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.
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.
Are we done having fun yet? It’s been wild, having a nutjob for president, but now that everyone is losing sleep over nuclear Armageddon, from an off-the-cuff remark he thoughtlessly made, isn’t it time we impeached this senile abortion and got a real president?
Democracy without compromise is simply the tyranny of the majority. We allow the majority to elect our officials, but those officials are meant to serve everyone, whether they voted for or against. That is a complex position to be put in—but don’t worry: corruption has dumbed the whole thing down to just ‘getting re-elected’.
Improv – Cuddle Closer
Americans should get back to doing big things for a reason other than profit. The Hoover Dam, the Highway System, the Railroads, the Space Station—Americans used to build great things for the sheer greatness of them. We don’t do that now—but only because we are too distracted to think of it. It makes us small, brings us all down in the mud of money, where the shills have all the power.
The fat gas-bag in the Oval—he infuriated me when he said, “Make America great again”, not simply because he dismissed our present greatness, but redefined our future greatness in terms of dollars and cents—the cad. He should never have been elected—and the fact that he was proves that this country’s greatness, as an ideal, has eluded not just Trump, but a good solid third of the electorate.
Improv – Blue Ballet
So the question arises—how do we convince Americans that they still live in a great country—for reasons that are staring them in the face—when they are so unhappy they can’t appreciate what we have here? One thing we could do is set all the television shows in foreign countries—remind Americans that, here, we are required by law to send our children to school—boys and girls. Remind them of the many ways America is a great place to live—that we don’t use our police as instruments of political oppression—that the vast majority of our cops are public servants, making their neighborhoods safe and just.
Our parochial experiences minimize the truth of this—there are countless protections and freedoms that are not givens, as they are here, in other parts of the world. Theoretically, we make our own laws and choose our own leaders—and it seems apparent that we have to face up to it: We have not been careful stewards of that hard-won privilege. We have become comfortable in the assumption that these freedoms can’t be taken away. We have to start running and voting—and in an informed way that moves us towards solutions to our problems.
The greatest Capitalist, Henry Ford, paid his factory workers high wages, so that they could buy one of the cars they were making. Ford was creating a product and a market at the same time. He wasn’t some present-day fool who saw no connection between business and people. The old saw, ‘You have to spend money to make money’ is most true of governments—this Republican push for ‘independence’ of the individual is just one-percenter propaganda—as if, in the age of global interconnectedness.
We have to grab our citizenship by the throat and wrestle that thing back to what it was intended to be—self-government by majority vote. In my mind, the issues that bedevil us are no longer the problem—at this point, the problem is the issues never get taken care of. We need to elect people who will shut the hell up and do something constructive. Godamit.
The 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.
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.
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.
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!
Pete has Left the Building. Ladies and gentlemen, the legendary, the incomparable—Pete Cianflone!! The Buds-Up Symphony Hall-Space welcomes you to return to us soon and—have a safe drive home now.
What a day—Pete came by (as you may have surmised) and brought with him an old drawing of mine—Joanna Binkley wanting to return it for safekeeping—for which I thank her. It’s great to see an artifact from the steady-hand-and-sharp-eye days of yore. I was pretty good, while it lasted.
And I had something to show Pete—Bea Kruchkow forwarded an archival copy of Newsweek—from 1989—a ‘look back’ at 1969 (then, a ‘whole’ twenty years ago). Time sure is funny. Funny—ha-ha, not funny like fire.
So anyway, after girding our hairy-purple loins, we set forth to do battle upon the field of sound. First we did a selection of Spirituals that are traditionally connected with Christmastime—and for good measure, threw in two popular songs of Xmas as well.
We did two rounds, or maybe three, of improvisation—I can’t remember. One of them is very loosely based on the Swanky Modes tune, “Any Ordinary Man” (from “Tapeheads” (1988)). Movie-credits soundtracks often have something catchy about them that makes me go straight from the end of the movie to the piano, to try and find the melody of what I just heard. That was the case, yesterday, with Tapeheads—but I soon realized, after finding the notes, that this was one of those energetic songs that I’d have a hard time keeping up with. But Pete had never heard the song—and I’m not exactly a natural-born blues-player—so it’s a toss-up whether you want to call it a bad cover, or just a different piece of music.
Pete and I were happy with all of it, so that’s all that matters. Poor Bear has had an uncomfortable head-cold for three days now—why is it impossible for the holidays to pass without colds? Spence has been renovating the attic room and the cellar, preparing for our royal visitation later this month—all must be just so, ya know. It’s quite something to have an infant come into a house that hasn’t seen one in years—I’ve started noticing dust where I was hitherto dust-blind.
It’s a sign of just how busy life can be—the Buds-Up ensemble has nothing to show for last November. We try to gather once a month, but even that tiny schedule can be impossible to keep to, in this hurrying, rattling time-stream. Still, I’m pleased enough that we had such a good time, today—I think it makes up for the gap—and I hope people enjoy these as much as we enjoyed playing them.
It’s been a busy day—rarely on any December 7th do I fail to stop and think about the ‘day of infamy’. A Japanese Prime Minister visited Pearl Harbor last week—the first-ever Japanese State Visit to the site—and this is the 75th anniversary of the start of the War. There are many Pearl-Harbor-themed movies on TV today—I guess I’ll go watch some of my favorites.
My Dad was a war-movie fan—we used to watch John Wayne movies on TV in the living room—my Dad was a Marine in Korea. Watching war movies is the closest I’ve ever been to actual murder among men—I don’t mind, I tell you. I respect the hell out of veterans like my Dad—but I don’t feel bad about living an un-blooded life. I suspect I would have made a lousy soldier anyway.
December 7th is special though—there’s something awesome about an entire globe in conflict—it may have been evil and stupid and lots of other things—but it was ‘awesome’, in the literal sense of the word, without the implication of admiration young people give the word today. It fills one with awe.
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.
A long and productive day—Pete came by, we recorded most excellent musical diatribes, but he had to cut our visit short and return to the world from whence he came. Then Joanna came by to see Pete—moments too late, very frustrating—but she and I had a pleasant visit, at least. This time I remembered to take a picture:
Today’s posts bring my total YouTube uploads to 2,005. Of those, 59 are videos of Pete Cianflone and me, collaborating together on improvisations and song covers. The audio-cassette archives of our 20th-century recordings are lost in the mists of time—after many years of pursuing separate paths, we resumed our monthly journey together in January, 2014. It’s all on YouTube: Pete n’Me playlist
I’ll grant you, it’s an uneven catalog (always with the caveat that the problems are all mine—Pete’s a professional who’s nice enough to indulge me) but as we’ve gone along, Pete has figured out an impossible trick—drumming for a pianist with no sense of rhythm. He always makes me sound better than I sound by myself—it’s really something. Today’s videos are a perfect example—no matter how badly I mess up, Pete keeps things going.
Well, it’s been a very busy week. I think I’ll go back to bed for a few days.
Two months ago, when our daughter’s pregnancy (and on the west coast, yet) lurked in the back of my mind—and it still looked like we might get taken in by Trump’s big con—and I was smoking too much and doing too little—back then, I resumed my anti-depressant prescription. That’s how bad I got.
But a half-a-pill a day of that stuff really pole-axed me. Yes, I smoked a lot less, because a lot less of me was there—I was zombified. But the cutting back on smoking was good for me—I felt much better. The only trouble was that I wasn’t doing anything else, either—and I wasn’t upset about that. I was very far from upset about anything at all.
Now, if I had wanted to spend my life on drugs, I could do that all by myself—and with much fun-ner drugs. So I compromised—now I take a quarter of a pill every day—and only until October, when I will stop altogether, and see how it goes. There’s a reason I stopped taking them, after all, and if I can do without, I’d really prefer that.
So, back then, it wasn’t just raining anxiety—it was pouring. But now, with our brand-new, cute-as-a-button granddaughter, I’ve been inspired to play new piano improvs. Claire’s trip has inspired me to get out and do more—like doing my own shopping. The influx of baby pictures has given me lots of busy-work in photoshop, making them fit into my YouTube videos. I enjoy my playing more when I’m looking at photos of that beautiful baby instead of myself—I think it makes me sound better.
Then Pete came by today—Hooray! I was pretty disappointed with last month’s recording, because of the anti-depressants making me punchy and basically out-of-it. But we made up for it today.
We started with a request: “Jesu—Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J. S. Bach. (That’s two requests in August—for me it’s been a banner month for music.) I played it slow, so I would make less mistakes—but Bach is good that way—it’s still pretty, even slow.
Then we did a couple of jams back-to-back. That video is called “On A Wednesday Afternoon”. I enjoyed it much more than the title might suggest—I guess I was going for the ‘soft-sell’, there. No Pete Cianflone session would be complete without a bunch of weirdness in the video—blame it on Jessy—if she had sent me a bunch of baby-pictures, you wouldn’t even see us on the video.
Then Pete suggested we cover a Golden Oldie from the 60s, so we played “Let’s Live For Today”. Now, about “Let’s Live For Today”:
Songbook from “Great songs…” series, titled “of the Sixties – Volume 2″ gives the following credits:
But Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia gives the following credits:
“Let’s Live for Today”
Writer(s): Michael Julien, Ivan Mogull, and David Shapiro. “’Let’s Live for Today’ is a song initially recorded by the English band The Rokes in 1966. The song was later popularized by the American rock band The Grass Roots, who released it as a single on May 13, 1967.”
I leave that mystery to someone else to solve, but we had fun playing it—it’s not really a piano piece, but we made do.
The last bit of improv was bang-ish, so the video is called “Monstrous”. Pete said he might be able to come back next week, so we may get two sessions for August—who knows? We toasted the baby—well, I did, Pete doesn’t drink. A good time was had by all. I hope it’s as good to listen to. Enjoy.
As I was saying—new baby granddaughter, clearer mind, more piano music—and having more fun at the piano, baby-picture photoshopping, regular shopping… and it looks like there’s no need to worry about Hillary being elected—(but Vote anyway!) Suddenly, it’s not just raining good things, it’s pouring. Ah, life. That’s what I say. Ah, life.
Don Pietro del Cianflone has returned from summer hiatus—sing laude and strike the tambor! Here, we have the Buds-Up Semi-Ensemble wreaking havoc with the laws of both rhythm and harmony in a spectacular display of bongo-osity and piano-tivity. If you spot this duo—notify the musical authorities at once. If you hear something—you’ve heard too much!
The rest of this is just me—nothing to see here, just move it along…
That’s that, for now. A big thanks to Peter Cianflone for the jam session!
Pete’s late—looks like no jam today. And I just got my microphone working! Oh, well. Oh, wait—maybe he comes at one, instead of noon? I can’t remember—maybe he does. Damn this swiss-cheese brain of mine.
Well, Jessy is expecting—which is great. Spencer is working on historical fiction for gamers (I’m not really sure—something like that) and he asked me for some medieval music examples recently, for research—he’s started up gardening and mowing, now that spring has sprung—which is also great. And Claire—well, as usual, Claire is unbelievable—life-drawing classes almost every day, a watercolor painting-tutorial day at the Botanical Gardens recently, and a drawing class in Katonah once a week. (She’s really becoming a phenomenally able graphic-artist). And that’s all beside the daily (at least) trips to the gym—and her ongoing work on her resume for her dream-job. Plus, she takes care of me, Spencer, and the house (with her other hand—ha ha).
So, let’s see—Claire was a prize pianist and music student in her youth, raised two toddlers as a young adult, got her Bachelor’s in computers and worked for an online-encyclopedia company during her programmer phase, then took care of her dying husband so well that the bastard never died, then went for her Master’s in occupational therapy, got in shape with pilates, yoga, and the gym, started drawing lessons—and is about to get a new job in her new OT career, at the same time as becoming a new grandmother. Lazy—that’s Claire—she’ll be sixty in a couple of years—and what will she have to show for it? Some people.
I used to have a life—boy, those were the days—but that was so long ago I can hardly remember what it was like. Okay, it’s one-twenty now—even if Pete was coming at one, he’s late now—looks like no jam today. Guess it’s time to go watch TV. Damn. Well, there were new movies on the menu yesterday—I hope one of them is worth watching.
Son of a bitch—Pete’s here!
Wednesday, May 25, 2016 6:20 PM
Okay, Pete came—we had a great session—then he had to go home—and I had a cheeseburger—now I’m just editing the video—and writing a blog about the political news of today.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016 8:41 PM
Okay, the best thing in the new movie listings is Zoolander II—hardly inspiring, although I’ll probably watch it. Ben Stiller really makes me laugh—when he isn’t making me puke—I think his masterpiece, “There’s Something About Mary”, redefined the boundaries of good taste in a comedy film—and it’s something of a genre these days. I can take that stuff, up to a point, but my gross-out limit is a very low bar.
I’ve gotten my rough cuts of the jam session edited—three improvs and a medley of eight Burton Lane tunes. The first improv sounded to Pete like calypso music, but I thought it sounded more like I was having a fit, so I call it ‘Calypsis’.
The other two improvs came out real nice—me in my best voice, I felt. You decide. One, “Either Way”, is three minutes, the other, “Twilight of the Gourds”, is a minute and a half—but still, all told we got about 32 minutes of video for the day—not too shabby.
Let’s talk about our Burton Lane songbook-covers video—first and foremost, none of this is Pete’s fault—he just puts up with my eccentricities. And, yes, this is some pretty sloppy piano-playing. But there are some moments of interest—and we did have fun joking around. If it were just me, I’d probably have second thoughts about posting this—but with Pete there, it’s still pretty entertaining, most of it. So, listen, don’t listen—either way, you’re right.
Thursday, May 26, 2016 11:38 AM
Last night I had my choice—sleepless, or sleep with nightmares. I finally got a few hours of shut-eye, but now that I’m up, my back is killing me. Which all goes to show that I had more excitement and fun yesterday than this old carcass is prepared to deal with. That’s a bad thing, kinda—but it’s also a pretty good thing, if you think about it. It’s not like I don’t get occasional nightmares and backaches—without having any excuse at all—and a good day is a good day, regardless of tomorrow.
How has the world changed? Maybe it’s just me, but I think we’ve lost shock value and fashion. All those years of movie-makers trying to top Hitchcock at fear and horror, to top DeMille at sin and sensuality—we have no limits in film any longer—only tightening demographics and a rating system that affects ticket sales projections. Censorship has only taught us to hear dirty words as ‘bleep’, where even suggesting profanity was once forbidden.
Over those same years we’ve had so many career comebacks, period fads, ‘I Love the [decade]s’ TV shows, and retro fashions that no haircut, no pair of shoes, no ensemble is truly out of fashion—that monolith doesn’t exist anymore. We only see shadows of it in boardroom meetings and comic-cons—where participation requires a costume. But I remember a time when you weren’t allowed in a restaurant without a tie—when girls couldn’t wear jeans to school—when you could actually be judged by the clothes you wore or the length of your hair—nobody cares anymore. Are there exceptions? Sure. But where a man with long hair was once the exception, now the exception is those few people who still think such things important.
And good riddance, I say—both shocking our morals and dictating our appearances were based on a rigidity of mind that we are well rid of. It was the main target of the sixties counter-culture—a generation that saw JFK put an end to men’s obligation to wear a hat when outdoors was made afraid of authority. And authority gave them plenty to fear—a pointless war, destruction of our ecosystem by industry, persecution of women and minorities—protest and rebellion were the order of the day. Conformity for its own sake finally became visible as an enemy of our collective pursuit of happiness.
But conformity goes hand in hand with authority—accepting authority is conformity. The emperor’s-new-clothes of politicians and business leaders has been revealed as naked power and corruption—Nixon wasn’t our first bad president, he was just the first bad president to be publicly shamed—the tobacco industry wasn’t the first bad industry—they were just the first industry to be proven, in court, to be liars and their products killers.
Back then the good guys, the champions of justice, were the grass-roots, behind-the-scenes influence, fighting against publicly recognized authority. After the truth had won one too many battles, we now have the rich and powerful generating non-truths through grass-roots, whisper campaigns—fighting against publicly recognized humane ideals—like clean air or abortion rights. They have developed tricks of public debate, ways to twist the truth around, which we refer to as ‘teaching the controversy’, but are simply the latest methods of bullshitting the disaffected.
The fat cats love that crap—until ISIL does it—then we call it radicalization. But ISIL is just another organization funded by rich people, selling their bullshit through modern methods—they may be more bloodthirsty than the climate-denying industrialists or the profiteers of arms manufacture, drugs, or GMO crops—but in the long run, they are far less dangerous—ISIL only kills people the old-fashioned way, by hand, one at a time. Not that I’m a fan of those dickwads.
It’s a topsy-turvy place in time, the present—the tough-guy bullies whose favorite phrase used to be ‘Be a Man’ are now urging all of us to run and hide under the bed—from everything and everyone—cowardice is the new American way. Cops aren’t ashamed to panic at the sight of tween minorities—they proudly declare they emptied their service piece into a pre-pubescent because they were afraid of a little boy. People aren’t ashamed to be terrorized by the sight of a turban on an airplane. Politicians are stealing material from Hitler, advertising their fear of a religious group that has been around since before they were born—since before America was born. Then there’s my favorite—immigrants—this nation of immigrants has decided to be afraid of immigrants—what the actual fuck?
What’s my problem with being afraid—I’ll tell you—it’s unproductive. Being prepared is productive—I’m not saying I don’t protect myself. But I don’t own a gun. I live in a place where guns are bad news—and I want that—I want to be surprised when someone shows a gun—I want to say ‘what the hell, man—where’s the invasion?’ I know there are places, like Syria and downtown Chicago, where that is not the case—and I feel for the people that live there—but the answer is not for all of us to start living as if Syria has come to our town. We pay a shitload of money for the United States Military—if they need my help, they’ll let me frickin know. I wasn’t afraid last year or the year before—I ain’t going to be afraid today. The News is messed up—it’s their business to get us excited about stuff—and we have to kick that monkey off our backs.
The worst of fear is that scared people aren’t nice—it takes courage to be nice. That’s why the fat cats like fear-mongering—it keeps us from caring about each other, from coming together as a community. I’ll wait until I meet some Syrian refugees before I decide whether to be afraid of them or not—that’s just common sense.
I’d like to take this moment to thank my foreign readers—I just checked my stats for this blog—and today, so far, this is xperdunn.com’s international reach:
I don’t want to brag, but I’m being read around the world (in droves of one, mostly, but still). It’s exciting. Even my online poetry book, bearlybliss.com, six years on, is still getting traffic:
Now for a special treat—Pete has returned. Fighting off a holiday shoulder injury (he fell out of his attic getting Christmas ornaments) he joined me yesterday to re-form the Buds Up Restoration Project. We had a special guest star drop in—the fabulous Sherryl Marshall—and join us for a cover of “Norwegian Wood” that was lots of fun. I can’t post that until I ask Sherryl about permission—but afterwards, Pete and I had an exceptional improv jam that I’m happy to present herewith:
Well, it wouldn’t be the holidays if friends didn’t get together and sing some Christmas songs—and that’s what me and Pete did today. We also managed a couple of brief improvs. It was grand and glorious.
I was grateful yesterday to be joined once more by my good friend Pete Cianflone for an unusual recording session. In the course of our collaboration, we decided that we should retire someday to an old-folks’ home in Colorado, where weed is legal—someplace like “The Buds-Up Sunnyside Rest Home”. And thus a new super-group is born.
Pete crushes it on the Purcell “Air”—giving it the kind of renaissance aura such old music calls for—and he adds great vocals to the drumming on our Beatles song-covers. The improv isn’t half-bad either—and I take all the blame for the Rainbow Connection cover—sometimes I just like a song better than I can perform it.
I’ve been playing too much and posting too slow, so I’m adding four or so less-new videos, after the four Pete and I just made—they seem a bit pale compared to the new stuff but when I’m on my own, I have to do what I can. I hope you enjoy it all.
September 17th, 2015 – Peter Cianflone, Bongos and Xper Dunn, Piano
Improv – Buds Up
September 17th, 2015 – Peter Cianflone, Bongos and Xper Dunn, Piano
Henry Purcell – Air in d minor, Z. T675 (originally intended for “The Indian Queen”)
September 17th, 2015
Beatles Song Covers – as performed by The Buds-Up Retirement Orchestra
featuring Peter Cianflone on Bongos and Perc. and Xper Dunn at the keyboard
Pete came by yesterday—we killed our imaginary audience and made some recordings which I hope no one will mistake for Pete’s fault—if you look closely, you’ll see a very capable drummer trying to be nice to a totally awful piano-player. This mess is completely my responsibility. I almost never play with musicians because musicians, understandably, don’t go looking for half-assed collaborators—but Pete is an exceptionally kind soul and an old friend who is the exception that proves the rule.
This is a picture of Pete and Spencer back in the day–If you watch Spencer’s walk-through on the video, you’ll see he’s grown some since this picture was taken.
I’ve been thinking about collaboration lately. As I’ve mentioned often in these posts, I think that people may have excellent self-control when the situation demands it but that humanity as a group, as a mob, has no brain and does whatever it does, crazy (or even suicidal) or not. We try to mitigate this with governments and other frameworks for group action—but even these foundations can only influence people en masse to a certain degree.
Take the Drug War as an example—with Prohibition as a historical precedent, we can’t be very surprised that the Drug War has been a complete failure—drug abuse is a part of the human condition. People will seek out recreational drugs just as they seek out alcoholic beverages. After all, life is a struggle and there aren’t that many features that offer unalloyed enjoyment—we can gain peace from our relationships and achievement from our endeavors, but not always—and it’s a struggle, win or lose. But a weekend spree is an easy and affordable escape from the rigors of the work-week and the number of people who choose to do without it will never be unanimous—criminalization simply complicates things.
Collaboration, cooperation,—even democracy—all also run up against the matter of people all being different in many ways. I heard the debate yesterday during the news reports of the first two women who passed the Rangers Training School requirements. As the closet-misogynist debated the moderate-feminist, they both had some confusion about the fact that average men have expected differences from average women, but the best of the best soldiers are exceptional people with above-average abilities, gender notwithstanding. Generalizations about gender roles do not apply when speaking of virtual Supergirls—although, rightly, we ought to take the hint that generalizations about gender all have that flaw to some degree—because we are all different.
Thus individuality and human nature are both obstacles to traditional governments and other organizing frameworks—yet they are both strengths as well. Perhaps our paradigms of organization are at fault. Churchill once opined that ‘Democracy isn’t a perfect form of government—it’s just better than all the others’. And I feel that we have become sophisticated enough to look at democracy (and capitalism, for that matter) and start to face that fact—having found systems that outdo more ancients customs is great—but is it the best we can do?
For that matter, can Democracy and Capitalism coexist without one cancelling the other? We see many examples where capitalism has infringed on the democratic process recently—but there are also times when the force of majority rule outdoes the primacy of property. We aren’t really being honest about this whole subject—we’ve been too busy defending democracy from fascism and capitalism from communism to allow ourselves to question their basic values.
While Democracy and Capitalism fight it out (and while we pretend that they work together) we have a third player—religion, or Christianity, since I’m speaking primarily of the USA. Many conservatives will insist that religion is a bedrock value—in spite of the fact that we are famous for sidelining religion from our governing principles. They’ll put on their blinders and assure us that ‘religious freedom’ was only meant to apply to the different Protestant sects of Christianity—as if that made sense, and full ‘religious freedom’ didn’t.
This is partly a failure to understand history—in much the same way that conservatives insist that our constitutional guarantee of ownership of flintlock rifles translates into prowling the Wal-Mart with semi-automatic weapons. But it is also a failure to understand religion, as a concept. Most people of faith make the mistake of counting their religion as the truth, while all other religions are, at best, to be tolerated. But Truth and Faith are not interchangeable—particularly in the situation where we have allowed for the existence of more than one form of faith.
What the original colonists did was recognize that even a single individual’s unique faith, with or without an established church, may be questioned as to its validity—but it can’t be made illegal. The opposite truth to that premise is that no one religion can be made the legal faith under our government. Basically, we accept that citizens will have whatever faith they may or may not have, but the law will operate separately from any one faith. Anyone who seriously proposes that America become a Christian nation is as much a threat to our way of life as the Communists were in the 1950s—even more so, since the Commies have had their day and faded away. ISIS would be a better example, come to think of it—both parties wish to transform us into a theocracy.
But let me return to collaboration. In science fiction novels, one gets the impression that the human race will expand outward, mimicking our behavior of the exploration era and the pioneering era. One gets used to the idea of the human race having a ‘destiny’—a place or a state that our future selves will eventually reach out to and evolve into. We envision a solar system busy with mining, colonization, exploration, and discovery—our little blue marble, Earth, just a single part of a civilization that calls the Sun its home. We even dream of FTL starships that allow colonization of other stars—a future civilization so vast and varied that imagination can barely envisage its size, never mind its nature.
Our gravity well, however, is no small barrier. If humanity is ever going to go beyond Earth, it will have to involve tremendous collaboration. At this point in modern technology, we will need tremendous collaboration just to survive at all. Where does the motive come from? How do we mobilize our efforts towards the survival of humankind when we have never had to worry about it before? Up until now, we’ve been so sure that the Earth is invulnerable to our attentions that we have never considered it a factor in our decision-making. The whole debate over climate change is really just humanity trying to convince itself that we’ve outgrown that simplicity.
Our systems of government, of commerce, and our cultures have all developed under the mistaken mindset that humanity can do whatever it will—we are slowly coming to grips with the fact that this is no longer true.
Part of our problem is that heretofore we have assumed that the point of life was the afterlife—that we should concentrate on living our own individual lives under the tenets of our faiths because the important part, the afterlife, will be affected by how well we follow the rules while living. No part of human culture actually emphasizes the importance of species survival—‘God’ made us, so naturally we can’t be unmade unless ‘He’ decides to unmake us. Climate change, drought, chemical and oil spills, and nuclear waste make it clear that we can certainly unmake ourselves—there’s nothing religious about it, it’s just a fact.
So now we have to turn from our focus on our individual afterlives to the maintenance of the survival of the human genome, and to Gaea—or whatever you choose to call the overall biome of the Earth. For we have two ‘afterlifes’—one is a spiritual belief, the other is our offspring. To reach the first one, we have to be mindful of ethics. To protect the second we will have to begin having ethics as a group—something we’ve never had, and something I have no idea how we’ll ever attain. The alternative is to remain the simple, global mob we’ve always been—and just wait for the lights to go out.
My friend Pete came by today. While I was waiting for him I took a few photos of my neighbor Bob’s big tree. My other neighbor Harlan happened to bicycle by and offered the loan of a Cajon—a sort of a box used as a drum—the different sides of the box make different drum sounds. It’s all the rage, or so I’m told. Pete made good use of it—but I’ll let you hear for yourself.
I’ve had a good week. Here are three more videos from earlier.
It’s been a banner day for music here. First, I got off one decent improv this morning; then Pete arrived, and we knocked out two covers and two improvs—a decent day’s work for my YouTube channel and some decent music, if I do say so.
I’ve been practicing the “Brown-Eyed Girl” cover in anticipation of being accompanied by my professional drummer buddy—but the “My Guy” cover was just easy enough for me to get through without prep. The improvs made me very happy—if there’s a bit of paisley and patchouli in there, there’s a reason—‘nuf said. I’ve never been exactly ‘hard rock’, per se—which is why I appreciate the support from Pete, who definitely is. He always add so much energy, he almost makes me sound healthy!
Here we go…
I really needed today. Lately, I’ve been very down about the piano-playing—I’ve frustrated myself by working on difficult pieces and I’ve been even more frustrated by how hard it is to keep improvising without ‘going backwards’—if that makes any sense. But today was fun—and I’m truly pleased to share the results. Thanks, Pete!
The great and powerful Peter Cianflone, drummer extraordinaire, came by today (or technically yesterday) and kindly agreed to join me in some ridiculous music-making, none of which is his fault—he was just an innocent, bongo-playing bystander. I do like the piano with a little extra percussion, though, and Pete’s performance upon the mini-bongos is not to be missed.
Nothing went right today at the keyboard—I haven’t listened to it all myself yet—the improv may be passable, who knows? But we had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs, so it’s all good.
Pete Cianflone came to jam today–again, no drums–used a garbage can.
There’s a lot of sillyness happening in these videos. The Cole Porter song, “A Little Skipper From Heaven Above”, is a crazy song about a pirate captain who announces to his crew that he’s about to have a baby, that he’s really been a girl in disguise all this time… my performance is atrocious, but watching Pete try not to laugh is worth viewing.
My performance on the Christmas Carols is equally horrendous, but I couldn’t resist getting some Xmas stuff with Pete down on digital–even if it is the day before New Year’s Eve.
The piano cover of Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” will be familiar to my listeners (perhaps too familiar) but I like to bang it out now and then, just to update myself.
But I think the three short improvs we managed are the best of the day’s video ‘catch’. Pete tells me his brother, Richard, likes the ‘video FX’ that I often use, so excuse me if they’re a little crazier than usual–That’s for you, Richard!
Happy Holidays, everyone — and have an excellent New Year.
My old friend and legendary drummer, Peter Cianflone, came by today. He forget to bring any equipment, but I made him use an overturned trash-can and an empty packing box. He’s such a good sport (and besides, Pete can play on anything!)
I found this video enjoys a heavy hand on the volume–unlike most of my stuff. But Pete’s a veteran rocker, so crank it up.
I’m thinking of quitting Facebook. I’ve enjoyed ‘interacting’ with people—I was surprised that everyone in my past was still out there, living lives I knew nothing of. I was amazed at some of the accomplishments of people who I last saw as children, or at best, teenagers. The connectedness to all the latest of the very latest in politics, showbiz, art, music, movies, books, writing, poetry, science, astronomy, space exploration, gadgets, discoveries, and absolutely everything else, has made me feel much more in touch with the world and the people in it. It’s almost like a canoe that goes along; and you can slip your hand in the water and feel the world flowing through your fingers.
So why quit? There are several reasons. At the end of the day, I don’t want my sole output to consist of keystrokes, mouse clicks, and peering at a glowing screen (no matter how mind-blowing the graphic). I can’t ‘Like’ my way through life. And the shadows of Mordor are gathering, i.e. between commercial and marketing activity, and Facebook’s own mad-scientist muddlings with what does or does not appear on our feeds, Facebook has become a dark wood with giant spiders in it. Several of my Facebook friends have been hacked. The interloper was found and expunged, the true people are back behind their profiles, and all’s well—plus, we all have an eye out now, if any of our friends starts IM-ing or posting strangely—but the chill is in the air.
It’s unsettling—whenever anything such as the internet, or snowboarding, or break-dancing—whenever anything draws a crowd of happy, engaged people who not only watch the thing, but begin to participate in the thing, the filthy rich will set up some kind of commercial approximation of it. Thus the clock is started. Once anything becomes a commodity or an asset, the race is on. Who can attract more customers; who can find the cheapest costs, who can get the highest price? Who has the best marketing campaign? Ultimately, it becomes regulated, circumscribed, a dead thing, a shadow of its former inspiration. It becomes a dark doppelgänger of what it could have been.
But Facebook is still free. Rather than simply quitting, I should consider changing my privacy settings. I could restrict my profile to just friends and a few favorite content providers, like George Takei, The Daily Show, I fucking Love Science, etc. Then I wouldn’t have to wade through the posts that are cleverly disguised sociology-landmines, or outright sales-pitches. My favorite ad is the small one on the bottom right of the Facebook ‘frame’—it’s usually a picture of a large-breasted young lady without a shirt, with the tag-line: “You gotta see this!” I actually clicked on that thing before I knew what I was doing. But the site you’re brought to is like a small-town diner’s paper placemat, just full of local service-businesses’ websites—and just reeking of hacker-vulnerability.
But cutting myself off from the ‘fire hose’ kinda defeats the purpose of being plugged into the whole world—it’s kinda the point. Otherwise, I imagine my friends and I will all end up uploading phone-pics of our breakfast each morning!
I know to avoid anything on the side-ribbons of the Facebook frame—no matter how intriguing. And I know to look for those little logos that warn of a larger organization behind that post. But it takes so long and gets so tiring. So, I guess I’ll stick with my friends, for a while at least, until the foliage gets too thick to hack through to them… ..if it gets too bad, I may still have to perform some sort of self-intervention. Life should not be lived on a keyboard. I spend hours on the computer, preparing and posting my little videos and my little essays (like this)—but I will not ‘hang out’ here. I have a perfectly good front lawn—there’s even some decent lawn furniture to sit in and talk (to myself if necessary).
Now, this is not the fault of Facebook, this is a failing of our Capitalism—one of its many—but nothing, not even Facebook (“It’s free and always will be.”) can keep out their tentacles. Facebook is a fragile thing, and it has become a badly trampled garden. We’ve all experienced ‘trolls’—they can be blocked and are, therefore, relatively harmless—but the ones who crawl behind the code (like the employees fiddling with our Facebook feeds) are far more difficult to spot, much less defend against.
Sociology is a wonderful thing. I took a course in college—it was great. But the first thing they teach you is that individuals are random and unpredictable, but the larger the ‘sample size’ (# of people) you study, the more predictable they become. And the internet is a darn big ‘sample size’. Sociology is primarily used in marketing research—its most profitable use (though it has many more important uses going begging). So it is only natural for market researchers to salivate over a titanic mass of consumers, all with the power to pay by clicking a mouse. But Heisenberg is on our side—the stats are only valid if WE don’t know we are being observed.
I saw a Times article—a man clicks ‘like’ on everything he sees on his feed for two days straight—even stuff he hates, he clicks ‘like’. He started getting crazy feed-posts from such nutjobs that he was afraid he’d be put on a government watch-list. His Facebook friends’ feeds went crazy, they were all screaming at him, asking if he’d been hacked. And some administrator at Facebook eventually called him to talk about it! He was messing up their trending algorithms.
It sounded like fun, but then I thought maybe it’d be better just to sign off for good and all. Would I lose something important, something worth staying in my present mode of checking out Facebook for two or three hours every day? Well, there are some people I interact with almost every day, very nice folks all of whom I enjoy being in touch with. And we all share stuff from the internet-fed chaos around us. All of them are too far away to have any regular contact with outside of Facebook.
Now here is the hilarious record of what happens when I try to play doubles with a real musician, Peter Cianflone–it’s almost too embarrassing to post, but I had so much fun—The first picture is to click on for the entire playlist (listen to all five videos in a row). The five individual videos are available below that, so you can pick and choose as you like. Enjoy, I hope!
My new camera has been going gangbusters–but then my PC’s harddrive bit the dust! Five or six days without access to my programs and websites (like this one). This backlog was tremendous, but I’m nearly there–soon I’ll be living in the present again.
First off, there was a righteous jam session with my friend (and professional drummer) Pete Cianflone–
A Playlist of the complete session…
Then I had some hummingbird footage I lucked into from our garden–
Then I did some silly improvs–
and some silly song covers-
There’s some other stuff left over, but I didn’t have the peace of mind to do any writing or poetry or drawing (I get out of sorts when my system is down), so this will do for now.