Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The true value of music

So far, I've had two people interested in my recording of Mike Doughty's concert in Nashville on November 6. I am giving the recording away free... I don't know if anyone else recorded it

Mike Doughty is known as "taper friendly." He understands that indie artists benefit from the publicity of devoted fans who are happy to share live recordings.

And he has been rewarded for this approach, at least from me. I've snatched up everything that he's offered for sale, including the very rare, limited edition "Smofe + Smang." True fans of musicians are happy to pay for the music. And freely available, amateur recordings always add to the visibility of an artist's commercial work.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My brief 5 minutes of fame

A Flickr buddy alerted me that this photo appeared briefly as an illustration of a article on homeless veterans. Got the alert when I woke up, on a morning when I just happened to be paying attention... and I caught it in time to go to the website and download the page. It disappeared later in the morning. I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise. So... thanks Danny B.

I don't read the Huffington Post much lately, but it's not for the reason you might think--I just think that their web design is too cluttered and "noisy." Though Arianna Huffington is a fav of mine. I'll always remember shooting off a supportive email to her after she posted an editorial in 2003 questioning the Bush administration's rationale for proposing to invade Iraq. I think that, like, several hundred of us were opposed to the invasion back then, and voicing one's opposition then was fairly courageous.

About the homeless, my perspective is more nuanced. It is simply not part of our current American social contract to provide fully for those who are unable to provide for themselves... at least, it's not federal policy. (My daytime job is in this field.) Is this wrong? Is this right? Those of us who have dealt with poverty and homelessness on the front lines realize that homelessness is caused by factors more complex than a simple lack of money or, in fact, a lack of mental wellness. America has become a more brutal society in the past decade. Our citizens disregard our economic laws at their own peril. Perhaps they haven't noticed, but there's no safety net anymore. I know it. The homeless know it. Do the rest of us?

Anyway, this is one of my favorite photos. The original photo was taken with my cheap cameraphone... The next day, I brought a better camera to work, and I found the same cardboard sign still in the parking lot, a bit worse for wear. It had been driven over a few times, but it was still there. I have no idea who once held the sign... if he was, indeed, a veteran, or whether this was his particular hustle. I don't know if he ever got any food, a job, or even if he's still alive.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dream of the near future

I had this dream this morning, or perhaps it was more than a dream. I was conscious, aware. Perhaps I was caught up in the third heaven. I had wanted to see the "near future"... not one hundred years from not, but not next year, and this was the result.

What I got, I think, was the year 2027, or slightly sooner. I sensed that it was a time near the end of my present life. I was viewing London from the vantage point of the air, with the Atlantic ocean to one side. I saw the sky churning; I don't know if a massive storm was brewing, or if the sky was affected by something greater. Time seem speeded up, as the sky waxed from blue to greenish. And then, a massive tidal wave of water swept over the city, obliterating all before it.

I wanted to know when this time was, and I was curious about the future, so I zoomed down to the city streets. I saw vehicles, very different than todays'--they seem to be much smaller, three-wheeled, colorful, efficient. I don't know if they ran on gasoline. I saw models that I didn't recognize. One vehicle model was named "Zip." I saw an older Toyota. My sense was that Londoners weren't using internal-combustion gasoline engines... or perhaps they were--simply very efficient ones.

I visited kiosks inside a mall... I wanted to find a year, a calendar, anything that would give me evidentiary proof that I had, indeed, seen this time. But I could find nothing. And I could learn nothing more about the environmental catastrophe sweeping the world.

I sense that I am coming full circle from the time of my dreams of the same "event" that I had in the 1980s. Those dreams seem to have happened only a short time ago. I remember wondering what "I" would be doing if, or when, these dreams came about. Now, I realize that we, even the most long-lived of us, are here for only a short while.

Monday, October 8, 2007

big swing face

I've always been drawn to the '60s-era big band leaders. Maybe it's because they were on the cusp of my emerging musical awareness. Guys like Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton, seemed like a cross-breed in the '60s, neither fish nor fowl... neither swinging swagger like Sinatra.... not pseudo-hip like the fusionists--not rock, not jazz, and not, really, big band. But I remember one of my buddies in eighth-grade band class bringing his cassette recorder to school; he had taped a Stan Kenton concert. His father had taken him the night before. And I thought, "I wished I could be as cool as that." Some sounds you never forget. It took me three decades to buy my first Stan Kenton CD... but I always remembered the majesty of tinny, cassette recording.

I knew about Buddy Rich. Brutal and cruel like his friend, Frank Sinatra, but somehow without the out-sized persona that made you overlook Frank's flaws. Still, I agree with many critics who say that he was the best drummer ever. Long after I laid down the drum sticks, I picked up Buddy Rich.

While listening to "Big Swing Face," I read (for probably the tenth time) his biography on Wikipedia. Buried beneath the acclaim and the praise, were references to "the tapes." Apparently on a regular basis, Buddy Rich flew into rages against members of his band. Some of these tirades were secretly taped by band members who, understandably, thought that it was due dilligence. You can read a transcript of one of them here. Reportedly, while on his deathbed, Buddy asked Mel Tormé to play him "the tapes." Was Buddy feeling remorse? Did some inner urge prompt him to confront his demons, finally? Was he pondering the grand philosophical question of whether random acts of cruelty cancel out an otherwise good life? I dunno. I just think it's significant that, while he lay dying, that's what he wanted to hear--"the tapes."

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Obsessive-compulsive dream about Paris

No, not that Paris. The other one.

The dream was multi-part and stretched across the entire morning. Each time I woke up and went back to sleep, the dream picked up where I had left off. I was visiting Paris. It was evening; 7 p.m. I had to be ready in two hours. I was not prepared. I made a quick mental inventory of what I needed: my phone charger, my Canon, my contact lens solution. I was not happy with the lack of preparation time; as a true obsessive-compulsive, I take hours, days, to plan my trips. This trip was hasty, and I knew that I would forget something.

Strangely enough, I don't remember actually visiting Paris in the dreams. This is quite characteristic for me.

At about 8:30 this morning, on my last dream, I had arrived back home. I was gassing up my truck at a service station. I met an old buddy, and I told him, "I got some great photos of Paris." And then I remembered--where was my camera?

I couldn't find it. Dug through the truck... looked everywhere. Gone.

What would I do? I didn't know... Maybe this was a good opportunity to buy that Nikon I was looking at, I thought.

An absurdist dream, of course (though not my most absurd). I know what prompted it: last night, I was digging through my negatives, searching for lost photos to scan and post. I was looking for a particular series--the black-and-whites that I had made in 1974; they are among the best I have made in my life, but the negatives were buried in the jumble of plastic sleeves in the large binder that I keep them in. I kept telling myself, "If I could just find these and post the whole series, people will think that I'm actually a good photographer." But as I searched through the pile, I was continually distracted by lost images from my past, which I pulled and scanned. And I stumbled upon one that I had made of the river Seine. Crystalline, classic. And I remembered.

Probably, I won't visit Paris again--at least, in this lifetime. For one thing, there are so many other places that I need to visit before I die, and for another, I want to learn French. And we all know that it's impossible for an American to learn French to the satisfaction of a Parisian. So I content myself with my dreams. Let's hope that next time I dream of Paris--the place, not the person--I remember it.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Springtime for Bush

In August of 2004, I logged on to AOL and was greeted by the following item:

A George W. Bush action figure. Only a year into Iraqi Freedom, but the sheen had already left that misadventure. AOL had not gotten the word, however. (And still hasn't, actually.) I made a screen shot to preserve this particular cultural artifact.

It would be easy to mock this peculiar Rovian exhibitionism, but it appears that while AOL was politically insensitive to the many opponents of the Iraq war as well as the growing number of dead, they recognized this as a definite collectible. eBay is currently listing Mr. Bush for $31, with three bids and four more days to go.

Ten years from now, it will end up in a chapter called "Neo-Conservative Kitsch." Swastika swizzle sticks, anyone?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Dream this morning

Civilization was gradually collapsing from some unknown cause. People were leaving, but it wasn't a frantic process. We had stopped at a store to pick up some things. There was a buffet line on the second floor; we were walking across; the floor seemed rickety. I did now know how long the food line would be open, or what we would do when supplies were exhausted.

What does the dream mean? I'm not sure; I simply know that it's been a recurring dream of mine for over twenty years. I was reading about how, two years after Hurricane Katrina, there are large swaths of New Orleans that have not been rebuilt. Americans seem to have learned that, while their government is very efficient at declaring wars against third-world countries, it cannot provide the essential needs of its citizens in a time of crisis. What we prefer not to think about, however, is how likely such a crisis is bound to strike, either a community, or a nation.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Swinging for the fence, got lucky with the strike

Could not help but notice that our local news rag, The Tennessean, highlights an above-the-fold, Page One headline: "Retired Garth still swings for radio hits." I was not aware that my jest about Garth Brooks' box sets would be prescient. This is news? But more importantly, this is music?

The new box set, however, will not be hawked at Wal-Mart. The overly-laudatory article breathlessly informs us that, once the royalties are tallied up from this latest product, Garth "could surpass Elvis."

Looking forward to the postage stamp.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Dream visit from a group of friends

Strange, ghostly image
Originally uploaded by an0nym0usmuse
I've been pondering a dream that I had yesterday; I was tidying up a room that I was staying in, when suddenly a crowd of people, thirty or more, piled into the room. It was not an unfriendly invasion, though I quickly realized that my visitors were "dead." I seemed to know them, though I could not name them. They watched me with amusement as I took photographs of them; I wanted evidence that they were visiting me.

They set about rearranging my room, moving my CD collection to the other side, and organizing my general disorder.

Someone wanted to hear some music. I searched, but couldn't find my portable players; they had moved them! But I wasn't angry. My room needed sorting, anyway.

We talked. I asked questions. They told me about their world.

I realize, now, after many years, that our perceived physical world is only a small slice of total reality. While alive, we walk through it in a fog, with horse blinders on. The "dead" inhabit that greater world that exists contiguous to our physical planet, and beyond. And beyond the world of my visitors lie even greater, more distant worlds, and infinite threads binding us to all we have been, all we will be, and all we have known.

What had I done to have the honor of this visit? I'm not sure, but I think that "they" realize that I need some answers to some vexing questions, and the answers aren't "here." So I am pulling some strings, calling up some old friends, calling in some favors. I am at one of my life crossroads, and I need to make informed choices.

When I said that I hoped that they would visit me again, they were again amused with me. Apparently, they had been visiting me regularly, sometimes in dreams, at other times, in other ways--I simply did not remember it, or know it. "Every Saturday," however, was what I was told--I could expect them to drop in.

Plenty of time to think up a new round of questions.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More than disappearing bees...

I could not help but notice two online articles buried in the "oddly enough" sections commenting on strange, bee behavior. We know that honeybees worldwide are disappearing at alarming rates (the so-called colony collapse phenomenon).

The first article, from Reuters...

LONDON (Reuters) - A passenger plane was forced to land after flying into a swarm of British bees Thursday.

The Palmair Boeing 737, with 90 passengers on board, had to return to Bournemouth Airport in southern England shortly after take-off following an engine surge.

The pilot decided to abort the flight to Faro in Portugal and returned for safety checks. The plane's engine was thought to have become clogged with bees, the company said Friday.

Huge clouds of bees have been seen around Bournemouth over the past few days, a spokeswoman said.

I made a mental note of the article... and then saw another one today, from MSNBC (a site that I rarely visit):

LIGONIER, Ind. - A swarm of honeybees temporarily disrupted a charity fundraising event, but no one reported being stung.

Authorities evacuated the area Saturday after the swarm of about 3,000 bees emerged from the woods around the West Noble High School football field, where 700 people were participating in a fundraising walk for the American Cancer Society.

So it appears that the honeybees that aren't disappearing are behaving in a very erratic fashion; it almost reminds me of the movie "The Birds," except that it's not very funny, and probably belongs a bit above the media radar.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dream on the nature of time

I have been delving extensively into the Jane Roberts "Seth" series of books; I have actually been a serious student of the material for over twenty years. The information works for me.

I'm able to view most belief systems from the perspective that we are all here on different paths; we belong to different groups, pursuing different goals; we are on different levels of development and maturity. For these reasons, what belief system works for one will not necessarily work for others.

The writing of Jane Roberts simply meshes with me in a way that no other material has.

One reason that the material attracts me is Roberts' extensive exploration into the true nature of time, and how we, as beings blundering through this physical world, relate to it.

For most of my life, I've had the hidden suspicion that time is merely a tool, rather than a rule. Time is malleable; the future is knowable; the past is changeable. This solitary moment, our brief focus on the Now, with billions of years of Past stretching behind us, and a precarious and unknowable future in front of us, was, is, essentially... not so much an illusion, but a theatrical device. A prop. Step behind the stage, and we can glimpse a truer reality upon which our physical māyā, rests.

I don't know why I have always been obsessed with teasing out these issues, but I always have been. I have enjoyed toying with these concepts, following the road where they led, and pondering what the implications were for me, and for humanity as a whole.

So, this morning, I had a welcome dream. In the dream, I seemed to be receiving a lesson of sorts. The human brain was being compared to, for example, the brain of an ant. We all know ants. We know that ants function almost as a group consciousness. As a group, they can locate food; they can avoid obstacles; they can avoid dangers. Science states that ants communicate all of this information chemically.

And we know how abysmally deficient most human groups are at group consciousness sorts of things that are beneficial.

The dream pointed out that while the human brain is "wired" to process physical reality as a series of discrete moments, one after the other, the ant brain is constructed in such a way that time is more malleable. The ant can step outside of sequential time, for example, and anticipate threats in the "future," and thus avoid them.

For me, the notion that time is not absolute, that I am not trapped in it, is profoundly comforting. There is much that I would like to discover from time, to learn, to anticipate, and to change.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In fairness, I should add that...

Lipscomb exit sign, 1980
Originally uploaded by an0nym0usmuse.
I didn't really love my other undergraduate school, either. The photo that I took here was meant to be symbolic, in the subtle way that only a 21-year-old could conjure up. But, I get a fair amount of views of my photos of this college, so I won't knock the photos. However, I took very few shots of the school.

This particular school got a lot of negative press in the local paper in the mid-80s for its aggressive fund-raising tactics. I know that I was called on a regular basis with pleas for contributions.

In my sophomore year there, I briefly dated a psycho girl who, like all the women I have been involved with (whatever that means), had a few problems. She dropped out after a few months; she didn't feel welcomed there. She was working-class, like me, and she sensed that the other students looked down on her for this.

If I was the recipient of any class-based hauteur, I was oblivious to it. But I didn't belong. I just went to classes, to chapel, and then to my various jobs about town.

And I never contributed money to them.

I had a few professors there that I remembered, and liked. One had a major influence on me, though no one would suspect it. He passed away in the late '80s from cancer. He was a curmudgeon and a misogynist and most probably a racist. But I learn even from those that I do not agree with. Another was a brilliant Hebrew scholar whose lectures I often think of even today. But the *school,* itself, I did not care for, nor do I care for it today.

There is something about organizations that give me claustrophobia. There is ever the anarchist in me. Organizations are unavoidable in our current culture, and I have been trapped in them all of my life. But I always make sure that I know where the exit sign is.

Monday, January 1, 2007

uncle coming home, Georgia, 1973

After my mother's death over ten years ago, I gradually lost contact with her side of the family. I learned later that my father invited one of her brothers to visit; they went through the house and methodically cleaned out many of my mother's personal items. My father never told me about the visit; I found out, off-hand, from someone else. I realized, later, that this was deliberate--so that I could not lay claim on anything of hers. As it happens, I have very little of hers now, anyway, and nothing from her family.

Except the photographs that I made. I look back on them now and realize that they were, indeed, quite passable. "Not a bad shot, by a fifteen-year-old," I tell myself. I was obsessed with the photographic image. My obsession belied my technique: I framed the scene quickly in my mind, aimed, shot, and hoped for the best. In the end, that's all that many of us have to go on.... or all that we are left to carry with us.