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.

Wish List   (2017Mar31)

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Friday, March 31, 2017                                            6:22 PM

Wish List

Feel the beauty

Don’t turn away

Don’t dismiss this moment

Taste the pleasure—drink it in

Dive deeply into the moment

Don’t ask questions, don’t hesitate

Just open your eyes—open your soul

Take in the totality of all the existence around you

You’re there, too—right in the center

You can center yourself in yourself

Feel the beauty

Be the universe

Pray for rain

And dream of tomorrow.

 

Rest your head on the pillow

Let your breath come easy

Empty your heart of burdens great or small

Fill your mind with possibilities

Past, present, and future have their way

Be the stone in the river

Be the eagle on high

Be the one who hears the music

Catch the melody in the air

And dance in its stillness.

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Saturday, April 01, 2017                                          10:16 AM

There—I’ve tried to be positive. It only works while I’m reading the poem—it doesn’t ‘stick’, as it were—but at least I tried.

Life is good—too good. When I was born, we could only gaze up at the moon—we couldn’t go there. Nobody had a computer, the phone was stuck to the wall, and the TVs were in black and white. Women were infantilized, minorities were openly persecuted, gays were institutionalized, children were beaten—not incidentally, as today, but as a matter of course. When people today speak of a ‘return to traditional values’ I look at them as fools.

And I also shudder. If I consider that we could easily devolve back to that evil—or worse, devolve into the violent upheavals seen in other countries—I realize that the goodness of my life is a fragile thing—a moment in time that could blow away like a leaf in a breeze.

When I watch Trump and friends actively try to make that happen, I smolder with rage—only an entitled little prick could be so cavalier with our hard-won progress. Only a sociopath could think that undoing the prior president’s work was his job. And how ignorant does someone have to be, to be the worst, most unpopular president in history—and not know why?

So I view America’s upward-trending awareness and conscience since 1956 as a miracle—and Trump’s taking a sledge hammer to it all in 2017 as a crime against humanity. Only decades of the greatest security and comfort ever known could reduce our citizenry to the impotent bunch of I-phone-starers that let this happen—and, unfortunately, only a great suffering will again steel us to fight back against the darkness. I’m thinking a ruined planet might do the trick. Or a world war. But I try to stay positive.

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POEM:    Belonging   (2017Mar09)

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Thursday, March 09, 2017                                                1:49 PM

 

Belonging

The piano growls at me from the corner

The wind blows memories against the window-glass

The ache circles within me, an adversary in waiting

The air stings my skin with the numbness

The time flails my thoughts, world encompassed

Within my tiny brain of electrified glop

The computer invites me to crawl inside

The speakers hug my ears—the monitor titillates

Then the music ends.

Alone in a room with the atmosphere battering

At the house as the only sound—eerie and lonesome

I can’t type you away.

 

By Xper Dunn

 

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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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Beaux Artes, in Passing   (2016Nov19)

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Saturday, November 19, 2016                                          12:44 PM

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

—Emma Lazarus (from “The New Colossus”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016                                            5:24 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Queen of the Nerds   (2016Nov13)

 

Sunday, November 13, 2016                                            12:20 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, November 13, 2016                                            5:24 PM

Even If Flames Surround Them

 

As the veil of anti-depressants falls away

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

The clarity cluttered by the rawness.

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

Clouds, peering over my shoulder at the long fall

Back down to the ground.

And between that downfall of an election

And the constant shouting of the still, small voice

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

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

Yet down we must come. Down we must be,

Here on the ground where we can touch the

Things that matter, even if flames surround them.

 

As the grumbling gremlins become visible,

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

Words jumble; memories tumble, stumble, and fumble.

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

I stand on that lone promontory, confused.

How do emotions get broken—and how do we

Clear them from the road ahead while they remain

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

Can get through, if I can keep moving,

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

And descend to the valley of the real, down

On the ground where I can touch the

People that matter, even if flames surround them.

 

Monday, November 14, 2016                                           12:08 PM

Something Everybody Does   (2016Nov14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

ttfn.

 

Word Dump (2016Jun02)

Wednesday, June 01, 2016                                                         2:20 PM

Fresh Rant   (2016Jun01)

I receive spam from charities and from political parties—asking for my financial help—I don’t even let them make me feel guilty anymore, I just resent being reminded how I could use a little financial help of my own. Since when did politics require millions of people to donate their hard-earned money to run TV ads? And don’t talk to me about crowd-funding—you know what we used to call crowd-funding? An extended family—that’s crowd-funding for people you know and love.

I’m not interested in helping other people—I’m interested in helping the people around me, the people close to me. Contrary to Tea-Party opinion, I prefer to pay taxes and let the government sort out people’s problems—it has its faults but it’s bound to do a better job than I can do on my own.

I understand that most charitable services are run by religious organizations—because the church used to be the gathering point for a community, where its larger issues were discussed and dealt with. The decline of religion as a binding force of the community has hurt efforts to deal with the homeless and underserved—being without a religion doesn’t keep me from mourning the coherency of that community-model—but it’s evaporated now and greater government involvement, supported by taxes, makes much more sense in today’s agnostic climate.

I also don’t like TV ads for fancy cars—of the millions of people watching TV, the vast majority of us can’t afford to go out and buy a Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac—not even a Lincoln. It pisses me off—especially knowing that, even if I could somehow buy one of those fancy cars, it would quickly be joy-ridden, tire-slashed, paint-keyed, and generally dinged until it looked just as crappy as the rest of the cars on my block. Plus, I could never afford the insurance rate, or the maintenance—which are as pricey as the car.

But I’d rather watch ads for fancy cars than listen to side-effects warnings for a drug for a disease I don’t have. My doctor will tell me when I need a drug, and which one, thank you—take your drug ads and shove’em. Still, when you consider buying a car, even a little, ‘cheap’ one, puts the normal person in hock for several years—what purpose is served by making that same hard-working, and now indebted, person feel bad about a major purchase? Ads for fifty and sixty thousand dollar cars washing over the TV screen every night—why not have ads for becoming a business owner, or president? Those are just as far out of my reach—and would annoy me only slightly less.

Income inequality has gotten completely out of hand—it makes me glad I’m old—if I were a younger man, I’d join the throng of protestors outraged that the same system that keeps them in groceries is the system that keeps them in their place—nowhere but working for the Man and getting paid less than a living wage for it. I’d run around organizing protests, campaigning for Bernie—and I’d be too young to realize how futile all of that is—the ones with the gold make the rules.

Then the futility of the whole thing would dawn on me and, being a young man, my mind would turn to ways of making mischief for the people I saw as oppressors. That would be so sixties-retro, like the second coming of the SLA or something. And like them I’d eventually end up in jail or on the run—though it isn’t nearly as easy, now, to disappear from the grid like those sixties fugitives who popped back up in the eighties and nineties, too old to live like that anymore.

But the truth is the ones with the gold only make the rules when the electorate is too numb to their own self-interest to let them—and we have done a lot of that over the last three decades. Political movements like Bernie’s would have to start on the backlog of injustice all those lobbyists have been shoving through both the Congress and all fifty state legislatures for decades. It would take us a while to get back to the income equality—in taxes—we enjoyed in the mid-twentieth century, before we could even start in on making things better—we have to roll back some of the ‘worse’ first.

The main trouble is that you can’t give to one person without somehow taking from another—and rich bastards sound just like normal people when they whine about having to make a sacrifice—usually, even whinier. They try to frighten us by pointing out that, when we get rich, we’ll have the same ‘oppression’ hanging over our heads—yeah, that’s my big concern.

And the media adds to the problem by representing ‘two sides’ of the issue—but it’s not really two sides, when one side is a handful of rich fucks and the other side is hundreds of millions of people. That is particularly true when the rich fucks own the media, as they do today.

But that is a condition as much as an issue—certainly nothing that can be solved with a clever blog-post. About the only thing optimistic about the media situation is that it leaves so much unexplored material that a ‘counter-media’ can start to get sponsorship (as opposed to ownership) for journalism that covers the many things being avoided and overlooked by the establishment media. We hear so much about meta-data and ‘drilling down’—but we still see news that is endlessly busying itself with minutiae and wow-factor and click-bait.

If Edward R. Murrow had our modern resources for research and analysis, he’d be giving us very different stuff. He liked to follow things to their future consequences—his attacks on McCarthy were driven by a deep concern for this country’s future and the future of its people’s rights and freedoms. If he were confronted with the kind of accelerated change we’re experiencing right now, I’m sure he would be reporting on certain days’ events only as they relate to what will happen in five, ten or twenty years’ time.

Modern people are flooded with information—and everyone with experience in that will tell you—when data comes at you like a fire-hose, you don’t get lost in the minutiae—you look for patterns and trends. You can’t understand our culture through a single person or a single period of time. When reporters ask a bystander how they feel about what just happened across the street—it gives me a pain. Reporters with access to global resources and instant data should be virtuosos of pattern-analysis, artisans of the long-term take-away on any given issue—and lots of reporting on how issues interlock with each other—just as the peoples of the world are now beginning to interlock their fates across the globe.

Maybe it was my age, at the time, but when I was younger a talking head was always bright, sharp, educated, and informed—the TV was the smartest ‘person’ in the room. Now we get Harvey Levin and TMZ. Jeez, what a tool. I mean journalist.

There’s one good thing about the media becoming a mindless monster—they’re finally starting to chow down on the Donald. Yes, Donald—the media is your friend—until it isn’t. Even innocent people are helpless in the face of their onslaught—did you really think a scumbag like yourself could just play it like a harp, and emerge unscathed? Keep dreaming, Mr. wanna-be-president.

Trump’s attempt to ‘fool all the people all the time’ is a perfect example of how democracy requires an informed electorate. The left wing of the presidential campaign is focused on income-inequality—and for good reason—but we should take this election season as a warning. We need to improve our educational system, and do it right quick. No one as ignorant as Donald Trump should have ever gotten this far—and he never would have, if he wasn’t reaching a deep reservoir of shamefully ignorant Americans.

Plus, our country’s failure to finance higher education for everyone is part and parcel of the march towards permanent income inequality—we’ll never level the playing field without offering equal access to information and knowledge.

 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016                                               6:08 PM

Proud

I’m proud.

I’m proud to be me.

I’m proud of my family.

I’m proud of my principles.

I’m proud of my understanding.

I’m proud of my neighborhood.

I’m proud of my country.

I’m not sure if I’m right to be proud

But that doesn’t stop me.

Give me my dignity or you’re looking for a fight.

Doesn’t matter if I’m dignified.

What—do I gotta put on a show for you?

Just take it for granted that I’m as good as you are.

Even if I’m wearing sweatpants—they don’t signify.

I am as good as you are.

Pretending I’m not just puts you down—not me.

I used to enjoy wearing a good suit

But I never made the mistake of thinking

It made me better than someone else.

I used to be a manager—telling people what to do—

But I never made the mistake of thinking

I was better than them.

I made mistakes alright, just not that one.

That’s a doozy.

 

 

Jeez—dat ain’t even a poem—I don’t know what you call that crap.

Sometimes I just write to hear myself type, I think.

 

Thursday, June 02, 2016                                          10:38 AM

 

I wasn’t going to post any of the above—it all seemed kinda whiney and introspective—but some of the points I tried to make were being echoed by President Obama during his PBS Town Hall with Gwen Ifill last night—so I am emboldened to the point of posting.

Too New For T. S. Eliot   (2016Feb17)

(Originally posted on Medium.com)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016                                       11:03 AM

The new millennium is here—everything is online! Or maybe not. We expect Wikipedia to have every single factoid in it—and due to its popularity and it frequency of use, it seems to have almost everything. But the rest of the interweb can be surprisingly new and lacking in context. Take Medium, for instance—just this morning I thought to myself, “Let’s see what Medium has about T. S. Eliot…” and I searched for that hash-tag. I expected a few ‘stories’ because I’ve done a few myself, on my WordPress blog—and I know I’m not alone on WordPress when it comes to blogging with T. S. Eliot hash-tagged content.

But zip was all I got—nada on the Eliot-man. So, here we go, Medium readers—this is what I know about the guy: T. S. Eliot was born in St. Louis Missouri around the turn of the last century to a family whose patriarch was a founder of the Unitarian Church in early America. He spent his summers on the Atlantic coast—so he was an Easterner to those in St. Louis, and a hick to those in New England—the typical isolated youth of a creative genius. He studied philosophy at Harvard but then went to England, from which he never returned—preventing him from ever receiving his doctoral degree, in spite of completing all the work except for the in-person presentation.

He fell in love with England once he got there—the English often joked that he was more English than the English, wearing a bowler hat and carrying an umbrella. He married Vivienne Haigh-Wood, but theirs was a troubled marriage, partly due to her mental instability—there’s an excellent bio-pic about the marriage, “Tom and Viv” (1994), which is enjoyable both as cinema and as educational material.

Eliot’s early successes in poetry included “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock”, which created a small stir, but it was his “The Waste Land” that exploded onto the literary scene in 1922, making him a household word. This was followed by “Ash Wednesday” and “The Hollow Men”—and eventually my favorites, the “Four Quartets”. But in his later life he turned to playwriting in verse, creating “Murder in the Cathedral”, “The Cocktail Party”, and “The Confidential Clerk”, among others. In 1948, Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. A reporter asked him what poem he was being given the prize for and Eliot responded, “I believe it’s for the entire opus.” And the reporter asked, “When did you write that?”

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As the greatest poet of the last century, Eliot’s output is surprisingly small—his poems can all fit into a small volume. It is the quality of each poem that makes him so great. Another surprising fact is that his most renowned work is a book of children’s rhymes entitled “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, which provided the lyrics for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway musical, “Cats”.

I studied poetry in my youth. In the end, I grew tired of the lyrical stiltedness of poetic expression—at its worst, poetry can be quite similar to talking with a fake accent—nothing new is being said, it’s just being said in an unusual way. T. S. Eliot remains favored reading material for me, however, because while all other poets were creating artistic expressions, he created philosophical expressions—poems that were more about thinking than feeling. That appeals to me.

As with many artists, there are troubling aspects to T. S. Eliot—some claim he may have been a closet homosexual, some claim he was a staunch anti-Semite, some feel he did badly by his first wife when he had her committed for life. This happens—many of my favorite artists turn out to be, upon reading their biographies, mere humans with feet of clay. All I can say is: read the poetry.

Here’s the first bit of his Burnt Norton (from “Four Quartets”):

 

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened

Into the rose-garden. My words echo

Thus, in your mind.

                              But to what purpose

Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves

I do not know.”

 

[NOTE: It has come to my attention that Medium.com doesn’t allow special characters in their hash-tags, so when I searched on the Tag ‘T. S. Eliot’ and got nothing, it may have only been because I should’ve searched on ‘TS Eliot’ instead.]

 

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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:

SAM_1938

SAM_1937

SAM_1935

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

Morning Walk   (2015Oct28)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015                                         12:49 PM

Walking outside in the drizzle this late in October (Halloween is Saturday) I feel a chill yet I don’t need a jacket—it’s a short walk—just long enough to see the thick golden blanket of leaves on the lawn, the swirl of leaves falling through the breeze in the trees, and hear the whispered rustle of so much paper-like shuffling it becomes its own white noise. All summer long the trees had been uniformly green—now they each display their true natures—dark crimson, golden yellow, or faded sunset orange—and the leaves leave the trees, filling the air and carpeting the ground, gathering in wind-blown piles.

All yesterday the neighborhood ached with the high groans of leaf-blowers—today’s light rain leaves me the joy of autumn’s delicate hiss, unsullied. I know I am old because I no longer sense the aroma of mimeograph ink in the smell of fall’s foliage and moldering breath—even a passing school bus makes me ponder the driver’s sobriety rather than its sweat-stanky back seats—that’s how old and parental I’ve become.

Neither do I obsess over my costume or dream of pillowcases filled with candy—instead I dread the monotonous getting up to answer the door and sitting back down only to hear the bell again. But Trick-or-Treating has fallen out of favor in our modern age—so now the wearying chore becomes instead a long wait between rare interruptions—almost a relief as well as an annoyance. Where are the crowds of kids that wandered the local streets of yesteryear? Why do I feel my own age so sharply as the year itself comes to a close?

Lyric (2015Oct27)

20151026XD-POEM_Lyric_01P

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.

20151026XD-Pastels_01b_Z

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.

20151026XD-Pastels_02_Collage

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.

20130710XD-TeachersUpdate_005 (12)_Halloween_OrigArt

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.

The Music Of Love   (2015Oct04)

Sunday, October 04, 2015                                       10:39 PM

The Music Of Love

By sweet columbine and punky woodbine lolls my baby,

Lounges my tiger, languishes my odalisque—she

Wouldn’t stay long but here she is now.

Oh, ripple of water over stones behind the purr—her

Throaty laughter at her own foolishness—she

Makes all nerve ends tingle, every single, ringa-dingle.

Scent of attar of roses and melon-musk sweet

As caramel with sea-salt sauce on vanilla bean ice-cream—her

Eyes have lips have tongue—all light and red and curly sweet—so

Sweet, so sweet—Oh, can I have some? Oh please?

Oh baby.

My sweeting, my darling one—come to me baby.

Wrap your warm soft arms about my neck—don’t

Withhold your sensuous, sinuous charms.

Run with me over the hay and the heather grasses

Your bare feet whisper among the blades

Your hair flies in the wind

Your eyes flash and your laughter rings off the hillsides—so

Sweet, so sweet—Oh, can I have some? Oh please?

Oh baby.

Mistakes   (2015Oct03)

Alchemical symbols for Antimony

Alchemical symbols for Antimony

Saturday, October 03, 2015                                              3:18 PM

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life. When you reach the end of your rope, when you fail (and trust me none of us gets out alive) just remember that time moves inexorably forward, that memory is selective, and that no one is perfect. Forgive yourself and move on.

Alchemical symbols for Arsenic

Alchemical symbols for Arsenic

However, if you find you have to forgive yourself rather frequently, that’s a bad sign—you should look into that. See—the trouble is I have one set of advice for people like me, compulsively goody-two-shoes whose lives are an unending search for the ineffable—and quite another set of advice for those who feel that getting by, having a good time, is sufficient. In one sense, some of my pearls of wisdom are always a recipe for disaster—since I can only talk to one set of people at a time.

Alchemical symbols for Copper

Alchemical symbols for Copper

Because of this, and because I just naturally write as if I’m talking to people like myself, it would behoove me not to give advice—and everyone knows what free advice is worth, anyhow. But when I think of young people, when I think of all the advice I might have had a good use for when I was young and inexperienced and uneducated, it’s hard not to try to pass on some of the more valuable tricks and devices I’ve uncovered in the passing of years.

Alchemical symbols for Gold

Alchemical symbols for Gold

If the wrong person reads my blog, he or she could end up doing horrible things—and saying, “It’s okay—I’m literally doing what Xper Dunn said to do—and he’s a real smart guy.” So, I’m reluctant to be very definite about anything on a public space like this. That’s part of the reason I get annoyed at the media—those professional voices have such conviction—the same conviction whether they’re announcing another school shooting or trying to sell you a questionable Volkswagen. They use the same smooth sure vocal drippings when reporting on our best leaders and minds—and when they’re re-stating the clap-trap from the indescribably misguided voices on the ‘other side’. They often put even more emphasis on the clap-trap—because that nonsense tends to have a theatrical ring to it—listen to any Trump speech (or any of Hitler’s, for that matter) and you’ll see what I mean.

Alchemical symbols for Iron

Alchemical symbols for Iron

I would be definite if words could be trusted to mean one simple thing instead of lending themselves so well to differing interpretations. There is so much I would say if words would suffice—but they are worse than worthless, pretending to have meaning when they actually have far too many meanings. This typing is just a game I play to distract myself from the pain of being idle. I try to be positive but it’s hard not to let that lead me into thinking I can actually say what I need to say. Then I watch CSPAN and see those expert word-wranglers mangle common sense with a load of bushwah—and I realize that they (or anyone, really) can take any sequence of words and twist them beyond recognition. It’s completely futile.

Alchemical symbols for Lead

Alchemical symbols for Lead

The only thing that ever made words work properly, or at least a little, was when two like-minded people tried in earnest to understand each other. That is why education is such a dicey business—it requires an earnest, capable teacher in every classroom and it requires every single student to be earnestly engaged in the act of learning. Good luck with that—poor teachers. Just like society, where all the laws and police you can imagine wouldn’t have a chance of enforcing order and peace without the earnest good will of the citizens—the police and the courts are problematic enough dealing with the results of human nature in an unfair social system—imagine if the vast majority of us weren’t trying to get along and go along. That would get ugly.

Alchemical symbols for Magnesium

Alchemical symbols for Magnesium

You hear people belittle ‘good intentions’—nothing would work without them—not society, not schools, not even speech. So value your good intentions—even if they don’t work out they have a value of their own. It’s possible to try too hard—I’m not saying good intentions always bring good results—but good intentions are only the beginning—putting them down is just short-sighted. I think everyone already knows that. Still, ‘being earnest’ is still targeted for ridicule by most people—but I never much cared for the people who’ve adjudged me ‘too serious’. I’d laugh at them for not being serious enough but there’s nothing funny about that—it’s just sad.

Alchemical symbols for Mercury

Alchemical symbols for Mercury

I have a sense of humor—but I don’t care for pranks, or the Three Stooges (I like them better now—but when I was a kid I was mystified that anyone saw humor in a guy hitting his brother on the head with a hammer). I never laugh when I see someone fall down—that doesn’t seem funny to me. This difference was one of the first clues I had that people could be very different from me. I used to skip blithely along assuming that everyone was like me. I’m still not used to the idea that some people are different—and that I’m supposed to be okay with that. If the whole world seems careless and stupid to me, I have to question whether they’re the problem—but I take things too seriously, so I’m sticking with everyone else being careless and stupid. Present company excepted, of course.

Alchemical symbols for Sulfur

Alchemical symbols for Sulfur

Things Of Mine   (2015Sep30)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015                                              12:49 PM

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Mysterium of acts and emotions, my life has no finals or finishes, no borders or separation of any kind—we are all one, and the end of life is no end but a great adventure, sprinkled liberally with fairy dust. Imaginarium of deeds and words, my mind has no limits other than that it cannot see itself without the mirror of the universe—I resemble other lives, I copy other chemistries, yet I am unique only insofar as I am not anything else. Orrery of the pan-dimensional, my mathematics are the unreal ideal of the real—a symbolic blueprint of the breath I take and the light I see. Adventure-world of the fantastic, my imagination is a land of wishes fulfilled only to end in sleep, disasters averted by wishes alone, and love unconquerable.

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Words are these. Ideas are powerful only in specificity. Action and reaction create an interlocking cosmos—the past forces the present into the future like white rapids, in patterns of chaos and maelstroms of meaning. Tragedy punctuates. Bliss evaporates. Dreams abide. Love is the mainspring and touch is the grail. Age is gaining wisdom, losing strength—youth is the beginning that cannot see the end. Regret is the dried husk of actions unthought of. Bliss is the bright victory of thoughts acted upon.

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Ancestors are the roots of time—children the buds—my present self is but a bridge from one to the other. If love isn’t the answer, then there is no question. Meanings will serve, but truth is lasting.

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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).

Journal Entry   (2015Aug14)

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Friday, August 14, 2015                                           2:46 PM

I like this new business of ‘clarifying’ things—walking things back, revisiting ones comments, non-apologies for things that may or may not have been said (hey, they’re on videotape). When I went to school, if you said something stupid that tail was pinned on your donkey for life—no take-backs. I guess grown-ups get to come at it two or three times (or over the course of a weekly cycle, as with Jeb’s recent multiple-choice answer to a simple question).

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This plays right into Trump’s hands, since he wants to make questionable statements—keeping the media coming back, keeping him at the top of every news-hour recap—campaigning for free, courtesy of the 24-hour infotainment cycle. God help us if he ever gets to that part of a stand-up schtick when the performer says, “But, seriously, folks…”—even a glimmer of intelligence will seem to us the wisdom of Jove.

But fuck Trump.

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I join all of you in dreading the end of summer—I could use another three months of this weather, but we’ll probably only get another three weeks. Yet, with global warming, we won’t have any snow until February. I liked it better the old way—four seasons, all distinct, all on schedule.

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Hooray! My driving test is scheduled for October. Re-licensing, here I come. It’s a two-edged sword, though—I’m pretty confident I know how to drive, but how embarrassed will I be if I flunk my driver’s test at the tender age of fifty-nine?

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The quest for Brahms-ian competency trudges on—I’m playing the Opus 117 every day—all three Intermezzos. I get better and better—I keep thinking: soon, I’ll be able to post a video of me playing the Brahms Opus 117! But it’s a moving target. Once I reach one level of familiarity, it only accentuates how poorly I’m handling the rhythm, or the dynamics, or the voicing, or the fingering, or the phrasing—there’s no end to the damned thing. I figure I’ll just keep going. This will be the first time I’ll have practiced a piece before posting a video of it, and I don’t want it to be a waste of effort—I want to sound like I can play the thing—yet that remains to be seen.

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My drawing continues to defy me—I know I can do it. Not as well as when my hands didn’t shake, but I can still get something out of it. No, the hardest part is getting myself to start. I have to find the pad and the pen and put on my glasses. (Who’d have thought you need to see what you’re drawing? You’d think you’d know, like you’d feel it or something, but no—not that easy.) Once I get going, I forget the cigarette smoldering in the ashtray—it’s always been that way—I look up a half-hour later and see this long ash that I could swear I just lit a second ago. It’s the starting that stops me.

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My poetry had a good summer—must have been four or five poems. They’re good for my drawing, too, since I have a “Graphic Poetry” blog and I get impatient, once I’ve written a decent poem, to have some artwork to make the new post with. It gets me drawing.

20130401XD-CrayonDrawing(Color)0057_a01(SMALLER)

So with all the recent activity, I daydream about releasing a twelfth digital album on CD Baby (See my eleventh  here). It would only be my second digital album, really. The first ten were privately burned to CD and distributed as Xmas cards to my friends and family somewhere between five and ten years ago. It’s just as well—I feel like my recent efforts are another level above my old stuff—not necessarily ‘great’, but certainly much better than my earlier recordings. Still, like the work on the Brahms, I’m inclined to wait and see just how much better I can get over the next few months or years.

FamPh 572

I’m also toying with the idea of printing out my poems. The beauty part about creating each poem as a graphic, like a small poster—is that I don’t need to do anything but print them out on good presentation paper with a fresh ink cartridge and a ‘highest quality’ print setting. I could even print them on both sides of the heavy paper, just like a real book. But while I’ve always meant to learn some DIY binding craft, I never got around to it—so I’d still be stuck with a loose pile of papers. I don’t know, just junk I think about…

Here’s today’s improv:

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.

 

Improv Poetry   (2015Jul06)

Monday, July 06, 2015                                             3:37 PM

I have two kinds of improvs—ones that I just sit down and do, and ones that I think about beforehand. Today I did both. When I improvise on the piano, I have one rule—if it sounds like someone else’s music—stop doing that. I’ll gladly copy a chord progression or something general like that, but if I’m not being original, I’m not really improvising, am I? I even go so far as to try not to repeat myself—though to listen to my stuff, you’d find that hard to believe. Still I maintain that, technically, no matter how many times I play one-four-five chord progressions or circle-of-fifths, I’m always trying to do it differently in some way.

Oddly, you can do a lot of different stuff in music without changing the overall sound of what you do. And that’s a shame for me because if my music showed half the invention and exploration I put into it, it wouldn’t sound nearly so monotonous.

Today’s improvs get ‘poems’ to go with them:

Freedom

We don’t call Freedom chaos but it is

Unless there is some self-control involved.

We’re free from someone else’s stupid rules—

That doesn’t mean we do whatever we want.

Freedom lets us have our own opinions

But preference isn’t purpose—think what you want

But do the right thing.

Exercise USA

 

Let’s all do the exer-blues—ankle-weights and running shoes—

Fancy pants, expensive trainer—fat-to-lose, or muscle-gainer—

Sweat to Eighties—leotards, ladies—pumpin’ Ahnolds—compress Hots/Colds…

When you’re young your springs ain’t sprung—

You learn to swim and go to gym.

Them was the days—a half-remembered haze.

You’ve been retired.

Now get inspired.

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?

Hat Trick   (2015Mar01)

Sunday, March 01, 2015                                  3:50 PM

I almost had it on the twenty-seventh, last week—blogging and/or posting an original poem, an original drawing, and an original piano music video—but I had trouble trying to scan my drawing with the three-way printer/scan/faxer, which led to me destroying the internet connection to the router, which led to me crawling back into bed and watching TV for hours. By the time I’d created an illustrated-poem graphic, I just didn’t have the juice to sit down at the piano. So, just a poem and a drawing—though I shouldn’t complain—they were both well-received.

Today, I made sure I sat down for a quick keyboard recital, before I started working on all the technical stuff. Typing up a poem; sketching out a picture; tickling the ivories a bit—not that big a deal. But then try scanning, photo-shopping, text formatting, file-transferring, audio-editing, video-editing, and uploading it all—there’s where the hard work comes in.

Anyway, to content—to call today’s offering a mixed-bag is an understatement. Firstly—I was lying in bed last night and looked over at the t-shirt that I’d used to block the power-LED on the TV (otherwise the bright blue light is right in my eyes as I try to go to sleep). It looked just like the head of a cow or a moose—some sort of beast’s head. So I grabbed my trusty sketch-pad and drew what I saw. As you can see from the side-by-side comparison of a photo of the t-shirt and my drawing, the t-shirt still looks more like an animal’s head than my drawing does. (Hey, I never said I was Rembrandt).

20150301XD-OrigDrawing_Bovine_AND_TShirt

Secondly, I was hand-rolling my cigarettes this morning when the phrase ‘there’s nothing to it but to do it’ came into my head and started re-arranging itself. Pretty soon I had a whole stanza in my head and I had to rush through my tobacco-rolling to get to the keyboard—by which time my head had come up with a second stanza but was in danger of dumping the whole thing out of short-term memory. When I think of a poem, I literally have to run to the keyboard to type it in before it fades away—that’s how leaky my short-term memory is. Most of my essays, half-written in my head before I get to the computer, and my better improvs, singing in my head while I rush to set up the camera by the piano, are all the same story.

Interesting ideas come and go out of memory like flitting shadows—the trick is to get to a working medium in time for the good ones, while not exhausting myself by trying to capture every stray idea that blows through town. As you may have noticed, I’m not one of those planner-type artists—I don’t write voluminous novels, room-filling frescoes, or complete musical compositions. I just try to chase after the scraps of ideas that stumble into my broken brain, and catch them with my shaky fingers. The large-scale mind-palace that allows long-term project-planning (and once made me a sick programmer) is now just a memory. And, like all my memories, a vague one.

Back to content—so the poem happened to end with “I think I hit a fairy with my car.” Dramatic? Yes, but unsatisfying. So I wrote some more verse in front of the first-draft, some more verse after, and ended up with a politically themed poem, which was not my intention. Still, when writing, especially poetry, sometimes you tell it, sometimes it tells you. It’s hard enough to write a poem without trying to make it walk a straight line, too.

20150301XD-OrigDrawing_GOPFairy(2)_wPoem

And, thirdly, I have a brief musical interlude for today—a cover of the old classic, “That’s My Desire”, in which I do my best Vic Damone impression, and a squirrelly, little improv, for your delectation, dear reader/listener/viewer. I hope at least one of these hot messes provides someone with a moment’s pleasure today.

 

 

Finally, I’m adding my recent drawings to look at, which I finally got scans of, thanks to sneaker-net (my son repaired the internet connection, but the printer still isn’t ‘sharing’ like it’s supposed to). Here they are (click on the images to see them full-sized):

20150301XD-OrigDrawing_BovineTShirt(3)

 

20150301XD-OrigDrawing_GOPFairy(2)

20150227XD-HumltyIsFatal(SCAN)

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.

“What I Did For Love” (2014Nov19)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014                   11:52 AM

Here we are, Wednesday near noon. After my big day; writing, recording, producing and posting my new song’s video yesterday; I had trouble sleeping and have just woken up this morning—unusually late, even for me. The video shows Four ‘views’ so far, (still less than 24 hours since posting)—as my posts go, that’s practically ‘viral’. And, as usual, the success, such as it is, is in the doing of the thing. The verses had started popping into my head the day before. After I’d thought up a few lines I really liked, I started to worry that it was a good song idea that would just wander through my brain for a day or two and wander right back out again. It wouldn’t have been the first, or the hundredth.

So I gave myself a pep-talk, internally: this is current, this is amusing, this is about something that matters to you (I says to myself, I says). How will you feel if you let it slide and see someone else’s similar idea pop up online a few days from now? Again, it wouldn’t have been the first time, or the hundredth. I was having trouble sleeping the night before, as well—so I went to the PC in the wee hours, to type up the verses I’d thought of so far. Spencer, a night owl, too, was already there, playing his video game. I didn’t feel it was worth ruining his good time, so I went back to bed.

But the song still bothered me, so I will-power-‘crow-barred’ myself into making some quick videos, just a few seconds each, singing the verses as they occurred to me—and those video fragments were my reference when I began the job in earnest yesterday morning. I typed them all up and re-arranged them into the best sequence of verses I could figure. But then the printer wouldn’t print it. We have a shared printer in our house, but it boots from Claire’s PC, which for some reason had set that printer to “Local”—I’ve never sat at Claire’s PC before, but an hour or two later I had it fixed, and the lyrics printed.

While I’d waited for the strange PC to do its updates and re-starts, etc. I had also been working on the piano part. This was new territory—I’d never written lyrics to suit an old folk song before, having always used original music for my original songs—and that presented a problem. I can’t play from memory—even a song as simple as “Froggy Went A-Courtin”. And there was no way I was going to be able to sight-read the music and read off the lyrics-sheets at the same time—so I had to learn “Froggy Went A-Courtin” by heart. In the process, I realized that I’d mis-remembered exactly how the song went—I had added an additional phrase, or line, of my own. Now I had to learn to play the song without looking, and to follow my rhythmic pattern instead of the original’s. If you listen to the video, you can hear how unsure of the piano part I was, even ten verses in—memory has always been my kryptonite.

But the video-shoot went surprisingly well—I only sang the song twice through and the second version came out as good as my skill-set was ever going to make it (without prolonged rehearsal and arrangement—which, with my tendency to forget what I’m doing, posed a risk, again, of leaving the song in limbo instead of finding its way onto YouTube). So I edited the final video from that second go-round, slapped a Title-image on the front and a Credit-image on the end, and posted it. Then I ‘shared’ it to Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest (I don’t know what I’m doing, online, but I do it as hard as I can).

The thing is, this song wasn’t my only recent, original-content post to the internet—I’ve recently posted a few drawings, some fine videos, some passable essays, and the first part of a new book I’m writing. I’d also been experiencing the frustration of posting those things and having them all be roundly ignored, for the most part, by everyone who is kind enough to ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on my posts (and that’s a pretty tiny list of people to begin with). This song, representing as it did the farthest reaches of my creative abilities, and following so many previously unremarked-on efforts, was the equivalent of my shouting, “Hey! Over here! Look at me!”—and it needed some ‘views’ to keep me from going totally bonkers. So—four views by the next morning—success!

My stuff can hardly be categorized as ‘masterpieces’—my poems, essays, and piano improvs are always more intended as ‘intermezzos’, little diversions with some thought and some wit, and a pinch of talent. Being little treats, as it were, I don’t expect them to garner me rave reviews or a towering reputation—I just hope for them to be noticed in passing, a chuckle along the way or a moment’s reflection. Thus, even slight notice is success. But the real success is in the doing and having gotten it done.

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.

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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….)

 

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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.

 

 

Tricks of the Trade (2014Sep13)

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Saturday, September 13, 2014                         11:07 PM

Click to Play: Bombastico II

The other day my camcorder’s tripod broke. It was cheaper to buy a bigger, better one than to get it fixed (plastic pieces, especially vital ones, always break—I hope they don’t think they’re fooling anybody). I move slowly and deliberately nowadays—I’m damned if I can figure out how I broke it. But that was a special case (I hope). More often I run out of charge and get disappointed that something I was surprised to get a record of—was not recorded at all.

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Yes, I run my camera a lot, but you know how hard it is to get a good recording when you’re self-conscious. Fortunately, I’m so absent-minded I can sometimes forget that there is a camera—but I have to run it every time, because I’m more likely to forget it when it’s always there.

20140703XD-POEM-DWar4HvnOnErt(CreditsCARD)

I’ve also learned that I have to check the little screen after I hit ‘record’—sometimes it’s telling me that the lens-cover is still up, or the data-card is still in the PC port. There’s also a toggle switch to set the ‘zoom’—I don’t know why they can’t just use a set-switch instead of a toggle. It toggles so fast that I end up zooming in and out and in and out. It’s ridiculous.

20140515XD-Improv-XophersGrounde(TitlesCARD)

The Internet is tightening up these days—only a few years ago I could download a graphic from Google’s Image Search and use it to make a point or to be funny—with all that stuff out there, it would be a shame to waste it and it’s isn’t like I’m getting rich off them. But those days are over. Not only have the graphics i-vendors created an overnight industry, they’ve found security measures that follow copies of their graphics. When they detect a Facebook posting or a blog graphic that ID’s itself as theirs, they contact you and threaten to sue you. So, goodbye Google Image Search.

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I just use my own photos now—I have several thousand (I’ve transcribed both sides of the families’ photo albums into videos—and some other work). Plus I just take photos of anything—but I have to remind myself to do it. I’m so used to the camera taking videos; I forget to take a few snaps before I turn it off. I’ll have to start taking more pictures, however, since my need for them has suddenly increased. My primary use for graphics has been, until now, the two end-cards I use to bracket my videos. I like to have a still shot as part of the Titles Card and I prefer to use a different photo for the Credits Card, which makes two photos per video.

20140516XD-Improv-XophersMussette(TitlesCARD)

Now, I’ve begun using the old family albums (theirs and ours) to make videos to be overlayed onto the piano recital videos. This way I have something to look at as well as listen to. It may not improve the videos for everybody, but I have to work with what I have. Anyhow, because this will eat up a lot of my album collections, I’ll have to start using present-day snaps for the two cards, and sometimes for the overlay videos (I don’t want my family history to be the only thing in my videos).

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They always get me, I tell ya. Back in the eighties I recorded myself on an audio-cassette recorder and listened to the (unedited) tapes in my car—my daughter took some (which I was flattered by) but there were few others involved, even as an audience. Blank cassettes were pretty cheap, I used the built-in mike—et, voila! Aside from the audio-cassette player/recorder (which I would have bought anyway, to listen to music) it cost me close to nothing.

April Fools  Improv No. 2

April Fools Improv No. 2

I went from there to digital audio recorder, to camcorder, to HD camcorder with tripod—plus a few hundred bucks worth of software: graphics, audio-editing, video-editing, file-conversion, etc., and an external-hard-drive to hold it all. Some days I just say ‘f**k it’ and just play the piano. But I have gone so far as to buy mikes, an electric piano, and upload software to record straight from the keyboard’s MIDI port. I got it all hooked up, tried it out, and it scared me. It’s been gathering dust for a while now. It gives me the heebie-jeebies.

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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:

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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…

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20140703XD-TheWar4HvnOnErt 022

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

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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:

Glad To Be Unhappy

“Look at yourself. If you had a sense of humor, You would laugh to beat the band.
Look at yourself. Do you still believe the rumor That romance is simply grand?

Since you took it right on the chin, You have lost that bright toothpaste grin.

My mental state is all a jumble. I sit around and sadly mumble.

Refrain:        Fools rush in, so here I am, Very glad to be unhappy.

I can’t win, but here I am, More than glad to be unhappy.

Unrequited love’s a bore, And I’ve got it pretty bad.

But for someone you adore, It’s a pleasure to be sad.

Like a straying baby lamb   With no mammy and no pappy,

I’m so unhappy, but oh, so glad.”

                      -Lyrics by Lorenz Hart

Nowadays, there is some shame attached to ‘unrequited love’. Where it once masqueraded as a possibly noble state, i.e. Platonic love, it is today more closely associated with stalking.

Many of the love songs of the twentieth century describe stalking behavior as a normal recourse for a person ‘in love’. Now, when someone says they’d ‘climb the highest mountain and swim the widest sea’, they’re as likely as not to have the cops called on’em.

In Lou Christie’s “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” (lyrics by Tony Romeo) the singer threatens to :

“try every trick in the book

With every step that you take, everywhere that you look

Just look and you’ll find

I’ll try to get to your soul, I’ll try to get to your mind

I’m gonna make you mine

I know I’ll never give up, I’m at the end of my rope

From the morning till supper time, you’ll find

I’ll be waiting in line, I’ll be waiting in line..”

But my favorite part is when he sings:

“I’ll be a hard-lovin’, pushin’ kind of individual

Knockin’ night and day at your door

You’ll have to turn me away like an indestructible force..”

Now this song was a hit in 1969 and had no angry cards and letters coming in from either boys or girls who found it offensive—this was a normal lyric for the love songs of the time. Lou Christie, himself, was considered a creative and cultured musician, hailed by John Lennon as an original songwriter and artist.

Two of Christie’s songs are even based on Classical themes—

his “Rhapsody In The Rain” was based on Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HatwnJH9De4

and Lou Christie’s  “Painter”  borrowed another melody from classical music – this time from Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVRvuExNv9M

But then, Lou Christie’s first hit, his big break (written in partnership with Ms. Twyla Herbert) came up with one of the most chauvinistic lyrics ever written :

Lou Christie – “Lightnin’ Strikes”

(Song by Lou Christie and Twyla Herbert)

“Listen to me, baby, you gotta understand

You’re old enough to know the makings of a man

Listen to me, baby, it’s hard to settle down

Am I asking too much for you to stick around

 

Every boy wants a girl   He can trust to the very end

Baby, that’s you            Won’t you wait

 

[but ’til then

When I see lips beggin’ to be kissed

I can’t stop          I can’t stop myself

Nature’s takin’ over my one-track mind]

 

Believe it or not, you’re in my heart all the time

All the girls are sayin’ that you’ll end up a fool

For the time being, baby, live by my rules

 

When I settle down                I want one baby on my mind

Forgive and forget                  And I’ll make up for all lost time

 

[If she’s put together fine        And she’s readin’ my mind

I can’t stop          I can’t stop myself]

 

There’s a chapel in the pines    Waiting for us around the bend

Picture in your mind              Love forever,

 

[but ’til then

If she gives me a sign              That she wants to make time

I can’t stop          I can’t stop myself]

 

Lightning is striking again      Lightning is striking again

And again and again and again         Lightning is striking again

And again and again and again..”

I feel this song gives a very apt description of the cognitive dissonance suffered by teens and young adults of both sexes during the 1960s—much as it had been for centuries. This ‘good’ girls and ‘bad’ girls dichotomy offered no mathematics to explain how a young man could have as many sex partners as his young and ‘uncontrollable’ hormones drove him to, and still have a ‘pool’ of good, chaste girls standing by for a wedding at some future date.

We are left with two possibilities—all girls were ‘bad’, but discretely so, and shed that persona when some ‘spent’ boy finally proffered a diamond ring—or—all boys sowed a great deal less Wild Oats than they advertised.

Sarcasm aside, it was a clenched society that was quick to damn a woman for being indiscrete, and to forgive a man for not controlling his impulses, and to accept fairy-tale-like absurdities as the status quo. For a man to say he would ‘Lose his mind’ over his affection for a woman was considered very romantic, sort of congratulating and condemning the woman simultaneously for her ability to make a man ‘lose control’.

There are so many differences in our modern thinking, it’s hard to know where to start.

First, there’s the assumption that a man can’t be held responsible for sexual predation if he’s been overly excited by a woman. Today we call that date-rape—and I’ll tell you why. It would be pretty tough to look the other way when a man gets angry enough to blow up a building—and in modern society, if you have anger issues, you will be offered counseling—but men are still held to account for their behavior.

Second, the whole ‘get married and have kids’ thing has no place in today’s love song lyrics—Beyoncé’s “Put A Ring On It” gets close, but it’s also a sassy goof, aimed at boys with both jealousy issues and commitment issues. Once the oldie “You’re Havin’ My Baby” left the charts, the mechanics of Chapel Bells and Gold Rings and side-by-side burial plots became taboo in poetic longing and love lyrics.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, few of today’s women would consider marriage their primary goal. Few of today’s women would consider their lives ruined by losing their virginity—on the contrary, it seems the beginning of adult life for most American women, rather than the end. And in this new societal view, “My Girl” becomes overly possessive; “Only You” is too obsessive; and “Blue Moon” comes off as just needy. Still, Stephen Stills’ “Love The One You’re With” takes the new view a little too far—fidelity of some sort is still considered the polite thing—at least in women’s minds.

The exaggerated nature of love lyrics has become overt—the old songs can still be enjoyed as the passions and urges going on in a lover’s mind, just so long as no one mistakes those hyperbolic pronouncements for healthy feelings.

Rap has similar Un-PC lyrics—but the street has become a two-way. Women have embraced their objectification, not as ‘the way of things’, but as ‘the way of men’, or rather the foolishness that goes on in a man’s mind. Further, some female vocalists have turned that meme against us, pointing out how easily men can be manipulated.

Empowerment of women has driven the young male vocalists to an excess of barbarism—not as a cage for women, but as a display of maleness. The ‘bitches and hos’ lyrics are defiant, not insulting—as seen in the fact that women have themselves embraced those terms, just as African Americans have embraced the n-word as something they share with each other.

The grit of reality abides—the above comments are observations on the art of song lyrics, not on daily life. Prejudice and exclusion persist—but the popular music of our times proclaims the end of these old biases, in times to come.

Manifesto

Bear2007May5 024

Monday, September 02, 2013              7:28 PM

Bear2007May 002

I write in a mind frame wherein I take certain precepts as given—my written thoughts and comments all come from, and are processed through, the filter of these central tenets. They aren’t world-shattering—I doubt that I am in some special category of philosophy—I believe that my perspective is shared by many educated and fair-minded people, simple because ‘reality’ is as it has been observed to be—a reality of mystery and enigma, of emotions and facts and cold steel and breastmilk.

Bear2007May 003

Still, just in case some clown decides to be clever and twist my words into other than intended directions, I hereby state the obvious:

The universe is infinite—in the sense that any cosmological theorist speculating upon a closed, looped model would still be talking about the thing with our planet going around our sun which is only one solar system in the galaxy we call the Milky Way—and that galaxy is only one of billions of visible galaxies that crowd the sky when viewed with a wide swathe of the electromagnetic spectrum, instead of the narrow band designated ‘visible light’, i.e. only what can be perceived by the human eye. This virtually infinite space, of a volume no human mind is able to truly apprehend, is our universe—as far as we can tell, so far.

Bear2007May 004

Advanced physics gives us Einstein’s provable formula, that matter is compacted energy and that energy is unraveled matter, which shows us that all atoms are concatenations of energy, in the form of nucleic particles and the orbiting electrons—in short, an atom is a ‘knot’ of energy, full of empty space and containing certain attributes which are the determining characteristics of each of the elements on Mendeleev’s chart—and that their three (or four, if you count ‘plasma’) states: gas, liquid, and solid, are mostly a matter of compression, but that certain elements only acquire certain of their attributes when in one particular state.

Bear2007May 005

For example, the original superconductors do not super-conduct at room temperature—only at near zero degrees Kelvin—a fact that came up only in the twentieth century, after those elemental alloys already had a long-standing definition as just plain old ‘conductors’. So, in the case of the most common superconductor material, niobium-titanium alloy, the nature of the elements Niobium and Titanium were redefined, along with the discovery of the superconductor phenomenon itself.

Bear2007May 006

Long story short—the universe is a limitless pool of energy, some pieces of it solidified as matter, some characteristics, such as charge, spin, and charm, are only displays of quantum effects for one, particular iota of the infinite.

Bear2007May 007

Then comes the humanity effect—we see flat ground, so we tend to think the ground is flat. We see bright colors, but colors are a tool our minds created to give things definition—green is in the middle of our visible spectrum for a reason—green means food, and what we need most, we try hardest to see (speaking in evolutionary terms). The actual facts, that the way we ‘see an object’ is really the way we ‘see light being bounced off an object’, are ignored by us—we see the color as something coming out of an object. We see gravity as a constant (well, except for the Apollo teams) even though our ‘gravity’ is only a constant when standing on the surface of the Earth.

Bear2007May 008

Gravity, like Electro-Magnetic Radiation, is invisible—if it weren’t for light, even mass would be invisible! Most of the universe is invisible to our eyes. Not only that, but theoretical physicists are pretty sure we’re only perceiving four of the twelve dimension—we understand width, height, depth, and time passing—those are the only four dimensions we know. But these guys (and they’re pretty smart, some of them) say that that’s less than half of all the dimensions our Universe possesses.

Bear2007May 009

In other words, the humanity effect is that, in some sense, we are misled by our senses—and we are blind to the many other sensations there are to sense. Which leads me, at least, to the conclusion that we don’t know much, and what we do know is probably, mostly wrong.

Bear2007May 015

And this is where the atheism comes from—ancient prophets and priests claim to have received word, direct from the Supreme Being and Creator of the Universe. My having such a complex knowledge of our ‘ignorance’, in the technological world we live in, now, makes it very hard for me to imagine that such messiahs had anything more to offer than good advice—of which they offer plenty, such as the Golden Rule—a perfectly sensible, useful idea that improves the lives of all who live that way.

Bear2007May 016

But aside from some great advice on how we can live better, happier lives, I choose to discount any and all of religions’ mythological components as anything other than great illustrative symbology. Freud named his neuroses after characters in ancient Greek plays—because those particular myths gave a strong sense of the concept he named them with. We can learn a lot from bible stories—but I think it is a mistake to teach our children that any of those ‘sacred’ scriptures can be looked to for historical facts, or natural laws (or astrophysics, archaeology, and medicine).

Bear2007May 017

Physicists theorize that matter and energy can be neither created nor destroyed. In that sense, I believe in the possibility of post-death transmutation. I do not mean that to include hocus-pocus, ghosts, or heaven and hell—I just mean that we don’t know much about much, so why jump to the conclusion?

Bear2007May 018

So, let’s tally me up—existentialist, atheist, somewhat asocial in my attitudes, but very pro-people in general. In the words of Charles Schulz (in the form of Lucy Van Pelt) “I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand!”

Bear2007May 021

I feel that we understand the universe better when we recognize the difference between our natural attitudes and our scientific research—and I’m always very uncomfortable when anyone tries to muddy those waters. For instance, politics—this always gets my back hair up—you’d think that a candidate for a civil service job would be all about how good a job he or she is going to do. But that isn’t ever touched on. On the contrary, it would be bad politics to point out that one did better in school than one’s opponent—even though it is hard to imagine why one’s education would not have relevance.

Bear2007May 026

But aside from all those clowns thinking they should be ‘all about the argument’ and to hell with getting any work done, my still worst revulsion is for the politicians that want to court both the vast numbers of Christian voters and the smaller, but still important, numbers of educated-person voters.

Bear2007May 027

In a nation with a venerated tradition of religious freedom, to fail to be up-front about one’s belief (or one’s atheism) is a dishonorable deception performed by a person who, whatever their faith in God, has no faith in their country and the people who live here. In this sense only, I consider being without faith to be a crime. And we voters are also complicit in accepting such ignorance in a candidate for an important office.

Bear2007May 028

So, that’s the basics of where I’m coming from. Beyond that, I’m a liberal. For me, equality extends to every gender, physique, sex-orienting, race, religion, net worth (or lack of same), health, country of origin, and age. I can’t think of any one of those labels that doesn’t have a spectrum of humanity within it—like you and me, they come in smart, dumb, strong, weak, mean, nice, and funny—which makes it impossible to categorize any such grouping as being ‘different’.

Bear2007May 032

I believe that Social services, generously dispensed, will always cost less, over time, than saving money by letting others suffer want and hunger. Plus, it feels right.

Bear2007May 030

I believe that Capitalism has become a millstone around civilization’s neck and that it’s well past time for a new paradigm, or at the very least, a drastic overhauling of the rules of business. I think the USA will fade and die if we don’t bring our education stats back to ‘best in the world’ levels—and while I have no solution for that problem, I’m pretty sure that’s the meat of the argument against allowing ‘the sequester’ and ‘trimming’ social services.

Bear2007May 034

I believe that the entertainment business is making it harder and harder for people to express themselves freely—at some point we will have to choose between the importance of our quality-of-life and the importance of copyright protection.

Bear2007May 035

I think we should be spending the majority of our defense budget on software security and advanced programming—our enemies could empty our bank accounts overnight, right now, and we wouldn’t have a clue as to in which direction to start shooting.

Bear2007May 038

There it is—hereafter, please keep these basic axioms in the back of your mind when reading my posts—they are the starting point for everything else I write.

Bear2007May 040

Of course, I have my personal peculiarities—like saying ‘of course’ too much. I love Science Fiction, Physics, Comic Books, Books in general, TV, Movies, and Music. My musical tastes include folk music, show tunes, popular songs, and classical music—and I love the piano more than any other instrument. I like to draw, but I’m no longer very good at it. I like to write poems, I’m very poetic—but I ain’t much of a poet. And I get a lot of satisfaction from typing out the stuff in my head and posting it on my blog.

Bear2007May5 004

Does having an active blog make me a jerk? Possibly—I’m sure a lot of people would find me unbearably egotistic. But there are a small group of people who seem to think I’m readable—and I’ll take that. I don’t need to be famous, I just need to imagine that anyone could read my stuff, if they wanted to. It gives some purpose to the obsessive writing and helps me convince myself that I’m still a part of the great big world.

Bear2007May5 005

 

[Illustration Note: back when Claire had the time to quilt, she would attend the annual quilter’s bee in Lancaster PA–these pics are from their 2007 exhibition…]

Bearly Bliss

Bearly Bliss

20110411XD-BearPoem19(LandScp)

 

Every year, on our anniversary, I re-post the link to my old anniversary present, an illustrated book of thirty Bear poems, in celebration of our time together. If you haven’t already seen it, please check it out and let me know how you like it…

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).

POSTED TO POETIC DUELING ON FACEBOOK: (2013June30)

I’ve been looking over my juvenalia lately (my high school poems, that is) and I found this one written to my (or I should say Our) late friend, Carol Rosenberg. You’ll notice it’s a gift poem, not a love poem–we were friends and it was her birthday and I was writing poetry about anything I could think of, trying to learn all the classical forms, and trying to sound like a grown-up, and this was the sort of thing that came from me at that time.

The Sun
(crossed out)
AKA – Birthday Acrostic to C.R. (Which just happens to be a sonnet)
(crossed out)
AKA –

Sonnet Acrostic in Honor of Carol’s Birthday

Chariot bright with the gift of day
After the roots of night are broke
Run with my shackles and debts away.
Open the door with a savior’s stroke,
Letting loose the white unicorns which, released,
Run ‘cross the dome with majestic mirth
Over blue plains where the stars increased
Since the emerald birth of the buxom Earth.
Even Diana must fall to your power
No star can but falter and fade and dim.
Beneath the gray tomb of the dark’s dread tower,
E’en though I can’t see your sharp eye or gold rim,
Remembering, I can hear wealth where you’ve run,
Glittering, burning, my jewel, the Sun.

 

(NOTE: If you forget what an acrostic is, it means that the first letters of all the lines spell out CAROLROSENBERG.)

 

Sonnet to the Dawn in Summer

The Sun hurls out in surprising showers
Woven bolts dyed in fiery tints
Which unrolled as the rippling cloths of Dawn
And turn the clouds’ boiling, pearly towers
Into heaps of coal through which the sky glints
As Venus is ambushed and, shuddering, is gone.
All the Giants of Earth wash their faces with splashes
Of the fiery streams from the chariot bright
And laugh like mountains to greet the morning
While their eyes mirror back the blood-rubied flashes
Or monstrously blink at the early sight
Whose flare of of the hot noonday Sun is a warning—
For though the Dawn’s music is pleasing to hear
The summer-day’s fire can blister and sear.

[I signed this ‘CJAD’, my invented name, Christopher Jonathan Abraham Dunn. I was born and christened Christopher Dunn. At some time in grade school I asked my mom why I was the only one without a middle name and she said, “I thought your first name was long enough. But, if you want to, you can pick your own middle name.”

What she didn’t realize was that I was applying for my social security card—which I then signed Christopher Jonathan Dunn (and that is still the Social Security Card in my wallet). But for taxes, phone listings and legal contracts, I am ‘Christopher Dunn’, my Birth Certificate name.

Not long afterward I was Confirmed as a young Catholic, which sacrament requires the choosing of a saint’s name as my Confirmation Name. I was a big Lincoln fan and I said ‘Abraham’. The nun told me I was supposed to pick a saint from the New Testament, but I insisted he was in the Bible. She had a hurried conference with a priest and finally turned to me and said, “Abraham is acceptable.”]
Thus, in High School, when I was feeling fancy and eccentric, I would introduce myself as Christopher Jonathan Abraham Dunn and I would initial my poems and drawings with ‘CJAD’.]

“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

http://thecreativecat.net/

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!

“Some Of Us, All Of Us, And The Freedom Of Leaches”

What if Wealthy Leaches suppress their own Species,

Rationalizing, saying Leadership denied is Chaos

And Freedom must be Framed in a Breadboard

Of Irrational Lives—Half Fear, Half Toil—with

Circuitry of Specie determining the Paths

Open to ‘Freedom’ and Keeping the Power Supply

To Themselves?

.

.

.

What if Wars are the Leaches, Tilting the Pinball Game

Before our Metal Sphere gets the Lay of the Land;

Before we Finish the Thought of What is Real,

What is a Game, and How to Change Our World

Through Sensible Rules that Banish the Laws

Against Our Human Condition, and Allow Us

The Freedom to be Good?

.

.

We can be Good to Each Other—We can Learn How.

We can Rise above Capitalism’s Enslavement

And Arrive at Livelihoods that Keep us From Evil.

You and I May be Frightened. You and I May be Vicious.

You and I may be Greedy. You and I may be Hopeless—

Hungry, Confused, Subjugate, Excluded, or Hated.

We may all of Us have spent so long Under the Whip

That We can’t even Imagine another Way—

We may Fear our own Freedom.

.

.

Some will Train, Some will Transport, Some will Arrive

At the Combat Zone—the Zone of Madness,

So familiar with the Gushing of Blood and Screaming of

Townspeople whose Eyes Accuse Some of Us

Of discharging our Firearms, of Murdering Innocents.

Some of Us will Suffer, except for the Fortunate Fallen

Whose War is Over and will Never need to Kill

Again—Some of Us will disperse into a Red Mist

Of Shame and Guilt and Rage and Panic and

Some of Us will feel the Loss of Themselves,

Who used to be People with Freedom.

.

.

The Leaches will wear Frowns and Speak Seriously

Of the Need for this Insanity—but will still Find

Time to Repress the rest of Us in the Name of Nationality.

The Leaches will Grow Fatter on the Sale of Arms

And the subsequent Sale of Prosthetic Arms.

Pride and Determination will re-echo from their

Megaphones—Sanity will be explained Away—

All of Us will Work Harder, Work Longer,

And spend Less Time asking Questions of

The Whereabouts of our Freedom.

.

Some of Us will be Shamed and Persecuted.

Some of Us will be Forced to Prostrate Ourselves

To the Employer—The One who Exchanges Bread

For Pride, Fear for Security, and Obedience for Will.

The Institutional Bully of Middle Management will

Both Give and Receive the Torture of Life spent

As Chattel. They will Ape their Top Management

Masters in the Vain Hope of the Same Power

The Top-Most seemingly Own (Though They, too,

Will have an Owner Holding the Leash

Of their Freedom).

Some of Us will be Driven Mad, finding in our

Delusions the Only

Semblance of

Freedom.

A Thread Comment from my Online Poetry Course (re: a Dickinson poem)

 

Susan Dickinson (Emily's Sister)

Susan Dickinson (Emily’s Sister)

I am, for many of you, stating the obvious. But I’ve noticed many of our ESL classmates of many nations are looking for a deeper understanding not just of poetry, but of the English language as well. So I’ve busied myself with this little exercise–I’ve taken every word in “I dwell in Possibility” in order, and provided what immediately comes to mind as the multiple meanings of each of them–when read by an English-speaking person. I have used ‘etc.’ in every case, because in every case, I could not possibly list all of the meanings for any of the words.

I think it is also important to note that, above and beyond the individual words’ and phrases’ multiple allusions, their combination into ideas and concepts by the poet (and the reader) allows an even greater multiplicity of meanings to the poem as a whole. I begin:

***   ***

“I dwell in”  can mean “I live at” or “this is my mindset” or “this is where I’m stuck being”, etc.

***   ***

“Possibility” can have Many possible meanings (a little joke–yes, very little.)

***   ***

“A fairer House than” can mean “a better place to live” or “a finer home than another’s” or “a more legitimate gamblers den”, etc.

***   ***

 “Prose” can refer to “writing”, “prosaic”, “worldly”, “tired”, etc.

***   ***

“More numerous of Windows –/ Superior – for Doors –” – well, let’s just agree that both ‘windows” and ‘doors’ are ubiquitous metaphors for just about anything, “openings”, “gateways”, “views”, “limits”, ad infinitum

***   ***

“Of Chambers” can mean “ones heart”, ‘ones cell”, “ones bedroom” , “a cave” , “chamber of a gun”, “chamber of a nautilus”, etc.”

***   ***

“as the Cedars –” – as previously addressed by older posts, manifold symbolisms are attached to “Cedar” and “Cedars”

***   ***

“Impregnable” can mean “inviolate”, “unknowable”, “unconquerable”, etc.

***   ***

“of eye”  can be literally anything–I believe ‘Eye” may be the most used and referenced metaphor in the history of civilization–even those ancient Egyptian pictographs show ‘forward facing’ eyes rather than an eye’s actual ‘in profile’-appearance–that’s what makes Egyptian art so instantly recognizable. The feet, the ears, the mouth–all in profile–but the Eye (the Soul) always idealized as front-and-center vision.

***   ***

“And for an everlasting Roof” can mean “and to cap it all off” or “the covering I’ve selected” or “what I see as an upward limit”, etc.

***   ***

“The Gambrels ” can mean a dutch barn, a crucifix, a rounded-shaped roof, a gibbet, a butcher’s tool, etc.

***   ***

“of the Sky ” can mean “of a sky-blue color”, “of Heaven”, “of Infinity”, simply “above”, and a host of other metaphors.

***   ***

“Of Visitors – the fairest –” ‘visitors’ can mean anything from “recalled memories” to “extraterrestrial explorers” -and- ‘fairest’ can mean “most beautiful”, “most pure”, “most equal”, “kindest”, “best”, etc.

***   ***

“For Occupation – This –” can mean “how I make a living”, “how I keep busy”, “what distracts me from other things”, etc.

***   ***

“The spreading wide my narrow Hands

To gather Paradise –”  this phrase of the poem paints a clear visual image–but none of the words in the phrase have one, simple, unambiguous meaning…

***   ***

So, there you have it. A poem can have thousands of meanings–even to just one reader or poet. A Poem may even be described (here in my conceit, at least) as something that has no definitive meaning. Hope I haven’t bored you all….

Two Thread Comments From Today

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Late Tuesday (actually early Wednesday, September 12, 2012)

[LinkEds & writers / {LinkedIn} Randy B.  -Randy B. H.

Multilingual, multicultural communications specialist

Greater New York City Area

Dear Randy:

I’m terribly sorry.

I didn’t realize that I’d been unclear–but I do now.

I filled out their questionnaire and went through their

spelling/grammar and ‘three styles’ exams, which was

much more ‘temp’-work-application -ish than I’d expected

(I’ve been a temp–it’s actually worse when one

has to spend the day there). But somehow I still thought

I’d be challenged somewhat by the work. By some miracle,

I was deemed good enough to bid on their jobs.

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Then I went to their ‘Available Jobs’ page and saw,

as I described in my vague post, jobs that were specific

about the textbook being used, asking for specific numbers

of reference citations–and the dollar amount offers were

ridiculous.

I emailed them to ask if they felt that this work was ethical.

That’s when I got the stuff about ‘helping the students do

for themselves by giving a good example’.

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But I thought it over and decided that was a rationalization.

I spent most my life in mail-marketing (junk mail, to you)

and I know a good rationalization for making money when

I hear one.

So all my jumping through their hoops was a waste of time.

I know I wasn’t clear about the details–but I thought it

was obvious I was doing anything BUT promoting them.

Sorry to distract from the thread–I shouldn’t have posted

at all, really–I’ve never been paid for any writing–unless you

count ad copy or copywriting/proofreading.

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I may not belong, but I like the group, and your mediation of the thread.

*****

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My comment on “The Necklace of Poetry” by  (Joe)/(Kenneth) Massingham joemassblog.com (WordPress)

On September twelfth, 2012  2 am

I like the image or concept, a threading together of words, rather than plain speech, but I wonder if we go at this poetry business from the back end–Poetry may be as animalistic an urge as dancing or singing, simply translated as a unique form that occurs within a pack of people who’ve recently adopted a sophisticated form of language, such as Greek and Romans, Persians.and whoever. But those origins are obscured by time and now we see the poem almost less about what the poets are doing and more about what the audience is hearing. It makes much more sense that way, but it may not necessarily be how it began–just a thought. We are a consumerist society, but things weren’t always so.

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The fact that bad poetry might not attract an audience may have had no weight in a society in which the leaders and sophisticates saw poetry as something all civilized people did, like getting exercise. You know, clean mind, clean body, but in Latin.

To me it’s become painfully clear–implying that a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g is NOT poetry is just an argument looking for a pal. So I have long ago stopped myself whenever such sentences come to mind–besides, technically, it’s true–that’s where the argument comes from. After that it gets all semantic-al and abstruse.

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There are levels of applied poetry and then there’s ‘ideal’ poetry. On one level there is the obvious, published poets (and their nobility, the Nobel-winners and poets laureate). On another level there is academic poetry, which is when serious students of literature sit at the feet of professors and try to satisfy their professors that (a) they’ve understood (and unquestioningly accepted as gospel) the prof’s ideas of good poetry and what makes great poets great and (b) have produced work that the prof accepts as displaying the prof’s teachings, articulated in verse.

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On a third level there are jokers like myself, who write poems and share them with their endlessly patient family and acquaintances who are too polite to tell me to get lost. What some may label the ‘failure’ level I think of more as an amateur standing. One of the great advantages of this level is that I’m the best judge of how good my poems are–though I’m not averse to appreciation, when offered, or criticism for that matter (see ‘best judge’ comment).

Theoretically, there is a fourth level wherein a natural-born poet who takes it all very much to heart and whose sensitivity makes the readers’ lips tremble and their eyelids dewy, or stirs the heart of a teenage boy with meter and trochee and ‘on the six-hundred’, or simply suggests the soul of the sight of a bird ascending–that poet goes where destiny takes such people.

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Now Ideal poetry is what high-school students write–it has a piquancy all its own, but can seem over-earnest at times. Still, where would love-struck teenagers be without Ideal poetry? And, once one has seen the elephant, they’ll be plenty of time to write more experienced verse.

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I try to be honest with my poetry, which makes it deadly dull and often lacking any lyrical quality–in fact, I recently wrote a poem, read it back to myself a couple of times and, on a whim, translated it into an essay, with complete, grammatically-correct sentences. I couldn’t have changed or added more than ten words. I’m usually better than that, but I’m no P.B. Shelley.

I get nervous sometimes, letting a poem become slightly ambiguous, and sometimes end up drawing or painting an illustration as part of the page design or as a ‘companion’ illustration to the poem page. It’s like talking during charades, I know, but I’m not a stickler for poetry rules (of which there ain’t any anyhow).

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You know, this is an awfully long ‘comment’ (and I hope I haven’t talked your ear off). And I hope you won’t mind if I cut and paste it onto my blog, seeing as how these are pretty general comments about poetry. Yours is a nice essay, too–thanks for sharing it.

Now to go read your second post….

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[NOTE: I pity the fool who invites me into a thread. I’m embarrassed to say that these are only two of three thread comments I posted today. I don’t know who I think I’m talking to–all this unsolicited verbiage…. Be warned!]

“E-commerce” by XperDunn -May 25th, 2012 (Memorial Day Weekend)

‘Business’—Pah!–there oughta be a law against it.

You’re a million miles from reality—Cloud Nine!”

Every lovely thing they see, they wanna fence it

And set up that toll-booth to charge, n’rules n’fines.

The electronic super-highway of love and adventure

Awaits the synch of any new bizniz venture

A’muddyin’ hyperspace virtuality

You’re a million miles from Reality.Image