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.

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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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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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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Absurdities and Fragments (2015Dec13)

Friday, December 11, 2015                                               11:26 AM

Absurdities

Like a waterfall in the ocean, or a cloud beneath the ground

Or if toes could type like fingers, or the flowers sniff themselves

Like rain all night in weather dry, or songs without a sound

Or heaven without angel wings, or Santa without elves—

If I could only fly aloft by lying in my bed

Or make a universe exist with a logarithmic word

I’d think up all the great ideas with nothing in my head

And make a world of common sense seem patently absurd.

Friday, December 11, 2015                                                        2:10 PM

Fragments   (2015Dec12)

I was struck today by the image of a waterfall in the ocean—see, you can’t have a waterfall in the ocean—you need solid ground to make a waterfall—isn’t that weird? Stoner thinking—I know. But while we stoners seem pretty silly, ceaselessly marveling at the simplest things—I can’t help wondering if a penchant for being blasé about the universe is such a great alternative. The ability to see things anew, with a fresh appreciation, isn’t a distortion—it’s a gift beyond price. Being bullheaded about everything is just as foolish—and I see people do that all the time—without benefit of any self-medication.

I’ve decided to back away from politics—not that it doesn’t matter—it matters plenty—it’s just that I see now that politics is just a bunch of people fighting over the steering wheel while no one is looking out the windshield. In the end, people run politics as much as politics run people—if the politicians go too far wrong, they’ll always get corrected by public pressure. Look at Trump—front-runner for prez one day, shunned by the entire globe the next. While politics is important, my giving myself a stroke watching it on TV doesn’t do anyone any good—especially nowadays, when TV anchors report both sides of the news—the sensible and the idiotic. They used to report on different sides of the sensible and simply discount the idiots—and I miss that—but that may have been my youthful ignorance and there’s been idiots all along—whatever.

Feelings are so confusing. Sometimes I feel that I’m on the cusp of a great notion—something new, an exciting idea, a fresh insight—then a gear slips and my mind is blank—nothing left but a vague notion that I had an idea. I’m confused about which part of my mind is malfunctioning—is it my memory that collapses every time I get inspired—or am I just delusional and never had an inspiration to begin with, just the notion of one? Given the result, it hardly matters which—I guess I just want to know which to grieve over.

Today’s post is a great illustration of my mindset—every paragraph is about a different subject—nothing coheres. I used to wield my mind like a chainsaw—buzzing through any obstacle—focused on one job at a time—but now my mind is more like a river that I sit alongside of and watch go by. The thoughts and ideas drift into view—then drift away—and while new ones come after, none of them can be held tight and examined closely. People think that intelligence and memory are separate things but I’m here to tell you—you can’t have one without the other.

And one could say that my near-lifetime of TV-watching during my infirmity is much like watching a river go by—a stream of media, if you will—yet I can’t do anything useful, like fishing if I was watching a real river. But I am struck often by the archival footage of old conservatives, espousing hatred of all the different groups—at every distinction they can find, really—and how one can match them up with people speaking today, on CNN, yet no one seems to see the direct line-of-descent of this changeless ignorance.

It’s holiday time—lots of Christmas carols on the piano (prepping for caroling parties) and watching lots of Hallmark’s latest seasonal TV films, but not enough buying of trees or presents—I’m better at celebrating in my head than actually celebrating. Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but it’s also pretty confusing and emotion-laden to the point of stress—even more so for us atheists who don’t let our disbelief ruin a good holiday.

And as if there weren’t enough stress to the season, we’re experiencing a record-breakingly warm December here in New York—far from a white Christmas, we’ll be lucky if it even rains. With our climate, a white Christmas is never guaranteed—but in the past at least it managed to be cold! Pacific island nations may be in danger of disappearing beneath the waves, but a warm Christmas will probably do more to promote climate-consciousness in New Englanders than any other weather phenomenon—so perhaps it’s a good thing.

 

Ben Carson is No Democrat   (2015Nov12)

Thursday, November 12, 2015                                         4:10 PM

Missouri State University has had some controversy lately, with widely publicized student protests resulting in the resignation of the University’s president. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson gave his thoughts to Megyn Kelly in a FoxNews interview on Nov. 11, 2015:

“We need to recognize that this is a very dangerous trend. When we get to a point where a majority can say, ‘I don’t like what you’re doing—that’s offensive and therefore I have a right to be violent towards you or to deprive you of rights because I don’t like what you’re doing’, you know, that really goes against the grain of our constitutional rights—and if we don’t see that, we’re in really big trouble right now.”

I’d like to spend a moment unpacking this strange pronouncement because it hurt my ears just to hear someone say it—and I think it deserves to be taken out of the assembly-line of stupid quotes that pass us by each day—and really looked at for the thinking it represents.

Firstly, I want to back-track a bit—when I refer to Carson’s ‘thoughts’ or his ‘thinking’—I’m not entirely sure those are the correct terms—I suspect that Dr. Ben is somewhat delusional. But, beyond that, let’s begin with “We need to recognize that this is a very dangerous trend. When we get to a point where a majority can say, ‘I don’t like what you’re doing’“ –well, that’s called Democracy—and, as our constitutional rights are predicated on an elected body of leaders and representatives, I’d say democracy is kinda constitutional.

When a political party represents the minority, especially as in the case of the GOP, which represents the power elite, they are often put to great pains in finding ways to tell the masses how we should behave—without denying our democratic principles—which they know will upset our feelings. We rarely hear them tell us so baldly how they really feel about majority rule—even when they advocate the new reversals on voting-rights down south.

Carson attempting to dull the pain of his paean against democracy by saying that their decision amounts to “a right to be violent towards you or to deprive you of rights” is a bit of hyperbole, it seems, since asking a college president to resign after he’s offended the entire community is hardly ‘violence’ against him. The whole statement is a masterful example of Republican mirroring-strategy, where the oppressor is called the victim, and the victims are a majority being led astray by shadowy ‘agents of subversion’ that exist only in the conspiracy-nut minds of right-wingers.

Carson concludes with “you know, that really goes against the grain of our constitutional rights—and if we don’t see that, we’re in really big trouble right now.” Now, the decision of the majority sometimes gives us the right to be violent towards someone—as in the case of our many states that still practice executions. Outside of our penal system, it is wrong to be violent—but it is ‘against the law’, not ‘unconstitutional’—as Ben would have it. And that final sentence is pure GOP—i.e., ‘but if you don’t see it my way, you should be very afraid.’

Brain surgeon or not, whenever this man opens his mouth it makes my head hurt—he’s such a dolt. I won’t go into the crowds of mouth-breathers who reverently look up to him as their choice to lead this country—thankfully, I don’t think we’ve gotten ‘to a point where a majority can say’ that—and as long as we remain a democracy, that should keep them from realizing their nightmarish dream.

I played my electric piano for a little while today:

I took some pictures of Fall outside my window today:

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And I wrote a bit of poetry the other day:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015        1:43 PM

The Don Quixote Fan Club Theme Song

(Unfinished)

Lovers and heroes and shiny things

Whatever the treasure adventure brings

Lions with faces and ladies with wings

All tales are told when the fall wind sings

You take a sword—I’ve got my bow and arrow

Though the passes be high and the straits be narrow

We’ll battle and tussle and fight our way through—

Whatever adventures adventurers do.

You hop on a charger—I’ll find me a steed

Along the rough road we’ll find else we may need

For nothing can stop us—we ride and we charge

Though troubles be many and monsters be large.

So here’s to our quest

May we all be the best of fellows

Put us to the test

We’ll puff out our chests and bellow

Lyric (2015Oct27)

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Lyric

Void unimaginable, an ocean without a floor or shore

Floating there I wait and see only distance and space

No company to joke with—no more after or before

Floating where eternity dances yet hides its face

With feet that never find a place

And I am small amid the vastness

And I am lost among the stars

And I am never going to see again the green

And I am stuck forever in between

And if I died no one would know it

And if there’s hope no one will show it

I swim

In this vastness

The power of nothingness overwhelming my mind

No chink in the every of everywhere always

No feature or landmark remaining to find

Come speak to me love—(I don’t care what she says)—

Say what you will but please say Yes.

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Face and Bubbles – Collage

Tuesday, October 27, 2015                                               12:10 AM

Post (2015Oct27)

Well, I may have gone a little too dark on this poem—I tried to pull the nose up, at the end—but maybe too little too late. Anyway, the point is that too much solitude is as mentally unhealthy as too little sunlight is physically unhealthy. Love is necessary, or friendship—even simple companionship which, while not as profound, may be easier to come by—I’ll take anything to break that recursive loneliness loop that eventually drives one insane.

The new pictures are made with my new oil pastels—I haven’t quite got the hang of them yet. I’ve always had a problem with color—I tend to use them all. I like prisms and rainbows—I’m very democratic, even inclusive, when it comes to color.

The piano cover of “Autumn In New York” goes well with all the gold and orange leaves outside my window—my voice—maybe not so much. I threw in the other three covers just because. I’m struggling with my improvs lately—I have been trying to make them better for decades, but I feel like I can’t find anything new anymore—we’ll see—maybe I’ll have an epiphany or something. In the meantime, I’m just trying to sound entertaining.

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Bubbles

Tuesday, October 27, 2015                                               10:38 AM

Real Progress   (2015Oct27)

In just a few days, we will have reached the one-year mark on our presidential campaign—I can’t help wondering what the previous twelve months of back and forth were supposed to accomplish, other than to fill air time on cable-news shows and politics-based social media threads. It’s hard to stomach all the focus on ‘who it will be’ without any concern about ‘what will they do’. Yet, with the right-wing, those are the same question—a tea-party candidate will do nothing—except try to keep others from doing anything—that’s their whole agenda.

Likewise, a moderate Republican will do nothing—not for lack of trying, but because of their tea-party brethren. And even a Democrat will get done only as much as the executive office allows—because the House and Senate are still firmly in the hands of the GOP. The only real hope for governmental or legislative action is if the Democrats can find a way to win back those Congressional seats, as well as win the White House. So this presidential campaign obsession is just the usual media focus on the inconsequential. Ben Carson (not to mention Trump) is a scary possibility—but the odds of anyone but white males voting for either one is so low as to make their chances in a general election ‘slim to none’.

The same can be said of Bernie Sanders—he’s got the far-left tied up, but he could never get the majority of the nation’s voters either. That leaves Hillary, whom everyone has assumed will win all along—only she’ll be hobbled by the same GOP congress that bedeviled Obama. Again, the real story—the story that’s being ignored—is whether the Democrats can elect local support, outside of the presidency.

Of course, I could be wrong—we may get a Republican president, if voters are stupid enough—what a hell on earth that would be. Despite Obama’s heroic efforts, we still haven’t dug ourselves out of the hole the last GOP president buried us in. The only good that came out of Bush’s two terms was getting Democrats out to vote—Obama began his terms with a friendly Congress and I’m still confused as to how we managed to screw that up.

Well, not really—the answer is horribly simple. The Democrats, while they have an edge on common sense and American values, are just as dumb, lazy, spineless, and corrupt as the Republicans—both our candidates and we voters. Intellect and transparency can find a place in the Democratic party—which, as I say, gives them something of an edge—but we’re still people, just like the GOP folks. And people are human—with all the failings that implies.

When I look back on all the changes in society, I’m dumbstruck by the incredible progress we’ve made. While we still struggle with racism, at least it has lost its legitimacy in the laws of our land. While we still lack gender equality, we have seen women get access to birth-control, jobs, and inclusion far beyond the Suzy Homemaker mindset of my childhood. While we still have issues with LGBT equality, we have at least progressed beyond the point of considering homosexuality as a crime, or a mental disease. To me, this is the real progress of our country—I could care less about laptops, cellphones, smart-cars, and DNA sequencing, if it doesn’t have the open-minded humanity that an enlightened, modern culture deserves.

Lost In A Space   (2015Oct21)

Monday, October 19, 2015                                               1:42 PM

Lost In A Space

Warm by the woodstove your just-bathed

Body borne on flannel quilt—

Droplets in the cleft above your lip,

Starry-eyed and blushed over,

I bring two steaming mugs

Of hot chocolate and we sip

Around the marshmallows,

Gazing into one another’s eyes.

Outside the other, darker world hurries on.

We hear only crackling from splits of apple wood

In the quiet closeness of our snug little keep.

I kneel and you raise your soft lips to mine

The glow of your bath still softening your arms

And I am lost forever amid the comforts of home.

Monday, July 13, 2015                                             2:39 PM

I don’t know. I have a lot going on inside me—it makes me feel like I have something to write—but there’s just chaos in there, virtually screaming a million things at once, none of it coherent. So, no, not really anything to write.

My body seems to be slowly bouncing back from its long decline—enough so that I begin to feel restless about spending all day every day inside this tiny house. Not that we don’t love our cozy little cabin—but hell, sometimes you have to go out. Now, that wasn’t true—hasn’t been true for many years—I’d focus more on having the energy to get out of bed or make myself a sandwich or take a shower. But before I got sick, it was pretty common—I get bored and frustrated very quickly when I’m in touch with my full capacity.

And I’m sick and tired of retracing my words just to explicate that ‘full capacity’ now does not mean back to my original 35-year-old, healthy, rambunctious self. Take it as given that if I’m talking about a resurgence of my vitality or a sharpening of my senses, I’m only talking relative to my near-death experience and decades-long infirmity. I’ll never be young again. I’ll never have twenty-twenty vision again. My hands will never be steady again. And most of all I’ll never have the ability to get lost in my own thoughts again.

I used to think of that zoned-out state I’d get into while programming code or drawing a picture as a kind of wandering—but it wasn’t. I was taking for granted something that came easily to me—but now I can see it for the very strenuous hacking through the mental jungle that it was. I can feel the effort of thought now—if I heard about effort of thinking in those young days, I refused to believe it. I couldn’t perceive any effort—even though my mind was functioning like gang-busters. I miss that a lot—in the way you can only miss something that you lost without ever having known how valuable it was.

Of course, I also miss it because it was my meal ticket. I used to think that I was lucky to find a job in programming and systems—now it is clear to me that I was never good at anything else, not professionally. My mind started to weaken from illness at about the same time I was considering looking for more challenging coding work. It was very frustrating to lose my super-power, slowly, mysteriously, just as I was trying to move on to even more difficult puzzles. Now I can’t program my way out of a paper bag—which leaves me with a large past life that was headed towards something I can never go back to. So, yeah, I miss that a lot.

My old self is dead. I am alive. It’s a quandary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015                                         10:29 AM

Fall proceeds apace—others have posted some striking photos of the leaves changing, so I’m gonna pass on taking my own photos of the yard and environs. The urge to photograph things is always there, but I’d rather conserve my energy on the off-chance that I’ll get antsy enough to draw a picture instead.

The endless drone of leaf-blowers gives the Fall a sour strangeness—these people want their mess cleaned up and their lawns bare, and they don’t care how much racket they make getting it done. Who could have imagined that getting an artificial wind to blow would be best accomplished with tiny engines that make a deafening whine and emit grey clouds of diesel soot?

But enough of my seasonal peeves—no more. What matters is the doing—and what am I doing?

Monday, October 19, 2015                                               6:04 PM

Joseph Henry was an American physicist who discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction nearly simultaneously with Michael Faraday, the Englishman who, through the vagaries of history, is known as its sole discoverer. But such quibbles about ‘first-places’ abound in the history of science—Morse was not the first man to send a signal by electrified wire, Edison was not the first man to create a moving picture (or a light-bulb, for that matter)—there are often two stories. One is the closely researched story of who did which step and when, and how it all ‘worked out’ to what we’re familiar with today—and the other story is what we call ‘popular history’, where Ford ‘invented’ the car and Italians ‘invented’ pasta.

It is a little odd that in trying to tell some of the detailed, accurate story, an historian has to set up and knock down several widely-held misapprehensions common in the popular understanding of history. Serious historians must tell the true story while ‘untelling’ the false ones. This can lead to great interest amongst the populace—and some will argue with any history based on the archived records simply because they love the popular version so much better. And some details are just too bothersome to retain—Columbus’s voyage west to the Indies involved five ships—this is well-documented, and even taught in school—but the image of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria endures.

The only book offered on Amazon.com has a blurb which extols the great achievements and the seminal place that Joseph Henry held in the formation of the United States as a scientific world leader, but such importance is belied by the fact that there is only the one book—a biography. I placed an order for a used copy—I want to see if I can find out why we care so little about a man who was Edison’s Edison.

I’ve also downloaded Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” from the Gutenburg Project’s digital library—I’m thinking of doing a video that combines my readings of passages, my illustrations of the story as images, and my music as soundtrack. The book is enormous—the idea of illustrating every passage, even in rough sketches, would take a younger man than myself—and completing such an audio/video chapter-book is that much more unlikely. But it will give me a project that never ends—and in my mind, they are the only ones worth starting.

Autumn Romance (2015Oct18)

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Sunday, October 18, 2015                                       6:20 PM

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Autumn Romance

Now comes the cold that drives we lovers together

Snuggling through the chilly nights of Fall

How fond the memory of warmth that I remember

While bitter winds outside the window call

The gold and ruby colored leaves like burning feathers

Glow like the passion into which we fall

Th’Indian Summers of the late September

Are carried in our hearts through Autumn’s pall.

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O ember mine, whose touch I feel so molten,

I yearn to bask in while the screaming gales

Throughout the night bring ice across the vales

While we two merge like metal melted golden

So in the darkness our hot light prevails.

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[by Xper Dunn  October 18th, 2015]

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Passive-Aggressive   (2015Oct17)

Saturday, October 17, 2015                                              10:43 AM

Passive-Aggressive

Yes, it’s me. That was me talking. You heard me. I’m right here.

Never mind then. Pay no attention. Who am I after all.

You’ve got your own universe inside your own head.

Your skies are blue, your clouds are puffy white.

Your grass is green, and (boy!) that cliff is steep.

Whoops—you shoulda listened.

Strong Baby   (2015Sep22)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015                                          6:48 PM

Last night started out good—I’ve become a fan of The Big Bang Theory and it had a season premiere last night—they’re pretty funny. I enjoy the comfort of an established sitcom with a toolkit of running gags and themes—all expositions, settings, and character intros have long since been made and the thing just chugs along—funny, funny, funny.

Had a big meal (Bear makes a mean chicken) maybe too big—I felt like I had to have some coffee. But then I watched TV until 2:30 and my eyes still refused to droop. I didn’t sleep at all last night—I was reading a couple of great sci-fi books—“Appleseed” by John Clute is a book I bought about ten years ago but forgot to read; and “Nexus” by Ramez Naam, which I finished at about  6:30 am—fortunately it’s only the first book of a trilogy, so there’s more. But no more coffee at night for me!

Now here’s a bit of lyric for all you strong babies out there:

Strong Baby

Hard muscle—lean cut—on a stri-king frail.

A hard look—a straight shot—makes my ego bail.

When she looks like a tank made o’doves

I could almost cry.

Talks like the drill sarge o’love—

I could nearly die.

Strong women—make me crazy.

Wo-o-ork it out—don’t be lazy.

Watch those ‘ceps pop—makes me dizzy.

Dat can’t be a woman—is she?

My god—that’s a lot of power.

Think it’s time for my cold shower.

Awe me with that rock of muscle

Tell me I can lose that tussle—please!

Baby—please—it’s too much—

Thoughts so hot they make me blush.

I’m a man with a plan but

A strong, fit woman there’s no man that is better than.

When you tell me I got-to-be nice

Then it’s understood—

No need to-tell-me the same thing twice

You know I’ll be good.

Strong women—make me crazy.

Work all day—make men look lazy.

Legs like trunks of trees of satin,

Eyes the light from stars get fat in,

Smell so sweet it makes me twitchy

And that voice so low and witchy.

Stand there like a tower of power.

Going strong from hour to hour.

Beauty—brains—and all that muscle

Tell me I can lose that tussle—please!

We poor men—fit and strong is supposed to be our thing. When we find strong women attractive, it’s confusing and a little embarrassing—but there’s no better make-up than muscle tone, nothing more youthful than a proud bearing. It’s funny—we talk about over-idealizing one standard of beauty—but that’s just the suits that make corporate decisions about magazine covers and such. For all our fixation on women, we men find attractive a myriad of flavors—tall women, short women, small women, big women, full-figured or skinny, any color hair, any color skin, librarians, firewomen, GI Janes, and nurses.

I find the spirit of a woman shows in her face and bearing—no matter what her outer appearance. You can see a person’s personality, male or female, and I find myself attracted to the spirit rather than the package—I think we all do.

Dy’ever have one of those days where you feel like instead of reaching a peak, you feel off the cliff? With health issues like mine, I often watch myself become more and more energized from day to day—recovering from whatever circumstance blew out my reserves of strength, like bad news or car trouble or just a crazy day. Each day I feel more like myself, more capable, containing more potential to get something done—and today was going to be one of those peak days where I really made a splash in a video, or in writing, or something. Or so it seemed, leading up to it. But today, phht!—nada, nothing, goose-eggs, zippo, kaput. I might as well go back to bed.

Wednesday, September 23rd,  2015                                           10:31 PM

I saw “Pitch Perfect 2” on VOD yesterday—it was okay, but “Pitch Perfect” was one of those movies that caught lightning in a bottle—beyond the premise, the characters, the songs—there was pacing, introspection, coming-of-age notes were hit—it was a perfect movie, in some ways. “Pitch Perfect 2”, I’m sad to report, was more like an extended episode of Glee guest-starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson. It was so busy hitting all the old themes and adding new material, that it never gelled into a movie. It wasn’t terrible—the songs were nice, Rebel is funny, and I’ve got an age-inappropriate ‘thing’ for Anna Kendrick, so it was watchable, but a let-down, still.

I’m too old for Glee—they sing contemporary songs and mash-ups—which I enjoy, but for me a sing-along uses songs my parents, and even my grandparents, used to sing. If I was a little more dexterous I’d get a job playing karaoke back-up piano—when you’re no virtuoso, it’s great to have voices drowning out the piano-playing. In today’s video of 1940s Song Covers, I even try to sing along myself—but that doesn’t help so much, since it distracts me from the playing—and I’m no Andreas Bocelli, either. I left in a brief interruption, where I’m begging my son to sing along with me—and he, being kinda shy, pretends to have a sore throat—someday I’ll catch him in the right mood.

This second video is more song covers—I would have called it Part II, but these songs aren’t from the 1940s—more like the 1930s thru the 1960s. I guess I just felt like singing today.

And here we have another ‘stitched-together’ improv that is really three different segments from among my cover recordings, when I stopped to take improv-breaks.

I’m running into some confusion lately—my improved piano-playing ability makes me very happy, and I enjoy posting new recordings of pieces that I’ve posted before, but much more listen-able. But even today’s posts, which came out pretty fair—I was tempted to not post them and wait for a better take. I also consider playing pieces many times over before posting a recording—something I am doing now with the Brahms Opus 117. Trouble is, even in my new condition, even when I’ve rehearsed a piece, I’ll still spaz out or stumble over a chord; I’ll still have pages to turn; I’ll still get folks wandering through my recording studio (our living room, that is). So perfection ain’t gonna happen—I post what I get and I hope for better in the future. But it is confusing sometimes. I would like to become a real boy (said Pinocchio the wooden pianist).

The Rap-Second’s Speech –& a Lullaby (2015Aug09)

Saturday, August 08, 2015                                                 7:20 PM

 

The Rap-Second’s Speech

Punch your punctuation up with crazy words like Vonnegut

Speak from deep within your gut and spit a classic rap right up

Don’t be beggin’ with your cup—kingly, beat your hater’s butt

Manners make you nicely but strength will keep you standin’ up

If you want to win the cup then speak from deep within your gut.

Sing a tale of lore of yore and spin a dream of haloed glamor

Don’t be shy and don’t you stammer—shoot it straight from inmost core

They’re not here to hear a bore—hit’em with that language hammer

If you want to be a jammer don’t bring junk from th’dollar store

When they holler give us more—stay cool, stand above the clamor

Stun’em like a batterin’-rammer—leave’em lying on the floor.

 

The Frustrated Musician   (2015Jun19)

Saturday, June 20, 2015                                           1:12 AM

I’ve been trying to hook up my electronic piano to my PC using a MIDI-to-USB connection, but my Music Studio software isn’t picking up any input from the MIDI port. Maybe I need a new Sound Card—I don’t know. All I know is after hours of wasted time, I had to settle for recording my e-piano’s own playback—so, apologies for the sound quality. In the video, you can see that I dance about as well as I play.

The title graphic is from the Rijksmuseum—it’s a page from a French marionette catalog of the 18th century, I think:

[Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français, 1786, eee 312: La minaudiere Marinette…, Pierre Charles Baquoy, Esnauts & Rapilly, 1786 (Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Website)]

The other improv is me trying to reproduce that first improv, but on my usual Mason Hamlin baby grand piano. Thus “Reiterations”….

Also, please check out my new poem:

“Shall We Dance?” by XperDunn

Slow Song (2015Jun08)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015                                               3:12 PM

“Slow Song”

by Xper Dunn on June 8th, 2015

****

My tailbone hurts from sitting in a chair—

Through the screen, through my smoke,

Comes a breeze of fresh air.

Through the window glares the light of the raw, hot sun.

I miss the days when I could really run.

When I was young and saw such a day outside

To have to stay inside seemed like being imprisoned.

When did I decide I could let a day like this slide?

How’d I get so old I’d rather stay inside?

Why do I live my life where it obviously isn’t?

I want to fly out the door.

I want to do what I can’t do anymore.

Leave my hat, leave my shades,

Stretch my legs unafraid.

Just run down the street like a teenage machine

With my chin in the wind

– but that’s only a dream.

My tailbone hurts from sitting in a chair—

Through the screen, through my smoke,

Comes a breeze of fresh air.

Through the window glares the light of the raw, hot sun.

I miss the days when I could really run.

In pursuit of my new project, an autobiographical Broadway musical, I wrote these lyrics. Now I have to find a way to sing them. Then write ten or twelve more songs, think up a story line, dialogue, what have you—yeah, I’m almost finished already. Well, it’s a ‘project’—which, in my world, means it will never be finished—so I’m just taking it one song at a time.

Guilty Of Surviving (2015Jun07)

Sunday, June 07, 2015                                             11:53 PM

Guilty Of Surviving

I condemn you, berate you, accuse you!

No I don’t—I’m just stretching

My dramatic muscles—

Getting ready.

I’m gonna write my life-story

As a Broadway musical

Starring everyone I know—

With the nicest people

As villains.

I’ll post it on YouTube—

An instant classic with no class—

Featuring myself as the Ass.

We open on a cozy log cabin

In a Long Island maternity ward

Where I am born to only parents

With four other children.

I am a child of the sixties,

Seventies, eighties, nineties—

I’m immature—who’re we kidding?

Then I die

Ten years ago

But forget

To stop breathing.

I’m doing it wrong.

How can I write a life-story

After it’s over

When it’s still unfinished?

Instead of rhyming June and Moon

I’ll couple Jew with Moo.

If you had died ten years ago

You’d be confus-ed too.

The tunes I’ll pluck from

Out the ether

Somber songs, but none so

Sweether.

What to call this mess-terpiece, huh? Anyhow, I’ve been watching movies on TV. I saw “Larry Gaye—Renegade Male Flight Attendant” starring the guy from ‘Royal Pains’. I also saw “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water”. They are both extremely silly movies—which means two thumbs up in my book. “Larry Gaye” seems like someone who loved “Airplane!” decided to write an updated script for the new millennium—it’s always just a hair’s breadth from a real movie, but always veers into nonsense before it quite gets there.

“Sponge Out Of Water” tries real hard and Antonio Banderas is just as engaged in silliness as he was in “Puss in Boots”—but I’m afraid nothing in the sequel compares to the scene in the original Spongebob Squarepants movie where David Hasselhoff transforms into a jet-propelled hydroplane. Nothing could follow that.

After the movie, I was inspired by the calypso-style music played over the end-credits scroll. I played the following improv, but I never actually got any Caribbean rhythm into it. Still, it came out okay.

A Sunny Day (2015Jun05)

Friday, June 05, 2015                                               1:59 PM

 A Sunny Day   

Laughter light and lyrical rides on the birdsong air.

In amber sunshine bumblebees are bumbling here and there.

And pots of tea, and sandwiches of cucumber and salt,

Are laid upon the shining lawn—an emerald without fault.

You can’t hold back the tide of troubles—bother not to try—

Embrace instead the happiness of days when nothing’s wrong

Don’t worry at your worries—better far they far-flung fly

Life is short but summer days luxuriously long.

Laughter bright and beautiful—the butterfly takes wing.

In golden sunlight flowers bloom, and in the breezes swing.

Well, that’s all for today. Here’s videos I haven’t gotten around to sharing with you yet:

“The Lines Are Cut”   (2015Mar18)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015                                    2:30 PM

The Lines Are Cut

Reason is a shifty shibboleth.

We read a sharing in each other’s eyes,

But groups of thoughts shared

Is hardly all thoughts agreed upon

And taste or preference also split

The join of we who would cohere.

Distraction, syntax, stumblings all

Trouble all the hawsers thrown

To draw our hulls together.

Eternally we drift, unitary, unconnected.

We long for nightfall, when Nature herself

Will cause our ships to finally,

Briefly bump together.

20150318XD-TheLinesAreCut_POEM_GRFC(RoughSeaWithShips_Bakhuysen)_02_SMALLER

I was reading “Alan Turing: Enigma”, the book which “The Imitation Game” is based upon. I’d reached the part where Turing was returning from one of his trips to America in his wartime role as liaison between British and American cryptanalysts. The author describes how the ship carried thousands of servicemen, hundreds of officers—and one civilian. After years of working to uncover the hidden German U-boat wolf-packs that harried the Allied convoys, Turing was in the uncomfortable position of being one of that throng of helpless passengers he had tried to rescue. A boat just like the one he was on had been sunk just two weeks earlier. The Germans had made so many U-boats that even after the Enigma was decoded and their locations were known (with greater accuracy than known by the Nazi high command) their sheer weight of numbers continued the Atlantic sinkings for over a year.

Alan Turing’s difficulties made me ashamed of my petty post from yesterday, where I had boasted of my learning and experience. I should know better than anyone that reason often overturns such peripheral details as learning and experience—I should have been railing against the small-minded arguments of those who don’t even make a decent effort to ‘pierce the veil’. That’s what my ‘rantings’ posts usually do, but I thought focusing on why I had a good grasp of things would be a more positive approach. It didn’t work out that way—if someone else had written yesterday’s post, I would disagree with almost all of it.

No one makes a big deal out of declaring themselves to be an idiot. But in a weird symmetry, people of intelligence and education can’t claim that they’re smart, either—at least, not without making themselves look stupid. You can’t brag about being smart any more than you can brag about being tall—sure, tall people and smart people might have a clearer view than most people, but that’s just the luck of the draw. And this led me to contemplate the futility of communication, both public and one-on-one. It’s too bad we use the same system to express our feelings and share our information—they get in each other’s way.

But, anyway, the result of all this moping was a poem, or rather a first line and an idea for a poem came into my head. I’ve never learned to write and think as clearly at a keyboard-and-screen as when I’m writing with pen-and-paper—I only type my poems into my “digital storage unit” afterward. The finished product is displayed above.

On my way to the workstation, I passed the piano—so, I stopped and recorded a piano improvisation along the way. I’ve named it after the poem—they certainly share a frame-of-mind, so why not?

It’s As Much About What One Becomes (2015Feb27)

20150227XD-POEM_HumilityIsFatal_Draft_02

 

VIDEO: Tyler Sid reads his poem, “Open Culture”, beginning at time-mark 00:20 secs in. (He reads my poem, “Humility Is Fatal”, beginning at time-mark 24:20.)

 

Friday, February 27, 2015                                10:30 AM

First, a few admissions about my ‘poetry’—I have two gears, as it were, one of which is to get all technical and use a rigid meter and rhyme scheme (in this first gear, I can use the confinements of format to excuse any stiffness or awkward phrasing). My ‘second gear’ can be seen above—I basically write what I’m thinking, but I don’t allow myself any of the run-on sentences that are too much a feature of my prose. I chop off all my lines before they reach the right-hand side of the page and I capitalize every first letter of every line. However, I also allow myself to go from one thought or idea to another without any ‘connective tissue’, much less a segue—and I allow myself encapsulated symbolisms, used as shorthand, without being too judgmental about their aptness or comprehensiveness (i.e. describing all of modern, first-world technology as “addiction to the washing machine”).

But my poetry is also a great time-saver, for me and my readers. Take this line: “The more special we believe we are, the worse we behave.” Now, this thought, ordinarily, would come to my mind as an inspiration for a lengthy blog-post on human nature and the problem of modern humanity—and I do so love stringing those words together into a cohesive argument or illustration about truth and reality. But poetry is a beautiful thing—in poetry, I can just write down that ‘kernel-ized’ concept as a single line and, by the ‘rules’ of poetry, it is now left to the readers to read that line and write their own blogposts in their own heads. I trade the pleasure of spelling things out to a ‘T’ for the ease of simply saying the germ of the idea.

All you serious poets out there will have recognized by now that I am describing ‘writing prose in a poetic format’ more than ‘writing poetry’. I know when I’m reading ‘real’ poetry, because it leaves sense impressions in my head and evokes ephemeral feelings, without ever displaying any coherent thoughts or unmitigated images—and I respect that. Also, I truly hope that something like that effect is achieved by my less-nuanced writings–it isn’t as though I’m trying to do it wrong.  I know that if I tried to write that ‘real’ kind of poetry, I might succeed—but I’d be more than likely to get lost down the rabbit-hole of thinking poetically, un-sequentially, unconnectedly. And, if you’re not involved in creative pursuits, let me tell you—it’s as much about what one becomes, through pursuing the creative, as it is about what one achieves as a creative person. Madness is catching—and I prefer to cherry-pick my madnesses.

All that being said, poetry is undefinable—so if I write anything at all, as long as it has Caps at the beginning of each line, regardless of grammar, it’s my poem. And fortunately there are others who agree with me. Tyler Syd, a poet friend of mine, has chosen to include the above poem in his upcoming public reading (something which I’m very proud and flattered to know). I appreciate that because, while I may not consider myself a traditional poetaster, I do feel that I have something to say—and poetry, by virtue of requiring the readers to engage their own thought-processes and imaginations, is far better suited to communicating my somewhat ‘intellectual’ musings on society and the nature of reality.

While blog-posts are more straight-forward and specific, most readers will read a blog-post with half a mind towards what their comments or complaints or disagreements might be—with poetry, my readers do not approach the piece from that point of view. They put more focus on what is being said rather than their own responses. They maximize my images through their own imaginations rather than confine them to the limits of reflexive debate and objections. Not that I’m hiding from argument—just from ‘argument for argument’s sake’.

Have you ever had that experience where you’re in the middle of an argument and suddenly realized that you are wrong and the other person has a point? I used to hate, hate, hate that feeling! But now, in my dotage, I’ve learned to enjoy it, to embrace the revelation of something I hadn’t previously seen. And I learned, in the process, that a lot of argument is nothing more than momentum—the desire to keep on fighting, right or wrong—which is admirable in its way, but perhaps not entirely suitable to logical argument. And in such a complex world, I feel that reducing unnecessary argument is vital to positive progress. Thus my hearty disapproval of modern news media—we are in vital need of information, but we are force-fed controversy instead, because of its greater ‘entertainment value’—what a load.

It also fuels my resentment towards fundamentalists—the world is such a messy tangle of ideas, the last thing we need is a bunch of people re-raising questions that educated, thoughtful people have long since put to bed. To look upon all the amazing discoveries made by geologists, biologists, and astronomers—and dismiss it all in favor of one’s own ignorance—I can’t see that as anything other than madness—willful, egotistical blindness to the obvious. These same people will use jet airliners to travel and computers to communicate their ‘ideas’ about the falsity of science—I don’t know, I guess logic just doesn’t appeal to them.

I suppose I shouldn’t blame them—after all, logic isn’t the bottom line, survival is. We don’t need to make sense as much as we need to keep breathing. And if they want to trade logic for the chance to keep breathing even after they stop breathing, well, they’re certainly making a good start on it—an afterlife makes about as much sense as a fish on a bicycle. Now, go away, before I decide to capitalize all my first letters and turn this into a poem….

One last thing–here’s the drawing used to make the poetry-graphic, and an alternate version of the completed graphic:

20150227XD-POEM_HumltyIsFatal_02(SAM_0930)_B

 

20150227XD-POEM_HumilityIsFatal_Draft_01

Aliens In Winter (2015Jan19)

20150119XD-POEM_WinterHasARight

 

 

 

-Thus endeth the lesson.

So, now I have my video of Joni-Mitchell-song piano-covers, my poem about my winter walk, and here I am, being greedy, trying for an essay to top it all off…

Well, the odds of my getting a good essay, when I haven’t actually been driven to the keyboard by frustration and a head full of roiling thoughts—when I’ve just ‘decided’ to try and squeeze one out of myself—are lower than dirt. So I might as well choose an equally off-the-grid subject, like Ancient Aliens. Nobody takes ancient aliens seriously, so they make a perfect subject for me—although, I should admit, being taken seriously is the last thing I need. I have a hard enough time being taken for a light-headed jester.

Nevertheless, there are many ancient ruins whose construction is ‘unexplainable’. It’s hard for me to accept that word, ‘unexplainable’. ‘Very difficult’ I could manage—even ‘mysterious’ I can handle—but for something to be entirely unexplainable (in my experience) is a poor use of words. In science, there were (and are) many unanswered questions—but we don’t just throw up that word, ‘unexplainable’, and move on—we find explanations. That’s what science is—the refusal to accept ‘unexplainable’ as an answer.

Now, ‘unexplainable’ does have a temporal meaning—even in science, there are many things which are not yet explainable. And if Ancient Alien proponents wish to replace ‘unexplainable’ with ‘not yet explained’, then I’m ready to listen to the rest of what they have to say. Until then, I have to place them in the set of all people who are willing to accept ignorance as an answer, rather than a challenge—and members of that set do not intersect with the set of all people who are rigorously scientific.

And scale, in and of itself, does not constitute any great mystery, to my mind. Huge blocks of stone may seem immovable, laser-guided precision of ancient carvings may seem impossible—lots of things appear at first glance to be outside of our capabilities—or the capacity of our ancestors. But give thousands of people hundreds of years to think and experiment and work things out, and there is very little that we can pronounce to be impossible. Large objects can be floated upon waterways, rolled on wheels or cylinders, or undermined in sand. These and other techniques can also be combined in various ways to enhance their power. In short, to pronounce something to be too big to move is actually just a way of saying that our imaginations have limits—a statement with which I could never agree.

Others questions, such as the visibility of the Nazca Lines diagrams only from the air, seem to me equally judgmental about the cleverness of people. There’s a tremendous gap, to my mind, between something that is very, very hard to do—and something that is impossible to do. Nor do I give credence to the issue of why ancient monuments were built. Without context, even our more modern structures, like cathedrals, have no obvious, practical use. In the particular case of the Ancient Alien question, we see many ruins of structures that have an astronomical connection—but the stars are as important to a farmer, or a sheepherder, as they are to an alien. The circuitous seasons have, for mankind, both a life-or-death meaning for agriculture and a more mystical attraction as a source of contemplation and dreaming—the addition of aliens is superfluous to their import.

Thus, while I’m open to the idea of Ancient Aliens, I’m less than satisfied with the current archive of ‘proof’ that we see on TV. Also, I’m not too crazy about the idea that humanity is nothing more than an experiment in some galactic laboratory run by alien overlords. I’d rather believe in God, if I could.

O–and two more videos:

 

A Tiny Concert (2015Jan11)

Sunday, January 11, 2015                       5:00 PM

I stumbled through a short-concert-for-no-one earlier today. It includes two of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Lieder Ohne Worte” (Songs Without Words), a song from Cole Porter’s classic musical “DuBarry Was A Lady”, entitled “Come On In”, and (as always) a brief piano improvisation of my own devising. I hope everyone, or anyone, enjoys listening to it as much as I enjoyed playing.

 

 

 

 

In other news, I’ve begun a song project. At the moment I have only a rough draft of the lyrics, given below—I invite comment and constructive criticism:

Song Project:

Chopped greens, yolks in a bowl,

The wooden spoon, the shakers, the mitt,

The stove-tops, all four, full,

As the oven glows and bakes.

Boy comes into a warm steamy kitchen,

Aroma says stew’s on the stove,

The sure cutting of mom, cooking…

 

“Get yer hand out of there!”

“You wanna lose a finger?”

“What the hell’s wrong with you?!”

 

A boy who wants, just wants,

Thinks of a cookie in a bear-shaped jar.

Having been chased off, he tip-toes

Toward the pantry, stubby fingers

Reach for the china head.

Eyes wide, mouth agape, boy

Approaches the granting of his sugary wish.

 

“Get yer hand out of there!”

“Can’t you see me cooking dinner?”

“You wanna RUIN your appetite?!”

 

Boy walks away, then skips a little,

Hums a tune—a nursery rhyme,

Spins around and starts to sing,

Dancing along, closing his eyes,

He pipes angelic notes,

Transported to a fairy-land

Of song and dance and freedom…

 

“Watch where yer going!”

“What is your problem?”

“Get out of my kitchen right now!”

 

Please note that the mother’s lines are meant to be contrastingly loud and screechy, very unmusical—while the verse is meant to be all soft and trilly and peaceful. I’m not sure what the song is about yet—I’m just amused by the idea of the really strong contrast between the narrator’s lyrics and the mother’s words.

Singing a Song, Sorta (2014Oct23)

Lyric

 

I’m gonna keep the lights on in here

So you can see the glow when ever you’re near

I’m gonna keep the music playing real loud

So you can always hear me in a crowd

 

I’m gonna stay the craziest one

So you know we’ll always have the most fun

If your eyes are looking for me

You can bet my eyes are looking back to see

If you’re looking for a good guy (uh-huh)

You can count on me till we die (uh-huh).

 

I’m the best I’ve ever been now

I think our love is gonna win now

Go on, and ask me how I know how—

 

I’ll show you dreams,         and schemes,      and online modern memes

Don’t need no dough,        or blow,              or fancy cars to show

You gotta trust,                   you must,            or love’ll end in dust

Let’s get together               and we can weather

 

Any absolutely deadly problems,

Defusing packs before they bomb us

Antidoting poisoned harvests

Reaping love before they starve us

Our love makes us superheroes

We can jump right out the windows

We can fly up where the cloud goes

Love has powers no one knows

The limits of.   Yes, that is love.          I give you love.  Please give me love.

When I Fall In Love — With Shakespeare (2014Oct21)

Piano Cover: “When I Fall In Love” (plus “Improv- When In Love With Shakespeare”) (2014Oct21)

My early-morning, throat-clearing session:

A piano cover of “When I Fall In Love”,
followed by a brief improvisation which I have chosen to
entitle “Improv- When In Love With Shakespeare”.
(You may notice the improved quality of the vocals caused by the positioning of the camera closer to my mouth than the piano.)

Sonnet IV

Vnthrifty louelineſſe why doſt thou ſpend,
Vpon thy ſelfe thy beauties legacy?
Natures bequeſt giues nothing but doth lend,
And being franck ſhe lends to thoſe are free:
Then beautious nigard why dooſt thou abuſe,
The bountious largeſſe giuen thee to giue?
Profitles vſerer why dooſt thou vſe
So great a ſumme of ſummes yet can’ſt not liue?
For hauing traffike with thy ſelfe alone,
Thou of thy ſelfe thy ſweet ſelfe doſt deceaue,
Then how when nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable Audit can’ſt thou leaue?
   Thy vnuſ’d beauty muſt be tomb’d with thee,
   Which vſed liues th’executor to be.

Here Shakespeare uses finance as an allegory, exhorting the youth to spend his beauty carefully, not to waste it in self-satiety, but to produce heirs
that may enjoy his legacy.

Sonnet V

Thoſe howers that with gentle worke did frame,
The louely gaze where euery eye doth dwell
Will play the tirants to the very ſame,
And that vnfaire which fairely doth excell:
For neuer reſting time leads Summer on,
To hidious winter and confounds him there,
Sap checkt with froſt and luſtie leau’s quite gon.
Beauty ore-ſnow’d and barenes euery where,
Then were not ſummers diſtillation left
A liquid priſoner pent in walls of glaſſe,
Beauties effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it nor noe remembrance what it was.
   But flowers diſtil’d though they with winter meete,
   Leeſe but their ſhow,their ſubſtance ſtill liues ſweet.

This and the following sonnet can be seen as a pair–both use the seasons to symbolize the passage of time and the path of life. Youth is warned to
distill something permanent from his Summer, to keep him through hideous Winter.

Sonnet VI

Then let not winters wragged hand deface,
In thee thy ſummer ere thou be diſtil’d:
Make ſweet ſome viall;treaſure thou ſome place,
With beauties treaſure ere it be ſelfe kil’d:
That vſe is not forbidden vſery,
Which happies thoſe that pay the willing lone;
That’s for thy ſelfe to breed an other thee,
Or ten times happier be it ten for one,
Ten times thy ſelfe were happier then thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigur’d thee,
Then what could death doe if thou ſhould’ſt depart,
Leauing thee liuing in poſterity?
Be not ſelfe-wild for thou art much too faire,
To be deaths conqueſt and make wormes thine heire.

As with Sonnet V, the theme is the distillation of self against the losses of time’s passing–but with the specific notion, here, that ten children (!) make
a sure harvest against the poverty of age and death.

 

 

SHAKESPEARE SONNETS – Sonnet II & Sonnet III (2014Oct18)

Sonnet II

When fortie Winters ſhall beſeige thy brow,
And digge deep trenches in thy beauties field,
Thy youthes proud liuery ſo gaz’d on now,
Wil be a totter’d weed of ſmal worth held:
Then being askt,where all thy beautie lies,
Where all the treaſure of thy luſty daies;
To ſay within thine owne deepe ſunken eyes,
Were an all-eating ſhame, and thriftleſſe praiſe.
How much more praiſe deſeru’d thy beauties uſe,
If thou couldſt anſwere this faire child of mine
Shall ſum my count,and make my old excuſe
Proouing his beautie by ſucceſſion thine.
This were to be new made when thou art ould,
And ſee thy blood warme when thou feel’ſt it could.

In this poem, Shakespeare casts Time in the role of a military force, attacking youth. He urges youth to act, to produce new youth, before time can claim its victory over his own ‘lusty days’. Keep in mind that ‘forty winters’, in Shakespeare’s time, was nearly synonomous with a life-time.

20141017XD-ShakspearSonnt_No_II(TitlesCARD)

 

Sonnet III

Looke in thy glaſſe and tell the face thou veweſt,
Now is the time that face ſhould forme an other,
Whoſe freſh repaire if now thou not reneweſt,
Thou doo’ſt beguile the world,vnbleſſe ſome mother.
For where is ſhe ſo faire whoſe vn-eard wombe
Diſdaines the tillage of thy huſbandry?
Or who is he ſo fond will be the tombe,
Of his ſelfe loue to ſtop poſterity?
Thou art thy mothers glaſſe and ſhe in thee
Calls backe the louely Aprill of her prime,
So thou through windowes of thine age ſhalt ſee,
Diſpight of wrinkles this thy goulden time.
But if thou liue remembred not to be,
Die ſingle and thine Image dies with thee.

There’s certainly cause to label these first seventeen the ‘procreation’ sonnets! Reading this third one, I imagine Shakespeare may be Literature’s greatest Yenta. And though he meditates on the grand circle of life’s bud, bloom and wilt, I spy a bit of simplicity to his attitude. While he warns the youth that beauty is fleeting, he also agrees with the utter value of that beauty–he doesn’t dispel vanity, he gives it advice.

20141017XD-ShakspearSonnt_No_III(TitlesCARD)

XperDunn recites Poetry – SHAKESPEARE SONNETS – Sonnet I (2014Oct17)

Friday, October 17, 2014                       1:52 PM

Shakespeare Sonnets – A Proposed Series

 

Sonnet I

From faireſt creatures we deſire increaſe,

That thereby beauties Roſe might neuer die,

But as the riper ſhould by time deceaſe,

His tender heire might beare his memory:

But thou contracted to thine owne bright eyes,

Feed’ſt thy lights flame with ſelfe ſubſtantiall fewell,

Making a famine where aboundance lies,

Thy ſelfe thy foe,to thy ſweet ſelfe too cruell:

Thou that art now the worlds freſh ornament,

And only herauld to the gaudy ſpring,

Within thine owne bud burieſt thy content,

And tender chorle makſt waſt in niggarding:

   Pitty the world,or elſe this glutton be,

   To eate the worlds due,by the graue and thee.

 

Here in the opening sonnet, Shakespeare exhorts the ‘beautiful people’ to get busy making babies—to produce from their beauty beautiful children, thus increasing the world’s beauty, rather than selfishly luxuriating in their own.

(These first seventeen sonnets are often dubbed the ‘procreation’ sonnets….)

 

20141017XD-ShakspearSonnt_No_I(TitlesCARD)

Music, Poetry, and Art (2014Sep29)

Over the last two days, I have created three new videos.

First is “A Fall Turn”–it is an unusually long specimen and includes photos of the encroaching autumn in our front yard.

Second is “Rough Riders”–a peppy sort of galloping thing, with reproductions of famous masterpieces and other art.

Third and last is “Her Face Had A Halo”–after playing this, I heard it in my head, then wrote the lyrics below.

So, here they are:

 

 

 

[written on Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 10:02 PM]
“YOUR FACE HAD A HALO”

O say, can you remember
when school started every September?
When greens turned gold and
Winds blew cold, remember?
And hair around your face once made a halo.

Your face a lovely setting for your eyes,
Your eyes a gateway into outer space,
Your words like honey wrapped in silk,
When with you I was never in a ‘place’.

When we were young we had that hungry fire,
That curiosity about desire.
We had no way to know that life was long—
We only knew the words to sweet love’s song.
The hair about your face once made a halo.

 

 

The War for Heaven on Earth (2014Jul03)

Hi everyone! I wrote a poem today, then a drew an illustration for it, then I recorded a music background for it.

Click here to hear the poem:

20140703XD-POEM-DWar4HvnOnErt(CreditsCARD)

 

Click here to listen to my piano soundtrack:

 

Click here to see the Graphic Print Version of the Poem.

 

And here are the drawing and photos used for the artwork:

Original Sketch
Original Sketch
Photo-shopped
Photo-shopped
our Bee-Balms...
our Bee-Balms…

20140703XD-TheWar4HvnOnErt 018

20140703XD-TheWar4HvnOnErt 022

Catnip
Catnip
Blueberries ripening...
Blueberries ripening…
Our little baby watermelon--coming along...
Our little baby watermelon–coming along…

20140703XD-TheWar4HvnOnErt 013

20140703XD-TheWar4HvnOnErt 016

Hope You Enjoyed…

O—and, since this is the next day—Happy 4th of July!

Strawberry Hill (2013Oct28)

Wrote another poem today:

 

Poem (?)

Argffth! Spttoo-o-o-o-o-o-o! Yaughck!

Augh, I can’t.. Hack-Hack-spurtle..I can’t Breath! cough

cough

cough

Where’re the others?

O my god (cough)

What happened?!

 

                 -by XD

And then my lovely Claire came home (with a whopper jr w/cheese–the bestest) and I played for her–It came out kinda romantic, so I named it after those Spanish-language soap-operas they call ‘Novelos’:

Improv - Novelo

Improv – Novelo

…As you can see, today’s graphics theme is ‘Strawberry Hill Gothic’, a old, brief fad in architecture. I couldn’t say what connection to the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields” there is, if any–I always figured the Beatles did Strawberry Fields for the same reason the Kinks did “Ducks On The Wall”–because it was something their parents liked, and they hated.

All these pictures are examples–I guy named Walpole got rich from writing Halloween stories, and this was his dream house style–I read about in a post I shared earlier today (You can go on my Facebook page and find the one called simply ‘Halloween’) and I Googled images of the style…

so, here’s a few more:

The Vagaries of Emotional Cycles

Today was a rest day. Not that I actually schedule rest days—I only have days of high activity, high productivity days, terrible days, and rest days. I like days when I’m active—I get up and move around, even go outside; I talk to people; I do the crossword; I write, draw, or play the piano—anything that rouses the circulation at least a little, anything that puts some spark in those brainwaves.

VaticanMusic02

Such activity inevitably leads to a productive period. I’ll record some piano music; I’ll write op-ed-type essays; I’ll scan in some old artwork or I’ll photo-shop my artwork and my photos, whatever I usually do when I feel like I’m involved in life, even if only peripherally. The ultimate goal is to ‘Post’ things to my online friend-circles—a finished recording, a proofread essay, some graphic artwork of my own creation. Not everything I write gets posted—and I’ll tell you why I’m glad about that. If I was comfortable posting everything I wrote, I wouldn’t be getting at the heart of things that are important to me.

VaticanMusic03

And that’s probably the same reason I can’t get a toe-hold on any fiction-writing—if I wrote about things I care about, things I felt are too personal to share with ‘the public’, even in fiction form, I would feel too exposed. Plus, all my characters would be transparent ‘takes’ on the people closest to me—my family and friends. So, even if I was comfortable laying myself open to the world at large, I wouldn’t feel right using people I care about as characters in a story. Sometimes, when I’m reading something, I’ll wonder to myself about the author and whether he or she felt embarrassed about certain scenes or dialogues, especially when it involved recognizable characters from their actual life.

VaticanMusic05

Anyway, it’s not for me. I don’t think I could write an intimate love-scene and be okay with my children reading it, or my mother, or my neighbors, or really anybody—no, writing fiction is for thicker-skinned people than me. And I see no point to writing fiction that can’t be shared with the world. Still, I can write essays to myself about myself—that falls under the heading of ‘therapy’ (like those letters they tell you to write and then tear up when you’re mad at somebody). And I have felt certain instances of clarity that came as a result of putting my thoughts and feelings into words.

VaticanSeal02

But I often rant about public issues and historical perspectives and my ideas about what’s going on in the world—and those I can gladly post. Likewise, a lot of my piano recordings don’t make it to YouTube. Some days I record 45, 50 minutes of piano, but have to edit out everything but the six-to-twelve minutes of Improv (when there is an Improv). And my drawings, too, are edited and selected for posting, with many being too poorly drawn or too weird to share with the world. My productive days always follow my active days, but sadly my active days don’t always result in productivity—a lot of being good is working and practicing, and I’m hard enough to listen to when I’m recording intentionally for a YouTube posting!

VaticanSeal02w

That’s my active days and my productive days—then there’s the recoil. After posting a particularly felicitous piano improv, or essay, or poem, there’s a feeling of incompleteness—and the better I feel about a post, the more it hurts to watch it just lie there, no likes, no plays, no comments. Some days, when I feel I’ve reached a new quantum-level of quality, I could almost scream, “Why won’t anyone look or read or listen? How can this incredible effort go unnoticed?!?”

pom12

The truth is, I avoid the usual means suggested for building an online following—building my list of contacts and followers, posting my stuff to a site that is a platform for a specific art form, ‘liking’ other people’s posts to get them to feel obliged to return the favor… All that stuff reminds me of my old ‘mailing-list’ days, when very ambitious entrepreneurs would start a catalog mailing just to acquire a list of people who were proven likely to buy something from an expensive (‘high-ticket’) retail catalog. All these tips about networking and building a client base aren’t really new—they’re just new as an online activity. And it’s all salesmanship—it requires the same brain activity as selling cars: the oily friendliness, the tempting of the prospect’s ego, the jabs at the prospect’s sense of inadequacy, and the mind-games of ‘closing’ the sale.

pom11

It’s all hucksterism—and I used to get paid to do it professionally—I’m not even a little bit inclined to do it as a ‘hobby’. Plus, while I knew the techniques of ad-copywriting, targeted marketing, eye-catching layouts, and glossy presentation, I was never good at the face-to-face stuff. I’ve never been good with people, unless they were as guileless as I am—babies and pets seem to love me—big clients and movers and shakers—not so much.

Stigma

So my online followers are few and I have no plans to try to increase their number except through random happenstance. That doesn’t change my despair at having no hits on my latest post, but it does explain how I can hold on to the conceit that I might be good at something, while having no practical indication of that possibility from my ‘audience’ of friends and relations.

scenes03

So, productivity must give way to the whiplash of recoil—I put it out there, and nothing comes back—these make for bad days—and that’s over and above the ‘bad’ days of my physical functioning. These are days when I listen to my video over and over, asking myself, “Is it really good? Or am I too close to tell?” And I read my essays over and over. Sometimes I’ll find a typo, or a grammatical lapse—but mostly I just read them repeatedly, asking myself if I’m saying something worth hearing, or am I just making an ass of myself?

franc06d

Better are the rest days. These rest days come when I’ve done a lot over a short time span, my fingers are stiff, my mind is fuzzy and I don’t even try to do anything more just yet—and I am still high enough off my creativity-buzz that I don’t think about anyone else’s response to my stuff. I tell myself, “Just take it easy—you’ll be feeling better tomorrow.”

arena

Artwork for Annual Pig Roast (2013Jul27)

Long ago, in a decade far, far away, my friend Randy owned a big spread up in the Vermont hills–a beautiful idyll with meadows and wood-trails and ponds and streams. Randy made his own pond (and stocked it) but still, he had a pond. On one visit, I designed and built a footbridge over his stream–my one and only engineering project.

rough sketch 1 for Directions Map

I was already losing focus, losing fine motor control in my drawings, and suffering from chronic fatigue, etc. So I would make short visits up there to build bridges and draw flyers, but then I went home and only heard about the huge galas that followed my visits. Randy described one gathering where my footbridge was the access to all the big tents and lean-tos. The bridge was such a big hit that someone eventually drove a car over it. To their surprise, the bridge was unfazed by an automobiles weight. Soon they were all driving back and forth over the bridge–until some wiseguy decided to ‘push the envelope’ and drive a big pick-up across. My bridge was fazed, and no one would ever again build a usable bridge over that stream.

rough sketch 2 for Directions Map

The Annual Pig Roasts were huge affairs. The police citations from previous fests were nailed up on a wall of honor–no party ever got cited less than three times. It was a three-day event–people would caravan in with huge RVs, tent cities, and a host of less-easily described people and living quarters. But the only way to get all those people together was to send out invitations–which was where I came in. The first flyer had a sort of ‘last supper’ drawing of a bunch of cartoon pigs seated at a long table, drinking and eating–the best drawing of all but, unfortunately, one for which I have lost all the art and flyers.

The next year, I would be unable to draw as well, and Randy had to settle for two pigs toasting with beer mugs. The year after that, Randy had to settle for re-using the same art, and just updating the words. This was one of the hardest periods for me–I was becoming a shell of my former self and still believed that I just wasn’t getting enough rest–and it hurt me to have to say ‘no’ when people asked me to draw–they couldn’t understand that my ability had simply dried up and blown away, and neither could I.

If you’ve never drawn a map of directions to a party, be advised that it isn’t as easy as it looks–fortunately (from my POV at that time) a map done properly once need never be drawn again.

final drawing for Directions Map:

There were early sessions between Randy and I as he explained what he wanted the picture to look like…

early sketch 1 ‘party pig’

…and I drew rough sketches to see if we were talking about the same thing.

After fixing upon the figures, we then discussed the ‘scene’:

rough sketch – left-side ‘toasting pig’:

rough sketch – left-side ‘toasting pig’:

toasting pigs

final art

Randy was very kind, always offering to put me and Claire and kids in his House (which he designed and built himself!–the only permanent structure with utilities and running water). Alas, we were raising young kids and I was falling apart inside, so we never did get to see the roasts. (I had been to the very first one, but had spent the two days in bed, sick and exhausted.) Still, they were wonders of the art of hospitality and it’s a shame Randy doesn’t live there any more.

randy’s Invite & Thank You:

Randy has been writing poetry lately, under the URL cloudfactor5.wordpress, and very good poetry, IMHO. You can judge for yourselves at:   cloudfactor5

more art to come…..

I Insist On Having A Dragon To Kill by XperDunn (2013July03)

I Insist On Having A Dragon To Kill by XperDunn (2013July03).

via I Insist On Having A Dragon To Kill by XperDunn (2013July03).

“Angry” by Xper Dunn – June 19th, 2013

I asked Claire if it sounded ‘angry’–she laughed and said that if I wasn’t trying to sound angry in this poem, then I definitely am not in touch with my emotions.. I guess she’s right.

Improv – Persephone’s Dance (2013Apr08)

XperDunn plays Piano
April 8th, 2013

Improv – Persephone’s Dance

Subtitles as follows:

Demeter and Persephone
(excerpt) by

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

“…Once more the reaper in the gleam of dawn
Will see me by the landmark far away,
Blessing his field, or seated in the dusk
Of even, by the lonely threshing-floor,
Rejoicing in the harvest and the grange.
Yet I, Earth-Goddess, am but ill-content
With them, who still are highest. Those gray heads,
What meant they by their “Fate beyond the Fates”
But younger kindlier Gods to bear us down,
As we bore down the Gods before us? Gods,
To quench, not hurl the thunderbolt, to stay,
Not spread the plague, the famine; Gods indeed,
To send the noon into the night and break
The sunless halls of Hades into Heaven?
Till thy dark lord accept and love the Sun,
And all the Shadow die into the Light,
When thou shalt dwell the whole bright year with me,
And souls of men, who grew beyond their race,
And made themselves as Gods against the fear
Of Death and Hell; and thou that hast from men,
As Queen of Death, that worship which is Fear,
Henceforth, as having risen from out the dead,
Shalt ever send thy life along with mine
From buried grain thro’ springing blade, and bless
Their garner’d Autumn also, reap with me,
Earth-mother, in the harvest hymns of Earth
The worship which is Love, and see no more
The Stone, the Wheel, the dimly-glimmering lawns
Of that Elysium, all the hateful fires
Of torment, and the shadowy warrior glide
Along the silent field of Asphodel. ”

Demeter and Persephone (excerpt)
-Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

{The complete poem is available online–indeed, all of Tennyson’s works are.
My preferred free literature online= Project Gutenberg dot ORG…}

Questions —Xper Dunn January 13th, 2013

Questions   —Xper Dunn   January 13th, 2013

 

 

 

This is my second attempt to match this poem to an illustration, using original artwork

 

Here are the original drawing and designs made from it:

original scan of felt-tip pen drawing

original scan of felt-tip pen drawing

photo-shopped image of original scan

photo-shopped image of original scan

Multiple 'flipped' images (4 in 1)

Multiple ‘flipped’ images (4 in 1)

Final iteration (This is the first 4-in-1 made a second 4-in-1)

Final iteration (This is the first 4-in-1 made a second 4-in-1)

Thoughts on President B.H. Obama’s 2nd Inaugural

Google chose to celebrate the MLK Day aspect of today, rather than the 2nd Inaugural Ceremony

Google chose to celebrate the MLK Day aspect of today, rather than the 2nd Inaugural Ceremony

What a beautiful and galvanizing celebration of the most idealistic aspect of our nation’s character, the peaceful appointment to power, either for the first time, or, as today, for another four years. For all the acrimony and rabble-rousing of politicos and their viewers, we all nevertheless accept, on both sides, that we are one nation and that we all accept our chosen leader (whether—as individuals—we chose him or not).

The musicians, James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, and Beyoncé, all made our hearts swell and our eyes tear up. The poet laureate’s Inaugural Poem was layered with iconic imagery of small points and grand visions, candid moments and desperate struggles—a beautifully, evocative work that could not have been more apt to the occasion. Even the meteorology cooperated, with a brisk breeze that furled our Stars and Bars to picture-perfection!

The first daughters, fortunate in being so close, obviously comfortable with their side-roles—where single children, or crowds of sibs in large families, have no such intimate and mutually supportive partners for this, the most public of childhoods. The absence of many Republicans was politely overlooked by the celebratory crowd—and I, too, was very forgiving and sympathetic towards the GOP—their recent repudiation by the majority of Americans has left them stunned and confused.

But most of all I enjoyed the shots of the Clintons, arm in arm, especially Hillary. Her grin was ear-to-ear and one could easily imagine her lightness of spirit as she attended what for her was, in some degree, the last day of school. She had gone from NY Senator to Democratic Candidate for President to Secretary of State. And as Secretary of State, she had spent the last four years circling the globe, arbitrating world crises both major and minor, and bringing herself to exhausted collapse right up to the last days of her appointment. Nor has her work gone unnoticed—her efforts have been roundly applauded by all but the most dyed-in-the-wool Neo-Cons. Most important of all, she helped President Obama to ‘grow down’ our existing wars, without getting us into another one out of sheer jingoist bombast.

She almost died doing the work of ten men (and I use the term ‘men’ advisedly) and spent a week in hospital in her last appointed month of service. That joyous glow showing in her face as the 2nd Inaugural Public Ceremony rolled along was, I assume, the face of someone who was about to have a real ‘day off’ for the first time in a decade. For someone of Hillary Clinton’s character, we should not be surprised if she becomes restless after just a few days or weeks of this pause in the juggernaut of her career. But, as I heard Rachel Maddow say so well while commentating on today’s ceremony, even if the stress of her ceaseless toil makes it impossible for her to do anything else in future public service (much less run in 2016) she has already left her indelible mark on American history, as first lady, senator, and secretary of state.

I have had some personal experience with what we usually call ‘burn-out’, whether from business, government service, politics, or life itself, and I would not lay any criticism upon Ms. Clinton if she did allow herself to say ‘enough’. In our present society, there isn’t nearly enough attention paid to the idea of diminishing returns in life. We live our lives ferociously, obsessively, often too narrowly—the benediction to ‘stop and smell the roses’ has become as much of a joke as ‘trust me’ or ‘why can’t we all get along’. But as we ceaselessly compete against our relations, our neighbors, our co-workers, and the rest of the world—as we dig deeper and deeper for those goals that any self-respecting person could set themselves—we give up the most important part of our founding Declaration, the ‘pursuit of happiness’.

If our goals in life require unending struggle and toil, absence from our loved ones, and even acceptance of the ‘every one for themselves’ ethics (or, I should say, lack of ethics) of our business world—what, then, is the purpose of our lives? Shouldn’t our lives be balanced between hard work and rest, sadness and joy? The United States of America has led the world from far ahead of most other countries for a very long time and there is one reason—we sincerely believe in the dignity of every person. That freedom and equality have shaped our country and given the world a good example. And I think it is time we embraced the cardinal issue of our times—quality of life.

In recent times we have seen the richest people in the world get richer off the defrauding of everyone else—and then get ‘bailed out’ corporately while the selfish business leaders hand out golden parachutes to each other. Having destroyed our economy with their eyes wide open, they then take advantage of the high unemployment to enforce a renewed despotism over those ‘lucky’ enough to have a job.

The working man, once the bedrock of our middle class, has been reduced to a new birth of slavery wherein the corporation takes all one can give, and tries mightily to reduce compensation to its lowest possible limit. That’s not even taking into account the millions of ‘part-timers’, who are part-timers only in the sense that they are denied the legal rights of an ‘employee’!

Our children are never seen playing in their yards—their homework and extra-curricular activities have taken up every moment of what used to be called ‘after school’—a period of life that I remember fondly, full of chatter and games and just hanging out.

Corporate culture has seeped into every aspect of our lives—and corporations are given more rights by denying what we formerly thought of as our rights, back in the legendary times of consumer protection, OSHA, and financial regulation. The twenty-four-hour news and media place our minds firmly in the morass of global crises we can do little to change, and distracts us from the less sensational, but more meaningful, issue of what’s going on in our own state, county, or neighborhood.

We end up imagining ourselves in direct competition with hordes of cheap labor in newly developing countries like China or India—but it is our corporations that have created these sweatshops, then used their existence in a bald-faced attempt to force our own workers to bow to this neo-slavery. It isn’t as obvious a controversy as Civil Rights or Education, but it is nevertheless one we are required to address if we want our lives to have meaning to ourselves and not just to the accountants in corporate headquarters.

So I have spent these past years on disability, a disability due as much to the stress of the business environment and the ossification of a super-wealthy-upper-class into an irresistible power, as it was to nerve damage and brain entropy. How can it be that many of today’s businesspersons suffer from symptoms similar to some returning war veterans, a PTSD born not of battle, but of greed and carelessness? Why do we feel tempted to use the phone while we drive, if not from a deep insecurity with the seconds that fly by without being used to compete, to earn a living, to get an education? We are voluntarily torturing ourselves!

I wish people would just start acting like they did in the seventies—back then, ‘all work and no play’ was considered a recipe for ill health, both physical and mental. I wish people would start taking 35 minutes for lunch, instead of the obligatory 30. I wish people would drive more slowly each morning—honestly, why are we in such a rush to get to our slave-cubicles? So what if there are millions out of work? There is still an inconvenience, and added cost, when firing employees—and any manager knows darn well that a good person for a specific job isn’t easy to find. Workers of the World, throw off your self-imposed chains…

Thus I say if Hilary Clinton has done her all (and I think that’s beyond argument) we should respect the toll such sacrifice takes—not badger her about running for President. Even if she does stand for the office in four years, the job will be plenty stressful as is, without Ms. Clinton being hounded about it starting today.

Getting back to the inauguration, I love the magic of a second term—Obama’s speech was an affirmation of all the issues that we’ve tip-toed around during the overextended campaigning—he will fight for LGBT rights, he will fight for equal pay for women, and he will continue to lead America without feeling obligated to deploy troops at the drop of a cowboy hat—and, more importantly, to fight for the benefits and gratitude our nation owes to all its defenders-at-arms.

Well, a TV show like that is bound to make the rest of the day anti-climactic—but I’m still feeling the heat of so much togetherness and patriotism in my chest.

Hooray for us!

Nostalgic Self-Absorption

There was a certain Christmas Eve night, back when I was still single, when I left my parents’ houseful for some night air. It was cold—and a very white Christmas—snow covered the ground and a sprinkling of fresh snow sparkled and twirled in its fall past the street lights. I walked down Edgemont Road towards the church end (my old paper route when I was little) and all the homes seemed to spill their golden glow out onto the snow-covered lawns and trees.

Even though I had just come from a crowded house full of cheery voices and drunken laughter, those other homes seemed to cast a spell of isolation upon me. It was as if the whole world was gathering into hug-fulls of holiday togetherness behind all those windows while I walked silently by on snow-padded sidewalks.

I found it hard to bear, being without a lover on such a night. It wasn’t that I would sleep alone—or, being a man, I should say it wasn’t only that I would sleep alone that night. It was more about not having someone with which to share the goodness of the celebratory eve. But the ache of it was as strong as if there were a specific woman to go with the lacking—it seemed to echo backwards in time, tolling heavily against my heart.

Colorful Puddle

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I’ve often felt that way since—I recognize it now as ‘nostalgia’—an ugly word compared to the ineluctable, bittersweet bliss of sorrow it signifies. It is a yearning that requires time to acquire. That first time had to have been the earliest age at which I had accumulated enough memories— encompassed a large enough timescale—to be able to feel so distant from my earlier days. And, too, I had to have been acquainted, over time, with enough personalities that I could imagine a crowd of missing consorts, friends and relatives to put up against my solitary condition, standing on a street corner in the nighttime snow-flurries of Christmas Eve.

Call me a masochist, but I always embrace such painful wistfulness whenever it arises. Perhaps our lives, while we are living them, are too much about the ‘doing’ for us to focus on the feelings of a thing. I suggest that our hindsight has the bulk of the feeling, being at leisure to examine our feelings without actually being in the middle of, say, the conversation or, perhaps, driving to a party—or whatever. We live in our moments, but we feel in our memories.

I’ve even had the strange, occasional reversal of my feelings about a past event when, having been brought to mind off and on for years, its memory suddenly shifts into the opposite of what I’d always thought had happened!

T.S. Eliot has described this experience much better than I ever could:

“Second, the conscious impotence of rage

     At human folly, and the laceration

     Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.

And last, the rending pain of re-enactment

     Of all that you have done, and been; the shame

     Of motives late revealed, and the awareness

Of things ill done and done to others’ harm

     Which once you took for exercise of virtue.

     Then fools’ approval stings, and honour stains.

From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit

     Proceeds[…]” 

— section II, “Little Gidding” (No. 4 of ‘Four Quartets’) by T.S. Eliot

So I am consoled by the knowledge that this is not a unique failing of my own, but simply a part of the human condition.

I have always been derided for acting like someone much older than my age—but I chalk this up to the fact that I’ve put on more mileage, and on rougher road, than my critics may realize. Besides, if one were to count cigarettes (and other such bad habits) as ‘taking X number of years off of one’s life’, then why can’t they be counted as ‘additional years elapsed’’ just as easily? By that measure, I’m about two hundred and twelve.

That’s counting the smoking, the drinking, the drugs, the running, the lifting, the worrying, the illnesses, the cancer, the transplant, and the work—work of years without vacation, work through weekends, work of 24 hours duration, the work on algorithms until my head was a cloud of algebra, the tensions of work in a family business—and the stress of parenthood, and the chaos of networking with the subculture that was a part of life for my generation.

But it’s more than all that—lots of people’s lives are a trip through the wringer—it’s also a matter of my being a ‘delicate flower’, easily shocked, easily tired, easily hurt, and quick to assume guilt. Loud noises create gouts of adrenalin; bright, flashing lights cause massive migraines; talkative chatterers make me dizzy with confusion. I was born a sprinter, but any extended efforts are always tortuous to me—my endurance is ephemeral. It’s not that I dislike excitement—I love to be caught up in things—it’s just that I can only take it in small doses.

Being different has always been a given—I’m not quite certain of the exact reasons other people see me as unusual. What I came to recognize, with maturity, is that everyone is unusual. As a kid, I took for granted that other people were all the same—well, they all looked at me funny—and I didn’t know much else about them. What a waste of my school years, thinking I was outside of unanimity, rather than a unique element among an entirety of ‘unique’s.

But the time is past. Whatever I want to blame on my parents, my teachers, my schoolmates, my siblings, or my business associates—that is all in the rearview, for good or ill. I’m a middle-aged man in a privileged society, supported by others, challenged by nothing more difficult than wiping my backside or picking up stuff that I drop on the floor. I’ve lost all four grandparents, my father, my aunt (his sister), one sibling, and a father-in-law. I’ve also lost many friends, some to illness, some to suicide, some to insanity. If I was ever going to relive parts of my life (as if anyone could) I am rapidly losing cast members. And those that remain are better appreciated than confronted. In short, I must take responsibility for myself—for who I am, for what I’ve been, and for whatever happens next.

There is a tragic shadow over the middle-aged—we remember old plans, erstwhile ambitions—things we meant to reach out for, but never had the time. And it isn’t until we are past the age of becoming that we clearly see that past as a golden dawn, a time when adults were eager to help us make a good start, when we were still young enough to be prodigies, when we were forgiven our lack of experience and understanding. Those privileges are for the young—we who have lived the ‘meat’ of our lives aren’t necessarily finished with living, but we are finished with beginning.

This is our burden—to know about singles bars, but be unable to hang out in one without the word ‘creepy’ being involved; to love the thought of taking college courses yet be without any chance of being an intern or junior associate after graduation. The ideal is that anyone can do anything, regardless of age. But the reality is that a mid-50s-aged law school graduate is not going to be chosen by HR personnel used to inexperienced, energetic hot-shots barely out of their teens. After 35, or 45 (I forget which) one cannot even join the army—the universal ‘plan B’ for every disadvantaged youngster.

I find my life history quite interesting—but I can never seem to write it down in such a way as to make it interesting to others. This suggests that my appraisal of my ‘adventures’ is biased and I simply don’t want to admit that my life has been unexceptional. But there is always an inner voice that tells me I just don’t write it properly. So those are my choices: I’m either living a meaningless, empty life, or I’m a really bad writer.

Happy Turkeyday, Evabody!