

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Nine (9) Christmas Carols – November 23rd, 2016

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Eleven (11) Christmas Carols – November 27th, 2016

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Nine (9) Christmas Carols – November 28th, 2016

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Twelve (12) Christmas Carols – November 29th, 2016

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Thirteen (13) Christmas Carols – December 1st, 2016

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Nine (9) more Christmas Carols – December 1st, 2016

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Twelve (12) Christmas Carols – December 6th, 2016

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Four (4) Christmas Carols – December 12th, 2016

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Nine (9) Christmas Carols – December 12th, 2016

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Seven (7) Christmas Carols – December 12th, 2016

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Twelve (12) Christmas Carols – December 15th, 2016

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Nine (9) Christmas Carols – December 15th, 2016

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Th-th-that’s all, folks!

 

Christmas Caroling   (2016Dec13)

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016                                           11:43 AM

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.

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A Major Influence   (2016Dec09)

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Friday, December 09, 2016                                               2:51 PM

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?

 

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Christmas Is Nice   (2016Dec05)

Sunday, December 04, 2016                                                       2:57 PM

I have to write something nice to post. I’ve started to get some conflict between my gruesome, acidic rants and the videos (of baby-granddaughter and the Xmas-carols) that go with them. I don’t want cute photos of our little Seneca to be stuck beside my venomous diatribes and gloomy Eeyore-isms. So, if I don’t write something pleasant, I have no post to put the new videos in.

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Christmas Music sweeps a broad path—it isn’t a genre—it’s more of a filter applied to every genre. It has the sanctity of church music and the jollity of Santa Claus, the grandeur of Hallelujah and the intimacy of a newborn’s cradle, it has angels in heaven and Elvis in a Blue Hawaii—there are very few things that can’t be squooshed into a Christmas Song, when you get right down to it—including silver bells, one’s two front teeth, and Grandma’s vehicular demise.

I like to be chronological about my annual return to the Christmas-music pile. (When we were younger, I made a point of putting them back in the library bookshelf every January, but lately, they just sit in a dusty pile by the piano until December comes round again—it’s like: why make your bed, if you’re just going to sing it again next December?)

So I start with the carol books—songbooks that focus on the ancient and traditional standards. By the time I work my way up to Irving Berlin and Jose Feliciano, that stuff sounds downright snappy, compared to stuff that was written contemporaneously with Gregorian Chants—or hymns written by Martin Luther himself (does that guy have to do everything for you Protestants? Write a hymn, dammit.)

This year, I’m recording Christmas Carols for YouTube videos like it was my job or something. I guess I hear a skull chuckling at my elbow—and this is my way of setting myself up for absent Xmases. But it’s a good thing I started early this year, in November—here it is December 5th and I’m only half-way through the first book of songs.

I have about five different caroling books—and if I get that far, I have some George Winston sheet music, too. I feel like Winston’s “December” Album is the last modern-day addition to the Xmas-music repertoire. That, and Lennon’s “War Is Over”, and Joni Mitchell’s “River”, represent the furthest reaches of Xmas-music evolution for my generation—younger people could probably cite more recent ‘classics’, but such would be dross to these fuddy-duddy ears.

The rare instrumental Xmas-tunes are my favorites—but they are unanimously difficult on the piano—Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker excerpts, Handel’s Messiah excerpts, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Bells”, March of the Wooden Soldiers—you name it: if it has no lyrics, it’s a bitch to play. But I get a little better every year. Come to think of it, if my other musical efforts were seasonal, I’d probably be making better progress with them as well. I should have an era a month, from Elizabethan to Swing—that would probably be fun. Hmmm.

But December is taken—and I am on a mission. In future years my carol-playing may become worse, but it’s highly unlikely that it will ever get better than it is now—so the video archive of all of it will make a repeat of the same thing unnecessary next year and in years to come. Maybe next year I can try for the whole Nutcracker, or the entire Messiah (which would be tricky without a full chorus, but there are arrangements…)

Someday, I’d also like to do a good recording of Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, all twelve months—it’s not official Christmas music, but there’s something about the winter months that’s very seasonal—and it does end with December, after a November ‘sleigh-ride’. Plus the fact that it ‘circumnavigates’ the year makes it kind of New-Years-ey, too. It’s Xmas-ey to me, anyhow.

I’m reminded of my good fortune in being an amateur musician—while doing these books from front to back, I find some of the fun is fading and it’s becoming a bit of a chore. Music is all fun and games until you’re committed to doing a pre-determined set-list, one after the other, easy or hard, like it or not. It’s a whole different animal—and I’m not even performing.

Friday, December 02, 2016                                               9:21 AM

Living Today   (2016Dec02)

If my health were a small child, I would give it my sternest look and say, “I’m very disappointed in you.” Our bodies are a miracle of moving parts, of chemical balance, of evolutionary design—I should be grateful that mine works at all. Bodies are fancy British sports-cars—genius engineering, incredible performance—but get some moisture in the fuel line, a little air in the brake line, a slight under-pressure in the tires—and, suddenly, it’s all hobbled, wobbly and life-threatening.

I’m feeling tremendously empowered today—for a rarity, my body is mobile and my mind relatively clear. That is a glaring contrast to the last few days, when I had so-many-more-than-usual pings and ratchets, I felt ready for the junkyard. But this is something healthy people (and I remember, once, being one) do not have the capacity to appreciate—to wake up in the morning with a clear mind and a body that does what you tell it to—such incredible power—such potential for this day.

I love to write. I bitch about ‘who cares?’; ‘is anyone listening?’; ‘do I have anything to say?’; and so forth, but the truth is I do this because it feels good. Sometimes I go off the rails—but I don’t post everything I type—I give myself liberty to write whatever-the-hell, and then I decide whether it’s fit for public exposure. Like most people, my privacy is important to me—and I try to respect the privacy of others—but that means I’ll never be good writer. Actually, the desire to keep myself to myself is just half of it—I’m also a lousy liar—and a good story-teller has to be comfortable telling stories.

But I don’t need to be good at something to enjoy the hell out of it—take my piano-playing for example—horrible stuff—but you can see that I’m very into it. And I write the same way. I’ll just be sitting around or watching TV and I’ll be struck, out of nowhere, by a notion that propels me to the keyboard—it’s almost inconvenient, except that there’s a thrill that comes with the compulsion.

I suppose it’s an obvious adaptation to the lack of people to talk to—or maybe it simply reveals that I prefer to do all the talking. You have to admit, I do have plenty to say—whether or not it’s worth saying, aside—I really crank it out—I can’t shut up. But there are people wandering the street-corners of New York City that could make the same claim—and they’re actually collecting change—maybe they’ve got more on the ball than I do.

The trouble is that writing is an industry, music is an industry. It is virtually impossible for me to enjoy my hobbies without the thought sneaking in, unwelcome, that other people make money this way—it’s like trying not to think of a purple elephant. I fucking hate money. I’m lucky my wife handles all of it—it makes my skin crawl. But whose head would not be turned by the thought of all the glittering prizes, the fabulous wealth, of the successful—rarer than power-ball winners though they may be?

Shows like American Idol or America’s Got Talent whisper to us that the point of enjoying the arts is to win. Better that more people enjoyed the arts as I do, for their own sake. The talented would still shine out, would still be plucked into the heavens—but the rest of us could just be comfortable with the immense pleasure that amateur artistic pursuits offer us.

To be of less-than-professional training and ability is a very modern concept—a few generations ago, gathering around the piano and singing was as natural as sitting down to watch TV together. And writing correspondence was as much a part of an evening as saying one’s bedtime prayers—volumes of such source material inform our historians. Maybe that’s why we bloggers are so legion—letter-writing is gone out of style—and we’ve all taken to writing letters to Ulysses’ ‘Noman’.

It’s an ironic concept—I’ve learned to use all these social-media apps, WordPress, Facebook, YouTube—and all these graphics and audio editing software suites—just so I can approximate the 19th century habit of playing piano in the living room and writing letters to distant friends.

History With A Grain Of Salt   (2016Dec03)

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Saturday, December 03, 2016                                           1:41 PM

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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Working Area   (2016Dec01)

 

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Thursday, December 01, 2016                                         10:25 AM

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.

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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.

 

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Personal   (2016Nov29)

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Sunday, November 27, 2016                                            6:47 PM

Spencer has made bread. Claire has come home from the gym. I’ve had a full day, for me, but I’m not going to embarrass myself by telling you what I did—little victories are my stock in trade these days. Real little. Okay—I moved two very-light pieces of furniture. That’s a full day for me—okay? You happy now?

It’s getting dark way earlier all of a sudden. Winter is here. I’m still working on video-ing the Big Book of Christmas Carols, front to back. It’s slow going—most of them are very familiar, but some of them need many ‘takes’ before I play it through with some semblance of accuracy. Sometimes, like just now, a few minutes ago, I’m too tired to get a good take. I have to wait for tomorrow’s supply of energy and alertness.

I have my mind set on it. Indeed, I’ve considered keeping the idea, and only posting videos of entire books from now on. I have a large manuscript library, but only a few of them are easy-to-play enough for me to play the whole book. So, I guess I’ll try it with a few books, after the carols are all recorded, and then forget about it and go back to my random recordings.

That’s the thing—I start every new day with a fresh head—any long-term plans I might have do not survive the pleasant distractions of waking up each morning. There’s usually a thread or a hint lying around somewhere, but if I don’t look for it, I miss it. Fresh head—every damn morning. I’m considering tattoos….

Monday, November 28, 2016                                           5:45 PM

I freely admit that I binged the new Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, on Netflix—which is as good as admitting I watched the whole series, back when (which I did, of course). But it’s not just because I like that kind of show—you go ahead and check—Kelly Bishop, Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel—they’re all great actors who have done lots of great stuff, outside of fictional Connecticut.

That’s the trouble with bingeing TV, isn’t it? It’s over now—nothing to wait ‘til next week for. That’s why I like to stay busy—as I get older, I’m becoming really picky about my viewing. At this point, if it isn’t as pleasant as listening to myself play the piano, while I look at pictures of my granddaughter, then I don’t need to watch it. I’m building a library of granddaughter/piano YouTube videos—I’m stockpiling this stuff. If the TV won’t give me what I want, I can make it myself. And, with my new Wi-Fi-enabled TV—I’m just another channel.

I’m working on two projects at once. Longer-term, I’m working on the next installment of Xmas Carols—the Series. And today I’m also processing a treasure trove of pictures and videos from my favorite movie stars—Jessy and Sen. The two will go together nicely—but eleven-Xmas-carols is always a lengthy video—so I’m here waiting for the music-video pre-edit to finish saving-to-disk. I’ve prepped the pictures into video, and the raw videos from Jessy—so now I just have to put all of that into one video….

I played a Chopin Mazurka on the e-piano, with the Harpsichord setting—nice result. I don’t mean I played all-that-well—but Chopin sounds just swell on a harpsichord. That’s a trick I noticed about good music—you can play that stuff on anything. There’s a guy who’s famous for playing Bach on Harmonica—I used to own the LP, hand to God—and it wasn’t half bad.

I can only use the first half of all my Carols recordings—I stay pretty cheery and spritely for a few songs—but then it becomes a Bataan Death March of sight-reading, turning every song into a dirge. You’d think I’d know all this stuff by now—I can feel my fingers remembering as I play them—why can’t my head do that?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016                                           3:28 PM

Okay, I must be in a post-Thanksgiving metabolic ‘trough’ these last few days—my energy levels are nil. My aches and spasms are small but many. My mental focus is a joke—I’m not even sure if I’m entirely awake. Partly, I stressed myself out—I finally finished the five videos and doing five videos at once makes my head swim—it’s hard to keep everything straight.

But I’ve got them all done now, just waiting for the last two to finish uploading to YouTube. I’m going to try to process my videos one-at-a-time from here on, if I can—it’s a tricky little maneuver that I’ve gotten very comfortable with—but doing more than one at a time makes it ridiculously complex.

 

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Time: the 4th Dimension   (2016Nov26)

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Saturday, November 26, 2016                                          10:14 AM

One of the ways in which my inner ‘math geek’ expresses himself is by dating things. For instance, people born in the 1980s are in their thirties now, people born in the 1990s are in their twenties now, and anyone sixteen or younger has never set foot in the twentieth century. Any movie released before 1991 is over a quarter-of-a-century old. The Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies were premiered when my parents were toddlers. Most of the interstate highway system was built during Eisenhower’s administration—making it a little over sixty years old. No wonder we have infrastructure problems.

One of my favorite movie lines comes from “Kate and Leopold” (2001). Leopold (Hugh Jackman) having left Kate’s 21st-century apartment to wander New York City, comes across the Brooklyn Bridge, and wonderingly exclaims, “Roebling’s erection—he completed it!—and it still stands…” (which cleverly lets the audience know that Leopold was transported from the past, sometime between 1870—when construction on the bridge began—and 1883—the day the bridge opened).

The passage of time fascinates me. In studying physics, one comes to accept Time as a dimension—it is even used to name a distance: the unit of measure known as a Light-Year is the distance Light can travel in one Year’s time. That’s a pretty parochial unit-naming system, when we consider that a Year is defined as the time it takes for our planet to orbit the sun—a unit of time which means nothing to anyone from another planet—and other planets are the only things that are light-years away. Not to mention that our planet’s orbital time will increase with entropy over the millennia—a million years from now, a Year will be a different amount of time. Will we then change the unit-of-measure name, or its value?

Then again, all units-of-measure are iffy—that’s why there are institutions whose sole purpose is to maintain standards for a unit of measure. A gram was once defined as a cubic centimeter of water. But water is tricky stuff—and a centimeter can be measured using many different degrees of precision. Nowadays, according to Wiki, there’s a chunk of metal stored in a secure facility that represents exactly one gram.

It reminds me of the time I was a lab assistant at the Old Life-Saver factory in Port Chester, NY—it had been converted into the research and development labs for Life-Savers chewing-gum products. One of my duties was weighing a stick of gum (they had to have standard dimensions and weight) and they had an electronic gram-scale that was accurate to three decimal places. After tare-weight adjustment of the scale, I’d put a piece of gum on the weigh-in plate. The weight of the gum was displayed digitally—but it was not standing still—it was counting down. The lab-worker training me explained that the declining weight value was due to evaporation of water from the stick of gum—as the water left the gum, the gum got lighter. You had to round off the value—because the gum was getting microscopically lighter every moment. I suppose the Weights and Measures guys had similar difficulties when using water as a weight-related constant.

All units of measure are parochial and serendipitous—when you get down to it, science is a club—school is where you learn the secret handshakes. It is in the nature of science—it starts with labeling and categorizing and inventing words for measurement systems that never existed before someone in the lab needed to make measurements. Not that a lab is required—Euclid apocryphally drew his geometric diagrams in the sand—Oppenheimer and his team required a whole desert for their test-bench. We say ‘lab’ a lot, talking about science—it is the one thing that society never had before science—a laboratory. Obviously one doesn’t need a lab to do science—it was only science’s increasingly complex and stringent needs that required the laboratory’s invention.

And so I size things up—just as another person might estimate the weight of everyone they meet, or their shoe-size—by Time. Having read a lot of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Charles Dickens, I’m familiar with the evolution of language over time—I can pin an author down to their century by dialect alone—down to their decade, for the more modern writers, who saw faster changes.

That’s another cool thing about time, with regard to people. It doesn’t just flow at a steady pace—in many ways it accelerates. Population growth, for example, can be a geometric progression, depending on the mortality rate and the average life-span. Celebrities don’t just plod their way to stardom—they explode into a ‘fast lane’ of success.

Technology, which builds on all of its previous work, can’t help but rush onward, almost faster than people can keep track—today’s professionals are required to return to school-classes, periodically, for the remainder of their careers, to stay current. Gadgets that once cost thousands of dollars now get given-away as free gifts—or remain, as standard-components in more advanced gadgets—data storage, processing power, ease of use—it all grows from its last best ideas—and it never throws out the good ideas—technology is in many ways a runaway train.

I’m not sure about acceleration being consistently ‘cool’, though. We have entered a time when things can change so fast that we lose ourselves—computer AI approaches the singularity; robotics destroys the labor market, creating a crisis for Capitalism; genetically-modified foods replace less-efficient seed stores, without the millennia of field-testing (you should pardon the pun) the less-efficient seeds contain in their genome; and genetic modification also looms over our own genetic heritage, offering us the chance for customized in-vitro improvement—with a side order of the risk of extinction.

Money used to be the limiting factor—our safety-line. No one could afford to build so many factories that the air itself would get dirty—no one could manufacture that many cars—no one could build so vast a fishing fleet that it would sweep the seas of life. No one could build so many fracking-wells that the state of Oklahoma would collapse in on itself. And Money kept us safe for most of the industrial revolution. But Time has stepped in and given Money a hand—that many factories, that many cars, that many fishing boats and fracking wells have been built—not by one greedy tycoon, but by thousands of ambitious capitalists over decades.

Like all accelerations, pollution and habitat-loss started out slow—hardly noticeable. But they’re really getting on their horse, now—a terrible time to elect a climate-change denier (if you’ll allow the non-sequitur). Time is becoming our hostile enemy—tipping points have already been reached—and worse ones are close behind. Yet climate-conservancy and habitat-preservation remain subjects of debate, rather than hard targets for global effort.

My own, personal time-line is inching towards its end-point. Unfairly, we who have created the mess will not live to suffer the consequences of our neglect. Time doesn’t give a damn about me—it was going before I got here and it’ll just keep on after I leave. And it will do the same to all of you—evaporating the water out of your old chewing gum, giving you children to raise, rushing you out existence’s doorway, without a moment’s thought to your own schedule.

Yet time is good. It adds an undeniably sweet flavor to our days and nights—nothing bad lasts forever, and if nothing good does either, that’s a fair trade, really. And it gives our minds something to play with—when we’re scared, the mind slows time down—when we’re happy, the mind rushes time right along, before you know it. And it makes a nice change from Height, Length, and Width, don’t you think?

Thanksgiving   (2016Nov24)

Thursday, November 24, 2016                                         5:00 PM

I am alone this Thanksgiving, but only because I’m not well enough to go to the big party at Nana’s house, down the road in Heritage Hills—there’ll be a bunch of people there, fifteen or so—well, fourteen without me, I guess. But Claire and Spencer will be back later—and they’ll probably bring me some leftovers—so don’t feel sorry for me. I’m living the life o’Riley here.

What am I thankful for? Well, in my case, no special day is required—I’m grateful for everything that Claire does for me every day. Being disabled can be, I’m sure, a terrible hardship without the kind of support that my family gives me. But even the disabled who have it good, like me, spend a large part of every day saying, “Thank you”. It’s what happens when you can’t do anything for yourself. And on top of that, you need to be grateful that you have such people in your life—Thanksgiving-ers who go one day a year–please… ya got nothing on us disableds.

But, being as I am brings a sharp focus to that very issue. There are so many things I cannot do for myself, that I’ve been forced to accept that being dependent on others is no crime—it is, in fact, a constant. You may be healthy, successful, and strong—the opposite of me—but you, too, depend on other people. Not nearly as much as I do. But the interdependence of society is what makes it possible to live our lives without having to do everything for ourselves.

Even when we transact business—yes, perhaps a profit is won or lost, a living is made, whatever—but you would not be doing business with anyone, unless they had something you can’t easily get for yourself—and you had something they needed in return. We talk a lot about the ‘profit motive’, but the real motive behind commerce is interdependency. When we buy some fresh bread, we may neglect to acknowledge that some shmoe got up before the sun, did all the work, and had it there waiting for you—but respect is still due—and gratitude.

Yes, you have to pay for the bread—but if it wasn’t there, your money would do you no good. And we bake our own bread, on rare occasions when Spencer is in the mood, here—but trust me, you don’t want that as a regular part of every morning. We depend on bakers—and they depend on us for their stuff—it’s a giant web of interdependency—and even if there was no money involved, that would still continue, somehow.

Gratitude is hardly different from simple awareness of how little we can do, all by ourselves—and recognition that it’s nice to have other people’s help.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

 

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Journal Entries   (2016Nov23)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016                                           5:58 PM

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.

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[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

Ugh!

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.

 

Baby’s First Bite   (2016Nov22)

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016                                           12:26 AM

It’s tomorrow now, but back when it was still today, Jessy sent me new photos of the Princess enjoying her first meal of ‘solid food’ (baby food, really—she’ll need to wait for teeth for anything solider). But she appears entranced by the process—and I’ve always suspected that babies look upon their high-chairs as thrones—so all is as it should be. I never get tired of that adorable mug.

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But those new pictures only cover the first four minutes of today’s very long video—18 minutes of Christmas carols—thirteen of them in all. I have it in my mind, in these days before Christmas, to simply record the entire book of carols, first song to last song—and then move on to the next carol book—just to see if I can record the entirety of the Christmas piano experience, here in our living room, this year.

 

Because of that, you will notice that all these songs start with ‘A’, except the Bell Carol (one of my favorites). The next videos will move further along the alphabet, as you might expect.

I would have liked to sing as I played, especially with carols—I’ve known the words to most of them since early childhood. But, it’s harder for me to get a clean recording if I’m trying to play the notes and sing—so, maybe next year I’ll go for the vocals on all of them, too. I’d like to get a microphone set up before doing that—the other reason for not singing is that my voice doesn’t carry, over the piano, without some help. So much to do, so little time.

Anyhow, all these carols have certainly got me leaning towards the holiday spirit—and just in time to go over the river and through the woods to Nana’s house on Thursday (supposed to be quite a crowd this year—16 people or so). I love the season—until the pressure starts to build. If I could spend the whole time playing piano carols and making cookies, I’d be okay—but it’s never quite that simple, is it? Still, fun will be had—or my name isn’t Bozo de Clowne.

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Beaux Artes, in Passing   (2016Nov19)

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Saturday, November 19, 2016                                          12:44 PM

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore—send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

—Emma Lazarus (from “The New Colossus”)

I can’t vouch for perfect accuracy of the above quotation—I typed it from memory. Sometimes it feels good to type something out, instead of just remembering to myself.

I suppose if I lived in a city, I’d spend part of my day on a soapbox. Once this journal-writing/blog-posting/daily-commentary thing gets under your skin, you become a wild-eyed prophet of sorts—whether you’re smart, stupid, or just plain crazy (or all three, as in my case). And it is odd that an activity so clearly aimed at others’ ears (or eyes) should reveal itself to be pure self-involvement. I start out expressing what I think others should know—and, without fail, I end up telling them what I want to say.

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I was just playing some Haydn on the piano. Haydn is the guy—he always puts me in a good mood. Whether you favor Beethoven or Brahms or Stravinsky or Tchaikovsky, you’ve got to give it up for Haydn—he has the best sense of humor of any composer in history. I always loved the drama and the towering emotions of the other great composers—but as I get older, it occurs to me that Haydn was the only composer who regularly laughed at himself. And it takes a certain genius to write music that makes people laugh—I have a hard time telling a joke, with words—it’s kind of awesome that Haydn can do it with sheet music.

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I have always loved art and music and poetry. When I experience the great peoples’ masterpieces, I am always a little bit tempted to envy them their seemingly superhuman talents. But I always yank my focus away from that, so that I can just enjoy the wonder of their works. Envy is always just under the surface with me—but I try to rise above it. When you spend your life trying to do something worthwhile, envying the greats is hard to avoid—especially if, like me, you’re a little defensive. But because it pollutes my enjoyment of their stuff, I always try to turn away from envy.

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In fact, it kind of bugs me, as an atheist, that I respect the Seven Deadly Sins—but, like the Ten Commandments, there’s a lot of good advice under all the mumbo-jumbo. Religions have that going for them—between the mythological parts, there’s a whole lot of experience-based, how-to ‘life-hacks’ included. It is the codified version of advice from old people—and now that I’m old, and know something about human nature, I find myself in agreement with many religious principles, in spite of my rejection of religion as an institution.

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Once you’ve gotten five or six decades under your belt, you witness how people can self-destruct through Envy or Lust or Pride, et. al.—religions label them sins, but even un-washed savages, once they reach a certain age, come to recognize these things as dangers—and that younger people don’t usually see that clearly. Religion includes a lot of old-people-advice. Perhaps that’s why a lot of people get ‘Saved’ or ‘embrace Islam’ in prison—it may be the first time in their lives when they’ve received advice from an experienced source.

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Another reason even we atheists have to give it up to religion is the inspiration it has provided to artists and musicians over the years. Bach seemed to feel that his compositions were prayers of a sort—when his fugues invoke a sense of grandeur, they are his way of glorifying God in music. Now that’s religion I can get behind.

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And it’s funny that a section of Germany that became so progressive about musical religious strictures (and music was bound by many limitations, back then) would produce, in rapid succession, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. One might speculate that any portion of Europe that enjoyed a sudden freedom in the creative arts would have produced similar giants—talent equal to our historic composers may have resided in many people, living in many places where such expression was illegal or sacrilegious. We’ll never know—this is the way it worked out. So, that’s a point against religion, as well.

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You can tell I’m a lapsed Catholic—we are the only atheists who obsess over religion more, as unbelievers, than we ever did as members of the church. But I’ll tell you why that is. Catholicism is very strict, very powerful—Catholics would make good Jihadists (just kidding—although, in the past, that was actually true in a way). My point is that they make this world seem like a temporary inconvenience—as if the important stuff is outside of reality. That was my home. And now I live in reality—dusty, achy, pointless, bothersome reality. I miss my home—recognizing that Catholicism is a delusion doesn’t change the fact that I was happier under that delusion.

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Recent archeological studies have raised doubts about the biblical account of the Jews who left Egypt for Canaan—scripture would have us believe that Joshua led the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan, and renamed it Israel, or ‘the promised land’. But it appears that the writers of Exodus may have indulged in a bit of revision of history, for appearance’s sake. Digs in the area now indicate that the Canaanites held sway long after the appearance of the tribes of Abraham, and that rather than conquer the land, the Hebrew culture insinuated itself into the area over generations. It seems the children of Abraham were not conquerors, but simply a more productive and stable society than the one it lived among.

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That struck me, when I heard of it, as an odd sort of propaganda—after all, conquest isn’t very godly—and the fact that the Hebrews changed the lands, and the people, of the area they settled in, non-violently and almost purely out of living in a better, more civilized way than the natives, says something better, to modern ears, than that they ‘kicked ass’. But it also proves that the Old Testament is as much an exercise in creative writing as it is a historical document, or the ‘revealed word of the Lord’.

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But there are other, more recent, records that serve as a source of controversy as much as they serve as a source of information. The Bayeux Tapestry, for example, is as much a collection of mysteries as it is a treasure trove of historical information. To begin with—it is not a tapestry—technically it is an embroidery. It is over two-hundred feet long and twenty inches high. And although it commemorates William the Conqueror’s Norman invasion of Anglo-Saxon Britain, the tapestry was worked in the Anglo-Saxon style over several generations. And it is worth noting that French historians are only recently admitting that it was not done in the Norman style.

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Damage to the Bayeux Tapestry is to be expected—Sylvette Lemagnen, conservator of the tapestry, has said “Its survival almost intact over nine centuries is little short of miraculous…” And while that is true, the beginning panels and ending panels are either missing or beyond repair. Historians speculate that the tapestry was always stored rolled up—and, depending on how it was rolled, either the end panel or the beginning panel was exposed to air and moisture far more than the rest of it. Thus the story told on those missing or damaged panels remains a mystery—over the centuries, many enthusiasts have attempted to recreate possible replacements. The missing panel at the end, in particular, has inspired several artists to re-imagine the tapestry’s continuation, telling the history of England far beyond its original story of the Battle of Hastings.

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The story the tapestry was intended to tell is obscured by the damage and by the various interpretations of certain scenes and Latin phrases (the exact truth of which has been lost or forgotten over the centuries). But the tapestry still illustrates for us a host of facts about the Norman invasion—and tells another, unintended, story—about how those 11th century Britons lived, worked, and fought. Above and below the main scenes in the tapestry are borders that depict a variety of subjects. People are shown fighting, hunting, weaving, farming, building, and in other activities. Animals, both real and fantastical, are also used as border decorations. Many tools, weapons, and techniques of the times are clearly illustrated. And the story told by the major scenes is augmented by Latin labels, comments and explanations (which are referred to as tituli—which I guess is Latin for ‘sub-titles’, or something).

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All in all, it is an awesome thing—a piece of embroidery, showing what amounts to an historian’s paradise—and it outlasted a multitude of castles, fortifications, and whole nations—a roll of fabric that only becomes more priceless as it disintegrates. And the most capricious aspect of all is that this ‘Britain’s first comic-strip’ tells us more about that time than all the source documents or written accounts that survive from that age.

Sunday, November 20, 2016                                            5:24 PM

I’ve been pondering the beginnings of formal music in Western Civilization. There has always been folk music—or so I assume, since even children will hum or whistle or stomp to a rhythm—but since folk music was ephemeral, passed from parent to child, never notated, never recorded, that is the only assumption we can make about early folk music.

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Some records have survived—the Bulgarian Women’s Choir famously performs songs that reach back to the work songs, love songs, and laments of the peasants of Tsarist Russia. Musicology researchers in 1920s USA found folk music among the hill-people that may be near-perfect preservations of that of the Elizabethans who first settled there—and British, Irish, and other musicologists have found similar hand-me-down relics of the folk music of the British Isles, closer to their origin. Many sources from many places give us remnants of the music that existed before music became the formalized fine art we practice today.

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But when I speak of our ignorance of folk music, I mean that we don’t know where the surviving fragments evolved from, what came before that, and what came even earlier. We can never know—because music has its own pre-history, which dates to far more recently than pre-history in general. I assume that people made music for millennia, but the ‘civilizing’ of music in the formal notation and harmonies that we loosely call ‘Classical Music’ is the first time that any records of music were made. There is some notation stuff from the Roman Empire—but nobody knows what scale it’s based on, and other important contextual stuff that would allow us to translate it into a performance—that isn’t an exception, so much as an example of my point.

So, aside from whatever we might guess, or imagine, or assume about music’s history, the very beginning of its recorded history was Gregorian Chant. Original manuscripts of Gregorian Chant still exist today—and they are still often sung as written, today, by groups that specialize in archaic music. I believe there is an ensemble of monks who are famous for their recordings and performances. The Vatican preserves some beautifully illuminated neumes on original parchment.

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In the late 800s, something called the Metz project developed a system called ‘neumes’, which would develop into today’s standard staff notation. The Gregorian chants from all the surrounding areas were collected and recorded using neumes—and thus the church standardized its musical portion of the liturgy. These chants were very simple by today’s standards—to our ears they sound quite monotonous, but there is a rough grandeur to them—and their main purpose was in singing the words from scripture—or, really, chanting them.

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As with anything, formal music then developed through a combination of new ideas butting up against established norms, popularity overcoming prurience, and tradition often stifling innovation. And there was a lot of ground to cover, if we were to get from Gregorian chant all the way to Ariana Grande, so it isn’t too surprising that it took centuries for music to reach the variety and sophistication we enjoy today.

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The church would remain the sole source of formal music for centuries—until the advent of court musicians, members of a royal household whose sole function was to create musical entertainment. After that, further centuries would see formal music confined to the church and the nobility. Don’t worry—the regular folks still had their folk music—and if I had to choose, I might have preferred their entertainments over the renaissance and early baroque composers’ refinements.

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Classical music would not see verve equal to Folk music until the advent of Ragtime and Jazz. Even when a composer like Brahms would adapt a Hungarian folk tune, say, its wildness would be contained by an over-civility inherent in composed works of the age. So don’t feel too bad for the poor riff-raff excluded from the fancy music chambers of royalty—they knew pleasures far more vital than those heard by the stuffed shirts at their concerts.

In those pre-industrial times, a commoner’s life was hard work—the chance to gain a post as a church musician or a court musician was no small advantage—and the internecine rivalries and petty squabbles of the musicians vying for these posts was a constant. The film “Amadeus” shows us something of this, but in a rarefied form, since its ‘villain’, Salieri, is tortured by envy over Mozart’s heavenly talent more than his professional position.

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We also note the high number of composers who come from musical families—Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and others had musician parents, even musician grandparents. A sure sign that competition for these sinecures was fierce: once someone got their foot in the door, they did their best to secure the same for their children. Though in fairness, every trade and career in those times was primarily handed down from father to son. Women, with rare exceptions, were excluded from the music profession.

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I used to think of composers as wise men who sat writing down notation all day—but I’ve come to realize that many of these great composers led lives of constant busyness. You can read it in their records—complaints about the amount of work expected of them, their students needing training, their ensembles and choirs needing rehearsing, problems with money, instruments, venues, and preparations for big events—and in their few, free, hurried moments they would jot down the actual music we love them for, even today.

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I doubt most people consider the effort involved—writing down every note sounded by every instrument and choir-voice, in separate manuscripts for each performer’s music-stand (and this was back using a quill pen and rough paper)—the notation alone must have been incredibly tedious, notwithstanding the need for the finished product to create beautiful music. Thus I have come a long way from seeing my books of piano music as ancient, alien diagrams from the forgotten past.

Today, when I play, I think of that person—the life they led, the place and time they lived in, and the shared humanity between myself and this or that guy who lived in 15th century England or 16th century Germany. If you listen closely, you can almost hear them saying ‘hello’. It’s a little miracle.

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Big Numbers   (2016Nov15)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016                                           3:24 PM

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It’s a large-number day! Jessica forwarded 50 new pictures of the family, mostly of princess-baby-granddaughter—and I am working as fast as I can to process them into a new video slide-show with piano music—my hands are stiff and numb from sitting here in the front room typing all day on this rainy, chilly November Tuesday.

Claire received her case of professional pastels—a big wooden chest containing three wooden removable drawers, each with rows of different-colored pastels. I assume it is meant for the studio—schlepping this thing around would give someone a hernia. I used to dream of getting such a set, back in my artsy days—but such panoply of choices would paralyze me—that’s probably why I mostly stayed with ink and paper. Claire will put them to good use, I’m sure—she’s not afraid of color. She’s even dipped a toe into oil-painting recently.

I was not left out—I received several pieces of pottery from Nancy Holmes-Doyle in the post today. One of them—a heartbreakingly gorgeous pinch-pot bowl—was shattered in transit. Just another reason to feel bad about missing the ceramics party, from which I could have carried them home unharmed—and gotten to visit with the Holmes-Doyles. It’s been too long—but every day it gets harder for me to get around. Still, we have two beautiful new mugs, two beautiful new candle-houses, a decorative platter, and a little spoon-rest in the shape of a hand—incredible stuff. I’ll try to photograph them all for this post—you really oughta see them.

 

 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016                                              9:52 AM

Can We Be Rude To God?   (2016Nov16)

Believing in God is not a neutral act—it is an offense against reason and a surrender of sanity. I don’t say that to be cruel—it is simply a fact. It’s even part of the rules—ask your preacher—if there were any practical proof of God, then there wouldn’t be any faith—or any need for faith. God says, “Believe in Me.”—He doesn’t say, “Look over here.

Recent ‘Questions’ posted on The Humanist website seem to be subtly asking, ‘How do Humanists make allowances for our group psychosis?’ In a way, they seem to be asking how far we’re willing to go with this Rational Thinking business—and whether or not we non-believers reach a point where we are willing to be rude about the differences.

And that is a valid question in a country founded on religious freedom. After all, it was our religious freedom that allowed us to eschew religion without being burned at the stake—it stands to reason that Christians would wonder if we’ve been given too much freedom—if perhaps it is they, or at least their faith, that will be victimized.

It is a thorny question. Obviously, I am an American, and Americans believe in freedom of religion—but freedom of religion doesn’t address an important issue: How much respect is shown for another’s beliefs? People who believe in something that no one else respects usually get put into mental institutions—it is only natural for believers to be concerned with the amount of respect they are given.

Yet how much respect can a non-believer have for the fanciful tales and notions of theists? Shorn of their ‘given’ legitimacy, the arcana of the major faiths become ludicrous—heaven, hell, angels, an old bearded guy in the sky, transubstantiation—these fantasies are no more acceptable than Greek or Norse mythological tales. As a rational man, I can’t possibly respect these ideas—yet, as a man, I can respect other people having other ideas.

If someone says to me, “I’ll pray for you.” I am capable of holding my tongue—there is little to be gained by insulting someone who has just expressed concern for my welfare. If, at a funeral, a child is being reassured that grandma will be happy in heaven—I’m not going to be the cretin who decides Grandma’s funeral is the place for discussing atheism. But I behave this way because of my respect for other people’s feelings, not my respect for their beliefs.

So please, Humanist-question-contributors, stop asking questions that are sneaky attempts to force us to show respect for your faiths. We don’t respect your faiths—we are unable to. It’s nothing personal—we are simply practicing freedom of religion by answering ‘no’ to all of the above. What we can and do respect are your feelings—if you want to believe in God, we will try not to laugh about it or argue against it.

But if you insist on believing in something that isn’t there, there are going to be conflicts of perception—women and gays are two good examples. The whole point of freedom of religion is to avoid the kind of bloodthirsty nonsense that’s playing out in the Middle East right now. Yet Religious Freedom can only do so much—there will always be disagreements between people of different faiths—and people without faith—the point is to try to live side-by-side, in spite of the disagreements. That’s the reason for separation of church and state—so that no one can make rules to enforce their beliefs, or to criminalize another’s.

But you are probably asking yourself—wouldn’t I, as an atheist, try to criminalize theism, given the chance? I would be tempted—there are many aspects of faith that seem little more than child-abuse or bigotry—indoctrination from infancy, or bias against women and gays—these things are wrong from my point of view. But then again, they were deeply religious people who came up with freedom of religion, and separation of church and state—and those principles kept us atheists from being declare outlaws, back when our lives could have been forfeit. Turning your own good ideas against you would be the height of ingratitude and incivility. I like to think I’m better than that.

So please, Humanist question-submitters, try to stick with questions asked out of curiosity and avoid questions that are little more than subtle digs at ‘the other’.

 

I keep hearing all this BS about how we have to come together now. Yes, he won the election—that doesn’t mean he stopped being a monster. Yes, your candidate won—that doesn’t make you right. I’d love to ‘come together’—but not with Nazis. You people come back to America—we’re waiting right here. Meantime, try not to turn this place into too much of a friggin nightmare.

I’m starting to think the only reason for Republicans is to turn out the Democrat vote, every other election.

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I’ve seen a lot of Trump-supporter memes, crowing over their victory all over the internet. Let me remind you of something. The Nazis attacked Britain—and the British invented a thinking machine—a computer—and Germany ended up as smoking rubble. The Japanese Empire attacked America—and Americans invented the ultimate killing machine—the nuclear bomb—which destroyed Japan to its very atoms. My point being that intelligent, imaginative, open-minded, decent people don’t like to waste time on belligerence and rancor—but it’s still a really bad idea to piss them off.

Queen of the Nerds   (2016Nov13)

 

Sunday, November 13, 2016                                            12:20 PM

The election is over and people still want to talk about it, even protest about it. I don’t think they understand what the word ‘election’ really means. I was happy to argue over the choices, while the election was still to come—indeed, I did little else. But we are no longer arguing about what Trump might do—he’s president-elect now, and he’s gonna do pretty much whatever comes into that fool head of his.

The time to stop him has passed. You lose. Or, rather, we lose—I lose—and I don’t feel much like talking about it anymore. It’s painful enough to know that half the voters didn’t even show up, that Hillary got the most votes of those who did show up, and that Trump won the race anyway.

What else is there to talk about? Are we going to torture ourselves, watching every stupid move this clown makes, every mistake that sets the world a-shudder? Not me—if the country is this stupid, I’m not watching it self-destruct on TV—I’ll wait until it shows up at my front door.

In the meantime, I’ll try to stay busy and stay positive. I try to remind myself that, underneath it all, Hillary probably feels great—she’s free as a bird, she did her best—it was the country that lost out in not getting her for our president. What did she lose? Four, maybe eight years of the most grueling job on earth—she’s well out of it.

From a personal point of view, Hillary won big. She got a million more votes than Trump, but she doesn’t have to be imprisoned on Pennsylvania Avenue for the next few years—she can take it easy, take some time for herself.

An eighteen-month presidential campaign is no picnic (and she had to bull through pneumonia along the way) so I’m sure she could use a little downtime. Truly, I’m almost as happy for her as I am heartbroken for myself. Hillary, you win Nerd-dom hands down—this is the supreme example of the cool kids not listening to the head-down, hard-working, smart girl—you are the Queen of the Nerds for life.

It’s done wonders for us here—after the initial shock of disappointment, Claire threw out her TV and got intensely busy with her various projects; Spencer seemed galvanized to start doing all kinds of projects (I think this election has convinced him that there is a threatening world out there—something I was loathe to teach him myself, but that may have some good come of it); and I am emerging, too, into a fresh, new world that doesn’t revolve around watching news channels and writing my election blog-posts.

I enjoyed the last eight years of politics, particularly after the preceding eight years of frustration (and war and economic crisis). I felt the arrow of time bending towards progressivism—which only makes sense in a world growing ever more closely-bound together. But the future must wait. The next four years will be an epic hiccup in our social progress—and excuse me if I choose to ignore it entirely until 2020.

I am impatient with any waste of time—and following politics, for the present, will be nothing but an exercise in masochism. I’ll just keep my head down and hope for something better, next time around. You younger, healthier people should spend the next four years getting your ducks in a row, preparing to take the government back from the dickheads. I’m not saying everyone should be old and sick like me, unable to bounce back from this debacle—in fact, you should be working on getting some Dems elected in the 2018 races—you’ll want a plurality in both Houses, when and if you get another Dem for Prez.

But I am done. I’ve watched Cronkite report on JFK’s assassination, LBJ’s war protesters, Nixon’s tapes, Ford’s fumbles, Carter’s hostages, and Reagan’s Cold War victory. I’ve watched CNN’s Wolf report on Bush Sr.’s Iraq War, Clinton’s peccadilloes, Bush Jr.’s Iraq War, and Obama’s Health Care. I’ve seen enough—and the turd that just rolled up has no place among these past leaders.

Yes, somehow the world manages to become a better place, year by year, but not without a lot of problems lingering, or even getting worse. President-elect Aberration is a perfect example of that. But Trump’s election is no reason for total despair—his incompetence is still preferable to the polished evil of his VP. And four years of practice will prove to his supporters what they refused to face during the election. The Republicans have finally ousted all their favorite excuses—what will they say when they have no Obama to blame, no Hillary to scapegoat?

Oh, they’ll still lie—they’ll still make excuses—getting elected doesn’t change anything. But they’ll have a lot less cover. And the truth will out—no matter how many biased news-reports try to hide it. Congress will still suck—and now they’ll be working with a president who doesn’t know what he’s doing—should be great fun, eh?

But I don’t watch reality TV—and now that politics has commingled with that genre, I’m going to watch something else for the foreseeable future. Please let me know if journalism makes a comeback, or if voters become engaged, or if a competent person replaces our new president-elect. And don’t worry, I’m not gonna hold my breath.

But I will not torture myself by following every dick move this guy pulls, day after day. I gave up two years being mesmerized by TV, watching them play this media game, where the truth is hidden under one of the shifting teacups—‘that’s right, viewer, just keep your eyes on the swirling teacups….’  I’m done, I tell you.

Now that I’m much older than 99% of the talking heads, I see them more clearly than they see themselves—and the kernels of truth squeezed in amongst all their sensationalism get rarer and rarer, like gems in the mud. I’m like one of those old master-butchers—you give me a carcass of story and I’ll trim away all the fat with a few expert slices of the knife, leaving only the lonely fillets of factual info—but present media reporting is a conveyor-belt of animal parts fit only for dog-or-cat-food. Presenting such a fact-free wasteland to an old butcher like me is an insult, and I won’t take it anymore.

 

Sunday, November 13, 2016                                            5:24 PM

Even If Flames Surround Them

 

As the veil of anti-depressants falls away

The mind doesn’t clear so much as catch fire,

The clarity cluttered by the rawness.

The first thought is ‘Retreat!’—losing a grip on the cotton

Clouds, peering over my shoulder at the long fall

Back down to the ground.

And between that downfall of an election

And the constant shouting of the still, small voice

That says, ‘Quit smoking!’ this may seem a bad time

To stop softening the edges of the world in my head.

Yet down we must come. Down we must be,

Here on the ground where we can touch the

Things that matter, even if flames surround them.

 

As the grumbling gremlins become visible,

And all-too-well heard, shoulders hunch in revulsion.

Words jumble; memories tumble, stumble, and fumble.

Why do I need to be here? What’s my job?

I stand on that lone promontory, confused.

How do emotions get broken—and how do we

Clear them from the road ahead while they remain

Too heavy to shift? If I can climb over, if I

Can get through, if I can keep moving,

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

And descend to the valley of the real, down

On the ground where I can touch the

People that matter, even if flames surround them.

 

Monday, November 14, 2016                                           12:08 PM

Something Everybody Does   (2016Nov14)

You know that feeling when you’re just starting to wake up? It’s comfortable and fluffy, but you don’t know anything—where you are, who you are, what day it is—that sort of thing. It’s a beautiful moment—I remember enjoying that immensely. But now I never get passed that feeling. I can’t get a firm purchase on the surface of my thoughts—they slide around me like wisps of smoke. I miss having a working brain—they are handy.

So many things can be accomplished with good wetware—I’ve been exiled from their kingdom, but I refuse to join the people who hug their ignorance to themselves like a fur coat in a strong breeze. Maybe I can’t think anymore, but I can still tell the difference between what is and what I wish would be. All this pretending is so childish.

We pretend that we are not animals. We make excuses for our impulses, pretending there are reasons behind them. It makes me laugh—the more ignorant we are, the more proud we are of our opinions—intelligent people are never sure of themselves. The world is a complicated thing—thinking you’ve figured it out is a sure sign of idiocy.

There is nothing as hilarious to me as someone with the confidence of his or her convictions—I remember when I was that young. I was so sure I was right and everybody who thought otherwise was wrong. But I was a little kid, then—there’s no excuse for that kind of childishness when you’re a grown person.

People can be very demanding—they want what’s theirs; they want their rights; they want their fair share; they want free speech for themselves—and a little peace and quiet from everybody else. And they don’t even see the paradox in their hypocrisy. We want our kids to behave—and we want them to think for themselves. We want our parents to give us everything we want—and protect us from the things we shouldn’t have. We want to make a killing in business, but we want businesses to be fair to us. We don’t understand why we have to wait, when we are so busy. We try to get past the rules we don’t like, but we want to punish those who dare to break the rules.

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William Blake once drew a picture symbolizing childhood—it was a child at the foot of a ladder that goes up to the moon, the child reaching up and crying, “I want! I want!” I think he was going easy on the human race, implying that all that sort of thing ends in childhood. I certainly have little more to offer the world than my urges, my needs, and my desires—and I can’t think of anyone else who could honestly claim differently. I suppose his point is that children don’t climb the ladder—they wait for someone else to fetch them the moon. But while an adult may climb the ladder, it’s still in thoughtless pursuit of the bright object—little different from a myna bird seeking tin-foil for its nest.

We still seek food and shelter—but we do it in this deferred-reward capitalist square-dance that trades time and effort for money, then money for food and shelter. The stress of this requires escapism, so some of the money goes to our leisure pursuits—though the fact of ‘leisure’ being necessary to the system tells you something’s off about the whole thing. Then there’re the layers of pretending—the wealthy get to pretend there’s a reason why they have it easy, the poor get to pretend that the system that keeps them poor is a good one.

We’re just a bunch of animals who’ve learned how to play pretend on a grand scale. But for me, the pretense takes something out of the grandeur. A culture based on facts and common sense would undoubtedly be less imaginative, perhaps even less fun—and that is probably why Progressives have such a job getting people to change the way they think. Their mistake is in assuming that thinking is something everybody does.

 

 

ttfn.

 

The Treachery of Images by Rene Magritte   (2016Nov06)

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Sunday, November 06, 2016                                            3:18 AM

This famous painting occurred to me today as I thought of the difference between Hillary Clinton and her opponent. The writing underneath translates into English as “This is not a pipe.” Magritte was making the point that we are not looking at a pipe, we are looking at his painting of a pipe. It is a fine image of a pipe, but it can’t be filled with tobacco, or put in the mouth, or lit or smoked—it is not a pipe.

In much the same way, Hillary’s opponent in the upcoming is not a politician, he is the image of one. He wears a fine suit and tie. He styles his hair and puts on make-up. He says words behind a podium and does weird gestures with his hands. He looks just like a politician. But he cannot be used as a politician.

He cannot devise sensible policies. He cannot be trusted to obey either the spirit or the letter of the law. He has no dignity, no gravitas, and no respect for the United States of America—his desire to be in charge is unconnected in any way to a desire to be a good president—he just wants to be president. He is a façade—an image of what we are looking for, but not the actual thing we need.

And he has taken up the Republicans’ habit of disguising Hillary Clinton’s actual ability to be president with an overlay of innuendo, aspersion, and suspicion. In her case it is her public reputation that is the illusion, the image—and they have fairly successfully convinced most of us that Hillary is not what she is, but only what they say she is. They substitute their opinions of Hillary for her actual persona. The media repeats their opinions as if they were news and suddenly, Hillary Clinton is not a hard-working public servant, but a female version of Trump. (Ugh, what a nightmare that would be!)

But the truth is that her opponent is a joke in a suit. The truth is that Hillary Clinton is not her husband, she’s not an embezzler, not a congenital liar, and not actually a murderess—she is just an experienced, reliable politician with a lot of people trying to keep her down. Don’t let them. This is not a pipe.

 

 

Vote for Hillary!

A Woman’s Touch   (2016Nov02)

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Wednesday, November 02, 2016                                              5:08 PM

I just heard President Obama give as simple and straightforward a case as possible for voting for Hillary Clinton. There might as well have been a QED at the end (mathematicians put it at the end of a formal proof—it means ‘Quod erat demonstrandum’, or ‘Thus it is proved’). The case against Trump, the case for Hillary, and by extension his legacy—Obama laid it all out just as nice as you please. It was a beautiful speech, reminding us that cynicism is the enemy of democracy—that not caring who you vote for, or worse, not voting, is the enemy of democracy.

Pardon me for getting upset about this. It was wonderful—but that fact that it is necessary disturbs me greatly. We have things explained to us so well that an infant could understand it—yet half the country seems satisfied with ignoring the basic facts, eager to buy in to anything other than dreary old common sense—because for a long time, facing reality has given them nothing but grief. They feel it is time to lash out, to kick things over. We are either going to elect Hillary—or we are about to throw a temper tantrum that will destroy the human race.

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I can’t pretend to know how others feel—I’m a shut-in; I’m disabled; I’m sixty; and I have kids and a grand-kid. For all of those reasons, disruption and upheaval don’t appeal to me at all. The weak and the helpless (among which I am now forced to include myself) never get a good deal when things get rough. We do far better when things go smoothly—we can even find our conditions may improve, once in a while. That’s the kind of steady helming that Hillary Clinton represents.

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Had I been a younger man, I might like the idea of turning everything on its head—opportunities could come of it. Who knows? Maybe the backlash would make America even more progressive in another twelve years. But would I personally survive upheavals even greater than those already confronting us? I don’t like my odds. And the Earth’s climates are similarly weak, helpless, and disabled—will they survive a period of dog-eat-dog petroleum use, or the rescinding of the Climate Accords in America? So it’s not just about the crabby old guy from Lincolndale. I know I’m a statistic waiting to happen—but I want to be one of Hillary’s statistics, not the other guy’s.

Besides, this joint could use a woman’s touch.

Today’s video contains a woman’s touch—Jessy made her baby into Bat-Baby for Halloween, and made her stroller into the Batmobile. Jessy herself dressed up as Catwoman, and Big Seneca dressed as Clark Kent. I ripped-off the Batman theme, so this isn’t a true improvisation—but I just needed some excuse to post the pictures, so here it is:

 

And here’s a link to the original TV theme.

So much for Halloween–let the Holiday madness begin….

 

A Noisy Afternoon   (2016Oct29)

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Saturday, October 29, 2016                                              4:21 PM

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.)

Birthday Girl   (2016Oct27)

Thursday, October 27, 2016                                             3:47 PM

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.

Happiness Is Music   (2016Oct25)

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016                                               11:55 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Reviews   (2016Oct18)

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016                                               2:14 PM

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 Running of the Snark   (2016Oct17)

Monday, October 17, 2016                                               1:58 PM

lewis_carroll_-_henry_holiday_-_hunting_of_the_snark_-_plate_1“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,

As he landed his crew with care;

Supporting each man on the top of the tide

By a finger entwined in his hair.

“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:

That alone should encourage the crew.

Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:

What I tell you three times is true.”

—from “The Hunting of the Snark (An Agony, in Eight Fits)” (1874) by Lewis Carroll [Fit the First : The Landing]

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’.

lewis_carroll_-_henry_holiday_-_hunting_of_the_snark_-_plate_2Propagandists, 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.

lewis_carroll_-_henry_holiday_-_hunting_of_the_snark_-_plate_7I 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.

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[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.

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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.

 

Pete and I   (2016Oct10)

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Monday, October 10, 2016                                               9:25 PM

My good friend Pete came by today and we talked briefly about the presidential race and the disgusting Donald. We had a wild session today—I’m still not sure exactly what happened, but I’ve edited the videos, so you can decide for yourselves.

Right now, however, I have a big back-log of musical offerings. Some were delayed by waiting for fresh baby pictures of the princess—there are several improvs and a Haydn piano sonata. Then there are five song-covers and one improv, from Pete and me collaborating this afternoon. All together, it’s quite a concert—but don’t feel like you have to watch it all at once. A lot of production work, after the actual recording, goes into these videos, so I’d prefer they be savored, wherever possible.

Between the inspiration of becoming a grandpa and the turmoil of the campaign season, I’ve had all my buttons pushed lately—and I flatter myself that it’s coming out in the music. I’ve been doing satisfying stuff lately—not all of it recorded and posted to YouTube—but I like to think that what I do post is representative of my recent work. Pete encourages me—so blame him, if you like.

“Wrong Guy”

“Four (4) 60’s Covers”

“MacArthur Park”

 

“Music Room”

“Haydn-and-Improv Hash”

“Philosophical”

“Cautiously Optimistic”

“Sight-Reading a Haydn Piano Sonata”

“Storms May Come”

“A Phoenix, I”

“Mickey’s ‘Mama’ Song”

Cautiously Optimistic   (2016Oct12)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016                                         10:42 AM

This is more like it. I don’t feel like a lone voice crying in the wilderness anymore. Most people seem to have caught on—electing Donald Trump would be just like electing a hog because it had won the blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair. That’s a good pig—that’s a pig above its peers—but it’s still a pig.

Donald was (and is) a scheming skeeve, first as a real-estate conniver and Manhattan ‘playboy’, then as a reality-TV star who entertained by being pompously cruel. That he had fourteen seasons is a sad commentary on the American TV audience—but enjoying his perfidy, as semi-fictional guilty pleasure, is a far cry from finding him fit to lead the nation.

Cmdr. Spock could have told you right off that a human doesn’t indulge himself at the expense of others for seventy years—and become a model public servant the next day. He’s not a plotline, he’s a person—he doesn’t ‘pivot’, or suddenly transform in any other way—anymore than you or I do. Thus we conclude that his candidacy was nothing more than a quest for self-aggrandizement and power—in other words, an ego-trip.

And I can forgive Trump and Billy B. for their lewdness on the tape—I can even forgive Trump running for President, for the most venal of motivations, and pretending he’s been ‘called’ to public service, out of idealism. I can forgive all that. To forgive is divine. But I ain’t gonna vote for him—no, that’s a fer piece beyond forgiveness.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, began her life with a passion for helping children. As her life brought her to positions of influence, she used that influence to help children—and learned that helping families is a great way to do that—and found that a community (or ‘a village’) is a great model for raising every American to a place of opportunity, security, and freedom. Thus her passion for children and her love of country melded into a single driving motivation.

Comparison between the two candidates is laughably unequal. Those who hate Hillary Clinton have very vague and diffuse rage against the status quo—the hysterical intensity of it marks it as a prejudice, rather than a reasoned judgement. When they try to tell me that Hillary is ‘just as bad’ as Trump, I can’t think of how to answer them—except to call them ‘dumb people’ (which rarely helps).

I truly think that the world is getting too complicated for a certain segment of the populace—they view the election as an unfair test—a test they are afraid to fail, as if life had become one long math class—and Trump is waving at them, saying, ‘Easy answer!—Over here!’ They are voting their frustration, not their judgement. Emotions and Democracy don’t mix, any more than emotions and the judicial system, or emotions and the practice of medicine. Passion has its place in politics, but only as passion for good, for the truth, and justice.

Has thirty years of campaigning, media fire-storms, scandals, political infighting, and partisan attacks blunted Hillary’s idealism? I should hope so. Imagine, if you will, what such a ‘refining fire’ would do to your dewy-eyed, youthful dreams, or what it did to mine (and I’m just a regular guy). A battle-scarred pol may seem an uninspiring option to the young absolutists—but we should keep in mind what fights she fought while earning those scars.

They were not legal tussles with creditors and unpaid workmen and excluded minorities. She fought to end school segregation. She fought to get disabled kids the right to be included in our public education system. She fought for health care for people who weren’t rich enough, or healthy enough, to get their own. She has served the public her whole life.

Trump, at the 2nd debate, said she’s been in power for thirty years and ‘has nothing to show for it’. That’s right, Donald—by your lights, Hillary has nothing to show for a lifetime of public service—she hasn’t become a billionaire, or a celebrity TV bully, or cheated decent people out of payment for the work they gave in good faith—nothing to show for her life. Well, except maybe millions of grateful people whose lives have been improved, even saved, by her work—and the respect of decent people like myself.

I was very excited about seeing Hillary Clinton be elected the first woman president of the United States. I didn’t think the Republicans could field an opponent that had a chance against her. I was pretty shocked to realize that the campaign to impugn Hillary Clinton was not only alive and well, but had become rabid—and that the majority of Americans were starting to believe, through sheer persistence of repetition, everything her opponents were accusing her of—no matter how wild.

This was complicated by the fact that Hillary Clinton—the actual human being—is indeed less than perfect. She has made mistakes—and she has been a politician—and decades of attack have spurred her to a few unfortunate verbal rejoinders. I get the feeling she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Neither do I. But none of that—and certainly none of the hogwash peddled by her haters—changes the fact that she is a whip-smart, doggedly capable person—and we’d be hard-pressed to find a better leader for the next eight years.

But enough—28 days from now, we’ll vote, and then we’ll, finally, know whether we are safe. Vote as if your life depended on it. VOTE.

A Good Breakfast Ruined   (2016Sep22)

Thursday, September 22, 2016                                        11:35 AM

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.

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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.

Seneca and Me (2016Sep17)

Saturday, September 17, 2016                                          12:58 PM

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.)

Pete and Joanna — In That Order    (2016Sep15)

Thursday, September 15, 2016                                        6:50 PM

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:

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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.

Balance   (2016Sep14)

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016                                              1:45 PM

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.

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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.

 

 

So I’ll see you tomorrow.

 

Visitors   (2016Sep13)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016                                          7:50 PM

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.

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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…

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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.

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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….

 

Response to Derek Sivers (2016Sep04)

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Sunday, September 04, 2016                                            6:59 PM

Response to the Derek Sivers Article: Why are you doing?

Goals are for the young. Their goals allow them to push themselves, to experience the ups and downs of life, and to learn who they really are and what they’re capable of. Having achieved a goal, one looks back and sees the entire journey differently for having reached its end. Do that often enough, and one becomes an adult.

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Adults come to see life not as an Olympic event, but as a group activity—being a good, supportive family member, being an engaged employee of your workplace, being a contributing member of your community. Goals in this context are what one does with the interstices—diet and exercise, continuing education, workbench projects, artistry, whatever. Thus I find the whole subject of goals difficult to get my arms around.

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But exceptions abound—entrepreneurs, visionaries, activists, geniuses of one type or another—such people include disruption in their life plan, while still trying their best also to be the ‘adults’ described above. That’s a tall order—which is why there are not more of such people. Only the truly driven have any reason to make life even more challenging than it already is. The rest of us tend to make a goal of finding something pleasant to do during our leisure time, and making as much of that leisure time as we can.

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I thought myself exceptional—until I’d become more familiar with the world and realized that, out of seven billion, exceptional isn’t always automatically ‘rich and famous’. I found my exceptionals to be balanced neatly against my weaknesses. I found ‘rich and famous’ to be a silly goal, because both balance their advantages against their hassles. And I found that personal, private success is hard to enjoy when there are so many people with less comfort, less wealth, and less opportunity.

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On the other hand, saving the world is a tall order—and I’m not that ambitious. I would have to satisfy myself with being engaged in my family’s, and my community’s, welfare—but then I became disabled and found myself the target of support, rather than the source. Surprise! Nothing educates like vulnerability. A great chunk of my ego was carved away. A great load of gratitude was grudgingly taken on. I went from dreaming of doing things no one else could do, to wishing I could do what any average person could. I was, as they say, ‘taken down a peg’.

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We don’t choose our goals any more than we choose our talents or our failings—goals accommodate themselves to the size of their container, if you will. But I appreciate your advice—whatever the goal, we should all be seeking maximum joy and personal growth—and time is short, so whatever we want to do, we better get busy doing it.

 

Thus endeth the lesson.

Daddy’s 1st Dance   (2016Sep02)

Photo Aug 16, 2 11 57 AM

Friday, September 02, 2016                                              7:10 PM

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.

Photo Aug 16, 2 02 22 AM

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!

Photo Aug 16, 1 10 44 AM (1)

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.

ttfn.

 

Confusion Reigns   (2016Sep01)

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Thursday, September 01, 2016                                        1:56 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

 

bye now.

 

36th Anniversary   (2016Aug29)

Monday, August 29, 2016                                       9:57 AM

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Political Work-Out   (2016Aug22)

Monday, August 22, 2016                                       1:47 PM

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.

In My Prime   (2016Aug19)

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Friday, August 19, 2016                                           6:21 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Yes It Pours   (2016Aug17)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016                                           5:28 PM

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:

“Let’s Live For Today”

Words and Music by Guido Cenciarelli, Giulio Rapetti and Norman David – © 1967 by BMG Songs, Inc.

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.

Monograph   (2016Aug15)

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Monday, August 15, 2016                                       9:52 PM

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?

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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.

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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.

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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…

 

 

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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.

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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.

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G’night….

Journal Entry   (2016Aug14)

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Saturday, August 13, 2016                                                8:04 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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The Doldrums   (2016Aug12)

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Friday, August 12, 2016                                           8:36 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Why Hillary?   (2016Aug09)

Tuesday, August 09, 2016                                       8:07 PM

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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Crickets   (2016Aug07)

Sunday, August 07, 2016                                         9:51 PM

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.

 

 

Not So Good   (2016Aug05)

Friday, August 05, 2016                                           2:21 PM

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Original Content   (2016Jul30)

Friday, July 29, 2016                                                7:45 PM

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.

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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:

 

 

 

Come Listen Young People Wherever You Roam   (2016Jul28)

Thursday, July 28, 2016                                           5:28 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.20160727XD_HillaryClinton_06

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.

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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….

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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?

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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.

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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:

 

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Summer Daze (2016Jul16)

Saturday, July 16, 2016                                            4:38 PM

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:

 

Huzzah!   (2016Jul12)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016                                             7:40 PM

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!