Saturday, November 8, 2014

One Last Song

Now that I've found that tumblr is a better vehicle for posting videos and text together I am going to abandon the song inspired format for this blog and find a new focal point for my rambling ( shouldn't be hard ). So with that said I offer you one last song inspired soliloquy, or is this a soliloquy that inspired the song selection? It's hard to tell sometimes.

Eisley is one of those bands I wasn't looking out for, and didn't expect to like as much as I did. Nevertheless I ended up being a fan.  Was it timing, circumstance?  Maybe a little, but mostly, it was their talent and ambition.  You can only hope the sky is the limit for some bands, so when they grow and improve it's  a wonderful surprise that renews your interest.  For me, the Deep Space EP was evidence that process was ongoing with Eisley.  

Each album was captivating and had songs I liked more than the featured tracks on the previous release, but the two songs that were played live prior to the release of Deep Space were immediate favorites.  I was initially taken with Lights Out, which had its genesis in the turmoil the band had experienced in the summer they recorded the EP. It was an anthem to lift the spirits of everyone despairing at that time.  One Last Song was a serenade, not unlike a lullaby, similar to the song that drew me in and made me a fan initially, Marvelous Things, distinguished by One Last Song's musical creativity, which saw the band slipping into a smokey groove just shy of the dark side of the moon, in a way, playing themselves out.  That's what I call going out in style.  I can only hope to have a little of that rub off here as I transition to:

I'm not sure what will inspire the rambles over here, but it won't be music.  Hopefully it won't be any further confusion about the condition of my affections and capacity to actualize them.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Fix is in.

Working in my field, and in the hobbies I have, there is always a new device or application touted to solve a problem or add functionality to resolve a known issue.  These things are said to be "fixed" .  The sales pitches focus on how these fixes work "In Theory".  Implementation usually focuses on how long you are willing to wait "In Cue" for tech support because the fix broke something or revealed a flaw somewhere else.

In life there are two kind of fixes:

One that repairs what did not work
One that guaranties a particular result

I love this song, and I love that it invokes both fixes, as well as a desire to make the two one and the same.  Then I project my own observations about my, and other people's propensity for self-fulfilling prophecies and the potency of the lyric hits home even more.  And of course this song came out right at the end of the 10 Year's Prophecy and I saw it performed live with my partner in that ill-fated, elongated figure 8 waltz we called love, that had entered its final spiral down.

Video Games

Since I am not feeling well I am going to give voice to text a shot starting in 1 2 3: so starting last spring I began playing video games regularly for the first time since maybe the turn of the century. I had spent the majority of my free time focused on music primarily since then. I pretty much stopped playing video games after my freshman year of college and spent most of my time from that point forward buying and listening to music. I also read comic books in my free time, but after a year or so of being college poor I stopped reading comics too. Music had become the dominant preoccupation for me outside of my personal life and academics. So much so, that within 3 years of beginning the shift of focus in my life from the visual and literary arts to the appreciation and collecting of music, I decided to take up an instrument.

Taking up an instrument led me to writing songs, learning how to record music, and eventually taking up other instruments and also joining bands. Along the way, after college I did manage to spend a little time playing PlayStation 1. There was an action role playing game, Alundra 2, that I invested some time in. It may have been the first game of that sort that I had ever completed. Prior to that my most enjoyable experience playing a video game had been Toe Jam and Earl. The value of this game wasn't in the mechanics or the graphics, it was just a great game to play with a friend. It was fun because of the way it allowed you to interact with each other.  The humor and goofy excitement was otherwise hard to create with a friend. It wasn't that friendships were hard, it was that whatever it took to get a person to let down their guard and be ridiculous seemed to be too hard for the average person at that time in my life. People were very guarded and insecure.

Adolescence is a time when you find yourself withdrawn, emotionally volatile, and struggling to relate. At least that was the experience I shared with my closest friends, so that game embodied a lot of what it was to be younger and less inhibited.  It allowed us to be carefree, but it prevented us from doing so in ways that could get us in trouble, where we might have to deal with consequences we were not equipped to negotiate.

It was a harmless game, literally.  You didn't really kill anything per se, and you really didn't die in the conventional sense because if you did you could "bum a life" off a friend. The amount of emotional depth in the game was lacking.  It was purely whimsical and that's why it was fun. There wasn't another game that captured that sense of fun until Ratchet and Clank came out. Now this was a game that I didn't own myself, it was a game my friends owned, and if I played, it was after enthusiastically watching friends play, in an attempt to try and help them get past an obstacle or take a break after playing a long while. It wasn't a cooperative game, so that element was missing, but it was just as fun to watch friends play and suggest things to solve problems and see them execute things to achieve the goals in the game. But you know, time moves on you find different ways to occupy yourself.

My appreciation of music led to me endeavoring in journalism, primarily as a service to the musicians and artists I appreciated but I felt were relegated to relative obscurity. I enjoyed sharing my experiences at concerts and writing about the music itself, since I let it consume so much of my time in place of all those other things that I made hobbies of in my younger years. But,  as fate would have it, things change in culture over time and now the mainstream pop culture has embraced the different interests of my youth that I would have relegated to juvenile activities that I grew out of.

Video games, comic books, and music are now part of the popular lexicon. For the most part young adults, most mature adults, and almost all children have these things as a regular part of their entertainment. The mainstream culture has incorporated all these things to the point of ubiquity.  You might share an interest in the daintiest, most pristine, beautiful piece of music, work of literature, or work of art with someone and come to find out they share a common interest in something that is disparate, like campy comedies, horror/ gory movies, whimsical TV series, or an action video game that involves all manners of tasteless humor, extreme violence and things of that nature. Such are the times.

So for me, the compartments I put things and people in have dissolved.  I can share more things with more people, whereas in my childhood, these same things isolated people and were the source of ridicule. It's a real life Revenge of the Nerds I guess?  The funny thing is, though the last console I had in my possession up until now was a PS1, I did, at my previous job, work in a building with a small arcade.  Tekken was always an escalator ride away.  I worked with legitimate Professional Level Gamers, so I was leery to spend too much time on the machine before one of them came by and shut me down.  Even if I was feeling good about my chances, I never really shook the stigma competitive gaming had in my mind because of the things it brought out in my character in the past that I didn't like.  I preferred co-op gaming whenever possible.  Again, this is why I loved Toe Jam and Earl.

As a console gamer in the pre-online gaming era, co-op gaming was uncommon and clunky.  Enter the 21st century and suddenly the sky is the limit, and games are designed exclusively for multi-player experiences.  Computers of some sort or another have become as commonplace as TVs, and cellphones have evolved into handheld computers that can play games.  It was that development that moved me towards gaming again, single player, and multi-player.  Meanwhile my nieces and nephews grew up playing games, and that was their primary past-time, so any game they played that I had any measure of skill at, was a chance to share an activity with them on their level.  Those sorts of things are priceless, and that was the reason I liked gaming in the first place as a kid.

What's really a trip, is now my niece's children play games, my eldest great nephew starting when he was 3, with Angry Birds, and moving forward to Web Games on the PC.  At 6 years old he has already developed such a fascination with gaming that he will sit at the computer for hours playing. I honestly couldn't relate to his fascination because my attention span wains so quickly.  I can scarcely commit to watching a movie, but then, I wasn't conditioned to watch movies as a kid, I was conditioned to watch 23 minute cartoons interspersed with 3 minute commercial breaks every 6 or 7 minutes. Regardless, games are a part of everyone's lives directly or indirectly.  We use them in school to teach our children the basic fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic so the experience is ingrained early on.  For adults who weren't raised on gaming, the advent of the mobile computer experience through cellular devices has brought them into the fold.  So they are everywhere in one shape or form, and most people have some sort of gaming experience.

The reason I am even writing this is because of the impact venturing back into full-blown gaming has had on the last 6 months of my life socially.  Gaming was always a social experience,  but as time went on games got longer, more involved, nye all-consuming as developers sought to make the most captivating experiences for consumers.  The bottom line is making money, and money is made by having positive reactions and repeat customers.  Addicts are the best customers.  The trick is selling a product that creates a sort of addiction.  Most addictive substances impact our brain chemistry via chemical reactions, but you don't need to ingest a chemical to trigger a chemical reaction in your brain, you just need an experience that triggers the natural chemical reactions that already take place, like Dopamine or Adrenaline.  Games tap into these and take you on a sensory and emotional roller coaster ride, and the feelings are no doubt addictive in nature if taken to an extreme.  That was not my experience these last six months, but the neurological impact of gaming did play a part in why I was curious to see how I would take to playing modern video games.

When I was gaming younger, it was a shared social experience, with competitive games being something I was more likely to share with strangers, and cooperative games reserved to my closest friends.  The advent of role playing games and games with long campaigns necessitated having a commitment to finishing it with whoever was playing with you, and since this was prior to online gaming ,what that meant was spending hours with a person playing a game, in your home, for days, if not months, and ultimately years if you kept playing more games.  Gaming buddies were like relationships.  There are a lot of people who have had relationships end because they were more committed to gaming with their friends than coupling with their significant others.  The flip side is there are people who have never been available to be in relationships because they have that sense of companionship from friends they game with.  Now this isn't hardly exclusive to gaming, but at this stage in development, most games have as many hours of gameplay required to finish them as a 3 credit college course (20-30 hours for one play through).  That's a lot of time to spend having funny and sharing laughs and thrills, and even the occasional moving moment in a game, with someone.  These games can and will move you to tears if you are immersed in a deep narrative.  Stories are stories no matter how they are presented, and the best craftsmen in any field of entertainment know it's beneficial to tug at the heart strings to draw people in.  We are emotional by nature.

The question that emerged was this: Can a person balance a conventional, non-gamer lifestyle, and entertain being a gamer again?  Can I balance the two?  Can I share those immersive and exhausting gaming experiences with someone that isn't as close to me as my friends were?  Will sharing those experiences create a friendship anywhere near the bonds I had with those friends in the past, with online gaming as the foundation?

What I discovered is that gaming online, much like any social activity on the internet, is what the individuals make of it.  It can be an escape from reality to lose yourself in, or a means to simply find a human connection through shared experiences so you can relate.  It can be a cheap thrill to get your blood pumping.  It's a medium.  People make the experiences, and in that you can find out bits about the depth of their humanity outside of games if they are willing to share.  Even if they aren't, the experience of gaming will reveal things about who they are based on how they react to the authored experience the game developers provide for you.  In the end everyone's reaction to this kind of sharing/ socializing is subject to their own temperament based on their own experiences.  There are definitely cultural and generational inconsistencies that can cause a lot of confusion if people aren't coming from the same place and able to create a comfortable understanding of expectations.

Having been pretty close to marrying someone, and having my own use of recreational time to pursue music performance, and gaming with my bandmates draw the ire of my significant other, I know that for me, in the past, my recreation put a strain on my ability to advance my personal and romantic life.  This go around I found out that hasn't changed.  When you spend a lot of time sharing experiences with someone, platonic as they may be, that's time and experiences you are not available to share with someone who may share romantic intentions with you.  If the feelings are mutual, and the pursuit one that isn't doomed for failure because of one circumstance or another, reducing the amount of time you give of yourself to pre-occupations that might detract from your pursuit of romance is the right call.  On the other hand, having those social experiences with someone you have no romantic involvement with, but enjoy spending time with, does raise the standard on what will make you happy in a relationship, for better or worse.

I found myself thinking, "Will I be as happy in a relationship if I am involved with someone who doesn't like to do the things the people I game with do?"  and, "If the people I game with are not interested in romantic relationships will I end up in the same boat if I allow my desires for companionship to be influenced by the satisfaction I have from sharing the gaming experience and social relationship that comes from it with them?"  Those questions forced me to be introspective about any romantic possibilities I thought I had to explore in the past few months, and whether I would pursue them if I was getting a facsimile of companionship through online gaming and social networking?  When I thought about what would have to change in my behavior to allow me to pursue a romantic interest, it became obvious to me that I had been using gaming as a way to measure my feelings towards potential romantic interests.  If I wasn't as excited and fulfilled trying to develop a connection with them as I was building my gaming based friendship, it probably wasn't worth pursuing.  I was turning gaming into a means by which I could withdraw, an emotional crutch to support apprehension and avoidance strategies ( music and faith served the same purpose for a while in my life ).  Once I realized what was happening I started writing this.  It's been a few months in the making.  In the meantime I set some goals with my games, or better said, I embraced the goals they set for me, with achievements.  That made it easier to determine a stoping point where I could renegotiate how I spent my time and chose my social and emotional investments.

I used that time to learn if I had developed any different sensibilities about what engaged and entertained me in games and found out it hadn't.  I still love accomplishing things, and absurdist humor, but I definitely still don't enjoy having my buttons pushed or being terrorized by shocks and thrills.  I like excitement, but don't really care for excessive pressure or being overwhelmed.  Sensory deprivation and foreboding feelings are triggers for unease and I get turned off when they are invoked, and don't feel obligated to complete an experience if it requires enduring those things for more than a few moments.  Those are definitely times when I recognize that I am choosing to play the game, and continuing to do so is totally elective.  Most of all I learned that the types of games I do like, are more fun with friends who have the same sensibilities, and the reward for sharing those experiences is rarely matched outside of having a deep personal relationship with someone, as a tried and true friend, or romantic interest.  In the perfect world for some of us, you can find all those things in one person and thus eliminate the conundrum of balancing time between recreational activities with friends and having your standards met for companionship.  I have never been able to have my cake and eat it too, especially when it comes to friendships and relationships, but who of us has?  There are always one or two things that create some measure of distance.  I'd like to think that this has made me ( and most people ) more empathetic and thoughtful, aware that my perspective is one of many, each valid in their own context.

The real challenge is, has been, and will always be, communicating honestly and openly about what people want, expect, and are willing to accept.  If we can't be honest with ourselves about these things, or someone else, communication fails and we are left with actions based on whims, hunches, second-guessing, and in some cases, ambivalence. Those kinds of circumstances can leave you feeling compromised or cornered, frustrated and confused, which aren't the kind of feelings you associate with entertainment, fun, and friendship.  It's fair to say those types of complications have no place in online gaming, if that's all it is. I can respect and honor that.  But then I ask myself, is that all it should be?  Is that somehow reducing my humanity, leaving me encapsulated by what I can allow myself to think and feel?  I think the truth is that life is about mutual respect and our limitations are defined by interacting with each other.  In that way freedom is an illusion unless you are willing to embrace solitude and isolation, so you don't have to consider anyone else's boundaries.  As luck would have it, most games have solo campaigns with their own sets of achievements. So does life, but you'll never achieve all there is to explore and enjoy if you don't know how to make the most of both solitary and social living, making each rewarding.  These last 6 or so months have been a sea change for me in that regard because I have let myself embrace both solitary and social experiences.  Now I am trying to bring them all together, and finding out that it's a skill I never was able to develop, and failing when I try at this point, results in the end of the opportunity.  Sometimes you just have to save your progress and quit because it's not a game you can win honestly.  More importantly, life is not a game, it's a tapestry you weave.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Writing to Reach You

"My inside's on the outside..."

Fran Healy's ability to communicate thoughtful melancholy in disarmingly charming ways makes me think of James Taylor, in a good way.  Emerson Hart of Tonic is another songwriter who has that uncanny knack for making down sound like up, or at lease, breaking even.  I have spent so much of my post pubescent life in a head space that suits this kind of music, and I didn't even know it, because initially I limited my taste to Hip Hop and Alternative. I didn't grow out of that kind of music, but I grew into others.  I had something I wanted to say to people I cared about, without ornamentation or self-conscious posturing.  I just wanted to sincerely share my feelings, all of them, not just the genre-approved emotional palette.  That's what this is song is all about.

The Heart

"There will be days when you struggle to say what's in your heart, and all that you can say pulls you further from your heart..."

Jimmy Gnecco wrote the album the Heart while his mother was battling cancer, to which she finally succumbed.  This titular track is so impassioned, and given Jimmy's otherworldly talents, that passion was captured and conveyed. If only we all had such a magnificent outlet for our emotions... I know there are times I wished I had the depth and range of his abilities, and his control.  It's truly inspiring. Pure emotion.  Obviously all heart.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Live (short "i")

This song was a kick in the rear.  Just a lot of pep and energy in a funky wrapper.  I remember hearing it and being impressed that Lenny would follow Circus with this.  5 is a interesting album because the quality of the production is so pristine and refined.  But there are a few songs that are hard to look past.  Super Soul Brother, Black Velvetteen, and Fly Away are memorable for all the wrong reasons.  But, given how long that album is, skipping those three is no great loss.  If Again had been on this album it would have been his greatest release, and a true classic album.  But, Lenny would never get any credit for that. Mama Said, Are You Gonna Go My Way, and Circus are tutorials in production qualities.  They sound incredible.  The songwriting, though mostly homages, is solid enough that the few times when the songs sound like slapdash mimicry it's forgivable.  Mostly the homages only serve as a jumping off point for songs that are great in their own right.

Anyway, every now and then you need a fun song to get you moving and grooving in a positive way, and this song was, and is one of those tunes for me.

Monday, April 28, 2014


is the engine of the world...

I was on the fence about Matisyahu when King Without a Crown broke through and became a minor hit.  The Jewish Orthodox Dancehall Toaster thing wasn't enough to sell me because the upbeat "sunny" reggae wasn't the kind I gravitate towards.  Then came this one, and my tune changed.  I'm definitely a fan of Dub-Reggae and it's that element of 70s reggae that bled into Punk and even later Hardcore and Metal to create a hybrid that taps into something in me like no other music.  Youth gets into that.  But beyond that it touches on a reality the world struggles to digest, its parasitic relationship with its offspring.  No one likes to train their replacement, it heralds the numbering of their days, but that's what we are here to do.  We are torch bearers and the young are better equipped to run farther and faster.  The shame is that they could do so with greater success with knowledgeable guidance from those who've ventured down the road ahead of them.  That part of the process is dying.

The modus operandi in the current state of the world is to exploit the youth and naivete of the inexperienced. Their enthusiasm and zeal are cultivated to further the journey of the experienced and empowered beyond what would otherwise be the end of  reign as Torch Bearers.  As the embittered and world weary cling to the fruits of their labor and horde the spoils of  the youth they lost by controlling the machinery of society to facilitate their desires for more, the heart and soul of the young are exhausted.  The resulting carbon emissions are disenchantment and nihilism.

If you want an engine to keep running you have to maintain it.  Instead society has taken a bent towards running its engine into the ground.  Youth fades younger and younger these days.  We push adult ideas and responsibility onto children to spare ourselves of having to protect them from the corruption of the world for a longer period of time, or being faced with having discussions with children when they are mature enough to raise their own questions rather than taking our ideas and biases at face value because they are young, innocent, and trust us above all else because we are all they know of life.

Youth shouldn't be synonymous with age, or the idea of ignorance.  It's a condition, one that is relative to the party displaying it.  Working with young people can age you, or it can keep you youthful.  It's all a matter of what role you play with the youth, and what role you allow them to play.  If they are allowed to grow and learn in a constructive way they will eventually learn everything you can teach them, and will be suited to fill the role you occupy.  There's nothing wrong with that.  They just need to understand the value of doing so honorably, and more than that, the value of working together while you can, because having someone to share a labor with equal or superior skill and experience is a blessing.  It saves both parties the strain of having to take a labor upon one's self.  What youth we have, regardless of age, when shared, extends our years and enhances our vitality.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


I first heard this song while manning the counter of Rinehart's Sound Shoppe in the summer of 1998 via the double disc Lilith Fair Vol. 1 cd.  I want to say it was track 9 on disc one {It was actually track 7 on disc 2}.  It was my first exposure to Shawn Colvin's music.  The song, one among many standout tracks from incredible and legendary talents who were featured on that tour, stood out.  The version on that disc was more intimate thanks to being driven primarily by acoustic guitar and voice. The tone suited my mood at that time. In the midst of upheaval, much of which was partly my own doing, I felt my life was at a turning point.  Was I content on the path I seemed to be headed on?  How was I going to process everything that came before the moment that song emerged as a sign post to my own moment on clarity & self-awareness?

"Trouble" felt like an uncanny representation of the problem I found prevalent in the preceding years of my adolescence. The man I was becoming was crippled by the wounds of a damaged and emotionally complicating childhood.  As a teen my propensity for enabling and codependency was an unknown quantity to me. I was so ( arguably & justifiably ) withdrawn that I lacked the capacity to develop any personal relationship with enough depth/ attachment to expose my propensity for enabling and codependency. Those particular character flaws would become a personal demon of mine, short-circuiting efforts to be empathetic, friendly, and romantic.  I haven't come back to this song very often since 1998 or 1999, but old truths don't really age. My goal, since I recognized my propensity to gravitate towards dysfunction, has been to circumvent my personality quirks and flawed emotional idiosyncrasies.  "Trouble" comes to mind every time I get a hint that I'm on a familiar path, a reminder to not only Know Better, but to Do Better, by myself, and everyone else. Until I master that skill, I have these fortuitous words of wisdom to humble me:

Trouble -
By: Shawn Colvin, John Leventhal and Tom Littlefield
Baby let me set you down
You look so troubled and I think I know
Just when you think you've come around
There you go
Now I know the business of the heart
And it'll get you anyway it can
You need someone to walk with in the dark, well
I'm your man
I go to the trouble like a magnet
That's where I'll be
Trouble is just a place to sing
It's what you need
I swear you look like you're in jail
And all at once you're halfway out the door
One foot dancing, one foot nailed
To the floor
Chasing those circles in the ground
The same old shit is still the same old lie
Just when you think you've got it down
Watch it fly
I go to the trouble like a light
Or like a dare
Trouble is just a friend to me, I know
It'll always be there
It's really hard to make your peace
So give me some credit for the hell I've paid
This world's a blessing and a beast
So come on baby let me show you how
The less you know the more I comprehend
You don't have to drag me down
I descend
I go to the trouble and I like it
That's where I'll be
Trouble is just like love, if it's half the way
It's all I can see
And it's just what you need

Saturday, April 19, 2014


When all else fails, sometimes you just have to start over from scratch, when possible.  That's the theme for this week.  Things that seem reliable turn into things that require so much maintenance it seems there is no justifiable reason to stick with them, other than masochism.  That was my experience with technology courtesy of a fatal error prompted by a Microsoft Update on Two Computers that rendered them inoperative.  One required a complete reformatting of the machine, the other an extensive system repair.

In the realm of the flesh and blood the same happened.  I'd been coasting on an approach to life that seemed to work but it was taking its toll and there didn't seem to be much I could do to adjust the trajectory of my shortfalls and deficits.  It had gotten to the point where I was willing to just blow everything off for the sake of some peace of mind.  All that does is corner you into making a choice between further alienating yourself from the existence you have created for yourself, or forcing your hand to do something because you have no other choice.  Either situation creates pressure and desperation.  In my effort to come up with the simplest life rules to pass along to anyone who'll listen, I've got one to add to my list which was three, and now four:

1. Don't Mess Up.
2. When you do mess up, learn from your mistake and don't do it again.
3. Don't be desperate.
4. When you feel desperate, if possible, stop what you're doing and reconsider the 1st rule.

Friday, April 11, 2014


The only way to see things clearly, is to be open to seeing things in the first place.  Clarity requires a unique combination of focus and a wide field of vision.  Are you really seeing things clearly if you have blind spots, or too narrow a perspective?

I've decided to open up my eyes a little more these days, perk up my ears, let down my guard.  I've decided to look on the bright side when you would think times were dark, and have found that nothing could be further from the truth.  It's all a matter of how you look at it.  When you see things clearly, the truth reveals itself.  The truth will set you free.

To me, this song, which opens the album Heavier Things, is a fusion of aesthetics, an anthem for the recombination of styles that happens when people are optimistic about the potential of things changing, rather than retreating from uncertainty and entrenching themselves in what's familiar.  I LOVE this song, it's so blissful, and yet so groovy.  It makes you want to whistle, it makes you want to nod your head or dance.  It makes you want to smile. It's a happy reunion with a kindred spirit.  It's the sound of being able to see the good in people, the promise in life.

Friday, April 4, 2014

God Put A Smile On Your Face.

Man plans, God* laughs...

I'm fond of Scientific Reasoning, and Logic.  They are the mortar to the bricks of reality as I know it.  They are an owner's manual to this corporeal reality.  But they fail.  They completely fall apart; and not at some tricky point in the future, but simply at the point of origin.

Science is built on causal relationships, basic cause and effect.  First comes this, then comes that.  Every step closer we come to the "beginning of the universe" the closer we come to the befuddling reality that existence sprang out of nothingness, or simply out of some other state that preceded it, that we simply chose not to consider part of existence as we understand it.  This defies logic, and requires a certain suspension of disbelief.

Logically, you can't get something from nothing.  "Nature abhors a vacuum." The Universe can't emerge out of nothingness. Matter is neither created nor destroyed, so something had to proceed the Universe in its current state; and if so, what preceded that? Perhaps the Universe cycles from the state it was in prior to our existence beginning and back again in an infinite loop?  But where did this loop come from?  How did that happen?

The only answer at this point, is a cliche, "Que sera, sera."  "It is what it is." "What shall be, shall be." In logic, that's called Circular Reasoning. An example would be an argument like so, "It is that way because that is the way it is." You can't argue with the statement because it proves itself.  This is called a Tautology. You can't refute or defend Circular Reasoning or a Tautological Argument, and as such they are considered invalid arguments and unscientific.

Even though false arguments are frowned upon, it's impossible to avoid asserting one basic Tautology right under our noses, one indispensable for all reasoning, Scientific or Philosophical: The Universe's existence is self-evident by our perception of it.  Even if we accept that as a starting point for our reasoning within the constraints of science and philosophy our perception and understanding of the Universe and Reality is inherently limited.  We live in a room, and there is a door that is closed. To make sense of the room, we have to assume that the door doesn't open. We come to a point where we know and understand the contents of the room like the back our hands, but there's still that door. If it opens, we have no explanation or justification for what lies beyond the door, even if, especially if, it's nothing at all.

If a wise man build's his house upon the rock, what are we if the crux of our scientific understanding of the universe defies logic and sets an arbitrary beginning to existence? The only rectification of that limited understanding of our Universe and its nature seems to require Omniscience, and belief in the concept of Omniscience is generally deemed unscientific and illogical. But what is the aim of Scientific Inquiry & Philosophy if not some measure of Omniscience? Again, when turned upon themselves, logical arguments and scientific reasoning collapse under their own weight, an intellectual black hole.  If so, what constitutes an intellectual white hole?

All of this makes the significance and uniqueness of being alive in the midst of this reality all the greater. There is no greater miracle than having the power to perceive. When I look it that way, the hubris that people have when they speak of Knowing, rather than Accepting an idea about the reality we exist in, I can't help but feel that the joke is on them, as if I'm in on the joke. In reality, the joke's on me too. Better to laugh with, than be laughed at.

*For the purposes of argument, the nature or conceptualization of God is a matter of individual perception of omnipresent omnipotent omniscience, which is in itself a limiting qualification. The irony of that doesn't escape me, it's actually the point.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Diamonds & Pearls by Surrogate

The old way of finding bands by association still pays off. For me, the last 11 years of listening have been immensely satisfying because I've still found my music through projects affiliated with bands & labels I follow. I'll skip the exposition and just declare Surrogate one of the best long term investments of this process. Their EP Diamonds & Pearls, which I linked in the title is an all-time favorite. It's music I feel to the core of my being. It's just perfection as far as my taste is concerned, that is, of course, if alternative rock is your thing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A foreshadowing of what's to come.

Great song on a great album by a much overlooked great artist.  He's in full Joni Mitchell mode on this one, and it's a good fit. It's a beautiful and serene piece of music and I wish more people could get past Barely Breathing and recognize his talent.  I guess Spring Awakening made some strides on his behalf in that regard.

Mainly I just want to start listing all the new releases I keep hearing announced and then forgetting about because either dates are not set or they get lost in the shuffle.  To supplement all the Facebook and twitter album announcements I'm going through 's release dates to catch any ones I didn't know about or had forgotten.

Meg Myers - Make A Shadow
St. Vincent - s/t
The Fray - Helios
KXM - s/t
Kevin Drew - Darlings
Taking Back Sunday - Happiness Is...
Margot & The Nuclear So and Sos - Slingshot to Heaven
Band of Skulls - Himalayan
Manchester Orchestra - Cope
Joan As Police Woman - The Classic
S. Carey - Range of Light
Merriment - Sway
Jack Bruce - Silver Rails 
Afghan Whigs - Due to the Beast 
The Both (Aimee Mann and Ted Leo)
Emerson Hart - Beauty In Disrepair 
Ghost of A Sabretooth Tiger - Midnight Sun
Lykke Li - Never Learn
Sarah McLachlan - Shine On
tUnE-yArDs - Nikki Nack
Ben & Ellen Harper - Childhood Home
The Black Keys - Turn Blue
Tori Amos - Unrepentant Geraldines
Rene Lopez - Paint The Moon Gold
Coldplay - Ghost Stories
Joe Henry - Invisible Hour
Centro-Matic - Take Pride In Your Long Odds
Meshell N'Degeocello - Comet Come To Me
Conditions - Missing Hours
Jack White - Lazaretto
Anders Parker - The Is A Bluebird In My HEart
Say Hi - Endless Wonder
Pinnick Gales Pridgen - PGP2
Morrissey - World Peace Is None Of Your Business
Big Wreck - Ghosts
Gramercy Arms - The Seasons of Love
Anberlin - Lowborn
Tom Petty - Hypnotic Eye
Sinead O'Connor - I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss
Kimbra - The Golden Echo
Sarah Jaffe - Don't Disconnect
Imogen Heap - Sparks
Sucre - Loner
Robert Plant - Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar
Ryan Adams - s/t
My Brightest Diamond - This Is My Hand
Julian Cassablancas and the Voidz - Tyranny
Marketa Iglova - Muna
Lenny Kravitz - Strut
Tweedy - Sukieray
Prince - Art Official Age
Third Eyed Girl - Plectrumelectrum

Minus the Bear - Lost Loves
Phil Selway -Weather house

Stars - No One Is Lost
Flyleaf - Between the Stars
Grinder Blues - s/t
U2 - Songs of Innocence
Sanctus Real - The Dream

Mark Lanegan Band - Phantom Radio

Daniel Lanois - Flesh and Machine
Live - The Turn
National Skyline - Love letters for the Disenchanted

Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways

Manchester Orchestra - Hope

Circa Survive - Descensus
Copeland - Ixora
Soundgarden - Echoes of Miles: Scatter (and Origins as a Stand Along CD)

Smashing Pumpkins  - Monuments to an Elegy

Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's A Figth Between My Heart and Mind, No One Really Wins This Time

Sometimes it only takes a few measure to start a song, start an album, to let you know that you have found a group of people in a band who have collectively tapped into something kindred spirit of musical actualization. Copeland was that band for me. This song, No One Really Wins... tears into catharsis with gusto.  It snaps me out of whatever I am into, and opens the floodgates of adrenaline.  But then you note the lyrics and find the core of the message is just as emotional and driven, which enhances the catharsis exponentially.  This is the epitome of song craft.  Copeland would go on the evolve musically, becoming a completely different sounding band, but still mining elements of the sounds that filled the album No One Really Wins... appears on (In Motion).  By the time You Are My Sunshine, their final album was released, they were easily one of my favorite bands, with a plethora of songs that helped buoy me through a tumultuous time in my life emotionally.  I've always been the kind of person who loves when an album opening is like starting an engine and accelerating onto the path to begin a journey.  This song is the beginning of such a journey.  Any song that ends with the line, "In the Endless Fight of Grace & Pride... I Don't Want to Win This Time" is worthy of heralding my travels in this life.

Friday, January 31, 2014


So, back when Eagle-Eye Cherry was a thing, I was more intrigued by his pedigree and image than any particular song on his first album. The material left me completely unmoved, save for this beautiful tribute to his father, Don Cherry.

I've managed to work myself into a melancholy tonight, such that I want to write, but by my own rules, there isn't a song with words I want to listen to, or can evoke the mood I'm feeling.  It's a wordless recognition.  Of what?  Of the place I've created in my life to shelter myself and recover from the mental and emotional strain that comes from the ups and downs of living, of engaging with other people and investing in them, and their investments in me.

In a sense I'm feeling my solitude for what it is. I have to ask myself, is it a choice or a necessity, a consequence or an indulgence?  It's a little bit of all of that.  It's ambiguous and amorphous.  What I choose to do with it defines its impact on my feelings. I can make it a glorious time of self actualization, or I can put things in perspective and be contemplative about my past and my present, possibly my future.

I spend a lot of times just settling into myself, reconciling what I am, how that makes me feel, if it has or can ever evolve? I'm a curious person, a private person, and ultimately, a person who is wary of gambles, and more so, defeats.  One consequence of having a good long term memory is a recollection of every blow to the ego, every flight of fancy that crashed and burned.  Those upheavals, humbling moments that bring you down to earth... have a way of tempering your thoughts.  It doesn't take fear to keep you from making the same mistakes over and over, just a little disappointment is enough.  I've never been one to entertain an unpleasant experience for an after-effect that rang hollow.  It's this attitude that informs my state of mind at this moment.

The inquiry I have to stomach is this:  What is there that I am so greatly satisfied by, so enraptured by, that I would be willing to take a risk to have it in my life?  What am I willing to suffer for, and put above myself to have it in my company?  There really isn't much when I think about it.  If I'm being honest, the two things that win out above all others are Personal Freedom and Peace of Mind.  There are many ways to achieve these aims.  My actions have betrayed my convictions and my loyalties and passions are inward.  It just so happens that they are so deeply felt that they radiate outwardly and help me connect with others who seem to be of like mind.

If this is what it takes for me to be a well-adjusted, decent human being, I can't really complain.  When you can predict a future, you've got the freedom to choose different, if you want different.  I still don't.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

BANG YOUR HEAD!!! - A series of shared videos from my youth.

  1.  I didn't know Soundgarden was "grunge" or "alternative", which was all about REM as far as I knew. For me SG bridged 80s metal to the 90s.

  2. Soundgarden - Rusty Cage: around that time theBox started promoting this one heavy. Their Close Encounter riff got me
  3. So yeah, I didn't buy any of those albums, but I turned up the TV when those videos came in in those Pre-Internet days.

  4. BODY COUNT on Arsenio Hall (early 90's) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD ICE-T: Ice-T was the one who bridged the divide.
  5. Skid Row - Monkey Business : It was the late 80s, so along with a ton of Rap & Michael Jackson I dug this stuff.
  6. Megadeth - Sweating Bullets: This was a the most cutting age video I'd ever seen other than Peter Gabriel stuff.
  7. Suicidal Tendencies Send Me Your Money: This one was a trip, I didn't know what to call it back then.
  8. Suicidal Tendencies - You Can't Bring Me Down: The chorus had the closest thing to hardcore punk i'd heard then.
  9. Danzig - Dirty Black Summer: The hook is pretty much Born On The Bayou's changes & rhythm & he's Jim Morrison + Elvis
  10. Here come a few tweets of videos for music I first heard via The Video Jukebox in the late 80s-early 90s that changed my taste in music.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Tutti (That's what my mama calls me).

I guess it must of been playing a lot back around the time she had me. Little Richard you know?"

It was around 12:20PM on my fourth consecutive day off from work due to inclimate weather. I had already been shuttled to my home and back by a passerby driving a bluish late model Pontiac. She had gone so far as to suggest Kitty Litter to help get my car out of the mass of snow I'd gotten myself stuck in.  But the snow was about 7 inches deep, and the rock salt I had wasn't gonna do the trick.  I normally keep my shovel in the back of my wagon, but I'd bent the plastic one I had with the aluminum handle last spring in the mega snow, where each shovel load weighed nearly 20 lbs.  My go-to was an aluminum shovel with a 2" thick wood handle. I'd used it on my driveway the previous day, and after that workout, I just opted to leave it next to the front door.  And that's just where it was.  The Pontiac driver offered to take me to get it, and I leapt at the opportunity.  But how did I even get stuck?

Well, the roads are treacherous and my car is prone to fishtailing. I've gotten used to it after 5.5 years.  What I won't ever get used to is driving tired.  I usually just sleep where I am rather than drive a little groggy.  This morning I'd already driven downtown and back, narrowly making it to the Greyhound station in time to get my nephew on his bus back south.  It was a triumph considering how my last trip to the Bus/Train station went (check out my blog title K. C. Jones).  On the way back I took the long way home, Market, to Grand, to 70, because 40 was backed up westbound from downtown.  I stopped over at my Mom's on the way home since it's right on the route, greeted my fam, and had a little to eat,, and laid down for a few minutes.  I took out their trash and hopped in my car, homeward bound.  Less than a minute from there, at the stoplight where I make my right, I neglected the fact that they'd only partially plowed the turning lane, and drove straight into a drift of slush mush that shouldn't be there.  My fault totally.  I got out, surveyed the situation, and went to digging with my hands.

A couple was walking by, and suggested cardboard boxes in lieu of the shovel I'd left at home.  I walked over to Dollar General which was on the other side of the intersection.  I was going to buy a shovel, but they'd been sold out since the last snowstorm.  The gladly gave me boxes to use.   I tried the boxes, but there was just too much snow under the chassis of the car for it get any traction on the boxes.  I broke out my window scraper, and then a two wheel cart that we use at work to move stuff around to pummel the snow away.  One man came walking by and said he wished he could help, but couldn't. I thanked him.  Another guy walked by silently, avoiding looking in my direction.  No big deal.  Walkers deserve more slack than all the drivers that drove by.  I just kept digging and trying to move the car. I was able to move a few inches.  That's when the driver stopped and I got my ride home.

That drive, whose name I didn't get, told me about how she's hit her head yesterday because she slipped on her porch.  Her daughter had been playing with Hot Water outside.  I used Gary Coleman's story to broach symptoms to look out for.  The good thing was she hit her had on the house, not the ground, but she thinks she may have been knocked out for a second.  She let her family know to keep an eye out for her if she zoned out.  We talked about the affect the weather was having on people working, and landlord's wanting their money regardless.  I mentioned how I'd been off all week, thankfully because I work in the school system, and she mentioned she had a couple of daughters in our district, so I told her if she ever needed help with anything to ask someone on staff there about me, that they should know who I was, or someone who did.

Shovel in hand I went to digging my car free, and  inches became feet, though progress was not as fast as I expected.  My strategy was to turn the car 90 degrees because I was about 15 feet into the muck, but only maybe 6 feet from the pavement if I cut perpendicular.  I was about 45 degrees into the move (with each turn I had to excavate more snow) when another car stopped after passing me.  The guy didn't have on a jacket, but I even felt warm today after the last couple of days.  Feeling warm when it's 28 degrees is just silly, but it is what it is.  He was in good spirits, and I let him know I was close and had gotten some help from the driver who'd hit her head.  He still offered to shovel since he'd figured I needed a break.

My pivot move had managed to get the entire front 3/5s of the car in as much slush as when I started, so he went about clearing it.  As I thank him, he explained that he didn't do anything but drive people to get their medicine and appointments because he's been on social security since 2003.  Now, the man didn't look to be older than his mid to late 40s, but there's an explanation, that he shared almost immediately.  He'd won a settlement because he was struck by an unmarked police car doing 70 mph with no lights or sirens on.  His neck was broken in two places, he had brain damage, and another injury I can't recall.  He didn't mind helping because he needed the exercise.  I mentioned how I got stuck, and I knew better, I'd been blessed to have strangers help out of the kindness of their hearts.

We talked a little about faith and he mentioned that when people hear that voice in their head telling them the right thing to do that they ignore, it's not a voice in their head.  "Man something was telling me I should..." that is the voice he means, the one that is always right, when your judgement is wrong.  Given his story, I imagine some people would say, "Consider the source." At the same time, here's a man who had his neck broken in two places shoveling snow for me.  I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  He earned my good will by merit of his own, and what he was saying, in essence, even for those who don't believe in any kind of theistic God, it does at least provide a way to qualify a altruistic moral compass within yourself, for those looking for a subjective internalized authority.  That's what becomes God in the absence of Theism anyway, so in the broad philosophical sense he might be right no matter how you look at it.

I did another pivot move and we neared freedom.  As we did another car pulled by, then over.  This guy, a tad younger suggested  that a push was all that was needed to clear the final hurdle.  I gave it a go, and they pushed and that pretty much did the trick.  He gave us both the "Bro-hug", wished us well with a smile and pulled off.  I didn't get to ask his name, but I made sure to mention my name to the man who'd done the shoveling, and asked him his.  And that brings us back to the Title of this blog, and the first line.  Those where his responses.  I thanked him and wished God's blessing on him and he did likewise and home I went.

What is so poignant about my experience is, when I first took my car out after clearing my driveway on Wednesday, I left the house without a shovel OR my cell phone and drove to the grocery store.  This was when it was at its coldest and the roads were garbage. I realized how dumb it was, but rolled with it.  When I dropped my nephew off at the Greyhound, I had to double back with his luggage. The parking lot was just slush everywhere, so I had to carry this massive pullman he had. We had arrived a minute after the bus was scheduled to depart and he was afraid the bus pulling off was his.  When I came in he was at the counter and had found out his ticket wasn't paid for.  I HAD my phone, and he was able to call and get it taken care of. When he came into town 2 weeks ago as a surprise, he sat at the North Hanley Metrolink station in the freezing weather in a spring jacket (he'd come up from Alabama) he sat there for 3 hours because no one would let him use their phone (he didn't have one).  Here's hoping his ride home is uneventful and safe and he doesn't need a cell to use.

The other thing that struck me right after I realized I was stuck was that I didn't really have anyone I would immediately call to help. The family I see regularly are all getting up in age. They're at that point in life where people call them for money, not labor.  The friends I have my age that I would lean on, those were my college friends, and most all don't live in the state, or if in St. Louis, not close. Once I was of means (bus, bike, car) I did my best to not call on them for anything. After a while, when you don't have those extensions of friendly good will and support as part of your relationship with people, it feels out of place or intrusive to ask.  The thought that follows is, "What kind of friendships do I have if they fall short or what I feel were the prototypical friendships of my past?"  I guess it comes with a sense of community, and I don't have any personal friends that are part of my community proper.  That's something that churches used to provide, a sense of community and shared values. Ironically, partly because of my upbringing and life experience, I would feel bad if I went to a church just to get to know people in my community.  Ironically, the church I frequented the most had a large number of people who didn't live in the community. 

What this hammered home for me was that, circumstances provide opportunities to witness the power of  faithfulness and kindness and thus friendliness. In these moments, in the person of strangers you will find true friendship in the absence of your true friends.  When Jesus said the world will know him through how his followers treat one another, and the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart and treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated he laid a foundation for unimpeachable moral character so that anyone aiming to obey those commands sincerely is predisposed to be a boon to others.  Because of that, the song title, I Have A Friend In Jesus rings pretty true right now.  Those that know him, took a moment to know me, and help me. Even those who don't know him, but know what it means to pursue love and kindness altruistically and give of themselves selflessly for the benefit of others because they've seen what good it can do in the world through the example of others, well, in those actions, they have come to know him, Jesus, vicariously.  At least that's my take on it. I've been bless with those who have done Good, and shared Love, and what is God if not Good and Love?